Boundaries and Bridges

Beauty, The Invisible Embrace

By John O’Donohue

Review by Dr. Jacob Bryan

This book has recently become my spiritual bible. In this beautiful text, John O’Donohue invites us to awaken to the beauty hiding in everyday life. His voice here is truly remarkable, full of gentleness and urgency, sadness and hope. It is not hard to be inspired.

John O’Donohue is a poet, philosopher and scholar, a native Gaelic speaker from County Clare, Ireland.

It is impossible to truly appreciate or capture all that O’Donohue has assembled here. Every page could make you think for hours. You cannot read it straight through. Instead, to truly appreciate it, you should read and re-read a few pages at a time. I find myself underlining and scratching notes all over them. I will go back and reread passages months or years later. There is new meaning each time.

It truly is a masterpiece.

Recommended for:

  • Everyone looking for an infusion of spirituality and mystery
  • Secular and religious audiences
  • Someone grieving a loss in their life

Per Amazon:

In this follow-up to his international bestsellers Anam Cara and Eternal Echoes, John O’Donohue turns his attention to the subject of beauty—the divine beauty that calls the imagination and awakens all that is noble in the human heart.

Beauty is a gentle but urgent call to awaken. O’Donohue opens our eyes, hearts, and minds to the wonder of our own relationship with beauty by exposing the infinity and mystery of its breadth. His words return us to the dignity of silence, profundity of stillness, power of thought and perception, and the eternal grace and generosity of beauty’s presence.

In this masterful and revelatory work, O’Donohue encourages our greater intimacy with beauty and celebrates it for what it really is: a homecoming of the human spirit. As he focuses on the classical, medieval, and Celtic traditions of art, music, literature, nature, and language, O’Donohue reveals how beauty’s invisible embrace invites us toward new heights of passion and creativity even in these uncertain times of global conflict and crisis.


Most of this book is quotable. Here are a few of my favorites.

“Our culture is dominated by quantity.  Even those who have plenty hunger for more and more.  Everywhere around us, the reign of quantity extends and multiplies.  Sadly the voyage of greed has all the urgency but no sense of destination.”

“Every life is braided with luminous moments.”

“Each human life is the journey from childhood to a realized adult life.  Each day is a journey out of darkness into light.  Each friendship and love is the intimate journey where the soul is born and grows.”

“There is an uncanny symmetry between the inner and the outer world.  Each person is the sole inhabitant of their own inner world; no-one else can get in there to configure how things are seen.  Each of us is responsible for how we see, and how we see determines what we see.  Seeing is not merely a physical act: the heart of vision is shaped by the state of the soul.  When the soul is alive to beauty, we begin to see life in a fresh and vital way.  The old habits of seeing are broken… We will be surprised to discover beauty in unexpected places where the ungraceful eye would never linger.  The graced eye can glimpse beauty anywhere, for beauty does not reserve itself for special moments or instances; it does not wait for perfection but is present already secretly in everything.  When we beautify our gaze, the grace of hidden beauty becomes our joy and our sanctuary.”