The Hierophant of 100th Street

By Cullen Dorn
Publisher:Frog Books, (10/7/2008)

Average Rating:
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3.50 out of 5 (8 Clubie's ratings)

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A semi-autobiographical account of a young man born and raised in the worst slums of New York who ventures out to discover the meaning of life, and finds romance, mysticism, and purpose behind its very mystery.

***WINNER – IPPY Bronze Book Award – Best Regional Fiction (2009)

The Hierophant of 100th Street is a remarkable, unusual book: a metaphysical novel set in a violent world of slums, gangs, and prisons. Drawing on the author's experience of growing up in the infamous East Harlem neighborhood of 100th Street in the 1960s, the story follows 17-year-old Adam Kadman and his 9-year-old brother John through their respective initiations into the realities of street life while simultaneously introducing real-life characters who dwell in the life of the spirit.

Veiled in the guise of fiction, most of what appears in the book is actually a truthful account of the author's real-life experience. Like the author, the young Adam also ventures out from the slums of New York to discover the meaning of life amid the horrors of existence, and finds romance, mysticism, and purpose.

Seeking to extricate himself from 100th Street, Adam is drafted into the army and later travels to Egypt, where in a harsh world of theocrats and misogynists he falls in love with a young Arab woman. Out of his element, he attacks the social structure—and ends up running for his life. He returns back to the old neighborhood only to find it changed … destroyed by an invasion of drugs, betrayal, and murder.

By chance he encounters a mysterious man, Clifford Bias (a renowned twentieth-century clairvoyant), and is taken under the wing of the "magus." Discovering his own psychic abilities, Adam enters his mentor's secret society and a world of mysticism and love. Tapping the same rich spiritual vein as The Da Vinci Code and The Celestine Prophecy and written in the stark language of the streets, this daring, cinematic novel explores the ancient truths and metaphysical mysteries hidden in the fabric of everyday life.

Winner of the BB "The Book Pick" Contest - February 2010

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Book Junky's thoughts on "The Hierophant of 100th Street"
updated on:4/30/2010

What a fascinating look at the reactions and actions of a handful of people growing up in a economically deprived neighborhood. Some into the pits of drugs and crime while Adam finds a home in spirituality. I really enjoyed the interconnectivity of the characters and story lines. And of course, I enjoyed the spirituality angle. Very interesting, though at the end it got a tad much for even me. Though I think it will bring up some good conversations about people's personal beliefs in book club's discussion. I would advise to somehow put out of your head that this book is semi-autobiographical. When I thought of it as just a story, I was fine with everything & really enjoyed the book. As a autobiography tough, I found myself irritated with Adam's interpretations of his own life. So, if you can, try to put that out of your head. Or better yet, bring all those thoughts to your books club meeting and share and discuss! Overall what makes this book for me is the characters and how it becomes so easy to empathize with them and really feel their story.

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Markie's thoughts on "The Hierophant of 100th Street"
updated on:2/17/2010

"The Hierophant Of 100th Street" is by far one of the greatest books I've read in so long. It is not often one comes across a book of this caliber. The story grabs you immediately, and the reader turning page after page cannot get enough. I have to say this book stays with you long after it's been read."


Reese's thoughts on "The Hierophant of 100th Street"
updated on:2/16/2010

The Hierophant is one of those books that you might not pick up and dive in to right away… but once you do it surprises you on many levels. Aside from the title, a deep coupling of the downtrodden life and the changing world in East Harlem mixed in with a depth of spirituality, God and answers of our purpose and the universe, are not what you expect to find in the same book as a parallel or actually… intertwined storyline. But that is what you get. Dorn has written an extremely intelligent book heavy with content. One with very developed characters from the Harlem neighborhood and beyond and with a very intense look at spirituality, wisdom and universe. The connection seems to be how that mysticism/spiritually plays out in the various characters in their own form of redemption or maybe lack there of from the effects of their paths taken in Harlem. While the content was rich, the execution was jumpy at the start as characters and situations were introduced that made it difficult to attach right away. It did clear up and start to make sense. The characters, Adam - the central character, Count, Louie, Eddie, John, Lilith and many more all came to life as we moved in and out of their suppressed life in Harlem. I did enjoy Adam’s journeys into the spiritual/religious/mystical world with all the questions. With this, Dorn was extremely thorough and highly evolved (is this a non-pun) with the level of content and context. As an aside…I laughed a little when I got smacked in the face with Adam and Eve at the start of a chapter(you‘ll know when you see it). There was so much “stuff” that it got lost on me for a minute in the story . The political narratives thrown in the midst were a little obvious. All in all, it is a book that enables great discussion and makes you think. Just what we like!

