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Godhead: The Brain's Big Bang Hardcover – 7 Jul 2011
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About the Author
Joe Griffin is a social psychologist with graduate and post-graduate degrees from the LSE. His extensive research has increased our knowledge and understanding and has brought us the first comprehensive, scientifically consistent theory of why we evolved to dream. This proved of great practical benefit for alleviating and understanding mental and emotional distress. He is also co-author with Ivan Tyrrell (who has equally rich experience and knowledge in the field of psychotherapy and psychology) of Human Givens: A new approach to emotional health and clear thinking. This landmark title reached 15 on Amazon's sales list when it was first published in 2003 and continues to sell hundreds of copies a month. The authors' subsequent titles, Dreaming Reality: How dreaming keeps us sane, or can drive us mad and the Essential Help in Troubled Times series were also well received and prove continuous best-sellers. Ivan Tyrrell and Joe Griffin are both directors of Human Givens College, which runs courses in how to apply psychological knowledge effectively in education, psychotherapy, managing public and private organisations and other social fields. They also edited and contributed to An Idea in Practice, which was shortlisted for the MIND Book of the Year Award 2008.
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Top customer reviews
Use is made of texts from the fields of archaeology, anthropology, quantum mechanics, psychology, religion and the writings of mystics from several millennia. Each of these areas of human enquiry is drawn upon to make the case for what the authors describe as an up to date "myth" - formulated in a manner consistent with current ways of thinking - and designed to shine light on the nature of reality, as every previous effort of scientific understanding attempted. The end result is very much their own formulation and in total quite unlike anything that has come before (as far as I'm aware at least) - other than the intriguing utterances and poetry of mystics, whom it is claimed have always been referring to the very phenomena which Griffin and Tyrrell suggest explain the underpinnings of reality.
The scope of the material drawn upon in the service of their argument can be breathtaking. Particularly interesting is their respectful reading of the questions and reflections of some of the greatest scientific minds of the last hundred years - including John Wheeler, Albert Einstein, Paul Dirac, Julian Barbour and Robert Oppenheimer - alongside the use of biblical sources. Anyone familiar with previous of the authors' work will recognise the place given to the REM state as having a critical role to play in human development and stability. And the book's first section suggests - as others have too - that the flowering of human development began around forty thousand years ago: the brain's big bang of the book's title. It is suggested that this period saw the emergence of imagination - an example of the REM state working - which made possible a distancing from automatic, instinctual responses and that thereby formed the basis for rationality. The balance between these two states is suggested as possessing huge explanatory power for understanding creativity, pathologies such as psychosis and the nature of the autism spectrum - in fact a new organising idea.
Whilst much in the book presents as creative and reasoned speculation - albeit impressively supported in ways described above - the book ends with an assertion: that the suggested basis of all reality is in fact verifiable. Not by way of laboratory experiment or peer review but by personal experience. This is the science of mysticism but requiring very specific personal qualities and specialised, guided practices.
The book is accessibly written, even if requiring close attention in several places such are its ideas unfamiliar and consequences so thought provoking and potentially even life changing.
Unlike many books which have one basic idea that is padded out to fill enough pages, here is new insight upon new idea interwoven with a wealth of fascinating information all of which sent my brain whizzing. Penny after penny dropped as I read. Their explanation for what the true nature of reality might be, for instance, especially their oscillating universe concept is the most plausible I've ever read - it pulls together and explains much from quantum physics. In fact to me it really does seem that they might have found the missing jigsaw piece that physicists etc have been searching for for decades. Their theory for what 'nothing' might be and how the cosmological big bang could explode from it and the universe evolve as a result also made logical sense, as did their explanation of how we experience continuous 'time'. These are not small questions and, as with anything subtle and potentially difficult to convey, in some parts of the book you have to allow yourself to simply follow their argument to its conclusion, but it really is well worth the effort and the clarity of their writing helps you follow their train of thought.
But these amazing new ideas weren't the only things to grab me - what also struck me was the way that the ideas put forward in 'Godhead' clarified for me previously incomprehensible religious and mystical writings (from different faiths) - here at last is a way to understand what others have been trying to convey for centuries that is also compatible with modern scientific findings. And they give example after example, all apparently talking about the same thing. The idea that there has long been a continual stream of hidden knowledge about the true nature of existence and our purpose in the universe (which has been transmitted through the ages and in different cultures) is, of course, not new, but here the authors suggest that this stream goes back even further than we may have thought to prehistoric times.
And our potential for connecting up to ultimate reality, they suggest, is inextricably linked with why human beings are also highly susceptible to a wide range of disorders and mental illnesses - a fascinating connection. I would have liked to know a bit more about some of the discoveries they mention about depression, dreaming and psychosis (and their relaton theory) but I can appreciate that this was already a long enough book and so as they've written many others on those topics I'm looking forward to getting tucked into them next!
Not many books have genuinely changed the way I think about things, but this one has. If you enjoy going on a mentally stimulating journey and are interested in the 'bigger' questions (including why we are here) then I can't recommend this book highly enough. I don't think I will ever look at life, the universe and our part in it in quite the same way again.
The Big Bang explains what happened to our consciousness 40,000 years ago and that this process is still on-going; the info on pattern-matching, the REM state and the oscillating universe might take more than one reading to fully understand but this is a book that deserves more than one reading.
Having been a bit too 'left-brained' over the last few years (getting hoodwinked by Richard Dawkins and all that reductionist/atheist stuff that left me feeling spiritually empty), Godhead, although very challenging in places, is like a breath of fresh air; it feels like it has given me permission to embrace 'spirituality' (not that New Age stuff, but something that is grounded in sound scientific understanding and what the mystics have reported for thousands of years - and something which I personally have experienced but up until now had no explanation for). I feel my life has more meaning since reading it.
A must read for anyone interested in psychology, consciousness, evolution and real spirituality.
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