Manifest Divinity, by Lisa Spiral Besnett, is a short book that encourages us to open up to manifestations of the divine in our lives. It is a simply written and incredibly positive book. Besnett uses a variety of techniques to tap into the divine in the world, providing contexts and some recommendations and discussion (or journaling) questions for each style.
I wanted to love this book, as I like the ideas Besnett presents and the categories she’s developed. I think this book would be ideal for some one switching traditions or struggling with their own experiences, some one who needs guided discussion to help them explore other ways of thinking about the divine. I support tapping into the divine, however we can experience it, and in whatever way we define divinity. Unfortunately I found the book to be poorly edited, rambling and unfocused, with broad, unsupported generalizations. Besnett never defines her idea of divine; it seems to be equated only with whatever inspires awe. Yet she discusses many aspects of divinity that are related to gods, such as incarnation, aspecting, and possession.
Her best chapter, Chapter 3, focuses on invocation, evocation and incarnation. However a midsection diversion about innocence feels jarring and treads questionable theological and logical waters: “When we are not innocent, when we approach danger with awareness, we must take responsibility for our actions” (pg 24). I’m not sure what her definition of ‘innocence’ is and how being innocent exempts us from taking responsibility for our actions.
I appreciate her reflection that divinity has its own agenda and it is not necessarily about our personal happiness. She has some good points about choice and will and how we interact with commands from the divine: “The Divine does not have to answer to the police or the courts or the neighbors. This choice is yours, and so are the consequences.” (p. 36)
I completely agree with Besnett about the benefits of daily practice, regular expressions of gratitude, and the need to re-enchant our lives. Ultimately, I really like the point of the book! However, the entire book needs stronger editing – for consistency, tighter writing and clarity, and other details, such as better ways to reference books. I wonder if her lack of clarity will be a hinderance to someone new to these ideas, or if her lack of clarity and sweeping generalizations are only an issue for someone with an academic and personal background in these subjects.
My recommendation is to approach this book with caution. Besnett is full of great ideas and genuine encourage for people anywhere along their path. I think this book could work for people of any spiritual tradition. But in the end, I wanted this book to be better.