It strength and weakness is that the book is primarily a Christian witness. I purchased the book out of curiosity about the NDE The book advertises. However, the book spends very little time on the NDE. Most of the book is Dr. Neal's life story, with an emphasis on how God has touched her life.
It was enjoyable for the most part but the marketing was misleading.
The narrator did a fine job.
I had a mixed reaction to Angelology, the first book in this series. The narration was good and the story was promising, though it would have benefited from some skilled editing. Angeloplois, the second book in the series, is shorter that the first book and a much more gripping story. The editing suggestion has paid off. This installment develops the characters and the plot, making the story much more complex and intriguing.
The angels in the first story were two dimensionl and lacked credibility. This time around they are more three dimensional and as interesting as the human characters. This in itself is a major improvement.
The narrator is excellent.
I look forward to the next installment.
The author presents her reflection on the Lord's Prayer in the context of her personal spiritual journey, as well as drawing on insight from the practice of Labyrinth prayer and a wide variety of works on Christian spirituality. While drawing on traditional sources, her personal insight and struggle adds depth to the work. While I've grown fond of her fiction, this book had me from the beginning. It also provides insight into the spirituality that she injects into her fictional works.
The audio book is the text of the Gospel of Mary Magdalene and a commentary by the author. The gospel text is the surviving fragment of an apparently longer document that was lost over the centuries. The value of the book is not so much in the gospel text itself, which is available for free on the internet but in the commentary by the author which places the text in the setting of the Gnostic worldview in which it was written.
The canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were only four of many gospels that were circulated in the early Christian community. The various gospels took stories, collections of saying and other Christian oral traditions and reduced them to writing. These gospels were not neutral documents but were written from the perspective of a particular community or understanding of the Christian message. The gospels that have come down to us generally represent the perspective of the proto-orthodox (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and the Gnostic Christians (Thomas, Philip and Mary Magdalene). The author’s commentary takes the cryptic text of Magdalene’s gospel and breaks it open for the listener, so that it can be understood as an expression of the Gnostic worldview in which it was written.
The contemporary Christian often looks at the early years of Christianity and views it as a golden era of faith and a glorious march through history with little disagreement on the basic Christian teachings that have come down to us. The reality is that there was a great deal of confusion and disagreement on exactly what Christians believed. Gnosticism was one of the earliest interpretative filters of Christianity apart from what emerged as proto-Orthodox. The energy with which Church Fathers attacked it suggests that it was attractive to many people and influential in the Christian community. Leloup’s commentary on Magdalene’s gospel provides helpful insight into why Gnosticism might have been attractive to people of the first century.
"The Poet Prince" is the third book in Kathleen McGowan’s Magdalene Line series. Most church historians will agree that in the early years of Christianity there was a wide variety of understandings with regard to what Christ had taught and exactly who or what he was. In the Magdalene Line series McGowan introduces the reader to one a line of Christianity that goes back to Mary Magdalene. This version of Christianity sees Magdalene as the wife of Jesus, has a Gospel written by Jesus and views the law of love as a fundamental moral principle. The community that follow this line of Christianity lost out as the dominant Christian line in the years following the rise of Constantine and the transformation of Christianity from a persecuted sect to a state religion. In the McGowan novels this community continues to exist as a subtle, underground force throughout history, attempting to shape the world in light of the law of love, rather than the power politics that all too often uses religion as a tool to manipulate people and nations.
The first book in the series established a shell story to root the series in the present and to aid the reader in uncovering the world of the Magdalene Line. Each book also takes the reader back in time to see how different people played a role in the history of this clandestine community and its impact on the world. The first book focused on the tale of Mary Magdalene, as the foundation story for the series. The second book developed the doctrinal content of the series and the characters that populated the shell story in the present. The historical aspect of the book told the story of Matilda of Tuscany, one of the truly great women of the Middle Ages. The third book in the series focuses on Lorenzo de Medici, one of the moving forces of the Renaissance. The shell story is also developed.
While the first two books in the series had their virtues and were engaging enough to get me to come back for the next installment, the third book had me all the way through. The author focused on the story and the characters, with much less of the didactic that filled the earlier works. All of the significant characters in both the shell story and the tale of Lorenzo de Medici were much more multi-dimensional than in the first two books; not just the heroic lovers of each tale, as with the earlier books.
My biggest complaint regarding the first two books was that the villains were cardboard characters, who came across as mere plot devices rather than as real people. In The Poet Prince there was a real improvement with the villains. Each of the villains was sufficiently developed that you could understand why they made the choices they did. It became a cavalcade of the seven deadly sins, as the villains made their choices from greed, lust, envy, shame, pride and even psychosis fueled by toxic and fanatical faith.
My complements to the narrator, Cassandra Campbell; she did an excellent job of making the characters come alive and providing distinct voices for each of them.
