The Marriage of Science & Spirit: Negotiating the Great Pre-Nup, Part 2: Why Sam Harris’s "Waking Up" Matters

In Part I of this series of blog posts, “The Marriage of Science & Spirit: Negotiating the Great Pre-Nup”, I pointed out that there's a dawning awareness that the coming together of rationality with spirituality, the "marriage of science and spirit" is THE big shift happening now in terms of cultural evolution—an event on the scale of the Reformation or the Enlightenment. It is the most significant intellectual and cultural event of our time and it will reshape the future of human affairs.

I observed that a great public debate has commenced about the terms of this marriage, the “pre-nup” as it were. Although many participants attempt to straddle the safe middle ground, the debate roughly divides into two camps: the strict rationalists (often called agnostics or atheists) and the trans-rationalists (including both mystics and developmentalists).  


The rationalists are interested in integrating the valuable insights and practices of contemplative spirituality into a richer, less dogmatic, more intelligent rationality. The trans-rationalists see exciting potentials in going beyond conventional consciousness into gnosis, awakening as co-participants in a conscious universal Reality, sometimes called the “Living Universe” or the conscious “Kosmos.”

I tend to be in agreement with the trans-rationalist camp, but in this second blog post I’d like to tune in attentively to the wisdom of the other side of this debate. Even though I think it’s in some ways painfully partial, the rationalist perspective holds extremely important truths, and in many ways has the most significant role to play in actual cultural transformation.

Let’s look at one of the most brilliant and extreme contributors to the rationalist synthesis, Sam Harris, the well-known American author, philosopher, and neuroscientist, whose recent book, Waking Up, makes a powerful original argument for an “atheistic” spirituality.

Why Sam Harris’s Waking Up Matters

Occasionally, a book makes history, or rather changes history. Sam Harris’s new volume, Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion might well turn out to be such a book.


  • This book makes a cogent and persuasive rational case for spirituality “without religion” — for meditation, mindfulness, higher states of consciousness, and ultimately awakening from the illusion of a separate self — and it does so in entirely credible evidence-based terms, without metaphysical baggage, with the advocacy coming from a well-known skeptic and scientist.
  • Waking Up appears when meditation has already gone mainstream. We’ve had decades of scientific research, and tens of thousands of studies have validated measurable benefits from meditation’s higher or altered states of consciousness. Time magazine recently featured “The Mindful Revolution” on its cover, medical insurance often subsidizes mindfulness-based stress reduction classes, and “Wisdom 2.0” and Mindful Leadership conferences bring together top tech executives with Buddhist (and agnostic) teachers. Meditation is now taught in many public and private schools, and presented as a scientifically validated method to enhance focus and learning.
  • This is a time of spiritual inspiration and mobilization, when people are not only doing “inner work” but also opening their minds to new ways of understanding it. Books, seminars, and courses on progressive spirituality and self-help are a fast-growing $12 billion a year industry. Participants in this marketplace are finding one another on the web, and engaging a wide-ranging public conversation that’s already increasingly informed not only by spiritual experiences and ideas, but also by scientific standards of logic and evidence.
  • Waking Up delivers a science-based, ready-for-prime-time critique of the unconscious presumption that each human being is, at root, a separate self; and it embodies a species of the honest and intelligent discourse that can be unleashed on the basis of that understanding. And it does so at a time when the problems human beings are now facing can only be overcome via large-scale self-transcendence. (There is no more fundamental basis for self-transcendence than the direct recognition that our very sense of self is an illusion!)

Some of Harris’s other books are much more obviously political. Even during his press appearances to publicize Waking Up, what went viral was his controversial challenge on Real Time with Bill Maher to the links between Islamic ideas and bad behavior. There, and in follow up writings and appearances in such venues as GPS with Fareed Zakaria, he made some valid points to be reckoned with. But I predict that the ideas embodied in Waking Up (linked to those in his earlier book, The Moral Landscape) may ultimately have much farther-reaching effects on the underlying structures and assumptions — indeed, on the very paradigm — that dictates the character and direction of our public discourse.


Only Nixon Could Go To China

It has been said that “only Nixon (someone with impeccable anti-communist credentials) could go to China.”  Similarly, it has been hardheaded scientists pointing to irrefutable data who have paved the way for meditation to go mainstream — not clear-eyed spiritual practitioners speaking from their hearts. 

And who might be optimally positioned to help the scientific community embrace spiritual practice as a legitimate universal value? What popular intellectual could set the stage for public discourse that starts with awareness of the illusory nature of the separate self-sense? It would take someone like Sam Harris, a neuroscientist and well-known atheist, a man publicly endorsed by Richard Dawkins, a personal friend of Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Stephen Pinker, and author of a book prominently endorsed by Jerry Coyne.

Admittedly, Harris is still more an insurgent than a cultural insider. His fame is not primarily as the author of Waking Up. Far more people know him as “one of those New Atheists” or the guy who got into a fight with Ben Affleck on Real Time with Bill Maher after calling Islam “the motherlode of bad ideas.” 

But Sam Harris is a more significant cultural figure than his latest viral media splash would suggest. I think he’s playing a “long game” — a bid to reshape public discourse, and in the process to propose the terms on which science will embrace certain inescapable and transformational truths and practices from the world of spirituality. Which, as we’ll see later, is a very, very big deal.

A Place Where Archimedes Can Take His Stand 

After calculating the seemingly unlimited multiplier of force that can be achieved by a simple, well-designed lever, Archimedes famously said, “Give me a place to stand and I can move the world.” Especially in the context of his other writings, Sam Harris has chosen a potent lever and a very solid place to stand in Waking Up.

