Grace and Grit: Spirituality and Healing in the Life and Death of Treya Killam Wilber 
By Ken Wilber. 
Shambhala Publications: Boston, 1991.
413 pp. $25.00 (hardcover).

When Ken Wilber and Treya Killam met in 1983, it was “love at first touch.” They married shortly thereafter, and almost immediately learned that Treya had breast cancer. Grace and Grit is the story of their life together until Treya’s death five years later. Although it is primarily a tribute to Treya and her remarkable healing into life and death, it is many other things as well.

This book makes an important contribution to the distinction between the disease process and the meaning given to it by society. Is cancer the fault of its victims and their personalities? Is it something to “battle against”? Or can it be treated “with compassion and enlightened understanding” becoming an opportunity for healing on many levels? Anyone who has cancer or anyone who is supporting someone with cancer should read this book, if only for the way Wilber handles these questions—and the way Treya lived them out.

Grace and Grit is also a book about how one person’s impending death became a profound teacher for two people. Ken Wilber, who has made significant contributions to the psychology and philosophy of religion, shows how he used his knowledge of mysticism, or the perennial philosophy, to make sense of—and be transformed by—an actual relationship and crisis. The real-life ride is much bumpier than his theoretical works would make it seem—and herein lies the unique value of this book. For example, Wilber tells us in his theoretical voice that,

The whole point of meditation. . . is to free ourselves from the [delusion] that we are merely separate egos set apart from each other and from eternal Spirit, and to discover instead that once released from the prison of individuality, we are one with the Godhead and thus one with all manifestation, in a perfectly timeless and eternal fashion.

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