This far-ranging spiritual memoir reveals the author’s dramatic search for spiritual enlightenment in places like Auschwitz and Hoboken, N.J., on a route that diverges from the conventional spiritual path.
Androsiglio has a PhD in clinical psychology, but in this slangy monologue he’s concerned less with an intellectual immersion in psychology than with his apparently unquenchable thirst for spiritual knowledge. Two opposing energies follow Androsiglio throughout his spiritual journey: self-hatred (manifested in alcoholism and joyless promiscuity) and an instructive friendship with the unconventional Benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast. The monk helps Androsiglio overcome bouts of masochistic behavior by offering a gentle form of Christian mysticism that emphasizes self-forgiveness and an appreciation for life and the lessons it teaches us. Where needed, Androsiglio employs his psychoanalytic skills—mainly to analyze the effects of the sexual and verbal abuse inflicted upon him as a child by his emotionally volatile father. But most of Androsiglio’s memoir records a relentless quest for the spiritual meaning of his life. While absorbing David’s teaching, Androsiglio looks for additional guidance from all over the globe—a Peruvian shaman, a Hindu teacher of erotically charged yoga and the Dalai Lama. “My personality thrived on the exotic,” Androsiglio writes. After indulging in a variety of Latin American and Asian spiritual systems, he even visits the gas chambers of Auschwitz and his former family home in Hoboken, N.J., to confront the extremes of suffering—people versus personal. The eponymous butterfly symbolically represents Androsiglio’s delicate soul, and everyone’s. Whether a reader finds pleasure or pain in this account will depend on valuing it as a curious soul’s flitting with mystical exoticism, or as the heartfelt odyssey of a passionate spiritualist soaring toward nirvana. Plenty of political opinions and snap character judgments of family, friends and gurus all serve to distract from Androsiglio’s answer.
A spirited pursuit of the spiritual, impolite but incisive.