Even though the teaching of evolution and the scientific consensus on global warming are both under siege in red-state America, this is still a predominantly modern world in which evidence, science, and reason provide our most authoritative and broadly accepted basis for discerning what is true. It’s structured into all modern legal systems. Even the extreme cultural conservatives attempt to marshal evidence and make rational arguments to justify their positions.

In the trajectory of all his writings, Harris uses reason and evidence to fiercely advocate that human intelligence free itself from delusions of all kinds and accept responsibility for reality as it is. This is a laser-like expression of the nearly universal values and intentions shared by all modern minds. That won’t go away.

Harris has already subjected religious metaphysics to a harsh examination and indictment, and offered a scientific basis for morality (based on minimizing the suffering and maximizing the happiness of conscious beings). Now he’s critiquing the presumption that our discourse takes place among ontologically real separate individuals (each with an implicit right to his or her own opinion, however preposterous).

The Invitation Reads: “Keep Out: No Trespassing” 

This sets the stage for a different kind civic conversation, one many would regard as much more “enlightened” than what we now find even from our best mainstream public intellectuals. Harris is establishing clearly defined standards of intelligent non-delusion, and as part of that, he legitimizes the discipline of attention, or mindfulness, as a value. Here, he is setting the terms for an intelligent discourse that bids to be of interest not only to skeptical scientific atheists, but also to a significant number of the 24-33% of the population that calls itself “spiritual but not religious”, including thousands of serious rational contemplatives. It seems he wants to help convene and participate in a more intelligent, serious, unencumbered public conversation about what really matters in today’s world.

Sam Harris has been described as a writer of polemics. He certainly enjoys driving home the implications of his criticisms and denouncing delusion. He clearly does not suffer fools gladly. His writings contain a litany of scathing indictments. On the surface they seem to say, to large numbers of people, “Your presumptions are so preposterous that you’re not worth talking with!” Ironically, his scorn also functions as an invitation to a new conversation, directed to the wide swathe of people who can see the validity of the points he makes, those whom he doesn’t directly denounce, and whom he wants to engage.

On the one hand… 

To scientific materialists, Harris presents one kind of challenge, saying something to the effect of:

“I share your worldview and your scorn for most so-called ‘spiritual’ beliefs and attitudes.

“However, your patterns of thinking are far more automatic and deluding than you probably realize, and they constrain your clarity and intelligence. You’re laboring under the ‘user illusion’ structured into human neurology, that has you lying to yourself and others, imagining you’re making conscious choices ‘you’ never actually make, and thinking you’re an ontologically real ‘self’ in ways you simply are not. All these make your thinking more predictable and dumb than is appropriate. You should wake up!

“There’s a new, higher standard of excellence in town. To the degree that you do wake up, you can participate in it. You may already qualify to participate according to some key criteria, but there are some additional criteria (ones you’ve probably mostly disregarded or neglected) that are also valid and necessary. If you accept them, that means changing your behavior and practicing mindfulness. In the process you will stop being so fooled by your internal dialogue, and in the silence you’ll begin to function at a much higher level.

“Then you’ll be able to participate in a much more intelligent and interesting level of thinking and conversation.” 

 On the other hand…

To meditators and spiritual practitioners, he seems to be presenting a different challenge, something that might sound like this:

“I too do the serious practice of attending to attention, and I have experienced transcendent states of peace and seen through the illusion of self or ego. But practice doesn’t begin and end there.

“I’m a neuroscientist; I’ve taken a strong public stand against religious metaphysics; I’ve earned mainstream credibility and notoriety; and I’m risking my standing by publicly advocating for awakened awareness as a basis for the more enlightened conduct of human affairs.

“And even as I’m doing this, I’m harshly criticizing many of the foundational ideas of your worldview. For example, I disparage Aldous Huxley’s idea of a perennial philosophy, or even any ‘happy synthesis among spiritual traditions’; I say ‘there is no reason to think that consciousness is integral to the process…of how an underlying quantum reality becomes the seemingly classical world of tables and chairs…’ and instead happily observe and participate in ‘a style of discourse, across all branches of science and philosophy that [has] made the mind seem ripe for reduction to the “physical” world.’ I regard my meditative consciousness as a neurological state, and I don’t assume that meditative samadhis necessarily deliver any valid insight into the nature of the world around me.

“You’re invited to bring your awakened awareness and practice of mindfulness into that public discourse. What won’t be welcomed are non-mainstream ideas about a ‘conscious Kosmos’ or a ‘living universe’ or ‘subtle energy’ or the worldview they express. Instead, I welcome you to a serious mainstream conversation in which intelligent transpersonal clarity is encouraged and valued, as long as it’s related to the terms of existing mainstream discourse, and rigorously grounded in observable reality and empirical evidence. I won’t promise to play nice, but I’ll promise to question my own mind and follow the evidence.

“After being excluded from the mainstream so totally for so many decades, here’s an opening. That’s exciting, isn’t it? And I’m taking risks to open it. I’m not inclined to negotiate with you over the fine print. Take this offer or leave it. My scientific materialist friends are far less open than I am, so I suggest you seriously question your New Age attitudes and assumptions. If you do, you’re welcome to pitch in and join the process of bringing intelligent clarity to bear on human affairs.”

Giving the Finger

Part of what makes the conversation exciting is that the invitation begins by posting “Keep Out” signs that exclude many familiar and tiresome kinds of conversation.

