Popper Péter - The Book of Inner Paths

True to its title, Péter Popper’s The Book of Inner Paths goes beyond presenting dry psychological concepts, and sets out a path aimed at developing self-awareness, inner balance and understanding. In this theoretical work, Popper integrates many sources, creating an effective and comprehensible collection of exercises and explanation. Aiming not to cure the mentally ill, but rather to come up with a methodology that may help healthy people who “lose their way, who look at inner dissatisfaction with the need for change” or who “wish to become better acquainted with and to develop themselves” The Book of Inner Paths provides them with the tools to start “with basics and simple training-programs aimed at individual sub-functions, and move towards more complex issues such as character and personality shaping.”

Popper was, and remains, one of Hungary’s foremost and best known minds in the field of psychology. He worked as a professor, practiced clinical psychology and psychotherapy, was the editor of the Hungarian Psychology review and served as a personal advisor to the Prime Minister of Hungary. Before his unfortunate death in 2010, he published more than 300 books, two dramas and a ballet. While it is not based on his practices as a psychologist, The Book of Inner Paths is a collection based on Dr. Popper’s research, including the 8 months he spent in Ashram in India. For the first time, it has been translated into and made available in English, so that it may be presented to a worldwide audience.

While the primary purpose of The Book of Inner Paths is to provide a theory that may help the reader with a number of routines for the reader to practice in order to “become more resilient to the unavoidable burdens of life,” and to “live with more understanding and acceptance of ourselves,” it provides much more than that. Popper provides a context and framework which not only presents tools with which one may cope with inner dissatisfaction or to help those who have the “urgent need for change and development,” but also provides an understanding of what the proper purpose of such tools are, how they can best be used, and what their limitations are. Throughout the book, Popper skillfully weaves these practices in with context, helpful explanation and background information with regards to the purposes of the exercises, and relevant stories, particularly that of the Travels of Mingliaoste, a traveler who sought to attain the peace of the Tao by journeying to the seclusion of the mountains, a beautiful characterization of the mindfulness, peace and inter-balance The Book of the Inner Paths seeks to teach.

The exercises begin with basics, focused upon five areas of psychological life: concentration, development of will, self-control in expression of emotion, openness to the positive, and impartiality of judgment. After that, the book goes into instructions in enhancing self-control, enhancing knowledge of others and developing observation and memory, doing so through a series of practices that can be employed to practice and cultivate observational and memory techniques in one’s daily life.

Next, Popper discusses cultivating one’s day through reflection and awareness. That is followed with the presentation of preparatory exercises to gain emotional balance, then a discussion of the energetic nature of the psychological processes, including sections on sorting emotional responses of different importance, role swap exercises, and exercises on confrontation.

Popper then presents concentration exercises, beginning with small, specific concentration exercises before expanding to exercises involving broader subjects, and ending with concentration exercises involving abstract subjects, for which he gives numerous examples and explanations.

Finally, the last exercise presented is meditation. Popper explains the purpose of and dispels misconceptions regarding the widely known but seldom understood practice, before setting out some introductory meditation exercises.

The Book of Inner Paths manages to be both straight forward and comprehensive, setting out reasonable expectations for practices and mapping out understandable and effective exercises. It manages to be both an effective theory of self-help and a captivating read.

The book can download free from here.