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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the indispensible guide to spiritual matters..., 25 Mar 2005
By 
Stuart Moses (Epsom, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: 50 Spiritual Classics: Timeless Wisdom From 50 Great Books of Inner Discovery, Enlightenment and Purpose (Paperback)
I first discovered Tom Butler-Bowden's books following a recommendation by a course leader on a programme called Personal Effectiveness For Men. I've been hooked ever since. I'm interested in self-development, but often find the sheer volume of material daunting. Butler-Bowden's books work as stepping-stones to greater learning. No longer do I waste my hard-earned money and time on books that do not interest or inspire me. I recommend you let him be your guide in all self-help, success and spiritual matters.
50 Spiritual Classics adopts the format of Butler-Bowden's previous 50 Self Help Classics and 50 Success Classics. In a clear and concise style he examines 50 texts ranging from ancient to modern, taking in many different forms of spiritual experience. The short chapters allow the reader to learn a lot with just a little effort.
It's not just how Butler-Bowden summarizes the books that makes 50 Spiritual Classics special. What he does is arrange the information to help the reader digest the sometimes complex ideas easily. You can read 50 Spiritual Classics from start to finish, or if you find a particular stream of spiritual thinking more to your taste, follow that path by referring to the In A Similar Vein section. Butler-Bowden also gives a one-sentence In A Nutshell summary of each book. Perhaps even more importantly he organises the classics into different categories, such as great spiritual lives, practical spirituality, opening the doors of perception and divine relationship and life purpose.
50 Spiritual Classics is by its very nature less practical than Butler-Bowden's previous books. There is still much to inspire here, though spiritual revelation seems much more personal in nature and difficult to reproduce.
There are various books that 50 Spiritual Classics has inspired me to investigate more fully. I had never considered Toltec wisdom as an avenue for exploration before, but now Butler-Bowden has introduced Miguel Ruiz's The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom. What I find interesting is the similarities between Ruiz's ideas and those of US motivational speaker Anthony Robbins. These are two figures that you might not immediately think have much in common. But it seems as if they have come to similar conclusions by different routes. According to Butler-Bowden, Ruiz and Robbins agree that how we use words and how we communicate with ourselves and others, determines the person we are and the world we live in. To find out if the similarities are more than superficial I shall have to do some further reading.
There are some books covered by Butler-Bowden which I have previously read, but found little in which to inspire me. I'm thinking particularly of Richard Bach's Jonathan Livingston Seagull and The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield. Butler-Bowden has helped me appreciate these books a little more, even if he hasn't persuaded me to actually re-read them.
I recommend this book to everyone who wishes to learn more about inner discovery, enlightenment and purpose, whether they consider themselves spiritual or not.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tom Butler-Bowden's 'Classics' Trilogy: The third offering, 15 Jun 2005
By 
Dr. A. D. Vellore (Birmingham, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: 50 Spiritual Classics: Timeless Wisdom From 50 Great Books of Inner Discovery, Enlightenment and Purpose (Paperback)
Butler-Bowdon's '50 Self-help Classics' (2003) and '50 Success classics' (2004) have been acclaimed as erudite commentaries in personal development literature. His third volume in this Trilogy- '50 Spiritual Classics' is a compelling read that establishes Butler-Bowdon firmly in the unique niche' that he has carved for himself with his previous two works in the field of personal development literature.
Reading the `50 Spiritual Classics' is an enlightening and often humbling experience. Whether it be The Discourses of Epictetus (Enchiridion), or Pirsig's 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenence', the author displays a masterful ease which is commendable. Halfway through a chapter, one is often seized upon by an unstoppable urge to tear out, get hold of the title being commented upon by the author and read every page of it. And then one decides to exert self-control and continue with Bowden's own book as it is just too difficult to put down.
A brief glance at some of the authors reviewed bears testament to the breadth covered by this 320-page book: St. Augustine, Malcolm X, Chuang Tzu, Gandhi, Kahlil Gibran, Carlos Casteneda and Fritjof Capra! Somerset Maugham's `The Razor's edge' and Huxley's `The Doors of perception' are included. The authors and works in focus are dissected in a fairly non-judgemental fashion. Tom Butler-Bowdon succeeds in bringing out the essential messages and themes of the spiritual classics reviewed without sounding reverential.
This is not a jingoistic account of spiritualism or PD literature; This is not a collection of pontifications from a zealous convert; this is not a book of lists........'50 Spiritual Classics' is a candid and insightful exposition into the subject; it seeks to review the books and to a lesser extent the people who wrote them in the wider sense implied by the work `spirituality'.
But then why do we not see The Bible or Bhagavad Gita in the list, one may wonder. Simply because they have been commented upon in his previous works. Upon reflection, it becomes clear that this third offering is linked in spirit with the themes dealt with in '50 Self-Help Classics' and '50 Success Classics'. As Tom Butler-Bowdon notes with delightful insight in his Introduction, "The paradox of personal development is that, taken to its logical end, it takes us beyond the self. Meaning is found outside the perimeter of our small concerns."
Where does that leave us mortals? We could exert our wider choice and get hold of the Butler-Bowdon trilogy and make them part of that particular bookshelf which you reserve for special tomes. Those volumes that you reach out for to delve into in moments of introspection, or even pure indulgence.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening perspectives on an elusive subject, 6 Jan 2009
By 
Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: 50 Spiritual Classics: Timeless Wisdom From 50 Great Books of Inner Discovery, Enlightenment and Purpose (Paperback)
This is one of five volumes in a series written by Tim Butler-Bowdon. Each of the others also focuses on 50 "classic" sources of information and wisdom provided in landmark books in the fields of prosperity, psychology, self-help, spirituality, and success. Of course, throughout human history, the subject of this book - spirituality -- has been nurtured as well as defined and measured in many different ways. Hence the importance of the fact that Butler-Bowdon offers a wide range of perspectives from the works of an especially diversified group that includes St. Augustine (Confessions, 400), Carlos Castaneda (Journey to Ixtlan, 1972), Mohandas Gandhi (An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1927), William James (The Varieties of Religious Experience, 1902), C.S. Lewis (The Screwtape Letters, 1942), Teresa of Avila (Inferior Castle, 1570), Eckhart Tolle (The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, 1998), Rick Warren (The Purpose-Driven Life, 2002), and Paramahansa Yogananda (Autobiography of a Yogi, 1946).

