SJ Parris has written three novellas on the early life and adventures of the Dominican Friar, Giordano Bruno. In The Dead of Winter, we find Bruno uneasily settled at San Domenico in Naples in 1566. Bruno’s curiosity draws him deeper into philosophical questions and the nature of the healing arts. He has a penchant for asking uncomfortable questions and an ability to pierce mystery. Learning medieval medicine soon brings him into contact with others who seek deeper knowledge. In dark times, that means powerful men in secret societies who run risks that this young priest finds irresistible. A forbidden autopsy, murder, and countless secrets swirl at San Domenico and so do the politics of power. It will take Bruno’s keen intellect to survive.
This is a nice addition to accompany the other full-length novels Parris has done on Bruno.
Although denied for centuries by the Church and some scholars, Donna Woolfolk Cross, has written a convincing fictional account of a ninth-century woman Pope. Her notes concluding the novel outline her credible sources for why she believes Joan did in fact exist. Her choice to write fiction was based on there not being enough known about Joan to write an extensive biography. Nevertheless, she makes a good case for her existence in a time when few records were kept and very little is known about the time period. Joan’s story comes to us through persistent legend and uncanny Church practices.
The novel plunks the reader down in a foreign age where women are not only second-class inferiors but brutally treated. Possessed of an inquisitive mind, Joan immediately resents living in a household where her brothers are educated to rise in the Church and she is left to menial housework. Her only eventual task is to marry as well as she can. Opportunity comes when her brother dies during a Viking raid, and she seizes the chance to disguise herself as a man and enter monastic life. Once established, she excels as a scholar and healer. Turbulent times eventually lead Joan to Rome and all the way to the papacy.
Cross’ book roughly follows the legends that have come down about Joan. The tale is well-written and engaging. Modern audiences can well imagine the motivations of someone who wants more for themselves and acts to defy convention and take advantage of opportunities as they come along. The story is a triumph of the human spirit striving for expression while the darker forces of others are at work here as well.
More Answers and Advice for Parents of Estranged Adult Children- Sheri McGregor, MA
About a decade ago, I became the unwilling member of a group of parents who society has forced into silence and continues to judge and blame. Truth be told, I would have made many of the judgments that were projected on to me. I am the parent of an estranged adult child. Ignorance and silence perpetuate untruths concerning estrangement. Along with this, there has developed an entire philosophy of cancel culture and a business sector within psychology that supports blaming parents. Don’t get me wrong—I realize divorce, drug abuse, alcoholism, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse all can lead to estrangement. But these are NOT fueling the phenomena we’re dealing with. Sheri McGregor’s book is about how “good parents who work diligently and do their best sometimes end up without the sweet fruits of their labor.” Her statistics indicate that as many as one in four families will experience an estrangement at some point. Gone are the days of reasonable parenting producing anything like reasonable outcomes, IMHO. Early in my own search for understanding, I looked for books and found ridiculous nonsense that blamed, shamed, and put the onus on parents for reconciliation. What a breath of fresh air to find McGregor’s book which empowers parents!
In 2016, McGregor released her first book, Done With the Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children. I skipped that one preferring to go on to the second because the focus of Beyond Crying is about moving the family that’s left behind forward. After years of processing my own feelings and coming to the same place as the author about her own situation, I was more concerned about how siblings handle estrangement and how to prepare for end-of-life choices. In addition, Beyond Crying, offered expanded material on mental health, boundaries, and truths about reconciliation.
The overall emphasis of this book is to help parents recover a strong and healthy sense of self to move forward with purpose. The adult child may never reappear or reappear only to break again. Even reconciliation that is functional will never be what it once was. You can’t go home. Hard truth. McGregor shares many stories from interviewing over 50,000 parents who have walked this path. They are enlightening.
And I know that if you read this far, you’re wondering—why. Why did my estrangement happen? Like many of the parents in the book, I don’t know why. I never will.
This is the BEST real-life thriller I’ve read since Hot Zone, and it provides the basis for the hell year we all lived through in 2020.
Michael Lewis conducted the background research to explain why the US was horribly prepared to face the unfolding of a pandemic. In this book, we meet the behind-the-scenes heroes, who early on attempted to provide insight and guidance, and … were thwarted.
