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A Book Review The Nature of Consciousness: Essays on the Unity of Mind and Matter

The Nature of Consciousness Essays on the Unity of Mind and Matter By Rupert Spira Sahaja Publications/New Harbinger, 2017

The Nature of Consciousness
Essays on the Unity of Mind and Matter
By Rupert Spira
Sahaja Publications/New Harbinger, 2017

by Tony Kendrew

Rupert Spira doesn’t beat around the bush. If you know him from his recent appearances at the SAND conference, or from his meetings and retreats in the UK or the States, you will likely have come away with the impression of an acute mind, uncompromising in its focus and intent, refusing to take a single step away from the reality of immediate experience. In this he embodies the male approach to knowledge, clarity personified, with an inevitability about the unfolding of his thoughts and words.

This discipline is the great strength of Rupert’s recently-published book, The Nature of Consciousness. There is no speculation, no drifting to other realms of possibility where less ordered minds are fond of traveling. This scholarly approach may also be an entry point for scientists clinging to the materialist assumptions of their training, but increasingly uncomfortable about what they imply for the hard problem of consciousness.

Deepak Chopra has written the Foreword to Rupert’s book. They have appeared together at SAND conferences and made a fascinating coupling, Deepak the brilliant communicator and popularizer of enlightened thinking and Rupert’s precise and unwavering pragmatism. Deepak reports that he has gained deeper understanding from Rupert than any other exponent of modern spirituality.

The Nature of Consciousness is a remarkable book. You have only to see it and flip through a few pages to get a sense of the kind of writer Rupert Spira is, and the nature of his argument. The clean design inside and out reflects his creative sensitivity and mastery as a ceramic artist, and the paragraphs are well packed with syllables, sufficient vocabulary for a minutely argued demolition of the assumptions of the prevailing world culture. Perhaps never before has logical argument been brought so effectively and readably to a comprehensive investigation of consciousness. The author is well aware of the irony of using words, and a lot of them, and long ones, to talk about it. As he writes: Others amongst us who feel compelled to articulate reality in words try to make the best use of these ill-adapted symbols, using them as skillfully as possible and in a way that evokes the reality of experience without ever confining it within the limits of language. In this he has succeeded, and the nondual missionaries among us will be happy to have an argument to counter those of our materialistic friends. There is even hope that here we may have a text to accompany the death throes of the scientific paradigm.

For the book is written as an argument, and breaking the stranglehold of materialism is its purpose. Rupert writes within this dialectic tradition, with Howevers and Therefores scattered throughout, not to mention plenty of italics to make quite sure we get it. As he writes so passionately in the Introduction, . . . the recognition of the fundamental reality of consciousness is the prerequisite and a necessary and sufficient condition for an individual’s quest for lasting happiness and, at the same time, the foundation of world peace.

Sometimes I wished The Nature of Consciousness was more like a manifesto, a little red book of advaita, studied on buses, picked up in motel rooms; its pithy truth would end terrorism, bring agribusiness to its knees and reverse global warming. That outcome may not happen so easily, and an impeccably argued couple of hundred pages is probably more persuasive to representatives of the status quo, more likely to get the attention of those game changers who are not so dogmatic to have lost sight of the merit of logic. Let’s hope they are not too offended by the statement that the materialist paradigm is a philosophy of despair and conflict, and have the guts to read on. It is worth it. They may even let Rupert’s fighting words sink in: The materialist point of view asserts the reality of that which is never experienced – matter – and denies that which alone is always experienced – consciousness itself. That is the tragedy and the absurdity of the materialistic perspective from which humanity is suffering. This perspective, Rupert repeats, is nothing more than a belief and, as such, simply a popular religion.

Like a good teacher, Rupert repeats himself often, and approaches the same conclusion from different directions. And like sages down the ages he trips a deft dance with metaphors, changing them to keep pace with the progress of his argument: old ones, new ones, a few repeated, with exponential benefit, again and again throughout the book – the sun illuminating itself, the movie, and the screen it’s playing on.

It is a serious book with a serious purpose, but the rather humorless progression of its argument is illuminated with deep insights from art and poetry – Shakespeare, Blake, Wordsworth, Tennyson – delightful anecdotes, warmth and compassion for the human search for happiness, and beautiful writing. Here is one wonderful phrase: A world made of matter – a calamitous assumption.

The clarity and authority that Rupert brings to his words make him a worthy ambassador of consciousness only at the court of materialism and science, and we hope that his intelligence and style will make inroads into its dogmatism, though it may be a while before they heed his call for an upgrade of the laws of physics to laws that govern the unfolding of mind rather than the behavior of matter.

If I have one misgiving about The Nature of Consciousness it comes from the contrast between the democratic nature of the message – that everyone is equally qualified to investigate the nature of consciousness – and the comparative inaccessibility of this particular investigation. The exhaustive argument got me wanting a shortened version, an Everyman’s Guide to The Nature of Consciousness, which I could refer to when materialism rears its head, and confidently leave in a motel room or on the bus.

 

Buy the book on Amazon: http://a.co/30oZ0ry

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