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June 16, 2004 7:54 AM   Subscribe

Consciousness Timeline ll : 1970 - Present (summer reading) Here's a wee summer reading list - on human consciousness and more. A few from the list : Stanislav Grof (altered state/transpersonal consciousness), Charles Tart (altered state/consciousness research), Chogyam Trungpa (Buddhism), Jean Houston, James Hillman, Ralph Abraham (Chaos, Gaia, and Eros), Howard Rheingold (being himself), Mihaly Csikszentmihaly (On "flow"), Joanna Macy, John Lilly (Dolphins, LSD, and more!), James Gleick (Chaos Theory), Thomas Berry, Rianne Eisler, Howard Gardner, Stephen Laberge (Lucid dreaming), Sam Keen (on the manufacture of the "enemy"), James Lovelock (Gaia Theory), Eugene Gendlin ("Focusing"), Hazel Henderson (An alternative economics - for human beings), Jeffrey Mishlove ("The Roots of Consciousness"), Michael Harner (leading world authority on Shamanism), Amory Lovins (on alternative energy), Elaine Pagels ("The Gnostic Gospels"), Huston Smith (on World religions), Ilya Prigogine ("dissipative structures"), to the beach.
posted by troutfishing (23 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
So many books. So little time. Fortunately, most of this is easily sum: after death, nothing is. Before? waiting and wondering.
posted by Postroad at 8:00 AM on June 16, 2004

Well - that's one perspective, yes. But there is empirical research aplenty to shake the roots of that tree.
posted by troutfishing at 8:11 AM on June 16, 2004

What? Postroad's channeling Faze now?

Oh, hold on--waiting and wondering... Nope.
posted by y2karl at 8:24 AM on June 16, 2004

What a bunch of lightweight, quick reads! ;-)

Thanks for the link troutfishing. I just finished Hofstader's "Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid" so I now have some new challenges from this resource. There are many books here that initially I find very interesting.
posted by nofundy at 8:25 AM on June 16, 2004

Looks like the intellectual version of "Ooh, shiny piece of foil!" But, hey, if you like to eat and can't discriminate, you know you'll always be sated. Which is so very American a perspective.

On preview: okay, I'm being far too pissy. But it's like living in Santa Fe again, without any of the good parts. (Except Kauffman, who has a book I highly recommend on their complete list.)
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:44 AM on June 16, 2004

Add to the list Julian Jayne's The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind.
posted by bz at 8:52 AM on June 16, 2004

I'd also recommend another Hofstader book, co-edited by Daniel C. Dennet, "The Mind's I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul". A really delightful and stimulating collection of essays by some notable thinkers.

And for a more controversial theory, "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind", by Julian Jaynes.

On preview, I guess there's at least on other fan of Jaynes.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 8:53 AM on June 16, 2004

Ethereal Bligh - And let me ask you this : how many of the authors and works you've just summarily dismissed have you actually read ?

Not many, I'd guess.

You might try Eugen Herrigel's groundbreaking "Zen and the Art of Archery" - hint : it was the first "Zen and....." book and very far from the "pop" genre it inspired. It's also short, if you're pressed for time.

There are many academic works here, and a number by leaders on their respective fields - or didn't you know that ?

For example, I would have assumed that you knew who Ilya Prigogine was.

Huston Smith is considered one of the top authorities on world religions, Michael Harner the world's formost authority on Shamanism now that Mircea Eliade is dead, Hazel Henderson gets consulting gigs from various governments around the World.....Amory Lovins consults world governments and runs a rather large nonprofit now (which is designing a number of energy-efficient buildings for the US Navy)......I really could go on quite at length. Sure, I could dispense with some of the titles. And I would add many to this list But in dismissing this entire list as intellectual junk food, you embarass yourself.

Let me suggest this - if you know of works which are more "substantative" in the various fields covered by the authors of these titles - especially in their academic research specialties - please provide us with some. They would be welcome!
posted by troutfishing at 9:10 AM on June 16, 2004

if people are looking for something a bit less, well, maybe "alternative" is a description that won't offend anyone, then i'd strongly recommend konner's "the tangled wing - biological constraints on the human spirit" which i'm currently enjoying hugely. get the revised (2000) version - it's a whole new book (apparently - it certainly references a lot of recent work).
posted by andrew cooke at 9:18 AM on June 16, 2004

i've also got chalmer's "the conscious mind" on my pile (the monthly shipment from the usa arrived at work last week - the place was flooded with amazon boxes ;o) - it looks like a pretty densely argued argument against the materialist orthodoxy(*) (it doesn't look like an easy read, but if you're interested in this kind of thing, it might be interesting).
(*) orthodoxy in the kind of circles i know about - i'm not sure it's that far from some of the things on troutfishing's list...
posted by andrew cooke at 9:23 AM on June 16, 2004

Funny, I was reading Edelman's "Wider than the Sky" yesterday in Barnes & Noble. Great book, by the way. He manages to carefully define consciousness as something that's created and accessed by the complexity of the brain, but doesn't say anything of its material nature. He says the book is to put to rest metaphysical jibber on the subject,which it does. Right at the end he says why qualia have abstract characteristics (warmness is warm, redness is red etc.) is not in the realm of science, as F=Ma is but "why did something come from nothing" isn't. He manages to sound annoyingly like dualism (which I believe in), but my only complaint is that he refuses to come outright with his position on the metaphysical side.
posted by abcde at 9:26 AM on June 16, 2004

Trout, I didn't dismiss each and every book on the list, and I certainly didn't intend to give the impression that I had. Of your list, I've read a handful; the larger list, much more than a handful.

