Richard G. Petty, MD

An Extraordinary New Book

Regular readers will know that I sometimes review books at Amazon.

I only review around 10% of the books that I read, and they are ones that I think are consistent with my aims of improving the quality and quantity of our lives. I belong to the “If you cannot say something nice, say nothing” school, so I don’t review a book unless it is special and brings something new to the table. Unless somebody has written something that is just plain wrong!

A few months ago I was at a meeting in New York and met a man named Kurek Ashley. I have met more than my fair share of people from every continent, and it is not often than someone impresses me: Kurek did. Not because he was a larger than life person, but because of his heart and soul. I asked to have a look at his book, which at that stage was not published. It really surprised me, and I read it twice in once weekend while shuffling to and from the West Coast.

The book is published today as How Would Love Respond?: Imagine If You Were Given a Gift So Powerful That You Knew You Had to Share It with the World, and I was so impressed that I helped with the launch.

Here is what I had to say in my review,

“When I was first asked to examine this book several months ago, I was not sure what to expect.

I had been told that Kurek Ashley was a kind of antipodean Tony Robbins. Nothing wrong with that: I have a great deal of respect for Tony’s work. I then heard that Kurek had been in movies, held a record for fire walking and had helped a volleyball team to an Olympic gold medal, as well as propelling forward the lives of countless other people in all walks of life.

So I thought that I knew what I was getting: some sort of high-energy motivator. Then I met the author and discovered something very different. Certainly he is passionate, highly energetic and always positive. But there was another quality to him as well: he had a completely unexpected humility and clarity about what he wants to do for other people. I don’t often meet someone with such evident integrity. He told an amazing story of being involved in the most terrible tragedy in which his best friend was killed. But then the dead friend reappeared to him and asked for his help. I had wondered whether he might have had some kind of breakdown. Instead I found a man who is remarkably level headed, and who has absolutely no reason to tell a story that could have damaged his reputation. Far from having had a breakdown, he had experienced a breakthrough. So for all these reasons I was eager to read this book and discover more of the story and Kurek’s message.

I only review a small number of the books that I read, and I am not given to hyperbole, but Kurek’s book is magnificent! The fact that I read it twice is unusual enough in itself. The book begins with an amazingly candid story of hardship and tragedy, and of the incredible series of experiences that ultimately transformed Kurek into someone very different. He becomes a shining example of what can happen to someone who opens his or her heart and mind. Though he became known as a motivator, as you read the book it becomes clear that he now inspires people to transform themselves in the most extraordinary way. This is a not just another feel good book. It presents a precise map for creating a different kind of life, and one that is in the reach of most of us. I really do believe that it will change many lives.”

I would also suggest that you have a look here.

As part of the celebration of the launch, experts from all over the world who have read and been moved by the book have contributed gifts and bonuses. They are all interesting, and many will likely to of value to anyone reading this. I have offered two eBooks and a set of audios.

This is a bit of blurb that was written about my piece:

A Cutting-edge Course in Integrated Health

First there was “folk” medicine. Then there was “alternative”, then “complementary” and finally “integrative” medicine. What comes next? The answer is Integrated Health.

Robert Stuberg – the well-known expert in personal development – had this to say about Integrated Health, “It’s not every day that a new program comes along that covers new and uncharted territory. If you have enjoyed any of Deepak Chopra’s material, you are going to love this. It’s the next step.”

Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned physician who has spent more than 35 years working with thousands of experts throughout the world who are creating a scientifically credible blend of the best of modern medicine with traditional and natural methods of healing to create a new science of health and well-being.

Professor Richard Petty is a biochemist, endocrinologist, neurologist, psychiatrist and advisor to the Prince of Wales’ Foundation for Integrated Health. He is also a recognized expert on nutrition, acupuncture, homeopathy and herbal medicine who has taught at many major universities on five continents.

During the thirty years that he was in full time clinical practice, people in all walks of life, including royalty, politicians, captains of industry and many famous musicians, dancers and artists – as well as other healthcare professionals – sought his opinion. After watching a popular show on television, a grateful patient recently described Dr. Petty as “The real Dr. House!”

