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The Way of the Superior Man: A Spiritual Guide to Mastering the Challenges of Women, Work, and Sexual Desire Paperback – October 1, 2004
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"I keep giving this book away; I think I've owned 30 different copies already. I tend to pass it out to anybody, man or woman, who has made a commitment to-or even has a passing interest in-the art of loving. David Deida gets it, like no one I've ever read, and he writes about it forcefully, honestly, and downright poetically."
-Michael Tucker, actor and author "The Way of the Superior Man is quite wonderful. Finally, a guide for the noncastrated male. This book will offend and infuriate some, inspire and test others, but challenge virtually everybody. I found it wise, insightful, occasionally brilliant, and always resourceful. To transcend the body-mind means to transcend and include its sexuality, not transcend and evaporate it. Few are the books that discuss strong sexuality within strong spirituality, instead of tepid sexuality diluted by a mediocre spiritual stance. This book steps straightforwardly into the challenge. Love it or loathe it, it is a shout from the heart of one perspective of the eternal masculine."
-Ken Wilber, author of Sex, Ecology, Spirituality; No Boundary; and Grace and Grit "At last! A book that explains the heart and soul of a woman to men. As a woman, I've never felt so understood and validated. This book is a key to helping men and women take their relationships one step further. Finally, a clear and brilliant guide to unraveling the mystery of relationships."
-Marci Shimoff, co-author of the New York Times #1 bestseller Chicken Soup for the Woman's Soul "The Way of the Superior Man lays out a challenge before all men to fulfill their true purpose and to be authentically masculine. It will guide you on your journey to a successful and spiritually complete way of life. I invite you to live in the moment, to love openly, and to step up to the plate with this book in your hand."
-Tony Robbins, author of Awaken the Giant Within and Unlimited Power "David's work speaks to the core of our work as men. He offers a bold view of men, and challenges us to stand up and lay claim to the beauty and power of the masculine. He does not advocate superiority as in 'superiority to women.' He speaks of superiority as the Greeks might. The challenge is strictly internal. The invitation is to rise above our mediocrity, to let go of making excuses for our own laziness, to stop apologizing for who we are, and to stop blaming others or our childhood for how we've become. He asks that we step into the fullness of our being-intense, focused, powerful, clear. And directly connected to our hearts."
-Dennis Mead-Shikaly, Executive Director: The ManKind Project / New Warrior Network
About the Author
Acknowledged as one of the most insightful and provocative teachers of our time, bestselling author David Deida continues to revolutionize the way that men and women grow spiritually and sexually. His ten books are published in more than twenty-five languages worldwide and are required reading in university, church, and spiritual center courses. His workshops on a radically practical spirituality have been hailed as among the most original and authentic contributions to the field of self-development currently available. He is a founding member of Integral Institute, and has taught and conducted research at the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine, University of California-Santa Cruz, San Jose State University, Lexington Institute in Boston, and Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, France. Some of his recent books include Blue Truth, The Enlightened Sex Manual, The Way of the Superior Man, and Instant Enlightenment.
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I'm mentioning Baron-Cohen's book to provide a sharp contrast with Mr. Deida's book.
Usually, I only review five star books, but for once I'm inspired to write a one star review. I wanted to find merit in this book, which I chose to read after hearing a guy I respect mention the author several times. And I did find merit in it. I appreciated the author's forthrightness in asserting rather than camouflaging his true opinions, and I enjoyed his observations when they actually mirrored and validated some of my own experiences. Apart from the latter self-referential gratification, however, I found it impossible to evaluate whether David Deida knows what he's talking about.
First off - what are his credentials? His "About the Author" bio makes no mention of education or training, which gives me the impression that he'd rather not mention whatever it was. (According to a Google search, Deida was a follower of a sex-scandal-tainted guru "Da Free John"). Instead, his bio makes vague references in the passive voice, e.g., "Known worldwide" (by whom?) and hyperbolic superlatives, e.g., "one of the world's most insightful... spiritual teachers" (says who?) to lay claim to high authority.
And, yes, the voice of authority-from-on-high does resound throughout Mr. Deida's prose, which is loaded with his opinions stated as if they were universal facts. To me, a person who habitually states opinions as if they were facts is dishonestly manipulative -- or else unconsciously careless -- in his methods of persuasion.
