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Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation Hardcover – July 1, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (July 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195307607
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195307603
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 5.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,157 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review


"This is a beautifully written book. The language is profound, poetic, and free of worn cliches. It has obviously grown out of a life of study, erudition, and personal prayer." --Worship


"Into the Silent Land by Martin Laird is a wonderful introduction to the subject of contemplation. It has a vitality and relevance that are gripping. Contemplative books are often dry, but I found this a page-turner." --Church Times


"In a world hungering for practical spiritual direction on how to manage distractions, moods, bodily posture, breathing, suffering, illness, addiction, and dying, Laird's book stands out as a treasure to share with anyone who is seeking greater wisdom and peace. He provides us with an eminently accessible doorway into the land of God's loving silence." --Horizons


"Larid's book defines how to sink back in God's ground physically with breathing, mentally with "prayer words," and spiritually with interior surrender. Through anecdote, Scripture, and classic wisdom, Laird illuminates a Christian path into the silent land. An able guide, he makes the trip more than worth the journey." --Christianity Today


"This book is different. There are plenty of books on contemplation that feel rather tired--either wordy and labored or unhelpfully smooth and idealistic. But this is sharp, deep, with no clichés, no psychobabble and no short cuts. Its honesty is bracing, its vision utterly clear; it is a rare treasure."--Rowan Williams, The Archbishop of Canterbury


"Often they say 'you learn how to swim by swimming' but a good coach or swimming manual is essential. Equally, we could say 'you learn how to be contemplative by contemplating' and a good guide or mentor is necessary. Into the Silent Land is just that. I tried it and it works. Try it."--Archbishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize


"This is a beautifully written book. The language is profound, poetic, and free of worn clichés. It has obviously grown out of a life of study, erudition and personal prayer."--Worship


"Into the Silent Land is a beautiful and deeply consoling book, a reminder that prayer is both real and fundamentally simple. Not since Thomas Merton's Contemplative Prayer have I encountered a guide to contemplation this wise and compelling."--Douglas Burton-Christie, author of The Word in the Desert: Scripture and the Quest for Holiness in Early Christian Monasticism


"With wisdom born of a life of prayer and study, Martin Laird invites us out of distraction and into the silent land where God is waiting. Taking the realities of affliction, fear and failure seriously, Laird offers an approach to contemplative life that is within reach of us all." --Stephanie Paulsell, author of Honoring the Body: Meditations on a Christian Practice


"Martin Laird's book is a compelling introduction to contemplative prayer. He draws on insights from the Eastern Orthodox tradition of the Jesus Prayer, from the Western Carmelite tradition, from poets and novelists and from his own experience as retreat director and confessor. In the silent land, our wounds become radiant sources of compassion."--Andrew Louth, author of The Origins of the Christian Mystical Tradition: From Plato to Denys


"Into the Silent Land reflects a happy combination of wide learning, authentic spiritual experience, and clear jargon-free prose. This work should be of inestimable value for anyone interested in the Christian contemplative tradition of prayer."--Lawrence S. Cunningham, author of Thomas Merton and the Monastic Vision


About the Author


Martin Laird, O.S.A., is Associate Professor in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Villanova University. He has studied patristics in Rome, London, and Oxford, and has extensive training in contemplative disciplines and gives retreats throughout the United States and Great Britain. He is the translator or author of a host of books and articles, including Gregory of Nyssa and the Grasp of Faith: Union, Knowledge and Divine Presence (OUP, 2004).

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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I would recommend this book to anyone on the contemplative journey.
Barbara B. Hemphill
I'm a liberal/pantheistic Quaker and have over the years read manuals and practiced meditation in Christian, Buddhist and Taoist traditions.
Keith L. Warren
Into The Silent Land, by Martin Laird, was a very complex book on praying and how to truly enter into contemplative prayer.
Lawrence Weber

