The Jeweled Highway is more than a well-written memoir. It is the chronicle of a man — and a generation — on the cusp of a spiritual awakening.
As a pioneer of the global consciousness movement, no one is more qualified to write this moving and detailed journey than Ralph White. He is co-founder and creative director of the New York Open Center, a leading urban institution of holistic learning, and his path to that role forms the backbone of this marvelous narrative.
The beauty of White’s story lies in the unexpected and chance encounters he has during his travels. His journey to find a meaningful life has been uniquely rewarded: friendships, lovers, mystical experiences, the realization of hidden talents, an appreciation of community, and visions of a new culture. As the reader goes on this expedition with White, these people and moments become the tapestry of a global movement.
The book takes the reader through White’s Celtic childhood, into adolescence and young adulthood in Northern England, and then to the United States, Colombia, Northern Scotland, Eastern Europe, Russia, India, China, Tibet, and places in between. Throughout it all, White has faith that, somehow, things will work out. From hitchhiking on the back of a potato truck, to his encounter with a medicine woman who shows him the power of indigenous medicine, to a request by the Oracle of Tibet to embark on a dangerous mission, White plucks and savors each moment. He describes encounters with the sheer beauty of nature and contrasts them with his run-ins with street thugs, customs agents, and aggressive Chinese police. Each twist and turn uncovers his primary purpose on this earth: to be himself.
However, White’s quest transcends a mere personal mission. As he stumbles upon moments of spiritual self-realization, there is always a nudge toward the idea of an enlightened community. The sections about his time at Findhorn, a spiritual ecovillage in Northern Scotland, are particularly intriguing. There, White finds kinship with other seekers who wish to be part of a “network of light.” At Findhorn, he finds validation for his vision of what’s possible for a spiritual community. And then, his calling becomes trying to bring that sense of a spiritual community into the heart of the city.
There are many features of the narrative that draw the reader in — not the least of which is the clear and beautifully expressed travelogue. Then there is the timing: White shows up in every place where something big is happening in the world, just as it comes into fruition and becomes part of the global consciousness movement. He arrives in California to sample the offerings at Big Sur, works at Findhorn, and becomes a central player in the development of programs and transformational workshops at the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies in Rhinebeck, New York.
What endures after reading White’s memoir is the greater sense of intention and relevance that comes with personal transformation. And, somehow, the book leaves one in the same state as the narrator: satisfied with what one has, yet on a quest for more.
Seeking the divine, White makes clear, only makes sense when it ushers in positive social and environmental transformation, too.
The Jeweled Highway: On the Quest for a Life of Meaning
Divine Arts, September 2015
Paperback, 216 pages