10 Favourite spiritual books
Personally, I think spirituality is the most private and personal aspect of human life — even more than sex and salary. So, I would never presume to make a list of spiritual books without qualifying the criteria: Here are 10 of the most spiritually influential books to me. In other words, it’s a very personal and idiosyncratic list, in no discernible order.
1. The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell. Actually, many of the Campbell books I have on my book shelf (in other words, the ones I have read) would fall into this category, especially the Joseph Campbell Companion (edited by Diane K. Osbon). I think of Campbell as my teacher, though I never met him. I’m not sure anyone’s ideas have influenced me more. He made me see the world as one extremely creative and vital organism, exhibiting itself in an astounding array of religious, mythological and cultural manifestations.
2. The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham. Maugham is probably my favourite writer. His elegant style and piercing insight can’t be beat. And he was way ahead of his time in his depiction of a young man who goes to India to seek the truth and become good. Wait — that’s what Jesus probably did. Holy smoke, it never occurred to me that Maugham was writing about Jesus until this minute.
3. The Bhagavad Gita. Though I have never read it through from cover to cover, I am familiar with many of the ideas from my yoga studies. It’s a beautiful book. I will read the whole thing one day.
4. Ditto Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Yes, I know roughly what they are about and no I have not read all of them. But I am claiming both these books because the ideas are the basis of yoga and I am a very dedicated student of yoga.
5. Rumi. The poetry of Rumi seems to me to express truths that I cannot believe he was able to capture. In The Tavern he writes about how someone brought me here, they have to take me home. Reading those lines was like basking my brain in a glorious sunrise.
6. Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. Anything is possible. (Except finishing this book. But I will finish it one day. Honestly.)
7. Three Meals a Day by Jesse Read. This was my Mother’s cookbook. It is about 50 years old, tattered and dirty, and there are a couple of pages covered in food stains and my Mother’s handwriting. The most sacred page is the one with the Tomato Aspic recipe. She always served Tomato Aspic with Christmas dinner and I was the only other family member who ate it. And loved it.
8. Bible Stories for Children. When I was a child I really loved Jesus. I remember how excited I was when I bought this book. It has a rather garishly coloured drawing on the front depicting Jesus sitting with his back against a tree and his arms open. Several children cling to him and he looks loving and gentle.
9. The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry, edited by Stephen Mitchell. I like a lot of the poems in this beautiful book, but especially the ones by William Blake, Emily Dickinson and Rilke.
10. The Lonely Planet Guide to India. This was my “bible” when I was traveling in India. It helped me to unravel the many practical mysteries of India so that I could really explore and experience the culture.
I would be interested to hear from others about what books actually and really influenced you.
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