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A Dubious Epiphany
on May 3, 2008
The first half of this book offers little to distinguish itself from other metaphysical literature on mind-body healing or the power of positive thinking and healthy beliefs. It covers David Bohm's theory that the universe is a holographic computer (although Bohm is only mentioned in one brief paragraph at the very end of the book--p.190), the relationship between the conscious and subconscious minds, and the maleability of reality as described by quantum mechanics. These summaries are tedious and offer few insights that can't be found in dozens of other books.
THE SPONTANEOUS HEALING OF BELIEF does contain a solid chapter on how our minds are unconsciously programmed at an early age and how such negative programming produces the frustration, fear, anger, depression, and pain that can sabatoge our beliefs and the ability to lead healthy lives. Braden's examples are relevant and specific, and this is the strongest part of the book.
The middle of the book is muddled, however, and veers radically off course. According to the author, the prerequisite for healing our beliefs is that light and darkness, good and evil must not be judged but rather accepted as equal and necessary forces by the subconscious mind (pp. 116-124). A battle is allegedly raging within our bodily cells because we were taught as young children that evil and darkness are bad. This conclusion, Braden tells us, was the result of recurring dreams through which he learned to embrace darkness and light as equals. (Okay, Luke, the dark side isn't so bad after all.) Following the description of these dreams, we learn in a poorly explained section that the author, as a result of his dream revelations, lost all friendships, both positive and negative, as he experienced a rather zen-like "nothingness." There is no real clarification as to what he means by this other than that a kind of metaphysical "glue" had "dissolved" in his life (p. 126), a glue formed by mistakenly judging relationships in terms of light and darkness (whatever that might mean) and by evaluating people in terms of their "honesty, integrity, and trust" (p. 125). He concludes that when our own relationships, difficult or not, begin to fade, then the "glue" has been healed. But wait--does the glue "dissolve" or become "healed"? Braden's terminology and prose are hopelessly vague. Is seeking honesty, integrity, and trust in people wrong? And why would we want to risk losing perfectly normal, healthy relationships?
This would be all well and good if the reader can accept a few tenets of Taoism--the "yin and yang"--but the entire principle of polar opposites and its Taoist origins is never explained even though Braden's entire argument rests on this single concept. It is a glaring omission of staggering proportions. The paradigm shift the book seeks to precipitate, therefore, is simply not possible in the Western tradition, a posture that is naive and limiting since it excludes so many other spiritual approaches to the laws of attraction and manifestation. Although Braden takes no doctrinal position, his beliefs are implicit, as when he says that the battle between good and evil, a battle that must NOT be won by either side, is "at least 2000 years old." This is a clear reference to the Common Era (A.D.) since good and evil are spoken of as irreconcilable opposites by the Christian gospels. The truth is that the metaphysics of belief and manifestation can be found in numerous traditions, both east and west, nor is it necessarily confined to any organized tradition at all.
Mr. Braden's fuzzy dream epiphany that yokes together good and evil ignores the considerable metaphysical, philosophical, and religious literature that draws heavily upon Western tradition, calling for a repudiation of evil, darkness, and negativity before one may manifest a desired reality. The most notable example is Dr. Joseph Murphy's landmark THE POWER OF THE SUBCONSCIOUS MIND, as well as studies and books by Dr. Larry Dossey, Dr. Melvin Morse, Dr. Bernie Segal, and Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, all of whom maintain a belief in the power of positive thinking within Jewish, Christian, and non-denominational traditions in order to manifest miracles and strengthen belief.
Braden uses the brief discussion of opposites to bolster the premise that the universe is a computer simulation. Computers use a binary language: 1 and 0, yes and no, on and off. Ay, there's the rub! The only necessary discussion of an "opposite" in this context is the on-off nature of the atom, which can exist as a wave or a particle (determined by the observer according to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle), and yet this is oddly given short shrift in the book. Wave-particle duality (or any part of quantum mechanics) does not dictate that we accept good and evil as a single unified force to choose between what Braden terms "love chemistry" or "fear chemistry." Most metaphysical writers, in fact, believe that it is precisely our decision to choose light over darkness (that which is positive and loving) that allows us to embrace a new paradigm capable of breaking toxic habits and relationships--the old programming.
The book's final chapters seek to implement the actual healing of beliefs with mental "software patches" consisting of 1) the use of irrefutable logic to convince the mind of its false programming, and 2) miracles themsleves. If the first method was an easy fix, we could dispense with psychotherapy or books like this one and simply give ourselves a good talking to, for as the author himself reiterates numerous times, old internal tapes are extremely hard to destroy. Method one is therefore anything but "spontaneous." The second method is a classic Catch-22. To experience a miracle, one must actually first experience a miracle in order to get beyond classic scientific thinking. (Huh?) The ways to "heal belief" according to Braden, therefore, are as follows: 1) embrace good and evil as one force; 2) use logic; or 3) experience a miracle. It's worth noting that in the entire book, only four examples are used to demonstrate Braden's thesis. As for Braden's "31 Belief Codes," they are merely paragraph summaries scattered throughout the book. They are "factoids" that can be found in almost any book on mind-body healing or metaphysics and do not represent any kind of organized "system" of healing.
While the book makes some valid scientific points, its central thesis hinges on a biased and egocentric view of reality resulting from Braden's dreams. His conclusions about healing are likely to turn off readers who cannot accept evil and darkness as necessary creative forces in their lives. Perhaps he merely means, as Jung stated, that we must accept our limitations and darker sides--our humanity--but this bit of solid psychology does not tally with what Braden is suggesting. Nowhere in the book does Braden tell us how our "relationship with polarity" (p. 128) heals our beliefs. Chapter five promises to apply this all-important concept, but polarity is never mentioned again as Braden resumes his discussion of life as computer simulation.
Competent editing of this book might have gone a long way in clarifying some of the author's more esoteric, ill-defined points. The rambling chapter on polarities and Braden's dreams seems detached from the rest of the book, which desperately needs what is known in publishing as "developmental editing." There is no flow or continuity to the chapters in what is a wandering, now-familiar discussion of manifestation and the laws of attraction and belief.
Gregg Braden has been called "a modern-day prophet," a scientist who is bridging the gap between science and spirituality. Braden, however, is a former computer programmer, not a scientist, and the methodology, research, and conclusions in his books have been sharply criticized for years by legitimate scientists as well as reviewers in the mainstream press.