email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
"Are You There Alone?""Who Could That Be at This Hour?"3 Willows4th of July99 DaysA Beautiful MindA Change in AltitudeA Corner Of The UniverseA Falling KnifeA Frog ThingA Great and Terrible BeautyA People's History of ChristianityA Question of BloodA Slight Trick of the MindA Step Toward FallingA Thousand Miles from NowhereA Tragic Kind of WonderfulA Voyage Long and StrangeA Wedding in December Abraham LincolnAcross the River and Into the TreesADHD NationAfter DarkAgainst EmpathyAgainst Medical AdviceAll the Bright PlacesAll the Way HomeAll Unquiet ThingsAlphavilleAlways Too Much And Never EnoughAmerica AmericaAmong the DepartedAn EducationAn Object of BeautyAnatomy of a MisfitAre You There, Vodka? It's Me, ChelseaBad BoyBad RatsBarbara the Slut and Other PeopleBeach RoadBeat the ReaperBeauty QueensBed of RosesBefore I DieBefore I FallBefore the FrostBig BrotherBiteBlack Elk SpeaksBlameBleed for MeBlonde FaithBlood, Salt, WaterBody SurfingBog ChildBoneMan's DaughtersBoomsdayBorder CrossingBorn Standing UpBoys Are DogsBoys Will Put You on a Pedestal (So They Can Look Up Your Skirt)Brava, ValentineBreak Through PainBreathingBridge of SighsBrief Interviews with Hideous MenBrutalBy BloodC StreetCalm Beneath the WavesCanadaCellCemetery DanceChange Your Brain, Change Your LifeCheeverCinnamon KissCleopatraClose Your EyesCompulsionCross CountryCyborgasmDakotaDancing at the Shame PromDarkest FearDavid Sedaris Live at Carnegie HallDead EvenDead Little Mean GirlDear Zoe,Death Without TenureDeceptionDefending JacobDefine NormalDeliriumDevil in the DetailsDiscovering Pig MagicDisturbing GroundDivergentDivine JusticeDivisaderoDoing ItDown the Rabbit HoleDr. Andrew Weil's Mindbody ToolkitDress Your Family in Corduroy and DenimDriftlessEven Dogs in the WildEvery Exquisite ThingEvery Little Thing in the WorldEye ContactFaith, Hope, and Ivy JuneFaking NormalFalling ManFamily FirstFans of the Impossible LifeFear of the DarkFellsideField of BloodFile Under: 13 Suspicious IncidentsFiregirlFlat Lake in WinterForest of the PygmiesFortunate SonFraudFreak the MightyFree RefillsFull Steam Ahead!Furiously HappyGenerosityGenomeGetting a Good Night's SleepGetting the Love You Want Audio CompanionGiftedGirl in TranslationGod Is DeadGod Is Not OneGods and BeastsGoing BovineGood and GoneGranny Torrelli Makes SoupGraysonHappy FamilyHappy Mutant Baby PillsHarmlessHe's Just Not That Into YouHealthy AgingHeartbeatHeftHigh HeatHolidays on IceHot MilkHotel on the Corner of Bitter and SweetHotel WorldHotels of North AmericaHow a Gunman Says GoodbyeHow Full Is Your Bucket?How Successful People ThinkHow to Build a HouseHow to See Yourself As You Really AreHow to Set a Fire and WhyHunger Makes Me a Modern GirlHurt Go HappyHypnography for MenHypnography for WomenI Am I Am I AmI Am Not Joey PigzaI Can See YouI Drink for a ReasonI Feel Bad About My NeckI'd Know You AnywhereI'm Traveling AloneIdiot AmericaIf a Tree Falls at Lunch PeriodIf I StayIf You StayImagine Me GoneIn ZanesvilleInfinite JestInheritanceInnocentInside the O'BriensInvincibleInvisibleIt Takes OneJennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, ElizabethJust LifeKiss of Broken GlassKissing Ted Callahan (And Other Guys)Leaping BeautyLie to MeLies My Girlfriend Told MeLife After LifeLife InterruptedLife of PiLife StrategiesLisey's StoryLitLittle Black LiesLittle ScarletLive For Your Listening PleasureLiving Your DreamLong Shadow of Small GhostsLooking for BobowiczLost in the ForestLove Is a Mix TapeLove Times ThreeLove, AubreyLowboyMadappleMade for LoveMade For YouMagical ThinkingMagnificenceMaliceMan in the WoodsMeditation in a New York MinuteMeetings with a Remarkable ManMiddlesexMind MappingMindfulness for BeginnersMirrorMaskMischlingMissing PresumedMolly Moon's Incredible Book of HypnotismMommies Who DrinkMunich AirportMy