Dropout | Dreamer | Devotee
I did not read books during my childhood, adolescence or early adulthood. I left school in 1972 aged 15 and began working as a builder’s labourer. In the same year I had my first appearance in court and made another three appearances before magistrates by the time I was 17. I then joined the British Army and spent three and a half years in an infantry battalion. It was only when I left the military and travelled around the world for six years (1977-83) that books became meaningful for me. I began meeting people from all walks of life who introduced me to ideas that were completely alien to me, but which captured my interest. Gradually I started reading authors such as Khalil Gibran and Herman Hesse. My heart and mind were slowly beginning to stir in those transformative years. I then heard that a good friend of mine (whom I met on a Kibbutz in 1978) was now living in a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the North of England. I was in Greece at the time and took the ‘Magic Bus’ from Athens to London. I made my way to Manjushri Institute in the Lake District on a dark November evening in 1983. When I first walked into the grand cloistered gothic corridors, I was unknowingly taking a deep dive into the world of transpersonal consciousness. I had intended to stay for two days, but ended up living there for almost three years.
It was in this community that I started taking books more seriously. At the age of 27 I stated devouring books on Tibetan tantra and transpersonal psychology (Ken Wilbur). Reading these books – as well as taking part in the formal teachings, daily pujas, and meditation practices – eventually led to a life-changing mystical experience that triggered a spiritual emergency. The overwhelming power of the experience meant that I was unable to work for two years. The ten books I am sharing here have all played their part in deepening my inner and outer journey since that time. Entangled in the worst of the spiritual crisis and extreme state of consciousness, I had no idea that I was experiencing an initiation into soul progression and spiritual evolution.
Dr Mick Collins is a transpersonal occupational therapist, transformational coach, author and visionary activist. He has written three books: The Unselfish Spirit: Human Evolution in a Time of Global Crisis, The Visionary Spirit: Awakening the Imaginal Realm in the Transformocene Age, and The Restorative Spirit: Illuminating the Soul in a Time of Global Awakening.
For many years Mick worked as an NHS occupational therapist in mental health acute admissions and a specialist psychological therapies team. He then worked as a lecturer in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Science at the University of East Anglia for 10 years, where he was also a Director of Admissions. Mick’s research publications and doctoral thesis explore subjects that include spirituality, spiritual emergency and the global-ecological crises. He is a book prize-winner with the Scientific and Medical Network (2014), and has been interviewed about his work at the Hay Festival and also on Conscious TV. He retired in 2015, but continues to speak at public events, as well as running workshops.
My 10 Best
Wisdom Energy – Basic Buddhist Teachings
by Lama Thubten Yeshe
Lama Thubten Yeshe was the founder of the Buddhist monastery where I lived in the early 1980’s, and it seems fitting that I include a book by him. Lama Yeshe passed away just before I arrived at the monastery, but I found his writing very accessible and readable. Wisdom Energy 2 is a gentle and helpful introduction into the world of Buddhism. It covers the basic principles of Buddhist motivation and practice, which helped me orientate to ideas such as examining the mind, renunciation, impermanence, emptiness, karma, Bodhicitta and non-duality.
This book made a powerful impression on me with regards to spiritual awakening and service. I took things slowly and tried to focus on the gradual path. Yet, despite my considered and careful approach, I had an unexpected mystical experience, which resulted in a full-blown spiritual emergency and I was totally unprepared for how to deal with it. The spiritual emergency was a prelude to a profound life-changing spiritual quest that continues to this day.
Freedom from the Known
by Jiddu Krishnamurti
Prior to the spiritual emergency, I met Arvind Patel an Indian psychologist who visited the monastery regularly. He’d heard that I had left the community and managed to get in touch with me in North Wales, where I was trying to make sense of what was happening. Arvind was well versed in mysticism and depth psychology. He had been a mendicant when he was younger and he also worked very closely with Jiddu Krishnamurti for many years.
Arvind thought I was passing through a transformational crisis and this perspective was literally life saving, especially during those times when I was overwhelmed, due to the extreme state of consciousness. Eventually I started reading Freedom from the Known. Krishnamurti’s searing analysis helped me grasp how modern humans have a distorted understanding of what it means to be alive. The book honours simplicity, humility, and silence as well as valuing the religious mind. Freedom from the Known gave me courage to trust that my extreme vulnerability really could be a new beginning.
Spiritual Emergency: When Personal Transformation Becomes a Crisis
by Stanislav and Christina Grof
The seminal book on Spiritual Emergency edited by Stanislav and Christina Grof was first published in 1989, the year I was emerging from my spiritual crisis. I was taking positive steps to reintegrate back into society. I used to have the idea that if Spiritual Emergency had been published three years earlier it might have saved me a lot of anguish. However, these days I honour the process I went through (virtually alone) as a dynamic and transformative rite-of-passage.
This book gave me a deeper appreciation of the initiatory process I went through. The chapters by the Grof’s, Roberto Assagioli, R.D. Laing, John Weir Perry, Ram Dass and Lee Sannella spoke to my depths and my potential. The transformative journey can be deep, complex and painful, but it is also of great value. However, this perspective was completely outside the mainstream consensus at the time. Things are slowly improving, but there is still a long way to go. I am indebted to Stanislav and Christina Grof, and others for their profound and pioneering work.
The Body’s Role in Revealing the Self
by Arnold Mindell
When I first came across the work of Arnold Mindell, I was already working as an occupational therapist in the field of mental health. It was after reading Dreambody that I signed up to be a student of Process Oriented Psychology (process work). I realised that this powerful transpersonal approach could transform the work I was doing with others. Moreover, I also recognised that I needed to go deeper into my own journey of individuation.
