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Broad perspective on consciousness
on August 17, 2004
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).
I think that this book does a fair job at linking scientific with non-scientific aspects of consciousness. This topic is certainly important for human kind to develop a less dogmatic view of what we are and why. Science is good to answer the "what" question, while religion, philosophy and spitirual practice tackle the "why" answer.