Subjectivity and objectivity form two facets of a body of experience provided by a web of energy potential and actualized. That has characteristics independent of the individual observer.
Obviously, given the nature of the subject matter, this is a very personal and subjective list. So I don’t want anyone to take it as a “best” list or any kind of canon of required reading. I simply want to share with you some of the most inspiring, revelatory, or just plain mind-blowing books I’ve read over the years on subjects related to spirituality.
These two short books, almost essays really, are often packaged together. The former is better known (famously giving the band The Doors its name, by way of a William Blake quote), but they’re both powerful, provocative and just insanely well written. Huxley was an old man, a long-time literary lion, by the time he had the visionary experiences outlined here, and he was already an expert on world religion (his book The Perennial Philosophy deserves an honorable mention on this list), so the level of insight he brings to the nascent controversies around psychedelic exploration was, and remains, simply peerless.
Rumi lived in Persia in the 1200s but has been the most popular poet in America for the past decade or more. Why? His verses speak to us of the transcendent in a direct, drunken, dancing way that few poets past or present have been able to capture. While there are countless editions of his work available, this coffee-table book is my favorite, combining the acclaimed translations of scholar Coleman Barks with some suitably gorgeous and mind-bending artwork.
3. The Tao Te Ching (any translation)
I suppose this is the only primary religious text on my list, and that seems fitting. Don’t get me wrong: the Bible, the Koran, the sutras, the Vedas and Gita, they’re all rich and fascinating…but Lao Tze speaks to me in a way none of those other traditions manage to do with any consistency. His aphoristic yet enigmatic verses work on me in such a way that I can actually feel my breathing stabilize, my blood pressure drop, and my whole being align with the Tao just a little bit better.
Majoring in religious studies in college, I was astonished at the way William James broke open the field of comparative religion at the turn of the last century…and in a way even more astonished that nobody had done it sooner. The inclusive study of each others’ beliefs is an absolute imperative if we’re ever going to learn to get along, and just as an intellectual matter, the similarities between faiths are as intriguing as the differences are fascinating and enriching. James did it before it was cool, and his prose is still fresh.
Speaking of ecumenicalism, Merton was one of the most understanding voices coming out of a (still firmly held) Western tradition to embrace the Eastern one. He was also one of the best writers of the 20th century, in any genre. This autobiography explains the seeking impulses that led him to the monastery and to his long career of contemplation, outreach, and devotion.
What are your favorite spiritual books?
An experienced writer on all things related to higher education and business, Amanda Watson spends her days covering the latest stories on various topics such as online mba rankings, web entrepreneurship, and social media marketing. You can contact Amanda at firstname.lastname@example.org.(Bold, italicized text is input from One World class participants. Thank you!)