Meeting the Shadow of Spirituality

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“I do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; I seek the things they sought.” —Basho

In every tradition, saints and poets speak of the soul’s search for the beloved, the seeker’s yearning for the divine. This holy longing is a secret feeling with many disguises, leading us to pursue a higher union in spiritual practice, religious discipleship, even romantic embrace. It guides us to timeless wisdom and transcendent experiences.

But it also can go awry when we misplace it onto food, alcohol, drugs, or sex. Or when we project it onto an authoritarian teacher, priest, guru, or roshi who abuses power. Whether the abuse is sexual, financial, or emotional coercion, we feel the shock of betrayal, our innocence lost, our faith shaken.

This book tells the stories of renowned teachers—Sufi poet Rumi, Hindu master Ramakrishna, Christian saint Catherine of Siena—whose lives unfolded as they followed their longing. And it tells the tales of contemporary teachers of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Catholicism, who acted out their shadows in destructive ways, leaving their followers traumatized and lost.

Both faithful seekers who feel hopeful and inspired and disillusioned seekers who feel hopeless and disoriented will find wise counsel here and will retrace the narrow path through the darkness toward the light.

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