Ami: Child from the Stars by Enrique Barrios (1989)

, 23 Dec 2016

Ami, The Child from the Stars, is a spiritual New Age fable disguised as an adventure for young adults and adults.

Pedro, a boy holidaying in a coastal town meets Ami, who arrives in a flying saucer and spends the night with Pedro showing him some planets and teaching him the principles of the Universal love, solidarity and spiritual growth.

The book, initially written in Spanish, has been translated into different languages, English included and has sold millions of copies throughout the world since the year 1989, when first published. The book is part of a series, that continues with Ami Returns, Ami 3,  and Ami and Perlita, the latter being a proper children book.

The Authors

Not much is known about this Chilean-Venezuelan writer Enrique Barrios. I had difficulties finding  any independent professional references about him or his work, except for a short bio in a Spanish New Age site called Nueva Gaia. His website is blank. This being the case, I considered appropriate including a few notes about him, translated from his bio page. Barrios is a traveler by nature, having lived in different countries and traveled the world. He sought spiritual answers since his youth and was the disciple of an unnamed New Age guru or teacher who helped him to expand his consciousness in the 1970s. Eventually, Barrios distanced himself from his teacher and focused more on developing and finding ways of teaching his spiritual philosophy, the spread of Universal love, the principle by which he lives by. Although he always wanted to write, two elements contributed to his becoming a writer and writing the Ami series. The first, was a personal incident occurred in 1984, when he was assaulted by a gang; he was going to be killed, but all of the sudden and inexplicably the delinquents, knife in had, run away and disappeared; Barrios had a sort of epiphany. The second event happened on 17/8/1985, a strange light appeared in the sky in the central region of Chile, and stayed there without moving for several hours until it suddenly vanished; although the Press reported the fact, no satisfactory explanation was ever given. This was, precisely, the inspiration for the Ami series.

The illustrators of the Spanish version (Eliana Judith Temperini  & Marcela García)  created a lovely set of illustrations for the book. There are two defined styled, one that I really like, that is painterly and very ethereal, that applies mostly to the description of the interstellar trip; the other images are  "chunkier" more illustrative than painterly, related the parts where Pedro & Ami are in Planet Earth and  in the spaceship, and they are less of my liking.  Who is who? I don't know! 

The Message

Ami: Child from the Stars is a spiritual New Age fable full of wisdom, which conveys very powerful environmental, social, psychological and spiritual messages for young adults and adults. The message that Barrios conveys is heartfelt, and is as valid in 2017 as was in 1989, probably more so in 2017 because of some of the issues we are having with the environment, social injustice, violence, religious extremism, racism, war, and other sins of our modern world.

This is a very New Age book that presents all the beliefs that New Age Spirituality is known for: Belief in reincarnation as a path to spiritual evolution and growth, and in Karma (boomerang effect) as part of a cosmic justice. It has a holistic view of the Universe in which everything and everybody fits like puzzle piece and is intricately connected, and also a holistic view of  divinity that permeates the whole Universe. It has a powerful environmental, ecological and peace message. There a strong focus on compassion, solidarity, non-violence, diversity, acceptance, inner growth, and on spirituality not religion. The ultimate aim is a planetary order based on global unity, freedom and collaboration, self-regulated organised societies where everybody has what its basic needs covered and they can focus on their inner development. That world is not based on economic, social, racial, gender, nationalistic or regional differences but on being humans, "earthians" and part of the Universe.

All of these teachings and views of the world are in  Ami: Child from the Stars. Perhaps Barrios' main contributions are, first, his belief that  God created the Universe, and that any manifestation of love is God, and God infuses everything in the Universe through love. His second main contribution is the emphasis on emotional intelligence, as he pairs intelligence not with IQ but with smart living and relating, with solidarity and inner goodness.

Teaching young adults those things is very important, no matter the reader's religious background. Many of the things taught in the book are principles that I live by myself even though I'm agnostic. Some of the messages in the book, are priceless, these are the pearls of wisdom that resonated with me the most:
⧪ Not everything that one considers ugly is bad, and not everything beautiful is good.
⧪ When the scientific level of a world supersedes its level of solidarity that world destroys itself.
⧪ Life would have no meaning if we knew the future.
⧪ Those things we fight to get will always be more appreciated than those we get without any effort. Those who were born without problems or have had an easy life can't  adequately appreciate what they have.
⧪ Busy yourself in improving yourself not on paying attention or worrying about what other people do or seem to be.
⧪ The belief systems of the past, based on "what is unknown or different is dangerous", are still alive and reflected in laws, customs, social and economic systems that encourage or tolerate division, competition, selfishness, superficiality, dishonesty and mistrust among people, organisations and peoples. (loc. 1300-1303, Spanish version) 
⧪ Feelings need to be enlightened by the intellect to become wisdom, and the intellect needs to be enlightened by the emotions to become true intelligence.
⧪ People harvest what they sow.
⧪ Ami explained to me that when the spoken language is insufficient to express what we feel, we need of other forms of communication; then we resort to Art. (locs 3791-2, Spanish edition)
⧪ We should consider all human beings on this planet, all ethnicities and human conditions part of the same family, the human family and, therefore, we should live like a fraternal family, where everybody participates of the efforts and benefits equally,  and where each one is protected, loved and harboured. (locs 3890-3 Spanish edition).
⧪ The higher the level of evolution of an individual, the more s/he is like a child. Also, the higher the level of evolution the lesser is the power of the ego and he higher the level of solidarity.

I specially loved the Utopia Barrios creates in Planet Ophir. I thought it was very modern, very wise, interesting, peaceful, sustainable and liveable. It is certainly idyllic, but why not focus on invented worlds that are full of goodness instead of those dark, contaminated and full of wars?

The, but...

✋ Although I like the message of the book, the aim of the story is to spread a spiritual message not to entertain. The book is mostly a series of monologues by Ami with some "ahas", questions and realisations by his disciple Pedro. There is some adventure, but it is more a sort of watched passive adventure than proper adventure. There are ways of conveying philosophical and spiritual messages in a novel and creating a narrative that is engaging and entertaining at the same time; in that regard, I felt that this book hadn't achieved a good narrative balance, and found myself bored at times despite the subject being of my interest. It wasn't engaging enough.

✋ The book insists over and over on the fact that God does exist and God is the creator of the Universe and that those who deny it are somewhat lesser souls. Although Barrios mentions that it is better to be a good person and not religious than a very religious but bad person, the insistence on God as creator annoyed me. It is, after all, what creationists teach, isn't it? If you are one, this would certainly speak to your heart. However, there are millions of people out there for whom this sort of preaching be a put off. 

✋ Although this is fiction, it shocked me to find a fallacy. We are told that the planet Ophir's sun is 400 times bigger than our sun, but then the planet has a similar atmosphere to ours, similar kind of people, beautiful green areas. Really?  It doesn't matter if this is fiction, for fiction to be credible needs to be based on things that are possible or might be possible, this is would be impossible. 

Rendering for Kindle

The Kindle edition is very good, something that I always appreciate and value. The typos I found are mostly the use of the noun preocupación and the verb preocupar with unnecessary hyphenation.  At the end of the book I thought it might be a personal unusual poetic license to add meaning to the word, but it might not be the case. A true typo can be found in
> sólo las paas (loc. 1353)

In Short

This a clearly New Age spiritual tale, which wonderful messages for young adults and adults, but certainly not for children, unless it is read by an adult to the child. Despite the clear New Age impromptu, the book reads well no matter your creed, and there is nothing that contradicts the basic principles of any major religion. Overall, the message is constructive and good-hearted. If you are looking for a science-fiction book, this is definitely not for you as this is a spiritual fable, the aim of which is to take you in a inner journey not into an adventure. The aim is to enlighten not to entertain, and that is, perhaps, the weakness of the book, and the thing that prevented me from fully enjoying it. The book, if you read it in Spanish, is well written, with a classic Spanish that would please most Spanish speakers around the globe, although I found some expressions unnatural in certain Spanish speaking areas that might be common in Barrios' native land.

