The list author says: "Here is a list of books I cannot imagine having lived without, or if I had, my life would not have been as complete. Not in these editions necessarily. With the exception of a few, they are spiritually/philosophically oriented. The list is personal and ridiculously short, but a floating trunk is not that big. Sorry if I left out one of your favorites. They are more or less in chronological order. The quotes in the descriptions are from the texts unless otherwise marked. Great 'secondary' works (except Underhill)—Huxley's 'Perennial Philosophy,' Hadot's 'Plotinus or the Simplicity of Vision,' Hahn's books on Buddhism (cf. especially his many excellent discussions of mindfulness, arguably the most important idea in Buddhism), Radhakrishnan's works on Indian religious texts, etc. are not included. These are source books in spiritual and imaginative literature, books for the desert island. Only got room for a few and will be rescued in 6 months? Take Plotinus, Emerson, Nisargadatta, and Roberts. A month? Nisargadatta and Roberts, read in the opposite order. Ship sinking fast? Forget the books and grab a life jacket. :)
'It is somewhat of a psychological trick...to come to the realization that you do in fact form your experience and your world, simply because the weight of evidence seems...to be so loaded at the other end because of your habits of perception. The realization is like one that comes at one time or another to many people in the dream state, when suddenly they 'awaken' while still in the dream, realizing first of all that they are dreaming, and secondarily that they are themselves creating the experienced drama...To understand that you create your own reality requires that same kind of 'awakening' from the normal awake state—at least for many people. Some of course have this knack more than others. The realization itself does indeed change 'the rules of the game' as far as you are concerned...to a rather considerable degree.'—Jane Roberts, 'Mass Events'"
"It is with some reluctance that I put The Bible on the list, for no work in the world’s literature has done more to justify the separation of man from nature and man from man than this, with the possible exception of the Koran, with its basic dogmatic, authoritarian thrust. However, when read critically (who does?) there are riches to be had (the Song of Solomon, the Psalms, etc.)."
"This, and the Bhagavad Gita by the same translator below, are perhaps my favorite translations of these ancient texts that, along with the other Indian scriptures in this list, admonish the reader to turn inward and experience his or her source first hand. 'The wise man sees the same Brahman in every creature.'"
"For me the most concise, beautiful, and powerful synthesis of Indian spirituality. A book to be studied over a lifetime. Again, the translation is excellent, but if you want the best scholarship, go to S. Radhakrishnan (his introductions to this work and his Principal Upanishads are beyond outstanding). 'Alienation from our true nature is hell, and union with it is heaven.'—Radhakrishnan"
"I always enjoyed Chuang Tzu over Lao Tzu. Maybe it is his humor, but for me he is the best of the Taoist philosophers, a man that no doubt spoke, like the others on this list, from personal direct experience with his deepest inner self. Tao (Chuang Tzu), God (Eckhart), The One (Homer/Plotinus), All That Is (Roberts); the name changes, and so does the Reality?"
"Why is it that Christianity, Islam and other religions lend themselves to fanatics who confuse the "map [the book/word] for the territory [the living spiritual reality]?" Rhetorical question. Maybe this great edition will help change this."
"Jnana yoga or self-transcending knowledge as a way to god (along with bhakti yoga or devotion, and karma yoga or selfless action) was not the sole province of the Hindu mystics; it has a similar tradition in the west, as evidenced in this great collection of mystic writings."
"A view to the moral, and hence spiritual, life through the lens of short biographies and anecdotes on famous, and not-so-famous Romans. Entertaining and enlightening. Try to get a copy of his 'Moralia.'"
"Years of living on a horse and in a tent in the field of battle, and at night using writing as a heuristic to discover the 'citadel' within, Aurelius is our best exemplar of the Stoic tradition: our deepest inner self is separate from our body, thoughts and feelings. See Hadot's book on him, 'The Inner Citadel.'"
"My favorite philosopher (sorry Plato), unless you consider Emerson a philosopher, despite the difficulty of his language. His world view is not unlike the Indian/Advaita writers on this list. Again, reading him you feel, as with Eckhart, that he has looked into the abyss. Read with Pierre Hadot's stunning 'Plotinus or the Simplicity of Vision.' This text is complete, unlike the Penguin."
