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the search for

a divinely guided life

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THE SEARCH FOR A DIVINELY GUIDED LIFE is a first-person true account of one individual's quest for the Divine through time and memory, across many cultures and traditions, through dark nights, gentle graces, and unimaginable miracles and wonders, ultimately leading to the discovery of the one path within the many and the heart of divine wisdom and guidance itself.

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Introduction

…The journey,

though in one sense

a hard pilgrimage,

up and out,

by the terraced moment

and the ten heavens

to God,

in another

is the inevitable rush

of the roving comet

caught at last, to the central sun…

like gravitation,

it inevitably compels

…every spirit

 to its own place.

- Evelyn Underhill (1961, p. 133)

In the spring of 1996 I was struggling to figure out the topic for my doctoral dissertation at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto, California. I had hit a brick wall in my mind and felt totally blocked. An old friend called and asked if my wife Sarah and I could meet up with him in Big Sur over the weekend. Needless to say I jumped at the chance to get out of the city and take a break from my internal struggle. 

The next day we drove down the coast.  The environment of Big Sur has always had a profound physical, emotional and spiritual effect on me, and this time was no different.  As we entered the Big Sur area, tears came to my eyes and I felt as though I was returning to my sacred home. Suddenly, my mind opened up and I felt as though my thoughts were being cleansed by the whispering ocean air and the vast rippling blue sea.  Mental boundaries previous held gave way to expansiveness.  My mind became clear and I realized that I had been caught in my own Newtonian-Cartesian logic mind loop. 

I realized that I was trying to think of a dissertation topic and approach that would fit in to the traditional model.  I had lapsed into worrying about which topic would further my career, meet the requirements, be the most impressive, etc. Now, it was incredibly clear to me that I needed to find a dissertation topic that would be organic to my nature and process, and would continue my own personal growth journey.

Once this realization set in, my dissertation topic became crystal clear. My dissertation would become a deepening of the path of personal inquiry I was already on, my exploration of the experience of Divine guidance.  For the rest of the day I moved and spoke in harmony with others and the Earth.  Miracles happened, great and small, moment by blessed moment. And at the end of the day, I stood on the rocky shore of the cliffs of Esalen Institute, completely bathed in sweet and gentle joy. I felt a profound shift within me and my perception of myself in the world had deeply changed. 

I cannot doubt the existence of a guidance,

which I dare to call divine

- which can so invade one's soul

as to set one's feet

on wholly untried

and unexpected paths.

-Joan Mary Fry (1944, p. 145)

I began my dissertation research into the experience of Divine guidance by reflecting on my own experiences of Divine guidance, utilizing a process called “spiritual autobiography” (Erickson, 1998; Morgan, 1996; Wakefield, 1990). This process uses the method of searching “…for God in time and memory” (Dunne, 1967) through the exploration of one’s own spiritual life experiences. This exploration takes the form of a spiritual autobiography in which we tell and explore the stories of our experiences of the Divine.

This methodology has arisen out of the field of narrative theology. Narrative theology is the study of theology as it is expressed in narrative form (Goldberg, 1991). The narrative or the story has been and continues to be one of the most essential means in which religious and spiritual values, ideals, and understanding is imparted and explored (Alter, 1981; Dunne, 1967; Goldberg, 1991).

Reflecting on one’s own past experiences of divine contact is also believed to be an essential part of the process of learning to seek divine guidance (Ochs & Olitzky, 1997; Smith, 1983). Within this process of spiritual autobiography, one also “passes over” from one’s own story to the story of others and to the literature of the spirit.

This is ultimately how he brings time to mind, how he searches through time and memory, for passing over avails him of the time and memory of others, and coming back leaves his own time and memory enriched. In this process he goes from man's time, the time of life stories, to God's time, the greater and encompassing time which is that of the stories of God, and he experiences companionship with God in time. He discovers in this the greater dimensions of man, those which reach beyond the self and the individual life story. And he discovers the face underlying all, that of the compassionate God and the compassionate Savior (Dunne, 1967, p. xi).

The following is the story of my own journey of the spirit up to this moment in space and time. My journey has taken me through darkness and light, through great blessings and hardships, through encounters with spiritual beings and the literature of the spirit, and through my own story and the story of others.
 

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