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Monday, October 30th, 2006

Time Event
7:16p
Wow ...
Not being a reader of fiction, I rarely run into a "can't put it down" book ... frankly, I'm more likely to be taking a month to plow through some physics tome than to rip through a book in a day, but that's what I did with this one!

And, this is quite a book ... unfortunately, upon finishing it, I have pretty much the same reaction that I had when finishing Adventures in Afghanistan ... it's something that I really wish was real, but I deeply suspect is some fictional yarn spun out for purposes of delivering veiled teachings. This too reels the reader in with fantastic events, hovering on the edge of plausibility just enough that one is willing to suspend a degree of disbelief as one is reading, but by the end the sheer volume of unlikely events leads one to pull back and wonder what was actually the point of the tale.

Alvin Schwartz's An Unlikely Prophet: A Metaphysical Memoir by the Legendary Writer of Superman and Batman is (as one could gather from the sub-title) structured as a memoir of one of the leading lights of "the Golden Age of comics". Schwartz was 80 when he first wrote this ten years ago, but he was apparently still extant for this 2006 re-issue, as evidenced by both the included biographical info and the signature I found on the cover page (I don't know if the Amazon "new/used" vendor realized they had a signed copy when they sold it for a buck-eighty five!), and seems to be driven to deliver a particular "message" with this book (the previous edition bore the far more metaphysical sub-title "Revelations on the Path without Form", which seems to have been abandoned to reach a wider audience).

The premise here is, by any gauge, fantastic ... that Schwartz, at age 80, is contacted by a mysterious (and 7ft tall) stranger who claims to be a Tibetan tulpa, a mind-generated entity that takes physical form, who tells Schwartz that his Superman character is a part-formed tulpa as well. The book is pretty much Schwartz trying to figure out What This All Means. There is a certain dream-like quality to the narrative, with continuity holes that one could drive the proverbial truck through, but it does seem anchored in some fairly solid theory. Time and again I found concepts (and sources) mentioned that I'd previously encountered in my own Vajrayana studies, plus a good deal of reference to fairly recent scientific writings (that I'd likewise also read), and dynamic elements dealing with disincarnate zones which were very familiar from my Shamanic work (I found it interesting how often what Schwartz was writing paralleled techniques that Castaneda wrote about). This, of course, could mean as little as the author and I having very similar reading habits, but I found it interesting that this seemed to be tied in with so many areas in which I was at least conversant!

Perhaps it was this familiarity that made this book so engrossing for me ... although it certainly had other things in it that were enticing (like his stories of living next to Jackson Pollock, and various literary figures that he knew over the years). Needless to say, it was a quick read. The red flags that went up for me, however, came in the final chapters where others (his wife, his agent, etc.) suddenly were opening up about how they had previously unrevealed "secrets" that dove-tailed in with the events in Schwartz's main story line ... it just got too tidy on that level, while being somewhat dismissive with the actual tulpa (within days of the "climactic events" the house where the tulpa had lived had new residents, etc., which lends more to the "dreamlike" feel and less to the story's plausibility).

Schwartz's "The Path Without Form" (what seems to be the key element he's seeking to communicate here), deals primarily with the "I identification" and how it can be manipulated and brought to bear in various situations. I just wish he'd taken the extra step of moving out of the "fictionalized narrative" of the memoir format to throw in a "theory & practice" chapter at the end! Again, much of the details dealt with in the book are based on "real stuff", and much of the "experiential" descriptions ring true enough to one who has done a certain amount of "work" in these areas.

An Unlikely Prophet, having just been re-released this year, is still available at bookstores and via Amazon, etc. but can be found for as little as six bucks (sorry, no deals like the one I got!) via the "new/used" vendors.


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