"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Just Kill Yourself Already!

As this first week of the Great Fast continues to unfold, we may contemplate the question of what it is Christian askesis--fasting, abstinence, prayer, almsgiving, prostrations and all the rest--is seeking to achieve. Part of the answer to that, of course, is that askesis seeks to train us for theosis, for being (as St. Paul says) so transformed from our selfishiness and sinful attachments that we can say "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me." Along comes a new book to analyze this process of dying to our selfish attachments: James Kellenberger, Dying to Self and Detachment (Ashgate, 2012), 190pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:

Exploring the religious categories of dying to self and the religious virtue of detachment, the spiritual essence of dying to self, this book also aims to resolve contemporary issues that relate to detachment. Beginning with an examination of humility in its general notion and as a religious virtue for detachment presupposes, Kellenberger draws on a range of ancient, medieval, modern, and contemporary writers that address the main characteristics of detachment, including the work of Meister Eckhart, St. Teresa, and Simone Weil, as well writers as varied as Gregory of Nyssa, Rabi’a al-Adawiyya, Soren Kierkegaard, Andrew Newberg, and Keiji Nishitani. Kellenberg explores the key issues that arise for detachment, including the place of the individual’s will in detachment, the relationship of detachment to desire, to attachment to persons, and to self-love and self-respect, and issues of contemporary secular detachment such as inducement via chemicals. This book heeds the relevance of the religious virtue of detachment for those living in the twenty-first century.

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