AbandonmentMy Life Among the Serial KillersMy Name Is RedMy One Hundred AdventuresMy Sister's KeeperName All the AnimalsNelson Mandela's Favorite African FolktalesNemesisNever Let Me GoNew York 2140Night FilmNina: AdolescenceNinety DaysNone of the AboveNothingNurtureShockObjects of My AffectionOdd Child OutOlive's OceanOn Chesil BeachOne Flew Over The Cuckoo's NestOutliersPaint It BlackPanicParadise LodgeParanoiaPeace Is Every BreathPeople Who Eat DarknessPharmakonPictures of Hollis WoodsPictures of YouPilgrim at Tinker CreekPlaying with FirePlease Stop Laughing at UsPositivityPresumed InnocentPretty Girl-13Prisoner of Night and FogPuddlejumpersPunkzillaRacing the DevilReady for AnythingRebuttalRequiemRescueRevolutionary RoadRoomRun for Your LifeSay You're SorryScatSchool of FearSeason to TasteSecrets of a Passionate MarriageSee How SmallSeeds of HopeSex and SpiritSide Effects May VarySilencedSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens AgendaSix Impossible ThingsSkelligSleeping BeautySnowSo Brave, Young and HandsomeSolitaireSomeday This Pain Will Be Useful to YouSourlandSquirrel Seeks ChipmunkStill MissingStory of a GirlStress ReliefSupreme CourtshipSurviving OpheliaSwimming to ElbaSworn to SilenceSycamoreSymptoms of Being HumanTeaseTeaseTell the Truth, Shame the DevilTen Minutes to RelaxTestimonyThat Old Cape MagicThe DrifterThe Abortionist's DaughterThe AccidentalThe Accidental BillionairesThe AdultsThe Almost MoonThe Anatomy of HopeThe ArrangementThe Art of ChoosingThe Art of Exceptional LivingThe Artist of DisappearanceThe Average American MarriageThe Bastard on the Couch CDThe Beat Goes OnThe Best AwfulThe Big LoveThe Boat RockerThe Book of JoeThe Book of LiesThe Book of the DeadThe Boy Who DaredThe Boyfriend ListThe Brass VerdictThe Breakout PrincipleThe Burden of ProofThe Case for GodThe Case of the Case of Mistaken IdentityThe Cemetery BoysThe ChemistThe Chosen OneThe ClosersThe Consciousness PlagueThe Conspiracy ClubThe Cuckoo's CallingThe Day I Ate Whatever I WantedThe Dead Fathers ClubThe Death of Bunny MunroThe Devotion of Suspect XThe Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-BanksThe Diviner's TaleThe DollmakerThe Dressmaker of Khair KhanaThe Dynamite RoomThe Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round ThingsThe EndThe End of Our StoryThe Erotic EdgeThe Essential KamasutraThe First Fifteen Lives of Harry AugustThe Forgotten GirlsThe Fortunate OnesThe Geography of You and MeThe Gift of an Ordinary DayThe Gingerbread GirlThe Girl in 6EThe Girl in the GardenThe Girl on Mill StreetThe Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's NestThe Girl Who Played with FireThe Girl with the Dragon TattooThe Grief of OthersThe Grim GrottoThe Guise of AnotherThe Guy Not TakenThe Heart of YogaThe Hearts of MenThe Heretic's DaughterThe Ice QueenThe Ice TwinsThe Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe InseparablesThe InterestingsThe Keeper of Lost CausesThe Keeper of Lost ThingsThe Kings of LondonThe Language God TalksThe Language of SecretsThe Language Of YogaThe Last ChildThe Last MileThe Last Time We Say GoodbyeThe Male BrainThe Man from BeijingThe Man in My BasementThe Man Who Couldn't EatThe Map of True PlacesThe Marriage PlotThe Memory Book The Mermaids SingingThe Ministry of Special CasesThe MuralistThe Museum of InnocenceThe Mystery of the Third LucretiaThe Myth of LazinessThe NarrowsThe Necessary Death of Lewis WinterThe New YorkersThe NewleywedsThe NixThe NursesThe Opposite of InvisibleThe Other Side of the StoryThe Outcasts of 19 Schuyler PlaceThe Particular Sadness of Lemon CakeThe PastThe Penultimate PerilThe PostcardThe Pregnant WidowThe Promise of a LieThe PyramidThe Qi Healing KitThe ReaderThe Republican BrainThe Rule of FourThe Rules of SurvivalThe Savage CityThe ScarecrowThe Second GirlThe Secret Life of BeesThe Secret of Lost ThingsThe Secret