Book Review: New Life for Old : on desire and becoming human.

Vincent Mac Namara

Columba Press : 2004.  ISBN 1-85607-457-9

In writing this book Vincent Mac Namara has presented the reader with a deceptively simple looking work. Aladdin’s mother may have been duped into swapping the old (magic)lamp for the new shinier version ; hence the title, New Life for Old. But throughout this book we are challenged into looking more deeply at the human problem arising from the conflict between reality and appearance, and whether the search for inner meaning culminates in darkness or in light.

Father Mac Namara traces the development of the personal self, the opening to the transpersonal and engagement with spiritual traditions. Combining the insights of psychology, the practice of psychotherapy and the experience of the great religious traditions, he invites us to stand on a middle ground and from there experience the lived reality of our daily lives. There is a real groundedness in the manner in which he explores the human journey from its genetic roots through its relational and environmental shapings, to the first staging of personality and freedom. And the thrust of our deepest desires drives us ever onwards.

As a psychotherapist Mac Namara constantly validates experience as the touchstone of our reality. He points to a Way of Being rather than to a System of Controls. His experiences as a lecturer of morality  and as guide to people in need, seem to make him impatient with prescriptions and ‘the coldly chiselled teaching’ divorced from the reality of human desire and the moral journey.

So, this book presents a challenge and an inspiring vade-mecum. Those of us who practice as psychotherapists will find it witty, well-written, and worthy of a place on the shelf or in the bag. For the more general reader it should raise questions and provoke some thoughts that ‘may lie too deep for tears’, but thoughts that may enrich the fabric of their lives and enlighten their deepest desires.

Pat Colgan is a psychotherapist and teacher in Eckhart House. He is a retired lecturer of communications and philosophy in Dundalk Institute of Technolo