Interview for The Path A Spiritual Journey Authors Heather and Verne Thomas

Reader Views is very excited to talk with Heather and Verne Thomas, co-authors of "The Path: A Spiritual Journey." Their novel explores some the world's great religions within the context of a great adventure story. Thank you for talking with us today..

Heather and Verne Thomas are being interviewed by Juanita Watson for Reader Views.Juanita: You have co-written a very unique story in "The Path: A Spiritual Journey." What was your inspiration for writing this book?.

Verne: I taught Comparative Religion at the high school level for fifteen years, and it was always one of my favorite subjects. Then, when I first got involved in writers' groups, I always heard that your first novel should be about something you know. So it just seemed natural to weave a story about different religions. But I'm a textbook writer?my previous book was a best selling textbook on sociology, which is really my field. So this new book was sounding more and more like a textbook, even though I was trying to write a novel. So I asked Heather for some help, and that's what started our collaboration.

Heather: I'm the novel reader in the family. I love mysteries, romances, historical novels, literary fiction, science fiction, whatever. Plotting, character development and dialogue come naturally to me. I am also interested in the local color authors put into their novels, so I was thrilled to research the ancient towns, countries and customs our character, Nathan, was exposed to. Essentially our collaboration ended up being with Verne setting the stage with his knowledge of world religions, and me developing the story line.Juanita: Tell us, in your words, the storyline of "The Path.

".Heather: The story opens with Nathan as a devout, ten year old Jewish boy, living in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus. His only living relative, his father, dies saving the life of a visiting Indian merchant, and in gratitude the merchant takes a reluctant Nathan on an adventurous journey on the old Silk Road back to India. He promises to provide for Nathan and give him a fine education, but Nathan vows to remember his Jewish identity and to return to Jerusalem one day. He meets a Confucian cook, studies with a Hindu guru, enters a Buddhist monastery, works for a Taoist inn-keeper, and meets Zoroastrian magi.

Finally, as a young man, he struggles back to the land of Israel. There he finds refuge in the Essene monastery at Qumran, meets John the Baptist and encounters Jesus of Nazareth. The final chapter sees Nathan's family active in the different factions of the early Christian church. What Nathan learns from his long journey is that there is truth and beauty in all the religions he studied, and that their ethical teachings have much in common.Juanita: How similar is the journey of Nathan, in comparison to what any of us may personally face in our lives?.

Verne: We live in a very different culture from Nathan, and to compare his time and ours is to compare apples and oranges. But we each meet people who belong to different religious and cultural traditions, and it helps us relate to them if we understand something of what they believe. Also, Nathan lived in Jerusalem, which was a crossroad of many early trade routes, and he traveled through many different cultures.

So he was exposed to many religions, just as we are in the United States today.Heather: Another similarity is that all of us, like Nathan, are on some kind of spiritual journey. I believe this is true for people who are convinced of the truth of their religion, or people who are seeking answers, or people who deny their spirituality altogether.

There are many different paths, but I believe they are all spiritual journeys, and we must honor their importance in our lives.Juanita: The depth of knowledge you have for so many different religions really comes across in "The Path." What are the religions that Nathan encounters and what kind of research did you do in preparation for writing your novel?.Verne: Well, of course, the religions include Judaism, then Confucianism, which some people regard as a philosophy rather than a religion. Hinduism and Buddhism, which have millions of adherents in the East. Taoism, which has fascinating and enigmatic teachings.

The ancient religion of Zoroastrianism, which greatly influenced Judaism and Christianity. And finally, Christianity, which branched in different directions even in its early years.We were unable to include Islam, since the Prophet Mohammed was not even born till about six centuries after the time of our novel. However I am in the process of writing a supplement to the book which will have a summary of Mohammed's life and teachings, and a history of the development of Islam.

This will be on our web site at

Heather: You asked about research for the book. Well, I hung out a lot listening to Verne, who after all taught this subject for fifteen years and is keenly interested in all things religious. I also read a lot?you can see a partial list of the books in the bibliography at the end of the novel.

I found some fascinating stuff in libraries?did you know there is a book on fashions and hair styles in India in the first century CE? And I browsed on the internet a lot?you'll find a short list of helpful links on our web site.One of the most important things we did was to ask representatives of the religions covered in the book to read selected passages or the whole book and to comment from the perspective of their religion. That led to some very insightful and illuminating discussions, and we are profoundly thankful to our Readers, who are listed in the book.You will find a summary of a lot of our research in the History Lovers' section that follows the end of the novel.

Juanita: What did you want to suggest to your readers by including so many different religions into Nathan's journey?.Verne: Basically we wanted to point out that the ethical teachings of many of the world's great religions are very similar. For example, each religion covered in the book has its own version of the Golden Rule. Christians quote Jesus as saying, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you . .

." In Judaism, the teaching is, "What is hurtful to yourself do not to your fellow man . . ." Buddhists say, "Hurt not others with that which pains yourself." And so on.

