An upbeat but uneven treatise that tries to create a level playing field for science and spirituality.

THE NEW MYSTICISM

HOW SCIENTIFIC AND RELIGIOUS PARADIGMS ARE BEING OVERTURNED BY DARING EXPLORERS REVEALING HIDDEN ASPECTS OF REALITY

A book attempts to bridge the divide between mysticism and materialism.

“Every culture has stories of saints meeting angels and devils,” the author writes in his latest nonfiction work, “sages rising into heaven, shamans transforming into animals, and mystics entering transcendental trance states in which their awareness expands beyond the usual body-centered limits.” What lies beyond those limits is the main subject of Hill’s (The Kosmic Web, 2015, etc.) volume, in which he attempts to present a more balanced view of both the materialist, verifiable reality all around his readers and the immaterial, subjective experiences they feel every day—what he refers to as “the sound of two hands clapping.” The book explores typical New Age phenomena like remote viewing and out-of-body experiences—both the author’s own and those of others—regularly reminding readers that “openness to enchantment drives the mystical outlook.” He focuses on personal perceptions during heightened states of awareness. Hill also takes readers on a cogent and inviting tour of mysticism throughout the last 3,000 years and its intricate connections with the births of both philosophy and science—including the long pursuit of alchemy, which preoccupied a number of great scientists, such as Isaac Newton. The author’s goal in all of this is to encourage his readers to “acknowledge subjectivity equally with objectivity,” insisting that “only when the spooky is normalised as just another way to experience reality, will we be able to accept that our existence encompasses two hands clapping.” The book’s besetting weakness is the way it misunderstands science to make its larger points. Hill writes, for example, that the existence of Paleolithic cave art is “miraculous” and that doctors “regularly perform miracles” when they reattach a severed hand or perform a heart transplant. But these things are not miraculous—and not analogous to mystical experiences that can’t be verified or tested.

An upbeat but uneven treatise that tries to create a level playing field for science and spirituality.

Pub Date: July 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-473-36933-0

Page Count: 196

Publisher: Attar Books

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2017

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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  • Rolling Stone & Kirkus' Best Music Books of 2020

OPEN BOOK

The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor. One of Kirkus and Rolling Stone’s Best Music Books of 2020.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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

THE ART OF SOLITUDE

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. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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