More eclectic advice on how to release the boundless resources that lie within, from the prolific Dyer. According to Dyer (Real Magic, 1992, etc.), each of us possesses a higher, invisible self in addition to the more familiar (but false) ego. Our essential task is to discover and act from the higher self, which is untouched by the fears, prejudices, and insecurities that normally control our existence and cause us so much unhappiness. Dyer suggests that we can do this in four steps: banishing fears and doubts; observing and distancing ourselves from our body and surroundings; shutting down the inner dialogues of our frenzied thoughts; and consciously following the guidance of our higher self instead of the ego with its illusions of separateness. He goes on to discuss the conflicts that arise as we move into the higher self, and he concludes with a vision of a transformed world as an egoless collective of sacred selves. Dyer draws on many sources, and his favorites include Carlos Castaneda, Emerson, the Course in Miracles, Transcendental Meditation, and Krishnamurti. He blends the Hindu doctrine of non-dualism and the higher self with stock American themes, such as how he has passed from a sinful past to a happy (and prosperous!) present and the need to keep saying to ourselves, ``I know I can do it.'' Dyer has some good things to say on his basic theme of distancing oneself from the ego, but he repeats himself and often lapses into Stoic bromides (``Only the person you imagine yourself to be suffers''). In New Age fashion, Dyer draws on the wisdom of different religions without reference to their unique spiritual and metaphysical assumptions, as if they were all the same or the distinctions irrelevant, and he fails to defend and explain his main assertion that the higher self is somehow God. Practical, though unoriginal, insights for seekers. ($150,000 ad/promo; author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-06-017786-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1995



This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955


A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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