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

83 of 84 people found the following review helpful By M. VanEtten on June 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a true gem. It is a wonderful guide for anyone seriously interested in contemplative prayer. Laird draws on the spiritual traditions of both Eastern and Western Christianity to produce a true classic, filled with practical guidance about the method of contemplative prayer, the difficulties and distractions (and how they can become gifts), and the way contemplation can teach us to deal with afflictive emotions and situations. Laird writes for the experienced person as well as (perhaps even more than) the beginner. He draws primarily upon the Jesus Prayer as his method, with nods to Centering Prayer as an alternative approach. He includes passages from some of the greatest writers on (and practitioners of) contemplative prayer in the Western Church and the Estern Orthodox tradition which may be less familiar to readers but has much to offer us. This book has real depth, and is obviously written by someone who knows the silent land well himself. It is a treasure!
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75 of 77 people found the following review helpful By Barbara B. Hemphill on August 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In this book Laird explains passages on the contemplative journey in ways that were new to me. (Perhaps I should admit here that I didn't even know there were identifiable stages of silence.) He names the doorway into each stage, the treasure one finds there, and what is entailed in opening the door - the riddle that must be solved before entering. As a student and practitioner of centering prayer for 15 years, I found these insights fascinating as well as wonderfully presented. But Laird doesn't just leave us with theories; he offers practical applications of his lessons. Here are real people struggling with real difficulties, practicing contemplative methods, solving the riddles, moving through the stages, gaining new freedom and joy. Laird offers not only mysteries and metaphors, but tools and tips! I would recommend this book to anyone on the contemplative journey.
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Keith L. Warren on June 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I'm a liberal/pantheistic Quaker and have over the years read manuals and practiced meditation in Christian, Buddhist and Taoist traditions. This is the best meditation manual I have ever encountered in any tradition. It's also the only one I've ever recommended online. With its combination of clear description and deep intuition, I think that almost anyone who is interested in contemplation in any tradition would gain from reading it. I wish somebody had written it thirty years ago--it would have saved me a lot of time and trouble.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Carl Hall on May 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Of all the books I've read on this subject, this would be the first I'd recommend to anyone interested in contemplative meditation/prayer. Many other helpful books can be found in Laird's footnotes. My favorites are "The Cloud of Unknowing" by an anonymous 14th century Christian monk and the "Art of Prayer" edited by Igumen Chariton. But this small book speaks directly to the modern practitioner of contemplation in ways that are both very helpful and illuminating. Nor is this simply a guide book for Christian contemplatives. Virtually everything Laird describes can be applied to contemplatives of every tradition and even those practicing beyond all traditions. I've called this an "introduction" to contemplative meditation because in a sense all works on mystical contemplation are introductions since words can only lead one into practice and only through practice can one be carried into the kingdom within, beyond all words and concepts.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Clay C. Rowe on January 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Great Guide for Beginners! Very Simple Instructions, and Good Explanations of the Ground-lay of the "Silent Land." Instructions are again repeated as from a gentle teacher, so that the reader understands, so that the info can saturate.... I recommend the book for the Christian who wants to go deeper in his communion with Christ Jesus.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mostly Mozart VINE VOICE on June 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Martin Laird has presented us with a beautiful book. There is an ample supply of books describing what the experience of contemplation is like. I have not, until now, seen a book that describes a method of performing contemplation successfully. Father Laird (I believe that he is a Roman Catholic priest of the Order of St. Augustine) describes his method in way that anybody should be able to follow.

His description includes not only the steps to follow, but also the pitfalls for each step, and provides helpful reassurance for the difficulties that will occur along the way. Father Laird does not minimize the difficulties, nor does he guarantee success, but his words have certainly instilled confidence in me that I shall be able to overcome the difficulties and inevitable failures.

Father Laird's holiness and humility shine from every sentence in this book. Highly recommended for any reader who is, like me, on a spiritual pilgrimage.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By ecclesial hypostasis on October 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A pitfall of reading about contemplative prayer is that the best books are old classics that can provide a stumbling block to beginners because of anachronisms and unfamiliar concepts and terms. Martin Laird has done us all a service by producing a clear, concise, and profound treatment of the practice of Christian contemplation. He describes the landscape of silence and the deep spiritual space that it opens up for the one who prays, while giving thoughtful advice about specific elements of prayer such as bodily posture and dealing with intrusive thoughts. He demonstrates the keen psychological insight that distinguishes a true master of contemplation. I would compare 'Into the Silent Land' with 'The Way of a Pilgrim' in terms of offering a high-quality yet popular and inspiring entry to the benefits of contemplation.

Laird is writing out of the 'hesychastic' tradition mostly, referring to Evagrius Pontus and John Climacus a number of times, as well as the 'Cloud of Unknowing'. He cites a a mixture of Eastern and Western mystical writers and is obviously well-grounded in scholarship. If you are familiar with the works he cites you can see some of the interpretative decisions that he has made that might be questionable, but he errs on the conservative side by not going too far in any one direction. His desire that the book be accessible to most Christians (and non-Christians) means that he does suppress some of the theological content that often goes with this area. This tends to skew the book towards a description of contemplation that goes closer to psychotherapy than is the case in practice, and also means that he is not able to describe some of the 'higher' levels of contemplative experience that rely on specific theological ideas. If you find this book inspiring and interesting, it is worth exploring his bibliography in more depth.
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