This book is a sequel of another book by the same author – The Four Agreements – which was written for people of all ages and culture around the world. The author believes that is the book is about things that are beyond words; those that can be experienced from one’s own eyes. Although he had many time previously, it was his son who was more successful in getting this message across to his acquaintances. Therefore, he has chosen to honor his son in this book. Here also, he has chosen to write in first-person to address the spiritually inclined.
Next, the author moves on to the topic of attention, which allows us to assimilate the outside information. He uses attention to demonstrate a bridge that exists between minds, and how it is used by grown-ups, to create a reality in minds using the symbols. He then draws our attention to the fact that this is how our normal human tendencies are lost.
Here the author has persuasively linked the symbolism gained while growing up with what we call as knowledge. He has successfully argued that the mythologies and philosophies we have created is nothing but an agreement with us. He then successfully links this agreement with what he calls as virtual reality. Here I would agree with him that we need to differentiate between virtual and the real.
Next the author tries to reflect the number of years humans have tried to understand the Universe, and in the process have made a lot of assumptions. This way he tries to bring to forth the human nature of creating stories. He argues that humans using this art of creativity have created an entire virtual reality for themselves. In his opinion, humans are real, but their creativity is virtual because they preceded their knowledge. In this way he tries to argue that the problem is not knowledge, but the distorted or virtual knowledge. He then links it to our interpretation, our use of knowledge. He then counters by saying that if one sees himself as an artist, then there is no right or wrong.
Here the author has tried to differentiate between the physical being and his thoughts. In his option it is his thought, his virtual world that makes him judgmental. In his option, there should be a certain amount of detachment between real and virtual person.
With this background, the author comes about discussing the The First Agreement: Be Impeccable with Your Word. He argues that the word, which is a symbol, has the power to create an idea or an image. Further, he believes that word exists because of force of life, which we call as God. He further links it with virtual reality what we create, calling it the reflection of reality. Further, he gives his own examples of changing the symbols as an analogy. He states that even though his words or symbols are changing, the reality or intent behind them is not. He argues that the reality that we create around ourselves is so powerful that it comes around to impact us. He uses this argument to prove that our happiness is up to us. To give an analogy, he states if we get angry on someone, and use the word to describe it, then we are ultimately using that word against ourselves. It is like action creating a similar but reverse reaction. Finally, comes back to the original point of impeccability of the word. He suggests never using the power of word against the self. To stress further, he uses the gossiping as an example. He contends that gossiping is something we have learnt from the society, and as a result we give an opinion about people we don’t even know. Therefore, he stresses on the fact that ultimately we are the creators of our own story. If so, we can imagine the story we can create if we use the word impeccably. Simply put, if we use the word in the direction of truth, life is going to be beautiful, and you will be a peace. He tries to show that the word is deeper than what we would presume. And if we were to apply the first agreement in our lives, there would be no resistance, or fear, just love.
In this segment, author has tried to emphasize his argument from one point to another. And then comes around beautifully to express his point. I personally believe in what he tries say. The simple analogy of gossip does show our judgmental side and highlights the fact that it is we and only we who is affected.
In the Chapter 4, the author begins with the background that when we are born, we aren’t familiar with any symbols. He thinks likes the fact that, at that stage, we have an imaginative mind and senses. He then highlights the imaginative power of our brain that allows us to perceive things others don’t. He uses the analogy of a mirror to explain his point that what we see may not be as real as it appears. He stresses his point that what we see in the mirror is not reality, but a virtual reality. Next he moves on to discussing what all is entering one’s eyes. He uses this to prove this point that we in actual not seeing these objects, it’s just the light from these objects that are entering our eyes. Using this example he further hammers down the difference between reality and virtual reality. Put in his words, “everything you perceive is a reflection of what is real, just like the reflections in a mirror” and there is one big difference that behind the mirror, there is nothing but behind one’s eyes is brain. This allows him to explain how easy it was for humans to alter what they perceive. Further, it allows him to come back and prove that was we perceive through our eyes is real, but we distort it through our symbols and opinions. He uses this background to state that when we aren’t aware of when we are dreaming, we develop a tendency of blaming others for distortion of our dreams. Whereas, the fact remains that is it we who is dreaming. Further, if we do not like what we have been dreaming, then we have the ability to change it. This dream or story is ever changing and soon we realize that it is nothing but a story.
