Spiritual Literacy: Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life/Mary's Vineyard: Meditations, Readings, and Revelations

Spiritual Literacy: Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life, by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat. New York: Scribner, 1996. Hardcover, 608 pages.

Mary's Vineyard: Meditations, Readings, and Revelations, by Andrew Harvey and Eryk Hanut. Wheaton, II.: Theosophical Publishing House (Quest Books), 1996. Hardcover, 193 pages.

Handbook for the Soul. Edited by Richard Carlson and Benjamin Shield. Boston: Little, Brown, 1995. Softcover, 215 pages.

Handbook for the Heart. Edited by Richard Carlson and Benjamin Shield. Boston: Little, Brown, 1996. Hardcover, 226 pages.

New books aimed at providing guidance on living the spiritual life are flooding into bookstores. Those listed above stand out for their fine selections of readings from many sources. The Brussats guide the reader, in prose, poetry, and prayers, to consideration of the many aspects of life experience. They have divided their choices of material under categories of things, places, nature, animals, leisure, creativity, service, body, relationships, and community.

In addition, they have created an "alphabet of spiritual literacy" on aspects of spiritual practice-such as attention, beauty, being present, compassion, and so on. Their contemplations on these are scattered throughout the book, surrounded by readings from many traditions. Along the way they also include activities and exercises to aid in the spiritual journey.

The authors issue an open invitation to all who wish to join them on the spiritual path, which is by no means an exclusive club:

Spiritual literacy is not concerned with sorting out religious dogmas and beliefs. To be spiritually literate does not require you to master certain texts or to climb to a high rung on the ladder of enlightenment. It is not an esoteric and mysterious practice for the initiated few; indeed, spiritual literacy is the very opposite of such elitism. Some of the most spiritually literate people are children and indigenous people who cannot even read letters on a page. For them and for us, literacy means being able to find sacred meaning in all aspects of life.

The reader can dip at random into the Brussats' book and sharpen the senses of sight, sound, smell, touch - as well as find much food for thought. The authors have devoted themselves for three decades to identifying and reviewing resources for people on spiritual journeys, and that devotion shows in this except ional book. Their projects have included the magazine Values and Visions, the Odyssey cable TV channel, and the Ecunet computer network.

The gifted poet and translator Andrew Harvey and his collaborator Eryk Hanut, photographer, writer, director, and set designer, have produced a beautiful book of meditations, readings, photographs, and spiritual insights on Mary as the Divine Mother. Mary's Vineyard is organized for use throughout the year with daily readings and contemplations. "Creating a sacred environment is not complicated," they write; "it just requires concentration and the constant reminder that the one important thing in your life is to keep your heart open to Divine Love."

Andrew Harvey's books have included The Return of the Mother, Hidden Journey: A Spiritual Awakening, and A Journey in Ladakh, which won the Christmas Humphries Prize. He has also published books of his translations of Rumi, the Sufi poet, as well as a recent book about Rumi, The Way of the Heart.

Two exceptional anthologies of spiritual writing have been assembled by Richard Carlson and Benjamin Shield. Handbook for the Soul and Handbook for the Heart gather original writings by authors including Lynn Andrews, Deepak Chopra, Robert Fulghum, Harold Kushner, Thomas Moore, Hugh and Gayle Prather, Ram Dass, Bernie Siegel, Andrew Weil, and Marianne Williamson. The first of these books places its focus on helping the reader to achieve balance in life. T he second book concentrates on the theme of love. The editors are both therapists who have been frequent guests on radio and television programs in addition to maintaining private practices.


March 1997