The author of the best-selling Joshua series offers a practical guide to the challenges and pitfalls of the Christian's spiritual life. In his first nonfiction, Girzone shares experiences from his own life and draws on the wisdom of the centuries, writing with his usual humanity and insight. Each chapter outlines a further stage on the spiritual journey. Girzone tells how he first felt a desire for God in his childhood experience of aloneness: he believes that this desire is the basis of religion and something everyone has but that many, including some religious people, are not conscious of. The great means to awareness is prayer. Our author suggests that prayer has less to do with changing things than with ``just putting yourself in God's presence and sharing with Him what you are feeling or what you are suffering, and saying, I just want to be near you and open my heart to you.'' Girzone emphasizes the need to be free from attachment to things and even our own religious feelings (or lack of them) when we are praying. He warns that freedom can be unwelcome: we find ourselves becoming accountable for our choices, maybe changing our view of things or following where God may want to lead us. Girzone observes that religious people often try to manipulate others rather than respect their freedom, but he writes with great compassion and is able to teach without talking down to his reader. At times he betrays a certain animus against the authorities of the Church, and he fudges the issue of the role of the sacraments in Christian life (``Jesus did have little rituals...''). The non-Christian seeker will find much of value here. A refreshing alternative to the feel-good bromides on the personal religion market.

Pub Date: March 11, 1994

ISBN: 0-385-47342-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1994



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


A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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