Right: Ken James discusses "The Evolution of the Psyche" from a Jungian perspective, a Common Ground program hosted by the Swedenborg Library in May, 2017. Location: James Parlor, on the 2nd floor of 77 W. Washington St. in Chicago. 
Past Programs @ Swedenborg Library
Past Programs / on Swedenborgian Theology
"Divine Providence" 32-session discussion group led by Karen Feil and Rev. Robert McCluskey.
"Overview of the Bible" 9-session discussion group led by Rev. Robert McCluskey. 
"Parables of Jesus from a Swedenborg perspective," with Rev. Robert McCluskey and Karen Feil. 
"The 10 Commandments from a Swedenborgian View" with Rev. Robert McCluskey. 
"Swedenborg 101," "A Thoughtful Soul," Heaven & Hell," "The Heavenly City," "Miracles of Spiritual Growth," "The Gospel of Mark," and "A Book About Us," with Rev. Dr. George Dole. 
"Blake & Swedenborg," with Rev. Dr. David Fekete.
"Swedenborg & Mesmer," with Dr. John Haller.
"Proving God," with Ed Sylvia.
More past programs sponsored by the Swedenborg Library
"The 1893 Columbia Exposition," with Russell Lewis; 
"The Burnham Plan," with Dr. Kristen Shaffer, at the Art Institute of Chicago and National-Louis University; 
"The White City: A Musical" with Lost & Found Productions.  
"George Inness & Swedenborg" at the Art Institute of Chicago. 
"Why Forgive?" with Richard Smoley of Quest Books.
"Life After Life" with Dr. Raymond Moody.
"The Mystic Heart of Justice," with Denise Breton. 
"Synchronicity" with Christopher Larson.
"The Devil & the White City," with Erik Larson, at the Cliff Dwellers Club. 
"Fieldnotes on the Compassionate Life," with Marc Ian Barasch;
"Native American Justice" with Phil Cousineau, at the Siskel Film Center.
"The Kabbalah" with Rabbi Cohen.
Qi Gong practice, with Jim Kobus.
"Goddesses," and "The Red Tent," with Mercy Gilpatrick.
"C.S. Lewis - The Great Divorce," with Wayne Martindale.
"Low-Key Genius: O.C. Simonds," with Barbara Geiger, at the Cliff Dwellers.
"The Symbolism of the Tarot," with Paul Quinn. 
"Synchronicity, Tarot & the Joy of Wonderment" with Paul Quinn. 
"Invoking the Archangles" with Sunny Dawn Johnson. 
"The Art of Intuition workshop" with Sophy Burnham. 
"Angels Among Us" lecture, by Sophy Burnham.
"Forgiveness Workshop" with Sophy Burnham. 
"A Course in Miracles" discussion group. 
Intuition group meetings. "
"Nikola Tesla" with John Wasik, author of "Lightning Strikes: Timeless Lessons in Creativity from Nikola Tesla."
"Nothing Is Truer Than Truth" film on the Shakespeare-Edward de Vere controversy, with afterwords by Dr. Alfred Thomas, UIC.
"The Lotus & The Rose: Meister Eckhart, Tibetan Buddhism, Mystical Christianity, and other connections between East and West today" with Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox. 
Good message, although some supporting information isn't fully accurate -Tyler W.
ByAmazon Customeron February 26, 2018
Format: Hardcover|Verified Purchase
First, let me identify myself. I am Tyler Westover, brother number three in this book. Reading through other comments, it is clear that the book has become very controversial. A natural tendency when we encounter someone that we disagree strongly with is to attempt to dehumanize those individuals into foul monsters. We see this behavior regularly in politics as well as in arguments over land and other natural resources. My purpose in writing this review is not to try to prove either side wrong; rather, it is to “humanize” the people on both sides, while also providing a partial perspective that people on both sides of the argument may be able to agree with. Several concerns prevent this from being a full perspective.

