clearly not focused on incremental tips and tricks to make your current life run a little better, but rather on transforming your entire notion of your purpose in life to something different by recognizing your purpose
I was asked to give a review of the new book by Marshall Vian Summers, Secrets of Heaven. I’m not familiar with the author, but I agreed and so I present to you my review.
The book is structured around a series of short messages, some more fulsome than others, that seem to have been channeled directly into the author’s mind with very little filtering or editing on his part. It touches on a number of topics which are presented seemingly in the order in which they were received, jumping from one to another without much organization or systematic examination of each. It recalls the style of books such as A Course in Miracles and Conversations with God, but more suggestive rather than precise and goal-oriented. Christian terminology is used (e.g. God, Holy Spirit, Heaven) but the book is not aimed at a Christian audience but rather a general audience. It falls clearly within the New Age camp, even declaring “Now the old age draws to an end”.
There are typically two main types of spiritual books: those that teach salvation, redemption, awakening or personal improvement within the world (including some of the more elevated self-help books), and those that teach release from the world, leaving it behind, letting it go. This book is the latter kind, clearly not focused on incremental tips and tricks to make your current life run a little better, but rather on transforming your entire notion of your purpose in life to something different by recognizing your purpose – over which you have no choice – and coming into alignment with it.
The main message, however, is kept vague and forward-looking, without getting into the details or steps of how individuals can apply these lessons in their lives starting today. The message seems to be aimed at seekers who are already advanced on the path, have tried many things in the past without success, and are ready to give up and learn a new way, to find answers where they have not found them – in other words, the wisdom of no-choice and surrender to a higher will.
Like the majority of modern spiritual books, it connects with a part of us which is familiar – namely, our discontent with the state of the world and the suffering in our own lives – and reassures us that life does not have to be this way, that there is a deeper and more meaningful journey to be undertaken, yet it gives the reader precious little in terms of describing what this journey is all about, beyond general messages of Knowledge, Teachers, Spiritual Family and the Greater Community. It is hard to disprove or find fault with the book’s message because it is kept very general and does not make any claims that are precise enough to find opposition.
The book’s content can be summarized as follows:
Leave the world behind – it has no answers and cannot be fixed.
We are entering a new age, with big changes coming. The world is in a state of transition, at a crossroads or turning point which will witness the end of tribalism and contact with life beyond the world.
In the universe there is more than meets the eye, suggesting the presence of beings and forces beyond human perception.
There is help / wisdom from non-earthly beings (Spiritual Family / Teachers / Greater Community). Your relationship with them is key to the transformation taking place.
You have no freewill. Your purpose is already established in the contract that you made before coming into the world, and has nothing to do with the goals that you have set for yourself so far. Therefore your path is one of eliminating rather than expanding choice.
The book stresses the importance of several things:
Relationship: not the usual human form of relationship but something deeper and more powerful.
Listening, receptivity and Knowledge, more than action; Knowledge as a priceless spiritual inheritance whose discovery is a kind of returning home as well as a doorway to true meaning and truth.
Transcending the old religions without attacking or degrading them.
Preparation for Knowledge. By ‘Knowledge’ the book means “a capacity for greater experience”, and the way we prepare for it is by emptying our proverbial cup to create space in our mind, and develop strength and stability so that we can handle Knowledge when it arrives.
Being unconventional is part of the process of discovering Knowledge, because we are leaving behind all of the typical human beliefs, ideas, norms. We may become estranged because of this, but finding Knowledge will resolve all of the minor personal problems we seem to have.
The journey toward Knowledge is a remembering of what was inside you us along, but buried under layers of social conditioning. It is not an intellectual knowledge but an experience of greater relationship in an expanded universe.
Secrets of Heaven mentions Teachers which exist in another dimension, who can see us but cannot be seen themselves, and are waiting for us to get ready so that we are prepared to rediscover their eternal message and usher in a transformation of life as we know it. These things may be true or false, and it’s hard to know either way. There aren’t many ‘experiments’ offered to the reader to test the validity of the book’s message in their daily lives, which for me is the litmus test of true spirituality – the relevance to real-life experience.
I kept waiting for the book to get to the core substance, but it never came. It seems to be floating above (or below) the level of everyday human experience, without much in the way of instructions. There are some interesting bits here and there, but they are hard to really pin down. The book lacks the cutting analysis of Zen writing which attacks the observer’s biases and turns the critical eye inward on itself. It hints at the existence of God’s Master Plan, but does not explain further what this may be.
It is not a systematic analysis of human experience like Ken Wilber’s Integral philosophy, nor a self-contained path toward complete liberation like ACIM, nor a guide to navigating and managing the subtler workings of one’s own psyche like psychoanalytical authors usually offer, nor a collection of channeled answers to life’s biggest questions like Conversations with God, nor a no-nonsense cut-the-bullshit hardcore spirituality like Jed McKenna. It falls in between all of these, too vague to be of much practical use to the individual who is ready to embark on a spiritual journey, and not powerful or precise enough for someone already further along the path.
The author has published several other books which have enjoyed popularity such as Steps to Knowledge, two volumes of Wisdom from the Greater Community and three volumes under the title The Allies of Humanity. Taken in the broader context of his body of work,Secrets of Heaven may be an interesting extension of the basic message, but I found that as a standalone work it was rather vague and incomplete, not offering a whole lot of value to the reader. For me, a great book is something you live and grow with, with several layers of interpretation that reveal themselves over time and which take you from where you are now to the next stage and beyond. Readers familiar with his work looking for the latest instalment may enjoy this book, but for me it didn’t quite seem to do it.