People Lover | Word Lover | Rigour Lover | Mystic | Spiritual Trouble Makers |
I found it difficult to reduce my list of influential spiritual reads to only ten books. I have read so many beautiful and informative texts over the years, that it was hard to know how to start and where to stop. This was especially so because, of course, my reading has changed over the years, it has deepened and broadened as I have grown in consciousness. In the beginning – much I am sure like everyone else – I started with the entry level books, written to encourage the reader into deeper enquiry. As I developed, I matriculated from the revealed works into the realm of hidden books: the sacred texts, the ancient bibles etc. I would be devouring the visionaries like Milton, or Blake or Dante Alighieri, or savouring the deeply profound lyrics of Dillon, or the mystical poetry of Rilke, of Rumi and Hafez, and asking myself, who was it that influenced them. Further enquiry revealed that these giants were all, without exception inspired by the bibles: The Holy Qur’an, The Torah, The Zohar, The Dhammapada, The New Testament, the Gita, The Guru Granth Sahib, the Vedas etc. So, I sought them out in haste, and the teachers I revealed, hidden in the pages, encouraged me to go deeper again, inwards and further inwards still, until I found the only guide I will ever truly need, the inner tutor: your soul will teach you, I was assured by the writers of the Talmud, and these great Rabbis of antiquity were right, the soul is not only my best teacher, rather, she is my only teacher.
My list of ten books, could have easily spilled into thousands, but the chiliad in my library all eventually lead to the few that are at their source.
These are my few.
Geoff Thompson is 61 years old. He lives in Stratford Upon Avon. He has published close to fifty books. Some of his work in the self-help genre has been translated into dozens of languages including Russian, Chinese, Japanese, German, and Spanish.
Geoff Thompson is one of the world’s highest ranking (8thdan) martial arts teachers. The prestigious Black Belt Magazine USA polled him as the number 1 self-defence author in the world.
Geoff’s new book The Divine CEO Creating a Divine Covenant is published with O Books.
My 10 Best
My focus of prayer is Christ. I wrap a rosary around my fingers, the cross in my palm, and I make thanks for my blessings. Although I was steeped in the mass of Jesus from birth, I didn’t understand the bible properly until I was older and able to read the complete works for myself.
The NT is seen as the fulfilment of the promise of the Old Testament (the coming of the Messiah). It relates and interprets a new covenant or agreement between man and God, as represented in the life and death of Yeshua ben Mariam. It is popular these days of easy-atheism to view religion of any sort in negative terms. Even the new wave of spiritual aspirants are hurried to announce that they are ‘spiritual but not religious’ and in doing so miss out on the deepest teachings of ancient law.
‘Religion’ (from the root word religare) simply means to bind together, to align, man to man, man to her source.
In a literal sense, the man Jesus awakens to the truth, and shocks the establishment so hard they nail him to the wood. Allegorically: to fully realise their potential mankind has to go through twelve stations of the cross – ritual purification of the passions – from Pilot to the broken hill where he is crucified (or ‘Christed’ which esoterically means to be magnified by 1000 times) after which he resurrects to the full anointment of his being.
Literal or allegorical, revealed bible or the hidden Word, I am in awe and in love with the courage of the man Jesus, with the Christ energy that he teaches us how to access, and with our infinite potential, as taught in this multifarious book of awe and magic.
Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson
by George Gurdjieff
I read this mammoth book many years ago on a luxury cruise liner going around the Caribbean and honestly, it nearly made my eyes bleed it was so difficult. At one point, I was so insulted by the author (thank you, Mr. Gurdjieff) that I very nearly flung the book into the sea. Luckily, by this time in my spiritual development I knew enough to understand that when a teacher triggers anger or rage or fear, he is drawing out an obscurial that you need to look at. This book is rated as one of the top ten influential books ever written, and there is a reason for this. After nearly 1300 pages of unfathomable esoterica I finally landed on a page that I understood, and this was the very page that made me want to throw it into the ocean: to paraphrase the great mystic: you think you are a powerful man, you think you have achieved something great, and yet, one insulting phone call can steal your will and throw you into the frenzy of a bad day, a bad week, or a bad year, and one fawning compliment, a prestigious award, a quasi-validation can have you falling over yourself, with flattery. He was talking about me. I was that man, I really did think myself an adept, and yet really, at the time, I had not yet even reached the starting line.