Sam is not extending his invitation to religious believers. Those with mythic beliefs and unnecessary metaphysics are explicitly not welcome. He’s written several previous books documenting that “idiocy”, and wastes little time with such folks in this context.

He unapologetically is not extending this invitation to fussily politically correct liberals. If you’re overly concerned about excluding or even not offending Islamic or Christian or Jewish believers, then you’re clearly not serious about following your discriminative intelligence wherever it takes you. Your thinking is hostage to political considerations and ideology, which are ultimately just as limiting as ridiculous religious beliefs.

Lighting a Fuse

This two-sided invitation, starting off with “Keep Out”, has great appeal to large numbers of intelligent, inquiring minds.  And a lot of them are already listening.

I cheer that success. To the degree that Harris’s version of “spirituality without religion” gains traction, post-conventional spirituality becomes a bit more credible, mainstream, and influential. To the degree that others respond to Harris’s implicit invitation, our public conversation will evolve. To whatever degree he’s able to light a fuse that ignites the passionate intelligent awareness of large numbers of people, the odds increase that the human species will mobilize to meet the nearly overwhelming crises we now face.

Harris has already had a lot of impact. I’m inspired that he has stimulated a public conversation not only about transcending unhealthy mythic religious ideas, but also focused on establishing a rational universal basis for morality that brings the power of intelligent discernment in service of care for the suffering of sentient beings. Now he’s signaling that his next direction will be to anchor that discernment in a non-egoic, transpersonal view of reality. That would certainly be a radical upgrade of our public discourse!

The timing is excellent. A new level of conversation seems ready to take off. This is already a time of seismic cultural and intellectual shifts, when popular intellectual discourse is rightly so alarmed it is willing to think outside the box defined by our intellectual habits and categories, and is groping for new terms on which to effectively grapple with the multiple crises we face — from global warming and mass extinctions to national and international culture wars, and the increasingly broken status of American and world political systems and institutions. 

The apparent futility of achieving meaningful change through democratic elections has created an “inversion layer” among a certain strata of the intelligentsia wherein much civic passion is now trapped, festering, unable to express itself effectively. Much of our public discourse is so constrained by its focus on what seems politically and culturally possible that it reflects a “learned helplessness” to energize bold solutions, much like lab rats that no longer bother trying to avoid the next electric shock. This, together with the balkanization of the public sphere, helps explain why so many have tuned out.

Sam Harris has already managed to break through this stuckness by daring to speak the unspeakable. He may be a polarizing figure, but he’s energized our cultural debate. He’s already a frequent guest on national television, and recent events have only raised his profile.

In Waking Up, he’s now indicating that his disposition is more awakened, and that his ultimate intentions are more radical and transpersonal than we had suspected. The time is ripe for an explosion of engagement among the best minds of our time. If Harris is able to help that latent potential cross a tipping point, its power could actually begin to become liberated. That would catalyze a much-needed transformation of public discourse and political engagement.  

For all these reasons, I applaud Waking Up, Sam Harris’ larger body of work, and his cultural project. Spiritual practitioners interested in the evolution of dharma will do well to pay attention, notice the patterns that connect, learn, beneficially evolve, and enter the fray.

 * * *

This blog post is the second of a series. In coming installments, I’ll point out why the other side of this debate is just as important as this one, circle back and look at the sobering realities of our cultural context and our prospects for synthesis, and then I’ll dig deeper into the hidden drama that’s unfolding as all of us (consciously or not) continue to participate in this wrestling match over the terms of the “pre-nuptial agreement” for this epochal marriage of science and spirituality — which may provide the source code for the great event of our time — a transformation of mainstream worldviews.


I would love to hear your thoughts and comments below.




importance Sam Harris

I hope this is building toward a book by you to reach beyond blog, as I think you are vividly on target re urgent need for wedding of “sense and soul,” as Wilber puts it in book by that title, but also very much on target re importance of Sam Harris. Your mention of Sam Harris in first brilliant blog for this venture sent me to him, motivating me to include
his importance in my book The Integral Darwin soon nearing completion. I was frankly thunderstruck by the importance you so beautifully express and, as this is getting too long, will separately send quote from Int Dar now on Harris thanks to your lead.

Thanks David. It's good to

Thanks David. It's good to hear you were so inspired. I am so glad you are writing The Integral Darwin! We’ll see. I’m focused on thinking this through now.  Perhaps soon I will consider this series as the basis for a short book. thanks for suggesting it. Warmly, Terry

I have just completed an

I have just completed an intro course to Balanced View, the founder of which, Candice, Terry I interviewed on his series The Future of Spiritual Practice. It is a good example of a scientific spirituality without any religious overtones. And the tenderness and compassion I witnessed are achieved without long hours of meditation,but by 'short moments repeated many times', within a strong support structure. It may not be for everybody, but it is offering a simple way to come from what I would call God Consciousness, but what they call Open Intelligence.

