I read this book in a maniac burst of energy: 200 pages in one sitting in one day and the remaining 100 or so pages consumed the very next day. A psychiatrist writes about neurosis, ignorance, spiritual evolution and the unconscious. This book starts off with a pretty accurate definition of life: life is difficult. I loved this about this book because often you hear: life is beautiful, and life is wonderful, but how about getting off the maudlin train and calling a spade a spade?
Read this book if you are a truth-seeker or a fellow traveler on the arduous road of spiritual growth. Many Thanks to the YouTube channel: actualized.org, which is where I stumbled upon this book.
Here's a brief gist of what the book entails:
1. It explores the root causes of a neurotic, psycho-pathological behavior. It mentions that many different psychoses and neuroses have their origin in a dysfunctional family life or childhood abuse.
2. It talks about self-destructive behavioral traits: ignorance, instant gratification, sheer laziness, myriad lies, ego, fears, stubborn resistance to change, and shying away from challenges. The author clearly states that most mental illnesses are born when we try to bypass the suffering necessary to heal our pain. We try to run away from our problems, expecting them to resolve on their own, instead of confronting them and owning up to their discomfort, and this shallow pursuit of comfort is exactly what causes us our pain. Instead, if we embraced our challenges and the discomfort, life becomes much easier and simpler, and we grow. Our pain also emanates from our inability to see the truth about life: life is not a walk in the park, but a gritty, persevering run.
3. Self-discipline, self-love, and the will to grow, and absolute commitment are the best tools to access spiritual development. The responsibility for your life and your development lies with you, and not with anyone else, and there are no shortcuts.
4. It talks about the kind of interactions, experiences and relationships that can contribute to a meaningful life. The author writes wonderfully how true love is not about clinging to each other for all of eternity, and perpetuating a system of mutual dependency or projecting our expectations but about realizing that each of us have a destiny to fulfill, and to help each other grow and achieve spiritual transcendence. The best relationship is the one between two independent, striving individuals, and not between two individuals aching to forgo their freedom, to fulfill each other's expectations and to become one impeccable interdependent system. True love is also not about living with a person you cant live without but living with a person you know you can live without, I thought this was an astounding piece of revelation. It also delves a lot on a nurturing parent-child relationship, which is a must-read for any parent.
5. It talks about how pain, the pursuit of truth, our suffering, our unconscious, our conscious, and our dysfunctional behavior is related. It says something interesting: our depression, our tears, our nightmares, our unconscious dreams, our pain, our feelings and emotions of distress are a sign from our unconscious of the deep disconnect between our conscious and unconscious, which means we are on a wrong path in our life, we are living a lie, and we need to confront, and change our path, but most of us ignore these symptoms and continue to steep deep in our afflictions and let them render us a hollow shell of a human form.
6. What is the ultimate goal of spiritual growth? What does it even mean to be a spiritual seeker?The author mentions that the collective unconscious is the ultimate omniscient entity, and spiritual enlightenment means aligning our consciousness with the ultimate truth and wisdom: the collective unconscious.
7. It states clearly: you have to seek relentlessly long enough the path of spiritual growth for the light to shine through, and lead you to your true destiny. The road is lonely, difficult and requires terrifying amounts of work, and energy every step of the way.
8. The kind of individual that is most likely to achieve spiritual transcendence is the kind of individual that is independent, questioning, skeptical, open to change, willing to suffer, is brave and able to assimilate new information, and create a new understanding about the nature of reality.
9. The world is complex, reality is strange and counter-intuitive and people are mysterious and ever changing, so it makes sense that we adapt and heed the reality and truth that emerges from our latest experiences. For instance, I might have studied to become an engineer, only to realize I am not built to be one. The sooner I can assimilate this new bit of information, and change my path in life, the faster I will make spiritual progress. But the more I cling to what I know is not right, the more I sacrifice my awareness and my potential for growth. The author mentions most people are averse to the idea of changing their core belief and their path in life even though their present experiences scream for a new path.
10. It talks about religion, science and spirituality. It talks about grace, which is the strength required to embrace pain and lead a spiritual revolution.
11. It offers some interesting ideas: as per second law of thermodynamic, our universe is built to evolve into disorder and chaos, and the very existence of human life and pursuit of spirituality defies the natural order of things, and therefore a constant struggle, effort and work must be expended to achieve this level of awareness.
In conclusion, this book takes a poignant, profound and a holistic look at human existence and its overwhelming predisposition to an easy life, and a life riddled with conflicts and mindless pursuits that annihilate the possibility of a meaningful life. It almost seems that our culture is perpetuating a shallow way of life, and a cop-out mentality rather than a persevering one. It does give you a lot of insightful information to help you in your quest for truth and a spiritual life.
I was feeling a little sad about not having planned anything exciting for Christmas break, but this book totally altered my perception, and I was no longer a bit bitter about not being on the road, off to some obscure yet compelling adventure. This book was a great experience, and an adventure in itself because it presented an off the beaten road kind of reality, which is always more representative of the truth.
The love for books & a hunger for stories was programmed into my DNA. And, sooner than later, life experiences sealed the deal. Books have saved me, transformed my life, enlightened me and have shown me the path I must walk. In a way, far too many books have played the role of kindred spirits and guides, leading the seeker in me to answers and paving a way for a new way of life. Books have helped me keep my wits, my sense of wonder, my sense of mystery and curiosity & my sanity in a life that has been anything but predictable and normal.