Spiritual Philosophy: The Novel

Written by Anthony C Green
FeedARead 2011, £7.99

Reviewed by Russell Barnes

This is a novel where form and content take it very much into the realm of the ‘post modern’; it has (at least apparently) a multi perspectival structure where there is no single prioritised view. This structure reflects the form of answers given to the novel’s driving questions – What is the spiritual life? Indeed, what is the nature of reality? – and the answers given are neither unitary nor definitive. Rather they are various and shifting.

Very much in the PoMo tradition of literature, it can be noted that the novel also plays tricks of reference. Implications are suggested for the structure and we may be inclined to regard it as an expression of a single voice. Further, there are doubts raised about veracity concerning the entire content of the book.

In simple terms, the book focuses on a ‘cult’ – The Illumination Movement – and begins to piece together an understanding from different points of view. Included are two particular perspectives of characters who want to write about the movement. If certain straightforward ‘facts’ about ‘im’ come to seem clear the novel becomes suffused with contestability. As one reads one must accept a degree of uncertainty over different matters that arise in the story. In any case, facts blur into interpretations which, it must be said, is something that the book provides in a highly rich and diverse manner.

As the novel progresses one feels that one's understanding mutates, evolves and grows. This is a book that is constantly refreshing itself, right up to the last page and I do not think that this is a novel to grow bored of.

Indeed, Green is a highly creative and innovative writer. He produces a fascinating and elaborate scenario, involving, among other things, a girlfriend in a coma who apparently has Nazi parents and not one (so-called) messiah but two. Further, it is a scenario that is enriched by the complexities of perspective, interpretation and uncertainty and one that is expressed in a lively and engaging prose.

A central motif of the novel is transformation; something that is of course fundamental to spirituality. This is expressed in a variety of ways and one comes away from the book with a sense of different lives richly intertwined and variously modified and changed for better or for worse.

The novel contains a wonderful tapestry of differing experiences and could indeed be described as a study in diversity. This would include its embracing of different cultures and classes indicating their meeting points and communication.

However, if the novel is ‘pluralist’ it is also very much about people seeking the ‘absolute’, this seems to be a central dichotomy of the novel. Perhaps the book hints then at the need for a sort of synthesis. A synthesis that would somehow marry an absolute and unitary spiritual truth (an enlightenment conception of spirituality) with the narrative pluralism that is at the heart of the Post Modern condition. But this is my own musing. At any rate the novel offers no simple answers or guidance to those thinking of embarking upon a spiritual path. But it is certainly worthwhile reading for those interested in doing so, or those who merely want an intelligent entertaining read, one with a liberal sprinkling of the sensuous and the cerebral; the comic the uplifting and the tragic.

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