Candice's Balanced View

Candice's Balanced View teachings do indeed have the benefit of being clear, awake, tender and incredibly beneficial, “spiritual" in the best sense of the word, without religious overtones. Thanks for pointing that out. Warmly, Terry

Sam's Power

Thank you, Terry. You have beautifully laid out the context in which I would like Sam's involvement in the awakening discourse. I have enjoyed listening to him over the last few years, but have been uneasy with the prevalent desire to have him wake up as trans-rational. He is already powerfully beyond the current 'centre of gravity' of awakening and perfectly in service to driving that centre upward. (Though it might still be up to others to proclaim, "We're in it together!" if we are to avoid oblivion.)

shaking it up

thanks for bringing Sam Harris back to my attention Terry- I've always greatly admired his thinking and perspectives and particularly his refusal to suffer fools (as he sees them) lightly and to call things exactly as he sees them, which is often dead on, in my opinion. In any quasi-spiritual communities (not only the two you and I are often to be found in) its always good to shake things up with a good challenge to lazy and/or dogmatic thinking and I love your support of Sam- it'd be great to co-host him sometime for a talk, but failing that, thanks for supporting the movement away from dogmatism and towards clear-eyed and fear-less living with your own writing!

thank you Rob. In a way, I'm

thank you Rob. In a way, I'm keeping MYSELF on my toes with all of this :) And I'd love to have Sam appear on Beyond Awakening and even at a live event in the Bay Area. I have put out feelers, but so far no response (he’s a pretty big star at this point. If you have any ideas about how to get through to him, please let me know! Warmly, Terry

listening for insight

I deeply appreciated your posting. I, like so many other viewers, was watching Bill Maher's show when the fireworks went off between Sam and Ben. As I watched I knew that there was something important going on that had to do with a different kind of listening. That short segment was a wake up call for me and perhaps for many others. The new paradigm that is emerging requires new conversations and new ways of tuning in, of creating a space that is more than just positional, and deeply rooted in wanting to understand something that is beyond egoic arrogance. Your line about the 'inversion layer' hit home.

Indeed, Phil, a "different

Indeed, Phil, a "different kind of listening” is certainly called for. And it's a listening that challenges even as it creates that non-positional space. Warm thanks, Terry  

Sam Harris - wake up

Hey Terry,
Thanks for bringing Sam Harris to my attention. Excellent viewpoint that brings clarity, perspective and to some extent re-contextualizes the debate/discussion for me.

patterns that connect

"Patterns that connect" is a phrase Gregory Bateson often used to get at the essense of his key thesis: connecting science/spirituality. He is seldom mentioned these days, but attempting to do this was his major life's work. Terry, are you intentionally referencing Bateson by using this expression in your blog?

Yes, Sharon, Bateson’s

Yes, Sharon, Bateson’s wonderful phrase “the patterns that connect” was a hugely influential harbinger of integral thinking that has been incredibly useful to me in many contexts ever since. It has now entered the drinking water and shows up without me even thinking specifically about him, but his influence is with us, and we’re all in Gregory Bateson's debt.

Thank You! Again

Terry, thank you for giving us the language to use in this dialogue. Thank you for embodying and modeling a new way to talk and listen to each other and ourselves. Your statement "the odds increase that the human species will mobilize to meet the nearly overwhelming crisis that we face", gives me great HOPE! I also, believe there is a book in you. Thank you for leading us forward!

Thank you Laura! Warmly,

Thank you Laura! Warmly, Terry

Sam Harris

Thanks! A very interesting, thought provoking posting, and well written too.

As I see it, the basic problem of our time is that the world still has many people at the traditional level of consciousness, and as a group they have lots of money and power. That is a very dangerous combination in the modern world where really powerful modern weapons are easily obtainable if you have money and power.

Within the integral community the hope has been that soon there will be enough people at the integral level of consciousness that a tipping point will be reached, and so integral laws will get passed and that will restrain the power of people at the earlier levels of consciousness in a way that most of them will accept.

The model for this program is the way the founding fathers of the USA, who were mostly at the rational level of consciousness, managed to get approval for a Constitution based on their higher level of consciousness, even though the great majority of people in the USA at that time were at the traditional level of consciousness. The key idea behind the success of their program was the separation of church and state.

But I think hope is fading in the integral community that integral laws are going to get passed in the USA in the foreseeable future, let alone anywhere else. The integral community is strongly identified with Ken Wilber, and he seems to be getting more and more ‘out there’ as he gets older. Wilber IV is what I liked the most, and maybe there would have eventually been some sort of broader acceptance of integral ideas if he had continued to write and educate at the Wilber IV level. But his latest work seems to be maybe Wilber VI and I think it is just too ‘fringe’ to get any traction in the broader community. I think his latest work will appeal mostly to some aging hippies (which is my generation) but that is not going to be enough, and in any case my generation is steadily becoming less and less significant as a change agent.

So is there any hope? In the long run, yes I think so. Oil will be become less important over time as solar power and perhaps fusion power take over. It is basically big pools of oil under the control of many societies still at the traditional level of consciousness that’s causing our current crisis.

The question is whether or not the long term is going to be relevant. It won’t be if something sufficiently bad happens in the near term. So I think that tells us what our goal should be. The goal is just to keep a lid on things for the next few decades so that nothing really disastrous happens in the near term.

And will a marriage of science and spirituality, or will Sam Harris contribute to that goal?

Frankly, a marriage of science and spirituality, as such, seems irrelevant to me. The people in traditional societies sitting on big pools of oil are the real problem, and they are typically very suspicious of both science and spirituality.

But perhaps the idea is that a marriage of science and spirituality in the USA would allow it to become more coherent, and therefore better able to act effectively as the world policeman. Or, given the lessons of Vietnam and Afghanistan, maybe the hope is just that a coherent and healthy USA will become some sort of beacon of hope, as it used to be; the Statue of Liberty meant a lot to many people all over the world for a long time.

Certainly the USA seems to be in a gridlock right now. The underlying reason for that I think is the big size of my generation, the Boomer generation. Many Boomers got to the postmodern level of consciousness and were very successful in pushing agendas that make people at the traditional and rational levels really defensive. However my guess is that as the Boomers die off, this problem will solve itself. I suspect that the percentage of people at the postmodern level of consciousness is going to fall over the next few decades relative to the number of people at the rational and integral levels. As that happens I think that at some point the rationals, with the support of people at the integral level, (which to a large extent is sort of rational 2.0), might be able to find a healthy way to balance the demands of the postmodernists and traditionalists.

