Monday, March 30, 2009

Studying the Past to Survive the Future

Ever since my teen years I’ve been intrigued by the legends of Atlantis and Lemuria (sometimes called Mu). It has been fun to renew my curiosity about these ancient lands in a new book: Lemuria and Atlantis: Studying the Past to Survive the Future by Shirley Andrews (Llewellyn Publications, 2009). This book coordinates conclusions from many previous books on the subject, refers quite often to the Edgar Cayce readings about Atlantis, and updates readers about current and continuing research on the subject. It was sheer fun for me to recall some of the books and studies that I have perused over the past fifty years or so.

The author calls this book a companion volume to her previous work: Atlantis: Insights from a Lost Civilization (Llewellyn Worldwide, LTC, 2002). Andrews is forthright about her belief in past lives and that her “intense interest in Atlantis . . . stems from one or more past life experiences there.” She has devoted many years to her research and travels to many parts of the world linked to the stories of both Atlantis and Lemuria.

Our discussion of her new book will focus on some of its main points and some of the legends that have always interested me the most. One intriguing aspect of Andrews’ work is her inclusion of numerous “memories” from people who recall specific past life experiences from Atlantis or Lemuria. These memories often clarify and explain traditional stories from the distant past.

Most people have heard of Atlantis, but the “Motherland of Mu,” or Lemuria, is less known to readers. Many, many strange data, however, point to the possibility that a great land once existed in the Pacific Ocean, perhaps extending into the Indian Ocean. Obvious examples are the giant stone figures on Easter Island. Today one doesn’t hear much about the vast research done by Col. James Churchward into records on sacred Naacal tablets in India. He “determined that 4 major cataclysms in 800,000 B.C., 200,000 B.C., 80,000 B.C., and 10,000 B.C.” were responsible for destroying Lemuria. That last date is close to the legendary demise of Atlantis as well. Some Pacific islands are believed to be remnants of Mu and some contain partially sunken remains of megalithic constructions. As a reader, I especially appreciated the source notes at the end of each chapter.

One of the legends about Lemuria that I’ve read in other books is that Mu was the place where mankind evolved from spiritual, etheric beings of light into heavier forms of energy. Shirley Andrews’ second chapter treats this subject and the resources that support it. Early Lemuria seems to have been a place of “forgiveness, love, and patience.” “Austrian mystic Dr. Rudolph Steiner wrote that many Lemurians lived in underground dwellings.” Therefore it is intriguing that myths worldwide speak of underground dwellings (Hopi, etc.) and tunnels. Many such places have been found around the world.

One important theme of this book deals with where the people of Lemuria and Atlantis went when their lands began to break apart. The author presents much evidence in her book that indicates that people in the eastern regions of Lemuria fled to Central America, South America, and what is now the Southwest United States. They likely predate the Inca, Mayans, and the Hopi.

Sources for discussion about Atlantis range from Plato, who according to his writings, learned of that land from priests in Egypt. In more current times, the famed American seer, Edgar Cayce, gave many readings about Atlantis in which he claimed many survivors of the final cataclysms went to Egypt. Author Andrews claims, with reasons, that the Azores islands, Madeira, and the Cape Verde Islands are all mountaintops of Atlantis. She says the last standing portion of Atlantis was Poseidia, “a large, pleasant island in 28,000 B.C. located on the Bahama Bank.” This area has been a central focus for Atlantis exploration in the 20th century. Andrews’ chapter about Poseidia is especially interesting and is filled with much evidence of remnants in Central America of both the Mu and Atlantis cultures. She references data from another fascinating book that I read many years ago: Mysteries of the Mexican Pyramids by Peter Tompkins (Harper & Row, 1971).

A major them of this work appears in Chapter 5. This theme is suggested in the subtitle of the book: “Studying the Past to Survive the Future.” The question arises: why would a study of Lemuria and Atlantis be useful to us today? In other words, how can learning about these legendary places be of any more importance to us today beyond being curiosities? The author is clear. She refers, like Cayce, to the two groups of people to inhabit Atlantis. According to Cayce, one group were Children of the Law of One,” the “sons of light,” spiritual individuals who loved and respected each other. The other group he called the Sons of Belial, also called the “sons of darkness,.” This group was selfish, materialistic, and focused on “satisfying their physical appetites and desires with no respect for others.”

