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Spiritual Emergency/Emergence/Counseling
Record Type: Review   ID: 297

Shadows of the Sacred: Seeing Through Spiritual Illusions

Vaughan, Frances

This moving and wise book is partly an EHE autobiography and partly a means of sharing what the author, who is a transpersonal psychotherapist, has learned on her own spiritual path and what she has learned from others, who found and followed their own paths, primarily her clients. The first chapter sets the stage for the entire book. In the course of describing the common features of the spiritual path, which in the case of each individual is unique, she shows how "the good can be enemy to the best": how that which can appear to be golden can nonetheless be a chain that hinders progress on the path, hence the subtitle.

Vaughan is an EHEer herself. The experience that set her on the spiritual path, or as we would say, initiated her into the EHE process, was a mystical experience described on pp. 14-15. She herself connects it or other initiatory experiences that result in EHEs, such as illness, abuse, or crisis, leading the experiencer into the EHE process: "whatever the participating factor, it seems the path is revealed to those who seek it wholeheartedly" (p. 15). As we do, she gives equal due to experiences of transcendence and inscendence, or as she puts it, ecstatic and enstatic experience. She also recognizes the stage on the path where double vision is perceived, or as she puts it, the initiate experiences "new perceptions of reality" (p. 19), and "once a person has gained a different view of reality, it becomes difficult to pretend that there is only one way of seeing things" (p. 19). Then she comes to the heart of exceptional human experience: When a person has had a spiritual awakening that affords a glimpse of states of mind in which a sense of ultimate belonging and awareness of love as the fundamental ground of being seem incontrovertibly real, other perceptions of reality seem narrow and limited. Those who have never had such experiences may think they are illusory, yet to dismiss them is to dismiss the wisdom of the saints and sages of all time" (p. 28).

If I go into this much detail in the remaining chapters, this would become an exegesis not an abstract! Her approach throughout is to convey what she has learned about the spiritual path from her own experience, those of others, especially her clients; and from persons she has met while pursuing her own path. Each chapter deals with a specific facet of the path: Living in Two Worlds: The World of Ego and the World of Soul; Sex and Death: Eros and Thanatos, The Path of Love, Awakening Soul: Ancient Wisdom and Modern Science, Soul and Gender, Healing and Empowerment, The Myth of Enlightenment, Spiritual Freedom, and Spiritual Practice in Daily Life. Any seeker or spiritual pilgrim can learn much from this book, including those who insist they never had a transpersonal experience or an EHE.

Publisher Information:Wheaton, IL: Quest, 1995. 312p. Chap. notes: 289-306; Ind: 307-312
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