Meetings with the Archangel: A Comedy of the Spirit

Meetings with the Archangel: A Comedy of the Spirit

by Stephen Mitchell, Stephen A. Mitchell
     
 

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When the archangel Gabriel appears to a narrator who has written a bestselling book called Against Angels, our whole view of the world is turned on its head. What is the nature of bliss? What games do angels play? What is angelic sex like? Gabriel gives an intensely erotic and moving demonstration of this, leaving us, as he leaves the narrator, breathless. Later,

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Overview

When the archangel Gabriel appears to a narrator who has written a bestselling book called Against Angels, our whole view of the world is turned on its head. What is the nature of bliss? What games do angels play? What is angelic sex like? Gabriel gives an intensely erotic and moving demonstration of this, leaving us, as he leaves the narrator, breathless. Later, he takes us on a guided tour of the heavens and introduces us to, among other spirits, William Blake. The three chapters of dialogues between Gabriel and the narrator--surprising, poetic, instructive, funny, and improbably real--may be as fascinating to those who can't stand angels as to those who are enchanted with them.

Editorial Reviews

San Francisco Chronicle
[V]ery readable. . . . The writing is as funny as it is learned, as exuberant and sexy as it is didactic. . . . This amusing, rich and stunningly intelligent book is itself a spiritual experience.
San Jose Mercury News
[C]harming . . . clear . . . and sometimes very funny.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
One spring day in Northern California in 1995, the archangel Gabriel appears to Stephen, the alter ego of Mitchell, a respected translator of spiritual writings and poetry (The Book of Job; Genesis). In this keen contemporary spiritual allegory, Stephen is the author of a bestseller that cut through the sentimental fog of the recent angel craze with the high-beam clarity of his Zen training. Far from being offended by the book, Gabriel assures Stephen that 'We simply appear in the mirror of someone's consciousness. Or, more accurately, we are the mirror.' In the course of two visits over two days, Stephen relieves a spiritual search that began in 1965 when he commuted from Harvard to get high by smoking broccoli with ultra-Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn. His whimsical mysticism devolves into nightmare when he ingests psychedelic challah and experiences the hate-filled mind of Hitler. Although Stephen marries and begins a teaching career at Berkeley, inwardly he struggles like Job to understand God's justice. Finally, Stephen encounters an extraordinary Brooklyn-born Zen master, David Copland, who leads Stephen to understand that there is a level of reality beyond our labels of good and evil. Treating Stephen to a tour of some of the myriad heavens, Gabriel allows Stephen to speak with William Blake, who affirms (along with Gabriel) that the heaven we land in is indeed a reflection of our own state of mind. Dipping into his erudition, Mitchell balances playful cameos of great Western souls like Aquinas, Rilke and Meister Eckhart with a witty, incisive portrayal of the workings of Zen training. He succeeds in creating a parable for thinking people with a hunger for reality.
David Guy
[The book] doesn't avoid a common problem of religious fiction; it's supposedly most enlightened character. . . .is presented as a man with all the answers. . . .the reader can't help wondering if a bit of modesty wouldn't have been more convincing. -- The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
If The Razor's Edge had starred Zero Mostel instead of Tyrone Power, this book might never have been written. And that would be a pity. Well-known translator Mitchell (The Book of Job) has given us a first novel in the form of an autobiography. And not just any autobiography, mind you, but a spiritual autobiography in the style of G.I. Gurdjieff's Meetings With Remarkable Men, mixing anecdote with advice, and tossing some poems into the soup of philosophy. Stephen, our narrator, is a Jewish college professor whose disgust with the present-day cult of angels inspired him to publish a best-selling diatribe Against Angels, attacking that obsession as delusional and puerile. Imagine his surprise, then, when confronted with an apparition of the Archangel Gabriel, who has come to set him straight. After engaging Stephen in an elaborate consideration of God, his angels, and the nature of human life, Gabriel settles back to listen to Stephen's side of things. Stephen, hardly an atheist, has actually spent most of his life wrestling with religion and philosophy, among the Hasidim of Brooklyn, the Zen Buddhists, and the more mundane graduate students of Harvard, Columbia, and Berkeley, and the better part of the story is his. A husband and father, Stephen wants to understand God in relational terms, and Gabriel makes it clear that this is possible. But only up to a point: 'You can't see God's face without dying. Are you ready to die?' Much of the story is a debate rather than a narrative, and sometimes it bogs down in the mire through which all such disputations must drive ('One of our most exciting games is standing on the edge of a truth, just before it touchesits opposite, and gazing down into the abyss between them.'). For the most part, though, this is a pretty good (if giddy) ride. Insanely quirky, but good-natured, unpretentious, and (at times) genuinely enlightening.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060182458
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
09/01/1998
Edition description:
1 ED
Pages:
245
Product dimensions:
5.97(w) x 9.60(h) x 1.03(d)

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What People are saying about this

Harold Bloom
Stephen Mitchell's Meetings with the Archangel is a vivid and strange fiction, animated by an intense spiritual drive. Its accounts of Zen training surpass any I've seen, and help make this book a persuasive spiritual autobiography.
Norman Lear
"Fantastic! That's what I call writing!"
Sam Keen
"Stephen Mitchell's archangel is the only interesting angel I have ever read about. He keeps us enchanted and amused, and finally lets us in on the great secret about angels and human beings."
Erica Jong
Stephen Mitchell's work has often given me the strength to go on writing from the heart; he is one of the American voices I most admire today. His new book, Meetings with the Archangel, is an absolutely incredible piece of writing: extremely witty, profound, erotic, and deeply satisfying in many ways. The section about sex is unique and totally convincing; here he has succeeded in something that's almost impossible to do. I love the book's tone, which has all Mitchell's delicious humor and all the colloquial warmth of a novel or memoir. It deserves a wide and passionate audience.
Erica Jong
"Stephen Mitchell's work has often given me the strength to go on writing from the heart; he is one of the American voices I most admire today. His new book, Meetings with the Archangel, is an absolutely incredible piece of writing: extremely witty, profound, erotic, and deeply satisfying in many ways. The section about sex is unique and totally convincing; here he has succeeded in something that's almost impossible to do. I love the book's tone, which has all Mitchell's delicious humor and all the colloquial warmth of a novel or memoir. It deserves a wide and passionate audience."
Elaine Pagels
I loved reading Meetings with the Archangel -- found it fascinating, deep, enormously ambitious, and profoundly funny. It is a wonderful book.
Sylvia Boorstein
"MEETINGS WITH THE ARCHANGEL is a work of genius. Someone who doesn't have a clue about spiritual truth will enjoy it as a marvelously beautiful erotic adventure story, and someone who does have a clue will see that hidden in the midst of the poetic, erotic prose are the most marvelous Dharma truths, and she will be thrilled to read them."

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Meet the Author

Stephen Mitchell attended Amherst, the University of Paris, and Yale. His many books include The Book of Job, Tao Te Ching, Parables and Portraits, The Gospel According to Jesus, A Book of Psalms, Ahead of All Parting: The Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke, and Genesis.

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