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The Awareness Principle: A Radical New Philosophy Of Life, Science And Religion - New Expanded Edition Paperback – October 1, 2008
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The author, Peter Wilberg, is a bright, Jewish spiritual intellectual, and he's not shy about expressing his opinions and ideas. The problem is, most of his opinions and ideas are half-baked. To Wilberg's credit, however, he's provocative and does make some interesting and insightful points in this book.
Before I discuss the content of the book, I want to say three things about it. First, it's poorly organized and laid out. The Awareness principles are stated and then restated over and over again in slightly different formats. It's as if Wilberg wrote separate essays on the subject at different times in his own spiritual evolution, then threw them all together in this book. He discourses on Awareness while, inexplicably, ignoring Shakti (Energy or Power) until late in the book. Second, the text is hyper-intellectual; Wilberg, in places, writes as if he's trying to impress people with how smart and erudite he is, and that makes the book unnecessarily difficult in places. Third, Wilberg has a habit of briefly mentioning something and then not explaining it.
Now to the contents. Wilberg, a proponent of Marxism (a euphemism for fascist mob rule), believes, a la Eckhart Tolle, that the practice of Awareness is man's sociopolitical salvation, and that it will provide the answers to his problems. He writes:
"Only out of such a broader, more spacious and expansive awareness field can human beings also come to deeper, more thoughtful decisions and find solutions to both personal and world problems."
As I've made clear in my writings, Buddhist and Hindu cultures, which emphasize this "spacious and expansive awareness," have not produced free and productive civilizations. Unbeknownst to Wilberg, it is free-market capitalism (which Wilberg abhors) that will provide the solutions to the world's sociopolitical problems.
Wilberg writes, "In Marxist terms overcoming Anavamala (egoic impurity) means allowing awareness to expropriate the capitalist or bourgeois ego."
This is laughable. First off, capitalism is the free-trader principle, and has nothing to do with the "bourgeois ego" or class struggle. If Wilberg wants to get straight sociopolitically, he needs to trade in his copy of "The Communist Manifesto" for Ayn Rand's "Capitalism, The Unknown Ideal." Second, the practice of Awareness has nothing whatsoever to do with communism.
Wilberg rightly informs us that Awareness is a "divine universal conscious field," but he wrongly conflates Awareness with space. He writes, "The truth is that space is awareness" The truth is that Awareness is spaceless as well as timeless. Space and time are created and began with the universe. Awareness is uncreated and forever "outside" of space and time.
Wilberg's makes other statements about time and space relative to Awareness that I do not agree with, but since this is just a book review and not a book, I will not continue this topic.
Wilberg makes numerous other statements that I don't agree with. For example, he writes that "meditation means entering into and sustaining a state of calm, clear, thought-free Awareness." No it doesn't. That is just what it means to Wilberg. Wilberg writes, "The soul is the body, not the body perceived from without but the body as you are aware of it, as you feel it within." That is hardly my definition of the human soul.
Wilberg, an esotericist, hangs his hat on Hindu Kashmir Shaivism the most esoteric of spiritual teachings. He extensively quotes and refers to these doctrines to support his Awareness principle - but, unfortunately, he doesn't truly grok them.
The very essence of Kashmir Shaivism is Shaktipat, the descent of Divine Power into one's Heart-center. But Wilberg has nothing to say about this. Moreover he doesn't understand Shakti and how it relates to Enlightenment. Instead, he wrongly emphasizes the constituent principle of akasha, or space. He writes:
"Western `spirituality' gives metaphysical and religious primacy to the notion of `spirit' as such - even though its nature is never exactly defined. In contrast, Indian religious metaphysics gives primacy to the notion of space or akasha."
This simply is not true, particularly in Kashmir Shaivism. In fact, unbeknownst to Wilberg, Shakti is the same Divine Energy as the Christian Holy Spirit, and also contrary to what Wilberg says, Shakti, or the Holy Spirit, is not a cosmic Power; it is a hypercosmic Force-flow. If one studies the hierarchically ordered 36 tattvas (constituent principles) of Kashmir Shaivism, Shakti is at the top while akasha (space), the etheric matrix of the elements (fire, earth, air, water) is near the bottom. Methinks that Wilberg has been reading too much Franz Bardon (see my one-star review of "Initiation into Hermetics").
Positively, Wilberg has some interesting points of views regarding Shakti and Shaktis, pranayama, and Hinduism versus Buddhism. I particularly resonate with his comparison of Hinduism and Buddhism:
"Hinduism in all its forms is imbued with great richness of feeling. Its major exported form - Buddhism offers spiritual peace through emotional emptiness, and falsely pretends that compassion can be truly felt and experienced at the expense of other feelings such as anger."
Wilberg has an affinity for speculative metaphysics, but because he clearly considers himself a know-it-all, he states his beliefs as if they were incontrovertible facts. I hardly agree with all of Wilberg's statements about the nature of Reality.
For those willing to overlook its numerous flaws, Wilberg's "The Awareness Principle" might prove an interesting and enlightening read on the subject of Awareness. At least it's ambitious and different. But the book I particularly recommend for those interested in Awareness is "The Precious Treasury of the Way of Abiding" by Longchen Rabjam (see my five-star review). Rabjam, a legendary Tibetan Dzogchen master, rightly, in my opinion, identifies the major themes pertaining to Awareness: oneness, spontaneous presence, openness, and ineffability.
In The Awareness Principle, Peter Wilberg manages a feat that few authors have even attempted: articulating the keys to awakening to fulfilled consciousness in direct experience, in a manner that is simply and clearly stated, and which is verifiable by direct testing. The essence of the Awareness Principle itself, as Peter writes, is as follows: "The Awareness Principle is based on this primary distinction - drawing a line between anything we experience and the pure awareness of experiencing it." This may seem interesting, or philosophical - but it is actually an essential truth that is at the heart of spiritual traditions, but which has never before been stated so clearly and succinctly.
I co-lead meditation retreats, and work with people 1:1 as well, and this simple truth (the Awareness Principle) has been downright life-changing for at least a few of the people with whom I have shared it. Unlike so many other so-called spiritual books, this book doesn't replace or supplant other books or systems per se -- it actually helps to clarify what they're trying to say, and can help to bring them alive. I highly recommend this book and all of Peter's books - and if you're new to the work of Peter Wilberg, I recommend The Awareness Principle as the perfect place to start.