Desert spirituality is a technical term that has biblical and early Christian roots. It is a staple of all Christian spirituality. This desert experience was developed into a coherent spirituality by the desert fathers and mothers in the 3rd and 4th centuries of the Christian era. A special appeal to heroic souls was the belief that the demons infested the wastelands and could be met there in open combat. It did not take long for the desert dweller to discover that the demons were within and to be engaged in the battleground of the soul. The course will include the basic reading of the St. Athanasius Vita Antonii, which is one of the foremost classics of Christian spirituality. The overall principle that must be returned to is: the call to emptiness and encounter with God. Charles Cummings explains this in his book, Spirituality and the Desert Experience: Studies in Formative Spirituality, which will also be discussed.
For Christians today the desert is a graphic symbol of the emptiness of life and the otherness of God. The emptiness translated into purity of heart, a heart freed from sinful affections and centered on God. Thus the beatitude that best sums up desert spirituality is Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.