My argument was the list was indiscriminate. That was the "shiny foil" point. My argument was not a) every work on there is crap; or b) none of the works are authoritative and academic; or c) popular works are a waste of time. Just that, especially in the context of, you know, actually going to the web page and looking at the site and perusing the full list, there's clear evidence of something that could generously be termed out-of-control dilettantism.

If one wants to read crap fiction (and I do) because one wants entertainment without nutrition, that's all fine and well. Reading crap nonfiction is worse than ignorance.

Judgments of merit vary, of course, and you and I could haggle on many of them. But radicalspirit is so obviously attempting to be everything, that it's less than nothing at all. One might as well go into a library's nonfiction section and use random dart-throwing as a selection method.

I don't intend to offend you, your post, or your intentions. Nor your intelligence. You're an extremely smart, erudite person who contributes a disproportionate amount of value to the site—remarkable especially considering your contribution index. But a handful of diamonds in a mountain of crap still stinks to high heaven.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:34 AM on June 16, 2004

Sort of surprised this wasn't already on the list up there, but Ken Wilber has written some amazing stuff attempting to unify various theories of consciousness evolution and development with ideas about the evolution of culture, society, science, etc. I sugesst starting with A Brief History of Everything as the most easily readable introduction to his ideas. Then maybe The Marriage of Sense and Soul which is about reconciling science and spirituality. Or if you're into diving in the deep end go straight to Sex, Ecology, Spirituality.
posted by dnash at 9:46 AM on June 16, 2004

The Tangled Wing is indeed a wonderful book, Andrew Cooke. Melvin Konner is the bomb.
posted by y2karl at 9:49 AM on June 16, 2004

D'oh...this is what I get for hasty posting. The Ken Wilber books I mentioned are on the list at the link in the FPP, just not highlighted in troutfishing's list.

Anyway, just consider my post a high recommendation of Wilber's stuff.
posted by dnash at 9:54 AM on June 16, 2004

trout, nice list/post, but I can't believe there's no tip-of-the-hat to the thread that obviously inspired this. Or was it some kind of eerie synchronicity?
posted by soyjoy at 10:08 AM on June 16, 2004

Oh this is great! Many of my favs are there, and too many I haven't read. Summer reading indeed. Makes me feel like Burgess Mereditth in that great Twilight Zone episode. Kudos, trout!
posted by moonbird at 10:08 AM on June 16, 2004

That's a pretty heterogeneous group. Now, I have read some/most/all of the work of all of those people except Laberge and Prigogine, so I feel pretty confident in saying that some of them are quite interesting and some of them are absolute bull-goose loonies, and RadicalSpirit has made some strange bedfellows indeed.

A book I just finished and can't recommend enough is Why Men Won't Ask for Directions: The Seductions of Sociobiology, by Richard C. Francis (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2004). It's a very smart challenge to Dawkins et al. on the grounds that a teleological perspective infects Darwin's disciples as insidiously as it infected his predecessors.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:40 AM on June 16, 2004

"...some of them are quite interesting and some of them are absolute bull-goose loonies." - Indeed. And, I'd add, it can be in some cases hard to tell the difference.

soyjoy - well yes, and no. I had saved the list page with the intention of posting it, and there was the latest flapdoodle on Metatalk about standards in the blue......THEN, I saw Karl's post (I'd read Tart's book too and even considered posting a link about it) and thought "aha! this post needs company......".

So, Kudos to Y2Karl for setting the whole thing into motion.

Ethereal Bligh - Out of curiosity, I went through the list of 200-odd linked titles (some did not have attached links and - if included - would increase the total by another forty of fifty ) to try my own hand at tallying the junk vs. quality title ratio.

I was familiar, in some way, with about 2/3 of the titles. When there was a question in my mind as to the quality of any given work, I counted it on my "junk" list. I also took to randomly selecting works I was ignorant of - to simply try to skew the total in your favor. I ended up with a "padded" list of works that I thought either were junk or simply might be junk (but of which I was mostly ignorant).

I through out, liberally, most of the books on Channeling and Bodywork ( even though I'd consider that harsh ) as well as many of the autobiographical and pop-ier titles.

The total was 26. I'll now, for the sake of argument, take that padded figure and multiply by 2. Just to be charitable.

So - 52 out of over 200. Less than 1/4 if we are to count the titles and articles mentioned but not linked.

So - in short - I still strongly disagree. But I thank you for the kind compliment.
posted by troutfishing at 12:56 PM on June 16, 2004

I am so ashamed of my lack of consciousness. :) I have only read a few on that list.

Thanks for sharing.
posted by infowar at 4:56 PM on June 16, 2004

What, no Rollo May? Happy reading, troutfishing!
posted by yoga at 6:18 AM on June 17, 2004

yoga - It's not really a comprehensive list.

It's missing a huge amount - but, it's fun I think. For example, I hadn't known that there was a book about the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Laboratory (PEAR).
posted by troutfishing at 9:51 AM on June 17, 2004

hey, barbara marx hubard :D i read the hunger of eve from the take-a-book/leave-a-book shelf at the laundromat a few years back!

i guess also along those lines :D

synergetics by buckminster fuller
empire by michael hardt & antonio negri
natural capitalism amory lovins & paul hawkins
the global brain by howard bloom
out of control by kevin kelly
the unknowable by gregory chaitin
the gnostic apostle thomas by herbert christian merillat
in the beginning was the command line by neal stephenson
a new kind of science by stephen wolfram
the memory bank by keith hart

not online...
the future of money by bernard lietaer
prometheus rising by robert anton wilson
techgnosis by erik davis
the turning point by fritjof capra
the end of work by jeremy rifkin
consilience by edward o. wilson
shadows of the mind by roger penrose

t0 texts
posted by kliuless at 8:31 PM on June 17, 2004

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