Publisher | Poet | Gardener | Fisherman
I have often been asked to suggest the best “spiritual” books by my family and friends and naturally, I have never done anything about compiling a list! To my surprise, I have really enjoyed having a go at this, and although selections of books can change like the weather its always wonderful to share books that have had some kind of profound personal impact. I only wish that the list was 50 titles or more but I have managed to sneak in a few extras. Whilst I think The Sermons and Treatises of Meister Eckhart is a profound spiritual work, I also think that Thomas McGane’s beautiful book on fishing is equally profound and really a lot more interesting. I was going to include Warriors of Love – Rumi’s Odes to Shems of Tabriz by James Cowan and The Four Quartets by T.S.Eliot, as I think they contain the best of all mystical poetry but everybody knows them and now I have managed to include them anyway!
I have been obsessed with books all my life and I have been very fortunate to work as a publisher for over 45 years and even more fortunate to have met so many extraordinary authors. I only wish that reading tens of thousands of books had in the end at least resulted in enlightenment or profound illumination but as they say, only practice or divine intervention seems to manage that and both have been clearly a bit lacking! However, the inspiration in books is the great blessing that reminds us that we live in a miraculous multi-dimensional world and that there is no separation. Indeed the Kingdom of God is within.
Come, come whoever you are.
Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving.
It doesn’t matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Even if you have broken your vow
A thousand times.
Come, come yet again, come.
—Mevlana Jelalu’ddin Rumi
MICHAEL MANN was born and educated in England. He founded Element Books in 1975 and restarted Watkins Publishing in 2001. He now commissions titles for O Books. Apart from his passion for books, he writes poetry and gardens and fishes as much as possible.
My 10 Best
The Last Barrier. A Sufi Journey
by Reshad Field
I first met Reshad in 1973 and he blew my heart open, as he did for hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Whilst he was brilliant at lighting the fire, he wasn’t perhaps quite so good at dealing with the aftermath. But then I was never a good pupil! However, we became good friends, I became his publisher for many years, and we often went fishing together.
This is his best book in which he recounts meeting his teacher in a London antique shop and then following him on an incredible journey through Turkey. Full of trials, tribulations, and tests, Reshad meets the Mevlevis in Konya and the incomparable Sulemein Dede their Shaykh. You can read this book a hundred times and still find great wisdom and inspiration in it. The last chapter is extraordinarily moving.
Beware of going into antique shops!
I am That. Talks with
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
“The Real does not die, the unreal never lived.”
“Once you know that death happens to the body and not to you, you just watch your body falling off like a discarded garment”
These two quotes give a flavour of these timeless teachings. Maharaj was a humble tobacconist in Bombay and thousands came to see him from all over the world. He was one of India’s greatest sages and he could be ferocious which, given the questions he was asked, is really not surprising!
One of the greatest if not the greatest book on Self-realisation.
Also well worth reading is Abide As That. Ramana Maharshi & The Song of Ribbu. (Reprint by Jason Brett Serle.) Ramana said to his disciples if you read The Song of Ribbu that is all you need to become enlightened.
Be Here Now
by Ram Dass
The Great spiritual classic of the 1960s. If you can’t be bothered to read it then just repeat the title as often as you can remember. It’s a wonderful rock ‘n roll ride as Ram Dass, formerly Richard Alpert, a Harvard Professor, goes on a search for his Guru in India. Not only does he find the Guru but a rather major turning point happens when Ram Dass finds that the Guru remains totally unaffected by the 20 tabs of acid that he has been given.
The Shadow That Seeks the Sun
by Ray Brooks
One of my favourite books. Don’t be put off by the subtitle which doesn’t really describe the book accurately (Finding Joy, Love and Answers on the River Ganges). The heart of the book is nine profound conversations between the author and an Anglo-Indian teacher on the banks of the Ganges at Rishikesh in India. And the teaching is really a very simple practice of Non Duality.
Enlightening and inspiring and a joy to read throughout.
The O Manuscript
by Lars Muhl
The O Manuscript is a stupendous account of one man’s spiritual awakening, written with extraordinary energy, candour, and humility. It is a personal and philosophical quest that challenges conventional wisdom and takes the reader on a mystical journey through ancient history and modern times.
A work in three volumes, the book begins with the author at a crossroads, suffering from debilitating health, his personal and professional lives disintegrating around him. Bedridden for three years, Lars Muhl was put in touch with a seer who helped him, over the telephone initially, to recover his energy and brought him back to life. The Seer became his spiritual leader, teaching him the inner truths of existence.
