Book Reviews · Mysticism

The Way of Passion: Book Review

Passion Duo CoversThe Way of Passion: A Celebration of Rumi grew from a series of lectures given by Andrew Harvey at the California Institute of Integral Studies in 1993. The lectures celebrated Rumi’s work as mystic, poet and prophet. Before giving the lectures, Harvey had a dream where he asked an old man in a mosque how he should approach talking about Rumi for a modern audience. The man replied: “Be passionate and precise, drunken and perfectly sober.” The book seeks to follow this guidance, preserving the flow of the original lectures, and Harvey’s advice to you on approaching the book is to ‘read slowly, dance wildly.’

Jalal-ud-Din Rumi was perhaps the greatest Sufi mystic and poet, and in The Way of Passion Harvey explores Rumi’s message to the world. Through stories and poetry, he takes you deep into the spiritual process of awakening into Love’s Glory.

The mystical life and the process of awakening moves through four stages:

  1. Childhood – innocent experience of union without the understanding, but also a time of wounding and fear leading to stage two.
  2. Creation of the False Self – belief that you are what you identify with, driven by fear and loneliness, and a desire to belong.
  3. Breakdown or Crisis – the false self is destroyed, quickly or slowly, and everything you previously thought you knew disintegrates. There can be genuine spiritual experiences now, but this isn’t the end of the journey.
  4. Grace and Integration – a direct vision of the true nature of Reality followed by the enormous work of integrating that truth into your life.

The Way of Passion follows this structure using Rumi’s poetry to illuminate the heart of what living through this process really involves. It is not for the fainthearted.

This book is a glorious, burning gem that will set your mind and heart alight. It perfectly captures the true meaning of love and the mystic’s vision of unity. Harvey interprets Rumi’s poetry with such fierce passion it is impossible to read this book without having an emotional apocalypse, in the original sense of the word – to uncover or to reveal.

As with all his work, Andrew Harvey challenges us to wake up to the catastrophic consequences of our dissociation from the heart of life. It is a call to abandon our self-absorption and narcissism, and embrace the way of the lover, the wild holy madman drunk on the wine of truth.

The following poems illustrate what this means, taken from Harvey’s book of recreations of Rumi, called Love’s Fire:

I was once like you, ‘enlightened,’ ‘rational,’
I too scoffed at lovers.
Now I am drunk, crazed, thin with misery-
No one’s safe! Watch out!

Reason, leave now! You’ll not find wisdom here!
Were you thin as a hair, there’d be no room.
The Sun is risen! In its vast dazzle
Every lamp is drowned.

Desperation, let me always know
How to welcome you-
And put in your hands the torch
To burn down the house.

You only need smell the wine
For vision to flame from each void-
Such flames from wine’s aroma!
Imagine if you were the wine.

>Discover more Andrew Harvey books: Mysticism Bookshelf