God Outside the Box by Patricia Panahi

I was drawn to this book by a review I spotted elsewhere, at a time when my life had just undergone great spiritual change. I had chosen to abandon my Christian faith, on the grounds that I had been ignoring terrible problems with it. See my personal blog for more detail. In short, I came to view my religion as a sort of mind prison, where you are lured into sacrificing your freedom to think for yourself to a massive set of beliefs that are laid out for you by others: the Bible and the Church. And any attempt to reclaim that freedom to think for yourself instantly makes you a denier of the Word of God. It was a breath of fresh air for me to start looking at life and universe and saying, “What do I think?” instead of “What do they want me to think?”

This book is essentially Patricia Panahi’s autobiography, and she has an interesting story to tell. In her childhood, she was in the rare position of having a Muslim father and a Catholic mother. They weren’t overly religious people, and didn’t impose their beliefs on their daughter. This allowed Patricia to look at what she was being taught from two standpoints that were very different, whereas most of us grow up with a single religious view and the idea that “I’m right, and everybody else is wrong.” In her college years, she learned about Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, Buddism, etc., but always from the perspective of an outsider looking in. She started to notice ways in which all religions were expressions of some of the same ideas.

As I was reading this, I couldn’t help thinking how great it would be if we all had opportunity to learn it this way – if we were shown a big picture and allowed to choose, instead of being encouraged to blindly follow what those around us are doing, and never dare to question it for fear of being branded unacceptable or fear of facing some eternal punishment.

Patricia appears to possess that rare kind of skepticism that is actually looking for answers rather than looking to deny the reality of everything. A little later in life, a friend encouraged her to go to something called a “Rebirthing” session – a New Age type practice that involved lying down and allowing your higher self to affect you. The results of that session were the first big wake-up call to the idea that there was an actual spiritual dimension to life that was real and definite – something you could experience rather than simply have faith in. This awakening led Patricia to start reading everything she could get her hands on, on a vast array of spiritual topics. Over the course of her life since then, she has learned and experienced a great deal that she shares with the reader. Not only strange experiences that scientists would balk at like walking on fire, but hard experiences of life that contain priceless lessons.

The theme of the book is spiritual awakening. I felt a great sense of kinship with many of the ideas that Patricia communicates. I wouldn’t say I was on the same page with everything, but overall this is an excellent read. If you’re learning to see the world in wider terms than the rigid scientific mindset that says “This world is all there is,” or you’re daring to step outside the boundaries of a religion that has been programming you, I thoroughly recommend this book. It will be a great encouragement to you in your own quest for truth.