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4.2 out of 5 stars
Back to Sanity: Healing the Madness of Our Minds
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on 23 June 2012
This book has Parts 1 and 2, but I would characterize it in 3 parts. In the first part, Steve Taylor sets out his invented notion of 'humania', actually a clever term he has coined to describe two core concepts. The first, our 'internal chatter', that phenomenon we all seem to display whereby our mind is constantly in a state of internal flux, our mind wanders incessantly and we have an ongoing dialogue within ourselves. Taylor sees this as a largely negative aspect of broadly speaking white Caucasians. Notice that I am using sweeping terms, something Taylor does a lot. Why do I assume white Caucasians? Because Taylor highlights quite specifically that indigenous peoples around the world do/did not suffer from many of the mental ills that 'we' do, and that in colonizing these good peoples lands (Aborigines, North American and South American Indians, etc) we pretty much wiped them out. So white Caucasians it is. In using historical data to bolster his arguments, Taylor's pick and mix approach to history is somewhat underwhelming. In this first part, my overall impression is that Taylor has taken many of the concepts behind Buddhism and given them an appealing scientific gloss, intermingled with a broad polemic to hang everything together.

In my part 2 (though still part 1 of the book)Taylor tackles consumerism and excessive consumption. In my opinion, this is the most successful section of the book. I would recommend this book on this section alone. Although the arguments have been well rehearsed in recent post-crash years, we can't have enough writers reminding us that profligacy has to come to an end, and that means YOU (and me). This is important as Taylor views much of the negative internal chatter we suffer from as driven by anxieties induced by consumerism, that goods/services once consumed have to be paid for, and debt (problems) just pile up. So the main message here, consume less, borrow less, compete less, and be happier. Towards the end of the book's part 1 and start of part 2, Taylor takes time out to rant about religion, women and the treatment of, the innocence of children, morals, and a host of other topics. All quite interesting but maybe more appropriate for a different book.

The final part of the book, its part 2 and my part 3, I would argue is where it really all falls apart. Spiced up Buddhism drifts into the well trodden path of meditative techniques, neatly blended with lashings of psycho-babble. However, if the reader is looking for answers that look familiar (spiritual) but have a tasty layer of sciency sounding jargon to boot then this could be just the ticket.

The back cover sports the words 'ground-breaking and inspiring'. Ground-breaking it ain't, but you might indeed find it inspiring, and I personally wish any book that tackles greed and over-consumption as social ills much success.

By the by, Taylor lists country walking as great for mental health. Again, hardly ground-breaking advice, but it works for me.
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on 18 September 2012
A few years ago Steve Taylor captured my attention with his first book the Fall, in which he tried to understand the genesis, limitations and dangers of our `ego-separateness'. Since then he has continued to surprise me with new titles - about one every year - in which he has shown how deep this ego-separateness touches us in our daily lives, and how necessary and spiritually enriching it is to leave this ego-separateness behind. I was amazed that the theme could inspire Taylor to yet another book. And again, it is a great book, a welcome addition to his other titles, written again in his fluent, lively style, which makes the book accessible to both the academic specialist and the general reader. I am impressed by the way Taylor as an academic continues to make a big effort to reach the general public with his ideas, and by the way he dares to be fully open to the world of spirituality - a world that in academia is still very much frowned upon, and often not considered worthy of any serious scientific interest.

In Back to Sanity Taylor sets the problems that everyone in the Western world is facing today - from loneliness to acquisitiveness to competitiveness to warfare and to environmental destruction - in a clear perspective and he argues convincingly that behind these problems one root cause can be identified. Taylor has labeled this root cause humania, a state of `psychological discord', that is caused by our ego-separateness. This psychological discord manifests in our daily lives as a continuous `thought chatter', a kind of mental fog that blocks the full experience of reality around us and makes us feel incomplete. Taylor argues that this sense of incompleteness creates a permanent `madness of constant wanting', desperately wanting to complete our lives with material possessions, with a search for happiness, and a strife for power and fame. Although some people are more affected by it than others, and men are generally more affected by it than women, Taylor is convinced that nobody can fully escape the power of humania. Taylor himself has also experienced the power of humania and the fact that he brings in many examples out of his own life, adds a lot to the impact the book has on the reader. This way Taylor shows that he is in no way superior to the reader, and that we all have to face similar problems and challenges.

