Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Book Review: Books of Light, by Robert Leichtman & Carl Japikse

Books of Light
Robert Leichtman, Carl Japikse
Mass Market Paperback, 184 pages
Ariel Press, 1988
Creativity, Fantasy, Metaphysical, Nonfiction, Science Fiction, Spirituality
Source: Purchased at used bookstore

Book Synopsis:   There is a rich treasure of books, both fiction and nonfiction alike, that explore the nature of spiritual growth, psychic development, the inner dimensions of life, and healing. Books of Light is a collection of reviews which introduces the reader to the best such books in print today, in the hope of inspiring him or her to discover these treasures. Each of these books has been a selection of the Books of Light Book Club, the only national book club in the New Age. The reviews printed in this collection were the ones first introducing each book to club members. There is also an introductory essay on the art of intelligent reading.

There is a rich treasure of books, both fiction and nonfiction alike, that explore the nature of spiritual growth, psychic development, the inner dimensions of life, and healing. Books of Light is a collection of reviews which introduces the reader to the best such books in print today, in the hope of inspiring him or her to discover these treasures.Each of these books has been a selection of the Books of Light book club, the only national book club in the new age. The reviews printed in this collection were the ones first introducing each book to club members. There is also an introductory essay on the art of intelligent reading.

As the book synopsis states, this is a collection of reviews of books on various spiritual and metaphysical topics. This is the first and only time I have ever come across such a book, and I have found it to be absolutely fascinating, even though, of all the books reviewed, there are some I know I would not be interested in reading.

The authors, Robert Leichtman and Carl Japikse, are well-known in New Age circles, and are partners in the publishing house of Ariel Press. Both have written books themselves, all related to New Age topics. Their book club, mentioned in the synopsis, and now no longer active, featured these types of books, whether written by themselves, or other authors. These continue to be featured through Ariel Press.

Another interesting and unusual thing about this slim volume is the mix of reviews of fiction and nonfiction books, as well as the mix of Christian and New Age books (although the collection does favor the latter). For instance, No One Hears But Him, by Taylor Caldwell, is a collection of stories revolving around a sanctuary located on a hill, in an unnamed town, to which people go in order to tell their troubles to someone who listens in silence, behind a curtain. This person is later revealed to be Jesus Christ. On the very next page, a book titled Winged Pharaoh is reviewed. The author, Joan Grant, claimed that her novels, of which this is one, were really recollections of her past lives. Another book reviewed is The New View Over Atlantis, penned by John Michell, which is a revised edition of his earlier work, originally published in 1969. This nonfiction book examines the work of several researchers regarding the existence of ley lines. These are "a precise network of straight lines crisscrossing the English countryside in a geometric pattern." (pg. 40, Books of Light) According to Wikipedia, they are alleged alignments of sites of historical importance, such as ancient monuments

Other titles mentioned by Leichtman and Japikse are classic fantasy and science fiction works, such as The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis. This book of fantasy tales is full of Christian symbolism, since the author was a famous Christian writer. Also mentioned is Lewis's science fiction work, The Space Trilogy, whose volumes include Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. This series of books deals with an alien civilization which regularly communicates with God through beings known as "Eldila", who are somewhat like angels.  Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein, is a science fiction classic about a young man brought up on Mars who subsequently arrives on Earth to preach a religion based on "grokking", which means to totally understand and empathize with people. Magister Ludi ( a/k/a The Glass Bead Game), by Hermann Hesse, which won the 1946 Nobel Prize for Literature, is a fascinating exploration of the contrasts between the intellectual life and the active life. 

There are also reviews of two books by Ayn Rand -- The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged. The first is about an architect who refuses to compromise his creativity and personal principles, and thereby encounters great opposition. The second one is about a group of people who decide to band together to establish a new society founded on principles of excellence, genius, and self-sufficiency. 

In regards to Atlas Shrugged, I must say that, although the plan for this new society sounds great on paper, it is established through the 'shrugging off' of "the tyranny of the masses". The founders of this new society "are no longer willing to carry on their backs the hordes of welfare consumers". (quotes from pg. 137, Books of Light) So, in other words, social responsibility to those less fortunate is totally eschewed. This sounds like a totally callous, cruel attitude. While I would certainly champion the fostering of excellence and creativity, this must be tempered with a social conscience. Rand is not known for her social compassion, however, which is why I never finished reading The Fountainhead when I started it, years ago. So I would argue with Leichtman and Japikse's inclusion of these two books.

