Into the Mystic is a spiritual memoir that focuses on the author’s spiritual mentor, Olga Park (1891-1985). The book consists of a series of vignettes and poems written by the author and by Park as well as some illustrations of Olga’s own spiritually-inspired artistic creations. It explores the relation of the female spiritual seeker to her wisdom teacher, guru, and spiritual mentor, and addresses timeless questions about the relation of time to eternity, the nature and emergence of consciousness, direct mystical experience etc. in a contemporary Canadian context. The book synthesizes memoir, spiritual autobiography, biography, personal narrative, and poetry in an innovative way.
Olga self-published a number of books exploring a lifetime of direct mystical experiences grounded in and moving out from the Christian tradition with which she was most familiar. Her books attracted a number of seekers who came to learn from her. Although the author privileges her mentor’s teachings, she does so by relating them to her own spiritual development and to non-Christian spiritual traditions. Thus she provides the reader with much of Olga’s life story as well as some of her own. By integrating her knowledge of global spiritual practices, she broadens the audience as well as the appeal of her teacher’s spiritual journey.
“You won’t be the same after reading this book. Into the Mystic: My Years with Olga flows with a subtle, near-miraculous spiritual sweetness. Susan McCaslin was genuinely transformed by her association with her unique spiritual mentor, an elderly woman who gave and still gives McCaslin invisible gifts of immeasurable import. McCaslin offers gifts to us in turn: in her yearning for the ineffable consciousness we call God, she weaves this memoir of her deepest inner life and of her experience of the “I am” such that we are at once greatly moved and made more fully aware of how we are each a “chapter / of an older story, a piece of a cloth…” It’s fascinating to see how for McCaslin the divine is never separate from the bodily fact of her existence, from the story of her individuality, from her writing of poetry, from her love for her family, or, in recent years, from her passionate activism in the name of the natural environment. This is a vibrant, light-filled portrait, a document of transformation, an eloquent guidebook. It’s a treasure.”
—Russell Thornton, author of Birds, Metal, Stones & Rain (nominated for the Governor General’s Award, 2014)
“Not all of us who aspire to a mystical life are fortunate enough to have such a teacher as Olga Park, whom BC writer and poet Susan McCaslin studied with for decades. In this spiritual memoir, McCaslin shares her experience of the Canadian mystic who so inspired and encouraged her. McCaslin acts as guide to Olga Park’s writings as well as her own, drawing on a broad reading into mystical tradition.
McCaslin offers the reader a place to stand, a sense of deep interconnectivity which Olga Park describes as “between time and eternity.” McCaslin has the ability to articulate ineffable experience with the well-thought-out clarity of a philosopher and the felt acuity of a poet. We are drawn into the mystic’s “depth of field,” the wider ecology that bridges an inclusive continuum of matter and spirit. Let Into the Mystic lead you to explore hitherto untranslated dimensions. Let this book lead you home.”
—Penn Kemp, poet and playwright, editor of Jack Layton: Art in Action
“Into the Mystic: My Years with Olga reveals Susan McCaslin’s transformational and endearingly human journey with English-born Canadian Olga Park, integrative creative and mystic. McCaslin interweaves her poems, prose, photos, art, visions and struggles with those of Olga Park. Their polyphonic insights assure this reader that raised consciousness is accessible and joyful, not a hallucinogenic state. McCaslin, a gifted poet and visionary herself, illuminates Park’s interior knowing, synthesizing myriad systems or spiritual stepping stones, drawing on her own deep knowledge of many wisdom traditions. McCaslin’s book is wise, humble, and courageous. Her lyrical, receptivity entices this reader into a more loving, honest dasein or being in the world. May this treasure, organized in numinous vignettes, touch many souls.”
—Katerina Fretwell, poet and author of Class Acts
“Suppose someone like the mystical William Blake lived nearby, so you could drive up to his house. Would you? Susan McCaslin answers in the affirmative in her meetings with a Christ-centred Blakean mystic named Olga, weighing 100 pounds and dressed in grey, “the colour of service.” Into the Mystic – yes, a borrowing from Van Morrison – is an enchanting mix of prose and poetry, literature and spirituality, biography and autobiography. The autobiography is as essential as the biography; growth and deepening are central to both stories. Poet McCaslin and mystic Olga both come off as fascinating human beings open to all the folds of Being, including the non-material. McCaslin takes you places you may not have been before, but because her voice has the ring of authenticity to it, you trust her wisdom and experience.”
—J.S. Porter, author of Spirit Book Word: An Inquiry into Literature and Spirituality and Lightness and Soul: Musings on Eight Jewish Writers