George's Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl (1981)

, 29 Nov 2016

This is a very naughty fun book for people of all ages. A novella more than a proper novel, George's Marvellous Medicine tells what happens when Georges gets fed-up with his witchy grandma and decides to make a "medicine" to poison her. He takes everything he finds in the house, cosmetics, toiletries, laundry products, animal medicines and painting, mixes them all, feeds grandma with the mixture, and then weird things start to happen.

The character of George has a mix of naughtiness, good heart and innocence that will delight children and adults alike. The grandma is hateable from the very beginning, not so much at the end, and George's parents are quite normal people.

George's Marvellous Medicine is more for early teens than for children, as the mere concept of poisoning, vengeance, and murder seems a bit too complex to leave the small ones to evaluate on their own, even though this is children fiction. The characters seem quite normal, not part of a fairy-tale or fantasy story, so that is the main problem to me. Dahl himself saw the possible repercussions and included a note at the beginning of the book warning children not to do this at home. You don't want children to think that mixing chemicals and feeding people with them  is the right thing to do to deal with annoying personalities.

Most children books have an embedded teaching, no matter the fun is what attracts children to them. Personally, I would redirect my child's attention by asking him/her some rhetorical or open-ended questions at the end of the book:
1/ Georges hates his grandma, because she's a witch, right? But isn't what he does witchy? Isn't potion-making what witches do? Isn't George's behaviour that of a witch? 
2/ Why do you think grandma doesn't want children to grow? Was she happier when she was a child?
3/ Why is grandma so grumpy? Is because she is frail and alone? Is because she has mobility problems? Is because nobody pays attention to her? Is because she is sick? Is because of all it?
4/ Why does grandma get so excited when the "medicine" starts to work?
5/ What would happen if all the farm animals of the planet were fed with the gigantic potion? Would farmers need to use the potion again?
6/ Where does grandma go to in the end?
7/ What do you think you should do when somebody annoy us a lot? What annoys you?

Dahl's narrative in this work is simple but extremely playful with some tongue twisters that reminded me of Dr Seuss.

The illustrations by Quentin Blake are very sketchy, but also fluid and successfully illustrative. I like the way George is depicted, as somewhat matches my mental image of the character.

The Kindle edition is flawless, something that always makes me happy, especially because this is an expensive-ish 134-page e-book. This edition includes a bonus preview of two chapters of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory at the end, a brief story of Penguin Books,. and other promotional stuff to fill in more pages.

A very enjoyable amusing quick read, but supervision is needed for small children.

Welcome to Your Crisis: How to Use the Power of Crisis to Create the Life You Want by Laura Day (2006)

, 22 Nov 2016

Originally published in 2006, Welcome to Your Crisis is a practical book to face your live crises, or the crisis you are facing right now, and to get the good out of it not only successfully but reborn: stronger, wiser, healthier, and more "you" than ever before. Crisis is presented as a cathartic catalyst for positive transformation. The point of departure of Laura Day is that life is full of crises, so we better learn how to navigate them successfully, as that is what separates people who strive in life and those who succumb.

Laura explicitly says that some aspects of her "methodology" are corroborated by the work of others: Hans Selye in the field of Stress, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in the field of Optimal Human Functioning and sociologist Charles Fritz in the field of Human Behaviour during disasters. However, much of the advice she gives can be also related to Jungian Psychoanalysis, Positive Thinking, Behavioural Psychology and old literature on the Subconscious. If you are familiar with those, you might find some of the things Laura Day mentions in her book, a déjà-vue.  

Basic Nuggets

~~ Your current crisis might be the best thing it has happening to you, even though you don't see it know, because it will certainly make you grow, get you closer to your true self, and even change your life for the best, or just make you grow. Your crisis could be a blessing in disguise.
~~ Life is full of lessons, and you learn many of them when you are in crisis.
~~ Crisis is our way of evolving when we lack the courage to do so on our own volition.
~~ First thing to overcome a crisis is to recognise that you have one.
~~ What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
~~ Our response to any change is within our control.
~~ Identical responses produce identical results, if you want to change your results you change your responses. New problems require new tools, new attitudes and responses.
~~ I you play victim, you cannot do anything.
~~ No action is a conscious action.
 ~~ Look forward not to the past. Don't munch on what you cannot change, just of what you can and want to change, focus on your present and future. 
~~ Regroup your energy and focus on what you want, not on what/who you don't want, hate or despise.
~~ Attention goes to what you focus on. 
~~ To Change Your World, Change Yourself
~~ Crisis is transformation delayed.
~~  Once you commit to your crisis, you commit to its resolution.

Things I Liked

~ The book has an absence of New Age spirituality mumbo-jumbo that I find very refreshing! Good for people of all religions or without religion.
~~ Day re-frames crisis, gives it a positive halo, and sheds light on it, so that we can overcome it. Every cloud has a silver lining:
 "Crisis is the challenge and the opportunity to uncover what we value, rediscover what we need, redefine what gives us pleasure, re-create a meaningful life, and reconfigure the inner workings of self. Crisis forces us to reach deep within ourselves, where we can discover treasured, powerful, forgotten parts of us that we hid long ago, even from ourselves. The lives we can create once we open this treasure chest of being exceed not only our expectations but also our imagination." (locs. 173-176)
~~ Her insistence on focusing on the present, which pervades the book, is really helpful. You need to be present not to get lost in the past or the future, need to be present to acknowledge and honour your feelings, need to be present not get ruminating in your head and your blood boiling after what you did or was done to you. Focusing on the very now gives you the perfect frame of mind to go through the basics you need to take care of for your life to function.
~~ Throughout the book, Day insists on asking ourselves "Who Am I?" Not a new question or exercise, but especially relevant in moments of crisis, because when we are in crisis our sense of self is also in crisis, even threatened. We need to look inside and see the "who" in the "I", and discover and uncover what lies beneath the "self" that is defined by profession, gender, marital status, race, nationality, age and religion. The rescue of the primitive or real self, your inner golden "I", is what we should be looking for in a crisis, so that we can bring it out and make it more fully present, honour it, and follow its path. I found the consideration of the "I" as an ecosystem or a "community" really true, and something that deeply resonates with me.
~~ I found chapter 8 on the personal mythology one of the most helpful to me. You can find your personal mythology in what you tell about yourself, how others see you, how you were seen when you were a child, and the family history that your family handed over to you. This mythology hides an internal process that we believe keeps us safe, a core fear and a core desire. If we are in crisis our myth is not working and needs to be changed so that the core desire is placed at the top of our myth and is not buried by it
You are not your story. In fact your story is inaccurate, subjective, and— unless it is helping you achieve— superfluous. You are your choices.  Your story does not dictate your life— your choices do. (loc. 1725-1728).
~~ Laura doesn't think that her tools make miracles, but is sure that they  help us without a doubt. She even says that we don't need to believe that something works, because when things work they do work disregarding whether we believe it or not. I think that sort of comment is very good for sceptics. The message is, give it a try and see what happens, don't take my word for granted, experience it.
~~ I especially liked Day's reflection on rumination ("the mind voyage of woulda, shoulda, coulda, what if, and if only.") Laura advises different things and exercises to face the present and the future and not to linger in the past. Most of the advice resonates with me and found it  very useful.
~~ There are many exercises in the book, but some of my favourites are The superhero, Packing your Trunk, Consulting our Inner Guide, and Attracting Your future. Your certainly might be others as your favourite.