As for Sam Harris, I think he is definitely a double edged sword. On the upside, he is willing to speak up and denounce bad behavior even if it is not politically correct to do so; some people at the postmodern level of consciousness have effectively become enablers of the bad behavior that Sam Harris is willing to plainly talk about. He is willing to insist on a higher standard of debate. Also, he is a strong, prominent rational and therefore deserves to be considered for some balanced support from integrals because a marriage between the rational and integral levels of consciousness may be where the best hope for the near future lies in my opinion.

But on the downside, there is always a small chance that his blunt talk could conceivably trigger the disaster we want to avoid.

Also, Sam Harris recommends meditation, a Sixties panacea. But we now know that the benefits are quite minor. Look at Tibet. The lamas in charge of Tibet did a lot of meditation for centuries and what happened? Basically, nothing. They didn’t discover science; they didn’t even discover democracy. Meditation effectively locked the Tibetan society into a traditional level of consciousness.

And even if meditation is completely successful and you get enlightened, we now know that is fully compatible with a traditional level of consciousness. For example, the book Zen At War documents the sort of bad behavior that an enlightened traditional level of consciousness is compatible with.

Finally, I think a key idea that Sam Harris pushes, which is that the self is an illusion, is not only wrong, it is pernicious. The way to get from the traditional level consciousness up to the rational level, which is what we want over the long term, is to develop a strong, solid sense of a personal self. I suggest that the work of Marc Gafni, with his concept of a Unique Self, and his critical attacks on the Eastern idea of an illusory self, is much more healthy and I suspect he is more likely to contribute to a way through the current crisis than Sam Harris.

Sam Harris and why materialism matters

All of these subjects and debates are for the privileged. The evolutionary nature of life, tells us that we need to create the capacity for all to be materially secure or we will act rationally from our survival sense. That means short term thinking, violence, religions, etc.
The goal is not to debate each other over what is real while 60% of the world does not get enough nourishment each day.
How do we reconcile speaking of the unity of all things yet do not recognize the obviousness of the human collective body going no where while 60% of it is malnourished ? Self, no self can be debated when we all all materially secure.
How we learn to focus on paths to expanded collective wealth is the simple work of being awake to our surroundings. It is not hard to see us all investing the same resources we give to others for profit, in each other. Why no build financial bodies that lend money to expand home solar expansion and investment in global buying clubs that own the manufacturing of clean energy sources ? Why not expanding self interest in global peer to peer lending, etc.
Let's put our minds to making changes that do not involve governments, politics, debates over whose mind grasps the largest reality, and we may find that the only thing missing from us is a secure future. We may someday realize that what we are comes naturally and doesn't require all this abstract debate or sacrifice of desires to a greater end. Remember, we have never had collective security and religions, philosophies have be created to explain the fear and pain we have all known, so materialism is the 1st steps in truely learning what we are.

At the inaugural Integral

At the inaugural Integral Spiritual Experience event in 2009, I enjoyed one of the most gratifying events of my life. Along the central sidewalk there at Asilomar, an occasion of fandemonium, all of 4 or 5 minutes on the clock, I got meet you for the first time, Terry, and to share my deepest heart thanks for the role you've played in my life, that of Guide and Mentor, particularly through the Dawn Horse years and your work as writer and editor there.

Here again, reading this installment of The Marriage of Science and Spirit, I feel so deeply benefited and grateful. I have read a fair amount of Sam Harris' work. I've been beating my own small drum (posts to Integral Central; posts to Sam Harris) encouraging a Sam Harris :: Ken Wilber dialogue. And as if collecting true-but-partial reports from the blind men examining an elephant in the Nazruddin tale, I've read or viewed dozens of commentaries about Sam Harris and his work, especially in the wake of the Real Time, Affleck/Harris dust up.  All in all, no one, IMHO, has brought more clarity to the issue of "Why Sam Harris Matters," no one has scoped out this elephant better than you have here. 

Next stop, a Beyond Awakening episode with Mr. Harris -- we can hope. But how to suss it all out in one sit-down? Maybe two episodes!

As ever, my deepest heart thanks!

PS Let's hope this "most significant intellectual and cultural event of our time" is matched with a vitally important transformation in humankind's relationship with our natural environment. Absent this shift, philosophy (and all else) may no longer matter.

Waking Up - Sam Harris

This is the best review of Harris' book I've seen. Forget the idea of a Sam Harris :: Ken Wilber dialogue. I want to hear a Sam Harris :: Terry Patton dialogue. In a perfect world you two would also discuss Harris' fascinating essay on Free Will.


Having been born in a country where atheism had a respected voice, I have always respected Sam Harris as well. I like the way you are parsing out the possibilities that his latest book represents. By taking a metaview you show the outlines of the dialogue that is possible. Rather than defending our own view, we can tune in to what we have in common. I do not need to tell my atheistic brothers (literal brothers that is)that God is everywhere and in everything. They would not listen to that anyway. But we now have a new field of endeavor that we can share, the practice of mindfulness that is scientific and not just spiritual.


Hi Terry,

I love this blog series and feel that the marriage of sense and soul is really critical. As I have not read Sam Harris’ book I am not sure of the specifics of how he perceives the self.