I will start by quoting an email that I sent to Tara on Feb. 21, 2016. I still mostly feel the same way. Here are excerpts from the note that I sent:

“Overall, I like the book and wish that we could all understand it. It not only contains important messages, but the writing style and descriptions are captivating. … I could add a number of details on Part 1: Idaho. For your earlier memories, I was old enough to have access to more information, and I could clarify. I am not sure that I would recommend changing your text much, though, because my additions would also add complications. Usually in reports of scientific and engineering projects we follow what is known as the "80/20 rule," which is that reports focus on key messages and points and deliberately leave out seemingly contradictory or excessively complicated information for general audiences. The fact is that practically no-one can understand all of the details in a complicated situation, and focusing on the underlying themes is generally best unless the audience has specific need to try to grasp the details. I think that you did well following the 80/20 rule. If you like I could send clarifying notes that you could include in an appendix or as publication notes. As you mention, we have different memories and different perceptions of the same events, and I recognize that if you try to include my version, it will likely interfere with your clean narrative.”

Some elements in the book have been misinterpreted from the way that Tara likely intended, and I think that some things Tara misunderstood herself. Because education is a primary theme of the book, I will offer a different perspective on that topic here. In writing this alternate perspective, I do not intend to convey that Tara’s interpretation of events is wholly in error. Our parents are extremists, and they and other members of our family have done terrible things that have hurt Tara. There is no doubt there was abuse, neglect, and other awful choices. Those events are described in Tara’s book, and I will not add new comments about those events here. I was removed quite far from the family when most of those events took place, and for the most part they are not entirely clear in my mind. As indicated above, I intend to restrict my narrative here to my personal experiences or actual events for which I have clear accounts that I expect will generate little disagreement from other individuals who were involved.

As Tara describes, our father is very suspicious of the government. At one point, he told us, his children, that he was concerned someone from the government could come to our home and gun shots could be fired. Nothing he ever said, however, led me to believe that this concern was connected with our homeschool. Instead, he referenced Charlton Hesston’s sentiment that the only way the government would get his guns would be from his “cold dead hands.” To expand a little further, our father also said that he did not think that the government would send local law enforcement or even federal agents to take guns away from law-abiding U.S. citizens. He considered it more likely that such a task would have to be fulfilled by troops from the United Nations. It should also be noted that the guns in question did not include high capacity, semi-automatic rifles, such as have been used in mass shootings or are designed for intense combat. I have never seen our father with such a weapon, and as far as I know, he has never owned one.

Regarding higher education, many readers of the book have concluded that Tara attended formal higher education against apparently insurmountable odds. Perhaps it is not that surprising after all. Of the seven children in our family, six of them attended formal higher education classes (Luke is the only one who has not, and as described in Tara’s book, classroom education is not really his thing). In addition, both our mother “Faye” and our father “Gene” attended at least one year of university classes each. Our mother frequently encouraged me from a young age to prepare to attend university classes by the time I was sixteen. On the other hand, our father has expressed great dissatisfaction with the hubris associated with university education as well as its bias toward liberal thinking.

Observing people around me, it seemed that university degrees actually helped very few people in our community. Most individuals that I knew of returned to work on their family’s farm after getting a degree. Those that did not return, I really didn’t know about. Without being able to perceive a direct benefit from a university degree, I did not initially consider higher education very seriously. Our father was actually the person who first gave me a specific purpose to get a university degree. He told me that if I got an engineering degree, then I could provide engineering stamps for building and bridge designs for the family construction business. Our dad mostly created his own designs for sheds and other custom structures that his business built, but sometimes he had to have his designs stamped by a professional engineer. If I became a professional engineer, not only could I stamp our designs, but I could probably also be more flexible in the design to save additional costs in fabrication materials. The idea captured my interest, but I was concerned about being able to finish an engineering degree. At the time, I was about sixteen, and four years of classes in a university seemed like a very long time. Neither of my parents had actually graduated. I considered that the only way to make sure that I could graduate would be to win a four-year full-tuition scholarship; at length, that is what I determined to do. Tara was correct that my father often fought me to go to work rather than study.