Things that didn't Resonate with Me 

~~ Day says the same, with different words, quite often. Basically, it sums up as: your crisis might be the best thing that ever happened to you as something good or better will come out of it.
~~ Days classifies people in four main types based on four main knee-jerk sort of reactions to crisis: anxiety type, denial type, rage type and depression type. Generally speaking, there is true in which she says and advises, but these four types are very simplistic! People don't react always the same, as reactions depend not only on our character and temperament, but also on our circumstances, level of maturity and inner growth. In my personal experience, crisis elicits different and multiple reactions in the same people. If a love one dies I might get depressed, but that doesn't mean I am depressive. If am unfairly dismissed by my employer, I might get a mix of rage, anxiety and depression all together or in  a succession of emotional stages, and the same but in different order after a break-up. We cannot be described by our reactions unless we react always in the same way. I think if we are part of a type, the type has to be more flexible and elaborated taking more variables into account. I like the Jungian type system best. Much of the advice Day gives relates to this type classification so, unfortunately, the advice is also simplistic and not always helpful.
~~ There are basic strong differences in the ways introverts and extroverts deal with life, success and crisis. Laura Day confesses that she's an introvert, but then she gives many items of advice that involve calling your many friends, joining groups, being social, having people over. Really, introverts don't have a liking for groups, meetings or for relating to several people at the same time. Most introverts have a very small number of very close friends and they relate to them individually. Personally, dealing with my personal stuff with a group of people would be excruciating, no matter how lovely my friends are! Having any sort of gathering at home that involves more than two people would be something stressful and non-enjoyable. Joining a group that supports people in my circumstances can be helpful, but it demands a lot of mental and emotional effort from an introvert to join any group because groups per se don't ever resonate with most introverts.
~~ At times, Laura recommend asking a good friend to define or describe us. Of course, the support and advice of your friends is important, but asking our friends to define us might not be that wise! People's projections are always there, and a friend might define me according to his/her own projections. Besides, some friends will never be able to tell us the truth just because they want to protect us, or don't have the guts to be fully honest with us, or because they care very much about the relationship and don't want to put it in jeopardy by something they say. I think that getting to know our shadow, getting to know ourselves, BS free of course, will give us better answers than most friends would. For example, not long ago, when talking to a dear friend, I mentioned about my being an introvert, and he laughed and commented sarcastically, "yes sure, soooo introvert." Well, I am an introvert by the book, unless you don't want to see that. He can't see it because he projects his extroversion and being extra-social onto me because in the past I have socialised with him. Why would I ask him to describe me if he doesn't even get the most obvious essential thing about me and has known me for years?! Also, I don't want to be defined by what other people think I am! If you want, go ahead!
~~ Laura Day reminds us of the many crisis we have survived and we are still here and that the same will happen to us right now. Well, that is a psychological cognitive bias she is applying. Optimism bias?

I Agree, Somewhat 

Day says that the three "Rs" (rumination, recrimination, and retribution) divert our attention from where it should be, the present and future, not the past, and divert our energy from the centre, our centre. I agree with that totally. The solutions Day offers to overcome the 3 Rs are the 3 Fs (Forgetfulness, forgiveness and Faith-Fullness). However, I don't agree with Day that we need to forgive, forget or to forget vendetta to move on. We can move on without doing that. Said differently, unless you are obsessed about somebody or something, and these obsessions are  consuming you inside, you just need to move on.

Re forgiveness, we don't need to forgive anybody to move on. We need to focus on our life, on moving forward, on surrounding ourselves with the right people, ob doing things that make us happy, in extricating ourselves from the source of pain if possible, on limiting or severing contact with the source of pain if possible, move away, take a holiday, change city, change suburb, change flatmates, change jobs, whatever we need to do to start afresh. When our thoughts fill up with the painful memory, we need to think about other things or people, make a conscious decision to replace those painful thoughts with others that fill our heart. If we do that, constantly, we will eventually come to surprise ourselves, and think quite neutrally about those who harmed us. That also requires time, and cannot be done by magic. I do believe that forgiveness is something that people should earn, not a free gift we have to distribute to jerks who used, abused and harmed us despite being fully aware of their actions. Otherwise, I don't see the problem. We are all human. We can understand that somebody harmed us unwillingly. But too often, the harm is willingly inflicted.

Against recrimination ("the desire to be made whole by the act of a just outcome"), I agree that in the heat and proximity of the event, you are less rational, less fair, and you can do more harm to yourself.  Day says:
be aware of the reality that you will cause yourself far more harm than you will inflict on another when you seek retribution in the heat of the moment.(loc. 1530-1531)
I agree that vendetta is best served in a cold plate, but of course I want vendetta. I want the Universe to punish those people who did harm to me on purpose, who were aware of the damage they were causing, that were conscious of their actions inflicting harm, those who used or abused me or those who showed a complete lack of ethical behaviour but preached high morals. I will be celebrating  their fall, Martini in hand. I don't obsess about this, I just hope to see the boomerang effect effectuated before I die. They idea of the Universe punishing them makes me move on faster, believe it or not. I don't feel the urge to kill anybody, I feel the urge of the Universe to do the job for me.

Things I Missed

~~ Laura Day is a brilliant intuitive. This being the case, I was expecting some specific exercises or information on how intuition can help us specifically in our crisis. She mentions many times that intuition is a guidance when we are in crisis. Well, why not giving specific information about how to access intuition when we are in crisis and blocked?
~~ Although I liked the book and what Day says, and some of the tools she gives, I missed a bit of a more structure and cohesive system. For example, once we have read the book and do the exercises, do we do them again? for how long should we do the exercises? A year, every week, every day? In which order? Can we do some of them and not others? In the order they are mentioned in the book or in another? All of them or just those we like? That sort of very simple but practical info was missing most of the time

Rendering for Kindle

The book is quite well edited,  with barely any typo. Something I never take for granted in Kindle! So, that is always a big thumbs up from me. However, the index of chapters in the side menu and at the beginning of the book has not titles, just numbers. I mean, how difficult and how much work would have taken the editor to link the title of the chapter with the number of the chapter? Little! 

In Short

This is good overall lift-me up sort of book, well written, with some exercises to stop, ponder and seld-answer. This is a general book on crisis, so if you are going through serious illness, a nasty divorce, the death of a love one, bankruptcy  or job  severance, I would personally be looking for specific books on those  subjects. Although Day is well known for her work on intuition, and intuition is mentioned repeatedly in this work, the aim of the book is not to develop intuition, but how to face your crisis using your intuition.  If you want to develop your intuition you need to check other books by Laura Day, not this one. To me, the best part of the book are the last three or four chapters, as they offer, perhaps, the advice, exercises and introspection that resonated most with me. It could be differently for any other person, of course.

Powerhunch!: Living An Intuitive Life by Dr Marcia Emery (2001)

, 11 Nov 2016

 "What’s intuition? It’s a clear understanding that comes not from our logical mind— the part that knows how to do the math— but from a deeper part of our being." (loc. 188) "The intuitive antenna inside your body that picks up the pictures, symbols, images, ideas, and feelings from your intuitive mind and beams them onto the screen of your conscious awareness. This antenna is constantly receiving and transmitting messages from within and without." (loc.303)


Powerhunch explains in a very simple language how intuition works, which sort of questions you can ask, how and when to ask them, and which sort of approaches you can use to help in your decision making or to answer precise questions, no matter how difficult or trivial they might be: personal relationships, job challenges, health issues, relocation, insights re situations and people, directions about timing and paths to follow.

