In this unique and exhilarating autobiography, Allan Jones – Canada’s first blind diplomat – vividly describes how an untreatable eye disease slowly decimated his visual world, most challengingly during his postings in Tokyo and New Delhi, and how he discovered and took to heart the revelatory Indian philosophy that changed his life. Advaita Vedanta, the most iconoclastic and liberating of the classical Indian philosophies, profoundly altered the author’s experience of self and world. He found that the true self, as distinct from the individual ego, far exceeds the boundaries of individuality. It lies beneath sightedness or blindness and is absolutely unaffected by the latter. This welcome shift of perspective was reinforced by startling discoveries in contemporary physics, evolutionary biology, and developmental psychology that are fully consistent with Advaitic metaphysics. As for the practical applications of metaphysics, this book demonstrates step by step how Advaitic insight and practice significantly reduce physical and psychological tension. The most telling examples have to do with adjustments compelled by extreme circumstances. Thus Jones describes how he drew upon Advaitic mindfulness techniques to maintain his white cane mobility skills in the teeth of permanent spinal, nerve, and muscle pain. The arc of Beyond Vision moves from the claustrophobically personal to the openness of the transpersonal. It begins in a dysfunctional family background, breaking out into a full life encompassing an adventurous foreign service career, spiritual exploration, and an unconventional kind of marital love.
"Someone once said that my writings were phenomenological poetry, but really this phrase is more applicable to the writing of Allan Jones. The author brings extraordinary humanness as well as conceptual power to his descriptions of vanishing sight, and I marvel at their beauty and accuracy. The tone is exactly right, and disarming. Living with retinitis pigmentosa involves much more than a series of physiological losses; it is unavoidably an assault on the self, on the identity one has hitherto maintained. Allan Jones brings great clarity and candor and attractiveness to what is a remarkably complex and tricky subject." Oliver Sacks
"While it would be accurate to describe Beyond Vision as a spiritual autobiography, it scarcely does justice to this astonishing book. Jones, a former diplomat and lifelong seeker, traces his changing relation to his progressive blindness and chronic spinal pain. These become his "destroyer and uninvited teacher" – nudging him toward a far deeper experience of self, through the ancient Hindu discipline of Advaitic Vedanta philosophy. It's a gripping story. And Jones's fierce intelligence, wry accounts of his mishaps, and refusal to settle for self-pity make clear that this is first-hand, lived experience. In extending the scope of spiritual autobiography, Beyond Vision belongs among the classics in the field." Dennis Lee, author of Heart Residence: Collected Poems 1967–2017
"A one-of-a-kind book that penetrates to the core of what it means to be human in the face of loss of what we ordinarily think of as essential to our personhood – the reciprocal exchanges between our inner and outer worlds through all our senses, but in particular, the sense of sight. Beautifully written, deeply thoughtful, and poignant, Beyond Vision describes Allan Jones's life experiences as he draws on ancient wisdom teachings and practices as well as their more recent counterparts in mindfulness-based stress reduction. What results is a universe in which seeing itself becomes a metaphor for wisdom, and is remarkably independent of the eyes. Allan Jones is showing us that we don’t have to literally go blind to wake up to our fullness as human beings." Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness