Enlightenment by Trial and Error: Ten Years on the Slippery Slopes of Jewish Spirituality, Postmodern Buddhism, and Other Mystical Heresies

Jay Michaelson. Ben Yehuda, $19.95 trade paper (270p) ISBN 978-1-9347308-0-5

Rabbi and columnist Michaelson (God vs. Gay) brings together 35 essays in this contemplative and gratifying collection. Each essay was published in the online magazine Zeek between 2002 and 2012, and together the pieces present what he calls a “postmodern heretical hedonist travelogue” that dwells deeply on the nature of spiritual realization and responsibility. Michaelson explains how, after a car accident in 2001 and his decision to come out as gay, he decided to pursue spiritual enlightenment. In the first section, he explores his work with meditation, which he felt helped him dissolve his ego and alleviate past pains—which freed him to help ease the suffering of others. The second section concerns his questions about religion, exemplified by “Religion and Insanity,” which exposes how religious beliefs in rapture or a physical devil seem disconnected from logical interpretation. The collection culminates with the standout essay “Rethinking Spirituality,” in which Michaelson divulges he no longer seeks “spiritual states,” but tries to integrate his spiritual learning into his everyday life. While not all essays resonate equally, Michaelson’s earnest voice will offer encouragement and wisdom to spiritual seekers who are struggling with a crisis of faith. (Dec.)