My All-Knowing Self

Despite some bright spots, this spiritual primer is dominated by preachy blabber

Sedona author Albert Clayton Gaulden grew up in the South in a family of Baptists. As a child, he experienced a strong spiritual calling, his imagination enlivened by sacred music and the stories of the Bible. He went on many retreats to mountains and seashores, longed to understand God and eventually became a minister in rural South Alabama churches.

Gaulden was also prone to hearing voices, seeing and knowing things that others apparently didn't. However, there was no one in his life he trusted enough to confide in about these unusual experiences, so he kept quiet and followed along with the dictates and dogmas of his church.

As he grew older, Gaulden--founder and director of the Sedona Intensive, an alternative therapy program--discovered that he also had a calling for alcohol, drinking himself out of the ministry and into two decades of raucous living. In 1980, he altered his self-destructive trajectory, sobering up and embarking on a spiritual quest more in harmony with his personality and experiences.

In You're Not Who You Think You Are: A Breakthrough Guide to Discovering the Authentic You, Gaulden gives glimpses of his struggles with alcohol and adventures in sobriety, but primarily expounds on his complex metaphysical beliefs.

Gaulden tells us that despite the trouble alcohol caused him, it did have at least one positive effect: It made him rebellious enough to break with conventional religion. Gaulden has, indeed, expanded his philosophical horizons well beyond those of his conservative Baptist youth. He's immersed himself in a diverse mixture of ideas, including 12-step philosophy; Vedanta, a form of Hinduism based on the Vedas; Jungian psychology; the writings of Shakespeare; Sören Kierkegaard's existential musings; astrology; biblical cosmogony; Egyptian mysticism; Kabbala; reincarnation; and the supposedly soon-to-expire Mayan calendar, one of the latest "signs" pointed to by apocalyptic pop-prophets to forecast the end of the world.

Gaulden is not convinced that the universe will collapse in 2012, the year the Mayan calendar will ostensibly sign off (actually, this highly precise calendar projects time eons into the future), but according to conversations--transcripts provided--with his higher self, 2012 is going to be a year to remember.

"When Venus crosses the sun in 2012," Gaulden's elevated self declares, "time as you know it will draw to a close ... (but) do not get stuck trying to figure out what the end of the Mayan calendar means. ... Look within your own akashic record for your answer."

I'm generally not one to cast judgments on people's personal conversations--especially those involving inner entities that are "all-seeing, all-knowing ... (and) connected to the continuum of time"--but I must say that if Gaulden had spent more time developing the more substantial material at his disposal rather than this half-baked nonsense, he may have ended up with a book of far greater depth and appeal.

It's quite likely that, as Gaulden contends, we're not who we think we are. However, it's even more likely that we're not who he thinks we are. According to Gaulden, human beings are composed of, in addition to our chatty higher self, a middle, lower and shadow consciousness. Then there's the ego, a malignant force as well as an agent of illumination. We're also, Gaulden believes, fallen angels caught up in a relentless struggle between the forces of darkness and light which, underneath the fray, are actually in cahoots. Through it all, the soul, a divided (and undoubtedly exhausted) androgyne, transmigrates through thousands of lifetimes--in different galaxies, dimensions and dysfunctional families--on its way to ... somewhere.

Using parts of this mystical tableau as metaphors to discuss, say, the ultimate unity of life, human individuation or the unknown could certainly be illuminative, but Gaulden seems to believe that these ideas represent a literal blueprint of reality. When you start thinking that way, you can easily end up, as we do here, with a confused vortex of preachy, soporific blabber that will probably interest only those who already share Gaulden's mindset.

This book does have its bright spots, including flashes of experience-based insight. In one of the book's wisest lines, Gaulden suggests that we allow God to reveal Himself rather than trying to figure out the ways of Providence. It might also be said that in the quest for self-awareness, a natural unfolding of what lies within may produce more truth than a search armed with a multitude of fatuous preconceptions.

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