Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Shelf Control No. 2: Toward The Gleam, by T.M. Doran

Welcome to Shelf Control!

This wonderful book meme is hosted by Lisa @ Bookshelf Fantasies! It features books that are sitting right on our shelves or e-readers, that we want to read, but have just not gotten to as yet.
For the guidelines, just click HERE!

Here's my pick for this week!

Toward The Gleam
Hardcover, 481 pages
Ignatius Press
March 1, 2011
Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Mystery

From the Goodreads Synopsis

Between the two world wars, on a hike in the English countryside, Professor John Hill takes refuge from a violent storm in a cave. There he nearly loses his life, but he also makes an astonishing discovery — an ancient manuscript housed in a cunningly crafted metal box. Though a philologist by profession, Hill cannot identify the language used in the manuscript and the time period in which it is was made, but he knows enough to make an educated guess — that the book and its case are the fruits of a long-lost, but advanced civilization.

The translation of the manuscript and the search for its origins become a life-long quest for Hill. As he uncovers an epic that both enchants and inspires him, he tracks down scholars from Oxford to Paris who can give him clues. Along the way, he meets several intriguing characters, including a man keenly interested in obtaining artifacts from a long-lost civilization that he believes was the creation of a superior race, and will help him fulfill his ambition to rule other men. Concluding that Hill must have found something that may help him in this quest, but knowing not what it is and where it is hidden, he has Hill, his friends at Oxford, and his family shadowed and threatened until finally he and Hill face off in a final, climactic confrontation.
A story that features a giant pirate and slaver, a human chameleon on a perilous metaphysical journey, a mysterious hermit, and creatures both deadly and beautiful, this is a novel that explores the consequences of the predominant ideas of the 20th Century.

How I Got It
I purchased this book Amazon U.S.

When I Got It
I placed the order on August 25, 2013.

Why I Want To Read It
This novel reminds me somewhat of the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, who is one of my literary idols! The cover is not only GORGEOUS, but also has a very "Tolkienish" feel to it. The main character is a philologist, just like Tolkien was, and, also like Tolkien, he was fascinated by ancient languages. Of course, I find the plot totally fascinating, as well, with its mix of  fantasy, intrigue, and philosophy. I hope to be able to read this book before this year ends!

What do you think of this book?
Have you read it, and if so, 
did you like it?
Please leave a comment and 
let me know!

Book Review: Kabbalah: Key to Your Inner Power, by Elizabeth Clare Prophet

Kabbalah: Key to Your Inner Power
(Mystical Paths of the World's Religions)
Elizabeth Clare Prophet, Patricia R. Spadaro, Murray L. Steinman
Trade Paperback, 302 pages
Summit University Press
January 1, 1997
Judaism, Metaphysical, Mysticism, Nonfiction, Philosophy, Religion, Spirituality,Self Help, 
Theology, Theosophy

Book Synopsis:
This notable work explores the rich mystical tradition of Judaism, known as Kabbalah, and shows how to apply its extraordinary insights to one's own spiritual quest. It describes Kabbalah's Tree of Life and its theories on the creation, the origin of evil, the feminine aspect of God, the mysteries of the soul, and soul mates.

My Review

I've been interested in the Kabbalah for a very long time, although I have not read about it on a consistent basis. This book captured and held my interest throughout. The authors -- the main one being Elizabeth Clare Prophet -- quote from Kabbalistic texts such as The Zohar and the Sepher Yetzirah, as well as from the works of authors well-versed in the concepts of this fascinating mystical topic. The book is extensively annotated, which is something I greatly appreciated.

At first, I  wasn't sure about reading this book. Prophet was the head of a controversial New Age religion known as the "Church Universal and Triumphant", which is still in existence, although, from what I've read about it online, it does seem to be dwindling. It's basically been categorized as a cult. Even her own children have repudiated the church's teachings, and Prophet herself was mired in controversy during her lifetime, especially after her false prophecy about the coming of a nuclear strike on the U.S., back in the 90s. This so-called prophecy prompted the building of underground bunkers by the church, at the cost of millions of dollars.

I was therefore surprised by how much I enjoyed this book, in spite of the above, as well as in spite of some of the material included within its pages. 

Prophet doesn't limit herself to an analysis and explanation of the Kabbalah itself. She interweaves its insights with the teachings of her own church, which were heavily influenced by Theosophy. For those who are unfamiliar with this philosophical quasi-religion, it was founded by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, a 19th-century Russian mystic. She claimed to be in contact with "Ascended Masters" who regularly gave her messages, which became the basis for her books. 