Read about Laura Glass, a 13-year-old in New Mexico, whose interest in disease spread for a science fair project becomes the nation’s starting point in understanding how to model Covid increases. Of course, this couldn’t happen except in a nation focused on external terrorist groups. Lewis also exposes the reader to the systemic failures of the public health system by taking us inside the lived experience of a Lilith-like character (Dr. Charity Dean) who buts heads time and again with the CDC, even before Covid. As a public health officer, she knew how her contemporaries would react as 5000 or so separate entities, at a time when a single strategy would be necessary to contain spread. Learn the history concerning the Swine Flu and why the CDC would never step up again and take the lead in a time of crisis. As an agency, the CDC emerges singularly unfit to fight anything. It is an academic study agency wholly unsuited to lead anyone anywhere.
Behind the scenes, like in a great movie, a team of maverick scientists gather online to share data and ideas. Many are highly placed, occupying careers in agencies throughout the government, risking their careers meeting covertly. Led by Carter Mecher of the VA, the team overturned previously held beliefs about the 1918 Pandemic showing that social distancing and mask wearing could make a difference. Mecher had also been instrumental in developing a national response plan under a previous administration. For a time, the team has an influence especially when Charity Dean gets the ear of CA. Gov. Newsom in the early days of the pandemic but soon politics force her out. If this had been a Hollywood movie, the heroes would have prevailed after the fight, but this was reality and 2020 was some kind of alternate reality at that. The book ends in the spring of 2020. Bungling government institutions fail to step up, focusing on avoiding blame, and preserving the status quo. Hundreds of thousands die, the nation is divided, we fail to contain the pandemic. Big questions remain. Have we learned anything? Will we take the steps to address pervasive governmental shortcomings, or will we be the laughingstock of the world in the next pandemic, too?
Hundreds of books will be written in the years to come to trying to capture the Covid experience. This is an eye-opening one setting the stage for what unfolds. If you were constantly puzzled by the lack of governmental leadership on all levels, this book is a good starting point into gleaning an understanding.
The premier episode of The Mystical Minute. Join Ellis for brief videos on all things mystical or spiritual. The first up is a look at what we know about NDEs (near death experiences) from the book After by Bruce Greyson.
Greyson is a psychiatrist who has been studying near death experiences (NDEs) for decades. He brings his research and a plethora of stories together in this book as he walks the reader through his process of discovery. The stories are fascinating (especially the ones where someone learns about someone’s death during an NDE only to return to life and find out that person has died). If you are familiar with NDEs, he will plow well-known ground for much of the book. You must remember that Greyson took up his work when scientists didn’t even agree on what the term NDE even meant. How far we’ve come!
The book suffers (for me) because he refused to date any of his material apparently thinking that it would make the cases sound old and trivial, but it makes it difficult to get a sense of the whole timeline. There is also a grating repeat of his insistence of his scientific perspective throughout. I get it! You’re an MD and want to be accepted by peers. (You told me that! Move on.) It’s hard not to draw a sharp contrast to the mettle of an Ian Stevenson and the constant lack of confidence Greyson reveals. Enough of my personal pet peeves though. Does the book hold value? Of course, it does.
Greyson tackles some difficult and little covered areas. Most NDE stories are positive with positive outcomes. But there are people who have negative NDEs. There are also the lesser-known downsides to NDEs. These effects and stories are covered in the chapter aptly named, Hard Landings. Grayson would also like to shift the focus of the NDE discussion away from what happens after we die to how NDEs can help people live better, more fulfilling lives. Research suggests just learning about NDEs can help people make meaningful changes in how they live. All good points.
I think this is the kind of book where the take-away message is really going to depend on who YOU are. Are you questioning the reality of NDEs? Then the linear approach of Greyson’s scientific method will appeal and do much to answer your questions. Are you already convinced of the legitimacy of the NDEs? Then, maybe, the stories and the way people are forever changed by these events will speak to you. For me, it’s always been more about what NDEs say about our understanding of reality that makes the phenomena not only intriguing- but important. Lessons from NDE research supports the idea that consciousness does not spring from the brain, but rather that the brain acts as a receiver that filters information. Science has a lot of work to do to figure out how the mind and the brain function to explain all the intricacies experienced in NDEs. These understandings will have far reaching consequences on the whole way we structure our paradigm.
Some points to ponder:
*5% (approx..) of the population has experienced an NDE. (They are COMMON!) 1in 20 Americans have had one- means you probably know someone who has.
*NDEs happen to all genders, ages, religions, ethnic groups.
*Most experiencers are convinced some part of us continues after death.
*Studies of the brain, reveal that memories of NDEs look like memories of real events (NOT like how the brain remembers fantasies or imagined events).
