I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking to explore beyond the conventional tenets of the New Age or neo-spiritual movement in evoking personal and planetary change. A very personal journey of a man's quest to bring understanding, meaning and depth through various spiritual practices. Similar on many levels to Joan Halifax's excellent book "The Fruitful Darkness" Stephen Gray's book hits on Buddhsm, Shamanism and Native American spirituality in a quest for knowledge and truth. What is different with these two books is "Returning to Sacred World" is more a manifesto for the use of plant medicines (peyote, ibogaine, ayahuasca, psilocybin) to accelerate the access the knowledge necessary for personal and planetary change. This is the element of the book that resonated the most with me. Stephen builds a very strong case for the power, the beauty - and the intense and rapid access these plant allies can provide us. There is so much we could learn from these plant teachers. I firmly believe if collectively, enough people listened to what is being taught by these plant medicines that there could be a positive shift in consciousness. A shift that would better our relationship to each other and to Mother Earth.
Buy the book. Read the book. Learn. Expand. Heal yourself. Heal others. And heal the planet.
Stephen Gray has successfully synthesized the link between spirituality and plant consciousness. The book is easy to read and very inspiring. It is also an important view to embrace as the planet is threatened by so many forces. Let Stephen Gray be your personal guide on this important sacred journey!
Reviewed by Susan Ravagni, Author of I'm Just a Girl and reviewer for BookPleasures
Is there some ancient, dare I say sacred, wisdom to which we should return? Self-described journeyman and journalist, Stephen Gray gives a resounding, "YES".
In Gray's exceedingly well-written and eloquent book, Returning to Sacred World, he gently guides the reader into the realms of the divine via a fusion of his personal, life-long studies of numerous cultures. If you think this sounds suspiciously like Eat, Pray, Love, let me assure you that Gray's composition moves well beyond that. Let's call Returning to Sacred World version 2.0. Maybe even 3.0. Or maybe it's a whole different animal altogether.
Gray's explorations - or more precisely, immersions - have taken him from studying under the much-esteemed Buddhist teacher Trungpa Rinpoche to engaging in shamanic South American practices to learning the indigenous teachings of the Native American Church. Taking aspects from each that resonates with him, Gray provides a syncretic (blending of different beliefs and practices) viewpoint that will engage the reader.
I could provide you here with several dry paragraphs that it would not do justice to this amazing work. No. Let's not do that. Instead I'd like to share how reading this affected me.
As Gray lays down his case for our need to recognize our spiritual disconnection, I found myself underlining more than several concepts. I was inspired to write "yes" with exclamation points in the margins at several points. I even gave one sentence a "wow". I'm not going to tell you what that was, though. You have to read Returning to Sacred World yourself and find your own "yeses" and "wows". By the end of Part 1, I was in agreement with Gray that now, more than ever, we need to awaken and transform.
How is this done? In the second part Gray dives into Buddhism. This is not light reading. I attempted to wrap my technology-based, western-thinking, Judeo-Christian indoctrinated mind around some of the concepts. I have looked at these before and, frankly, had given up. Gray gave me hope with his exhortations to let go of dogmatic teachings, continue to seek without judgment, trust my inner guide, and, most importantly, to relax. And breathe. I could almost hear him sympathetically chuckling at points.
In the last section Gray provides applicable tools to further one's practice; the spiritual journey. Gray explores the inner connections to the divine: prayer, chanting, one point and still point meditation. Gray then plunges down the rabbit-hole of using substances, entheogenic (from the Greek, that which causes to be in God) and empathogenic (causing an expansion of feelings for others), to break down the ego boundaries. He explains that plant-based medicines are ideal (as opposed to laboratory manufactured) and should be experienced in the correct setting, namely under supervision by those who have studied and know how to use these substances. Although controversial, Gray maintains that mindfully using one or more can be extremely helpful in transcending ego and furthering the awakening process. I found myself intrigued. Because of Gray's experiences and ability to speak with an authentic voice, I would have liked to have seen him touch upon other meditative practices such as the Melchizedek method or his thoughts on doing daily affirmations as popularized by The Secret. If he explored these at all, he made no mention. That's okay. Gray inspired me to form a personal syncretic practice as I move into my own Sacred World. And I think that was his ultimate goal. My recommendation for fellow seekers: read Returning to Sacred World, you won't regret it for an instant.
Really a very lovely read. Stories, practical tools, gentle reminders towards spiritual awakening. What's unusual about this book it that it pulls threads from many directions....Buddhist teachings, sacred plants, Native American Church, shamans and songwriters. I really liked the connections Stephen Gray made between them all. It's heartening - left me with a little more hope - thinking about people everywhere, from tipis to temples, quietly going about building spirit. Returning to Sacred World was an introduction, for me, to the topic of sacred plants: entheogens (plant medicines, like peyote, for expansion of mind and spirit...for others of you also not in the know) I think whether or not you are new to the subject, you'll find it thought provoking. There is an overview of some of the most useful plants and substances, but primarily it is a conversation on the part plants can play in spiritual growth and maybe in the survival of our planet.
As a person most likely spotted reading fast and furious mystery novels,I was not expecting to understand,much less apreciate,this book when a friend suggested I read it. To my surprise it became immediately apparent that anyone who cares at all about his or her own healing and awakening,as well as that of the planet,both could and should read it. In accessible language, Mr. Gray draws upon and relates the wisdom of the ages and of many cultures from around the world with humility, humour and remarkable insight. I found it exciting and compelling, even a page turner. It is clear that the author has lived the insights he shares. It's equally clear,and even more important,that these insights should be seen and acted upon by a great many people at this time on our fragile planet. In a few words: this is an extremely important and timely book.
Stephen Gray has discovered a "path with heart", and reveals it with heart. I particularly like his use of the notion of "syncretism", a concept I have used (without knowing there is a name for it) as a guiding principle in my own search for spiritual truth...that is, incorporating truths learned from disparate spiritual paths to validate and/or reinforce each other. This book focuses on the challenges that we Earthlings are facing now and in the immediate future as well as providing a palette of interesting and thought provoking solutions in a way that is both lighthearted and intensely serious, which makes for good reading. Stephen's book is a "must read" for anyone who is interested in or is determined to incorporate the use of plant medicines into his or her own spiritual path.
Stephen Gray's book addresses in clear and compassionate tones the spiritual crisis looming over the planet at this time and points the way forward for personal and for planetary transformation . Stephen has deep insight and a direct link to some of the most powerful, visionary ideas and paths available to us. Anyone prepared to be part of the solution, part of the vision for creating a sane planet for the generations to come should read this book--and then act on its teachings and its inspiration."
Thanks to Stephan Grey for sifting through a large variety of spiritual teachings and getting to the pith of those truths. I appreciate his serious yet humorous approach of gentle immediacy. This is not a touchy-feely approach to spirituality, it addresses the needs of our particular place in history, a time which may be crucial to our Planet's future. Keep this "toolkit" in your mind at all times.
Returning to Sacred World is a smörgåsbord of juicy, nutritious tidbits for the weary pilgrim. A veritable karesansui of touchstones, many a seeker can take refuge here. Pack this one for the long journey.