The author says, “Many individuals on the Earth today are Lemurians and Atlanteans who have returned to participate in another struggle between the forces of good and evil for control of this planet. . . . What is significant is that today we are all here to help make our world a better place. The Children of the Law of One will continue to do their good work, and the Sons of Darkness will have an opportunity to redeem themselves.” Hence, readers can see that learning about the past, the successes and the failures, can help each of us to make better choices today.

Author Andrews’ Chapter 6 on North America provides fascinating data from many parts of the United States. She ties Lemurian teachings to the Law of One and the peaceful teachings and legends of origin for the Hopi and Zuni Pueblo tribes. Cherokee teachings contain a history strongly connected to both the Pleiades and Atlantis. Their belief indicates that “mindfulness and love and care for others and for their natural environment maintain the balance of the planet and therefore harmony in the universe.” This philosophy is nearly identical to that of the Hopi, to the Lemurian attitudes, and the Law of One in Atlantis. The author also notes that “legends of the Iroquois, Sioux, Mandans, and Delaware refer to the home of their ancestors as an island that sank but was once in the Atlantic Ocean in the direction of the sunrise.”

Other fascinating data refers to pyramids and pyramidal-shaped mounds. We all know of the pyramids in Egypt and in Mexico and Central America. But few Americans know of the many pyramidal mounds found throughout middle America, especially in Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio. The author reports that “a pyramid as large as the Great Pyramid of Cheops in Egypt once stood at the intersection of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers in East St. Louis.” Unfortunately, “this huge mound was decimated in the 19th century.” At the time it “contained embroidered materials, beautiful gold, silver, and copper jewelry, and parchment that appeared to have writing on its surface.” Most or all of this was lost over the years.

Shirley Andrews’ chapter on South America includes discussion of the amazing collection of ancient artifacts accumulated by Father Crespi, a Roman Catholic priest who was sent by the Vatican to a remote area of Ecuador in the mid 20th century. Several photographs show Father Crespi and some of his unusual artifacts. Father Crespi apparently believed “that Atlanteans and Lemurians brought the treasures from their countries when it was sinking” because the pieces showed such “sophisticated techniques involved in their production.” He built a museum to house these valuables, one that was “recognized as an archaeological authority.” In 1962 someone set fire to the museum and it was completely destroyed except for a few articles that Father Crespi managed to rescue. Fortunately for us, a photographer, Bob Brush, visited the Father in the 1970s and photographed Father Crespi and those pieces. When Father Crespi died, everything disappeared.

This book is rich with fascinating data that supports the theory that Atlantis and Lemuria were both more than legends. We’ve discussed just seven of the 18 chapters. Rather than continue chapter by chapter, the rest of our discussion will focus on a few of the most intriguing points in the book.

One very interesting discussion focuses on blood types and genes. Research has shown that “a disproportionate amount of [type O and] the Rh-negative blood factor is characteristic of . . . people who live in the vicinity of the Atlantic Ocean.” The speculation then is that these factors suggest that O Rh-negative blood was the dominant blood type on Atlantis. “It predominates among the Basques in the Pyrenees Mountains and the Berbers in the Atlas Mountains on the Atlantic coast of North Africa,” as well as the Canary Islands and the Maya Lacandones of southern Mexico. Other odd factors are observable. The Basque language is unique and “untraceable to any other tongue,” but it “apparently has a common origin with the language of a tribe of Maya in northern Guatemala.”
So what was its source? Perhaps it was Atlantis.

Another intriguing discussion focused on the inventiveness of the priest-scientists of Atlantis and Lemuria. We know that currently most people believe that civilization has developed rather linearly. That is, if we go back into pre-history, we think we will only find “cavemen.” But the stories about the legendary Atlantis and Lemuria, along with numerous and mysterious archaeological finds suggests something quite different. Edgar Cayce said the Atlanteans used great crystal energies, and various finds of crystal skulls with strange polarities raise more questions. The author notes that “stories from all over the world tell of waves of sound lifting and raising heavy objects.” In our own time scientist and inventor Nikola Tesla, who invented alternating current, also explored various uses of electromagnetism, leading to a “top secret U.S. research with time and space.” The author says that “many of his inventions remain secret.”