Stress blocks our logical decision making, so intuition is  an  alternative helping hand. Besides, developing your intuition leads to developing your creativity, so you can just use intuition for artistic purposes. Intuition is not something that some special enlightened people have, we all have it, it is a matter of learning how to notice it, use it and handle it properly, how to cultivate it and how to weed it.

The book gives good advice on how to fire up your creative juices, how to work with visualisation, dream interpretation, learn when to risk, when it is the best time to do something, how to figure out somebody's dynamics, to solve romantic, social and work relationships, and find balance, release stress, promote self-healing and to use different breathing techniques to get you relaxed and favour the intuitive spark.

Dr Emery is a pioneer in the field of intuition and has a great knowledge of how intuition works, and how we can use it, so she provides the reader with a good deal of fun and easy-to-remember exercises. She uses a mix of intuitive exercises to open our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual channels, and mixes them up with dreamwork, synchronicity, and visualisation techniques. 

The many examples of real cases mentioned in the book come from the 225 people Emery interviewed for this book. 

The best virtue of the book is its practicality: the exercises and techniques that Emery  describes, and the clear guidelines she gives to carry them out. Some of my favourite exercises are the Yes or No button, the Powershift technique (which reminds me greatly of Jungian techniques for dream interpretation), the intuitive timepiece exercise, the environmental clues, and the metaphor exercise. 


> Powerhunch has a chit-chat tone that can be innervating at times. It does not favour the author either because dilutes her wisdom in a soup of blah blah blah, so her enthusiasm appears as rambling, and some of her colloquial writing more proper for a blog than for a book. Pity because many of the techniques Emery mentions are stupendous.

> Besides, the book has an endless number of real life examples, a good deal of them totally unnecessary.  I enjoy real life examples and the description of how a real person deals with a specific personal intuition clue, but if the examples are not to the point or too many they become a bother and not something inspirational or enjoyable.

> I find  shocking a PhD recipient making statements of this sort: Physicists have demonstrated the existence of eleven dimensions. (loc. 147-152) So, who exactly? Which are these eleven dimensions?

In cases like this I tend to blame the editors. Because, it is their duty to remove unnecessary fluff and demand from the author more substance, remove repeated information, help with the structuring of the work,  promote a reference note system when necessary and so forth. Also, the headings of the book are humongous in size, some of them occupying a lot of space, so they become another filler!

> We live in the digital age. Writing page after page describing a breathing exercise is a reflection of a bygone era. One can easily record an audio with the exercises and offer them to readers for download, so they can do some of the exercises using Emery's guiding voice. This wouldn't cost much, but could have brought the book to the present 21st century.


The book was published in the year 2001, so the bibliography is out of date.


> senstive to context (loc. 142)
> activtate your  (p. 26)


An entertaining light introduction to develop your intuition based on Emery's course of the same name, Powerhunch! The breathing exercises and many of the intuitive exercises in the book are excellent, so I recommend making flash cards on your Kindle, or manually to use them once you finish the book, so you don't have to go all over again as there is a lot of unnecessary talking in the book that you don't need to re-read. 


If you are interested in developing your intuition, start with PowerHunch!, and then read Laura Day and Sonia Choquette's books. Personally, I think that Laura Day's  books Practical Intuition and How to Rule the World from your Couch, take you to places that Emery's never does, and the same can be said of Laurie Nadel's Sixth Sense. Some of the exercises that Emery offers in the book are also similar to those that Robert Moss recommends in Sidewalk Oracles but she did present those years before. 


I paid almost 14 bucks for this e-book, but the same e-book in another edition is sold at half the price in Amazon, PowerHunch!.

How to Rule the World from Your Couch. The Power of Intuition by Laura Day (2011)

, 7 Nov 2016

I have always been very intuitive, and I had used Laura Day's  books to develop it.

This book is very well structured, written in a very accessible approachable language, and provides  the reader with many exercises, items of advice and information to develop our intuition in general, and some intuitive channels in particular. You will learn to develop: mediumship (the ability to become someone or something else and view the word from that perspective), telepathy (the ability to send and receive information from a distance), body heat telepathy (the ability to connect physically and emotionally with a person from a distance), remote viewing (the ability to perceive a scene in another space and time), precognition, and healing (transferring energy remotely to have an effect on people or situations). This book is a good companion to Practical Intuition, which I would read before this book, and Practical Intuition in Love, ditto,  as the chapter Body Heat Telepathy is mostly devoted to relationships.

I love this book because is practical, it does not oppose logic and intuition,  but supports it, and it does not have the New Age spirituality  bias that other books on intuitive development suffer from. The exercises are very engaging and entertaining, and I love the way Day explains how to analyse the intuitive. "data",  and how to further our intuition.

 I found this book clearer than his classic Practical Intuition, and more accurate regarding the results I have experienced, especially in areas that I paid little attention in the past, like remote viewing, which kept me uttering wow after wow.

The chapter on Mediumship wasn't much of my liking because it wasn't that empathic, was more manipulative, in a way. That was the vibe I got. This being the case this was the chapter from which I benefited the least. Perhaps this sort of mediumship, which is not such but more a kind of embodiment,  are something I'm not good at even though I'm very empathic. 

You might not rule the world from your couch after reading this book, but my experience has been so positive that I highly recommend it to anybody who has a high level of intuition or simply believes that intuition can be increased and developed for problem solving,  decision making, to enhance all kind of human relationships, or just to surprise yourself with your own abilities.

My only wish is that the book had more practical exercises, especially those in which the reader does not know the question is answering! I would love Laura Day to write a book of exercises of this type!

An amazing book.

Audible for Android App

Audible is one of the best and more domineering apps for audio books in the market. I have been using the app first on my PC and then on my smartphone for many years.

The selection of books is the best you can fin, not only novels, but also for non-fiction books and educational stuff. This is the case for Audible America, as other subsidiary branches are not even half as good and I would rather subscribe to Audible America than to Audible whatever country even if you pay a little bit more.

 Here a wrap-up of my experience with Audible


>> Audible is a great listening app devoted to Audible-formatted audio books.
>> The app is really easy to use and move around.
>> In the lateral menu you can find almost anything: your library, the store, wish-list, FAQ, settings, etc. Besides, the vertical triple dots beside the account name and beside each book give you extra options.
>> You can decide whether to download the books into your device or your SD card.
>> You can choose the quality of the recording you download, standard or HQ, the latter being almost double in size.
>> If you are registered with Amazon, you can access Audible without the need of having to register or signing in again.
>> You can listen to your books online, on your PC, on your tablet and smartphone. I do have them in three different devices and I have no problem at all.
>> Customer Service is easy to reach by phone, mail and chat and they are very helpful and lovely people!
>> One can report a problem or bug from the app itself, from the help section.
>> Good quality sound, crystal-clear recordings and well presented works.


