Steve McSwain’s book, The Enoch Factor, is about knowing and walking with God, not in the sense of gaining theological knowledge about God, but rather about knowing him in terms of true “intimacy and inspiration.” This isn’t the “personal relationship” of evangelicalism, it’s the spiritual experience of progressive Christian spirituality. It’s about discovering a connection with the Divine that, though couched in Christian terms and understandings, is not confined by orthodoxy. McSwain says of Christianity: “The Christ-way is an enlightened spiritual pathway to God…The path has guided me to an extraordinary place of self-discovery and God-realization.”
Part one of the book describes McSwain’s formative spiritual experiences such as meeting the Pope, a visit to the Monkey Temple in Nepal, the conservative Christianity of his Baptist parents and his eventual ministerial calling.
He offers an incisive and informed critique of modern Christianity, a discussion framed by his belief that “to know God is the supreme purpose of every human life” and the observation that the church has largely fallen short of that goal by falling “out of touch with its founder.”
McSwain also devotes considerable space to problems of the ego (also known as “sin”). For him, it is the unchecked ego that is the ultimate source of human unhappiness and is what prevents us from truly experiencing God.
McSwain’s spiritual journey reached a turning point when he experienced a profound spiritual awakening while watching a Wayne Dyer PBS special. This experience led to overwhelming feelings of peace, contentment, self-acceptance and self-assurance — and set his life on a new path of self-awareness and God-awareness.
In part two, McSwain moves on to discuss how we too can discover this “God-awakened life.” Such a discovery requires a “transformational shift in consciousness that brings the sacred Presence into immediate awareness. In this awakened state, there is a ubiquitous awareness that Intelligence suffuse all living things.”
The model for achieving this spiritual state is found in the biblical character of Enoch: “Enoch lived as God would have you live — in unity with Being itself. Enoch died as God would have you die—with satisfaction, contentment, and no fear.” That is The Enoch Factor of the book’s title: it is simply the sacred art of knowing God. Enoch, Jesus, Mary, Paul all lived a “God-aware life.” They lived “at the same level of God realization that will transform not only us, but the world around us. This is the real meaning of salvation, conversion, enlightenment, or the awakened state of consciousness.”
Part three moves on to practical advice for achieving this state of enlightenment. Practices such as embracing the experiences of life, learning to minimize the ego, meditation, self-acceptance and “going within” can all work towards living as Enoch did. This section was perhaps too short, but nevertheless offered a good discussion of the daily struggles of living a life connected to God.
My most significant complaint about the book has nothing to do with the content per se, but rather with the fact that virtually every page has large and distracting quotes of inspirational wisdom Buddha, Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, Rumi and other spiritual thinkers. McSwain’s message would have been stronger if it wasn’t cluttered with these interruptions.
In reading this book, I sometimes feared that McSwain might have bitten off more than he could chew. The Enoch Factor tries simultaneously to be a personal account of a spiritual journey, a critique of modern conservative Christianity, an apologetic for progressive Christian spirituality and a practical guide to personal spiritual growth. McSwain offers important insights into all of these areas, but must necessarily limit his discussion of each. But perhaps this is really a strength, for McSwain is also able to introduce the reader to the basic ideas behind all of these discussions while also providing copious resources for further reading and personal discovery. My final assessment: The Enoch Factor is an effective and engaging introduction to progressive Christian spirituality.