Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Book Review - the Path of the Blue Raven

Mark Townsend's book, "The Path of the Blue Raven" is best explained by its subtitle: "From Religion to Re-Enchantment". As we read with Mark we realise we are sharing a truly honest account of his journey into re-enchantement, a path I am also travelling. Church going folk have been taught to see God through beliefs: doctrines and ways of behaving. Since the enlightenment in the west we have forgotton that once the world was 'enchanted', a place of mystery, fear, joy and magic - a domain for encounter with Life itself. The prologue makes us realise that we have always had the wings to fly spiritually, but most of us just tuck them out of the way.

Mark has not done that, and it has proved a hard path, which we are invited to fly with him.
Mark, through this book, makes it possible to rediscover that we can be set free to explore beyond the confines of religious orthodoxy. For him it is in nature and magic that his exploring has centred. We are invited into his life and thought, and discover a sincere Church of England priest, trying to adapt to individual needs by shaping ceremonies to mark life's changes, often beyond the limits of his church structures. He shares the pain of rejection by the Church for having too much integrity. We are led to understand that religion and the "divinity" in nature are not two different things, but two aides of one coin.

Part 2 opens with a summary of what the "spirtual", "awakened" life can be. Ideas like, "The source of life is pure limitless love." and "All religions and paths lead to the same goal" and, "the heart of the spiritual life is the search for wisdom and compassion." Like me he has explored the burgeoning literature describing the 21st Century's post modernist discovery that all faiths and paths are valid ways to express our partnering in divinity.

The strongest sections of the book are his Journal entries, where he often, in confusion and pain, delves deep into his heart to hear the voice of Love, Compassion and Forgiveness. That Voice calls us all to "Re-Member" - to know the "voice of your deepest self" as your God. I loved his Chapter called a "Re-enchanted reading of Christianity". Quoting Tom Harpur, Mark quotes Tom's Seven Principles of Cosmic Christianity, from his book "The Pagan Christ". Everyone should check these out. The Pagan Christ: Recovering the Lost Light. It was for me, my own way being made plain.

In the final part of the book, "Tales form Beyond the Magic Doorway" we are introduced to Celtic Christianity, Druidry, Paganism and American Indian wisdom. Insiders share much insight from their own journeys,and the book is strengthened by letting their own voices speak.  There are some excellent individual contributions here - which really explore the impacts on those who seek to follow the Way.
Without a doubt I would recommend this book to those on the journey from orthodox religion to a living encounter with the divine within and in all life, and for anyone else with courage to explore.
I have also bought two other books by Mark Townsend from Amazon, and am pleased to also commend those books:

The Wizard's Gift
The Gospel of Falling Down: The Beauty of Failure in an Age of Success

Copyright ©2009: Rev John Hetherington. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for this review to be reproduced upon condition that full acknowledgements of author and copyright details are made. (Its use must also be cleared with the Book's Author: Mark Townsend.) John Hetherington - January 2010


Amanda Reynolds said...

I can wholeheartedly recommend Mark's book. He writes with amazing honesty and openness in such a way that is a challenge to us all.

trickyvicar said...

Lovely to be here, John. I most certainly share you progressive spiritual views. And thank you for reviewing my book - I'm honoured.
Thank you for your lovely comment too Amanda.
Trickyvicar (Mark T)