From: John Floyd
Just finished reading your review of Straw Dogs. Your review was the most evenhanded of the several reviews I was able to read. Personally, it seemed that I was in a constant debate with Gray in each of his many essays. One of those books that you don't necessarily agree with, but consider the effort worthwhile. I thought this observation of his incredibly prescient, particularly since the book was published over 16 years ago.
A hypermodern economy has arisen from the ashes of the Soviet state——a mafia-based anarcho-capitalism that is expanding throughout the West. The globalisation of Russian organised crime occurs at a time when illegal industries—drugs, pornography, prostitution, cyber-fraud and the like—are the true growth sectors in the most advanced economies. Russian anarcho-capitalism shows many signs of surpassing Western capitalism in this new phase of development. Formerly the site of many failed projects of Westernisation, Russia is today in the vanguard of modernisation in the West.
From Jos Kingston
Wanted to thank you for your website - it gave me a kick into getting my "Terminal thoughts" together on my website (I was diagnosed with a terminal cancer last Dec.) There are links to your pages on my website.
[Note added 2007] Sadly, Jos Kingston has now died; her website was maintained for a time but appears to be no longer available. The Guardian published an obituary in 2007l
From: Anita Kelley
Hello. I just wanted to write and let you know how much I enjoyed finding your site. I came here because of the book reviews from a book review webring, and am impressed at the intelligent books you have read and reviewed along with the easy-to-navigate design of your webpage. I later noticed the Freethinker page and also enjoyed reading the well-written essays there. I am also a freethinker and a booklover so your site has just become one of my favorites. :) I would like to notify you that I will be adding a link to your homepage from my own (neeterskeeter.com) if that's all right with you. I have been collecting links in different categories and I am going to add your page to both the book reviews and the skepticism categories. Thanks very much for providing such a helpful website, and I will definitely be returning.
The most revealing document on homeopathy to date.
From: Vivien Mitchell
Just a short note to say that I like your thinking, and your
accessible style. I've been lurking on the JCS list for a while now, and
clicked the link on your post today. Haven't read it all yet, but I like
Jaynes' hypothesis. I agree entirely about Web publishing vs paper
From: Arlene Hampton
I am just now getting around to reading The Assassins of Alamut, and would like to thank you for placing this excellent work online.
With my cheap little pc, I can increase print size for comfortable reading, which is not such an easy thing to do with bound works from the library. And of course, many works like yours are not readily available in every library. There are many reasons to thank you, but I will close by saying that I am a most fortunate reader today!
From: Alan Williams
I briefly visited your website (which I recommend to other "strong agnostics") and I experienced an example of what astrologers call synchronicity :) Glancing through the prologue of your e-book "The Assassins of Alamut", which I've downloaded and look forward to reading, I noticed you describe your visit to the Elburz mountains in Iran. As it happens, I was there too. One of the many memorable events during my stay in Iran was the first journey through the Elburz to the Caspian. The road was so horrific in places, just as you describe, that I was almost drawn to put my faith in Allah for my safekeeping... but on looking thousands of feet below, one could just make out the remains of the many vehicles that had already toppled off the road, and I thought, if Allah didn't look after _them_, why would he look after a "farangi" like me? :)
I remember stopping at Qazvin to eat, but the meal I'll never forget was later, on a mountain top up in the clouds, where we stopped by the roadside for kidney kebabs, made with fresh naan bread from a clay oven, followed by Turkish coffee. There's something about being so high up, as if, as well as the elevated view of the landscape, for a brief moment one also has an encompassing view of one's whole life, spread out like a map. I had a similar experience above Devil's Dyke on the South Downs (no comparison to the Elburz, of course) while watching dawn break across the Sussex Weald below. Some of the hilltops west of the Dyke are specially crowned with a ring of trees, and are still used by the local witches to this day.
You also mentioned Wilfrid Thesiger visiting the Elburz, and he was an acquaintance of my father's. I have Thesiger's book about his crossing of the Empty Quarter in Arabia, but I had no idea he'd also been to Iran. My father crossed the northern desert from Jordan to Riyadh with Glubb Pasha, to visit Ibn Saud (King Abdul Aziz). I was a little disappointed, when I heard about this many years later, to find that they went by mule rather than by camel. They only got on the camels to have their pictures taken :)
From: Jack Davies
Thank you for making "The Assassins of Alamut" available online. It is one of the best that I have read on the topic and I have bookmarked it for future reference.
I urge the visitors to this page to research the words "wahhabi" and "hempher" in their search engines in regards to a possible link to what is now going on in the world. That is how I found you and it was well worth the effort. Many "blanks" have been filled in for me and I appreciate the effort it must have taken for you to create this reference.
