Author to discuss "The 99th Monkey" in Edwards | VailDaily.com
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Author to discuss "The 99th Monkey" in Edwards

Charlie Owen
cowen@vaildaily.com
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily
ALL |

EDWARDS, Colorado ” When Eliezer Sobel first released his new book, he said many bookstore owners wanted to place it in their self help/spiritual section. Instead, he tried to convince them to create a new section called the “no help whatsoever” section in which they could place his latest work, “The 99th Monkey: A Spiritual Journalist’s Misadventures with Gurus, Messiahs, Sex, Psychedelics, and Other Consciousness-Raising Experiments.”

In the book Sobel chronicles his own spiritual journey in a funny, poignant telling that reveals the ups and downs, the good and the bad of his personal road to enlightenment. Because of the subject matter of the book, Sobel said it’s easy for some to think he’s written a book leading the way to inner-peace and harmony.

But “The 99th Monkey” is more like the anti self-help book.

“Most of those self-help books out there offer some sort of solution and almost a magical answer,” Sobel said. “And those are the people, usually, who get to be on ‘Oprah’ because they offer a lot of hope to people.”

One of the biggest lessons Sobel said he’s learned along the way from Zen masters, mystics and gurus, is that hope can in fact hold us prisoner and is something we have to let go because the most important thing in life is to appreciate the moment and forget about the future.

“The self-help movement is very future-based. You’re working and struggling to get somewhere someday and hoping it turns out,” Sobel said.

Sobel will be at the Bookworm of Edwards Tuesday night to speak about his book and the details of his attempts to find a higher conscious through primal therapy (a process involving a lot of crying and screaming), fasting, diets, psychics, healers and the use of psychedelic drugs. And that’s the short list.

“It’s great. What I really like about it is that he goes into all these situations with a real open mind because he truly is searching for his own fulfillment,” said Besse Lynch, events coordinator for the Bookworm. “But at the same time he’s a journalist, so he takes that cynical look at everything. He doesn’t buy into everything right away, so you get a really objective view even though he’s really, truly after spiritual enlightenment.”

Sobel tackles a subject that many take very seriously by injecting lots of comedic anecdotes and pithy details of his own adventures as a spiritual journalist.

Sobel was once the editor-in-chief of the new age magazine “The New Sun” during the ’70s as well as the editor and publisher of another “new-age-ish” magazine called “Wild Heart Journal.” His freelance articles have appeared in periodicals like “New Age Journal.” He’s a spiritual journalist in two senses: The first being he writes about many topics in the field of new-age spiritualism and enlightenment, the second being he is a journalist who happens to be spiritual.

“He takes everything with a grain of salt and he has humor about his experiences, so I think his talk is going to make everybody laugh,” Lynch said.

One of the definitions of enlightenment is to lighten up, Sobel said.

“I think God has a sense of humor ” if there is a God,” Sobel said. “The heavier and more serious it gets, it seems to me to be the wrong the direction.”

Now 66, Sobel hopes his readers relate to his stories of spiritual retreats at Auschwitz with the Jewish Zen master, Bernie Glassman (being a Jew himself, Sobel said this was one of the more sobering times in his life), meeting the Dalai Lama, and sex workshops that involved something called the “tush push” (which he said he didn’t participate in).

“Just know that it involved pairing up with people and it involved Vaseline and sharing your feelings and if you can imagine 70 naked people in a room doing that, that certainly stands out,” Sobel said.

Through all of this, does Sobel believe he’s actually found enlightenment?

Well, he does believe now that being kinder to people and the planet is a big part of it, but not all of it.

“Enlightenment is not a final ending point, as some gurus proclaim, but it’s actually a verb or a process of enlightening and it never ends. You’re just always growing wiser and deeper and more compassionate,” Sobel said.

High Life writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 970-748-2939 or cowen@vaildaily.com.


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