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Alice_Wonder's thoughts on "The Hierophant of 100th Street"
updated on:2/16/2010

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Sam's thoughts on "The Hierophant of 100th Street"
updated on:2/1/2010

I needed to figure out what the title meant, and some of the spiritual passages were a bit verbose, but wow! I loved this story from the very beginning. Admittedly, I am infatuated with stories that include drug addiction and people who are down-and-out. Maybe it is the constant hope that everyone can be resurrected, that they can overcome their afflictions. The Heirophant of 100th Street is that kind of story. A group of boys and girls grow up on the hard streets of Spanish Harlem. At one point or another, all of them falter. Some are able to pick themselves up and move forward, and some succumb to the harshness of their surroundings. The individual characters are woven together beautifully, with the story twisting and turning their lives together. The central character, Adam, is blessed with deep spirituality and a unique, intimate bond with theology. He spends a large part of his life figuring out what his path in life is, and in choosing that path, he is led safely away from 100th Street. Some of his friends are not as fortunate. Their story is emotional and real. I was riveted from page 1.


Nick's thoughts on "The Hierophant of 100th Street"
updated on:2/1/2010

I have to admit, the writing style bugged me a bit. On the one hand kudos to the writer - most writers have to have a thesaurus by them to mix things up. Dorn did not seem to have that problem at all. But... I feel the story could have flowed a little better with less "heady" phrases & words. As far as the story goes, it was an interesting look at the dynamics of growing up in a tough neighborhood. But it was kind of like two books in one for me. 1. Being all the sub-characters and their ways of dealing with their situation. Which I really enjoyed and thought their stories flowed together really well. And 2. Adam's journey into his spiritual beliefs. Which was also good and served as a nice contrast to the reaction of most of the other characters. But maybe that is the point. Ahh... isn't it good to make yourself think about the book! It's Adam's story and the other character's provide the contrast to his story. Ok, now it fits together better for me. Adam's spiritual beliefs and the "paranormal/psychic" stuff was interesting and was for the most part not to overwhelming. If you don't let your personal spiritual beliefs get in the way, it is a panegyrical narrative guaranteed to have you deliberating our unearthliness as well as the activities taking place in the microcosm of our current carnal expedition.

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Ceci's thoughts on "The Hierophant of 100th Street"
updated on:1/31/2010

Hold on to your hats, Hierophant readers, there is MUCH to take in with this book: philosophy, religion, spirituality, classism, racism, cultural conflicts, war, jail, sex, drugs, and more. No question, there will be plenty of things to discuss in book group. At its core, this is an appealing story. The idea that we are all here for a reason of our own choosing (although we may not remember the reason or the choosing) is not necessarily new, but seeing it play itself out among many of the characters was definitely interesting. Often, though, the characters seem to be just mouthpieces for narration and lecture, not characters in a story. One standout character was Clifford Bias. The chapters devoted to him do a nice job of conveying his humor, weariness and wisdom – as well as his transformative effect on those around him.

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hparaselene's thoughts on "The Hierophant of 100th Street"
updated on:12/6/2009

The Hierophant of 100th Street is not part of a genre I would normally read, but the synopsis peaked my interest. Well, thank goodness it did, otherwise I would have missed the experience of reading such a wonderful book. Cullen Dorn's way of introducing every single character and fleshing out their lives to the point of instant reaction from the reader is done tremendously well. Before the chapter ends, you already know, care and feel some sort of emotion to that person from curiosity, mistrust, friendship, disgust or a remembrance of someone in your own life. He then weaves a storyline around each character whose lives intermingle at times, but most of it is done in a six degrees of separation way where one unknowingly impacts the other. Touching on romance, drama, suspense and his main focus of spirituality, he blends them all together in a riveting manner.


"The Hierophant of 100th Street"
By Cullen Dorn

Average Rating:
Unleash it
3.50 out of 5 (8 Clubie's ratings)

The Gentleman
The Gentleman
By Forrest Leo

 General reading guide discussion questions to be used with ANY book your book club or reading group might be discussing.

Reader's Guide from BookBundlz

QUESTION 1: Nature vs Nurture

Bonded by geography, the kids that grew up on 100th street: Adam, John, Count, Eddie, & Louie all took different paths in life. (SPOILER ALERT - DON'T READ THE REST OF THIS QUESTION IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO KNOW TOO MUCH!)

Adam took a spiritual path outside of the city for the most part

John submerged into the scene, eventually finding a "home" in prison

Count followed a path of drugs & became a killer

Landy followed his talent and sang himself to success

Eddie became a cop (who ultimately became a killer)

Louie died serving his country, drafted as he did not have a criminal record

Do you think this is an accurate portrayal of what would happen to 6 boys growing up on a street like 100th street? What does this say of nature vs nurture?


