A well-intentioned parable, full of big ideas but short on emotional intensity.

Journey of Light


An exploration of reincarnation and spiritual growth, written by a mother and father who claim to be channeling their deceased son’s words.

After Ricardo K. Petrillo’s death in 2005, his parents came to believe that they could receive messages from him, via “automatic writing” through his father. Petrillo and Knoploch have since published five collections (Planet Janus, 2011, etc.) of such writing, and whether readers appreciate this sixth entry will largely depend on whether they’re onboard with the authors’ premise. This book comes with an additional source of confusion: Its fictional main characters are actually two different incarnations of one individual. Elderly Julius attempts to explore his past lives, and so we meet Daniel, a young spiritual seeker during the French Revolution. Through a series of political and personal travails, Daniel comes to understand the consequences of individual actions and emotions, and he strives to help those around him achieve a similar level of spiritual serenity. In one of the many authors’ comments sprinkled throughout the book, the reader is told: “Ah, if only men and women could understand how these emotions affect their lives….If they could open themselves to those that care and are just expecting an opportunity to help, they would change the world.” Sincere, didactic and deeply Christian, the narrative circles around and around these themes of eternal love and personal responsibility, and Daniel’s various dilemmas are likely to engage the spiritually curious. Daniel himself, however, remains frustratingly vague. He achieves a state of preternatural calm and detachment, but it’s never quite clear how he does so, and his near-angelic characterization makes it hard to relate his life to that of the everyday. The language can be distracting as well; it’s often florid, as when Daniel is introduced with these words: “Youth! What a marvelous time of life in which energy and vitality abound to support the thoughts of a mind thirsty for knowledge and ideals.” Hindered by trite phrasing and underdeveloped characters, the story ultimately lacks immediacy.

A well-intentioned parable, full of big ideas but short on emotional intensity.

Pub Date: March 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-1470071684

Page Count: 132

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 29, 2013

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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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Ram Dass lived a full life and then some. His final statement is thorough and, yes, enlightening.


A comprehensive memoir from a famous but humble spiritual seeker.

Mention the name Ram Dass (1931-2019), and you’re likely to hear three words: Be Here Now. However, there’s much more to the man born Richard Alpert than his best-known book, as this posthumous memoir, co-written with Das, makes amply clear. Born just outside of Boston to an ambitious Jewish family, he quickly became a hungry spiritual seeker. He ran with fellow Harvard psychology professor Timothy Leary, and together they became pioneers in hallucinogenic research. As he explains, psilocybin and LSD, which were legal when he began his studies, were a means of exploring other planes of consciousness, a rationale that didn’t keep him from getting fired for turning on an undergraduate student. One can imagine such a book by another author—say, Leary—as full of chest-puffing and war stories. Thankfully, on his road to enlightenment, Ram Dass also accumulated a good deal of humility. This comes across clearest in the sections that find him in India, where he became a disciple of the Hindu guru Maharaj-ji, who taught the young American pilgrim how to love and worship without using drugs—and gave him his new name, which means “servant of God.” “Turning toward Eastern spirituality was not just my inner evolution but part of a major cultural shift,” writes the author, who proves to be a steady guide to some heady events and trends, including the Harvard psychedelic tests, the communal living experiment in Millbrook, New York, the Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park, and the influx of Westerners flooding India in search of a higher state of being. Familiar names walk in, walk out, and often return: Allen Ginsberg, Aldous Huxley, Ken Kesey, and the members of the Grateful Dead.

Ram Dass lived a full life and then some. His final statement is thorough and, yes, enlightening.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021


Page Count: 488

Publisher: Sounds True

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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