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Jonathan S. "Jonathan" (London)

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The Duchess Of Duke Street: Series 1 - Parts 1-3 (Box Set) [DVD]
The Duchess Of Duke Street: Series 1 - Parts 1-3 (Box Set) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Gemma Jones
Offered by Quality Media Supplies Ltd.
Price: £20.01

2.0 out of 5 stars Underwhelmed, 11 Mar. 2016
I bought this DVD based upon the five star reviews. However, the viewing proved disappointing. Some continuity
has been lost with some cuts being made. Also, there is a lack of control over the viewing episodes which
can be two hours long. Additionally the quality of the diction is poor in comparison to productions like 'Downton Abbey', where
everyone speaks clearly even if they are speaking softly.
Apart from the technical problems, some of the episodes are often quite funny, whilst others lack tension

Science and the Sacred
Science and the Sacred
by Ravi Ravindra
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Towards a better science, 8 Mar. 2016
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This review is from: Science and the Sacred (Hardcover)
Ravindra is both a scientist and a mystic, who is au fait with physics, Christian, Buddhist and Hinduist mysticism. His insights into how science can approach the sacred are profound. Science experiments. It deals primarily with what can be measured. However, it tends to ignore feelings, beauty, goodness, fragrances, pain, joy, tastes. So a scientist will experiment on a flower, however genuine religions should lead one to a richer experience of everyday objects like flowers and of life in general.
If our thinking is based solely on what can be measured, we will miss out much that is part of our humanity. Einstein, whom Ravindra frequently quotes, was very much against using solely science in our life. So the direction of our scientific endeavours needs to include intangibles such as beauty and compassion. I recommend this work as being well written and a delight to read.

The Qur'an (Oxford World's Classics)
The Qur'an (Oxford World's Classics)
by M. A. S. Abdel Haleem
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.99

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Way of Ascent: a comparative study, 20 Dec. 2015
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I like Haleem's translation: he has produced a thoroughly readable rendering of the Quran. The English prose is modern, flows well and has some poetic qualities as well.
My interest in reading the Quran comes as a voracious reader of spiritual works. In reading the Quran, I have completed my survey of all the world's major religious works: the Jewish testament, the Christian testaments (including some apocryphal works), the Gita and the Dhammapada.

Some of the Quran is very uplifting: the Opening which is the equivalent of the Our Father prayer and the surah called 'the Cow'. Other outstanding surahs include: Joseph, Abraham,Mary, Noah,Light, the Night, Purity of Faith, Help. The accounts of Moses, Joseph are interesting in the stories told and also when compared against the relevant books in the Bible.
Much of the Quran however is repetitious and basically consists of the necessity of following the way of God and of avoiding hell. In this aspect, I would also add that some of the Jewish scriptures are even more boring to read, especially the long lists of ancestors, which is rather like reading a telephone directory. The above surahs give the best and most interesting parts of the Quran (at least to me)

Within the framework of the Quran, some points emerge:
1) Why does God need to create an eternal Hell? What is the point of it and why does God incline some to Heaven and others to Hell? Exactly the same questions that arise from reading the Christian Bible, by the way.
2) The dietary advice given in the Quran is the best (by far) of the Abrahamic faiths: Pork may carry tapeworm, the bad effects of alcohol are well known. However, logically if we are enjoined not to eat blood, then one should not eat meat at all as meat, halaal or otherwise, will always contain some blood. In this aspect, the Hindu and Buddhist religions are perhaps clearer in the dietary guidelines.
3) Muslim scholars argue for the principle of abrogration: when there is conflict in the verses (inconsistencies are also found in Jewish and Christian scriptures). As a non-Muslim, I would argue for the principle of reverse abrogration: the earliest verses should be preferred. I call it beginners luck: the more the mind interferes with a concept, the more confusion it will produce. Also as the Muslim empire grew, increasingly revelations became more temporal and concerned with day to day concerns. Whatever approach is taken, the fact is that no indication within the Quran is given as to which surahs are the most important. This is to my mind a major weakness of the Quran as we now have a large haditha industry that is dictating to people how to think and taking the most bellicose verses as the sole authority.
4) The best scriptures get to the point and state it succinctly. The Gita is very short, but very high quality. Similarly the Dhammapada. There are some surahs that have the same quality as the Gita. But overall the Quran suffers from rather repetitious surahs.
5) Islam is the youngest major Abrahamic faith. In a sense, the Jewish faith is the grandfather, the Christian and Sabaens the sons and the Islam the grandson. A true ecumenical approach for Muslims would include reading the books of Exodus, Jonah, Job, the Gospel of Mark and Thomas and so give the Quran a more inclusive flavour.
6) The Islamic injunction to pray five times a day can be compared to the Christian advice to pray unceasingly. Islam does not underestimate the pull of the powerful currents of the world. Provided the practice is not merely mechanical, this is a good one to follow.

