This book is worth buying, especially if you are new to this area of study. I'm giving it five stars and not knocking it for its content. That said, if you aren't new to this topic, it's still a good book, but there probably isn't anything earth shatteringly new that hasn't been written somewhere else.
The book is very much a combination of a few books. Dan Buettner's "Blue Zones" and "Thrive" come to mind, mixed in with some studies on the placebo effect.
* Would be an excellent book to give to a medical doctor as a gift.
* Author is a real medical doctor.
* Well written and professional.
* Relies heavily on the placebo effect.
* Somewhat contradictory in places.
The health plans include a heavy emphasis on happiness and include the standard Blue Zone formulas of becoming more spiritual, close family, etc. Frustratingly, while "deeper spirituality" is mentioned frequently, in one section the author states that any healing is just the body at work and not "woo-woo metaphysics."
While the placebo effect and spontaneous remission are valid explanations, woo-woo metaphysics could also be a valid explanation. This topic was just barely touched upon. It would have been nice to show some valid, scientific studies on this subject. For example, a Columbia study reported that: "prayer appeared to increase the rate of pregnancy in Korean women with infertility problems. The researchers, surprised by their own positive findings, noted that the women were completely unaware that people in three different countries were praying for them." How would the placebo effect be possible if the women were "completely unaware?"
Another good example is found in the The Global Consciousness Project (Princeton University). This large study found that people could influence random number generators in an unexplainable way (read The Field, by Lynne Mctaggart).
The bottom line is, when you are dealing with medical doctors and scientist, you have to pretend that the unexplainable doesn't exist (even when real scientist have studies showing unexplainable things working!). No, it is all just biology and chemistry.
It's time to move to a more results-oriented paradigm in medicine. Keep in mind that people took aspirin for over 100 years and didn't know how it worked, only that it produced good results. If acupuncture is producing good results, then it needs to be used, regardless if it is a placebo effect or "woo-woo metaphysics." (And there are valid scientific studies that show there is more to acupuncture than just the placebo effect. This was mentioned in "Mind Over Medicine," but only in passing, however).
Interestingly, while listening to the audiobook of "Mind Over Medicine," with its heavy emphasis on placebo effects and spontaneous remission, I heard a song on the radio by Nicki Minaj with the lyrics, "I'm not lucky I'm blessed." With the book's struggle between "deeper spirituality" and simply the body's "biology and chemistry" at work, the Minaj lyrics seemed to tip the scale for me: though not scientifically explainable, "woo-woo metaphysics" is a valid explanation. I'm not lucky, I'm blessed.
"Encountering the Wisdom Jesus" is an excellent lecture series. If you have ever wanted to hear an Episcopal priest teach from the Gospel of Thomas as if it were canonical, then this is the lecture series for you.
As the lecture series starts, you can hear shades of Elaine Pagels and Bart Ehrman in Bourgeault as she covers early Christian history. What makes this series of lectures a little more personal, though, is that Bourgeault is a believer. I say that not to judge Pagels or Ehrman, as their books are good regardless of their personal beliefs. However, Bourgeault adds something here that is missing from the more formal history books.
The series then compares and contrasts the Wisdom traditions against the Orthodox. If you have ever noticed that when comparing world religions, you run into statements like this: three out of the four major religions in the world have a similar belief. And without even looking, you know the one that doesn't hold the belief under discussion is Christianity.
It will come as a surprise to the West to all but the most diligent of researchers that Christianity wasn't always the odd standout in beliefs. It was only after Rome and the Orthodox baptized hierarchical governance and purged the gospels of anything that didn't make the case for the guy standing at the front of the church that the divide really started. The Protestants only continued the division, even as Protestantism divided amongst itself, as it combined "right thinking" and exclusion into the art form that is the denominational split.
Understanding this is crucial to understanding how an Eastern religion could be stripped so completely of anything Eastern that today few people even realize it came from the East. As Richard Rohr points out, we have denominations that have so rationalized things that they think Jesus was white.
