by Jessica Kirby
The world is a busy place. Family responsibilities, financial obligations, world affairs, and our internal need for balance can swirl about in a whirlwind of chaos, drawing us further from inner peace than we were ever intended to stray. It is no wonder spiritual literature is one of the fastest growing genres of this decade, with New Age / Spiritual titles hitting the New York Times Best Sellers list year over year. Born as a genre in the 70s, the self-help revolution has brought millions of people from the brink of sadness and hopelessness into a brighter tomorrow filled with joy, self-love, and passion for life.
Whether on the path to enlightenment, seeking a deeper mind-body connection, or in search of alternative ways to deal with stress and illness, people have before them a vast library of literature, poetry, and audiovisual materials from which to draw. Though narrowing the list to a mere ten seems an impossible task, the following authors have been particularly adept at bringing forth their message and touching lives the world over.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
A tireless advocate for peace, spiritual leader of a country in turmoil, and Nobel Peace laureate, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, Tenzin Gyatso, tops the list of influential spiritual writers for so many reasons. He has authored more than 70 books, most of them best sellers, and all of them focused on combinations of personal enlightenment, Buddhist principles, science and reason, and the search for happiness. This happiness, he says, is the meaning of our lives. His Holiness the Dalai Lama draws millions to his talks and teachings around the world. Although trained a Buddhist monk, he acknowledges the advantage of spiritual belief of any kind over being void of spirituality in general. He seeks to bring the world together, create harmony and happiness, and never stops dreaming of one day returning to his homeland, Tibet. The Art of Happiness, The Four Noble Truths, and Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World stand out as some of his most influential works.
Louise L. Hay
Louise Hay was talking about the mind-body connection back in the 70s when it was radical to do so, earning her a place in spiritual history as one of the founders of the self-help movement. Dubbed Queen of the New Age, Hay has earned her stripes as an author, yes, but also as a philanthropist, teacher, speaker, and by founding Hay House publishing company, which gives a voice to spiritual authors the world over. Hay’s first publication, Heal Your Body, was first published in 1976, purporting the message that with the right state of mind you can heal just about anything your body or brain throws at you. She has published more than 15 works, accompanying CDs and DVDs, a movie, and a broadcast radio program. Her 1984 book, You Can Heal Your Life, sold more than 35 million copies.
Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
Author, speaker, and affectionately called the Father of Motivation by his fans, Dr. Dyer empowered millions with his inspiring message that anyone can live an extraordinary life and manifest their deepest desires if they honor their inner divinity and consciously choose to live from their higher self. Dr. Dyer published more than 30 books on the subject, appeared on thousands of TV and radio programs, while travelling extensively to share his message. He broke into the scene in 1976 with Your Erroneous Zones – one of the highest selling books of all time at 35 million copies – and published best seller I Can See Clearly Now in 2014 a year before his death.
Neale Donald Walsch
“What’s happening is merely what’s happening. How you feel about it is another matter,” said Neale Donald Walsch in his New York Times best-seller Conversations with God: An uncommon dialogue, Volume 1. At one of the darkest times in his life, Walsch took pen to paper in an angry outburst with God, and says God answered him. He wrote three volume of these conversations and each went on to best-selling fame, earning Walsch the moniker, Modern Day Spiritual Messenger. Over the years he published 16 books in total, all focused in some way on humanity’s relationship with God, the love-fear continuum, and the notion that we are all one with God. The quote above is an example of the way Walsch’s work encourages us to own our choices about whether to act in love or fear, and to honour our place with God.
Dr. Deepak Chopra
The Third Jesus, Quantum Healing, Life After Death, and The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga are just a few of the 65 books Deepak Chopra includes in his list of literary accomplishments, making him a household name in spiritual well-being. Chopra specializes in a multidisciplinary philosophical approach that combines spirituality, Ayurveda, and holistic healing to bring forth a contemporary mixed offering of ancient wisdom and modern science. Nineteen of his volumes have made best sellers lists, and 20 million copies have been sold worldwide. The New York Times has called him a controversial, New Age guru, though Chopra rejects the term “guru” at all costs. He does, however, advocate for a strong and effective mind-body connection when dealing with health and wellness, and the primacy of consciousness over matter. (Happy birthday October 22, Deepak!)
