Bernie Gourley's Reviews > The Journeys of Socrates

The Journeys of Socrates by Dan Millman
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bookshelves: martial-arts

The Journeys of Socrates shines the spotlight on Dan Millman's mysterious teacher from The Way of the Peaceful Warrior. We discover that Socrates was born Sergei in Russia to a Cossack father and a Jewish mother.

His youth is scarred by tragedy. His mother died in labor with him and his father died of alcohol poisoning while Sergei was away at military school. His only remaining relative that we know of, his grandfather, dies. He flees the military academy to avoid having to harass Jews as a soldier, and in the process he has to battle his arch-rival. He marries into a family, but that ends badly as well. His family by marriage are Jews living under false identities at a time when it is very dangerous to be a Russian Jew.

It is after this tragedy that Socrates' search for warrior skills and revenge drive the narrative. In injecting so much tragedy into his life, Millman makes the main character's transformation all the more impressive. At every turn, Socrates is faced with events that should fill him with bitterness and hatred, but he must keep going and learn to control his emotions to become the warrior that he wants to be.

He proceeds to train under a warrior trained in the way of Japanese swordsmanship, a man named Razin. Razin only reluctantly accepts him as a student. He then lives at a hermitage, learning to reign in his mind and to respond freely and appropriately to attacks. His teacher at the hermitage, Father Serafim, teaches him to fight, he also encourages him to give up his intention to settle his vendetta. Finally, he travels abroad to train with a convened collection of sages from various traditions (Taoism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity,etc.)

Socrates narrative arc is well developed. He is pitted against a powerful enemy Zakolyev, aka Gregor Stakkos, a military school rival who became an antisemitic Cossack gang leader. Socrates is drawn into a final decisive battle with this nemesis, but there is a twist at the end to further complicate matters.

I'll admit I've had mixed feelings about Millman's work. I was a big fan of the original books Way of the Peaceful Warrior and to a lesser extent Sacred Journey of the Peaceful Warrior. Those books provided great insight into mind-body development in a readable narrative form. However, I later picked up one of his subsequent books and found it to be some sort of numerology/astrology drivel. That was disconcerting not only because it offended my sensibilities as a Cartesian skeptic, but even more so because it seemed to fly in the face of the Peaceful Warrior message-- which was one of self-empowerment, not passive acceptance of some randomly bestowed fate.

So I picked The Journeys of Socrates reluctantly. However, I found this book to be the most readable of all. It is written like a novel or the memoir of someone who led the rare novel-shaped life.

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