God and the
Evolving Universe

<The Next Step in
Personal Evolution

James Redfield,
Michael Murphy,
Sylvia Timbers

James Redfield wrote The Celestine Prophecy, Michael Murphy cofounded the Esalen Institute, and Sylvia Timbers produced a documentary on Tibet. They have joined here together to give a guide to what they refer to as "personal evolution."

The book begins with a summary of "human awakening" --- Vedic culture, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, evolution, and what they call "the continuing story." Part Two deals with "The Emerging Human Being" which has to do with various transcendent states, including luminosities, intuition, reincarnation, OOB, inspiration, and supernormal memory.

Finally, they speak of "transformative practices," which involve sharpening the "inherited physical, biological, and social processes that all of us have cultivated."

    We can strengthen and redefine our will, visualize desired capacities, deepen our self-reflection, detach ourselves from particular emotions and thoughts, and raise our center of consciousness....The basic elements of transformative practice, in other words, are inherent to our developing nature as it has been formed by the evolution of life on this planet.

The last 100 or so pages of God and the Evolving Universe consist of an extensive listing of "The Literature of Transformation" --- some 500 titles, ranging through Aristotle, the Bible, Meister Eckhart, Lao Tzu, Ovid, Plato, Pantanjali, Elie Wiesel, Aldous Huxley, Robert Monroe, Jack Kornfield, Chogyam Trungpa and Michael Murphy.

§     §     §

Having now summarized what Redfield Murphy et al have put together, I would like to report that it is one of the most resourceful, exciting, vibrant examinations of human potential, with a magnificent language that strains all bonds, transforms the reader, takes him or her to the very edge that the knowledge of wisdom and the wisdom of knowledge can, together, catapult one --- in other words, brings a spiral of wonder that caroms us into if not through ultimate transformation.

I would like to report all that, but, alas dear reader...I cannot. If you want to discover the inner meaning of the soul, transcend the tawdriness of your day-to-day life, bask in the ultimate wisdom of mankind's capabilities, you are better off going to a rave in Death Valley, watching an evening of MTV, or even heading down to Jake's Tavern on Broadway to listen to the babble of the drunks and rattling of the juke-box. God and the Evolving Universe is not only dull --- it's stupefyingly dull. It manages to repeat in tired, worn-out, spiritless language all that those of us who have studied ancient and modern religion and thought have discovered on our own over the years. It has all the glamour of the Anaheim Convention Center and the pizzazz of the bantam poultry show at the Iowa State Fair.

But, fortunately, it's not all for nought out there in Murphy-Redfield Land. The last 100 pages, with an extensive list of readings of other works that may help us on our path, is, if nothing else, all-encompassing... if not all-encumbering. I'm not so sure that you and I would even begin to follow all the suggestions of volumes to study. To read Plato's Symposium, Phaedo, and the Collected Dialogues, or to wade through all four of Darwin's major writings along with his correspondence would try the patience of a saint --- although, according to Gurdjieff, being massively bored for a boringly long time might be one of the ways to achieve earthly enlightenment.

If you pick and choose among the more interesting titles, then despite it all, you may, possibly, achieve something in the way of understanding of other worldly experiences available to mankind. All of us want to share in the transformative experience; and, sooner or later, with or without the help of Murphy et al, we are bound to discover that this ecstasy will not come to us solely through the written word.

--- A. W. Allworthy

Book Business
<Publishing Past
Present and Future

Jason Epstein
Jason Epstein has had an interesting and probably very lucrative life in American publishing. He was editorial director of Random House, helped to found The New York Review of Books. Over the years, he edited novelists Norman Mailer, Vladimir Nabokov, E L Doctorow, Philip Roth, and Gore Vidal.

But an interesting and experienced editor does not an interesting and experienced chronicler make. He should tell us his story without dropping too many names and at the same time convince us of his ultimate humility; but, unfortunately, he can't cut the mustard because he is too carried away with the wonders of Jason Epstein.

When he isn't telling us of his genius in creating Anchor Books or the NYRB, he's trying to whet our appetite with gossip about Edmund Wilson ("Wilson himself was unabashed by descriptions of sexual intercourse") or Vladimir Nabokov ("seated in a corner of the otherwise deserted bar wearing a loud Hawaiian shirt, pretending to be a boisterous American tourist addressing in a booming Midwestern voice Vera and another woman.")

He is also given to telling us all the famous people that came through his life: Bennett Cerf, Barney Rosset, Robert Lowell, Bob Silvers, Norbert Wiener. Knowing no stars ourselves, we would never presume to tell Epstein how to conjure up some humility. Perhaps the trick is to slip in names and not do it in such a way as to seem to be saying nyah-nyah. When he describes seeing William Faulkner on the streets of New York we half expect to hear him tell us what pals they were.

Epstein might well gain a few pointers by reading others who have known the famous but manage to weave it into their tales in a unobstreperous fashion. Perhaps he might take a short sabbatical to read some John Kenneth Galbraith, William Buckley or his peer, Michael Korda, who are masters at this (Galbraith even wrote a book called Name Dropping which is an elegant spoof on the practice.)

Finally, Book Business is filled with dire predictions of the present and future of the book business. Epstein obviously longs for the days back at Random House's old Villard mansion where everyone knew everyone else and could adjourn to a bar nearby to drink martinis and make gossip about the publishing world. He deplores the trashy books that are being published by the big houses nowadays, and manages to ignore the astonishing changes that have taken place in small press publishing and university presses, and --- too --- how the internet used book combines (such as ABE) have changed the face of publishing and the availability of books alike.

--- Ignacio Schwartz

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