The Only Dance There Is (1974)

ram dassThe Only Dance There Is is a compiled transcription of two lectures Ram Dass gave to a room of psychotherapists in the early 1970s; the first lecture at the Menninger Foundation in 1970, and the second at the Spring Grove Hospital in 1972. Seeing as Ram Dass was a trained Harvard professor and psychiatrist before he transformed into a yogi, he was in the fortunate position of having two perceptual vantage points to overlook the whole thing. His clear insight into the Western approach to solving man’s spiritual problems through psychology, and his new understanding into the Eastern approach through yoga and meditation allowed him the opportunity to act as a solid concrete bridge between the worlds of East and West. Prior to Ram Dass bridges existed, but they were of the old and fragile, made of rope variety, which were rarely crossed out of fear of the bridge collapsing and you falling into the abyss below. Because of this the game at that point was very polarised – us vs them, hippies vs police, East vs West, and so on.

In these lectures Ram Dass attempted to share the Indian’s non-dualistic outlook on life, called Advaita Vedanta, to an audience very much attached to the separation of all living things. Ram Dass eloquently shared what he had learnt in India, and what he had given up in Harvard, by comparing the comparatively new Western psychology to the 10,000 year old Eastern method of Yoga. For example, he discusses in detail the Hindu chakra system and how it closely resembles psychological systems for understanding human motivation – an area that Ram Dass happened to specialise in when he was a psychiatrist by the name of Dr. Richard Alpert. The 1970 Menninger lecture occurred at the same time that ‘Be Here Now‘ was being written and a year before its release to the public, the lecture displays Ram Dass in the flush of discovery of a method infinitely times more fulfilling than anything he had encountered or studied in the West, including psychology and psychedelics. And here he was, delivering this news from a far away land to his old colleagues and suit wearing brothers of psychotherapy – the result is this book, a bottomless pot of honey. Continue reading

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Prometheus Rising (1983)

PROM_RISE_TAPE Prometheus Rising (1983) by Robert Anton Wilson is a mind-blowing neuropsychological manual on how to reprogram your own brain. The book combines Timothy Leary’s Eight Circuit model of consciousness, psychological imprinting and conditioning theory, Gurdjief’s self-observation exercises, Quantum Mechanics, Yoga, Cybernetics, Freudian psychoanalysis, sociobiology, psychedelics, Alfred Korzybski’s general semantics and much more to construct a strange but enlightening lens for viewing the world and our place in it. Prometheus Rising began as Wilson’s Ph.D. dissertation called “The Evolution of Neuro-Sociological Circuits: A Contribution to the Sociobiology of Consciousness” in 1978-79 for University Paideia, but in 1982 Wilson rewrote the manuscript for commercial publication by removing footnotes, adding chapters and exercises, sketching out diagrams and illustrations, and injecting plenty of humour. Oh, and he threw in a chapter on how to brainwash yourself and others titled ‘How to Wash Brains and Robotize People’. Each chapter in Prometheus Rising sets up and explains in detail one of the Eight Circuits of the brain that governs our consciousness and moulds the ego or sense of self that we identify with. Drawing from Piaget’s Stages of Development, Wilson suggests that at different points in our life we are subject to a period of ‘imprint vulnerability’, which is when our brains are susceptible to rapid hard-wired learning that shapes all subsequent learning or conditioning. At these moments a certain thought system or behaviour is imprinted in one of the eight circuits. For example, Konrad Loranz found that the newborn gosling (baby goose) is vulnerable to imprinting a protective mother entity immediately after hatching. During this vulnerable period, anything roughly matching the genetic archetype will be imprinted. These experiments resulted in Lorenz having geese following him around thinking he was their mother, and he also reported a gosling that imprinted a ping-pong ball and followed it about attempting to nest with it and vocalizing to it as it would toward a real Mother Goose. Evidently, the fact that the ping pong ball has a round white body, like a Mother Goose, was enough to trigger the genetic imprinting process. Wilson insists that the model is not to be taken too seriously and is merely a map that can help guide us, and often reminds us that ‘the map is not the territory’, or ‘the menu is not the meal’. The eight circuits, as outlined by Wilson are as follows:

1 – The Oral Bio-Survival Circuit – This is imprinted by the mother or the first mothering object and conditioned by subsequent nourishment or threat. It is primarily concerned with sucking, feeding, cuddling, and body security. It retreats mechanically from the noxious or predatory – or from anything associated (by imprinting or conditioning) with the noxious or predatory.

