Despite its title, this book is neither really a psychological text nor a guide to enlightenment. It is, rather, a statement of the author's personal philosophy. There's certainly nothing wrong with anyone deciding to self-publish their ideas about the life and the world, but while this book is described as a "psychological guide to healing childhood trauma", an extension of Alice Miller's child advocacy ideas, it really feels more like a projection and generalization of Mackler's own outrage and passion to all of humanity with virtually no support backing up his ideas. The book flits in scope from the intimately personal to societal to global, from personal truth to universal truth, and is chock full of sweeping generalizations and questionable assertions made mostly without any support whatsoever, either from other texts or studies or from Mackler's own experience as a clinical psychologist. We're left to take Mackler at his word, but are given no particular reason to trust him as an authority in his field.
Mackler's basic thesis is that all of society's ills are, directly or indirectly, the result of a generational cycle of abuse and emotional exploitation of children by their parents. All undesirable behaviors are either (a) a direct result of a person's repressed rage at his or her parents for their neglect and abuse or (b) the pathologization of healthy (or at least sane) behaviors by an extremely dissociated society dealing with the cognitive dissonance of idealizing such harmful parental practices. Compulsive masturbation (even if just five times a month)? Often "charged with the dynamics of a parental rescue fantasy" (p.84). Rape? Every rapist was raped by his or her parents, maybe not in body, "but all were raped in spirit" (p.32). War, substance abuse, workaholism, xenophobia, you name it: all comes down to the same source: child abuse. Much of Mackler's abuse takes the form of the child's spiritual torture, the internalization not of physical abuse but of the unenlightened parent's wrong thoughts and emotions, which then go on to shape the ways in which the child (and, later, the adult the child grows into) acts out. In Mackler's world, infants are nature's most perfect creations, creatures with souls of pure truth that are only corrupted by exposure to the delusions and pathologies of the unenlightened surrounding us.
Mackler, to be clear, means "enlightenment" in neither a Buddhist nor a new age sense; rather, as he points out, when he says "enlightenment" what he means is "self-actualization". Why he chooses to use a loaded word for a concept for which there's already a fine word isn't quite clear. But in any event, the solution is simple (but not easy): we need to stop idealizing our parents, be honest with ourselves and identify the ways in which they abused us, grieve our tainted perfection, and expand into enlightened/self-actualized people. No unenlightened people should reproduce; if only enlightened people reproduce, their children will, of course, be fully nurtured and not abused and grow healthily into enlightened people right from the start. And many enlightened people will choose not to reproduce. And within a generation or so a cascade of enlightenment will be upon us, everyone will be healthily living lovingly and communally with each other, our population will start to decrease, easing the pressure on our environment and mitigating our various anthropogenic problems, and we'll enter a sort of anti-Malthusian golden age.
If I sound skeptical, that's only because I am. As much as I respect Occam's razor, I don't think all the world's problems are reducable to one root cause. And given my own view of the world, many of Mackler's conclusions don't seem to be the outcomes of the situations he described. Even so, this is not a book I'm sorry I've read. Despite his arrogance, despite his almost complete lack of any kind of support for his assertions and arguments, Mackler provides plenty of food for thought, plenty of nuggets of wisdom or at least surprising insight. I strongly disagree with a number of his assertions, I find his brief foray into evolutionary psychology underwhelming at best, and I'm not quite sure of his view of humanity (a sort of secular spirituality in which human beings are somehow superior to non-human animals, it seems (but why?)), but he's a pretty good writer who's not shy about his ideas and occasionally even has some good ones. I'm not sure I can recommend this book (mostly because I'm not sure whom I'd recommend it to!), but I'm not sorry I read it.
I'd probably give this book 2.5 stars, but I'm going to round up to 3 to counter the semi-intelligible review above by the white supremacist who seems to have had some kind of falling out with Mackler.