4 out 0f 5 stars
Friday, 17 May 2013
Revolution Of The Mind by Terry Clark
4 out 0f 5 stars
Clear Thinking In Your Goals And Social Connections
Revolution Of the Mind: Caught Between Heaven And Hell is a personal development book aimed at helping the reader to get his life in order so that he or she is a success, particularly in the areas of work and relationships. The book has some self-help aspects, that is, practical suggestions to improve your life; however, it is mainly concerned with providing a logical, coherent philosophy as a foundation from which individual decisions can easily be made. Terry Clark takes the Bible and Christianity as his source of ideology. This may at first discourage readers; however, Clark’s ideas usually are what are called ‘common sense’ and have a much wider application than the Christian Church. This book is in agreement with the notions of various traditional wisdoms, including Taoism and Buddhism, Western philosophy and, most importantly, modern psychology. The book will appeal to a wide variety of readers, ranging from those who are unhappy with their life, to those interested in New Age belief, and again to skilled practitioners such as counsellors and even academics.
Put over-simplistically Clark argues that actions arise from thoughts and feelings. These mental activities need to be carried out in the light of truth, rather than ignorance. Wisdom in applying truth to the particulars of your life is needed. The words we speak are essential in defining us and connecting us to others, and need to be chosen carefully. Actions create the world we live in. Patience is required to see personal change through. Faith (the use of the imagination to produce results) is essential in personal change. Goals and relationships need to be established in the context of love. The whole process of personal change needs to be managed carefully in order to maximize energy, otherwise the benefits are lost. The book of course contains much more than this.
Clark often uses the term “spiritual.” For those who are not religiously inclined it is important to note exactly what Clark means by this term. The “spiritual” things talked about are all aspects of the human mind: generally “thoughts” and “feelings”, and more specifically cognitive actions such as “faith” (holding firmly to an idea), “love” and “patience”. Looking a little deeper we see that Clark’s model of consciousness is very similar to that of the philosopher Rene Descartes. Descartes believed “that conscious minds exist on a separate, non-physical level.” He “was a dualist. He thought that there are separate but interacting realms, the mental and the material.” The mental realm had “none of the spatial characteristics of matter – namely, size, shape and motion.” (David Papineau. Introducing Consciousness: Icon Books, 2010, p. 26-28) Clark, at the beginning of his text, says that thought and feeling, which are for him “spiritual”, are “intangible” and “supernatural”; that is, not of the material world. If the reader does not agree with this idea it is easy to simply replace the word ‘spiritual’ with the word ‘psychological’. Clark’s text will not at all suffer from this ideological shift.
Going deeper it should be pointed out that the various traditional wisdoms have a certain commonality. For example, Martin Aronson (ed.) in his Jesus And Lao Tzu: The Parallel Sayings (Seastone, 2000, p.80-81) compares Jesus’ saying:
“Be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. Matthew 5 : 45”
to Lao Tzu’s:
“Heaven and earth join
And sweet rain falls
Beyond the command of people
Yet evenly upon all. Tao Te Ching 32”
Similarly, Marcus Borg (ed.) in Jesus And Buddha: The Parallel Sayings (Ulysses Press, p. 14-15) compares Jesus’ saying:
“Do to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6 : 31”
“Consider others as yourself. Dhammapada 10 . 1”
Clark uses both of these Bible texts as part of his argument. Many other overlaps of particular texts could of course be quoted.
More broadly, in terms of scriptural principles Clark writes: “It is easy to use time wisely when you know what is going to happen next.” This is very similar to the Buddhist idea of the general path to enlightenment. (Chogyam Trungpa. The Truth Of Suffering And The Path Of Liberation: Shambhala, 2009, p. 97 – 99) Of course neither ideology is saying that an exact course in life can be set.
In another place Clark writes:
“Everything that you do and think is of great importance because what you do in life will echo through eternity, forever unchanging and shaping the future.”
This is of course basically the same as the Buddhist idea of Karma. (Chogyam Trungpa, p. 48-59)
My point in making these comparisons of wisdom traditions is that Revolution Of The Mind need not be limited solely to a Christian audience.
Much of Revolution Of The Mind is naturalist philosophy, with repeated comparisons made between the life cycle of the orchid and human life. Similarly, much is made of the metaphor of reaping and harvesting. This same technique is made in Taoist philosophy. For example in Wen – tzu we read:
“An orchid does not lose its fragrance just because no one smells it, a boat does not sink just because no one rides in it, and an exemplary person does not stop practicing the Way just because no one is aware of it: that is how they are by nature.” (Thomas Cleary, tr., Shambhala, 1992, p.80)
Once again my point is that Clark’s book should appeal to an audience wider than just Christians.
This traditional wisdom approach to life could be dismissed by those of a hard headed scientific approach. It should be noted, however, that Clark’s whole argument is very much in agreement with cognitive psychology, which is the most researched and statistically most effective method for initiating personal change. A basic notion which cognitive psychology shares with ‘folk psychology’ is that it “explains actions by referring to mental process”. We say a person “thought” something, that is, “we are saying that … [they] … had a certain belief”. We are also saying that people “want” something, that is, “we are saying that … [they] … had a certain desire.” (Dylan Evans. Introducing Psychology: Icon Books, 2010, p. 4-5) Clark’s whole book is based on the idea that we should change our beliefs and desires, that is our thoughts, in order to achieve happiness and success. Clark writes:
“Thoughts and feelings generate momentum that creates action.’
“Actions are important because actions activate a change in our reality.”