Later on, Alice Bailey continued to channel the Ascended Master teachings, as did Guy and Edna Ballard, of the "I Am" Movement. Various so-called masters have been identified, such as El Morya, Saint Germain, Kuthumi, and even Jesus.  Prophet and her late husband, Mark L. Prophet, incorporated these masters, as well as some new ones, into their own religious philosophy.

Prophet does do a creditable job of making this bogus New Age "theology" fit in with the teachings of Kabbalah, but only to a point. I did not like her inclusion of these teachings, which assert that we all have a "Holy Christ Self", as well as an "I AM Presence". As a Christian, I would have to say that these teachings are totally heretical. They imply, or sometimes even state directly, that we are all gods. Paradoxically, Prophet sounds like a solid orthodox Christian in many parts of the book. However, she categorically denies that Jesus Christ is the "only" Son of God. Instead, she affirms, as many New Age gurus do, that we mere humans can someday attain "Christhood". Of course, I found this very offensive, as she's totally denying the work of Jesus as Savior of the world.

Still, something about this book called out to me, so I began to read it.

At the beginning of the book, Prophet ties together the theory of The Big Bang with Jewish mysticism. This is nothing new, however, as another author, Migene Gonzalez-Wippler, has done the same thing in her own book about the subject, A Kabbalah for the Modern World, which was first published in 1974, and has gone through several editions. Still, it was interesting to read Prophet's take on this correlation. 

Prophet also traces the beginnings of Jewish mysticism from what is known as "Merkabah Mysticism", which is based on Ezequiel's vision of the Throne of God in the Old Testament. 

She then goes on to discuss the Tree of Life itself, the Shekhinah (this is the feminine aspect of God), the three parts of the soul, and several other topics, all of which I found totally fascinating. She also correlates the Sefirot (the emanations of the Tree of Life) with the Indian system of chakras, something that was also fascinating

I found the last four chapters of the book very satisfying, in the spiritual sense. In Chapter 7, which is titled "The Practical Path of the Mystic, the authors (as mentioned above, Prophet co-wrote this book with two other people) describe the process of emulating the virtues of each sepfirah (this is the singular form of the noun "sefirot") in our daily lives. Chapter 8, titled "Prayer and the Power of God's Names", deals with the combination of prayer and meditation. Chapter 9, "The Mystic Ascent", and Chapter 10, "The Creative Power of Sound", are also very spiritually satisfying. These chapters discuss a method of "ascending" on the Tree of Life through prayers directed to each sephirah, which are all aspects of God.

In short, this book presents a very beautiful, elucidating, and engaging presentation of the Kabbalah, in spite of its (the book's) basic shortcoming, in my opinion -- the mixing in of Theosophical concepts of "the Christ within" and the Ascended Masters. 

As with all of the books Elizabeth Clare Prophet has penned, whether alone or with other authors, this one is not only well annotated, but includes an extensive bibliography, as well. She references such Kabbalistic authors as Moses Cordovero, Gershom Scholem, who is the most important modern scholar on Jewish mysticism, Aryeh Kaplan, author of The Bahir, Daniel Chanan Matt, a modern translator of The Zohar, and Z'ev ben Shimon Halevi, a current teacher of the Kabbalah, who resides in England. 

For those interested in this ancient mystical philosophy and spiritual practice, this book offers much of value. Readers of different faiths can simply overlook those things they find jarring or even too ridiculous to accept, and plunge into the spiritual riches of the Kabbalah.

If I were to rate this book, I would give it four stars.

About the Author

 From Goodreads

Elizabeth Clare Prophet (née Wulf) (April 8, 1939 - October 15, 2009) was an American spiritual author and lecturer.

She was a modern-day mystic, author, lecturer and spiritual teacher. She has been featured on NBC's Ancient Prophecies, A&E's The Unexplained, and has talked about her work on Larry King Live. Her lectures and workshops have been broadcast on more than 200 cable TV stations throughout the United States.

Among her bestselling titles are Fallen Angels and the Origins of Evil, How to Work with Angels, Soul Mates and Twin Flames, Creative Abundance, Saint Germain On Alchemy, and Violet Flame to Heal Body, Mind and Soul.

Elizabeth Clare Prophet’s autobiography is entitled, In My Own Words: Memoirs of a Twentieth-Century Mystic.

Online Links


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Shelf Control No. 1: The Onion Girl, by Charles de Lint

Welcome to Shelf Control!

