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This is really a stress-reduction manual for businessmen
on 12 October 2013
I was looking for a book on TM and bought this one for a couple of reasons: it was one of the bestsellers on Amazon (with some positive reviews) and it had an endorsement by David Lynch. But it's very disappointing, for a number of reasons. David Lynch is or was an amazing movie director, but his views on TM seem cliched and largely unhelpful (it helps you relax! it can make you more creative!). In fact Rosenthal quotes him, and his David Lynch Foundation, so extensively throughout the book you wonder if there's some collusion between the two, but I think it's probably more the desire of the author to hitch his book to brand-name celebrities (rather like Kaballah and Madonna). Here we have Lynch, the Beatles, Moby, Laura Dern and Scorsese peddled out to try and give glamour or authenticity to his book.
But the main problem is that it feels like another 'how to reduce stress' book, geared towards businessmen and CEOS (i.e. with an eye to the money). TM gets reduced to a set of beta-wave calming, anxiety-reducing, noradrenaline-adjusting tips for what one section obsequiously calls the "Titans of Industry" (arrrgh!). Now I'm sure "busy executives" like "Jerry", "Wall Street brokers", or "top-level Norwegian managers" need and deserve some peace and transcendence like the rest of us, but you can't help but wonder how much transcendence is actually getting through here, especially to those who remain on the top of necessarily hierarchical structures predicated on power, control and profit. Similarly, the examples which show how TM transforms the financial and material lives of its users seem to jar: "now, instead of facing certain poverty, he is financially secure". Perhaps Norman Rosenthal should Meditate on This for a bit.
It's also stuffed full of the usual, over-compensatiory rhetoric drawn from contemporary science, to make this all sound hard and empirical - EEG readings, neuroscience, lower beta frequencies, talk of the mind as "a sort of mainframe computer" or the prefrontal cortex as "the brain's CEO" (note the choice of metaphors here: mechanical, hierarchical, managerial, power-driven). This sort of implicit rhetoric is typical: "empirically speaking, numerous studies, including several large meta-analyses comparing the results of all peer-reviewed studies ...." I don't know who Norman thinks he's impressing with this kind of "über-scientific" rhetoric - presumably Norwegian managers, and the Hollywood audience his book seems mainly aimed at, and drawn from - but he should read Freud on 'over-compensation'.
TM is also presented as a remedy for every ailment - from depression and alcoholism to addiction, PTSD, and anti-social behaviour. I'm sure it can help all of these - being relaxed, peaceful, and calm must benefit all of us in this way, but it can't help sounding like the charlatan claims of old, as the author does at least acknowledge. And filling half of the book with case histories of people who reported feeling generally "better" or "more peaceful" after TM is a little trying on the patience, unless you're particularly interested in 'Nick's story'.
It's not without merit, and it does acknowledge that the bottom line is that you can't really learn about TM from a book anyway, so I guess he has to fill 300 pages with something in the meantime. Like sex, it seems, you have to do it, not read a book about it. So my next step is to look into finding a TM teacher - I think introductory classes are free in London - whilst continuing to try and do some meditation as best I can in the meantime. For this, another book I bought at the same time is infinitely more helpful and well-written - 'Teach Yourself to Meditate' by Eric Harrison.