For this launch Dr. Petty is – for the first and only time – making available a very special Course in Integrated Health. It contains a completely revised special deluxe version of his latest sixty thousand-word masterpiece, Healing, Meaning and Purpose. It also includes a full study guide with session summaries, questions and answers. In addition, the Course contains a set of full color illustrations; over eight hundred references, scores of carefully selected websites and over an hour of specially recorded audio files that have been described as “incredibly powerful” and “mind blowing.” The Course is complemented by a collection of five hundred extraordinarily profound and inspirational messages to illustrate and amplify the core material. Dr. Petty has carefully selected them from his personal collection of over 48,000.

Until today, this entire Course has only been available to Professor Petty’s private students. This will be the only time that this whole package will be offered to members of the public. It is hard to calculate its value, but if sold separately it would be priced at $297.

In addition, the first 100 people who take advantage of this very special offer will also be given free access to participate in one of his group coaching sessions. These last for one and a half to two hours. Though most sessions are accompanied by a set of handouts, this time together is a great deal more than an information download: many people describe them as unique and even life-changing experiences. Students normally pay $97 for each session, and many people have waited for more than a year to study with Dr. Petty.

Feel free to have a look and see what you think.

An Extraordinary Memoir

Regular readers will know that I am very interested in helping people with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and you will find a number of articles here.

The problem is growing as more people are returning from the conflicts overseas. But it is also important to return to another point: the difference between categorical and dimensional diagnosis. Few problems fit into neat little boxes. Instead they tend to lie on spectra. At one end you have people who have never had a day’s trouble in their lives, at the other you will find people who have been incapacitated by the most terrible things that have happened to them.

And in between is a huge number of people who do not fit any diagnostic criteria, but nonetheless suffer from many of the signs and symptoms of illness. How many people suffer from some of the symptoms of PTSD because they found a dead relative? Or had an important relationship that went terribly wrong?

They do not, of course, have diagnosable PTSD, but it can sometimes be helpful to reframe their suffering as a reaction to trauma.

I have just reviewed a book on the Amazon website that I hope is read very widely.

The book is called The Dancer Returns: From Victim to Victory, by Susan Lee Titus.

It tells an extraordinary true story about a young businesswoman who is brutally assaulted. She suffered from such severe PTSD that she actually needed to be admitted to hospital for a short time.

She transcends the terrible experience, and she is herself transformed by compassion and forgiveness. She moves on to teach dance to incarcerated women, each of whom carries her own scars.

The book is short but profoundly moving and can be life-changing.

If you have any interest in PTSD in all its manifestations, and also if you are interested in alternative ways of living with and transcending distress, I strongly recommend the book.

The Seeker Academy

Regular readers know that I occasionally review worthy books at Though I read a lot, I only review those that I think will be of interest to other people or help them in some way. I belong to the old school: "If you can’t say something nice, say nothing." The exception is if someone writes something false or misleading.

I would like to tell you about a book that I was asked to review, and that I think deserves a wide readership. Yet because it is being published independently, it could fall below your radar.

It is called The Seeker Academy and is by someone whom I have not met, called L.D. Gussin. There is also a blog to support and supplement the book.

I think that my review of the book speaks for itself, but as I say at the end of it,

"If you are interested in some of the big questions in life, or if you feel that (Emotional and spiritual) hunger that I described above, this is an excellent, well-written and engaging book."

I do not know if the author is male or female, young or old, and in a way I am glad, in that it enabled me to read the book without preconceptions.

It is an enjoyable work, and I can guarantee that it is a book that will make you think.

How Doctors Think. Or Not.

I recently reviewed a fascinating book at the Amazon website. It is called “How Doctors Think,” and it was written by the ever-thoughtful Jerome Groopman from Harvard.

To save you having to look through all the reviews to find what I said, I thought that it would be useful to say something about the book and why I have some reservations about Jerome’s analysis.

Most doctors are highly educated, hard working people who most of the time try to do their best. Yet in our blame culture there are places in America where you can’t get a specialist to treat you: they have all been driven out of business by lawyers representing unhappy clients. The question of why this has come to pass has occupied the minds of the American medical profession for three decades.

