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Review-The Deeper Journey

Title: The Deeper Journey
Author: Robert Mulholland, Jr
Published: IVP, 2006 (168pp)
Reviewed: 9 July 2009 (Conrade Yap)

Robert Mulholland writes some of the best books about reading for transformation and spiritual formation. Personally, I feel that theological education needs to incorporate spiritual formation exercises for everyone, students, faculty as well as administrative staff. Mulholland’s latest book is another additional help for those of us seeking to grow spiritually via the transformation of one’s identity.


There is more to the Christian life, apart from being active in a faith community or practicing a set of spiritual disciplines. Biblically, the goal is to be like Jesus. The way toward it is via union with God in love, expressed through thought, word and deed. The vehicle to channel it is to firstly expose our false selves that gravitate toward godless idols, to guide one’s soul toward a deeper journey, that increasingly unveils our true inclination toward God himself.

Mulholland points out two things to be aware of: false self and false religious self. Victims of ‘false self’ manifest themselves with characteristics like ‘fearful, protective, possessive, manipulative, destructive, self-promoting, indulgent, distinction-making’ which in turn shapes our ‘perspectives, attitudes and behaviour’ (44). These things are so deeply ingrained that it can be difficult to detect in the first place. The second thing, false religious self is more difficult. ‘False religious self’ thinks that as long as one is religious, one’s relationship with God automatically flow from it. Not only does this second kind of self exhibit similar characteristics of the first self, it puts God inside our worldly box of self-interests.
-    Fear: By fearing emptiness inside our poor boxes that we try to put God inside it.
-    Protection: we try to defend our pet ideas about God, thus we gravitate toward people of our own kind, and resist alternative views.
-    Possessiveness: Like Ananias and Sapphira, we want to belong to a community, but do not want to part with our stuff;
-    Manipulation: We use our religious status to position ourselves for our own advantage;
-    Destructive: we clone ourselves according to other religious false selves.
-    Self-Promotion: Largely a facade to get the world to notice us;
-    Indulgence: We indulge ourselves through religious practices that affirm our idols.
-    Distinctions: Making too much hype about our own uniqueness and special qualities

Key to spiritual formation is the recognition that such things hold one back from true union with God.

One can choose to follow Christ through false selves, or to let Christ take care of us as we hide ourselves in Christ. Mulholland provides a helpful illustration. If we clasp our hands together, it is a picture of hiding in Christ. If we insist on hanging on to our false selves, it is like taking our right hand away and stretching it away to the right side. The key is to resist that and to come back to a clasped hands stance: Hiding in Christ. Our false selves will gravitate toward the world. Our true selves will spring toward Christ. Thus, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. This new conversion represents a growing desire to be with Christ above all the world has to offer. Nourishing this desire is the work of spiritual formation.


Mulholland carefully avoids the word ‘practice’ so as not to confuse with spiritual disciplines.
1)    Personal Intimacy with God
This is learning to be attentive to our inner life with God. via Detachment and Centering. In detachment, we learn to free ourselves from ourselves. We pray: “Lord, free me from care of myself.” Upon detachment, we can find ourselves in a vacuum. The next step is critical, that we focus on God, rather than opening ourselves up to other false gods.

- From Detachment → Centering
- In moving toward God, we are free to love others unconditionally.
- We fight against manipulative behavior and seek to serve others for the best of all.
- We resist our abusiveness, by seeking to show compassion and kindness around us.
- We still our restless souls so as to find rest in God.

“We are torn loose from earthly attachments and ambitions – contemptus mundi. And we are quickened to a divine but painful concern for the world – amor mundi. He plucks the world out of our hearts, where we and He together carry it on infinitely tender love.” (Thomas Kelly)

2)    Public intimacy via the Lord’s Prayer and the Daily Office
In the Lord’s Prayer, we incarnate ‘Our Father in Heaven’ by corporate awareness that God belongs to a corporate body, not just for us. ‘Father’ shows the relationship that holds the Christian life. ‘Heaven’ represents where our journey is heading to, that it is not the eternal riches that matter, but the presence of God in heaven that fulfills. When we pray, ‘hallowed be your name,’ we affirm that we are not mere spectators but active participants to let God’s name be known to all.

The Daily Office is a regular routine or ritual a Christian can do to center on God each day. Some suggestions are:
- Make time to center: like singing a song: “Great is thy faithfulness”
- Desire God as primary reality of our life: “You’re beautiful God. Make me more like you, O Lord.”
- Probe ourselves. “Free us from ourselves.”
- Abandon ourselves to God. “May God alone be our only contentment.”
- Spend time reading the Word.
- Spend time in silent prayer.

There are good points from this book, with regards to staying away from our false selves by being first aware of them. I agree with most of his teachings. It all sounds reasonable up to a certain point. I have some questions:

- Where is the sacrifice component? Can we retain our possessions and yet seek to center on Christ?
- What about spiritual directors? Spirituality is not a Do-It-Yourself activity. Mulholland writes the book in a pretty much DIY mode, even though in his part about the Lord's prayer, he did mention the corporate component.

Overall, it is a good book on spiritual formation. As we do so, we are on our way along the deeper journey toward God.


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