Book Review: "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" by Robert M. Persig

This book quite simply changed my life. I cannot say this about many books, and perhaps this is the first one for which I can.

"Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" is perhaps the most wildly read book of contemporary philosophy, and perhaps one reason for its popularity is that it touches on universal themes, such as travel adventure and father-son relationships, and offbeat themes like psychological madness.

The book, through a beautiful symmetry of narrative and reflection, is an autobiographical account by Robert M. Persig regarding his motorcycle road trip with his son and friends from Michigan to San Francisco and his philosophical deliberation, especially in reaction to the rise of technology.

Persig tries to make light of the negative reactions to increasing technology, such as those prompted by the "beatniks", but he eventually steers us to a more positive understanding.

Here is the main concept of the book: The idea of Quality.

Quality, according to Persig, is the balance between two mindsets or personalities— the Classical and the Romantic.

Although people can strive for the median between the two, people tend to lean towards one category or the other.

The Classical personality concerns the inner workings of things—such as the study of how the motorcycle operates. The Romantic concerns the outward appearance of things—such as actually riding the motorcycle, or the Zen-like approach of living in the moment and observing everything around you.

The book ties nicely into history because Persig describes how the Hippies of the 70’s were protesting “The System,” a classical orchestration, through and attitute of free-spirit and getting out and experiencing the world, a romantic approach. Although Persig ultimately claims that the Hippies provided no solution to the problem.

I agree with Persig that the solution is always balance—both the ability to constantly innovate and look towards to future, but also to remain conscious of our environment and appreciate the moment.

Book Review: "Hero with a Thousand Faces" by Joseph Campbell

This book has single handedly altered the way I understand stories.

Perhaps no other book in history has influenced storytellers more than “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” and I bet people will remember it as one of the most important books of the 20th century.

The book is wonderful not only because it gives any potential writer insight into the general arc of a story from beginning to end and an outline for the three-act structure—but also because he explains how the Hero’s Journey is rooted in psychology, religion, mythology, and the collective unconscious of the human mind.

I think that because this formula so effectively appeals to a wide audience, it has been over exploited, especially in Hollywood films. For that reason, many foreign films and low-budget American films have sought to break the pattern—through non-linear narrative, through multiple protagonists, and through open and unresolved story endings.

Here are the phases of Campbell’s hero’s journey:

(Act 1): 1. Ordinary world. 2. Call to Adventure. 3. Refusal of the Call. 4. Crossing the first threshold.

(Act 2): 5. Tests, Allies, Enemies. 6. Approach Inmost Cave. 7. Ordeal/Crisis. 8. Reward.

(Act 3): 9. Road Back. 10. Resurrection/Showdown. 11. Return with Elixir/Resolution.

Articles often cite that George Lucas used the book while he created Star Wars. No wonder the film series was so successful -- it drew on these universal elements of the human condition and experience to appeal to a wide audience.

Even if you are not a writer, I recommend this book highly because you will never see a movie or read a novel the same way again. You will begin to see the underlying patterns in these works and realize that what you just read or watched is not so original after all.

Book Review: "Mastery" by Robert Greene

This book made a big impression on me, and I consider myself lucky to have encountered it at my relatively young age.

I think the book has greatly shaped and validated many of the approaches I hope to apply to my passion and career.

I think that the general idea that Greene harps on throughout the book is eccentricity. Trust your own path and never conform.

A lot of so-called masters rely heavily on intuition—allowing this sort of God-like guidance to push us on our way and help us connect with “infinite intelligence,” a general inexplicable source of inspiration.

Greene offers both practical and unconventional advice on creativity, and he keenly persuades us against any run-of-the-mill self-development advice, which tends to be overly flattering and inflated with simple steps that follow a one-size-fits-all formula.

He also accentuates the importance of finding mentors, people who can support you through an extended period of apprenticeship in order to absorb their knowledge and skill.

