Enlightenment TownBy: Jeffery Paine


Finding Spiritual Awakening in a Most Improbable Place

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“A witty, in-depth exploration of a unique place and its spiritual inhabitants.”
— Foreword (starred review)
“Crestone is now home to twenty-five spiritual communities, including Vajrayana, Zen, Catholic, and Hindu. Enlightenment Town is the fascinating story of how these communities live and thrive side by side.”
— Lion’s Roar
“Who knew that among the mountains of Colorado there exists a town devoted to enlightenment — and boasting twenty-five religious centers, coexisting in perfect amity? How is that possible? In Enlightenment Town , Jeffery Paine takes us on a journey to meet its unforgettable inhabitants in Airstream trailers, disused mineshafts, and quiet retreats, across nineteen years. Fascinating, beautifully written, often funny, sometimes weird — you will love this modern Thoreau.”
— Nigel Hamilton, award-winning biographer of JFK, Thomas Mann, Bill Clinton, Bernard Montgomery, FDR, and others and senior fellow at the University of Massachusetts, Boston
“In Enlightenment Town , readers go on the most uncanny, humorous, profound, and completely surprising journey to the heart of the spiritual Wild West. If you thought you knew what makes contemporary pilgrims tick, guess again. Jeffery Paine gives us wonderfully vivid portraits of renegade seekers of truth. He anoints our language with his splendid prose; he is our most creative journalist-scholar of religion. An indispensable book.”
— Howard Norman, author of The Bird Artist and My Darling Detective
“What if Thornton Wilder had read The Tibetan Book of the Dead before writing Our Town ? What if Norman Rockwell had spent time in a Native American sweat lodge and then decided to paint spirit animals? What if Billy Graham had befriended Allen Ginsberg and they had done ayahuasca together? This is the sort of wild nowhere/everywhere American landscape Jeffery Paine describes with great flair, courage, and insight in Enlightenment Town .”
— Dana Sawyer, author of Aldous Huxley: A Biography and Huston Smith: Wisdomkeeper
“Paine . . . is an open-minded pilgrim who has written an edifying and entertaining book about his journey to Crestone, Colorado.”
— Spirituality & Practice
“Enlightenment Town is a generous, delightful book, full of divine misfits and quasi-saints who have dared — or been forced — to widen their (and our) horizons. You won’t be able to resist Jeffery Paine’s openness to this community, nor his sly proposal that spiritual life can be both gentler and quite a bit wilder.”
— Kate Wheeler, Buddhist teacher and author of Not Where I Started From
“I am not a religious man. Perhaps my few years incarcerated in a South Indian missionary boarding school cured me of this quest. But as Jeffery Paine intimates, even those of us who are ‘postreligious’ nevertheless seek some ‘hallowed understanding’ of the human condition. Paine writes such vivid stories about Crestone’s eclectic spiritual characters that, I have to confess, I am charmed beyond belief.”
— Kai Bird, Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer and author of The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames
“With warmth, wit, and tenderness, Jeffery Paine introduces us to a remarkable community where the secular and the sacred exist side by side — often indistinguishably. What is it about a small mountain town in Colorado that has drawn Buddhists, Christian mystics, Sufis, and a host of other denominations to live together, not with mere tolerance but with something approaching transcendence? Whatever their secret, the residents of what Paine calls a ‘Wild West Jerusalem’ have lessons for all of us.”
— Tim Folger, science journalist and series editor of The Best American Science and Nature Writing
“Whenever we open our hearts with unconditional love and illumine our brains with boundless wisdom, everything arises as the world of enlightenment. Enlightenment Town portrays a true land of Dharma, where this can happen.”
— Tulku Thondup, author of The Healing Power of Mind and The Heart of Unconditional Love
“In Enlightenment Town , Jeffery Paine takes us on pilgrimage into the heart of what it means to be human. In Crestone, Colorado, home to the world’s most religiously diverse community, we venture high into the mountains on sacred vision quests and into cathartic sweat lodges, and join spiritual activists ‘on the path.’ We leave behind the old stale debate of religion vs. atheism — and belief vs. nonbelief — as we see people living their enlightenment. Joining this pilgrimage, you will be well rewarded.”
— Matteo Pistono, author of In the Shadow of the Buddha and Meditation
“Enlightenment Town is a lively meditation on the nature of religion and an inquiry into the dynamics of spirituality, articulated with genuine compassion, empathy, and warm, humane humor. A personal and heartfelt exploration of the spiritual, Jeffery Paine’s quest situates him in the town of Crestone, high in the mountains of central Colorado, where he interacts with a quirky cast of fascinating characters, spiritual beings from diverse traditions — Hindu, Tibetan Buddhist, Carmelite Christian, Jewish, Taoist, Native American — all of whom have something profoundly in common and each of whom teaches Paine something about the myriad meanings of our relationships with nature and other human beings. As the journey progresses, Paine begins to understand and show us the ways in which everything, no matter how mundane, may be appreciated in some way as sacred.”
— Lee Siegel, author of Love in a Dead Language Trance-Migrations , and other books
“Via Crestone, CO, Jefferey Paine chronicles the strange reality of being a mind and body on earth, our interconnectedness and the necessity of having to rely on one another. A fascinating read.”
— Sharon Salzberg, author of Real Happiness and Real Love
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