The-AlchemistLast night I posted a short and simple question on my Facebook page:

What are the most spiritually inspirational books you’ve read?

By the morning there were over 100 replies and it made for fascinating reading.

Most of us have at least one book that has been a huge influence on our spiritual path, but as I read down the list on my page a pattern appeared. I guess that if I hadn’t given this much thought I would expect the replies to be filled with how-to books written to practically guide people through exercises that would help bring that person closer to whatever it was they were seeking. However, when I read through the responses, and also when I took some time to really think about what I would reply, it wasn’t how-to books at all that were the most popular. Instead it was spiritual novels, and books of an almost autobiographical nature, that seemed to bring people the most inspiration.

Of course, I shouldn’t have been surprised at all. The human imagination is a powerful thing, and stories can take us to places that feel both fantastic and real. From Jonathan Livingston Seagull, to The Alchemist and Lord of the Rings, these books take us out of our everyday lives and help us to feel that things are much more magical, much more meaningful, than our sometimes monotonous lives can lead us to believe. When I read of the vicar Peter Owen Jones’ experiences in a cave in Egypt, and the experiences of solitude that led to him to write Letters from an Extreme Pilgrim (one of my favourite books) I was there with him, and I also found myself yearning for that sense of solitude and connection with the Divine.

These books can take us to these places in our imagination and, as any real magician knows, all magic begins in the imagination. In our secular, materialist age it is obvious that the imagination is not given the credence it deserves. But in consciousness research, when we begin to question what consciousness is, and where it comes from (beyond the standard scientific materialist dogma of course) it is obvious that the imagination is more akin to what Shamanistic societies have always believed. After all, if we have a thought, what is it that is observing that thought? Maybe that’s a topic for another article… Either way these spiritual stories and autobiographies take us out of our everyday lives and into an inner space that can be more open and more meaningful.

So my iPad Kindle app has taken a hammering this morning, downloading another batch of recommended reading.

So.

What are the most spiritually inspirational books you’ve read?