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The role of mind in science and spirituality,
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This review is from: Embracing Mind: The Common Ground of Science and Spirituality (Hardcover)
Embracing Mind: The common ground between science and spirituality, by B. Alan Wallace with Brian Hodel, Shambhala, Boston, 2008, 272 ff.
The role of mind in science and spirituality
By Howard Jones
Alan Wallace has a first degree in physics and the philosophy of science, and a doctorate in religious studies from Stanford. After 14 years of study in Tibet he was ordained as a Buddhist monk by H.H. the Dalai Lama. His co-author, Brian Hodel, is a freelance journalist.
The book is an attempt to explain how the materialist scientific approach differs from, and the quantum scientific interpretation of the world resonates with, the world as seen in Buddhist philosophy. The book is laid out in three Parts.
In Part One we start with a chapter on the development of science since Copernicus, where the authors point up the limitations of the materialist and reductionist views that are standard approaches in science. In the second chapter they show how this philosophy has been modified by the approach of quantum physics.
The next two chapters focus on the role of the mind in these two complementary scientific world-views, making the case that what human consciousness tells us about the world is as valid as the sensory observations of science, interpreted by mind. Even in science, the emotional outlook and expectations of the scientist influence the interpretation of results. Wallace points out that Kant was the first to show how mind is involved in both the assimilation of data and its interpretation. He describes how the only knowledge we have of the existence of entities like quarks or even gravity is by their effects, and by an underlying mathematical scheme that is both elegant and consistent with other theories, that is, through mind.
Chapter 5 which closes Part One is a discussion about how scientific materialism is regarded as being the only true science: mind is simply a linguistic term we use to describe the working of the brain. All the rest of the stuff involving consciousness is just pseudo-science. However, the most significant and fundamental instrument we have to investigate the world
. . . is mind.
So Part Two on Consciousness turns to explore in depth just how mind contributes to our understanding of the world. In the West, the mind typically looks outward: Whether in science or theology, the western mind is always probing what lies beyond. In the East, the core to understanding the world is to understand the self. The authors ask: If we know in detail the electronic and chemical reactions involved in the working of the brain, would this give us any real understanding of the nature of consciousness, or of our selves in relation to the world? They believe it does not, because the mind is essentially and uniquely individual. The mechanistic approach can give us only a partial view of reality.
The four chapters of Part Three explain how the world-view of science relates to different varieties of Buddhist meditative practices. While much of this book covers material that can be found elsewhere, the continual links with eastern mysticism that the authors highlight makes this a worthwhile read. There is a glossary of scientific and spiritual terms and an index at the end.
Dr Howard A. Jones is the author of The Thoughtful Guide to God (2006) and The Tao of Holism (2008), both published by O Books of Winchester, U.K.; and The World as Spirit published by Fairhill Publishing, Whitland, West Wales, 2011.
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