BOOK REVIEWS

Contents 

(Click on the title to be taken to the review, or reviewer's name for biodata, or simply scroll down the page)

Coping Strategies for Secondary Students   by Bob Bellhouse et al  -  Reviewer Tom Maguire (with additional comments by Joe Sinclair)

Nietzsche's New Darwinism   by John Richardson  -  Reviewer Joe Sinclair

Fractalic Awakening: A Seekers Guide by LariAnn Garner - Reviewer Stephen Bray

Letting the Heart Sing  by Denis Postle - Reviewer Michael Mallows

 


 

 

Coping Strategies for Secondary Students by Bob Bellhouse et al.   70 pp  Lucky Duck Publishing.  ISBN: 0 9751067 4 0.   20.99  

This is a slim book, full of practical activities which the busy teacher will find easy to implement in class. The introductory notes, on coping styles, stress and behaviour change, also give an attractive and straightforward presentation of the books main themes. The CD-rom which accompanies the paperback edition adds a further element of practicality since the worksheets can be printed off as needed and then photocopied (authors permission included). Its eminent practicality is the main asset of the book.

It is divided into three sections: Stress, Changing Behaviour, Study Habits. All three rely heavily on questionnaire-style worksheets, too heavily in my opinion. Teenagers tend to question the overuse of this type of handout rather than pay attention to its usefulness. So too much work with this same type of exercise may backfire. However, the other exercises which use cards with drawings can stimulate discussion on emotional topics that may be difficult to manage otherwise in bigger classes. This assumes, of course, that the teacher using them is deft in eliciting discussion and keeping it on track no easy task with adolescents. I have used the coping cards with teachers to work on stress. The general opinion was that they were easy to follow and thought-provoking. 

On the other hand I found the section on Behaviour Change rather scant with only two activities. Helping to change behaviour is certainly a major new concern in education and it is a pity that the authors havent given us a richer input here instead, for example, of the extensive section on study habits which have a long history.

The books first two themes of stress management and behaviour, coupled with its use of practical activities aimed at giving choices to students, provide very useful tools for todays classroom.

Tom Maguire

FOOTNOTE by Joe Sinclair

I glanced at this book before posting it to Tom Maguire in Spain for review and found myself reading it quickly from cover to cover.

Wonderful,  wonderful book.  Elegant in its simplicity; resourceful in its elegance.  Its directed at teenage students, but its exercises and activities would be useful to people of any age, and not simply those with emotional or learning difficulties.

The Lucky Duck imprint is a recent addition to the continually growing Sage group.  If this book is representative of its titles, I venture to suggest that Sage have made a very wise and profitable acquisition.

Joe Sinclair

 

Nietzsche's New Darwinism by John Richardson,   2004.   300 pp  Oxford University Press.  Hardback.  ISBN: 0195171039.   33.50  

Of Nietzsche Durant wrote: "Nietzsche was the child of Darwin and the brother of Bismarck".  By this he meant that the evolutionists had an enormous influence on him, but he rejected their morality, which was based on the theology they denied, while admiring the audacity that enabled Bismarck to weld a single German nation from a welter of "petty potentates, principalities and powers".

Nietzsche has been an enigma to many who have studied him in the past, reviled by some who never really understood the basis of his writings, and misunderstood by others who have tried to follow his line of reasoning.   He wrote at a time when Darwins theory of evolution was transforming rationalism and religious fundamentalism in Europe.

One of the major causes of any misunderstanding is that of Nietzsche himself.  He was an architect of his own misfortunes and his contribution to the body of disbelief, mistrust and misunderstanding cannot be exaggerated.  Not because he was so close to Darwinian theory, but because he denied it so strenuously.

Thus (in Richardson's words) "Nietzsche claims for himself the honesty and courage missing in Darwinists.  He claims to pursue that enquiry into values' sources in a more genuinely scientific spirit than they do, by virtue of standing back critically from the values he studies . . .  In particular he recognises, as Darwinists could not, the logic of social selection which has . . .  a less healthy face than does natural selection."  Elsewhere Richardson has written: "So a new kind of selection - social selection - . . . is an ancestor to Dawkins's well-known account of selection over 'memes'".

