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Big Idea books that can radically transform your life.

Updated on October 4, 2009

There have been a few books that have made an enormous difference in my life. I'm not sure that there are ten of them, but I'll stick to the really significant ones.

Power vs. Force

David R. Hawkins

What if you could have a simple, objectively-verifiable Yes-or-No answer to any question you wanted to ask? Any question. Think about it. They've found a way to do it, using the body itself as a mechanism to access nonlocalized consciousness. Now, anything that is known to anyone, anywhere, is knowable everywhere else by everyone. They've even gone so far as to use this technique, now that they have it, to identify levels of consciousness. I used to buy copies of this book and give them to my friends. It's so important that I've even made a webpage about it .

A Course in Miracles

Jesus is back to further explain the stuff we didn't get last time. Here, he's working through automatic writing in the 70's through an elderly lady who has since passed on. This book clarifies everything that didn't seem to make sense, and he pulls the concepts in the Gospel together into a very simple, coherent model of existence that just makes sense and is loving and appropriate, just like it should be. And nobody has to get nailed to anything. Whether you're a Christian who wants to better understand the message in the Bible, or you're an occultist who wants to have a solid grasp of the spiritual principles of High Magick, this book is definitely for you. Like reading a mystery novel backwards, everything gets simpler and makes more and more sense as you read through it.

Lord of Light

Roger Zelazny

A science fiction novel that reaches into spiritual and mythical territory. In the far-flung future, colonists settling a planet have the technological means to capture the souls of the dying and reincarnate them in vat-grown bodies. Rather than create an idyllic utopia, they hone their psionic abilities and techno-toys and set themselves up as deities right out of the Hindu pantheon, keeping advanced technology out of the hands of the primative civilization created by their offspring. Immortal and psionically-powerful technocrats who maintain strict religious loyalty from their worshipers through displays of godly might, mind-scans and tight control over who gets reincarnated into just what form and how, these gods are opposed by one of their own, a colonist named Sam who styles himself after the Buddha, goes down among men, and attempts to oppose the pantheon as a renegade deity and the last living supporter of Accelerationism - the political ideal that the advanced technology should be shared by those in positions of authority to benefit everyone rather than merely using the planet and its population as a combination whorehouse and game preserve. Beautifully written, with sly wit, plenty of metaphysical insight and political pragmaticism, this book probably sums up my raison d'entre and political philosophy all in one.


Daniel Quinn

A spiritual seeker answering a want ad from a guru is rather surprised to find a gorilla. Even moreso when the gorilla is found to be intelligent and telepathic. From an outside-society perspective, Ishmael teaches the man to re-learn what he has grown up being taught about his own society, in particular the fatal blind spots that are invisible to those of us who, as Ishmael put it, grew up in a cage and have therefore learned to become blind to its existence. He demonstrates a tremendous inherent dysfunctionality within what we have learned to call "civilization", and what we must do if we are to prevent it from destroying ourselves and every other emergent species on the planet. Often regarded as an ecological plea, Ishmael is more aptly viewed as an exposé of some of our social and psychological blind spots that we have been taught to overlook and accept since birth. An irreplacable read.

The Screwtape Letters

C.S. Lewis

Yes, the C.S. Lewis who brought us Narnia. An avid Christian, he wrote an extraordinarily insightful examination of spirituality and common errors we make today, and managed to also make it an imaginative and immensely entertaining piece of well-thought-out fiction. Written as a series of letters from Screwtape, a senior infernal temptor to his agent Wormwood out in the field, on assignment to tempt his "patient" to eternal damnation, C.S. Lewis provides clarity about many misconceptions we fall victim to as Screwtape explains Advanced Tempting techniques to his young nephew. Read it as creative and unique fiction, read it as intelligent spiritual evaluation and enquiry, but most importantly - read it. You will find it a treat, and will find yourself coming back to it once about every year or so. And for those interested, John Cleese has done a dead-on reading of the audiobook version.

Hero with a Thousand Faces

Joseph Campbell

Campbell evaluates aspects of mythology common to all cultures everywhere in the world - in this case, the omnipresent myth of the Hero's Quest - overlaying them to find the common denominators, and through them the underlying message. The Hero on his quest was traditionally someone who did not fit into his society, and performed his role by leaving it, overcoming great challenges, emerging triumphant, and gaining something important and valuable in the process. But the last common element in the Hero's Quest was its completion - with the Hero returning to share the results of his victory with his society. An archetypal handbook for the societal outcast in any era, this book clarified to a large extent my perception of my relationship with my society.

Fraud: The Strategy Behind the Bush Lies and Why the Media Didn't Tell You

Paul Waldman

For those to whom the Bush presidency seemed like a screenplay written by an institutionalized mental patient, this book will tie it all together in a way that makes rational sense. Thoroughly researched, the book takes us through Bush's career up to and including his term in office, producing plentiful cites and documentation all along the way. Readers will be interested to find that the "Bible Belt hick retard" cliche that Bush depicted so well to America was a deliberate hoax concocted by the Bush camp - not only to accrue some intense voter demographics, but to deflect criticisms of what Bush knew well in advance would be some outrageous policy decisions. Aware that most of the mainstream press are happy to sing the administration's praises and look the other way whenever possible, the Bush team realized early that if the media can call you stupid, they won't have to call you a liar. Bush used this to his advantage - political advantage, not moral - throughout his term in office. Which is at least refreshing to find - without this key fact, his term in office is mind-meltingly incomprehensible. It also brings the Obama presidency into perspective as well, as Bush's successor pulls the exact same tricks... but substitutes soft-soap promises and an empty "go-getter" image where Bush would've feigned mental incompetence. Not dry at all, this book is actually a joy to read - and doubtless makes a great gift for someone you care about.

I'm going to cut the list short, rather than fill the rest of the list with Douglas Addams and Terry Pratchett novels, because we're looking for books which have significantly influenced my life, and while they're excellent, entertaining, and exquisitely-written, I can hardly describe them as Big Idea books... more's the pity.


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