The Art Of Raising Children: Teaching Children The Infinite Way, by Eileen Bowden
In many ways, this book feels like a bait and switch. A reader who had no idea what the “Infinite Way” being spoken of by its author, like this reviewer, would come to the book with certain expectations that it would encourage parents to teach children about God’s ways and that it would have useful information on raising and rearing children. This book was bought for me by a group of friends of mine while they were at a used book store in Estacada, and while it is a bit unclear what relevance they thought that a child rearing book would have for a childless bachelor who has not been in a romantic relationship for roughly the last decade, it could be taken as a sign of future optimism rather than present state, and was taken as such. This expectation could not be more in error, as the book is, in fact, a revelatory example of very early New Age thought from the late 1970’s that shows the early efforts of New Age thinkers to popularize their belief by providing Eastern religious beliefs like trusting one’s inner source and even a reference to reincarnation under the guise of making a lot of scriptural citations with unbiblical interpretations , a trend that would be greatly repeated by future authors, many of whom did not give any credit to the important foundational role of Joel S. Goldsmith, whose “Infinite Way” books and tapes are quoted like scripture, and related to a host of other thinkers like noted educational reformer Montessori and others.
The contents of this book are a host of letters collected from twelve years of writing that the author did to followers of Goldsmith’s way seeking to distill Goldsmith’s thoughts for early New Age followers divided into various mystical references generally taken from the Bible, many of which are not particularly well placed: “The New Man In Christ,” “Let There Be Light,” “I Am The Way,” “Gently Lead Them,” “The Lord Is Come,” “Spiritual Life,” “The Principle Of Oneness,” “Look Within,” “Oneness Through Love,” “Christ In Us,” “Power Belongeth To God,” and “The Art Of Wholeness.” Each of these chapters of about fifteen or twenty pages apiece, where the whole book is about 225 pages including its reference material, including a set of letters directed to the reader as a child , contains a variety of letters from the author that have been compiled together and that present a view that is full of very mystical thinking and a misguided belief in the greater spiritual sensitivity of many children born in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s to their more mundane and spiritually limited parents. The book has a viewpoint that inverts the place of privilege between parents and children, viewing the parents as having more to learn than the children do, and setting the stage for the sort of Millennial childraising practices that lamentably missed my entire family altogether, where the gentleness and honor given to children would have done a great deal of good. Sour grapes aside, this is the sort of book that demonstrates the declining view of parental authority before it had reached a crisis point in society at large, when it was still being promoted as genuinely biblical to let children be guided by their inner light before the Eastern ways  being promoted were revealed as springing from different roots than the olive tree springing from the promised land where genuine biblical brief springs from.
Even so, despite the patent dishonesty of this book, which is not apparent until one reads it, this book is sufficiently honest in that it assumes that the reader is of like mind with the author that it serves as a valuable historical record of the growth of New Age beliefs on the outskirts of Christianity, where it was still necessary to disguise the wolf in sheep’s clothing, to cover the poison of heathen mysticism with the superficial appearance of Christianity because the undisguised truth would not have been treated with as much respect, or gained as much popularity as it has. For those readers who are astute enough to take this book’s warning, it has the eerie ring of self-fulfilling prophecy: “In previous generations a man’s religion was accepted in good faith; his trust in God was implicitly accepted. As children we did not question too much, and if an errant doubt arose it was quickly suppressed as not being worthy of a Christian. A few bolder and braver souls did question and were told they should trust, not doubt. Most of these became atheists, or just uncertain people. The parents of this present generation will not be allowed to put off their children so easily. These young people have had freedom of speech, thought, and action inculcated in them, and they now ask probing questions, expecting frank answers. Parents must be prepared for this, and those who have come into this teaching in a measure, for they, too, are seeking deeply for these same answers (152).” Teaching a strong belief in the illusions of the physical world, like Hindu and Buddhist thought, this book is an early and notable example of the syncretism that was even then taking place within Christian thought and that would explode over the last few decades. It is therefore an instructive read even where it is not a pleasant or enjoyable, or even remotely a biblical one.
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