> If you are blind and rely on audio books for reading.
> If your purchase audio books mostly from Audible and don't need or want them to use them in Universal readers with other audio books from other stores.
> If you pay for the Annual Platinum Membership, you get two credits per month and will be paying about 10 bucks per item.
> If you are buying a book that has the same price or less than the version on paper or Kindle.
> If you are buying an unabridged copy of a long book or a series compiled together.
> If you are buying a course with many lectures, like those from The Great Courses and The Modern Scholar, as they are great value for money, and much cheaper than the CD or Video recording, and they come with the full companion book on PDF.
> If you spend your credits on expensive books, not on the cheapies. One credit can buy you a 10-buck audio book or a 60-buck audio book, so the latter is always the best value for money. If you have a long list of books you are interested on, choose the most expensive!
> If you know that the narrator of a book is really good. You can pre-listen to the course, for free, before buying. That gives you a clear idea, or at least does so to me.
> If you are a traveller or just move a lot between cities or countries, any digital format is the best thing for your life-style, as they don't need to be packaged or carried, and you have them always available in your member area.


~ Audible plans are pricey. I understand that an audible book is not just a book,as the process of recording and the paying of the narrator need to be taken into account. The price cannot be the same as printing a copy on paper or publishing an e-book. However, some books are still expensive for average families, especially if you are an avid reader or listener!
~ The simple membership per month is almost 15 bucks, but one gets just one credit. In the past used to be two!
~ One cannot find the annual memberships in the member area. One has to surf the FAQ and then contact Customer Service to get the subscription done. That is a pity because the annual memberships are the best option for people, or at least for me.
~ If you buy a Kindle book and there is an Audible version of the same, the latter is offered to you at reduced prices. Well, the contrary is not the case! I recommend checking the Kindle format first and them buying the audio book if you really want the two, instead of doing the contrary. It will save you money.
~ The chapters do not have title in the lateral menu, just numbers. That is so unhelpful!
~ The app is synchronizable and you can buy from the app, so they need access to a few things in your device: identity, phone number, acces to Wi-Fi and microphone. I am OK with that. What I am not OK is with Audible-Amazon having an open door to my contacts (why?!), my photos, media, device id, call log, etc. 
~~ You cannot read your audible books in other apps as they are DRP docos, even when the authors themselves are OK with you having the right to use the book the way you like it once you purchase it.
~~ When you buy an Audible book you are just hiring the copy for life, sort of, you cannot lend it to your mum or "bestie" for reading as you would do with a hard copy. In other words, you don't own the book, you own the right to have your book in your member area as long as you are member. 


> As previously mentioned, the chapters do not have titles in the lateral menu, just numbers. That would be easy to fix!
> The statistics suffer from some sort of bug, and don't seem to be accurate or synchronise properly. And they could enlarge the group of badges to include those referred to humanities, sciences, religion, entertainment, literature, other languages, etc.
> I cannot transfer my files from my android to my computer and listen to them in my PC. This is a bother, because my Internet is monthly quota-capped and downloading bulky files twice is a no-no. Why not fixing that?!
> Improve the pricing. Make more types of memberships and reward people who use the app a lot.
> I used to love Audible logo, but it has become another orange bland logo without distinctive personality. Please change it!

Customs of the World: Using Cultural Intelligence to Adapt, Wherever You Are by Professor David Livermore (2013)

, 1 Nov 2016

David Livermore PhD, President of the Cultural Intelligence Center and an expert on the field, will delight listeners with this entertaining, poignant and very helpful course that helps to understand the multicultural multifaceted world we live in.

If you have a high CQ (or  a high level of cultural awareness and receptivity) you will naturally gravitate towards this course. If you aren't, just give the course a chance, as the lectures will help you in your travels overseas or simply to understand your foreign neighbours better.

I have travelled throughout the world and on my own  quite frequently, so I can say that the advice given in the course is sound and well-grounded, and that Livermore's approach to the cultures of the world is quite accurate. There is a Spanish proverb that I love: "allá donde fueres, haz lo que vieres", which roughly translates, "wherever you go, do what the locals do"; this is, precisely, one of the main items of advice in the course.

I found the lectures most helpful to understand my life as an immigrant and I got a few ahas! and "that is it" from  the first twelve lectures.That it is priceless.

The course is not a list of dos or do-nots, although some of those are provided at the end of each of the lectures devoted to individual cultural areas of the world.


The course is structured in two main parts. The first part is an overview of ten pairs of opposed general traits that serve to define most cultures (lessons 3-12). The second part gives a general overview of the different cultural clusters of the world, which are configured by applying the criteria mentioned in the first lectures, as well as religion, family structure, and history. The course starts with a definition of what CQ (Cultural Intelligence index) is, and ends with a series of practical items of advice on how to prepare to travel to a country with a different culture.

The list of lectures is: 1- Culture Matters. 2- Developing Cultural Intelligence. 3- Identity—Individualist versus Collectivist. 4- Authority—Low versus High Power Distance. 5- Risk—Low versus High Uncertainty Avoidance. 6- Achievement—Cooperative versus Competitive. 7- Time—Punctuality versus Relationships. 8- Communication—Direct versus Indirect. 9- Lifestyle—Being versus doing. 10- Rules—Particularist versus Universalist. 11- Expressiveness—Neutral versus Affective. 12- Social Norms—Tight versus Loose. 13- Roots of Cultural Differences. 14- Anglo Cultures. 15- Nordic European Cultures. 16-  Germanic Cultures. 17-Eastern European/Central Asian. 18- Latin European Cultures. 19- Latin American Cultures. 20-  Confucian Asian  Cultures. 21- South Asian Cultures. 22- Sub-Saharan African Cultures. 23- Arab Cultures. 24- Cultural Intelligence for Life.


> Livermore is a wonderful speaker: very engaging, has a great tone, pitch and voice inflection, very entertaining and open minded. He is also able to structure and present the material in a way that is both easy to understand, and easy to apply to our personal lives and cultural context. He gives many examples of his personal life, which perfectly apply to what he is explaining.
> Livermore explains why some clichés and stereotypes aren't true and what lies beneath them, and repeatedly reminds listeners that what he is saying is general and cannot be taken as a black-and-white description. We are not robots, we are part of our culture, but also individuals.
> Another point I loved, is the the importance the Livermore gives to food, the foods, how food is eaten, table manners, table customs, etc. to see the values and characteristics of any given culture. It is very true!
> I found Livermore especially good at individuating a simple element within a culture, one that might be apparently not relevant, and turn it into a symbol of the culture he is describing. One of the best examples, to me is how he uses the Matrioshka dolls to explain the characteristics of the Eastern European block, or Ikea for the Nordics. There are many examples of the same type.
 > Livermore basically tell us to look at the world with fresh eyes, with less stereotypes and clichés, and to learn to appreciate the richness of ways of being and doing that humans exhibit, which aren't better or worse than any other, just different.
> I loved the fact that Livermore pointed out that the fact that a person belongs to a certain culture doesn't eliminate their individuality, so we cannot judge a culture by the behaviour of an individual, or vice versa.
> One of the best items of advice in the course is that we, Livermore included, have prejudices, and that the more we become aware of them, the better will be face other cultures and people from other cultures with the right attitude.
> We don't need to love or agree with the customs or culture of a given region or country, we need to respect them. It sounds simple, but basically I find most travellers I come across when I don't travel on my own doing just the contrary! Demanding. Disrespecting. Showing disgust because some people don't speak English or have a strong accent and a long list of grievances that are very painful to witness.
> This course has put Livermore in my author-to-follow radar. I liked a lot how he speaks, his attitude and the way he presents the material.


