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Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion First Edition Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 918 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1451636017
ISBN-10: 1451636016
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Editorial Reviews


“Harris’s book . . . caught my eye because it’s so entirely of this moment, so keenly in touch with the growing number of Americans who are willing to say that they do not find the succor they crave, or a truth that makes sense to them, in organized religion.” (Frank Bruni, columnist, New York Times)

“The fact is that Waking Up lends a different picture of Harris (at least to me): an intelligent and sensitive person who is willing to undergo the discomfort involved in proposing alternatives to the religions he’s spent years degrading. His new book, whether discussing the poverty of spiritual language, the neurophysiology of consciousness, psychedelic experience, or the quandaries of the self, at the very least acknowledges the potency and importance of the religious impulse—though Harris might name it differently—that fundamental and common instinct to seek not just an answer to life, but a way to live that answer.” (Trevor Quirk, The New Republic)

"[A]n extraordinary and ambitious masterwork. . . . altogether spectacular." (Maria Popova, Brainpickings)

“Uber-atheist Sam Harris is getting all spiritual. In his new book, Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion, the usually outspoken critic of religion describes how spirituality can and must be divorced from religion if the human mind is to reach its full potential. . . . But there is plenty in Waking Up that will delight Harris’ most militant atheist readers.” (Religion News Service)

“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 . . . [leading] to a profoundly more salubrious life.” (Publishers Weekly)

"A demanding, illusion-shattering book.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Don’t read Waking Up . . . if you want to be told that heaven is real. Do read it if you want to explore the nature of consciousness, to learn how just trying to be mindful can free you from anxiety and self-blame.” (MORE Magazine)

Waking Up is an eye opening, mind expanding book.” (AA Agnostica)

“A seeker’s memoir, a scientific and philosophical exploration of the self, and a how-to guide for transcendence, Waking Up explores the nature of consciousness, explains how to meditate, tells you the best drugs to take, and warns you about lecherous gurus. It will shake up your most fundamental beliefs about everyday experience, and it just might change your life.” (Paul Bloom, Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science, Yale University and author of "Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil")

“Waking Up is a rigorous, kind, clear, and witty book that will point you toward the selflessness that is our original nature.” (Stephen Mitchell)

“Sam Harris points out the rational methodology for exploring the nature of consciousness and for experiencing a transformative understanding of possibilities. Waking Up really does help us wake up.” (Joseph Goldstein, author of "Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening" and "One Dharma")

“As a neuroscientist, Sam Harris shows how our egos are illusions, diffuse products of brain activity, and as a long-term practitioner of meditation, he shows how abandoning this illusion can wake us up to a richer life, more connected to everything around us.” (Jerry Coyne, Professor of Biology at the University of Chicago and author of "Why Evolution is True")

"Sam Harris ranks as my favorite skeptic, bar none. In Waking Up he gives us a clear-headed, no-holds-barred look at the spiritual supermarket, calling out what amounts to junk food and showing us where real nutrition can be found. Anyone who realizes the value of a spiritual life will find much to savor here – and those who see no value in it will find much to reflect on." (Daniel Goleman, author Emotional Intelligence and Focus)

"Sam Harris has written a beautifully rational book about spiritually, consciousness and transcendence. He is the high priest of spirituality without religion. I recommend this book regardless of your belief system. As befits a book called Waking Up, it’s an eye opener." (A.J. Jacobs, bestselling author of The Year of Living Biblically)

Praise for Free Will:

Publishers Weekly Top 10 Science Book of Spring 2012

 “A nimble book, amiably and conversationally jumping from point to point. The book’s length is one of its charms: He never belabors any one topic or idea, sticking around exactly as long as he needs to in order to lay out his argument (and tackle the rebuttals that it will inevitably provoke) and not a page longer.” Washington Post

 “A brief and forceful broadside at the conundrum that has nagged at every major thinker from Plato to Slavoj Zizek. Self-avowedly secular, [Harris is] addressing the need for individual growth and social betterment, and [is] doing so with compelling argument and style.” Los Angeles Times

 “Harris skewers the concept of free will — that mainstay of law, policy and politics — in fewer than 100 pages.” Nature

 "Brilliant and witty—and never less than incisive—Free Will shows that Sam Harris can say more in 13,000 words than most people do in 100,000." —Oliver Sacks

Praise for The Moral Landscape

“The most compelling strand in “The Moral Landscape” is its unspooling diatribe against relativism.” New York Times

 “This is an inspiring book, holding out as it does the possibility of a rational understanding of how to construct the good life with the aid of science, free from the accretions of religious superstition and cultural coercion.” Financial Times

“Harris’s is a first-principle argument, backed by copious empirical evidence woven through a tightly reasoned narrative… Harris’s program of a science-based morality is a courageous one that I wholeheartedly endorse.” Scientific American

 “Sam Harris breathes intellectual fire into an ancient debate. Reading this thrilling, audacious book, you feel the ground shifting beneath your feet. Reason has never had a more passionate advocate.”—Ian McEwan

 “I was one of those who had unthinkingly bought into the hectoring myth that science can say nothing about morals. To my surprise, The Moral Landscape has changed all that for me. It should change it for philosophers too. Philosophers of mind have already discovered that they can't duck the study of neuroscience, and the best of them have raised their game as a result.  Sam Harris shows that the same should be true of moral philosophers, and it will turn their world exhilaratingly upside down. As for religion, and the preposterous idea that we need God to be good, nobody wields a sharper bayonet than Sam Harris.”—Richard Dawkins

“Reading Sam Harris is like drinking water from a cool stream on a hot day. He has the rare ability to frame arguments that are not only stimulating, they are downright nourishing… His discussions will provoke secular liberals and religious conservatives alike, who jointly argue from different perspectives that there always will be an unbridgeable chasm between merely knowing what is and discerning what should be. As was the case with Harris’ previous books, readers are bound to come away with previously firm convictions about the world challenged, and a vital new awareness about the nature and value of science and reason in our lives.” Lawrence M. Krauss, Foundation Professor and Director of the ASU Origins Project at Arizona State University, author of The Physics of Star Trek, and, Quantum Man: Richard Feynman’s Life in Science 

 “A lively, provocative, and timely new look at one of the deepest problems in the world of ideas. Harris makes a powerful case for a morality that is based on human flourishing and thoroughly enmeshed with science and rationality. It is a tremendously appealing vision, and one that no thinking person can afford to ignore.” Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of How the Mind Works and The Blank Slate.

