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Working Class Mystic: A Spiritual Biography of George Harrison

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John Lennon called himself a working class hero. George Harrison was a working class mystic. Born in Liverpool as the son of a bus conductor and a shop assistant, for the first six years of his life he lived in a house with no indoor bathroom. This book gives an honest, in-depth view of his personal journey from his blue-collar childhood to his role as a world-famous spiri John Lennon called himself a working class hero. George Harrison was a working class mystic. Born in Liverpool as the son of a bus conductor and a shop assistant, for the first six years of his life he lived in a house with no indoor bathroom. This book gives an honest, in-depth view of his personal journey from his blue-collar childhood to his role as a world-famous spiritual icon. Author Gary Tillery’s approach is warmly human, free of the fawning but insolent tone of most rock biographers. He frankly discusses the role of drugs in leading Harrison to mystical insight but emphasizes that he soon renounced psychedelics as a means to the spiritual path. It was with conscious commitment that Harrison journeyed to India, studied sitar with Ravi Shankar, practiced yoga, learned meditation from the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and became a devotee of Hinduism. George worked hard to subdue his own ego and to understand the truth beyond appearances. He preferred to keep a low profile, but his empathy for suffering people led him to spearhead the first rock-and-roll super event for charity. And despite his wealth and fame, he was always delighted to slip on overalls and join in manual labor on his grounds. At ease with holy men discussing the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, he was ever the bloke from Liverpool whose father drove a bus, whose brothers were tradesmen, and who had worked himself as an apprentice electrician until the day destiny called. Tillery’s engaging narrative depicts Harrison as a sincere seeker who acted out of genuine care for humanity and used his celebrity to be of service in the world. Fans of all generations will treasure this book for the inspiring portrayal it gives of their beloved “quiet” Beatle.


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John Lennon called himself a working class hero. George Harrison was a working class mystic. Born in Liverpool as the son of a bus conductor and a shop assistant, for the first six years of his life he lived in a house with no indoor bathroom. This book gives an honest, in-depth view of his personal journey from his blue-collar childhood to his role as a world-famous spiri John Lennon called himself a working class hero. George Harrison was a working class mystic. Born in Liverpool as the son of a bus conductor and a shop assistant, for the first six years of his life he lived in a house with no indoor bathroom. This book gives an honest, in-depth view of his personal journey from his blue-collar childhood to his role as a world-famous spiritual icon. Author Gary Tillery’s approach is warmly human, free of the fawning but insolent tone of most rock biographers. He frankly discusses the role of drugs in leading Harrison to mystical insight but emphasizes that he soon renounced psychedelics as a means to the spiritual path. It was with conscious commitment that Harrison journeyed to India, studied sitar with Ravi Shankar, practiced yoga, learned meditation from the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and became a devotee of Hinduism. George worked hard to subdue his own ego and to understand the truth beyond appearances. He preferred to keep a low profile, but his empathy for suffering people led him to spearhead the first rock-and-roll super event for charity. And despite his wealth and fame, he was always delighted to slip on overalls and join in manual labor on his grounds. At ease with holy men discussing the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, he was ever the bloke from Liverpool whose father drove a bus, whose brothers were tradesmen, and who had worked himself as an apprentice electrician until the day destiny called. Tillery’s engaging narrative depicts Harrison as a sincere seeker who acted out of genuine care for humanity and used his celebrity to be of service in the world. Fans of all generations will treasure this book for the inspiring portrayal it gives of their beloved “quiet” Beatle.

30 review for Working Class Mystic: A Spiritual Biography of George Harrison

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    This is, of course, a biography of George Harrison, but one that focuses on his spiritual journey. Being a Beatles brought him fame, wealth, women, and the usual things that come with being a star, but after a time, he felt that something was lacking. Thus began his interest in spirituality, Indian culture and Krishna Consciousness. Anyone interested in what made George tick will find this an interesting read, I think.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Marieanne

    George Harrison, like many others that obtain what they desire in life, are still left with a feeling of emptiness. That emptiness sometimes leaves them searching for the real meaning of life. Harrison's goal was to find the highest level of spirituality, to touch God. We all use many different vehicles in trying to obtain this goal. Harrison's vehicle was through the Hindu teachings and chanting. Did he reach his goal? I think not, but he came close enough have some satisfaction.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    It's not a comprehensive biography, but a fairly good bio of Harrison's spiritual life. I really enjoyed listening to his music and old Beatles tunes while reading it. For a decade, George Harrison lived in the shadow of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, yet he wrote some of the Beatles' best-loved songs: Here Comes The Sun, Something (which is one of my favorites), and While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Tillery accurately captures Harrison's frequent swings between drug-using party animal and Eastern m It's not a comprehensive biography, but a fairly good bio of Harrison's spiritual life. I really enjoyed listening to his music and old Beatles tunes while reading it. For a decade, George Harrison lived in the shadow of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, yet he wrote some of the Beatles' best-loved songs: Here Comes The Sun, Something (which is one of my favorites), and While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Tillery accurately captures Harrison's frequent swings between drug-using party animal and Eastern mystic/hermit, but he also conveys how committed Harrison was to Hinduism and how he helped to bring Eastern religion into mainstream Western pop culture during the 1960's and '70's.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Louise Silk