Greene is an extraordinary writer, one of the best I have encountered in my life.

His book is full of sharp one-liners, and all of his work is heavily researched.

He also writes on controversial topics such as war, power, and seduction. His book “The 48 Laws of Power” is the most sought after book by prison inmates in the country, and he coauthored a book with 50-cent called the “50th Law.”

The reason that “Mastery” is so wonderful is that he draws on examples from countless biographies—think Darwin, Napoleon Bonaparte, Keats, and Melville—but also contemporary gurus like tech entrepreneurs.

By identifying a general pattern in traits, Greene presents a compelling example of how we can spend our lives.

Do yourself a favor and read this book!

Book Review: "Kundalini: The Evolutionary Energy in Man" by Gopi Krishna

Kundalini is the evolutionary spiritual energy that lies coiled like a snake at the base of the human spine.

Through yoga and meditation practice, this dormant force can be unleashed, leading to massive increases of energy and consciousness.

Krishna is perhaps the most well known author on the subject of kundalini, and this autobiography narrates how his kundalini was awakened one morning during the middle of his regular meditation.

He describes the experience as such: “Suddenly, with a roar like that of a waterfall, I felt a stream of liquid light entering my brain through the spinal cord…The illumination grew brighter and brighter, the roaring louder, I experienced a rocking sensation and then felt myself slipping out of my body, entirely enveloped in a halo of light.”

One of the most remarkable aspects of Krishna as a person is that he led an ordinary life, with the slight exception that he dedicated himself to the concentration of his mind and cultivation of will.

Throughout the book, he emphasizes the excruciating process that took place in which his body learned to accommodate the profound transformation of his nervous system.

One aspect of my copy of this book, which I greatly appreciated, was the interspersed chapters of psychological commentary by a modern depth psychologist, which helped articulate Krishna’s spiritual experiences from a western point of view, especially through Carl Jung’s description of the process of individuation. Krishna’s inner experiences were so incredible and unimaginable that having an analysis from a scientific point of view helps clarify skepticism.

After reading this book, I have no doubt that the next phase in the evolution of the human species involves the incorporation of this force given its remarkable capacity to inspire creativity, vision, and genius among those who experience it.

Book Review: "In Search of the Miraculous" by P.D. Ouspensky

This book is a continuation of my ongoing interest in studying the life of George Ivan Gurdjieff, the influential mystic who synthesized all the great world religions into a complex yet practical system that gave people a clear path to the development of higher consciousness.

Ouspensky was a Russian philosopher well known throughout the world, sometimes giving lectures before several thousand of people, even before he became a pupil of Gurdjieff.

Ouspensky met Gurdjieff during World War I, an era of great turbulence in which many people were looking for greater meaning in life and a solution to all the chaos and disharmony among humanity.

This book by Ouspensky narrates many of the Gurdjieff lectures that he attended alongside the other pupils.

The most vital aspect of the teaching was what Gurdjieff called ‘the fourth way,’ which refers to the fastest path to higher consciousness and spiritual self-mastery among what he identified as the three traditional schools found throughout the world.

Those included the following: the way of fakir, a person who works on his physical body to develop will; the way of the monk, a person who works on their emotions through the exercise of prayer; and the way of the yogi, a person who works on their intellect through meditation practice.

Of the ways, that of the fakir is the slowest, that of the yogi is the fastest, and that of the monk is somewhere in the middle of the former two. The fourth way is articulated as the fastest way because it combines work on all three centers—physical, emotional, and intellectual—all at once. The fourth way is also the only way that is suitable for the conditions of ordinary modern life, such that it does not require retreat to an ashram, monastery, cave, or desert.

Although this book is full of heady information, including chemistry and cosmological schemes, Ouspensky provides a clear and simple explanation of the “work on oneself” that all starts with psychology.

The most important exercise that the beginner will hear about is that you must try to REMEMBER YOURSELF. Instead of just having an experience, FEEL yourself and OBSERVE yourself having the experience.