Here's one example, from page 5-7: "people who have what I call a more balanced sexual essence, sexual polarity doesn't really matter. They don't really want much passion in intimacy... And for these people, this book will be irrelevant, possibly even offensive."
My questions start with: Who are these people and how does Deida know how ALL of them feel? Is he referring to white American middle class folks, or to all people in the world, or does this observation draw from the highly self-selecting sample of people Mr. Deida has happened to meet?
Another example of stating-opinions-as-facts is his essentialist claim, that "90% of people have either a more masculine or a more feminine sexual essence." On what factual basis can it be claimed that such a core essence exists? He never tells us, and I think such a claim can never be proved or disproved. Its value depends entirely on the value any given reader attributes to it, based on his/her experience. I, for one, felt gratified by and therefore "agreed with" aspects of Deida's book that matched my experience -- but this proves nothing about their validity as universal facts.
Here's another problem. Deida states that the book is "written explicitly for people who have already achieved respect for other genders and sexual preferences, and who consider men and women to be social, economic, and political equals."
The last time I checked on economic and political realities, men and women were not equals in either of those areas (except perhaps in Norway, where half the national legislators are women). Anyone who believes him/herself freed to "consider" men & women equal in these ways I think must be living a sheltered life, within a privileged enclave. How else could he feel free to ignore widespread, measurable realities outside that enclave? What kinds of people are free to arrogate to themselves the grandiose power to define reality according to idealized or mystical thoughts about how reality should be? (Such ignorance, I would argue, carries with it the terrible price of entrapment in a narcissistic bubble of self-reinforcing, self-serving beliefs, along with rejection of any information that might threaten those beliefs).
There are numerous other weaknesses I could describe. Several are redundant to points made in the other "one star" reviews. I'll end with this one: Deida's book borrows a grab-bag of tools and ideas taken from various Asian wisdom traditions - and he often simply presents these ideas as if they were his own! Occasionally, he'll hint that he's drawing on Hindu deities or Chinese medicinal concepts, but he also presents specific techniques invented by Tibetan Buddhists and Chi Gung masters -- and he makes no mention of these sources.
When I compare Deida's blatant cultural plagiarism to the 41 pages of rigorously documented references and bibliography in Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen's "The Essential Difference" I have no difficulty understanding which of the two authors can be trusted. Dr. Baron-Cohen, with substantive, fascinating, groundbreaking knowledge to share about male-female differences, is clearly "The Superior Man."
He romanticizes patriarchy, where men control the resources (and exclude women from access), fight with each other for them in a quest for "dominance," and then finally choose from among women based upon their attractiveness as sex-objects and their willingness to be service-objects. Much, but not all, the world has indeed been organized patriarchally in the last 2000-5000 years, but this has changed in the last 50 years, and looks to change even more so toward more adult and integrated functioning in both men and women, on a more widespread basis, in coming years.
In Deida's world "man" does not seek love, and "woman" does not want freedom. We know this is so patently false, that Deida appears cartoonish (to me anyway).
A man who needs to be "dominant" to have sex is revealing weakness in his psychology (as the parable goes, he of the strong front has a weak back). He is attempting to use this dominance to overcome anxiety and other issues he has with emotional intimacy (which usually derive from poor relationships with parents, including often his own father, and/or problems with trauma from being socialized into "masculinity," i.e. patriarchal culture). He is a so-called "man who cannot love (or feel loved) in an adult way." As such an emotionally immature man ages and less testosterone is available to him to override his conscious or subconscious anxiety (making more difficult the "performance" this type of man values), this is when some men act out and do things like seek out new women and/or obviously fertile, much younger, more chronically vulnerable women for temporary boosts in testosterone (which don't last), take Viagra, and do other artificial things. Anxiety is often a barrier to arousal in men just as it is in women. See David Schnarch's book, Passionate Marriage. It is also, more importantly, a barrier to pleasure for a man of any age.
And the trauma caused to children (of both sexes) of a man with these significant emotional problems can be devastating. This is why it is important not to have children with these men; these problems are perpetuated. I don't see any reference that Deida has any children and this is a relief to me. I am concerned about him promoting this lifestyle to people who do want to have children, however.
These are things men no doubt do not like to read, but without facing these realities, they will fail at the most important aspects of their lives.