In Madhyamaka (The Middle Way School) within Mahayana, through the doctrine of Emptiness and the understanding of dependent arising, it is held that the self does exist Conventionally but not on the Absolute level. This is why the Dalai Lama says “the self is like an illusion vs. the self is an illusion to avoid what would be considered an extreme, I.e falling into a nihilism. I too would be concerned with any philosophy that does not make that subtle distinction.

I am going to read his book though as I would love to see how he handles it. Looking forward to part 3.

Sam Harris and Materialism

This raises a few thoughts and reactions in this particular bit of illusory self-sense! Harris is very confident of the materialism part of the 'new atheist' milieu he shares with Dawkins, Dennett, Pinker and co. On the other hand he is also confident of the illusory nature of the self sense that they tend to assume (the so-called 'skin encapsulated ego', I guess). I know for sure, from many years of study in the philosophy of mind, that the first part is as dodgy as the second, and no amount of neuroscience is going to get round it! Indeed, neuroscience is not in any case really moving in the direction it should if any version of materialism was correct - rather materialistically inclined neuroscientists tend to start from the assumption that some version must be and arrange the evidence as best they can to fit it - NOT what you might call a truly scientific and empirical approach! (This is documented at length in 'Irreducible Mind' by Kelly & Kelly et al.) Harris' confidence that consciousness is not involved at the 'ground floor' of material reality REQUIRES that materialism/physicalism can be made out, and sits a bit oddly with his extensive experience with meditation - WHAT ELSE could be going on than some kind of universal consciousness when individual reality is seen through? I think Harris is preparing a huge 'metaphysical' rod for his own back here.

Be that as it may, vicious refusal to hear anything from the religious traditions, even from the liberal end, is going to fuel a huge backlash (indeed it already is), and smacks of intellectual arrogance. Should we be happy to grab the rather limited 'opening' he offers and hope that such empirical evidence as he is prepared to accept from us might shift attitudes in the 'mainstream'? How about the masses of evidence for psychic phenomena to be had from the likes of Dean Radin? The new atheists 'just know' that this is all tosh, when it absolutely isn't. I could go on, but I guess I have more self-respect than to bow to entering a debate which purports to be rational and scientific, but is actually loaded with unexamined metaphysical prejudice, which must not be questioned! How badly do integralists need to be 'addressed' by these guys? Personally, I want to address THEM, and call them on their own bullshit! (Hmm, anger coming up there...)

Sam Harris and Materialism


It's not anger, it's passion, as is my desire to return their one finger salute.

Great Comment.



Keith - excellent points. materialism is as much a religion as Islam, only Islam (like Hinduism or any other religion) at least holds out the hope for some kind of empirical verification. Materialism, on the other hand, asks us to believe in an abstract, shadow universe (see Bernardo Kastrup's 'Why Materialism is Baloney", or join the forum at for which, by definition, we can NEVER have any empirical evidence!

Another perspective -- for a more integral picture


I have hesitated for several days to comment on your latest blog series, trying to figure out a way I could do that in a reasonable amount of space. Finally I said “screw it! I’m going to try something a bit more creative.” So I am sending you the beginning and ending of my comment, with a link to the middle (majority) of it.

Let me start by giving you some data that should help to clarify my position and perspective: I have listened to every interview on the Beyond Awakening Series, except for maybe two or three. About three years ago I began touting the BA Series at every opportunity I could find, as “an indispensable resource for anyone interested in Consciousness or Spiritual Growth.” I tend to see myself in the “trans-rational camp” as you do, and I have been in that camp for more than forty years, and for all that time considered myself as “spiritual but not religious.” I see your collection of interviews in the BA Series as “the voice of sanity in an insane world,” and I appreciate your contribution beyond what my words can express. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I have also followed Wilber for a decade or two and appreciate his contribution to my growth.

I began following Sam Harris a few years ago, and have read several of his books, including his latest, “Waking Up.” I have also read most of his blog posts in the last few years and have watched many hours of videos of his discussions, debates and interviews. Several months ago, after listening to an audio on his blog of the first chapter of his new book, I decided to write a comment on the blog. As I wrote, the comment began to grow and continued to grow into a document about the size of two chapters of a book. It probably could have continued growing into a book, but I decided to cut it off at a month before the release of his book, and make it available to some people I thought might be interested. I named the document, “Letter to a Materialist Nation (C/O SAM HARRIS),” borrowing from the title of one of his books, “Letter to a Christian Nation.” Although I claimed my piece was a pre-release review of his forthcoming book, it was really a review of the author.

Follow this link for this complete message:

Terry, one thing you and I agree on is that Sam Harris will become (or already is) a significant player in the proposed marriage of science and spirit, which whether consummated, or not, will have enormous implications for the future course of human culture. I think the relationships between science, spirit and Harris warrant whatever amount of time you want to spend there. Over the last six months I have spent more time than I want to admit, reading, writing, and contemplating those relationships and the possibilities that might arise from them in the future. I have read his book and most of the nearly five hundred reviews currently on Amazon (not bad for a book less than three months old). I will be happy to share with you any or all of my analysis and conclusions that have resulted from my study.

Keep up your amazing work, and again, THANK YOU.

I welcome all comments.


Meditation is a very good

Meditation is a very good exercise which not only give relief to your body and mind but also to the soul. Science and spirituality goes parallel but in some way spirituality is far than science because science is trying to prove these things which that hidden power is doing. So, this is good that Marriage of Science and spirituality is needed to guide the world in better way.


Let me get this straight.