2 – The Anal Emotional-Territorial Circuit – This is imprinted in the ‘Toddling’ stage when the infant rises up, walks about and begins to struggle for power within the family structure. This mostly mammalian circuit processes territorial rules, emotional games, or cons, pecking order and rituals for domination or submission.

3 – The Time-Binding Semantic Circuit – This is imprinted and conditioned by human artifacts and symbol systems. It ‘handles’ and ‘packages’ the environment, classifying everything according to the local reality tunnel. Invention, calculation, prediction and transmitting signals across generations are its functions.

4 –  The ‘Moral’ Socio-Sexual Circuit – This is imprinted by the first orgasm-mating experiences at puberty and is conditioned by tribal taboos. It processes sexual pleasure, local definitions of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, reproduction, adult-parental personality (sex role) and nurture of the young. The development of these circuits as the brain evolved through evolution, and as each domesticated primate (human) brain recapitulates evolution in growing from infancy to adulthood, makes possible gene-pool survival, mammalian sociobiology (pecking order, or politics) and transmission of culture. The second group of four brain circuits is much newer, and each circuit exists at present only in minorities. Where the antique circuits recapitulate evolution-to-the-present, these futuristic circuits precapitulate our future evolution.

5 – The Holistic Neurosomatic Circuit – This is imprinted by ecstatic experience, via biological or chemical yogas. It processes neurosomatic (‘mind-body’) feedback loops, somatic-sensory bliss, feeling ‘high’, ‘faith-healing,’ etc. Christian Science, NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) and holistic medicine consist of tricks or gimmicks to get this circuit into action at least temporarily; Tantra yoga is cocnerned with shifting consciousness entirely into this circuit.

6 – The Collective Neurogenetic Circuit – This is imprinted by advanced yogas (bio-chemical – electrical stresses). It processes DNA-RNA-brain feedback systems and is ‘collective’ in that it contains and has access to the whole evolutionary ‘script’, past and future. Experience of this circuit is numinous, ‘mystical,’ mind-shattering; here dwell the archetypes of Jung’s Collective Unconscious – Gods, Godesses, Demons, Hairy Dwarfs and other personifications of the DNA programs (instincts) that govern us.

7 – The Meta-programming Circuit – This is imprinted by very advanced yogas. It consists, in modern terms, of cybernetic consciousness, reprogramming and reimprinting all other circuits, even reprogramming itself, making possible conscious choice between alternative universes or reality tunnels.

8 – The Non-Local Quantum Circuit – This is imprinted by Shock, by ‘near-death’ or ‘clinical death’ experience, by OOBEs (out-of-body-experiences), by trans-time perceptions (‘precognition’), by trans-space visions (ESP), etc. It tunes the brain into the non-local quantum communication system suggested by physicists such as Bohm, Walker, Sarfatti, Bell, etc. Prometheus Rising is a groundbreaking work that will make you rethink and reinterpret your belief systems and quite possibly transform your entire thought process from the ground up. If you dogmatically hold onto one map of reality then you might find the book confronting as it demands a flexible perspective. If this sounds like the book for you you can read it for free in pdf form here.  

