I agree with Andrew Bartelt, who said that the book, “The
Schopenhauer Cure by Irwin D. Yalom, has “all the topics that matter - philosophy, therapy, love, sexual addiction, meditation and relationships. It's awesome. I read it in one sitting."
Bartelt overlooked two of my own favorite themes addressed in fascinating ways by Yalom, namely, meaning and purpose in life and toxic religion. It would not surprise me if you find other themes we both overlooked reading “The Cure.”
"Cure" is billed as an accurate group-therapy novel of two men's search for meaning. One, a patient turned therapist named Philip Slate, has found the answer to nearly all of life's most perplexing and enduring questions in the works of Arthur Schopenhauer. As the plot progresses, Yalom outlines the life of the brilliant
Schopenhauer, in stages, from beginning to end. This telling is nearly as gripping as that of the characters in group therapy, including Philip Slate, who has modeled himself in accord with the tenets of Schopenhauer. Philip is, in fact, the self-professed beneficiary of "the Schopenhauer cure," which he believes will work for others, as well.
Besides a terrific tale filled with interesting characters (particularly Philip), the novel is packed with provocative philosophizing, mostly from the writings of Schopenhauer but others, as well (particularly Nietzsche, Plato and Socrates). Consider a few Schopenhauer excerpts, conveniently referenced in "Notes" at the back of the book:
* Ecstasy is the act of copulation. That is it! That is the true essence and core of all things, the goal and purpose of all existence.
* A happy life is impossible; the best that a man can attain is a heroic life.
* Religion has almost everything on its side: revelation, prophesies, government protection, the highest dignity and eminence...and more than this, the invaluable prerogative of being allowed to imprint its doctrines on the mind at a tender age of childhood, whereby they become almost innate ideas.
* The greatest wisdom is to make the enjoyment of the present the supreme object of life because that is the only reality, all else being the play of thought. But we could just as well call it our greatest folly because that which exists only a moment and vanishes as a dream can never be worth a serious effort.
* Beauty is an open letter of recommendation predisposing the heart to favor the person who presents it.
* He is a happy man who can once and for all avoid having to do with a great many of his fellow creatures.
* We are all sentenced to an existence filled with inescapable misery-an existence that none of us would choose if he knew the facts ahead of time. In that sense, we are all fellow sufferers, and we stand in need of tolerance and love from our neighbors in life. (Note: This is Philip loosely quoting Schopenhauer.)
While the educational aspects from exposure to philosophy is a wonderful feature of "Cure," the best reason to read this book is that it's a gripping story with wonderfully interesting characters. Most will gain insights about how group therapy works; it's also just good fun to follow the epic confrontations between the characters. This is most notable in clashes between Pam and Philip. Also exceptionally interesting is the Yalom-like psychotherapist Julius Hertzfeld, a man devoted to his work and patients even while dealing with doubts about the meaning of his own life as the end nears due to a malignant melanoma.
The "Cure" is written by the same psychiatrist who authored
"Existential Psychotherapy," a fabulous work about finding meaning and purpose in life, as well as many best-selling novels.
If the "Cure" were a hotel or a restaurant, I'd give it five stars. As a book replete with information of use in managing a good life, it gets my highest recommendation. Read it, and try to look on the bright side of life, even if most (including Schopenhauer) do (did) not.