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Meetings with the Archangel: A Comedy of the Spirit Paperback – November 3, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 245 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (November 3, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060932481
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060932480
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #542,604 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

It's as if Stephen Mitchell had been working on three books and decided that instead of finishing them separately, he would just combine them into one. There is the fictional story of a Jewish man who has the jarring experience, while high on broccoli (prepared in the secret Hasidic fashion), of identifying himself with Hitler. He exterminates Jews and feels proud to have done it. Subsequently, in the back of his mind, he is preoccupied with unraveling the problem of evil, a process that leads him to Zen practice and a brilliant account of its tribulations and rewards. Then there is the nonfictional essay "Against Angels," an erudite lambasting of the popular fascination with angels. We get not only a summary of it but a philosophical history, an outline, and extensive passages. The third story is of a man's encounter with the angel Gabriel, who doesn't know why he's there, but who initiates the man into the orgiastic bliss of archangeldom and troops him through the heavens--and the resemblance to the Divine Comedy doesn't stop there. What (barely) links these stories is that the Zen practitioner is the author of "Against Angels" and, ironically, the one to whom Gabriel appears. If there is an abiding theme, it is that the suffering of humanity is redemptive. In this first fictional outing for Mitchell, it is his laid back, whimsical tone that really holds it all together and makes each story worth reading for its own sake. --Brian Bruya --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

One spring day in Northern California in 1995, the archangel Gabriel appears to Stephen, the alter ego of Mitchell, a respected translator of spiritual writings and poetry (The Book of Job; Genesis; etc.). In this keen contemporary spiritual allegory, Stephen is the author of a bestseller that cut through the sentimental fog of the recent angel craze with the high-beam clarity of his Zen training. Far from being offended by the book, Gabriel assures Stephen that "We simply appear in the mirror of someone's consciousness. Or, more accurately, we are the mirror." In the course of two visits over two days, Stephen relieves a spiritual search that began in 1965 when he commuted from Harvard to get high by smoking broccoli with ultra-Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn. His whimsical mysticism devolves into nightmare when he ingests psychedelic challah and experiences the hate-filled mind of Hitler. Although Stephen marries and begins a teaching career at Berkeley, inwardly he struggles like Job to understand God's justice. Finally, Stephen encounters an extraordinary Brooklyn-born Zen master, David Copland, who leads Stephen to understand that there is a level of reality beyond our labels of good and evil. Treating Stephen to a tour of some of the myriad heavens, Gabriel allows Stephen to speak with William Blake, who affirms (along with Gabriel) that the heaven we land in is indeed a reflection of our own state of mind. Dipping into his erudition, Mitchell balances playful cameos of great Western souls like Aquinas, Rilke and Meister Eckhart with a witty, incisive portrayal of the workings of Zen training. He succeeds in creating a parable for thinking people with a hunger for reality. Editor, Hugh Van Dusen; agent, Michael Katz; author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Stephen Mitchell was born in Brooklyn in 1943, educated at Amherst, the Sorbonne, and Yale, and de-educated through intensive Zen practice. His many books include the bestselling Tao Te Ching, The Gospel According to Jesus, Bhagavad Gita, The Book of Job, Meetings with the Archangel, Gilgamesh, The Second Book of the Tao, and the Iliad. When he is not writing, he likes to (in no particular order) think about writing, think about not writing, not think about writing, and not think about not writing. He is married to Byron Katie and cowrote two of her bestselling books: Loving What Is and A Thousand Names for Joy. You can read extensive excerpts from all his books on his website, www.stephenmitchellbooks.com.

Customer Reviews

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I loved this book from the moment, go!
alex1496@aol.com
I've read Mitchell's translations of Rilke (all of them); Rilke being my favorite poet, Mitchell has a place in my heart as my favorite translator.
Jessica Deamer
This was so fascinating and wonderfully written.
Bhavani Brown

