Long Night's Journey. "Journey to the Inner Mountain: In the Desert with St Anthony", by James Cowan. [review]
James Cowan has a gift for writing about shadowy figures. His previous book, "Francis: A Saint’s Way", probed the many myths that have gathered over the centuries around the figure of Francis of Assisi. In many ways, Cowan’s new book, "Journey to the Inner Mountain", is a companion volume to "Francis". If anything, it is in search of an even more slippery character than Francis: St Antony of Egypt. Cowan is keen to liberate Antony from his ecclesial context. He attempted to do the same with Francis. In both cases, this leads to some valuable links across communities that can stifle themselves by being isolated from each other. In Francis’s case, Cowan made fascinating links to Islam. In Antony’s case, he builds bridges in many directions, to Zen and even to the Marquis de Sade. But he tends to downplay the manner in which those who isolate themselves from a community continue to address that community and even reveal aspects of the community to itself.