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Ways of Knowing
Record Type: Review   ID: 337

Authentic Knowing: The Convergence of Science and Spiritual Aspiration

Baruss, Imants

 The author, who is a Canadian psychologist with a special interest in consciousness, differs from most of his fellows in that he dares to ask the age-old questions of what is the meaning of life? Why are we here? He is wise enough to realize the importance (I would say the necessity) of drawing on his own personal experiences and those of others in making the explorations whose results are recorded here. In the Introduction (chapter 1) he says he attempts, as he does in his courses in a Catholic college, to interweave the scientific and the spiritual approaches, examining both openly, and looking for areas where they may meet. In the first chapter, Authenticity, he examines what it means to be true to oneself. He defines authenticity as "the effort to act on the basis of one’s own understanding" (p. 28). Sounds a bit like a platitude, but it is hard advice. Not easy. It took me 60 years to begin to do it. In the next chapter, Science, he examines "what happens when science encounters the sublime." Chapter 4 is on Transcendence, and Baruss discusses "exceptional states" and their role. He offers examples of meditative experience. He uses Franklin M. Wolff’s experiences and ideas about the meaning of life [q.v.]. Wolff had some important EHEs and developed terms to describe them which are very important, such as knowledge through identity. He describes Wolff’s "mathematics of transcendence" in considerable detail. He concludes that the EHEers he had examined had one common factor: they were influenced by theosophical ideas. In chapter 5 he presents "A Theosophical Model of Reality." This is followed by one on "self-transformation," which he characterizes as "an irrevocable process that can lead to the disempowerment of the personality and reliance on the transpersonal self" (p. 145). The concluding chapter is about "the convergence of science and spiritual aspiration" (p. 146). In effect this is a brief outline of the EHE process! It begins with inauthenticity (over-dependence on science and materialism). Then what amounts to an exceptional experience occurs, which initiates a period of search. It involves moving away from social influence and being more open to our own experience. More EEs begin to happen. One gets to the point of being between two worlds. At this point he breaks off, leaving the future open. The searcher can no longer go back as the old "normal" world is no longer available to him or her. One can only surmise that Baruss stops where he is and is wise enough not to write about what he does not know. Alternatively, he may be one of those who are enlightened and therefore do not speak. Whichever, this is a well thought out book and it seems to me he has allowed us to follow his footsteps along the path. Beyond this point each may have to go his or her own way.
Publisher Information:West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 1996. 228p. Bibl: 189-215; Chap. notes: 167-187; Glossary: 151-162
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