It’s a type of awareness that uses a double-headed arrow instead of an arrow that just goes one way. For example, instead of this: you → observed, do this: you ↔ observed.

Gurdjieff taught that if you remember yourself in enough places, someday you will read something or someone will say something, and in an INSTANT you will WAKE UP, as if waking from a dream, and it will be the singularly most astonishing experience you will ever have in your life.

Book Review: "Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming" by Stephen LaBerge, Ph.D.

For anyone who doesn’t already know, lucid dreaming is the process in which a person maintains conscious awareness during the dream state.

In other words, rather than waking up in the morning and thinking, "Wow, that was an interesting dream that happened," you actually awaken during the dream while it’s happening.

Lucid dreams are more vivid than ordinary dreams, and you can actually control the direction of the dream when you enter this state.

This book by LaBerge is perhaps the best resource available on the subject of lucid dreaming.

The book inspired me to begin recording my dreams every morning, and sometimes several times throughout the night, in a spiral notebook that I keep at my bedside. I have successfully recorded over one hundred pages of notes throughout the past two months based on the practice I have conducted through the practical techniques listed in this book.

Last week, I had my very first lucid dream. It was AMAZING. I was walking around my neighborhood and I thought to myself, "Wait a minute, I don't have my keys -- or my cell phone, or my wallet! I never leave my house without my keys, cell phone, and wallet. Something must be wrong here! Wait, this isn't real. I'm dreaming!" And in that instant, I awakened in my dream, and I bent down and touched the ground -- and it felt real, even though I knew it was a dream.

LaBerge’s book proposes many reasons for the benefits of lucid dreaming.

He outlines the ways in which dreams can improve creativity. All the best surrealist art of Salvador Dali was inspired by his dreams, for instance.

He explains that the process of interpreting your dreams can lead to a greater understanding of your overall self, of your desires and fears.

In general, I believe that the practice of awakening during you dreams can help you become a more enlightened individual.

Website Review:

This is a beautiful and extraordinary website that I discovered through Wikipedia links on the Internet.

I read dozens of the articles and lectures on this website.

Gnosis is a tradition that was renewed and brought to popular awareness during the 20th century by a man named Samuel Aun Weor, who wrote over sixty books and gave thousands of lectures, a testament to his inner spiritual development.

Much of the work of Samuel Aun Weor was based on the contributions of George Ivan Gurdjieff, the source of my interest in this subject.

Those who have understood Gnosis throughout history have risen to become some of the greatest masters in the fields of science, philosophy, and art—Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Beethoven, and Wagner, just to name a few western examples.

Gnosis is the practical science of awakening the consciousness, based on the ancient tradition that spans thousands of years. Gnosis is a religious practice, but it’s based on universal spiritual principles, themes, and symbols that are hidden beneath the labyrinth of myths and misunderstanding in every religious system.

Gnosis refers to the knowledge we acquire through our own experience, as opposed to the knowledge that we are told to believe in.

Gnosis is conscious, experiential knowledge, not merely intellectual or conceptual knowledge, belief, or theory.

The website provides courses on a variety of subjects—dream yoga, meditation, astrology, to name a few.

I highly recommend that you take at least a glance at this site. It changed my whole understanding of the world, and it may change yours.

Book Review: "Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion" by Jeffrey J. Kripal

Last year, my father and I visited Big Sur, a national park along the pacific coast of California—and ever since it has captured my interest.

This book is a fascinating account of two mavericks, Michael Murphy and Richard Price, the founders of an alternative and experiential learning institute, the original and inspiring American human potential center, “Esalen,” located right in the heart of the Big Sur region.

Several of my literary and academic hero’s—Abraham Maslow, Aldous Huxley, Allen Ginsberg, Hunter S. Thompson, Fritz Perls, Alan Watts, and Joseph Campbell—had a direct involvement in the location’s unique vision centered upon the idea that human beings possess vast and untapped reserves of energy and consciousness waiting to be actualized through physical, mental and spiritual development.

