The Hero’s Journey is American scholar, Joseph Campbell’s, reference to the classic story pattern of innocence to adventure, adventure to challenge, challenge to growth, with the eventual reward of self-realization. Most fiction follows this path, but when it also contains a higher perspective of life as a spiritual quest, and the journey as the road to self-realization, the story becomes more than just a story – it becomes an inspirational framework with which to view your own life.
Here is a list of the 10 best spiritual quest books I have read…so far. Take one on your next journey to read as your own adventure unfolds.
The classic tale of the search for enlightenment. Hesse, who won the won the Nobel Prize for Literature for The Glass Bead Game in 1946, is best known for this work. A simple story, yet beautifully written and full of profundity and wisdom. It contains the classic, hero’s journey pattern, making it a great starting point to model your own search for enlightenment. This one belongs in every library.
The Celestine Prophecy series has earned classic status in the spiritual category for many reasons. While it’s a fictional story that reads like a fast-paced adventure novel, it’s also a primer of sorts, offering insightful messages about the journey of life and spirit. Although it can be slightly simplistic in its story-telling, the wisdom it conveys is universal and true. This series is a perfect fit when you are looking for a light read with a high-minded message.
Spiritwalker is the first of Wesselman’s auto-biographical series that tells the tale of his own hero’s journey, albeit an inner one. Wessleman is an anthropologist and a modern shaman whose visionary abilities unfolded before him as the tale of his future self, existing in another lifetime 5,000 years into the future. It reads like an epic adventure that is written so lucidly, it makes you feel as if you are along for the ride. It also offers unique insight through its contrast of an indigenous sense of harmony with the natural world, to the dual-perspective of the prevalent disregard for it in our modern one. It’s a page-turning read for certain.
Twyman takes us on his journey to Bosnia and Croatia in 1995, where he stumbles across a group of people living in a remote region, dedicating their lives to prayer. This group exists to raise the presence of peace in the world though constant meditation and co-existence as a unified, peaceful entity in a war-torn part of the world. It’s an amazing tale of hope and inspiration for all of us to become the peace that we so greatly need on this planet. An easy yet reflective read – good for all ages.
There is something magical about the way Paulo Coehlo winds a mystic tale. His writing is always impeccable; his messages always profound. This story, the most famous of his large body of work, follows the story of a young shepherd boy, Santiago, on his quest for worldly treasure. The story is told with vivid recollection and mystical imagery, taking the reader on a beautiful ride of self-discovery. It’s the epitome of the hero’s journey as spiritual adventure, and is a must-read for seekers everywhere.
This is the newest book on this list, but bound to become a classic as well. Singer tells the true tale of his own hero’s journey that is so wild it brings to the mind the common phrase that truth is stranger than fiction. His life is incredibly full of deep insight, synchronicity, compassion and astounding achievement. Because it’s a modern tale, it’s highly relate-able and inspiring. It’s also a fairly quick read, making it great to bring on your own journey.
This is the first of Castaneda’s mystical series that follows his apprenticeship with a Yaqui Indian’s shaman, Don Juan. Whether the tale is a work of fiction or not has been largely debated, but to me it does not matter one way or another. Castaneda’s world of “non-ordinary reality” and the difficult and dangerous journey he tells has a way of pushing the boundaries of perception like no other author. If you can stick with the slow start to the series, you will be taken on a mind-bending journey that is as entertaining as it is fantastic. This series is a personal favorite for it’s mind-expanding perspective and beautiful story-telling. It’s hard to imagine a more wild ride displayed in any book, ever.
The Camino de Santiago (the way of St. James) is a network of ancient pilgrim routes that spiritual seekers have been traveling for centuries. One day I wish to travel this road myself, but until then this MacLaine’s book suffices beautifully as the next best thing. There are many books written about this journey, but what makes this one different is the way MacLaine mixes the very arduous and physical aspects of the journey – traveled by foot – with her mystical impressions and revelations along the way. Be warned though, this one might make you add the Camino to your own bucket list as well.
This is the true tale that spans a 40-year journey of a Buddhist monk, Tsung Tsai, as he escapes the Communist Red Army of China that destroyed his monastery in 1959, to his return from America decades later to bury the bones of his master. Also along for the journey is his best friend and author, George Crane, who manages to weave his layman perspective in contrast to the lovable luminary, Tsung Tsai. It’s a beautifully written and endearing tale that will leave you wanting to know more about not only the main characters, but the practices of Buddhism as well.
This list would not be complete without the well-read tale of the great sage and yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda. This is the true-life account of his journey from a young man to master teacher. Although it is a long read, it contains everything a good hero’s journey needs: adventure, challenges, mysticism, and eventual enlightenment, but what makes it so enticing is that it is a true tale, lending hope and guidance to the rest of us.
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