In contrast to the West, where the central point is a belief system handed down through intermediaries, in the East it is always an individual inward journey. Whereas one group told you what to think, the other group wants you to figure it out on your own. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see why the second group was so dangerous to Rome. If you could figure it out on your own, you didn't need the guy at the front of the building or the hierarchical power structure.
What Bourgeault is teaching here is as exactly as she says, "a deeper way of knowing." Some of the things that got stripped out of Christianity over time were the best parts. For example, meditation -- a cornerstone of Eastern religions -- was actually a cornerstone of early Christianity. It was only de-emphasized in the West around the 18th or 19th century (source: wikipedia). As you can see, not having Christian meditation is a relatively new thing.
Mysticism was also a causality of "right thinking." What room is there for mystery, when Protestants had scripture (and God) down to precise formulas? Why would you need the guy at the front of the church if you could feel the truth for yourself?
The lecture series ends with nice, short guides to contemplative prayers and Lectio Divina. Again, the best parts of Christianity were stripped out over time. If nothing else, it is good to know history, and the monastic traditions of the early church are probably some of the least known and understood in the West.
That said, it doesn't have to be one or the other. The wisdom traditions fit within Orthodoxy, even though Orthodoxy wants to distance itself from the wisdom traditions. It is only through the wisdom traditions, however, that one can glimpse the unity of Eastern religions with Christianity. A view that has been totally hidden from the vast majority of Christians since the 3rd or 4th century. In that, there is true value in this lecture series, as we could all use a little more unity and little less division and "right thinking."
Recommended complimentary study:
The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church -- and How It Died by Philip Jenkins
The Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer, by Norris J. Chumley (book or Amazon instant video)
Resurrecting Jesus: Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic, by Adyashanti
Jesus And Buddha - Paths of Awakening, by James Finley and Richard Rohr (hard to find).
This book is a light introduction to a history of God, and perhaps philosophy. Alternative titles that would have been more fitting kept coming to mind for me. "A Brief Introduction to the Abrahamic God" or "God 101" were a few titles that I kept thinking of.
"God: A History," is a series of lectures that are mildly similar to, "The Evolution of God," by Robert Wright. For those unfamiliar with this excellent book, Wright makes the case that the Bible is is a reflection of man's thoughts about God. And because of this, what you see in the Bible as God changing over time is really the evolution of man's concept of God -- from polytheism to monotheism, from law to love -- over time.
The weakness of "God: A History," is also its strength, however. Whereas the audiobook to "The Evolution of God" came in at 18 hours and 29 minutes, "God: A History," comes in at a much more comfortable 4.5 hours. Of course, trying to learn all about God in 4.5 hours of your life is slightly laughable. But on the other hand, the lecture series did bring something to the table, and did so in a timely manner. That's not always a bad thing.
The lecture series is divided into 8 lectures:
Polytheist and paganism
Hebrew Bible (and the god or gods thereof)
Legacy of monotheism in the Abrahamic religion
The wisdom religions. Prophetic vs. Wisdom traditions
Debate of philosophers regarding God.
God and Politics...
In my opinion, the best lecture was on the wisdom religions, followed by the lecture on atheism. Having the option of getting some deeper lectures on these subjects would be really nice. I think in the West, the eastern wisdom traditions are the least understood but at the same time, offer some of the greatest help to the general malaise we are steeped in here in America (the ego run amok).
What I thought Ilan Stavans really added to the conversation was his Jewishness, and the fact that parts of the lectures were at times touchingly personal. While certainly there are modern Jewish perspectives about God out there, the fact that this was aimed at such a general audience makes it a little different, in my opinion.
In fact, while listening to these lectures, I wondered who exactly the target audience was. It seems like an academic lecture, but it is certainly more than that. And yet it isn't necessarily aimed at a religious audience, either. Nor is it aimed toward Jews or any other group. Yes, it seems impossible to pigeonhole this lecture series, and I think that is what makes it worth of your time.