"This text for me is one of the most interesting and readable of the Buddhist scriptures and had a great influence on the development of Zen (see Thich Nhat Hahn's work). Do not get the so-called epitomized version. Get Suzuki's full text. 'Never to blend our pleasure or our pride, With sorrow of the meanest thing that feels.'—Wordsworth (Buddhism opposes slaughtering and eating animals.)"
"Part of the Neo-Platonic tradition, which as with the other books on this list, assumes a spiritual Reality underlying and pervading the physical one (Brahman, Tao, All That Is, etc.). A beautiful, personal treatise made poignant by having been written while awaiting a horrible death in prison. 'In other living creatures the ignorance of themselves is nature, but in men it is a vice.'"
"More stories in the Advaita tradition, mostly concerning creation and the play of the gods, threaded by passages on living a spiritual life (selfless action leads to god realization). Stories may not be for everyone. 'The intellect...purified, the spiritual aspirant at once perceives the self directly...[h]e sees the one self in all beings.' Also known as Bhagavata Purana."
"Not my favorite writer, but one does not read this cryptic author for entertainment, at least not in the usual sense. You read him because you feel, as was said above of Plotinus, that he has 'been to the mountaintop,' along with William Law, Emerson, Nisargadatta, and others on this list."
"Emerson said something to the effect that images came to Shakespeare as naturally as fruit to a tree. I am sure I have not done Emerson (or Shakespeare) justice with this banal paraphrase, but Shakespeare's use of language, as everyone knows, is stunning at every turn, as could be said of Emerson's in a very different context."
"Convinced by one of her confessors to write about her spiritual experience with prayer, St. Teresa uses a metaphor similar to Aurelius (citadel) to describe the deepest interior realm. See her wonderful autobiography as well. This publisher is great; they have let their edition of William Law drop!"
"'Swift...can keep his narrative as direct and unobstructed as a Fable...direct because it was simple and unconscious, powerful because it was felt...his mode of expression remained simple, and single, and clearly comprehensible'—Sir Herbert Read"
"In the canon of the greatest spiritual writers, Law must be included. A student of Boehme, Law is a case where, for me, he outdid his teacher, certainly in his ability to communicate profound thought in eloquent prose. Read him just for the language if not his deep spiritual insight."
"If Shakespeare shocks at every turn in terms of language, Emerson will knock your socks off with the creativity of the connections he makes and with the way he makes them. 'A good indignation brings out all one's powers.'"
"This work speaks eloquently about the power of giving ourselves to the present, which is what many of these other works also admonish, particularly Jane Roberts, but the Indians and others as well from a different angle. Beauty of thought, action and expression (cf. Plato). Connect with Buddhist concept of mindfulness."
"'There is a constant interaction between the creation and the creator, and in three-dimensional reality the creator is so a part of his handiwork that it is difficult to tell one from the other.'—Jane Roberts"
"The best overview of western mysticism written to date. There is an argument over whether Underhill and Law were mystics themselves. The reader will have to decide for her/himself. An outstanding book."
"Zen for the west? Books are made of words, and words are symbols. In fact, every thing is a symbol of something else ad infinitum. What is left? The One, the 'flame that burns without fuel.'—Srimad Bhagavatam"
"A Hindu Socrates? Reading Nisargadatta makes the Hindu/Buddhist tradition come alive in a way that perhaps no other text will; more personally engaging than Ramana Maharshi. 'In truth, the self is one in all beings; only fools perceive diversity...He rests in his own true being.'—Srimad Bhagavatam"
"'Consciousness is an attribute of the soul, a tool that can be turned in many directions. You are not your consciousness. It is something that belongs to you and to the soul….To the extent that you understand and utilize the various aspects of consciousness, you will learn to understand your own reality, and the conscious self will truly become conscious.'—Jane Roberts"
"A classic text in the Buddhist tradition on the nature of the mind, consciousness and reality, and on meditation as a vehicle for understanding ourselves and place in the universe. One of the most readable texts in the Buddhist "canon.""