Book Review: The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Soul

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Soul: A Collection Of Scenic Views Of Volunteerism, Transcendental Encounters With Kindred Spirits & Lessons In Compassion, by Robert Clancy

[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Bostick Communications in exchange for an honest review.]

This is a book that lives up to its subtitle, but whose full meaning and implication requires some unpackaging by the reader. A short book, at around 180 pages, this book is divided into small chapters based around experiences the author had with various people, often in ways that suggest a surprising reversal of expectations. There is the story of Ken, the effervescent and bubbly man who dies young of cancer and whose life was full of energy and drama, who the author had thought to fire from a position of volunteer leadership before learning to appreciate. There is a story of a bum who provides the author with an unexpected lesson on greed, and so on. This is the sort of material, for example, that would appear as part of a story song for a musician like Howard Jones or Duncan Sheik, with a dramatic reversal of expectations and a crystallization of the sort of wisdom that one would find in a fortune cookie. The book also contains various crystallized statements that encourage meritorious deeds of service on the part of the reader [1], and at the beginning of the book the author even makes an open request of the readers to provide examples of service and volunteerism that they have witnessed or participated in for a future volume in his series.

Despite the fact that much of this book is a straightforward recounting of various transcendental encounters as well as encouragement to good deeds, the author is rather shrewd and canny in his approach, and holds some cards close to his vest. Although he quotes various praiseworthy statements by others, including one Bible verse on charity and openheartedness towards others, the author keeps his own religious beliefs rather quiet. He expresses a belief in God and angels, but his religious beliefs are certainly not Christian and most resemble some sort of moral therapeutic deism, and it is difficult to tell what exact brand of New Age religious thought, Gnosticism, or transcendentalist Eastern religious belief system that the author holds, because certain statements by the author only make sense in light of some sort of belief in reincarnation and karmic debt, even if the author is more subtle in expressing that belief than some [2]. For the example, the author has a vague conversation with the dying Ken where he says that he will no longer see him in this life, but there is no discussion of eternal life or heaven (21). Despite the general note of encouragement, though, that this book provides, the book also offers some quotes that are highly troubling and that only make sense when viewed in the context of karmic debt, like the author’s following statement: “Everything that happens to you, good or bad, is in some respect your own fault. Even so, you should never blame yourself for the negative things. When the odds are stacked against you is the time when you need to grab the reins of your life—because only you can change your fate. Always take a moment to shine in the beauty of yourself and what you are capable of (154).” There are a lot of things that can be said about this particular quote, but the fact that this statement appears to reflect the author’s high view of godlike personal responsibility and his adherence to a very rigid form of the law of attraction, it is clear that the only way, to use an example not at random, that this would apply to the horrors of abuse that some children have to endure as infants and toddlers is for the author to conceive of a karmic debt of suffering that has to be repaid for someone to enjoy the blessings of goodness. If one has bad things happen, then either one must have sinned in this life or in a previous one, for suffering is the result of a soul’s evil, pure and simple [3]. Although the author never explicitly discusses reincarnation and karmic debt, the author’s belief in these concepts can be inferred from what he writes.

It is in the view that our souls are on a journey to some sort of Nirvana that the title of this book and its thoughts make sense. The author perhaps realizes that many readers will likely be offended or alienated by a direct citation of chakras and whatever Eastern religious tradition the author follows, which is not said anywhere in this book, and seeks to appeal to a wider audience by advocating that the reader devote themselves to good deeds, to serving others, to being compassionate and avoiding judgment and prejudice, to smiling, to the power of positive thinking, to finding like-minded and compassionate company with kindred souls that lift our days as we lift theirs. This is done on as ecumenical a basis as possible, as the author appeals to the obvious service of such diverse figures as Dr. Albert Schweitzer and Mother Teresa. The author conceives of God in a very vague sense, not as providing a source of external standards to follow, but rather as a gracious but distant being who gives us the spark of divinity that allows us to trust and follow our heart and who weighs and balances our deeds with mercy, and who leaves us on our soul’s journey to seek happiness and to help each other out along the way so that we save ourselves and those around us in a world where our imagination is the most important part of our reality.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example, these not very subtle examples:

[3] This was the moral philosophy of Job’s friends, and the Pharisees of John 9. See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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