Saturday, April 22, 2023

The Healing Path by Jim Finley


Whoo boy … (another book review):

I’ve been sort of following Jim Finley since I read his “Merton’s Palace of Nowhere” book. I loved reading that book. Not only did Finley get Merton, he was able to express Merton’s spiritual world in a poetic and beautiful way. It felt as if my heart were resonating with his words and he was saying things that I knew in my own soul but had never heard said out loud before. Merton did that too, but Merton’s words were more reasonable. Finley’s words dipped a little deeper into the Unknown and he made some daring leaps. 

But I never came across another book by Jim Finley. I saw Finley on some YouTube videos, and knew that he was giving retreats, had become a psychotherapist, heard the rumors about the monk abuse at Gethsemane, listened to a podcast or two, but as far as I knew he hadn’t written another book until this one: “The Healing Path”. 

I read the book in about 2 days. It’s short. Finley is still pious and can droll on and on with mystical insights. But what is astounding about this book is the humility and rock bottom honesty. Finley takes his place among the screwed up human beings on the earth. He owns his place among the deeply wounded and scarred, who makes hurtful and lasting mistakes in his relationships.

At times I found myself wanting to criticize Finley. Correct him. His passivity and passive aggression is maddening. Get up, man, fight back. He’s supposed to be a “mystic” for God’s sake. One who has wisdom and integrity. Instead, he shows how downright creepy he can be, unable to engage with or respond emotionally to his wife. He checked out. Let her carry the load of blame. The episode that rings most true is when his wife breaks a beloved framed picture of a Japanese Mary and Christ child over his head. This was a moment of grace. Finley says nothing and picks up the pieces of shattered glass. 

Gushing about how he made love to his new girlfriend with 10 minutes of filing his divorce papers left me cold.

In the end, I am left, again, astounded and grateful to Jim Finley for laying this all out. There are nuggets of wisdom and real spiritual guidance here, like: “do not do violence to yourself while you wait for healing”. Once again, in writing this book, Jim Finley has gone where few have gone before him.

Not many people could write a book like this, exposing the wounds and also the wounding, and daring to suggest that this is where we might find our way to God. Only, perhaps, a real mystic. I will be mulling over this book for awhile. 

UPDATE: I guess I did read another book by Jim Finley, “The Contemplative Heart”, and have quoted from it a few times in this blog over the years.


  1. Creepy? Wow. I haven’t read his latest book, but have Merton’s Palace of Nowhere and have been listening to him for years… I never got a creepy vibe from him, quite the contrary.

    I wonder if his unwillingness to “fight back” is connected to the severe trauma of child abuse he suffered from his violent alcoholic father.

    1. Yeah, I know. Jim Finley is a really nice guy. I feel kind of bad that I reacted to the book like this … but I really admire him for laying it all out there like that.

      I definitely think that his passivity is due to his childhood trauma. He withdrew into himself in order to survive. I think he understands that too. Lots of us have quirks that we’ve developed because of things that happened in childhood. Then we have to deal with what jerks we can be as adults. Finley, with this book, opened the door a little on that. More so than I’ve seen anyone else do.

  2. PS— Glad to see you’ve been posting again lately, I always enjoy reading your site.

    PPS— Finely has a Podcast called Turning to the Mystics which is fantastic. He just started a new season and is doing Eckhart.

  3. Thanks! Yes, I’ve listened to some of the Turning to the Mystics podcasts. I’m interested in the ones on Eckhart. I’ll check it out.

  4. By the way, you probably already know about this but in case you don’t, there’s a fantastic book on Eckhart by Cyprian Smith called The Way of Paradox. It’s really a fabulous little book and well worth reading.

  5. He washed out at Gethsemani after seven years, he is a nut.

  6. Yeah, kinda nutty like all of us. I’m not surprised he didn’t last at Gethsemane, he was quite young and profoundly abused and wounded at that time.


The Good Shepherd’s commitments to us

Photo (by me) from the Basilica of Sts. Cosmos and Damian, Roma HT to John Predmore SJ for the following: I would like to talk about God’s ...