In one chapter author Andrews discusses one of the first books I ever read about Atlantis: A Dweller on Two Planets, written in 1884 by an 18 year old, Frederick S. Oliver. (This book is still in publication, currently by Cosimo Classics, 2007). The book seemed to be an early science-fiction fantasy in which Oliver said that “Phylos the Tibetan, who had lived in Atlantis in 11,650 B.C., visited him at night” and dictated the story. The amazing thing, however, is that long before our own technological age, Oliver’s book described large cylinder passenger vehicles with port-hole like windows along the sides that flew in the air. He also depicted “air purifiers, electric guns, crystal lights,” a water condenser and other items unknown in the 1880s. In 1933 Edgar Cayce talked about Atlantean lasers and “predicted our scientists would produce them in 25 years. Twenty-five years later, in 1958, Bell Telephone Laboratory produced masers” (our early lasers).

For some twenty years I taught a mythology course in high school. It is impossible to ignore the fact that myths around the world are filled with stories of great catastrophes. Nearly every culture in the world has a Great Flood story. Many have other stories of destruction from earthquakes, fire, tilting of the earth and heavens, great tempests, the sun disappearing, islands collapsing into the sea, and huge tsunamis rising up mountain high. The author devotes a chapter to these stories of destruction, backed up with geologic reports. Given these facts, stories about former civilizations that were destroyed in great cataclysms become quite plausible.

This book, clearly, is a delightful compendium of all current information about Atlantis and Lemuria. But we must return to the underlying reason for the book itself. Somehow our understanding of these ancient cultures is important to us now. This isn’t the first or only book to point out the parallels between the latter days of Atlantis and our civilization today. Apparently the people of Atlantis were highly developed technologically, but their science had become very materialistic, selfish, and power-centered, with many deadly weapons at their disposal.

Earlier Atlanteans, like the Lemurians, were the Children of the Law of One. They lived in peace and harmony with each other and nature. Cayce and others have said that “former Atlantean souls have incarnated again on Earth . . . for a variety of reasons.” One objective is for those former Atlanteans to learn again how to live in peace. The author says, “We are one family . . . . As we emphasize the similarities rather than the differences among people, unity will prevail and we will come together on the higher plane of consciousness that characterized the Golden Age of early Lemuria and Atlantis.”

Clearly, we have a long way to go. Reading this book, however, provides insightful information for readers to ponder. The author also provides brief biographies for a number of the authors and sources she cites in her book, as well as a comprehensive bibliography of books and articles pertinent to the subject.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Continuing with my postings of "Book Talks" here is one of my all time favorite books.


Nine years ago I was preparing to discuss flower essences for “Book Talk” for PHENOMENEWS and I realized that readers would need some background information first. Therefore, I prepared a discussion of one of my favorite books, Vibrational Medicine: “New Choices for Healing Ourselves” by Dr. Richard Gerber, M.D. (Bear & Company, 1988). Recently I just recommended that book to a health professional who wanted to review the background of alternative medical practices. Actually, I recommended the newer, updated version of the book.

It is clear that when a book is valuable to readers, it stays in print, in this case for nearly 20 years. Gerber’s book is now in its Third Edition; it has grown to 608 pages; and has a slightly different title: Vibrational Medicine: The #1 Handbook of Subtle-Energy Therapies (Bear & Company, Inner Traditions, 2001). This work is certainly one that is worthy of reexamination here in “Book Talk.” The words that follow are only slightly changed from my original discussion in 1999.

As I said, I originally wrote about Vibrational Medicine as a forerunner to a discussion about flower essences. In case readers aren’t familiar with that form of natural therapy, I might note that I am still interested in the subject. I keep a wide selection of flower essences from California, Arizona, and Alaska on my shelves. My favorite, all-time flower remedy is the now rather famous “Bach’s Rescue Remedy.” I use it whenever I feel overly stressed. It is totally safe, even for pets!

Since flower essences are what might be called vibrational or energetic medicine, there was no question in my mind that the book to discuss as background must be the classic text by Dr. Richard Gerber, M.D., entitled Vibrational Medicine. This book provides a basis for any discussion of flower essences, homeopathy, or other forms of vibrational medicine.

