This book ate me up. I've read many, many, too many spiritual books covering the spiritual spectrum from A to Z (Advaita to Zen) over the past 25 years. Very, very few are so unwaveringly honest, so uncompromisingly direct, so clean and clear of ulterior motive or hidden agenda.
I didn't think I had a lot of ego left when I picked this book up. Well, I was wrong. I still have a lot of ego left, but it's a good deal smaller and more humble than it was before That behind "the david thing" as the author sometimes refers to himself, got hold of it.
This is a take-no-prisoners book, presented as a personal spiritual memoir, but holding about as much ego-smashing power as will fit between two paperback covers. Don't read it unless you want to know what may be some hard truth. Halfway through it was clear to me that although this body/mind unit has made a lot of progress, or at least seems to have, it still has a long way to go--at least one major leap about which I know nothing more than hearsay.
This unit will take The Leap, or it won't, but it sure hasn't so far; that's clear.
Right after Mr. Carse kindly pointed out that I was deeply confused, he then patiently explained over the course of the next two chapters why that was so. He pointed the finger of blame squarely at me.
Byron Katie says that if she had a prayer, which of course she does not, it would be, "Lord, please deliver me from the need for love or approval." Boy, do I ever get that.
The means became the end. The devoted seeker became the deluded finder. I read until I found what I wanted.
Ouch. "Momma, I think that emperor is naked."
It's pretty durn embarassing. But I'm going to use it, not dodge it; own it, not deny it. It is what it is, and I am where I am. The claim of progress still rings authentic, and the Way appears clearer than ever. It's as noble a journey as any.
The best method I know to further reduce this unit's continuing claim to separation and specialness is to post my private embarrassment over its antics in the most public of high places, the Amazon International Spiritual Bulletin Board, so to speak.
Take THAT, ego.
It's a great book. Read it if you can stand it.
TWO YEARS LATER...
I'm adding this note two years after I wrote the initial review, which ended "if you can stand it."
I still think it's a great book. And it presents the truth--as seen and experienced through one body-mind. So, I am saying it is the truth, but it is not the uncolored truth. There IS no uncolored truth to be found in any words, including these.
But there is another, more patient, understanding view; a kinder, gentler, probably more helpful view that understands and beautifully explains the non-conflicting notions of spiritual event and spiritual process, of non-abiding and abiding enlightenment. You will find that in the teachings of Adyashanti. I invite you with a full heart to look into his work.
ANOTHER TWO YEARS LATER...
I still love Adyashanti, and my own teacher, Scott Kiloby, but I've grown enough now to love this book. I always knew it was a great book, but it's yet better than I thought. If you're awake, you really need to read this. If you're not, but you think you might be close, give this a close read.
AND YET ANOTHER YEAR LATER...
I'm posting part of an email that I sent this morning, in October, 2011, to a friend, someone who reads my blog, Awakening Clarity. It tells the story well:
Oh, yes, the David Carse book is as good as anything I've ever read on awakening, and far, far better than most. I've read it again since, and will probably tackle it a third time at some point. At the time I first read it and wrote about it, I was confused, because I was still experiencing oscillation, and at that time I was experiencing a sense of separation. I need to edit that review. [This is that "edit".] I won't change what's there, I'll simply write an updated addendum, as I've done with some others. If you look on AC, I changed the What I'm Reading Now section over to Favored Books, Authors, Translators. The content is entirely different. His [Carse's] book is on that list; I have no higher praise.
In fact, my only knit to pick with him is that because awakening occurred through his body-mind in a specific way, he concludes the same thing that other Nondual police do: "Unless it happens like it happened to me, it hasn't happened." A number of hard core Nondualists feel that way. In my experience, five years into awakeness, that's just not so.
Adya [Adyashanti] and Scott [Kiloby, my teacher] both say, and I concur, that awakening can occur any way it wants anytime it wants. I mean, we're talking about 'God' here, you know? I think trying to place limits on the power of the universe still has a little pop of self-centeredness/self-satisfaction to it. I don't mean that as a personal jab; I'm just making that clinical observation. I don't require other units to exactly duplicate what happened here in order to be recognized as a conscious vehicle for awakeness. For me, since there's only One Thing Going On, it has to be inclusive, not exclusive.
JULY 2013 UPDATE--6 YEARS LATER
I've been teaching for a good while now, and I run the website Awakening Clarity. I can see the confusion in my own initial review, and I can see where aspects of this book don't quite ring as accurately as they once did. Nonetheless, in my current view this still remains a valuable book. It's somewhat one-sided toward the vastness side of things, and thus dismissive rather than inclusive of the relative world, but a clear and splendid book nonetheless.