The Grail Quest of Ralph White by Craig Chalquist, PhD

The Jeweled Highway: On the Quest for a Life of Meaning

Divine Arts, 2015 (Purchase it at:

Every now and then arrives a man who contains within his life the momentum of an entire movement. Hermann Hesse comes to mind for the spirit- and soul-starved generations of the late 1800s and early to mid-1900s.

The man for our time is Ralph White, a native of Wales who started out as a shy boy dreaming on the coast of the Irish Sea. From there he traveled around the world in search of depth and wisdom, met and spoke with virtually every significant representative of the Human Potential Movement, and co-founded New York Open Center on an aspiration that came to him in his twenties: to create oases of meaning, in urban settings particularly. In many ways his life has been one extended pilgrimage to rediscover the lost sources of Western esotericism.

The Jeweled Highway is the story of White’s post-World War II search for meaning and wisdom as the collective relief of beating Hitler and Hirohito succumbed to materialism, mechanization, and disillusionment of the kind White saw close up when his family moved to a grimy, smokestack-riddled English town at the clanking core of the Industrial Revolution. If the God he had heard about in church permitted global slaughter and Holocaust, he wondered, what mattered? What endured? At age 21 he stuck out his hitchhiker’s thumb and went to find out.

White’s memoir takes us to many places along that journey, including Chicago, where he found his street smarts; Vancouver, at that time a scenic site of counter-cultural resistance to massification; Machu Picchu, where mountain and lake awakened his sense of the immanence of spiritual knowing; London, New York City, and many other places not only cities or landscapes but, in a higher view, shrines and sacred sites along the Quest, each described in vivid and even gritty detail.

While reading this memoir I kept seeing parallels to Sir Percival’s quest. The wasteland, for example: “Two hundred years of hard grind and subsistence for the world’s oldest working class; centuries of small lives, poor diet, and grim labor conditions had left a pall of depression hanging over the place.” The questions: “What murmurs in the soul prompt the search for the elusive and mysterious chalice? What longing still stirs for some deeper stream of reality beyond the gray, dreary world of so much contemporary life, with its shopping malls and work for faceless corporations?” The search, so often in the guiding presence of insightful young women, Grail Maidens as traveling companions; and the mentoring, not only by spiritual masters past and present, East and West, but by drifters, stoners, depressives, and bums, each bearing his bit of light.

Steinbeck would have understood. So would the young knight in red armor (one root of the name “Ralph” is “red wolf”) trying to make his way in the world.

And then the fulfilment, “The Work”: “I have been fortunate to find a path to an independent spirituality and to help create centers, vehicles for cultural change that serve as focal points for a new awareness now rising to meet the need for a sustainable future where soul and well-being return to their rightful place.”

That is an understatement. Having been program director of Omega Institute for Holistic Studies in Rhinebeck, White designed and taught the first accredited course in holistic studies at New York University. He has organized and directed conference-quests such as Prague, Alchemy and the Hermetic Tradition; The Italian Renaissance and the Esoteric Traditions; Psyche, Spirit and Addiction; Voluntary Simplicity; The Grail and Arthurian Traditions; The Golden Age of Andalusia: Sufis, Kabbalists and Christian Philosophers in Medieval Spain; The Mysteries and Philosophy of Greek Antiquity; The Art of Dying; and A Quest for Ancient Alexandria: Greco-Egyptian Cradle of Western Esotericism.

Who would have thought that the Grail Castle could reappear in the heart of Manhattan? Yet it has. New York Open Center sees sixty thousand visitors a year searching for the life and health, purpose and magic that wait below the everyday surface of things and beyond the daily round and rush. I realized this while helping Ralph assemble a new and experimental Certificate in Holistic Psychology: every illustrious name I could think of as a possible instructor he had previously hosted there. Furthermore, through Ralph the Center linked to Findhorn, Esalen, and other holistic centers all over the world: the Jeweled Highway spread and thickened into the sparkling Jeweled Net of Indra.

