Soul Provider by Edward L. Beck showed up at my front door this week. I looked at the the back cover and saw that the Dalai Lama praised it. This is not necessarily a good thing from my point of view, especially when weighing whether to add a book to my already high stack of religious reading. It's not a deal killer, mind you, but it does make me wary.
Then I opened the book and saw a black and white version of The Ladder of Ascent (shown above). Hmmm, intriguing.
Proceeding to the intro and first chapter, I got sucked in. Beck was at a monastery on retreat when he saw the above painting which was a long-time favorite of his. Looking into it further, he found his way to The Ladder of Divine Ascent by St. John Climacus from the 7th century. This book of the 30 steps toward God was so fruitful that Beck has reworked it for our modern imagination.
I haven't read any further yet although this book definitely has made the cut for my "to read" list. On the other hand, Steven Riddle is going full steam ahead, providing excerpts and reflections. Below is a taste and you can get started here.
Fr. Beck's book seems to be a very hard-headed, light-hearted, full-spirited survey of how to improve one's life with God. The advice given is solid, orthodox and complemented by insights from other religious traditions that both inform and help to bring out implicit aspects of each topic. Each chapter ends with a set of very hard, very pointed questions that allow the reader to reflect upon his or her own state with respect to the Ascent to God.