While denouncing religion in public, it turns out Harris spent years studying with gurus in India, going on meditation retreats, and using mind-expanding drugs to feel boundlessly at one with the universe. His new book, Waking Up, makes a powerful case that there’s no contradiction here – and that it’s time for rationalists who think “spirituality” is a meaningless term to get over themselves. Pretty much literally, in fact.

What Harris means by spirituality stems from the realisation that the feeling of being a distinct self – “the sense of being perched somewhere behind your eyes, looking out at a world that is separate from you” – is an illusion, and can be altered, even extinguished. Meditation and magic mushrooms are among the ways of achieving that. But why bother? Because not realising this truth is what keeps us trapped in the endless quest to acquire the things we think will make us happy: relationships, money, power. That quest locates happiness in the future, yet “the reality of your life is always now”. Step out of the self, even briefly, and you step into the present – and a kind of happiness that doesn’t depend on certain criteria being met. “Is it possible to be happy before anything happens, before one’s desires are gratified‚ in the very midst of physical pain, old age, disease and death?” Harris’s answer is yes.

« The self, spirituality and atheism »

A quote saved on Oct. 28, 2014.


Top related keywords - double-click to view: