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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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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
7 of 7 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Consciousness explained Philosophically Nov. 18 2002
Format:Paperback
As a non PhD Biologist, which in this case makes me an interested layman, I may not be qualified to review this book. However, as a reader that purchased the book with the expectation that I would gain new insights in to the nature of consciousness let me share my thoughts with you.
The first portion of the book is a crash course in Quantum Physics using various dialogues to make a multitude of points. I am somewhat familiar with the cast of characters of the history of Quantum Physics and the major eastern religious texts and I wish the author had of just stated his case. But then I was soon to realize that the book was not about consciousness, but his theory called "monistic idealism".
I promised myself, in my thirties, that I would go wherever my intellect and curiosity could take me, which is why I finished the book. Now in my middle sixties, I followed his many logical arguments and his quotations from a wide variety of philosophers, psychologists, scientists and religious texts.
It is a wide-ranging book and in all fairness I did gain some new and interesting insights.
However, when the author gives his definition of "Quantum self" as "The primary subject modality of the self beyond ego in which resides real freedom, creativity, and nonlocality of the of the human experience", I decided I felt more comfortable thinking about human consciousness actually being hugged between groups of nerve synapses deep within the human brain.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Fails to establish credibility. Oct. 7 2002
Format:Paperback
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. That's one reason I wasn't able to work up much confidence in Goswami's physics. He throws out too many low-wattage ideas on language, philosophy and history that distract me.
To begin with, he uses "paradox" as a synonym for "self-contradiction."
According to Goswami, religions are all founded by mystics who believe in monism, a trancendant Brahma, divine play, the whole Upanishadic kit and kaboodle. Later, disciples dumb the "real teachings" of the Master down for the masses. This is doubtful historically in almost every actual case of which I am aware -- and I study the origins of religions for a living. In the case of Jesus, still less Mohammed, only massive falsification or at least wishful thinking can save the paradigm. I realize this idea is not original with Goswami. But I am a little tired of people making a case for monism from the NT by quoting a few teachings that seem to agree with it out of context, and ignoring the rest.
As for philosophy, Goswami's ideas about love seem shallower than those of theistic thinkers like C. S. Lewis, Lin Yutang, or even Scott Peck, to me. He thinks love is best when based upon the premise of monism. "How can you not love when there is one consciousness and you known that you and the other are not really separate?" A silly question; there are categories of neurosis that work precisely that way. On a philosophical level, the question is meaningless.
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By Ronald W. Maron TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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. The author failed in a few areas:

1. Due to the lack of continual focus, the text floated from topic to topic in an incoherent manner.
2. Caused by the possible failure in translation the individual sentence structure was very choppy at times.
3. The author felt a need to string together as many 4+ syllable words as possible. Doesn't he realize that simplistic coherency make books more readable or was he merely 'showing off' his verbal abilities?

Sadly, I attempted to complete this book on three different occasions but was never able to move beyond the first eighty pages. Mr. Goswami, please learn to write more coherently before attempting to write another book! And, where was your editor of this publishing house when you submitted the writings?

Conclusion: Great topic, terrible presentation.
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Most recent customer reviews
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Great re-thinking of the implications of quantum physics!
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... Read more
Published on Dec 1 2003 by Robert Anderson
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
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
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the BEST
Not much more to say about this one. This is a great book. I would recommend this one to anyone. Especially those nonspiritual people. Read more
Published on Dec 6 2000 by Abrams
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