A Pilgrimage Beyond Belief: Spiritual Journeys through Christian and Buddhist Monasteries of the American West

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A Pilgrimage Beyond Belief is a spiritual narrative of one man’s calling to the life of monastic devotion. It is both an adventure story, in which the author, Dennis Slattery, travels into the world of monastic settings, and a journey into the interior geography of his personal history. We accompany Slattery as he sets off on a three-and-a-half-month pilgrimage during which he struggles with his identity, his role as father and husband, teacher and believer, as well as the life and death of his alcoholic father. Throughout his stays at twelve monasteries and retreat centers, Slattery seeks the refuge of the monastic life where silence and solitude open an extraordinary window on the human soul. Living within the prayerful daily routines of such settings, he recovers parts of himself that he had forgotten in his quest for professional success.

His pilgrimage is “beyond belief” not in the sense that it is “unbelievable,” but rather in the sense that, although he does already believe in God, he comes to a powerful new awareness of God’s real presence in his daily life. Slattery’s journey evokes life’s most profound questions and his rich Catholic heritage, enriched with wisdom drawn from contemporary and classic spiritual writers like Thomas Merton, Julian of Norwich, and Thich Nhat Hanh. He attempts to bring a monastic sense of space to the reader, which one can enter outside the structure of a formal retreat. And for those considering embarking upon their own spiritual retreat, an appendix is provided with descriptions of additional retreat centers, and suggested reading to enhance contemplative solitude.

Author: Dennis Slattery
Preface by Peter C. Phan
Foreword by Thomas Moore

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Praise for A Pilgrimage Beyond Belief:
“I hope Dennis’s fine, honest, beautiful book inspires readers to imitate him in their own way, to discover how deeply satisfying a life in the spirit can be, how it doesn’t have to exclude ordinary, normal, and pleasurable life, but can actually intensify it.”
–THOMAS MOORE, author of Care of the Soul and Soul Mates

“Dennis Patrick Slattery invites us on a journey to experience with him the sacredness of everyday life at the monastic retreat centers he visits as well as on the paths and desert mountain ranges he walks. In this courageous journey of the heart, the author weaves his poetic reflections together with the teachings of many writers. A stunning spiritual journey.”
–MAUREEN MURDOCK, author of The Heroine’s Journey and Unreliable Truth

“In this memoir, Dennis Patrick Slattery writes of a journey, simultaneously inward and outward, with an almost Augustinian appreciation of the ‘sweetness’ of things. With a writer’s relish and mystic’s sensitivity, he describes making his way from one monastic community to another.”
–CHRISTINE DOWNING, author of The Long Journey Home

“Those who read this story of pilgrimage have an opportunity to travel through the desert of the dark night of the soul to the mountain of the light of divine knowledge. It is one of the most reflective, richly poetic, and yes, spiritually uplifting ‘journals of the soul’ I have been privileged to read.”
–PETER C. PHAN, Georgetown University; author of Journeys at the Margin

“This is a marvelous and inspiring book that serves not only as a practical and historical guide to contemporary monastic retreats in the American West, but also as a reminder of how much we need to seek out periods of meditative solitude in our lives.”
–EVANS LANSING SMITH, author of The Hero Journey in Literature and Sacred Mysteries

“Dennis reveals himself as a child of God at play in the fields of the Lord. His delight in the spiritual world is palpable, contagious. His decades-long habit of reflection has borne fruit in this compelling record of what continues to be a sacramental journey.”
–ALLEN TATE WOOD, author of Moonstruck


DENNIS PATRICK SLATTERY, Ph.D., has been teaching for 45 years, the last 23 in the Mythological Studies and Depth Psychology and Depth Psychotherapy programs at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Carpinteria, California. He is the author, co-author, or co-editor of 24 books and over 300 essays on scholarly and cultural topics as well as book and film reviews that have appeared in books, magazines, journals and newspapers.