Useful only until a less starry-eyed, more sophisticated treatment of the subject comes along.

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STAR IN THE EAST

KRISHNAMURTI—THE INVENTION OF A MESSIAH

A frustrating portrait of the world-renowned mystical philosopher, by a biographer who attempts an unfortunate mix of skepticism and adulation.

Vernon claims he has taken a “balanced, detached position” with no agenda “either to reinforce [Krishnamurti’s] credibility or the opposite.” In pursuit of this ostensibly noble goal, however, the author leaves it very unclear exactly what readers are supposed to believe about his subject. He does a passable job of dramatizing the Victorian-era historical, cultural, and religious trends that fostered the alternative religion called Theosophy, and of portraying its colorful leaders: the eccentric spiritualist-charlatan Madame Blavatsky, the former atheist and political agitator Annie Besant, and the self-proclaimed psychic and accused pedophile Charles Leadbetter. Besant and Leadbetter did indeed “invent” Krishnamurti by picking him, as a young boy, to be rather assiduously trained as the World Teacher, a vessel for divine power. As a young man, Krishnamurti eventually broke with Theosophy but continued to impart a complex, sometimes self-contradictory set of spiritual messages via books and lectures. He shrugged off labels like “guru” or “messiah,” yet spoke of himself in the third person and, on his deathbed, claimed he was a conduit to divinity. “I don’t think people realize what tremendous energy and intelligence went through this body,” he lamented. “You won’t find another body like this, or that supreme intelligence operating in a body for many hundred years.” Vernon half-admits that Krishnamurti may have been merely a dull, malleable boy who was ripped from his family and culture and psychologically abused in a way that produced delusions of spiritual grandeur. But he also wants to avoid offending true believers. In the end he gives the game away with his hyperbolic, untenable conclusions: Krishnamurti, he says, was a “herald for the new age” as well as a “sign-post for the future of man’s metaphysical aspirations.”

Useful only until a less starry-eyed, more sophisticated treatment of the subject comes along.

Pub Date: April 7, 2001

ISBN: 0-312-23825-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2001

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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THE MYTH OF SISYPHUS

AND OTHER ESSAYS

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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