What is interesting is that Taylor not only brings the problems into perspective but also shows that there definitely is a way out. He dedicates the second part of the book to this. Already in the first part he argued that the state of humania is not the natural state of humankind, that indigenous peoples all over the planet have never suffered from it and were even very aware of the dangers of the Western approach to life. Taylor shows in this second part how we can break through the `surface of our being', which `is filled with disturbance and negativity', to `a deep reservoir of stillness and well-being' underneath, to the natural state that in every human being still lives on under this disturbed and negative surface. Taylor makes it very clear that this doesn't mean we should try to return to the lifestyle of indigenous people and reject the comforts of modern day living. But we definitely can learn a lot of these indigenous people to help us develop further into a more whole, integrated human being. An important part of Taylor's message is that the way out cannot be realized by just reading and digesting the content of his book. He wants to inspire the reader to work on his or her own development, and to facilitate this he marks eight, very accessible developmental stages to help the reader to attain `a state of permanent harmony of being'.

Taylor made me aware again, that there is a still lot of work to be done for me to achieve this harmony of being, but that it's worthwhile to continue on this track, because it's absolutely necessary for our own spiritual health and for the future of our planet
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 8 June 2012
Steve Taylor asks, why are we such miserable sods? No really! The world may indeed seem a consummate machinery of hell, but that's because you are seeing it wrong. Steve Taylor shows that the egoic mind is the real consummate machinery of hell and this is the real reason for our wretched state. It isn't the planet, but the thing behind our eyes, in the architecture of the brain that excretes the awareness that is responsible for our fine mess and hence his or her world; in the mental death spiral we call the human 'ego'.

Steve Taylor is an optimistic because he recognizes that the ego is responsible for our wretched state. This ego psychology frees us from the central dogma of biology because our mental disease has little to do with our genes. For years, thinkers have been looking at genetic factors or trying to fic human institutions or the studying the swing of historic forces or devising racialist theories to explain our sorry mess. Steve argues that they ignore the ego, which, if we are honest, is closer to home.

Steve Taylor is on to something here; you see, if the world really is a bad, then there isn't much we can do about it, but if it's the human ego that had gone bad, well we have can fixing it because the human brain is only the size of a bag of sugar. You could argue that only idiots believe that they can fix the planet, far better to fix the brain first.

In all his books, this is what Steve if hinting at, that its our brain that is at fault and you and I are actually better that we think we are because it is the brain that needs studying and not the world outside.

Steve Taylor, the discoverer of this hypothesis, explains our sorry state better than the orthodox evolutionary version of who we are. The orthodoxy argues that the human species is at an evolutionary peak. This terrible news because it ignores higher levels of consciousness that can be achieved by the lucky few; a higher consciousness that science denies. This is why orthodox science dismisses all phenomena that cannot fit into the skinner box of reductionist science. It is far better to recognize our badly functioning mental software, then we can fix it.

This is why we suffer with this emotional problem that won't go away. The human has been evolving in relation to this emotional problem and every human being is stuck in the doom laden mechanical world-view.

Taylor argues that the public usually sides with this gloomier, more rational side of who we are because of the obvious evidence all around. However, fish are not aware that they are emeried in water. How much would it change their perspective if they could step out of the water for a while and see that this is the box we're living?