Heather: We are also great believers in the old saying that knowledge and understanding are antidotes to fear and hatred. We hoped that if people read about these different religions, and understood them better, they would be less afraid of them and less likely to view them with hatred and suspicion.Juanita: Who is the reading audience for "The Path?".Heather: Individuals who are quietly seeking their own spiritual path. People who want to understand their neighbors better. One person, a librarian, said, "I wish everyone would read The Path.

We should all have read this when we were young and open." We've heard comments that the novel appeals to both high school age and adult readers, because it combines a compelling and fast moving story line with an introduction to the various religions.Verne: The book has been very popular with groups, too. There are four church groups currently involved in studying world religions, in courses based on "The Path." And the book has been discussed by book clubs.Juanita: For your readers that have not heard of the Silk Road, please elaborate about this historical trade route.

Heather: By tradition, the Silk Road was in operation as early as 200BCE (Before the Common Era). The production of silk was then a secret closely guarded by China, and the story of how that secret gradually spread to the West is a drama in itself. The old stories say the Romans first saw the fabric about 53 BCE, on one of their campaigns against the Parthians. The Parthian troops carried bright silken banners, which so awed the Roman soldiers that they fled in panic. On closer inspection, the Romans were amazed at the fabric's softness and strength.

Demand for silk skyrocketed in the west and accelerated the existing trade with China.However the trade routes did not come to be called "the Silk Road" until the nineteenth century CE (Common Era), when a German geographer coined the name. We tend to think of one single road that stretched from eastern China to the Mediterranean Sea, and of caravans that traveled the whole way. In fact, there were many different trade routes and usually caravans traveled only one section of the whole distance, trading their goods to the next caravan, which would carry them to the next market city. In "The Path," Mohan conceives the idea of personally escorting his caravan the whole distance from India to Jerusalem, and setting up a system of contacts with the officials of territories he passed through---a man ahead of his time! Ancient records show that caravans traveling from east to west carried such goods as silk, furs, ceramics, jade, lacquer work, bronze and iron.

From west to east, caravans might carry gold and other metals, ivory, gemstones and glass.Verne: Don't forget the Silk Road was also the way religion spread in those days. Buddhist missionaries traveled from India to China, and Christian missionaries traveled east from Judea.Heather: What brought the Silk Road era to a close was the discovery of sea routes from Europe to Asia. Merchants found that transporting goods by sea was generally easier and cheaper than the long routes by land.

By the seventh century CE, many of the stopping places along the Silk Road fell into disuse, and were gradually covered by sand. Imagine the amazement of nineteenth century archaeologists when they uncovered these ancient ruins, and began to understand the vibrant commercial life that once existed there.Juanita: It is so interesting that "The Path: A Spiritual Journey," a story set in an era long ago, can be so relevant to the times in which we live. Can you speak on religious intolerance happening today, and what your book may teach us about the world we now find ourselves in?.Verne: We used to live in little homogeneous neighborhoods, where everyone believed the same thing. For most people, that's not true anymore.

Our world?our country?our neighborhood, contain Christians, Jews, Moslems, and people from other faiths and cultures. Even within each religion, ideas differ markedly. People in different groups of the Christian church, for example, may have decidedly different beliefs. "The Path" raises the possibility that no one has the absolute answer, that we can learn from each other, that we can respect and tolerate those who have different ideas.

Heather: "The Path" teaches us that many religions have great value, and that many religions have similar ethical teachings. This is a difficult concept for people who believe their religion has the one and only truth. But believing that your version of religion is the only true version leads you onto dangerous ground.

It can take you to a place where other people are condemned to hell for not believing as you do, or even to a place where you are justified in killing them because of what they believe.Verne: When you read "The Path," I encourage you to ask yourself: how long do you expect to live? Fifty more years? Thirty? Ten? The question is, what are you going to do with those years? "The Path" shows us what some great religions have taught about the meaning of life, how you can live the years remaining to you, how you can relate to other people and to your concept of God.Juanita: You have very clearly conveyed an in-depth and educational story to your readers. What is the underlying message/s in "The Path?".Heather: Tolerance. Respect for others' beliefs.

Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. It's as simple as that.Juanita: Your book "The Path: A Spiritual Journey" carries such profound yet simple statements that are very relevant to our times.

This is truly a great novel with a significant message. We would like to thank you for talking with us today. Reader Views wishes much success for you and "The Path." Please tell your readers once again how they may find our more of "The Path" and your endeavors, and please share any last thoughts?.

Heather: You can read more about "The Path" on our web site, And of course churches, reading groups and other organizations can order multiple copies at a substantial discount by e-mailing us at

Verne: We are always happy to hear from readers, whether they agree, disagree, have questions, or would just like to talk about some of the things mentioned in "The Path". We invite you to add comments to the "Our Blog" section of our web site, to post reviews on "The Path" site on www.Amazon.

com. Thank you for interviewing us for Reader Views.


Juanita Watson is the Assistant Editor for Reader Views. Source:


By: Juanita Watson

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