There are plenty of reviews detailing this book. Due to so many who will be disturbed by it, I'd like to focus my review more on cautioning the reader in certain respects.
This book represents an ideology; meaning that it seeks to explain everything in the world in light of a stringent set of dogma - the main one being Natural Selection. To make a somewhat crude analogy, Natural Selection is "God" for Dawkins and Charles Darwin is its prophet.
Ideologies have always been rigorously defended, almost as if the ideology was the lifeblood of the defender. The person is a "Christian" an "Atheist" an "Agnostic" and so on. And this is what gets people into trouble. The identification with the ideology, by default, blinds the person to anything else that might truly serve him. It stops him from asking true questions instead of questions that are merely restatements of what he already believes.
Like all ideologies that catch on and have a lasting effect, Darwinism, too, will eventually fade and pass away. In the interim however, it will certainly have a profound effect upon society and the world in general. Some of those effects will be beneficial and some, I have little doubt, will bring unimagined horrors to mankind in the same way Christianity has.
If anything is consistent in this world, it is the mind. It operates in a congruent fashion. Actions spring from beliefs and are inspired in no other way. Yet the believer, the ideologue and defender of those beliefs, seldom evaluates the darker side because he is too preoccupied with making himself "right" and "good" while at the same time, trying to make everyone who doesn't agree with him as "wrong" and "evil."
Like a true ideologue, Dawkins has in no way presented the darker side of Darwinism. He's convinced it's a "consciousness raiser."
This book is thorough and well-researched. Perhaps more important, it's also engaging. I believe it's for one primary reason: Mr. Rubenstein, though he had preconceptions regarding the material at the outset of completing this work, unexpectedly had his mind changed and enlightened. His wonder and fascination due to the insights he discovered shine through so brilliantly as to serve as a contagion to the listener.
All too often, especially when dealing with Medieval and Renaissance periods in history, well-established dogmas in the modern psyche have to be overcome in order to fully appreciate the full import of the facts. Fortunately, Mr. Rubenstein presents compelling examples and detailed information along with well formed opinions. These are almost sure to enlighten any curious listener.
What I most appreciated was his presentation of Aristotle's material as a type of "alien technology" to the minds of Medieval Europeans. Indeed, it was. It was too good to not learn about and use, yet it often served to undermine the established powers of the day. It was both a friend to those who wanted to get at the truth, yet a foe to established political power systems.
A modern reader, if he cares to make a ready application to present-day concerns, might bear in mind the impact of "thought-systems" of all sorts and their power to alter the course of society. One might better be able to understand and appreciate the battles waged between different ideologues once one realizes that the victor has not only won an argument, but the minds of men. It is no small matter.
I knew very little about Hannibal, save for his march across the Alps with a few elephants. Everything else regarding him was obscure to me. But this book opened up the panorama of brilliance and dogged determination that is Hannibal.
Though doomed from the beginning, Hannibal played the losing hand that was dealt him in the best way it could have been. He made no mistakes of his own. Had his homeland the same level of committment that he did, the world would look very different today. Rome would have remained a backwater republic, hardly worth a second look.
I think this book would make a good listen for any leader of business. Those ready to throw in the towel would do well to take a lesson or two from a truly great general who not only understood how to win a battle, but the hearts and minds of men - both being necessary for success in leadership.
It would be all too easy to give this book a bad rating for two reasons: First, it's long - almost 18 hours, which gives a reviewer more reasons not to like it. Second, it's tedious; at least in the beginning. Don't expect to just breeze through this thing. Consider that you'll be getting a semester or two of college level material. If you've never taken a 300 level history or philosophy course before, this will likely challenge you a bit.
If one can get past the pre-Socratics, he will soon be treading easier ground. But plod through them first (as I'm confident that many fell by the wayside on their way to Socrates). The rewards, whether they are fully understood or not, will be forthcoming.
Despite the complexities of various philosophies and how one affected the other over the course of many centuries, the book is extraordinarily (and surprisingly) cohesive. The author is capable of bringing back certain subjects again and again in different contexts. Therefore, if one forgets what Anaxagoras said about such and such, it's likely to come up again while studying another philosopher further down the line.