This wonderful book meme is hosted by Lisa @ Bookshelf Fantasies! It features books that are sitting right on our shelves or e-readers, that we want to read, but have just not gotten to as yet.
For the guidelines, just click HERE!

Here's my pick for this week!

The Onion Girl
(Newford #11)
Charles de Lint
Hardcover, 508 pages
Tor Books
October 2, 2001
Short Stories, Urban Fantasy

From the Goodreads Synopsis

At the center of all the entwined lives in Newford stands a young artist named Jilly Coppercorn, with her tangled hair, her paint-splattered jeans, a smile perpetually on her lips--Jilly, whose paintings capture the hidden beings that dwell in the city's shadows. Now, at last, de Lint tells Jilly's own story...for behind the painter's fey charm lies a dark secret and a past she's labored to forget.
And that past is coming to claim her now.

How I Got It
I purchased this book on eBay.

When I Got It
Sometime back in 2006.

Why I Want To Read It
This writer is one of my favorite authors, even though I've only read one of his books, titled Dreams Underfoot, which is the first book in his acclaimed Newford series.

He's an incredible prose stylist, and creator of the most amazing fantasy plots! His characters are all memorable. I rank him right up there with Tolkien, although his brand of fantasy is of the urban type.

Charles de Lint is also a prolific writer, and I don't think I'll ever be able to get to all of his wonderful books in my lifetime! I would like to at least read his entire Newford series. Hopefully, I will!

You can visit Charles de Lint's 
website HERE.

What do you think of this book?
Have you read it, and if so, 
did you like it?
Please leave a comment and 
let me know!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Book Review: Magister Ludi, by Hermann Hesse

Magister Ludi: The Glass Bead Game
Hermann Hesse
(Richard & Clara Winston, translators)
Mass Market Paperback, 520 pages
Bantam, October, 1970
(Originally published as Das Glasperlenspiel,
1943, by Fretz & Warmuth Verlag AG,
Zurich, Switzerland)
Classics, Literary Fiction,
Philosophy, Science Fantasy, Utopian Literature

AWARDS: Nobel Prize in Literature, 1946

My Review

The great, German-born writer, Hermann Hesse, had a very profound impact on me during my college years. I am now trying to re-read the books that so fascinated me back then, although I don't expect I'll ever really be able to plumb their depths.  Hesse was much influenced by the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung, so his novels are full of symbolism and the hidden workings of the human psyche.  They also portray the workings of the archetypes -- those universal denizens of Jung's collective unconscious, which is shared by the entire human race.  Adding to this is Hesse's luminous, lyrical prose, which extends itself into long, descriptive passages of great literary beauty.

In other words, this is not an easy read.  It is, however, a rewarding one, if one is willing to invest the time necessary to savor the book, since it obviously does not lend itself to fast reading.  This is by no means the type of book that one "can't put down".  In fact, one must indeed put it down, and often, so as to ponder the things Hesse is saying.  Then one is inevitably drawn back to it.  At least, this is what happened with me. 

I would call this a rather unique hybrid of novel and philosophical treatise.  In that respect, it reminds me of the classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert M. Pirsig, a book that, among others, was very influential in the development of the American counter-culture several years ago, and which I also intend to re-read.   Another book that comes to mind is Sophie's World: A Novel About The History Of Philosophy, by Jostein Gaarder, which I have yet to read.

These are books that use the format of a novel to present philosophical ideas.  Therefore, the plot, if any, is driven by such ideas.  Obviously, this is not the typical novel that contains the basic elements of fiction writing as we have come to expect them.   There's no heart-pounding suspense, no fast action, little to no character conflict.  At the risk of sounding repetitious, I must again state that we are instead presented with a banquet of intellectual concepts to be pondered and enjoyed for the sheer enjoyment of doing so.   So this is literary pleasure of quite a different order. 

Through the fictional character named Joseph Knecht (whose last name in German means "servant"), Hesse presents the theme that dominates all of his books -- the intellectual life as contrasted with the active life.  Knecht undergoes an evolution in this novel, coming to the point of accepting that the intellectual life alone cannot satisfy completely, if entirely divorced from life in the sensory world.   In the process, the reader is given an intimate look into Knecht's -- and therefore, Hesse's -- inner world.  

The novel's predominant metaphor is the Glass Bead Game, invented by Hesse.  He never provides a clear picture of it, however, although he does say that, in its beginnings, the game was, indeed, played with glass beads.  Eventually, it evolved into a complex interrelationship of ideas, taken from certain fields of human knowledge, such as music, mathematics, languages, and science.   The purpose of each game is to find ways to link core concepts in these fields into one grand, symphonic whole.

