“Derek Beres is a terrific writer whose work is replete with penetrating insights and gem-like details. Sound Against Flame offers a lucid, multidimensional exploration of historical and cultural trends across areas ranging from spirituality to science, nutrition to music, and bodily awareness to the evolution of consciousness. Beres adds a unique perspective to our cultural mix, and Sound Against Flame deserves to reach a large audience.” – Daniel Pinchbeck, author of 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl and Breaking Open the Head
“In Sound and Flame: The Process of Yoga and Atheism in America, Beres manages very skillfully to integrate a wide range of materials and his own path as a yoga instructor. His degree in religious studies and his own constant and intense exploration of the heart, body, and mind provide an energy that is seldom found in such books. This book makes one restructure what one knows about both yoga and “atheism” or perhaps better “non-theism.” Without naming it often, he makes it clear that only fundamentalists refuse to consider continued change and development as healthy evolutionary qualities.” – William G. Doty, Professor Emeritus, The University of Alabama/Tuscaloosa, author of Mythography: The Study of Myths and Rituals and Myth: A Handbook
Sound Against Flame is an insightful and inquisitive look inside two emerging cultural ideas gripping the modern American consciousness: yoga and atheism. While seemingly opposed in numerous contexts, author/yoga instructor Derek Beres uncovers a common foundation as startling as it is revelatory to practitioners of any, or no, faith.
Using the concept of neti-neti as a bedrock—the idea of “not this, not that” that is the foundation of yogic philosophy—Beres looks beyond the inherent duality proposed by many religious traditions to drive to core teachings. Knowing that belief is actually a lack of experience, and that once the individual has had an experience there is no need for belief, this thoughtful survey of modern consciousness and religion is a call to do away with abstract idealizing. Instead it offers an opportunity to turn toward what is real and accessible at this very moment.
Atheism is a unique philosophical idea, as it is defined purely as a negation, something no other religious system has to contend with. At the same time, yoga is seen mostly as purely beneficial, and the integrity of the practice suffers from this lack of discrimination. Any faith or idea is implausible if it cannot be researched from the inside and out, yet too often the entire concept of religion is nothing more than a label our parents have given us, and we give to our children. When belief overrides behavior, danger lurks.
Sound Against Flame is a book about human connection and evolution, and what can be created when abstract idealizing is removed in the creation of something that promotes the very concept that defines the words “religion” and “yoga”: to bind. If a religion accomplishes this form of internal and social communion, it is working. Unfortunately, many of our systems are more effective at dividing, which means something essential is not working.
A passionate and inventive look at two important thought forms, Beres’ book takes many surprising turns that is not as much a history of distinct disciplines as much as an overview of the nature of belief, as well as the combining of cultures through the last five thousand years of world faiths. For Beres, the history of a culture is as telling as the books it produces. Throughout the journey he pulls from sources Eastern and Western, as well as the investigative works of evolutionary biology, psychology and anthropology, including: the Indian influence on Jamaican culture and the spiritual beliefs of Rastafari; the African influence on Mexican culture and the fusion of forms that resulted in Quetzalcoatl; the impact of the Cruades on today’s wars; the yogic and agricultural motifs of the Bible, and how they can be used today; the importance of language in our mythological and psychological understanding; and much, much more.
Most importantly, Beres concludes with actual possibilities of progress toward a philosophy that contains and holds within it numerous others. Whereas many books stop at merely citing differences and complaining, Beres maintains a strong faith in human creativity and conviction. It is belief that needs to be eradicated and done away with, in a manner that will “bind” the emerging global culture we are in the midst of experiencing. Entertaining, highly readable and thought provoking, Sound Against Flame is the mythology of modernity.