* * * * * 5 stars 

How to Win Friends and Influence People (1938)

self help

If you never got a chance to read Dale Carnegie’s best selling book ‘How To Win Friends and Influence People (1938)’, then here’s your chance to quickly absorb some of the book’s main points and ideas. The author used to give lectures on how to become a more likeable boss in the workplace and increase staff productivity as a result, it was when he realised that these same tactics were extremely effective at getting anybody to like you that he decided to write the book. It was first published in 1936 and is widely considered to be the first ever self-help book; it has since sold over 15,000,000 copies worldwide. This book is the tome for helping you develop better relationships with anyone, whether it be at work, on the bus, or at home.

Twelve Things This Book Will Do For You:

  1. Get you out of a mental rut, give you new thoughts, new visions, new ambitions.
  2. Enable you to make friends quickly and easily.
  3. Increase your popularity.
  4. Help you to win people to your way of thinking.
  5. Increase your influence, your prestige, your ability to get things done.
  6. Enable you to win new clients, new customers.
  7. Increase your earning power.
  8. Make you a better salesman, a better executive.
  9. Help you to handle complaints, avoid arguments, keep your human contacts smooth and pleasant.
  10. Make you a better speaker, a more entertaining conversationalist.
  11. Make the principles of psychology easy for you to apply in your daily contacts.
  12. Help you to arouse enthusiasm among your associates.

The book has six major sections. The core principles of each section are quoted below.

Fundamental Techniques in Handling People:

  1. Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain.
  2. Give honest and sincere appreciation.
  3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.

Six Ways to Make People Like You:

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
  2. Smile.
  3. Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interest.
  6. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.

Twelve Ways to Win People to Your Way of Thinking:

  1. The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
  2. Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say “You’re Wrong.”
  3. If you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
  4. Begin in a friendly way.
  5. Start with questions to which the other person will answer yes.
  6. Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
  7. Let the other person feel the idea is his or hers.
  8. Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
  9. Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.
  10. Appeal to the nobler motives.
  11. Dramatize your ideas.
  12. Throw down a challenge.

Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offence or Arousing Resentment:

  1. Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
  2. Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.
  3. Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
  4. Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
  5. Let the other person save face.
  6. Praise every improvement.
  7. Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
  8. Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.
  9. Make the other person happy about doing what you suggest.

Get your very own copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People!

The Mummy at the Dining Room Table (2003)

Psychology

The Mummy at the Dining Room Table is a collection of first person accounts of the most bizarre therapy encounters ever. This book is interesting because each chapter is written from a different therapists perspective and details how the therapist tackled their bizarre client’s case. The conversations intertwined with the therapists thoughts makes for a very engaging read. If you’re studying psychology, or if you just want to read how a psychologist approaches his sessions with a man who is having an affair with a cow, or a family who has dinner with their deceased mother, then this is the book for you! The Mummy at the Dining Room Table is compiled by psychologist/author Jefferey Kottler and is written with great humour without ever making fun.

The Sixty Second Motivator (2006)

sixty second motivator

The Sixty-Second Motivator (2006) is the first book I’ve come across since I’ve started reviewing books that I’ve had mixed thoughts about. Honestly, the book has a lot going for it, and I would probably give it to a friend to read, but I don’t suggest you spend your hard earned money on it when there is better information available on the internet for FREE.

In a nutshell, the book is in the form of a short story about a young physical therapy student who wants to know how to motivate his patients to move around and stuff. He hears about this legendary therapist known as `the sixty-second motivator’, earned from his reputation in having the ability to motivate anyone to do anything in exactly one minute or less. Young student meets legendary therapist, and then the rest of the book follows the two as the therapist attempts to motivate old people to walk around, while the young whippersnapper marvels in his glory. Oh, and it’s a very quick read too, with about 10 or 20 pages of information spread out to about 80 thanks to its big text – a trick we all learned in primary school.

