PRENDERGAST, J., FENNER, P., & KRYSTAL, S. (2003). The Sacred Mirror: Nondual wisdom & psychotherapy. St. Paul, Minnesota: Paragon House, ix + 326 pp. ISBN: 1-55778-824-3, paper, $19.95. Reviewed by Ray Greenleaf
From the beginning of Transpersonal Psychology's emergence as a field for serious study, edited compilations of essays regarding transpersonal, holistic, and integral perspectives on psychology have been important additions to books by individual authors such as Wilber, Ram Dass, Grof, Vaughn, Walsh, Washburn and others. The Sacred Mirror: Nondual Wisdom and Psychotherapy, edited by John Prendergast, Peter Fenner, and Sheila Krystal is one of those books. This book gives an excellent overview of this emerging field of inquiry. Each chapter is an important teaching in itself giving the reader many ways to consider the possibilities in the nondual approach to psychotherapy. Each writer in this volume has an important contribution to make toward the potential of bringing forth nondual wisdom in working with clients from a multitude of perspectives. These perspectives, which integrate the nondual approach, range from using a Jungian approach, to working with EMDR protocols.
Starting with Peter Fenner, the founder of the Center for Timeless Wisdom, who is an inspiration and leader in bringing nondual approaches to psychotherapy, the twelve authors and thirteen chapters cover ways of both defining and working with a nondual approach. He, along with many of the authors in this volume, have also produced a series of annual conferences on this important field. In the opening chapter of this book, Peter Fenner defines nondual wisdom and its place in psychology and psychotherapy. He begins by saying that a nondual approach to psychotherapy focuses on "awakening an experience of the unconditioned mind for therapist and client and the ongoing cultivation of this experience" (p. 28). Fenner goes on to say that "The nondual approach to therapy directs people to the experience of the unconditioned mind as a way of transcending suffering and healing the psychological wounds of the past" (p. 29).
The authors write of the importance of awareness, presence and being which are the most often listed subjects in the index, giving us a sense of the importance of these qualities in the ever deepening process of bringing nondual awareness to psychotherapy. Those qualities along with the practice of inquiry and mirroring form the backbone of this approach. Inquiry has always been an important part of both psychotherapy practice and spiritual practice. From Jim Bugental's here and now inquiry to Ramana Maharshi's radical inquiry the importance of these processes are central to the process of transformation and growth. Stephan Bodian's chapter "Deconstructing the Self: The Uses of Inquiry in Psychotherapy and Spiritual Practice", is extremely useful in gaining an understanding of the range of inquiry processes from the conventional analytic and existential-humanistic to the uses of inquiry in the nondual wisdom traditions. The process of mirroring becomes the inspiration for the title of the book when John Prendergast in his chapter "Being Together" says that "Unlike various descriptions of psychological mirroring that focus on the importance of therapists accurately and empathically reflecting back their clients' thought, feelings and sensations, sacred mirroring involves Being mirroring itself" (p. 94), and he goes on to say "When we, as therapists, deepen into Being, we begin to spontaneously take on the function of a sacred mirror" (p. 95).
The authors also speak to the concerns that can arise in the approach of nondual wisdom and psychotherapy. Spiritual bypass, inflation and splitting are the most common pitfalls that can trap a client in the hard work of psychospiritual transformation. Many of the authors in this book also speak to the dangers of the nondual approach becoming another technique or school among many approaches to this work. …