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Cyril Smith (London)

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The Essential Gnostic Gospels: Including the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mary
The Essential Gnostic Gospels: Including the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mary
by Alan Jacobs
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not sure about this translation, 18 Aug. 2010
I'm left with mixed feelings about this. On one hand, this is a useful collection of different texts into one edition.

On the other hand, I didn't like the translations. They are very free at times, and I personally didn't feel that they added much. For example, there is a fairly literal translation of the Gospel of Thomas out there which renders the opening fragment as "Whoever discovers the interpretation of these sayings will not taste death". This version says, "He who comprehends the inner meaning of these words will be immortal."

For me, replacing "will not taste death" with "will be immortal" is an unnecessary change, and one that is actually less, not more, poetic.

There are lots of other instances of this, but this was one that really irked me. Of course, you might well like these translations, which is fine; the point is really just that you should be aware that they are not at all standard. And in my view, they are not at all better than the others out there.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 16, 2012 1:21 PM BST


Moleskine Ruled Notebook (13 x 21cm)
Moleskine Ruled Notebook (13 x 21cm)
Price: £9.73

17 of 27 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Overrated..., 1 Feb. 2010
I had to write a review on here because I am SO disappointed with this. I thought I was buying a quality product - you would certainly be forgiven for thinking so, judging from the price!

I will list the faults:
- Ink bleeds through! This is MUCH worse than on my cheapo 'red and black' notepads, for instance. Admittedly I use a bold point fountain pen, but surely for this money the paper should be able to take it? The paper is cheap and thin, and actually has a slightly waxy feel in some bits, which means that the ink does not stick to it properly.
- The lines are way too close together. I have pretty small handwriting, but I found myself writing double-spaced just so that it was legible.
- All moleskines have a template on the front page saying "In case of loss, please return to:...". This is a good idea, but there is no space for a phone number! And it then says "As a reward: $...". Why the dollar sign, on a product being sold in the UK? I tend to write this sort of thing in the front of my notepads anyway, and this template just made it look messier than usual.

Good points? Erm, I'm struggling here. I guess it looks nice, as long as you don't try to actually write in it...
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 19, 2013 11:56 AM GMT


DipIFR - Diploma in International Financial Reporting: Revision Kit
DipIFR - Diploma in International Financial Reporting: Revision Kit
by BPP Learning Media
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 18 Jan. 2010
Really excellent text. I am ACA qualified from quite a while ago, and took the Dip IFR as I need more knowledge of IFRS for my work, particularly for the future.

The text covers all the syllabus and is written in an accessible style that makes it really easy to learn. If ever I need something like this in the future, I wouldn't hesitate to buy from BPP again.


No Title Available

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, 23 Sept. 2009
I've had these for about a week now, and I love them!

As I see it, they're great because they're half-sandals, half-proper shoes. All the advantages of crocs, but smart enough (and normal-looking enough) to wear day to day. I wear mine at work! (My trousers are long enough to cover up the fact that I have bare feet...)

The only real downside is that being leather, the tops of the shoes might be damaged by water. (But I don't really care about that, as it's no different from any other leather shoe.)


Everyday Zen: Love and Work
Everyday Zen: Love and Work
by Charlotte Joko Beck
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

18 of 29 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not useful at all, 5 Dec. 2008
Before I had read this book, I would have liked to have had some background on Joko Beck and the type of Zen she represents; that's what I'll try to do in this review.

When the 'first wave' of Zen teachers came across to the West - like D.T. Suzuki - the emphasis was very much on the more intellectual aspects of Zen, to the exclusion of many of the more difficult, disciplined aspects of Zen as it actually existed in Japan. So when Westerners actually went and trained in Japan they encountered this disciplined element, and found it actually to be a crucial part of the training. And although Joko Beck didn't go to Japan, her Zen is part of this second wave, along with e.g. Philip Kapleau.

It is not to be radical to suggest that this second wave of Zen over-corrects the lack of discipline in the first wave. It also emphasises the 'ordinariness' of Zen, to the exclusion of its more intellectual and obviously spiritual elements. While this is certainly in line with a lot of Zen teaching, it is not the whole story. Dogen, for instance (the founder of Japanese Soto Zen), is very much an intellectual, akin perhaps more to Meister Eckhart than to say Philip Kapleau. So the emphasis on everyday discipline, to the active exclusion of the more spiritual, intellectual elements of Zen, is not quite as authentic as it would like to be.