It is important to note that this book is basically an autobiography. If you come to it looking for information on how to integrate yoga, Eastern wisdom, and profound Native American ceremony, you will be disappointed. By perhaps a quarter of the way into the book or more, the only mention of using Native American ceremony was that of sitting in a circle and passing a "truth stick" around. As it turns out, any information about Native Americans was basically that Ana lived with a tribe for a while and was taken under the wing of a medicine man.
There isn't anything terribly wrong with this book being an autobiography. Neither sacred ceremony nor physical yoga translates well to books (and especially to audiobooks), anyway. But for those actually interested in this topic and are looking for a "how to," I would save your money on this book and buy: "Sacred Ceremony: How to Create Ceremonies for Healing, Transitions, and Celebrations," by Steven Farmer. If you are interested in yoga and Eastern wisdom, I would highly recommend: "The Lost Teachings of Yoga," by Georg Feuerstein or "A Life Worth Breathing," by Max Strom.
As an autobiography, this is a page turner in a similar sense to how driving by an auto accident on the interstate is a head turner. I'm not saying it isn't interesting because it is. However, never, and I mean never, have I been so thankful for having a "normal," boring and uneventful life as when I finished this book. I actually wasn't even in this state after finishing Katherine Boo's, "Behind The Beautiful Forevers."
Fair warning should also be given here, too. The audiobook is certainly not something that can be listened to with children around because of language, sexual situations, and drug and alcohol use. Ana also, as mentioned by other reviewers, totally throws out sacred teachings on nonviolence.
The book's saving grace was the rather interesting time that Ana spent in India, as well as butting heads with the late B.K.S. Iyengar while there. If it had not been for this section of the book, there really wouldn't have been much left to recommend. However, this was interesting and well worth hanging in there for.
The bottom line is, the book is a weird, mixed bag with just enough interesting tidbits to keep the pages turning...but turn they did, so there is certainly some merit to the book
While Boyle was teaching a class to a group of lifers, one of the prisoners, on the spot, gave his definition of compassion. He ended slowly on, "...Compassion is God." Interestingly, before reading "Tattoos on the Heart," I read Lama Surya Das' "Awakening the Buddha Within." No matter how much I read about Buddhist, it never ceases to amaze me that there are groups of people in the world that actually sit and meditate on love and compassion. I think why this gets me is that Buddhist are perceived as being atheistic in nature. Yet, large numbers of Christians I have met, who believe in God, think constantly on wars and rumors of wars, and of storing up food and buying guns to kill people. They may think about love and compassion, but it sure isn't high up on the list of things to think about. Yes, I see irony in that.
The thought hit me, though, that if the definition of compassion is that, "compassion is God," then my definition of a saint would be: a saint is someone that not only meditates on love and compassion, but takes it into the world and puts it into action. By that definition, Gregory Boyle is a true saint.
Seriously, what is not to like about Boyle? A Jesuit priest that quotes Richard Rohr and Thich Nhat Hanh. A person that cares more about the good things you have done than the bad things. A much needed friend in a world full of enemies.
In my opinion, "Tattoos on the Heart" isn't just a book, but rather a training manual for how to rebuild America. No matter your political leanings, left or right, everyone should put aside their differences and see that this book is the way.
As we do crazy things like send all of our good jobs overseas and then pay people to sit around here doing nothing, "Tattoos on the Heart" shows us how much a simple job can mean to someone. It can mean the world to them. Literally, the difference between life and death. We should fight for every job we can keep here in America, like America depends on it, because it does.
As our foreign policy sees people as less than human, worthy only of carpet bombing, "Tattoos on the Heart" shows us that the way to make humans out of troubled people is not through violence, but through compassion. Indeed, the only winning move is to treat humans like humans.
As a whole, we have tried doing the same things over and over again, and got the same results. "Tattoos on the Heart" shows us a different path. Lets take it and see if something different happens this time. What exactly do we have to lose?
Having read "Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of Near-Death Experiences,"by Jeffrey Long and Paul Perry, before "Life After Life," at first I thought Dr. Moody's book was like reading something I had already read before. Not bad, but not anything new. I was pleasantly surprised, however, when it went off in a few unexpected directions.
