RESOURCE_TemplateDesert Spirit Places: The Sacred Southwest (2018)

The iconic landscape of the American Southwest reveals the luminescent Mitten rock formations, looming rock arches, and the vast sagebrush oceans made vivid and memorable by writer Tony Hillerman, artist Georgia O’Keefe, and director John Ford. Professor Brad Karelius, drawing on forty years of college teaching, will guide you into hidden mysteries of the sacred as revealed by the Zuni, Navajo/Dine, Hopi, Hispanos, and desert mystics as you seek spiritual encounters in these desert spirit places.

The Spirit in the Desert:  Pilgrimages to Sacred Sites in the Owens Valley

I created this book out of my many desert retreats during the health crises of our son Erik.  The book is a detailed guide to eleven Native American and Euro American sites that invite you to make your own contemplative visits to this soul soaked desert landscape near Mount Whitney, California. I present detailed maps and anthropological background to inform your visits.



Encounters with the World's Religions

Encounters with the World’s Religions

Encounters with the World’s Religions: The Numinous on Highway 395

Encounters with the World’s Religions |

A spectacular stretch of earth, the Eastern Sierra region of California reveals volcanic reefs, desert sand dunes, majestic mountains, and snow-fed lakes and rivers. Drawing on forty years of college teaching on the world’s religions, Professor Brad Karelius is your guide, uncovering deep spiritual dimensions in this achingly beautiful place. This book shares crystallizations of religious wisdom collected through the ages, and finely tuned descriptions of holy sites, which you may visit, that will draw you deeper in your personal encounters with world spiritualities.

Other books I love

Believing in Place: A Spiritual Geography of the Great Basin by Richard V. Francaviglia. Richard shares his desert encounters from forty years of personal pilgrimage. Out of the vast expanse of the American West the author finds intimate space to encounter the Holy and our true selves. You will never look at a desert dust devil in the same way again after reading this book.

The Turqoise Ledge  by Leslie Marmon Silko. Perhaps today’s best Native American author, Leslie invites you into her world, the Arizona desert, and her eyes, ears and heart which communicates with the desert creatures, her brothers and sisters, in her daily walks.  The book reads like a diary of her encounters and conversations with snakes, birds, and star beings.  She will give you new eyes and a renewed heart to enter humbly into the desert landscape.

Desert Padre: The Life and Writings of Father John J. Crowley 1891-1940) by Joan Brooks. Fr. Crowley ministered to a circuit of congregations in the Owens Valley and Death Valley. His journals reveal a deep love for the landscape and people of this desert space.

The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality, by Belden Lane (Oxford University Press, 1993). Lane takes us into the deserts and mountains and shares his own life struggles. The landscapes are the place where he is transformed by encounters with the Holy.  The writing is densely packed with information, but his story-telling will touch your heart.

The Lives  of the Desert Fathers, translated by Norman Russell. You will meet the first Christian desert mystics in the Egyptian desert, where monasticism began. A highlight of the book is the introduction by Sister Benedicta Ward SLG. She explains the social impact of the desert fathers and the enduring wisdom  birthed in their struggles and insights.

Where the Lightning Strikes: The Lives of American Indian Sacred Places, by Peter Nabokov (Penguin Books, 2005). The distinguished professor of Native American Studies at UCLA describes the variety of sacred places where Native Americans sought connection with the Holy. This book will be helpful if you journey in the Owens Valley which is spirit soaked with Native traditional spirituality.

Chuckwalla Land: The Riddle of California’s Desert by David Rains Wallace (U C Berkeley Press 2011) . With the eyes of a naturalist, Wallace explores the creatures, plant life, geology and human experiences of the desert.

Adventuring in the California Desert by Lynne Foster (Sierra Club Books, 1997). For many years this book has been my “Bible” for planning visits/retreats in the California deserts.

The Desert: Further Studies in Natural Appearances by John C Van Dyke (The John Hopkins University Press, 1999). This classic book was first published in 1901. It changed public perception of the desert from a wasteland to a landscape of amazing beauty and continues to influence conservation efforts.

Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche, by Bill Plotkin. From his training as a clinical psychologist and experiences as a wilderness guide, Poltkins guides us though inner and outer wildernesses.  The Animas Valley Institute offers workshops and programs based on his insights about spirituality and nature:


The Desert: Lands of Lost Borders  by Michael Welland.  A comprehensive narrative of the diverse deserts of the world, including geology, wildlife and human cultures. He is also the author of another great desert book, Sand.