Remembering the Messiah’s Handbook


THE LAST TIME I SAW the Messiah’s Handbook was when I threw it away.I had been using it as I was taught in Illusions: hold question in mind, close eyes, open handbook at random, pick left page or right. Eyes open, read answer.Always before it worked: fear dissolved in a smile, doubt lifted by sudden understanding. Always had I been charmed and entertained by what these pages had to tell me.

So that dark day I opened the book, trusting. “Why did my friend Donald Shimoda, who had so much to teach that we so needed to learn, why did he have to die such a senseless death?”

Eyes open, listen to the answer:

                             Everything in this book may be wrong.

A burst of night and rage, I remember, instant fury. I turn to it for help and this is my answer? I threw the book as hard and as far from me as I could, pages fluttering above that nameless Iowa hayfield, the thing tumbling in slow motion, shuddering forever down toward the weeds. I didn’t watch to see where it fell.

I flew from that field and never flew back. The handbook, that senseless hurtful agony-page, was gone.

Twenty years later came a package to a writer in care of the publisher. In the package a note:

Dear Richard Bach, I found this when I was plowing my dad’s soybean field. The field’s a quarter-section used to be in hay and he told me you landed there once with the guy they killed they said was magic. So this has been plowed under I guess for a long time else it’s been disked and harrowed every year and nobody’s seen it till now. For all that, it’s not much hurt and I figured it’s your property and if you’re still alive you ought to have it.

No return address. On the pages, my own fingerprints in engine oil from an old Fleet biplane, a sifting of coarse dusts, a stem or two of grass falling out when I fanned it open.

Rage gone, I held the book a long time, remembering.

Everything in this book may be wrong. Sure enough. But everything may be right, as well. Right and wrong’s not up to a book. I’m the only one to say what’s true for me. I’m responsible.

I leafed through the pages, wondering. Is the book returned to me the same one I threw away, so long ago? Had it been resting quietly underground or had it been changing to become what some future reader needed to remember?

At last, eyes closed, I held the handbook once more and asked.

Dear strange mystical volume, why did you come back?
    Riffled the pages for a moment, opened my eyes and saw.

    Every person,

                           all the events of your life,

                   are there because you have drawn them there.

      What you choose to do with them

                                                    is up to you.

I smiled, reading that. And I chose, this time, instead of throwing it away, to keep the Messiah’s Handbook.

And I choose now, instead of wrapping it in silence, to let you unwrap the whole of it and listen to its whisper for yourself, whenever you wish.

Some of the ideas I’ve found in this book I’ve said in others: There are words here from Illusions and One and Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Out of My Mind and The Ferret Chronicles. A writer’s life, like a reader’s, is fiction and fact; it’s almost-happened and half-remembered and once-dreamed. The smallest part of our being is history that somebody else can verify.

Yet fiction and truth are friends; the only way to tell some truths is in the language of stories.

Donald Shimoda, for instance, my reluctant Messiah, is a real person, though as far as I know he’s never had a mortal body or a voice that anyone else could hear. So is Stormy Ferret real, flying her miniature transport through a terrible storm because she believes in her mission; so is Harley Ferret throwing himself into a midnight sea to save his friend; so are all these characters real who have brought me to life.

Enough explaining. Before you may take a handbook home, however, test this copy, be sure it works.

Hold a question in mind, please. Now close your eyes, open the handbook at random and pick left page or right,

— Richard Bach


38 thoughts on “Remembering the Messiah’s Handbook

  1. What a wonderful little book Richard!

    And of course, by chance, I found my copy last week… I tested it… And it worked flawlessly!

    The Messiah’s Handbook… One of the best books ever in my life!

    Thanks Richard, for sharing such an amazing life-tool with us!

  2. By the way, is this book available new in paper?

    Does it works as an ebook?

    The artwork is simply amazing!

  3. I love the simplicity of this little book and I have enjoyed gifting it to special friends.
    Juan, I have the paper copy, which i think is recent.

