Combine Zen Buddhism-plus-self with Ayn Rand’s Objectivism-plus-emotions to get one person’s path to daily enlightenment.

Rosenberg aims to provide a practical guide to daily living by combining the best features of his two favorite philosophies, “with the psychology of self-esteem being the glue that binds the two philosophies together.” He asserts that the selfless and compassionate aspects of Zen Buddhism conflict with rationality, reason and a modern lifestyle. His Dark Buddhism replaces these aspects with a strong sense of self and healthy self-esteem. Objectivism, Rosenberg says, requires a person to switch off emotion and replace it with pure reason, but he argues that people need to listen to their feelings. Rosenberg employs his version of Buddhism’s Eightfold Path in pursuit of Objectivism’s virtue of self-interest—what is best and healthiest for him now and in the future. Against Objectivism’s impracticality, he offers advice based on his success in applying Dark Buddhism, but Rosenberg stops short of proselytizing. He contrasts his approach to living with that of Ted, his evidently fictional coworker; while Rosenberg seeks an enlightened view and understanding of the world, Ted chooses to live comfortably, albeit unaware. Rosenberg doesn’t judge Ted (or others like him) for his choice; he simply points out the superiority of Dark Buddhism over unconscious living. Unfortunately, there are more examples of how not to live than of how to live consciously, and the pages given to describing Zen Buddhism far outnumber those given to Objectivism. The choice of “dark” is also unfortunate, as there is nothing particularly dark about Dark Buddhism. Rosenberg adopted the term from Star Wars; the dark side of that series’ Force as practiced by the self-interested Sith “seemed closer to what I was synthesizing” than the Force used by the selfless Jedi. One appendix provides further instruction on meditation (a key practice of Dark Buddhism), and another supplies a bibliography and recommendations for further reading. The middle appendix, “Reality and Enlightenment: From West to East,” seems incomplete and adds little to the subject of Dark Buddhism. Dark Buddhism thoughtfully melds selected aspects of Zen Buddhism and Objectivism into a practical philosophy of conscious living; even if this doesn’t work for you, it may shed some light onto your pursuit of happiness.


Pub Date: Aug. 12, 2011

ISBN: 978-1463625795

Page Count: 222

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.


New York Times columnist Brooks (The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement, 2011, etc.) returns with another volume that walks the thin line between self-help and cultural criticism.

Sandwiched between his introduction and conclusion are eight chapters that profile exemplars (Samuel Johnson and Michel de Montaigne are textual roommates) whose lives can, in Brooks’ view, show us the light. Given the author’s conservative bent in his column, readers may be surprised to discover that his cast includes some notable leftists, including Frances Perkins, Dorothy Day, and A. Philip Randolph. (Also included are Gens. Eisenhower and Marshall, Augustine, and George Eliot.) Throughout the book, Brooks’ pattern is fairly consistent: he sketches each individual’s life, highlighting struggles won and weaknesses overcome (or not), and extracts lessons for the rest of us. In general, he celebrates hard work, humility, self-effacement, and devotion to a true vocation. Early in his text, he adapts the “Adam I and Adam II” construction from the work of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, Adam I being the more external, career-driven human, Adam II the one who “wants to have a serene inner character.” At times, this veers near the Devil Bugs Bunny and Angel Bugs that sit on the cartoon character’s shoulders at critical moments. Brooks liberally seasons the narrative with many allusions to history, philosophy, and literature. Viktor Frankl, Edgar Allan Poe, Paul Tillich, William and Henry James, Matthew Arnold, Virginia Woolf—these are but a few who pop up. Although Brooks goes after the selfie generation, he does so in a fairly nuanced way, noting that it was really the World War II Greatest Generation who started the ball rolling. He is careful to emphasize that no one—even those he profiles—is anywhere near flawless.

The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9325-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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