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HALFWAY UP THE MOUNTAIN Paperback – February 25, 2015

3.9 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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"Fool's gold exists because there is real gold," coined Rumi. Here author and anthropologist Mariana Caplan herself extracts valuable nuggets from the writings of spiritual masters, both ancient and contemporary, as well as personal interviews with more than 30 esteemed masters, spiritual practitioners, and scholars and psychologists such as Andrew Cohen, Claudio Naranjo, and Robert Svoboda. Contending that "the present condition of contemporary spirituality in the West is one of grave distortion, confusion, fraud, and a fundamental lack of education," Caplan sets out to correct this situation by encouraging seekers to carefully examine the ideas--and ideals--of the spiritual teachers with whom they are involved. The introduction by Fleet Maull, a lay monk in the Zen Peacemaker Order and founder of the National Prison Hospice Project, alone makes this worth reading. --Randall Cohan

From Publishers Weekly

Caplan (Untouched) asserts that "the reality of the present condition of contemporary spirituality in the West is one of grave distortion, confusion, fraud, and a fundamental lack of education." She claims that, as positive as the tremendous rise in spirituality is, there is not any context for determining whether any particular teaching, or teacher, is truly enlightening. Caplan compiles interviews with such noted spiritual masters as Joan Halifax, Andrew Cohen, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee and Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi on the nature of enlightenment. In the first section, Caplan examines the motivations people have for seeking enlightenment and contends that very often they seek this state as a means of gratifying the ego. This "presumption of enlightenment," she says, often afflicts teachers masquerading as spiritual leaders. These teachers sometimes look down on their students and gloat over how far they have come and how far the students have to go. A second section focuses on "The Dangers of Mystical Experience," in which Caplan claims that many seekers mistake the mystical experience itself for enlightenment; she and the teachers she interviews all assert that enlightenment always involves gaining some knowledge about self and others. The third section, "Corruption and Consequence," focuses on the nature of power and corruption; the fourth section, "Navigating the Mine Field: Preventing Dangers on the Path," provides a survey of the ways in which practitioners can avoid the "pitfalls of false enlightenment." A final section, "Disillusionment, Humility and the Beginning of Spiritual Life," concludes that "the Real spiritual life [is] the life of total annihilation and the return to just what is." Caplan's illuminating book calls into question the motives of the spiritual snake handlers of the modern age and urges seekers to pay the price of traveling the hard road to true enlightenment. (July)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 100 pages
  • Publisher: Hohm Press (February 25, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0934252912
  • ISBN-13: 978-0934252911
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #824,210 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is an insightful book, well written, well documented and easy to understand.
I only give it a 2star rating because, ironicly, some of the experts who are quoted, in fact the one who is quoted the most happen to be abusive, halfway up the mountain guru's themselves. With this the book's credability is undermined.
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[Note on the rating given: although the book has redeeming qualities, its implicit endorsement of Andrew Cohen makes it not merely flawed, but dangerously misleading. I would hate to see any reader of this book become another casualty of Cohen's abusive narcissism. Thus I have given it the lowest rating possible, as a warning - Caveat Emptor!]

Ironically, given the title, I abandoned this book less than halfway through. Although competently written, I found it tediously dogmatic, a polemic rather than an exploration. Mariana seems to have strong feelings about the lack of validity of paths other than her own, and apparently intends to beat her readers over the head until they share those same opinions.

One of the primary themes of the book (apart from its vendetta against neo-advaita paths) is the potential for abuse when teachers are elevated to the status of gurus. Unfortunately, while the author's intentions may be noble, her judgement on this topic seems highly questionable. She presents Andrew Cohen as an authority on the integrity of other spiritual teachers - which is deeply ironic, as he could be held up as a classic example of exactly the kind of teacher this book purports to warn against. Cohen has been the subject of numerous exposes by ex-devotees (including his mother!), attesting to his own abusiveness, narcissism, megalomania and cult-like behavior. Along with many available online, some have been published:
American Guru: A Story of Love, Betrayal and Healing-former students of Andrew Cohen speak out
...Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
I found this a rather messy collection of quotes from various spiritual teachers, (many of whom have books promoted in the back pages of the book) rather than a continuous narrative. The 'quote' aspect of the book makes for an uncomfortable stop/go kind of a read. This uncomfortability however could well be my fault as opposed to the author's. However in truth there isn't much authoring going on here. This book is more like a collection of pieces by other folk. I read many spiritual texts for inspiration but didn't pick up much in this volume apart from a general feeling of negativity. A similar theme is tackled with much more (ahem) insight in Jack Kornfield's 'After the Buddha, the laundry' which is a terrific read and very inspiring.
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Hardly anything in the world is more potentially beneficial - or more dangerous - than "spirituality." How easy it is for the "spiritual seeker" or the religionist to be deluded by oneself or by others! Whatever its faults, Mariana Caplan's book is a cautionary one that belongs in the library of anyone for whom the spiritual quest is a driving force. Whether we like it or not, the sphere of human existence is a dualistic one, and none of us is likely to achieve spiritual maturity without periodic corrections along the path. Unlike some other reviewers, I find nothing negative about this book. It serves to provide a perspective that is generally lacking in a world filled with religious charlatans, narcissistic spiritualists, charismatic gurus, salesmen, politicians, and show people for whom some people are easy prey. If you think you know The Truth, if you imagine God talks to you on behalf of the rest of us, it wouldn't hurt to think twice before your belief turns to fanaticism and bad actions result from "good" intentions. Highly recommended.
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If someone is dedicated to attaining enlightenment believing that enlightenment can be pursued like a college degree or reached like a destination, like Chicago, this book is informative.

If someone believes that enlightenment confers wisdom, power, freedom from suffering and the ability to help others, this book is enlightening and protective.

If someone loves someone who imagines they are enlightened, who needs a gentle nudge to reconsider the possibility of their attainment, the self-proclaimed probably won't read it but if the book is given to them as a gift, if they respond with anger and insult at least the giver provides both proof of lack of attainment and an antidote.

The audience for such a book is probably small but for the audience who discover it, what precious truths it holds!
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Format: Paperback
There are A LOT of spiritual books on the market, and even more New Age books, but in many ways they are all the same. Halfway Up the Mountain goes straight to the core of the REAL challenges that REAL people who are dead-serious about the spiritual path will face. You only learn these things by complete immersion in the spiritual path...or by being fortunate enough to find a rare book like this one!
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