It’s been about 20 years since I did graduate studies and encountered Matilda of Tuscany in one of my courses. My professor was a fan of Matilda and introduced us to this larger than life woman who had such a profound impact on Western history. Thus, when Kathleen McGowan dedicated the greater part of "The Book of Love" to the story of Matilda, she had me. Since much of what passes for the history of the middle Ages only focuses on the military and economic conflicts among the narcissistic power brokers of the period, Matilda is often overlooked except in her political and military roles. Yet, this woman impacted so many aspects of medieval society that her influence is still being felt.
McGowan tells the story of Matilda within the context she introduced in her first book that includes Cathar beliefs, the theory that Magdalene was the wife of Jesus and that there has been an alternative “underground” Christianity since the time of Christ. In the author’s notes she makes it clear that she believes this to be true but that she presents it in the guise of historical fiction. She is a storyteller not an academic and is more comfortable presenting what she believes to be true in the form of story than as an academic disputation. She challenges the reader to consider the beliefs she presents on their own merit. Since this is a review of the book as a work of fiction, I will not attempt to discuss the merits of the beliefs presented in the book.
As a tale, the author draws me in whenever she tells the story of Matilda. She gives a nice sense of life in Medieval Italy and most of the characters from that period are fairly well developed and engaging. Even the villain of that part of the story, Henry IV, is believable in his malignant psychopathy. There are many little fables and vignettes, presumably from the “Red Book” that season the story and flesh out the mythological context in which the characters find themselves.
The author looses me when she shifts into the present. I get the feeling that the characters are there simply to explain the beliefs that the author is presenting in the book. Neither Maureen nor Beringer engage me as characters. Cousin Peter Healy seems to be the only character that shows any depth or development.
In a review of "The Expected One", her first book in this series, I complained that the villains were one dimensional, cardboard characters that were not really believable. At least one of the villains in "The Book of Love" is two dimensional. Most of the villains in the shell story are sneering, hooded figures, who skulk in the shadows and whose motivation is unclear. She develops the apparent leader of this cabal a little, yet the contemporary villains are not really necessary to the story. They don’t move the action forward to any significant degree, as that is done by the quest for the Book of Love and hints dropped by a mystery character.
As with the first book in the series, when the story is in the past I’m engaged and enjoy the series. That is what got me to read "The Book of Love" and that is what will get me to go on to the third book in the series.
The narrator does a good job and adds to the enjoyment of the audio book version.
Andrew Cohen argues that evolution is the expression of a fundamental universal drive in which the ground of being attempts to manifest all of the possibilities inherent in creation. As self-aware conscious beings we are the leading edge of this manifestation and have a part to play in the evolution of the universe.
This is an interesting insight but far from original with Andrew Cohen. These basic insights were first developed almost a century ago in the Process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead and the work of subsequent process theologians, such as John Cobb. The evolutionary aspect of his ideas are similar to those offered by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in the 40's and 50's.
Cohen seems to be trying to apply the insight from these earlier authors (even though he doesn't cite them--at least in the audio version of the book) to the practical level of how they impact one's behavior and choices, individually and as members of a community. He talks in generalities. While I can't argue against the points he is trying to make because I agree with them, he is so abstract in his discussion of his points that practical application of his points is unclear. Less talk about the "one not followed by two" and more concrete examples of what evolutionary awareness looks like in practice would be helpful.
There is a danger as well in the idea that culture is evolving. That same idea was popular in the 19th century as justification for slavery, colonialism and a dozen other forms of oppression, including the Holocaust. The economically and militarily dominant culture views itself as the most advanced culture and justifies its oppression of others as the right of the evolutionarily advanced culture whose manifest destiny is to lead the world into the glorious future (third riech, etc.). How are we to judge the direction and thrust of evolution? Is cultural evolution just an excuse to impose our values and world view on others?
The title "Proof of Heaven" is a bit of an overstatement but Dr. Alexander does add interesting data to the debate. He had a near death experience as a result of bacterial meningitis. This illness placed him in a coma and took his neocortex off-line for seven days. The highly detailed and hyper-real NDE experienced by Dr. Alexander would be dismissed by some skeptics as brain activity while the doctor was in coma. The thing is that with the neocortex non-functional it was biologically impossible for him to have the NDE that he did, if it was reliant upon brain activity. This basic fact is the prime message that he presents through the book. The book is a challenge to skeptics who automatically reject any experience that can not be explained away through material means. His data do not fit the material paradigm and he sees this as requiring the serious seeker of truth to look for alternative explanations. His personal conclusion is that consciousness is more than just an epiphenomonon of brain activity. Now, some might like to reject his conclusion out of hand and seek the opinion of experts, the thing is that he is the expert! There are few people in the nation who know more about the working of the brain than Dr. Alexander.
The book is fascinating and works at several levels. First, it tells the story of Dr. Alexander's illness and the impact it had on his family. This part of the story is moving and offers insight not only into Dr. Alexander and his family but into the plight of many families who are trying to cope with the devastation of brain injury and coma in a loved one. It is worth a credit for this part of the story alone. It also works in delivering Dr. Alexander's challenge to the scientific community. He has good, well documented data and challenges others to make sense of the data...in good scientific fashion.
