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on February 16, 2012
Having read Haunted Universe, I think it's claptrap. He's a whining pratekyabuddha - if that. He is self-proclaimed too much to take seriously. He is seduced by the frisson of nihilism, while moralistically maintaining a posture just above it. He ignores or is ignorant of the real truth of emptiness; that what isn't also is, and vice-versa. This is a trifling book, I think, not at all useful, and maybe harmful. It is full of self, despite how much and how dramatically the author decries the desolate death of everything, especially of "beautiful me."

If Steven Norquist has seen emptiness, it is only to complain about it: life is meaningless, he says, - waaah! He cannot see the pure and infinite freedom of action (or inaction) that comes from a joyous abandonment of meaning. That is anything but scary. And in an empty universe, what haunts? Instead of rejoicing in the absence of self, meaning, significance and all the suffering that arises from those concepts, Norquist stays angry, even petulant in a superior way about its absence and so is stifled by his anger. It is a burden that only he is large and strong enough to bear... and maybe you too if you are big and strong like him. Don't believe this stuff!

Steven Norquist has not abandoned self. He has merely constructed a greater Self - The Universe, The Ultimate Truth, and so on; and he has identified himself with that, giving up the little self to find himself reconstituted in The Great and Eternal Self. I think he is sadly full of hooey and is due for a hard landing when the exultation arisen from his experience expires.

Bottom line? Save your money, spare your patience and give this book the short shrift it deserves.
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on June 21, 2010
The market for 'spirituality', enlightenment and the like is a huge thing these days. I have spent about twenty years of my life reading a lot of what is availabel. There are very few books I would truly recommend as having the goods instead of just being a sideshow to the main event.
This book is one of them.

Mr Norquist has presented the uncompromising truth that is often glossed over, ignored or avoided in spiritual books and circles these days. The truth has always been that enlightenment is the death of the illusion that we are our ego and that we exist and act in the way that is generally accepted.

In this book we aren't coddled or reassured. Mr Norquist doesn't pretend that it is all rosy to get people to like what he is saying. He tells us without a doubt that 'we' will be annihilated if we pursue the truth and life as we know it will irrevocably change.

If you are willing to pay the ultimate price for truth - If you must know what is really going on this is a book for you. Be warned it might not be to your liking.

If you can 'handle the truth' then buy this, read this and lose all meaning in your life, but paradoxically really live for once.

I can say no more read this and you will know too.

Sean Wardell
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on January 3, 2011
Potential readers should be warned that 'Haunted Universe', as offering us a profound account of the true nature of enlightenment, is a dangerous and disturbing book.

We tend to think of enlightenment as a highly desirable state of bliss, but in a lecture Norquist gave to 'The Self Inquiry Discussion Group of Raleigh' in October 2010 [...] he warns us that the experience of awakening, far from being blissful, is truly terrifying and can even lead to insanity in those without the strength or understanding to bear it.

He explains that it is rather like waking up to find oneself in a very large eerie house. As you explore this house, room by room, there is a growing unease and fear as you begin to realize that you are completely alone, that there is no-one else at all in the house except you; you begin to realize, as Sri Ramana Maharshi once said when asked why he wasn't out in the world helping others, "There are no others".

The final terror strikes when you realize that, not only do others not exist, but that you yourself do not exist either. There is only the house, the universe, a universe haunted by emptiness.

The Prajnaparamita sutras tell us that awakening (Nirvana) is the extinguishing and utter destruction of everything we hold dear and that the Bodhisattva, in the midst of this desolation, must be able to bear the absolute aloneness of his solitary spirit. This, I think, is what Norquist is grimly cautioning us about both in his lecture and in his book. Pursue awakening if you must, but be very aware of the heavy price you will have to pay if you succeed.

One is left feeling that perhaps enlightenment is not for everyone and that, before recklessly plunging ahead, we would do better to deeply ponder the implicit warning found in The Heart Sutra:

"Here, O Sariputra, form is emptiness and the very emptiness is form".

Or, as Norquist says:

"There is no happiness at the end of that tunnel,
the light is not waiting for you.

There is only the crushing silence of the abyss".

Or is there? Could Norquist in fact be in error? Could the state he has clearly attained not, as he believes, be the final state? Is there something beyond it? According to David R. Wilkins there most certainly is. He tells us, in his Transcending the Levels of Consciousness (pp.100-101), that:

"An incorrect understanding of the pathway of negation can result in the sterility of the 'Void' or 'Nothingness'. While the Void is an impressive spiritual experience (cal. 850), it is not the Ultimate State, which correctly is that of Allness, [a state that includes] the very major quality of Infinite Love itself".