The last passage has been very well researched. The author moves from point to point, and finally comes back to his original point that what we see is in actual a dream, a story, or a virtual reality. I was particularly impressed by the way he used the analogy of a mirror to explain that our eyes are a mirror with a brain behind it. And what is reality and what is the virtual reality created by our brain. Particularly, how well he differentiates between reality and our perceptions and biases.
He then moves on to The Second Agreement: Don’t Take Anything Personally. Here the author uses the analogy of a movie theatre where he first describes a movie with self as the main character, with one’s mother as one of the secondary characters. Then he describes another movie, where one’s mother is the central character. Here he describes how the mother is very different from that of the previous movie. This way he tries to highlight the differences in perceptions. Put differently, how one perceives another person may not be exactly how they are. Similarly, he gives analogies of different movies where the central characters are the ones who were secondary characters in one’s own. He then recommends coming back to the first theatre to watch the first movie all over again. And watching it as it was just a movie and nothing else. This way he tries to explain that our impression about how others perceive us may be different from what it actually was. Further, this explains his point that a brain is very creative and the need to step out of this virtual reality to see the truth. Against this background he tries to explain the reason behind so much conflict in life, especially in light of large human population. So, when the secondary characters say something from their viewpoint, and it does not fit well with our own perception, it results in anger and frustration. This brings us back to his first point that we shouldn’t be taking things personally. Therefore, one does not have to be too concerned with other person’s point of view. The author recommends that this philosophy frees the self, and whatever one does have everything to do with self, and nothing with others.
Like the previous sections, the author gives wonder and easy to comprehend analogies. Another thing to appreciate is how the author comes back to the original point with greater strength of the ideas. I would agree with the author that, like ourselves, everybody is entitled to having an opinion about self and other. So, if someone reacts to us according to his or her story, we shouldn’t be taking it personally. Therefore, it frees us of the burden of analyzing others.
In the next chapter, titled Truth or Fiction, the author talks about The Third Agreement: Don’t Make Assumptions. Here he goes back to emphasize that historically man has believed that conflict arose in the human mind – as good and as evil - but he stresses that the good and evil is the result of the conflict. He goes back to his childhood days to narrate how his grandfather once told him that we had no way of knowing the truth. He contends that it was much later that he realized the purport of that statement. He states that, as an artist, we are always distorting the truth, and real problem lies when we start believing in that distorted truth. So, if we distort a message by our story, and convey it to another person, then from the start person starts believing it as truth and distorts it even more. He uses this analogy to highlight the fact that the conflict happens only in the human mind, which he has previously described at virtual reality. Next he transitions on to the next topic to explain that all humans are perfect, and to believe the contrary is an excuse for our behavior. He contends that if we don’t have the awareness to understand this truth then we are blinded by lie. In his opinion our perception of truth is dynamic, and was considered truth centuries ago is no longer considered a truth. Therefore, what we believe about ourselves is as untrue as our opinion about other things. In another example, the advertising media makes us believe about what is socially acceptable to us. He prompts to have another look at what is truth and what is not.
In this chapter, his description was a fluent as always. The author shows his great ability in transitioning from one argument to another. I agree with the assumptions that one should be aware of the virtual reality, so that one perceives other story or symbols in that light. At the same, time one should be cognizant of what one conveys to the other person; one should be fully aware that the next person is bound to distort it even further. And, collectively we humans, especially which interact within their circles have the potential to create a whole new virtual reality.
This brings us to The Third Agreement: Don’t Make Assumptions. In the opinion of the author, the biggest assumption we make is that everything in our virtual reality is truth. He elaborates that humans have a very powerful imagination, and it is this that beginning of most of our troubles. He feels that almost everything we tell ourselves is an assumption. Further, he elaborates if not taking anything personally gives us the power and confidence to interact with other people; then not making any assumptions gives us the immunity to interact with the self. Therefore, he suggests that if we don’t make assumptions, we will be able to focus our attention to the truth.