"Life After Life," like "Evidence of the Afterlife," attempts to put together some rudimentary statistics and find common elements of NDEs (Near Death Experiences). I say rudimentary, because Dr. Moody says the number of cases he compiled is not high enough for deep statistical analysis. This is in contrast to "Evidence of the Afterlife," which compiled a large number of cases from all over the world through use of the Internet.
It should be noted that with "Life After Life" being published long before "Evidence of the Afterlife," the cases compiled by the Near Death Experience Research Foundation (NDERF) are almost identical, making the two books very complimentary to each other.
Where "Life After Life," shined, however, was a section on comparing modern NDEs to some ancient texts. Among those texts were, The Bible, selected writings of Plato, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, and Emanuel Swedenborg, a Swedish philosopher and scientist from the late 1600s who also wrote about the subject of the afterlife.
Of those texts mentioned, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, in my opinion, read so much like an NDE that one could attribute parts of it to someone that had nearly died during a car wreck in 1992, and it would hardly raise an eyebrow among those familiar with NDE experiences. Once again, showing that the ancients had a higher degree of knowledge and wisdom than we care to give them credit for.
A few other topics were also discussed that were not included in "Evidence of the Afterlife." One was on hallucinatory drugs, such as peyote. Missing from the discussion, however, was DMT, often described as the spirit molecule. While interesting, this discussion was short and on the lite side.
The other topic that was more interesting to me was a somewhat more in-depth look at NDEs of people who had committed suicide. These were pretty uniformly described as being negative experiences for the person who took their life, but ended up surviving the event. This differs from "Evidence of the Afterlife," because it contained very few, if any, negative NDEs that I can recall.
All in all, I am not disappointed in "Life After Life." The biggest knock against it is that, by luck of the draw, I had previously read a very similar book. However, it should be noted that in the 30-plus years of data collected between the two books, very similar in this case, is really astonishing. Then throw in the similarities of ancient texts, and one understands that this is a phenomena that dates back to the beginnings of recorded history. One could also speculate that it goes back well before recorded history, as well.
While difficult to date, the Bhagavad Gita is generally accepted to have been written well before both the Christian Bible as well as the Buddha. Some place it as far back as 4000 years or more. Academically, it is not generally dated that far back, though. Its relevance to the present day is that it supposedly contains universal truths.
People can believe what they want to believe and it makes little difference to me. This review being written in a supposedly Christian nation, however, my personal opinion is that all Christians should be required to read the Bhagavad Gita at least once in their life. Why? The carefully crafted version of history that was -- and still is -- spoon fed to Christians is that anyone in ancient times that wasn't a Christian was sacrificing babies on alters. That Christians think they have a monopoly on The Truth is somewhat of an understatement.
That said, "The Bhagavad Gita: A Walkthrough for Westerners," by Jack Hawley, would make a fine choice for a first time reader. The audiobook, read by the author is superb, as well. I normally cringe a little bit when I see an author read their own book, but in this case, Hawley did a great job. I can't imagine the book being read by anyone else.
The amazing thing about this translation is that it speaks to you as if it was written last week, not thousands of years ago. And just what wisdom can be found in these ancient texts that is relevant to today?
Note the following words on diet and eating:
[K]now that there are subtle elements in food that significantly influence the mind ... Tamasic people eat old, overcooked, stale, tasteless, impure, and dead food with no nutritional value.
As of this review, America is second only to Mexico as the most overweight nation in the world. We are looking at the fruits of eating old, overcooked, stale, tasteless, impure, and dead food. Our hospitals overrunneth. By just moving away from America, you could cut your risk of cancer by up to 200%.
A few years ago, U.S. News and World Report used an independent panel of 22 experts to rank the best diets. Many were surprised that the Raw Food Diet won second best weight-loss diet (a raw food diet is a nutrition plan that is based on uncooked, fresh and live...mostly plant-based foods).
Even more surprising is that thousands of years ago, the hazards of eating dead, overcooked foods was not only known, but written about. And here I was thousands of years later being surprised something that old is still relevant. It's almost as if I stumbled upon a universal truth or something.