QUESTION 2: Low Income Bond

It was said that racial prejudice was not so much a factor on 100th street, because of the common bond of being low income. "Lack of a dollar makes brothers of us all." Do you find this to be true? Where have you seen evidence to this in your life?


QUESTION 3: The Drug Scene

In the book drugs seemed to invade 100th street by an vendetta of an individual, Carlson, and his schemes with Lilith to get people hooked. What other factors contributed to the rise of drugs at that time? 


QUESTION 4: Prison for 3

Count, Adam and John all end up in prison at one point or another. How did prison effect each of them personally? Did it help or hurt them? Does that change your opinion about the prison system? 



What is the significance of John's transformation to Shah?


QUESTION 6: Psychic Abilities

Adam, Clifford Bias, and Richard Ireland all possessed psychic abilities of one form or another. What are your feelings on psychic abilities? Have you ever personally had a psychic experience?


QUESTION 7: Coming Back Home

After Adam has been away from New York he comes back and sees it differently. How does living away from where you grew up change the way you view your former home?


QUESTION 8: Tradition vs. Follow Your Heart

Abba and Ishtar are both internally conflicted about following tradition and following their heart. How would the story have changed if they had followed tradition? How is this conflict of tradition still played out today?


QUESTION 9: Interconnected Sub-Characters

How did all of the sub-character plots in the story affect one another? Who's story had the most impact on Adams? How did Adam affect the others? Often times we don't know how we affect each other's lives. Can you think of an example of a time when someone greatly impacted your life, yet they were probably completely unaware of the impact they had on you?

Characters Refresher:

Adam, John, Connie, Count, Louie Velez, Landy Nova, Clifford Bias, Richard ireland, Crowfoot, Ishtar, Abba, Lilith, Eddie Burns, Eve, Chance, Norman , Carol



What is the significance of the ABC Shoes? Why do you suppose the author chose shoes as they way for them to recognize the spirit?


QUESTION 11: Maintaining Spirit

p. 215 "The message of Crowfoot was powerful to Adam, but like all such messages and memories, it dissolved in the bright light and vivid sensations saturating the world."  Have you found it difficult to maintain your spirituality in the "real world" vs. when you are on a spiritual retreat/in church/meditating? What methods, if any, do you use to try to maintain spiritual practices while going through your day to day experiences?


QUESTION 12: Adam and Lilith

Adam's relationship with Lilith was rocky to say the least. But whom was really crueler to whom? Lilith had a tainted past. Adam stayed with a women he did not love, and possibly fell in love with Eve during the time he was with her. Lilith spiked Adam's drink, and seduced him. Adam "buried" their son without her. 


QUESTION 13: Infinitude

The word "Infinitude", meaning infinity or the state or quality of being infinite, pops up again and again... what is the significance of this word to the story? 


QUESTION 14: "Virgin" Mother

p. 5 "Adam and his brother John were cognizant of the gossip surrounding their mother, who it was said gave birth without the medium of a husband." How is this fact important to the story? What would you think if you heard such a story? If you do not believe the gossip possible with Adam and John, how does that compare or contrast to the experience of Mary and Jesus? 


QUESTION 15: The Collective Unconscious

p. 329 Adam says, "The human mind is linked to the collective unconscious, as computers are linked to the Internet. It is on our subliminal level we do our work. The soul of the planet clamors for change. It hungers for the light we keep locked inside of ourselves." Do you think there is any truth in what Adam said? What do you think they are doing on the subliminal level? Why did Eve caution that this can be dangerous?


QUESTION 16: Reincarnation

A major theme in the book is reincarnation and the belief that spirit never dies. For example, Dion is believed to be Chance reincarnated. What are your beliefs on reincarnation. How did your beliefs influence your liking, or not liking, of this book? 


QUESTION 17: Beliefs

How did the spiritual teachings Adam encountered compare or contrast to your beliefs? Where there any spiritual thoughts that stood out to you or caught your attention and why?


QUESTION 18: Ritual

As Adam gets deeper into his spiritual teachings, he is included more in the rituals of his faith. What significance do they play in his spiritual development? How do the rituals of your (or any) faith affect your relationship with God/the universe/spirit?


Clubie Submitted Discussion Questions
Have a good question? If your a clubie add one now.
Review by Mark Ireland - author of 'Soul Shift'

"'The Hierophant of 100th Street' is a remarkable and highly unusual book. Veiled in the guise of fiction, most of what appears in Hierophant is actually a true account of the author's real-life experiences. Dorn takes the reader on an intense journey--from the desperation, violence, and passion of urban street life, to the attainment of mystical knowledge. This story is both an adventure tale and an esoteric jewel."

