Direct Path to the Divine

Andrew Harvey returns to his boyhood mysticism


One night in India when he was six years old, Andrew Harvey relates in his bold new book, the family cook taught him that God can appear anywhere, anytime. His parents were out for the evening so his nanny let him have his dinner on the balcony. Afterwards, the kindly, alcoholic cook sat on the ground beside Harvey and played a drum ecstatically. Suddenly, the man stopped, set his drum aside, and knelt to touch his forehead to the floor. He explained to an amazed Harvey that he was thanking God.

"And you think God hears you?" Harvey asked.

The cook was astonished. "God is the moon. God is the garden. God is you. God is me. God all around. God always seeing. God always listening. All you need to do is to whisper and God will hear."

Harvey's upbringing in India, where many religions and many strands of spirituality coexist, bred in him a deep faith in what Keats called "the holiness of the heart's affections." The author of the best-selling "A Journey in Ladakh" and "Hidden Journey" believed he could experience the sacred in what he loved and the acceptance and kindness he encountered from a vast array of characters, from the Hindu cook to holy men to the Muslim driver to his own Protestant parents, affirmed that this was so.

India also bred in Harvey the sense that the divine could be present in nature--he could see the sacred in the sensual as well as the transcendent. At nine years old, Harvey, was shipped off for an education in England, where, at 21, the gifted student was elected a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, England's highest academic honor. Before he was locked in the "dark refrigerator" the English public school system, he remembers feeling God's presence in the wild beauty of peacocks dancing at twilight in a bramble-choked, snake-infested field behind his Delhi house. Long before he read Shakespeare, this rapturous image of beauty emerging from chaos has became for him "a sign that the Divine threads all of the Creation with its secret splendor."

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