In previous work, dealing with apparently evermore earthly concerns, Needleman (Philosophy/San Francisco State) has dug for the spiritual roots of Christianity (Lost Christianity, 1980), philosophy (The Heart of Philosophy, 1982), and medicine (The Way of the Physician, 1985). Now, he tackles mammon itself—in a genuinely innovative study of the relationship between money and the spiritual life. As before, Needleman uses anecdote and idea-driven drama to illustrate his argument—a welcome technique here, since his thinking is complex, sometimes difficult. The frame in this case is a one-day seminar he gave on money and meaning—allowing him to employ two characters, Bill and Alyssa (``fictionalized distillations of numerous rich exchanges with my students''), who act, more or less, as Phaedo or Meno to his Socrates. Bill, though a multimillionaire, understands neither money nor life; Alyssa, an artist-turned-accountant, has a partial grasp of both. The two listen and question as Needleman—with reference to the Bible (e.g., a drawn-out retelling of the legend of Solomon) and the ideas of Weber, the Sufis, Gurdjieff, and others—traces what he sees as the devolution of money from its ancient balanced purpose of organizing mundane affairs to its present lock on our lives. We are obsessed with money, Needleman says, yet ``we don't take money seriously enough''—that is, we fail to give it its proper place. This is the heart of his brief: that humanity was created to dwell in ``two worlds''—that of the spirit and that of the mundane—and that only by fully mastering the mundane, in its primary manifestation of money, can we discern that which properly belongs to the spirit. The idea manifests itself in action as Needleman experiences a spiritual breakthrough in turning down Bill's whimsical gift to him of a half-million in gold. Dynamic philosophy that opens up a whole new way of looking at the financial demands of life. Needleman's best and most important book.

Pub Date: Nov. 18, 1991

ISBN: 0-385-26241-8

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1991

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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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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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