Review by Kim F. Dim of LibraryThing:

"I must say that this book really surprised me. I found it hard getting around to picking it up, but when I did, boy I was in for a surprise! Probably the most striking thing about "The Hierophant Of 100th Street" was the author's impeccable writing style. The book was narrated so eloquently, with such a vibrant use of language like nothing I have had the pleasure of experiencing in a book before.  You will delightfully envision in your minds-eye the very scene that Dorn is painting. I was satisfied with how engrossing the writer's style is, which in itself is what kept your eyes rolling on the paper. Oh, and the story is fantastic! 

Definitely a great read and I highly recommend others getting a copy of this book. It certainly reminds me of the sort of books of required reading in college literature courses. Perhaps this one will become a novel of that caliber, and I certainly hope the author plans more books in the future."

"Cullen Dorn is a brilliant writer. Every page oozes with Dorn’s uncanny ability to richly and colorfully describe everyday scenes, bringing into focus places, sounds, and characters that may otherwise be completely foreign to his readers. For all its literary beauty, rich vocabulary, and intelligent discourse, “The Hierophant of 100th Street” is proof that one can be an extraordinary writer." --- J. Pogue, LibraryThing


“ I come from a time that doesn't exist anymore except in the memories of its survivors,” Cullen Dorn mentioned in an interview. “ I grew up in a fifth floor tenement apartment in Spanish Harlem -one of eight children- with no air-conditioning, no refrigerator, perhaps a transistor radio and a television set with snowy lines across its screen. And outside in the street where four thousand people roamed, one can hear the old Italian pushing his apple cart down the street, and the Puerto Rican man pouring piragua on an ice cone for a nickel. It was there on the streets that one saw life and death entwined in an awkward Tango, which delineated a culture that defined us." 

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Adam and his friends stopped playing and watched as a caravan of funereal cars came down the street carrying his friend Tommy. He wondered what the mother's reaction would be later having lost her son. Would she calmly accept her loss, or would she claw at the skies, determined to make it weep with her? The earth inhaled and exhaled; the tide came in and went out. 'We are here, and we are not.' that much Adam knew. 

The neighborhood shook off its moroseness and, like an avalanche, the vivaciousness of life quickly poured over the furrow of death, covering the narrow passage marked by the funereal caravan that carried out one of their own.

The sound of children running, screaming, and playing blended with the hollering of names called from across the street, and the uplifted blast of water from an open hydrant pounding the flank of a passing produce truck, along with the cursing of drenched pedestrians, all combined to give a reprieve from the apprehension of a moment ago. 

 Apple iTunes

Cullen Dorn was born and raised in New York City. Winner of the '2009 IPPY Bronze Book Award - Best Regional Fiction.' Currently residing in Central Florida. 

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The Hierophant of 100th Street

February 2010’s BB Book Club Book Pick:

The Hierophant of 100th Street By Cullen Dorn

Sitting on the stoop of 100th Street, "Count pulled out a small bottle of wine and poured Kool-aid in it. It was a common street tactic to sweeten the taste." While we could not bring ourselves to try that, we decided to sweeten it up this month and check out some ports!

All three of this month's wine picks paired very well with a nice piece of dark chocolate! I would recommend pouring all three of these dessert wines into large wine glasses or brandy snifters and swirl them around a few times to maximize the aromas and help open them up a bit.

Penfold's Club Port


Penfolds Club Port - Dessert Wine

(Was $11.49)

This ruby colored port smelled like a mixture of whiskey and very dark fruit right off the bat. As we tasted this port the sweetness and smoothness really came through and the flavors of dark berries mixed with maple syrup and brown sugar were evident. A great value!

Uncorking Rating:

"Uncorkable to Very Uncorkable"

Graham's Six Grapes Reserve Port


Graham's Six Grapes Reserve Port (half-bottle) - Dessert Wine

(Half-Bottle was $13.29)

This reserve port came in a very close second and displayed full bodied and concentrated flavors of the intermingling of dark fruit such as candied plums and macerated cherries.

Uncorking Rating:

"Uncorkable to Very Uncorkable"

Royal Tokaji


Royal Tokaji Wine Company 2005 Red Label (500ML) - Dessert Wine

(Was $29.99)

This Hungarian dessert wine showed a beautiful golden hue in the glass and the smell of sweet honey was evident right up front (except to one taster who could not stand the smell). This wine tasted much lighter than the other two ports and thus makes it much more versatile with other foods. There was a pronounced taste of apricot and honey and the wine displayed a nice long finish. If you like this type of port, I would recommend that this wine be served slightly chilled. (One taster wanted to dump it out.)

Uncorking Rating:


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