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As a Christian, I was slightly disappointed that most of the Jesus quotes are not from the Bible itself but from literature from Gnostic Christianity. If you are looking for the similarities between traditional Christianity and the other spiritual traditions, you might not find as much material as you would like. Nonetheless, it is beautiful to have a book that emphasises similarities between these four different spiritual traditions. And I was glad to be educated about the existence of such a wealth of literature about Jesus, much of which I was unaware. This is a wonderful book either to dip into or to read cover to cover. The narrative start to each chapter introduces the theme along with a sharing of aspects of the author’s personal journey. This puts the quotes in a context which raises this to be much more than a book of quotes. The author says this is a book he has wanted to write since he recognised the connection between Gnostic Christianity and Eastern philosophy, and it does indeed feel like a labour of love. There is no question as to the author’s depth of knowledge of these different traditions which has allowed him to put this body of work together. To avoid copyright issues, he consulted many different translations of the text and then reworked them to ensure that his wording adhered to the meaning of the saying.
I loved the way this book drew together quotes from a wide range of sources on different aspects of spirituality. Hearing the words of leaders from different times and traditions all echoing similar truths was very inspiring. It will be a book I revisit often I think.
8 years I was in the seminary. part of our history of philosophy was dedicated to Eastern Thought (1956). The professor was very bland, but in reality he had the intellectual part of these paths down clearly. But, we still did not understand what he was saying nor were we fully enlightened as to the depth and meaning of these paths of spirituality. We were studying them mostly as finding errors in them which would be more apologetic for Christianity and less interested in the depth of this thinking and living. In the final year of theology, I was able to be in a class on the "Gospel of Thomas". The professor was a well respected Catholic Biblical Scholar. but once again we read this document only as a gnostic text and not trying to get to the depth of meaning and the real history of the various texts which Gnosticism produced. We only saw these texts as "errors" against "Orthodox" Christian thought.
Richard Hooper does a fantastic job of bringing together the thoughts of all four of the PATHS of Spiritual and Life reflection which this book presents. I really wish we had this text years ago. The author clearly describes not just the meaning and role of Gnosticism and its influence on Christian Theology, but then the similarity of thought of the eastern paths of life and that of the early Christian community. This is truly a book of meditation. Each chapter begins with an explanation of the Christian experience as it is also reflected in the long history of the in depth experience of the Way (Tau) as experienced by Hindu, Buddhist and Lao Tzu monks.
If one wishes to really experience the depth of meaning of what life and humanity mean, this will be a powerful introduction to a life of depth spirituality. This book will help clarify ones own understanding of the religious experience his or her faith has presented. It will also help one to remove from the thinking process the errors which often obfuscate our Journey in the spiritual life.