One spring day in Northern California in 1995, the archangel Gabriel appears to Stephen, the alter ego of Mitchell, a respected translator of spiritual writings and poetry (The Book of Job; Genesis; etc.). In this keen contemporary spiritual allegory, Stephen is the author of a bestseller that cut through the sentimental fog of the recent angel craze with the high-beam clarity of his Zen training. Far from being offended by the book, Gabriel assures Stephen that ""We simply appear in the mirror of someone's consciousness. Or, more accurately, we are the mirror."" In the course of two visits over two days, Stephen relieves a spiritual search that began in 1965 when he commuted from Harvard to get high by smoking broccoli with ultra-Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn. His whimsical mysticism devolves into nightmare when he ingests psychedelic challah and experiences the hate-filled mind of Hitler. Although Stephen marries and begins a teaching career at Berkeley, inwardly he struggles like Job to understand God's justice. Finally, Stephen encounters an extraordinary Brooklyn-born Zen master, David Copland, who leads Stephen to understand that there is a level of reality beyond our labels of good and evil. Treating Stephen to a tour of some of the myriad heavens, Gabriel allows Stephen to speak with William Blake, who affirms (along with Gabriel) that the heaven we land in is indeed a reflection of our own state of mind. Dipping into his erudition, Mitchell balances playful cameos of great Western souls like Aquinas, Rilke and Meister Eckhart with a witty, incisive portrayal of the workings of Zen training. He succeeds in creating a parable for thinking people with a hunger for reality. Editor, Hugh Van Dusen; agent, Michael Katz; author tour. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/31/1998 Release date: 09/01/1998 Genre: Fiction
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