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Spiritual Evolution: How We Are Wired for Faith, Hope, and Love Paperback – June 9, 2009
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“George Vaillant is a poet, a visionary, and a scientist. This book is the culmination of a fifty-year project that revolutionized our view of human development and now may revolutionize our view of religion and spirituality.”
—Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., author of Authentic Happiness and Learned Optimism
“At last—an explanation of spirituality from an evolutionary perspective that does justice to both. With his tremendous breadth of experience and personal wisdom, George Vaillant is the perfect spiritual and scientific guide.”
—David Sloan Wilson, author of Darwin's Cathedral
"More than a scientific defense of faith, George Vaillant's book is a moving account of his own intellectual quest, through science, for a spiritual view of human evolution and experience. Clearly a labor of love and a needed antidote to recent attacks on religion. An important book."
—Melvin Konner, M.D., Ph.D., author of The Tangled Wing
“Spiritual Evolution is a truly outstanding book, an exquisite weaving of science and spirituality focused on the positive emotions. The result is a wonderful synthesis of material leading to a compassionate and empowering conclusion about the future of humanity. A must-read for everyone who has considered the intersection between spirituality and the human person.”
—Andrew Newberg, coauthor of Why God Won't Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief
“In this inspirational and scientifically brilliant essay on human nature, Dr. Vaillant defends the love, hope, joy, compassion, awe, forgiveness, and faith that together form our naturally evolved spiritual essence—an essence enlivened by religion at its best, and distorted by religion at its worst. He draws on a lifetime of heralded literary, scientific, spiritual, and medical insight to write the one prescription that can dispel our shadows of confusion and help heal the world.”
—Stephen G. Post, Ph.D., coauthor of Why Good Things Happen to Good People
“With uncommon lucidity, balance, and scholarship, George Vaillant draws brilliantly from neurobiology, social science, human developmental psychology, and the wisdom of the great writers and thinkers to clarify and illuminate the positive emotions such as love, compassion, and altruism that elevate humankind and may yet save it.”
—Irvin Yalom, M.D., author of Love’s Executioner
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Top Customer Reviews
As the jacket cover of this terrific book says, "Dr. Vaillant lays out a brilliant defense not of organized religion, but of man's inherent spirituality." He finds that the positive emotions of love, joy, hope and forgiveness are rooted in the evolution of the human brain. He predicts that our spiritual evolution will continue, and quotes published research in neuroscience and related fields that support this idea.
His writing is informative, clever and witty, filled with humanity, compassion, and the wisdom of a scholar with a deep commitment to understanding how the tapestries of human connection and spirituality are interwoven.
He is justifiably well-known for scholarly publications derived from his direction of the Harvard study of adult development for 35 years, his work in alcoholism, and his willingness to integrate diverse points of view.
* During the chapter "Joy," you may cry as you feel Joy. During the chapter "Love," you will want to call home to say Hi.
* You will be pulled in by personal stories from the Study of Adult Development, and how these men have come around to positive emotions and spirituality.
* You will be inside a colossal head fake - a situation in which you're learning but it seems like you're playing.
In Spiritual Evolution, Vaillant does something amazing: he makes the reader feel the emotion in the chapter about that emotion - Joy, Love, Compassion, Awe, and more. Imagine having a book in which you could reach for the emotion Joy just by opening that chapter again. This is the psychoanalyst at his best - he has bottled the emotions. Furthermore, he's bottled them by connecting your curiosity about how the mind works with your love for Emily Dickinson. It's the best kind of learning when it feels like play. Imagine having a book that you open up, and Vaillant on the other side says, "Let's play."
Vaillant would argue that spirituality defies rational, cognitive description. Vaillant's final chapter, entitled "The Difference Between Religion and Spirituality", is primarily a fascinating discussion of Alcoholics Anonymous ("AA"), which he concludes is mostly a spiritual rather than a religious program. AA certainly has its detractors, but it has also helped an awful lot of people to maintain sobriety, and Vaillant's discussion of the spiritual aspect of the program was most interesting. Given my emphasis on the importance of humor, I was also pleased to note his comment that AA meetings tend to be filled with laughter and humor (although, beneath it all there is a "deadly seriousness"). Excellent book.
It puts in black and white many ideas about religion and spirituality. I think the last chapter is the best, but you will not feel it if you have not read the other ones.
It's always good to read and meditate about positive emotions, it helps in keeping them alive! Useful for my spiritual journey. Helps understanding goals and means.
And we are reminded that religion often if not always, requires some 'leader' or dogma, whereas a universal spirituality can be as simple as sitting on a mountain top and sensing something bigger than ourselves, with no name, has created or allowed all we see to be created.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book is groundbreaking and key to understanding one's faith.Published 3 months ago by Sharon Shine
Wow - a great book from a legend in the field of psychological and well being research. Vaillant has really outdone himself with this book. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Doug
As a "Buddhist/atheist/humanist I have strong suspicions and negative experiences with organized religions. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Dave Shumway
Highly qualified work in lay-person-accessible style; enlightening and welcome and needed.Published 10 months ago by retro
Refreshing viewpoint after all the fruitless is-evolution-true-or-not propaganda. After reading this I still don't have faith - but I'd like to ;-)Published 18 months ago by leuka
Well written and scientifically based thoughts on an important matter.Published 18 months ago by Amazon Customer
Vaillant brings great insight born of experience and education to this topic. His work acknowledges the contribution of both science and the religious to the spiritual way of life.Published on September 20, 2013 by Mark F. Marshall
I think this is an important book that can extend the appreciation of science and spirituality. Well reasoned and well written. I have recommended it to many friends.Published on June 16, 2013 by Perry Pascarella