- Paperback: 140 pages
- Publisher: North Atlantic Books; Revised edition (January 31, 1993)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780938190127
- ISBN-13: 978-0938190127
- ASIN: 0938190121
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.3 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 12 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #266,836 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Passionate Mind: A Manual for Living Creatively with One's Self Paperback – January 31, 1993
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"Intriguing topic discussed with eloquence ....Stimulating and mind-stretching...Subjects of elemental and universal interest: belief, pleasure, freedom, fear, death, time, analysis and the unconscious, images, love, sexuality, meditation, evolution."
—Los Angeles Times
"Joel Kramer, in his own unique way, shares through his own life adventures, direct ways of helping you to experience you being both the Known and the Knower."
"Thank you for The Passionate Mind. It held my interest throughout, which for me is unusual. You present basic verities in a way that anyone could assimilate, with beauty and simplicity."
"Perhaps Joel Kramer's singular merit lies in his content which is so unusual, so startling, as to grip the mind and shake its foundations. . .He deals with simple, even commonplace subjects which have been abused again and again. Only, he brings fresh impact to their understanding."
—Gordon Sherman, Chairman of the Board, California School of Professional Psychology
About the Author
Joel Kramer has been speaking throughout the world for many years about the basic concerns of living. He was on the resident faculty at Esalen Institute from 1968-70. He teaches on the evolution of awareness, combining Eastern and Western philosophies. Visit him at JoelDiana.com.
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Now, this "seeing" obviously doesn't happen automatically of itself, otherwise these talks would not have been done, so it is obviously something one must initiate. If this seeing was automatic, then all would see and we wouldn't have to speak about this special form of seeing. Since this "seeing" isn't automatic, then it must be initated. So the question is: why would I do this? Is it not for the "real freedom" that Kramer says comes with seeing and the movement it generates, the movement that it supposedly is. Obviously, desire and ambition are still in operation. It is just that I have now gone a layer deeper into fooling myself that I am not employing either. This seeing is an action, a doing. Kramer states, "The only person who can open up these doors for you is you. And the only way to do it is to observe exactly what you are..."(72). Thus, this observation is yet another action, likened to opening a door. The door needs to be opened- it won't open itself. So, why would I open the door? Nothing is causeless, especially nothing that I must initiate. What is the driver behind this observation? It should be rather obvious. He addresses this in a very brief and dismissvie manner because he has apparently become blind to the ambition that exists there. That is the especially pernicious thing- Kramer thinks that this "seeing" that he speaks about somehow circumvents desire and ambition, but this is clearly nonsense. There are no unmotivated actions. And this is the point- one cannot circumvent desire/ambition. It is always there and to think that you can engage in any action (such as observing or "seeing") without motivation is utter delusion. Kramer has just driven the blinders a bit deeper, that's all. In my experience, all is ambition; all is desire. True, this can be seen with obervation, but I recognize that this observation is born of ambition/desire as well. Existence is desire. Seeing is desire.
He continually states that there is a "seeing that brings forth its own movement." As one can see, this "movement" is a product of the seeing. We are told this ad infinitum. He also tells us that this seeing "can never be asked for, never sought or demanded."(79) If this is so, it is the ultimate irony that it has been spoken about because the mere mention of it obliterates any chances of causeless seeing occurring, at least for me. We are told that movement is only brought forth by seeing. But if you "see" for any reason or purpose at all, then you are exhibiting ambition. But he has made the fatal error of equating movement with seeing, saying that one brings forth the other. Once that association is made in the mind- and it is made immediately and irrevocably upon hearing or reading- then any chances of real seeing must be gone. As he said regarding love, seeking "immediately negates even the possibility of the thing itself."(85) This continually stressed association between seeing and this pure "movement" inhibits any seeing devoid of the connection with this movement, and thus immediately negates any possibility of seeing. Once again, In an ultimte stroke of irony, his manual for seeing totally eliminates any chance for real unmotivated seeing.
He moves through all of the "problems" of living and points to our selfishness and always reminds us that "you can easily observe all of this in yourself"(91). We are told that can easily see our problematic responses to situations. He curiously seems to forget that if we engage in seeing for that purpose (or any purpose), then we have fallen into ambition and have destroyed any possibility of seeing.
