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Pre-July 2009 Press Archives

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10/25/2004 Interfaith approach to spirituality focus of lecture

James Finley, a former student of Thomas Merton, will speak on "Learning to See: Christian and Buddhist Approaches to Spiritual Awakening" Thursday, Nov. 11, at 7:30 p.m. in Melrose Auditorium at Linfield College.

Finley, a clinical psychologist and author of "Merton’s Palace of Nowhere," will examine the Christian tradition of seeking oneness with the divine mystery. By using Thomas Merton as his guide, Finley will explore how being mystically grounded in one’s religious tradition allows individuals to recognize kinship with others from different religions. He will also discuss the role this trans-traditional, contemplative approach to spirituality might play in allowing the world’s great religions to contribute to peace and harmony in an increasingly global community.

William Apel, professor of religious studies at Linfield, called Finley an excellent speaker, one who is engaging and soft-spoken but with a powerful message.

"He will focus on the spiritual self and an interfaith understanding between religions, which is very important today when there is so much global violence and personal animosity," Apel said. "He represents an increasing number of people around the world in varying religions who seek to find those things which unite, not divide, us."

Finley left home at the age of 18 for the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Ky., where Thomas Merton was his spiritual director. He spent six years as a monk and received daily spiritual direction from Merton. Finley left the abbey to continue his education, studying at the University of Akron. He married, became a father, taught secondary school and completed a doctorate in clinical psychology. He often visited the monastery and kept in touch with the monks and began writing about Merton as a guide on the journey to God. In exploring Merton’s thought in "Merton’s Palace of Nowhere," now celebrating its 25th year in publication, Finley offered fresh insight into Merton’s spirituality, especially his approach to prayer, contemplation and the discovery of the true self.

Finley is also the author of "The Contemplative Heart" and most recently, "Christian Meditation: Experiencing the Presence of God." He has given silent retreats throughout the United States and Canada. He has a private clinical psychology practice in California.

In addition to his public lecture, Finley will also attend classes and meet with faculty and students during his visit.

The lecture and visit are sponsored by the Frazee Lecture in Bible and Religion and the Pollard Symposium in Religion and Society. The Frazee lecture honors Gordon G. Frazee who served Linfield College for 32 years as chaplain and professor of religion. The Pollard Symposium honors J. Hybert Pollard, former professor of religion at Linfield.

For more information, call David Massey, Linfield chaplain, 503-883-2259.