A mystical experience at age 10 coupled with an early childhood trauma primed the author at age 20 to become immersed for three years in the ’70s in a socio-spiritual group called Ananda Marga. In Quiet Horizon, he uses his experience to examine how well-intentioned people lose their “inner compass” and become consumed by such ideologies. He calls on readers to pursue personal growth independent of distorting ideologies at a time when such ideologies increasingly dominate–from religious fundamentalism to political extremism to Wall Street corruption.
The most engrossing sections of Quiet Horizon detail Greg Jemsek’s experiences in Ananda Marga as his feelings shift from joyous belonging to the foreboding that something is “askew.” His journey culminates in a wilderness challenge that includes breaking into a park and making a 30-mile nighttime canoe trip in rough water and rain. This and subsequent experiences lead him to see “that these trainings were clearly preparations for violence.”
Unfortunately, such compelling moments are few in Quiet Horizon. They’re mainly a setup for the author’s discussion of how and why ideologies co-opt the mind: the identity wounds that make people susceptible to such appeals, the underlying dynamics that make the group attractive (such as supplying what one’s family did not), and the cultural “meta-narratives” that add momentum to the cause (in North American culture, for example, these include puritanism, the frontier, and the self-made man). Objectivity and true awareness are lost as thought and behavior becomes filtered through ideology. Jemsek contrasts this with the practices of someone operating from an inner compass — practices that include objective mindfulness and authentic relationships.
The author’s close examination of his topic is commendable, but the book becomes freighted with terminology and, while persuasive, proves tough sledding (though not perhaps for readers with academic or professional grounding in psychology and sociology). Not unlike the journey to self-knowledge, Quiet Horizon has worthy aims, but access can be difficult.
Also available in harcover and paperback.