Rudolph Hoess was the SS Commandant over the concentration camp at Auschwitz during World War II. Under his direction well over a million would die (Eichmann claimed 2.5 million!). These were not primarily enemy combatants but civilians – men, women, and children (primarily Jews).
Hoess wrote about his time at Auschwitz, not only what he did but how he thought and felt. This particular edition entitled The Commandant has been edited by Jurg Amann for length and clarity. It is a small volume of only 111 pages.
I found it highly disturbing, anxiety inducing, stomach churning – in other words, just what is needed. It is a prophylactic against future genocides, may God save us. It is an inducement to action in the present against ongoing genocides, God help us.
“But I must admit openly that the gassings had a calming effect on me…Up to this point it was not clear to me, nor to Eichmann, how the killing of the expected masses was to be done. Perhaps by gas? But how, and what kind of gas….Now I was at ease.”
– Rudolph Hoess, pg. 70.
Let me digress for a moment and speak as an American Christian. I suspect that someday when God reveals to us the true nature of the good and evil which we have done in our lives we will find that our apathy stands far above and beyond so many of the sins we endeavor so faithfully to avoid today.
Further, I suspect that our myopic dedication to these rote sins is an endeavor to distract our consciences from the true nature of our own selfishness.
Lord, save me from my apathy. From my righteous indignation over the sins of others that I use to assuage my burning conscience.
Today I went to an Estate Sale in Mendham, NJ. The house was set back from the street, which was a sometimes one-lane road in the middle of the countryside. It was quite beautiful…and the most beautiful part where the thousands of books lining its walls.
The former resident of the house was obviously a lover of classic/contemporary literature, arts, history, and biography. I spent a solid two hours searching the shelves and finally exited with nineteen.
I know, that is a lot of books – but when there are several hundred you want to buy and you leave with less than two dozen, one feels a certain sense of accomplishment.
So here is my haul…Perhaps it will make a fun reading list for someone who shares my interests.
Why I Chose What I Chose
Feel free to jump down to the list itself, but for those who care (anyone?) I’d like to share the reasoning behind my choices.
I focused primarily on historical and biographical books because:
I don’t read much contemporary fiction.
When I read classical fiction I usually use an e-text and turn it into an e-book.
I consider myself too much a beginner in the arts to be able to understand much of what is said in these fields and would rather focus on learning more of the basics.
I chose almost exclusively books that the former owner had read in their entirety (which was obvious by the hand-written notes, underlines, and bookmarks sprinkled throughout).
My primary interests in reading are to (a) understand God and (b) understand humanity. The library was sparse in the former, so I focused on the latter.
Most of these books are historical or biographical, but the way in which I read them remains constant with my primary interests:
Who is God? How do we relate to Him?
Who is Man and Woman? How do we relate to each other?
Again, occurring soon after the Revolutionary War in America, the question arises, how was this different from our initial revolution? This book even more than the last, since it directly involves some of the best-known personages of the Revolutionary War now crushing a rebellion.
Apparently “controversial and provocative” this work looks at a number of intellectuals in history including Rousseau, Shelley, Marx, Ibsen, Tolstoy, Hemingway, Brecht, Russell, Sartre, Wilson, Gollancz, and Hellman.
I enjoyed Reston’s Warriors of God in spite of some concerns about it subjective interpretations in select parts. I expect to enjoy this one as well, but will also be watching for when things a little too much to the interpretative side.
I’m always looking for books that provide me with a starting place, a place to jump off from. This seems like one of those books. There are so many historical volumes – which should I choose? Hoping this volume will give me some direction.
Usually I’m not a huge fan of volumes that cover such an extraordinary sweep of time but the former owner showed great interest in this volume (according to the bookmarks), so I figured I’d give it a try.
Because it is Edmund Morris, the previous owner thought it interesting, and I find the Roosevelt’s interesting, but don’t know nearly enough about them.