The second and third parts of the trilogy cover the Female principle, followed by that of the Bridal Chamber, a Sufi concept, in which both the Male and the Female meet to form One Unity. This trilogy is not only a spellbinding introduction to the ancient vision of cosmic interconnectedness but also a critical evaluation of a long list of limiting New Age dogmas.
I hope that you will also read The Gate of Light by Lars which has an extraordinary practice by the same name.
A Course in Mastering Alchemy
by Jim Self and Roxane Burnett
What is alchemy? Alchemy means altering the frequencies of thought to allow us to change ourselves, change how we perceive and interact with the world, and begin to experience a new sort of consciousness. Unlike any other programme, Mastering Alchemy doesn’t seek to change readers’ perceptions merely by speaking to their minds but instead offers a series of deeply felt experiences, each one building on the preceding one to transform a participant from the inside out, giving them a new, happy and optimistic platform for experiencing the world. This book is so much more than words on the page: energetics are embedded into each lesson and readers will be able to feel the Teachers’ presence and wisdom as they read the text.
This is a Course in Miracles for the 21st century, reaching far beyond that earlier programme by incorporating the significant leap in human consciousness that has been occurring since the 1980s, and also the active participation of the Teachers of Light. This unique book offers readers a set of energy tools of unparalleled power and a new way of life as revealed by the Teachers of Light, whose guidance has been channelled by Jim Self and Roxane Burnet of the hugely popular online Mastering Alchemy course. While giving free access to a wealth of normally paid-for content (including videos on the meditations and exercises and even recordings of the Teachers of Light themselves), this book stands alone as a self-contained programme offering step-by-step techniques for changing our way of being and opening up our higher consciousness.
Hundreds of books have been published from the talks that Osho gave over a lifetime of teaching but for me, this one is by far the best and it’s also one of the shortest. It is the one book that’s perhaps the most relevant for our times.
A true spiritual revolutionary, Osho dares to say what most teachers would never dare to say: “Total revolution has to arise from your very centre. That is my work here. I want every individual to clean the past from his mind completely. All his prejudices, all his thoughts – political, social, religious – everything has to be dropped. Just a clean slate and you have arrived to the space of no-mind. No-mind is meditation, and no-mind is the revelation, and no mind is the greatest rebellion that has ever happened”
The Gnostic Gospels
Compiled by Alan Jacobs
In 1945, several secret gospels, hidden since the first century, were discovered in the Egyptian desert at Nag Hammadi. They caused a sensation as they revealed for the first time the mysteries of Gnostic Christianity. For me, they reveal the original teachings of Christ before the Pauline “church” became dominant.
This collection includes the two perhaps most important gospels: The Gospel of Thomas, which is sublime, and The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, which sheds new light on her relationship with Jesus. Just as formal dogmatic Christianity was losing its way, these gems are now available for all those that understand that turning to the Divine is an inward rather than outward task.
The Gift of Rain
by Tan Twan Eng
One of my all-time top fiction books, it’s completely magical, and in essence, it’s the spiritual relationship between the boy and Hayato Sendo, an Aikido master.
Set in Penang, the story opens in 1939, sixteen-year-old Philip Hutton is a loner. Half English, half Chinese, and feeling neither, he discovers a sense of belonging in an unexpected friendship with Hayato Endo, a Japanese diplomat. Philip shows his new friend around his adored island of Penang, and in return Endo trains him in the art and discipline of aikido. But such knowledge comes at a terrible price. The enigmatic Endo is bound by disciplines of his own and when the Japanese invade Malaya, threatening to destroy Philip’s family and everything he loves, he realises that his trusted sensei – to whom he owes absolute loyalty – has been harbouring a devastating secret. Philip must risk everything in an attempt to save those he has placed in mortal danger and discover who and what he really is.
Tan Twan Eng weaves a haunting and unforgettable story of betrayal, barbaric cruelty, steadfast courage and enduring love.
Also do please read The Garden of Evening Mists which is as far as I know the only other book that Eng has written
The Longest Silence: A life in fishing
by Thomas McGuane
No list of books is complete without a book about fishing. Or is it about fishing?
If you want to go for a walk along a riverbank and look at a river, that’s fine but you will never understand a river unless you get into and go fishing. Ultimately, it is being connected to another world and it is the nearest you might come to a mystical experience whilst casting a fly.
Actually, fishing IS a mystical experience except when you land your fly in a tree and then it isn’t.
This book is dazzlingly well written. It’s a very soulful and reflective work and demonstrates what a life dedicated to fishing reveals about life itself.
I can’t leave this subject without mentioning Blood Knots by Luke Jennings. This is a rare memoir of a boy growing up in the 1950s in England with fishing expeditions thrown in. Hauntingly brilliant.