There are at least two important sources of conflict in the novel, although said conflict is on a strictly intellectual level.  It's not of the action-oriented variety.  Instead, it's a clash of ideologies.  Knecht has two opponents here -- Plinio Designori, a guest student in the fictional province of Castalia, where the Glass Bead Game was developed, and Father Jacobus, a member of the Benedictine Order, whom Knecht meets when he is assigned to tutor monks in the basics of the Game.   Designori, who eventually returns to the outside world, represents the active life; he later becomes involved in politics.  Jacobus, on the other hand, represents the life of the spirit.  He is concerned about the fact that Castalia has no religion or belief in a Supreme Power.  Both of these men have a great influence on Knecht, who will eventually make the decision to fully integrate his intellectual life with that of the senses, of action.  This is despite the fact that he had been chosen to be the Magister Ludi -- the Master of the Glass Bead Game, at the age of 40.  As Magister Ludi, one of his duties includes leading the annual celebration of the game, an occasion of great ceremony in Castalia, attended by heads of state and other influential people in Hesse's futuristic world.

The novel also includes several poems "written" by Knecht in his student years, as well as three fictional lives he was required to complete as part of his studies.  These further demonstrate Hesse's power as a lyrical writer.  I only wish I knew German, so I could read this book in the original, thus getting the true "feel" of the work!

The perfect culmination to Hesse's literary work, this novel will repay the reader with some very interesting, profound concepts that will indelibly imprint themselves in his/her mind.  I would especially recommend it for those times when one does crave something to really engage the intellect.  Not that there's anything wrong with reading less challenging works, however.  It all depends on what the mind and the emotions are open to at any given point in time.  At least, this has been my experience, although I'm sure I'm not unique in this respect.

About The Author

(From Goodreads)

Hermann Hesse was a German-Swiss poet, novelist, and painter. In 1946, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature. His best known works include Steppenwolf, Siddhartha, and The Glass Bead Game (also known as Magister Ludi) which explore an individual's search for spirituality outside society.

In his time, Hesse was a popular and influential author in the German-speaking world; worldwide fame only came later. Hesse's first great novel, Peter Camenzind, was received enthusiastically by young Germans desiring a different and more "natural" way of life at the time of great economic and technological progress in the country.

Throughout Germany, many schools are named after him. In 1964, the Calwer Hermann-Hesse-Preis was founded, which is awarded every two years, alternately to a German-language literary journal or to the translator of Hesse's work to a foreign language. There is also a Hermann Hesse prize associated with the city of Karlsruhe,Germany.

Online Links

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Cozy Book Corner No. 9: The Differences Between My Two Blogs

Welcome to my Monday 
bookish feature!

In each weekly post, I explore 
my thoughts on several 
book-related topics.


Back in 2010, I first began to think about the possibility of starting a book blog. Actually, it was a co-worker, in a job I had at the time, who suggested it to me, and, the more I thought about it, the more interested I became. So, in September of that year, my first blog, A Night's Dream of Books, was born.

At first, my new blog was an eclectic one. I love several genres of fiction, including popular ones, and I also love nonfiction. However, I began reviewing fiction exclusively at first, later on expanding to include some nonfiction. 

I noticed right away that, since I was reviewing Young Adult Fiction on that blog, my readers didn't seem to be interested in any other genres. I got more comments on my YA reviews than I did on those that weren't in this category. Also, whenever I reviewed nonfiction, I got very few to no comments.

Therefore, I decided to start MindSpirit Book Journeys in 2012, in order to accommodate my other literary loves -- adult fantasy and science fiction, literary fiction, Christian fiction, and, of course, nonfiction. At the same time, I decided to restrict the reviews on my other blog to YA fiction, with perhaps an adult review every so often

In addition to book reviews, A Night's Dream of Books eventually included other kinds of posts, such as blog tours, giveaways, blog hop book memes, and author interviews. When I first started out, I also participated in blog awards and book tags. Eventually, however, I had to stop doing so, as these became much too time-consuming. Needless to say, MindSpirit Book Journeys is not the type of blog that would lend itself to these activities. I now have statements to this effect in the sidebars of both blogs, as well as in the comments form for posts.

It's been a rocky road since then, as life and work have frequently gotten in the way of my blogging. This blog, MindSpirit Book Journeys, went through a three-year hiatus, and I began to post on it again in 2015. I still don't post on it as often as I do on my other blog, though. This is a situation I would definitely love to improve!