Anyway, whenever I think about Bhagavad Gita, I'm always reminding of the movie The Razor's Edge, with a very cold Bill Murray sitting in a hut somewhere on the Himalaya mountains, while on his vision quest. At some point, he became so cold that he ripped the pages from the old copy of the Upanishads he was reading and used them to build a small fire. Maybe I'm wrong, but I always took that to mean that he figured out: there is only so much you are going to get from a book.
I think at some point, the spiritual was supposed to be experienced, not simply read. The Bhagavad Gita should be read, but don't let it be the end of your journey...
To begin with, the book opens with a brief history of UFOs and paranormal activity. The first couple of hours of this book is about as deep as something I would have picked up from a Scholastic Book Fair in the sixth grade. In fact, I'm not well versed in UFO activity at all, and yet I was familiar with quite a lot of material in this book. Not only did it not add anything new to the material, but it was kind of bland and I almost gave up on the book at this point.
After the book finally kicks into gear, though, it was well worth hanging in there. The author was very adept at trying to simplify quantum physics into laymen terms, and then build upon this base by showing how hokey paranormal experiences can be reconciled against modern, real science.
Following in the footsteps of "The Field," by Lynne McTaggart, "PSIence" is a report-style book. Rather than regurgitating material from "The Field" or the few other similar books, it managed to not only add new material, but did so in an engaging way.
There is a wealth of interesting quotes from real physicists and experiments that I was not aware of, even though this is a field of interest for me. But perhaps the most intriguing parts of the book were the final few chapters, in which modern quantum physics is contrasted to ancient sacred texts, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hermes, etc. Although, comments are made throughout the book about how The Field sounds like something mystics have been saying all along, the last chapter or so ties the two together better than any book I have come across so far.
The only other work I have ran across that attempted this, "The Source Field Investigations: The Hidden Science and Lost Civilizations Behind the 2012 Prophecies" by David Wilcock, fell short (in way, way more words) than what Marie Jones was able to accomplish here in a clear, short and concise way.
Although, I do still recommend "The Source Field Investigations." I think these two books are very complimentary to each other, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. The strength of "PSIence," is that it is much shorter and to the point than Wilkcock's Magnum opus. Wilcock also tends to get a little farther "out there" than Jones does. Not that there anything wrong with that, but if you were to be giving the book as a gift to someone that was not very open to metaphysics, "PSIence" would be the safer bet of the two.
When I think about my time on this earth, the lyrics to a Grateful Dead song always come to mind: what a long strange trip it's been. Indeed, when degreed physicists start sounding like Siddhartha, it is strange times. It's my belief that we are just on the edge of a lot of breakthroughs, but Newtonian physics is holding us back. It's my hope that we are approaching a tipping point, where the impossible will quickly become possible.
As quirky as they may seem, I think books like "The Field," "PSIence," and "The Source Field Investigations," are doing a lot of good to move us forward. Not to sound tired and cliche, but we really could be seeing the emergence of a new age right here in our lifetime.
True story. Many years ago, I was standing in a Goodwill store, looking at a rack of used books. I thought to myself, "I wish I could find some kind of book that was just huge and life changing." Less than five minutes later, in my hand, I was holding a copy of, "The Field: The Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe," by Lynne McTaggart. Since then, the number of days The Field hasn't entered my mind at some point during a day is fairly small. Personally, I don't think it was just random chance that I asked for a monumental book...and practically had one jump off the shelf and into my hands only moments after asking for it.
In my mind, "The Source Field Investigations" is the closest book that has approached "The Field" in stature, if not even surpassed it in some ways. I would describe "The Source Field Investigations" as "The Field" on steroids. Now, as sports icon after sports icon has fallen recently in doping scandals, lets be honest here that steroids aren't always a good thing.
That said, the book really has two different story lines. One of course is The Field and the other is ancient prophecy. There are some other tangents here or there, but that's the two main story lines. David Wilcock does an admiral job in tying the two together, in my opinion.
The story line of the Source Field, while sometimes laying on the pseudoscience fairly thickly, was excellent. The ancient prophecy was not without merit, but I found myself wishing that the book had been broken into two, or possibly three books. One just of The Field, one of just ancient prophecy, and perhaps one tying the two together.
