A poorly organized collection of musings on a variety of consciousness-related topics.

Conscious Awakening

A disjointed exploration of paranormal phenomena and existentialism.

Debut author Hirasek switches from autobiographical recollections to semi-scholarly examinations of past-life regression hypnosis, the interpretation of dreams, numerology, ghosts, psychic powers, auras, reincarnation, near-death experiences, the seven chakras, different religions and their views of the afterlife, the law of attraction and other weighty topics—a sprawling approach, which makes the book difficult to follow. Despite the arguments’ loose organization around issues of meaning and purpose, they are further obscured by an idiosyncratic style of writing: “By then my understanding of it was understood, but not yet complete”; “The primordial question here we should all ask is, who or whom do we really listen to in systematic situations?”; “Dreams are intriguing but somewhat complicated in opinion.” Sometimes, the results are impenetrable: “Time loops consume an individual from his own awareness of time, which prevents him from living and coexisting in present presence; one that eventually becomes obscured and passingly fleeting in time.” Changes in tense within paragraphs and even within sentences—“You can feel it when you go to work, when you got to church, when you pay your taxes”—further impair readability. In the autobiographical section, the book’s strongest, Hirasek details his first encounter with a ghost in 1999 and a life-changing psychic reading following a particularly painful breakup in 2004. He also describes the immense pain he felt after losing a romantic relationship after only a month since he was convinced he knew and loved the woman in a previous life. Elsewhere, he asserts his belief that in past lives he was both a survivor of the Titanic and the Greek poet and playwright Aristophanes, among others. While skeptics may not be convinced by his arguments, adherents to these beliefs are likely to find these passages compelling. The other sections usually cover too broad a variety of topics, resulting in superficial examinations. Unsupported statements—e.g., “In 80 percent of cases, NDE [near-death experience] individuals who came back become more compassionate and are filled with a new outlook on life after death”—further weaken the book. The conclusion attempts to tie these threads together, but it’s too late to make a coherent whole.

A poorly organized collection of musings on a variety of consciousness-related topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-1492253754

Page Count: 280

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2014

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A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

THE COMFORT BOOK

Bestselling author Haig offers a book’s worth of apothegms to serve as guides to issues ranging from disquietude to self-acceptance.

Like many collections of this sort—terse snippets of advice, from the everyday to the cosmic—some parts will hit home with surprising insight, some will feel like old hat, and others will come across as disposable or incomprehensible. Years ago, Haig experienced an extended period of suicidal depression, so he comes at many of these topics—pain, hope, self-worth, contentment—from a hard-won perspective. This makes some of the material worthy of a second look, even when it feels runic or contrary to experience. The author’s words are instigations, hopeful first steps toward illumination. Most chapters are only a few sentences long, the longest running for three pages. Much is left unsaid and left up to readers to dissect. On being lost, Haig recounts an episode with his father when they got turned around in a forest in France. His father said to him, “If we keep going in a straight line we’ll get out of here.” He was correct, a bit of wisdom Haig turned to during his depression when he focused on moving forward: “It is important to remember the bottom of the valley never has the clearest view. And that sometimes all you need to do in order to rise up again is to keep moving forward.” Many aphorisms sound right, if hardly groundbreaking—e.g., a quick route to happiness is making someone else happy; “No is a good word. It keeps you sane. In an age of overload, no is really yes. It is yes to having space you need to live”; “External events are neutral. They only gain positive or negative value the moment they enter our mind.” Haig’s fans may enjoy this one, but others should take a pass.

A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-14-313666-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Life

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

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THIS IS YOUR MIND ON PLANTS

Building on his lysergically drenched book How to Change Your Mind (2018), Pollan looks at three plant-based drugs and the mental effects they can produce.

The disastrous war on drugs began under Nixon to control two classes of perceived enemies: anti-war protestors and Black citizens. That cynical effort, writes the author, drives home the point that “societies condone the mind-changing drugs that help uphold society’s rule and ban the ones that are seen to undermine it.” One such drug is opium, for which Pollan daringly offers a recipe for home gardeners to make a tea laced with the stuff, producing “a radical and by no means unpleasant sense of passivity.” You can’t overthrow a government when so chilled out, and the real crisis is the manufacture of synthetic opioids, which the author roundly condemns. Pollan delivers a compelling backstory: This section dates to 1997, but he had to leave portions out of the original publication to keep the Drug Enforcement Administration from his door. Caffeine is legal, but it has stronger effects than opium, as the author learned when he tried to quit: “I came to see how integral caffeine is to the daily work of knitting ourselves back together after the fraying of consciousness during sleep.” Still, back in the day, the introduction of caffeine to the marketplace tempered the massive amounts of alcohol people were drinking even though a cup of coffee at noon will keep banging on your brain at midnight. As for the cactus species that “is busy transforming sunlight into mescaline right in my front yard”? Anyone can grow it, it seems, but not everyone will enjoy effects that, in one Pollan experiment, “felt like a kind of madness.” To his credit, the author also wrestles with issues of cultural appropriation, since in some places it’s now easier for a suburbanite to grow San Pedro cacti than for a Native American to use it ceremonially.

A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-29690-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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