3 out of 4 stars
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What attracted me to The Rose Priory Dialogues was its genre, which I would classify as visionary fiction given the focus on the main character Joe’s spiritual enlightenment and growth of his self-awareness. The second aspect that drew me to this work was the theme of mysticism and enchantment and if they have a place in contemporary secular society. The novel begins when Joe returns to England in 1981 after five years of searching the world over for a genuine mystic to guide him on his path to spiritual enlightenment. A disenchanting year in India questing vainly for a real guru finally brings Joe home, with little money left and no hope of ever attaining spiritual knowledge.
A colleague invites Joe to weekly meetings held at the Rose Priory, attended by people interested in esoteric matters and spirituality. At the Priory, Joe meets Brother Marcus, the prior of the Order of St Denys, a contemplative monastic community. Although understandably sceptical after his many disappointments, Joe realises during the course of the first meeting that Marcus might be the real mystic teacher he had travelled so widely to find. Marcus’s only goal during their Friday gatherings is the sharing of his understanding and knowledge of occult wisdom.
This novel introduces esoteric concepts to the layman in the form of dialogues between Marcus and the attendees of the meetings. Marcus guides his secular students with insights in hidden wisdom and an inclusive theosophical approach to spirituality. The Rose Priory Dialogues reads like a treatise on esoteric knowledge; the author’s thorough research and study in the fields of mysticism, Kabbalah, meditation and liturgy are apparent in his novel and provides a fascinating focal point for the book. I will definitely reread this book soon because there is so much to glean from this novel. It provides a reasonable summary of pertinent concepts in esoterica, so one can certainly refer back to it during one’s own research.
The novel breaks away from known narrative standards because it focuses on the didactic dialogues. This question-and-answer format leaves little room for character development, tension building and narrative. The dialogue becomes long tracts of exposition. Although this is in keeping with the premise, I think that a more traditional dialogue format would have created places where the reader could pause, which in turn helps to negotiate the complex concepts set out in the exposition. The aim of the story is Joe’s changes in awareness and growing consciousness in light of Marcus’s teachings. I missed this because the relaying of esoteric ideas took precedence over character development. The characters in this novel remain distant, even the protagonist, which is a pity because this is just the kind of enlightening experience a reader would want to share with the main character.
I rate this novel 3 out of 4. I thought it was a grand effort to reconcile ancient occult teachings with contemporary society. I recommend The Rose Priory Dialogues to readers drawn to visionary fiction and those who are fascinated with esoteric knowledge and symbol systems. I did not give this novel a 4 because the run-on dialogue created dense blocks of text when there should have been spaces to pause between paragraphs, and the light character development means little empathy with the characters. Other than the format of the dialogue, the editing was spotless and the writing clear.
The Rose Priory Dialogues
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