Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to lose your mind and create a new one
Joe Dispenza, D.C.
Hay House, 2012
Paperback, 330 pages
Review by Joseph Szimhart; May 4, 2016
The Joe Dispenza show:
I first heard of this author many years ago when he was an active student with the Ramtha School of Enlightenment. RSE is headed and was founded around 1980 by the spirit-medium or “channel” J. Z. (Hampton) Knight (born 1946). I saw Dispenza in his minor role as a chiropractor commenting on the “science” in the bizarre, 2004 film “What the Bleep Do We Know!?” produced by several enthusiasts of J. Z. Knight’s Ramtha teachings. Dispenza’s book mentions nothing about Ramtha or his relationship to Knight, but it does reference the film What the Fuck Do We Know—that’s right, I just wrote the bleeped word—Ramtha the imaginary warrior-god has had no trouble dropping F-bombs out of the mouth of channel J. Z. Knight. WTFDWK was one of the working titles for the film. But I am not writing here to focus on the film or Ramtha—just run szimhart ramtha through any search engine for that stuff. I mention this because “Dr. Joe” seems to be proud of his appearance in What the Bleep because it is featured on the back cover of this book: “One of the scientists, researchers, and teachers featured in the award-winning film What the Bleep….”
Award winning? “Bleep” did win some awards at minor film festivals as well as a Pigasus Award “to the media outlet that reported as factual the most outrageous supernatural, paranormal or occult claims.”
The blurb on the back cover also states that the author has “lectured on six-continents, educating people about the functions of the human brain.”
Wow, six whole continents! WTFDIK. And about the “functions” of the human brain, no less!
Okay, I will stop with the cheeky ridicule. Devotees of Ramtha as well as Dispenza’s core audience are chronically immune to such attacks pointing out that people like me are not enlightened enough to grasp truth at their “quantum” or spiritual level. I agree; I do not see the clothes on that emperor.
Besides presenting an elaborate if wanting synopsis of the brain functions, Dispenza also offers techniques through “step-by-step tools to apply what you learn to make measurable changes in any area of your life.”
I am not about to rehearse all the chapters in this highly repetitious book—others have. What I did find in Dispenza’s book is another example of the old New Thought movement out of the 19th Century, you know, the one that produced all those “mind science” religions stemming from Mesmerism and auto-suggestion techniques: Christian Science, Science of the Mind, Unity, Church of Divine Science, the “I AM” Activity, Silva Mind Control, Scientology, the Summit Lighthouse, A Course in Miracles, and so on. Think and Grow Rich (sold over 70 million copies since publication in 1937) by Napoleon Hill (1883-1970) has been a real favorite among seekers within this autosuggestion milieu, as has been The Celestine Prophecy (1993) by James Redfield. Celestine Prophecy has sold over 23 million copies. Breaking the Habit is also an echo of dumbed-down Eastern religion re-packaged for Western purchase and consumption: Transcendental Meditation (TM), Nichiren Society of America, and Elan Vital, for example. I may as well throw in the neo-shaman movement stemming primarily from the fiction of Carlos Castaneda whose many books sold in the tens of millions. TM also offers “science” as the basis and proof of its religious ideas, whereas Castaneda offers a secret “gnosis” gleaned from an ancient culture.
If we learn nothing else from my review, we do learn that there is an enormous and enduring market among ideal hungry seekers for magical power and techniques to know and change into the true self.
The prejudice in every one of these movements is that the human mind with the right technique can perform magical or supernatural transformations in the self and in the environment. Castaneda called it sorcery. We can also mention the quasi-science work of Rupert Sheldrake. The powers of the mind, to believers, have no limits. G. I. Gurdjieff (died 1949) had followers who believed his claim that with concentrated mind power alone he could kill a yak at some distance.
