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Kripal’s book won’t quite silence the inner skeptic in those trained in such truths as the laws of thermodynamics, but it...

In which the material world dissolves into the immaterial and all that we know from traditional material science melts into air.

What’s a flip? By the account of Kripal (Secret Body: Erotic and Esoteric Currents in the History of Religions, 2017, etc.), who holds a chair in religious thought and philosophy at Rice University and a research post at the Esalen Institute at Big Sur, it’s an intuitive leap that leads to a new understanding of a scientific problem or reality: “a radically new real can appear with the simplest of ‘flips,’ or reversals of perspective, roughly, from ‘the outside’ of things to ‘the inside’ of things.” Some of these flips might be such things as Archimedes’ bathtub-born insight into the displacement of volume and Friedrich August Kekulé’s dream about the snake eating its tail that led to his divination of how the benzene ring works. Kripal goes a little farther into the land of esoterica, noting, for instance, that Marie Curie was no stranger to séances, while Wolfgang Pauli “was a pioneering quantum physicist around whose presence poltergeist phenomena erupted regularly.” Philosopher A.J. Ayer returned from a near-death experience rather confused about what he saw on the other side, except to announce to the medical staff who revived him, “you are all mad,” while neuroscientist Marjorie Hines Woollacott drew scientific insight from an experience with a swami in the nature of consciousness, which is “most likely not an emergent property of brain matter, contrary to what everyone around her in her professional life seemed to assume.” Some of the science seems squishy even as Kripal insists that quantum physics is a “flipped science”—i.e., “one in which consciousness is no longer understood as an epiphenomenon, but as fundamental to the very nature of nature.” More easily comprehensible is the author’s idea that the humanities be reconceived as “the study of consciousness coded in culture," which has fruitful possibilities.

Kripal’s book won’t quite silence the inner skeptic in those trained in such truths as the laws of thermodynamics, but it offers plenty of points to ponder.

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-942658-52-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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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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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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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