On meditation: Kramer states that any effects from meditation are temporary: "through one mechanical technique or another a temporary stillness may ensue, but the noise returns"(98). This counters all of the testimonies of meditation masters of every tradition. They tell us that the stillness reached in meditation is eventually maintained in everyday daily activities and becomes unshakable. Thus, the noise does not return, and the stillness that ensues eventually becomes permanent. Daniel Golemam is very clear about this writing in "The Varieties of Meditative Experience." One gets the distinct impression that Joel Kramer is likely a frustrated former meditator. The noise must have returned for him, he got turned off, and subsequently turned his insular belief into a universal truth which is very dangerous. The fact is, the noise doesn't return for everybody. But it will if you quit or never start in the first place because Joel Kramer told you that it was futile based upon his preconceived beliefs. One man's preconceived belief versus the first-hand experiential testimonies of hundreds of meditators that have witnessed permanent stillness occur in their lives. You be the judge.
He says, "I'm going to meditate and get this possession that I call 'enlightenment' or 'samadhi,' then I'll have it and be able to display it to my friends." His sarcasm only demonstrates his own beliefs about meditation and its consequences, and that is rather revealing. I am not sure who would think of enlightenment as a possession, but Kramer does and he thinks that everyone who meditates does as well. These are interesting beliefs for man that tells us that all beliefs are violence. Reading his book, you can certainly pick up on his violent aversion to meditation. He makes a blanket statement about all forms of meditation, yet he couldn't have possibly deeply engaged and studied each. So, how does he know about them all? If he isn't speaking from knowledge, then he is clearly speaking from belief- the exact thing that he warned us about. He eschews meditation because he believes it is goal-oriented (i.e., involves ambition/desire) and has structure. But, by disavowing such practices, he has demonstrated ambition and thus had negated his argument. His insistence that there is no path and that real meditation is structureless becomes yet another structure, especially when it avoids certain things (like a meditation practice). As soon as one describes what something is not, it begins to be defined- it begins to develop its own structure. Claiming that "seeing" structureless doesn't make it structureless of course, but he does not see this. For someone who talks so much about seeing, there is so much he doesn't see. He makes endless authoritative statements, yet reminds us, "what authorities do is cut off learning completely"(103). Yes, the contradictions abound endlessly.
In addition, Kramer posits that there is nothing that is changeless in our lives- we are "always a changing being, a new being...."(62). What about the faculty of seeing and the capacity to see? These are aspects of our being. In fact, when it occurs, he says it is our being. Kramer speaks of the "illusion of the continuity of 'I'"(63). Well, like everything else, it all depends on how one defines "I". Interesting enough, what does he say later? "I'm continually moving. Life is movement"(65). If "I" am the movement of life and life is "continually moving", then it follows that there is a continuity of "I". In this case, I am the continuity of life itself. So, once again, he has contradicted himself.
Finally, Kramer says we should "allow someone to just be" just as we "want...to be allowed to run [our] own changes in life." (84). Just before, he reminded us in typical Buddhist fashion that "there is no thinker; there is just thought"(78). So, there is no thinker behind our thoughts yet we "run our own changes in life"? We don't think our thoughts yet we run our life? There is no you, but you must open the door of seeing. Unfortunately, Kramer can't seem to get his story straight.
I still have an early copy of his book, and am just now ordering a new one for a friend, thirty-some years later (his later book was a bit too cerebral for me). His basic message, stated in short, clear prose, is that passion is to be found only in the present moment, and mainly through becomeing aware of the thoughts flowing through our minds ... and through the primal process of just watching (observing)our thoughts, they begin to self-correct.
I've based much of my deeper (spiritual) work as a therapist on Joel's early teachings, along with great insights learned from listening to Krishnamurti over the years ... and this book of Joel's (Passionate Living) is definitely invaluable to anyone on the spiritual path. I've quoted from the book in numerous of my own, and continue to practice his basic mind exercises for awakening true passion. The Passionate Mind is one of those texts that stays in your hands for years, being digested step by step ... and with great pleassssure!