This wonderful audio program (and the book of the same title that inspired it) should be called "Keys to the Kingdom", because that's really what it is. A profoundly moving and potentially life-changing spiritual teaching...how anyone can find it lacking in substance or get hung up on Caroline's passionate delivery is utterly beyond me. This is deep, challenging material, not the usual New Age fluff that has infected so much of our contemporary spiritual culture. Yes, Caroline's interpretation of St. Teresa's brilliant work is inclusive and not wedded to religious dogma, but that's a positive aspect of this program, not a negative one. The insights of the world's great mystics -- regardless of spiritual tradition -- belong to all of humanity, and Caroline has helped to share some of this holy wisdom with us in this amazing program.
This is one of Anne's best. As she gets older, her insights into the human condition (along with her empathy and compassion) gain depth and become more illuminated, though her trademark dry humor is no less present. The unifying theme/metaphor of stitching together that which has been torn apart weaves its way through this short collection of essays and gains power as the book unfolds...by the end, I was ready to start listening all over again.
Karen Casey's work has been steadily growing on me, and I'm finding this book very helpful. That said, it's probably best to purchase a physical copy of this particular title (as I have done), as it's actually a collection of daily meditations which lends itself better to reading than listening.
Since Audible doesn't allow listeners to edit or delete reviews (get with it, guys!), I'd like to add that my earlier review of one of Casey's other books, "Change Your Mind and Your Life Will Follow", was in hindsight far too critical. Upon second listen (and especially after reading the physical copy), it's revealed itself to be a much wiser and more insightful book than I initially believed.
Karen Casey is obviously a wise and compassionate woman who has grown tremendously through her life experience with alcoholism, codependency, and 12 step recovery. In this book, Casey is great at describing what recovery from codependence looks like but not so good at actually conveying how to set the boundaries required to get there (as the subtitle promises), except to repeatedly tell people to "detach" (again, without giving much guidance on how to do this) and go to 12 step meetings. As such, the book often reads more like an advertisement for Al Anon or CoDA -- and maybe that's the whole point -- than a true self-help manual, much as her last book often felt like a trailer for A Course in Miracles.
Bottom line is that while I enjoyed listening to the many stories of people's lives (lots to reflect on here), and even gleaned something of value from many of them, I wish Casey offered more explicit guidance for recovering codependents than simply telling people to go to 12 step meetings. (She begins to touch on this a bit toward the end in her discussion of the twelve steps themselves, but it's not much to work with.) On the plus side, I did find this book more helpful than her previous title ("Change Your Mind and Your Life Will Follow") and Joyce Bean's narration vastly improved, so I'd still recommend giving it a listen.
With all the glowing 5 star reviews on Amazon, I was really hoping to get more out of this book than I did. While I didn't necessarily disagree with anything the author said (at least not strongly enough to elaborate on here), I found the writing itself to be quite repetitive and at times overly-theoretical/simplistic and preachy. (The narrator didn't help in this latter regard, as she sounded like a didactic boarding school matron rather than warm and inviting as the author herself sounds...an unfortunate choice.)
I did find some of Casey's stances contradictory and in one case troubling, i.e. warning people about the dangers of co-dependency (the tendency to over-focus on the real or perceived needs of others) while repeatedly suggesting that we have a spiritual duty to offer acknowledgment, kindness, comfort, and validation to every single person we encounter. While this is an admirable and perhaps even spiritually "correct" way to live, it can be problematic if not downright toxic for co-dependents until we/they learn to recognize the patterns of our co-dependent behaviors and establish healthy energetic boundaries.
Potential listeners should also be aware that much of the underlying philosophy of this book is rooted in "A Course in Miracles" more than the 12 Step program, an important point given the author's strong association with the recovery movement. As a former student of the Course, I have great respect for it as a spiritual teaching, but also find it to be extremely mental/cognitive in its approach (i.e. bypassing intuitive, emotional, and somatic forms of wisdom) and therefore not ideal for people who already live too much in their heads.
