Pacific Book Review
Title: Be Transcendent to Sustain Happiness: Ethic Philosophical Essays Reduce Miseries and Stresses
Author: Yvon Milien
Genre: Philosophy / Self-help
Reviewed by: David Allen
To judge this book by its ambitious title, this book promises a lot. It delivers.
For years now, readers have been deluged with an avalanche of titles promising deliverance, self-knowledge, happiness, fulfillment. (Self-help books are top of the list when it comes to publishing market share.) So, the first challenge facing those seeking greater wisdom and contentment is simply, Where to begin?
Be Transcendent to Sustain Happiness by Yvon Milien is an excellent place to dive in. With broad strokes and incisive asides, Milien brings a lifetime of learning and experience to bear in this masterful exposition of pathways to authenticity, self-knowledge, and enlightenment. To its greater credit, the book balances awesome insight and theory with practical exercises in mindfulness and meditation. Those who are new to self-study and those who are already familiar with philosophy and metaphysics, will find this journey within to be thorough, extensive, and ultimately liberating.
The tone of the book is conversational, friendly, avuncular, and ultimately honest. Milien’s passion for truth and self-discovery illuminates every page. Citing and summarizing sources from Schopenhauer to Epictetus to Buddhism, Milien gifts readers with a lifetime’s worth of reading and insight.
The distillation is precious and enlightening. Intelligence – and intelligent choices – mediates between matter and spirit. Will and desire are the engines that drive us. Intelligently managed, they bring us higher to the realization of our dreams and purposes. Negligently handled, with an accent on materialism and crassness, they sink us to the depths.
The body, the intellect, and the spirit are the arenas in which we play. The most important pursuits are those of the spirit. Karma – the principle of Eternal Return – is the great arbiter in all these things, a cosmic principle of Cause-and-Effect that matches input with output. The task before each of us is to purposefully and lovingly manage input (our thoughts, perceptions, feelings) in order to get where we want to go. As the initiate and master Hermes Trismegistus put it, As above, so below: the world of manifestation accurately reflects the inner world of thought and purpose. Since we always get what we want (or think we want), it makes sense to carefully craft our desires.
Milien’s commentary on the world situation is equally trenchant, vibrant, telling: Garbage in, garbage out. As a society, we have sacrificed dignity and righteousness in the pursuit of mere baubles. Morality is the sword of Damocles dividing the well-lived life from the shabby, ultimately purposeless one. The good life – characterized by thoughtfulness, mindfulness, kindness, intelligence – is its own reward.
The book is not a collection of aphorisms. Instead, it is a rallying cry for authentic living, for intelligent individual and societal progress toward the light. Devote a couple of hours to this survey of the best life has to offer; the return on your investment could save you literal lifetimes of research and false starts.
Milien lays out a blueprint for bringing this vision to life in a world that he sees as teeming with evil, counseling readers how to strengthen and enhance their lives. He encourages eschewing a focus on the material aspects of life in preference of spiritual pursuits that honor more timeless principles of worth. He calls for readers to be resilient diamonds rather than easily destroyed graphite, a metaphor for his broader view of strengths. He evokes teachers like Viktor Frankl and Aristotle, whose view of happiness as the end goal of life Milien bolsters. A well-lived and intellectually rooted life, he argues, is “unconditionally complete.”
The author’s accessible and straightforward language shines on his crystal-clear vision, and a robust list of references will pique the interest of readers who want to dig deeper into Milien’s mix of influences. Those exploring spiritual journeys rooted in the Bible but open to cosmic principles will find reassurance and intriguing paths in Milien’s heartfelt guide.
Takeaway: This compact guide to finding happiness blends the mystic with Christian teachings.
Great for fans of: Martin Laird’s Into the Silent Land, Paramahansa Yogananda’s To Be Victorious in Life.
Design and typography: B
Marketing copy: B
THE US REVIEW
Be Transcendent to Sustain Happiness: Ethics Philosophical Essays—Reduce Miseries and Stresses
by Yvon Milien
book review by Barbara Bamberger Scott
“Transcendental knowledge and the will to learn how to act correctly are sure ways to sustain happiness in this life.”
Author Milien offers sound, wide-ranging guidance for self-improvement based on the legacy of some of the world’s greatest teachers. His vision for attaining and maintaining earthly happiness is arrayed here in eighteen essays examining the subject from a variety of fascinating angles. Initially, Milien says, one must be careful not to “put the plow in front of the oxen,” as an old adage humorously suggests. To make meaningful strides in life, one must develop a strategy for assuming one’s proper place and knowing the work involved in that place. To do so, self-control will be required, along with the development of well-chosen intentions and the ability to put principles into sound practice. One angle of examination comprises rising above a mere “life history” to create a vibrant “life story.” The latter demonstrates one’s triumphs over adversity and overcoming of weaknesses. Using this story, it is then possible to persuade and convince others of one’s worth, leading to advancement in many spheres.
