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The Self-Aware Universe [Paperback]

Amit Goswami
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 4 2002
Consciousness, not matter, is the ground of all existence, declares University of Oregon physicist Goswami, echoing the mystic sages of his native India. He holds that the universe is self-aware, and that consciousness creates the physical world.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Consciousness, not matter, is the ground of all existence, declares University of Oregon physicist Goswami, echoing the mystic sages of his native India. He holds that the universe is self-aware, and that consciousness creates the physical world. Calling this theory "monistic idealism," he claims it is not only "the basis of all religions worldwide" but also the correct philosophy for modern science. Once people give up the assumption that there is an objective reality independent of consciousness, the paradoxes of quantum physics are explainable, contends Goswami, writing with his wife and Reed ( Building the Future from Our Past ). He also applies his hypothesis to the so-called mind-body schism, which he attempts to heal. Sketching a model of the self, this demanding but rewarding treatise uses analogies from the "new physics" to throw light on choice, free will, creativity, the unconscious and paths to spiritual growth. Illustrated.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Goswami (Physics/University of Oregon; coauthor, The Cosmic Dancers, 1983) uses quantum physics to promote monistic idealism- -the theory that both matter and mind have their origin in consciousness. The villain here is materialism--the teaching that everything is comprised of atoms--and its tag-along doctrines of locality (that interactions between objects occur in local space-time), strong objectivity (that objects exist independently of consciousness), and epiphenomenalism (that mind is an accidental by-product of brain function). According to Goswami, quantum physics has laid to rest this view of reality: Quantum objects jump from here to there without passing through intervening space, disproving locality; Heisenberg's uncertainty principle disproves strong objectivity, etc. Goswami's explication of modern physics- -which draws on everything from Winnie-the-Pooh to optical illusions--is a model of clarity. Vastly less satisfying is his brief for monistic idealism. For one thing, he writes off an important alternative, dualism--the ``common-sense'' view that mind and matter both exist, that a rock is a rock and a thought is a thought--in a few skimpy paragraphs. For another, his argument is inconsistent: He cites paranormal events as evidence for idealism, but when an exception arises (such as out-of-body experiences, which suggest dualism), he becomes a debunker. Worst of all, when he tries to describe how idealism actually shapes the world, he sounds like Madame Blavatsky with a hangover (``the universe exists as formless potentia in myriad possible branches in the transcendent domain''). Goswami's aim is inviting--who does not wish us to ``realize our full potential--an integrated access to our quantum and classical selves''?--but most readers will remain agnostic. More substantial than Fritjof Capra, which isn't saying much. This is one cosmic egg that may be too big to crack. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ignore much of the negative reviews June 6 2003
By Eric
Format:Paperback
Really good books always challenge you, and the response to the challenge can be quite varied.
Some people respond with a wary eye but an open mind.
Others don't care.
Still others enthusiastically embrace any challenge and work with it to see where they get to in the end.
Then there are the people who just as enthusiastically resist any open challenge to an established, "gut" idea. These people respond irrationally, with fear and excessive caution. Many of the reviews of this book fall into the latter category.
Yes, Goswami's interpretation of quantum mechanics has been disputed. What this has to do with anything is rather irrelevent. To the gentleman who named Polkinghorne by name, Polkinghorne's interpretation of physics has been challenged numerous times as well. There is no one interpretation physicists agree on. Look at the results and you can even see that not all of them agree the Earth exists!
Further, this gentleman points out that the reformulation of Descartes' Cogito argument could well be "God chooses, therefore I am". How silly this is supposed to be a criticism. Anyone who understands the book knows that Goswami is talking about a transcendent mind, not a personal one. He IS talking about God.
It is true that Goswami does not hold up every so-called "paranormal" event as evidence of his idealist philosophy. Again, this is irrelevent. Science always progresses this way--a new model appears and allows us to explain something we previously though impossible, but it does not logically follow that everything we thought impossible is now explainable by the model, now does it?
I was ready to blast Goswami's point about the OBE (Out-of-body-experience) because I read the Amazon.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
I've recently returned from a journey to the rain country of western Oregon where I discovered "monistic idealism." It's about to become a philosophy of choice in the consciousness revolution.
I gathered this intelligence at the Eugene home of Amit Goswami, Professor of Physics at the Institute of Theoretical Studies at the University of Oregon. I arranged this special interview because of Goswami's new book, The Self-Aware Universe: How Consciousness Creates the Material World. (Tarcher/Putnam). I wanted to meet the person who authored such a book and to make sure I was correctly understanding its many profundities.
At first glance, the book appears to be one of those "new science" books that have become so popular. It does describe quite well the basic experiments of quantum physics, the ones that produce such paradoxes as the dual identity (wave and particle) of electrons and their ability to communicate at a distance with each other instantaneously (non-locality). But rather than simply leaving us with a "Gee, whiz, isn't this incredible?" impression that the real world isn't as we assumed, Goswami boldly, yet very thoughtfully, introduces us to monistic idealism and suggests we accept it as a foundation for a new, and quite compelling, worldview.
