After his upbringing in a staunch Catholic family in Belfast and his rigorous formation in the Jesuits, Johnston faced a turning point with his assignment to Japan in 1951. There his exposure to Asian culture and Zen practice led to his rediscovery of the mystical traditions of Christianity, transforming his spiritual practice. His story is enlivened by encounters with such figures as Pedro Arrupe, the saintly Jesuit Superior General, Thomas Merton, novelist Shusaku Endo, Takashi Nagai, the mystic of Nagasaki, and the Dalai Lama.
William Johnston lived for nearly fifty years in Japan and served as a professor of religious studies and director of the Institute of Oriental Religions at Sophia University, Tokyo. His many books include Christian Zen, The Inner Eye of Love, Mystical Theology, and Arise My Love.