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A Quest for the Future Among Wisdom-Makers of the Middle East 
by Yvonne Seng, Ph.D. 

Paraview Pocket Books, 2003
ISBN: 074347726X
Spirituality/Memoir, 304 pages
Trade paperback, $14.00 

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If we pause long enough, we can hear, above the din of our planet's rapid globalization and technological advancement, the quiet voices of spiritual leaders from ancient faiths. Middle East historian Yvonne Seng asks, what can these modern Desert Fathers with their long history of survival advise us on the future of our planet? Her intellectual quest rapidly becomes a personal journey that turns her Western training and perceptions on their head.

Men in Black Dresses takes the reader behind the walls of desert monasteries, Sufi enclaves, ancient cathedrals, and mosques -- where the author knocks, uninvited, and waits for the wise men to allow her in. Once inside, they discuss the universal concerns of the environment and the Internet, the building of a global community and the education of coming generations, as well as the state of the human spirit. The author’s gutsy personal style reveals the extraordinary humanity and humor of spiritual leaders rarely seen by the West.

“. . . a quite extraordinary book. It took me on a journey to places utterly unknown and unimagined to most westerners. It opened my mind and my heart in unexpected ways, making me smile and bringing me to tears. Yvonne Seng has a unique, addictive style of writing. I found it impossible to put this book down.” -- Jane Goodall

“A born raconteur, Yvonne Seng takes the reader by the hand through a medley of fascinating firsthand encounters -- some startling, some downright funny. This is a field trip into the surviving pockets of a world one had thought was long gone.” -- Huston Smith, author of The Way Things Are and History of the World Religions

“Yvonne Seng takes the reader on an exotic and enlightening journey to visit the mystical religious figures -- the Men in Black Dresses -- who guide the soul of the Arab world. Their ancient wisdom has timely relevance for the Western world.” -- David Ignatius, associate editor and columnist, The Washington Post

“Although this is foremost a highly personal memoir, Seng is also an admirable diplomat for the divine, showing us the possibilities of spiritual globalization.” -- Publishers Weekly

“Powerful and eloquent. Yvonne Seng's style takes us on a personal quest into the rich, but little explored, realm of Middle Eastern mysticism.” -- Peter Russell, author of From Science to God and The Global Brain

“For many of us, daily tasks bury our soul’s strivings. But when we read about a soul's journey we are reawakened to the life of our own souls. Men in Black Dresses is such a read. It will touch your longing for the light.” -- Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi, author of Wrapped in a Holy Flame

“On a journey of education and ecstasy, Yvonne Seng manages to bring together the worlds of the technocrat and the mystic. With ancient yet timely wisdom, Men In Black Dresses is an invitation to a conscious-technology future managed with the knowledge of science and guided by the attitudes of sages.” -- Jerome C. Glenn, executive director of the American Council for the United Nations University, author of Future Mind: Merging the Mystical and the Technological in the 21st Century

“Seng embarks on an ambitious journey, especially for a Western woman -- interviewing some of the most venerable and respected leaders in the Middle East to find out exactly ‘where the hell they think humanity is going.’ […] A wry, warm, and human portrayal of the dynamics between culture and faith, this is a surprising and uplifting read. Highly recommended.” -- Library Journal

"It’s like a great novel -- about real experiences, but focused on a search for’s really rather extraordinary to find a book of big, great ideas that is also a really interesting story as well. You should buy Yvonne's book." -- John L. Petersen, FUTUREdition


is a cultural historian specializing in the Middle East and Turkey. Based in Washington, D.C., she has taught courses on peace studies at American University’s Center for Global Peace, and on religion, history, and Islamic culture at Georgetown and Princeton Universities and Wesley Theological Seminary. In 2000, she was a speaker at the State of the World Forum’s special session on faith and technology. Born in Australia, she has worked and traveled widely in the Middle East.

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