The Path of the Blue Raven

by Mark Townsend
Silver Chalice E-zine — Book Review
"Mark Townsend is a priest at the edge!" — Revd. Peter Owen-Jones (BBC’s Around the World in 80 Faiths)

An ex-priest with the Church of England who performs spiritually-oriented magic shows in churches. That is, until a church memo went out to ban him ...

... because he consorts with Pagans.

Already, I am intrigued to see what Mark Townsend has to say.

The Path of the Blue Raven, Townsend's 4th book, is a recounting of his quest to find true spirituality, when he couldn't find it within the church.

He finds what he's looking for among Pagans.

Not Another Anti-Christian Rant

I must admit, I began The Path of the Blue Raven with some trepidation. I'm wary of reading diatribes, preferring to stimulate more positive mind-states in myself. I didn't think I'd read the whole thing... I was just looking to see what it was about.

But the story kept pulling me along, page after page, until I'd read almost the whole book in one sitting.

Because even as Townsend depicts his journey of disappointment in "Churchianity", he never loses his compassion, his sense of gentle mischief, his vulnerable self-examination.

It is this, more than anything, that has secured his place in my library.

Townsend writes with a pure honesty and candid transparency. I love his warm, light-hearted style with which he approaches even topics which must have caused him intense pain.

And the joyful wonder with which he approaches nature will be familiar to all Pagans.

An Intimate, Light-Hearted Journey Toward a Pagan Spirituality

He shares the stories from his path to spiritual wisdom, and much of it is illuminating and inspiring, as the excerpts below demonstrate.

This book is a real treat, from a man who was once called (by a Christian) ‘a rudder on a ship that leads people to hell’.

Mark's response?

"My mischievous side wonders whether I should use it on my website as an endorsement!"

Mark Townsend takes himself — and the foibles of Christians — lightly. This enables him to find truth outside of the orthodox dogma.

He shares this journey of discovery with wisdom, compassion, and humour.

It's a quest worth reading.

Excerpts from The Path of the Blue Raven

I like to spend as much time as I can in the forest because it hums with the magic of nature. This ‘natural magic’ exists all around us and within us. Externally it is the pulse, the throb, the beating heart of the planet, the flowing energy of all things.

... magic has been a powerful symbol of the more mysterious and mythic dimensions to faith.

I still find the person of Jesus intensely exciting. His stories continue to send shivers down my spine. I have not tired of the [religion's] founder, but I am tired of Churchianity.

Learning to laugh at oneself is one of life’s greatest forms of liberation! Not laughter as ridicule, but laughter as a gentle acknowledgement of how what seemed so serious is all really very trivial.

How can we believe the bible is the infallible word of God when it doesn’t even claim that for itself? And suppose it did. Wouldn’t that only be as good as an accused man standing in the dock saying “I really didn’t do it M’ Lord, honestly.”

I believe we need a sense of wonder, mystery and enchantment in our often over-serious ‘grown up’ lives.

Did you know that a snowflake is a mirror? A tiny snowflake is a reflection of the human soul. If you really look at the leaf of ice that lands on your palm you will see the creative design — a unique and beautiful pattern that is once only... it will never exist again in that form. It is perfect and precious as it is. ...

So, when you next see the first few flakes of winter snow floating down from the sky above, don’t just rush to thoughts of snowballs or stuck cars... think deeper.... Think first of your own uniqueness and then the uniqueness of every other human soul ...

...we stand on hidden treasure, and only prolong its discovery by searching for it elsewhere.

It’s easier to bow down and shout constant hallelujahs than to get our own hands dirty by following him [Jesus] out into the world of brokenness and mess.

In a religion that has been dominated for centuries by belief in a Father God, who incarnates as a male Christ, who chooses 12 male apostles, and whose church is run by a male priesthood, the natural divine-feminine longing cannot be quenched forever.

I’m afraid I feel my brain beginning to leak out of my ears when I try to understand how a ‘loving God’ can ‘detest’ people.
What actually amazes me is not that these people hold the views they do, or even that they feel it’s appropriate to send such incredible letters, but that they are comfortable themselves with such a ‘God’. And here’s the really important part of the story. He [Jesus] didn’t say ‘join a religion’. He didn’t say ‘believe in this or that doctrine’. He would not even allow people to bow down to him, as if to say ‘don’t look at me either’. The more I look at these stories (whether literally true or not) the more I see that Jesus was not a founder of a new religion but a corrector of a religious mindset that sets up obstacles between humanity and divinity. Jesus, and many other holy men, women, gurus and teachers through history, offer this wisdom — ‘do not look at me, look to yourselves; the Kingdom of God (deity) is right there’.
The Path of the Blue Raven, Mark Townsend. 2009, O Books, ISBN-10: 1846942381 ISBN-13: 978-1846942389. (All bold text, my emphasis.)

Rating for The Path of the Blue Raven: 4 Stars

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With Brightest Blessings,

erin Dragonsong

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Return from This Book Review to Silver Chalice E-Zine June 2009