Book review: The way of trance (Dennis R. Wier)

Extensive book review by Alex aka Soyouth

Author: Alex aka Soyouth
Date: Oct 10, 2007
Views: 3046

Book review: The Way of Trance by Dennis R. Wier

Written by Alex aka Soyouth (Teratone Vision)

This book is a great introduction into the realm of trance. According to the author, trance covers a much wider spectrum than the cliché of ritual ecstatic trance, and it definitely has more to do with our daily thought processes and social interactions. One could define it as a cognitive processing mode, a kind of `reality filter´. From this viewpoint, people go in and out of multiple trances a day, most of them without even noticing it. The central thesis in Wier´s book is that outside influence changes our destiny by altering the way we perceive or process information; trance techniques are being extensively used by salesman, artists, politicians, cult leaders... `Trance is really a way of modifying energy in our heads, so you can think in different ways´. When practiced willingly with loving compassion, it can be a powerful source of healing, inspiration and self-realization. When practised in secrecy, for selfish purposes and hidden agendas, trance can lead victims into delusion, illness and addictions of all kind. The author refers to this as `Trance Abuse´.

The main goal of this book is to promote `trance awareness´ on a personal level, through the practice of meditation which is presented as a specific kind of trance. Since trance and meditation are words which have a strong tendency to be associated with esoteric frameworks, it has to be noted that the author is not calling upon any kind of mysticism and is not asking the reader to believe in anything except themselves. Meditation is referred to as a personal training to self-observation and introspection. It can be done by a wide variety of methods and the author is not advocating the use of a specific one. He strongly invites the reader to create their own experiments and proof: `You have to do it personally yourself, I can´t do it for you´, this is to me one of the greatest strength of his approach.

The author, in his previous book, developed a `Trance Model´ which he describes in mathematical detail. The current book is intended for a wide audience and describes several types of trance, sometimes referring to the Trance Model, but no mathematical notions are required nor is it required to have read the previous books. Repetition is at the core of trance. Repetition is at the core of trance. One of the key features of the Trance Model is that repetition always results in the disabling of some cognitive functions such as critical judgement and short term memory. Different kinds of trance can be skilfully created using various features of the Trance Model and many of these features are examined throughout the book.

I already mentioned Meditation as a one kind of trance. Addiction is seen as a mutual lock between three trances, which suggests why it is so hard to break. A trance therapy based on this approach is under development by the Trance Research Foundation. Charismatic trance, characterized by strong ego-mania and total disconnection from reality is also being exposed. The chapter on invasive trance deserves full attention since it describes techniques, some of them already operating, which allow influencing people on a mass scale in a very invasive and often un-noticeable way. Their use ranges from vending machines in Japan to the Gulf war and offers a frightening glance into the future. Ethics is indeed a central point to be considered when using trance techniques. Without proper ethics and without trance awareness, can democracy really work in a land of sleepwalking citizens hypnotized by television and lacking critical judgment?

A full chapter is dedicated to ecstatic trance, which corresponds to what many people are referring to when using the word trance. This chapter is of special relevance for the trance music community. Wier asks very smart questions such as `what is so disturbing to social order about the ecstatic trance and what is its evolutionary function?´ which is well reflected by the global climate of party repression. What is indeed so bad about experiencing deep states of joy and bliss together? Since it plays a great role in trance rituals from Morrocan Gnawa to psychedelic Goa trance, a section is dedicated to trance music. Sounds indeed `have subtle and profound meaning within a trance´. The effects of beats per minute (BPM), frequencies, dissonances and use of verbal material are analyzed in detail. According to Wier, `if enough minds and bodies agree to do the same thing, the collective reality of those involved can be changed, or a new one created´. This emphasizes the self-transformative potential of a collective trance ritual and the need for careful preparation in order to `design effective magical positive parties and celebrations´.

`Highly advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic´ once said Arthur C. Clarke. Wier defines the wyrd as the energy that gives its power to various trances; in that regard, magic is simply smart us of the wyrd. And so can tremendous changes of destiny occur through the skillful use of trance. The wyrd is the only fuzzy concept which is being referred to in this book; I feel that each reader shall interpret it according to its ontology of the world. It can be thought of as analogous to the eastern notions of chi and prana but it call also fit well with modern cognitive theories of consciousness.

The link between divine states and intoxication is well pointed out. Many ancient traditions have used intoxication as an aid to enter powerful trances. Entheogens - meaning awakening the divine within - offer a very relevant example of it and are surrounded by a tremendous taboo in our culture. Modern humans and especially western people have been separated from mother Nature and their divine nature. In that regard, trance appears not less that an alchemical process, a great tool for self-transformation on your own way towards unity.

The book is generally well-written and organized. The first sections can seem a bit long and repetitive but they then appear necessary for the good understanding of the authors point. Moreover he himself makes subtle use of some of the techniques he describes, especially repetition and it definitely helps to understand quicker and better integrate. Each section features some practical exercises and a series of questions, encouraging the reader to cognitively link what he has just read with his everyday life. I find this book unique and innovative; it provides a very good summary of the topic. It makes a lot of sense in the light of frameworks such as Grof´s transpersonal approach or Tononi´s information integration theory of consciousness. Promising research directions, fundamental as well as applied are pointed out and urgently need to be carried out.

I really recommend this book which is relevant for a wide spectrum of readers. I think the original background of the author contributes a lot to its intelligibility. More than a book, this is a practical manual to change your destiny: you can learn to detect when and how you are getting `entranced´ by the external world and you can train to navigate and influence the inner realm on your way of love and compassion.

Review by Alex aka Soyouth (Teratone Vision)


About the author

Dennis Wier is indeed a retired computer systems analyst who has been heavily practicing meditation and hypnosis. He has already written books about his model of trance, meditation as well as trance music composition. He is the founder and executive director of the Trance Research Fundation : a non-profit organization whose purpose is to promote trance awareness. This fundation financially support scientific trance research projects as well as education through the Trance Institute.


::For further information
`The Way of Trance´ can be ordered online at .

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