I am wondering if Deida was robbed of his full development in childhood? We have a terrible history in our culture of depriving boys and men of their emotional lives. See the book "Raising Cain." I am sorry if this is true in Deida's case, but it needs to be said that adult men and women are much more than he says, much more than the narcissistic quest for dominance, selfishness and grandiosity he values in men, or the inverse narcissistic quest for love, focus on nurturing and dependence he values in women. The strength derived from having access to a full emotional range is non-trivial; I think some people who don't have this access don't realize this.
A spirituality that defines men in this way and considers them this distinct from women is not human spirituality at all; it's ego gratification dressed up into something grandiose and ultimately meaningless.
Self-actualized, financially autonomous adult women do not value dominant men, they find them toxic. Self-actualized, emotionally secure men do not value submissive women, they find them draining.
Adult men and women have much capacity to play all sorts of roles, to make a difference (or fulfill a "mission" in Deida's terms) in the world, to take responsibility for themselves (including financially and in their relationships to dependents, such as children) and their behavior as autonomous adults, to make choices, to give each other pleasure, to love each other and to help and support each other. It is in their self-awareness and integrated selves that the acquire the power and flexibility to do these things, including to become responsible and caring parents. Deida degrades this as "androgynous" and sexless. (In fact, I suspect there is much more room for healthy and varied sexual experience, including games of dominance and submission if you're into that, and other role-playing, as well as seeing the real, non-toxic differences between the sexes, in an equal status relationship, rather than in the kind Deida advocates; one person being dominant in a relationship tends to kill the interest the lower-status person has in sex pretty quickly.) And a human spirituality, devoid of toxic stereotypes about men and women, is thus available to both people. Men can also thus find very rewarding, real spiritual connection with their women partners, and also with their children, not the fake kind with themselves or where they project themselves onto women or children.
This is why men in so-called "feminist" marriages (where the man and woman are equal status) get much more sex and more love. See The Shriver Report, A Woman's Nation. As Carl Jung put it, "Where love rules, there is no will to power, and where power predominates, love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other." But economic means need not be sacrificed and in fact are more resilient in these families. In a great many cases, probably the majority of cases, the family also has more economic means. The man may make less money (some 20-30% less if he is a parent and not just a breadwinner and his wife is an earner), but the wife's earnings usually make up that gap and then some.
Deida also says younger women are more attractive to the self-absorbed man because they are more "feminine," whereas nearly all older women have developed a protective, masculine armor, but "should be given their due." In his self-absorption, he does not realize that the younger women are more vulnerable (which he confuses with "femininity" in his preoccupation with the patriarchal polarity) because they are looking for a father for their children, an enormously important decision for women and men to make. Older men, especially ones who are doing it without thinking it through, are often not good fathers for children, both because of damage to their sperm from aging which causes chromosomal deterioration (See The Male Biological Clock by Fisch and Braun) and because, except in some well-considered cases, these men don't have the energy and commitment for real fathering. Sperm banks don't take donations from men over the age of 35 because of chromosomal deterioration in sperm, for example. Also, autism is much more common in children of men over the age of 35 or 40; it is not known whether this is due to chromosomal deterioration of sperm or because the men who have children at that later age are not men well-prepared for fathering (they may be narcissistic themselves, for example) or because of a combination of these factors and/or other factors related to aging, such as low energy. And, if they are especially old, they die before their children reach adulthood, further traumatizing the children.
Americans have a terrible habit of falling prey to charlatans in part, I suspect, because of the arrested development and "hollowness" patriarchy inculcates in many men and women. Please don't prey fall to this one.
I believe that in lieu of Deida's model, many men and women may find the concept of "self-in-relation" more useful toward developing a workable marriage, including spiritual connection. You can find this discussed by many contemporary therapists, including those who have written books, such as Terry Real ("I Don't Want To Talk About It" or "How Do I Get Through To You"). There are also books by women, such as Pia Mellody or Harriet Lerner (such as "The Dance of Anger") but since this is a book by a man, if you want a direct comparison straight from that sex's mouth, I would starting with Real or Schnarch. Allan Johnson's "The Gender Knot" is also great, for understanding the socio-political-economic system of patriarchy, and any of Michael Kimmel's books as well, for understanding stylized and stereotyped definitions of "masculinity."