Monistic idealism is the academically correct name given to a philosophical position that once was considered pre-scientific. It existed before the advent of what philosophers today label as materialistic dualism,. or what we might call the current official scientific world view. Materialistic dualism is the assumption that physical matter is the primary reality and that mind is separate from, but dependent upon, matter.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring theory - a tad bit preachy near the end Sept. 1 2000
Format:Paperback
This book uses quantum mechanics to lay down a very satisfying theory. Many individual mysteries that I have pondered in philosophical conversations are naturally solved or illuminated by the concepts in this book. I consider myself a serious skeptic, but this picture of consciousness intuitively "feels" right. The concept of fragmenting the whole to create individual souls is also found in mystical traditions like Jewish Kabbalah. I was somewhat disappointed at the last few chapters in which the author gets a bit preachy toward his personal beliefs about war, religion, ETC. However, this in NO way spills over into the fundamental theory. I believe my faith in GOD and my faith in the human spirit was much enhanced by this book. I read this after reading two other books: THE ELEGANT UNIVERSE and INNER SPACE. What an unexpectedly great combination of books for the thinking believer!
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Format:Paperback
Most books that explore the intersection between science and spirituality seem to be written by non-scientists who explain some basic scientific principles and then extrapolate wildly to support their spiritual viewpoint.
Goswami, a physics professor, approaches it from the other direction. He carefully lays out a scientific theory - essentially that matter is a phenomina of consciousness rather than vice versa.
In the process he navigates through various topics in physics, mathematics, religion, and philosophy in order to provide the necessary components for us to get a grip on his theory of "monistic idealism" which he proposes as an alternative to the current "material realism" (matter is all that is real) which pervades scientific thought today.
I don't want to imply that I'm stupid, but the only fault I found with the book was that much of his jargon and scientific references went right over my head - so I came away with a good understanding of his theory, but also with the impression that much of it's depth and subtlties were lost on me.
I'm not sure how this book was received by the author's peers (if at all) but he impressed me as a "blow-the-lid-off-the-subject" type of scientist who is willing to ruffle feathers and push beyond the traditional limitations of his field to integrate various disciplines in a search for a truth that doesn't just look right on paper but also jives with human experience and the soul.
Well worth reading.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Please learn to write coherently before attempting another book!
While this topic interested my curiosity and even though I consider my self an above average reader with a reasonable IQ, I found this presentation nearly unreadable. Read more
Published on March 19 2011 by Ronald W. Maron
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply great!!!
This is a wonderful and timely book. It gives a fresh view of science, religion, mind, body, consciousness and the universe, stimulates thinking and makes one really understand... Read more
Published on Dec 3 2006 by Kate Bazilevsky
5.0 out of 5 stars Spirituality from the perspective of physics.... amazing!
It has been a long time since I was so happy reading a book.
I grew up in Christian Science. As a Christian Scientist I would not normally approach the subject of spirituality... Read more
Published on May 10 2004 by C. Grove
4.0 out of 5 stars Accepting new concepts of reality
I thought that this book was very interesting. I would also recommend "The Science of G-d" by Israeli physicist Gerrard Shroeder. Read more
Published on Oct. 8 2003
2.0 out of 5 stars Consciousness Explained Philosophically
As a non PhD Biologist, which in this case makes me an interested layman, I may not be qualified to review this book. Read more
Published on Nov. 20 2002 by Tom Herren
3.0 out of 5 stars Consciousness explained Philosophically
As a non PhD Biologist, which in this case makes me an interested layman, I may not be qualified to review this book. Read more
Published on Nov. 18 2002 by Tom Herren
2.0 out of 5 stars Fails to establish credibility.
When I read books on subjects I am not very familiar with, such as subatomic physics, I tend to access the reliability of the author by his accuracy on subjects I know more about. Read more
Published on Oct. 7 2002 by David Marshall
2.0 out of 5 stars Well-meaning, but vapid
Like many New Age books, The Self-Aware Universe is a confusing and often confused mixture of scientific knowledge, recycled spirituality, good intentions, and gobbledygook. Read more
Published on Aug. 27 2002 by J. Hofferman
2.0 out of 5 stars Another overly eager synthesis
Summoning up quantum physics to "explain" consciousness has been done by others (e.g. Penrose, R. Read more
Published on June 25 2001 by DF
5.0 out of 5 stars Seeing Into the Cosmic Mind
Amit Goswami invites us to suppose, for a moment, that our universe is self-aware. Next, let's imagine how this very consciousness of the universe creates the physical world... Read more
Published on Jan. 30 2001 by Cynthia Sue Larson
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