Sam Harris has discovered that his conception of religion is naïve, and that at the root of religion is actually some good sense and truth. Consequently, he rejects religion as a whole, on the basis that everyone else also has a naïve conception of it, while endorsing its underlying motivation and origin.

In this way we arrive at a Buddhism that is now not to be called a religion, since it is assumed that a religious person must hold speculative but dogmatic beliefs and have an inability to do metaphysics properly.

So, we must dismiss 'religious metaphysics' (whatever that is) even though this metaphysics endorses Harris' position. (Cf. Bradley, Nagarjuna. Kant, Hegel et al).

Meanwhile those of us who do not hold such a naïve view of religion, and who would see Buddhism (and its equivalents) as a metaphysically sound religion can only wonder what the hell is the point of confusing the issues in this way.

Right for the wrong reasons, wrong for the right.

I think Bruce's post above gives Terry a little preview of the minefield he's about to enter walking along with Sam Harris. Personally I find the scientific (pseudo or otherwise) critiques of Dean Radian and Rupert Sheldrake to be very convincing. As much as I wish to believe my dog has esp, I suspect the obnoxious and condescending materialist scientists are right on this issue and Sheldrake is wrong. Likewise Eckart Tolie is a delightful human being worthy of study and emulation, but Sam Harris's rational explanations of the neuroscience at work trump the delicious woo. I hope Terry Patton will continue on this path because I can think of no one better to do the job, but I fear it will be a costly trip. It's hard to make a living as a guru without a little faire dust and magic. The integral community in my opinion is awash with intellectuals who reject religious dogma for all the reasons Sam Harris has so eloquently explained, but they cling to belief in magic for all the reasons Daniel Dennett counted to explain the evolutionary reasons why religion has survived and thrived in our modern world. Convincing integralists to reconsider their Johnathan Livingston Seagull video game religious view of the world is going to be like convincing members of the Tea Party that Fox News might not be fair and balanced. The fact that the basic Buddhist principals are true doesn't mean that the intellectual skyscrapers we integraists have constructed on that foundation within our minds are any more real than believing Joanah was eaten by a whale.


I assume that your reading of the critiques of Dean Radin's work (leave aside Sheldrake for now) is based on a careful analysis of the statistical techniques?

Are you aware that virtually every critic who has valid qualifications in analyzing the methodology used for parapsychological experiments has acknowledged what they call "anomalous cognition" (because they refuse to accept evidence for psi that would be good enough evidence for virtually any other scientific finding - and in fact, better in most cases, as the replication rate for psi research - for example, the ganzfeld - is BETTER than that in most disciplines, even physics.

Are you aware that if physics research was held to the same standard of replication as psi, a minimum of 50% of physics experiments would be thrown out. And if you raised the bar even slightly higher, there wouldn't be a single physics experiment that could pass muster. For example, many psi critics - who claim to be rational minded people - say that if there's even a POSSIBILITY of fraud in a psi experiment, it is invalid. Since nobody makes much of a deal about fraud in physics, you can bet that almost everything published this year in mainstream physics journals would be thrown out based on that standard.

Do you know that it was psi researchers who first began using what is now considered the "gold standard" of scientific methodology - the so called (misnamed) controlled experiment? (it's impossible to control for variables in anything involving humans in the same way as with dead things like rocks and dirt - which means if you hold medical and psychological research to the same standards as psi, there wouldn't' be a single medical procedure in the world we could call "Scientific."

No, the rejection of psi has absolutely nothing to do with science or rationality, but rather, a faith based religion - the very essence of irrationality, compared to which Islam is the paragon of level headed reasonableness - known variously as materialism, physicalism (or most impossibly) naturalism - though if there was anything ever qualified to be called unnatural , it is the unnecessary positing of a purely abstract non empirical inconceivable shadow universe, done primarily for the sake of avoiding the possibility of intelligence greater than humans - as biologist Richard Lewontin actually admitted some years ago - we cling, he said (I'm paraphrasing) to materialism not because ti is true, in fact, we cling to it even when it is obviously absurd and irrational, because we simply refuse to accept any alternative.

There, that's your rationalist. Look up the DSM and read carefully the symptoms for Delusional Disorder, then read Francis Crick, Sam harris on materialism and atheism, or any other of your vaunted rationalists (Batchelor is one of my favorite examples) and see how many of the symptoms they qualify for.

Re 'woo (woo)', fairy dust, etc

Paul, I would echo Don's comments above, but also want to take you up on your disrespectful, demeaning language. It does you no favours to use such terms as 'woo woo', fairy dust', etc when talking of positions which challenge the materialist orthodoxy. All it mostly does is prove that you are not serious about examining your own unconscious assumptions about what is, or could possibly be, really real and when push comes to shove, would rather hurl abuse than go there. There is, in fact, a genuine issue in the integral space about how far theory can outpace actual lived experience, but I fear that you are in no position to contribute to such a debate right now. I would plead with you to think it possible that there could be a spirituality not founded on magical cognition but rather clear direct experience of what is. In fact, if I read him right, Sam Harris would agree with me on at least that!

Science & perception

Science is useful, but limits 'proof' to that which can be sensed, or whose effects can be weighed and measured. We have electric power and telecommunications, yet we still have no real idea what electricity is and we may never perceive eg radio waves directly. We dream and imagine things which do not exist, which break all known 'laws'. We perceive and remember, and yet no-one has any clue whether the brain creates mental events or eg transduces them, let alone where/how memories and knowledge are stored. I have yet to hear a 'scientist' satisfactorily define what emotion is or suggest how it may be quantified. Science operates in 4 dimensions and yet it postulates/implies many more. So how can it confine our existence to that which is 'proveable' ?