I truly consider Dr. Gerber's book as classic and one of a kind. It has remained in print for nearly 20 years to date and I know of no other work that explains such a vast range of alternative medicines as thoroughly and as clearly as this book does. Even so, I must state upfront that this book is not light, easy reading. Its reading level is clearly that of a college textbook. I would consider it to be a perfect required text for any medical professionals who are studying alternative or integrative medical techniques. Nevertheless, it is also, with a little effort, accessible to general readers who would like to understand alternative medicine better. A few parts, however, such as discussions of Einsteinian theories, holograms, and wave-particle theory are a bit tricky for non-science majors like me. Nevertheless, in 2007 one finds discussions of quantum theory, Zero-point fields, non-locality, and other new physics terms becoming more and more common in current literature.

Gerber also provides a clear, simplified summary of the main points at the conclusion of each chapter. This is especially helpful for general readers who might wish to skip some of the more technical details. In any case, I believe this book provides such significant information that it is worth the effort that readers might need to exert in order to comprehend its informative content.

Dr. Gerber says his first chapter presents "the energetic foundations which will allow the reader to understand the remainder of the book" and that "each succeeding chapter builds upon the foundation of the previous one." Thus, the ideal way to read this book is sequentially. I rather reluctantly admit, however, that my reading of it has perpetually been more scattered. I would say: read this book in any order; just read it! You will learn more than you can imagine. But give yourself plenty of time to digest all the information.

In his "Foreword" to Dr. Gerber's text, noted Professor William A. Tiller, Ph.D., says, "This book . . . is an attempt to present a conceptual bridge between current allopathic medicine and future subtle-energy medicine." Tiller examines the dual nature of the "vehicle" which each person uses for its life experience. He defines one part of the vehicle as "of positive energy," forming "the physical part" of the vehicle. "The other part . . . is of negative mass and negative energy." "It forms the etheric part" of the vehicle. He concludes: "We know a great deal about . . . the physical, but very little about its conjugate part (the etheric). Now is the time to begin serious investigation of the etheric. . . ." And that is just what Dr. Richard Gerber does in his book. Vibrational medicine, energetic medicine, treats the etheric level (as well as even higher vibrational levels) of humans, rather than the physical body directly. To date, modern western medical science hasn't even recognized the etheric level to any extent.

For readers who are unfamiliar with the word "etheric," here is an oversimplified explanation. The etheric body is perceived as the "energy" body that co-exists spatially with the physical body. It isn't the soul, but rather pure energy--a life force, if you will. Some have called it the "ghost in the machine," the machine being the physical body. Eastern medicine explains that the "etheric" energy connects, or interfaces, with the physical body via various points or energy spots. Special points in the etheric are the "chakras" and they "connect" to various glands throughout the body. It is important to clarify that vibrational medicines--which in Gerber's book include a huge range from acupuncture to homeopathy, flower essences to psychic healings, color therapy to crystal or gemstone healing--do ultimately treat the physical body and its symptoms, but they do so indirectly by working at an energy level which holds a higher vibration than that of physical mass.

In the "Introduction" to Gerber's text, holistic physician Dr. Gabriel Cousens, M.D., takes this point further. "This book thoroughly, clearly, and gently opens the reader's mind to the conclusion that we, as human organisms, are a series of interacting multidimensional subtle-energy systems." This is an especially important point because those doctors who accept the reality of the etheric level know that "disease states can be detected at the etheric level before they manifest on the physical plane. It therefore follows that if diseases can be detected at this etheric level, they can be prevented" [from reaching the physical plane].

In other words, the whole potential of vibrational medicine involves treating whatever is out of balance, or dis-eased, on one of the higher levels, or planes, so that the problem, the dis-ease, doesn't even manifest in the physical body. This, indeed, would be the ideal of health maintenance and disease prevention. Part of what Dr. Gerber does in his book is to provide an historical and analytical perspective of various research, developments, and studies of healing modalities which relate to what might be called the "physical-etheric interface."

This book is also valuable in its organization and research integrity. Dr. Richard Gerber includes a fine, workable "Glossary" of terms which is especially helpful to non-medical readers. A "Recommended Reading" list, organized by chapters, provides excellent sources for further research on various topics. Finally, this book provides a comprehensive index, enabling readers to locate information on thousands of topics. Anyone who is interested in any of the energetic or vibrational healing modalities will find thorough background, discussion of principles, reports on research, and various hypotheses in this book. Our book discussion, however, can only allude briefly to the wide range of information in Dr. Gerber's 500 pages.

