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The Psychology of Consciousness (Arkana) Paperback – November 1, 1995

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Product Details

  • Series: Arkana
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; 2nd Revised edition (April 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140195203
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140195200
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,736,100 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Steve Uhlig on August 17, 2004
Format: Paperback
Contrary to purely psychology-centered books that miss a lot of the non-behavioral aspects of consciousness and to "spiritual" ones that explain everything based on one point of view, this one discuss both sides of the story. Consciousness is not just about the brain, or thoughts, or some spiritual way of seeing life, but it emcompasses everything, what we are and what we live.

Ornstein shows quite well that the scientific viewpoint is too limited and focused in purpose to broadly explain consciousness. By choosing to deal with the subjective aspects of consciousness, Ornstein provides a full account of the aspects of consciousness that are necessary to improve our understanding of it. To understand consciousness it is necessary to deal with aspects linked to culture, psychology, and education, but also to more experiential (some will say less scientific, more subjective, personal) aspects that cannot be communicated but are equally important to know what consciousness is about.

As pointed out by another reviewer, the second part that deals with non-scientific aspects of consciousness is not well organized. Furthermore, it is largely centered on the Sufi viewpoint. Other eastern philosophies and religions have a lot to say about consciousness and are not treated in this book. But this view of consciousness is mostly subjective and does not fit very well any organization, so i don't think this is a problem. The choice of the Sufi spiritual tradition does seem a good choice to me as Sufism is not really embedded in a particular culture (although some might argue it is grounded on Islam, this point is not relevant as Sufism goes beyond any conception of life or any religious tradition).
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Johnny O'Bover on July 13, 1999
Format: Paperback
This little handbook reminds me how I make decisions. I was especially affected by the way that Dr. Ornstein put the saying, "It's not really 'I'll believe it when I see it.', but on the contrary, 'I'll see it when I believe it.'"
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 20, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book is a concise and inspiring introduction to what behaviorists left out of psychology, written by a pioneer in the scientific study of consciousness. Ornstein writes with humor and clarity, discussing with equal ease those questions of psychology that science can in principle answer, and also with those which require experiential, rather than experimental, answers. This is a classic, with much of continuing relevance 30 years after first publication.
Reviewers and readers alike should remember the words of Omar Khayyam quoted in this book: "I am a mirror, and who looks at me, whatever good or bad he speaks, he speaks of himself."
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Steven H Propp TOP 50 REVIEWER on September 15, 2010
Format: Paperback
Robert Ornstein (born 1942) is a psychologist, researcher and writer, perhaps best known for his work on left brain/right brain studies. He has taught at the Langley Porter Neuropsychiatric Institute, and been professor at Stanford University. He is also chairman of the Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge, and has promoted modern Sufism (e.g., Idries Shah).

He wrote in the Preface to this 1972 book, "After long searching in many places, I have come to feel that these compelling questions CAN be answered, but, unfortunately, not fully within the mode of reason or intellection. There is no way to simply write down the answer, as we might give a textbook definition. The answers must come personally, experientally... I have tried to do two things at once here: to write what can be written within science, without pretending that such an approach is a complete answer, just as a biologist does not really need a fully agreed-on definition of life in order to study it; and to point to a second stream of knowledge directed toward methods of answering these questions which scientific method excludes, the esoteric traditions of the Middle and Far East."

Here are some representative quotations from the book:

"First, try this: say the word 'need' over and over to yourself one hundred times. It becomes 'strange,' loses meaning, and it no longer seems like the same word. That is, mere repetition of a stimulus will cause a change in consciousness."
"Two modes of consciousness exist in man, and function in a complementary manner. Since the dominant mode in our culture is the verbal and rational, recognition of their existence involves us in a cultivation of the second mode, the intuitive and holistic.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Shawn Regan on March 21, 2002
Format: Paperback
I liked this book very much. Much like Wilber's Spectrum Ornstein does a good job at objectively studing the eastern disciplines. And provides some useful information on how the brain works. This book is quoted in the bibliography of Wilber's Spectrum of Consciousness.
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