What I like most about the philosophy of the institute and the message of this book is the emphasis on the New Age, a sort of democratic mysticism with “spiritual but not religious” inclinations; the Perennial Philosophy, referring to a set of doctrines that lay the foundations for all great religions; and the fusion of Western science and psychology with Eastern esoteric and spiritual traditions.

This book is replete with information on transformative knowledge and practice—meditation, yoga, tantra, and massage—and biographical accounts of human “awakening.”

Overall, this book had a deep influence on me and was an invaluable resource to further direct my studies.

Book Review: "Cosmic Consciousness: A Study in the Evolution of the Human Mind" by Richard M. Bucke, M.D.

This very unusual and thought-provoking book proposes that there currently exist three grades of consciousness: simple consciousness, as possessed by animals; self consciousness, as possessed by humans; and cosmic consciousness, a special kind of consciousness evolving in the human species, possessed only by a minutia of people.

Cosmic consciousness refers to a consciousness of the life and order of the universe—along with which occurs an intellectual illumination, a moral exaltation, an added charm to the personality, an indescribable feeling of joyousness, and a sense of immortality.

The author of this book argues that just as human self-consciousness—the state in which a being knows that it knows—evolved from a simpler and more ignorant form of consciousness, so too will cosmic consciousness eventually become the dominant condition.

The author describes his own brief encounter with cosmic consciousness as such:

“My mind deeply under the influence of the ideas, images and emotions called up by the reading and talk of the evening, was calm and peaceful… All at once, without warning of any kind, I found myself wrapped around as it were by a flame colored cloud. For an instant I thought of fire…the next I knew that the light was within myself…into my brain streamed one momentary lightening-flash of the Brahmic Splendor which has ever since lightened my life… I learned more within the few seconds during which the illumination lasted than in previous months or even years of study.”

The second half of the book outlines similar and more prolonged instances of Cosmic Consciousness—Guatama the Buddha, Jesus the Christ, Mohammed, Francis Bacon, John Yepes, Blaise Pascal, and Walt Whitman, among others.

The methods towards this attainment are best illustrated to the modern audience by Walt Whitman. Perhaps one of the greatest available example of purity and refinement, and arguably one of the greatest spiritual forces to ever walk the earth, he liked everyone and everything. And although he did not talk much, when he did he always had something uplifting to say about nature—“Oh, the beautiful sky!” or “Oh, the beautiful grass!”—such that nothing captivated him more than the ordinary. 

Book Review: "Tao Te Ching" by Lao Tzu

This is a cool little book of verse.

I love studying eastern religions, so the decision was a no-brainer. And I heard that it stands next to the bible as the most translated book in the world.

The book lays the philosophical foundations for one of the world’s great wisdom traditions, Taoism. Written approximately 2,500 years ago by the legendary sage Lao Tzu, this classic continues to inspire readers today.

The message within this book is one of peace, simplicity, patience, compassion, and tolerance.

The early pages contain the following famous verse: “The way that can be articulately described is not the Unchanging Way. The name that can be said out loud is not the Unchanging name.”

In other words, Tzu says, all your intelligent talk will not lead you to the Way, the truth.

I think this pithy statement rings loud and clear to our contemporary audience so mired by this age of Information in which we live.

One of our greatest stumbling blocks is our tendency to conceptualize and judge everything, and this tendency leads to verbally built concepts that are off base.

Unless you are careful, Tzu says, words will lead you astray. 

Instead, throw the mental baggage overboard and live spontaneously.

What I like most about the book is that it contains original wisdom, sometimes referred to by contemporary scholars as Perennial philosophy—the common core among all religions found only by stripping away institutional accretions of dogma and ritual and focusing on individual experience. 