Dreambody resonated with me profoundly, because it valued subtle states of consciousness and dreams (psyche-soma). Mindell’s idea of the Dreamdody is based on his training as a Jungian analyst and his approach includes understanding the quantum field, Taoism, Shamanism and so much more. I was a student for nine and a half years but did not complete my studies, due to taking up an academic position and concentrating on working for a PhD. Yet process work has played a vital role in my path of individuation.
The Red Book: Liber Novis
by Carl Jung
As an academic I was already writing deeply about spirituality, consciousness and awakening, when Jung’s Red Book was published in 2009. I noticed so many parallels in Jung’s writing that chimed with my experience of spiritual emergency, which was deeply validating. The Red book emboldened me to share my own story further. I had already written about my own extreme state in an academic publication, albeit with some fear and trepidation, as this type of self-sharing was not common in the professional culture to which I belonged. Jung’s Red Book illustrates how the process of individuation confronts us with irrational processes that can be integrated. For example, I recall having a dream in the mid 1990’s about a white snake that emerged from the mouth of a black snake. It was a deeply transformational dream. In The Red book, Jung shares a vision he had of a black snake entering the lower regions of a crucified figure, which then emerges as a white snake from the figure’s mouth. The Red Book reveals the origins of active imagination and the transformative power of archetypes.
The Great Work: Our Way into the Future
by Thomas Berry
A big part of my research and practice has been to connect ways of doing, knowing, being and belonging to help transform the global-spiritual crisis. The Great Work by Thomas Berry draws together so many threads that are of deep interest to me, particularly the process of renewal through numinous encounters, which awakens a radically different relationship to life and the cosmos. Berry’s work is deeply transpersonal when he writes about the ‘Great Self’ and the ‘individual self’ being fulfilled through each other. He understands the importance of recognising mythical realities and mystical experiences, which include archetypal forces, such as the Great Mother, the Cosmic Tree and the Tree of Life, as well as the transformative process of Death-Rebirth.
The Great Work revitalised my understanding of the depths connected to psycho-spiritual work and how it relates to ecological restoration and renewal for both people and planet.
Testimony of Light: An Extraordinary Message of Life After Death by Helen Greaves
I have always been interested in death and what might happen to us when we leave this physical incarnation. Testimony of Light is the story of a former nun, Frances Banks ,who died of cancer and made contact with her psychic friend Helen Greaves. Banks shares with Greaves her ongoing journey of development in the world of spirit. The book reveals how souls are progressing on their evolutionary journeys, including the lessons they must face. It underlines the importance of the light that exists in the soul, and how this can be dimmed by our unskilful attitudes and actions on earth.
This inspirational book emphasises the importance of spiritual development in our human existence. For example, Frances Banks said that the garment she was wearing in the spirit world was a reflection of the thought forms from her prior earthly incarnation. Testimony of Light is an inspiring and sobering read.
A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of a Course in Miracles by Marianne Williamson
During the years that I have been on a psycho-spiritual journey, I have struggled with love. A Return to Love inspired me because of Marianne Williamson’s honesty about her own struggles in life. She says in the book: “I felt like an alien, I had often felt as though life was a private club and everyone had received the password except me”. Williamson’s words spoke to the deep longing in my soul to be more loving to self, other and world. She reveals how fear destroys love and creates a living hell. Williamson writes beautifully about inviting God into her life, opening her heart and asking for a miracle. She describes the process as a shift in perception that awakens us to the divine mind (and love), guided by the Holy Spirit.
A Return to Love highlights the importance of surrender and atonement, to let go and trust God. Williamson’s call for us to become ‘miracle workers’ and bring more blessings into the world is deeply encouraging.
Early Fathers from the Philokalia Translated by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer
Since my spiritual crisis-initiation, I have sought inspiration from the mystics of various spiritual traditions. The Philokalia is a treasure of profound wisdom by great saints from the 3rd – 7th centuries. The Philokalia is an illuminating book into the ways of faith, prayer and devotion. For example, the words of St Anthony the Great capture his reflections on the cultivation of a ‘saintly life’. The inner path to purity is palpable in the Philokalia, with St Mark the Ascetic referring to the ‘secret temple in the heart’. Other saints discuss the wisdom found in our conscience, as well as the importance of unceasing prayer that awakens Divine understanding. A wonderful psycho-spiritual observation in the book, points out that each of us judges others according to our own character. The Philokalia is a book about purification of the soul and the commitment needed to live a Holy life. I continue to be awestruck at the pearls of wisdom that leap from every page.
Padre Pio: The True Story
by C. Bernard Ruffin
Padre Pio: The True Story galvanised a renewed relationship to God that had been percolating in my life for many years. The humility, devotion, dedication and service of this friar was (and is) truly inspirational. The first page of the book reveals that at the end of his life in 1968 Saint Pio was receiving 5,000 letters a day. The book goes on to explain why this unassuming friar attracted so much attention from people all over the world.
Saint Pio hardly left the monastery where he lived, but he appeared all over the world to help people, due to his ability to bi-locate. He communed with people’s guardian angels and could read souls, which made going to confession with him a very unnerving and revealing encounter. He would often tell complete strangers what they had hidden or neglected to share. He bore the stigmata, which bled for 50 years and only vanished on the day he died. Miracles and healings happened when people prayed to him for help. He raised millions of dollars to build a 400-bed hospital for the poor. This book continues to reverberate in my life and soul.