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Experiential Paradigm
Record Type: Review   ID: 131

Enlightenment East and West

Angel, Leonard

 The "enlightenment" of the title is two-sided, even as are East and West. Angel begins with this obvious (and neglected) insight: The world has developed two forms of enlightenment, that of the West, which "values the pursuit of scientific, objectively verifiable knowledge, individual autonomy, social progress, and justice" (p. xi); and that of the East, which "values the practices held to be conducive towards mystical self-realization, or moksha, or spiritual liberation, or satori" (p. xi). The import of the book is that without "supplementation by a mystical vision, the western Enlightenment project cannot complete itself. Progress depends on the integration of mysticism into liberalism" (p. viii). Angel’s project is to reconcile scientific rationalism and mysticism. What is refreshing about his approach is that he starts with the people’s individual reality sense. And what he means by the "reality sense" is "a heightened awareness of self and surroundings" (p. 88), which in effect, is what we call an exceptional human experience, which can lead to a sense of being within the Experimental Paradigm. He points out that people have their individual (all different) ways and "arenas of life" for accessing the Reality experience. He realizes that the Reality experience (or EHE) is universal and there is no "higher" road to it. It can be found by the hermit but also the sky diver, the teacher, the mother, the welder, the shoe salesperson. The key is grace. "The person for whom chores are sacred play, purposive activity is dance, and repose is pure, blissful awareness of the ultimacy of things, lives in grace" (p. 90), i.e., within the Experiential Paradigm. In arguing in behalf of turning the Western view inside out and outside in, he devotes a chapter to the hidden connection between mysticism and sacred philosophy; one to the opportunity afforded by a marriage between mysticism and science, and one to "mysticism and the philosophy of history," which enables us to view the road we are on, where we have come from, and where we are headed. Perhaps most important in this era of violence in the home and in the streets, terrorism, vandalism, and lack of reverence for life, is his recognition that the basis for ethical behavior lies not in compliance to any command from on high or authoritarian rules or dogma but from "cultivating the intuition of the sacred as a crucial element of one’s experience," (p. viii) which leads to sacralist ethics as an offshoot. If one experiences others as oneself, including other species, one is not likely to harm others or the planet. In a chapter on science and mysticism, he examines claims of psychic/mediumistic readers, levitation, incorruptibility of the body after death (Yogananda), and Stevenson’s case suggestive of reincarnation, and is convinced by none. He calls for "the tools of enlightenment West to be integrated with the Practices of Enlightenment East if the latter is to complete its projects" (p. 307).
Publisher Information:Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994. 388p. Bibl: 349-365; Index: 367-388
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