An intriguing book explores spiritual practices and perspectives using storytelling as the main device.



From the Mahanta Transcripts series , Vol. 17

A guide presents a religious approach to understanding the inner self and the experiences of life. 

Klemp (ECK Wisdom on Conquering Fear, 2016, etc.) is the author of a series of books on Eckankar, “Religion of the Light and Sound of God,” established in 1965 by Paul Twitchell, “the modern-day founder.” (It is “also known as the Ancient Science of Soul Travel.”) This latest volume guides readers through the faith’s teachings and the ways they can enrich spiritual connections with themselves and the world. Klemp, presented as the ECK Master, covers many topics, from love and mistakes to karma, mental balance, and consciousness. The work is organized into bite-sized “teachings,” most in the form of anecdotes about meetings between two or more people. For example, one story focuses on a wealthy commodity trader who returns home to a large mansion dressed in casual clothes. A stranger on the sidewalk outside remarks that no one should own a house so big, and the two engage in a discussion. The trader eventually walks away realizing that this man believes, wrongly, that because a rich entrepreneur built this lavish house, the stranger cannot. Klemp uses this anecdote to stage a discussion about the infinite wealth of the spirit and posits that no one can limit or prohibit another’s spiritual success. While the book may read fluidly for someone already knowledgeable about ECK teachings, it will require some study for those unfamiliar with the religion. A glossary of terms in the back helps readers identify the players and the texts that are referenced, but the work dives straight into the small lessons rather than giving an overview of the religion. (Indeed, ECK followers may be the target audience.) Nevertheless, the manual focuses on the positivity of individual encounters and uses storytelling to uncover some of the contradictions the author finds prevalent in the world today. The powerful optimism of these teachings should resonate with all readers, even those unacquainted with ECK.

An intriguing book explores spiritual practices and perspectives using storytelling as the main device. 

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-57043-341-2

Page Count: 381

Publisher: Eckankar

Review Posted Online: Feb. 27, 2017

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


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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