Tag Archives: New Age

First time novelist Matthew Félix delivers great escapism and some light philosophy with “A Voice Beyond Reason”

download

Review by: KEN KORCZAK

Pablo is an ordinary 20-something man living in a quaint Spanish village near the Mediterranean coast. He finds himself leading a simple, yet near ideal life. He’s employed in his mom-and-dad’s small grocery store. He has a pretty girlfriend, a cadre of good pals, a motorcycle … and he belongs to a supportive, tight-knit community.

But Pablo’s world is about to be shattered by tragedy. Suddenly, his comfy foundation is pulled out from under him. So many things he took for granted are gone.

The upending of his pleasant existence launches him on an unexpected journey of self-discovery that may not have happened if fate hadn’t thrown him a painful curve ball.

His journey of self-discovery manifests as a struggle between to competing viewpoints of modern life:

One is the dominant paradigm today, the pragmatic rationalism of a materialistic, scientific world view – versus that which many people today believe has been suppressed – a perspective focused inward on intuitive, non-rational, nonlinear and feelings-based cues that can lead to insights that may seem unrealistic at first, but tend to carry greater meaning, and ultimately, deeper value.

If I’m making this seem like this is a book of deep philosophy, it’s not that, or at least doesn’t read that way thanks to the skillful way author Matthew Félix lays out his story, so much of which takes place on surface, and where the action is stalled only occasionally for the deeper lessons the author wants to describe.

The latter is provided by the appearance of a classic figure of myth, literature and lore – the “Wise Old Man,” described as an archetype by the great Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, and “a stock character” by Northrop Fry’s “Anatomy of Criticism.”

800px-idylls_of_the_king_15

The archetypal Wise Old Man instructs a youth. Illustration by Gustave Doré

In this case, it’s the mysterious Victor Sarquino, a man with deep roots in the Andalusian region but who has not been seen in Pablo’s village for more than a quarter century, only to return suddenly for unknown reasons. He’s the classic archetype: Elderly, white bearded, piercing blue eyes and brimming with sage advice. (Think Gandalf, Merlin, Obi-Wan Kenobi …)

If there’s any weakness to this novel it’s the way Pablo and Victor engage in a series of philosophical dialectics that stops the flow of the narrative so that our hero can pepper his mentor with (often whiny) questions, prompting the Wise Old Man to dole out his wisdom, which border on becoming rather preachy lectures for us readers.

The great strength of this book, however, is the way Matthew Félix’s weaves spectacular observations of nature into the flow of the narrative. Because it’s set in the one of the most ancient and picturesque regions of the world, the Mediterranean coastal regions of southern Spain, the author has abundant material to leverage.

14553633

Matthew Félix

The natural environment takes center stage as a major character of the novel. Also, Pablo appears to gain strength, wisdom and insight from engaging with the spectacular scenery — rugged mountains, sparkling oceans, and splendid landscapes graced by groves of olive, almond or carob trees. There’s also misty caves, mountain goats, falcons, wildflowers and Neolithic rock formations to invoke a deeper sense of place and mystery.

alhambra_de_granada_-_espana

The Alhambra of Granada, Spain Photo by ángel mateo

I must also mention Mr. Félix’s obvious appreciation for ancient Moorish architecture and references to the passing cultures of the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans and Carthaginians – all of whom vied for dominance of this resplendent land for thousands of years – and this enriches the narrative with a profound acknowledgment of the importance of history.

Unlike the rather rote dissertations on intuition and inner wisdom we get from the dialog with old Señor Sarquino – the author deftly allows us experience the profound landscape of timeless, romantic Spain through the eyes of his main character – and this is where the novel truly sores.

There is one aspect of the novel that remains a bitter disappointment to me – but I will not discuss that here – for the very reason is that I know that 95% of other readers will disagree with me on this issue. I’ll leave it up to you to figure out what I might be  talking about … if you even can.

All in all, though, this is a fine first novel that provides great escapism, a just profound-enough philosophical message to inspire, and an interesting enough plot to keep us turning pages while we root for the protagonist and cheer him forward on his journey of discovery.



Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

All NEW: KEN’S BOOK REVIEW SITE ON FACEBOOK: REMOTE BOOK REVIEWING

Follow @KenKorczak

Maximus Freeman delves into his own psyche seeking the answers to spiritual growth

41cEG2TLtNL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
Review by: KEN KORCZAK

This book has an intriguing title, and it is aptly chosen because the author is attempting to dig into his own psyche, striving to uncover the greater meaning of what makes himself tick. He is on a courageous mission to find spiritual growth, but also to relieve the fundamental suffering that all human beings feel – what the Buddha called “the dukkha.”

The dukkha is the agony of the self. It’s that all-pervasive, undefinable pain and misery we feel that seems to come from everywhere and nowhere. It can be depression, it can be anxiety, it can be alienation, it can be a nagging sense of dissatisfaction, it can be loneliness, it can be persistent anger and contempt for others.

Many people today attack this suffering by reading the reams of self-help books on the market today. There’s never a shortage. Suffering is a universal phenomenon and wherever you find a universal problem, you’ll find hundreds of people offering a solution.

Like many people, the author has spent years in the New Age candy store, devouring the endless tomes of self-help gurus from all walks of life. He acknowledges the drawback of this approach. In the Prelude, he writes:

“Many books are informative and helpful, but usually within a week or two, I have forgotten most of what I have read and have resorted back to my old comfortable ways of being.”

His goal is to make this book different – more practical, effective, useful and leaving the reader with genuine tools that will get the job done – the relief of suffering and the discovery of greater spiritual meaning.

Does he succeed? Yes, in part, I think he does. His approach is at times brutally honest and sincere. His effort to penetrate to the fundamental elements of what makes us unhappy – and provide solid solutions — is downright heroic. MAXIMUS FREEMAN is clearly an author who deeply cares about his readers. He honestly wants to help you by showing how he tried to help himself.

He gets the job done partially with a lot of heavy leveraging of other self-help luminaries who are giants of the field – he quotes liberally from Gary Zukav and Dr. David R. Hawkins, for example. But he also dabbles in a bit of light channeling, connecting with a source he calls “The Universe,” from which we get insights in a question and answer format.

12854910

Maximus Freeman

Mr. Freeman also serves up some of his own advice, some of which comes off as perhaps a tad “corporate speak” in flavor, as when he offers his “Mechanisms of Transformation” which he describes as a “six-step spiritual maturation process.”

I don’t give this book my tip top rating only because I set the bar very high in this genre. As we all know, entire forests have been cleared to accommodate the truck loads of self-help books published year after year, decade after decades.

Consciousness Archaeology, although a fine book, is not destined to become a classic of the field. The structure of the book is a tad disjointed and uneven. I also found more than a few points I might quibble with, which I won’t air here – but when a book is just a 100 pages, it should have that power-packed “this is a home run” feeling or “this is a small gem” aura, which it just doesn’t have for me.

For example, “The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment” by Thaddeus Golas is about 80 pages, and after reading it you think: “All my problems are solved! Everything is so crystal clear now! I’ll never have to read another book again!” Other classics come close this feeling, such as “As a Man Thinketh,” by James Allen or “Acres of Diamonds” by Russell Conwell – and these latter three masterpieces are available for free across the Internet.

Let me just say, however, that I would recommend anyone buy and read Consciousness Archaeology. The way it work for people who are seeking answers through reading a lot of books is this: You never know when you’ll find that one book that really clicks for you; something that just happens to resonate with you in just the right way at the right time.

Consciousness Archaeology may be the book you need right now that has that certain something you need to hear at this moment in your life – you never know.

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

All NEW: KEN’S BOOK REVIEW SITE ON FACEBOOK: REMOTE BOOK REVIEWING

Follow @KenKorczak

‘Babe In The Woods’ by Frank DeMarco: Destined to be a cult classic on par with David Lindsay’s ‘Voyage to Arcturus’

babeReview by: KEN KORCZAK

I experienced a minor synchronistic “mind blast” while reading this book.

Sometimes an author’s style will remind me of another writer, but I can’t put my finger on it right away. In this case, it had been nagging at me for some 250 pages, like a steady itch. Then suddenly on page 255 it crashed into my mind: CLIFFORD SIMAK! That’s it! Ahhh! The itch was scratched!

But now the “mind blast”: I finished reading page 255 and at the bottom of page 256, lo and behold, I find this sentence:

“I though, unexpectedly, of Clifford Simak. Years ago, when I was a kid, I read one of his science fiction stories …”

Woo-hoo!