This book is excellent though, especially if you want to absorb some kind of cohesive continuum of the development and mutations of philosophical thought prior to delving in more deeply into individual philosophers. It would also make a very fine preparation prior to taking college-level courses in philosophy, and perhaps history as well.
As a history student, I always felt that the Byzantine Empire played a critical role in the development of Western civilization, yet it had always been shrouded in a cloud of mystery. This audio book blows that cloud away, allowing the listener to see the historical events that shaped European development as it emerged from a backwater collection of barbaric forces and into a viable player on the world scene.
Professor Madden is a competent lecturer; both thorough regarding pertinent facts as well as cyclical; meaning that he brings the listener back to points he had made earlier, effectively tying together sequences of events and how they interrelate.
After reading a review by another reviewer regarding the heavy "Christian bias" in this work, I feel that he must not be referring to this book at all, but another, for I found zero bias regarding any particular viewpoint. Christianity is certainly emphasized, as it must be with regard to the history of Byzantium (or of the West in general), for it played an enormous role in the shaping of policy, diplomacy and gave cause for empire-shaking wars and conquests.
Constantinople was filled with churches, monasteries, icons and the like. It was an extraordinarily religious city. It's relationship with Rome was hampered by differences in religious doctrine - minor points by atheists' standards or the generally non-religious, but the people of that time period were anything but that. Therefore, various doctrinal points regarding their eternal fates would certainly play a major role in all the aspects of their lives. Dr. Madden simply presents the facts. There is no bias.
Admittedly, I enjoy lectures. This cannot be said of all people. I enjoy a dry presentation as well as a sparkling one; provided the facts are straight. This is grade A material, sure to be enjoyed by any budding historical scholar.
I already read the text prior to purchasing the audio book, so my expectations as to the content were already set. The book reads quickly (took me about a day) and its message is solid. In contrast, the audio book (in my opinion) is rather loathsome to listen to. Something was certainly lost in the translation from print to audio.
As another reviewer mentioned, the person who plays the part of Arten has a radio announcer voice; while Pursah is played by Doreen Virtue, a familiar voice (if one listens to Hay House Radio). I think those two factors diminished the content considerably. They took away from the message more than they gave.
The only believable person in the audio book is Gary Renard himself. Then again, it was he who had the actual experience; not the other two.
However, as I considered it, I realized that this was one of those situations where I would be called upon to forgive. Could it have been done better? Without question it could have. Yet how many of us could have done it perfectly? Probably none.
Let this be a lesson to us all who seek the Truth: We screw up even the purest of messages with our own hands, try as we might to do otherwise. It is almost inevitable. Best to forgive it and take the content of what we're given; leaving the form behind.
If you're averse to reading a 150,000 word book, this audio format is just fine. The content is all there, just as it is in the book, and the audio quality is high and well recorded. But if you've heard Doreen and the other guy before, one can't help but be distracted by them.
I think the author should seriously consider redoing this book using real actors; perhaps ones with a heavy spiritual inclination, in order to capture the essence of not only the message, but of his overall experience.
A truly serious Course in Miracles student will greatly appreciate this audio book. Not only is it a comfort, but it also encourages exploration and exposition of the more difficult Course passages. So far, I've listened to it six times in the last two weeks.
Gary's style is, well, "himself." And that's the beauty and the most pertinent part of it in my opinion. Course students are far too hard on themselves (including me) because we've learned to understand that we are wrong about everything we see. This leads to the ego telling us that because we are wrong about everything, there's a certain amount of shame involved (or ought to be). Gary is completely and beautifully shameless! He makes it ok for us to be as well.
I also appreciate him taking the time to explain the meaning behind the experiences that people will have when doing the Course. For instance, the meaning of the experience of revelation as well as periods of dizziness/vertigo. I have had these experiences, but did not understand the full significance of them. I didn't understand that perhaps I was further along than I realized, which helped me not to be too hard on myself, but rather to relax and just keep on forgiving and getting that ego undone.
Gary shows himself to be a true ally for Course students. As radical as the Course is, and as much as it promises to lead us to, we need all the help we can get. This audio book is very good help.
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