Neil Douglas-Klotz is such an underrated teacher. His style is very gentle and accessible, but the spiritual wisdom he unlocks through his translations of the Aramaic words of Jesus is nothing short of revolutionary. I would strongly recommend this audio program as a excellent introduction to Neil's other work (Original Prayer, Healing Breath, I Am).
This is another excellent addition to the catalog of work by Aramaic scholar, Sufi teacher, and mystic Neil Douglas-Klotz. For those unfamiliar with his work, Douglas-Klotz basically goes back to the original Aramaic words of Jesus and explains/elaborates on (often in great detail) their various levels of meaning, revealing a rich tapestry of mystical wisdom in the process. In "I Am" and Neil's other programs (The Hidden Gospel, Original Prayer, Healing Breath) we come to know Jesus as the real, Semitic, "Middle Eastern" person and teacher that he was -- deep, passionate (and compassionate), brilliant, creative, occasionally funny, and profoundly mystical. Christians and non-Christians alike stand to gain much from this reading of Jesus' teachings.
In all of his programs, Douglas-Klotz intersperses songs, chants, and meditations throughout the teaching, as a way to deepen, embody, and integrate the insights/knowledge being shared. This approach is consistent with Sufi teaching styles, and is also seen in the approaches of Judaic and Christian mystics. Multitasking listeners may find it distracting or frustrating, as you can't stop to perform the meditations while driving, exercising, or doing chores; other listeners will likely find it greatly enhances their learning.
A final note about Neil's performance as a reader/speaker. A previous reviewer complained that Neil's voice is "effeminate". Setting aside the implication that there is only one rigid, gender-based way for men in our culture to speak (not to mention the comment's not-so-subtle prejudicial overtones), I'm not sure how this listener defines "effeminate". Douglas-Klotz is a scholar, teacher, lecturer, and fluent speaker of English and Aramaic. As such, he clearly enunciates his words. He speaks kindly, deliberately, and intelligently; his tone is cheerful and encouraging. He does not sound like he just came from a NASCAR race, frat party, a night out with the guys at Hooters, or an event sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention...maybe that equals "effeminate" in the minds of Americans these days, I don't know. To my non-southern, bi-national US/Canadian ears, Neil Douglas-Klotz simply sounds like a nice guy.
I appreciate what Reza Aslan is trying to do with "Zealot", but like so many other books about Jesus, he misses the mark, or only hits it in parts. To portray Jesus through the ideologue/fanatic/zealot lens is to ignore so many other (more) profound dimensions of what Jesus was really all about, not to many vast swaths of the Gospels themselves. Jesus advocated violence? What about the instructions to "love thy enemies" and "turn the other cheek"? Jesus was concerned with a physical Kingdom of God? How does one explain the very clear statement, "The Kingdom of God is within you" or his numerous other references that point toward an inner or mystical experience of God? Jesus was an us/them, either/or, exclusionary thinker? How does one square that with the parable of the Prodigal Son or the many nondualistic images and metaphors that he used in his teaching? I could go on and on and on. Bottom line, "Zealot" may shed light on Jesus' times and perhaps some lesser known dimensions of his personality and work, but it fragments and obscures the real light, wisdom, and understanding that Jesus brought into the world.
Carl McColman's "The Big Book of Christian Mysticism" is NOT evangelical or fundamentalist in any way, contrary to the rather puzzling assessment of the only other review to be posted at this time; it is a highly competent and heartfelt (if somewhat didactic and prescriptive) overview of Christian mysticism/contemplative Christianity that is about as far from fundamentalist/evangelical thinking as is spiritually possible. To assert otherwise indicates that one simply does not know what the words "evangelical" and "fundamentalist" actually mean. (Medical intuitive and "Entering the Castle" author Caroline Myss wrote an endorsement for this book, if that helps clarify where the author is coming from.)
