“There is no path to Happiness. Happiness is the path. There is no path to Love. Love is the path. There is no path to Peace. Peace is the path.”
If you have an inkling of what that quote means, or if even if you don’t, but are drawn to that type of philosophy; Millman’s book is for you. First you encounter the cheesy New-Agey cover – an illustration of a figure standing in the woods at night, arms raised, multicolored light shooting from his head and belly. Once you do you will find yourself in yet another story written by a spiritual seeker who can’t write particularly well, but feels he must try because of the importance of what he has to tell you. Exactly as Author James Redfield wrapped his ideas around a flimsy plot amidst the children’s book writing of The Celestine Prophesy, Millman attempts to serve up his epiphanies through a “part autobiographical, part fictional” theme. (I constantly asked myself which part was which as I read it – I felt like someone writing about spiritual discovery shouldn’t have the license to hide behind the semi-factual) It all funnels into the account of a man who has been dallying with the spiritual life for years but turns to it full time to try to piece together his crumbling home life.
Following on the vague words of a past mentor (“I can’t tell you what to do but you’ll find your way when the time is right”), the protagonist flies to India to find enlightenment, but finds nothing but his own self and frustration. Throwing in the towel, he flies home by way of the Pacific Ocean and has a layover in Hawaii, only to find himself through a series of serendipitous occurrences finding a teacher who fits the profile of the woman his previous teacher told him he was to meet. This is a thinly-veiled message to the reader: don’t push spiritual development, just do what you think is right and keep your eyes open; when the student is ready the teacher is there. His trials are both spiritual and corporal, and are girded by simple and one-dimensional characters (carpenters, lepers, healers, misunderstood bullies). His guru ends up teaching him everything he ever needed to know about transcending space and time, finding bliss, and knowing the True Nature of Things, all in a relatively short period of time. The leaves the casual reader to wonder just how much struggling is actually involved in such an undertaking.
Millman does a good job of describing the limenal states he experiences, and responds to these illuminations in a very human way, leading the reader human responses to believe he knows what he’s talking about. His challenge, though, is the very same the Vedics, Hindus, Buddhists, and sundry other spiritual seekers had: how to put into word experiences which cannot be put in words? The Taoists, facing the same quandary, put it well: “If one person asks about the Way, and the other answers, neither know it.” In the context of this challenge, Millman puts together an entertaining and illuminating, if simple, book for anyone who feels that there might be more out there than the physical world and identification with the ego.