> One of the main divisions of cultures is the structure of family. Although Livermore mentions family structure when discussing some culture clusters, there is no specific lesson devoted to something as important. I thought that nuclear vs extended family was a lesson necessary and missing from the course!
> The same can be said of the role of women. Being a woman who has travelled on my own to many places, I can tell you that there is a huge difference between cultures where women are treated with respect disregarding whether they are married or not, and others where that is not the case. I missed a lesson on that. Too often, I find myself discussing things with male travellers about a given country or area, and we had different experiences basically because of our gender.
> The same can be say about cultures that are gay friendly or anti-gay. Some of my friends are gay, and you have to think about many things if you are married to a person of the same gender to certain areas or sleep in the same bed when going to certain parts of the world.
> Another element missing, although hinted during the discussion of cultural clusters, is the generational gap.The country where my parents lived in and the one I was born and grew up were two extremes regarding structure of the family, social hierarchy, power distance, open communication etc. That has been the source of great generational conflict. You have to be aware that if you visit my country and deal with old people you will find a set of values, and if you deal with me or people younger than me you will find another. So, I missed a bit of more emphasis on that.
>  In a way, when I picked this course I wanted not only to improve my CQ and to learn about other cultures, but also to learn how to respond to people from other cultures who have a low CQ but utter very offensive, albeit subtle, racist and very demeaning comments about my culture and country of origin mostly based on prejudice and ignorance. I consider responding well to those attacks and abuse part of improving my CQ. However, this is the most difficult thing in the world to do when one feels hurt or unfairly treated on the basis of nothing. I expected some advice on that, but nothing is provided in the course. Perhaps this was just an expectation, and not part of what having CQ is?


> Livermore's  rosy version of the Anglo-Saxon culture and the British Empire. Really, I found offensive  the consideration that the British collaborated with local population and ignoring how the British crushed local populations,, how they destroyed Native Americans, Aborigines and any other culture that wasn't willing to accept their domination. Collaboration happened in some places, but the locals were never considered equals or equal human beings.  Do you remember Gandhi being thrown out of the train and tortured by the British? I leave it there.
> Livermore insists on us not using the information in the course to create stereotypes or clichés. Yet, if you choose a Brazilian as  an example of a person whonis always late or an Ukrainian as an example of rude customer service you are perpetuating the stereotypes! It doesn't matter that Livermore gives very successful explanations for those things.
 > I tend to excuse non-historians in their historical digressions. However, Livermore has a great authority when speaking, and I found a bit dangerous that some of his statements can be taken at face value. Like the one mentioned above about the British colonisation, or the statement that the cultural cluster with more influence in the world has been the Anglo-Saxon... well, just if you are part of that group. If you dig into the structure of your psyche, you will be astonished at discovering that the Western World and part of the Middle East fed on the Greco-Roman culture, ways of being and thinking that persist in our world  no matter you are a Norwegian, a German or an American. Then, the origin of civilisation is in Africa and in Far Middle East, not in Britain, USA nor even Australia. Christianity was born and spread from the Mediterranean, Islam from the Middle East,  Buddhism from Asia.
 > I find seriously ridiculous including Greece in the Eater European cluster. Yes, it is true that the Eastern Europeans fed on the Greek alphabet and Orthodox faith, but, 1/ Greeks are, re their ways of being, doing and thinking, basically Mediterranean and Southern European. 2/ They have never been nomads in the way that Mongolians or Central Asians have been. 3/They are in the Mediterranean, not in Central Europe or Asia. 4/ Greek Culture was the basis of  the Roman  Culture.  5/They have never been part of the USSR. 6/ Etc.!
> A few things are ignored to put Greek with the Eastern Europeans, and then Israel, a nomadic culture by definition, Arab in part is put with the Southern Europeans. Have you ever lived in the Middle East? Well, Israel fits there perfectly.


> I was in Norway just a few months ago. The Janteloven, the "you are nothing special" that seems to infuse Norwegian culture that Livermore mentions so many times is in gus lecture. Older people complain about the younger generations being cocky, showy and too individualistic, so unless you are over 60+, Janteloven is not as important as used to be. Also Livermore mentions that Norwegians aren't in the EU as if they are too good and don't need it, but the fact is that other Nordic countries are in the EU, Norway cannot enter the EU because, if they did, their economy would literally be crushed; and also Norwegians have been historically linked or dependent to/from  other Nordic countries and they want to be just themselves and independent. 
> Livermore mentions repeatedly that "Work to live instead of live to work" is the basis of the Nordic way of living. Well as much as of the Southern European way of living! Just to give a personal example, I worked in Dublin, in a hotel, many years ago, to pay for my English school; most of the workers were seasonal young Europeans, North-Africans and Asians. According to one of the housekeeping managers, the difference between the Southern Europeans and the rest was that they wanted and needed the money as much anybody else, but once they finished work they wanted to have fun and free time, while people from other areas would prefer the money and work in their days off.
> Calling some European cultures "paternalistic" is perpetuating an American stereotype, no matter Livermore says he is using the word with a different meaning than it is used normally. Why not using "egalitarian" or "caring"?
> The comments on the role of women in Southern Europe is also biased and probably true for 80-90y.o. people. Yet, in the year 2016, the index of domestic violence in Sweden and Australia is higher than in some Southern European countries; of course nobody will tell an Australian ir a Swedish that their men are one of most violent and therefore quite domineering over women. 

From Jesus to Constantine: A History of Early Christianity by Professor Bart D. Ehrman

, 26 Oct 2016

This is a 12-hour or so audio course by Professor Bart D. Ehrman, a Princeton PhD recipient, Professor in the Department of Religious Studies University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and renowned scholar on Early Modern Christianity and on the figure of Jesus. We are offered a very good historical overview of the first three centuries of Christianity from its humble inception as a low-class Jewish sect to become an anti-Jewish religion and the official religion of the Roman Empire. 

Lectures and Companion Book

 This 24-lesson course (30 minutes or so each) that analyses how and why early Christianity was born, expanded, grew, suffered, was persecuted and ended being the official religion of the Roman Empire. The lectures are:
1-  The Birth of Christianity. 2-The Religious World of Early Christianity. 3- The Historical Jesus. 4- Oral and Written Traditions about Jesus. 5- The Apostle Paul. 6-The Beginning of Jewish-Christian Relations. 7- The Anti-Jewish Use of the Old Testament. 8-The Rise of Christian Anti-Judaism. 9-The Early Christian Mission. 10-The Christianization of the Roman Empire. 11-The Early Persecutions of the State. 12-The Causes of Christian Persecution. 13-Christian Reactions to Persecution. 14-The Early Christian Apologists. 15-The Diversity of Early. Christian Communities. 16-Christianities of the Second Century. 17-The Role of Pseudo-epigrapha. 18-The Victory of the Proto-Orthodox. 19-The New Testament Canon. 20-The Development of Church Offices. 21-The Rise of Christian Liturgy. 22-The Beginnings of Normative Theology. 23-The Doctrine of the Trinity. 24-Christianity and the Conquest of Empire. The book also includes a handy timeline, a glossary, and a commented bibliography.

You can download the 143+-page book on PDF from your library (in your member area), potion the cursor on the PDF link and let clink and select save link as, and it will download. Ehrman's books are not as student-friendly as others from other professors as there are not tables, figures, photos or anything graphic in them.

The Recording

This is an excellent audio recording, great neat sound, well-structured and narrated, with musical clues that indicate the end of a chapter, and headings by a radio-voice presenter at the beginning of each chapter. Ehrman has a great knowledge and a clear way of structuring and delivering his points verbally, his reading is full of energy, and the recording is very enjoyable to listen to, never boring. Besides, he sums up what he has said at the end of each lecture, and does so again at the beginning of the following to link both lessons together. I found that most helpful as a listener. Ehrman also has an introduction devoted to the scope of the course at the beginning and summarises quite well what he says through it in the last lecture.

One of the things I found more enjoyable was the fact that he read many excerpts of early Christian sources, some of them really beautiful and interesting, so he it is not just he talking about the past, but bringing the past to the present. I think non-historians would be thrilled with those.

