- Paperback: 341 pages
- Publisher: Palgrave; 2004 edition (September 4, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0333912764
- ISBN-13: 978-0333912768
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #188,456 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Approaches to Consciousness: The Marriage of Science and Mysticism 2004th Edition
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'With formidable erudition and the widest of perspectives, Brian Lancaster has written a challenging and potentially ground-breaking book on the relationship between scientific and mystical ideas of human consciousness. A humane scholar in the great tradition of William James, his work deserves to be read and discussed widely.' - Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth 'This is a work of penetrating scholarship that should do much to clarify the similarities and contradictions between mysticism and science. Brian Lancaster is one of the few authorities with the breadth of knowledge and understanding in both fields to attempt this clarification, and his book will become required reading for all those who hope for a more humane and holistic alternative to the materialist-reductionist philosophy that has for too long dominated Western thought.' - Professor David Fontana, Fellow of the British Psychological Society and Distinguished Professor, University of Cardiff 'A major contribution to the innovative and fertile dialogue between neuroscientists and contemplatives.' - Matthieu Ricard, Official Interpreter for the Dalai Lama 'A truly groundbreaking work!' - Professor Jorge Ferrer, Core Faculty, California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco 'This volume is a subtle, scholarly attempt to integrate neurophysiological and psychological with spiritual and mystical approaches to the mystery of consciousness, thereby to consolidate consciousness studies as a fully legitimate and unitary discipline.' - Julian Candy, Journal of Consciousness Studies '...a far better summary of current thinking than most books about consciousness.' - Susan Blackmore, University of the West of England, UK
About the Author
BRIAN L. LANCASTER is Professor of Transpersonal Psychology at Liverpool John Moores University, the first such post in the UK. He is also Deputy Head, Centre for Applied Psychology and Co-Director of the Consciousness and Transpersonal Psychology Research Unit at Liverpool John Moores University. His first book, Mind Brain and Human Potential (Element) won an international award. He has a high profile in the British Psychological Society as Founder Member of both the Section of Conscious and Experimental Psychology and Transpersonal Psychology. He has a considerable international reputation as a leader and innovator in these fields.
Top customer reviews
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The book is well organized and most engagingly written.
I very much enjoyed reading this book, but I was left with two questions that have worried me since the first attempts were made to marry mysticism and quantum mechanics and secondly the attempts that have been made to reduce mystical experiences to neural activity. First, can we be sure that we are understanding the mystical texts accurately, and second, can we reduce transpersonal experiences to neural activity?
Many writers have cherry picked the experiences that fit their model. Mystical experiences have many common characteristics, but they are by no means all the same. When authors say that they have found a correspondence between one mystical report and one interpretation of physics, it is almost like trying to fit one mystery with another. There are so many ancient teachings and many of them are quite inscrutable or ambiguous to the untrained. Experts in the various traditions frequently disagree with each other. So it is quite possible to take pretty much any current scientific theory and find mystical teachings to fit. So unless we can be sure about what the teachings are saying we cannot use them to provide evidence for or against the theories. In addition the book includes a lot of psychodynamic theory which is notoriously open to multiple interpretations.
There will likely be correspondences between neural activity and mystical states, but that is quite different from reducing a profound and meaningful experience to the firing of neurons.
Brian Lancaster subscribes to a supernatural or dualist theory, proposing that a "transcendent reality" is needed to account for subjective experience. I think that he may well be right, but we also cannot ignore several writers, like Francis Crick and Daniel Dennett, who think that we already know enough about the brain to explain conscious experiences, and presumably therefore mystical experiences.
Despite my two questions remaining unanswered, this book provides one of the best summaries of current thinking on consciousness and I recommend it highly.