Tao Te Ching: For the first passage, that is often paraphrased, “The Tao that can be named is not the true Tao.” This is the first major religion that acknowledges that the Deity is nothing like an old man with a long white beard, and that it does not sit on someone’s shoulder like Jiminy Cricket telling us what to eat and not to eat, or whom to have sex with and who not.
Sayings of Confucius: Confucius has a lot to say to warriors and administrators. I particularly admire the portion that is translated as: “If you rule by example, the people will follow your example. If you rule by laws, the people will concentrate on staying out of jail.” The second part is certainly true. The first part is rarely tested.
Samurai Creed: In a very short document, it gives a very thorough analysis of how self-reliance and openness of mind can be applied to almost every situation, distaining reliance on material things. This would be a hard creed to live up to and few samurai ever actually did, but I still find it inspiring.
Messages from Michael: Too long to go into in detail, this text expounds a very elegant theory of the universe and our place in it that I find harmonious and aesthetically and spiritually pleasing. Whether or not the ideas were actually dictated by an ascended teacher or just synthesized from other sources by the writer, I have found many useful tools toward working out other people’s personality types and goals, and how to understand them.
That Hideous Strength: This book taught me a lot about the nature of evil: that much of it grows out of pride and spite, but chiefly selfishness, and that the greatest sin is cutting yourself off from the human race. Dehumanizing others permits all sorts of terrible behavior.
The Screwtape Letters: A lot more about the seductions of bad behavior and how we fall into it, but the chief inspiration found here was the idea that the Deity wants “lovers,” and not slaves or mere worshippers—that our goal is to rejoin with Deity of our own free will and because we want to, because we have become Godlike in our understanding of God, and that Deity desires this because it is renewed by our contribution. (This is also the ultimate conclusion of the “Michael” books, but I found the basic idea here first.)
All of these writings have helped shape who I am: I hope to be able to report on others' choices as well.