Islam prides itself on its concept of 'shirk'. There is only God. It is a radical vision, with which Christians are sometimes uncomfortable. So no trinity or triune God. Three points arise from this:
1) Islam does not take shirk far enough. To tie the revelation of God solely to one man (Muhammad, Christ etc) is also shirk, God does not need any exclusive approach.As the surah 'The Cow' makes clear, God has always been present and so any exclusive approach is false. To maintain that truth is only found in Islam, Hinduism, or whatever is to limit truth and is false.
2) The Gita maintains rather that God comes to you in the form that you worship and to the degree of sincerity. When you study the lives of people around the world, you will find that this is true and so truth is not the sole prerogative of one religion (much as some rabbis, preachers, imams, ayatollahs and other religiously minded salesmen would have you otherwise believe)
3) The concept of justice in the Quran is quite harsh. May I remind the Muslim readers is that it rarely seems to be applied correctly in Muslim countries. In the 'Light' surah, BOTH men and women are to be given 100 lashes for adultery. I never read of it being applied this way. Rather it is the hapless woman only that gets stoned by baying mobs! Christ's lesson on the woman caught in adultery is good to remember. In adultery, it takes two to tango. Anyhow, the man is usually the hunter. Still, I think flogging could in some cases be better than the feeble suspended sentences or prison sentences (where offenders often come out even more corrupted) applied in western countries. I do not support the practice of amputation for stealing: this seems excessive and counter productive as the offender is no longer able to earn a living. However, restitution seems a good principle.

The Postulates of the Thematic
The Postulates of the Thematic
Price: £6.36

5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding thinker, 25 Oct. 2015
The short book, only 120 pages long, deals with human excellence: how it can be nurtured in both individuals and societies. The author is critical towards the culture of entitlement and non accountability, as these lead to mediocrity in individuals. His style of writing is easy to read, the ideas are clearly explained and will benefit those who are interested in understanding to improve the human condition.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 11, 2015 8:03 PM GMT

The Doctor Blake Mysteries - Series 2 [DVD] [2014]
The Doctor Blake Mysteries - Series 2 [DVD] [2014]
Dvd ~ Craig McLachlan
Price: £13.58

5.0 out of 5 stars Australia's Sherlock Holmes, 16 Aug. 2015
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This series has been brilliant! Dr Lucien Blake is a police pathologist, who investigates the cause of deaths. The setting is Ballarat, a small town in Australia in the 1950s. On his investigations, he is accompanied by Inspector Lawson, an abrasive but cautious policeman and also by his junior. All stories start with a death, for which the cause often turns out to be different from what was first apparent. Then the tension builds up in the efforts to determine who the suspect is.
I have also enjoyed the Australian accents, the attention to historical detail and the excellent dialogue.
May there be more of these series. I hope to aquire all of them