Readers of this book will gain a comprehensive understanding of the difference between Newtonian and Einsteinian medicine, largely in Gerber's first two chapters. To explain this as simply as possible, the Newtonian model of medicine is mechanical in nature, seeing the human body as a complex mechanism. Modern physicians of the western world have had problems "accepting the validity of alternative healing methods" because "they see the physical body as the only dimension of human existence." Thus we have experienced the rise of allopathic medicine which traditionally only treats the physical symptoms. In other words, it "fixes" the mechanism. This is sometimes more simply explained by identifying the body as a “machine” and the doctor tries to “fix it” when it isn’t working correctly.

Einstein, on the other hand, viewed matter as energy. The Einsteinian medical model sees human beings as complex beings of energy which are "powerfully affected by our emotions and level of spiritual balance as well as by nutritional and environmental factors." Einsteinian medical theory would treat people with energy treatments. Unfortunately, "The Newtonian model of medicine does not account for, nor believe in, these other energetic systems." This has resulted in the current arguments between physicians who favor the Newtonian (allopathic) treatment methods, and those physicians who are beginning to accept the energy theories, and who would choose to integrate the allopathic and alternative therapies, often Naturopaths and other alternative healers, such as acupuncturists, massage therapists, etc.

Even so, energy based medicine has been a long tradition in other parts of the world, and gradually has worked its way into western medical practices, too. Healers in the eastern civilizations, such as India and China, have recognized for thousands of years the subtle energies of the chakras and nadis, the acupuncture meridians, and the etheric body. In Europe in the 19th century, a brilliant physician, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), researched and developed the treatment known as homeopathy. Acceptance for homeopathic medicine has expanded in Europe and today many European medical doctors are also homeopaths, especially in Germany and Great Britain.

Early in the 20th century, British homeopathic physician, Dr. Edward Bach, discovered and developed the now famous Bach Flower Remedies which are now "utilized by health care practitioners throughout the world." The fact remains, however, that homeopathy and flower essence treatments are still not accepted by the medical establishment in America. Only a few medical doctors here and there practice any of these techniques, but they compose a small minority overall. In general, these practices have been more accepted in Europe than in the U.S.

Dr. Gerber, in his early chapters, discusses the history and development of the medical energetic approaches that current medical theories have accepted, such as X-rays, radiation therapy, electrotherapy, CAT scans, and MRIs. He predicts, optimistically, the ultimate invention of an etheric body imager which could identify disturbances in the etheric body before they could manifest in the physical body. Only time will tell.

His next several chapters discuss numerous, rather difficult, subjects. First he presents an overview of what he calls the "multidimensional human," supported by various studies and research models. He discusses the acupuncture meridian system, the chakras, and the astral body. He relates some of these energy systems to theories of Dr. William Tiller and Albert Einstein. He even touches on the mental and causal bodies, often referred to in metaphysical literature. He points out that consciousness may be a type of energy. Other chapters present an in-depth analysis of acupuncture and the Chinese philosophy of healing. A following chapter covers the development throughout the world of various subtle energy technologies, many of which most of us have never heard.

My personal favorite chapters of Dr. Gerber's books are those that focus on certain specific modalities of healing. Chapter 7, "The Wisdom of Nature" provides an informative explanation and history of the development of flower essences. This chapter inter-relates to information Dr. Gerber presents earlier in his text. Back in a previous chapter, Dr. Gerber explores homeopathy: how it was developed and tested, and how homeopathic medicines are made, and the principles upon which they work. In that chapter he also explains the difference between homeopathic medicines and flower essences. The preparation of both of these "energetic" remedies is dependent on the "subtle energetic storage properties of water." I doubt that most readers have any idea of all the miraculous properties of water. Dr. Gerber's discussion is highly enlightening.

Since this book originally came out, many research studies have revealed greater insights into the almost magical properties of water. We would especially note the books by Masuru Emoto, such as The HIdden Messages in Water (Beyond Words, 2004) and The True Power of Water (Beyond Words, 2005). Numerous scientists are currently studying the mystery of water.

"Flower essences are used in a different manner than homeopathic remedies and have energetic effects at much higher levels." In general, homeopathic remedies primarily treat the physical body through the etheric, whereas flower essences primarily treat the emotional or spiritual levels of the person, although ultimately the effects filter down. Also, some more recent flower essence practitioners have apparently discovered some essences with more direct physical effects.

Gerber's chapter 7 then tells of the development of Dr. Edward Bach's flower remedies as well as of more recent developments in flower essence research and therapy world-wide.