When we record history, we interpret it. We are not objective observers. With humility we acknowledge this and attempt to be self-reflective as we write…but sometimes the reader discovers the author has in fact (or just seems to) slipped into various biases which color the facts unnecessarily.↩
Vyrso is part of Faithlife, formerly known as Logos Bible Software. It provides e-books focused on general rather than professional/academic audiences. I occasionally browse the site to see if there are any deals worth taking advantage of and I found a few this time around I thought I’d share with you:
I don’t know anything about Underwood, but this line from Vyrso caught my eye, “A long-time pastor ponders why the Jesus Movement stopped moving …” This parallels my more general interest in what exactly happened to the hippies…
I love these books that provide multiple views on a subject. Some really great authors attached to this particular volume. A number of other volumes are on sale in this series for a similar price, this is the one that most interested me.
In addition, Tom makes many of the summaries from his various books available on his website. I’ll be linking out to a few below.
I love these books because they provide a great way to get an overview of the literature. It isn’t meant to be the end, rather it is a beginning. A place to become familiar with the “big ideas” and determine which ideas one really needs to dive into more deeply.
Here are the volumes I found most interesting in this book. I’ve marked those which I really want to read with an *.
Note: I did not select the most important works out of those listen in Tom’s book, rather I chose those that interested me. There were a number that would probably be considered more fundamental than some of those listed above but with which I either lack interest or else I am already familiar through other sources with.
At the end of the book Tom offers a concise list of fifty more classics, of those I am most interested in:
Dr. John White was a Christian physician, psychiatrist, pastor, and prolific author. In 1977 he published a groundbreaking book, Eros Defiled, which provided a straightforward, bluntly honest, and compassionate survey of sexual sins from a Christian and psychiatric perspective. I wrote a review of this book in May of 2012 which can be read here.
In 1993 White published a second book – Eros Redeemed – which continued and refined his thoughts in Eros Defiled. In-between these dates he moved from the Christian psychiatric field more fully into pastoral work…and probably of more significance in the differences between these works – became involved with the charismatic movement.
White attended a course taught by John Wimber at Fuller Theological Seminary. I have been unable to discover when exactly White attended this course – but it must have been between 1981-1985 (as these were the years Wimber taught it at Fuller). White became a leader within the charismatic movement, was instrumental in leading Dr. Jack Deere into the charismatic movement (Deere had been a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS), a strictly cessationist seminary at the time), and became a leader within the Vineyard Church movement (a particular strain of charismatic belief. If memory serves me right, the Vineyard is the more charismatic arm which broke off of the common root from which Calvary Chapel developed).
This seems to have resulted in White moving away from his earlier positions and towards more charismatic interpretations – and this is evident in Eros Redeemed. According to some sources (I have been unable to verify) White regretted writing Eros Defiled and desired Eros Redeemed to be read in its stead. I must admit that for my money, I prefer Eros Defiled.
It is perhaps important for me to note here that I do not say this b/c of White’s embracing charismatic beliefs. I consider “book mentors” (I read their books and respect their work) Dr. Wayne Grudem, Dr. Mark Rutland, Dr. Mark Brown, and Charles Colson – among others – from a charismatic background. Rather, I have read (but again, cannot confirm) that White suffered from bipolar disorder throughout his life and feel that Eros Redeemed may have been written during a manic episode – as its connective tissue is weak and its organization haphazard. (Unfortunately, I do not know anyone who knew Dr. White, I wish that I did and I could speak with them about this and other areas of his life to understand him better – he fascinates me)
In any case, Eros Redeemed clocks in at a hefty 285 pages. The book is divided into three parts with numerous chapters in each part. I’ve included the contents below:
Part I: Eros Enslaved and In Chains
A Sin-Stained Church in a Sex-Sated Society
Nakedness: What Went Wrong?