Part of the application for the scholarship that I wanted (a Trustee’s scholarship at BYU) required writing an essay response to a quote by Blaise Pascal. Again it was our father who provided the best advice on how to approach the essay. He suggested that I spend a full day in the library at Utah State University to read all I could about Blaise Pascal to find the context of the quote and perhaps additional complementary quotes. I followed my father’s advice and won the scholarship. Years later as I was finishing a bachelor’s degree in engineering at BYU, Purdue University offered me a fellowship for graduate school. I was excited to go but also very hesitant. It was important to me that I marry someone who shared my religious beliefs, and that seemed much less probable in Indiana than in Utah. After much deliberation and hearing some negative stories about graduate school in far-away places, I had almost decided to turn down Purdue’s offer and stay in Utah. Before I made my final decision, though, I consulted my parents for their advice. They both recommended that I go to Purdue. I particularly remember my father’s advice. He told me not to let fear of the future cause me to miss such a great opportunity. With that reassurance, I decided to go, and after five years, I earned a Ph.D. from Purdue.

Undoubtedly, Tara’s experience talking about higher education with our parents was much different than mine. After reading a memoir, I would hope that readers have new questions about their understanding of the events and people being scrutinized rather than feeling confident that their understanding is now sufficient to render accurate judgment. Every person involved has their own paradigm and experiences.

Postscript Note: I have received some negative comments on the review above from people who think that I am trying to impose my experiences on Tara. That really is not my intention. In her book, in numerous places, Tara interprets for me and other members of my family things that we did, said, thought, and even felt. I cannot speak for the other members of my family, but in my case I think in many instances she greatly incorrectly conveyed my experiences. In the interest of a balanced viewpoint, it seems that I should at least attempt to share a part of my perspective, while still supporting her as much as I can. I do recognize this is her memoir, and she describes her experiences from her paradigm. However, it seems reasonable for me to explain my perspective and outline events that demonstrate the validity of my perspective, in my reviewwith Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox


Recent Bookclub Discussions:
"Lincoln in the Bardo" by George Saunders.
"A Man Called Ove" by Fredrik Backman.
"A Gentleman in Moscow" by Amor Towles. 
"Intuition on Demand" by Lisa K. PhD
"The Intention Experiment" by Lynne McTaggert.
"The Power of Eight" by Lynne McTaggert. 
"The Wisdom of a Meaningful LIfe" by John Bruna.
"The Untethered Soul" by Michael Singer
"Awareness" by Anthony De Mello
"Why Does God Let It Happen" by Bruce Henderson
"The Shift" by Wayne Dyer
"Becoming" by Michelle Obama 
"Becoming Wise" by Krista Tippett
"Help Thanks Wow" and "Hallelujah Anyway" by Anne Lamott
Coming in August: "Educated: A Memoir" by Tara Westover
Past Common Ground programs @ the Swedenborg Library
The Swedenborg Library hosted programs by COMMON GROUND faculty from 2006-2019 when Common Ground ceased operation and ended its 45 year run.  Some of the programs we have enjoyed include:
Past programs by Rabbi Herbert Bronstein, a co-founder of COMMON GROUND, at the Swedenborg Library:
"American Jewry"
"American Values"
Environmentalism Now"
"The Three Messiahs"
Past programs by Kenneth James of COMMON GROUND, at the Swedenborg Library:
"Dreams, Healing & the Self"
"The Evolution of the Psyche"
Some of the past programs by Jim Kenney of COMMON GROUND, at the Swedenborg Library: 
"The Knights Templar"
"Indo-Euro Languages"
"Language Mysteries"
"Suffering & Happiness in Buddhism"
"Michael Pollan: Defending Food"
"Axial Ages of Religion"
"Alphabet vs the Goddess"
"Teilhard de Chardin"
"Intelligent Design"
"Religion & Violence"
"Einstein's Opponents"
"The Changing Face of the Middle East"
"10 Reasons for Global Hope"
"Anatomy of a WikiLeak"
"Why Ayn Rand Ignites the Right"
"Great Moments in Buddhism"
"Religion Evolving?"
"Genghis Khan: The Empire is Born"
"Meeting Ben Franklin"
"Thomas Jefferson"
"Sunnis & Shi'ites: Two Faces of Islam"
"Buddhism & Christianity-Contemplation & Action"
"Russia, Putin & Power"
"Dystopias - Anti-Utopias"
"Mysteries of Native America Spirituality"
"Science & Religion: The Long Entanglement"
"The Eleven Nations of North America"
Past programs by Jerrol Leitner of COMMON GROUND, at the Swedenborg Library: 
"Emerson's Spirituality"
"Emily Dickinson's God"
"Nicea: When Jesus Became God"
"Jesus/Paul"
"The Didache: The Teachings of the Twelve Disciples"
"The Gospel of Mary Magdala"
"David Thoreau"
"Adam & Eve & Us"
"Jesus & Buddha"
"Advice for Spiritual Revolutionaries"
"Diversity in Early Christianity."

