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Approaches to Consciousness: The Marriage of Science and Mysticism: The Marriage of Science and Mysticm [Paperback]

Dr Brian L. Lancaster
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 May 2004
Consciousness, and the relation between mind and brain, is a topic of contentious debate, and increasing interest amongst both academics and students of psychology. In this text, Lancaster takes a refreshingly balanced look at consciousness, bringing in approaches from neuroscience, cognitive science, depth psychology, philosophy and mysticism. With a distinctive 'transpersonal' orientation, this text will be an invaluable authoritative overview of this subject, integrating scholarship and research from diverse areas.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 276 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan (5 May 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0333912764
  • ISBN-13: 978-0333912768
  • Product Dimensions: 22 x 14 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 797,000 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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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.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By Simon D
Over the years I have read a number of books in an attempt to satisfy my interest and personal inquiry into consciousness but I have found that what I've read is either; a) very much limited to the neuropsychological and neuroscientific and cognitive views which I feel are limited and lack the rich texture and depth for necessary for a full and complete exploration of our consciousness; or b) bent in the other direction towards mysticism which I sometimes find is a bit too abstract, difficult to penetrate and needing a certain grounding somehow. Unfortunately each of these views which are typical diametrically opposed tend to ignore the value of the other.

It is very clear from reading this book that Lancaster has put a lot of thinking into this book and that he has, perhaps, experienced similar frustrations. This book, however, provides what I think is a very refreshing integrative view which is aimed at inquiring into a variety of perspectives, recognising their inherent value while accepting their limitations, and providing an approach that very cohesively binds them together to provide mutual value and a more common approach.

However, in his discussion about mystical and spiritual approaches I can't help but feel that he is somewhat limited in the approaches he explores. For example, in terms of 'Eastern' philosophies, he focuses largely upon Buddhism and Hinduism and there is scant mention of Doaist approaches. Unfortunately, I think this misses some of the philosophies from other Eastern regions that have very well articulated and sophisticated methods of exploring consciousness but for centuries grew independently of Buddhist influence. A specific example of this is the Chinese Five-phase (or Five-Element) Theory.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars VERY IMPORTANT BOOK 9 Oct 2013
By Chris
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Important for my masters degree course. Of interest to anyone who is interested in trans personal psychology. Takes a bit of understanding.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Read, That Raises Interesting Questions and Some Answers 18 Feb 2007
By Dr. Richard G. Petty - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Brian Lancaster is Principal Lecturer in Psychology at Liverpool John Moores University in England and is the Chair of the Transpersonal Section of the British Psychological Society. In this fascinating book he tries to weave together an empirical, scientific approach to consciousness with the personal accounts found in spiritual and mystical traditions. He tries to bring together some of the data that has emerged from neuroscience and psychology with teachings from Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism.

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.
5.0 out of 5 stars Kabbalah and Consciousness 8 April 2010
By Thomas Brodersen - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There are many books on mysticism and many books on consciousness studies and many that relate mysticism to science. This is the only book that I am aware of, which integrates Jewish mysticism into the discussion of cutting edge scientific theories of consciousness (and I have hundreds of books on Jewish mysticism). It opens with a quote from the Zohar, and draws on Torah, Talmud, and Abulafia along with the Taoism, Buddhism, Sufism, and Hindusim. Dr. Lancaster is qualified to do so. He is Chair of the Transpersonal Section of the British Psychological Society and co-founder of the Consciousness and Transpersonal Psychology Research Unit at Liverpool John Moore's University. He is also the author of 'The Essence of Kabbalah' and 'Elements of Judaism', which is one of the few introductions to Judaism that recognizes Kabbalah as an integral and essential part of Jewish tradition.
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