A new book attempting to neuroscientifically analyze meditation

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A new book from Daily Grail Publishing, touted as valuable in that it can promote deep understanding of spiritual meditational experiences. At least according to these descriptions, I don't think so.

The Contemplative Brain: Meditation, Phenomenology and Self-Discovery from a Neuroanthropological Point of View, by Charles D. Laughlin Ph.D  


Quote:"The Contemplative Brain offers a comprehensive exploration of the cultural neurophenomenology of contemplation. The book is written by a neuroanthropologist who spent years as a Tibetan Tantric Buddhist monk and who has practiced many different traditions of contemplation, including Buddhist vipassana, Tantric arising yoga, Zen Buddhist zazen, Husserlian transcendental phenomenology, Western Mysteries esoteric Tarot, dream meditation, shamanic journeys, and other approaches to self-discovery.

Over the course of half a century of contemplative experience, the author has learned to separate the practices and experiences of meditation traditions from their cultural, ideological, and religious trappings. He discovered that the brain-mind that seeks truth about the external world can be redirected to an exploration of the vast world of the inner Self—the truth-seeking brain in its contemplative mode.

The book explains how the brain works to penetrate, understand, and eventually realize its own internal processes."

Another book by Laughlin:

Communing with the Gods: Consciousness, Culture and the Dreaming Brain  by Charles D. Laughlin  


Quote:"The book discusses how modern dream-work may ameliorate wide-spread alienation, spiritual exhaustion and despair in modern society."

My basic comment is that it struck me that these books couldn't really have much to offer to understand the essence of meditational experience, or to ameliorate the "wide-spread alienation, spiritual exhaustion and despair in modern society", since Laughlin apparently doesn't do anything to go beyond strict materialism in neuroscience. In all his experiences of being a Buddhist monk and taking other amazing roles, he doesn't seem to have learned the most fundamental lesson, that the mind is not the brain. Hard to believe, but maybe it shows the extreme power of a deeply held paradigm - the closed-minded dedication to materialism. Presumably, during his exploration of the dimensions of meditation in traditional Buddhist, Shamanic and other practices, he of course must have maintained his neuroscientific and anthropological objectivity at some level of his consciousness. Which it seems to me would have to have vitiated the essence of these experiences. Since his underlying assumption (from these descriptions of his books) is apparently still that the mind is the brain, this inherently brings with it all the spirit-deadening implications of this paradigm including that a human being is a nothing but a highly evolved animal, free will is illusory, and an afterlife is fantasy, the stuff of dreams. This must be the case, unless he merely inserted the neuroscientific materialism into the books in order to maintain his status in academia.
(This post was last modified: 2020-10-27, 05:55 PM by nbtruthman.)
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I think I may have found an 'alternative' to this author you may prefer on a similar subject. I noticed this book was listed on my University's library as a resource tied to Bruce Greyson, among others: 
Mind Beyond Brain: Buddhism, Science, and the Paranormal

The author David Presti, according to Amazon, is 'a teaching professor of neurobiology, psychology, and cognitive science at the University of California, Berkeley. He also teaches neuroscience to Buddhist monks and nuns in India and Bhutan. He is the author of Foundational Concepts in Neuroscience: A Brain-Mind Odyssey (2016).'

The book in question seems to be mostly comprised of the work of the UVA's DPS, but he offers his own take on things as well. 
(This post was last modified: 2020-10-28, 12:22 AM by OmniVersalNexus.)
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(2020-10-27, 05:07 PM)nbtruthman Wrote: My basic comment is that it struck me that these books couldn't really have much to offer to understand the essence of meditational experience, or to ameliorate the "wide-spread alienation, spiritual exhaustion and despair in modern society", since Laughlin apparently doesn't do anything to go beyond strict materialism in neuroscience. In all his experiences of being a Buddhist monk and taking other amazing roles, he doesn't seem to have learned the most fundamental lesson, that the mind is not the brain. Hard to believe, but maybe it shows the extreme power of a deeply held paradigm - the closed-minded dedication to materialism. Presumably, during his exploration of the dimensions of meditation in traditional Buddhist, Shamanic and other practices, he of course must have maintained his neuroscientific and anthropological objectivity at some level of his consciousness. Which it seems to me would have to have vitiated the essence of these experiences. Since his underlying assumption (from these descriptions of his books) is apparently still that the mind is the brain, this inherently brings with it all the spirit-deadening implications of this paradigm including that a human being is a nothing but a highly evolved animal, free will is illusory, and an afterlife is fantasy, the stuff of dreams. This must be the case, unless he merely inserted the neuroscientific materialism into the books in order to maintain his status in academia.

Hmmm, I feel like we'd have to read these books to be sure? I'd be surprised if the Daily Grail of all places was trying to push an atheistic/materialist version of Buddhism.
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell



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