New Maine Times Book Review: Mystic Journey

Posted Wednesday, July 25, 2012 in Culture

New Maine Times Book Review: Mystic Journey

"MYSTIC JOURNEY: Getting to the Heart of Your Soul's Story"

by Robert Atkinson

Cosimo Books, June 2012, 159 pp. $12.99

ISBN 978-1616407155

reviewed by Lee E. Cart

In his new book, "Mystic Journey: Getting to the Heart of Your Soul's Story," Robert Atkinson explores what it means to live a fully engaged life by connecting with one's soul and the eternal Creator as well as all other souls on Earth. Believing that "our spiritual existence from before birth to after death may reflect a process of knowing, forgetting, and remembering," Atkinson guides readers to a better understanding of this process in three separate parts. As professor of human development and religious studies, director of the Life Story Center, and senior research fellow in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute National Resource Center at the University of Southern Maine, Atkinson has devoted much of his life to developing these theories.

Part one of "Mystic Journey" delves into the aspect of knowing; the concept that before birth, each person's soul knows from whence it came and where it is headed. By remembering that our souls are eternal, remembrance becomes a "spiritual practice," and by following this path where "we are hardwired for transcendence," we can "use our conscious powers to remember our essential spiritual nature, and why it benefits us to see our life as the eternal journey of the soul."

In part two, Atkinson examines "the timeless pattern of transformation, why there is the necessity for opposition in our lives and what this contributes to transformation, and why this universal pattern can become what is personally sacred to us." One must delve into the shadows as well as the light in order to be successful at personal alterations and soul-making, for without adversity, there is no chance for change and spiritual growth.

In part three, the author explores the "timeless archetypes in the world's sacred traditions as the primary elements of our common spiritual heritage." Throughout the book, Atkinson uses extensive quotes from the Bible, the Qu'ran and diverse writers and philosophers such as Rumi, Confucius, Jung, and Walt Whitman, to illustrate his ideas on the process of soul-making and each person's inherent archetype. Atkinson's rhetoric solidifies his thoughts on seeing the soul as eternal: that our physical bodies are born, we live, and then die, but the soul continues as part of the greater eternal, universal source.

Exercises for reflection at the end of chapters provide readers with a variety of questions aimed at producing a personal map of one's soul. By writing out the thoughts induced by these questions, readers are helped on their quest to return to a state of soul-making which is directly related to "preparing for our reunion with our Creator; it is a lifelong process of acquiring the attributes needed for our eternal journey — a process that also leads to both individual and collective transformation."

Although more personal examples would have been helpful, readers of any faith will be intrigued by the theories that Atkinson presents in this multi-faith-based book. When wars, disease, droughts, global warming, and senseless murders are headline news, reading a book that might help a person develop a deeper love of life, an ability to "wrestle with our demons, dance with our angels, make plans with our inner guide, and ultimately, connect with our soul" is worth putting on the bedside table.

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