ScriptureThe Secret SpeechThe Secret Wisdom of the EarthThe ShallowsThe SharkThe Shock of the FallThe Silent BoyThe SisterThe Sound of Broken GlassThe SpindlersThe Story HourThe Story of Beautiful GirlThe Sudden Arrival of ViolenceThe Survivors ClubThe Sweet Relief of Missing ChildrenThe Sweetness at the Bottom of the PieThe Tail of Emily WindsnapThe Tenth JusticeThe Thing About JellyfishThe Third AngelThe TouristThe Treasure Map of BoysThe Trouble with Goats and SheepThe Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector ChopraThe Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia MossThe UnquietThe Unseen WorldThe VegetarianThe View from SaturdayThe WaveThe Weed That Strings the Hangman's BagThe Weight of the NationThe Whole TruthThe WilloughbysThe Witch's BoyThe Wolves of AndoverThe Words We Live ByThe Wrong Side of GoodbyeThe Year of the FloodThe Year That FollowsThe Yin Yoga KitThirteen Reasons WhyThis Beautiful LifeThis Body of DeathThis Book Is Not Good For YouThis Full HouseThis Is HowThose GirlsThose Who Wish Me DeadTony & SusanToo Much HappinessTooth and NailTouchTransformation TriburbiaTrue BelieverTrue CompassTruth & BeautyTwinmakerTwistedTwo Can PlayTwo Little Girls in BlueUnaccustomed EarthUnder Rose-Tainted SkiesUnder the HarrowUnder the InfluenceUnder WildwoodUniversal HarvesterUnlessUnthinkingUp in the AirVery ValentineVisits from The Drowned GirlVoid MoonWaiting for SunriseWalkingWarWatching the DarkWays to Die in GlasgowWe Are OkayWhat the Dog SawWhen My Heart Joins the ThousandWhen We Were AnimalsWhen You Are Engulfed in FlamesWhen You Reach MeWhere She WentWherever You Go, There You AreWhite HotWild AwakeWild ChildWildwoodWill They Ever Trust Us Again?Wolf in White VanWomen's Murder Club Box SetYoga SanctuaryYou Know Me WellYou Look Different in Real LifeYou Should Have KnownYou Will Know Me
Wayne Dyer explains that he is
"uncovering the metaphysical," so that makes him a philosopher.
Unfortunately, he is a muddled thinker and most of what he says makes little
sense. What is remarkable is that has been so successful in promoting his
products. It makes one wonder why real philosophers are so bad at explaining
their ideas to the general public, and what could happen if they had more
Transformation is a
collection of recordings of Dyer talking to audiences or explaining his ideas
in a studio, interspersed with short pieces of annoying light music. The two
CDs have about two hours of material on them. Dyer has an easy manner, and
while he is a little grandiose, he also has humor about himself. He uses down
to earth examples -- when saying it is good to stretch oneself, he uses the
analogy of his nylon running shorts.
His main messages are that in
order to live happily, we should understand that
people are their minds, and so are not essentially physical
people should not define themselves by their bodies
people should not be judgmental because that just defines who
they are, not who they are judging
there is no point being judgmental because we can't change the
people should have a positive attitude to live and test their
boundaries, trying new ways of living
people should enjoy life and have a positive attitude towards
Some of these ideas seem sensible
enough, but they seem pretty trivial. When he starts making arguments, they
fall apart. There's a central tension in his argument. On the one hand, he
says we are more than our bodies and we should appreciate the importance of our
non-physical life. Therefore there are no limits to our life, and we are not
bound by the laws of cause and effect. All that matters is our experience, and
reality is irrelevant. On the other hand, he says that our non-physical life
is "just thought" and we can ignore it because it is not important.
This sounds like a plain self-contradiction, and Dyer does not give his ideas
enough complexity to resolve this complexity.
