Download from Amazon: https://goo.gl/O6Bvxq
Download from Amazon: https://goo.gl/O6Bvxq
This is the only time I will be doing this promotion. Get your FREE Kindle copy from Amazon (now through Dec. 10th). Snuggle up by the fire and join Blake as he treks in the Himalayas. Happy holidays to everyone! (We have a house in Brussels and we’re moving in Jan. I’ll join you from Belgium in the new year.)
GRAB YOUR FREE COPY HERE: https://goo.gl/O6Bvxq
Just in time for the holidays.
Order through Amazon: goo.gl/EKcVDB
What’s it about? Jurassic Park meets Micro
A hundred years in the future, twelve-year-old Nigella receives a shipment from her deceased grandfather. Her inheritance is a herd of micro-elephants. While a lot of her friends have micro-pets, Nigella is at a loss on how to care for them. Why are her micro-pets so different from everyone else’s? What was her grandfather up to? With the help of her best friend, Kepler, the girls set off on an adventure to discover the truth.
Also available as an ebook.
This is a book I thought long and hard about highlighting. I expected great things and was overall disappointed. Unfortunately John Horgan is a reductionist materialist and despite the access he had to various spokespeople on mysticism, he remains thoroughly unconvinced. He is a science writer who holds the dogmatic party line through the entirety of the book. That said, I think some valuable perspective can be gleaned from the people Horgan talks to. It’s worth the read to get an overall feel for the modern history of the topic and hear from some of the players.
Horgan begins with a definition of mysticism within the historical context. He interviews Huston Smith who discusses mysticism as a cross-cultural, cross-religious experience. Smith represents the notion of the perennial philosophy. The author’s search next takes him to a two day conference in Chicago where mysticism is treated as a literary phenomenon. These scholars know in great detail the texts left behind by Eckhart, St. Teresa of Avila, Shankara, etc. But sadly, none of them has any personal experience with anything remotely mystical. The journey continues with an interview of Ken Wilber dubbed ‘the weightlifting Bodhisattva’ by Horgan. Wilbur stands behind Smith adhering to the perennial philosophy but also embraces science as a way to explore and define mystical experience.
Important information is raised in the chapter called Can Neurotheology Save Us?. Horgan visits with Andrew Newberg, the doctor featured back in 2001 in Newsweek’s article, “God and the Brain: How We’re Wired for Spirituality.” Wouldn’t it be nice if brain scans could prove mystical states and help us to understand them? Unfortunately, a review of data collected on all sorts of meditation doesn’t support any nice clean conclusions according to Jensine Andreson, a theology professor at Boston University. And that in turn brings into question all the benefits touted for meditation. A review of the studies looking at meditation and its benefits Andreson believes, are poorly designed and won’t hold up to scrutiny. Of course, as it relates to mystical practice, mystics don’t meditate to lower their blood pressure but I would concede that a whole lot of Americans do increasingly view meditation as a health practice. Should they?
Continuing the scientific pursuit of mystical states, Horgan interviewed Michael Persinger of Laurentian University, Canada. Starting in the 1980s, Persinger began studying the brain’s response to electro-magnetic pulses to certain areas of the brain. 40% of Persinger’s test subjects experience a presence. The Canadian magazine Mclean’s called this device, “the God machine.” Persinger maintains that he has not addressed the God question with his work, rather his interest is in understanding the electrical pattern of the brain that leads to religious belief. But does the machine produce mystical experiences? No. Apparently, no one tested has reported the typical sensations of bliss, unity, or ineffability commonly reported by mystics. Scientific attempts to link temporal lobe excitation or epilepsy to mystical experience do not hold up either.
Horgan next turns to practitioner of Zen and neurologist, James Austin who penned the book, Zen and the Brain. Austin calls his approach perennial psychophysiology. Instead of gaining metaphysical insight, Austin thinks the mystic undergoes deep changes in personality. Someone who has had these experiences becomes more stable, more compassionate, and more selfless. As a specialist in brain disorders, Austin attempts to separate healthy mysticism from other illnesses. His approach relies on the idea that mystical experience releases excitotoxins which cause the loss of neurons. This in turn, allows us to get rid of those things that distort our view of reality. This is as scary as it is fascinating. For me, it makes mystical experience similar to brain damage. Can that really be?
No book on mysticism would be complete without a foray into drug induced mystical experience. Horgan looks at the history of LSD, DMT, and ayahuasca. He visits Stanislov Grof, who is involved in the transpersonal psychology movement. Grof believes that we must move into a new paradigm where mind has primacy over matter (the book was published in 2003, not a unique idea now). There’s an interesting discussion of Rick Strassman’s work as outlined in DMT: The Spirit Molecule. The colorful Terrence McKenna makes an appearance in a later chapter where he advocates the use of psychedelics.
The book is a nice romp through lots of questions with little in the way of conclusions. I often had the feeling that the author was totally out of his depth. Why did this topic appeal to him? He remained a science writer who attempted to fill pages. Most of them are interesting. I wonder what the book would have looked like with another author or even what the book would look like if updated.
It’s time to announce a big change. Over the next few months, I will be relocating to Brussels, Belgium. Living abroad will bring many new challenges and hopefully, lots of new experiences. I speak no French or Dutch so that in itself will be tough, but we’ve been assured that many Belgians speak English and there are lots of expats already in the city. My most pressing issue is to figure out how to get a big dog and two cats into the country. So if anyone has sage advice on airlines, routes, or anything else- please share.
We are planning to travel just after Christmas and so much has to be done between now and then. Because of that, I probably won’t be as available on social media as I have been. Be patient, I’ll be back. 2017 will bring the publication of a new book called Tender Tulips, Dark Diamonds:A Ghost Story. Part of the story takes place in the Netherlands and this move will allow me the opportunity to explore some of the places mentioned in that book. Oddly enough, I’ll be writing a new novel set in Colorado at the turn of the last century while I’m in one of the low countries. So on to new adventures!
The fabulous Heather Rivera and I talk about the writing process.
I know Philip Kerr from his children’s novels and didn’t realize he wrote stories for adults. While searching for another book, I came upon his Dark Matter, a novel written in 2002 and it immediately caught my attention. It’s 1696 and Christopher Ellis has just taken on a job assisting Sir Isaac Newton at the Royal Mint. As Warden, it’s Newton’s job to hunt down counterfeiters. A challenging enough job but when mysterious murders start happening, Ellis plays Watson to Newton as an earlier version of Sherlock Holmes. Clues and body counts rise as Ellis and Newton face personal danger in the politically volatile back streets of London. Throw in a mix of alchemy and codes and we’re off on a most puzzling case. Turns out that more than the economy of the realm is threatened. A century’s old massacre pits Huguenots against Catholics in a revenge plot only the brain of Newton can piece together. This is a thoroughly fun historical thriller. Kerr excels with this one!
It’s contest time! Leave a comment below and be entered to win a copy of the electronic version of Elephants Never Forgotten. Contest closes at noon (EST) on Friday (Sept. 9th). I’ll do a random drawing and award two books. To enter, post a comment below on what you most like(d) about school. What was/is your favorite class? Who was/is your best friend? Who was/is your favorite teacher (or who do you despise)? Spill! Don’t forget to leave me a way to contact you. Add your email or website where I can find you. If your icon doesn’t lead anywhere, I can’t find you!
JURASSIC PARK meets MICRO in this exciting MG adventure!
ELEPHANTS NEVER FORGOTTEN
A hundred years from now, twelve-year-old Nigella receives a shipment from her deceased grandfather. Her inheritance is a herd of micro-elephants. While a lot of her friends have micro-pets, Nigella is at…
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