For the millions of people who want spirituality without religion, Sam Harris’s new book is a guide to meditation as a rational spiritual practice informed by neuroscience and psychology.
Throughout the book, Harris argues that there are important truths to be found in the experience of contemplatives such as Jesus, Buddha and other saints and sages of history—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.
Expanding upon concepts posited in The End of Faith and Free Will, neuroscientist Harris draws from personal contemplative practice and a growing body of scientific research to argue that the self, the feeling that there is an "I" residing in one's head, is both an illusion and the primary cause of human suffering. Through meditation, this illusion can be extinguished, resulting in a deep sense of personal well-being regardless of circumstances, and also in compassionate and ethical behaviors toward others. The reality of such self-transcendence has been hitched to unwarranted claims about the nature of the universe by persons of faith and denied outright by most atheists and skeptics. The great value and novelty of this book is that Harris, in a simple but rigorous style, takes the middle way between these pseudoscientific and pseudo-spiritual assertions, cogently maintaining that while such contemplative insights provide no evidence for metaphysical claims, they are available, and seeing them for ourselves leads to a profoundly more salubrious life.
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This is an eye and mind opening read. Very well written. I really appreciated the detailed and rational account of Harris's personal spiritual journey.