A rambling religious primer with a veneer of pop physics.



Advanced physics confirms that the world is a purely spiritual emanation of God, according to this treatise on the doctrine of Christian Science.

Debut author Johnson bases his arguments on the philosophy of Mary Baker Eddy, founder of the Church of Christ, Scientist, who taught that the universe is an entirely spiritual and good creation of God’s infinite mind and that material reality and suffering are illusions. Her most distinctive teaching rejected conventional medicine in favor of healing through prayer and reflection on the nonexistence of disease. Drawing on the writings of scientists and thinkers from Albert Einstein to evolutionary theorist Richard Dawkins, along with reams of biblical citations, Johnson contends that scientific findings on the nature of matter support Eddy’s ideas. He notes that the theory of relativity considers matter and energy equivalent; that quantum mechanics regards matter as both a particle and a wave or even as a disembodied probability; and that atoms are up to 99.9999 percent empty space with a wisp of corporeal substance. He concludes that people’s experiences of reality and matter cannot proceed from atoms, which are “tiny, un-alive vibrating balls,” and must therefore be a dream that they conjure as entities created in God’s image. Sprinkled into the theorizing is the author’s critique of modern health care, along with his personal reports of the seemingly miraculous results of Christian Science, from the alleviation of intestinal ailments to his success in finding his wife’s lost earring. The final fourth of the lengthy tome delivers an appendix containing Johnson’s essays and speeches, which constitute a Christian Science catechism covering such topics as “Is Baptism Essential for Salvation? No and Yes” and “Are We Christians Really Sinners? Absolutely Not!” Johnson’s sprawling treatise offers some intriguing observations on the weirdness of modern physics—especially the more mystical interpretations of quantum physics—in a lucid and engaging style. Unfortunately, his own theories are murky and full of gaps. He nowhere develops them in a systematic, linear fashion; instead, he keeps circling back to a few suggestive but not dispositive riffs on the blurriness, emptiness, and evanescence of matter. (His introduction acknowledges that the book’s “repetitions may cause confusion and even boredom” and advises readers to browse rather than perusing it cover to cover.) Johnson’s arguments are seldom compelling or even coherent. One section juxtaposes diagrams of atoms with pictures of big things—a mountain, a house, a man—to suggest that people see the latter because of “the ‘mist’ described in” Genesis. Others proceed by incantation rather than reasoning (“What we think we see and observe is only illusion imposed upon the ever-present atom by the so-called carnal mind….it is illusion upon illusion upon illusion because the so-called observer is also an illusion who seems to be viewing a materialized illusion in the form of atoms transformed into so-called material objects”). Christian Scientists and others attracted to mind-over-matter ideology may feel inspired by the work’s assurances that a brute, intractable reality of pain, illness, and death can be brushed off like a bad dream. Readers who value secular science may not be persuaded.

 A rambling religious primer with a veneer of pop physics.

Pub Date: March 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4809-4107-6

Page Count: 818

Publisher: Dorrance Publishing Co.

Review Posted Online: April 19, 2019

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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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