Book Review: "Power vs. Force: The Hidden Determinants of Human Behavior" by David R. Hawkins

I discovered this book on Amazon through the ‘customers who bought x also bought’ tab—so useful!

This book profoundly changed my perspective, and altered my understanding of the ideal way to lead a life.

The author was a psychiatrist who underwent a profound spiritual transformation—one that apparently allowed him to perform miracles and treat over 1,000 new patients per year.

What I found most encouraging about his story and his message is the acknowledgment of science in conjunction with spirituality. He grounds his ideas in research on a relatively new discipline, behavioral kinesiology, based on the discovery that indicator muscles will strengthen or weaken in the presence of positive or negative emotional, intellectual, and physical stimuli.

This evidence is startling because the body does not lie, and it provides the ultimate way of measuring truth and falsehood.

By far the most profound section of the book is two pages containing a map of consciousness, which Hawkins uses to illustrate levels of connection to energy fields ranging from 1 and 1000—‘shame’ occupying the lowest realm, and ‘enlightenment’ occupying the highest.

One of my favorite sections of the book was a chapter entitled ‘Genius and the Power of Creativity.’ Hawkins says that genius is by definition a style of consciousness characterized by the ability to access high-energy attractor patterns, and that creativity is a process that proceeds from revelation, as if by a sudden “flash” to the brain.

Regarding the title, ‘Force’ designates ego and conceptualization, the tendency of an ordinary person take credit for their ideas, whereas ‘Power’ designates humility and inspiration, the tendency of a genius to accredit their ideas to an infinite external source.

Book Review: "The Harmonious Circle: The Lives and Work of G.I. Gurdjieff, P.D. Ouspensky and Their Followers" by James Webb

Lately, I have had an immense interest in studying the life and work of George Gurdieff, the influential mystic who attracted a large number of writers, intellectuals and “seekers of truth” during the 20th century.

This is the most comprehensive biography about the man and his aura.

Gripped by what psychologists might term “irresistible mania,” Gurjieff set out on a quest through the Eastern world to answer deep questions -- What does it all mean? What is humanity? Is there a purpose to life? Who am I? -- Questions that may occur to most people at various times in their lives, usually to be shrugged off as irrelevant to the ordinary business of living.

Despite claims of his mystique and notoriety— “I do not know G.I., have never known G.I., never will,” according to Jean Toomer— Gurjieff made a profound impact on Western society due to his contribution of a series of methods for human development, referred to simply as “The Work,” which gained publicity through his founding of the Institute for Harmonious Development of Man.

Located in the Forest of Fontainebleau, the school aimed, through instruction on a series of difficult exercises, to help students gain control of their largely “automatic actions” and balance their physical, intellectual and emotional centers.

Gurjieff held that a man must “wake up;” that he must observe himself, study the workings of the human “machine;” that he must try to “remember himself,” be conscious of his own being and prevent his attention from wandering; and that he must recognize the division in the psyche between false personality, what he thinks he is, and essence, what he is in fact.


Book Review: "Siddhartha" by Herman Hesse

This is an interesting little novel, recommended to me perhaps for two reasons—that it had a cult like readership among young people during the 1960’s, and that it bears some resemblance to Kerouac’s novel, in which the beatniks maintain a fascination with Eastern philosophy and demonstrate a hunger for spiritual illumination.

The novel is only 120 pages, and you could probably read it in one sitting if you were so inclined.

The novel tracks the coming-of-age and spiritual evolution of a man living in India at the time of the Buddha.

It’s a story about the human soul and the ego, and about the journey of an individual to find himself—the Self, beyond personality, beyond genetic predisposition, and beyond environmental conditioning.

Something I gained from the novel is the understanding that people can alter reality by altering their perception of it. If you look at the world differently, the world changes. When you look at your refrigerator, you don’t see the refrigerator, rather you see your thoughts about the refrigerator informed by previous experience and by what you have been taught to believe about it.