As in the other volumes in his series, Butler-Bowdon follows a format for each of the 50 chapters: brief representative quotations, an "In a nutshell" section, a rigorous and remarkably thorough summary of the given source's key points, a Final comments" section, and then (in most instances) a brief bio of its author. I also appreciate the fact that the book can be read straight through from the first chapter to the last (i.e.Mahammad Asad to Gary Zukav), or in chronological order, or according to six thematic categories (Great spiritual lives, Practical spirituality, The great variety of experience, Opening the doors of perception, Divine relationship and life purpose, and Humanity's spiritual evolution), or by cherry-picking whichever contributors and/or subjects are of greatest interest. As a convenience to his reader, Butler-Bowdon suggests in his Introduction which authors belong in which category. Here are a few of his comments about some of those whom he discusses, following by a brief statement by Eckhart Tolle:

"If your misery is great enough, there is a chance that you will arrive at an equally great sense of peace and purpose that less intense people will never experience. The Confessions is one of the best pieces of writing on how a divided, tormented person can be healed through religion...From his inauspicious Roman backwater childhood and fast-living student days, it is remarkable that Augustine became (along with Aquinas) the major intellectual figure in the Christian West for the next 1,000 years. His huge work, The City of God (426), which took 13 years to write, became a theological foundation stone for the emergent Christian religion. All this from a black man born into the fringes of the white empire." (Page 25)

"Gandhi did not like the title Mahatma, as he did not think of himself as a great man. Far from being a trumpet blowing exercise, his autobiography was designed to detail, objectively his discoveries and failures in relation to right principles and spiritual truth, and he never claimed to have been perfect...Our choice today is to look on him as a singular individual whose like we may never see again, or to take the trail he blazed as our own. Either way, what Gandhi achieved in his experiments is now the spiritual heritage of us all." (Page 89)

William James "recognized a pattern in conversion experiences. They tended to happen when people were so low that they just `gave up,' the vacuum of hope providing space for revelation. The religious literature is full of stories along these lines, in which the constrictions and negative aspects of the ego are finally discarded; we begin to live only for others or for some higher goal. The compensation for becoming dependent on God is a letting go of fear, and it is this that makes conversion such a liberating experience." (Page 133)

