The High Heeled Guide to EnlightenmentI enjoyed this book more than I expected to, for I can’t remember the last time I teetered around on high heels but it was probably some time in the early 1970s – and yet I do relate in many ways to the seekers whom Alice describes – modern women who are just ridiculously busy and for whom “….any attempt at meditation has ended in a mental mediation between plans for supper … or fretting over the bills..”.  How well many of us will know that feeling!

Right from the introduction I was reassured that this wasn’t going to be a fluffy, lightweight read and very glad that I wasn’t to be persuaded to buy enlightenment from yet another guru or in Glastonbury High Street.  I was even more reassured by the note on coincidence as odd synchronicities are, I believe, a sure sign that a chosen path is “talking back” – giving us feedback and encouragement along the way.

Alice Grist had, perhaps, a head start in that her father started out as a vicar, but became a witch when she was still a child, something that, I would think, is at the very least likely to encourage open-mindedness and a mood of enquiry in the family.

I’m not going to give you a smudge-by-smudge account of the chapters; there’s a very nice table of contents for the book on Amazon and you can have a look at the first few pages for free – an excellent way to check out if this is what you’re looking for.  Might make a good, last-minute seasonal gift?

Alice Grist looks first at reincarnation and quite rightly points out that younger women today (and I think we need to add “in the West” here) often don’t think much about death.  It isn’t the spectre that haunted our foremothers, for whom childbirth so often meant an encounter with the Death Crone herself.  Hypnotic regression is something that the writer decided to try for herself and the experience is certainly interesting.  (I’m always far more impressed by the “ordinary lives” that people recall than by people convinced they are Cleopatra or King Arthur or someone!)

Another thing I like about the book, as I’m the sort of cynic who doesn’t believe that the interviewees in self-help books really exist, is that Alice does her own investigating, meeting and talking to devotees of the various spiritual paths for herself.  The book is extremely readable, and although I’m curmudgeonly enough to get tired of the references to handbags and was certainly irritated by the reference to Alice’s “Playboy Bunny brain” (she is obviously far more intelligent than that) I’m guessing that it would work very well as a general introduction for women who are curious, feeling unfulfilled and seeking answers.  Exactly who the book is aimed at, of course!  At the very least, it would certainly fill in the blanks for many a searcher who feels that maybe she hasn’t quite investigated everything yet.

The topics covered give enough information to allow a reader to decide if she is interested in seeking further, with chapters on topics including Buddhism and Shamanism (which I found interesting and insightful), a section on Spiritualism, which is fascinating, and which quite rightly gives plenty of warnings about those who might take advantage of the sad and grieving.

I suspect many will like the chapter on Witchcraft and thought this would be an area Alice Grist would know well following her father’s conversion to Wicca.  However, this statement made me wonder: “Once you cut through the centuries of archaic nonsense, then broomsticks and bibles are not so hugely different.”.  That statement seems to me rather to miss the point and I cannot help but wonder if much of Grist’s information came from someone who was, after all, once very familiar with the bible!  But again, the chapter includes a lot of useful information for beginners and would certainly help the nervous (among whom I would once have counted myself, having read way too much Dennis Wheatley in my teens!).

Also covered is the rather trendy Kabbalah, where I found the exercise to see the things of the soul very useful.  Healing follows; the author clearly has a lot of time for alternative healing and is herself a Reiki practitioner; whatever you might think of Reiki she certainly seems to have benefitted from it.  Tarot and Astrology are sensibly dealt with, as excellent means of looking at situations from a fresh perspective, and not merely, thank the goddess, as fortune-telling tools.

The book certainly supports the idea that change comes from within and although I don’t care for the supermarket approach it provides an excellent guide for the beginner.  Anyone reasonably familiar with the internet will also know how many traps for the unwary seeker there are, and so I recommend this guide to anyone who wants a good, sensible starting place.

The High Heeled Guide to Enlightenment is published by O Books.

©Geraldine Charles