The Corruption of Reality: A Unified Theory of Religion,Hypnosis, and Psychopathology

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars A Reality Reconstruction Project for Man, June 8, 2006
By Herbert L Calhoun "paulocal" (Falls Church, VA USA) - See all my reviews (TOP 1000 REVIEWER) (REAL NAME)
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This paradigm shift in psychological research and thinking (that just happens to update a key element of Freudian psychology) is powerful medicine for both the committed scientist and the layman. It gets five stars each for thoroughness, inventiveness, and the clarity of its exposition.

Building on his equally impressive work in "Wings of Illusion," Schumaker, uses an expanded examination of the process of diassociation, as a way of developing a unified theory of religion, hypnosis and psychopathology. In a research project that can only produce envy in its thoroughness and deft treatment of a very complicated subject, the author has left no stones unturned in bringing his unifying thesis to a resoundingly satisfying and successful climax.

The core thesis of this work is set forth in his "Wings of Illusion" in which the author asserts that as a result of developing greatly amplified intelligence as an evolutionary strategy for dealing with the fear and trauma of often overwhelming disorder and complexity, man began to seek psychological sanctuary in the form of illusion and self-deception.

Following on the heels of Ernest Becker and Otto Rank, Schumaker poses yet again perhaps the most important question for humankind: "On what level of illusion was man meant to live?"

As a way of unraveling this mystery, the author reveals man's primary evolutionary strategy as that of using conscious self-deception to forestall and avoid the unsettling tension-producing aspects of being unable to control and manage disorder.

This purposeful, and strategic use of self-deception - that is, learning to fashion and manage reality to suit our needs (or as the author puts it "this corruption of reality") -- has proven to be a survival enhancing evolutionary move.

The evolutionary process that helped man out of his quandary of being overwhelmed with disorder and complexity came in the form of a capacity for the brain to disassociate itself from itself.

That is to say specifically that the human brain has the capacity to selectively perceive its environment, selectively process information, selectively store memories, selectively disengage from already stored memories, and selectively replace dissociated data with more "user-friendly" data. Put yet another way, the brain can split the mind into distinct but unified submodules.

The primary level of this mind reorganization, for the purpose of reality reconstruction, of course takes place at the level of culture. It is culture that tends to homogenize and normalize people's false conceptions of reality. The reality of the individual is -- to a large extent -- the result of constructions that are fabricated and propagated at the level of culture.

And if culture can be said to be the central bank of this "artificial order creation project," then organized religion is its currency. Only by eliminating competing "real" data from consciousness can the tension between the disorder in reality and the artificial order we create in our heads, be reduced.

Religion, in its attempt to protect us from some of the most perplexing problems of survival -- such as how to deal with unknowns, uncertainty, and most of all death -- does this with a flourish.

Through cultural organization and manipulation, the human brain has evolved in such a way that it is capable of arriving at greater order than it perceives, or that even exists in reality. In distorting reality to create his own artificial order, man lowers dramatically his own criteria and need for accurate reality testing.

In this volume, Schumaker demonstrates beyond a shadow of doubt that through the mechanism of disassociation, religion and psychopathology are different sides of the same reality re-construction project. Hypnosis, another member of the same family of self-deception is used more or less as the experimental control for testing this thesis.

As religion, hypnosis, and psychopathology are explored, in each other's light, it becomes ever more clear that they are part of a single story, namely, the regulation or corruption of reality.

Schumaker's thesis will be unsettling and disturbing to conventional minds -especially religious ones -- but it is one of few trail-blazing undertakings in psychology that ends in a resounding success. Five stars.

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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Our generation's Freud, September 5, 2006
By Yahzi (Arizona) - See all my reviews

This book is the most important book of the entire 20th century. Like Freud, it will define the next 100 years of psychological thinking. Unlike Freud, it will last beyond that, becuase it is more than visionary, it is also grounded in hard science.

If you ever wanted to understand how educated, rational adults can believe in the stupidist things imaginable, this book explains it.

The only weak point of the book is the final chapter, where Schumaker suggests we create a false religion to safely guide people's evolutionarily inescapable stupidity. This is John's own corruption of reality: thinking that we can actually find a painless solution. But he presents it half-heartedly enough that I think even he understands it will never work.

The only solution is expecting people to grow up and act like adults. Life isn't what you wanted it to be - tough. Deal.

To put it another way: when you think about it long enough, this book explains 9/11, why we are in Iraq, and the current flap over Intelligent Design. That's a heck of an accomplishment for a book written many years ago.

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant -- but way ahead of it's time!!!, February 14, 2006
By Paul (New York USA) - See all my reviews

I predict that it will take another 50 years for this book to be fully digested and appreciated. While the rest of the world is still thinking in linear ways about topics such as religion, trance, and mental illness and even the function of culture, Schumaker is drawing revolutionary connections that shed brand new light on all of these areas of human behaviour. As in his other books -- for example his provocative "Wings of Illusion" --he shows an uncanny ability to juggle concepts and findings from a vast array of disciplines and somehow weaves them together with remarkable clarity into a new model that re-writes our understanding of ourselves. He steps on a few religious toes as he does this, but the pain is well worth it, even for those who embrace strong religious beliefs. Among other things, this book has completely changed the way in which I now understand the dynamics of eating disorders, an area of special interest to me professionally. For me, it provides that theoretical "link" that has been missing from all former models of eating disorders. That is just one of many examples of how Schumaker's "unified" theory will greatly enhance our knowledge -- in 50 years time.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
4.0 out of 5 stars The elves and the Schumaker..., March 3, 2008
By Jonathan Jett-Parmer (Atlanta, GA USA) - See all my reviews (REAL NAME)

John Schumaker is an Australian psychologist and hypno therapist. In this work he presents a compelling argument for the connection between the human need for dissociation and the establishment of religion and other "irrational" thought. He spends a lot of time weaving the history of dissociative cultural practices with modern psychpathology. The text is well referenced and reratively easy to read.

Like many brilliant researchers, he occassionaly slips into repetition of his core arguments, rather than allowing them to stand on their own after a single well framed defense. Nonetheless, Mr. Schumaker's work presents an interesting construct for consideration. What if the "demystification" of modern society is actually undermining itscollective mental health? He argues, towards the end, that a new religion must be established to permit our individual psyches to be shielded from the various irreconciable pressures from within and without.

I certainly do not fully agree with his thesis, however, the method of argument and representation is well crafted. I think any student of psychology, theology and mysticism will find this text thought provoking and useful. He provides an extensive bibliography which may be a jumping off point for further reading.

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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth 10 times the price!, March 23, 2007
By GP Weyble (Amherst, VA) - See all my reviews

This was, for me, the best book I have read in years. It answered questions that I have been "trying" to answer my entire adult life without success. 1. How can people believe that nonsense? 2. Why are specific mental illnesses "specific" to particular cultures and religions? 3. Why is religion universal? I am a physician (31 years), I am trained in hypnosis and a life long atheist and student of Eastern and Western religions. This book is as current as the religious killing you saw on CNN today and as profound in it's insight and information as a true classic. Pay the money, put in the time and enjoy the wisdom.

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5 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
4.0 out of 5 stars Fairly good review of illusion, trance, and religion, February 20, 2005
By Bob (CA USA) - See all my reviews
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Fairly good review of illusion, trance, and religion in societies around the world. Not especially illuminating regarding recommendations.

It did turn me on to a book "Positive Illusions" by Shelly E. Taylor.

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