Ok, I have to make a confession – I am almost done with this book. I made it through this book in record time, maybe I was trying to make up for the fantastically slow pace with which I read and completed the last My52WOW Book Club pick – The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Koran. Yes, I started reading that book…during Ramadan, 2012. I finished, just after New Year’s Day, 2013. In fits and starts, I gave myself a crash course introduction to the Koran and learned a little more about Islam. I am ready to take the next step. I fully expect to read the actual Koran at some point in 2013.
The current book club pick, however, captivated me from day 1. One of the legacies from my father’s life was that he, like I loved books. After he passed away, myself and my sisters were left to divide the many books that he purchased and read as he walked his own spiritual path. Sometime last year, I dove in, opened all the boxes of books that represented my share of the bounty, and realized that the My52WOW book club would have plenty of picks for months and years to come. When it came time for me to pick a new book, I scanned my bookshelf full of my father’s books, and a rich purple cover jumped out at me and inspired me to take a look.
When I cracked open Marsha Sinetar’s masterpiece, Ordinary People As Monks and Mystics, the first thing I saw was my father’s name and the words, “Thanksgiving, 2002.” I have mentioned before that my father and I both have a common practice of putting our names in books – and the date that we read them. As I read the books from his collection, I can contemplate what he was going through at that the time in his life when chose that particular selection. I learn more about him every day. As I added my own name and the date, January, 2013, to the front flap of the book, I silently thanked him for continuing to encourage me on my own spiritual journey, even after his time on earth has come to an end. 11 years after him, I am following in his footsteps, reading the words he read, and contemplating why he underlined a passage such as this one:
“Mystics are a definite type of person. They have a distinctive life’s course, and their mission-regardless of their country or culture of origin – is always the same: to find their way “back” to that Absolute Reality which they sense is the One True Reality, and from which they believe they’ve come.”
No need to wonder where I got my insatiable desire to know as much as I can about as many spiritual paths and disciplines as I can. I am, as I share in my book (which was inspired primarily by the death of my father), my father’s daughter.
In week 46 of My 52 Weeks of Worship: Lessons from a Global, Spiritual, Interfaith Journey, I share the following, written as I notice a symbol while visiting the Zoroastrian Association of Metropolitan Chicago, and observing a Thanksgiving service, called a Jashan:
On the side of the room where the Jashan took place, there was a banner that had a familiar image on it. It looked like the symbol of the Rosicrucian order, of which my father was a member. It looks like this:
The Rosicrucian Order website, in answering the question, “Is the Rosicrucian Order, AMORC, a religion?” says the following:
AMORC, which stands for Ancient and Mystical Order Rosae Crucis, is not a religion and does not require a specific code of belief or conduct. Rosicrucian students come from a variety of cultural and religious backgrounds. Becoming a Rosicrucian student does not in any way require you to leave your church, join a church, or change your religious beliefs.
Some Rosicrucian members do not subscribe to any specific religious beliefs at all. For students who do, we encourage them to participate in the religion of their choice. As a result, Rosicrucian students come from every religious denomination, and through our teachings, many find a greater appreciation of the mystical principles underlying their individual religious and philosophical beliefs.
For as long as I’d known my father, he had been a Rosicrucian. He was a philosopher, a mystic, and one who was not threatened by the challenge of worshipping as a Christian, while relentlessly seeking wisdom wherever he could find it. He encouraged me to do the same.
I am not a Rosicrucian, nor am I a mystic. Suffice it to say: I am inspired by my father’s journey, and by those like him, even as I travel my own personal road of spiritual and religious development.
The book, Ordinary People as Monks and Mystics is delicious. Every chapter is chock-full of stories and contemplation about the lives led by ordinary people – the monks and mystics among us – who are committed in real and unapologetic ways to find their spiritual way. They have a sense of urgency about it, a sense of destiny. It is what they know they must do with the time they have been given on this earth. These people experience God in a real and tangible way, as a result of the choices they have made, some of which may not be choices that the majority understands. Topics like pursuing inner peace, choosing solitude and silence, living authentically, pursuing self-actualization, emphasizing the importance of being a steward of God’s gifts, exploring the true definition of worship – all these topics are presented thoughtfully in a way that made me want to read and re-read the stories of the case studies that Sinetar presents.
I have an acute interest in hearing the stories of all people who intentionally and deliberately seek God’s face – whatever road they travel, and even if it is a road that I myself will likely never choose. This book was full of those sorts of stories. I have loved reading it- I have one more chapter to read, which I will savor.
I highly recommend this book – if you read it (or have already read it), please come back and share your thoughts about it here in a comment. I would love to hear them!