2016-06-30
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." But spiritual longing led Harvey to abandon a promising career in academia to search in India and other countries for a guru. He thought he had found a true divine master in a young Indian woman, Mother Meera. Yet, in 1993, Mother Meera, urged him to leave his new love (and current husband) Eryk, get married and write a book describing how her divine force had zapped him straight. The prolonged crisis that followed caused Harvey to question everything he had believed to be true. Harvey's new book is an affirmation of his boyhood belief that everyone has the ability to contact the divine. He begins "The Direct Path" (Broadway, 320 pages) with a call to spiritual revolution. His mystical faith had been blasted open by his disillusionment with a mentor who would ask him to abandon his lover for her teachings. Harvey's soul-searching to become a rallying cry for all of us to free ourselves from the
limiting religious systems and unscrupulous gurus. Harvey paints a vision of a direct path, "free of the divisiveness, body hatred, and bias toward transcendence that disfigures all the inherited patriarchal religions." "I had, for the sake of my own inner survival, to refine, deepen, purify, and esentialize everything I had learned about mystical reality," he writes. "I had also to face and in the most unsparing way all my illusions about myself and about my own inner search." Harvey follows with the fruits of his long self search, a rich compendium of exercises described with beautiful clarity and simplicity. His advice is uncommonly practical and balanced. He cautions readers to embrace the centuries' old wisdom of traditional religious practices, from the Buddhist precepts to Tantric lovemaking to a Taoist laughing dance. Indeed, what stands out most about this book is not Harvey's fervor and passionate lyricism, but his generosity. He writes not as a guru but as a spiritual friend eager to share the tools that others have shared with him. This book's learning and friendliness will encourage many others to claim their own power and possibilities. Harvey extends his experience and his learning like a light, showing us that there is nothing to fear and that the sacred is indeed close at hand.


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