Jerome believes that the key problem is that doctors make the same kind of errors in thinking that the rest of us do. We all – and not just doctors – jump to conclusions; believe what others tell us and trust the authority of “experts.” Clinicians bring a bundle of pre-conceived ideas to the table every time that they see a patient. If that have just seen someone with gastric reflux, they are more likely to think that the next patient with similar symptoms has the same thing, and miss his heart disease. And woe betides the person who has become the “authority” on a particular illness: everyone coming through his or her door will have some weird variant of the disease. As Abraham Maslow once said, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” To that we have to add that not all sets of symptoms fall neatly into a diagnostic box and that uncertainty can cause doctors and their patients to come unglued.

Up to this point the book is very good as far as it goes but I do not think that the analysis is complete.

I have taught medical students and doctors on five continents, and this book does not address some of the very marked geographic differences in medical practice and the book is “Americano-centric.”

The first point is that the evidence base in medicine is like an inverted pyramid: a huge amount of practice is still based on a fairly small amount of empirical data. As a result doctors often do not know want they do not know. They may have been shown how to do a procedure without being told that there is no evidence that it works. As an example, few surgical procedures have ever been subjected to a formal clinical trial. Although medical schools are trying to turn out medical scientists, many do not have the time or the inclination to be scientific in their offices. In day-to-day practice doctors often use fairly basic and sometimes flawed reasoning. A good example would be hormone replacement therapy. It seemed a thoroughly good idea. What could be better than re-establishing hormonal balance? In practice it may have caused a great many problems. Medicine is littered with examples of things that seemed like a good idea but were not. Therapeutic blood letting contributed to the death of George Washington, and the only psychiatrist ever to win a Nobel Prize in Medicine got his award for taking people with cerebral syphilis and infecting them with malaria. The structure of American medicine does not support the person who questions: consensus guidelines and “standards of care” make questioning, innovation and freedom very difficult. A strange irony in a country founded on all three.

The second major factor in the United States – far more than the rest of the world – is the practice of defensive medicine: doctors have to do a great many procedures to try and protect themselves against litigation. This is having a grievous effect not only on costs, but also on the ways in which doctors and patients can interact.

Third is the problem of demand for and entitlement to healthcare. We do not have enough money for anything: but what is enough if the demand for healthcare continues to grow as we expect? And if people are being told that it is their right to live to be a hundred in the body of a twenty year-old? Much of the money is directed in questionable directions. There are some quite well known statistics: twelve billion dollars a year spent on cosmetic surgery, at a time when almost 40 million people have no health insurance. There are some horrendous problems with socialized medicine, but most European countries have at least started the debate about what can be offered. Should someone aged 100 have a heart transplant? Everyone has his or her own view about that one, but it is a debate that we need to have in the United States.

Fourth is the impact of money on the directions chosen by medical students and doctors starting their careers. Most freshly minted doctors in the United States have spent a fortune on their education, so they are drawn to specialties in which they can make the most money to pay back their loans. In family medicine and psychiatry, even the best programs are having trouble filling their residency training programs. Many young doctors are interested in these fields, but they could die of old age before they pay off their loans.

Fifth is the problem of information. It is hard for most busy doctors in the United States to keep up to date on the latest research, and many are rusty on the mechanics of how to interpret data. So much of their information comes from pharmaceutical companies. Many of the most influential studies have been conducted by pharmaceutical companies, simply because they have the resources. But there have been times when data has therefore appeared suspect. Industry is not evil, but companies certainly hope that their studies will turn out a certain way, and the outcome of any study depends on the questions asked and the way in which the data is analyzed. And like any collection of people, it is easy to fall into a kind of groupthink. There are countless examples of highly intelligent individuals who all missed the wood for the leaves.

Another related problem is that many scientists are now also setting up companies to try and profit from the discoveries that they have made in academia. Most are working from the highest motives, but sometimes there are worries about impartiality. So once again, the unsuspecting physician may add data to the diagnostic mix without knowing its provenance. There have recently been a number of high profile examples of that.

I ended my review by saying that I hope that every doctor and patient in America should read it, and I stand by that, with the caveats and comments that I have added to the mix.