“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…. The great value and novelty of this book is that Harris, in a simple but rigorous style, takes the middle way between… pseudoscientific and pseudospiritual 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.” (Publishers Weekly)

About the Author

Sam Harris is the author of the bestselling books The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian NationThe Moral LandscapeFree Will, and LyingThe End of Faith won the 2005 PEN Award for Nonfiction. His writing has been published in over fifteen languages. Dr. Harris is cofounder and CEO of Project Reason, a nonprofit foundation devoted to spreading scientific knowledge and secular values in society. He received a degree in philosophy from Stanford University and a PhD in neuroscience from UCLA. Please visit his website at SamHarris.org.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (September 9, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451636016
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451636017
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (918 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,074 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert Middleton on September 9, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an important book in many ways. Perhaps most important because Sam Harris has, for the past several years, been a strong and outspoken critic of organized religion of all stripes. And one thing Harris can do better than almost anyone else, is make his case both clearly and powerfully without any added garbage.

If you've watched his many videos on YouTube, you know the man can make an argument and stand his ground without wavering one iota. And the depth of his research is impressive. If Harris kept his message in this same vein, he would stay safe and continue to be accepted as a credible spokesman for the atheist perspective for a long time to come.

But did he do that with this book? Not on your life. Harris, makes a whole different argument here, one that many may not be familiar with (but that is on display on his blog posts). Religion may be bunkum, he asserts, but spirituality (which may be the foundation of many religions), is a truly worthy pursuit.

No doubt that a great many atheists are not going to like this one little bit. After all, atheists can sometimes be as narrow-minded as believers. For many, spirituality is seen as practically equivalent to religion. But in this book he makes a strong case that nothing could be further from the truth. And he doesn't make his arguments in a detached, completely intellectual way. Some might say that Harris has bought the spiritual kool-aid hook, link and sinker.

Harris is a long-time (25+ years) meditator, seeker after wisdom, student of a variety of spiritual practices and disciple of various teachers and gurus in several Eastern traditions. He most closely aligns himself with the school of non-duality or the direct path to awakening.
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I grew up in a Christian family and then earned degrees in Philosophy and Neuroscience. As an atheist, I've been mourning the loss of faith for years. Just because you want something to be true, doesn't mean it is. Losing one's faith can definitely leave a hole. This is the book that begins to fill the void and emptiness that I've felt from that loss. Thank you Sam Harris. This book will change lives.
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Format: Hardcover
If anything uncontroversial can be said about Sam Harris, it's that his work never fails to inspire strong and colorful opinions from just about everyone who encounters it. Depending on whom you ask, he may be one of the more brilliant thinkers around, a complete hack, or any of a mind-boggling array of subtle gradations in between. All of these views have arguable merit, and there will be many who go into Waking Up with a panoply of preconceived notions about what they might find here. Much has been made of Harris' long-known affinity for meditation and Eastern spirituality, and his perpetual insistence that even the staunchest, most skillful rationalist neglects these at some considerable peril. Another Harris mainstay, most notably exemplified in The Moral Landscape, is a tendency to sharply challenge the conventional wisdom on where the boundaries of scientific inquiry truly lie, in what may at times strike some readers as a maddeningly quixotic attempt to reverse the long-standing unfashionable status of a rather comprehensive form of positivism. It will not shock anyone familiar with the author that Waking Up brings all of these threads together, and the reader's satisfaction with the result, or lack thereof, will follow somewhat predictably, but it would be a mistake to avoid the book on that basis alone.

For those unfamiliar enough with Sam Harris to make much of the preceding paragraph, this volume can be summarized simply enough: it is a warning that most of us are missing important basic facts about how to live well, presented for the rationalist.
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Waking Up: Harris' Compilation of Personal Memoirs

First off, I'm a huge fan of Harris; he was single handedly responsible for spurring my 'awakening to original nature', which basically means stepping outside of the 'self' and experiencing reality from an entirely new perspective, free from the mental stress that assails us all since birth, while retaining intellectual integrity.

So why 3 stars instead of 5? Well, I have high expectations for Harris and I would have expected a tour de force, detailing the exact mechanisms for ‘waking up’. What we get is more of a conversation you would have at a coffee shop with a few smart friends and less of a scientifically rigorous and methodical resource. Although he makes a compelling argument that is epistemically true, it is too big of a leap for a non-awakened person to make. Since he is a neuroscientist, I expected more of a brain-based explanation for why we’re not ‘awake’ and how exactly we can awaken, which seems to be conspicuously missing. Instead, what we get is simply a compilation of what he has already written in his blogs and talked about in a few interviews, anecdoting more about his personal journeys than detailing how one ought to see through the veil of self.

The self is definitely one of the most pernicious illusions of all, but it is also the most personally vivid, intimate and decidedly persistent of them all. Tackling this head on is a difficult endeavor, requiring an established and mature spiritual practice and extensive experience.
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