The Uniqueness of Sexual Sin
Overcoming Idolatry and Sexual Sin
Sexual Sin and Violence
The Question of Satanic Ritual Abuse
Part II: Men, Women, and Sex
The Marriage of Sex and Love
Sex for the Castaway
Sex and Gender Confusion
The Roots of Inversion
Manliness and Womanliness
Christ, Model of Manliness
Part III: Redemption from Sexual Sin
Forgiving Family Sin
Facing Your Repentant Future
Prayer: A Means of Grace
Healing Hidden Wounds Through the Body
The Healing Session
As you can see from the chapters – the book covers the gamut of human sexuality – theological underpinnings, relationship to pagan fertility worship, Satanic Ritual Abuse (which is generally seen now as a much smaller issue, if existing at all, than it was viewed as at the time), the philosophical differences between sex and love, homosexuality (“inversion” – an older psychological term from before homosexuality was removed from the APA’s DSM), the nature of manhood/womanhood, the importance of forgotten memories to healing of the past, various methods of healing (forgiveness, repentance, prayer, church community), and instructions on running a “healing session” (appears to be a time in which deliverance from an ailment or sin was expected to be immediate, or at least that significant progress would be made in overcoming it).
I found some of what White said from a theological perspective to be powerful and ingenious – but other portions had me scratching my head regarding exactly what he was trying to say and/or how he made the connections he made. White shares more about his personal life and experiences in this book – as he did in Eros Defiled – but I found some of these more disturbing than past ones (in Eros Defiled), perhaps indicative of a unresolved trauma to the psyche rather than a healthy revelation of personal trauma for self-healing and to encourage healing in others.
I was disappointed by the emphasis on Satanism (not on Satan, but on Satanism), but this may have been an appropriate emphasis at the time the book was written (I remember the Satanism hysteria of the 1990’s). His compassion for the sexual addict is admirable – as it was with Eros Defiled – and while he writes a strong call to repentance he also offers lots of mercy and understanding. This is perhaps one of the strongest aspects of the work.
White attempts to take on far too much – in addition to general sexuality issues such as masturbation, adultery, and fornication he tackles homosexuality (which in and of itself wouldn’t have been too much of an addition – he tackled it as well in Eros Defiled), the nature of manhood/womanhood (not as it relates to the act of sex, but as it defines the difference between men and women including roles/leadership), hidden memories, and so on. It may be the sheer volume of topics he covers which results in the disjointed feel. He could have written three or four books covering these topics in more detail and with more elaboration and the work may have felt more continuous, professional, and insightful.
White also tackles theological topics like the nature of sanctification and how we experience healing – Do we initiate? Does God initiate? While relevant to the discussion, the conversation is just one more tangent which distracts from the main focus of the book (human sexuality).
It took me probably a year to make it through this book…It is interesting, but I can’t really recommend it. White continues to demonstrate a broad base of knowledge – he kept himself current on psychological theories and quotes from a wide variety of Christian authors and theologians including Augustine, C.S. Lewis, Henri Nouwen, Thomas Keating, Andrew Murray, John Bunyan, Charles Colson, Charles Finney, John Owen, Clinton Arnold, and so on which demonstrates the vast breadth of his knowledge (which far surpasses my own). I’m not sure, other than the aforementioned possibility of a manic episode, what could have caused the breakdown in his writing this time. In all honesty, I’m surprised IVP published it – and wonder if this was done in part to honor a man whose legacy is significant (he has made significant and genuine contributions to contemporary Christian thought).
I will continue to read White’s works, I have enjoyed The Masks of Melancholy, Eros Defiled, and The Sword Bearer. The only disappointment thus far has been this one (Eros Redeemed) – and I suppose every author is allowed to pop out a defective one once in a while.
I have been fascinated for some time for Carl G. Jung. I am not sure where I was first introduced to him – but he has been a person who has repeatedly “popped up” unexpected and unsought in various diverse areas of my studies. When I saw a copy of the book Man and His Symbols at a thrift store I decided to purchase it. The book consists of chapters on Jungian (analytical) psychology not only by C.G. Jung but also by some of his followers – M.-L. von Franz, Joseph L. Henderson, Jolande Jacobi, and Aniela Jaffe.
The volume was at turns fascinating and ridiculous, intriguing and uncharacteristically verbose and dry. Understandable and foreign. I have just finished the volume – all nearly 400 pages – and I am unsure what to say or think about it. There are some ideas which clearly make sense to me, but overall I find the volume hard to believe – the interpretations of signs and dreams seeming too subjective and random. Yet at the same time I hesitate to write the book off, how is it that Jung who seems in many ways so strange and mystical has so deeply affected contemporary thought? Am I simply missing the depth?
