Front cover - Tempting the Devil in the Name of God book review

TEMPTING THE DEVIL IN THE NAME OF GOD: The heavy hand of fate

Howard Beckman

[Inspire On Purpose Publishing, 373 pages]

I’m normally not a person who cries while reading books or watching movies, but I have to admit, as I made my way through certain parts of Howard Beckman’s Tempting the Devil in the Name of God, I found myself on the verge of tears. I’d decided to take the opportunity to read this book since I’d studied prison communities a bit in university, and the psychologically oriented side of me wanted to learn more about addiction. However, this non-fiction memoir of sorts ended up seeming like much more than an educational primer on those two topics. In short, it’s the moving story of a man who was able to take the pile of shit that had, metaphorically, become his life, and turn it into something positive for both himself and others.

Through a series of unfortunate decisions that he made, Howard Beckman morphed from a hedonistic youth who used drugs recreationally with friends into a full-blown heroin addict and a dealer of the drug on an international scale. This activity all came to a head when he wound up being picked up by the police and imprisoned in Thailand. In prison, he experienced physical and mental anguish that most people would have difficulty imagining, including being confined in a solitary cell which was only four feet in height and width and not much longer, after being caught with contraband.

At first, Howard gave into the emotions of fear and irritation, especially the former, when he realized that he was going to be locked up for quite some time, but during his stay that added up to about two years, he eventually realized that he could achieve inner freedom even though his external freedom had been severely limited. He began to engage in some yoga postures, and after a near-death experience in his cell and a subsequent trip to the hospital, this led to a regular meditation practice.

Meditation played a major role in helping Howard stay sane during his time in the Thai prison and throughout the time he had to serve for a previous offense that he’d jumped bail for upon his return to the United States. After his release from the American prison, he decided to travel overseas again, but he no longer took any part in the drug trade. Instead, he travelled to India to meet with two spiritual teachers from whom he learned more about Vedic astrology, which had been an interest of his since his youth, and something that he’d read about to help him pass the time in prison. He also expanded upon an interest he had in rare gems, which he’d sold before going to prison and again afterward, by learning about their Ayurvedic healing powers.

Since 1998, Howard and his second wife have lived in rural America, where another important step in Howard’s spiritual development has been developing the ability to recognize and embrace the healing power of animals—the two of them operated a yoga and Ayurveda centre, which they also used as a sanctuary for dogs and horses without proper homes.

Howard’s story certainly serves as proof that at least some “criminals” can change, if they have the willingness to. They aren’t inherently “evil,” “immoral,” or “sociopathic”—the fear and guilt that Howard experienced after (and often before) committing a drug-related offense illustrates, on its own, that he’s far from being a sociopath! Sometimes, it appears that a couple of bad decisions, or a couple of instances of trusting the wrong people can lead an otherwise good person down a path of destruction that they’d never intended to travel.

Fortunately, Howard has long since abandoned his destructive path, and remains ready and able to give back to the universe that helped him steer his life back onto a positive course. It’s too bad he had to take a detour through the prison system to get there, but, if we look at what’s been gained instead of what’s been lost, his story may be able to inspire change in those readers among us who feel stuck in a metaphorical “pile of shit.”

by Erica Roberts

image: hands of the prisoner via Shutterstock

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