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Will and Spirit: A Contemplative Psychology [Paperback]

By Gerald G. May (Author)
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Item Number 161246  
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Item description for Will and Spirit: A Contemplative Psychology by Gerald G. May...

Covers the psychological and spiritual aspects of fear, love, tension, good and evil, and the search for meaning

Publishers Description
"A rich book covering many areas of human experience. . . . For the person looking for an intelligent and clear presentation of the relationship between psychological and spiritual growth, this is the book to read.'--America

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Item Specifications...

Studio: HarperOne
Pages   368
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.1" Width: 6.1" Height: 1"
Weight:   1.1 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jun 3, 1987
Publisher   HarperOne
ISBN  0062505823  
ISBN13  9780062505828  
UPC  099455021005  

Availability  1 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 28, 2016 12:09.
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More About Gerald G. May

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Gerald G. May, M.D. (1940-2005), practiced medicine and psychiatry for twenty-five years before becoming a senior fellow in contemplative theology and psychology at the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation in Bethesda, Maryland. He was the author of many books and articles blending spirituality and psychology, including Addiction and Grace, Care of Mind/Care of Spirit, Will and Spirit, and The Dark Night of the Soul.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Health, Mind & Body > Psychology & Counseling > General
2Books > Subjects > Health, Mind & Body > Psychology & Counseling
3Books > Subjects > Health, Mind & Body > Self-Help > General
4Books > Subjects > Health, Mind & Body > Self-Help
5Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > Consciousness & Thought
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living > General
7Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living

Christian Product Categories
Books > Christian Living > Practical Life > Psychology

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Reviews - What do customers think about Will and Spirit: A Contemplative Psychology?

Read the Review Then make Up Your Own Mind  Dec 12, 2006
WILL & SPIRIT is a difficult book to review. Any review is likely to reflect more of my own bias than the quality of the book. Readers will probably either love or hate this book. Therefore the best service I can render is to list a few of the things that might draw or repulse potential readers and let them make up their own minds. I gave the book 5 stars because ideas in this book are sure to stay with readers long after the book is finished. Many may read it more than once.


Writing style. Many contemplatives are drawn to mystical or poetic works that non contemplatives barely comprehend. Some contemplatives are repulsed by technical or scientific writing styles. In this book May comes across as a psychiatrist who writes about contemplative spirituality. The style is difficult to read, professional, and deep. In some ways he reminds me of M. Scott Peck.

Ecumenicism. May writes from a Christian perspective, but that perspective includes insights gained from all humanity and all religious traditions. One gains the impression that he believes Christianity is A way to God, but not necessarily THE way. There is enough of this tone in his writing to bother some readers. This is a book of Contemplative Psychology, but not necessarily Christian Theology.

Be forewarned. If you purchase the book and have these complaints, it is your own fault.


True Spirituality. May does an excellent job of contrasting willfulness and willingness to submit to God. As with many contemplatives, he declares selfishness to be sinful, whether it is acted out in socially unacceptable ways or more respectable self-righteousness within the religious community. Three cheers for piercing the façade of the self-righteous.

Silence and Meditation. May will comfort many people who believe that contemplation requires sitting cross-legged on a bed of hot coals for several hours each morning. He even goes so far as to suggest that hyperactive people might gain more from brief periods of silence than those who are able to go to extremes. This pierces the bubble of contemplative elitism.

Unitive Experience. I don't know if this will be viewed by readers as a positive or negative, but May's description of unitive experiences will cause readers to think. He labels these as the most common of all spiritual experiences, but declares that most people shut them out because they challenge our desires to have total control of our own spirituality, and in the process total control of our own God.

Attachment. While acknowledging that all humans have desires, May challenges the selfish ways in which our desires quickly become attachments that stand between us and God.


Read through this review and decide. Is this a book for you?

Will and Spirit Encouragement at its best  Jan 12, 2003
I found May's book encouraging. I particularly was drawn to his disclosure of the sexuality involved when your spirituality is expanding. The physiology of the Spiritual/Sexual response is not often spoken about. I am thankful for those disclosures.
A rare gem, well worth the effort!  Oct 30, 2001
This is one of those rare books that excites you as you read. May speaks of contemplative prayer and spirituality as both a long time practitioner and a psychiatrist. This is neither a book of inspiring piety not a book of the mechanics of prayer. Rather, it describes the dynamics of the human mind as it comes into contact with the transcendent in contemplative prayer. As I read through the book, I was frequently saying "Yes, that's it exactly!" The section on the defenses the self comes up with in "protecting itself" from unitive experience especially impressed me.
May has spent much of his professional career focusing on the area of spiritual direction. Rather than building his psychological model on experience obtained from treating pathology, May builds his model on "unitive experience" in the context of contemplative prayer. The model is especially helpful in understanding what goes on in us as we attempt to practice the methods of contemplative prayer. It gives a practical look at the obstacles to prayer, why they arise, and how to understand and work through them.
May's pivotal concept is the role of willingness and willfulness as life attitudes and the critical standards for our spiritual lives. He presents willingness as an openness to God's will in all circumstances. This attitude is critical, as it allows God to work through us. The real danger to our relationship with God and with one another is an attitude of willfulness. This attitude places our will as the standard. It is dangerous because there is no room for God in this attitude. It is especially dangerous when the person thinks that he or she is God's gift to humanity.
When I read anything other than novels, I underline important ideas. My copy of Will and Spirit is so filled with yellow from my highlighting marker that at times the pages almost seem to be printed on bright yellow paper.
This is an excellent book on the topic of contemplative prayer and the spiritual life. It is not an easy book. It requires serious reflection as you move through it. It provides practical advice that is available only from one who is experienced both in contemplative prayer and providing direction to those who are trying to follow the contemplative path.
Like a treasure you find in the field  Oct 5, 2001
The beautiful thing about May's book is that it is so hard to define. It is part psychology, part theology, part poetry, part philosophy. The book is empirical and lyrical. It vibrates with the author's warm heart, his brilliant intelligence, his down to earth common sense. It is a book that describes the spiritual journey many of us yearn to undertake and in so doing clarifies it and makes it easier to proceed. The journey of spiritual transformation that May describes is the journey of surrender to Mystery. May describes this process of transformation as the proces whereby our ego acquires its proper and helpful place in the orbit of our being. No longer the willful king concerned with preserving its self importance at all costs, the ego is transformed into an ally in the service of True Life. But the process of transformation is fraught with obstacles ranging from inner fear to the many illusions that pass themselves as the ultimate good to external evil. May looks at each one of these obstacles, patiently, comprehensively. He does not leave any questions about the internal life unaddressed, even if his response is simply to delineate the unknown. It is a book that I will take notes on and read often. As you read it, you will feel as I did, that behind its ease and clarity there lies a monumental effort on the part of the author. Like the other reviewers here, I am profoundly grateful to the author for this effort as well as for his openness to the inspiration that informs his work.
a cornerstone book  Oct 4, 2001
I read this book so many years ago I can't remember. It is heavily underlined, and parts of it still stay in my mind nearly word for word. This level of thought is a gift for a long time. Now I'm ordering another copy for a friend. It's worth sitting down and thinking with this man-- get ready to underline.

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