“The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard.” — Katha-Upanishad.
If you are a seeker, To Be Enlightened by Alan J. Steinberg, MD may inform and inspire you. The theme is reminiscent of Somerset Maugham’s novel, The Razor’s Edge*, which was made into a movie, twice.
In that story, Larry Darrel, traumatized from the war, postpones his marriage to travel, study, and find himself. He goes to Europe, and eventually India, where he meets a guru who prepares him for a profound experience of transcendence. Transformed, he returns to the world he left behind. The post-war economic recession had impacted his friend who is psychologically distraught. His former fiancee is now married to him. Larry later gets involved with an old friend who has suffered much and tries to save her. His ex is not content to have let him go and stirs up trouble. Complications lead to tragedy. In the end, Larry is free to live his life on his own terms; in the world, but not of it.
In this story, the main character, Abe Levy, a philosophy professor, already meditates. Unlike a greater part of the previous century, meditation and yoga have become ubiquitous in the west. But Professor Levy is not content with his twice-daily meditations. He is in a rush ‘To Be Enlightened’ and may risk his marriage and job to try and achieve it. The story has some surprising twists and turns along the way, enough to have kept this reader turning pages.
From the book description:
To Be Enlightened is a cosmic love story that follows Professor of Philosophy Abe Levy as he grapples with what it means to love both his wife, Sarah, and the ocean of silence within. It is also an intellectual exploration of the most intimate of subjects: our consciousness.
Abe Levy’s long tenure as a philosophy professor has motivated thousands of students to ponder age-old questions in light of New Age ideas. Though Abe is passionate about his teaching, he is obsessed with a powerful childhood dream of heaven. To return to that heaven, he must reach enlightenment in his lifetime. Day after day, Abe settles into deep meditation, reaching the very cusp of his goal but unable to cross the threshold. Desperately, he commits to doing whatever it takes, even if it means abandoning his wife for a more ascetic life—a decision that sets off a cascade of consequences for Abe, Sarah, and those he loves the most.
I found it interesting that the theme of each chapter was prefaced with a relevant profound quote from the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, reputed author of the Tao Te Ching and founder of Taoism.
This is Dr. Alan Steinberg’s debut novel, and it is a worthy one. I recommend it for anyone who doesn’t know much about meditation, as well as those with a meditative practice.
The classroom discussions reveal interesting perspectives between western philosophy and the Vedic knowledge brought out by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique. And Abe’s and his wife Sarah’s experiences in and out of their TM practice are very relevant to the story’s unfolding.
The book is an enlightening read. I enjoyed how other readers responded to it and appreciated Susan Miller‘s insights in her San Francisco Book Review. Here is a link to an excellent interview with the author.
You can download the first chapter at his website Alan J. Steinberg, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram. Dr. Steinberg publishes articles on meditation in Psychology Today. Visit his linktr.ee for links to articles, book reviews, and more.
*Scroll down in this blog post about my favorite romantic movies to the subheading LEAVING ROMANCE BEHIND TO FIND ONESELF to read more about Maugham’s novel and the two films based upon it.
Another novel about a meditating philosophy professor worth reading is, “The Best Of All Possible Worlds” by B. Steven Verney.
Tags: Alan J Steinberg, Lao Tzu, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, meditation, philosophy, Somerset Maughan, spiritual seeker, Tao Te Ching, the razor’s edge, To Be Enlightened, Transcendental Meditation, Vedic knowledge