1 out of 4 stars
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Memoires of a Satsangi by Trevor Mommsen is a collection of snippets of information related to the author’s spiritual journey and understanding of various esoteric concepts. These include autobiographical pieces about the author’s own life, details on mystical concepts like prana and the Self, his artwork, vegetarian recipes, meditation postures, and the author’s suggestions for cures to diseases such as arthritis. The author believes that so-called “spiritually advanced” acts (such as levitation) are actually impediments to true spirituality and only serve as a means to show off in an egotistical manner. He also believes in living practically in the material world as one goes along on his or her spiritual path. It is a compact memoir—less than a hundred pages.
The meditation exercises were very thoroughly explained, and the recipes were thoughtfully chosen. The book had a very frank, sincere tone to it that I enjoyed. There didn’t seem to be any pretence in the author’s writing style. You could relax while reading the book, trusting the author to tell you his version of the truth in an agenda-less way. It was refreshing to not constantly need to read between the lines to see if there was going to be a catch somewhere.
However, this sincerity was also the downfall of the book. It felt as though the author hadn’t thought of the way the book would read to another person. The pieces of information presented were scattered and, at first glance, unrelated to each other. Memoires of a Satsangi was supposed to be about “dynamic mind focus,” something the author briefly mentioned once or twice but never explained during the entire book. Through my own research, I found out that dynamic mind focus was the ability to concentrate upon something with a single focus of attention. I was baffled by this, because if the author hadn’t specifically mentioned that this was his theme, I would not have been able to guess it through simply the content of the book alone. I had a lot of trouble trying to piece together why the author was giving the information he was giving, and where it was leading to. I found myself constantly thinking, “but what are you actually trying to say?” There was a constant feeling of not understanding the “information timeline” of the book—how the information was sequenced in this memoir. It was difficult to grasp why the author was choosing to say something on a certain topic right after saying something else about another topic. The moment I thought I had built some kind of foundational understanding of what he was trying to say, it crumbled with the introduction of something new.
There were also a lot of things that the author assumed the audience would understand, and did not provide any context for. There was information on chakras, light portals, and all sorts of other esoteric concepts without any introduction to them or notes to refer to. Along with this, there was an even stranger lack of adequate emotional context. In the snippets he provided about his own life, it was very difficult to access his “personhood”—the thoughts, emotions, and intentions that he had during those times. He spoke about love, his family, and his personal struggle with disease in a completely detached manner. I don’t believe this would have been a problem if the book was consistently emotionally detached. However, it was not. There was emotion—and the only emotion that came through the text was that of what appeared to be spite. He used unusually harsh and degrading language to speak about certain religions, groups of people, and certain practices that he deemed to be unspiritual (such as eating meat). This gave the entire narrative an odd quality—it was neither an objective and unbiased view of his journey and what he had learned, nor a heartfelt memoir which drew you in and gave you a real slice of the author’s inner life.
He also sprinkled these strong thoughts and opinions seemingly randomly in between his explanations of paranormal phenomena. This made it even more difficult to follow his train of thought. In some books, an inconsistent narrative style works well, because you feel personally invested in the author’s journey. It is refreshing and spontaneous because you feel as if you’re going on an adventure with the author. Here, it didn’t create that same feeling of excitement, because there was no “friendship” established with the author due to the lack of emotionality in his narrative. It was as if you were outside a window, looking in and passively watching a stranger talking to you. The mist kept clouding over the window, and what he was trying to say kept getting lost. Over time, the rift that was created between you both got larger and larger.
This book was rife with spelling and grammatical mistakes, and I found approximately fifty of them. Even the title has a typo—“memoirs” is spelled incorrectly. Apart from this, the sentences were consistently a bit awkward. They were not necessarily incorrect, but it took a few reads to understand what they meant. For example:
All in all, it was a bit difficult to read for such a short book. For these reasons, I rate it 1 out 4 stars. I would recommend this book to people who are interested in and acquainted with esoteric practices, but not to people who are interested in memoirs.A warm can of cordial was welcome despite the absence of ice that was not known in that part of the planet.
Memoires of a Satsangi
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