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The Perennial Solution Center Paperback – February 25, 2003
About the Author
Walter Horn, Ph.D., is a former philosophy professor and the author of numerous scholarly articles in the areas of philosophy, economics and insurance regulation. He has also published hundreds of reviews of jazz and creative improvised music in popular music magazines. A composer/keyboardist himself, Horn has released two favorably received avant-garde improvisatory CDs as leader, and appears on several others as a sideman.
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In addition to the collection of quotations, another of the book's major strengths is its excellent examinations of the border territories of mysticism: religion, philosophy, psychology, biology, ethics and other fields whose areas of interest overlap those of spiritual experience. It goes without saying that mystical experiences resist description, but this problem is always compounded by the ease with which discussions of mysticism slide into theology, or metaphysics, or neurophysiology, or any of the dozen other fields that bear in some way upon the essence of subjective existence. The author is keenly aware of the arguments against unverifiable claims by mystics, and does a fine job of picking his way through the mine fields, demonstrating which claims need to rendered unto Caesar, or Einstein, or Freud, and which remain the province of mystics and spiritual seekers. I think this examination of mysticism in relation to its most closely related fields is the unique and important contribution of this book.
I found the interfaces with psychology especially interesting. Most significantly, Horn identifies two beliefs fundamental to both psychology and spirituality: the belief that people of any age are capable of positive change, and the belief that awareness itself is an agent of change. Early on, he takes a look at the kind of psychological readiness an individual might need before embarking on a serious spiritual quest. Later he turns his attention to the similarities and differences between the psychological experiences of personal insight and revelations of the spirit.
In Horn's marvelously peculiar (and peculiarly American) mind we also find a jolting but effective coupling of mysticism with pragmatism. Spiritual truths are to be judged, he says, not by doctrine or testimony, but by the effects they have on the quality of lives of men and women. There is some of this in William James, but Horn takes it further, using it not only as a test of the legitimacy of a spiritual experience but also as an ongoing methodology, a practical awareness of the effects that one's various behaviors have on one's life, whether they impede the spiritual quest or, as the I Ching would say, "Furthers." This kind of moderating influence played by the rational and intuitive minds in monitoring one's spiritual growth is likened by Horn to Buddha's middle way. Horn's way moves one step at a time, always observing very carefully where each step leads, and the next step must always begin with where we are now.
And, like all spiritual quests, it also always ends with where we are now. As Horn's beloved Tagore writes, "... in the midst of our home and our work, the prayer rises, "Lead me across!" For here rolls the sea, and even here lies the other shore waiting to be reached -- yes, here is this everlasting present, not distant, not anywhere else."