Book review: The Path of the Blue Raven

by Mark Townsend


This is a fascinating, brutally honest peek into the life of a Vicar (Church of England) who first found himself estranged from his priesthood, and then found God. Disillusioned with institutionalized religion, and by circumstance dissolved of his duties as a priest, Mark Townsend became free to pursue God into the world of nature-based spirituality.

Townsend now finds organized religion a barrier to the divine, not a door. Townsend hasn’t rejected Jesus; he still finds the person of Jesus “intensely exciting” and continues to embrace the Christ spirit, but in a more down-to-earth way. He quotes Richard Rohr to say, “One of the most successful ways Christians have avoided doing what Jesus said was to simply worship him. It’s easier to bow down and shout constant hallelujahs than to get our hands dirty by following him out into the world of brokenness and mess.”

In a broken and messy world, Townsend now finds a new way—a pagan way—of interpreting the scripture. The story of Jesus, he explains, merely makes true what already is. The Incarnation? We’re all already filled with divinity. The sacraments? We’re all in some way the body and blood of God (humans filled with deity).

Townsend never fit the mold of a traditional priest in the first place; his life-long practice as a magician (he is a “conjurer”), his frequent bar visits, his occasional colorful language, his determination to respect the feelings and beliefs of others, these things hardly endeared him to strict Christians. Townsend is imperfect and genuine, a person we can identify with. He knows his magic isn’t real, has never pretended it is, but he finds in it a world of enchantment able to awaken us to an appreciation of greater magic, greater enchantment. That’s the subtitle of his book: From Religion to Re-Enchantment. Townsend invites us to live with him a fully authentic life, whatever the cost.

Although foreign to my own version of Christianity, I found this journey both enjoyable and intriguing.

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