  4. Fantastic news! The journey were I crossed paths with you in sacred dance was way back in the 80’s… reading your journey until I felt you disappeared and emerged again upon another path that I did not follow you down.. Reading this is like reaching through time and seeing why a path will turn and travel a new direction…. what a great and wonderful moment… so magical … I am glad to be made witness.. thank you

  5. Yes, Richard, our lives are both fiction and fact and one is not more true than the other. Even the smallest part of our being and experience can contain exactly what we need to know now!

    “A writer’s life, like a reader’s, is fiction and fact; it’s almost-happened and half-remembered and once-dreamed. The smallest part of our being is history that somebody else can verify.

    Yet fiction and truth are friends; the only way to tell some truths is in the language of stories.”

  6. Richard,
    Wonderful !, several years ago I read again and again, hundreds of times the introduction of the Messiah’s Handbook-in spanish-: Every person, all the events of your life, are there because you have drawn them. What you choose to do with them is up to you .. ., the simple truths of the Universe: how many times returned incessantly to me? …: This has been my wonderful adventure with these simple, innocent and wise ideas in your books awakening my heart with an endless music ….,

  7. love it… your post comes, and my handbook sits here just waiting

    Imagination… oh yes… using it every day to create all this :~)

  8. I think Donald would have appreciated the lyrics to the Doobie Brothers song How Do the Fools Survive.
    Oh, I hand them this life
    To do what they will
    They’ve got to find their way from here
    Oh, show us the way
    If they only knew
    Oh, show us the light
    Show them what light?
    Oh, why do they come and ask for more?
    They’ve got stars they don’t have wishes for

    The handbook is just a tool to help you reveal what you already know.
    Of course I could be wrong about that.
    But I am glad you created it!

    Thanks Richard!

  9. I did just that, Richard, &, as always, it worked. Although I won’t be going to my execution, I smiled at that. Thank you for helping me to remember.

  10. What beautiful, beautiful writing, Richard! Thank you. Your timing is perfect for me. I’m in a stage of big transition in my life, leaving what isn’t working and searching for the very best possible next steps. Your simple and profound words are just what I need as I awake this morning. My Messiah’s Handbook is handy; I have just forgotten to use it lately. Now is the time to let those words sink way in again.

    As always, I thank you for sharing yourself and your words with us. You make such a profound difference in my life!

    Best wishes to you and Lockie from your SeaRey friend across the mountains.

  11. “The smallest part of our being is history that someone else can verify.”
    Richard Bach ….Remembering the Messiah’s Handbook article June 4, 2015

    The thought of you, Richard, holding the Messiah’s Handbook focusing on a question walked into my heart and sat down. Forty years now this book has been feeding your sheep. I get soft eyes at the thought of it feeding you.

    A humble thank you for being a Reluctant Shepherd. We hear you louder than we can answer.
    Take a listen to a Lyle Lovett Song (yes, Lyle Lovett…. I quote the truth from where I find it…..)
    “Simple Song”

  12. Dear Richard!
    This little handbook is just a marvel. I sometimes use it to resolve my internal dispute or through away any doubts. And now, when so much time passed from the moment it was written, do you think this handbook has already gained its final form or would you like to supplement it with something new? Times change, bringing new ideas and new questions with them that’s what I mean.

  13. When I’m not forgetful, I’m fond of the paperless version.
    No pages, no ink, never gets lost. Can’t throw it away.
    Always there, but admittedly only sometimes found.
    Bit of a Shimoda trick involved in finding it the first time.

    Greetings from Shangri-La to the denizens of the Chalet !

  14. Richard…may i thank-you…i love your work, daily i peek at The Messiah’s Handbook “Reminders for the Advanced Soul” look left or right when opening at any page….what beauty in words daily, it helped me at a very dark time in my life and reminds me to this day how each moment is truly a gift….i live to love and love to live…when i see a biplane in the sky over Surrey UK i think of you and Donald Barnstorming passing by with another reminder for me to look up and smile!! 😉

  15. I’ve re-read Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah I don’t know how many times, it’s one of my favorites. But there are few moments from the book that stay front and center.

