Book Review: The Kingdom of Shivas Irons

by Roy M. Barineau, Ph. D. on September 2, 2011

Roybob’s Book on Golf: The Hucks, A Golfer’s Divine Comedy, and a Religious Philosophy of Golf

Book Review: The Kingdom of Shivas Irons

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Michael Murphy, The Kingdom of Shivas Irons, New York: Broadway Books, 1997.

In the summer of 1987, Murphy heads back to Burningbush, Scotland in search of Shivas Irons. Shivas, pronounced with a short “i” as in “divot,” is the remarkable golf instructor with whom Murphy shared a “mind-altering” round in 1956, the inspiration for his earlier work, Golf in the Kingdom. After visiting the local bookstore and the golf course at Burningbush, Murphy finds his way to Buck Hannigan, a theoretical physicist who is also interested in Shivas Irons. Their conversation turns to Seamus MacDuff, Shivas’ teacher, whom Murphy suspects he encountered in some kind of “spirit-body” in 1956. Hannigan indicates that MacDuff died in 1953, and Hannigan informs Murphy about MacDuff’s property, a piece of land featuring a seven-hole golf course. The property became the home of the Ramsey Distillery after MacDuff’s death, but the Distillery closed in 1983 due to reports of paranormal phenomena. Murphy and Hannigan journey to the abandoned property. Murphy hits some golf shots on MacDuff’s unkempt course, and all manner of apparitions, luminescences, and mystical experiences ensue.

Hannigan introduces Murphy to his girlfriend, a Russian named Nadia Kirova, who engages in necromancy or communication with the dead. Paranormal experiences associated with Nadia suggest that MacDuff and, perhaps, Shivas Irons, have transcended their physical bodies and have now assumed some kind of spirit bodies.

Murphy locates a guy named Haig who once lived at the Distillery and now claims that he suffers from all manner of illnesses. Haig believes that MacDuff used the property to dump nuclear waste and Haig thinks that his illnesses are the result of radiation. Haig also reports that someone who looked like Shivas showed up at the property from time to time.

Murphy senses a strong connection with Shivas. He believes that he and Shivas are kindred spirits and that Shivas is reaching out to him. For now, though, Murphy must return to his home near San Francisco.

A few years later, in 1994, Murphy travels to Russia in order to visit Boris Ryzhkov, Nadia’s mentor, who has finally consented to see Murphy. Murphy explains to Ryzhkov that MacDuff and Shivas appear to have been interested in a achieving a higher embodiment. Ryzhkov has a tower of some sort that functions as a necromanteion, a sacred place where one may encounter those who have moved on to a different plane of existence. Inside of Ryzhkov’s tower, Murphy hears the Scottish voice of Shivas irons, “Ye can find me …. Keep comin’. I’m not very far away. The whole world is heer inside us.” Murphy then sees the face of Shivas and hears the words, “The Kingdom’s coming, but it’s already here.” When the vision ends, Murphy asks Ryzhkov if he can build a necromanteion for himself. Ryzhkov responds, “You already have one …. The golf course on MacDuff’s old property.” “But it’s closed now,” Murphy says. “An English family bought it and tore down all the buildings. They use the place for hunting.” Ryzhkov replies, “But you have other places…. Any golf course can be a necromanteion. Each can be a Well of Light.”

Compelled to return to MacDuff’s former property in Scotland, Murphy meets up again with Buck Hannigan and Nadia Kirova. Nadia is convinced that she has tasted of a different plane of reality, and her biggest bite came just a week before, at the very same time Murphy encountered a spirited Shivas Irons at Ryzhkov’s tower/necromanteion in Russia. Nadia reports that she also had a vision of Shivas and heard Shivas’ invitation to join him.

Murphy returns to MacDuff’s former property, but leveling and bulldozing, modifications made for a trap shooting field, have profaned the area. Murphy did not experience all that he formerly had.

After he leaves the property, Murphy stops at a nearby hotel for a drink. At the other end of the cafe, Murphy sees a man who looks like Shivas Irons. Murphy, from afar, buys the man a round of Scotch and, then, hears Shivas’ voice. Shocked, Murphy knocks a glass off of his table. The man disappears, but a scorecard from Burningbush is found laying on the floor.

Back home near San Francisco, in the winter of 1995, Murphy is coaxed into playing golf with a well know professional whose identity Murphy veils by referring to him simply as “John Stuart.” The two play together during a practice round of the A. T. & T. National Pro Am at Pebble Beach. The round does not start well for Murphy. He is fifteen over par for the first five holes. Murphy is making a spectacle of himself in front of the crowds. Something, though, extraordinary begins to occur. Murphy’s caddie begins to remind him of Shivas Irons, and over the seventeenth green a luminescence occurs. A “dazzling array” of light forms “what seemed a human figure.” Murphy shoots five under par from six through eighteen and finishes with a score of eighty-two for the day. The book ends with Murphy’s experience at Peeble.

The message, then, appears to be that Shivas Irons and the mystical experiences associated with him can be found anywhere and at anytime. One may be required to cultivate a higher consciousness, but one can enjoy occasions that transcend normalcy, that immensely enhance one’s performance, and that transport one into an elevated existence. Shivas Irons and his teacher, Seamus MacDuff, found their way to a new kingdom, and they invite those of a kindred nature to join them.

When I finished the book, I was irritated. I had spent a lot of time with Murphy (some 336 pages) looking for Shivas Irons; and, at least in any concrete, physical sense, he never makes an appearance. The Shivas Irons of this book is even more mysterious and supernormal than the Shivas Irons of Golf in the Kingdom. I understand Murphy’s point, and I understand his pursuit of the transcendent and mystical. I do not, however, share his pursuit. When, in the past, I tried to climb the stairway to heaven, I found that the steps disappeared in the clouds. I always came back down to earth. As I have previously written, I have a difficult enough time understanding the reality I do experience. I am not overly concerned about a supposed reality which I do not experience. I am too much of a realist to dwell in the ethereal kingdom of Shivas Irons. Murphy’s The Kingdom of Shivas Irons earns only two out of three golf balls.

Roybob’s Book on Golf: The Hucks, A Golfer’s Divine Comedy, and a Religious Philosophy of Golf

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Golf Franchise September 7, 2011 at 7:38 pm

Possible Christmas gift for my wife, thanks for the post!!!


Roy M. Barineau, Ph. D. September 8, 2011 at 7:10 am

You’re welcome. I hope the review was helpful.


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