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The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart Review by Michelle Gibson

John Amos Comenius
Edited by Timothy L. Price
Ekklesia Press
2110 30th Ave. #16,
Kearney, NE 68845

Written almost four hundred years ago, The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart, by John Amos Comenius, is the original pilgrim allegory. Adapted by Timothy L. Price, the book is a two-part story in which Pilgrim travels through the complex labyrinth of the world as a Spectator. Mr. Ubiquitous and Mr. Delusion don him with spectacles "to keep his perceptions and thoughts safely conventional" and act as his guide. When he manages to peek over the brims of his distorting lenses, the world's corruption is exposed, and he sees a very different world than what his guides want him to see. He finds that the vocations of life, the sects and ranks of the people's world order and religions are confusing and loud. "Traders and teachers, philosophers and medics, soldiers and priests, the rich and the laborers–all these and more are seen to be building their lives upon vanity and violence." Searching for meaning and purpose, he struggles to find his vocation. He is in despair–until Christ appears, and he finds faith, hope, and transformation. As Christ sheds his light on what Pilgrim experienced in the world, Pilgrim realizes his newfound mission is to shine the light of Christ on others. As he does, he begins to see the world as Christ does–"seeing how amid the corruption there are also the seeds of God making all things new." Mr. Price says this is an invitation to wonder what kind of world we are walking through and what our glasses let us see.

In Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, Christian focuses on the state of his soul and reaching the Celestial City. Comenius's pilgrim is "fixed more firmly on how the fallen state of the world corrupts many of the works of human society." Mr. Price goes into more detail on the differences at the end of the book. He writes that, like Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, one can read The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart on multiple levels.

The book is available as a softcover, hardcover, thumb drive audiobook, and e-book. In addition, two collections are available for a bundled price. The softcover, e-book, and thumb drive bundle is $41.00, and the hardcover, e-book, and thumb drive bundle is $50.00. The e-book is $9.00.

Embellished with a stylized first letter, ornamentation, a decorative chapter number, and a fancy font for the chapter title, the elegant hardcover is $28.00. It includes three hundred pages, 16 black and white illustrations, 24 endorsements, and a 32-page biographical/historical section with color photos.

The simpler in design–but still high-quality softcover is $19.00. It has 316 pages, 16 black and white illustrations, a 32-page biographical/historical section (without photos), and a 12-page section titled "More Thought Provoking Titles." The style is simple but elegant.

Both editions have the high-quality, cream-colored paper with easy-to-read, clear font. The story is the same. The paging format is close but not exact. The books have a Table of Contents; a Preface; A Word About Adapting Labyrinth; an Introduction to the Reader; fifty-four chapters; and an Appendix: Understanding Comenius Then and Now. The additional sections are worth reading for historical context and understanding of the book.

The thumb drive with the audiobook is the same size as a credit card, and the drive flips out for use. I plugged it into the USB port in the car and scrolled to find my place in the book. It was also easy to import into iTunes. The audio recording is professional and well done.

The Labyrinth of the World and The Paradise of the Heart is an illustrative allegory of man's spiritual journey as a pilgrim on earth. The first part is a cynical eye-opening, realistic view of the world and our hearts, contrasted with The Paradise of the Heart, aligning our hearts with Christ in obedience and submission to the Father's will. I like the detailed description of how to walk as a follower of Christ. In "A Word About Adapting Labyrinth," Mr. Price explains how he adapted the book from existing English editions. He explains why he uses "follower of Christ" instead of the word "Christian." I love this and wonder if we live as followers of Christ. I could listen to The Paradise of the Heart many times to soak it all in. It would be wonderful to see the world solely from Christ's perspective and live as he wants us to.

My 16-year-old daughter, Eliana, was especially intrigued by the transformation of Pilgrim's heart. She says,

When Christ entered his heart for the first time, and found it silent, dim, and cluttered with torn or faded paintings of Prudence, Humility, Justice, Purity, Self-control, and others, along with broken ladders, springs, gears, pulleys, and clipped feathers lying around, it painted an acute picture in my mind of what our hearts can look like without Christ's shining, purifying light. The metaphors and parallelisms drew me into the scene and made me feel like I was there wondering what was on the other side of the slimy window. I asked myself questions such as, 'What will this end up meaning?' and 'How does this apply to me?'

My husband enjoyed reading the book aloud to us as a family. He read in the quiet evenings before bed and enjoyed the characters and story. As he read, I enjoyed hearing the children's narrations and the historical information that stood out to them, such as how they still thought they could make gold in those days (we read about that in our chemistry book). We all loved the theme that without the Heavenly Father, life is futile and grasping at the wind. The Paradise of the Heart ranks high on our shelf for its depth and meaning. This living book is a gem that should be more well-known as the original pilgrim allegory.

-Product review by Michelle Gibson, The Old Schoolhouse®, March 2023