Solihin Thom, Alicia Thom
& Alexandra ter Horst,
Being Human
(Ad Humanitas, 2004)

I'll freely admit it: I have a strong social science background. This means writers who play with genetics, social development theory and five major spiritual traditions (as well as a few shady ones) without one single source citation annoy me. Greatly. But before you dismiss my opinion, keep in mind, I've read new age books aplenty -- from The Spiral Dance and Drawing Down the Moon to The Dalai Lama's Book of Wisdom. I know a good book when I read one. Despite its lofty name, Being Human is not one. The Thoms and ter Horst give too much flower and too little intelligence in this piece of guru-seminar silliness.

I will give the authors credit for trying. As they prove their point -- that our lives are lived under the influence of 10 nebulous "life forces" that we need to understand in order to live authentically -- they dive head-first into the cliches of new age books. It's all here: airy rhetoric and overabundant references to their own epiphanies, big and small ("When I stopped answering the phone, I was able to work on my book again because I touched the Divine Source and let go of the distractions of the Life Forces"); unsubstantiated scientific evidence presented to prove the rightness of their spiritual path; even page-long author biographies citing affiliations with mysterious religious organizations they never tell us a thing about. They even give us toys to play with! Just flip to the last section ("The Order of the Forces") and you will find all the Life Forces printed on cards with corresponding Chinese Zodiac-style pictures. Cut them out and arrange them in tarot-like arrangements (see the many detailed diagrams for ideas) and, presto!, there's your soul in a 10-card spread.

The mixing of Eastern and Western philosophies has created a new and fascinating spiritual landscape. Some amazing ideas are coming out of this confluence. With all these resources and possibilities, there's just no reason for hackneyed ideas and lazy presentation. If you're looking for insight into the human condition, I'd skip Being Human -- unless your idea of spiritual enlightenment is a 175-page commercial for a workshop.

- Rambles
written by Tracie Vida
published 11 September 2004

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