I’ve attempted to purchase a biography of Jung twice off of Amazon and both times was sent the wrong book…I feel it may be necessary for me to try yet again, as I have not yet drawn full conclusions on Jung’s thoughts.
I would note that whatever the work may be it has numerous “jumping off” points for further research at it discusses frequently ancient mythology, literature spanning the ages, science, and the arts – mentioning repeatedly names which ring faint bells within my head, those individuals and concepts which I have said, “Someday, I will read more about x.”
What do you think of C.G. Jung? His writings? His followers? Analytical psychology? What works would you recommend reading by him? Was he crazy? A genius? Psychologist or occultist?
[I’ve decided to add below a brief explanation of Jung’s psychology after reading Man and His Symbols below. I welcome comments or corrections on my perception.]
Jung was originally a follower of Freud, but eventually branched off with his own innovations in psychology. Particularly, he did not see almost everything going back to sexual impulses as Freud did. Rather, he suggested that our minds consisted of the conscious and the unconscious – and that the unconscious, while in many sense primal was also in many senses healthier than the conscious modern mind.
Jung did not advocate a return to the primal, but rather the intertwining and interfunctioning of the conscious and the unconscious. Either by themselves was dangerous and would not allow man to function correctly and holistically – but in appropriate balance together they resulted in a whole person.
Jung believed that our dreams where our unconscious’ way of communicating to us important truths that we needed to know. Thus, the analytical psychology which resulted looked for meaning within dreams. This opposed the then common understanding that dreams were simply the random reactions of the brain – without meaning.
For me, it seems logical that dreams may carry meaning with them. As someone who works in IT and sometimes performing application development I have experienced numerous instances in which I will face an “unfixable” problem which after a night’s sleep suddenly has new solutions in my mind. It seems to me that something productive is occurring within my mind during sleep – and I don’t see any reason to believe that similar productivity might occur via the actual dream content themselves.
I know that when I can remember my dreams (not very frequently) they oftentimes relate to real crises within my life. For example, I frequently experience dreams in which I am placed against an implacable (real or imagined) foe. No matter how many times and how many ways in which I oppose the foe (e.g. violence, logic, escape, etc.) the foe always reappears. This connects significantly with multiple situations in my life in which my health (e.g. OCD) or relationships seem to be permanently and unalterably broken. No matter the methods I use to rectify the issues, they remain broken…even if I seem to “overcome” the issue temporarily.
That said, I have several problems with Jung’s psychology. First, I find his use of archetypes unconvincing. I do not doubt that Jung may have actually helped those who came to him overcome their issues in many cases…but I ponder whether his interpretation of their dreams which helped these individuals process and grow was not based upon his own intuitions about their personality and needs which he then imposed upon the dreams. Jung notes that for each individual the content of the dreams has different meaning – that one cannot expect the archetypes to carry the same meaning in different individuals dreams. If this is the case, then how is Jung determining the meaning of the dreams? It seems, imho, that he is interpreting the dreams based on an analysis of the individual…thus the dreams “mean” the solution Jung believes to the problem the individual is struggling with.
Further, I find Jung and his followers use of archetypes and various literary sources loose and disconcerting. It reminds me in many ways of the allegorical interpretation of Scripture. As a Christian there were several times within Man and His Symbols that I knew that Jung or his followers weren’t playing fair with Christianity – that is, they were undermining the actual meaning for their own meaning…
It seems to me that the archetypes exist to the extent and depth they do across cultures and religions b/c Jung forced them to exist as such. The connections between some of the archetypes were far too tenuous.
To summarize: I think it is reasonable that our dreams are productive and informative in some sense, but I think Jung’s psychology over-emphasizes the importance of the dream and warps the meaning of things by undermining the explicit truths for perceived underlying truths.
Today I’m not going to talk about a product or service in a specific sense, but rather a more underlying philosophical approach to the mind. My hope in this post, in conjunction with the series of posts on books relevant to the major mental disorders, is to raise awareness of mental illness and remove some of the stigma of receiving treatment (medically or otherwise).