“Well, let’s just say at this point I have some good news and some bad news. Which do you want first?”
“Oh boy,” said the patient. “I guess give me the bad news first.” (p. 53)

In light of the above quote from the book in question, I will begin this review by outlining my disappointments before I branch out into its strengths. Naturally we like to hear our news in this order, so I will comply. Funnily enough, the book’s first weakness could also be considered by some to be its strength: the book is just far too simple in its exploration of a very complex subject such as motivation. Rather than explain the underlying reasons why we become motivated to make a change, the book instead hammers two basic methods for motivating people, and never really explains why the motivation occurs in the first place. Firstly, you should know that the book’s definition of motivation is as follows:

“Motivation can be thought of as how ready a person is to change. Therefore: A highly motivated person is very ready to change. While a poorly motivated person is not ready to change.”

Pretty simple right? Well get used to it, as that’s about as tech as this book gets.

The book stresses that only two things are necessary in order to motivate someone to do something, they are:

Importance – increasing importance of changing a behaviour creates more motivation.
Confidence – increasing your confidence that you can change a behaviour creates more motivation.

Ok, fair enough. The next problem with the book is that it uses poor examples of how this can be used to motivate a person. Seeing as the author is a physical therapist, all of his examples pretty much revolve around old men and women who don’t want to do their exercises. It is difficult to apply these scenarios to more realistic situations where one would need to be motivated, and honestly, the book doesn’t offer the reader any motivation to try and modify the examples to fit their own. The next problem I have with this book is the editing, I know this won’t be a problem for many of you, so I won’t stress it, but I found a lot of grammatical errors and places where the flow of the writing was affected by poor choice of words. It was as though a child had written the book for a school project, and had never read it twice to make sure it was up to standard. Considering how short the book is, and the fact that it demands that people pay money to read it, there is no excuse and it loses points in my mind. If I was marking this book as a school assignment, I’d give it a lousy mark for editing. Now if I was a publisher… Oh boy.

Another problem I have with the book is its lack of research. The writer makes almost no effort to produce any research to back up his findings. There is one stage in the book where the protagonist looks up some psychological databases on the computer and finds a really crappy experiment where smokers are assigned to two groups, one group is told to quit smoking as it’s bad for their health (which they obviously already knew), while the other group is motivated by professionals to quit. They follow up a year later and find that the smokers in the second group had a higher quit ratio than the first group. Well duh. I could log into a psychological database right now and dig up some research which is more interesting, more important, and less obvious in sixty seconds. Again, for me this drives home the point that the author is lazy and hasn’t done his homework – alarm bells are ringing since the author ‘should’ be more motivated. The end of the book even has the audacity to include a reference page which contains no more than 5 references… This is pretty weak considering that in first year psychology we had to provide more references than that for even a short 500 word summary on a subject such as motivation.

The last problem I had was its focus on motivating others and its almost total lack of information on how to motivate yourself, which is the reason, I imagine, most people are buying this book in the first place. Not a big assumption to make considering

1 . It’s a self-help book.
2 . The cover states clearly: `How To Motivate Yourself To Do Anything’
3 . The cover boasts that it is `A Book That Will Change Your Life!’ (We’ve all heard that one before!)

The only effort this book makes at applying the lessons learnt to motivating yourself is a single page at the very end of the book which provides a checklist of obvious questions to ask yourself, such as `what would it be like if you reached your goal?’. If you don’t already know how to ask yourself questions like that, then you don’t need a book on motivation, you need a new brain.

Finally, I arrive at the book’s strengths. Phew!

1. The book is short. So short in fact I read it in one sitting, half of which occurred on the toilet, the other half on a chair outside while I smoked a cigarette. No, I didn’t find myself motivated to quit after reading this book.
2. The book is written in a short story format, which makes it easy to read and a lot more engaging than your average self-help book.
3. The text on the page is nicely laid out, a good sized font that is well spaced – easy on the eyes. (Well the font size covers up a big negative that I mentioned earlier, but I’ll give it this one)
4. The book is short, oh wait, I said that already.

If this book were a pamphlet that you could get for free at the doctor’s office, then I would have nothing but praise for it, but seeing as how it attempts to pass off as a well researched and clever book on motivation, that is also deserving of your money, I can’t justify it at all.