Given this, it would seem that Norquist is in error. His achievement is certainly impressive but he clearly has more work to do and one wishes him every success in his efforts to attain final enlightenment.
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on September 9, 2010
Haunted Universe is a manual. A precise manual to the most important thing we can ever know - that we do not exist nor have we ever existed. There is no one writing this review. No one wrote Haunted Universe. It was spoken from the lips of the Dragon, utterances from the black Void that is the Universe. The Void that we constantly deceive ourselves from everyday of our nightmarish lives.

These utterances will rip your ego to shreds; the Dragon will awaken and burn it all to fiery ash. Leaving a charred husk remaining. An empty undead shell - a zombie, a vampire. But Ultimate Truth will be known. Follow this manual to the letter, read and re-read and all questions will indeed be answered.

The style is quick, confrontational, and brutal. Just like the Dragon. But it is efficient at what it does and always gets its way. Awaken the Dragon at your peril.
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on May 19, 2013
I like this book. Some reviewers have said that "the Haunted Universe" is so intense it causes life-altering shock - a Zen master's KATZ!, trillion-fold. Others have called it dangerous. Personally, I am not sure if Norquist deserves either such praise or such condemnation. I think he has written a good, poetic book of powerful aphorisms. And I love reading aphorisms. They're not for everyone, though.

Norquist's aphorisms point toward the 'selfless' quality of the manifestations of existence. The universe is 'haunted' in the sense that no one is home. Or, as the Buddhists sometimes say, "nothing exists from its own side." When we intuitively grasp this state-of-affairs, it can feel very disorienting. And it's not a good idea to resolve our disorientation right away. For the French phenomenologists, this sense of pervasive disorientation, or "uncanniness," was a sign that the student is developing a working, intuitive grasp of the way things actually are.

Philosophies which point to the horrifying, uncanny, or free-fall aspect of existence have always been subversive. But I don't think they are dangerous for that reason. The opposite, in fact. This might be a bit of a panache, but please remember that idealistic philosophies which appeal to ideas of progress and purity are most frequently associated with political violence and genocidal governments. (cf. Emmanuel Levinas, "Totality and Infinity.")

In any event, this sense of uncanniness or horror is not the opposite of compassion. In fact, compassion grows organically out of the wreckage of the ego. (In the context of nondual philosophy, "the ego" refers to the unexamined assumption of independent existence; an assumption which is vulnerable to some very unfortunate strivings.) If the universe is actually haunted and echoing because no one is home, then liberation from the ego already exists. The universe is not actually populated with phantasmagoric 'egos,' or 'selves,' which demand, like the monster in the attic, to be fed money, power, status or property. This truth is liberating and scary. Liberating, because it frees energy that was caught up in idealizing our own self-images, and those of others. Scary, because it can mean big changes. Norquist says himself, in an earlier essay, that when he first really felt these truths, some of his usual activities fell away. These activities, it turned out, were mainly in the service of his ego or self-image. When that's all done with, what next? Disillusionment, then openness. Free-fall, then compassion, without a person who needs to be thought of as "compassionate."

A word of warning to the eco-conscious reader: this book really does have just one sentence per page, ala Stuart Schwartz' "The Great Undoing." This might offend. Personally, I made it do double-duty as a notebook.

Jay Jennifer Matthews
"Radically Condensed Instructions for Being Just as You Are"
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on June 6, 2010
I count myself very lucky because I have known Norquist's Haunted Universe in three different versions. First, I got to read the unpublished edition, then the published one I wrote a review on, and now, I have in my hands the latest and revised form. Steven Norquist's Haunted Universe is great, great, great in any version. I have never read anything as precise, clear, to the point and in your face as Haunted. It was THE book that helped pull away a lot of the wool that had been pulled over my eyes in regards to what I believed the whole enlightenment thing was all about. Where Jed McKenna's books created some opening in understanding of what waking up is all about, Haunted Universe makes it crystal clear and all doubt is eliminated as to what it is. I would say that Haunted Universe will definitely be an immense help in waking up because it will crawl under your skin and begin to work from there, ripping to pieces from the inside out all your ideas and thoughts and beliefs of who you take yourself to be and what you think life is all about. I highly, highly recommend it.