Similarly, how could you know yourself if you only see your thoughts about yourself, if you think your thoughts are you?

This novel will help you begin the quest of finding your true self, beyond all the illusions.

Book Review: "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle

I don’t think my life will ever be the same after reading this book—one of those few books that you encounter in a lifetime.

Don’t mistake this book as just another “feel good” book. It is an important book.

The author teaches you how to immediately put into practice some simple and useful tools.

In the first sentence of the book, Tolle says, “I have little use for the past and rarely think about it.” What a tremendous statement! And I was even more surprised to learn that he does not spend much time thinking about the future either.

I was also struck by the following passage, in which he recounts his transformation after bouts of suicidal depression: “[I thought] I cannot live with myself any longer… then suddenly I became aware of what a peculiar thought it was. Am I one or two? If I cannot live with myself, there must be two of me: the ‘I’ and the ‘self’ that ‘I’ cannot live with. Maybe only one of them is real.”

He explains that the “I” or ego is an illusion, as opposed to the real feeling of being.

In general, the message of this book is that our minds are defensive survival machines that make too much noise and that inhibit us from the inner stillness obligatory for happiness and any creative impulse or insight.

Even Einstein concurred when he said, “Thinking plays only a subordinate part in the brief, decisive phase of the creative act itself.”

Book Review: "Transcendental Meditation" by Jack Forem

This book is a fantastic overview of the practice and benefits of transcendental meditation, which I incorporate into my life for 20 minutes twice per day.

David Lynch, the filmmaker, artist, and artist, has practiced the technique for over 40 years, and he advocates this book.

Research on the psychological benefits of Transcendental Meditation has been published in over 100 academic, scientific, and medical journals.

Basically the author reiterates the technique that was taught to him by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who said that the practice opens the awareness to the infinite reservoir of energy, creativity, and intelligence that lies deep within everyone.

I liked how the author connects the importance of meditation to an evolution of a global scale, and how he draws upon many influential thinkers and psychologists—Erich Fromm, Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, and Aldous Huxley, to name a few.

The author gives a helpful explanation of the hierarchy of needs, a pyramid model that includes 5 levels—physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. The term self-actualization, the highest rung, refers to morality, creativity, spontaneity, and fulfillment—best embodied by notable figures like Abraham Lincoln.

In general, this book is a good stepping-stone for learning the practice.

Book Review: "Daily Rituals" by Mason Currey

This is an interesting book, worth a casual recommendation, although it will by no means change your life.

The author read biographies and news clippings of hundreds of artists and intellectuals, mostly writers, and distills them into the basic habits that each of them pursued on a daily basis.

Upon reading this book, I had hoped to identify a distinct pattern that all these great individuals demonstrated and that I could incorporate into my own routine, but to my disappointment there was great disparity among them.

The book recounts what time of day the writers woke up and went to sleep, how much they wrote and where, what they ate and drank, including drugs, alcohol, caffeine, and amphetamines. Perhaps I should not have been too surprised that many of these individuals were unhealthy and driven to extremes.

I did glean something very useful from this book, which was William James’ take on habit, one of his favorite subjects. He advocated that we spend a certain portion of our lives on automatic, which he believed would free the mind for higher purposes.

In other words, if your routines are not structured, if you spend a large portion of your of your day contemplating what you are going to eat and what clothes you are going to wear, then how much time will you really have for creative and intellectual purposes?

Book Review: "Views from the Real World: Early Talks of Gurdjieff as Recollected by his Pupils"

This book was a special recommendation from someone I respect.

Gurdjieff was a man who “disappeared” for a long period of his early life to wander the East with a definite purpose through many places inaccessible to Europeans, meeting remarkable people along the way, reading ancient texts, and studying hundreds of religions.

When he reemerged, he prepared presentations that he hoped would influence the Western world.

Gurdjieff was virtually unknown throughout his lifetime, 1866 through 1949, yet his work continues to gain prominence.

