Many years ago when we were having dinner together, Andrew Harvey talked about wanting to write a book to express his love for the extraordinary cats in his life. At the time we had a houseful of cats, so we encouraged him to do so. He added that he regularly uses prayers and spiritual practices to connect with animals, and as a result he has learned to acknowledge the animal within himself.

Following a thoughtful forward by the animal advocate Marc Bekoff (The Animal Manifesto, Animals Matter, The Ten Trusts), Harvey celebrates white animals, beginning with the white lions now residing in South Africa who in the words of J. Zohara Meyeroff, are ushering us "into the age of the heart, according to the myths and prophecies of Zulu elders." With the spark and enthusiasm we have come to expect from him, the author then shares four stories about animals ending with Christopher Smart's amazing poem "For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry."

Harvey uses Bill Plotkin's mystical appreciation of the natural world and the evolution of human consciousness as a launch pad to encourage "a revolution in perception":

"We come to understand that what is reflected by nature is not just who we are now but also who we could become. And so we begin entering nature as a pilgrim in search of his true home, a wanderer with an intimation of communion, a solitary with a suspicion of salvation."

Harvey lays out a three-part initiatory system, beginning with a vision of what is possible, followed by a descent into the depths of the human shadow and its devastating effects on humanity and creation; these two explorations lead to a "marriage between the ecstatic wisdom of the vision and the tragic and searing wisdom of the descent to birth profound spiritual maturity." For each part, Harvey provides a spiritual practice: The Practice of Expanding the Circle of Love, Communing with the Divine Mother, and Embodying the Prayer for Animals by St. Francis of Assisi.

Facing the reality of what humans have done, Harvey urges us to leave behind the genocide, the separation and subjugation of animals, offering a seven-page list of the horrors perpetrated by humans. He wants us to acknowledge and praise the intelligence and the emotional literacy of our four-legged and two-winged kin. Among many examples, he notes the pleas of nature writer Barry Lopez who has written brilliantly about the interdependence of the Eskimo people of Alaska and wolves. He laments that at this very moment, wolf pups are being killed as dangerous predators in Western American states.

We can learn from animals, Harvey concludes, both from how they behave and from what they show us about the potential good that can arise from our own animal nature. (See excerpt). He closes with some loud purring for individuals and organizations who are serving and saving animals, a top-notch reading list, and the following prayer by Albert Schweitzer that vividly convey reverence for our animal companions.

"Hear our humble prayer, O God, for our friends the animals,
especially for animals who are suffering;
for animals that are overworked, underfed and cruelly treated;
for all wistful creatures in captivity that bear their wings against bars;
for any that are hunted or lost or deserted or frightened or hungry;
for all that must be put to death.
We entreat for them all Thy mercy and pity,
and for those who deal with them we ask a heart of compassion
and gentle hands and kindly words.
Make us, ourselves, to be true friends to animals,
and so to share the blessings of the merciful."