The Sacred Mirror is truly a landmark book in the history of psychotherapy, and can be considered "must reading" for all therapists, therapists-in-training, their instructors, and, I daresay, many spiritual teachers. Editors John Prendergast, Peter Fenner, and Sheila Krystal have done an outstanding job, not only in the quality of their own articles (for instance, senior editor John Prendergast's "Introduction" and his article for chapter 4, "The Sacred Mirror: Being Together," are alone well worth the modest price of the book), but also in the high quality of all the other multi-faceted papers they have inspired their fellow authors to draft. Note that all these papers are original, not having been previously published elsewhere.
Each essay is a gem. Having spent over three decades in "the nondual way" exploring its relevance for authentic living, loving, working and serving, I had wondered, before reading this book, just how much new insight could be generated by having so many contributors to this topic, "Nondual Wisdom in Psychotherapy" (the book's subtitle). After all, Alan Watts had brilliantly touched on many issues in his classic "Psychotherapy East and West," and Ken Wilber had written a fair amount on the nondual culmination of the psycho-spiritual development process.
I was pleasantly surprised.
Whereas there is some overlap, especially in that each author must define what "nondual" means for them--and the term tends to evoke a lot of the same definitions--even here I was impressed at the wealth of nuance in how each author has truly "owned" the language of nonduality, and doesn't merely sound like s/he is parroting nondual wording from the Perennial Wisdom traditions of Advaita Vedanta, Kashmir Saivism, Zen Buddhism, Vajrayana Buddhism, and contemplative Taoism (the main five sacred traditions that have engendered the rise of nonduality in the West).
Not only are these pages abundantly filled with "nondual insight" and good conceptual overview, most of the authors present transcripts or synopses of interesting individual cases clearly showing how nondual awareness-- arising either spontaneously or via gentle suggestion -- allowed for the therapeutic relationship to deepen profoundly and then, suddenly or gradually, radical healing/wholing could occur.
Limited space for this review prevents my discussing each of the papers presented in The Sacred Mirror. Suffice it to say that this book should be required reading for anyone working in the fields of transpersonal, humanistic or depth psychology. Persons in other "helping professions" and many other walks of life will also greatly benefit from reading this authentic compilation of enlightened teachings, thoroughly grounded in psychotherapeutic sensitivity and pragmatic common sense.
Congratulations and "Thank you!" to Prendergast, Fenner, Krystal, John Welwood, Jennifer Welwood, Dorothy Hunt, Dan Berkow, Richard Miller, Stephan Bodian, Lynn Marie Lumiere, Bryan Wittine, and Adyashanti for their truly fine contributions.
Only three criticisms of the book: 1) I don't recall in any of the papers (I might have missed something) any discussion of the ancient warnings by nondual sages that a person be relatively free of certain basic "defilements" before being introduced to nonduality (i.e, that only the One Is, that one's real nature is the Absolute, that "the sage transcends right and wrong"). Such warnings are given lest any immature persons misappropriate nondual glimpses or teachings for reifying or aggrandizing their own limited egocentricity (leading to the problematic "psychic inflation" that Carl Jung warned about).
2) Many persons can fall into a veritable "spiritual vertigo" when their initial nondual breakthroughs occur (recall the cases of Narendranath with Sri Ramakrishna and Paul Brunton with Ramana Maharshi, to give only two examples); I don't recall any of the authors dealing with this potential phenomenon in the therapeutic or nontherapeutic contexts.
3) A minor quibble: the "selected bibliography" could have been expanded by about 1 page to be more extensive without being exhaustive. For instance, I (and probably other readers) would have liked to have seen listed some classic works on the Sankara advaita and Kashmir Saiva advaita traditions, Yoga Vasishtha, Ribhu Gita, Ashtavakra Gita (etc.), more Ch'an/Zen and Taoist works, and works from some especially clear advaita teachers of the modern era like Douglas Harding and Wei Wu Wei [Terry Gray]--though several sages of great stature-- Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Jean Klein and others are referenced here. From a transpersonal psychology perspective, two classic works, Dr. Arthur Deikman's *The Observing Self* and Erich Fromm's *To Have or To Be* would also be quite relevant for this bibliography.
I must add that the one reviewer here who dismisses this book with "two fat gold stars" and denigrates the need for psychotherapy, suggesting that people simply read a few teachings from Ramana Maharshi, has not truly understood Maharshi's wisdom or the ancient distinction between the conventional and absolute levels (preliminary and final levels) of upadesha / spiritual instruction. Ramana was entirely open to his disciples utilizing whatever approach works for their authentic awakening in Atma/Self and their ongoing abidance in this nondual Love-Awareness. Thus, he readily supported disciples' and visitors' involvement in the various margas, the "pathless paths" or ways of spiritual awakening-- including wisdom and self-enquiry (jnana and atma-vicara), devotion (bhakti, especially abheda bhakti, devotion without any concept of duality between God and self), Patanjali's 8-limbed yoga system, and selfless service (seva). Had Ramana known about transpersonal psychotherapy, I'm sure he would have encouraged anyone chronically suffering mental/emotional challenges to avail themselves of this form of therapeutic help to work through their suffering to genuine freedom.
It is not enough to enquire (a la Ramana's well-known "final approach") "Who is suffering?" or "Who needs psychotherapy?" to live authentically in the miracle of this spaceless-timeless here-now. When a person still has some unreleased, major identification with one of the koshas (physical, psychological, or psychic "sheaths" of karma), trying to launch themselves into the nondual "beyond the witness" state in almost all cases will not produce happy results. To know this is simply basic wisdom and compassion. And along this line, The Sacred Mirror is an invaluable contribution.
The critic also indirectly mentions the Buddha, who, 2500 years ago, urged that we be a light unto ourselves. But this critic fails to mention that the Buddha and other enlightened masters in his lineage(s) strongly encouraged association with a wise "spiritual friend" (kalyana mitra) and any number of (at least) 40 methods of meditation and inquiry into the source and causes of "attachment, aversion and egoic delusion" (lobha, dosa, moha). The therapists who have contributed to The Sacred Mirror are using "skillful means" (upaya) in helping anyone in pain to do just that and thereby come to real, final freedom.
And yes, this situation is a wonderfully wild, wacky PARADOX, for, ultimately, there are no separate beings needing therapy or "final states" of anything. One finds here only Buddha-nature, only Awareness, only God. YET... YET, as part of this enjoyment of purely nondual experiencing (no experiencer, nothing to be experienced), the nondual One can easily manifest in its dream-play of Awareness, a "someone" "buying" "this fine book" and "enjoying wonderful release"! No problem. Nothing really happening.
--Timothy Conway, Ph.D. (East-West Psychology, CIIS), author of *Women of Power and Grace: Nine Astonishing, Inspiring Luminaries of Our Time* and the forthcoming book *India's Modern-Era Sages: Nondual Wisdom Teachings from the Heart of Freedom.*