Rumi Meets Carrie Bradshaw: Book review of Meggan Watterson’s ‘Reveal’

Meggan Watterson is an Ivy League-educated Master of Theological Studies, Master of Divinity, and a self-declared “freelance mystic”. Her book ‘Reveal’ was recently published by Hay House.

meggan watterson, TED X Women speaker and author of Reveal

Watterson sees her role as one of reclaiming spiritual awareness for women. A valid question would be why it’s specifically women’s spiritual awareness that needs reclaiming. She doesn’t shy away from explaining this, drawing from a plethora of well-documented references both modern and historical. In a nutshell, allegedly the majority of world religions are dominated by men, and consequently women the world over have lost confidence in their own power and abilities.

While the bibliography is as well researched as you would expect from a Harvard graduate, this is not a scholarly book; it’s a work designed to inspire and elevate in a very personal way. Rather than being about religion, it’s written from a point of religious fervour. As such it’s a gutsy work. Livelihoods have been lost over public declarations of being overcome by “the Divine”, although to be fair there is also a bestseller market for them. Reveal straddles both the educated and the New Age markets; littered with original anecdotes about women in religion, think The Da Vinci Code with a high IQ.

Watterson’s writing style is exactly as you would expect from – and I don’t know how to say this without sounding judgmental, but I promise you I am not saying this sarcastically – a white, privileged upper-middle-class American woman from San Francisco. Her writing is full of energy, uncompromising imperatives, and revealing personal examples – all of which I find wonderful and inspiring. The reason I mention her background is that at times, it’s also what makes her advice more difficult for me to relate to.

For example, the two main personal experiences which she delves into at length are about trips taken in her 20s to Christian sites in Review of Reveal by Meggan WattersonEurope. The thoughts which went through my head included “it’s easy for you to be a pilgrim, if you can afford to take a flat in the upmarket area of Paris” and “what have I got in common with a 20-year-old?!”  She refers to her “dark night of the soul” as a night when she had an anxiety attack in her apartment, triggered by the fact that she was alone for the first time in years. While I appreciate that she felt deeply and gained genuine insights from that experience, it is hyperbole to compare it to the original experience of St John of the Cross.

She also claims that there are signs everywhere when you are on the right path of your calling. This may or may not be true, and is of course difficult if not impossible to prove. The signs she got are, typically, seeing a possum outside her apartment two nights in a row after having thought of something that was shaped a bit like a possum. I believe she wrote these examples in order to inspire, but unfortunately they only make me raise my eyebrows. I would have preferred the examples to be followed with a note such as “who knows if these things were really related or not; the point is that it helped me see…” etc., rather than being stated as if they were factually and objectively true. The nuance won’t matter to some readers, but it would help win over skeptics. I’m not even a skeptic myself, in the sense that I already believe her point, but when she stated that the events were absolutely factually related – or that “we all carry a memory of being burned at the stake” – to me trust in her as a reliable narrator was lost. Which is a shame, because I think she is a reliable narrator, in the sense of telling the truth as she knows it, and not being crazy. All that is needed is to make clear if an event is objective or subjective.

So have women the world over really lost confidence in their own power, as a result of the majority of world religions being dominated by men? To an extent, I would say this is true. It may even have been one of the original reasons for the fact that women in general have lower self-esteem than men. But the situation has diffused and moved away from religion. Now that most westerners are no longer regular church-goers, and in many areas the majority is atheist or agnostic, I don’t know that it’s useful to blame patriarchy or religion anymore.

But I do think that this book is useful. While I’ve written this as a critique, the good bits – and there are plenty of them – make Reveal well worth enjoying.

Read this if:  This excerpt intrigues you

Don’t read this if: You break out in hives at the mention of Patrick Swayze and Jesus Christ in the same sentence

Favourite quote: “Imagine putting down all that baggage you’ve been dragging around and then filling a tote bag, a little red one, with love. Imagine travelling with just that – and nothing else – wherever you go. “

Watch Meggan Watterson on TED X Women

22nd December 2013

Comments (2)

  1. Hello, i recently read ” living and dying in zazen” by Arthur Braverman. It’s a really interesting book and not the normal zen type narrative.

    Merry Christmas!

    Peter

    • Thank you Peter, I will certainly look that up. Sorry it took me a month to tell you so, the computer is hoarding comments and not telling me about them even if I’ve got all the right boxes ticked :-)

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