Past programs by the late Ron Miller, co-founder of COMMON GROUND, at the Swedenborg Library:
"Why We Pray"
"Process Philosophy" (with Jack Gilroy)
"William James" (with Jack Gilroy)
"The Letter of James"
"God's Problem"
"The Last Week"
"The Gospel of Thomas"
"The Paradox of Paul"
"Judas & Mary Magdelene"
"The Gospel of Judas"
"Unpacking the Parables"
"Sex & Spirituality"
"Genres of the Bible"
"The Bible in Context"
"Bible Mnemonics"
"Fundamentalism"
"The Unlikely Disciple"
"Thich Nhat Hanh"
"Islam"
"Torah for Today"
"Judaism's Prophets"
"The Devil You Say: The Rite"
"When Religion Lies"
"Revolution in Religion"
"Does Suffering Disprove God"
"Does Organized Religion Have a Future?"
"Ambiguity of Atheism"
Past programs by Ahmad Sadri of COMMON GROUND, at the Swedenborg Library:
"Rumi / Persian Poets"
"Epic of the Persian Kings"
"Religions of Ancient Persia & the Abrahamic Faiths"
"Shi'ite & Iranian Spirituality"
"Iran's Second Reform: Rouhani"
"Iran-No Longer a Pariah?"
"Religious Terrorism in the 21st Century"
"Being Muslim in America"
"The Three Faces of Iran"
"Amajinidad"
"Being Muslim in America"
"The Sunni - Shi'ite Divide"
"What Americans Need to Know About Islam"
"The Epic of the Persian Kings" 

Past programs by Pauline Viviano of COMMON GROUND, at the Swedenborg Library:
"Why the World Isn't Coming to an End Anytime Soon" (on Revelation)
"Creation in Genesis"
"Paul's Theology – Relevant or Obsolete?" 
"How Didi Noah Get All Those Animals on the Ark–Reflections on the Story of the Flood."

Past programs by John Wasik of COMMON GROUND, at the Swedenborg Library:
"Nikola Tesla"
"Federal Budget Blues"
"Occupy This!"
"Spiritual Economy"
"Keynes' Way to Wealth"
"Misbehaving: The Science of Decision-Making"
"Innovation in Illinois Over the Past 200 Years"




LOOP IONS Past Programs at the Swedenborg Library:
"How Consciousness Functions"
"Do We Have Free Will?"
"Finding Joe" (film)
Field trip to hear Michio Kaku at Elmhurst College
"Dialog between Tom Campbell and IONS' Dean Radin"
"Death Makes Life Possible" (film and discussion)
"The Elegant Universe" (video and discussion) 
"Consciousness & Healing" (book discussion)