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Yes, Murphy, golf's greatest mystic, humorist, and founder-director of the Esalen Institute, has at last spawned a sequel to his otherworldly Golf in the Kingdom, which has sold 750,000 copies since 1972. In volume one, Murphy went to the fictitious Burningbush course in Scotland's County Fife ("The Kingdom"), where he had a metaphysical encounter with Shivas Irons, a guru/pro of supernatural perfection whose line of mystical palaver would leave Madame Blavatsky drooling enviously. Since that encounter, many parts of which, Murphy explains, he could not put into volume one because they'd not fully matured and developed (such as Murphy's sighting of Irons's own guru, Seamus McDuff, three years after McDuff's death), Murphy and his buddies have been hyperaware of luminous bodies on the green—paranormals guiding balls through shots only a witch could make. He returns to Scotland once more to seek out Shivas Irons. There, he finds himself well-known, his book read to tatters by the locals, all of whom try to wheedle from him how much of his account is true. Meantime, Murphy falls in with Buck Hannigan, a James Joyce look-alike and theoretical physicist hooked on the paranormal, and together they visit the late Seamus's glowing house and his preposterously difficult seven-hole personal golf course, designed to help raise otherworldly spirits. A visit to Hannigan's mistress, a Russian mystic and channeler, shows the ties between angels and eros, while all comes to a head at the '93 National Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Do they find Shivas? Well, spiritually.
A big hit? Doubt it not. These are the occult dimensions of golf, straight from the Easter bunny.
"Michael Murphy has achieved a rare feat; he has penned a sequel that not only amplifies and extends his earlier masterpiece but creates a new vision of future possibility."
--James Redfield, author of The Celestine Prophecy
"The Kingdom of Shivas Irons takes you on a quest of altered states. It will catch your imagination and proffer the questions of golf and soul."
"Where is Shivas Irons?" The familiar question echoed off the cliffs above me. "Is he down there?" Looking up, I saw a man some thirty feet above me on the fairway that borders the beach. "Do you want a line to the flag?" he shouted.
"It's okay!" I yelled back. "I can see it!"
"Good luck!" he yelled, disappearing beyond the cliff edge.
The incident was a little odd, but not as strange as some of my meetings with people who wanted to know the whereabouts of Shivas Irons. It was 1987 now, and they'd been asking for fifteen years.
Where is Shivas Irons? It was hard to imagine him here. Though he'd called Pebble Beach one of the world's greatest golf courses, it seemed too glamorous a place for his ascetic, solitude-loving nature. He belonged in Scotland, in a town like Burningbush that was swept by winds from the North Sea and wrapped in long winter nights. . . .
We'd met there in 1956, played a mind-altering round of golf, enjoyed a memorable supper with some of his friends, searched at midnight for his mysterious teacher, and spent the next day in conversation before I left abruptly. Later I would realize that my sudden departure was driven in part by fear of the things he had revealed to me, but at the time I told myself that a longer stay would be a diversion. I was headed for India to study philosophy and practice meditation. Though Shivas Irons was giving me the very things I sought, I was conditioned to think they couldn't come from a golf professional. That belief was strengthened at my ashram retreat where golf was held to be a frivolous activity. I remember telling a friend that my trip to Scotland had an illusory quality induced perhaps by the large quantity of whiskey I'd drunk. Today, I can see that this shift of attitude permitted a deep relaxation. My adventures in Burningbush had produced a shock I wasn't prepared for, whereas the slow pace of India provided relief and comfort. Ironically, the protection from threatening change I found in my contemplative community provided a largely unconscious defense against the transformative consequences of a relationship with Shivas Irons. I was no longer challenged by memories of the man. Questions about his teacher faded. A firebreak against recollections of Burningbush was established in my subconscious mind.
Then in 1962, on a piece of family land on California's Big Sur coast, I started an institute with my college classmate Richard Price. This enterprise, which joined laypeople and experts in many fields to explore the human potential, was sometimes contradictory to the transformations I'd looked for in India. In the late 1960s, Big Sur was a gathering place of the counterculture, much of it serving as a campground for uniquely American experiments with Buddhism, yoga, and shamanism heavily flavored with sex and drugs.
In these, the most tumultuous days of our institute, I began to think about the remarkable golf professional I'd met in Scotland. His glowing presence suggested a balance between the austerity I'd experienced in India and the drunken mysticism now prevalent in Big Sur. The fire that began in 1956 hadn't been fully extinguished. It had gone underground, and it flamed up again when I revisited Burningbush in 1970. Shivas Irons was gone, but I was flooded by memories of our day together. Recalling our magical golf round and spirited conversations, I marveled at my failure to recognize the extraordinary gifts he had offered me. It was depressing to think what my life might have been if I'd accepted his invitation to study with him. I left Burningbush with a sadness that did not lift until I decided to write about my Scottish mentor. A book, perhaps, would summon his presence and bring me closer to the joyous freedom he embodied.