I am a bibliophile. Always have been. I started collecting books when I was twelve years old and now have somewhere between twelve and thirteen thousand. I try to read at least one book a day and sometimes a lot more. That being said, there are some books that can take weeks to finish.

So I am a good customer for

Over the last year or two I’ve started submitting a few book reviews and book lists on things that I think might help people.

I recently got a letter from a delightful person who asked me why I go to the trouble of writing book reviews.

This was my response,

“I was rather reluctant to do reviews at all, but then discovered that some people found my comments helpful. I am often told that my forte is being able to extract the essence from a book or program and then summarize it. I hope that is true. For more expensive books I also like to provide detailed contents. I will have bought and read them, but before someone spends fifty or a hundred dollars, I would like to give them a good idea of what they will get for their money. Or even if it might be better for them to go to a lending library.

I see my reviews as complementary to my occasional Amazon lists: to help provide a reading list or bibliography. I also write articles, a blog and books, and these Amazon reviews support all three. I often have people contact me and say, “That’s interesting, where can I find out more?” These reviews are part of my response. I read many books that I don’t care for, but unless they are saying something dangerous or untrue, I prefer not to review them at all. I certainly belong to the “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything” school. So it is no accident that the reviews are virtually all four or five stars.

I have been sent only two books to review and I know the occasional author: I always try to ensure that I reveal that. After a lifetime in medicine and research, I am very hot on “full disclosure.” There have been some cases in which people have offered reviews to boost sales of books, while negative reviews have been removed. There was a book last year for which there were a number of reviews purporting to be from people working in a non-existent medical school. I stay on the lookout for the people who have only written one laudatory review.

It is said that there are thirty million spiritual seekers in the United States, and many more who would like impartial advice on wellness and personal performance. The reviews are designed to offer these good people whatever assistance I can.

My only reward has been personal satisfaction, and the occasional kind letter like yours!”

As I started doing reviews I noticed several things. Apart from the occasional vanishing review and the rave reviews from vanishing reviewers! There are obviously some people who have their own fish to fry. Someone canned a review that I wrote about a book on metabolism and nutrition and asked about my qualifications. That’s just fine with me: I’ve spent my professional life in academia! But then I saw that he has attacked every positive review about the book and keeps citing an article that doesn’t seem to be relevant. So he obviously just has something against the author: you can’t please everyone.

The other thing that amazed me was the sheer number of reviews written by some people. The number one reviewer at says that she is a speed-reader. But once, in an idle moment, I found that she had reviewed over fifty books in one day. Assuming that each of her short reviews takes ten to fifteen minutes to write, well, you can do the math. Being a naïve soul, I just assumed that she had a bit of a backlog.

But now I’m not so sure. An investigative reporter named Vick Mickunas has had a look to see what is going on

He has written three blog items that make very interesting reading:

  1. The Mysterious Harriet Klausner
  2. Bogus book reviews on
  3. book reviewer shakeout

Some people will think that this is just a storm in a teacup, and perhaps it is. But if there is something fishy going on with some of the reviews at it is worrying. So many people base their buying decisions on these reviews and it is essential that people can have confidence in what they read.

Obviously publishers like positive reviews, but only if they are credible. I know a number of people in the publishing world and they most certainly do not want reviews from people of questionable integrity.

As a company Amazon has always impressed me, and I am sure that if there is something going wrong with the review process, they will deal with it.

Or am I being naïve again?

The Internet Sacred Text Archive

I have been commenting about the important new initiatives in open access and I don’t want to forget to let you know about another resource that I’ve used for years.

It is the Internet Sacred Text Archive.

This is what it says:

Welcome to the largest freely available archive of full-text books
about religion, mythology, folklore and the esoteric on the Internet.
The site is dedicated to religious tolerance and scholarship,
and has the largest readership of any similar site on the web.

They ask for support for the site
by buying sacred-texts on disk.
This is a complete library of over a thousand of
the most important books ever written.
It includes the complete text of all major world scriptures,
and hundreds of books scanned specially for sacred-texts.

I have one of the earlier disks and it is superb. I am going to upgrade to the new one to support this very worthwhile venture.

