Book review: The Nature of Consciousness: Essays on the Unity of Mind and Matter, by Rupert Spira

I occasionally receive books on spiritual topics in the mail, with nice cover letters from publishers or marketing people, because I apparently was added to some mysterious mailing list, perhaps of “bloggers who write about spiritual topics.” I (rarely) review books or films on this blog, as I don’t have much time to read them, being engaged in an intensely focused study and practice of biodynamics (a bridge between meditation and healing, as I’ve come to think of it).

I asked members of my long-time spiritual book group if they wanted to read and review some books I’d received, and Harry Lundell chose this book.

Here is Harry’s review:

Rupert Spira’s newest book, The Nature of Consciousness: Essays on the Unity of Mind and Matter, represents an expansion and a summarization of his earlier efforts in spreading the philosophy of non-dualism (consciousness-only) to the Western world.  This little volume is a must-read for anyone interested in spiritual growth and the expansion of consciousness sought by increasing numbers of people everywhere. As a practicing psychotherapist  for over twenty-five years and a rehabilitation counselor for fourteen years before that, this reviewer had only a passing familiarity with Mr. Spira’s work when asked to provide a review of his newest work — an oversight that has since been happily addressed.

Perhaps the most striking thing about the text from this reviewer’s perspective is how it has had a definite and beneficial effect upon the lives of my patients. Combining the reading of this text with therapeutic protocols has gone a long way toward releasing selected patients from fear and anxiety, the inevitable downstream effects of what Mr. Spira calls the “soft materialism” of reductionism that has permeated the practice of psychotherapy — the belief that our noblest emotions and spiritual aspirations are just the epiphenomenal “side-effects” of molecules bumping into one another in our brains.

Spira points out that we, as a world culture, have completely bought into the belief that the only thing we have ever experienced — the awareness of our experience — is derived from the only thing we have never experienced — the existence of matter independent of our awareness of it! Spira believes that Western science in particular has gotten it completely backwards with the belief that mind is derived from matter.  Apparently Albert Einstein agreed with the author’s perspective when he said that “all knowledge of reality starts from experience and ends in it.” The author goes on to demonstrate, given the prevailing mindset, that it is small wonder the West is experiencing a tsunami of mental illness.

Mr. Spira’s new book goes on to articulate how this fundamental error of thought and belief has negatively impacted the warp and weft of our entire culture, and that the remedy has always been close by, hidden in awareness of our own experience.

This reviewer can suggest nothing less than a five-star rating for this slender masterpiece of clarity.

Thank you so much, Harry. Although I have not had a chance to read it yet, I do know that Harry plans to propose that our book group read it when we finish our current book, In Search of the Miraculous by P.D. Ouspensky — who happens to be one of Mr. Spira’s influences. Harry is quite taken with Mr. Spira’s clarity of thought, and I am looking forward to reading and discussing it in our book group.

This book, with a foreword by Deepak Chopra, will be published on June 1, 2017, and is  available for pre-order on Amazon.com, where it should probably not be classified in the category “Christian living.”

Book review: Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson

I finally finished reading this book. It’s not long or particularly difficult to read, I just had a lot of other things going on. I started reading it the first week of July, so it’s taken about 3-1/2 weeks to finish. Not bad for nonfiction, in my opinion.

The full title is Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love & Wisdom, by Rich Hanson, Ph.D., with Richard Mendius, MD. Daniel Siegel wrote the foreword, and Jack Kornfeld wrote the preface. Big names in American Buddhism.

I expected something more related to Buddha’s teachings. Instead, it combines neuroscience with meditation and Buddhist practice. The book has a lot of brain science in it, but it’s written at a level that almost anyone who’s had a biology course in college (or a bright high-schooler) can understand. People who don’t like science can skip over those parts and still get a lot out of it.

The book contains four sections, on the causes of suffering, happiness, love, and wisdom. Each chapter has a nice summary of key points.

The book also contains an appendix on nutritional neurochemistry, that is, how you can support your brain’s functioning through skillful nutrition. It was written by Jan Hanson (whom I take to be the author’s wife), L.Ac.

This information has already influenced my diet and supplements.

Some fundamentals that underlie the rest of the book are:

  • The mind depends on the brain. Actually, the mind is what the brain does.
  • The brain evolved to help you survive, but its three primary strategies — separation, stopping change, and grasping pleasure/avoiding pain — make you suffer.
  • The path of awakening is described as uncovering your true nature that was always present, as transforming your mind and body, or as both.
  • Small actions every day add up to large changes over time — you are building new neural structure.
  • Wholesome changes in many brains could tip the world in a better direction.

I learned a lot and recommend this book for anyone interested in the meditating brain and fully awakening their body/mind.