Authors or teachers from ANY spiritual/religious tradition are naturally going to quote/discuss the sacred texts and great spiritual masters of their faith. Quoting the Bible -- as a wisdom book in the "perennial tradition", not a literalist text -- and discussing Jesus, one of the greatest mystics and wisdom teachers of all time, is perfectly natural and appropriate for a Christian mystic or contemplative author to do, just as it would be normal for Pema Chodron to quote Tibetan Buddist texts or discuss the life of Siddhartha. (Does this really need to be said?) According to the standards of the previous review, everyone from Thomas Merton and Richard Rohr to Thich Nhat Hanh and Deepak Chopra (all of whom have quoted Christian scriptures and/or written extensively about Jesus at one time or another) would all be evangelicals or fundamentalists! Obviously, this is utter nonsense, as is any assertion that TBBoCM is coming from this perspective.
I can agree (in part) with one point that the previous review made, and that is regarding the narration. I don't know who at Audible is in charge of selecting/overseeing narrators for their self-produced titles, but they are doing a poor job, at least in the genres I listen to most often. While I am not going to attack this narrator for his southern twang -- evidently, not only are Christian writers not allowed to be Christian these days, but narrators are not allowed to have politically incorrect accents -- I am going to call him and (even more so) whoever produced this recording to task for some pretty inexcusable mistakes in pronunciation. For the narrator to mispronounce the word "contemplative" about a thousand times over the course of a book about contemplation, not to mention all of the other mistakes, and for this to go unnoticed and uncorrected in the recording studio...ugh. Personally, I'd pass on this audio and get the hard copy instead.
No doubt this is one of Richard Rohr's best books, along with "Immortal Diamond". Reading the reviews of both this book and others by Rohr, I'm struck by the number of people who are shocked that a book written by a Christian author can contain wisdom relevant to contemporary spiritual seekers...these folks have never heard of Christian contemplatives or the Christian Wisdom Tradition? It's as though every religion in the world is now recognized as a source of spiritual knowledge except for Christianity, which ironically happens to be home to one of the world's oldest and deepest wisdom traditions.
At any rate, if all this is new to you, there are many other wonderful, wisdom-oriented Christian writers/teachers out there to explore in addition to Richard Rohr...Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Cynthia Bourgeault, Thomas Keating, Gerald May, Thomas Moore, and Carl McColman come most immediately to mind but there are many, many others in all sorts of genres and sub-genres. (If you want something a little more entertaining -- though no less wise -- try Anne Lamott or Barbara Brown Taylor.) Explore the Western traditions, friends...you might be surprised!
Based on some of the negative Audible reviews (the Amazon reviews were kinder and better informed, as per usual), I almost didn't purchase this book, but after listening to Father Rohr's previous book "Falling Upward" and being extremely impressed, I went ahead and downloaded "Immortal Diamond". I'm so glad I did, as this book is every bit as good (though different) and could possibly be Rohr's best work to date.
While not as focused as its predecessor, "Immortal Diamond" reads like the masterwork of a spiritual teacher at his peak. The main theme of the book is the nature of the true self, and here Rohr's message is nothing short of luminous. A secondary theme critiques (to devastating effect) the church for being, well, the church, i.e. promoting outwardly-focused, tribal "Churchianity" as opposed to substantive, transformational Christianity.
As another reviewer observed, this book is best read/understood in the context of some of Rohr's other writing, particularly his books on contemplation ("Everything Belongs" and "The Naked Now") or his two most recent titles, "Breathing Underwater" and "Falling Upward", both of which explore the process of inner transformation through Christian contemplative practice (the former from a 12 Step perspective and the latter based on Rohr's brilliant "two halves of life" developmental model).
A word about the narration: while Kevin Pierce has a commanding voice and speaks with passion (almost to the point that he sounds in places like he could be the author himself), I found his delivery a bit too forceful at times. I also got annoyed with his many mispronounced words and names -- he botches poor St. Irenaeus's name repeatedly, as well as terms like Taize (tay-zay) that anyone reading this sort of material should know or acquaint themselves with. (This is a common problem with a lot of non-author narration, I've noticed lately.)
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