These are just a few of the categories on the website:
Earth Mysteries
I Ching



And these are some recent additions:

The House of the Hidden Places (1/9/2007)
The Satapatha Brahmana, Part IV (SBE 43) (12/19/2006)
Lives of the Saints (12/14/2006)
The Hieroglyphics of Horapollo (12/12/2006)
The Rosetta Stone (12/5/2006)
Devil Worship in France (12/3/2006)
Tractate Berakoth (12/2/2006)
The Satapatha Brahmana, Part III (SBE 41) (11/29/2006)
Nostradamus: The Man Who Saw Through Time (11/21/2006)
Proofs of a Conspiracy (11/18/2006)
Original Hebrew of a Portion of Ecclesiasticus (with the Alphabet of Ben Sira) (11/15/2006)
Tractate Sanhedrin (11/8/2006)
The Satapatha Brahmana, Part II (SBE 26) (11/5/2006)
Unveiled Mysteries (10/18/2006)
The Myth of the Birth of the Hero (10/16/2006)
The Satapatha Brahmana, Part I (SBE 12) (10/7/2006)
The Religions of South Vietnam in Faith and Fact (10/4/2006)
Karezza, Ethics of Marriage (10/3/2006)
The Comte de St. Germain (10/1/2006)
A Miracle in Stone: or The Great Pyramid of Egypt (9/28/2006)
The Love Letters of Abelard and Heloise (9/18/2006)
The Brahan Seer (9/13/2006)
Noa Noa (9/6/2006)
The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ (8/30/2006)
History of Philosophy in Islam (8/27/2006)
Forty-four Turkish Fairy Tales (8/8/2006)
Folk-lore of the Holy Land; Moslem, Christian and Jewish (7/29/2006)

An excellent resource.

Happy World Tai Chi & Qigong Day!

Saturday, April 29, 2006 is World Tai Chi & Qigong Day . The day is going to be celebrated in 60 countries around the world as well as all fifty states. The event has been recognized by the United Nations World Health Organization, and proclaimed officially for 17 US states by their governors, as well as senates, legislatures and mayors of various countries.

I taught Tai Chi and Qigong for several years, and had the privilege of studying with teachers in China and Malaysia whose methods were part of an oral tradition. Much of this material has still not been published. I recently reviewed a very nice book at the website. One of the things that impressed me about the book is that it contained exercises and techniques that I had been taught by Chinese Masters, but which to my knowledge have never been published anywhere else.

I thought that it might be a good moment to review the world literature on the medical effects of Tai Chi and Qigong. My search has turned up over 2,200 published reports, of which about a third are the reports of clinical trials. I have been able to analyze the data in about a half of those trials. The data now suggests that Tai Chi is genuinely useful for:

There are many other studies indicating the value of Tai Chi, but these give you a sense of some of the research that is going on at the moment.

As I mentioned in another post, qigong is both a personal practice and is used as a form of therapy. It has recently been shown to help:

  1. Chronic pain
  2. Cardiac rehabilitation in the elderly
  3. Chronic fatigue syndrome
  4. Overall immune function
  5. Asthma

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but as you can see, this is an active area of research.

Learning some Tai Chi and Qigong could be one of the best investments that you ever make in your own health.

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The Amazing Power of Your Voice

I have always considered myself to be musically challenged: I love listening to music of all kinds of different genres, but as for producing it? No.

I was kicked out of the kindergarten choir during a particularly painful attempt to sing "Ring a ring o’ roses." I used to worry that I might be responsible for the collapse of the mental health of a succession of music teachers….

I always thought it a bit of a pity that I had no ability to sing because four events have convinced me of the power of the human voice.

The first was a demonstration by Zoroastrian priests who could split a pane of glass in two simply by chanting. This is quite different from the tales of champagne glasses shattering as they resonate with the sound of a soprano’s voice. This was precise and done to order.

The second occurred one Sunday morning, when I was sitting with a number of friends as we were waiting to enjoy our Sunday lunch together. We were having a pleasant discussion, when I heard one of the most beautiful and ethereal sounds imaginable coming from the kitchen. The sound was emanating from Jill Purce , the wife of one of the other guests, the biologist Rupert Sheldrake. She was demonstrating Tibetan overtone chanting. This is something that can be learned by anyone who can speak. Our voices naturally contain a spectrum of sounds, and the technique of overtone chanting makes some of these harmonics audible. There is great power in the sound produced and the dual actions of liberating your voice and concentrating on learning a new way of using your body can have profound effects on your mind, body and subtle systems. In Tibet and Mongolia these techniques are used for raising consciousness and gaining spiritual insights.

