THE OBSERVING SELF: Mysticism and Psychotherapy by

THE OBSERVING SELF: Mysticism and Psychotherapy

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Some attractive notions on ""deautomatizing"" the mind: a sort of ""Freud meets Lao-tse"" or ""the greening of psychoanalysis."" Deikman is a therapist who thinks the members of his profession have a lot to learn from mystics. As an introduction to mysticism, his book is shaky and thin; but as a call to revise the theory and practice of Western psychic healing, it has appeal. The ""observing self"" of Deikman's title, unlike the more familiar thinking, emotional, and functional selves, cannot be objectified. It is the intuitive subject, the ""I"" of pure awareness--as opposed to the contents of consciousness, the modifications of ""me"" that traditional psychology is more comfortable with. Enter the mystic: his long and essentially rational-scientific study of this transcendent self suggests various ways we can escape the trap of identifying our essential being with our object selves. At this point, Deikman does a hasty survey of mysticism, concentrating on the Vedanta, Buddhism, and Sufism. For reasons unexplained, he ignores Western mysticism, save for a passing reference to the Greeks and a few Hassidic tales. He also misrepresents the mystics, by paradoxically making them out to be, on the one hand, the real founders of most formal religions and, on the other, authors of a message easily detached from its religious context. But these flaws aren't fatal. Deikman says a lot of good things about unreflective everyday life as a trance-like state, about the need to awake from the futile tail-chasing of self-interest, about losing oneself in the task to be done, etc.--all legitimate mystical themes.

Pub Date: June 4th, 1982
Publisher: Beacon