Book Reviews

Jack’s book was reviewed in the St. Anthony Messenger, by Charles M. Campbell, a writer and poet who taught at The Catholic University of America and now has retired to Ferdinand, Indiana.

DON’T READ THIS BOOK if you are absolutely sure that you have no potential for growth in your relationship to Jesus. It might explode in your hands unless you swallow it whole and put it into practice.

A previous book, HEALING THE FRACTURED SELF, by this Jesuit priest-psychiatrist (sic) with 25 years of experience is touted as “a clear and jargonless explanation of how the ego may be made whole.” In it Father Jack delved extensively into the inner lives of two of his patients, tracing their growth in self-awareness that potentially led to the transformation each desired.

In this second book, JESUS: HEALER OF OUR INNER WORLD, he continues his in-depth examination of the lives of his clients and, in addition, explains and demonstrates how the Grace of God is a powerful force in bringing troubled persons (all of us) into the fullness of autonomy, peace and wholeness which our Creator intends.

Both books are “jargonless” in the sense that there is very little use of Freudian or psychiatric vocabulary. Instead, the very original Father Jack (or simply Jack, as he is called throughout) creates his own vocabulary, diagrams and images which are most always immediately understandable.

The theme of Jesus: Healer is that there is in every person a sort of community of acquired personae who are usually at war with one another and with the person’s most basic Self. Father Jack names some of these: the Central I, the Inner Child, the Inner Other. Most important is the IAM, which is the image of God, the I-AM-WHO-I-Am, in the human person.

It is the conflict between the person’s Central I and the Inner Others (usually a parent figure) which tends to make a person “immobile, depressed, anxious, isolated, valueless, guilty, lonely.” By listening to the “voices” of the inner conflict, a person is able to distinguish what values belong to Self and what imperatives are being demanded by the still present parental personae. It is this recognition and the determination to do something about it which help leads the suffering person to autonomy, integrity, sense of worth and selfhood.

Father Jack gives many dramatic examples throughout the book of the growth process in a number of his patients, but especially in the lives of two, whom he names Dana and Chris. He gives actual transcripts of their conferences and insights, which assist the reader to identify with and empathize.

This innovative Jesuit shows how many of the parables of Jesus apply to our personal stories. He is insistent that grace builds on nature. We cannot grow into the spiritual persons God intended us to be unless we grow also into the basic fullness of our psychological selves.

Especially powerful and life-giving is Father Jack’s “interiorization” of the life of Christ himself–that is, his application of the meaning of the Gospel narratives as applied to our personal struggle with our inner demons. For example, in the narrative describing Peter’s attempt to walk on water, Father Jack concludes, “Jesus beckons to Peter to exercise the power of his pure, unfractured I AM. Initially Peter draws on that power and does walk upon the water, demonstrating what power the energy of I AM generates if it is allowed to remain in tact. Reading between the lines, however, we can hear the demon effect the fracture of Peter’s I AM integrity: ‘Come on, Peter! Who are you trying to fool? You haven’t got what it takes to butt this wind and walk on water. Watch out!’…With that Peter’s I AM integrity begins to crumble…True power rests in being faithful to God’s will as it is found in the I AM-ness which God created in his image and likeness.”

This approach to the image of God in the human is much easier for a modern reader to grasp and apply than the traditional exposition of that image as human intellect and free will.

The jacket of the book promises an examination of the inner forces that lead us to “do the things we do not want, and not to do what we choose.” (Echoes of St. Paul to the Romans!)

This book could certainly appeal to anyone interested in or practicing psychological counseling or spiritual direction. But most of all it will be helpful to the average layperson who has hang-ups.

St. Ignatius, in his Spiritual Exercises, identifies his purpose as “a way of preparing and disposing the soul to rid itself of all inordinate attachments and, after their renewal, of seeking and finding the will of God in the disposition of our life for the salvation of our soul. “Father Jack Walters, S.J. has added something more than just a modern footnote to the purpose of the Jesuits’ founder.

Congratulations to Jack for a great review!

The following is a review written by Robert J. Willis. It appeared in PRESENCE: THE JOURNAL OF SPIRITUAL DIRECTORS INTERNATIONAL, Fall 1997.