Another fascinating chapter is Gerber's examination of "Our Relationship with the Chakras." Many of the points he makes in his discussion of the seven major chakras, such as that "Each chakra has a particular emotional and spiritual issue which affects its proper functioning," have turned up repeatedly in more recent books, such as those by Caroline Myss and Dr. Mona-Lisa Schultz.

I happen to be particularly partial to concluding chapters of most books. That is certainly true for Dr. Gerber's work. First, Gerber gives readers an optimistic view of "The Emergence of Medicine for the New Age." In the eleven years since the original publication of this book, readers could clearly see some of his prognostications happening in the medical fields. This is even more true in 2007. More and more, doctors are accepting humans as mind/body/spirit complexities. More doctors are opening to an integrated approach to healing. Nearly every major medical school in the U.S. now has a department of integrative medicine, or at least offers classes in the regular medical school. This includes UCLA, University of Michigan, Johns-Hopkins, University of Arizona, and many, many others. The only negative point that Gerber noted was the tendency of managed health-care (HMOs) to create situations less conducive to treating patients holistically (which requires more time with each patient.)

Gerber's concluding chapter is metaphysical and spiritual in nature. It deals with "Vibrational Healing and its Implications for an Evolving Humanity." It's all about personal and planetary evolution. He reviews the wisdom of the ancients from ancient legends through the various world religions. He deals with personal responsibility and spiritual growth. He reiterates that "Vibrational medicine appears to hold some of the answers for a world that seems quite ill, but it will only work if we can work with it."

Obviously we cannot be self-responsible and work to help ourselves heal unless we learn about what is possible. This book, VIBRATIONAL MEDICINE by Dr. Richard Gerber, M.D., is a place to start. We can educate ourselves to new possibilities in medicine so that we can work cooperatively and intelligently with our chosen physicians. The effort required to understand this information may require both time and self-discipline. But indeed, it can change our lives. At the very least, it will expand our perspective of what it means to be a human being.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Special Children's Books.
Continuing with my posting of some of my book discussions, the following was a part of a column written for the holiday issue of phenomeNEWS, no longer published. I recommend two children's books that are wonderful for young children. The first I recommend as an English teacher because I love the "big words." The second I recommend as a spiritual mentor because it translates the psychological and spiritual lessons from Dr. Wayne Dyer into situations just right for children.

“Book Talk” is also delighted to recommend two wonderful books for the small ones on your gift list. This retired English teacher is ecstatic about the new book for children (ages 4-8): Big Words for Little People by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell, illustrator (Joanna Cotler Books, Harper Collins, 2008). Most people best know Jamie Lee Curtis as the actress daughter of actors Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh. Actually, this new and utterly delightful work is Curtis’ eighth book for children.

I love every page and every WORD of this book. Written in delightful rhymes reminiscent of Dr. Seuss, the author explores “big” words important to young children. She gives each word realistic contexts in children’s lives, accompanied by splashy and amusing illustrations by Laura Cornell. We find words like COOPERATE, RESPECT, PATIENCE, CONSIDERATE, INETLLIGENCE, RESPONSIBLE all presented in the most charming and entertaining ways imaginable. Using two big words from this book, I call it: “STUPENDOUS and SUPERB.”

Kids and parents will love this book.

* * * * *

Another book to note for children (Ages 4-10) is one by a phenomeNEWS favorite author, Dr. Wayne Dyer. Readers can read chapters from Dyer’s most recent books in each issue. It may come as a surprise, or not, to some that Dr. Dyer, father of eight and grandfather of five, has written some books for children. Unstoppable Me! 10 Ways to Soar Through Life is co-written by Dr. Wayne Dyer and Kristina Tracy with illustrations by Stacy Heller Budnick (Hay House, 2006).

Dyer notes that Unstoppable Me! Is based on his book for adults, What Do You Really Want for Your Children? Using rhymes, the book for children provides messages to help them approach life in positive ways. Lessons in the book include “the value of taking risks, dealing with stress and anxiety, and learning to enjoy each moment.”

Ever the teacher, Dyer presents at the end of the book a set of discussion questions relating to each of the “10 Ways to Soar Through Life.” These questions can be especially useful to parents and teachers who might read this book aloud to their children or group. After they read each lesson in rhyme and enjoying the pictures, the use of the questions encourages children to relate the lesson directly to their own circumstances and experiences.