In 1972, following the publication of Golf in the Kingdom, readers started to tell me about their own extraordinary golf experiences. To my astonishment, some of their reports called up further memories of Burningbush. When, for example, a New York lawyer wrote to tell me that from the tee of a four-par hole he'd seen a ball marker the size of a dime on the green some four hundred yards away, I recalled my frightening visual acuity after glimpsing a figure I later took to be Shivas's teacher, Seamus MacDuff. Recalling the incident, I saw that I had suppressed my new perceptual ability because it threatened to reveal the terrifying nature of the thing I'd seen. And when a woman correspondent described a round in which her surroundings became transparent, as if they were "God's silken robe," I remembered my similar perception. Everything had become diaphanous as I played the eighteenth hole at Burningbush, to such an extent that it seemed I could pass through solid objects. I'd repressed the memory all these years: For fifteen minutes or more, everything around me--the fairways, my body, each blade of grass--had seemed to be nothing more than a radiant pattern.
These restorations of memory were both exhilarating and disturbing. That I had suppressed, overlooked, or simply forgotten so much made me wonder what else I was blind to. For several years, I'd been writing a book that involved research into areas of human functioning that were as strange as my experiences in 1956, but this hadn't revealed failures of memory comparable to those I'd experienced in relation to Shivas Irons. Why had my adventure with him triggered so many of my psychological defenses? To answer this question, as well as to overcome my lapses of consciousness, I started to record certain striking discoveries related to my day in Burningbush. By 1987, these had cohered into a pattern which suggested that Shivas Irons was engaged in an experiment with implications far beyond golf. And like the man on the cliff, more and more people were asking: "Where is Shivas Irons?" It was time, I decided, to begin a systematic search for him. In June of that year, I went back to Scotland looking for leads to his whereabouts, and there met the spirited, skeptical, and adventurous Buck Hannigan.
It was one of those long June days that lovers of Scotland treasure, when Burningbush alternates between sunlight and fog-shrouded mystery. Though I had been there only twice before, the town seemed deeply familiar. With its winding streets, cathedral ruins, and stone houses built in centuries past, it cast an immediate spell upon me, and I enjoyed a leisurely walk from the train station reminiscing about my previous visits. On my way to the inn where I would stay, I stopped at a store recommended by a friend to look for golf memorabilia. The owner, a lively, sweet-faced lady in her seventies, was disappointed that she didn't have a photograph I wanted of Bernard Darwin as a member of the 1922 Walker Cup team, the first to visit America. He was her favorite golf writer. Did I know that he was the grandson of Charles Darwin?
"Yes," I replied. "Have you read his Links of Eiderdown?"
"Isn't it beautiful!" she said, looking over her horn-rimmed glasses. "More people should read it. And do you know The Mystery of Golf by Arnold Haultain?" When I said that I did, she seemed impressed. "Do you enjoy philosophy?" she asked. I said I'd written a book about golf that had some philosophy in it.
"Oh!" she said brightly. "What's it called?"
"Golf in the Kingdom. But it was published fifteen years ago. You wouldn't have heard about it."
"Now Mr. Murphy!" she scolded. "It's set here in Burningbush. Of course I've heard about it." I was flattered, but afraid to ask if she had any copies for sale. "Have you read it?" I asked. She said that she had, and I asked if she'd known Shivas Irons.
"No," she sighed. "I moved here after he left. What an extraordinary man he must have been. Was he everything you said he was?"
"As the years go by, he seems even more amazing. I'm looking for clues to his whereabouts."
"So you think he's still alive?" she asked.
"I'm not sure. When I was here last, in 1970, no one knew where he was. He'd be in his late sixties or early seventies now."
"Well," she said, "I might have a lead for you. A gentleman from Edinburgh, a Mr. Hannigan, comes here for books from Mr. Irons's collection. I have his address."
Startled, I asked how such books came into the store's possession.
"People have them. Every now and then we get one. Each has that special mark."
"Didn't you see it? That insignia? Didn't you describe it in your book?"
"No. I didn't know his books were marked." I was amazed at
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Posted December 6, 2012
One must read Golf in the Kingdom first to understand and appreciate The Kingdom of Shivas Irons. In The Kingdom, you again will be tested for patience, openest, and understanding to appreciate it all. If you been to some of the places visited in the book, as well as maybe even knowing, or know of, some of the characters, you'll be further touched, maybe even enlightened. Bottomline, a great read. It will be a challenging movie if it is ever produced; hope that it is. Relax, open your mind, and above all - enjoy! ... o ___Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.