The Darkest Hour
The Darkest Hour
by Barbara Erskine
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite my cup of tea, 16 Aug. 2015
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This review is from: The Darkest Hour (Paperback)
Erskine is a talented writer, with a good eye for accuracy and flair for entertaining dialogue. The addition of some rather poor black and white photographs at the end of the book show that this book meant much to the author: her family lived thru World War II and her father was a fighter pilot.
There are two stories: one set in the 1940s and the other in present times and the writing switches between the two constantly. This took some getting used to: I would have preferred to have the stories as two separate chapters of the same book.
Although I liked the book to a point, I dont feel it was realistic in its depiction of the paranormal.
Religious fiction does not generally appeal to me: I prefer to read about how real people were affected by life events; especially if these events lead to some form of transformation. Writers of religious fiction have to be really skilled to convey authenticity: ones that I think succeeded in the vein are:
1) Kahlil Gibran: Jesus, Son Of Man: brilliant and highly imaginative poetic prose about the people that Jesus met and what he meant to them
2) C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters: A witty and deep insight into the writings of two devils attempting to lead a Christian astray
3) Dion Fortune: The Secrets of Dr Taverner: Composite stories on curious psychic cases about real life people

Universal Theology and Life in the Other Worlds (Old and New Evidence on the Meaning of Life: The Mystical World-View and Inner Contest)
Universal Theology and Life in the Other Worlds (Old and New Evidence on the Meaning of Life: The Mystical World-View and Inner Contest)
by J. H. M. Whiteman
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent insights, 16 Aug. 2015
The author, J.H.M. Whiteman, was a gifted man, erudite in music, physics and ancient languages. He had many mystical experiences during a very long and fruitful life.
I have read three of his works; this is probably the best. In it, he reviews:
1) Non-physical experiences with reference to death, angelic choirs
2) Mysticism in the Rig Veda, Upanishads, of Buddha, in Isaiah, Psalms, in the writings of St. Paul and the Gospel of John. Here his expertise in Latin, Greek, Pali and Sanskrit help uncover meanings that are often overlooked.
3) Life in other worlds, based often upon his actual experiences.
There are two short supplements:
1) His mathematical theory of space and time, with the curious notion that time has three dimensions, only one of which is measurable. Be warned: you will need some grounding in calculus to get some idea of what he is talking about.
2) Six parables: which are delightful reading and break the sometimes ponderous presentation.
Whiteman writes cautiously and always explains his reasoning. Alas, I fear his excellent writings are doomed to obscurity as most readers will want something rather simpler or watered down. As an example of one of his insights, he remarks on the so-called 'Second Coming of the Lord', which Christians world wide interpret literally. The original Greek word - 'Parousia' - means 'changed being' or 'being present otherwise': so the second coming of the Lord really refers to ther transformation of the individual, rather than the culmination of a future apocalytical event. As Whiteman rightly observes: 'The usual English rendering of this word as a Second Coming ,..., can be very seriously misleading'

Last Tango in Halifax - Series 1-3 [DVD]
Last Tango in Halifax - Series 1-3 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Anne Reid
Price: £23.00

0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Scraping the barrell in Halifax, 14 Jun. 2015
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From all the five star postings, I went and bought the first three series, thinking this would be really worth watching. I was completely underwhelmed. If you like watching TV series like Eastenders, this is something for you. I just find the concentration on sex, bad language, poor and contrived plots completely boring. Patrick Moore was asked about 'Eastenders' being told that it was true to life. His reply was that so it was, but so is diarrorhea and he would not want to watch that on TV either. I feel the same way about 'Last Tango in Halifax'. Each to his own.
This series simply does not compare with gems like 'Silk', 'The Village' and 'Rumpole of the Old Bailey'. The last episode - Gillian's wedding - was excruciating to watch.
I wont be watching series 4
*** revised 11th Dec 2015 ***