The other, until now hidden, version of who we are, the real optimistic theory, is the idea that a real fall from a higher state of consciousness took place and thus we all fell in the ego bubble, or, as Robert Anton Wilson calls it, the reality tunnel. Steve Taylor shows the promise of getting back to the higher state of consciousness; we must first recognize our false ego, and then we can get high again, you and I, and, argues Steve Taylor, then we have a good chance of gaining her luminous summits.
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on 16 June 2015
Reading this book has allowed me to see so many things I needed to see, it has given me scope to think on things that allow me to stop the constant chatter of my mind, it is a book I have found hard to put down. I am an avid follower of Eckhart Tolle and in my opinion Steve Taylor come close second, I read his book The Fall 4 years ago.. or should I say I purchased his book and although I read it it never sunk in and the reason was I was not ready to receive the message, now I am and I have re ordered the Fall and also The waking from sleep book which again I had purchased previously but was not ready for the messages so wisely written in the books from Steve Taylor. I would recommend this book Back to Sanity to everyone as he shows how we became the society which does not seem to calm down and stop reacting and doing and how to find peace again . Cannot praise this book more.. buy it and see for yourself. Thank you Steve Taylor.
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on 2 January 2013
This book provides a fascinating and insightful exploration into the workings of the human mind and our collective madness. The origins and workings of this madness are examined, including how it works to influence our thoughts, behaviours, experience of life, and is capable of producing misery in even the most banal or opulent of surroundings, and indeed how this inner discord translates into discord throughout our world.

Steve Taylor lays out a convincing 8-stage pathway for the transformation 'Back to Sanity', towards an inner experience of harmony of being. Pre-conditions of the journey are laid out, and each stage is sensitively described in detail and with nuance so that one may fully understand the purpose and workings of each stage.

I first came across Steve Taylor's work through an endorsement by Eckhart Tolle of a previous book of his entitled 'The Fall', which was a riveting and extremely well researched look into the culture and consciousness human societies in pre-history, and of how our current state of inner turmoil, - 'humania' as Steve terms it - developed from a formerly calm and peaceful inner state, a state which was still present up to modern times in some isolated communities. 'The Fall' is a fantastic book, and with 'Back to Sanity' Steve has returned with another brilliant contribution.

I thoroughly recommend this book and other works by Steve Taylor to anybody who is interested in consciousness, spirituality, optimum human experience, or in creating a better world. As this book has both depth and a clarity which make it accessible, I also feel that it would serve as a great first introduction to spirituality and inner transformation.
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on 4 December 2015
Too much information compacted into short essays does not do the subject justice. The book would be ok as an overview of the issues at hand but does not expand on any of the real issues. Too bad!
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on 12 December 2014
In this thoughtful, eloquent book Steve Taylor puts his finger right on the pulse of our chaotic species. He diagnoses us with the disease of "humania," a great neologism. The trouble with us, as he sees it, it we live our lives in an uncontrolled rush which can be blindly destructive. The reality of our "mental chatter" is at odds with our ideas of ourselves as rational, sensible people, and collectively we have not only brought horror and atrocity on each other, but we are wrecking the very life systems on which the planet depends.

I can also see where the trail runs between Taylor's earlier book, The Fall and Back to Sanity. In the Fall, he searched for, and probably found, a significant moment in which our species began to act, live and think as if it were somehow separate from the rest of nature. The current book picks up this path, and looks ahead, to how we might possibly learn from our mistakes, correct our worst impulses, and find our way back to sanity.
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on 28 January 2013
I found `Back to Sanity' a very rewarding read. Many of us have recognised the madness of modern day living. Steve Taylor eloquently explains the source of this madness and gives an 8 point solution or tool box to reclaiming one's `piece of mind' and finding harmony and balance with the world. In the book he suggests a way of living that allows us to protect our souls from the madness created by the social pressures to acquire the maximum amount of wealth, friends, influence and status.

What is on offer, sanity or relief from mass psychosis, is arguably the greatest treasure for anyone. Yet for many people in the world, it may be more difficult to acquire than any promotion, fortune or fame, especially if they don't even know they are seeking it. Steve Taylor's style is accessible, logical and succinct. If you are looking to heal your `Humania' then this is a must read.
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on 3 March 2013
This is a momentous book, a must read. I always suspected that we all are indeed mad, but never thought it could be explained in such a simple, well researched and rational way. Inspiring too. Now, once that we know what is happening to us, we can start thinking about what to do about it. Not recommended though for those who think that everything is or will be all right ...
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on 11 November 2015
Written very soberly and effectively. It will change many lives and predispose to vegetarianism, reverence for nature, and development of fellow feeling and compassion for the weak. The meaning of life will emerge naturally.
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