Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion

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Confusion and suffering may be our birthright, but wisdom and happiness are available. Still, Harris reclaims from the traditional religions the right -- no, the duty -- to understand the spiritual "in the context of neuroscience, psychology, and related fields. With this in mind, he undertakes an exploration of "The Mystery of Consciousness" and "The Riddle of the Self" from the point of view of the neuroscientist, discussing the structure and function of the human brain in the light of recent scholarly and medical research--and I must confess, here, that he risked losing me at times in the thicket of obviously well-researched scientific information in these matters.

Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion

I resurfaced, though -- slightly better informed -- with his conclusion that:. Although science may ultimately show us how to truly maximize human well-being, it may still fail to dispel the fundamental mystery of being itself [which] doesn't leave much scope for conventional religious beliefs, but [ Many truths about ourselves will be discovered in consciousness directly or not discovered at all. The key word here is "directly.

In this way, the potentially limitless experience of life gets to be all about me, my small self, my severely localized consciousness. It is the "direct" experience of pure consciousness, short-circuiting the interventions of the self, that is, as I understand it, the goal and practice of dzogchen, the "direct awareness" meditation practice in which Harris seems to find an acceptable, non-religious path into the spiritual life. The goal, thereafter, is to cease to overlook what is already the case. Paradoxically, this still requires discipline, and setting aside time for meditation is indispensable.

But the true discipline is to remain committed, throughout the whole of one's life, to waking up from the dream of the self. We need not take anything on faith to do this.

Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion

The bigger, indeed limitless, mind, is consciousness, which Harris says "appears to have no form at all, because anything that would give it form must arise within the field of consciousness. Consciousness is simply the light by which the contours of mind and body are known.

Making this discovery, again and again, is the basis of the spiritual life. In the end, Harris rejects what he calls "the deflationary attitude toward consciousness" of many who toe the rationalist, scientific line: "A middle path exists," he writes, "between making religion out of spiritual life and having no spiritual life at all.

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