Gurdjieff still remains my greatest teacher. My biggest sadness is that we landed in different times, so I was only ever able to meet him through the words in his books.
The Holy Qur’an
When my friend in Dubai (Wael) heard that I was interested in Islam, he immediately brought a beautiful version of the holy book and packaged it off to England for me as a gift. There is an old saying: those who read the Qur’an, write the Qur’an. Like looking into an honest mirror, each book we read will reflect exactly where we are, and who we are and what we are at the time of reading. If you look into the Qur’an and see hatred and dogma and judgment, you can be sure that, somewhere in your inner world, these very same traits are holed up like living, feeding parasites. When I read this beautiful book – the holy revelations offered to Muhammad by the Archangel Gabriel on the mountains outside Mecca – all I felt was love, love, love. I realised much later that I was not reading the revealed Qur’an, I was reading the hidden Qur’an, the book and the word and the verse that lay below the page in the subtext, in the allegory and parable and in the exegesis. This is easily missed if you allow yourself to be scared off by the house-ghost of popular dogma. The poetics at the end of the book rang especially true to me: beyond death (I am paraphrasing) there is a room with two queues, one of the queues is for excuse makers: do not be an excuse maker. I was warned in the text too that, in this room of queues, the truth would be known, I could not hide from it, even my skin would speak a testimony against me. I was also inspired to read that “for every difficulty you will be granted one easy. For every difficulty you will be granted one easy.” It was written twice to emphasise the truth. This has stayed with me: every time I go through a difficult period now I always remind myself that it will be followed by an ‘easy.’ Reading the Qur’an lead on to me discovering the great Iman Al Ghazali (Letters to a Disciple) and biographies on the beautiful prophet Muhammad (specifically A Prophet for our Time Karen Armstrong).
Treasury of The Dharma Eye by Dogen
This Buddhist classic, “a monumental work” is considered to be one of profoundest expressions of Zen wisdom ever put on paper. And also “one of the most outstanding literary and philosophical works of Japan.” It is a collection of essays by Eihei Dogen, founder of Zen’s Soto school.
This is a challenging book, it is deliberately and unapologetically esoteric, it defies you to be bored, it temps you to be irritable, it encourages you to see no worth in the words and often it definitely does seem to make no sense at all. Again, if you are looking for an entry level sugar-fix, this is definitely not the book for you, however, if you wish to make the burnt sacrifice and expand your conscious net, this book will do the job, simply by subjugating the ego. I loved this tome, and I love the author, even though (I must admit) it took me two attempts to read it. The first time around I was simply not ready for Dogen. It physically pained me to read even a few pages of the Dharma Eye, my ego squirmed like a demon at the pearly gates. Some years later, when I had fashioned a bridle for my will, I was able to sit down for full time hours and take this book in like a divine medicine. “Do you think that studying the way is limited to body and mind?” Dogen asks us, “To study the way is to drop discrimination, feeling, and awareness. Beyond them there is something mysteriously radiant, timeless, and firm.” He encourages the reader to investigate this thoroughly, and experience it, clarify it. When we do, “body and mind cannot take over and the selves of all things do not get hold of you.” It was worth reading every one of the twelve hundred pages, just for this one gem. It excited me to keep peeling away until the ‘firmness’ he promised was eventually revealed.
