Book Review: The Straight Path: A Religious Guide to Finding and Fulfilling One’s Purpose
Written by a teacher based in Australia, the book, The Straight Path: A Religious Guide to Finding and Fulfilling One’s Purpose, is easy to devour in one sitting. Without committing to one religious tradition, author Christian Edward provides a guide to walking the straight path, which leads to God, a lover of every single human despite religious preferences. Although non-committal, his work does not in the slightest undermine or doubt the very power that religion has over our world. His book is an examination of three aspects: body, mind, and soul.
Towards the beginning of the book, Edward goes through defining and explaining the seven virtues: love, compassion, humility, courage, honor, temperance, and piety. He emphasizes the importance of each of the virtues and what impact they can have in our lives. Practicing temperance could mean watching what you put into your body—avoiding fast food and GMOs. This can help build a stronger you that is free from unhealthy addictions.
To counter the seven virtues, Edward defines and explains the seven vices: hatred, envy, arrogance, cowardice, lust, greed, and sloth. For example, choosing to lust rather than love makes you a slave to sex. You no longer can find your peace. It robs you of your serenity. Hatred is a feeling that manifests itself in the body, and arrogance leads to feelings of self-superiority and exclusivity.
The next prominent aspect of the book discusses discipline, which consists of both mental and physical conditioning. There are four kinds of mental conditioning, which include meditation, fasting, prayer, and learning. It is always interesting to hear tips for finding your peace through prayer and meditation. Edward suggests finding your quiet place, be clean, and press your palms together with bowed head and closed eyes while praying. In addition, fasting consists of mental and physical components as well, where you can either ban certain thoughts or you can ban certain substances, such as food or alcohol.
Edward additionally writes about strengthening the body through physical conditioning. He warns of sitting at a desk and staring at a screen all day, or having your headphones in all the time. He writes about training your eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hands, feet, and torso to promote that which strengthens the senses, and weed out what does not. He suggests practicing looking both near and far, listening to the natural sounds around you, ingesting fresh foods, and avoiding that which destroys your sense of smell. Practice makes perfect. When you begin to run, sprinting short distances and jogging long ones, your feet become faster by nature. When you sit up straight and walk daily, even in old age, your body doesn’t tire out as easily or ache as much.
The final thought that Edward leaves us as readers with is that the notion of religion is a strong and powerful one. It can bring people together in community (stronger together), and it can “outlast nations and empires.”
The way you get to your purpose may differ among individuals, but the purpose is the same: follow the straight path and draw closer to God. God awaits us. God is love, and, as Edward portrays in his guidebook to the straight path, God loves all.