Before getting to this review I should add a short disclaimer. Darryl Sloan and I are e-friends (never met him, he’s in the U.K., I’m in the U.S.) and we’ve traded books in the past. This didn’t factor into this review, but it should be mentioned. Secondly, I come to this book about esoteric spirituality with a particularly esoteric worldview of my own. See this interview between me and and an atheist to read where I’m coming from. It’s important going in because I’m predisposed to many of the ideas put forth in Reality Check.
That said, what makes Reality Check so effective is that it’s a good introduction to these ideas for someone who’s not predisposed to this type of worldview – someone who thinks this kind of borderline New Age thinking is bunk. Indeed, that is one of the basic premises of the book: to not fully research something before you decry it as B.S. says more about you than whatever it is you’re criticizing. And this book lays out a meticulous case, piece by piece, about some of the contradictions in mainstream religion and how we’re raised to believe in things blindly without adequate study.
As I have interest in these ideas, I’ve read a fair amount on the subject, so I know when these ideas are conveyed clearly. This is not the far-out ramblings of someone like Robert Anton Wilson and his Cosmic Trigger series. Nor is it overtly intellectual. As much of this writing started on his blog, it has a conversational feel of a guy who’s just trying to figure out how the world works. As Darryl Sloan’s also a writer (author of Chion, reviewed here), this conversational style is very clear and persuasive. It’s a kind of manual on how to be open-minded.
The best parts of the book are regarding his relationship to Christianity – given that he was once a believer, it gives him a lot more credibility than someone who comes to these subjects as a pure cynic about mainstream religion. He’s not dismissive at all, more he just implores people to understand fully what it is they believe.
But the real underlying reason why I believed was because I had been primed for this belief all my life. It never occurred to me, even at seventeen, to ask myself, “Hey, am I sure this is all true?” I lived in a culture where it was generally accepted to be true, and that was good enough for me. I never noticed that my culture represented only a tiny fragment of humanity, and there were many other cultures that believed dramatically different things with the same degree of confidence. In fact, just a few miles from my Protestant Christian community was a Roman Catholic community which I was certain had got the wrong end of the stick about Christianity (even though I was only vaguely aware of what the differences were). I held this confidence for no other reason than I was born into a Protestant community and heard only Protestant ideas again and again.
He eventually arrives at a more-esoteric view of a unified consciousness, which still needs to be taken with a degree of faith, but does not pit one religion against another. He never claims: this is truth. Only, this makes more sense.
His step by step approach to telekinesis is particularly fascinating, and he has a series of pretty startling videos on Youtube backing up his claims. There is no reason to think that he is being fraudulent, and indeed there is something very telling about the comments on Youtube that people are so quick to charge fraud, as if they don’t want to entertain the thought that this phenomenon could be real – a major theme in the book. What’s endearing is that he doesn’t say, “Look at me, I’m a magician,” but instead, “I don’t know what the hell this is, but it’s interesting.” A much more wise approach:
Where the book goes somewhat awry is when it tackles other issues, such as p*rn (don’t want certain searches coming here) and diet. While Sloan makes some very valid points on both, these two issues could be books in themselves, and after the slow and effective dissection of mainstream religion, the chapters on these issues feel a little rushed and less considered. I also found myself disagreeing with him on certain points. Such as he mentions that you shouldn’t eat processed food, and instead he prepares himself a good steak for dinner – not mentioning the possible hormone content of factory-farmed beef.
In the p*rn section, he mentions how exposure to tame p*rn will inevitably lead people to the “harder stuff.” This is interestingly a fairly conservative position for a book that is very liberal about spiritual issues. This is similar to saying marijuana is a gateway drug that will inevitably lead to people using Angel Dust. His views on drugs in the book are similarly conservative, which is curious, given that some very good writing on the subject of spirituality in this vein is done by people who investigate spiritual matters via psychedelics (Daniel Pinchbeck or Rick Strassman, as mentioned in the interview I link above).
These disagreements wouldn’t be a problem if the issues themselves were fully considered, but they’re not when compared to his writing on religion, consciousness, and telekinesis earlier in the book.
In sum, if you find yourself recoiling at mention of any of these issues – telekinesis, unified consciousness, “disproving” Christianity – then you are the perfect candidate to read this book. You may be equally convinced of your worldview after reading this book, but extraordinary beliefs require an extraordinary investigation, and that concept permeates this book. Sloan does not enter into these ideas lightly. What is so effective is that he’s never overly credulous about far-out claims, nor overly dismissive of mainstream dogma, which is why the book is so useful as a primer on esoteric spirituality.
The book is available for a free download at Scribd. I read it for free on a PDF initially, but I went and bought a copy so I could have it on hand whenever I need a refresher on these types of ideas. This book is an important one – because even if you don’t believe a word he says, he conveys these ideas with such sincerity and clarity that it has still served a good purpose. If you’re looking for other answers, Reality Check has the potential to be transformative.