Dispenza resorts to weird mantra power, or the spoken word made popular by New Thought teachers that called them affirmations. Mantra in the crudest, most primitive sense of Hindu religion means to cast a spell, and that is basically what Dispenza and TM claim we can do with mental power and words to change our health and bodies. Psychiana founded by F. B. Robinson in 1929 called these words affirmations; The “I AM” Activity and Summit Lighthouse called these magic words “decrees” and the words were more effective, so the rule went, when spoken out loud, repeatedly, and in a group. On pages 266 and 270, Dispenza directs people to say “Change” out loud when using the proper set-up after meditating on limiting thoughts and emotions. I recall as a participant in Summit Lighthouse in the late 1970s teachings that were very much the same. That group taught something called the “Science of the Spoken Word” and there was a very detailed “scientific” description of how the spoken decrees affected the atomic structure in the body.
Ignoring the dated atoms, Dispenza (like Deepak Chopra) falls back on the reductionist New Age fascination with physics and the quantum worlds: The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra (1975) and The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav (1979) were two key books priming the New Age pump that taps the quantum depths of being and the soul. Another but less read was Einstein’s Space and Van Gogh’s Sky by Lawrence LeShan and Henry Margenau (1982).
This book relies on the old adage that to change the world you must first change yourself: Perfect you = perfect world. Although using auto-suggestion and positive thinking may be useful to limited extent, the formula easily falls into the hands of con-artists who convince followers to buy into a technique and way of knowledge (gnosis) that will perfect the self. Too many of these anxious followers turn into workshop junkies going from one New Thought or yogic style teaching after another hoping that the promise of miraculous change will come.
The questions remain: Does this work? Is Dispenza’s version of New Thought really going to make you better, change your personality, bring you riches, and make you all that you can be? Will following his step-by-step process really going to change your personality using the unlimited well of the quantum world? I will not go into the science of why this stupid proposition cannot work as stated, but I will say that many, even millions, have tried many techniques like Dispenza’s over the past 150 years. The anecdotal claims by people who have experienced miracles using mind power, affirmation, and meditation techniques are legion as they are with people claiming miracles from prayer in the Christian sense. I am not saying people are lying about their changes, but I do know that too many ideal hungry individuals have fallen prey to schemes like Dispenza’s and prosperity Gospel preachers with poor outcomes and loss of money, not to mention time wasted.
Anecdotes are all we have in this book to prove that Dispenza’s “tools” work. One case is a man with warts on his left hand who tried meditation and positive thought, then found the warts disappeared overnight. I have had warts that disappeared without me noticing when without doing anything about them—warts often spontaneously go away or shrink in days. In another situation, someone was in dire financial need. Nothing seemed to help over the years until she applied the tools, then she won $53,000 in a lottery, the precise amount needed to pay off bills. Amazing. If these tools worked that way, lotteries world-wide would be drained of funds in a week and they would all fold up. Unless, of course, you believe that only the deserving with true intentions win. Try packaging and selling that latter, grandiose notion as a scheme to gamblers in Las Vegas and you may become a candidate for psychiatric evaluation if not jail time.
Ostensibly using science (pseudo-science) as bait to convince a naïve mark that occult techniques can be mastered and will work like sorcery is as old as human culture. Astrology, the queen of occult arts, is an enduring example. By baiting a mark with an impressive “scientific” picture of star movements, the astrologer can easily switch into the “reading” that is the mysterious and complex hustle of convincing the mark that the stars truly reflect their lives and character. The real miracle is that many marks will find ways to agree with the astrologer and pay thousands of dollars for a reading over and over and over. And this is all legal, but we do have the right to say no.
So, my suggestion for those who still wonder whether Dispenza’s book and “tools” have real value is to look at reliable tests for similar paranormal claims. Read How to Think About Weird Things by Schick and Vaughn (1995). And think about it. And think about this: The author has yet to properly denounce Ramtha teachings or chiropractic manipulation as overvalued beliefs. From all accounts in this book, Dispenza appears yet stuck in that mind set with the same personality. In my view, Dispenza’s tools have not been working for him, no more than TM brain science worked for the Mahesh Yogi that founded it.
Mahesh never properly demonstrated that he could fly.