“A careful look at Jesus Christ will reveal an extremely self-actualized person, an individual who preached self-reliance, and was not afraid to incur disapproval.”
Those are the rather surprising words of Wayne W. Dyer in his bestselling book Your Erroneous Zones (1976)—surprising not because they seem untrue, but because Dyer was not a Christian (as least in the traditional sense).
Dyer was born on May 10, 1940, and passed away last August 29 at the age of 75. Your Erroneous Zones was the first of many books he wrote, and I read it with great interest when it was still fairly new—and again, hastily, this year.
Dyer’s book is certainly worth reading, and re-reading. On the New York Times bestseller list for 64 weeks, it was one of the top-selling books of the twentieth century with an estimated 35 million copies sold.
Even though a religious pluralist, Dyer had great respect for Jesus, as seen in his statement above. While not in his 1976 book, he is also quoted as saying, “My beliefs are that the truth is a truth until you organize it, and then becomes a lie. I don’t think that Jesus was teaching Christianity, Jesus was teaching kindness, love, concern, and peace. What I tell people is don’t be Christian, be Christ-like.”
He went on to say, “Don’t be Buddhist, be Buddha-like.” From such statements, it seems clear that Dyer was a person who was very spiritual, but not religious.
Another of his books that I read with interest and profit was Change Your Thoughts—Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao (2007), and he has other books about the ancient Chinese spirituality known as Tao (now sometimes written Dao, the way it is pronounced).
Dyer also considered Swami Muktananda (1908-82), a Yoga guru, as his master.
Dyer held a doctorate in educational counseling from Wayne State University and served for a while as an associate professor at St. John’s University in New York. But he is mainly known as the prolific author of self-help books and as a motivational speaker.
On his website, Dyer is introduced as “an internationally renowned author and speaker in the fields of self-development and spiritual growth.”
The reference to a “self-actualized person” in the quote at the beginning of this article is a term made popular by Abraham Maslow, who in other places Dyer refers to as one of his greatest teachers. (It is surprising that he doesn’t mention Maslow in his 1976 book.)
One of the best, or most important, chapters in Your Erroneous Zones is titled “The Useless Emotions—Guilt and Worry.” “Throughout life, the two most futile emotions are guilt for what has been done and worry about what might be done,” writes Dyer at the beginning of that chapter.
He suggests strategies for eliminating both of those “erroneous zones” and then challenges his readers to learn to “live now and not waste your current moments in immobilizing thoughts about the past or future.”
The final chapter of his 1976 book is “Portrait of a Person Who Has Eliminated All Erroneous Zones.” It could also be taken as the portrait of a self-actualized person. That summary chapter is worth reading and considering at least once a year—if not once a month.
According to Dyer, people who have eliminated all erroneous zones “are enthusiastic about life, and they want all that they can get out of it.” That statement reminds me of Jesus’ words: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).