I don’t mean to make too much of it, but it was just one of those tiny “That was a neat feeling!” moments of synchronicity when you get buffeted unexpectedly by a wave on the ocean of Universal Consciousness.

Anyway – after 250 pages of  BABE IN THE WOODS  – I think anyone would become more in tune to transcendent wavelengths. This book not only gives you an idea of what it is like to tap into expanded consciousness, but dishes out insight after insight – it actually makes you feel what it might be like to push yourself to the edge of higher consciousness – a rare literary feat.

It tells the story of an ordinary group of people from widely divergent walks of life and professions who come together to challenge themselves – to open up their minds, to reach for new concepts, to expand what it means to be an “ordinary” human being in our dreary world calcified by scientific-materialism.

The model for the situation is a real-life program offered by THE MONROE INSTITUTE of Faber, Virginia. The Monroe Institute is an organization founded by the late ROBERT MONROE who became famous after publishing his first book about his experiences with out-of-body travel.

“Journeys Out of Body” came out in 1971. It was an unlikely bestseller, and was followed up with two more books, “Far Journeys,” and “Ultimate Journey.”

Perhaps no other books on astral travel have been more influential. Part of the reason is that Robert Monroe had never been a mystic or associated with any of the established traditions (such as Theosophy, for example, or Eastern religions) which trucked in arcane dabblings like “soul travel” (which also had scary occult overtones for many mainstream folks).

Monroe was no-nonsense, successful businessman who had made a considerable fortune in the burgeoning 1940s-50s world of radio. He was an entirely grounded, nuts-and-bolts kind of guy. However, in the late 1950s, he began to undergo unwanted spontaneous out-of-body experiences. This prompted the pragmatic Monroe to launch into an intense study of what was happening to him.

The eventual result was the establishment of the Monroe Institute. Its original purpose was to study the OBE and all of the mind-boggling implications which fall out of the possibility that our physical bodies are not “all that there is,” and indeed, that what we perceive as physical-material reality is not nearly all there is to consider.

The Monroe Institute developed a number of methods, mostly centered on sound technology that was designed to help any person achieve a state of higher or altered consciousness. These sound technologies leveraged something called binaural beats – and I won’t go into detail here about them, except to say that it was demonstrated that when people listened to binaural beats through headphones while in a highly relaxed state and in a supportive environment, the result could be an out-of-body experience, or some kind of realization of transcendent thought – in short, an expansion of the mind.

So this book, Babe In The Woods, takes us through a group of people who have decided to put themselves through the paces of a Monroe Institute program – except here it is thinly fictionalized as the “Merriman Institute.” Robert Monroe himself is fictionalized as “C.T” and his famous book, Journeys Out of Body is renamed “Extraordinary Potential.”

This is an incredibly ambitious book because it necessarily must employ a large group of characters – some two dozen people involved in the program – whom the author is tasked with not only introducing us to, but must rely on the reader’s patience as he builds them into believable characters of some depth, enough so that we can care about them and learn from them later.

The viewpoint character is modeled on the author himself — DeMarco is a veteran of several Monroe Institute programs.

b17955fdbb290ad8986c83.L._V177547328_SX200_

Frank DeMarco

DeMarco’s fictional incarnation is Angelo Chiari, a reporter with the Philadelphia Inquirer. The premise is that his editor sends him to the Merriman Institute to do some stealthy investigative journalism – and hopefully come out with an expose that might blow the lid off the weird snake oil the Institute is most likely selling to gullible people with enough money and desperation to seek answers to life anywhere.

But these journalist are professionals – both editor and reporter are not out to do a pre-determined hack job. Rather, they intend to get the story in a fair and objective manner. They’ll go where the facts lead them. If reporter Angel Chiari finds a legitimate program – he’ll write about that. If not, it’s blast away with both journalistic barrels. He very much expects it to be the latter, however.

The Chiari character is a classic example of what Henry Thoreau meant when he said: “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”

Chiari’s career is okay, but on cruise control. His work has long since become bland and meaningless. The heat of his decades-long marriage has cooled to a husband and wife more akin to roommates. His relationship with his children is shallow and distant.

Chiari holds no particular cherished beliefs. He’s a rational-materialist cog in the post-modern machine. He gets up every day and goes through the motions, running out the time clock on his life. His existence is like a tasteless block of tofu.