Even if you haven’t heard of Marianne Williamson, you’ve likely heard her famous quotation often misattributed to Nelson Mandela, which begins, “Our deepest fear is not that we are in adequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” Williamson’s career as an internationally acclaimed spiritual author and lecturer has skyrocketed with four of her 10 published works hitting the number one spot on the New York Times Best Sellers list.
Williamson’s 1992 book, A Return to Love, was her interpretation of Dr. Helen Schucman’s book A Course in Miracles. She brings enlightened, graceful encouragement to develop a relationship with God that may or may not rest with Christianity, and encourages an overall path based on universal spiritual themes. Williamson was named one of the 50 most influential baby boomers in 2006, founded Project Angel Food, which delivers meals to homebound individuals, and is a co-founder of The Peace Alliance—a grassroots movement to have the US government establish a US Department of Peace.
Gary Zukav has influenced millions of people with his straightforward, lively approach to teaching the pathway to transforming human consciousness. His main works The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics, and The Seat of the Soul, guide readers as they open their minds and hearts in progress toward expanded consciousness and awareness of their true selves. Zukav’s four best sellers brought scientific legitimacy to matters of the soul (though that wasn’t his goal, claiming the soul is legitimate on its own terms) and gave countless people the courage to shift their consciousness to a better place Dancing Wu Li Masters received as much attention and acclaim from the scientific community for its use of physics as it did from the spiritual community for inspiring change.
If there is one essential key for reducing anxiety, stress, and unhappiness it is to live in the present, and no one has made that message clearer than Eckhart Tolle. Once a depressed recluse, Tolle experienced total transformation at age 29 and is now a world-renowned author and speaker the New York Times calls the most popular spiritual speaker in America. Tolle’s message is that to be emotionally and spiritually free, we must live completely in the moment. His first book The Power of Now introduced Tolle’s simple, easy to digest approach to this centuries-old concept and made it accessible to millions of readers searching for a happier sense of being. Tolle’s work combines essential tenets from Christianity, Zen, Buddhism, Sufism, and Hinduism. The Power of Now has been translated into 33 languages, including Arabic, and the follow up A New Earth: Awakening to your Life’s Purpose, was also wildly successful around the world. “To die before you die and find that there is no death,” said Tolle. That is the secret to life.
Thich Nhat Hanh
Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet, and peace activist, is revered as a spiritual leader, poet, author, and peace activist, known the world over for his engaging teachings and best-selling books on mindfulness, being in the now, and generating peace.
“Through mindfulness,” he says, “we can learn to live happily in the present moment—the only way to truly develop peace, both in one’s self and in the world.”
Thich Nhat Hanh has over 100 titles to his name, as he has dedicated his life to spreading the joy of meditation, mindfulness, and “engaged Buddhism,” a term he coined in Vietnam: Lotus in a Sea of Fire, through books, poetry, children’s books, and interpretive reviews of ancient Buddhist texts. Some of his main works include Being Peace, The Miracle of Mindfulness, Peace is Every Step, and The Art of Power.
Iyanla means “Great Mother” and is the title Iyanla Vanzant received after being initiated and ordained as a priestess in the Yoruba tradition. Well known for her talk show, “Iyanla, Fix My Life,” and lengthy book list, Iyanla’s focus is affirmation, spiritual healing, and confident life-building, particularly for an empowered, faith-infused global community.
The Big Book of Faith, Yesterday, I Cried: Celebrating the Lessons of Living and Loving, and Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through are just a few of her titles that have touched lives and promoted healing and the inner journey.
Written by Jessica Kirby, Senior Editor of All One Era magazine