Is everything in this book true? No. Whereas, McTaggart, I think, struggled to stay as scientific as possible, Wilcock permitted himself a little more freedom. However, while the book is a report-type book, based mostly around other people's research, Wilcock excels at tying things together in an entertaining fashion. Lets be clear here, even when sailing past pseudoscience into pure fiction, David is an entertaining author. That there is some fiction involved in the book should not scare anyone off. There is real science in here, too, and it is amazing.
One area in which Wilcock surpassed McTaggart is the audiobook version of this book. McTaggart's "audiobook" is misleading and is not actually an audiobook at all, being closer to a lecture. Wilcock on the other hand, presented the audiobook in unabridged form and read it himself. I normally cringe a little when an author reads his own book, but Wilcock did an excellent job. Even with the audiobook being nineteen and a half hours, it flowed very well from beginning to end.
Here is my biggest complaint of "The Source Field Investigations," which has to do with the subtitle, "The Hidden Science and Lost Civilizations Behind the 2012 Prophecies." In my opinion, the book should have had a different title and been a couple of chapters shorter than what it was. I had seen this book for quite some time before I purchased it, because the title is so off-putting. The book ends incredibly weak, as David spends a lot of time talking about things that will happen in or around the year 2012. I realize that he probably didn't think there was going to be a dramatic change almost instantly in 2012, but listening to the book in 2013, it makes David sound kind of foolish; almost like a TV preacher predicting the apocalypse for the fourteenth time in just as many of years.
If you have been eyeing this book, but not getting it because of the 2012 prophecy angle, do not let the title stop you. It is still a good book. No, it's an excellent book. You just have to take a few things with a grain of salt here or there. If you haven't read McTaggart's "The Field," get a copy of it, too.
I accidentally stumbled upon a group of books that support a theory I call "our little fake worldviews." My theory is, basically, that large amounts of things we believe -- and do so very firmly in some instances -- aren't even true.
The first in the series I found was "Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me), by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson. This book was followed by, The Self Illusion: Why There Is No "You" Inside Your Head, by Bruce Hood. Both of these books are highly recommended. Later, I found "Thinking, Fast and Slow," by Daniel Kahneman, which I'm reading now.
The basis of the books are that people are terribly easy to manipulate. For example, if you can prime someone by asking the question in a certain way, you can skew the answers given to the question. For example, if you ask the question, "Did Gandhi live to be 144 years old?" You can make people give a much higher age of death for Gandhi than his actual age when he died. Why? Because by inserting "144 years old" into the question, the majority of people start at 144 years old and go down, having a mental image of a very old man in the process (This example was actually from "Thinking, Fast and Slow," by Daniel Kahneman).
The first section of Nudge is very similar to the above books, being filled with interesting studies that show how little there actually is to "us." While very good, unfortunately, some of the studies had actually been covered in the above books somewhere. At some points, it seemed that entire paragraphs were interchangeable between books, as there were sections that I remember almost word for word from other books. I'm not sure who quoted, who, though, or which books even.
The second section of the book is about retirement plans, investing, insurance, etc. The connection to the first section is that, if people are "nudged" in the right direction (by subtle manipulation), the public at large can be pushed in a direction that benefits both the individual and society as a whole. The authors seem to think they are taking a libertarian position while doing their nudging, but as someone who has studied a lot of libertarians philosophy, nothing really jumped out at me as being overtly libertarian in origin.
Unfortunately, the authors are very long winded. The first section of the book is admittedly really interesting. However, if you don't actually have investments, stock, or retirement plans at work, you can just skip the second half of the book. It is tedious and boring.
While I'm sure the book may be of some help to people who actually have investments, stock, retirement plans, etc., this book could be skipped in favor of the similar but better books mentioned above. If you are interested in this book because of its purported libertarian leanings, I would suggest something from Ron Paul instead.
All in all, I am not disappointed for buying the book, but I sure wouldn't put this at the top of my list for must reads.
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