This delightful book is entertaining, educational, and inspirational at the same time. Wayne Dyer fans will especially enjoy and relate to this special little book.

It has been awhile since I have done any postings to my blog. I have decided to start posting some of my book discussions. For 14 years I wrote the column "Book Talk" for the publication phenomeNEWS. That lovely New Thought publication has stopped publishing after 26 or more years. I had intended the following discussion for the holiday issue that never published.

For the holiday issue of phenomeNEWS I like to discuss books appropriate as holiday gifts. This year we turn to the newest work from noted actor Sidney Poitier: Life Beyond Measure: Letters to my Great-Granddaughter (Harper One, 2008). Sidney Poitier’s books offer readers far more than the usual celebrity’s biography. Poitier, a deeply philosophical man, ponders serious questions about life, spiced with stories from his own life experiences. Written as letters to his great-granddaughter Ayele, currently two years old, this delightful book is appropriate for and would best serve both teens and adults.

Eight years ago in “Book Talk” we discussed and recommended Sidney Poitier’s first autobiographical book, The Measure of a Man: a Spiritual Autobiography (Harper Collins, 2000). Just last year Oprah included it as a recommended book for Oprah’s Book Club. We were happy to see it recognized once more for its exceptional content and thoughtful, literate writing. We can say the same for Sidney’s new book.

Still it is with some amazement that we read either of these fine works. As we are reminded by the author himself, Poitier was illiterate when he arrived in the U.S. from the Bahamas at age 15. One is touched to learn about the waiter who taught the hungry-for-knowledge youth how to read. Therefore, it is indeed amazing to read Sidney Poitier’s books and thereby experience his fluent, clear prose that demonstrates both a polished literacy, a deeply thoughtful mind, and a gift for story-telling.

The overall theme of Sidney’s new work should be clear. His intention is to share wisdom gained in eighty-two years of an exceptional and eventful life, hoping that what he shares about his life may be helpful to his beloved great-granddaughter. By putting his experiences into this book, many millions can benefit as well as we ponder his thoughts about a myriad of human experiences. Never pedantic, Poitier keeps readers interested by clarifying every piece of advice or wisdom with stories from his own life.

Whereas Poitier wrote this book for his great-granddaughter, it clearly can inspire all readers. One sees this in the author’s “Prologue” where he notes his work over many years on a book of essays. The scope of these essays form the discussions in this current book wherein he reveals the questions about life that he has been pondering for years. Sharing thoughts with his great-granddaughter was his first intention, but then he also decided “to share the contents with those of you [readers] who are searchers like me.”

Poitier divides his book into three parts, called “First Outdoorings,” “Expeditions,” and “Questions, Answers, and Mysteries.” That first section, “First Outdoorings” presents letters (chapters) that largely tell the story of Sidney Poitier’s early years. His theme here is that we are all products of our ancestors and the past. These pages are filled with delightful stories about Sidney’s family and childhood experiences. Perhaps most interesting is the story of a soothsayer who told Sidney’s mother that her prematurely born, three pound son would not only survive, but would “travel to most of the corners of the earth . . . walk with kings. . . [and] be rich and famous.” Such a prediction was unbelievable to the poor tomato farmer family from the small Bahama island called Cat Island. But of course, we all know that it came true.

Poitier’s description of the family’s move to the “big city” of the island of Nassau when he was about eleven years old is fascinating indeed. At that time Sidney had never seen an automobile, nor paved roads, nor ice cream or even ice itself. Everything was miraculously new to the boy. He had never seen his own face in a mirror or electric lights. All these new experiences influenced Sidney and his siblings in multiple ways. The author uses this opportunity “to observe how we all shape our lives and how situations that arise shape us.”

Describing himself as “a loner,” Sidney Poitier left home at age fifteen to find his place in the world—in the United States. His first stop was Florida where he experienced “the searing shock of racism, segregation, and the mistreatment of people on the basis of color alone.” He rather quickly moved with just a few dollars in his pocket to New York City where his first experience was “blood-freezing, bone-numbing” winter—something unknown in the Bahamas. Loners tend to be self-teachers and so it was for Sidney, who says he mostly lived “internally” and learned through observation. After a stint in the Army, he supported himself as a dishwasher and gradually worked his way into the field of acting.

