(note: This book is translated from the French; I cannot find information on the translator and, as such, must presume the author either did the work himself or feels his words are so accurately translated that he can stand behind this version entirely.)

Pierre Pradervand is the author of some twenty books mostly on the subject of spiritual development; as of 2023 five of them have been translated into English. To the extent that I can do the research he seems to have a consistent point of view that he's developed over more than 40 years, which seems largely in the vein of "The Secret" and even Evangelical Prosperity Gospel. His most recent book in English is "The Gentle Art of Spiritual Discernment: A Guide to Discovering Your Personal Path." It's an interesting book, but the value it will have for you depends on how closely "Your Personal Path" just happens to match up with his own path. Allow me to explain.

It is entirely possible that this book is written in a shorthand that is instantly recognizable to its intended audience and I simply am not one of those people. I say this because the language used throughout indicates that the author is not intending to advocate for any particular spirituality but, instead, to help the reader sort through the infinite options that are offered by the world and determine what works best for them. However, he also takes for granted certain concepts as objectively true. For example, at one point in the chapter labeled "Different Spiritual Paths" he states: " We are guided by a Source far beyond anything we could ever imagine. Remember, as we live in an infinitely benevolent universe, sooner or later everything, absolutely everything can only work out for our highest good." Setting aside whatever personal differences I might have with this point of view, the language is absolute. This is how it is, and if your "discernment" has led you to some other conclusion you need to keep discerning until you see this truth of the universe. When discussing those different paths, he starts at the various faiths "of the Book" (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism), acknowledging offhandedly that Buddhism is also a thing. He also discusses "community"-based spirituality and spiritual teachers (or "gurus"), but these all follow a fairly narrow band of thinking along the lines of leaders known for giving millions of hugs or villages populated entirely by followers of things like "the Unity Movement". Oh, and there's one full page given over to "the Path of Indigenous Nations" and the concept of nature worship; so, that base is covered.

His discussion of the practical application of spiritual belief is similarly linear with a veneer of open-mindedness. No, a specific set of rituals or behaviors aren't prescribed, but then you get statements like this when deciding if a practice or tool is valuable: "Does it enable me to grow in love?" Love is great; you'll be hard-pressed to find a significant body of spiritual literature in the "anti-love" camp. That's not all a person needs, John Lennon notwithstanding.  In a fairly slender volume he devotes an entire chapter to 'Healing through a Practice of Blessing', which for him is a very specific behavior of, essentially, wishing good on all people at all times, especially those that have wronged you. This leads to great things for you, he assures; "absolutely nothing but blessing can relieve an individual, a group of people, a whole nation. It is the only remedy we have against all diseases and vicissitudes, against all forms of violence... Yes, the only worthwhile one." Again, setting aside how closely this does or doesn't align with my own worldview, that absolutism with which he describes a very specific way of seeing the world goes against the grain of what the book purports to be about.

There is an audience for this book, clearly; he is not a self-published author, various publishers have seen a value proposition in getting his work out to the world. "The Gentle Art of Spiritual Discernment" sits happily on the same shelf as hundreds of books in the self-help section, and the author has a particularly pillowy-soft way of writing that will encourage the reader to read and absorb the content without fear of being challenged or judged. If it had been titled differently and massaged even a little bit in the text to simply be a guide to this sort of white-light version of a God who is probably a male but definitely not the mean one from the Bible, there'd be nothing to complain about. However, as an ostensible guide to observing the world and coming to your own conclusions about the best spiritual path for you, it's hard not to see this book as a subtle ambush for the unwary seeker.

~review by Wanderer

Author: Pierre Pradervand
Destiny Books, 2023
pp. 128, $14.99