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The Four Steps of Love – Inspiration and Guidance for the Spiritual Path

Darton, Longman and Todd, 2008
RRP $37.95

Reviewed by Mel Perkins, Family Minister at Aspley Uniting Church and Chaplain at the Aspley Early Childhood Education Centre.

This very interesting book is not one you can pick up and read all at once; it is one that has to be pondered over; one that you might sit with on a park-bench. The author approaches the topic of guidance for the spiritual path by referring to St Bernard of Clairvaux’s four stages of love: We love ourselves for ourselves; We love God for what he gives us; We love God for himself; We love ourselves for God’s sake. With these the author links four questions asked by Jesus in the Gospels: “What are you looking for?”, “But who do you say I am?”, “Do you know what I have done to you?” and “For whom are you looking?”.
The framework is used within the book to encourage continuous conversion on the journey, a process the author acknowledges to be incomplete in this life.
Each ‘step’ is given two chapters – the first describes the stage of love; the second brings in the linked question and then offers some practical exercises and suggestions as aids to conversion.
The exercises are clearly written and easy to follow, as well as being thought provoking. A further chapter links stage one to stage two and so on.
Some unused to this more structured form of spiritual ‘direction’ may find this very ‘Catholic’! And certainly it comes from within the Roman Catholic tradition.
I would however encourage anyone who enjoys exploring their relationship with God through ‘journeying’ metaphors to take a look at this book.
I appreciated the guidance in this book and found the practical exercises helpful.
I found the book to be readable and would recommend it to others.