He held a very close following of pupils whom he did not allow to take notes during his speeches, but afterwards they were able to assemble everything on memory into books published after his death.

Gurdjieff taught that most people live their lives in a state of hypnotic “waking sleep,” and that it is possible to transcend to a higher state of consciousness and achieve full human potential.

The main thing I gained from this book is the importance of self-awareness, and it prompted me to spend most of my month focusing on ways to improve my attention to details of my surroundings.

Book Review: The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge" by Carlos Castaneda

I chose to read this book because of my interest in eastern philosophy and mythology. 

This is an autobiographical account by Carlos Castaneda, an anthropology student from UCLA who traveled to Mexico over a period of many years to study shamanism and do an apprenticeship with Yaqui Indian, Don Juan.

This now classic book has inspired generations of seekers dissatisfied with the limitations of the Western worldview.

Although Castaneda provides plenty of impractical information about the use of Peyote, a psychedelic drug that Yaquis used to acquire non-ordinary states of reality, he nonetheless points to an alternative way of seeing and a revolution in cognition. 

This book will show you how to see the world differently—and as some of us know, an important aspect of anthropology is to note that the world is defined differently in different places. For the Yaquis, Peyote was a means to disrupt everyday routines and patterns of behaviors. We cannot possibly comprehend our world in its awesome totality—yet we are cultural animals, and so we are taught a system of beliefs in a process of conditioning that will allow us to function properly in society.

Take some of the eccentric aspects of this book with a grain of salt, but realize that every once in awhile we need to reassess beliefs we take for granted.

Book Review: "The Journey to Ixtlan: The Lessons of Don Juan" by Carlos Castaneda

The information in this book has a lot of practical merit.

This book will teach you a great deal about the importance of fulfillment and living in the moment.

What I gained from this book is merely another affirmation of the importance of meditation and mindfulness—behaviors he dubs “stopping the world” for their ability quiet our thoughts and interpretations about the world and experience it more directly.

Castaneda basically elaborates on a series of techniques he gained from Don Juan through field trips to the desert, and he provides vivid sensory descriptions.

Also, he admits his erroneous original assumption that Peyote was the only means of communicating and learning the teachings of Don Juan. 

The book is full of pithy wisdom.

For example, Don Juan says you must erase personal history because doing so makes you free from the encumbering thoughts of other people and able to reinvent yourself.

He says you must lose self-importance because as long as you feel that you are the most important thing in the world you cannot really appreciate the world around you.

He says you must use death as an advisor so that you recognize the fragility of life and treat every act as if it were your last stand on earth.

In general, I love the Don Juan’s terminology—hunter, warrior, and sorcerer—titles he gives to certain ideals of human behavior. 

Book Review: "The Search for Meaning: A Short History" by Dennis Ford

I think that this book is an extraordinary little accomplishment.

I’ve always had a tendency to view the so-called search for meaning in black and white terms—i.e. religion versus science.

Often I find that books attempting to answer the meaning question adopt a single, authoritarian approach; however, this book distills all the basic approaches into an organized and sympathetic manner.

I found this book useful and informative because I always like to be prepared when faced with the questions, “What do I believe?” or “How should I live my life?” I think the book promotes an important message: Always ask, “Why?”

Here the author gives a great example: “We go to work, have children, eat meat, attend church on Sunday mornings perhaps, but we do all of these things without self-consciousness, without deliberation. We simply accept the norms of our culture and community without awareness or questioning; in a sense, we are living and acting on automatic.”

The author gives a range of approaches through different fields of study: Myth, philosophy, science, pragmatism, and naturalism—to name just a few of the eight fields he explores.

I consider myself a spiritual person, but I have always felt a resistance to religion as a means to answer my questions. For me, this book is a useful tool that allows me to better articulate my views.

If you do buy this book, and if you choose to read only one section, read the section on pragmatism—a fascinating topic, deeply highlighted within my copy of the book.