Like all other works, all the arguments were tied together effectively. I would agree that we should at least realize when we are making assumptions. So long as we take into account the fact that we are making assumptions, we will retain our ability to see the truth. At least, to realize that what we are seeing or assuming is not truth.
This brings us to the next chapter titled, The Power of Belief: The Symbol of Santa Claus. The author begins with the time in one’s life when one owned the power of one’s belief. In his opinion, it is neither right nor wrong, just the way it was. He takes up the example of Santa Clause, and how we develop faith in the symbols. Similarly, he argues that we feel miserable because we tell ourselves a story or a notion that is not true. He tends that truth is neither good or bad, just our beliefs are distorted. He feels that the symbols are powerful because we make them powerful due to our inner strengths. Therefore, this belief system gives shape to our virtual reality, and it becomes stronger with every agreement we make with it. Till the time, that belief is solid as a rock. To explain further, he refers back to what Toltec called the human form, which is the form our mind takes. Also, he argues that our belief system takes freedom away from us and makes us a slave. It is something we cannot see or measure it, but feel its existence. At the same time, we should be aware of our own creation. We can do this by the power of our own imagination. The author then goes back to childhood to explain how it is a clean slate, and by believing everything we perceive, we lose power over own lives. Therefore, he highlights the need of being aware of what one is doing. And by stopping believing in things we had put so much faith and energy, we get that energy back and never lose control. And once that rigid belief system ceases to exist, we become flexible. And so, we are able to create anything we want and do anything we want to do.
This brings us to next chapter Practice Makes the Master, The Fourth Agreement: Always Do Your Best. Here he argues in favor of having awareness if one has to change one’s life. Further, he argues that like everything we have learnt through exercise and repetition, this too can be achieved. He further states that the first agreement, which suggest one, to be impeccable with words is all that is required to have a beautiful life. He suggests that this approach in itself is sufficient to take one to heaven, provided we take support from our agreements. Further, not taking anything personally and not making assumptions helps us realize that the first approach was even easier. The author agrees that these three agreements are not impossible, but certainly difficult. In the light of this difficulty, he contends that everybody do they best. This fourth agreement ties the other three together. He recommends that, with regular practice, time will come when they become a habit. However he recommends that we were to create a dream; we should create a beautiful one. Always doing ones best helps one become a master artist. Therefore, these four agreements are as summary of the mastery of transformation, which is a process of unlearning what one has already learnt. He recommends beginning with small agreements which are relatively easy to break, thereby gradually breaking the structure of knowledge and eventually freeing oneself.
The book in the end talks about the fifth agreement in the chapter The Power of Doubt. The Fifth Agreement: Be Skeptical, but Learn to Listen. He recommends being skeptical because most of what we perceive is not true. At the same time, he recommends learning to listen. When we actively listen, we pay attention to the symbols people are using. Once we realize, through active listening, that nothing we see is true, then being skeptical has a bigger meaning. He clearly states that one is not supposed to believe anyone’s story. One has to make one’s own opinion. One does not have to agree or disagree, just listen carefully. He argues that the more impeccable a person is with words, the clearer will be the message, and the words from other persons won’t have much of an impact.
He further argues that other people have right to form their own stories, but one doesn’t learn to listen; one would never be able to understand. In support of his points, he further states that it is up to us what we do with words. And we should be skeptical, and one shouldn’t believe anybody including the self. This gives self a huge advantage as most of the knowledge we have gained isn’t true anyway. Consequently, believing self would be the worst things because pretty much what we have learnt is lie.
In conclusion, I would say the author has tried to clear the mind one’s mind through these five agreements he suggests with the self. He clarifies their importance, and how the fourth one ties the first three together, and makes their application easier. Lastly, how the fifth agreement take the experience to a whole new level.
Ruiz, Don Miguel, Don Jose Ruiz and Janet Mills. The Fifth Agreement. San Rafael: Amber-Allen Publishing Inc, 2010. Print.