Book Review: The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer

It is an introduction to Hindu tantric yoga (not the American excuse for an orgy “tantra”, but the systems of energy channels in the body tantra). Because of the strictly Hindu yogic perspective, I find his appeals to Christianity and Buddhism disingenuous. This book would be completely foreign to an orthodox Christian and seen as heresy.

He either willfully ignores or is ignorant of the Buddhist concept of anatman, which is fundamental to Buddhist practice and is experienced firsthand by Buddhists through insight meditation.

What he is doing in both cases is misapplying the concept of the perennial philosophy by applying it way too broadly. This is a common fallacy of the New Age.

In the introduction alone, he talks down to the reader and he makes grandiose claims, “But upon completion of your journey through these chapters, there will be no more confusion, no more lack of empowerment, and no more blaming others.” I told my therapist that this book was going to put him out of a job. For someone who has had a spiritual awakening, he sure seems to be full of himself.

He spends two chapters weaving excruciatingly extended metaphors just to say discursive thought causes suffering.

Chapter three is about how we aren’t our names, aren’t what we do and aren’t our thoughts or feelings. He says we are our consciousness, which I can respect. Here is where he shows his ignorance of anatman and refers to a Buddhist self. He tries to lend this idea credibility with a footnote to the Mahaparinirvana Sutra. However, he doesn’t say where in this 600 page sutra the Buddha explicates this concept.

Chapter four is about moving the attention away from the superficial and focusing it on the nature of Self.

Chapter five is about prana and the chakra system.

Chapter six is about the heart chakra and samskaras. He thinks blockages in the heart chakra cause depression. This is clearly irresponsible. A person suffering from depression needs medical care. If he were correct I should have been cured when I did meditations to open my chakras back in the 80s. He doesn’t even have the medical disclaimer in the book. He could get sued.

Chapter seven He talks about closing down again. He oversells prana/shakti. I did the orbit meditation for years and I had some interesting experiences, but it wasn’t the life changer he makes it out to be.

At this point, I quit reading. I guess this means I won’t be free of confusion, lack of empowerment, and blaming others.

I did flip through the rest of the book. He does a chapter on the Tao Te Ching. Did you know that the Tao Te Ching is the most spiritual of all books? That would make it more spiritual than the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the Upanishads or any of the Buddhist Sutras. I wonder how Christians reading this book like being told that the Tao Te Ching is more deeply spiritual than the Bible?

The last chapter is about God. He quotes the Bible a lot.

I couldn’t find any practices in this book. I am sure many readers will be frustrated that he tells you to change, but doesn’t tell you how.

In spite of all of this, he rates 4 1/2 stars on Amazon with 3,474 reviews. Amazon calls it the number one bestseller in cognitive psychology. I am not sure how tantric yoga applies to cognitive psychology. Does he ever mention cognitive restructuring in the book?

©2017 Stephen L. Martin

Painting: Still life with Aubergines (detail) by Henri Matisse

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