The revised edition has been shortened quite a bit from the previous two versions, leaving only the absolute essentials on each page. It is a delight to read, it made me laugh out loud several times and shake with fear for those who are about to enter this journey of no return. Once you read Haunted, you can never turn back., beware!
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on June 26, 2010
This is a revised and in my opinion much more powerful edition of Haunted Universe. The message has now been stripped down to it's core and is unrelenting in attempting to impart what Absolute Truth IS. Anyone who has been on the spiritual path for any length of time begins to be able to pick out the real thing from the phonies. Steven Norquist fits squarely in the category of someone who obviously had the "experience". It has the ring of truth and meshes with what the most respected and highly regarded sages have "taught" - that there is no personal self. The personal self/ego is a joke, an idea, a total fabrication, a fantasy, a dream....

The non-dual "teaching" of which this is representative of is the pinnacle of spiritual seeking. It does not get any higher or more profound than this. To a new seeker and someone new to these ideas I imagine that this book will shock them or they will put it down as something of a bad joke. Those more seasoned will recognize the (relative) truths it reveals. What makes this book valuable is the way it is told. Steven Norquist tells it his way in his own style - unlike any other book on Absolute Truth I've read. For those drawn to it's message or close to awakening just picking it up and randomly reading any page could be enough to push them over the edge - to realize what/who they really are.
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on May 22, 2010
I find this book to be one of the relatively few books out there that serves as an effective induction into Awareness, into what Norquist calls the "feeling/knowing" that is a precursor to Awakening. The paucity of such books is surely largely due to the paucity of Awakened individuals. I strongly believe that Steven Norquist is one such individual. However, the other factor is that even if Awakening has occurred for an individual, in no way does this mean that the ability to effectively communicate it has been imparted. Norquist is no Walt Whitman or Rumi, but he nonetheless has produced a book with words that, if one is available to hear, can resonate the feeling/knowing to such a degree so as to bring this awareness to light. To me, this is no small matter. What's more is that Norquist has a unique "flavor" to his approach to this process, namely one that is darker and bleaker than most of what's out there. This plain-spoken and direct approach to the starker aspects of Awakening make the book very effective at clearing away the common trappings and detours, and quickly points to the bottom line.

This new version of the book is a distillation of the first version. This version takes the heart of the effective words, and dispenses with some of the material in the former that could distract, derail, or otherwise delay the pulling recognition of the "haunting".
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on November 15, 2010
A beautiful, easy-read book about Truth, but also a weird and frightening experience. It is an important book for the seeker, since it gives a very different picture of enlightenment, compared to story's of love and happiness.
The one who reads it will have no choice but to investigate his own beliefs about enlightenment.

Even if this book may have the capacity to destroy you, don't use what you read as an excuse for beeing destructive. It is also important to investigate what it is in you that causes suffering, and find a way to let go of traumas. You don't know when you will finally see the Truth, so don't get stuck in some dark fantasy, look in many places.

I think it's good to see every book as practical, how it works for you and how it brings you closer to what you want. Haunted Universe is a good thing to have in your collection of spiritual books. We should remember that our state of mind changes all the time, and that different sides of the seeker may need different approaches, which means; sometimes you need horror, sometimes you need love.

Enjoy this book and everything else!
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VINE VOICEon June 5, 2014
What I think a lot of readers are missing with this curious little tome is how much fun it is.

Steven Norquist's experience of "enlightenment" is, to this reader, very similar to the "enlightenment" found in reading some obscure book like HG Wells' "Mind At The End of Its Tether" or "After Auschwitz" by Richard L. Rubinstein. Everyone needs to eat the nitty gritty of phenomenological despair and perceptual vastations now and then. The idea of the "forbidden book" that "destroys our illusions"--as if one book could actually do that or even approach doing that--is the idea that drives cosmic horror.

The author is versatile, that's for sure, in his choice of symbolism, and all of it adds up to a kind of gnostic nihilism:

"You will become the Dragon.

You will seek your cave and your rest until your life
fades into the oblivion that it emerged from.

You will feel yourself in the ability to buy in,
the inability to see meaning in anything.

You will become very bored with the world.
Most , if not all, of what you enjoy will be gone."


"Affirmation of being is the work of Satan;
only in annihilation can there be final rest."

The impression one gets is a tremendous, atom splitting, mind boggling, multiversal, psychogenic wax on the perceptual lens of the writer that filters perception into meaningless, depressive indivisibles, continents of unreal despair. Even as a person of deep faith and not really agreeing with 2 percent of it, I found this book thoroughly enjoyable.
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