So, what do you read if you're not religious, but you're still filled with a sense of wonder about the marvelous mystery of the cosmos?
How do you inspire yourself "spiritually" if you don't believe in God or any other theological fantasy, yet still want to feel an energetic boost that impels you more strongly to know the unknowable insofar as it can be known?
My top answer is Jack Haas' book, The Way of Wonder.
I bought it nine years ago, in 2008. Somehow it took me until 2013 to leave an Amazon review. Which is still the only reader review. Which goes to show that some books are undiscovered gems well worth digging into. Here's my review:
It's been a steady substitution. The less I've filled myself with organized religion, the more I've felt a ever-increasing sense of wonder.
My favorite Wonder Book is "The Way of Wonder" by Jack Haas. When I feel the need for an increased dose of wonder, I'll pick up this (sorry...) wonderful book. I've read and re-read it numerous times since I bought the book six years ago.
What Haas has helped me realize is that I needed to empty myself of theological beliefs, faith-based concepts, and imaginary anticipations of a promised divinity around the corner in order to become much more aware of the Wow! that is right here, right now.
Existence. Life. Consciousness. The amazing fact that we are, that the cosmos is.
There's nothing more divine (in the sense of "tasty," as in "that chocolate cake was divine") than this sense of all-encompassing wonder. It isn't a wonder caused by this or that -- the Grand Canyon, a gorgeous woman, moonlight on a still lake -- but the simple stark realization that this, that, and everything exists.
I just realized that I'd never shared an Amazon reader review of "The Way of Wonder." Sorry, Jack, for not doing this before. I feel like I know you, though I've only met you through your books. I also heartily enjoyed your "The Dream of Being" -- a shorter, more aphoristic Hassian praise of wonder.
Here's a passage from "The Dream of Being" which reflects a core theme of "The Way of Wonder."
"There is a Way, but it only leads to the Way.
There are no rewards, only delays; no oases, only mirage. There are only precarious stepping stones, there is no distant shore.
...Yea, there is a path but no destination; what we regard as a destination is simply ...fatigue along the path."
Being a Facebook follower of Jack Haas Creations, I noticed that recently he started putting links to complete chapters from The Way of Wonder in Facebook posts.
Here's links to the first three chapters. I'll try to remember to update this post with additional links (Haas is sharing one chapter a week.)
Now, I don't resonate with everything in The Way of Wonder. My own approach to the mystery of existence is somewhat more rational and less ecstatic (if that's the right word) that Haas'.
Yet I suspect that if he and I were ever to have a conversation about The Meaning (or Lack Thereof) Of It All, we'd find that we had a lot in common. Haas talks a lot about forgetting everything that one knows, but pretty clearly this isn't meant to be taken literally.
After all, Haas is perfectly capable of operating a web site and composing Facebook posts. Thus he hasn't forgotten how one lives in everyday life.
The sort of forgetting I feel he is urging us to embrace is the illusory knowledge of what reality is all about; where we've cosmically come from and where we're going; the nature of existence itself, as distinct from understanding of existent bits and pieces.
What I like the most about Haas' writings is that there's nothing at all conventionally religious about them. Yes, he quotes provocative mystics like Rumi and sages such as Chuang Tzu. Yet this is done to point us toward the unknowability of what religious believers falsely consider to be knowable.
Here's my previous posts about Jack Haas and The Way of Wonder.
2008: Churchless have more faith than believers
2010: Wonder -- the sole essential of spirituality
2012: "We each belong to the energy of the moment" -- Jack Haas01
2012: You wanted old answers, not new questions
2013: Jack Haas' poetic wonder-filled aphorisms
You won't get answers to the Big Questions from Jack Haas. But you'll gain a better appreciation of how unending questioning is the best answer we'll ever get. As Haas says:
And so the essential re-cognition is that there is nothing to solve, because ...there is no problem; the problem is the search for a solution. For if we use the mind as a way out, we shall be 'way out' but we shall have escaped nothing but ourselves. We must simply acknowledge that there is nowhere to go, there is nothing to do, and there is no knowledge to know. We need only just 'be', and revel intimately in the eternal now mystery of being.