* NDEs REDUCE the fear of death (overwhelmingly!!) regardless, if the NDE was positive or negative. It also reduces the fear of living allowing more risk taking and enjoyment of life.
*Experiencers who see those who have died when no one knew they had died, may suggest a form of continued consciousness after death. THE BIG QUESTION!!!
*NDEs point out flaws in the current brain-based model of consciousness.
“The AWARE study (AWAreness during REsuscitation) is a multi-hospital clinical study of the brain and consciousness during cardiac arrest, including testing the validity of perceptions during the out-of-body part of near-death experiences (NDEs). Dr. Sam Parnia is the principal investigator. The initial results, from the first four years of the study, were published last December in the medical journal Resuscitation (PDF).
Of the 2,060 cardiac arrests during the study, 140 patients survived and could be interviewed for the study. Of these, 101 patients had detailed interviews, which identified 9 patients who had an NDE. Of the 9 NDErs, two had detailed memories with awareness of the physical environment. One NDEr’s experience was verified as accurate;…”
This is a novel of great action and thought-provoking questions. The story spans continents, history, and cultures.
The story starts in Denmark when Charles Darwin’s Bible goes up for sale and someone tries to steal it. While an interesting historical artifact, no one really believes it can possibly be worth the kind of effort someone is using to obtain it. So why the interest? Gray Pierce, Commander of SIGMA Force, is soon on a trail leading to past horrendous Nazi experiments.
Meanwhile, in a Buddhist monastery in Nepal something awful has happened. SIGMA Force director, Painter Crowe has gone off the radar. Painter and an American doctor have come upon a scene of cannibalism and barbarity perpetrated by the monks. Now they are on the run from a group of killers with no idea what they have stumbled into.
At breakneck speed, Gray Pierce must solve these seemingly independent mysteries to save his colleagues and stop a plot that may alter mankind’s destiny.
This is a book reminiscent of Michael Crichton’s work (I miss him!!), combining facts and fiction in a highly compelling read. James Rollins is a veterinarian and he laces the book with plenty of science- evolution, intelligent design, quantum physics, and genetic manipulation.
From the book:
“…this new field of quantum evolution offer the strongest support for intelligent design,” Anna said, “but it also answers the fundamental question of who the designer is.”
“You’re kidding. Who? God?”
“Nein.” Anna stared her in the eye. “Us.”
Sounds a lot like being a co-creator. Quantum evolution exists as a theory and the author credits a book with that title by Johnjoe McFadden for many of the ideas explored in Black Order. The book asks us to consider not only how we got here but where are we headed as a species.
Dreams say what they mean, but they don’t say it in
I think all of us have wondered about our dreams and their meanings Some dreams are easily deciphered but others leave us puzzled. Throughout my adult life, I’ve tried to journal my dreams but have never been able to keep up the practice for very long. I’m back at it now and went in search of a book that could help give insight into at least the psychological part of the conundrum. And although not everyone remembers their dreams, all healthy humans (who are not taking some drug that interferes in some way), dream every night.
Author Gillian Holloway, Ph.D., has been working with dreams for decades. Having collected over 28,000 modern dreams and their analyses, she has produced a guide for the modern introspective person looking to learn and grow by observing their dreams.
As many of us recognize, dreams have their own language and becoming familiar with the language allows a deep, penetrating awareness of what’s going on in the submerged iceberg-sized layer of our subconscious. But so does having a basic understanding about how dreams operate in general.
There are life stage dreams- so that teenagers or elders are prone to certain kinds of dreams. Similarly, certain personality types also are more likely to experience certain sorts or categories of dreams. Men and women have different dream themes and settings for dreams. Your choice of profession will also influence your dreamscape. Dreams are largely symbolic and not to be taken literally. This is especially true of death. Death is usually about endings, not actual physical death. Dreams are often overly graphic and disturbing so that they get our attention. Giving them that attention tends to diffuse them. In the same way, recurring dreams shout out for further exploration. But beware-dreaming of a high-school lost love does not mean you should look him up on Facebook!
Some of the many areas explored in the book can be seen by quickly perusing the chapter headings.