"Is painting the world in terms of good and evil too simplistic? Perhaps, but [C.S.] Lewis's quirky presentation of the polarities as real is quite convincing and makes us think about all of the rationalizations we use to justify our thoughts and actions. What we can take from this book [i.e. The Screwtape Letters] is a reassurance that there is something in us that is naturally resistant to corruption - and that by being true to ourselves we can succeed in increasing that resistance." (Page 158)

Eckhart Tolle: "Don't look for any other state than the one you are in now; otherwise, you will set up inner conflict and unconscious resistance. Forgive yourself for not being at peace. The moment you completely accept your non-peace, your non-peace becomes transmuted into peace. Anything you accept fully will get you there, will take you into peace. This is the miracle of surrender." (Chapter 43, 50 Spiritual Classics, Page 264)

With all due respect to Butler-Bowdon's other books, (especially those that focus on self-help and success), I think this one is his most valuable because his discussion of the 50 works in which their authors discuss spiritual issues helps his reader to understand that "the quest for material security alone does not ultimately satisfy, and that not even emotional security or great knowledge is enough to sustain us - we were built to see answers to larger questions." He notes that the word "spiritual" comes from the Latin word for breathing. "If nothing else, this book aims to dispel the idea that there is anything outlandish about spiritual experience; on the contrary, it is what makes us human." This book is only indirectly about religion and theology. Its primary focus is on what others have learned during their journeys of exploration and discovery within a realm that has what William James characterizes as an "unseen order," and our "supreme good" lies in a harmonious adjustment to it. In this context, Tom Butler-Bowdon cites a Persian proverb that serves both as an appropriate conclusion to his Introduction and to this commentary: "Seek the truth in meditation, not in moldy books. Look in the sky to find the moon, not in the pond."
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If this book does not inspire you, nothing will, 7 July 2006
By 
David Langley "enigma" (Lancs, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: 50 Spiritual Classics: Timeless Wisdom From 50 Great Books of Inner Discovery, Enlightenment and Purpose (Paperback)
Quote from book - "50 Spiritual Classics is based on the premise that the quest for material security alone does not ultimately satisfy, and that not even emotional security or great knowledge sustain us- we were built to seek answers to larger questions. The paradox of personal development is that, taken to its logical end, it takes us beyond the self. Meaning is found outside the perimeter of our small concerns."

This book acts as a bridge to understanding that words are a very important tool in finding our way in life and provides the reader with an excellent insight into further reading. In short this book is a collection of book reviews, if you will. With little insights into many areas of philosophical thought, Tom has really put a lot of work into compiling this book and writes with such enthusiasm and elegance.

50 Spiritual Classics is a compelling book from the outset and really inspires its reader to explore the actual books he is discussing.

As well as information about the books' Tom devotes up to a page at times to a short biography of the author and this also is a well-rewarded read.

The book is well structured and layered with lots of interesting facts, and comes highly recommended, especially if it is to be your first book into the world of spiritual realms because of the fascinating introductions into the actual classics. These classics should be read when embarking on trying to get in touch with your soul, the pure essence of life, and many of these books can give you a sense of purpose in these modern times. Buy-it-now or at least add it to your wish list.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational, 4 July 2013
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This review is from: 50 Spiritual Classics: Timeless Wisdom From 50 Great Books of Inner Discovery, Enlightenment and Purpose (Paperback)
I would recommend this read to those who are curious about spiritualism and need a quick summary of the most influential of spiritual thinkers as a starting point for further in-depth study.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent resource, 15 Feb 2012
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This review is from: 50 Spiritual Classics: Timeless Wisdom From 50 Great Books of Inner Discovery, Enlightenment and Purpose (Paperback)
This book offers the opportunity to access the essence of the writings and thoughts of fifty different authors who have written materials in the "mind, body, spirit" genre. It is wonderful for dipping into for inspiration and, if wanted, gives a platform for undertaking additional research into the topics covered.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Gave lots of information, 12 Jan 2014
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This book gave a good overview of the worlds religions, philosophies and spiritual ideas. It was concise and simply written making often complicated ideas easy to understand. It also opened other pathways for me to follow.
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