The Path of a Kabbalist: An Autobiography
The Path of a Kabbalist: An Autobiography
by Z'ev Ben Shimon Halevi
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars A path well travelled, 3 May 2015
The biography is well written and reveals a multi faceted man, who grew up in High Wycombe and London, and initially strove to be an artist. He is quite a good artist and indeed many of etchings are displayed in the book, often to illustrate the theme of a particular chapter or even paragraph. He was initially interested in art and philosophy, but gradually drifted into an Ouspensky group, before becoming a Kabbalist. He is honest about his passage thru life, recording his disappointments in love and work, before finally finding his true vocation and later, the woman he would marry. In fact, his individuation made his passage more difficult, as he records one colleague saying about his job `Now I can wait 39 years for my pension' and ever the observer, commented that most people wanted a comfortable life, without challenges. However, at a difficult time, he heard a still voice asking him `Have I ever let you down?' and he came to realise by degrees how Providence and invisible mentors were looking after him.
There is also a section on poetry with Z'ev ben Shimon Halevi
shortliners like `Does memory with the rememberer die or only underlie last season's fallen leaves'
Warren Kenton has a good sense of humour and so makes the reading easy and enjoyable.
Readers will surely enjoy this book as much as I have: which encompasses many subjects including his fascinating links with Japan, his empathy with the Red Indian (because both the Jew and Red Indian had had their nations destroyed), London of the swinging 60s and the gradual growth of a school of the soul here in London and elsewhere.

If the Universe Is Teeming with Aliens ... WHERE IS EVERYBODY?: Fifty Solutions to the Fermi Paradox and the Problem of Extraterrestrial Life
If the Universe Is Teeming with Aliens ... WHERE IS EVERYBODY?: Fifty Solutions to the Fermi Paradox and the Problem of Extraterrestrial Life
Price: £18.04

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Webb casts his web widely but not widely enough, 27 Aug. 2014
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The author discusses 50 solutions to Fermi's paradox. However, he does not come over as unbiased. His conclusion - that Earth is unique - seems to have already been formed before the discussion of the possible solutions.

The conclusion of the author could be correct, although he did not seem convincing.

There is very little real data on the subject. We have reasonable knowledge of the conditions on the 7 other planets in our solar system. There are over 1000 exo planets now known to exist. Some guesses can be made as to the likelihood of life on these planets, by virtue of their mass and proximity to their parent stars.

The author does not ask why some people would like to believe that the earth is unique. This seems to be an echo of pre Copernican thinking, which placed man at the centre of the universe. Surely this belief is as childish as a young child believing that the whole world revolves around its cries and temper tantrums. To believe that we are unique is to foster a childish outlook on another level.
Webb casts his web widely but not widely enough. There is too much concentration on what present technology can do.So he assumes that aliens may try contact via radio. What he does not investigate is how a meaningful conversation could take place. Assume for example a technological civilisation is 1000 light years away. So a simple 'Hello' would take at least 2000 years for a reply to come back.
Not enough emphasis has been given on how unstable the technogical civilisation on Earth is. It is simply not sustainable and is doomed to disappear quite soon. Think of the 4.5 billion years of the Earth and the probable lifetime of a radio using civilisation as not more than 300 years. Then think how rare a planet of the right size, constitution, benign parent star and so on is. The likelihood that there is another radio broadcasting civilisation in the Milky Way now must surely be very small.
It seems that advanced civilisations must use techiques beyond what we know, provided they have overcome the dangers of technology (war with destructive weapons, unsustainable use of their planet). Perhaps they have solved or partially solved the riddle of consciousness. John Lilly maintained that he had contacted beings from advanced civilisations via telepathy. Far fetched? If telepathy really does exist, then there may be little need for expensive space ships using enormous quantities of energy.
Webb does not investigate in enough detail why other civilisations would want to contact us. Would you want to contact someone who has discovered enough to make terrible weapons and is killing his fellow inmates ? You would only do so if you were convinced that he had matured enough not to use violence anymore. Impressing that person with the jewels of a greater civilisation would not ensure that the good in him is actually intrinsic, rather than imposed.
The apparent silence in the Universe, in my opinion, is because we expect advanced civilisations to be primarily technological civilisations. I do agree with the author that intelligent life is exceedingly rare, but not that the Earth is unique. If we overcome the present crisis of unsustainability, and war, I believe that other civilisations will then contact us as every intelligent and mature civilisation will be special in its own way and have gifts to offer others.

General points:
1) The black and white photos are quite poor. Some colour photos would have been appreciated.

2) As previous reviewers in the USA have noted, the author makes some mistakes in his calculations.

On the good side, the author has been quite systematic, the chapters are succint without excessive detail. It is provocative in a good way.

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