It is interesting here to insert some words of Hobsbawm

Can we understand the crisis of traditional science [in the late 19th century] by analysing the social and political preoccupations of scientists . . . in those fields of biology which touched directly on social man, and all those which could be linked with the concept of evolution, and the increasingly politicised name of Charles Darwin? . . . In the form of racism, whose central role in the nineteenth century cannot be overemphasized, biology was essential to a theoretically egalitarian bourgeois ideology, since it passed the blame for visible human inequalities from society to nature

". . . The poor were poor because [they] were born inferior. . . . Few thinkers were more sceptical of the mid-nineteenth century verities, including science, than the philosopher Nietzsche.  Yet his writings, and notably his most ambitious work, The Will to Power, can be read as a variant of Social Darwinism, a discourse conducted in the language of natural selection, in this instance selection destined to produce a new race of supermen who will dominate human inferiors as man in nature dominates and exploits brute creation.

It is precisely in The Will to Power, however, that Nietzsche has suffered the greatest degree of misunderstanding and criticism.  Nietzsche believed man to be a "sick animal," resulting from "tension between man's desire to socialize and his animal instinct for survival,"   He longed for the emergence of man with a will to power, the will to endure torture and inflict pain, but with that enormous energy of greatness which can model the man of the future . . . [1]  

This is the type of area where Richardson provides most insight into Nietzsche's ideas when (in the words of the dust jacket blurb) "set on the scientific ground he takes from Darwin".   

Many critics of this theory have pointed to the fact that Nietzsche's disparagement of Darwin sprang from a misunderstanding of Darwin's original statements because he (Nietzsche) had read commentaries on Darwin's works by such as Spencer and Huxley rather than the original writing.  One critic, indeed, has suggested that he had been unduly influenced by the German work of C. von Naegeli, a notable anti-Darwinist,  rather than the "official" German translation by Haeckel.

So it is good to find Richardson arguing that Nietzsche was "deeply and positively influenced by Darwin", and reviewing Nietzsche's "radical innovations" as a "new Darwinism".

I did have a problem, I confess, with Richardson's style which made for somewhat turgid reading at times.  This is due, I believe, to the fact that the book is based on an original series of lectures given by Richardson to a number of American universities, rather than having been written as a book in the first instance.  Thus some of the nuances that would have been available to his live audience by virtue of phraseology and body language are missing from the bare text.  Still, this is a minor criticism of an otherwise interesting exposition.

Joe Sinclair

 

Fractalic Awakening: A Seekers Guide by LariAnn Garner.  Published by: Aroidia Research Press: Miami, January 2005.  Paperback: 141 pages.   4. 92

Fractalic Awakening is about the search for 'All Whom I Am' (AWIA).

It started as a series of essays about the recurring patterns that may be plotted using the square root of a minus number, and life experience.  As the work progressed, it became apparent to the author that the material was revealing a coherent description of both the process of Human Experience and the nature of Reality and Truth.

The author states in the preface that much of the book comprises 'inspiration' from her 'Higher Self' (AWIA).  AWIA through the author asserts that 'to be in moment is incalculable value'.

LariAnn Garner goes on to explain that to refer to moment as 'the moment' would be to divide AWIA into subject observing an objective moment.  This may be very sensible, however it is not the way many of us either write, or think. Such essential qualifications to the nature of contemporary grammar make the book heavy going in places.

AWIA claims that to not be 'in moment' is to be 'in illusion'.

I for one do not dispute this, but suspect that to be in illusion is my normal mindful state, regardless of my appreciation of past, future, or moment!

To quote the author: all your Experience is you experiencing yourself; Experience is not 'something' that is separate, apart from, or outside of, you because Experience, by definition, takes place within you. If it is within you, it is you (and I'm not referring to the physical body, but to consciousness as a function of Awareness).

