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Record Type: Review   ID: 483

Spiritual Choices: The Problem of Recognizing Authentic Paths to Inner Transformation

Anthony, Dick, Ecker, Bruce, & Wilber, Ken (Eds.)

In their Preface, the editors explain that "this book is largely the result of a seminar, led by Dick Anthony, that attempted to develop criteria that would aid people in making spiritual choices intelligently. In that seminar two previously separate scholarly traditions, transpersonal psychology and the scientific study of religion, were brought into dialogue in an effort to illuminate these issues. The Anthony typology, comprising Part 1 of the book, represents a summary of research on the new religions from within the scientific study of religion and was used as a device to structure discussion within the seminar. The transpersonal psychologists in the seminar developed the essays included in this volume in response to Anthony's presentation of his point of view. We have in turn used the perspective provided by the typology in commenting on their efforts, as well as on those essays that were contributed by transpersonal writers who did not participate in the seminar. So the dialogue initiated between the two fields within the seminar continues in this manuscript and perhaps moves towards some kind of synthesis" (p. ix). The aim of the book is to help seekers to choose the right spiritual leaders and disciplines from among the diversity present in our society. They also attempt to help people to distinguish between spiritual authenticity and shallow exploitation, and to "recognize signs of psychological pathology in a group or leader" (p. 2). In the "Introduction: The Spiritual Seeker's Dilemma," they present a classification of four levels of spiritual authority, and both discuss spiritual authenticity in general and then deal in some depth with several alternative religious groups which have had problematic developments: The People's Temple, Synanon, Scientology, Psychosynthesis, the Unification Church, Chogyam Trungpa, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, and TM.

There are four parts to the book. In the first, Anthony and Ecker "present a systematic framework of concepts and criteria designed to help both the seeker and the observer come to terms" (p. 2) with possible harmful spiritual involvements. Part 2, "Five Involvements," examines EST, Ram Dass, Meher Baba, an interview with Claudio Naranjo, and Zen. Part 3, "Transpersonal Perspectives on Groups, Gurus, and Grandiosity," has chapters by transpersonal psychologists Ken Wilber, Frances Vaughan, John Welwood, and Gary Rosenthal. The last part contains "When is Religion Transformative: A Conversation with Jacob Needleman," and a Conclusion.

Publisher Information:New York: Paragon House, 1987. 375p. Chap notes; Ind: 369-374
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