A positive spiritual development framework for determined readers.

READ REVIEW

Universal Mind Revealed

A debut spiritual guide to developing the latent powers of the human soul.

Robert Krauth’s foreword to Craven’s nonfiction debut opens with a familiar litany of the world’s woes: “Human beings are struggling to understand why the political, economic, educational, religious, and social systems—and frankly, life in general—all seem to be in disarray.” Against this backdrop, Craven writes about “matters of spiritual, mental, and inner unfoldment” that can be found in a close analysis of Genesis 5, which details the generations of mankind from Adam to Noah. The analysis operates on the assumption that the Bible is “a book of allegories” and proceeds from there to show how each succeeding generation comes closer to realizing the “universal mind.” This universal mind is in the process of building souls, she writes, starting by clearing the ground on which the “souls’ vestments (mental, emotional, astral, and physical)” can then be constructed. Her close reading of the text and her references to other occult writings can be challengingly dense, but she concludes each chapter with a summary, a “practical application” to daily life, and a sometimes-extensive “critical thinking” section with discussion questions. The author very much encourages readers to engage practically with the book despite the fact that it delves into complicated abstract concepts such as “vital life force” and “etheric doubles.” Through her analysis and the book’s many illustrations, she means to illustrate a spiritual metamorphosis in the development of humanity. Although her elaborations stray far from the words of the original biblical text, the energy of the alternate story she tells about the development of the human soul will still carry many readers along. Her picture of individual human potential, with each soul invested with “the highest essence of power, the highest qualities and virtues,” will certainly strike readers with its life-affirming optimism, even if they find her textual deconstructions a bit murky.

A positive spiritual development framework for determined readers.

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4525-1945-6

Page Count: 316

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: Sept. 22, 2015

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

OPEN BOOK

The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

THE ART OF SOLITUDE

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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