Perhaps it’s his training as a journalist that saves him – his fundamental dedication to objectivity leaves the door open just enough for Chiari to approach the Merriman program with an open mind and reserved judgment. That small crack in that door is enough for the Larger Consciousness System (to borrow a term from physicist Tom Campbell) to send Chiari tantalizing, subtle clues to convince him that, by golly, there might be something more to his existence – something remarkable..

This is the fourth Frank DeMarco book I have read. His writing style puts me in the mind of not only Simak, but also Sinclair Lewis (winner of the Noble Prize for Literature). That’s because there is a certain workmanlike doggedness to the way DeMarco hammers out his themes, and the way he develops and cobbles together his messages.

DeMarco somehow leverages the necessarily mundane and uses it to fetch glimpses of the transcendent. He is like a grounded, unspectacular Prometheus stealing fire from the gods, but bringing it back to us with the stolid work ethic of a UPS delivery truck driver.

Because of that, the insights we gain ultimately feel deeper and more authentic. DeMarco’s works are characterized by a  persistent and worrisome expression of doubt – the uncertainty of a person who knows he is threading a fine line between making sense of highly original and novel forms of information — while ever cognizant of the innate capacity of the human mind to fool itself with egoic delusions and struggles with Freudian “wish fulfillment.”

I’m guessing that Babe In the Woods, published in 2008, has since found only a small audience, but I can imagine it developing an ardent cult following – much in the same way that A VOYAGE TO ARCTURUS by Scottish writer DAVID LINDSAY has persisted and moved people since it was published in 1920.

You might be wondering how I can compare the syrupy surrealism of Lindsay’s ‘Voyage’ with DeMarco’s more staid ‘Babe,’ but I would challenge the reader to read both — tell me if you don’t see that, in a weird way, both works have the same heart.

Clifford Simak, Sinclair Lewis, David Lindsay — Frank DeMarco stands with guys like these in the literary world – and that’s not a bad place to stand, indeed.

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

All NEW: KEN’S BOOK REVIEW SITE ON FACEBOOK: REMOTE BOOK REVIEWING

Follow @KenKorczak

Aliens in the Forest a Fascinating read despite clunky prose

download (2)Review By KEN KORCZAK

If you are a true student of Ufology, this book will be a fascinating addition to your collection. I give the authors great credit for not only reintroducing to the public a sensational case of UFO/alien encounter, but setting the record straight about a story that has been much maligned and misreported over the years.

Even UFO-lit legends such as John Keel (The Mothman Prophesies) botched the story, as did other high-profile UFO investigation groups, according to the authors.

The authors also claim to be the first to identify the key experiencer in what is certainly among the most amazing UFO confrontations in history. California man, Donald Shrum, has not only come forward to tell his tale, but also provides photos and sketches of an event that forever changed his life.

The events took place in 1964 in a remote area of the Sierra Nevada mountains when Shrum was 26 years old. He was 73 when he sat down with the authors to tell his story. It’s a frightening saga indeed! Is the story authentic and true? For what it’s worth, I’m satisfied that it is.

Another terrific aspect of the book is the engaging artwork of illustrator Neil Riebe, from the beautifully imagined front cover to the pen-and-ink drawings inside which gave me a kind of nostalgic remembrance of the kind of UFO art one used to see in mainstream magazines from the `60s — such as SAGA, TRUE, REAL, ARGOSY and MAN’S WORLD.

The books fails to get a five-star rating from me, however, because the writing is clumsy, at best. The rendering of the information is repetitive in a way that makes it seem like Noe Torres and Ruben Uriarte realized they didn’t have enough information for a full book-length manuscript, and so they padded wherever they could.

In fact, the meat of the book ends a little over halfway through the document. The rest is appendix material and bibliography, and these latter materials don’t add a great deal.

The authors could create a much more powerful effect if they reissued this book perhaps as a Kindle Single, lowered the price and tightened up the writing, including editing out a lot of obvious wordy dross. I bet they’d sell even more copies and create a much more vibrant, punchy document that would be a thoroughly satisfying read.

Still, all in all, this is an important addition to the record of American Ufology.

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA

All NEW: KEN’S BOOK REVIEW SITE ON FACEBOOK: REMOTE BOOK REVIEWING

Follow @KenKorczak