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Rational Mysticism: Dispatches from the Border Between Science and Spiritualityby John Horgan
Synopses & Reviews
In Rational Mysticism, acclaimed journalist John Horgan embarks on an adventure of discovery, investigating the ways in which scientists, theologians, and philosophers are attempting to formulate an empirical explanation of spiritual enlightenment. Horgan visits and interviews a fascinating Who's Who of experts, including theologian Huston Smith; Andrew Newberg, explorer of the brain's "God module"; Ken Wilber, a transpersonal psychologist and Buddhist; psychedelic pharmacologist Alexander Shulgin; Oxford-educated psychologist and Zen practitioner Susan Blackmore; and postmodern shaman Terence McKenna. Horgan also explores the effects of reputed enlightenment-inducing techniques such as fasting, meditation, prayer, sensory deprivation, and drug trips. In his lively and thought-provoking inquiry, Horgan finds surprising connections among seemingly disparate disciplines, not the least of which is a shared awe of the nature of the universe.
John Horgan, author of the best-selling The End of Science, chronicles the most advanced research into the mechanics—and meaning—of mystical experiences. How do trances, visions, prayer, satori, and other mystical experiences work”? What induces and defines them? Is there a scientific explanation for religious mysteries and transcendent meditation? John Horgan investigates a wide range of fields — chemistry, neuroscience, psychology, anthropology, theology, and more — to narrow the gap between reason and mystical phenomena. As both a seeker and an award-winning journalist, Horgan consulted a wide range of experts, including theologian Huston Smith, spiritual heir to Joseph Campbell; Andrew Newberg, the scientist whose quest for the God module” was the focus of a Newsweek cover story; Ken Wilber, prominent transpersonal psychologist; Alexander Shulgin, legendary psychedelic drug chemist; and Susan Blackmore, Oxford-educated psychologist, parapsychology debunker, and Zen practitioner. Horgan explores the striking similarities between mystical technologies” like sensory deprivation, prayer, fasting, trance, dancing, meditation, and drug trips. He participates in experiments that seek the neurological underpinnings of mystical experiences. And, finally, he recounts his own search for enlightenment — adventurous, poignant, and sometimes surprisingly comic. Horgans conclusions resonate with the controversial climax of The End of Science, because, as he argues, the most enlightened mystics and the most enlightened scientists end up in the same place — confronting the imponderable depth of the universe.
About the Author
John Horgan, a former senior writer for Scientific American, is the author of the acclaimed End of Science and Undiscovered Mind. His articles have been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Science Magazine, and a wide range of other publications. His work has won awards from the American Psychia-tric Association and the National Association of Science Writers, among others. With both a B.A. and an M.S. in journalism from Columbia University, Horgan has lectured at McGill University. He lives in New York State with his wife and two children.
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