The Deeper Centre
The Deeper Centre
by Eva Heymann, SHCJ
London, UK: Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd, 2006
Reviewed by Laurie Basile, MATS
The Deeper Centre is the story of a soul being drawn and healed by God’s love. In her eightieth year, Eva Heymann was asked by her religious superiors to write the story of her life. Born in Germany, she fled to England as a Jewish refugee in the late 1930s and eventually became a Roman Catholic religious sister and psychotherapist working in London with the marginalized. In this part meditation and part memoir book, Heymann ponders on her long life and God’s intimate movement within it, and encourages her readers to do the same with their lives. Her voice is gentle, compassionate and humble, and rock-bottom authentic.
The simplicity of The Deeper Centre tends to hide its amazing richness. Trees are central to Heymann’s spirituality, and each chapter begins with a quote from an essay on trees by the German poet Hermann Hesse. Heymann then writes about the memories that the quote sparks, or what the quote means to her. Running throughout all of this, however, is a wealth of information and wisdom about the spiritual life and journey. As I skimmed through part of the book I easily drew up a list of twenty topics that are covered in spiritual direction formation programs ranging from how to pray, to changing God images, to the place of silence in one’s spirituality. This book would definitely be of interest to a spiritual direction training program, or anyone desiring to enrich his or her spiritual life.
The Deeper Centre represents a multicultural, diverse worldview simply because that is the world Heymann has lived in since her early years. She resonates with those on the edge of institutions, cultures, and faith. Heymann knows both the pain and the liberation that can be found there. A gift of the book for me was the sharing of some of her path towards reconciliation between her German and Jewish parts, and between herself and former Nazi Germans. Reading her story helped me to reconcile a little bit more with this part of world history.
As a student of the enneagram, I loved how this book gave such an in depth picture of the spirituality of one of the centers of the enneagram. I would love to read such an in depth life history from the other two centers as well. For those readers in the same center as Heymann, this book could be a special gift. Also if trees play a prominent part in your spiritual journey, you will want to be sure to read this book written by a kindred spirit.
The Deeper Centre is Eva Heymann’s first book. From her life as a very private child without any conscious awareness of God, to someone who so openly shares her intimate faith journey, she demonstrated by writing her story that “the gifts we have received are not only for ourselves but they are intended to be shared as generously as they were given” (p. 141). In The Deeper Centre Eva Heymann has done just that.
Laurie Basile, MATS, is a spiritual director and retreat leader living in Paris, France. She is involved with multicultural contemplative prayer groups and is walking Le Chemin de Saint-Jacques de Compostelle (Camino de Santiago) starting from Vézelay, France. She received her Masters of Arts in Transforming Spirituality from Seattle University in Seattle, Washington, USA.