The early Christian monks of Egypt, Syria, and Palestine were the spiritual heroes of their age—fleeing the security of civilization for the desert, where they sought God in lives of prayer, contemplation, and radical simplicity. This book is a portable collection of their teachings, and those of their contemplative contemporaries, ranging from the fourth through the eleventh centuries. It is arranged to the traditional model of three ascending "books": Praktikos (practice), Theoretikos (theory), and Gnosis (knowledge). Each book consists of 100 "sentences"—aphorisms or thoughts. Each sentence is intended to be read and meditated upon for an entire day—just as the monks themselves might have done as they went about their work.
Esoteric Religion Although Shambhala usually publishes books on Eastern religions, particularly Buddhism, The Book of Mystical Chapters: Meditations on the Soul's Ascent from the Desert Fathers and Other Early Christian Contemplatives is a rare and well-conceived foray into Christian mysticism. Drawing from 300 short meditations by Christian mystics and contemplatives from the fourth to 11th centuries, John Anthony McGuckin's collection is arranged around themes of practice, theory and gnosis. He cautions that the book is not meant for a rapid half-hour read-through from cover to cover in one sitting, but is instead designed to be digested slowly and thoughtfully.