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A Magical Universe -- The Best Of Magical Blend Magazine by Jerry Snider and Michael Peter Langevin.. Swann Raven & Co., Blue Water Publishing, Inc., Mill Spring, NC, 28756. 375 Hudson Street, New York NY, 1996; 272 pp., $15.95 (paper). Reviewed by Jordan S. Gruber.

Overall Rating: 6.5 (out of 10)

Difficulty Level: 5 (out of 10)

Recommendation: Buy it: it will give you a nice trip around the magical universe.

*To Purchase*

Notwithstanding ... the anachronisms, the dated material, the occasionally insufferably large egos, the wild-eyed rantings and ravings, the writing and editing errors, and the inclusion of some seemingly completely irrelevant interviews ... A Magical Universe: The Best Of Magical Blend Magazine is a marvelous compendium which lives up to its name. An entire Magical Universe is laid forth before the reader; to patiently sit with, read, and absorb such a wide variety of interviews and essays from so many different thinkers and doers produces an extraordinary altered state, one that could be fairly labeled as psychedelic. To venture into the minds of so many trippy thinkers -- to allow oneself to imprint on and experience such greatly disparate mindsets and meme-sets -- is to push off from the shores of ordinarily reality, come magic or high water.

Not that you could sit through this book and read it in one night. You can't. The book's interviews and essays are so wide-ranging, and cover so many different types of famous visionaries and teachers -- so many different perspectives -- that at least a few hours between chapters are needed to reset the brain. This is a book to be savored and sipped, not Evelyn-Wooded.

Even when read slowly, though, this book presents a huge challenge, because the reader is asked to suspend his or her disbelief time after time after time as he or she is exposed to the ideas of each successive thinker and spiritual luminary. What is needed to absorb Terence McKenna is very different from what is needed to absorb Andrew Weil, and both of these are very different from what is needed to absorb Riane Eisler or Jean Houston.

Even if you are familiar with the ideas of many of those showcased in this book, you will likely find that the experience of reading interviews with them is a very different experience than reading their books or even taking their seminars. A good interview (and most of these are very good) cuts right to the heart of the interviewee's essence. It is almost as if you get to be right there, with Ken Carey or Jerry Garcia, on the living room couch, sipping iced tea, hearing them laugh or joke, feeling the subtle breeze that wafts from their gently furrowing foreheads. This additional perspective, this down-home closeness, provides a missing, ineffable, dimension that is all too easily lost in the fray of producing serious books and workshops; by restoring this quintessence, these interviews let us see these great teachers and celebrities as the multi-dimensional beings that they truly are.

Structurally, the book is divided into 5 main sections:

Creativity, with focuses on Robin Williams, Jerry Garcia, and Julia Cameron;

Alternate Realities, which showcases Sasha and Ann Shulgin, Stanislov Grof, Ken Carey, Jacques Vallee, and Whitley Streiber;

Technology, with focuses on Tim Leary, Jaron Lanier, and Terence McKenna;

Spirituality, which highlights James Redfield, Dan Millman, Larry Dossey, Van Ault, Marlo Morgan, Natalie Goldberg, Z. Budapest, Alberto Villoldo, Lynn Andrews, and Merilyn Tunneshende; and

Culture, which showcases Malidoma Some, Jean Houston, Douglas Rushkoff, Andrew Weil, David Kyle, Riane Eisler, Michael Langevin (publisher of Magical Blend), and John Cleese.

Unfortunately, this structure did not help much, as it was (1) unbalanced (many more entries in Spirituality than Creativity, for example), and (2) seemed arbitrary and filled with overlapping material. What did help, however, were the fine essays by Magical Blend's co-publisher, Jerry Snider (at the beginning of the book) and editor-in-chief Michael Peter Langevin (to close the book). Both of these essays did a nice job in granting perspective and in tying together what came after and before them, respectively. Both essays questioned the "necessity" of living in an "ordinary," non-magical universe. Both left me hopeful.

In short, while this book might be flawed, it is flowed through and through with brilliant insights, delightful whimsical flourishes, and an abiding faith in the magical nature of reality and the probability that we can make reality a little bit better if we throw our shoulders against the wheel, ground our feet, open our hearts, and push with just the right kind of rhythm. A magical rhythm. In A Magical Universe.

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