Book Review: The Four Agreements

The Four Agreements:  A Toltec Wisdom Book, by Don Miguel Ruiz

Some years ago, when I was working in my first of many positions at the company I currently work for, one of my coworkers was passing around this particular book for coworkers to read.  I was promised a chance to read the book myself, since it was well known that among the readers of the Wal-Mart book club that I was a most diligent reader of books, but for some reason or another I never got the chance to read this book until I picked it up as part of my Black Friday book shopping with a close friend of mine in Estacada.  This book, at around 140 pages, did not take long to read, nor did it take long to figure out what kind of book this was, given my fondness for reading books on esoteric matters every once in a while [1].  This book certainly fits in when it comes to a tour of New Age philosophy that takes the point of view of the serpent in the Garden of Eden, this time from a gentleman descended from a line of Toltec shamans on his mother’s side.  However, even though I found a lot about this book to be deeply troubling, I found it to be sincere as well, and I found this book to demonstrate aspects of resistance to domination and tyranny that are noble even if mistaken.  There is, in fact, a great deal about this book that is worth taking note of, even if it argues for the right point the wrong way.

This is not a book that is particularly demanding on the reader, at least not as far as the reading is concerned–the application, on the other hand, is quite demanding.  The contents and structure of this book betray a book that is on the egalitarian side of contemporary New Age philosophy, giving secrets of a supposed long-hidden Toltec tradition of shamanism that was kept secret during long centuries of Catholic domination and only arising thanks to the congenial climate for New Age philosophy at present.  The book opens with a rambling and inaccurate portrayal of the domestication of humanity through various moral laws and covenants, where it becomes clear at the outset that this author follows the satanic tradition of resistance to God’s laws and the transformation of mankind into the nature of God, because of the author’s belief that humanity already has the divine spark without any need for repentance or moral reformation.  That said, the author does believe in four necessary agreements that involve a sort of repentance and self-forgiveness, rather than obtaining mercy from God.  The four agreements at the core of the book are:  being impeccably faithful to your word, not taking anything personally, not making assumptions, and always doing your best.  The author then closes by urging readers to break the agreements they have made by believing the lies and abuse foisted upon them by others and using the power of white magic as shamans to create a heaven on earth.

As ironic as it may seem for an author that spends so much time talking about the illusion of various rules and regulations and the things that others say carelessly and selfishly, this book is really all about illusions.  In many ways, though, these illusions are themselves quite instructive.  The denial of the reality of the physical world in favor of the reality of the dream world and the world of the words we tell ourselves is a common flight from reality taken by the victims of history to overcome the shame of defeat and exploitation.  I do not therefore condemn the author for repositioning Toltec wisdom in the way he does in order to reflect a postcolonialist approach, seeking to encourage others to do what they can to be faithful in their world, to live the best that they can, and to make sure that the negativity of others bounces right off of us and ends up where it belongs.  To be sure, there is much more that one has to do in order to be right with God and with others, and this book does not even remotely approach the biblical standard of morality, but that is not to say that the four agreements the author chooses are themselves bad, but rather that they come with a host of presuppositions and assumptions about the nature of reality and spirituality that are simply not in line with God’s ways.  Let the reader beware accordingly.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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