    “And you think you’ll be led to a teacher who can help you.”
    “If the teacher doesn’t happen to be me, yes.”
 “Maybe that’s the way it happens,” he said.

    … reminded myself never to let a book replace my own thinking.

    There was part of me listening that didn’t think what I said was fiction. I was making up a true story.

    In China they knew about all this, when they wrote the I Ching. Written two thousand years ago, but it works a lot the same: Step one: Hold question in mind. Step two: toss some yarrow sticks or coins (keep your mind on the question) to generate some random numbers, and finally touch the writings and read what it tells you.

    I think with both the Messiah’s Handbook, and the I Ching work the same way…

    We’re reading answers into what we’re reading! That holding-the-question-in-mind first step creates a magnet that draws up everything we know, power-up all we currently understand in our mind.

    So that’s what I should do: close my eyes, hold my questions in mind, then open my eyes, and see where my answer comes from next.

    After all, it works with anything, right?

  16. I received my book 5 years to the day that I lost my oldest son in a tragic accident. I could not have felt lower that day. This lifted my up and made me smile again! Thanks Richard! I will be flying those fields soon and chewing on a straw of clover while trying to make a 9/16″ wrench float !

    • Yea . . . the hardest thing to get over is the loss of a child. Looking back on a similar experience of my own, I wished that I had re-read “Illusions” while my grief almost drove me to suicide. That might have expedited the stages of grief for me, and I would have been much better off. Anyway, glad to see that reading “Illusions” when you were grieving alleviated your pain. It once did the same for me, too, before the last experience I referred to happened. 🙂

  17. The Messiah’s Handbook is a wonderful compilation of some of the most meaningful quotes from many of your other books and I was thrilled to get it when it first came out. After a while, believing I had internalized all necessary lessons, I was riding on one of Life’s lovely plateaus and the book went into the bookshelf with many of my other much loved but thoroughly digested volumes. Years moved along and with time, Life changed … as it does. No longer on a plateau, I sought inspiration from that bookshelf of lovingly remembered pages and I chose that book, again. It’s been sitting beside my bed on my nightstand for a couple of weeks now, referenced at night before I sleep. Like an old friend, it reminds me once again who I am and why Life is still good! Thank you…

  18. Thank you thank you for choosing to stay in this life time, being there and reminding ….always…

  19. I remember the first time I read ” argue for your limitations….” and the impact and influence its had on my life for the last forty odd years. If ever there was a teaching institution looking for a motto!
    Message to you from this ageing hippy -“write on!”

    • Ah, yes…”Argue for your limitations”…Often in the past year, I found myself doing just that…”I can’t just up and move!” “I’m never going to sell enough books to support myself.” “I’m too old for this!”. All just excuses to not stretch, not try. I’m also reminded of another wise one…”Do. Or do not. There is no try.” Now, I just do.

  20. Sounds like you are finally settling in here, Richard. Nice. Startin’ to feel real homely. It has been really challenging for you but it feels to me like you have a bit of a handle on it. Pacing the gait of it.

    This is so cool to be able to access you on this level. And so great that you are taking the risks to share it so openly and involve us. We are the children of your IS. And we are now blending in with the stories.

    So great that you can draw on and share your inner experiences of the stories with all of us who have been practicing almost as long as you. We are all Donald Shimoda in a mask. But sometimes if I squint just so, it’s often hard to tell if WE are ‘real’ or are we – readers turning writers and students and teachers – just creations from your mind talking back to you?

    We’ve all been doing this so long… practicing. One?

    Yesterday I listened to you and Lesley reading ‘Bridge’. A friend is finally reading it and I wanted to check what realm she was actually in. Remind myself. Couldn’t switch it off. Two three hour sessions later with lunch in the middle… ahhhhhhh… I always cry at the end. Always.

    Driving home today at sunset. Twilight actually. I had this overwhelming feeling – of it all mysteriously blending – light and shadows and space and matter. And on a straight stretch of road I saw a car coming towards me, headlights blurring and, over a few seconds I wondered – if it crashed into me: had I lived?