Ch 1: The Dream You
Ch 2: Recurring
Elements in Your Dreams
Ch 3: Sex,
the Characters in Dreams
Ch6: Human Body
Ch7: Home &
Ch 8: Cars
Ch9: Travel: (Planes,
Ch10: Water and
Other Dream Settings
Ch 11: Animals
The book is well-written and easy to understand. Many sections are fascinating. For me, the book brought back memories of long forgotten dreams, as well as moments when I felt I’d never had a certain kind of “commonly” reported dream. I think everyone could benefit from reading the book. It could also spark some lively conversation if you start to ask others about their dream world.
Dreams are an experience we all have. We can choose to
become conscious of them and use them as tools or we can ignore them. It’s a
life choice we make. In counseling clients, the author has found that dream
analysis is where she has seen the fastest and most effective results therapeutically.
There are many misconceptions about astrology. This book attempts a survey of its effects on Western Civilization. It’s a big job! This is a history book and astrology has been around a very long time. Most of us think astrology can be summed up by those little paragraphs written about your sun sign that commonly occur in magazines and papers. Some who have delved deeper know astrology is a science- one that predated and in part, gave birth to modern science. How is it that this thread is all but missing from history books? It is said that history is written by the victors and from that perspective (I suppose), astrology did not win. Bobrick’s book is not a book about whether astrology is a valid science. Rather, this is a book about how ideas and people’s understanding of them played a role in history.
Bobrick opens the book with a very compelling case about how Columbus would never have set sail on a voyage of discovery except for having been inspired by an astrological idea that had come from the Persians through the Arabs and finally to the West by way of a French Cardinal and astrologer, Pierre d’Ailly. Known as the great conjunction theory, where Jupiter and Saturn unite, it was thought to herald great changes. The once- in- 960- year astrological event so excited Columbus, he decided it heralded the end of the world and everyone on the planet would need to be converted. He adopted the name Christophorus, “the Christbearer” and sought the financial aid of Spain. Columbus’ copy of the astrologer’s work who so influenced him, including his personal notes, can be seen in Seville. Ideas are no small matter!
Man has always been intrigued by the skies. The origins of astrology go back to Mesopotamia, the Chaldean East, including areas of Babylonia and Assyria. From there, it spread to Egypt and Greece. Astrology was known in Greece at least as early as 1184 BC. Plato was tutored by a Chaldean astrologer. Astrology eventually incorporated Pythagorean concepts. But it wasn’t until Hellenistic Egypt that astrology came into its own and combined with Greek mathematical astronomy. By 150 BC, the earliest handbook on astrology was written. These ideas spread throughout Greece and on to India.
Babylonian astrology tablet, (photo: Poulpy)
Astrological disc, Egypt (Ptolemaic 332-31 BCE)
During the Roman Empire, all classes of people were influenced by the practice of astrology. Astrologers were consulted at the highest levels and several Emperors were skilled astrologers (including Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian). The fundamental work on astrology (Tetrabiblos) in the classical world was done by Claudius Ptolemy who drew on ancient sources.
Zodiac, (6th cent.) synagogue, Beth Alpha, Israel
From Tetrabiblos (9th cent. Byzantine manuscript), zodiac & months
As the Roman Empire declined and the West fell into darkness, astrology flourished in the East and the lands held by the Byzantines. By the 9th century, Islamic, Jewish, Greek. Persian, and Hindu scholars gathered in the intellectual capital of Baghdad. This was Islam’s Golden Age when cooperation, innovation, and learning flourished! The Arabs translated Greek texts and got to work on pioneering science. Arab scholars pursued astronomy, geometry, algebra, trigonometry, calculus, introduced a system of numerals, created a decimal system, refined the lunar calendar, and built observatories. What came into existence then was what is today called “Arabic astrology”- a fusion of Greek thought and Arabic science. From this tradition, the formidable astrologer al-Biruni’s text, The Book of Instruction in the Elements of the Art of Astrology (1029), had a strong mathematical basis and he firmly believed no one could call himself an astrologer without a thorough understanding of all the sciences. Such was the nature of the profession.
Astrolabe, Islamic (1067AD), (photo: Luiz Garcia)
All of this is a fascinating way of viewing history through the perspective of the emergence of science. From this lens, astrology is the science that underpinned what we think of as modern science. This was the need to watch the skies, to take measurements, to create the mathematics and instruments for observations, and then to make it relevant. Of course, astrology is also the oldest of the occult (meaning “hidden”) arts. And so much more than those little paragraphs in magazines that pass as horoscopes.
In part 2, we’ll look at how the Church and European Courts have viewed the practice of astrology. (Have you ever seen an astrological clock or a stained-glass window with the full zodiac?)