The frustrating part of the book is that he doesn't really give much information on his NDE experience other than the general outlines and visual impressions.
Though he suggests that he experienced a good deal of intuitive insight during the experience. Perhaps the insight is too difficult to translate into more mundane concepts but it is a real loss to the interested reader/listener who doesn't have to be convinced of the validity of his experience.
The author is also the narrator. He does a good job. It helps that the book is about very personal experiences, so that he brings an emotional investment to his narration that enriches the listening experience.
What usually passes for history is the myths offered by the survivor of a conflict of cultures to justify its misdeeds and explain why it survived and another culture did not. Jack Weatherford does a fine job of looking behind the myths generated by the conflict between European invaders and the Native American peoples that began in 1492. He does this by focusing on those elements of Native American culture, resources and technology that have shaped contemporary life to a profound degree. In taking this approach he avoids turning the book into a litany of woe, while still allowing the reader/listener a good deal of insight into the richness and complexity of the Native American cultures encountered by the Europeans.
By any objective measure, at the time of contact various Native American communities were far advanced in comparison to the European invaders with regard to mathematics, medicine, pharmacology and agriculture. Many of their political systems incorporated the principles of democracy, personal responsibility and civic virtue which are highly valued political ideals to a much greater extent than the monarchical and despotic systems of Europe at that time. Native American architecture produced efficient designs for living, appropriate to the various ecological settings in which the people were building, as well as some of the largest and most enduring monumental buildings in the world. Among the Native American people, the Incas produced the best paved road system in the world high in the Andes Mountains. Indeed, the only comparable roads are those built within the past few decades.
So, given the obvious strengths of Native American culture and its clear superiority in so many ways, how did the Europeans decimate the Native American population and culture within a few generations? It seems to boil down to a few factors. First, the Europeans brought diseases to which their immune systems had built up a resistance over centuries but to which Native Americans had no such immunity. Much of the decimation of the Native American population was the result of pandemics unwittingly brought to the Americas by the Europeans.. Second, Europe and Asia had animal species, such as horses and oxen, which were domesticated and used for transportation, as well as effective weapons (horses in battle). These developments lead to the use of the wheel for transportation and as a simple machine element for European engineers. For all their magnificent accomplishments, the Native American people relied primarily upon human labor rather than animals of machines. Third, metallurgy was available to both Europeans and Native Americans but was used for a much wider variety of purposes by the Europeans than the Native Americans. European weapons technology incorporated the use of metals early in history, so that by the time the Europeans invaded the Americas their swords and guns gave them a significant advantage over most Native American communities who had limited their metal work to decorative purposes.
The book is interesting and an easy listen, except perhaps the section on agriculture where I learned more about Native American potatoes than I ever needed or wanted to know. It is a book that makes you think. While I don’t think it intended to the book also stirred up a bit of anger at the ethnocentric exceptionalism that leads any group of people to think that they alone are God’s unique gift to history and that fact gives them the right and mandate to run roughshod over other people and cultures.
The narrator does a good job in performing the book.
A week or so ago I purchased “Hard Magic” by Larry Correia as part of an Audible clearance special. It was the best investment in a long time. The book was pure pleasure. There was a good story, plenty of film noir ambiance, magic galore, and action from beginning to end. It was pure testosterone driven escape! As soon as I finished “Hard Magic” I immediately downloaded “Spellbound”, the second installment in the series and found it to be a big second helping of the wonderful confection. Indeed, there were even a few more nuts (literally) in this helping. The second book developed the story began in the first installment with new twists and turns, introduced some great new characters, and allowed all of the original crew to shine.
My complements to Bronson Pinchot, he did a great job as the narrator. The voices he created were spot on for each of the characters. They may have been a bit exaggerated if these books were more serious literary novels but for the fantasy/detective/magic/syfy genre they were perfect!
I will wait with great anticipation for the third installment in the series.
A week or so ago I purchased “Hard Magic” by Larry Correia as part of an Audible clearance special. It was the best investment in a long time. The book was pure pleasure from beginning to end. There was a good story, plenty of film noir ambiance, magic galore, and action from beginning to end. It was pure testosterone driven escape! As soon as I finished “Hard Magic” I immediately downloaded “Spellbinder”, the second installment in the series and found it to be a big second helping of the wonderful confection. Indeed, there were even a few more nuts (literally) in this helping. The second book developed the story began in the first installment with new twists and turns, introduced some great characters, and allowed all of the original crew to shine.
My complements to Bronson Pinchot, he did an excellent job as the narrator. The voices he created were spot on for each of the characters. They may have been a bit exaggerated if these books were serious literary novels but for the fantasy/detective/magic/syfy genre they were perfect!
I will wait with great anticipation for the third installment in the series.
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