A hit-and-miss spiritual disquisition that sets murky mystical effusions against a gripping testimonial.


Near-death experiences, ancient religions, and everyday miracles add up to overwhelming evidence of God’s existence, according to this ardent philosophical memoir.

Runkis combines elements of Christianity, the cabala, Hindu yogic philosophy and the occult “Hermetic” tradition of the legendary Egyptian sage Hermes Trismegistus into an argument that God exists as a “Non-Mechanical Universe”—one that’s brimming with magic and geared toward responding to human need and teaching spiritual lessons. He offers three major proofs: the biblical story of Moses’ staff turning into a snake that devoured two serpents created by Pharaoh’s magicians, in which Runkis sees a hidden Hermetic assertion of monotheism; the geometrical relationships between the cross, the Star of David, the caduceus, and other symbols; and allegedly “scientifically documented” cases of reincarnation, near-death experiences, and transfigurations by a “Clear White Light.” He offers more evidence in the bulk of the book, which is devoted to the author’s picaresque autobiography. The account touches on his military service during the Vietnam War, the 1967 Summer of Love in San Francisco, his time in the yoga ashram of Swami Satchidananda in California, and his own varying careers as a light-show performance artist, a jewelry maker, and an entrepreneur who founded startups in biomedicine, internet technology, and cryptography. Runkis’ life story also tells of moments that he considers to be miraculous intervention by the Non-Mechanical Universe, including the improbable recovery of a diamond that a gem broker misappropriated; an inexplicable swarm of dragonflies that drove away mosquitoes during an outdoor ashram lecture; and a person who happened by and fixed the author’s pickup truck when it broke down in a remote forest.

Runkis’ treatise relies on sacred texts, controversial accounts of reincarnation and near-death experiences, and an unfalsifiable theory that virtually everything that happens—good, bad, monstrous, random—constitutes divine spiritual tutelage. As such, it will likely not convince skeptics of God’s existence. Interspersed with his arguments are snippets of mystical doctrine, yoga practice tips (“Complete this mudra by looking up, crossing your eyes, and focusing them on the same point of pressure at the crown of your head”), and erudite but often turgid excursions into esoteric lore (“Christ is the Rose, the heart, Tiphereth, the source and center of all things, the sublime force that unites Malkuth with Kether—the principle of Earth with the Crown of Creation—in the Holy Kabbalah”). Most involving are Runkis’ psychedelic depictions of his own visionary trances: “I rocketed up and up in an ecstatic paroxysm of brilliant white-hot energy, an orgasm-like force without end or ejaculation until I was impelled into the most beautiful and peaceful Garden I have ever seen.” Runkis is a vivid, forceful writer when he sticks to his earthly doings, as in his engrossing stories of a marijuana-smuggling adventure in Europe, white-knuckle tales of business reversals, and an account of a yearslong medical crisis. In these passages, his insights on the power of faith feel authentic and well-earned.

A hit-and-miss spiritual disquisition that sets murky mystical effusions against a gripping testimonial.

Pub Date: June 28, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64182-432-3

Page Count: 314

Publisher: Austin Macauley

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2020

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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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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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