Book Reviews · Mysticism

Radical Passion: Book Review

Radical PassionThis is a book to feast on, and then act upon. It pulls together a collection of Andrew Harvey’s previously published works and new interviews, and channels them into an argument for Sacred Activism. Building from his last book The Hope, Sacred Activism combines the mystic’s vision of unity and compassion with the activist’s passion for bringing about radical change in the world. Harvey believes we need a revolution in the way we tackle the many problems now facing us and Radical Passion is his prescription.

In the introduction, he highlights our growing crises – the rampant corruption, the ecological devastation, the steady erosion of civil liberties, the catastrophic number of animal extinctions – the list seems endless. But:

Perhaps the most alarming, even devastating, aspect of this unprecedented crisis is the denial, apathy, and paralysis of the great majority of the human race. In the time of our greatest danger, we are at our most hapless, distracted, and narcissistic.

But there is a way through. Harvey identifies three truths of this time:

“My hope is grounded in three interlinked truths, derived from a lifetime of mystical and personal search. These truths are: first, that the human race is now in an unprecedented and destined evolutionary crisis – a global dark night. Second, that this global dark night is potentially the birth canal for a new, embodied divine humanity chastened by tragedy and illumined by grace. Third, that the birthing force of the divine human is the force of the Motherhood of God, expressed not only in a new and radically evolutionary mysticism, but also in sacredly inspired, radical action on every level and in every arena.”

Our multifarious crises are symptoms of a deepening Dark Night of the Soul experienced by individuals and collectively by the culture at large. The shadow of the old Age of Pisces: of rampant materialism and transcendent denial of reality, is finally bearing its terrible fruits, and the call is going out for people to make positive changes to birth a new humanity and a new world.

Andrew Harvey is often criticised for being a doom monger, but I think that accusation is unfair. He has little patience for the self-absorbed New Agers who believe that by eliminating all negative thought and refusing to look at the darkness, our problems will simply go away.

Reality doesn’t work like that.

Alchemy does not begin in the light, but in the darkness with the dross and the shit. You cannot get to the light except through the darkness. You cannot have one without the other – reality is a whole; light and dark. We cannot transform without a descent into the dark night. Rebirth only comes after the crucifixion; the dawn breaks after night.

Only those in deep denial and in fear of their shadows could believe we are not now in serious trouble. It is time for us to wake up to the challenge of being true adults, grounded in a spirituality that has its roots in reality, not in our narcissism and self-indulgent fantasies.

It is time for the ultimate wake-up call.

Radical Passion, if read in one big gulp, could feel repetitive, as Harvey rams home his message: the way through the darkness of our dire apocalypse. So perhaps it is better to pace yourself. Live with the book over time and let it work from the depths of your soul and up. Here’s a quote to finish:

There are two linked aspects of the dark night that those mystics who have entered into the divinising field know and can guide us into. The first is passive and demands total surrender to the necessary brutal alchemy of the Divine.…This is the way of the lover, known in all authentic mystical systems. It begins where reason and any desire for comfort, security, and ordinary survival end. To carry it through to its transfiguring goal, you have to be, as Rumi said, ‘strong, wild, and fearless as a lion.’

The second linked aspect of the dark night process is active. As horror, chaos, and agony do their ordained work of burning down in you every hiding place of addiction and illusion, you have to find the courage to awaken, without mask or illusion, to the agony of the burning world. Then you will discover in yourself the compassion for all sentient beings trapped in this worldwide fire. …you have to open to the heartbreak of the planet, be shattered finally open by it and set about with grounded peace and focused passion to put all your inner and outer resources into radical action. The way of the lover then opens into the way of the sacred warrior. …

Marry the opposites of unconditional, passionate surrender to the inner and outer disintegration process of the false self with an active, passionate, fearless commitment to do everything you can with your own unique gifts and resources for the world, and you will be given all the divine energy, power, and love that you need to become a midwife of the birth. Then, whatever happens, you will be living a humble, authentically divine life.”

Discover more Andrew Harvey books: Mysticism Bookshelf