Amazon Book Review: “Songs Against The Darkness,” By Dr. Stewart Bitkoff

by stewart

Virag, Reviewer

5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and suggestive book

Reviewed in Canada on March 15, 2022

Verified Purchase

Dr. Stewart Bitkoff is a self-described spiritual traveler and in his many books, articles and poetry brings back reports of his journeys. His works appear in many formats. Some are fictional narratives, others detailed essays, some dialogues with ‘imaginary’ teachers, some elaborations in a folktale style and others outright fables. His creativity is quite marvelous and much to be admired.

“Songs Against the Darkness” is in three parts: a novelette entitled “Rosetta’s Stone” that may include elements of autobiography (in fact, though many novelists dislike the idea, the question does arise: Are not most novels partly autobiographic?).

The second part is a series of 60 poems entitled “Raising a Candle” and according to the preface focuses upon the “interplay of Darkness and Light.” The final section is an essay on “How to be Spiritual Amidst this Chaos.” Given the state of the world we need such sage advice.

The novella can be quite harrowing with recollections of the struggles for existence in the 1950s and beyond in the American “go get ‘em” society, that sadly left many behind as collateral damage. Think “Death of a Salesman” when this is also the story of the decline and suffering of the salesman’s wife. And while there are harrowing episodes, there are also lovely and loving descriptions of places and experiences. The temporal flow is disparate and may be jarring to some, but I suggest just ‘go with it’ and it will soon make perfect sense. By the end Bitkoff has woven all the threads together in a touching and dramatic form.

The second section’s poems and prose poems also seem to me to reiterate a frequent idea of Bitkoff’s: that by small actions, small moments of awareness, small connections with Higher existence, we will make genuine progress towards the spiritualization of ourselves and the world. Bitkoff does not at any point minimize the sad state of this existence, but he frequently alludes to a better condition that preceded and will follow our current state. “Rush toward the stars/ Go beyond the Sun./ There is your Home;/ In the Nameless, timeless/Land that you have forgotten.” This may not appeal to some, but I rather think that Bitkoff’s dictum of the character of this life might appeal to the rest: “According to one philosophy this world is a giant bazaar filled with wonder, experience and opportunity. You will find in this world exactly what you desire; and the overall goal in life is to learn, change and grow in spiritual understanding.”

The last section is “How to be Spiritual Amidst this Chaos?” and is a very interesting and straightforward consideration of how to stay on the right path in this world. In some ways it reprises the philosophical outlook of Epictetus of the Stoic school, in others draws upon more modern ideas, matters and some scientific data. For instance, Epictetus certainly suggested some manner of withdrawal from the world (Who cares what goes on in Rome?), and Bitkoff certainly suggests a news or media holiday. And his advice to not replay old tapes in our mind (of bad experiences etc.) is probably very good. But, the goal, which is made possible by the specific techniques he lists, is stated in his conclusion: “The more we practice controlling our consciousness and awareness … the easier it will become to think tranquil thoughts.” And then this is why we should do that: “Then, one day we will experience what lies beyond emotions; and the higher consciousness will emerge.” I would put it this way: Unless we calm the mind we can not attend to the message of peaceful and Higher thought. Our own emotional storms make us deaf.

Stewart Bitkoff is indeed a spiritual traveler and he has indeed brought back advice, suggestions and hope for those of us who have remained behind. This is a great and considerable achievement. We must indeed be grateful to him for his writings.


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