    And I didn’t have my eyes closed with my finger on a word on a page – the words all live inside me now – but instead had the words spontaneously come out my mouth – “how well did you love – what was the quality of your love?”

    And as the car lights grew brighter and brighter I was completely focused on the quality of my love. In that second as the car flashed by I decided – yes – I had loved pretty damn fine… for such an amateur.

    So much love… still to express of course.… so bright we scream for it to turn “off”. Practice, practice. Circuits and splashes.


  21. I did this right away after reading this post.

    Q: Why didn’t I come across this website sooner even though I’ve been longing for it for so long?

    A: How many live lifetimes without finding what they know and love?
    It’s your job to be sure you’re not one of ’em.

    (Note to self: Point taken… this website popped up soon after you stopped looking. Who’s responsible for that, now?)

  22. As often as I have used this method of opening a book to get an answer to a question or to get an insight on my life, I am still amazed at how often it works. This time when I opened “Illusions” I got this one:

    ‘Perspective – Use It or Lose It. If you turned to this page, you’re forgetting that what is going on around you is not reality. Think about that.”

    One of my weaknesses is that I tend to anticipate things that could possibly go wrong in a situation — sometimes too much. I know the impact doing that can have, but I often forget about that. This quote is a good reminder . . . .especially now.

  23. I remember you saying in an interview once (and I think Shimoda said the same) that you could use almost anything in the same way; an old newspaper or whatever. Maybe so, but I’ve never mastered it. With the Messiah’s Handbook, it works beautifully for me. As usual, my biggest problems are forgetting that and “arguing for my limitations”. And I just realized that I love the humor mixed in with profundity! So many things lack that playfulness; for me it’s a necessity. 🙂

  24. My thinking aligns beautifully with JenniferfromBelgium (June 4 posting) and JerrianneAustin (? date – June 4 Posting)
    The Messiah’s Handbook is a reminder, a guide. It’s for each one of us to choose our own path without limiting our creativity.
    To all, I thank you very much for all shared helpful thoughts.

    Jennie (Midwest USA

  25. Dear Richard, Dear Richard
    this book arrived to me at the right moment, when my soul was opening on forgotten horizons.
    It was for me a period of changing and your book really gave me the input for finding myself.
    I went ahead on that “street of changes”, trying to find myself and going out of a black tunnel were I was fell.
    During that period I wrote my own “travelling diary” , this helped me to understand my emotions and to focalized myself on the connected issues.
    It was a very hard work , but your book really helped me , even if “I’m still on the way..”
    I have a dream….to write a book like yours , but I know that this is really too much !!!
    Sorry for my thought !
    Your book is and will remain a masterpiece and I thank you for it.
    As far as my dream…will remain a dream, but it’s good dreaming !

    Mary ( Italy )

    • Para mi tambien fue un apoyo en momentos dificiles hace casi 40 annos. Gracias por escribir “Ilusiones”, es un libro maestro para la Vida.

  26. Mr. Bach, … Richard,
    My thinking and outlook are and have always been elevated when you name is and your works are brought to mind.
    Thank you for being obedient to your calling. Aside from your written pages of insight and wisdom, you are a friend to me and always here to remind me that life may not be what it seems.
    I truly wish i could find another friend.
    Thank you Richard.
    p.s. i wanted you and Leslie to be the model of my relationship.
    I am alone today, but will bring to me exactly what i need. Time is growing shorter for me and this vessel. So im just staying on the flight plan, I’ll find her before i leave.

  27. I found my friend and had my imagines getting carried away and started to see in him a future unfolding but hesitated from losing my mother in previous weeks , he understood my hesitation with respect and on line we found things about each other we liked, he was a pilot learning to fly and danced the Scottish fling , i was falling for a future not yet realized and we agreed to meet up again after mothers day, so he decided to go an visit her that day as i was afraid to go out in the rain and cold, he texted to say have a great day and never came back, He hit a car on a bridge riding his loved motor bike ..The photo his family posted on facebook about his service details, a beautiful ethereal image in the cockpit of his plane …i cried again as many things i cannot go in to re mind our connection but guess what ? In the bottom right on corner was a white feather ….:)

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