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.”

What I’m reading, April 2013

Taking stock of books I’m currently reading, just read, or soon to start:

The Reality of Being: The Fourth Way of Gurdjieff by Jeanne de Salzmann. My Fourth Way  group undertook reading this book aloud together. De Salzmann was one of Gurdjieff’s long-time students. She wrote about his teachings in a straightforward way, making them understandable and accessible. Her heirs found her undated notes after she died at 101 and published them a couple of years ago.

The book is about waking up the Essential Self. There are many, many passages I could share, but this one is from early in the book:

Gurdjieff taught the necessity of self-observation, but this practice has been mostly misunderstood. Usually when I try to observe, there is a point from which the observation is made, and my mind projects the idea of observing, of an observer separate from the object being observed. But the idea of observing is not the observing. Seeing is not an idea. It is an act, the act of seeing…it is an experience that can take place only if there is no separation between what sees and what is seen….

Next up for my book group is Practical Work on Self, by E.J. Gold. After that, we’ll be reading Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson: All and Everything, by Gurdjieff , which will probably take us two years, accompanied by a commentary.

On my own, I’m currently reading Gurdjieff: Making a New World by J.G. Bennett, about Gurdjieff’s searches for ancient wisdom (which has me using Google Maps to get familiar with the geography mentioned — Gurdjieff traveled from the Caucasus region to Egypt, Ethiopia, Tibet, Siberia, Italy, and points between in his searches, done on foot, horseback, and by rail before 1915).

Before starting Beelzebub’s Tales, I plan to  read In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching by P.D. Ouspensky, an account of his teachings by an early student.

I’m also interested in reading J.G. Bennett’s book Enneagram Studies to learn more about Gurdjieff’s understanding of the enneagram. He used the enneagram symbol extensively, but I’m not sure how it relates to the system of understanding the fixations that keep us asleep.

It’s not hard to understand the attraction of someone who believes wellness must include body, mind, heart, and spirit to the Fourth Way of Gurdjieff. I like the format of my group: We take turns reading, engage in discussion, do exercises.

I’m interested in Gurdjieff’s teachings, but I wouldn’t call myself a follower. I’m more of an explorer seeking wisdom. By the way, although he was fluent in Turkish, Greek, Armenian, Russian, and other languages, Gurdjieff didn’t write in English, and apparently a lot of what he wrote was embellished for teaching purposes and not necessarily straightforward, so to understand his teachings, it helps to read what his students wrote.

I do think he was a remarkable man and urge anyone interested in his life and teachings to at least see the film Meetings with Remarkable Men, or read his book of the same name, an account of his search for ancient spiritual wisdom.

Another book on my nightstand is called mBraining: Using Your Multiple Brains to Do Cool Stuff, by Marvin Oka and Grant Soosalu. It includes recent findings in neuroscience about the head, heart, and gut brains and how using these multiple brains can increase intuition and wiser decision-making. The authors’ background is Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), cognitive linguistics, and behavioral modeling.

Our modern culture emphasizes the head brain. We try to think our way out of problems. Farming and civilization have been around for 12,000 years, and we are still killing each other. We are now ruining the planet we live on. In my opinion,  more intelligences are direly needed! I would surely like to have more resources, to use my multiple brains appropriately and experience less conflict, more intuition, better decisions…

So how do you tell which brain is operating? How do you know which brain is best suited for a given situation? How do you know when they’re not working together? How can you strengthen the brain you use the least? How can you ensure all three brains are in alignment for important decisions, relationships, and well-being?

Read the book and learn!

I’m in a different book group reading a book unrelated to the above books except as it applies to my quality of life. We are reading Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence to become knowledgeable and mindful about the role of money in our lives. We use a study guide (available for $5 from The Simple Living Network) developed for groups using the book to start on the path toward financial freedom. We meet seven times.

So far, I’ve added up my lifetime earnings (way more than I thought), started tracking every cent that comes in and out, started an inventory of my possessions, calculated my real hourly wage, and come up with a way to determine whether my spending is fulfilling and aligned with my values.

The authors have gotten feedback that after implementing the nine steps, people have reduced their expenses by 25 percent within 6 months and say their quality of life has gone way up. I’m finding this very helpful since I’ve transitioned from being an employee with a regular paycheck to being self-employed.

I’m also making my way through a couple of bodywork books, which I’ll write about another time.

If you’re reading this, you’re a reader. May you find books that nourish you!