Daniel Odier is a novelist and his spiritual memoir Tantric Quest: An Encounter with Absolute Love has something of the feel of a novel. I found it much more readable than some other books in this genre, such as those of Carlos Castaneda. It tells the story of Odier’s travels in the Himalayas as a young spiritual seeker, in which he had the good fortune to encounter an experienced and powerful yogini who, having tested his earnestness, agreed to teach him.
The straightforward narrative of seeking, meeting, and an escalating sequence of trials is intermixed with the Tantric teaching Odier received from ‘Devi’ and his reflections upon that. Following the convention of books of this kind, a large proportion of the text consists of Devi’s teaching presented through Socratic dialogues. The quotation marks signal the distinction between her teachings and the author’s reflections, but the text they contain is very clear and carefully sequenced and I guess is in fact a stylised reconstruction of the essence of what she taught him.
‘Uncompromising’ would be the word for Devi’s pedagogical style. Not only in the ways she challenges with words. One time she has Odier meditate all night, alternately standing and sitting, at the very edge of cliff, perpetually terrified in the darkness. At dawn she appears beside him and suddenly pushes him over the edge – only to grab him in the next instant and pull him back into her arms.
In the end, as the subtitle indicates, her teaching is about love, divine love, that transcends greed, judgement, and possessiveness. What she teaches, and gives, the 23-year-old Odier is a treasure beyond price. I’d recommend this book to anyone, but especially to young men struggling to reconcile their sexual and spiritual impulses – all the more so with the crisis of masculinity presently exploding every day in the news. Particularly pleasing in his epilogue is the way Odier brings the spiritual quest back to earth and inscribes it in the whole of our lives with words that resonate so strongly for me: ‘To live fully, to be totally present in the reality of our world, to write novels, to publish other authors, to taste the thousand pleasures of life are all part of the way.’