Self-Aware Universe: How Consciousness Creates the Material World Paperback – 1 Dec 1993
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About the Author
Amit Goswami, PhD, is a theoretical quantum physicist and a retired professor from the University of Oregon's Department of Physics, where he served from 1968 to 1997. He is a pioneer of the new paradigm of science called "science within consciousness," an idea he explicates in his seminal book, The Self-Aware Universe, in which he also solves the quantum measurement problem elucidating the famous observer effect. Dr. Goswami has written several popular books based on his research on quantum physics and consciousness, including Physics of the Soul and Quantum Economics: Unleashing the Power of an Economics of Consciousness.
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The author sets out at the beginning how he views the world. He is rejecting the dualism of Descartes that suggested the world about us comprised material things and thinking things, that is, matter and minds. Goswami's world is a holistic unity - a world the philosophers would describe as monistic. Thus, he also rejects the dualism of western religion separating God from Man and Nature.
Then Goswami addresses the scientists. Theirs is a world of materialism. Only material objects and their properties are relevant. Any spirituality is subjective and meaningless to everyone else. But the deepest experiences of humankind are those of the soul and emotions and here science, that has explained so much, has little or nothing to say by way of explanation or interpretation. And the world of the numinous is the philosophical world of idealism.
The author is professor of physics at the Institute of Theoretical Sciences at the University of Oregon and is well-known for his writings that try to bridge the gap between materialist science on the one hand and the world of spirituality on the other, like Fritjof Capra a couple of decades earlier. He makes an important distinction though between mind and consciousness. Essentially, mind is the collection of our thoughts; consciousness is awareness and includes our sensory experiences. That aspect of our minds that Jung described as the collective unconscious is what Hindus describe as Atman. The mystic sees this unitive consciousness as God.
Goswami explains the mind-twisting concepts of quantum physics - non-locality, wave-particle duality, complementarity - quite simply for the non-specialist. The quantum matter/energy concept is the scientists' vision of transcendence - `being beyond comprehension'. He also makes quite frequent reference to parallels between his scientific philosophy of monistic idealism and Hindu mythology. It might have widened the readership if Goswami had tied the quantum world view into eastern mysticism more generally, like Capra, but Goswami makes an excellent job of his presentation.
I didn't find the sharp three-fold division of the book into physics, philosophy and mysticism that some other reviewers have found. The book is indeed presented in four parts, but they are much more integrated than that. Because of this diversity of content, the book does seem to jump around a bit in order to make these connections, and this does demand greater concentration from the reader.
When you read this book, the author's writing style is such that you feel you are in conversation with him. Although it deals with many challenging ideas, it is presented in as non-academic a style as possible for such sophisticated subject matter. If you are interested in a spiritual approach to the material world but one that is compatible with the latest ideas in quantum physics, then this book is for you. You must however be prepared to embrace some of the mystical ideas of eastern religion. There's a glossary of technical terms, a list of references and a bibliography, and a good index.
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, UK.
Mind Before Matter: Visions of a New Science of Consciousness
The above is only a minor criticism. The subject matter is defnitely well covered, and I think Goswami's ideas certainly contribute to the philosophical ideas of this new field of thinking. Goswami covers fundamental principles of quantum mechanics that force materialist scientists to have to re-think the classical principles at the quantum level. He explicates modern thinking of QM, and then brings it into the world of consciousness.
I'm surprised at the comments made by Marc John about relegating the Dalai Lama et al to the status of Santa Claus - such comments seem to come from an inappropriate level of attachment to ideals which, in the final analysis, are just mental constructs of things that dont exist. The Dalai Lama was once asked what he would do if it was proven that reincarnation does not exist (I think that was the question the interview posed), and after a short pause the Dalai Lama highlighted he would believe reincarnation doesnt exist - if letting go of that conceptual legacy allows the progression of the eastern/western understanding of life and how to get closer to happiness, then why hold onto it? Therefore, as the west applies more and more what it is learning about QM, nonlocality and its possibility to radically change our thknking of reality, then to me thats the natural way for it to go and one shouldnt feel upset. No way does Goswami imply any negative connotations towards the Dalai Lama et al (certainly from what I read), which does imply the comment author has misunderstood a lot of what is being said - to be fair, the subject matter isnt simple.
As for the comments from David Hampson, I can appreciate where he is coming from with some of his comments. There is no bending of accepted science when it comes to the struggle classical scientists have with the ideas that are borne out of the theory and mathematics of QM. The clear denial of "Rabbis, Buddhists, fictional religious characters, Yoga dudes, ..." (it goes on), indicats the intellectual (or not) slant of the comment author. I think it would be a severe injustice to Goswami were people to be swayed from buying the book because of these two, ill-informed and highly devisive and content-lacking reviews.
The fact it is that the subject of consciousness is still embryonic, and ideas from any field that helps in breaking old conceptual models to help creative thinking that might help take our understanding further is a good thing. Goswami brings together lots of known facts (remember Goswami has authored academic material on quantum mechanics), as well as bringing together the ideas of the east and its own 2500+ year old experience with the ideas of consciousness. This is a good book and it has some very good ideas. Yes, sometimes its a little difficult and you may need to return to the begining of a section and read it again, but just thinking of quantum mechanics, the ideas of non-locality, the uncertainty principle and the many paradoxes, requires some focus of mind to read. I think other authors may have made such subjects more accessible in places than Goswami achieves, but I do not want to take away anything from what Goswami has achieved with this book, and I think it is a lot. Our understanding of reality opened up when QM was discovered, and the same happened in the east as they understood consciousness, experience and reality. Ill-informed commenters can deny with a blunt knife many well-established and documented worlds of thought that indicate towards a thorough understanding of reality - indeed, some think QM is simply catching up with what the east has always known about reality.
Anyone interested in learning about what the thinkers of today are thinking about consciousness and reality will definitely enjoy this, if they remain open-minded. If you are a black-and-white thinker who refuses anything thats described by science, then you might struggle with the challenges to your mental models that this book throws at you - and you can see with some of the negative comments how difficult such challenges seem to be.
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