SAINTS AND MADMEN

BREAKING DOWN THE BOUNDARIES BETWEEN PSYCHIATRY AND SPIRITUALITY

Psychiatry and psychology are disciplines that ostensibly study the soul (“psyche”), yet this emphasis was almost entirely absent from the time William James first took a psychiatrist’s lens to the varieties of religious experience until M. Scott Peck came to dominate the bestseller lists with psychospiritual advice in the 1980s. In this cogent, absorbing book, Shorto (Gospel Truth: The New Picture of Jesus Emerging from Science and History and Why It Matters, 1997) examines the divorce (and recent remarriage) of psychiatry and the spirit. Today, pioneering psychiatrists (several of whom have undergone poorly understood mental breakdowns themselves) are challenging some long-held assumptions of the field, e.g., that religious voices are a sure sign of psychotic dementia, or—perhaps more surprisingly—that psychotic episodes are always bad and must be “extinguished” through Haldol and other drugs. Patients interviewed here, who have experienced these bouts of psychosis, speak of them in terms of enlightenment. Common themes emerge in their accounts of what the experiences taught them; they become more aware of God in nature and of life’s transient beauty. They would like to incorporate what they—ve experienced during moments of insanity into mentally healthy lives, not pretend the incidents didn’t happen. A vivid account of psychiatry’s recent interest in “nonrational” (metarational?) cognitive experience.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8050-5902-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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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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