For the millions of people who want spirituality without religion, Sam Harris’ new book is a guide to meditation as a rational spiritual practice informed by neuroscience and psychology.
From best-selling author, neuroscientist, and "new atheist" Sam Harris, Waking Up is for the increasingly large numbers of people who follow no religion, but who suspect that Jesus, Buddha, Lao Tzu, Rumi, and the other saints and sages of history could not have all been epileptics, schizophrenics, or frauds. Throughout the book, Harris argues that there are important truths to be found in the experiences of such contemplatives - and, therefore, that there is more to understanding reality than science and secular culture generally allow.
Waking Up is part seeker’s memoir and part exploration of the scientific underpinnings of spirituality. No other book marries contemplative wisdom and modern science in this way, and no author other than Sam Harris - a scientist, philosopher, and famous sceptic - could write it.
©2014 Sam Harris (P)2014 Simon & Schuster, Inc. 2014, published in the UK by Random House Audiobooks
Great writing by a great mind.
As usual Harris offers a new perspective on things, one which would have been extremely difficult to arrive by oneself.
Thanks Sam, I've enjoyed it thoroughly.
"This is Important."
Possibly one of the most important book you can read about spirituality today.
Performance wise is also top level. I have read Sam's books and follewed him for some time on YT, blog and podcasts. I knew the book will be of the highest quality but the audiobook somehow enhanced the experience even more. Listening to Sam's voice is so much better than merly reading the book in your own voice inside your head...
This is an ultimate journey to spirituality guided by one of the most important figure in line of scientific and spiritual/religion field.
You simply cannot afford to miss it.
The book gives a very interesting perspective on some experiences people should really consider exploring.
"A solid case for a reasonable spirituality"
Sam makes a strong and well-argued case for a a thoroughly reasonable spirituality with his uniquely humorous sober candour. He gently nudges you in to a desire to explore..
"The way ahead"
Excellent - but not quite a how to do it. I'm still in the departure lounge, but maybe that was Sam Harris's aim.
"An illusory Sam Harris loses his self to Booodism"
I had such high hopes for this book, but regret to say, it is something of a train wreck.
Harris theoretically shoots himself in the foot in several places and his quest to dispel the "illusion of self" turns into the search for an egoless high. More worryingly however, is that in his forthright advocacy of Buddhism and outright condemnation of every other religion, he goes from militant atheism to religious bigotry.
To be fair, the book kept me listening to the end, and there are some wonderful chapters on dodgy gurus, psychedelic experiences and spurious NDEs. However, it is in these sections that he inadvertently undercuts his own case.
For example, having repeatedly asserted that through mindfulness meditation, the "illusion of self" is transcended to experience a transpersonal realm of pure consciousness, in later chapters he convincingly argues that the self can never escape the physical brain (eg. in an NDE). This makes his earlier transcendence more like an "adventure in the head" than a transcendental spiritual experience.
He repeatedly asserts that the "self is an illusion", without ever defining what he means. As "self" is defined (online OED) as "A person’s essential being that distinguishes them from others", it's hard to see how this can be an illusion, unless he is challenging the reality of either our difference from others, or our essential being (eg. our history, personality, identity, brain structure, genetics etc.). It seems more likely that these oceanic realisations that the "self" is an illusion are themselves illusory, akin to losing awareness of our body under sensory deprivation.
So, maybe "Waking Up" is about the loss of our 'self-centredness', the domination of our self-image, "I" or ego? If so, as Huxley points out in "The Perennial Philosophy", (which Harris dismisses early on), this is the quest of all major contemplative religions, not just Buddhism. "The Cloud of Unknowing" or Pseudo-Dionysus' "Mystical Theology" advocate a very similar goal and methodology to mindfulness meditation! In his study of Yoga, Sam Harris must have come across the 3 paths to such liberation or union - through devotion, knowledge or action, yet his contempt for all but Buddhist mindfulness meditation is palpable throughout the book.
In fact, what Harris presents is really "Western Buddhism lite", avoiding awkward doctrines like Reincarnation or the goal of Nirvana as 'escaping from the cycles of suffering and rebirth', which as a materialist atheist can make no sense. Thus, instead of Nirvana being an eternal goal, attained after many lifetimes, his spiritual quest is reduced to repeated experiences of egolessness. This might be fine, but what comes across in "Waking Up" is not humility or selflessness, but contempt and self satisfaction at having found the "one true path".
Overall, this book is interesting and entertaining, but if, like me you hoped to find a "spiritual but not religious" path with heart, you may come away disappointed.
"Thought changing, life changing. Informative"
Sams reading lends itself well to the subject matter. I'm very glad he was the one to read it. I've not looked greatly into meditation before but have had slight but not mindful interest in it. I've seen slight changes in my mood whilst enjoying this book over the past week, possibly due to a concious effort to be more mindfull of moods during my waking life. Only a couple of times did I try some nornal meditation, which was interesting though I'm unsure if I just fell asleep as I forgot where i was for a time it was just nothingness, so i think it was asleep and not actual mediation. Anyway I will continue to be mindfull and would like to thank sam Harris for his honesty and logical thinking. Not being scared off from topics that might cause most to stear away. Very much appreciated. I would say if your sceptical, its a good reason to try this book.
"Thank you Sam Harris"
This book is truly brilliant, Sam's idea that a spiritual life can be enjoyed in a secular way is as beneficial as it is important. I don't know if you will ever read this Sam but thank you for helping me sort through the knots in my mind and find peace.
I listened to this while reading the physical book and it was fantastic all round.
A, somewhat rare, scientific and sceptical approach to meditation, spirituality and it's benefits. Sam Harris' voice seems perfect for the book.
"Keep coming back to this book"
Rational yet expansive. This book is well written and ties up a lot of loose ends. Recommended.
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