There are obviously some differences between the two blogs. First of all, I consider my second blog to be a more 'serious' one. I have dedicated it to genres that require more intellectual analysis, as they deal with more profound topics. This is especially true of the nonfiction topics I'm particularly interested in. 

The purpose of each of my blogs is entirely different, and I do want them to remain totally distinct from each other. Therefore, I will continue to post on serious subject matter on this blog. This also means that I will not be doing giveaways or blog tours here, at any time now or in the future. Nor will I be posting author interviews. Obviously, I have nothing against these events, since they are part of my other blog. However, certain obligations come with such posts that I feel actually detract from a blog with a more profound type  of approach. Because of this fact, I also feel that these types of posts take away some of my freedom to publish what I consider to be important, and to my liking.

Unfortunately, I have actually felt forced to participate in the above activities on my other blog for the sake of giving it more exposure, and getting some recognition for it. Sometimes I feel that I've compromised my 'blogging values' to some extent. This is why I don't want to include the same types of posts on my second blog, which, to be quite honest, I would really prefer to make my priority.

Blog hops and reading challenges are not a problem for MindSpirit Book Journeys, though. In fact, I've already participated in one weekly blog hop, "First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros", which is hosted by Diane @ Bibliophile By The Sea. This was an enjoyable hop for a while, but eventually, I came to the conclusion that there was too much of a discrepancy between the books I like to read, and those the other blog participants like to read. So I decided to stop participating. I will join another blog hop, though, if I find one that includes books that are more compatible with my literary tastes. This might sound like a rather elitist, snobbish statement to make, but surely every blogger has the right to express their own opinions, and have their own particular literary tastes. For instance, what could either of my blogs possibly have in common with book blogs that review the genres of erotica and horror? I detest both, so I would not be at all interested in interacting with bloggers who love them.

Reading challenges are very interesting, and I feel they are perfect for both of my blogs. At A Night's Dream of Books, I'm currently participating in The 2016 Reading Challenge, hosted by Evie @ Bookish Lifestyle. At my second blog, I intend to participate in The Women's Classic Literature Event, which is hosted by The Classic Club

These challenges do not require any 'compromise' of my blogging values and standards. I am totally free to post about the books I enjoy reading, with no pressure to publish posts by any required deadline, as happens with blog tours, for instance. Of course, these challenges do cover the present year, but still, there's no pressure to publish posts at any given time. Participants are entirely free to choose the number of books they want to read, too.

It would be great if I could get more follows and comments on my second blog, but, since I don't include the 'crowd-pleasing' posts that I publish on my other blog, the likelihood of this happening is rather slim. Unfortunately, not every blog reader is interested in reading more serious posts such as the ones I publish here. 

There's another good reason for my lack of followers and comments on this blog. I have discovered other, similarly serious blogs that do have more comments and follows. These blogs employ a more conventional type of blog design, with white backgrounds and black type in their posts. In contrast, MindSpirit Book Journeys has a more 'ornate' type of design, so this might put off blog readers who are looking for more serious content. 

Again, I feel this blog allows me to be truly myself, to do things in complete freedom. I happen to be a very visual person, so I prefer to have bold images on both of my blogs, as well as more colorful blog designs. In the case of my second blog, if this puts off readers who might otherwise be interested in my posts, then that's a sad fact I will just have to live with. I simply do not feel that having a more conventional, staid type of design reflects my personality at all. My second blog might come off as too 'flamboyant' to some readers, but this is the type of design I like. I don't feel it detracts from my serious posts at all, either. 

In short, there are distinct differences between my two blogs, as each of them reflects a different side of my bookish personality. Both, however, do have one thing in common, and that is being 'uncommon'. I don't want my two blogs to look like other blogs, nor do I want them to look visually conventional. Not at all!

I will continue to keep both of my blogs distinct from one another. MindSpirit Book Journeys may never get the interaction I have on A Night's Dream of Books (although I don't get as many comments on that blog as other bloggers I know do on theirs), but that's just the way things are. I need to keep blogging away, hoping that my second blog will eventually reach a larger audience. But if it never does, I have to be content with that. After all, I'm blogging primarily for my own enjoyment. If others of like mind discover that they enjoy reading the posts at MindSpirit Book Journeys, they will be welcome, even if there aren't that many of them! 

I would like to acknowledge and thank those of you out there who are reading and commenting on this blog. I greatly appreciate you guys! 

What are your thoughts 
on this topic?
Please leave a comment
and let me know!