More specifically Clark argues that a change in thoughts results in a change in our personal system which in turn will “give birth to a new reality and the new reality will change the life of everyone who comes into contact with the paradigm shift.”
Further Clark argues:
“It is hard to rationalize with someone who has fear because fear is not rational.”
This type of statement about feelings is a basic notion of the particular cognitive psychology school of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. (Albert Ellis & Arthur Lange. How To Keep People From Pushing Your Buttons: Citadel, c1994, p. 18-20)
Clearly Clark is not talking complete religious nonsense.
Of course Clark does have his original contributions to cognitive psychology. He writes:
“An immature person will take credit for Dreams that blossom and Relationships that grow and blame other for Nightmares that destroy and Relationships that wither away.”
Martin E.P. Seligman in the seminal book Learned Optimism (Random House, 1992, p. 5, 49-52) argues that, while personal responsibility is very important, an exception should be made in the case of depressed people, as they are OVERLY self-critical. People who do exactly what Clark is arguing against are more happy and therefore depressed people should do it. This is a rather large ‘exception’ as:
“It is estimated that by 2020, depression will be the second greatest contributor to the global disease burden.’ (Paul Huljich. Stress Pandemic: Mwella, c20012, p. 6, quoting World Health Organization. Suicide Prevention (SUPRE). http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/suicide/suicideprevent/en/ Retrieved: July 15, 2011)
Clark’s point is that the danger is that “immature” people will be created, and of course this will result in unhappiness at some future point, despite any immediate happiness. In arguing in this way he is in agreement with existentialist psychology. Rollo May in Freedom And Destiny (W.W. Norton, c1981, p,96-101) argues that, at least in the 1970’s, the U.S. suffered from too much emphasis on freedom and not enough application of responsibility.
More broadly Clark is often in agreement with general psychology, especially in the practical field of counselling. While speaking about the necessity of being careful in choosing relationships, for example, Clark writes about liars:
“Just like the dove when we spot a manipulator we should fly as far away from them as possible. There is no sense in trying to reason with a manipulator, we must remember they are the masters of deception.”
Martha Stout in her book The Sociopath Next Door (Broadway Books, 2005, p 39-49) makes clear that sociopaths are THE master liars and manipulators. Her expert advice, as both a successful academic and counsellor with a thriving practice, is exactly the same as Clark’s:
“The best way to protect yourself from a sociopath is to avoid him, to refuse any kind of contact or communication.” (p. 160)
As we have already noted Revolution Of The Mind is chiefly about ideology, and so Clark tries to outline the ‘best’ way of thinking. It is therefore no surprise that, beyond psychology, the book can also be read in terms of its philosophic implications. Of course this is not a boring, weighty philosophic tome, but the influence of that discipline can be found if you care to look. A Seed Of Faith is one chapter with very clear philosophic connotations. Here Clark connects faith and the imagination. Clark writes:
“Faith begins in our imagination with a tiny thought and it is through our imagination that faith seeks to travel from the supernatural to the natural world.”
“The human mind is a very complex organism from which all our God like ability comes from. It is in the human mind where we will find the power and explosive imagination and despite the vastness of the imagination, the human mind has the ability to hold our consciousness, reasoning and logic. The mind is far greater than any of the world’s greatest wonders.”
Clark argues that through our imagination we have the ability to change our words and actions, and thus change our outer reality. Clark here is expressing a view similar to the Romantic philosophers, particularly Friedrich von Schelling. Schelling believed that:
“… man could only understand his place in the universe through an imaginative involvement with it… Man is able to parallel the action of God in his own creative insights. Man shares with nature the urge to create, to be self-aware. Creativity in man is faithful to the act of creation in the divine spirit.” (Duncan Heath. Introducing Romanticism: Icon Books, 2010, p.67)
The similarities are I think obvious. As I have said, I don’t mean to imply that Clark’s book is heavily philosophic, but the material is there if you want to go searching. The reader can certainly enjoy Revolution Of The Mind without any knowledge of philosophy.
One point of criticism is that, despite Clark’s common sense approach, he at times takes an absolute view of things. This can be most clearly seen in the chapter A Seed Of Love. Here we read statements like:
“Love has never lost a battle and love is perfect and blameless. We can do all things through love that strengthens us and gives us courage to overcome obstacles.”
Many would say that, while love is a very powerful motivating force, and a strong catalyst of action, it is not “perfect” and it certainly can lose battles. Interestingly later in the chapter Clark qualifies his own statements by noting that some relationships are at best non-productive and at their worst downright destructive. These relationships, according to Clark, should be actively avoided as they are a waste of energy or even devastating. Clearly, despite Clark’s earlier absolute statements, there are pragmatic limits to what love can do.
Revolution Of The Mind has a number of useful teaching aids. There are numerous colour pictures with significant captions to help the reader remember the main points. These illustrations are particularly beautiful. There are three different web resources: Clark’s webpage, a Facebook page and a Twitter link. All three Web resources contain extra teaching material. As a kind of metaphoric learning activity the reader is also asked to purchase and tend a phalaenopsis orchid. The reader then keeps a journal of the things he or she learns while carrying out the orchid activity. Finally, at the end of the book there is the section “The Connection Scriptures” where all the quoted Biblical verses are listed for easy reference.
Terry Clark’s Revolution Of The Mind is in the most part a very common sense, practical book. In general Clark is quite successful in achieving his aim of providing the readers with a system of thought which can help them flourish in life. Although the book uses the Bible as its reference point, a wide a variety of people can profit from reading it. It only takes a few minor adjustments for non-Christian readers to benefit. Revolution Of The Mind is well worth the price and I am happy to award it 4 out of 5 stars.