I was delighted by some of the other books included in this volume. One of these -- Memories, Dreams, Reflections, by Carl Jung -- is a book I have long intended to read. In  it, the great psychologist candidly reveals the workings of his inner world. According to the authors of Books of Light, it is "one of the most important books of our century." (They were referring to the 20th century.) The Time Quartet, by Madeleine L'Engle, is a collection of four wonderful children's fantasy/science fiction books, starting with the best-known one, A Wrinkle In Time. The others are The Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and Many Waters

Another book that I was happy to see included is Narcissus and Goldmund, by Hermann Hesse. I have read most of this author's novels, and consider him one of my favorites. In this particular work, Hesse examines the creative, artistic life, as contrasted with the life of the mind. This is a powerful novel, one I intend to re-read, as my first reading took place years ago. Another Hesse novel, Siddhartha, is also included. Of course, I intend to re-read this one, as well, although I do prefer Narcissus and Goldmund, together with Magister Ludi

The Dragonriders of Pern, by Ann McAffrey, is another wonderful inclusion. McAffrey's novels should have been brought to the silver screen a long time ago; after all, she invented the concept of people riding dragons way before Christopher Paolini's Eragon burst upon the scene!

The nonfiction books mentioned in Books of Light explore various typical New Age themes. There are several titles such as The Reappearance of the Christ, by Alice Bailey, who was a member of the Theosophical Society, The Bach Flower Remedies, by Edward Bach, M.D., Clairvoyant Investigations, by Geoffrey Hodson, which deals with angels, There Is A River, by Thomas Sugrue, which examines the life and work of Edgar Cayce, Music: Its Secret Influence Throughout the Ages, by Cyril Scott, and many others.

Each review gives a summary of the book's plot or subject matter, and then an interesting analysis of the book, why it's considered important by the authors of Books of Light, and thus, recommended to their readers. Leichtman and Japikse are excellent writers, so their reviews are the next best thing to reading the books they have analyzed. They also make for some very entertaining reading!

The only thing I found detracted from this work, besides the inclusion of books I don't believe accurately reflect the beauties of the spiritual life, is that there is neither a Table of Contents, nor an Index. Both would have been very helpful in locating the books and topics mentioned. However, the excellent reviews more than make up for this, so I am giving this book the highest rating. I do think that this is a fascinating collection of book reviews, as well as a great reference source for those who, like me, are interested in the topics covered. In fact, the authors' reviews have motivated me to seek out some of the works mentioned, as well as to plan to re-read others!



  1. Another great post Maria.

    This does sound like a very eclectic collection of reviews.

    It is definitely puzzling as to why the Ayn Rand books are included here. I share your reservations regarding her philosophy. But that is not the reason that I would question the inclusion. The problem is that there is almost nothing spiritual about her books even if one uses the most broad definition of spiritualism.

    On the other hand, as much as I like Ann Macaffery I think that her inclusion is odd.

    I am glad they included Hermann Hesse as he is one of my favorites too. I would have to include all of his books.

    Nevertheless this sounds like a bunch of intriguing reviews.

    As for this book motivating you to seek out the books discussed, that is an experience that I have whenever I peruse catalogs like this.

    1. Hey, Brian!

      Thank you so much for the compliment!!

      It is indeed puzzling that these authors have included the Ayn Rand novels. I'm glad you agree with my view that her philosophy leaves a lot to be desired, in regards to social issues. And you are so right that there's not much that can be considered spiritual about her books. True, self-development is a spiritual thing, but not at the exclusion of concern for those who have not been lucky enough to enjoy the privilege of a good education, for instance. The phrases I quoted above, from "Books of Light", really set my teeth on edge! Why would the authors give their approval to such books? Rand would most likely be against such things as public education, and it's obvious that she detests welfare. I really don't understand WHY conservatives (and by the way, I've read that they heartily approve of her views) would assert that MOST PEOPLE who are receiving welfare are "just too lazy to work", and are "taking advantage of the system". Living on welfare is degrading, so I can't imagine ANYONE being happy about needing it! But the people who say such things are not even AWARE of each individual situation of the people who are on welfare, so it's totally heartless, as well as illogical, for them to generalize in this manner.

      Aside from the Rand books, I did like the inclusion of most of the other books mentioned by the authors, although some of them are "way out there". I was very happy about the Hermann Hesse books! I'm also glad they didn't include "Steppenwolf", as this is the one Hesse novel I completely detest. I am sick and tired of the characterization of women as being sensual and "immersed in life", with no intellectual pursuits AT ALL. Besides, the ending of this novel is totally HORRIFIC. And Harry Haller is a VERY self-absorbed character. Well, I guess I need to write a review, so as to BLAST this novel properly!!

      Yes, these reviews are definitely very intriguing! They are very well-written, and the authors' insights into each book totally compelling!

      If I get any of these books in the future, though, they might very well have to be e-books.....unless I get them gradually, and then put them in storage after reading them.

      Thanks for the great comment!! : )


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