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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the paperback edition.
- Publication Date : October 6, 2010
- File Size : 1085 KB
- Print Length : 386 pages
- Publisher : New World Library (October 6, 2010)
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Language: : English
- ASIN : B0031W1E4K
- Screen Reader : Supported
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #654,855 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Deconstructed, the book is a blend of philosophical essentialism/idealism, ego psychology, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It is essentialism/idealism because of his assumption that we each have an essential unborn nature of unconditioned awareness that is prior to matter’s existence, and survives death. This is in contrast to existentialism, which posits that our nature is created over time through choices we make in living, and to materialism, which posits that consciousness emerges from the brain, vanishing with death. If you buy into essentialism/idealism than you are adopting a story to supersede the “me, you, past, and future stories” our minds are afflicted with. As he states on page 171, “virtually anything that we can think about ourselves is just a story or belief about who we are.” The same goes for Moss’s story about our “true self.” His story goes: “I am sufficient as I am; I am already that for which I have been seeking.” (pg. 187). This represents an affirmation—the power of positive thinking, yet Moss stresses that “positive thought is not the language of the Now;” (pg. 268) positive thinking is a manipulation. CBT would agree. CBT is not positive thinking, but realistic thinking, designed to replace cognitive distortions. As far as story telling goes, according to Moss, the Now is where your “true story” always begins. (pg.216).
Moss repeats over and over that the domain of our “true self” is “at the beginning of ourselves” in the now—in the awareness of sensation/perception (pg. 41), and that this awareness is “prior to thought.” But that awareness is thought—non-conceptual, but still thought. While awareness without concepts is possible, (Franklin merrell-Wolff’s consciousness without an object), there is no such thing as pure, unbiased perception. Even though there are pre-existent structures that attune to patterns in our perceptual field, what we sense/perceive is largely conditioned by experience. The neuroscience of perception apparently wasn’t in Moss’s bibliography. So dis-identifying with our “me/you/past/ future stories” helps us become more psychologically/emotionally differentiated (and less biased), but not pure and unbiased. The idea of the unconditioned “original mind” that sees things as they are is a myth. Quantum physicists figured that out.
This story of the “true self as sensation/perception” seems like a regression to a more primitive form of cognition. Humans represent the most developed species with the neomamalian brain. This allows us to live in a “second nature” of constructed meaning—our stories. Rejecting this, we move back to the paleomamalian brain—the emotional limbic system, and finally to the reptilian brain—brain stem functions. Non-conceptual sensing/perceiving cognition is predominant in lower animals. It is their essence. This is also our essence? Descriptions of deep meditative states of non-dual awareness with no objects of cognizance sound like brain stem functions. Nirvana means “extinction” (pg. 166), so I guess this means turning off higher cognitive centers. Sounds like the wrong direction to me. Modifying our stories rather than mocking and extinguishing our stories is more consistent with psychological development, and is the basis of both CBT and progress in modern science. I agree that being trapped in our dysfunctional stories represents “lower self functioning,” (pg. 221), but I don’t agree that modifying our stories simply puts us in another prison. (pg. 226) Moss's appeal for “No stories—just awareness”— represents lower brain functioning.
I found the mandala diagram initially intriguing, but the more I thought about it, the more I had problems with it. On page 159, the diagram has two intersecting axes: Past—Future and Subject—Object, the latter also called Me—You. I wouldn’t equate Me with Subject, since “Me” is another object. Me-stories are meanings in which we objectify ourselves. When we are fully present in the now without mental commentary, then we are truly “subjects.” And relating to another who is also likewise present allows “intersubjective” communion as opposed to the usual subject-object projective identification. Moss divides the 4 poles into separate categories of stories, but I can’t imagine having pure past or future stories without objects of thought—about me and you. But Moss spends a lot of time denigrating (pissing on) the 4 domains—thus my metaphor of the “mandala of peeing.” It makes more sense to me to visualize a quadrant in which the right upper quadrant is the domain of future you stories, the lower right is past you stories, upper left is future me stories, and lower left is past me stories. So our stories always contain me and/or you elements that can be located anywhere in any of the 4 quadrants within the time continuum. Ironically, on page 167, Moss makes a misstatement (in my opinion). He states that by moving to the Now—the intersection point at the center of the Mandala of Being—“This automatically enables us regard ourselves with much greater objectivity and to be inherently less identified with our old stories.” Objectifying ourselves is the problem we are trying to get away from! Self-regard is an ego function, and one that the author calls an illusion. Perhaps his choice of words was ill-fitting. It’s a paradox to try and describe the ineffable. Curiously, what Moss describes as extinguishing the “dissociated point of view of the separate self—the ego-I” (which is necessary to dis-identify with our stories) is described in ego psychology literature as developing an “observing ego.” Perhaps it’s simply a semantic quandary.
Everything I have said should be challenged. The same applies to this book. Moss would have to agree with me, since he said so in the following text: “Absolute conviction, whether about ourselves, about others, or about any belief, is at the root of all human evil. We must remember that beliefs of any kind are our own creations. If we cannot doubt and question them, our thinking closes in upon itself. Closed systems inevitably defend themselves, sometimes to the point where violence against another becomes enjoyable.” (pg. 280) Well said. That deserves 3 stars.
Top reviews from other countries
There is one basic assumption you need to accept: That "GOD" (choose your own terminology here) is not the demanding, domineering, tyrannical judge of your every thought and deed, prescribing you the "one right way" and then waiting for you to deviate from it and stumble, but an all compassionate source of love, energy and togetherness that carries you and heals you whenever you let it.
If your religious beliefs conform with this approach, or if you are at least able to tolerate this approach as a hypothesis, you will profit from this smoothly written, lightly teaching reading.
I have several times fallen asleep while reading. This is not a bad sign, when you have started reading because you were so upset, e.g. about an intolerable but absolutely out-of-reach event (e.g. a WRONG!!! political or legal decision), you could not even eat, drink or think straight.
Personally, I usually prefer books that are more compact, show deep structure and lead from point to point in a straightforward manner. This book - the title clearly indicates - is a mandala, not a roadmap. A little bit (say 20%) too much on the mandala side for my taste - so I deduct one star from the five it merits.
Disregarding this egoistic deduction, I recommend this book to anyone seriously interested in his/her spiritual development and peace of mind. Religious fundamentalists will be offended.