The Five Vows by Michael Maciel is subtitled “Raising Your Spiritual Commitment to the Next Level.” But don’t misunderstand, this is not a book about monasticism. Instead, it is a book about living intentionally and with purpose (hence: vows) from within. Ultimately, it is a wonderful “gateway drug” to the world of mysticism and the internal spiritual life for those who have dwelled mostly in the outward shell of religion.
Finding a Compass
The transition from living externally; holding oneself accountable and restricted to external rules and rituals, to living internally; being lead and discipled from the spirit within, is an awkward transition for many. The brilliance of The Five Vows is that Michael has taken five of the most familiar pillars of the religious world, and walks the reader through understanding how they apply to the path of inward spiritual maturity.
These five vows are humility, service, purity, poverty, and obedience. All of those words have often been used to enslave the spirit of humanity under sanctimonious contexts. That is why it is so refreshing to be reminded and instructed as to their powerful transformative nature in growing us maturity toward the spiritual freedom of which Christ spoke.
Applicable and Instructive
Michael is skilled at explaining spiritual disciplines, often only understood as experiences. He uses parables, stories, and rather interesting application of the movie Terminator 2. It is one thing to define “humility” it is another thing to help someone understand what it actually FEELS like, how it changes our behavior, affects our outlook on the world, and changes our habits. In this way The Five Vows does the work of a skilled and experienced spiritual guide, and brings practicality to words that are so ambiguous in our culture today.
Obedience for the Win
If you are wanting to “vet” The Five Vows, I recommend reading it backwards. Chapter seven (out of eight) covers the topic of obedience. In my opinion, of all the five topics covered, obedience is the most misunderstood in Christianity today. Michael knocks it out of the park and explains the difference between the kind of sanctimonious obedience which holds us captive to a false ideal, and the empowering obedience which comes from having the courage to follow the spirit and convictions within us.
Conclusion: Spiritual Maturity 201
The world is still starved for good material on actually growing in spiritual maturity and transformation. The Five Vows is a perfect example of mysticism at its best and most practical manifestation. We have so many books telling us what to believe, yet so few instructing us in how to BECOME. Michael Maciel shows that seeing the spiritual life as a journey of exploration, yet also having a purpose and direction are not mutually exclusive.