A valuable, earth-friendly lesson, not presented artfully.

ANCIENT WISDOMS

EXPLORING THE MYSTERIES AND CONNECTIONS

In Redfern’s encyclopedic second book, she looks to the lessons modern civilization should learn from ancient, indigenous cultures.

There’s a little bit of everything in this book: the Maya calendar and 2012, Atlantis, Native mysticism, galactic pseudoscience, shamans, dimensional jumps, and spirit guides who speak through the author. Redfern’s basic message is that modern humanity must return to the geocentric, brotherly values of indigenous cultures. To prove that ancient cultures across the continents and over the millennia had the same basic philosophy, Redfern chops her book into small chapters about each culture. The Hopi get a few pages; ancient people in Norway, Colombia and Alaska each have a chapter; African tribes have their own section. Redfern wants to convey similarities in religion, customs and even language. Ancient people held these beliefs; therefore, modern people should also hold these beliefs. The problem is in the book’s structure and writing, which can feel like a collection of pamphlets, rather than a coherent argument. Certain aspects of Redfern’s sketches of native cultures are interesting, but the connections she draws between tribes are not powerful enough to sustain an entire book. Redfern is also not a trained anthropologist, and even though there are footnotes in the book, some of her claims about the similarities between cultures separated by oceans and centuries are hard to swallow. Take her point about the term “Masma.” According to Redfern, “Masma” was both the name of a tribe of pre-Columbian Peruvians, and also the name that Romans gave to an African tribe. Redfern claims, “This indicates a connection between these cultures,” which could be explained by ancient travel, or a common originating civilization. The logic isn’t sound. First of all, the word “Masma” is spelled using western characters, which would have been unavailable to Peruvians, Africans or Romans. If the same word, or two words that sound similar, are actually used to describe these two cultures, then that would seem more like a translation error than divine intervention. Redfern doesn’t bolster her case when she repeatedly mentions her “spirit friends” who channel information to her. An additional problem is the tangled, tortuous sentences: “The Ancients remind us of the importance of applying peace and love in personal living before communities cooperate.” This sentence represents her overall thesis, but it takes too much effort for the reader to untangle its meaning.

A valuable, earth-friendly lesson, not presented artfully.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2009

ISBN: 978-1449057602

Page Count: 248

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2012

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The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

THE ROAD TO CHARACTER

New York Times columnist Brooks (The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement, 2011, etc.) returns with another volume that walks the thin line between self-help and cultural criticism.

Sandwiched between his introduction and conclusion are eight chapters that profile exemplars (Samuel Johnson and Michel de Montaigne are textual roommates) whose lives can, in Brooks’ view, show us the light. Given the author’s conservative bent in his column, readers may be surprised to discover that his cast includes some notable leftists, including Frances Perkins, Dorothy Day, and A. Philip Randolph. (Also included are Gens. Eisenhower and Marshall, Augustine, and George Eliot.) Throughout the book, Brooks’ pattern is fairly consistent: he sketches each individual’s life, highlighting struggles won and weaknesses overcome (or not), and extracts lessons for the rest of us. In general, he celebrates hard work, humility, self-effacement, and devotion to a true vocation. Early in his text, he adapts the “Adam I and Adam II” construction from the work of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, Adam I being the more external, career-driven human, Adam II the one who “wants to have a serene inner character.” At times, this veers near the Devil Bugs Bunny and Angel Bugs that sit on the cartoon character’s shoulders at critical moments. Brooks liberally seasons the narrative with many allusions to history, philosophy, and literature. Viktor Frankl, Edgar Allan Poe, Paul Tillich, William and Henry James, Matthew Arnold, Virginia Woolf—these are but a few who pop up. Although Brooks goes after the selfie generation, he does so in a fairly nuanced way, noting that it was really the World War II Greatest Generation who started the ball rolling. He is careful to emphasize that no one—even those he profiles—is anywhere near flawless.

The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9325-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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THE WEIGHT OF GLORY

The name of C.S. Lewis will no doubt attract many readers to this volume, for he has won a splendid reputation by his brilliant writing. These sermons, however, are so abstruse, so involved and so dull that few of those who pick up the volume will finish it. There is none of the satire of the Screw Tape Letters, none of the practicality of some of his later radio addresses, none of the directness of some of his earlier theological books.

Pub Date: June 15, 1949

ISBN: 0060653205

Page Count: 212

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1949

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