Book: authors bio

Mark Laxer

Long ago, Mark Laxer’s quest to understand the bigger world landed him in the inner circle of a brilliant, charismatic guru gone mad. After writing Take Me For A Ride and weath­ering a $30 million lawsuit, Laxer continued the quest by writing The Monkey Bible, which asks science, religion, and mythology what it means to be human. Laxer runs a software corporation, a storytelling gathering, and a wildlife conservation organization. In 2004, he invented virtual ecotourism.

Extended Biography

Born in 1960 in Queens, New York, Mark Laxer grew up watching abstract, symbolic images come to light in his father’s darkroom. His parents took him kayaking, sailing, and hiking, and he recalls sitting still for hours with his mother by a lake in Maine, observing the beavers. His love of nature and art, and the juxtaposition of the two, continues to this day.

In high school he became editor-in-chief of the newspaper and co-interviewed luminaries such as Ewald Nyquist and Robert Moses. In a class on creative writing he wrote:

Teachers force us to perceive,
The surface world of reason:
“A tree is but a pole with leaves,
whose habits change each season.”

Convinced that there was more to existence than the world of reason, Mark sought an apprenticeship with a mystic. Not thrilled about the idea, his mother had him talk with the Rabbi, which he did. The Rabbi pointed out that Judaism is a system of laws. Mark nodded his head and said goodbye and, over the next seven years, studied meditation and helped an up-coming cult leader rise to power.

In 1986, after Mark left the cult, he bicycled across the United States with Nunatak, his beloved Siberian husky, and did some thinking. The outcome was his first book, Take Me For A Ride: Coming of Age in a Destructive Cult (Non-fiction, Outer Rim Press, 1993), which is available—free—in its entirety on the internet as part of Project Gutenberg.

The message of the book—fly east, fly west, but don’t fly into the cuckoo’s nest—resonated with both the anti-cult and new age communities, and Take Me For A Ride has received numerous endorsements, including...

“All students of human nature will delight in Mark Laxer’s insightful story of his personal journey into a new kind of American cult that interweaves pseudo-spiritual goals with money making, computer, hi-technology ambitions. He shows us the subtle techniques used to seduce bright college students and graduates into this cult and the powerful forces that bind members to their charismatic leader. My students have enjoyed the narrative and learned much from this analysis of the psychology of cult indoctrination in Take Me For A Ride.”
--Philip Zimbardo, Ph.D., Stanford University,
Initiator of the Stanford Prison Experiment
“While his portrait of a charismatic leader’s slide into madness is gripping, perhaps more important here is Laxer’s disclosure of some of the motives impelling young people to immerse themselves in cults...the work is well written.”
--Library Journal
Take Me For A Ride is the best personal narrative about the cult experience that I have ever read.”
--Cynthia Kisser, Director of a cult education organization
Take Me For A Ride, by Mark E. Laxer, makes compelling reading. At times, I had to put the book down, because it became too painful for me to read. Mark’s cultic experience is a challenge to anyone who is concerned about the spiritual welfare of our Jewish youth in our apparently soulless, shopping-mall-cable TV culture. As a Rabbi and a Jewish parent, Mark Laxer’s odyssey...has affected me deeply.”
--Rabbi Bruce Goldwasser, Temple Beth Shalom, Flushing, NY
“This is a very important work...It is today’s Darkness at Noon...”
--Herb Rosedale, President, American Family Foundation
“This important book deserves the widest circulation. In these troubled times, Mark’s experiences may help other young people to find their way more easily to a life of meaning and significance.”
--Rabbi Alvin Kass, East Midwood Jewish Center, Brooklyn, NY
“I would highly recommend this book for all those who are searching in their own lives for faith. Mark’s story could be anyone’s story. My hope is that after reading Take Me For A Ride that many will avoid this dangerous chapter in their lives.”
--Rabbi Donald M. Goor, Temple Judea, Tarzana, CA
“What comes across brilliantly is the familiar sense of what it is to be seventeen, searching for a philosophy to fit one’s life.”
--Julia Goldberg, Santa Fe Reporter
“One of the most important books written for a very vulnerable population.”
--Roberta Davis, WRCT-FM, Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh
“Mark Laxer does a great service in his deeply personal portrayal of life within a cult. His struggle to attain a poignant quest of a seeking spirit.”
--Jacob Longacre, Lutheran Minister

After the publication of Take Me For A Ride, Mark continued his earlier quest: to understand who he was and how he came to be, only this time, rather than looking to a guru, he looked to anthropology, biology, religion, and mythology. He read widely and is indebted to many authors, including E.O. Wilson, Jared Diamond, Pope John Paul II, Richard Dawkins, Matt Ridley, Craig Stanford, Yan Wong, Olivia Judson, David Quammen, Bill Weber, Bernie Krauss, Carl Safina, Jane Goodall, Birute Galdikas, Douglas Botting, Douglas Adams, Redmond O’Hanlon, Charles Darwin, Elaine Morgan, Peter Matthiessen, George Schaller, Gerald Durrell, Frans de Waal, Roger Fouts, Loren Eisley, Desmond Morris, Lewis Thomas, Clive Ponting, Adrian Desmond, James Moore, David Lehman, George Steiner, and Randal Keynes. He spend thousands of hours in the Smithsonian National Zoological Park studying the animals, questioning researchers, observing Azy, Indah, and Rob during the Orang utan Language Experiment in the Think Tank Building. He sought private counsel from people of a variety of faiths. He hounded geneticists, taxonomists, primatologists, zoologists, conservationists, anthropologists, and many others, for many years, including and in particular his wife and her friends and colleagues. The outcome was his second book, The Monkey Bible.

In 2007, he shared the manuscript with his friend Eric Maring who, based on themes from the book, wrote an accoustic rock musical called The Line. Mark subsequently rewrote parts of The Monkey Bible based on Eric’s music.

Mark holds a degree in English and American Literature from the University of California, San Diego.