Spiritual Choices edited by Dick Anthony, Bruce Ecker and
Paragon House Publishers, New York, N.Y., 1987, 375 pgs., $12.95, paperback.
With the proliferation of Indian gurus, Christian evangelists and new religious cults, it is difficult for interested seekers and scholars to know which are authentic and which are fraudulent. It is a dilemma that can have devastating consequences: witness Jim Jones and Jonestown. Spiritual Choices goes a long way in helping intelligent researchers make a clear and rational choice in the right direction.
Based primarily on Dick Anthony's eight-cell topology (ranging from "multi-level monistic charismatic groups to unilevel dualistic technical groups"), which appraises a spiritual movement in terms of its metaphysics, daily practice or ritual and interpretive sensibility, Spiritual Choices offers the reader a comprehensive guideline to the strengths and weaknesses of almost any kind of religious movement.
For instance, those groups that are most problematic tend to be dualistic religions (like fundamentalist biblical Christianity) with a charismatic leader (like some television ministers: Jim Bakker, et al). The least problematic groups tend to be monistic religions (like Zen Buddhism or Advaita Vedanta Hinduism) with a technical organization or emphasis (such as Surat Shabd Yoga and Kriya Yoga) that have teachers with a historical lineage behind them.
What makes Spiritual Choices such an exceptional work is that it tests its theoretical constructs with a number of modern case studies, including analyses of est training, Meher Baba, Zen practice and Tantric Yoga. It also presents a devastating critique of teachers who have engaged in sexual activity with their followers under the guise that it is for their spiritual "upliftment." As the editors rightly assert, "A spiritual master who sexually exploits a trusting disciple is comparable to a parent who sexually molests a child."
In these times of paranormal fraud it is refreshing to know that
there is a book like Spiritual Choices which separates the
genuine spiritual quest from the charlatan's capital gain. If you
are seriously thinking about joining a religion or following a guru
or are just interested in the occult scene, reading Spiritual
Choices first may be the best choice of all.
--David Christopher Lane