On Medication & Side Effects:
I do not want to discount the real concern that there are potential side effects from consuming medications that interact with our minds. Unlike many of our other organs which we understand to a great degree, the brain still resides as a major mystery and our treatments for aberrations in this mysterious and fascinating organ are far more primitive than any of us would desire. On the other hand, I’d like to share a few observations in my personal battle in deciding to consume medications:
The damage from mental aberrations is certain, the damage from medications is small (or unknown).Peter D. Kramer in his book Against Depression writes, “In the aged brain, strokes cause more injury than they do in the young brain, and so do infections, blood clots, inflammation, low blood sugar, seizures–you name it. Prior exposure to stress (and to stress hormones) is the critical factor in this age-related vulnerability. More stress in the past makes an animal more brittle in old age. Both neurons and their protectors, glial cells, are at risk.” “Much of the damage done by stress hormones is to the stress-response system itself. The brain is a complex communications network, one cell reaching out to another. In the face of stress hormones, neurons lose connective wiring. In particular, cells in the hippocampus shed receptors for incoming messages about stress. The hippocampal cells also lose dendrites, the branches that connect a neuron to neighboring cells and transmit outgoing messages. Like overwhelmed people who withdraw from social contact, overwhelmed neurons in the hippocampus become isolated.” (pg. 117) Point being, while there may be unknown long-term side-effects to taking a medication there is no doubt about the health effects of untreated aberrations on the human mind.
We have a certain fear of losing ourselves through medication. We ask ourselves, “are we just druggies, in need of a fix to make ourselves feel good?” We ponder whether there is not some good side to our illness. We fear that society would lose a certain portion of itself without those who mentally struggle. We ask what would have history been like if individuals like Martin Luther, Picasso, van Gogh, Kierkegaard, George Fox, and so many others of our great minds had not suffered? Some of us have been suffering for so long that we don’t know what it is like to be free. Even after a short while in the grip of a mental illness it feels natural, as if this is the way things should be. Yet I have experienced (and proudly bear witness to) becoming more myself (and it is the self I strove for but could not be) when accepting and receiving treatment.
What About Them Psychologists/Counselors?
There is a fear of psychologists/counselors that permeates many and especially among those who would consider themselves Evangelical Christians (of which I consider myself a constituent). The fears are not entirely unfounded. There have been individuals who have seen a counselor/psychologist who provided bad advice and have changed their lives for the worse because of this advice. But I would suggest that we need not fear the psychologist (or counselor) but instead the uncritical thinking and lack of contextual support that allows illegitimate beliefs to grow. In my opinion, a counselor is an individual to dialogue with about our lives and whom we allow to speak honestly and openly with us about the issues they see in our lives. When we give someone permission to explore our life and philosophy this does not mean we give them permission to determine our beliefs. We can and should critically evaluate each suggestion for its truthfulness. Additionally, I would suggest that counseling becomes much safer when one uses it as a primary means of exposing the difficulties in ones life but then also utilizes a secondary support system to give you context to the recommendations and issues raised. While many people are not prepared to provide the depth of inquiry and feedback that a counselor can, many of them are willing to discuss with you individual subjects which the psychologist raises. Thus the danger of psychology is not that there may be false beliefs but that we uncritically and without contextual relational support accept such beliefs. No individual has perfect knowledge, every encounter is a mixture of truth and error, this is true even for professionals. We must be willing to battle for truth on our turf, not simply accept the pronouncements of others. That said, having someone challenge our belief system can help us revise and strengthen our belief systems in ways that allow us to live better lives.
Are We Willing to See Ourselves?
When it really comes down to it, my argument is not so much particularly for psychological medications and treatment – but for the willingness to explore ourselves, and not solely internally. You can sit down and talk with a psychiatrist and a psychologist without taking medication and without accepting their advice. But perhaps it is worthwhile to ask the question? To open ourselves to the possibility? To ask someone else, “Do you hurt this way every day? Do you feel this anxious? Do you have this much trouble sleeping?” So often we assume our suffering is normative, when it is anything but.