This has two main repercussions in the book. First, Joko Beck shows a real antipathy towards anything she perceives to be overly intellectual or high-falutin. While this IS in line with Zen's rejection of e.g. academic study for its own sake, in Joko Beck it becomes a straightforward assertion of ignorance (for its own sake!). This can be illustrated with a quote from her Foreword to 'Ordinary Mind' by Barry Magid: "Over time...the student sees that the answers to her life...don't lie in some mystical la-la land but in her own mind and body..." (pX) To dismiss a student's mystical aspirations as a "la-la land" is plainly not in line with the mystical element that is certainly present in Zen (think of D.T. Suzuki's "Buddhist Mysticism"), not to mention the fact that this is hardly a productive way to deal with any illusions a student might have about Zen practice. While I appreciate that this is not Beck at her best, this quotation does betray a tendency towards oversimplification, and to confuse Zen mindfulness of what exists, with mechanically paying attention to what exists.

The other damaging tendency in Beck is her penchant for speaking with a tone of complete authority. Since what she is saying is just "obvious" to her, from her standpoint of ordinary (enlightened) mind, no space is left to dissent from her goading imperatives. This is religious orthodoxy at its worst, speaking not at the level of doctrine (as do many Christian fundamentalists, for example) but of everyday experience. The 'right' way of being is to 'just accept reality', whereas the 'wrong' way of being is to 'think' about reality. Presumably mindfulness itself - the mindful awareness of the thing, as opposed to the mechanically separate thing that Joko Beck asserts - would be just such a thought!

Saying that, all the positive reviews that this book has evidently received must have something in them. Certainly Joko Beck does have a certain wisdom. The book is probably useful for self-defining 'ordinary' people who don't want to be stretched intellectually. But if you think you're of a sensitive psychological makeup, or have an inclination towards thoughtful reflection, this book is liable to get into your head! I have found the work of Stephen Batchelor (for example) to be much more useful in this respect, so perhaps you could look there.


Mysticism: Christian and Buddhist (Routledge Classics)
Mysticism: Christian and Buddhist (Routledge Classics)
by D.T. Suzuki
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as I'd hoped, 5 Dec. 2008
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I was rather disappointed with this book, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it is rather partisan. The treatment of Christianity really does betray a very superficial knowledge of it on the part of the author. He is prone to massive generalisations about the "East" and the "West" (Buddhism and Christianity), which are both hard to understand (because they're so broad) and condescending in tone. For the most part (not quite all of the time), Christian authors and doctrines are mentioned only in order to agree with them insofar as Suzuki thinks they are in line with Buddhism, and then to disagree with them insofar as they differ. While this sort of comparative exercise is definitely interesting, it was not as deep or as open-minded as I would have hoped (and I say this as someone who considers themselves to be a Buddhist).

Secondly - and this is a connected point - I felt that the book was far too rambly in style. I appreciate that it was not intended to be an academic work, but I don't think not being academic should give the author license to just ramble on inchoately. Zen is not academic, but the words of the Masters are not rambling but on the contrary, they are sharp.

However, saying all that the book does get 3 stars because the subject matter is so interesting, and because Dr. Suzuki evidently does have a very good knowledge of Zen Buddhism.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 7, 2011 1:29 AM GMT


White Collar Zen: Using Zen Principles to Overcome Obstacles and Achieve Your Career Goals
White Collar Zen: Using Zen Principles to Overcome Obstacles and Achieve Your Career Goals
by Steven Heine
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Troubling, 29 April 2007
I am surpised that I appear to be the only reader here who was troubled by this book. For me, there will always be something rather disconcerting about the coming together of the words, 'Buddhism' and 'business', 'Zen' and 'career'. Isn't the Buddhist world, with its emphasis on simplicity, selflessness, and kindness, somewhat different from the business world, which by contrast values money, success, and consumption above all else? Did not Master Dogen speak of the importance of not seeking to gain anything from one's actions - which is surely in conflict with the very idea of a 'career goal'?