Daughter of Fire
by Irina Tweedie
I am an avid reader. My teachers visit me on the page. I open a book and they rise from the ink, these sages. I always consider every new book in my home to be a new teacher and I honour it as such. Usually. Sometimes, in my rush to learn, in my hurry to know, I forget this important precedent and I do not show the respect due to my visiting rishi. Mrs. Irina Tweedie was a Russian-British Sufi who lived in the manifest world between 1907 and 1999. I spent several wonderful weeks under her literary tuition at my home in Coventry, England. Mrs. Tweedie was an old-fashioned, strict, no-nonsense spiritual teacher. I had been intuited to read and study her book, Daughter of Fire, which documented the diaries of her spiritual training under the Sufi Master Radha Mohan Lal, in Kanpur, India. Her teacher had requested that she keep a detailed diary of her training, predicting that one day it would become a published book, and it would benefit people from around the world. Here I was, decades after her death, taking instruction from those very diaries. Mrs. Tweedie, like her own teacher, was known to be kind but direct, firm and, where necessary, disciplinary. Her book is a tome: 822 solid pages detailing every aspect of her five-year training regime in India. Everything is in there, all the difficulties, the sordid confessions, the hopes, the fears, even the doubts and the self-pity and her continual perception that her master was being unkind to her. I am embarrassed to say that, because of my impatience, I did not respect Mrs. Tweedie in my home. Something rose in me that was intimidated by the prospect of an 800-page read. Something hurried and disrespectful presented itself in me. I wanted to rush through the book. I desired its secrets but did not want to work for them; I was not prepared to make room by making-work. I didn’t want to sit with my teacher and let her present the learning to me in her own time. In short, I was rushing the book. I felt the alarm in my body as I sped through the pages: the prickly impatience, the need to urinate frequently because I couldn’t get through the book quickly enough, the urge to put the book down and sack it as a bad job, or somehow cheat, and skip through the pages to find ‘the good bits’. This is no way to treat a teacher in your home. The signs were there. I was not listening. On this particular day, I was in town with Sharon. We were at a café queuing for a cup of tea. There was an old lady being served in front of us. I hardly noticed her, only that she was a little slow in ordering her beverage and I was in a hurry to get past her to enjoy my tea. When my impatience finally failed me, and in the gentlest way possible, I squeezed past her to get to the cutlery which was situated just behind her. As I edged past her, something strange happened. This old anonymous lady was suddenly standing directly in front of me with a stern look on her face. She looked familiar, as though I knew her but couldn’t immediately identify from where. She grabbed my arm, “you are rushing me”, she said. I felt the room disappear for a moment. I felt a disproportionate emotion wash over me. “I’m so sorry”, I said, “please forgive me, I had no intention of rushing you”. “You could have bloody hurt me”, she said. And on seeing the genuine dismay on my face, she kissed me on the lips, giggled and disappeared into the restaurant. When she said, you are rushing me, I knew it was Mrs. Tweedie. I knew that she had visited to warn me, do not rush my teaching. As soon as I got home, I picked up her book. The image on the cover of Mrs. Tweedie in her later years bore an uncanny resemblance to the lady in the café. I went on to the Internet to access more images. It was definitely her. I smiled, delighted, honoured that such an esteemed Sufi would take the time to see me in a Coventry café, even if it was to give me a telling off. Every time I picked her book up after that, I thanked her profusely before starting my read, I thanked her after I’d finished reading and I savoured every word on every page and I took on every teaching my Sufi had to offer. And, after I’d finished the book, I gave it to my eldest daughter to read, but I warned her, do not be rushing Mrs. Tweedie.
Absence of Felicity
by Helen Schucman
For anyone who has read A Course in Miracles, this is a must read book. It is the story of how Helen Schucman, a professor of medical psychology at Columbia University in New York (a confirmed atheist) came to scribe one of the most profound spiritual books of the last century.
I read this work in a holiday village in the Midlands of England, on a Christmas break, some years ago.
I love this book because its brutally honest about Helen, about her journey, about her profound distrust of God, of what she was scribing from God, and whether in fact He even exited. Even though I personally could feel the paraclete in every word and on every page, Helen herself absolutely doubted all her her revelations. Like a fly on a television screen, she was so close to the material that often she could often not see it. But I could see it, and I was moved by it, actually I’d say I was changed by it. There was one vision she shared that has never left me. I will paraphrase, if I may; she meets a man in a vision, who is living is an Edenic paradise (she later recognised the man as Jesus). He is a beautiful, gentle man, and he tells her that, if she wanted to, she could live there with him all the time. She is deeply suspicious of this man; who was he and what was his agenda? She tells him bluntly, ‘if I did decide to come here, I’d have to bring all my things with me.’ He assures her quietly that she wouldn’t need her things in this place, everything would be provided for her. This worries Helen more, ‘so you’re saying that I can live here if I want to, but I can’t bring my own things?’ The man gently assures her that she can bring anything she wants to, but she will realise as soon as she arrives, that she won’t need personal belongings. ‘If I can’t bring my things,’ she asks him in a panic, ‘how will people know who I am, how will I be seen?’ ‘Oh, that’s easy’ he tells her, ‘just be kind, if you are kind, everyone will see you.’
Just be kind.
