Sunday Salon: For Those Who Have Read “Eat, Pray, Love”

The Sunday

Ok, so a lot of you who visit me at Books on the Brain participated in the comments section of an earlier post about Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.  Click HERE if you missed it.  At that time I hadn’t read too much of the book and didn’t really understand the uproar this book has caused.  I’m not sure I totally understand it now that I’m about 2/3rds of the way through either. However, I have a bit of a problem with a certain section of the book, and would love to know if anyone else had a similar problem with it, or would like to comment on it.

While in India, the author has a spiritual episode called a turiya state, something devotees of the Ashram she was staying in aspire to, in which she says she is “suddenly transported through the portal of the universe and taken to the center of God’s palm.” (pg. 198)  She explains, in part, this way:  “I was inside the void, but I also was the void and I was looking at the void, all at the same time.  The void was a place of limitless peace and wisdom.  The void was conscious and it was intelligent.  The void was God, which means that I was inside God.  But not in a gross, physical way-not like I was Liz Gilbert stuck inside a chunk of God’s thigh muscle.  I just was part of God.  In addition to being God.  I was both a tiny piece of the universe and exactly the same size as the universe.”  (pg. 199) 

So, am I to read this as she thinks she was God, for that brief period of time that she was in this altered state?  Seriously?  She and God are one and the same?  

Please, enlighten me, if possible.  Cuz’ I’m having a hard time buying THAT.


14 Responses

  1. O.k. — here’s how I interpreted that section. If you’re reading the Tolle book (Oprah’s latest pick), he talks about being completely in the moment — which can result in a sense of presence and oneness with the universe — and he describes “being” inside your body — feeling the inside of your hands, vibrating w/ the cells, etc. Since this is one of the goals of meditation, I assumed this was what Gilbert was referring to. I don’t think I explained this very well, so I hope other commenters will do a better job!

  2. My understanding is one that comes from yoga, and I thought in that experience she realized both that God is transcendent and immanent, both within her and without her. But I didn’t read it that she was God – just realized that God is part of her . . . if that distinction makes any sense. Probably not, but I gave it a go.

  3. I, too, can recommend other writers who explain it really well. Wayne Dyer has a fabulous description of water and how we are all water molecules joining in the big ocean… (I’m probably making this worse… but I’ll keep going) Marianne Williamson’s Return to Love/The Course in Miracles, etc. The concept of how we are all just energy? It was good for me to have read these two authors as I read through the India section. (I have no experience in yoga.) God, as defined as a KNOWING, instead of some guy with a white beard sitting on a throne up in heaven. So, in such an experience like Liz had, one could ‘know’ and not be thinking ‘hey cool, I am God’ – not like that, but have a sense of oneness with everything. Confused?! For me, personally, it’s a concept that as humans, we are so much more than flesh and bones and yet we can never be convinced totally (all the time) that we aren’t just flesh and bones…

  4. Okay, I can’t really help ya much there. I’m not one thats into mysticism and “being” a part of god.
    I did just want to pop in and say I really liked this book. It was one of my favorite reads of 2007. I adored her writing about her time in Italy. But maybe that’s just because I have this weird Italy obsession and was living vicariously through her. I mean c’mon, that pizza in Naples sounded DE-vine! 😉
    Good luck with the rest of the book.

  5. I liked “Eat, Pray, Love” but I thought that part was total crap. Then again, I’m an atheist, so I just secretly scoffed at it and moved on.

    Sorry I can’t be more helpful in this respect.

  6. Thanks for your comment on my post. This is most interesting. I’ve just read your previous post and am amazed at all those comments (haven’t read all of them!). I’d read a bit about EPL last year (I think) but had no idea it is so controversial. I’m not sure why but I wasn’t attracted to it, but it was sitting on the library shelf one day so I thought I’d have a look.

    At first I thought it was rather boring – all that agonising over her marriage and divorce etc, but then like Mrs B I found myself liking the Italy section – I don’t know if you read my post on that – I wrote a bit about her time in Rome, in an earlier post – not controversial.

    Anyway onto ‘Pray’ in India – I haven’t got to the part you’re referring to about her being God and I’d really like to read it in context before commenting. My experience of meditation is limited and I haven’t tried it for some years now, but I think I can understand, just from what you and others have written, that Gilbert was experiencing a state of “oneness”, where she was not aware of the limits of her own being (that’s scary for me). I may be totally wrong here and as I said I’ve not got to that part yet. I think I’ll get the book out after this.

