The Sea Within:
Waves and the Meaning of All Things
St. Augustine's Press
I am usually a big fan of Dr. Peter Kreeft, yet this book not only left me flat, it left me baffled at why Kreeft would even write it. Dr. Kreeft is a professor of Philosophy at Boston College and is the author of nearly 60 books. Being a fan, I have read many of them, and this is the first to leave a sour taste in my mouth, or should I say a sour thought in my mind.
It is well known that Kreeft, even at his age, is an avid surfer. In fact it has been said he takes some speaking engagements just for the opportunity to surf. It was strange reading a 70-year-old man talking about the sea having orgasms and the sea as mother and child. For a man who has built a career as a Christian apologist, as a convert to Catholicism who defends the faith, this book reads as if he spent too many days in the sun at the beach and has embraced a naturalistic religion or 'spirituality' of nature not fitting with his body of previous work.
The advance promotions I encountered about this book made it sound like a mystical journey with Peter Kreeft, and to be honest that sounded really cool. However it ended up being a series of ramblings that tried to appeal to everyone. Kreeft uses terms like 'Orenda', an Iroquois term, or 'Toa', then the 'Sea as Koan', The 'Third Eye' and others. What do these terms have to do with the sea or Christianity?
It should be noted that Kreeft, for all his writing production, has published only one article in a peer-reviewed journal. "Zen In Heidegger's 'Gelassenheit'" was published in 1971 in the International Philosophical Quarterly, the philosophy journal published by Fordham University. So maybe all the hype and popularity of him as an author is not all that warranted.
My only personal encounter with Kreeft was via e-mail last year when I was trying to verify a fact in one of his other books. His response was short, brisk and arrogant. Maybe the great man was too busy writing this tripe to respond to a writer from a University Newspaper. Of course when you charge $1500 USD a day for speaking engagements, plus travel and board, maybe you think you can get away with almost anything. I once heard of a Led Zeppelin quote, about Zepellen 4 AKA 'Coda', that the reason the band's name was not on the album's original release was because with their popularity they believed they could crap on a recording and it would sell because it was Zeppelin. That is how I feel about this book. This book reads like a personal indulgence into ramblings of an old man, and though many will criticize me for my critique of Kreeft, I cannot recommend this book to you in good conscience.
(First Published in Imprint 2007-05-04 as 'Hate It' in the 'Love it / Hate It' Book review column.)
Other Kreeft Reviews:
Socrates Meets Jesus
The Sea Within
Handbook of Christian Apologetics
Pocket Handbook of Christian Apologetics
The Unaborted Socrates
The Best Things In Life
Between Heaven Hell
Articles That Mention Kreeft:
Opus Dei Part II
Catholic Catechism Dialogue blog