My only criticism is the pace of Ehrman's speech, he sprints at times, pauses for a way too long, and then retakes at a regular pace to then rush again and the speech cycle resumes.

Answered Questions 

Ehrman does a great job at providing listeners with an overview of Christianity in the first four centuries of the Christian Era and responds, among others, to the following questions:
Ѫ Who was the main 'designer' of early Christianity?
Ѫ Which sources are important to the study of Early Christianity?
Ѫ Who were these Christians? Why did Christianity expand so rapidly throughout the Roman Empire? At which rhythm? How did it win converts throughout the Roman Empire?
Ѫ  How did Pagans and Jews see Christians?
Ѫ How did Christians see Paganism and Judaism? 
Ѫ How was the relationship of Jewish-Christian at the beginning? What happen for Christianity to go from a Jewish sect to anti-Jewish religion? Why would Christians want to keep the Old Testament books if they didn't want to keep its laws? 
Ѫ Were Jewish Christians and non-Jewish Christians treated differently, given different rules and expected to behave differently? 
Ѫ Did all Early Christians shared the same views on Jesus, God and Christianity? Which sort of Christian movements and sects were predominant in these years? 
Ѫ Was Christianity an illegal religion in the Roman Empire? 
Ѫ Why were Christians persecuted? How often? Who were the persecutors? What motivated the Pagan opponents to persecute Christians? Which sort of attitudes did Christians show when persecuted and punished? Why were some of the early Christian martyrs so firm in refusing to renounce their faith and face martyrdom with stoicism? 
Ѫ  How did the creeds, the canon of the New Testament, and the church hierarchy all develop out of its earlier diversity?  Why despite the  many books written in the names of the apostles, only 27 were considered Sacred Scripture and include in the New Testament? Which criteria were used to do so? Who decided on the books to include and what motivated their decisions? 
Ѫ Why did early Christians develop an ecclesiastical hierarchy and clergy? Who were these people? Why liturgy was created and what was their initial meaning? Were the clergy and the liturgy questionable and questioned? 
Ѫ  How and why would Christianity end becoming the Roman Empire official religion?

I Missed Some Answers

Ж I would have liked to know in which areas, if any, Jesus differed from other apocalyptic prophets of the 1st Century and if his discourse had anything new to it or not.
Ж  I would have loved some reflection on the fact that, there were many apocalyptic prophets in the 1st Century, and many of them were dispose of, Jesus' message ended being the only one perpetuated. Why did that happen? Just on the grounds of his resurrection? Why would Jesus' followers spread the message of their teachers and the disciples of other prophetic teachers did not?
Ж  One of the episodes in the New Testament is the one that mentions St Thomas after the resurrection, in which Thomas thought what he was seeing was ghost, but Jesus made him touch his wounds to prove him he was well alive. So I wonder, where there is any historical possibility of he surviving crucifixion. In other words, I would have loved Ehrman  discussing the Swoon Hypothesis and the historicity of the Life of Saint Issa.
Ж Valentinianism is barely mentioned in this course, probably included among the Gnostics, but this was one of the major Christian heterodox movements until the 4th century, so I thought a bit of more space and time should have devoted to them.
Ж When discussing the birth of Christian liturgy, Ehrman discusses Baptism and Eucharist, but nothing is mentioned about Marriage and Burial ceremonies among Christians. Didn't they exist? When they did develop?
Ж Although Ehrman mentions some women in the course, he does not say a word about the role of women in early Christianity. Something I found utterly surprising, giving the fact that St Paul wasn't a lover of women, to put it boldly.  
Ж Among the reasons why Christianity spread so quickly in the Roman Empire and throughout the world, nothing is said about the way Christianity appropriated Pagan festivities and celebrities, and precise dates and deities,  and gave them a Christian meaning. Did that happen after Constantine? Because that did happen. Just look at the Christmas Tree. I would have loved hearing something about that, to add to the reasons of the spread of Christianity, but nothing is said. Perhaps is a myth? Did happened after Constantine?
Ж  Re the Trinity, I thought that there is, in a way, an approach to Trinity that somewhat resonates with some of the Gnostic myths of creation, so I would have loved him digging a bit on that. 
Ж Finally, Ehrman presents the information as a bold statements that seem to indicate that there is not much doubt among historians about some of the things he says. I would have loved seeing him discussing this points of view and saying so and then presenting the listener with those of his nemesis. I think he does so just once and not in I stand for this but Mary and Peter don't. That would have given balance to his discourse.


This course is very not really controversial. Ehrman is a historian and needs to contextualise the figure of Jesus and early Christianity. So he needs to speak as much of Jesus and Christians as of Jews, Judaism, Pagans and Paganism. Christians did not live on a planet of their own, but were citizens of the Roman Empire. This course is really easy to digest by Christians of all creeds, especially if you are open-minded and liberal. However, fundamental Christians or any Christian unwilling to face historical facts might not be happy to hear some of the things Ehrman has to say. In other words, if you are easily offended, don't listen to the course!

In Short

This a great course to  get a historical overview of the three first centuries of Christianity. As the period covered in the course is quite large, understandably, some things are treated superficially. I would recommend listening Ehrman's course on the historical Jesus, and to Prof. Brakke's course on the Gnostics. Yet, if you only hear to this course, you will get good value for money, and food for thought and for the soul.

The Historical Jesus by Professor Bart D. Ehrman (2013)

, 20 Oct 2016

This is a 12-hour or so audio course by Professor Bart D. Ehrman,a Princeton Ph.D. recipient, Professor in the Department of Religious Studies University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and renowned scholar on Early Modern Christianity and on the figure of Jesus.

The Lectures

 This 24-lesson course (30 minutes or so each) is well structured and paced. Due to the nature of the material analysied, Ehrman devotes a good deal of time to explain how historians analyse their sources, a process that is valid for any source on any period, not specifically on Jesus, but especially relevant for the study of the historical Jesus.  Once the methodology and criteria used to study the sources are explained, Erhman separates reality from myth, possible from highly improbable, what we know for from what we don't regarding Jesus's infancy, years of ministry, preaching, deeds, death and resurrection.

The lectures are:
1- The Many Faces of Jesus. 2-One Remarkable Life. 3- Scholars Look at the Gospels. 4- Fact and Fiction in the Gospels. 5- The Birth of the Gospels. 6- Some of the Other Gospels [Gnostic Gospels of Thomas and St Peter's Gospel]. 7- The Coptic Gospel of Thomas. 8- Other Sources [Pagan sources, Jewish sources, and Canonical sources outside the Gospels]. 9- Historical Criteria. Getting Back to Jesus [Criterion of independent attestation]. 10- More Historical Criteria [criterion of dissimilarity and criterion of contextual credibility]. 11- The Early Life of Jesus. 12-Jesus in His Context [Jew religious movements in the 1st century]. 13- Jesus and Roman Rule [Apocalyptic prophets sharing points in the period]. 14- Jesus the Apocalyptic Prophet [elements that show Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet]. 15- The Apocalyptic Teachings of Jesus. 16- Other Teachings of Jesus in their Apocalyptic Context. 17- The Deeds of Jesus in their Apocalyptic Context [Arguments of historians who don't think Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet and Ehrman's reply to them]. 18-  Still Other Words and Deeds of Jesus [Jesus' miracles]. 19- The Controversies of Jesus. 20- The Last Days of Jesus. 21- The Last Hours of Jesus. 22- The Death and Resurrection of Jesus. 23- The Afterlife of Jesus. 24- The Prophet of the New Millennium.