  7. I have put this book aside for the time being but plan to pick it up again so I discuss with my bookclub. I am almost finished with the Pray section. Like you, I truly, truly do not understand the uproar with this book. I don’t mean to offend, but I am just so curious as to why so many people feel this book changed their lives or think it’s one of the best books they’ve ever read.

  8. Hi, Lisa, and thanks for visiting me and commenting on The Sister. I really enjoyed that book!

    What you mentioned about Eat, Pray, Love was one of the *very many* problems I had with the book. She’s no doubt an excellent writer (and narrator-I listened to it), but her experiences and philosophies are contrary to my beliefs.

  9. I enjoyed the book, but I certainly wouldn’t say it changed my life. I like reading memoirs though, seeing the world through other peoples eyes. I think that statement is about the whole “we are all one” thing. It’s a philosophy that looks at God with monistic simplicity. If All is One, and God is One, then we are all One with God. She was obviously in a deep mediative state and felt like she caught a glimpse of the true nature of reality, becoming one with the universe…or maybe she was just really dehydrated and was hallucinating, either way, it was a fun read;)

  10. Thanks for all the comments!

    Kristen, I think you did a great job explaining things. While I can understand feeling close to God, actually BEING God (and then joking about being in His thigh muscle) seems almost blasphemous to me.

    Andi, thanks for stopping by! I think you’re probably right about what she meant, but I have a problem with what she SAID about “being God”. I’ve never done yoga, so maybe I’m just not grasping the philosophy.

    Care, I totally got the feeling it was more of a “hey, cool, I am God” with her. It did not seem to change her life or anything. She talks almost flippantly about the experience later (“I got divorced, had a bad breakup, etc. etc., sat in God’s palm for a few minutes..”) I just didn’t buy it and it seemed like a really fake God moment to me.

    Chartroose, I agree. Total crap. I say that with conviction now that I’ve finished the book.

    Booksplease, thanks for stopping by! I will be anxious to hear what you think after you’ve read this part. I think the whole ‘oneness’ concept and not knowing your own limits is a bit scary too. Kind of like an LSD trip (“I’m God.. maybe I can fly!”)

    Tara, I’m with you.. I don’t get why people thought EPL was life changing or the best book ever. But maybe some people are just starved for any kind of spirituality (?) Even fake God moments.

    3M, Hi and thanks for the visit! I had a few other problems with this section too, now that I’ve finished it. It will make for an interesting book club meeting this Sunday (I know of at least 2 in my club who LOVED this book, and 2 others that HATED it with a passion- not sure where the other 8 are on the love/hate spectrum).

    Bookbabie, you made me laugh. She probably was dehydrated from all the heat and stair scrubbing in India, LOL. That would actually explain a lot. She should put a disclaimer on the book somewhere- “India was really hot and some experiences may have been exaggerated due to extreme temperatures.”

    Thanks again for all the great comments!! I love this kind of dialog about books.

  11. Does it make a difference to the impression you have of the rest of the novel when you feel so strongly that this bit is total crap?
    I mean if that part is total crap or feels like it to you [and I have to say Lisamm from how you described that bit I would too] then do you then have to question the other experiences? If that makes sense?
    Great brain food Lisamm!!!

  12. I think Gilbert is using her verbose and dramatic writing style to describe something that is remarkable on a personal level but in no way uncommon. She’s not describing anything that far off than the Christian interpretation of the Holy Spirit, she’s saying God is in everything, including people, and there is absolutely nothing novel in that claim. If the argument is that Gilbert worded it poorly, I mean, she worded most of the book poorly, as far as I’m concerned, and litters it with the same uncalled for self-importance.

    What I love about this book is how easy it is to hate. Fantastic blogger with a great post on Gilbert-

  13. Hi. Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog. I wasn’t sure you’d see my reply there, so I came over here. I read the book when it first came out–I saw it at the library and loved the cover. I’m afraid I only felt so-so about it. I did greatly enjoy the Italy section, but as I am not religious and have not ever really meditated or done yoga, the India part was lost on me. I would have loved to know more about India and not just the ashram, so I guess I was expecting something different. I think by the time I had gotten to the Indonesia part my enjoyment of the book was waning and I sort of just wanted to be done with the be done with the book. It’s interesting that it has resonated with so many people. I guess I’m glad I read it, but I’m also glad I only borrowed it from the library. I will be curious to see the movie they are making about it, though. Maybe I’ll like that better?

  14. […] few Books on the Brain readers, some of whom left comments HERE and HERE, asked if I would post about the Eat, Pray, Love discussion at my book club meeting.  We […]

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