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Blog of the Grateful Bear

ramblings of a freelance panentheist {"all things are in God, and God is in all things"} . . . musings on Emergent spirituality, powerlifting, LGBTQueer issues, contemplative prayer, mysticism, cats, music, healing, and more. I like my coffee and my existentialism dark-roasted.

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Location: Marietta, Georgia, United States

I'm an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor), in private practice in Marietta, Georgia. My writings on queer spirituality have been published in Whosoever and several other magazines. I live in a house-in-the-woods (Bear's Hermitage) in Marietta with Leonidas (Lenny) and Guy, Mighty Warrior Cats, and way too many books.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

BookLog: The Book of the Shepherd

The Book of the Shepherd is “the story of one simple prayer, and how it changed the world,” as the book’s subtitle tells us. It’s a charming tale, written in the form of an extended fable, about a shepherd who goes searching for a “new way” to replace the violent code of “an eye for an eye” that he finds in the harsh world around him. Along the way, the shepherd meets others, some of whom join him on his journey.

Each person we encounter has a tale of his or her own, so the short novel becomes a series of interwoven stories, each with its own bit of wisdom to impart. The author of the book, Joann Davis (who “discovered” the manuscript “By the Scribe”), acknowledges in her Afterword the sources for the stories’ insights, which range from Elaine Pagels’ The Gnostic Gospels to M. Scott Peck and even Charlotte’s Web.

The “prayer that changed the world” is the classic Prayer of St. Francis, which in this story becomes the hidden treasure found by the shepherd and his companions on a parchment scroll in a dark and perilous cave. The prayer has been shortened and bowdlerized, perhaps to suit the “spiritual but not religious” audience to whom this book is being marketed. “Lord” and “O Divine Master” have been deleted (perhaps too “patriarchal” or “religious”?), so the prayer is addressed to no one in particular. But most annoyingly, a line has been added at the end of the prayer: “For this is the Law of Substitution.” This added line has the effect of making a beautiful prayer that has inspired millions over the centuries sound like a PowerPoint presentation at a Deepak Chopra seminar.

This short novel does not rise to the level of excellence found in Master of the Jinn: A Sufi Novel by Irving Karchmar, which is (by far) the best book I’ve read in the “spiritual novel” genre. But The Book of the Shepherd also avoids the preachiness and wooden dialogue found in other “spiritual novels” like The Celestine Prophecy and The Way of the Peaceful Warrior. Apart from its tampering with the Prayer of St. Francis, The Book of the Shepherd is indeed “an inspiring and moving fable,” as the cover blurb from Paulo Coelho claims.

The Book of the Shepherd is available at Amazon.com as well as your local independent bookseller.
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