Among the many revelations contained in the book, this one came with “an experience that has remained with me my whole life”:

Listening to a record of Crosby, Stills & Nash singing, “Guinnevere had green eyes / Like yours, milady / Like yours,” the awareness suddenly flooded me that I was here, on this earth, for one primary purpose— simply to be myself.

From that insight followed White’s version of what Sir Percival asked the Fisher King at the end of the Grail Quest, a question with which to face our own troubled time: How might I be of service?

Of late it has become trendy, especially in business circles plagued by outdated thinking, to sneer at Joseph Campbell’s call to “Follow Your Bliss” as hopelessly impractical, a recipe for fiscal disaster. Far better, advise the contemptuous, to land a reliable income–as though there were such a thing anymore as global economies oscillate and fabulous amounts of wealth continue to funnel upward to the super-rich.

The Jeweled Highway demonstrates exactly the opposite: that those who are called to depart the Wasteland of empty careerism and faddish frippery will find, perhaps after many trials and turns in the trail, the long-sought nourishment of meaning and greater awareness that will keep them going, fill their souls, and reveal to them the beauty of the world.

Craig Chalquist, Ph.D. Department Chair, East-West Psychology, California Institute of Integral Studies – President, Depth Psychology Alliance –

My New Memoir – The Jeweled Highway: On the Quest for a Life of Meaning

Well, it’s finally happening – my memoir will be published on September 15th. It’s been a labor of love, to say the least, and I’m deeply pleased that this chronicle is about to be published. It covers my early life in the Celtic world, my youthful spiritual search in South America and in the counterculture, and my experience of alternative community in the Seventies. It also deals with the many ways I have found to express meaning through the worldwide network of holistic centers, the sequence of Esoteric Quests conferences, and the ongoing work with the NY Open Center – still the world’s leading urban center of holistic learning.


I wrote it to be fun and engaging. This is not a ponderous tome readers will have a hard time finishing.
The first two people to whom I gave the completed manuscript told me they literally couldn’t put it
down. In fact, one of them told me he has had that experience with only four or five books in his whole
life. So I couldn’t be more pleased – a writer can’t receive a much better complement than that.

Let me include here a few endorsements for the book:

“Written with a poet’s eye and a seeker’s urgency, Ralph White’s hunger for truth leads him down many
alleyways. He rewards the reader with hard-won wisdom.” — Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way

“If you want to know where we’ve been and where we’re headed in these times of great danger and
opportunity, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.” — Robert Thurman, author of Inner
Revolution; president, Tibet House

I’ll be writing more about the book in the near future. For the time being I would like to include the link
to Amazon if any readers would like to purchase it.

Or from the publisher at a discount here:

Below you can find a series of endorsements from some of my favorite people:

Praise for The Jeweled Highway

“Written with a poet’s eye and a seeker’s urgency, Ralph White traces his spiritual journey. His hunger for truth leads him down many alleyways. He rewards the reader with hard-won wisdom.”

— Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way

“A riveting, deeply joyful spiritual adventure demonstrating how a sustained wish for truth can attract a life strewn with inner meaning.”

— Jacob Needleman, author of An Unknown World: Notes on the Meaning of the Earth

“As a leading figure at the New York Open Center for three decades, Ralph White has introduced thousands of speakers, none more interesting than himself. In this gorgeously written memoir, the evocative images of his wide and deep life journey inspire us to do likewise — seek and find, again and again.”

— Robert McDermott, president emeritus, California Institute of Integral

Studies, author of Steiner and Kindred Spirits “Ralph White is talented, original, and uninterested in convention, and his life has been an adventure of the Joseph Campbell kind — a quest to find the secrets of life and then give them to his fellow citizens. He is one of those rare men who has said yes to life far more than he has retreated into safety.”

— Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul

“This Jeweled Highway of Ralph’s is really cool. I greatly enjoyed traveling on it through his vivid account of the challenging adventures, and the internal discoveries they spurred, which resulted in the no-nonsense, good-humored, and spiritually activated person he is today. He has served all of us — who insist against all odds upon a better world — so creatively as the sophisticated spiritual impresario of the historic, catalytic New York Open Center, a place where so many have opened their minds and hearts to see deeper and dream greater. In this highly readable memoir, he colorfully describes his ups and downs and brave wanderings through far-off landscapes of the earth and of the mind and spirit. If you’re one who wants to know where we’ve been and where we’re headed in these times of great danger and opportunity, I cannot recommend it highly enough.”

— Robert Thurman, Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies, Columbia

University, author of Inner Revolution and Infinite Life “What an extraordinary memoir. Ranks among the best books I’ve read in years! What a privilege to be so intimately invited into the inner life and breathtaking adventures of such a great seeker and person of action as Ralph White. He is a living ‘Center of Consciousness’ for the whole world.”

— Robert Sardello, co-director, The School of Spiritual Psychology, author of Silence: The Mystery of Wholeness

“What splendid adventures-in-life await within this book! What a true jewel that avoids all dogma and instead seduces us with outrageous explorations of the soul. What a timely literary miracle in this era of spirit-questing and esoteric regeneration.”

— David Yeadon, author of The Way of the Wanderer: Discover Your True Self

Through Travel “This is a brilliantly written autobiography of self-discovery from one of the foremost cultural creatives of our time. Like a contemporary Odysseus, Ralph White invites us to join him on his spiritual journey and absorb along with him the distilled wisdom of the human race that he encounters along the way.”

— Kyriacos Markides, author of The Mountain of Silence and Inner River

“The Jeweled Highway is a rare beast, a compelling book of spiritual vision and inspiration that is also an exciting adventure story — a ‘ripping great yarn’ — and a testament to human courage and the willingness to push into the farthest frontiers in search of wisdom and spirit. In offering this memoir of a life very well lived, Ralph White also takes us on the most important quest of our time: the journey into the heart and soul — and magic — of a world in transformation.

I enthusiastically recommend it!”

— David Spangler, author of Journey Into Fire and Apprenticed to Spirit

“The Jeweled Highway is not about one man’s personal quest into the mysteries of the unknown. It is about the innate human longing for the existential truth that originated with the first prehistoric utterance, was amplified through cavernous netherlands, and was embodied for centuries in forbidden books and secret societies the world over.”

— Alnoor Ladha, executive director of The Rules and board member for Greenpeace International, USA

“Like a skilled caravan driver, Ralph White leads us into the heart of the esoteric Western traditions — a luminous landscape forgotten by the spiritual tourists of Eastern wisdom ways — and reveals the jewels hidden there. His own inner and outer adventures uniquely qualify him as our insightful and big-hearted guide.”

— Mirabai Starr, translator of John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila, author of God of Love: A Guide to the Heart of Judaism, Christianity and Islam

“Ralph beautifully and vividly chronicles his journey of a meaningful life. For anyone on this path, his recollections are both inspirational and motivational as he helps the reader understand that life’s meaning can be searched for both through mystical experiences of intuitive guidance and through conscious, thoughtful choices. I am often asked about the history of the human-potential movement, and Ralph has adeptly captured the nuggets of what was taking place in the ’60s and early ’70s. It is a unique read — a story captured through the eyes of one of the successful founders of the holistic-center movement.”

— Cheryl Fraenzl, director of programs, Esalen Institute

I will also be doing a book launch at the Open Center on Tuesday, September 15th.

Obviously this is an exciting moment for me. I’ve edited a magazine, and introduced and edited books,
but this is the first time I’ve written my own book from cover to cover. As it’s a memoir, it is of course
deeply personal.

I would be delighted if you bought a copy. People tell me it’s an ideal gift!

Buffie Francisco