At the heart of human experience we all harbour a secret wish that we will be remembered for having lived a rich and worthwhile life. Some of us do but many of us, through no fault of our own, don’t. Despite this, we remain forever hopeful that the story we create for ourselves in this lifetime is at the very least worthy of being recorded for posterity in biographical memoirs of one sort or another.
Ralph White is someone whom, having spent his life within the spiritual movement, has a story that is indeed one of those worth telling.
White was born in Cardiff, Wales in 1949 and in his biography The Jeweled Highway, he recalls happy memories from his time spent growing up with his sister Lesley and with close members of his family around him.
The image of Wales that he paints – even during post-war, austerity Britain, is of a place that he found to be quaint, charming and friendly.
His family’s later move to Llandudno in North Wales some years later was even more exciting for the young boy; surrounded as he was by the mountains of Snowdonia and the shore of the Irish Sea.
Sadly this idyllic setting did not remain for White and before he could complete his early education, the family moved house again—this time to Huddersfield a Yorkshire town located in the grim and industrial heartland of Northern England.
In this noisy and polluted environment life changed dramatically for the young man of just eight years as he tried to adjust to the harsh realities of an urban environment.
As he so poignantly states in his book
Somewhere in my Soul, I must have resolved to leave at the earliest opportunity.
From those initial seeds of desire to escape the dark and impersonal environment he was forced to live in and to discover something of the nature of the greater world, White finally set out as a young man on his long journey, or quest, to discover himself and his place in the wider world.
This opportunity finally arrived in 1967 when, during the heart of the hippy revolution – a time full of new and alternative cultural norms based around free love, psychedelic music and mind-altering substances, he was accepted as an undergraduate at Sussex University. Here White experienced the sort of mind-expanding influences his inner world was clearly craving for.
The personal and spiritual journey that White undertook over the following several decades was deeply influenced by the music that he listened to and the books that he was exposed during his time as a student.
His first step out into the world began with a move to America, followed in 1973 by an extensive hitchhiking trip through South America in order to absorb the richness of the Mayan and Aztec cultures.
In 1975 he visited the world -famous spiritual center at Findhorn on the Moray Firth in Scotland where he remained for a while being employed in the maintenance department.
In stark contrast to the rawness of the North Sea coast 1980 saw him back in America and this time working in the more accommodating climes of California.
The following summer White was employed at an organization known as the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies – initially on a part time basis and then in a more permanent position as program director.
From then, in 1983, he moved to New York to co-found the New York Open Center, Amarica’s leading urban center of holistic learning. As the center grew in popularity it enabled White to engage in even more traveling; including trips to to Tibet, Eastern Europe and Russia.
Today, as White enters into what he perceives as an unknown, but more restful phase of his life, he reveals that he is now reflecting upon the journey he has taken through his life.
He closes the book with a comment on the quest that he began as a young child.
Without my stumbles, doubts and dark times, or my joys, ecstasies, and insights, I would never have uncovered the trail that leads toward the Jeweled Highway. But, once found, that road goes ever on.
Such is the way with all good quests and life-enriching stories.
If you ever wondered what happened to those caught up in the excesses of the 1960s Love Generation then this story is a great place to get some sort of idea about the influences and their outcomes of, in particular, the influence of Eastern philosophical thought that was prevalent around that time.
From the seeds that were planted in the minds of so many that attended college or university at that time and who were exposed to the ideas and philosophies espoused by the music and literary worlds, changing social-conventions and left-wing politics were, like White, undoubtedly those who have impacted greatly upon todays modern spiritual and holistic movements.
The Jeweled Highway: On The Quest for a Life of Meaning offers a great lesson for todays youngsters who leave further education today with a head full of learning but no wisdom, a pocket full of debt and few opportunities for personal creativity and spontaneous action in a technologically-driven society that there is always more to be had if you look outside of the box.
Ralph White’s story is a remarkable vindication of the essential philosophy that the way to lead a full and rewarding life is not by striving to crawl your way up the rungs of the corporate ladder but instead to simply let go, to dive off the edge of the cliff and trust that life will in support you in your personal quest.
Maybe then, and only then, you get to live a life that is truly epic and worth sharing with those who follow in your footsteps.
In The Jeweled Highway the reader is given the rare opportunity to follow a personal and spiritual quest from an authentic writer and spiritual revolutionary – one who has truly followed his heart and lived a life worth telling.