One night in India when he was six years old, Andrew Harvey relates in his
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
his dinner on the balcony. Afterwards, the kindly, alcoholic cook sat
the ground beside Harvey and played a drum ecstatically. Suddenly, the
stopped, set his drum aside, and knelt to touch his forehead to the
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
God is me. God all around. God always seeing. God always listening.
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
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
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
presence in the wild beauty of peacocks dancing at twilight in a
bramble-choked, snake-infested field behind his Delhi house. Long
he read Shakespeare, this rapturous image of beauty emerging from
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.
prolonged crisis that
followed caused Harvey to question everything he had believed to be
Harvey's new book is an affirmation of his boyhood belief that
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
become a rallying cry for all of us to free ourselves from the
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
"I had, for the sake of my own inner survival, to refine, deepen,
and esentialize everything I had learned about mystical reality," he
writes. "I had also to face and in the most unsparing way all my
about myself and about my own inner search."
Harvey follows with the fruits of his long self search, a rich
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
with him. This book's
learning and friendliness will encourage many others to claim
their own power and possibilities. Harvey extends his experience and
learning like a light, showing us that there is nothing to fear and
the sacred is indeed close at hand.