Bastiaan Baan, Ways into Christian Meditation (2015)
For readers who are interested in religious and spiritual subjects, here is a wonderfully clear, accessible introduction to the topic of how the practice of meditation can play a role in Christian life. Bastiaan Baan was a priest for many years in Holland and is currently the leader of the North American Seminary of the Christian Community (Movement for Religious Renewal) in Spring Valley, New York. He starts out by explaining how meditation can help us recover ourselves when we can hardly breathe due to stress and anxiety: “Meditation is the royal art of remaining free under all the changing conditions of our lives.” Indeed, it has become almost a necessity in today’s world, when we feel ourselves standing on the edge of an abyss. But how to begin?
In brief, clearly-written chapters he goes on to describe the conditions necessary for meditation, such as the creation of inner calm and the strengthening of our will. A second section covers some of the forms of meditation: at different times of day, in connection with loved ones who have died, and so on. Finally he gives examples of how the “I am” statements from St. John’s gospel can become a subject for meditation. Rather than prescribing a single way of working, he conveys principles that can be applied in our individual lives in a way that is useful and meaningful for us. Each one who starts out on this path has to find his or her own way; it is a lonely road, but one that leads to our true self.
With complete respect for Eastern paths and traditions of meditation, Baan also indicates what is special and particular about the Christian way. It is a way that leads through the senses, seeking to transform and ennoble the earthly world rather than shut it out as a source of illusion. It also leads to a closer, deeper connection with the being of Christ, who came to earth to give the small human “I” a new content, the great “I am” that overcomes the delusions of egotism. Christ wants to dwell in us, and through meditation we create a place for him. Awareness of his presence is both the method and the fruit of this kind of practice.
In his writing and religious practice the author is informed and inspired by the work of the spiritual thinker Rudolf Steiner, who is quoted throughout along with many other examples from Gandhi to Dag Hammarskjöld to Simone Weil. Some relatively unfamiliar ideas are thus introduced, such as reincarnation as part of a Christian worldview, but readers who keep an open mind may find their thinking expanded and enriched by these insights. The emphasis throughout is on simple yet profound practices that aim to give health and strength to the modern soul.
Having had the privilege of meeting and working with Rev. Baan, I am so pleased to find his gentle wisdom captured in this little book, and highly recommend it to all who seek a guide on the path.