I was so inspired by this book that, when I went to the café for a drink and some food I said to the waitress, ‘thankyou for serving me on Christmas eve. I am very grateful to you.’ She was so moved by my genuine compliment that she gave me my drink and food for free. In the whole of the holiday season, she told me, I was the only person who had thanked her for sacrificing her Christmas to work in the café.
Just bring kindness, everything else will be provided for you.
That is the essence of all Helen Shucman’s visionary writing, and it is also the essential teaching of every bible I have every read: it was worth all the coin in my purse to read that line: just me kind.
The Zohar (23 volumes)
By Rav Yehuda Ashlag
“The Zohar is a foundational work in the literature of the Kabbalah. It is a commentary on the mystical aspects of the Torah (the Old Testament) and scriptural interpretations as well as material on mysticism, mythical cosmogony, and mystical psychology”.
If the Kabbalah is seen as the mystical arm and commentary on the five books of Moses (the Torah), then the Zohar is the exegesis of both. This series of books came into my life (serendipitously) exactly three years before I experienced a testing period of spiritual kenosis, a complete personal emptying. Desperately in need of divine manna. my intuition spoke quietly to me and said, ‘now is the time to read the Zohar.’
It was the hardest read of my life, in fact it took me six months of full time reading and every ounce of my tempered will to sit down and plough through the pages. Every hour of every day I was assailed by internal and external opposition when I studied the Zohar: something did not want me to read this material. The opening page of the Zohar warns the reader that they will not understand much of the material it contains, that the ego will be shattered if it tries to place it into controllable parables or comfortable allegories that it can control, but the soul will read the Word like a barcode. The idea (you are advised) is simply that you imbibe the material without necessarily needing to understand it. You do this knowing (trusting) that the man or woman who enters the study will not be the same person who exits its pages at the end of the 23rd volume. And that is how it was with me. I went into this study raw and empty and vulnerable, and I came out as a man Christed and anointed by the verses I read. I made seventy pages of notes, which – over a period of weeks – I reduced to down to a single concept: ‘breath’. Like the seed of an acorn, this one word held the potential (once planted in the fertile soil of mentation and nurtured in the spirit of study) of creating a million more seeds, each of which (too) held the potential to spawn a million more ad infinitum. The Zohar is an advanced study, it is not for the faint of heart or weak of will, but if you feel ready, it holds arcana with your own personal, individual fingerprint on it.
The Srimad Bhagavatam – As It Is (30 volumes)
AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
When I finished reading the Bhagavad Gita, I remember thinking to myself (conceitedly) ‘I’ve read the Gita. Didn’t I do well.’ It was a tough ask, it was a beautiful read, but it was mentally and psychologically taxing to a brain that was craving the sugar high of entry level spirituality, books that give you the answers and don’t ask too much from you in return (other than the cover cost). A bit like awarding you a medal even though you haven’t ran the marathon yet. When I got to the end, delighted with myself for finishing a spiritual classic, one of the big bibles, it was revealed to me that the Gita was just one chapter in a bigger book, The Mahabharata. So, I brought the Mahabharata, and I took it on holiday with me and I read full time for two weeks. Right at the end I fell into the same trap: I congratulated myself on being so studious, but then realised that the Mahabharata was just the fruits of the 30 volume epic, The Srimad Bhagavatam. My heart sank, but then was lifted again when a small voice in my head said, ‘how much do you want to know?’ My four children all chipped in together and brought me the Bhagavatam, and I took some time off work (this was before I gave up the day job to study full time) so that I could give it my best attention. This I did and I loved every minute of it. When I finally got to the end of the last volume, I fell into the very same trap yet again: premature felicitations on reading a rare and ancient text usually reserved only for the serious adept. The last page of the final volume informed that the Bhagavatam was 18 thousand verses, taken from the 500,000 verses in the Vedas (the oldest scriptures in Hinduism). The same inner voice whispered to me once more, ‘well Geoffrey…how much do you really want to know?’
I was shown (not for the first or the last time) that the potential to learn is infinite, and that the teachers we all seek, will present themselves in living, breathing texts like The Gita, The Mahabharata, and the Srimad Bhagavatam, when we are prepared to do the work.
Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa
I experienced a stark vison some years ago. I was struggling at the time, fear, depression, and insecurity had plagued me since I was a child, and now it had flared up into an unbearable suffering. In the vison I found myself in a welcoming room with a small Asian man. He was vivid and sharp and animated; he was more real that the table and computer in front of me right now. In the vision I was stood before this shrivelled and greenish looking man. Somehow, I knew he was a guru, and I felt I wanted to open up to him, but I could not trust him. I understood that this was a throwback, a hardwired schema I had developed after a beloved teacher groomed and sexually assaulted me when I was eleven years old. It left me unable to trust anyone, not even my own family, especially my own family, who (I naively believed) did not protect me from this monster. When I was alone in the dark, I could not even trust my own hands. My mistrust spiked when this unlikely guru placed his hand out for payment. I reluctantly offered him some coin but even as I did so, I knew that I was not offering enough, I was cheap skating. He took my money without even looking at it and handed it to an unseen helper as though the payment itself was important in the grand process but was of no relevance to him personally. Then he smiled, most beatifically, and he tilted his head sympathetically and asked with a tremendous kindness, ‘oh Geoffrey, what did they do to you?’ In my vision I started to sob uncontrollably as he reached forward and pulled what looked like a sticky web from out of my right shoulder, and – still weeping – I said, ‘I don’t know how to get it out of me.’
My vision ended at this point and I was left without an immediate answer to my current suffering.
I immediately scoured the internet for images of ancient gurus, and I happened upon the one who I had seen in my vision. It was the Buddhist murder turned saint Milarepa. He was small and shrivelled because of his years of fasting, and he was green-skinned because for a long period of time he lived on nothing but boiled nettles.
Much later, after processing the vision and doing some internal rigour I understood what my teacher was showing me: the payment he asked represented the personal price I had to willingly pay for my healing. I had to stand before the terror of my abuse-parasite and absorb 99% of it before it would give up its tenancy in me. When he asked me ‘what have they done to you?’ The ‘they’ he was referring to was not just the man who abused me, but also the adverse forces that had worked through this man, in order to get to me. The web the saint pulled from my shoulder was his way of showing me that the parasite of abuse ‘the hot coals’, was entangled in my causal body, and in order to release it I had to draw it out and exorcise it. There is a heavy cost to this process, and Milarepa was showing me (by my reluctance to offer remittance) that I was not yet ready to pay it. He was also showing me that I had to do the work. As kind as he was, he could not ‘split the log and lift the stone’ for me.
After this vision I read everything I could on Milarepa, and the pinnacle of his output, his Opus was the Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa. Within this large body of divine utterings, the saint showed me how to face the demon of my fears, how to remove him from my psyche once and for all, and also how to repent or repair the many wrongs I too had committed, the harm I had inflicted on myself, and the physical violence I had wreaked on others in a naive and fearful and clumsy attempt to protect my eternal soul from the monsters of the world.
The Power of Now
by Eckhart Tolle
This is probably one of the most popular books in the world right now on contemporary spirituality. It is also the ‘entry level’ book I most recommend to people when they are troubled by unwelcome thoughts, and wrestling with ancient shadows. This is a bestseller, its author has moved millions of copies worldwide, and for this reason it would be easy to mistake The Power of Now as soft option to the hard problem of consciousness. It is entry level only in the sense that the author has skilfully managed to redact a powerful and proven esoteric technique to a basic, understandable language without losing the initial spark of essence. It is a clever and considered work of art because it is talking about the problem of thinking, the issue of obsessive worry, and the subject of dark, dark depression, without ever using the word ‘demon’, or ‘Satan’, or ‘evil presence’. Mr. Tolle instead talks about personal ‘pain bodies’ and ‘the world pain body’ and ‘semi-autonomous thought forms’ but he never frightens the reader by openly announcing that The Power of Now is a basic guide to personal exorcism. I recommend this book to pretty much everyone who is struggling because it is the best book in the world at the moment for this specific technique. Below its soft-cover-demeanour this is a brilliant book that tells us much more in the subtext than it does in the revealed pages: that thought is a foreign entity which exists in a separate realm: that we have the power to engage or reject thought: that reality exists at the level of engagement: that these thought forms are actually semi-autonomous beings, looking to feed off human misery and suffering: that thought forms can incarnate us if we allow them across the mind-door threshold and much, much more.
This is a life-saving book, and I consider its author is the mystic of our age.
I have read widely, and I have covered most of the major bibles in my study of truth, and they all concur with Mr. Tolle on this subject and on this one technique.