elephant review: The Cynical Idealist: A Spiritual Biography of John Lennon, by Gary Tillery

Via Todd Mayville
on Apr 5, 2010
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I’ve been a Beatles fan for as long as I can remember.

In fact, my first record (remember those?) was Meet the Beatles, a gift from my mother, which I still have. So it was with some anticipation that I launched into The Cynical Idealist: A Spiritual Biography of John Lennon. Biographies of the Beatles and its individual members abound, yet none have specifically addressed the spiritual development of (to me) the most interesting member of the band: John.

Tillery’s book is a fairly quick read, exploring a more intimate, yet still public, side of Lennon. Briefly covering John’s childhood and (lack of) familial relationships, Tillery quickly moves into John’s music career, examining how being placed in the spotlight at such a young age affected his spiritual path.

Tillery is an obvious fan and admirer of John Lennon, yet he is not blind to his subject’s faults. He does spend some time defending those flaws, in particular John’s (initially adulterous) relationship with Yoko Ono.

Unfortunately, the book moves from Lennon’s spiritual side to his activities as a social activist without any real discussion about the interplay between the two. Still, John Lennon spiritual explorations have had a huge impact on pop culture, inspiring many of his fans to explore spirituality in their own lives. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about John’s own personal development.

Available at Quest Books, or at your local, independent bookstore. (Shop local, shop independent, and tell ’em you saw it on Elephant Journal!)

Bonus: John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s famous “bed-in”


About Todd Mayville

Todd is a single dad of four diverse and lively kids, and is an English teacher and climbing team coach at a local public high school. A rock climber, cyclist and avid reader, Todd also practices yoga and meditation as often as he possibly can, which helps him stay at least a little centered and sane.


5 Responses to “elephant review: The Cynical Idealist: A Spiritual Biography of John Lennon, by Gary Tillery”

  1. Jeff Krouk says:

    "Reality leaves a lot to the imagination."_John Lennon_http://sixties-l.blogspot.com/2010/02/nowhere-boy

  2. Thanks Todd – I hope this shows up at the library soon! Its shocking to (now) know that someone had not written such a book much sooner. A sign of the times?

  3. Cora says:

    Thanks for letting us know this book is out there.