I first met Steve Jadick of Morning Light Press
at a trade show here in Portland. I was drawn to his booth by the beauty and diversity of the books on display, and we quickly struck up a conversation. Over the next several months and years I had the pleasure of watching Morning Light begin to grow into itself by diversifying their list while staying true to their mission, by finding good trade distribution, and by defining a unique and beautiful look for their books. What follows is the text of a recent conversation with Steve via e-mail.
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Powell's Chris Faatz: Steve, tell me a little bit about the origins and mission of Morning Light Press.
Steve Jadick: Well, Chris, you know the mission statement says: Morning Light Press publishes books that illuminate the spiritual search, works of integrity that bring fresh insights to ageless questions. What that means is because we are backed by a foundation, we simply don't have to publish the nonsense other folks sometimes have to publish just to keep the lights on. My job is to help find and market books we feel have a sincere and substantial spiritual worth.
CF: I've been reading Pilgrim without Boundaries by Ravi Ravindra, and am getting quite a lot out of it. Could you explain a little what this book is about, and how it reflects your publishing program?
SF: At the heart of this title is the notion that no one religion has a monopoly on wisdom. This book examines what a pilgrim's soul looks like in Hinduism and Buddhism, and goes on to do the same with Judaism and Christianity. While certainly not glossing over the differences in these major world religions, Ravindra aptly shows the point of their intersection. One example would be the notion of an open spirit ever ready to awaken and be reborn. Another is the reality that Buddha, Christ, Moses, and Krishna all needed to shrug off the sleep of the everyday before attaining illumination.
CF: I've noticed you publish two books by that arcane sage, Jiddhu Krishnamurti. I know this is a tall request, but could you tell a little about him, and about how his ideas and teachings ? although I figure he'd abhor being called a teacher ? reflect Morning Light's mission?
SJ: Yes, summarizing K's life is completely beyond me. I suspect one might be better served visiting one of his many foundations, such as www.Krishnamurti.org. One of the things that I personally found interesting was the fact that he was groomed to be the next World Teacher by the Theosophical Society, but left the organization as a very young man because he believed each person must be their own guru. He stated it thusly: "Truth is a pathless land." Again, that resonates with all our books. The reader has to be the one to test the truth of any thesis, or evaluate a spiritual truth or tradition. One can't delegate that work to another.
CF: What are some of the books you have coming up that you're particularly excited about? How would you describe them for our audience?
SJ: Well, to keep this short, there are two types of titles that I've worked on, helping to bring them back to print, which completely engaged me. The first is that our press was given access to 30 years of archives from Parabola magazine. We all feel like kids in a rather profound candy shop. This journal was founded on a simple idea: Life should make sense. So they ask basic questions about such things as life, death, eros, attention, home and so on, and then pull from the world's wisdom traditions to try and develop some kind of answer. Thirty years later Morning Light comes in and realigns the selection by tradition: the strongest Buddhist articles (with mentors like the Dalai Lama, Philip Kapleau, and Robert Thurman) or best Christian writing (Elaine Pagels, Father Thomas Keating, Thomas Merton, and many others). Soon to follow will be collections on Hinduism, Islam and Judaism.
But if really pressed, the book I've lingered the most on is one that just came out last month called The Way of Transformation by K. G. Durckheim. He was one of the travelers to Japan who brought a form of Zen back to Europe. He had this image of the individuals growing transparent to transcendence. If one cleans away sufficient interior debris, a sense of divinity is revealed within you. I think what captures me is that the book is so succinct, substantial and concrete in its understanding; it's one of those unique pieces that just needed to return to peoples shelves.
CF: Yes, I'm taken by that book, as well. I find it fascinating, and exciting in a weird, metaphysical sort of way that he should write that:
The world in which we live is not a vale of sorrows which separates us from the peaks of the divine; rather, it is a bridge which unites us with those peaks. We need but penetrate the obscuring mists that lie between us and consciousness and tear down the obstructing walls that bar our way. This necessitates living the ordinary day as practice. No special time need be set aside for this. Each moment is a summons calling us to recollect and prove ourselves.
Living the ordinary day as practice. What do you think that would look like?
SJ: The traditional example is raking the sand in Japan or mindfully working through yoga or martial arts. Frankly for me, it can take the shape of cleaning my dog's water bowl each morning. Or one of the most recurring moments is putting on my shoes. My grandmother used to like to say that "the foot was shaped by the shoe it wore." I always saw that at as pretty tangible metaphor for me and my surroundings.
CF: Lastly, what books do you have coming up that are exciting to you?
SJ: There are two. One that we have just finished working on and another we're just beginning to delve into. I am completely seduced by the romance within Sufism. Morning Light Press will be publishing a collection called The Inner Journey: Views from the Islamic Tradition. It's filled with parables, poems, interviews with contemporary leaders, and some especially striking images. That's out this fall. The second book is one I've kind of been gradually assimilating. It will be on what I know some Buddhists call crazy wisdom. Judaism has the wise fool tradition, and in Islam we find irrational mullahs. For Native Americans, there are a variety of Coyote characters. I think a large collection from as wide an assortment as possible would just be hugely fun to do.