    This is an interesting look at the "quiet" Beatle putting his actions into a framework of longing for a meaningful life. The story brought back many memories that when clearly explained in this context, helped to explain the actions of each member of the group. It was interesting to look at the Beatle origins and the progress of their lives, showing how they were a unit for a relatively very short period of time. Looking at George's early exposure to India and the Hindu religion, the author actu This is an interesting look at the "quiet" Beatle putting his actions into a framework of longing for a meaningful life. The story brought back many memories that when clearly explained in this context, helped to explain the actions of each member of the group. It was interesting to look at the Beatle origins and the progress of their lives, showing how they were a unit for a relatively very short period of time. Looking at George's early exposure to India and the Hindu religion, the author actually credits all of today's emphasis on meditation and yoga back these events. If that is true, George Harrison had a bigger impact on spiritual practice than he did on music.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Raised ho-hum catholic like Chris Farley, and also yo-yoed between mediocre spirituality and drug and alcohol binges. The thing that gets me about Harrison is the texts they always bring up "The Bhagavad Gita" and "The Autobiography of a Yogi" then he had some kind of associations with a couple of fifth rate Gurus. I mean someone like Christopher Isherwood looks sophisticated compared to George. To think he kind of like puttered away 35 years doing chanting hanging with Krishnas and thinking ab Raised ho-hum catholic like Chris Farley, and also yo-yoed between mediocre spirituality and drug and alcohol binges. The thing that gets me about Harrison is the texts they always bring up "The Bhagavad Gita" and "The Autobiography of a Yogi" then he had some kind of associations with a couple of fifth rate Gurus. I mean someone like Christopher Isherwood looks sophisticated compared to George. To think he kind of like puttered away 35 years doing chanting hanging with Krishnas and thinking about the Gita.... What a waste.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Oliver Grin

    Somewhat amature-ishly written (repeating himself a lot, jumping from one topic to another, sometimes felt like he was just trying to fluff it up a bit, etc.), but overall a very interesting and (no pun) enlightening read on the life and spirituality of my favorite Beatle. Overall, Tillery got in all the important bits, including religious context for each of George's paths, and so I would recommend it for a dedicated Beatle/Harrison fan.

  7. 4 out of 5

    John S

    Even the casual follower of Harrison / Beatles history over the past decades will find very little new material offered here. Younger readers, however, may find this compressed 200 page bio quite adequate. This tome consists predominately of easily accessible interviews, book quotes, and extant remembrances of the rock star. Tillery’s unique twist on all this is a focus on Harrison’s spiritual trajectory, starting from any early age onward. A major emphasis of this book is the presentation of th Even the casual follower of Harrison / Beatles history over the past decades will find very little new material offered here. Younger readers, however, may find this compressed 200 page bio quite adequate. This tome consists predominately of easily accessible interviews, book quotes, and extant remembrances of the rock star. Tillery’s unique twist on all this is a focus on Harrison’s spiritual trajectory, starting from any early age onward. A major emphasis of this book is the presentation of the Hindu religion and its practitioners that moved and enveloped the Western world during a time of spiritual revival amongst late 20th century youth. Hinduism can be complicated to a point of utter confusion. Tillery has a way of explaining when, where, why and how someone like Harrison could, and did, get involved in such a non Judeo-Christian endeavor. There is a gem of a chapter, all of six pages, with a delightfully terse summation of the most salient factors in Hinduism relevant to this spiritual awakening. Is it safe to say that any non-celebrity of ordinary financial means who routinely interrupted his devout meditations and chanting with hard drugs, alcohol, smoking and a formula one racing hobby would likely be kicked off the ashram? Harrison once asked his spiritual guide and friend A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada if he should shave his head and don the robes. No, the guru responded, you’ll do more for the cause by being yourself, a wealthy rock star. Unfortunately, it still feels like Tillery is disconnected from his subject. Events are repeated, seemingly at random, and pop up at sundry places throughout the book. Some readers have complained of “fill”, and I can’t disagree. But its still an interesting and easy read, with yet a new viewpoint of its over – explored protagonist, George Harrison.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Helynne