If 'Moment' is All Whom I Am, then according to LariAnn Garner I get split, but not divided by a fractal process, analogous to folding a sheet of paper. Although the folds seem to be divisions, the paper is the total reality. Moreover, different sections of the folded paper have different relationships to each other, and also to the whole.

When this occurs in the case of 'folded awareness', the relationships may vary in their natures from, (my examples), antagonistic, to being in love.

Folds in awareness give rise to 'emotional frequencies' which might or might not be in harmony with self conscious plans.

The book contains some beautiful graphic illustrations of both fractals and chakras. These together with the text are designed to guide the reader toward an 'infinite point', which is free of the dimensional limitation of space/time.

It will be seen from this review so far, that LariAnn Garner's book bravely tackles the deep issues of 'Who You Really Are', and also hints at what to do about it

The whole subject is problematic since attempting to objectively probe the nature of a self-reflexive consciousness requires linguistic gymnastics beyond many of us. I loved the book, but it won't appeal to everyone because of the peculiarities of its grammar, and preciseness of its terminology.

This is less of a quibble than the publisher's insertion of a number of blank pages inserted at the end of chapters to encourage readers to make notes. Scholarly readers will buy notebooks, and writing in books, even those priced at just 4.92 is to be discouraged.

Stephen Bray

 

Letting the Heart Sing; The Mind Gymnasium by Denis Postle.  Published by Wentworth Learning Resources, ISBN 0-9545466-0-1.  CD Rom   19.95

Letting The Heart Sing; The Mind Gymnasium, is a web-site on a CD that offers an Interactive Guide to Personal and Professional Development.

It is very extensive with, for example, 380 screens of self-assessment, 600 screens of Know-How theory and information, and 140 screens of exercises, The table of contents, themes menu and cross-references and note-taking facilities are convoluted and engaging life-guidefor self-directed learning'.

Self-assessments give starting points, questions and action plans covering areas such as emotional competence; beliefs; intelligences; identity; personal history; bodymind and relating.

The Know-how section has in-depth psychological information to explore spiritual development; caring for your mind; personal development; the making of the mind.

The many practical, self-help exercises can help you to make positive life changes by reflecting on 'you and the planet; you and others; you and yourself'.

The CD is very interactive and offers a great deal more than just for fun.

If, like me, you enjoy opening dictionaries at random to follow a trail of words just for the fun of it, you might find this CD worthwhile. Although I did not find it particularly intuitive, I will spend more time exploring it in greater depth. The sound and video clips, the music, the layout all add to what is a very well designed product.

Denis Postle, the creator of this CD, is an artist, author and musician who has been in private practice as a coach, supervisor and psychotherapist for many years. He runs personal and professional development workshops and trainings focused around cooperative enquiry and facilitation.

On his website, Denis says, I have learned that it is important for mavericks to know where they ultimately belong and I see myself these days as belonging wherever there are people who prefer nurturance to dominance and cooperation to fighting.

This CD certainly supports the authors aspiration help clients integrate politics, psychology and spirituality. (www.mind-gymnasium.com/cd/)

Michael Mallows

 


 

The Story of Philosophy, Will Durant, English edition Ernest Benn, London, 1946

The Age of Empire 1875-1914, Eric Hobsbawm, 1987.

[1] Richardson's words are quoted between double quotations marks; Nietzsche's word between single quotation marks.

 


 

Reviewers' Biodata

Tom Maguire has a BA (English), M-s-Lettres (French) and Philology degree (Spain). He has 27 years experience in TEFL in France and Spain. At present he teaches EFL in a Spanish State high school near Barcelona.

Joe Sinclair is a writer, editor, publisher, and non-executive director of a shipping line - amongst other activities - one of which is the publishing of Nurturing Potential. His several websites may be accessed via  http://www.conts.com

Stephen Bray's career spans thirty years, beginning in social work and encompassing Adult Education, Business Consulting, Counselling, Journalism, Photography and Psychotherapy.  He is a consultant editor for Nurturing Potential.

Michael Mallows is a management consultant, therapist (specialising in adoption), an author, a healer and a workshop facilitator.  He is also, incidentally, a consultant editor of this magazine.