Fate Magazine Book Review

The Lens of Perception by Hal Zina Bennett
Celestial Arts, Berkeley, California, 1987, 154 pgs., $6.95, paperback.

A reader's dilemma: Even if you read two books a day for 100 years, over 99 percent of the books published in English in that time would remain unread. Intelligent selection, therefore, is not only wise but essential.

This point was driven home to me after reading Hal Zina Bennett's The Lens of Perception which describes what makes individuals unique, what distinguishes you from your best friend, and so on. Dozens of books have dealt with this issue, albeit in a slightly different framework, and done it better.

Lens adds nothing significant. It simply rehashes old ideas: the no-boundary on consciousness; the illusory limitations of body/ mind; the power of positive affirmation, ad infinitum. Moreover, it is filled with New Age claptrap and misinformation which inappropriately mixes genuine mystical insight with sideshow psychic speculation. The result is a metaphysical potpourri which is full of good cheer but missing good sense.

It is one thing to cite Emerson, Jung and Maslow, quite another to contribute to (and extend) their findings. Lens does neither. Even as a general introduction to perennial philosophy it suffers from a lack of clarity and organization. One comes away with a vague sense of how our consciousness affects our day-to-day life (and some exercises with which to alter our perceptions) but no clear understanding of what is meant by such statements as "We are One through our sharing a common contradiction, wherein the Lens of Perception defines individual boundaries that are both the source of our loneliness and the source of our union with Logos." These kinds of statements may be useful in a Zen Buddhist monastery as koans (paradoxical sayings which are designed to confuse the rational mind) but they serve no edifying function in a book intended to clarify our circumstances.

Given our limited reading time, we are better off being led to classic texts in the field (such as Alan Watts' The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are [1972] and Ken Wilber's No Boundary [1985]) than reading The Lens of Perception.
--David Christopher Lane