From Andries Krugers Dagneaux
Comment on book review The New
I think that David V. Barrett's well-written book makes some mistakes and is in some ways unbalanced. He also chose to write it for lay-people which has as a result that the information is not as concise and specific as it could have been, which I personally regret, though it will be okay for most people.
1. His treatment of Elan Vital is vague. Why doesn't he describe the (secret) meditation techniques briefly? It is also one-sided. There are good reasons to believe that Prem Rawat/Maharaji is himself to a great extent responsible for their faith in his divinity, not just due to wishful thinking of his followers who see this view of the history of Elan Vital and the Divine Light Mission with some good reason as revisionism. Why didn t he contact the critical former followers of Prem Rawat, like the ones running the www.ex-premie.org website that was already online since 1997 before his book came out in 2001. It seems that Barrett only contacted the spokespersons of Elan Vital (see also page 65)
2. I had already emailed you some factual mistakes by Barrett some years ago. I have to admit, as Barrett wrote me, that these are unavoidable due to the huge number of and variety in the subjects. Also I have to admit that omissions can not be avoided But omissions of India's most famous guru (Sathya Sai Baba) and the concept of channeling that ais so important in New Age are drawbacks, I think.
3. Trauma upon leaving is very real but he should have stated that this only applies to people who were deeply involved and especially for people, like me, who experienced a sudden disillusionment while they were still true believers. This will be obvious to most readers, but because the book is written for lay persons, he should have stated this explicitly.
4. The fictional stories that Barrett wrote down are very mild and nothing to what I myself have experienced. Related to that is his rather caricatural portrayal of the critical former member Tony who became the "anti-cult activist". There are people, like myself, who have very good reason to be concerned about cults. Why didn't he include an example of a person who really experienced a trauma?
5. Barrett may be right that anti-cults see more deception than there really is (page 31) but he misattributes the reason. The main reason is, I think, that is difficult to believe for a lay person who has not had a training in psychiatry that a "guru" or "prophet" who seems completely normal and behaves otherwise completely normal can sincerely believe that he has been visited by a UFO or has had a revelation from God, or believe himself to be divine.
6. On page 32 Barrett writes that ex-members blame it all on the movement and asserts that they do not admit that they have been foolish but blame it on deception. I am a member and reader of many yahoo groups and support groups of critical ex-members and I know that admission of the naivety and stupidity is the rule, but they generally see it as just one side of the coin. The other side of the coin that they see is that the leader or the leaders' management refuses to answer questions, is dishonest, refuses to admit a single mistake. Hence critical former members believe that prospective members should be warned not to join. One could call this ant-cult activism.
I think the review of Penelope Fitzgerald's fine novel, The Gate of Angels, is rather pathetic, banal, and misguided. Fitzgerald's book is one of intricate and I'd even say slyly subversive social commentary, while the spirituality inherent in the story is pretty stunning. Obviously this novel did not appeal to the reviewer at all, for the reviewer totally misses the point in seeing the book as only a love-story with overtones of the problems of class in the London and Cambridge of 1912.
The Organon is truly a very remarkable book and the German is excellent. So excellent actually that I would not like to have the job of translating it into grammatically poorer languages like English. Your criticism on the difficulty of the Organum is a problem of the English translation and you should remark this in your excellent book "Homeopathy in Perspective". Also the self-contradictory elements are not really inconsistent in the German original. The development of the author over his life becomes obvious and the old guru carries a lot of respect for the younger scientist he once was. Just like father and son. The book is one of the best of the German language if you just take its belletristic quality. A document of a development of a person.
Your book is excellent insofar as I did not find anything better for a Dr. rer. nat. as myself. It is poor nevertheless regarding what I would madly want to know on the subject. I conclude that you should not spare any efforts for a second revised edition of your book.
So this email is just to say thank you for the book, and to encourage you to continue your work.
Jay Santos, Boston MA
From Ralf Jeutter
I have read your book/long article on homeopathy a few days ago, and wanted to express my admiration for your clarity. It is certainly one of the best articles/books I have ever read on homeopathy. I think your treatment of Kentian homeopathy is superb.
I would just like to make a few points:
1. I genuinely don't understand how Hahnemann could be associated with a tradition of irrationality (I have not read your book 'The two faces', so please excuse ignorance). From my readings of his writings, I can see that he at all times very clearly attempted to be rational. Even his theories on the vital force, psora and potentisation could be seen as hypotheses, which would either stand up to scrutiny, or not. As it turned out, at least the first two do not. And didn't Hahnemann say very clearly that nothing metaphysical is meant by these concepts? Karl Popper made the useful distinction between 'methodological essentialism' and 'methodological nominalism'. It seems to me that Hahnemann belongs into the second group, since he alwyas maintained that we cannot know the essence of a thing, and that any attempt in that direction would be purely speculative, and therefore useless.
