An ambitious but unconvincing argument involving ancient gnostic theology.

ULTIMATE SYMMETRY

This final installment of a trilogy endeavors to demonstrate in the language of modern physics how multiplicity emerges from divine oneness. 

Attempts to explain the relationship between the diverse phenomena humans experience and the possibility of an underlying metaphysical oneness date back to ancient cosmology. Yousef (Duality of Time, 2018, etc.) argues that humans’ perceptions of both phenomenal multiplicity and continuity are mirages, the emanations of an irreducible ontological unity: a single monad, the expression of absolute divine unity. People experience the world as they do because they only view it from an “imaginary time dimension,” a perch from the outside that can’t possibly exist if the universe is truly one. At the heart of this book is the postulation of “nested symmetries,” five kinds that account for the “apparent dynamic multiplicity of creation.” Oneness of God is “conceived” as an “abstract point beyond geometry.” Normal symmetry applies to the physical world governed by the laws of classical mechanics, specifically the elements of space and time understood in Euclidean terms. Super-symmetry denotes the relation between the physical and psychical, which is essentially identical to Quantum Field Theory’s matter/antimatter couplet. Hyper-symmetry refers to the connection, explored in quantum mechanics, between particles and waves and, by extension, the appearance of continuous space. And ultimate symmetry explains how the curved space of contemporary physics can be generated from Euclidean geometry’s “homogenous” space. Underlying these threads is the divine Principle of Love, the original source of motion that explains the universe’s longing to continuously return to a state of harmony. Yousef is at his best providing historical accounts of physics, both ancient and modern—he is especially deft in detailing ancient cosmology—and the theoretical problems that persist within them. But his writing can be exasperatingly dense (“Although the things might outwardly seem to be continuously existing in their evolution, nothing is ever repeated the same twice, since their elementary microscopic components are always created anew in different forms, that may still resemble the perished ones, but they are not themselves”). Furthermore, his fusion of science and Islamic revelation is really just a translation of the latter into the terms of the former. For example, he simply identifies energy particles with “spirits.” This then becomes a springboard to a lengthy discussion of the kinds of spirits, including angels, that exist. 

An ambitious but unconvincing argument involving ancient gnostic theology. 

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-72382-869-0

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2019

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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SLEEPERS

An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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