The landscape of Christianity reeks with wars fought in God’s name. The infidel, the “Other,” timelessly calls forth righteous anger and deserves both condemnation and punishment. Within the territorial confines of Western Christianity, our present century rings with shrill judgments. Protectors of religion have reserved some of their choicest anathemas for godless atheism, rampant materialism, and secular humanism – all hallmarks of our age. In this later bunch, proponents of modern psychology often have proved to be most tempting targets as they offer a kind of therapeutic salvation extra ecclesia.

In writing this book on pastoral counseling, Jack Walters, a Maryland Province Jesuit, has well lived up to his lineage as defender of orthodoxy and igniter of many fire storms of conservationist wrath. Reflecting both intelligently and contemplatively on his professional experience as a psychotherapist, he positions himself resolutely in the no-man’s-land between two sets of therapeutic warriors: the Christian Counselor in the white corner, the Non-Religious Therapist in the red one. In chewing over his reflections, both groups will claim him for themselves – and denounce him as the “other”!

Consider, for example, the book’s main divisions: “Part I: The Original Sin”; “Part II: Jesus and Our Inner Demons”; “Part III: Jesus and Our Inner Children”; “Part IV: The messianic Struggle for the Soul of Mankind”. Could even the most rigid religionist cavil here judge him to be too secular, too humanistic? And the most cursory examination reveals an author who knows, uses, and depends upon the Judeo-Christian Testaments. The most severely Bible-toting of readers must welcome Walters as a fellow traveler. On the other hand, Muslims and Jews, Buddhists and Hindus would not be initially tempted to pick up this flamingly Christian work; I can hardly imagine the non-religious professional therapist who would not dismiss his talk about sin and demons, souls and salvation as much more than pietistic wish fulfillment.

If, however, knowing the Jesuit intellectual biography, one of these “other hands” should dare to take on Walters, the reader would soon be amazed by his re-reading of the Creation story. Through his analysis of Genesis he concludes that mankind’s sin comes not from a fall from grace through a godless apple, but from projections of a child’s far of rejection onto “God-as-Parent”. After their disobedience, God didn’t stop loving Adam and Eve because they were no longer very “good”; rather, it was they who judged that their felt shame and guilt meant they were no longer lovable. No humanist could more clearly proclaim mankind’s essential and continuing worth! In terror upon their own judgment, our ancestors internalized their own critical parental projection as the only way to forestall further mistakes and manipulate divine acceptance from that point.

This internalization sets up the battle for mankind’s soul. The “Inner Other”, the demon of our own making, forever berating us as imperfect, demands unquestioning obedience as the price for continued safety. It feeds on the “Inner Child’s” genuine fear of an abusive and rejecting parent, holding it in protective chains. And it enlists as its ally that part of the child’s experience that for a fact knows personal imperfections and the rejection of others. For the religiously inclined, here stand the Demon and Powers of Darkness; for the psychologically sophisticated, here recognize the lineaments of the Superego, here find a religious translation of object relations and systemic theories. In Part II we thus meet the enemy – and it is us!

Arrayed against this demonic enslaving power are three: a Father that loves us unconditionally, a Brother who joined us to correct our mistaken projection and to show us how to overcome the demonic forces we subsequently created, and a Mother-Spirit who feeds and directs, cares for and heals us. Citing principally the New Testament’s account of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, Walters translates these incidents, ones familiar to most Christian, into indications of the divine rejection of mankind’s original judgment of God after our disobedience. God loved us into creation in the beginning, still does, and always will. One can almost hear the triumphant coda, “So there!” And so much for Parts III and IV.

This book’s strengths are many: thorough and creative knowledge of Scripture; a professional understanding of modern psychological theory; a telling diagnosis in psychoreligious language of our current personal mess and the internal dynamics that keep us mired there. Its principle weakness, in my judgment, lies in its prescription for healing. In this regard, Father Walters, the priest, relies heavily on the example of Jesus, urging us to learn from him and to do as He did. Hear here the echo of any decent sermon! Doctor Walters, the therapist, presents case vignettes, showing primarily incidents of therapeutic encounter and change. Would that it were so easy and so frequent! What about the rest of the time? I need more of Jack Walters, the man struggling with his own inner demons, the therapist reaching out to connect with the enchained person sitting in pain across from him. How does he actually engage in this battle for his patient’s soul without dying himself, caught between warring parties in a no-man’s zone?

In sum, the reader will find here much clarity about who we really are, about who we think we are, about how we are struggling to regain our birthright, about the strategic model for healing Jesus presents us. He or she will not as easily discover instructions about how to actualize that healing, either as intervening therapist or as yearning patient.