Please feel free to give me some feedback on this post. I know this post has been much more ideological than many others I have posted but I want to engage you in discussion about this. I am at much risk of mixing truth with error as any other fallible human being. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why God said after creating everything else “good” that “it is not good for man to be alone.”
 I don’t want to tackle this question in too much depth, but let me briefly summarize my position. There are lessons that can be learned while undergoing a challenge of any form – physiological, mental, familiar, economic – but these lessons are pain that is utilized by God for good, they are not in themselves good. In the Scriptures we do not find Jesus (the incarnation of God) saying to those who asked for healing, “I’m sorry. Its better for you be ill. I won’t heal you.” No, we find him bringing hope and healing. There is more than enough pain in this world, more than enough challenges, lets not purposely embrace unnecessary challenges – lets heal where we can and depend on the grace of God throughout.↩
Peter Kramer tackles this topic extensively in Against Depression, a book that while to all appearances on the disorder of depression has more to do with fighting the cultural value we have given depression (and can be extended logically to other disorders).This is the question, but we are simply asking it the same way. One does not lose depth without disorder. When one removes the disorder one finds greater ability to tap and manage depth. The disorder disables the individuals, removing capacity to innovate, it does not add to it.
Yet, there is still a concern about the medication. There is no doubt that medication can affect us in ways we do not expect – in fact covering over portions of what we consider our personality. Sometimes the side effects are the exact opposite (though only in a very small minority) of what is expected – instead of relieving depression or anxiety it increases it. This is why I suggest the involvement of a community in the process is essential. At the most basic one’s psychiatrist, but preferably including friends and family. These individuals can objectively help you understand the effects of the medication on your daily behavior and assist in determining whether the medication is allowing the real you to shine out or masking it (the latter is marginal, but possible).
We assume that medical illness is a choice we face in isolation, but it is not. While we assume that refusing treatment is solely our suffering we cannot underestimate the impact of our suffering on others. The lack of energy we feel translates into a lack of energy for friends and family. The sudden bouts of rage we battle flies out at the most uncomfortable times – at work, with our wives or children. Our illness is real and affects those around us. If our worldview is twisted, we impart this twisted worldview to those we interact with to some extent. We must recognize the extent of others suffering.
We oftentimes assume that our suffering isn’t that bad. We are resilient people in many senses. Many of us operate on a decently functional level without medication. Especially as adults we learns methods of coping with our foibles. But there is a great difference between functionally nominally well and functioning to one’s true human potential.When I speak to “true human potential” I do not mean the actual perfection of mankind. I do not want to embark on a theology lesson, but it is my firm belief that we are beyond hope in (via natural means) redeeming our broken selves (and thus in need of a more than natural (supernatural) escape). When I speak of “true human potential” I mean a level of functioning which we as broken humans can embrace. It is not the full escape, but it is better than. The individual with clotted heart may need stints, this will make life better – allowing him to act to his “full potential” as opposed to without stints. At the same time the individual still is not “whole” in the sense of having a perfect heart.↩
Probably one of the most ready examples to Christians is recommendations to divorce a spouse.↩
5. With Larry Crabb (Soul Talk: The Language God Longs for Us to Speak), it would be my hope that eventually this sort of “soul care” could be performed by one another. Unfortunately, at this juncture, too often this help is not available and those around us (including ourselves) are not able/willing to enter into the required depth of dialogue.↩
 When I speak of better lives I mean in many ways – less painful, less stressful, etc. But to me the ultimate depiction of a better life is the ability to love and know God and one another despite circumstances. Everything else is frosting on the cake.↩
 In an ultimate theological sense, even the community of mankind is not enough. We can do better by working together, but we still find ourselves to fall short. Extra-natural inspiration and revelation is needed (I could just say “supernatural” but this word is beaten to death like a horse and connotes all sorts of wishy-washy sentimentalism that so many reject without considering the underlying import of the word. By changing words I am not changing the meaning but simply attempting to force us to process those things with which we have become so comfortable (or uncomfortable).)↩