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The Great Circle: Asia, David & God-Consciousness

Author: Rollan McCleary
Published By: Self-published
Pages: 413
Price: $21
ISBN: 978 1 46800 823 4

Reviewed by Philip Joy.

The title of this tome (currently only available on amazon.com) is probably enough to put you off unless you are into inter-faith stuff. On the other hand, if this is to be ‘the Asian Century’ as many say, you might want to take a closer look, for mission reasons. With increasing numbers of adherents to faiths new and old, it is to the east that many look to shape their emerging spirituality. Spirituality, by the way, is what is meant here by this very Eastern phrase “God-Consciousness.” It is also worthwhile taking note of this author, as he has a web presence and a following.

McCleary, of Irish and Australian nationality with a theological doctorate from Queensland University, has a prophetic ministry (largely self-published) and writes on Spirituality, Sexuality and the Esoteric. He is an astrologer and in 2003 claimed that both theological and astrological evidence suggested Jesus was gay. His books include Temple Mysteries and Spiritual Efficiency, Signs for a Messiah and A Special Illumination. The latter, on gay spiritualities, has caused international controversy. Another book, Cosmic Father, explores the validity of calling God Father in a feminist age, but also asks whether Christianity has become too much a ‘Son’ religion. McCleary is also a poet, is author of Puer Poems, and Daughter of the Sea King, which was broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Company.

This book takes the form of a critique of Dalai Lama/Thomas Merton-style notions of where and how faiths meet, drawing on Buddhist teaching and the Psalter. Beginning with an interesting re-examination of nascent Eastern Monotheism (sic), it explores the theme of the Mandala – the recurring circle theme of Eastern art which represents the wholeness of all creation, humanity and god, considering whether the circle can have value in expressing a common spirituality of West and East. It then looks at David’s own sense of connection with God emerging from the Psalms. In the process, the author explores the psychology and physiology of spiritual experience. He suggests that the Mandala artform might be a useful teaching aid, for instance, in expressing particular Psalms.

I’m pretty sure most of us would agree the astrological stuff is to be rejected? OK!!! I take issue with the hermeneutics of his asides on gay issues (if not all his conclusions). Finally, I question the idea of Mandalas as teaching aids. Evangelical meetings which have focused on pictures have generally left me poorly illuminated! Besides, there would be the necessity of first teaching the artistic language of the Mandala. And I am old fashioned enough to believe that God gave us his revelation in words for a reason, however suggestive a Rembrandt may be – and what Mandala could equal a Rembrandt?

Not all of this is off the wall, however. When you actually read this book, three things are apparent. First, McCleary knows his stuff, whether it is eastern religions, Chinese history, Christian and Buddhist Art, the Dalai Lama, Thomas Merton. His writing is lucid, intelligent, up to date and informed.

Second, what he speaks regarding the contemporary world, whether secular or religious has a knack of ringing true. You will read with difficulty if you try and pigeon-hole him, but if you take him at face-value, he is oddly sound - though his ‘evangelical’ conclusions, amusingly, always come expressed with a hint of surprise: well, believe it or not, maybe Christianity is a religion with a unique claim after all! When he does say anything definite: there are relatively few firm conclusions and much turgid material.

Third, I found helpful his warnings against certain iconic religious figures, figures Christians might well revere. Merton’s flirt with Buddhism was, by the end, just a step too far, virtually abandoning Christ to make all religions meet; the Dalai Lama apparently cherishes some of the most evil souls because they are preciously rare; Mother Teresa refused a patient pain killers telling the unfortunate that their pain was a gift from Jesus; and so on.

Conclusion: not a writer to be embraced, but to be guardedly examined, and most of all, to remain aware of for our flocks’ sake.

Philip Joy

Specialist in Old Testament narrative and typology

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You are reading Issue 56 of Ministry Today, published in November 2012.

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