Dyer seems seriously confused about
metaphysics. He says that transformation means "going beyond your
form." Now, he has a curious understanding of what the word
"form" means. A standard philosophical distinction is between
"matter" and "form." Matter is the stuff that things are
made of, and form is what gives it its shape. A table is made of the matter of
wood, for example, and what makes it a table is how the wood is put together,
which its form. However, Dyer confuses the issue by using "form"
apparently to mean "matter." He adds, bizarrely, that matter is
vibration, and that everything is vibrating, and that thought, being the
fastest and highest form of vibration, is the stuff of the universe. So
underlying his metaphysics seems to be some kind of idealism, the view that
everything is made of ideas. But going back to his understanding of
transformation, he seems to mean the transcendence of our physical selves, and
this is, for Dyer, the ability to do whatever one wants, including perform
miracles. To change the world, one simply changes one's thought.
Remarkably, he also says we should
not feel guilty about what we have done because the past is just thought. He
mentions that time is not real, and refers to Einstein as his source, in an
obvious misunderstanding of the meaning of relativity theory. Guilt, anger and
fear are pointless in Dyer's view. He promotes some odd brand of acceptance,
recommending that we should stop being judgmental about other people, and
should simply understand where they are in their lives and adopt a loving
attitude towards the world.
While he does not ally himself with
religion, his ideas seem suffused with religious rhetoric. One of his favorite
claims is that "you'll see it when you believe it," which is closely
linked to the idea of the importance of faith. He says that once we start believing,
miracles will start happening in our lives. His focus on personal
transformation sounds very like the idea of redemption through prayer, and he
is charismatic in his conviction. Only those people who have seen his truth
can really understand it, and this makes him sound very like a mystic.
There's a conservative agenda here,
which is brought out by Dyer's attitudes towards the unemployed. He says
people's circumstances reveal a lot about them, implying that people are
unemployed because they choose to be. He also says that people should be
listening to him because he has been so successful: his circumstances show that
he is worth listening to, and reveal the value of his words. His general view
that we should not blame people but should rather accept them leads to a focus
on ourselves: rather than change the world, we change ourselves. His vision
seems to be one of a world of people who are busy working on self-improvement
rather than helping other people. He insists that everyone is capable of
success and it follows that people are accountable for their own failure -- but
that we should not judge them for their failure. So it seems clear that Dyer
has little room in his approach for social change and that indignation about
injustice is just another instance of being "judgmental." He thinks
we should accept the world as it is and see the positive in everything.
Judgment clogs pure thought, in his view, and so we need to avoid it.
Yet at the same time, Dyer also
suggests that everything is as it should be, and that each stage of one's life
is where one should be, which sounds like a judgment to me, but he calls it
acceptance. His distinction between judgment and acceptance ends up being a
prescription to abandon any critical thought at all.
Of course, many of the platitudes
that Dyer promotes contain important truths; for example, it is counterproductive
to become bound up with negative attitudes and to blame other people rather
than taking action to make one's own life better. Constantly blaming other people
for past wrongs can be corrosive to one's well being. Yet Dyer's prescription
goes far too far in the other direction, allowing people to forget the needs of
other people and be indifferent to the pain that they have caused in the past.
There are parts of Dyer's thought
that seem utterly bizarre not at the philosophical level but just at the
simple empirical level. One notable example concerns schizophrenia and
cancer. He calls cancer a "psychic energy system," and he claims
that people with schizophrenia don't get cancer. His suggestion is that people
with schizophrenia have no energy containment, and this makes them somehow
immune to cancer. I am not familiar with the epidemiology of cancer in people
with major mental illnesses, but I will be amazed if his claims have any
resemblance to the truth. His view betrays a lack of understanding of the
nature of schizophrenia and an irresponsible attitude about speculating about
it. Similarly, some of his brief comments about depression seem to imply that
people with depression could end their illness by adopting a different attitude
-- after all, on his view, everything is thought and we can perform miracles
when come to have the right view of the world. Again, while he eschews being
judgmental, this approach leads to the view that people are to blame for their
own depression. This sort of view is irresponsible and dangerous.
In conclusion, people who are
filled with negative emotions and are looking for ways to become more positive
may find something useful here in Dyer's ideas since they may provide a way to
see life differently. But anyone who is suffering from mental illness would be
well advised to steer very clear of Dyer's views, and those searching for a
sophisticated philosophical understanding of the world should also look
© 2006 Christian
Perring. All rights reserved.
Christian Perring, Ph.D., is
Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island, and editor
of Metapsychology Online Reviews. His main research is on
philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.