Most useful for readers schooled in spiritual thought but won’t alienate neophytes.

ENLIGHTENMENT IN SUBURBIA

A spiritual philosophy book that delves into the realms of existence.

The debut work starts with the feel of a memoir but is far broader in scope, looking at everyday existence through the lens of spiritual thought. But although its title may suggest otherwise, it has nothing to do with spirituality in a specific world of minivans and housing tracts, and unlike many other books in the spirituality genre, it’s refreshingly not centered on the author. Indeed, when professional life coach Mallard occasionally speaks of herself, it’s only to make one of her points easier for the reader to grasp. There are references to familiar subjects, such as karma and death, each of which gets of its own chapter; however, the author effectively manages to explain them in concrete terms. Karma, for instance, is described as a “buffer” that functions as “your Michelin Man suit.” These two chapters, which appear midway through the book, contain the most thought-provoking and surprisingly pragmatic passages, as Mallard presents her concepts in a tone that’s never breathless or awestruck. She offers a thoughtful, well-reasoned view of the transition to death, for instance, by dividing it into four types of “realms,” noting that a decedent may have “crossed over” into a realm that’s almost formless or into one that has more form, or unsuccessfully crossed over and entered a realm of confusion and doubt or one that’s still “attached to the incarnation.” Overall, this is a deep-thinking, philosophical book that, for example, expounds on the “non-dualistic reality” of “Oneness” and explains why, in the author’s view, it’s practically impossible to go to hell or ascend into heaven. In order to alleviate any possible confusion regarding concept definitions, she provides a glossary, which adds useful insights. In fact, the glossary is an integral part of the book, lending additional layers of explanation to commonplace ideas, such as “apparent,” “content,” “crutch,” and “energy.” Mallard also quotes sage sayings from various historical sources (including the Bible and the work of the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi) but doesn’t advocate any particular faith.

Most useful for readers schooled in spiritual thought but won’t alienate neophytes.

Pub Date: June 22, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5043-1356-8

Page Count: 284

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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Ram Dass lived a full life and then some. His final statement is thorough and, yes, enlightening.

BEING RAM DASS

A comprehensive memoir from a famous but humble spiritual seeker.

Mention the name Ram Dass (1931-2019), and you’re likely to hear three words: Be Here Now. However, there’s much more to the man born Richard Alpert than his best-known book, as this posthumous memoir, co-written with Das, makes amply clear. Born just outside of Boston to an ambitious Jewish family, he quickly became a hungry spiritual seeker. He ran with fellow Harvard psychology professor Timothy Leary, and together they became pioneers in hallucinogenic research. As he explains, psilocybin and LSD, which were legal when he began his studies, were a means of exploring other planes of consciousness, a rationale that didn’t keep him from getting fired for turning on an undergraduate student. One can imagine such a book by another author—say, Leary—as full of chest-puffing and war stories. Thankfully, on his road to enlightenment, Ram Dass also accumulated a good deal of humility. This comes across clearest in the sections that find him in India, where he became a disciple of the Hindu guru Maharaj-ji, who taught the young American pilgrim how to love and worship without using drugs—and gave him his new name, which means “servant of God.” “Turning toward Eastern spirituality was not just my inner evolution but part of a major cultural shift,” writes the author, who proves to be a steady guide to some heady events and trends, including the Harvard psychedelic tests, the communal living experiment in Millbrook, New York, the Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park, and the influx of Westerners flooding India in search of a higher state of being. Familiar names walk in, walk out, and often return: Allen Ginsberg, Aldous Huxley, Ken Kesey, and the members of the Grateful Dead.

Ram Dass lived a full life and then some. His final statement is thorough and, yes, enlightening.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 488

Publisher: Sounds True

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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