I was recently introduced to a fellow by the name of Andrew Harvey while listening to the always enlightening Sounds True: Insights at the Edge with Tami Simon. Intrigued by what Harvey had to say, I ordered one of his books, The Direct Path—and came across his fascinating story of spiritual transformation and redemption.
Harvey was born and raised in India and after a childhood rich in spiritual encounters he became a disciple of a Hindu guru named Mother Meera. He followed her for 10 years, eventually helping Mother Meera gain a worldwide audience with a book he wrote about her titled “Hidden Journey: A Spiritual Awakening”.
During this period, Harvey also met and studied with a Tibetan mystic named Sogyal Rinpoche. He was invited to help Rinpoche write a book that detailed the essence of his Buddhist teachings on compassion, the spiritual path and dealing with death and the dying. It was called The Tibetian Book of Living and Dying and it quickly became a worldwide bestseller.
At this particular point in time, 1994, all was right with Alex Harvey and the world. He had co-authored a spiritual classic. He had discovered his guru. When suddenly, during a two month period, his whole spiritual world came crashing down. It’s a time that Harvey refers to as “the anhililation” and it shook down like this:
- In a committed relationship with another man for several years, Mother Meera tells him to break with his partner and get married—to a woman—and “write a book claiming that her divine force had transformed me into a heterosexual”.
- It’s revealed in the press that eleven of Sogyal Rinpoche’s female students are suing him for sexual abuse—and there are many others with similar claims.
As you might expect, Harvey is devastated, realizing that his guru “was not the divine master I had believed her to be” and then finding out that the Tibetan mystic he helped put on the spiritual map was not true to his own teachings on love and compassion.
So what do you do when you’ve reached a spiritual dead end, when all that you’ve believed in is now without meaning or relevance?
Well if you’re Harvey, you pick yourself up and look for another path. You begin by looking inward and through many hours of meditation and prayer discover “the force, passion, and transforming power of the path of direct communication with God.”
This transformation was helped along by a supernatural event that Harvey calls “the most important inner experience of my life”. A couple of years after his spiritual crisis, he decides to attend mass at a local Catholic church. After the priest had finished delivering an especially powerful sermon on the passion of Jesus’s love, he looks up at a crucifix at the back of the church to find it has literally come to life.
“For fifteen astounding minutes, with my eyes open, my entire being racked by the glory of what I was witnessing, I saw the Christ on the cross extending his arms in a gesture of all-embracing, absolute love to the whole of reality. Wave after wave of divine love invaded me…I gripped the pew in front of me as involuntary sobs of gratitude shook me from head to foot.”
Harvey points out that this encounter did not turn him into a Christian but had an immensely powerful impact on his life. It got him looking into the real message of Jesus, something I’ve explored in past blog posts including The Forbidden Sayings of Jesus and Three Bible Passages that May Blow Your Mind. From Harvey’s point-of-view:
“Christ’s real teaching was not, as the churches have claimed, about worshipping him as son of God; it was an attempt to transmit to everyone else the intimate, direct, totally transforming relationship he had himself realized with God…after all, if everyone is able to be in unmediated contact with the Divine, to be taught in the terms of their own lives directly by the Divine, then what need is there for a priest class, monasteries and temples, or gurus?”
Harvey reached the same conclusion that can be found throughout the Gnostic Gospels and one that I happen to share—that what we seek is already within and around us. It’s a point that’s referenced in what if often called “the fifth gospel”, The Gospel of Thomas: “The Kingdom of God is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living Father.”
To access this divine essence, Harvey recommends developing a regular practice of looking within and he spends much of the book expounding on different meditation and prayer techniques. He believes that with time and a little effort, divine consciousness and direct access to God can be achieved at all times, by all of us. Again, in the words of Harvey:
“Search, even half consciously, for a higher meaning to life, and you will find that the Divine will start to initiate you in direct and sometimes shocking ways…start to search sincerely for a higher vision, and the Divine will open for you a door into its, and your, essential truth.”
ADDENDUM TO ORIGINAL POST, 9/25/12:
What do you do when you’re in the spiritual doldrums or have hit a spiritual dead-end?
The day after this story was posted I received an e-mail from a reader who was facing a severe loss of faith and looking for advice. It got me thinking about my own moments of doubt and also got me wondering–have you ever faced a spiritual crisis like Andrew Harvey and how did you deal with it? Feel free to add to the comment section below or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the coming weeks, I’ll be writing a follow-up story (or two) on how I and others have dealt with a loss of faith and managed to rediscover God.