    “I want to be self-realized. I want to find God,” ” George Harrison wrote to his mother Louise Harrison in 1967. “I’m not interested in material things, this world, fame. I’m going for the real goal.” Author Gary Tilleray states, “Harrison will always be recalled for his two-pronged legacy—his remarkable music and his deep spirituality” (153). I have read several biographies about George Harrison, but this slim volume is one of my favorites, as it covers not only the basics of George’s life, but “I want to be self-realized. I want to find God,” ” George Harrison wrote to his mother Louise Harrison in 1967. “I’m not interested in material things, this world, fame. I’m going for the real goal.” Author Gary Tilleray states, “Harrison will always be recalled for his two-pronged legacy—his remarkable music and his deep spirituality” (153). I have read several biographies about George Harrison, but this slim volume is one of my favorites, as it covers not only the basics of George’s life, but also puts the most emphasis on his spiritual journey that led to his passionate, mystic religious beliefs that he developed over his adult years—mostly the spiritual roots of Hara Krishna, but a smattering of Zen and a nod to Christianity. (George, a lapsed Catholic, studied the Gnostic gospels and grew to admire Jesus as a particularly enlightened Being. He customarily closed letters to friends with both a Hindu symbol and a Christian cross). Tilleray includes background on George as a Liverpool lad, youngest of four children of a supportive blue-collar dad and a loving full-time mum. There are some fun random bits. For example, shortly after he became part of John Lennon’s group, the Quarrymen, teenaged George used to naively invite himself as a third wheel on John Lennon’s dates with future wife Cynthia. There are also quotes from George about his discontent with screaming Beatle fans and mindless critics of the group’s personae and music. His spiritual awakening came accidentally from a dose of LDS that a friend slipped into his cup of coffee (and hose of his wife Pattie, and of John and Cynthia Lennon). After ingesting the drug, George perceived the world through the eyes of a mystic. . . . “I just knew there was such a thing as God I suddenly felt happy that we were all connected to that energy . . . The energy within me and the energy within you is all the same . . . It was like gaining hundreds of years of experience within twelve hours. It changed me, and there was no way back to what I was before ” (46-47). Subsequent chapters describe George’s study in India including his reading of numerous Hindu works such as the Bhagavad Gita and his commitment to meditation as a spiritual path. Years later, as 58-year-old George unsuccessfully battled cancer, his son Dhani recalled, “You have to realize that he never sat around moping, ‘Oh, I’m ill’ . . . He was never afraid. He was willing to try to get better, but he didn’t care. He wasn’t attached to this world in the way most people would be. He was on to bigger and better things. And he had a real total and utter disinterest in the worrying and being stressed. My dad had no fear of dying whatsoever” (147). The author includes a chapter-by-chapter list of salient songs for “suggested listening” that George wrote during his life. (My favorite is still “Here Comes the Sun,” but each song contains gems of George’s spirituality and wisdom).

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ashe

    I am a Beatles fan by hereditary default due to my dads love for the band whilst I was growing up. I kept a scrapbook of photocopied cassette jackets and newspaper articles that had anything to do with the Beatles from about 10 years old. Little did I know just how much deep and spiritual meanings hid behind the lyrics of the Beatles and in particular George Harrison. I fell deeply into this book and the journey the author took me on specifically in relation to George’s personal quest for enligh I am a Beatles fan by hereditary default due to my dads love for the band whilst I was growing up. I kept a scrapbook of photocopied cassette jackets and newspaper articles that had anything to do with the Beatles from about 10 years old. Little did I know just how much deep and spiritual meanings hid behind the lyrics of the Beatles and in particular George Harrison. I fell deeply into this book and the journey the author took me on specifically in relation to George’s personal quest for enlightenment and god consciousness 🙏🥰 beautifully written and wholly captivating. Recommended wether you are a Beatles fan or just a spiritual junkie!

  10. 4 out of 5

    James Crabtree

    This was a great book about George Harrison, the Beatle who sought more than the empty life of a pop star or the philanthropic projects many people would have established if they had the resources Harrison had access to. George Harrison wanted to understand the meaning of life and he sought it out in Hinduism and the mysticisim of the East. Tillery is able to make the reader understand the path that Harrison chose.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Corey Herlevsen

    A nice follow up to "The Gospel According to the Beatles". This is not a biography per se but a readable exploration of George Harrison's relationship with Eastern religions and mysticism. Again, though I am familiar with Harrison's life and thought there was new information in this book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Patti

    Interesting insight on George. No photos though.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Fernanda

    Inspirador!!!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Debi Emerson

    A good book, but nothing I haven't read elsewhere.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Gregory

