The Beaten Path by Ptolemy Tompkins
Field Notes on Getting Wise in a Wisdom-Crazy World

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Synopsis

In an America obsessed with quickie enlightenment and wisdom-acquisition, Ptolemy Tompkins is a seeker who has been there and done that. From Black Elk to the Dalai Lama -- from Hun Tun and mescaline to motorcycle Zen and mind at large -- the acclaimed author of Paradise Fever has followed many roads in pursuit of a universal truth. And he has survived to tell the tale.

The Beaten Path

Ptolemy Tompkins came of age in the '70s -- before Americans began spending uplifting Tuesdays with Morrie or perusing Little Instruction Books. In the wake of a quintessentially New Age childhood as the son of the radical freethinker Peter Tompkins, author of the bestselling The Secret Life of Plants, Ptolemy began a personal quest for enlightenment decades before it became trendy to do so. He gained much valuable insight as he careened from Buddha to the Bhagavad-Gita, from Krishna to Carlos Castaneda. But how much actual "wisdom" he accrued is a matter the author himself admits is up for debate.

The Beaten Path is a work of great intelligence that is profound, moving, and hilariously entertaining. In his funny and touching account of a spiritual journey that went wildly off course, the author bares his soul even as he knocks down the gaudy signposts that guide eager pilgrims through today's pop-wisdom landscape. Yet he never loses sight of what is valuable and true in the literature of the spirit.

Part gripping personal memoir, part merciless-yet-affectionate critique, and part genuine prescription for the good life, The Beaten Path is a provocative gift from a man who left no page unturned, no odyssey uncompleted, in his determination to find direction and meaning in the cosmos. In exploring what it is that makes so many of his contemporaries actively seek the light of peace and transformation in its most convenient and palatable form, he offers readers a unique, idiosyncratic insight into our modern world. And he has great fun while doing so.

 

About Ptolemy Tompkins

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Ptolemy Tompkins was born in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, including Paradise Fever, a memoir, and This Tree Grows Out of Hell, a study of Mesoamerican myth and spirituality. He has written for many publications, including Harper's, the New York Times Magazine, and the Utne Reader, and his work has appeared in The Best Spiritual Writing 1998 and 1999.
 
Published January 1, 1975 by Quill. 240 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Religion & Spirituality, Self Help, Law & Philosophy. Non-fiction

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From the son of New Age guru Peter Tompkins, engagingly frank recollections of an adolescent search for wisdom among the usual suspects—Tao, Buddha, and Castañeda—whose prescriptions turn out, on closer examination, to be no more enlightening or realistic than conventional nostrums.

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Publishers Weekly

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Tompkins (Paradise Fever) offers a witty, provocative memoir about the struggle to get wise in a time and in a culture where the world's great wisdom books are as available as candy bars at the 7-11.

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