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Book Review

The Way of the Dreamcatcher: Spirit Lessons with Robert Lax: Poet, Peacemaker, Sage.

By S. T. Georgiou. Foreword by Brother Patrick Hart, OCSO.

Novalis, Saint Paul University: 23 Main Street, Ottawa, Canada, 2002.

(Paperback - 288 pages with 32 pages of colour photos and artwork.)

Reviewed by Paul Fromont.

If you find a man who is constant, awake to the inner [movements of God], learned, long suffering, endowed with devotion, a [holy] man – follow this good and great man even as the moon follows the path of the stars

Adapted from The Dhammapada translated by Juan Mascaro. Quoted in the introductory pages to The Way of the Dreamcatcher.

This book is a veritable storehouse of treasure.
Within days of it arriving in the post it had been read and in parts reread. I first came across it just after its publication in 2002, by way of online excerpts from interviews between the author, Steve Georgiou, and American poet/mystic/”boatman” Robert Lax (b.1915). Sadly I only purchased a copy in 2005.

Lax, the lifelong best friend of Trappist monk Thomas Merton, moved, in 1963, to the Greek Islands of Kalymnos and Patmos (the latter from whence St. John wrote his Apocalypse). Lax spent the last 35 years of his life at Skala on Patmos, before rapidly failing health lead to his return to Olean, New York (his place of birth). Shortly after that return, Robert Lax died peacefully in his sleep on the 26th September 2000, funnily enough, the feast day of St John the Divine, already referred to above. He was buried in the Friar's cemetery, near St. Bonaventure University, New York.

The foundation upon which this fascinating book was written was a ‘chance' meeting and conversation in 1993 between Georgiou and an unknown Greek man on Patmos. The Greek man's insistence that Georgiou should find a sage called “Pax” led him to a life-changing encounter with Robert Lax; an encounter that was to grow into a wonderfully textured friendship between a young man in his mid-years and a holy mentor in the twilight of his earthly life.

At the heart of this book's “Spirit lessons” or “Spirited exchanges” is a spiritual friendship shared between Georgiou and Lax. One reviewer called the book a “liturgy of encounter.”

A true teacher has no need to call the seeker; he lets the disciple come

A Buddhist proverb. Quoted in the introductory pages to The Way of the Dreamcatcher.

The Way of the Dreamcatcher
is divided into four main sections. Each section, introduced by Georgiou, is effectively a discussion between the author and Robert Lax on the topics of: Origins (Lax's), Craft, Art, and Spirit.

The conversations are truly inspiring. Lax navigates the terrain of his life and we are gifted the wonderful privilege of “soaking in” the fruits of Lax's life-long orientation toward the love of God, love of the other, and love of Creation.

I couldn't single out a “favourite” chapter; each is so different and so rich: from Lax sharing something of his life; to his practice of, and perspective on poetry and writing more generally; to art, its nature and effects; and on finally to his spirituality, at once both Christian and thoroughly ecumenical. To listen in on the conversations is to sit at the feet of a life-weathered sage. To listen in on the conversation is to both realise and lament how absent from ones own life and church experience are similar such persons.

If you're a wayfarer, if you're searching, or if you're longing to grow deeper you'll want to slowly read, savour and meditate on this book. The Way of the Dreamcatcher will both nourish you on the journey and deepen you as you search.Read this book if you want to catch glimpses of Thomas Merton. Finally, read this book if you're a writer, poet, artist, mentor, or spiritual director.

So much of such value is woven through its pages. It's a book I'll keep returning too.

For more of Steve Georgiou's story, you will find it in this Feb. 2005 interview: Finding My Religion – Steve Georgiou on his faith and mentor, minimalist poet Robert Lax.


[This review was first published on the Prodigal Kiwi blog of Paul Fromont and Alan Jamieson, and is used with permission.]

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