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In The Next Enlightenment, Walter Truett Anderson treats Eastern spiritual traditions and Western philosophy, psychology and science as steps along the same evolutionary path rather than as completely separate and incompatible schools of thought.
In the opening chapters, he looks at five different "Liberation Movements" that emerged in the modern world: the eighteenth century European Enlightenment; the nineteenth century upheaval resulting from the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species; and in the twentieth century, existentialism, psychoanalysis, and the human potential movement of the 1960s and 1970s. He then argues that this century's next surge of thought and action will regard the exploration of the physical universe and the study of human consciousness as two sides of the same coin, and equally important, come to understand personal enlightenment as a natural process of growth rather than a supernatural gift bestowed upon a chosen few.
Elegantly argued and written with a sense of humor, The Next Enlightenment offers a refreshing vision of how the ancient quest for enlightenment is taking on new life in a rapidly-changing, globalizing world.
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Walter Truett Anderson has explored many different facets of contemporary life and evolutionary change in his essays, books, poetry and journalism. His recent books include The Future of the Self, Evolution Isn't What It Used to Be, and All Connected Now: Life in the First Global Civilization. He lives near San Francisco, California.
Anderson offers a skillful and mostly successful re-description of the "Eastern" enlightenment experience-which dissolves or at least softens the boundaries of self-in terms accessible to Western philosophy and science. Although acclimatized to the Californian atmosphere of human potential movements and alternative spiritualities and psychologies, Anderson's writing exudes a savvy and secular tone that should please readers interested in enlightenment experiences without spiritual entanglements. He shows restraint by rationing references to "cosmic consciousness" and "paradigm shifts," and he questions whether a revolution in human consciousness is really just around the corner-a retreat from the Aquarian enthusiasms of the 1960s and early 1970s, which he covered as a journalist. Today he favors a longer view, while remaining convinced that "many or most (possibly all) people have transcendent experiences in their lives that they do not understand or satisfactorily integrate." To put these experiences in perspective, Anderson surveys not only the New Age as generally defined, but its background in the European Enlightenment, evolutionary biology, cosmology, psychology and existentialism, as well as some possible convergences with cognitive science research over the past two decades. Anderson is widely read and strikes a good balance between clarity and accuracy, with the exception of some cheap shots at "organized religion," which come off like dogmatic anti-dogmatism. His (qualified) endorsement of hallucinogens as an aid to enlightenment may also raise a few eyebrows.
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