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The Origin of Human Nature: A Zen Buddhist Looks at Evolution Paperback – February 1, 2008

2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1845192600 ISBN-10: 1845192605

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Editorial Reviews


“Currently director of the Montreal Zen Centre, Low has written widely about Zen Buddhism for many years. Being an educated, modern, Western, generally cool guy, he had no trouble taking sides in the creation/evolution debate. Then one night, reading Dawkins, he realized that neo-Darwinism is a materialistic-mechanistic theory arguing that matter is the element from which all is derived, and that the evolution of life is no different from the evolution of matter. He decided that he needed to think a little deeper about that, and shares the insights he stumbled upon.”  —Reference & Research Book News

“Albert Low breathes new life into old terms – the transcendent, consciousness, awareness, evolution, creativity, intention – not by going around science, but by going through it. In the current frenzy to purge science of purpose, meaning, direction, and values, Low’s insights are a welcome resource. One might say that our survival depends on the wisdom in this book.”  —Larry Dossey, author, The Extraordinary Healing Power of Everyday Things

“The old religious models don’t seem to work for us these days. And so we have turned to secularity, to the cooler gaze of science, especially the neo-Darwinism of Richard Dawkins and others. Albert Low shows that the bloom of their answer – the random-mutation mechanistic evolutionary system – that once seemed so promising, cannot account for our capacity for love, appreciation of beauty, altruism, creativity or intelligence. And it cannot offer us meaning or direction.… So we find ourselves in an uncomfortable place of ambiguity… The Origin of Human Nature offers a model that lives creatively in just that ambiguity. Living up to his life-long effort to integrate the hard sciences with his years of Zen practice and teaching, Low makes room for the best of evolution while welcoming space for the mystery of consciousness and the humble contemplation of the abyss. His is a welcoming of science and mysticism, and we would all do well to walk with him.”  —Professor Robert Forman, CUNY, author, Grassroots Spirituality

“In this intelligently written book Albert Low gives us a modern Guide for the Perplexed; a richly thoughtful reflection on the roots of human nature that glows with a deep respect for both science and the spirit.”  —Allan Combs, author, The Radiance of Being

“The battles over evolution are fought by two sides that are far too rigid in their thinking, the Biblical literalists on the one hand and the mechanistically committed materialists on the other. But our human and spiritual nature is much bigger than fanatic literalism or scientistic dogmatism, and Low’s refreshing book offers a more open direction to explore the potentials of evolution for real human beings.”  —Charles T. Tart, UC Davis, author, Body Mind Spirit: Exploring the Parapsychology of Spirituality

“I enthusiastically recommend this book. As a hard-core scientist, I was overjoyed to read Dr. Low’s ‘knowing’ centered approach to human origins and nature, as well as his eloquent rebuttal of the ‘selfish gene’ neo-Darwinism that now dominates mainstream views. Dr. Low’s vision dovetails perfectly with the broader scientific vision of evolution that I work with but perhaps it takes a Zen master to communicate the profundity of its human implications to a world so desperate for a deeply felt understanding of purpose and meaning.” —Dr. S. J. Goerner, Director of The Integral Science Institute, author, After the Clockwork Universe: The Emerging Science and Culture of Integral Society

“Albert Low offers us a strikingly original vision of evolution and human nature. He presents us with a choice that is stark, with implications that are far-reaching. On the one hand, we can take the metaphor of ‘man as machine’ literally and, as a consequence, abandon those very qualities that make us human and make life worth living. On the other hand, we can come to see that the evolutionary process, and therefore ourselves, is fundamentally intelligent and creative. The choice, Low tells us, is fateful and ours to make.”  —Dr William Byers, Loyola University, Montreal, author, How Mathematicians Think

“Transcending the clichés on both sides of the modern God/evolution debate, Dr. Low’s book offers a most welcome invitation to the joyful work of thinking like a human being about what an evolving human being is and can – for the sake of our world, must – become.”  —Jacob Needleman, San Francisco State University, author, Why Can’t We Be Good?

About the Author

Albert Low is an internationally published author of many books, including Invitation To Practice Zen, which is now in its thirteenth printing. In 2003 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Law degree for scholastic attainment and community service by Queen’s University Ontario. He is currently director of the Montreal Zen Centre, where he is in charge of over 200 students, many of whom are doctors, psychiatrists, and university professors.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 245 pages
  • Publisher: Sussex Academic Press (February 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845192605
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845192600
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,713,734 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dr. Albert Low is an authorized Zen master, an internationally Published author, and a former Human Resources executive. He was born in London, England, on December 16, 1928. He has lived in England, South Africa, Canada, and the United States and has resided in Montreal since 1979. He obtained a BA degree in Philosophy and Psychology, and is a trained counselor. In 2003, he was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws for scholastic attainment and community service by Queen's University, Ontario, a prestigious Canadian University.
1947- 1949, served two years in the British navy,
Left England in 1954 and emigrated to South Africa. Employed by the Central News Agency, a company that held the monopoly for the sale and distribution of all reading matter including books, magazines, and newspapers throughout Southern Africa--which then included South Africa, the two Rhodesias, Mozambique, and South West Africa. Eventually became the senior personnel executive and reported to the CEO. During this time he gave many seminars on creativity and organization for managers at all levels for the National Development Foundation of South Africa.
Left South Africa in 1963, as he could not agree with the political policy of apartheid, and moved to Canada. He was again employed as a personnel executive, this time with a large Utility that was at that time called the Union Gas Company. He was in charge of salary administration for all levels of company, as well as for organizational development. He developed an original theory on creativity, organization and management. Eventually wrote a book based upon his researches: Zen and Creative Management which has since sold more than 75,000 copies. During his time at the gas company, he continued to give talks and seminars on the subject of management, organization and creativity--the latter a subject he has spent considerable time studying, and which is very closely connected with Zen practice.
In 1955 became interested in Zen Buddhism and had a strong intellectual interest for about ten years.
In 1966 met a Japanese Zen Master, Yasutani, and practiced Zen first with him, and then for twenty years with Yasutani's chief disciple, Philip Kapleau. In 1976 he resigned from the Gas Company and went to Rochester Zen Center for three years where he served as editor of the Center's journal. In 1979 he relocated to Montreal as a probationary teacher. In 1986, he finally finished his training and was authorized to teach as a Zen master.

Dr. Low has made a study of human nature throughout his life. In writing his books he draws on his prolonged meditations on creativity and the human condition, his many years of providing psychological and spiritual counseling, and a wide-ranging knowledge of Western psychology, philosophy, and science. He has given many talks on the CBC radio and television.

He currently has well over two hundred students--among them university professors, doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, and lawyers--whom he counsels on both spiritual and psychological issues.

Zen and Creative Management. Published by Anchor Press, Playboy press and Charles E. Tuttle and has sold in excess of 75,000 copies

Zen dans la Service du Management published by Libre Expression Nov 1993

El Zen y la direccion de empresas published Ediciones Aura

Zen ve Yaratici Yoneticikil Etikitaplan

The Iron Cow of Zen Theosophical Publishing House. 1984. Republished by Charles E. Tuttle. Has passed through four reprintings with Tuttle.

A Vaca de Ferro do Zen Bodigaya Brazilia 1998

Invitation To Practice Zen published by Charles E. Tuttle, Tokyo in 1989. Has passed through eleven printings and is in its twelfth printing in a new format

Une Invitation À La Pratique Du Zen published Libre Expression, Montreal. It sold 3000 copies in Quebec alone.

La Pratique du Zen. Editions Dangles It is in its second edition there.

Introduccion al la pratique del Zen published by Editorial Kairos Barcelona. Has passed through two editions

Convite a Prátíca do Zen published by Shishil Editora Braslia, Brazil It has passed through two editions.

The Butterfly's Dream Charles E. Tuttle, Vermont. It is about to be reprinted

Le Rêve du Papillon Libre Expression, Montreal. This was a best seller in Quebec selling more than 4,000 copies.

The World A Gateway: Commentaries on the Mumonkan Charles E. Tuttle of Vermont.

Je Ne Suis Pas Un Être Humain published by du Mortagne Montréal

Wo bist du, wenn ein Vogelsing? Kommentaire zum Mumonkan published by Theseus Verlag

To Know Yourself Charles E Tuttle

Se connaîte c'est s'oublier: Editions Relié: France (accepted by Le Club, Le Grand livre du Mois, (Paris) (the Great
book of the Month club. Paris)

Conócete a tí mismo published by Oberon Grupo Anaya

Kendini Tani Izdusum felsefe

Creating Consciousness 2001 by White Cloud Press

Creer la Conscience Published by Relier Press France in Spring 2000 also accepted by Le Club, Le Grand livre du Mois, (Paris)

Zen and the Sutras Published by Charles E Tuttle in Spring 2000

Aux sources du zen published by Relier in Spring 2001 Republished by Albin Michel 2002

Hakuin Zenji's Chant in Praise of Zazen published by Zen books 2004

Hakuin on Kensho Published by Shambhala 2006

Dans la Forge du Maître; Mediaspaul Montreal. 2006

Além do despertar: Textos do mestre Hakuin sobre meditação zen. Published by Theosophic Books Brazil

Origin of Human Nature: a Zen Buddhist looks at Evolution. published by Sussex Academic Press, Sussex in Feb. 2008.

Conflict and Creativity at Work: the human roots of corporate life published by Sussex Academic Press Oct 2008

Beyond the God Delusion: religion as a quest for transcendence Kindle

Working with Koans Kindle 2009

Living With Yourself (formerly the Butterfly's dream) Kindle 2009

Zen: Talks, Stories and Commentaries (Formerly To Know Yourself) Kindle 2009

Hakuin Zenji's Chant in Zazen with commentaries by Albert Low

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Eric Best on May 20, 2008
Format: Paperback
Albert Low is the director of the Montreal Zen Centre. He is the author of a number of excellent books, some of which tend toward philosophical discussion and some of which tend toward instructing in the path of Zen; but all of which offer many deep, transformational insights into life. His work has certainly influenced my work with clients as a psychologist as well as my own spiritual practices (as a Christian).

This, his latest work, should, perhaps, be read first and certainly before 'Creating Consciousness'. Under the form of a debate with the popular neo-Darwinian author and presenter Richard Dawkins, Low most clearly introduces his world view at once both quite alien to current cultural prejudice and yet most at home with and supportive of lived experience.

I never get the impression with Low that he lazily rehashes Zen platitudes; all his writings seem to come from deep intellectual and personal struggle and enquiry, creating a genuine 'theological' dialogue between his (Zen) tradition, (Western) culture and personal experience. From reading his work I feel I have grown more in touch with, and accepting of, reality.
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I have not finished this, because of things I have had to read for my Masters Program. This is a book you need to think about and read slowly.
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