I have personally found it very difficult to overcome the rift between these two worlds in my own (faltering) Zen Buddhist practice; thus I felt that this book left too many of the tensions between the two unaddressed. I think this is a real shame, because the project of adapting eastern Buddhism to western society is an essential vital one; it's just that it requires that a little more attention be paid to the darker, tougher sides to the workplace than I found here.

Having said all of this, though, I am sure that some readers will get something useful from this book. I wish both them and the author good fortune in their lives.


The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age (Routledge Classics)
The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age (Routledge Classics)
by Frances Yates
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

7 of 35 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Amazing, 2 July 2006
This book may be of value to academic historians labouring under the misconception that Renaissance magic is little more than divinely-inspired bunkum. If you are such a historian, then I would heartily recommend this book to you. You may find it revelatory.

However, the reason I refer to it as 'amazing' above, is because although the author could be said to give a more balanced view of the period, this is of very little consequence because in every crucial area she is no better than any other dull-as-ditchwater historian. It is as if she has looked a potentially very interesting time in history in the eye, and failed to register that all the time it was actually looking back at her.

I found myself almost leafing through page after page of inconsequential, parochial argument about such unspiritual things as 'facts' and the 'influence' of one writer on another, without ever gaining even a fragment of insight into the so-called 'occult philosophy' itself.

So to summarise: if you are looking for a misconceived trawl through the facts, whose aim is simply to correct the misconceptions harboured by fools, then buy this book. Perhaps you could skim it and then put it on your shelf.

Otherwise, spend your time doing something (anything) else.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 9, 2010 9:44 PM BST


Lacan (Fontana Modern Masters)
Lacan (Fontana Modern Masters)
by Malcolm Bowie
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good introduction, 29 Nov. 2004
This is a good book. Like most of the stuff both by, and on, Lacan, it is not easy reading. Yet Bowie offers clear, succinct and judicious readings of most of the major points of Lacan's work. Bowie is concerned with Lacan's work first and foremost from the viewpoint of a philosophical kind of psychoanalysis. The book is not, then, directly related to either literary criticism, or to recent developments in philosophy (e.g. there is no section on 'post-structuralism').
The study starts with an extended discussion of the relationship between Lacan and Freud. This is important for 2 reasons: 1. because Lacan claimed he was 'returning to Freud', and 2. because Freud obviously a standard reference point for psychoanalytic literature. On this point, Bowie is well balanced, pointing out the value of Lacan's work, but not afraid to make what are at times sharp criticisms.
The chapter headings should give some idea of the rest of the content: "Inventing the 'I'"; "Language and the Unconscious"; "Imaginary, Symbolic, Real..and True"; "The Meaning of the Phallus"; and "Theory Without End".
As you can probably see, the book is oriented principally towards academic psychoanalysis. This is, of course, intrisically interesting, but I might have liked to see something on Lacan's relationship to philosophy and to politics. But then, this is only an introductory volume, so perhaps that would be little too much to expect.
All in all, this is a very intelligent, well-written book on Lacan. If it had been a little more ambitious, and less dry and academic, then it might have gotten 5 stars. But if you want a good 'introduction' to Lacan, and are willing to make the effort at understanding, then you could do a lot worse than to read this.


Not Yet: Reconsidering Ernst Bloch
Not Yet: Reconsidering Ernst Bloch
by Jamie Owen Daniel
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars mixed, 18 May 2004
This collection is a valuable attempt to make Bloch's work accessible to a larger audience (specifically, an American one). Although Bloch was never immensely popular, in recent years there has been something of a drought in scholarship on his work - a drought which is paradoxically both the cause of the main strength and the main weakness of this book: it is the cause of its strength because it is the reason for the book's existence in the first place (to try to drum up some interest in Bloch; if Bloch were already popular then this would not have appeared). But it is a weakness because there just are not enough decent people working on Bloch at the moment: there are a few good, insightful essays in the collection, but the majority are not written by Bloch specialists - and it shows. In more than a few of the contributions there were some significant philosophical misunderstandings of Bloch's work. I'm not mentioning this just to score points; it's more that there are other, better places to go if you want to read about Bloch: try 'Ernst Bloch' by Vincent Geoghegan, or 'The Atheistic Eschatology of Ernst Bloch' by Tom West, or failing that, read Bloch yourself ('The Spirit of Utopia' is in print again, although be prepared as it is pretty difficult to understand).


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