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 16, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I knew I had to re-read this book even before I was halfway through the first reading. I found myself stopping to breathe between fantastically worded passages, only to dive in for more. The subtitle, A Comedy of the Spirit, best describes the book's unique voice. Meetings With the Archangel is the fictional autobiography of an author who pursues a meandering but intense path of spiritual training, from Hasidic Judaism to Zen training, with studies of numerous other writings on enlightenment and angels. The Archangel Gabriel visits him to reflect the author's own state of growth, as well as to amaze him with images of the heavens almost beyond comprehension. All this is done with unabashed passion and self-depricating humor. Even if you have little interest in angels, you will find a lot to chew on (and laugh about) from Gabriel's conversations. The character's exploration of the meaning of evil is also riveting and thought provoking. Stephen Mitchell balances mysterious thought-morsels with a light-hearted commentary that makes the consideration of spiritual journeys like playing frisbee with your soul. It is a goofy but rewarding challenge to catch what's being thrown at you.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
What an astonishing experience this was -- I had just decided Zen was too cold and empty (like Jack Kerouac, another Catholic-turned-rabid-Zen-Buddhist, who later repudiated Zen, saying: "Zen leaves me cold now. I have felt the presence of angels.") So when I saw this title, "Meetings with the Archangel," I thought, "Yes! Let's forget Zen and read about gorgeous, colorful, swooping angels!" Imagine my surprise when the most riveting part of the book turned to be about, you guessed it, Zen. My mind is still reeling.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 3, 1999
Format: Audio Cassette
Having read numerous books on eastern philosopy, I was only mildly interested in yet another. However, Stephen Mitchell was appearing at a book-signing at the Harvard Coop Bookstore, and I simply could not pass it up. Accompanied by my daughter, we went, purchased the book and listened to Mr. Mitchell read portions from it. What a find! I have read Meetings with the Archangel twice and will read it again, I'm sure. Watching the development of the narrator as he progresses through several stages of spiritual enlightment was fascinating. The challenge, of course, is to launch yourself on such a mission. The story is entirely entertaining and one not to be put down once started. I suspect there is a great deal of Mr. Mitchell in this book, and it is especially wonderful to have a memory of his own voice reading selections from this excellent work of fiction. Well worth your time. Enjoy.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By "angelika_emt" on July 6, 2001
Format: Paperback
Even before I finsihed with this book, i found myself going back and re-reading sections. The author has the most amazing talant with words that I believe I've read to date. While the book can be a little slow, it is definately a must read for anyone with an appreciaiton for fine writing. It is funny, moving, and more than worth the time I've spent re-reading and highlighting my favorite passages. I tend to loan out books after I've read them and sometimes don't get them back. This book hasn't left my room for fear that I'll never see it again. I plan to tell any would-be borrowers that it's worth their money to buy their own copy.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jessica Deamer on January 11, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I've read Mitchell's translations of Rilke (all of them); Rilke being my favorite poet, Mitchell has a place in my heart as my favorite translator. When I saw he had a bovel out, I decided to give it a whirl. Don't let "Comedy of the Spirit" fool you: there are some parts I found quite hysterical, but as a whole, I found myself reading the most comprehensible descriptions of Zen Buddhism I've ever read. This is a MUST for anyone who likes to think and feel deeply.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By alex1496@aol.com on July 30, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book from the moment, go! Stephen Mitchell has a sure touch of the irreverent and absurd in the chapters where he recounts meeting the Archangel Gabriel. And even if angels really did all these things that Gabriel said they do (what? lovemaking in the heavens?), the ideas are innately profound and provocative. The other chapters where Mitchell dissects the process of his enlightenment are more discursive in tone, but there's plenty to be gleaned from here. And though some of the passages are as enigmatic as the koans that he provides as examples, one gets a wild sense of exhilaration in the joyous non-sense of it all. Heartily recommended for the searcher, as well as for those simply interested in what angels could possibly be up to.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Bhavani Brown on January 13, 2000
Format: Audio Cassette Verified Purchase
This was so fascinating and wonderfully written. I was glad that it was read by the author. I was pleased that it wasn't airy fairy, but showed the deep inquiring mind of the seeker. Enjoyed the way it twists and turned never knowing quite where it would go next. There wasn't a doubt in my mind that this was an authentic experience by the author. It was so rich in description that I could easily see how this can be made into a movie. The character's inner conflict(Stephen's)resulting in a comforting resolution was truly inspiring. I certainly plan to listen and/or read it again. Bhavani from Windham NH
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 20, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I thought, "oh, angels. Right." Like the author I thought myself beyond such things. What he and his angel say is still reverberating through me. Read this.
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