Throughout Milien’s essays, he stresses that such determination can be bolstered by spiritual insight, leading to an infusion of divine power that God can impart, allowing for positive action and the avoidance of evil influences. He employs quotations from and explanations of biblical and Eastern religious sources and models from psychology and demonology, balancing the idea of Karma and one’s human will to change and grow. One exercise proffered is to lie quietly at night before sleep, allowing one’s mind to dissociate from the physical realm and become enveloped in God’s peace. Doing this regularly can stave off depression and give valuable perspectives about higher (supernatural or invisible) reality. Constructing a life path centered around transcendent understanding, Milien believes, is comparable to writing one’s life story and living it skillfully, gradually seeing positive consequences.
Milien, a Haitian by birth, has attained numerous academic credits and is a teacher and academic who has clearly made a diligent study of great world religions along with such diverse sources as Jung, Shakespeare, and Sartre. His essays are logical, and their subjects are often surprising as he attempts to offer readers an intellectually enriching grasp of concepts that appear simple on the surface. His deep delving shows their complexity. In support of his theses and as an encouragement to readers from varying backgrounds, Milien uses unusual examples such as that of Nicholas Saunderson, a noted professor of geometry who was both blind and lame and had to learn to read by tracing letters on tombstones.
Milien suggests strategies such as fearlessness, the slowing down of the rapid tempo of modern life to develop and experience physical detachment, and the intensive study of those who have gone before and left examples of excellence and contentment. His book contains quiet humor and a conversational tone. Yet overall, his ideas are best suited for serious study by readers who might not be attracted to standard self-help psychology but who will see in Milien’s work a higher, more thoughtful way of tackling many of the same issues set forth in an appealing, academically appropriate format.
RECOMMENDED by the US Review
Pub Date: July 4, 2022
Page Count: 184
Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2022
Review Program: KIRKUS INDIE
Categories: SELF-HELP | BODY, MIND & SPIR
BE TRANSCENDENT TO SUSTAIN HAPPINESS
ETHICS PHILOSOPHICAL ESSAYS: REDUCE MISERIES AND STRESSES
Aplan for developing greater self-fulfillment in the modern world.
Wisdom, writes Milien, is “the leverage we need to find happiness in this world,” and according to him, one of the central requirements of wisdom is a belief that one possesses an immortal spirit inside their body: “We are a vehicle of the divine spirit,” he writes, “the invisible and immortal principle within us, our divine essence, the spark of the Great Light within us, which is not extinguishable, not a body that must satisfy its craving at the expense of others.” According to Milien, humans are not merely their physical forms or personalities, but something more profound: “We are a spirit, and when we stop to identify ourselves with them, we will be happy.” He attempts to delineate three different intersecting worlds of human experience—the divine, the intellectual, and the physical—and maintains that concentration on each one of these worlds will yield different results: “If our will is sincerely interested in divine affairs,” for instance, “if it wants to reflect in this world the will of God to manifest good and prevent evil, our mind will inevitably be oriented toward that purpose.” If a person is not genuine in how they’re “enjoying the material world, possession in the name of God, or glorifying God,” Milien asserts, the person will be a “pretender,” enjoying what the author calls “fake happiness.” One can’t become wise if one “ignore[s] the concept of morals, laws, will, the mind, and the imagination,” Milien contends, further asserting that without such self-knowledge, one can’t be happy.
Since the central tenet and requirement of Milien’s worldview are essentially matters of religious belief, his book is clearly intended for readers of spiritual texts who mostly align with his own beliefs. Some of his claims aren’t convincingly supported, as when he writes that “we will sustain our happiness and create a story when we believe we are a Spiritual Being and understand that spirituality is KNOWING before experiencing the divine experience”; many readers will immediately think of plenty of people who create stories without believing that they are Spiritual Beings. Similarly, when the author writes that “life is very complex, making happiness merely an affair of genuine intelligence, not continued follies,” readers will immediately think of counterexamples. That said, the writer’s concepts of spirituality and personal growth are vague enough that some readers will find them applicable to their own lives, and some, such as “If we have a genuine will, we will see the light shine in our environment and the happiness we seek,” may strike some as a bracing breath of fresh air. But at every turn, readers will find assertions that are contradicted by their own experience, such as “Nothing can resist a firm will that loves the truth and justice.” Readers who share Milien’s version of fundamentalist Christianity, who are apparently his target audience, may take away some inspiration from these pages. Others, however, are likely to find themselves confused.
A highly spiritual but muddled look at finding inspiration in life.