HALFWAY UP THE MOUNTAIN Paperback – February 25, 2015
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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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!
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
The Mother of God
Enlightenment Blues: My Years with an American Guru
Despite this exhortation to caution in what she refers to as the "spiritual marketplace", the author seems congenitally unable to follow her own advice. In addition to her her long professional relationship with Andrew Cohen, Mariana is currently the "life-partner" of Marc/Mordechai Gafni, a new age Judaic teacher facing criminal charges in Israel for sexual abuse of multiple women, as well as similar accusations by several women in America (including sexual abuse of a minor). Despite a previous written confession by Gafni (since retracted), his expulsion by the community he co-founded, and the official rescinding of his ordination as a rabbi, Mariana has publicly denied the credibility of the accusations, a stance arguably at odds with the professed ideals of this book, given the number and stature of Gafni's critics.
The desire to warn against the potential for abuse by charismatic guru-figures is certainly admirable. Unfortunately, the tendentious tone, the bizarre provision of a platform to abusive guru Andrew Cohen, along with author's poor personal judgement in this arena, suggest a lack of self-awareness which drastically undermines the book's credibility on a spiritual level. As a political diatribe, this might be less serious; however, one expects spiritual opinion-makers to walk their talk - or leave the talking to others.