The Companion Book

You can download the 185-page book on PDF from your library (in your member area), potion the cursor on the PDF link and let clink and select save link as, and it will download. Ehrman's books are not as student-friendly as others from other professors as there are not tables, figures, photos or anything graphic in them.  The book includes a very useful Timeline, a glossary, and a commented bibliography. However, the bibliography is quite old as the initial course was prepared and recorded in year 2000. So why not updating the PDF book with more modern recommended readings and further info about the latest developments? That would be extremely easy to do as the course was released for Audible in 2013 and it is a long period with lots of new developments and bibliography produced. So, in a way, some of the things said in the book might be a bit outdated.

The Recording

This is an excellent audio recording, great neat sound, well-structured and narrated, with musical clues that indicate the end of a chapter, and headings by a radio-voice presenter at the beginning of each chapter. Unlike other courses in the series, this one has a boxed applause at the beginning of each lecture, not sure if  real applause or added for effect.

Ehrman has a great knowledge and a clear way of structuring and exposing his points verbally, the reading is well paced and full of energy, and the recording is very enjoyable to listen to, never boring. However, there are a few odd things that don't make the narration flow as well as other lecturers courses: The fluctuation of the voice is a bit brusque at times, with high energy ending in a too-long silence, and Ehrman stumbles upon his own words quite often, as if he was self-conscious and a bit nervous when recording. Of course, this is just my impression.  

My Takings on the Book

~~ The method on which Ehrman analysis the sources on Jesus is actually the sort of analysis that serious historians apply to the sources they use for their research, no matter the subject of interest. Historical research, especially biblical research, without the exegesis of the sources is not serious History.
~~  It shows how History-making is not just babble, or putting together facts in a linear sequence. History-making has a method and methodology, a set of rules that are serious, and that are extremely important to support and give credibility to any historical research. This is especially relevant when speaking of the figure of Jesus.
~~ The Gospels offer not only different information about Jesus but things that are totally contradictory so it is difficult to decide which thing is correct and which thing is not correct.
~~ One might guess that Jesus being such an important man and figure, there would be tons of historical reliable references about his life, teachings, deeds in Jew, Pagan and Christian sources, but the contrary is true. We know very little about the historical Jesus, and much of what we believe true through the New Testament is not true or not historically reliable.
~~ Jesus was a Jew who believed and supported the Law of Moses. Most of his disagreements with other Jew factions was based not on the questioning of the validity of that Law, but on how to deal with confusing or vague passages in the Old Testament.
~~ Jesus was one of the many Apocalyptic prophets in 1st-century Judea. 
~~ Christianity didn't begin with Jesus' life or death, but began with the belief of Jesus' resurrection, which affected the way those believers understood who he was and what he taught.

Historical Reliable Information about Jesus from the Course

Jesus was born and raised as a Jew in Nazareth, his parents being Mary and Joseph, the later a manual worker. His mother had other children, and wasn't a virgin, she didn't know about her son being the chosen one or special. Jesus has brothers and sisters, James being one of them. Jesus spoke Aramaic and had a normal education and upbringing; he wasn't specially precocious or was invested of special qualities, but he learned Hebrew and Greek and could read the Scriptures. 
> We don't know what happened between his infancy and until he was baptised, but we know that he began his public ministry by associating and being baptised by John the Baptist, an apocalyptic prophet of the time, for which we can assume that Jesus also was an apocalyptic prophets of the 1st Century Palestine. The first Christian communities in the Mediterranean that spread after he died believed that the end of the world was coming and therefore were also apocalyptic Christian communities. Most importantly, his teachings, sayings and actions had all the elements of the apocalypticism of the time: 1/ cosmic dualism; 2/ pessimism; 3/ God was going to intervene in history, create a kingdom on earth, final judgement would take place; 4/the kingdom of god was almost here, to happen in a generation.
> His ethical teachings were not presented as universal truths, but valid for the historical context in which they were uttered; his teachings were not a contradiction but a reaffirmation of the need to follow Moses' law but differed from the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes: In all these disagreements, the issue was never over whether God’s law, as found in the Hebrew Bible, should be kept. The question was how it should be kept and what it meant to keep it. (p. 101) He also spread a message of love that was strongly new, love your neighbour and God above all.  But Jesus didn't see himself as creating a new system of ethics and saw love to survive the coming destruction of the world.
> Jesus carried his ministry largely in rural areas, despite Nazareth being very close to two big urban centres.
> Jesus' period of public ministry is uncertain but it goes from several months to about two years and a half maximum as per the Gospels' own information.
> Jesus was rejected or at odds with his own family, with the people of his home town of Nazareth, and not very popular with the towns and villages of Galilee he visited as an itinerant preacher. Jesus was also rejected by the religious leaders of the Jews in Palestine for the interpretation of the law not about the law itself when Moses' Law was incomplete or ambiguous.
> In the last week of his life, Jesus decided to bring his apocalyptic message to the heart of the Kingdom, Jerusalem, during the Passover feast. He entered the city with other pilgrims, without being especially noticed. Once in Jerusalem he acted out the coming destruction of the world by creating a disturbance in the temple. This attracted the attention of the temple authorities, who decided he needed to be removed from the public eye.
>  Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, who told to the authorities some of the secret teachings Jesus had given to his inner circle of 12 disciples, in which Jesus had a leader role in the coming Kingdom of God, which placed him in a sort of political king and crease a political riot. This grounds were the basis of his arrest. Jesus was arrested by the Jew authorities and brought him to an informal interrogation and then handed over the Roman authorities for trial.
> Jesus died on the cross considered as a seditious Jew who could generate social upheaval or at least some riots. Historically speaking, we cannot state or deny his resurrection, just that his followers would end believing so. 

Unanswered Questions

~~ I would have liked to know in which areas, if any, Jesus differed from other apocalyptic prophets of the 1st Century.
~~ I would have loved some reflection on the fact that there being many apocalyptic prophets in the 1st Century, Jesus' message ended being the only one perpetuated. Why that did happen? There was something about his personality? His message? The circumstances in which he died?
~~ Why would Jesus' followers spread the message and create Christian communities and not the followers of other apocalyptic prophets of the time?
~~ Is there any truth about the so-called Unknown Years of Jesus, the theory that states that Jesus didn't raise from the dead but survived crucifixion and went on preaching to India? I would have loved a bit of attention to this topic, to its refutation or not, and on which grounds. I am sure that Ehrman has plenty to say about this subject. 


Good value for money even if you pay it in full, and a bargain if you have a membership with Audible. 


Obvious, but it Needs to be Said

Ehrman clearly states at the beginning of the course and during the same that you can examine the figure as Jesus from a historical point of view or a theological point of view, and that he is doing the first, without trying to support or deny anything about Jesus. Serious Historians do what Ehrman does with his sources, so we cannot pretend that he forgets what is not comfortable for us to hear. This being the case, conservative and fundamental Christians, who have an agenda in having the Gospels to be God's Word and follow it to the letter, will find the course confronting and difficult to deal with at all levels. You've been warned.

In short

The whole series of lectures is mind blowing. Except for the last lecture, which I considered a bit digressive and off topic re Jesus, I think the course is stupendous. Even if you are a faithful Christian, it can help you to understand who Jesus really was and give an extra layer to your set of beliefs. Of course, if you believe the writings of the Gospels to be God's word, and Jesus to be God, this is not a book for you!

I found the course especially good as a way to demonstrate how serious historians work and how they use their sources. This is especially important if you are going to start studying History at University and intend to devote yourself to historical research on controversial subjects, no matter your period of study.