    Hello All This is a very sublime book as far as I read, just started yesterday...:) Working Class Mystic: A Spiritual Biography of George Harrison by Gary Tillery Hello All This is a very sublime book as far as I read, just started yesterday...:) View all my reviews Hello All This is a very sublime book as far as I read, just started yesterday...:) Working Class Mystic: A Spiritual Biography of George Harrison by Gary Tillery Hello All This is a very sublime book as far as I read, just started yesterday...:) View all my reviews

  16. 4 out of 5

    Richard Hessney

    This short bio focuses on G.H.'s spirituality, which for him meant being God-conscious, chanting Hindu mantras, meditation, and rejecting the material world. He didn't begin his quest until 1965, when his and John Lennon's dentist, unbeknownst to them, slipped LSD into their coffee. That first acid trip really opened his eyes to another "reality." When the Beatles traveled to India, it was George who was most taken by its culture, music and religion. He remained a supporter of Krishna worship fo This short bio focuses on G.H.'s spirituality, which for him meant being God-conscious, chanting Hindu mantras, meditation, and rejecting the material world. He didn't begin his quest until 1965, when his and John Lennon's dentist, unbeknownst to them, slipped LSD into their coffee. That first acid trip really opened his eyes to another "reality." When the Beatles traveled to India, it was George who was most taken by its culture, music and religion. He remained a supporter of Krishna worship for the rest of his life, and many of his finest songs voiced his religious beliefs. I grabbed this book on a whim from my library, mainly because in a few weeks I'm performing the slide guitar part of "My Sweet Lord" with my church's praise band. It's a difficult riff, and I only hope I can play half as cleanly as the great George Harrison did. Hare Krishna!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nikki

    Really enjoyed this bio of George. I always had an idea of what I thought George was like. I knew George was a deeply spritual man, with a big heart who was quite the humanitarian, however this book showed all sides of George, good and bad. I had kind of put him up on a pedestal thinking he was so kind, sweet and perfect. I was surprised to read this and see that he did in fact have faults, and didn't always live such a righteous life. I think though in my eyes it made him more human, and if pos Really enjoyed this bio of George. I always had an idea of what I thought George was like. I knew George was a deeply spritual man, with a big heart who was quite the humanitarian, however this book showed all sides of George, good and bad. I had kind of put him up on a pedestal thinking he was so kind, sweet and perfect. I was surprised to read this and see that he did in fact have faults, and didn't always live such a righteous life. I think though in my eyes it made him more human, and if possible I loved him even more, as I could relate to him more seeing all of his imperfections. The book made me miss Georgie all over again, still love ya' George!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Suzy

    I may be a bit prejudiced but I loved this book. He was always my favorite Beattle even before I knew much about him. He was a great human being and so very generous. I always felt that John and Paul held him back. I love his music, he had so many friends in the business like Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan that he also made music with. He was a humanatrian and started the first concert for a cause with the Concert for Bangladesh. He was sorely under rated, I plan to read the book again in a year or so.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ellen Johnson

    Interesting book on George Harrison's spiritual journey. The title is misleading, as the book says very little about social class, unless the author just wants to imply that working class people would not be expected to be mystics. Celebrity Mystic might be more apt, as it does talk a lot about the tensions between and moving back and forth between his world as a rock star and as a humble Krishna devotee.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Gina

    As a fan of the Beatles music from an early age, I enjoyed reading the chronology of events surrounding not only the music but the personalities involved. At first, I thought my heart belonged to John but after my introduction to George and his journey, I am torn between the two. This book provided a wonderful insight into his world and all that shaped it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Roniq

    I loved this book and learned so much I didn't know about George, mainly concerning his pull to eastern spirituality and Krishna consciousness. This is not a complete biography but as the titled states " A Spiritual Biography". As a child I loved and still do love, the song My Sweet Lord. It was great to read about the origins of that song as well as learning about the man himself.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Boutwell

    While this book touches on George's early life, it deals mostly with his search for some spiritual meaning to his life and how that affected his relationship with the other Beatles and then his decision to become a recluse. I really enjoyed this book and felt it covered the spiritual aspect of George's life very well.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Miguel

    So well written! You really get a sense of the inner workings of George Harrison on a spiritual and psychological level, and just how incredibly complex he was! I am a big fan of George Harrison and I just ate this up!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    Good overview but why wasn't his return to drugs in '74 talked about. I wonder how this fit with his spirituality... Seems like he was a nice chap who sometimes had a edge.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Alan Ford

    What an amazing human being! Rather than be self-centered this kindred spirit of mankind gave so much back to the world around him.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Geraldine

    ***** - Gret info about the "quiet" Beatle. Made me have more respect for him. Very spiritual man.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    I have it at home. Now I am waiting for time to read it.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Noelle

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alan Silva

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kevin C. Osmond

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