The second part of Sidney Poitier’s book, “Expeditions,” focuses more directly on the major philosophical questions that he has pondered throughout his life. Each letter/chapter deals with important issues for Sidney, while at the same time he grounds the discussion in further stories from his life experiences. His first chapter here (letter 7) is about his beliefs about God, a huge topic indeed. Acknowledging his mother’s deep faith, he discloses his own meandering path to attempt to understand God. He says, “The closest I can come is a belief that there is an intelligence that does not manifest itself in a solid material or in a presence; it is much bigger than the universe itself, because if God is omniscient as He is supposed to be, the universe itself is one of His creations.” Moreover, Poitier says, “And that all-encompassing God is not just for some of us; that God is for all of us. It is not a God for one culture, or one religion, or one planet.”

Clearly, as readers ponder the statements above, they have to notice that Sidney Poitier is a deeply serious, philosophical person. This was underscored for me last summer when I watched Sidney Poitier being interviewed on the Larry King Live show on CNN. Larry King, obviously enjoying his interview with Sidney, asked him why he didn’t do more appearances and interviews on television. Sidney replied, “I can’t think or speak in sound bites!” Viewers could observe that when Larry King posed a question, Sidney would respond in thoughtful detail. Certainly one sees this in Life Beyond Measure—to our great joy!

The next few chapters (letters) deal with significant human issues, all told and enhanced with more fascinating autobiographical stories. Poitier tells his great-granddaughter how he struggled in the channel between “want” and “need.” That chapter is perfectly related to the situation of all of us who struggle in our present day consumer society. Another chapter tells how he learned to read and how to be responsible for his own choices. A beautiful chapter discusses love. Another deals with fear, doubt, and desperation and how he “danced with them all.”

In that same section of “Expeditions,” Poitier writes about addiction (smoking and gambling for him); bravery and cowardice, and close calls with disaster. In typical Poitier fashion, he names his “compulsions:” “a compulsion to read more and better understand the world around me; . . . to learn all that there is to learn that might make of me a better person—with better insights and a deeper understanding of myself and of my fellow human beings. Such has been a preoccupation of mine, a life goal . . . as far back as I can remember.” Such lines as these can be pure inspiration and a model for all of us.

In his final “Expeditions” chapter (letter 15) Poitier discusses “People of Courage,” his heroes and role models. They include Nelson Mandela, baseball’s Jackie Robinson, author James Baldwin, UN mediator Ralph Bunche, Oprah Winfrey, Barbara Jordan, Eleanor Roosevelt, Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Barack Obama. Poitier lovingly describes how his father, though “unlearned,” demonstrated the characteristics that he (Poitier) admires in his role models: “a sense of self, of character, of personal self-worth and kindness and hopefulness.”

The concluding third section of Life Beyond Measure deals with “Questions, Answers, and Mysteries.” Here the author discusses many of the issues we all deal with in life: searching for truths, dealing with others, turmoil in society, and trying to find a balance. Sidney reports how he struggles to create a “neutral zone.” He says, “I am working now to establish a neutral zone in my insides, using my consciousness to create a place to go into.” This is a place where “you’re not making judgments about what you see, hear, feel, or touch.”

In another chapter Poitier defines and discusses logic and reason and how survival requires the use of both. Given that our society today is so pervaded with emotional reactions, and often demonstrates a serious lack of reason, such a discussion benefits us all. Poitier identifies the enemies of logic and reason as “mass hysteria, hate, prejudice, and ignorance.”

Sidney Poitier also delivers philosophical, but entertaining, discussions about science and society, society’s propensity for war, power and control issues, the environment, faith, death, and the world as it currently is. All these chapters are brim with thoughtful explorations of the issues. Poitier says, “I was driven by a life that forced me to think for myself in the world that I had inherited.” His carefully thought out philosophy thereby becomes a gift not only to his great-granddaughter Ayele, but to all of us as well.

He says to Ayele (and us): “I hope to leave you some of the music that has played for me whenever I’ve put my ear to the mysteries of the universe that have never ceased to catch my attention.” His conclusion is: “The tools for meeting life head-on, as I see it, are acquired knowledge, belief, and hope. . . .The task is to learn as much as you can about as much as you can; the great disease of mankind is ignorance.” These words are especially pleasing to this retired teacher, your “Book Talk” writer.

Life Beyond Measure is a beautiful book to read at the holiday season. It can be a gift for others, or just a gift for yourself.

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