2. I was very surprised to read your statements on Hahnemann's Chronic Diseases, and the alleged lack of thorough provings of these remedies. Would you have a source for this statement? I know that you mention Hughes, but are there other sources you have?
3. My experience is, and we might well differ here, that Hahnemann is the most reliable guide when it comes to the practice of homeopathy. And I don't mean by that at all that we should follow him uncritically, but to follow his demand to 'repeat his experiments, but repeat them closely, and then report failures'. I think we forget that Hahnemann surrounded himself with very critical and indepently thinking people: Boenninghausen, G.H.G.Jahr (!) and Hering are good examples. I feel that we are neglecting Hahnemann and his teaching too much, and that includes of course, the close study of his provings, and the method of practcie following from that. And I do think we can ask tough questions (as you do) without fearing to lose the lot. Modern homeopathy has, in my opinion, largely lost the plot, and I think you pointed to the main reason: The adaptation of Kent's less useful additions to homeopathy, namely a 'spiritual' framework, which is incompatible with the philosophical foundation of Hahnemann.
4. I find your writing on homeopathy and placebo very though-provoking. And I do feel that we, as homeopaths, have to deal with this topic in much more detail.
What I do find a little puzzling are your pronouncements on homeopathy's efficacy in the treatment of epidemic diseases. It seems to me a little facile to put it simply down to the avoidance of harmful measure (as many of the orthodox measures then were).
An eminent homeopath/ researcher is currently compiling all of the available material on epdimedic diseases and the comparative treatment in the States from the 19th century. That should yield some interesting results.
Anyway, thank you very much for such a thought-provoking piece of work.
With all good wishes,
I found Consciousness and Evolution to be a very interesting read.
My only comment is that I make the suggestion that evolution is a biological law not unlike physics and chemistry. If this is so, then it is possible that life evolves in a rather mundane fashion with not as much variance as we would like to imagine. Like physics, there just might be some strange and incompatible "life scripts" (11 dimensions in physics, but all but one can host the diversity of our universe). We feel special because we are here. Would the Neanderthal think any differently? When something is here, it already has set its boundries--ie. the brain evolves along a certain line because its structure is that of a brain. If a brain evolves on another carbon-based planet, it will more than likely evolve similarily because of its boundries are similar. The structure of the eye works the same way in all eyed creatures; seeing, however, can also occur other ways and in no way, but having an eye means that it will work like an eye. Some dinosaurs were evolving intelligence---I remember a couple fo Canadian scientists doing a computer projection of this one particular saurian to see what it could have potentially evolved into had it been allowed.
It is possible that had none of the "accidents" happened we would not have evolved but that doesn't mean that nothing would have, and if something had, it might have still evolved intelligence--perhaps something that would make ours look pathetic. I remember a little spider, forgot its name, that actually had to think out its strategy to capture its food--it had to sort out the position of its prey, where it had to be to get it, and then build its "web" in a manner that would place it directly above its victim. An extraordinary feat for a little spider considering its prey was never the same thing in the same position. Does it have a cnsiousness? One would have to be that spider to know.
There also has been a number of different hominids evolving at "important" periods, not just one. At anytime, we could have had a different hominid parentage, but because hominids are hominids it is likely something similar to ourselves would be diccussing this question. Rather than view "earth" as special, I would rather view it as "typical", just as in the laws of physics, earth is a typical planet revolving around a typical star, with other planets that are beginning to look like a typical event as well. The 6 or so great extinctions on earth are probably typical of planetary evolution regardless of where they are. Water is a common element, so is carbon and the host of other chemical properties. I would not be surprised if the evolution of life were somewhat typical in responding to planetary upheavels, even cosmic disasters; we are, afterall, only the stuff of the universe. We are all of the sciences combined, perhaps with the ones we don't know yet. We are nothing more and nothing less than the material the universe created at the moment of its big bang (and even then, perhaps universes before that), so to think that we are unique and alone with all that chemistry, physics, even mathematics happening is more difficult for me to believe than we are just another example, more or less, of what goes on elsewhere (with a few more or less variations).
I do enjoy your website; it is quite thought-provoking. Thank you,
[Note by AC] The spider referred to is Portia labiata. It was described in the New Scientist on 27 May 2006.
Found you whilst researching cycling in Greece. I'm planning to ride from Helsinki (here) to Athens either next year or the year after.
I read all your cycling stories with great interest. Thanks for posting them.
Then I started having a poke around the rest of your site.. Oh my! What a treasure trove. Just love your book reviews.
This is just to say how much I am enjoying your website, which I discovered a few days ago. I'm spending a lot of time there when I should be working. Very thougthful and thought-provoking, and in a great cause. Keep up the good fight.