You may have tuned in recently for part one of my overview of ten books that were key to the development of my spirituality throughout my life. If not, go catch up!
Okay, ready? Last week’s installment covered five books that took me from childhood through my late 20s. We’ll pick up below with five more that take us from there to (roughly) now.
The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous– I first encountered this book at the age of 29, by which point addictive behaviors of various stripes had made my life completely unmanageable. Up until then, I had perused spirituality in an intellectual way. What I lacked was what this book provided, and I could no longer do without: a practical, step-by-step (all puns intended) guide to how to put spiritual principles in to practice in everyday living. Yes the language is a little outdated now (it first came out in 1935). But the common-sense and extremely low-dogma approach to spirituality is as relevant as ever. Over the years, I have heard Christian fundamentalists dismiss its concept of choosing a Higher Power of your own understanding as being too wishy-washy, and Atheist fundamentalists dismiss it as being Christian propaganda. Anything that can stay in a sensible middle of both extremes must be on to something!
The Televisionary Oracle– Some of you may be familiar with Rob Brezsny from his irreverent, fiercely intelligent, and radically freedom-insistent Free Will Astrology column. You may not realize that he’s also written a novel. Or is it a New Age self-help book? Bizarrely presented memoir? Whichever, when I came across this book in the wake of separating from my first wife in my early 30s, it was deeply welcome. It was like having a dear friend to help talk a newly-single, emotionally-raw me through the process of re-discovering who I was. A dear friend who was also crazy, and sexy, and able to pull together multiple threads of the metaphysical concepts I’d spent years reading about. This book also really helped me connect to the idea of the Divine Feminine. I’d heard it before, of course, but reading this book really got me feeling God as a She, which totally changed my connection to Her.
The Artist’s Way– If the Big Book helped show me how to practically apply spiritual principles to my life, The Artists’ Way did something similar to the most important part of my life, my creativity. This was also after my divorce, as I was finally getting back to writing, after years away from it. Julia Cameron’s credo in this book is that, “God is an artist. So are we. And we can cooperate with each other. Our creative dreams and longings do come from a divine source, not from the human ego.” But this idea is then put into action through a twelve-week course of daily exercises that allow the reader to re-connect to their creativity, and connect their creativity to their spirituality, in a thoroughly non-denominational way that draws from multiple sources. I’ve been through it twice, and each time it’s turbo-charged my creative process, and led me in new directions. I haven’t worked through it in ten years at this point, so it may be time to do it again…
Cosmic Trigger 1: The Final Secret of the Illuminati– Running in parallel to my lifelong interest in spirituality has been an equally lifelong interest in the paranormal and conspiracy theories. As a kid, I literally kept files of clippings and photocopies of articles on unexplained phenomenon- I recall UFOs, ghosts, ESP, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and several other topics each having their own file. I’m pretty sure Chris Carter owes me some kind of copyright infringement settlement. But what I’m actually here to talk about is how writer/philosopher/maverick Robert Anton Wilson spent his life tuned in to the intersection of conspiracy theories, the paranormal, mysticism, science and religion. And from that, he produced (among many other things) this delightful volume that asserts nothing, implies everything, and encourages the reader to keep an open mind. I’m basically the perfect target audience for this book, and upon reading it in my mid-30s, the paranoia that is the birthright of Gen-Xers like myself somehow turned to profound amusement, and I’ve never looked at things in quite the same way again.
Hooked: Buddhist Writings on Greed, Desire, and the Urge to Consume– This book is actually a collection of essays that addresses the unrest without (consumer culture, capitalist excess, environmental degradation) and links it to the unrest within (addictions, greed, spiritual dissatisfaction). It turns out that Buddhism has been keyed in to this essential human difficulty in experiencing “enough” the whole time, and the voices collected in this volume have a lot to say about possible ways forward through our modern dilemma. Reading this as I approached 40 really helped me see where my decades-long interest in Buddhism could directly speak to both my internal unrest and the unrest of the world whose future I increasingly fear for. In a dark age, it’s important to remember that there are deeper forces in the world, and there’s a chance that our karma may be in the process of working itself out.
And that’s the ten books that have most influenced my spiritual development (so far). I would love to hear some of yours!