The third event that convinced me of the power of the voice was trying a series of mantras and chanting exercises and finding just how quickly each could change my state of consciousness and even produce profound physical effects. Just taking a deep breath and repeating the sound AAAHHH on each slow exhalation quickly showed me the power of just one sound. Another one is to place your right hand over your heart and softly repeat HAWWW, while imagining red light flowing from your hand into your heart can have an amazing calming effect, though some people also find that it cause an emotional release. Doing it for just a minute or so can sometimes have people crying with the release of some of the emotional tension that they were holding in.

The fourth event was being made aware of the effects produced by some of the sub-harmonics produced by own voice when speaking both when woking with individuals and when speaking to large audiences. I’d never been even vaguely aware of them until a sound engineer did a demonstration for me. I’ve since learned that several other speakers produce similar sub-harmonics that can have profound effects on listeners: the best known that I can think of are Caroline Myss (you can download a free meditation by Myss from this site), Deepak Chopra and Ken Wilber (you can actually download a free podcast from this link– "God is a Blogger" is my favorite!). When you listen to all three of them in person, or listen to their tapes or CDs, your will often learn things really deep down, that go way beyond the actual words being spoken. I was once delivering a speech and I didn’t feel that it had flowed as well as usual in terms of the content. Yet at the end I had a line of people wanting to tell me of the profound effect that I had upon them. And then the organizer immediately asked me to return, telling me that there was “something about your voice,” that had drawn everyone in. I must admit that at the time I was completely oblivious to all this.

For years now I have been interested to learn everything that I could about the therapeutic effects of sound: in particular, music, chants, mantras and sacred language. So I was extremely excited to read a new book by James D’Angelo on the Healing Power of the Human Voice, and it exceeded all my expectations. It is a book crammed with practical exercises and there is an accompanying CD. Taken together, they should be enough to convince the most hardened skeptic. And there is a wealth of wonderful material for the open-minded experimenter.

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The Ethical Brain

There is a nice blog, Brainethics, that discusses an interesting new book Hardwired Behavior by Laurence Tancredi. This really is an outstanding piece of work. The author is both a psychiatrist and a lawyer who argues that Society’s assumptions about free will and individual responsibility must be drastically revised in the light of scientific discoveries about the brain.

This is part of a large debate that is going on within psychiatry and psychology and within the legal profession. As an example, at what age should a young person be able to drive a car or be legally liable for their decisions? The driving question comes up because the brain and nervous system of a fifteen-year-old is still far from being fully mature, and may lead to poor coordination and decision-making. Can an eighteen-year-old be held liable for his behavior, at a time that his brain is not fully formed? Yet he is able to fight for his country. You will see that your answers to those questions are likely to be a mixture of political positions and personal experience. But there is also no doubt that the explosion of knowledge about the brain will be factored into some future legal decisions.

In Tancredi’s book, he applies knowledge derived from recent research to such traditional moral concerns as violence, sexual infidelity, lying, gluttony and sloth, and even financial fraud and gambling. For anybody working in the field, it is very clear that hormones, nutritional status, drugs, genetic abnormalities, injuries and traumatic experiences all have profound effects on the structure and functioning of the brain. Therefore they may all have an impact on our moral choices. Some experimental work implies that our actions are initiated by pre-conscious and unconscious processes in the brain before we are consciously aware of them. Does that mean that our sense of moral agency is a retrospective illusion? And what about free will?? Is that an illusion too?

I like this book, and also the recent book by Michael Gazzaniga, entitled The Ethical Brain. But I need to sound a note of caution: we are bewilderingly complex creatures, and there is powerful evidence for the existence of systems that can over-ride some of the neurological ones. So even after reading and studying hundreds of books and scientific papers and talking to hundreds of scientists around the world, I remain convinced that free will is not an illusion, and that there really is a genuine morality which is a great deal more than the firing of neurons in the brain.

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