Here’s the story of how Brian Holley wrote The God I Left Behind.
I was walking with my sister beside Lake Cayuga in Upstate New York. She asked, “Hey, Bri, Where are you with God?”
It wasn’t something I’d been asked before, and I mumbled some sort of reply. I imagine my mumbling gave my sister a clue that this wasn’t the territory I wanted to be in. She kindly didn’t pursue the matter. We stopped off in New York City on the way home to England. The question dogged me everywhere we went—Central Park, the Metropolitan, Broadway, Times Square—you name it. It was rumbling away in the back of my mind.
When we got home, I wrote a couple thousand words on the subject, But it wasn’t adequate. In the next few years, I wrote 100,000 words and sent it to a publisher via a friend. He politely pointed out that I wasn’t a theologian, and all I could really write about was my personal experience.
The Experiences of Brian Holley
A number of years later, with a lot of support from my publishing contract and my wife, Liz, who has a Master’s in English Literature, I completed The God I Left Behind. In it, I describe how I had an experience of silence, which left a lifelong search for peace.
As a very insecure young man, I had become a passionate fundamentalist evangelical Christian. (You would not have wanted to know me in those days!) By the time my sister asked that question, all that had evaporated. That was after I’d been able to reflect sensibly on the experience as I became aware of the evolution and workings of the ego-self. So the biographical part of the book is really a practical demonstration of how the ego can get us into all sorts of trouble.
Most of the book is devoted to deconstructing my Christian faith. I wrote to help the many others I know who are contemplating or going through this process or who are evaluating their spiritual lives in some other way. So by no means do I negatively destroy everything I once believed, but I do reveal that belief is no substitute for inner experience and that that experience need not depend on believing stuff at all. In fact, I found the deeper I got into the experience, the less I needed theological beliefs. I recognized that my life had been one long process of shedding—especially during the last 25 or so years.
Thinking how I’ve reached a place where I have no religious beliefs at all, I would describe myself as a ‘spiritual tramp and religious have been.’ Having said that, I am nevertheless deeply influenced by my many spiritual sources, including the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Tao Te Ching, and, yes, the Bible. I love reading books by Richard Rohr, Alan Watts, Eknath Easwaran, Ramana Maharshi, Joseph Campbell, Robert Sardello, and others of that ilk. Maybe some followers of the Readers Magnet Club will recognize these authors. If not, I recommend them.
About the Author
Brian Holley has always been inclined to write and got a start professionally working as a programmed learning writer and analyst in the 70s. But it was when he was working as a careers adviser that his writing began to flourish. Mostly, he wrote careers information leaflets, but out of work, Brian Holley wrote articles for magazines and a whole load of poetry. In fact, he became chairman of a poetry workshop group and performed at the Cheltenham Literary Festival. During this period, he did a lot of freelance journalism, which paid for three daughters’ weddings and a trip to America. This experience led him to become a full-time freelance journalist and, subsequently, a training consultant.
In 2012, Brian Holley published a collection of poetic prose called From the Secret Cave. It contains 170 sutras distilled from his journal, which he started while touring Japan in 2008. In 2009, he was diagnosed with Kidney cancer, and the offending organ was removed. In 2012, he had an adrenal gland removed, and it was during the long recuperation from that operation that the sutras flowed out of him over a period of about a month. At that time, The God I Left Behind was still in draft form, and Brian Holley didn’t complete it until 2014. After a number of rejections, he decided to self-publish on Amazon, which was easier than he could have imagined.
During the Lockdown, he completed the first draft of a book called Beyond Ego and wrote a novel with a spiritual theme called The Other Side of Beyond. He has also produced a paraphrase of five Upanishads drawn from four English translations and a collection of my poetry, which he intends to publish over the coming months. As with all his books, profits go to good causes. Thanks for the opportunity to share.