A belief system

I have to take Sam Harris' side in this debate. I had a profound metanoia and "classic" awakening 37 years ago. At 87, I still enjoy peace, contentment, love, happiness, when I choose mindfulness. No fear, no anxiety about mortality. I have done much cerebral analyzing of my experience, and I know "my" presence, awareness; but I cannot say with direct knowledge that this awareness is universal. I have had experiences of a "higher intelligence" interfacing with my usual consciousness, but do not know what it is. I have no experiential knowledge of afterlife, and couldn't care less about mine.

I think that the teachers in the "spiritual evolution" like, Chopra, Tolle, Spira, etc. are adding a belief system to the good teaching that has to be taken on faith, like all other belief systems. It is certainly a kinder, more gentle belief system than the religions sell, and the world will be much more peaceful as more people choose this belief. But as one who believes in the scientific method, I think it best for me to separate personal knowing from theory. Love to all!

Pre-nup implies divorce. What if that were never possible?

My concern about these debates is that they continue to separate science and spirit. Spiritual connection, psychic experience and the like are not incompatible with true science, only with blinkered science and with a flawed methodology. There is abundant evidence that justifies a scientific perspective which would embrace the spiritual.

It is not enough to have all the evidence of how effective and real are the results of mindfulness and meditation. That keeps the conversation in the upper-left quadrant of improvements in the functioning of consciousness. Of course those are great, but they are about spiritual experience. It's purely an internal matter. The traditional spiritual territory is about a relationship between my inner and your inner (e.g. interpersoanl psychism) or my inner and the material universe (e.g. prayer, psychokinesis, precognition, remote viewing, distant healing and above all about the capacity of an active and conscious universe to play an active part (e.g. respond to prayer or creative visualisation in a tangible way.)

There is only one universe and it contains all of these things. We are not yet connecting the dots. My own book "The Science of Possibility" does this, and echoes the Gregory Bateson viewpoint in its strapline "Patterns of Connected Consciousness. The patterns are present in 4Q all the way from particles to people and they can ONLY work as they do because the physical universe is more than a quantum energy soup. It is organised by information and there are mechanisms for the information to be porous and interactive between you and the rest of creation. This is scientific fact and explains the material world because it tells us why matter is the way it is. And Matter is the way it is because the information (consciousness) patterns it to be the way it is. Once we recognise and engage with that reality, the potential for humans to make change, transforms beyond all recognition.

There is no need for a pre-nup. What is needed is to recognise that material and spiritual worlds have always been one. Only human minds in illusion could ever have separated them.

Four out of five doctors recommend aspirin....

Yeah, I get all that, but tend to be skeptical of all of it on both sides, not just the rationalist. I know science is frequently hijacked by corporations but I don't lump that in with what I consider science. And I don;'t think even most physicists take things like string theory and the big bang as gospel. Aspirin is the closest thing we have to a miricle drug, but I suspect most headaches are caused and cured by hydration or stress making the glass of water and the moment of rest taken to drink it the primary agent of cure. My point here is that arguing that the work of Sheldrake and Radin is on par with what most people consider to be solid science doesn't elevate it to a level beyond skepticism. While many of the effects Radin and Sheldrake claim to demonstrate appear to be statistically significant, they tend to be insignificant for the claims they are trying to support. A mind reader who is correct 51% of the time after 5000 coin flip guesses has powers so insignificant that they do more to discredit their abilities than support them. In each of these cases the argument that bias influenced the test just makes more sense precisely because this is the case even in the most carefully constructed lab environments. Simple non-physics defying explanations deserve preference in virtually every situation because history has shown that they have always proven correct.

Paul, when you deny perfectly

Paul, when you deny perfectly good scientific results with some kind of avoidance technique, all you're doing is demonstrating that you subscribe to religion rather than science.

Given that all we know is filtered through the psyche, the burden of proof is on the materialist to show that something for which we can never have any evidence is the basis of all things. Given that we have absolutely no evidence for boundaries of the mind, it makes perfect sense that 60% of physicists (experts, published in peer reviewed journals) say that current quantum physics REQUIRES psi to make sense of the world.

Please follow that one thing about Sam Harris that makes him worthwhile - give up religion and adhere to scientific standards. Give up the religion of materialism and the world will once again make sense.

Stroke of Insight

One of my favorite TED talks is Jill Bolte's My Stroke of insight. Everyone seems to love it. But when I ask my atheist and new age hippie friends why they love it the hippies say, "Because it shows that spirituality is is real" while the atheists say , "Because it shows that spirituality is just brain damage". LOL


Hi Terry,

This beautifully written in depth review into both sides and your taking a wonderful perspective into the side that Sam Harris presents in his Big Jump into Waking Up is critical now for all of us. He dares to edge out there and We must too, it feels, to start this Big conversation. Looking from an Integral, Unity level all gets included. Looking from a rational level, moving into a more post modern level, Waking up is moving the stuck conveyor belt, slowly perhaps, but finally a bit of movement and waking up......and who better to start this powerful movement than Sam Harris. Listening to this conversation between Sam, Bill and Ben gave me goose soul felt joy knowing something very Big here is happening. And, my heart and soul holds intention Terry you will have this Big conversation over and over with Bill Harris. And, for those of us on the other side, the trans-rationalist, our hearts know this is not only a developmental process but also a mystical awakening where a direct experience is felt in such a way it goes beyond anything rational........yet, we also know its not really necessary for the mass consciousness to attain this level in order to help our beautiful planet to survive and thrive.....but it is necessary to have movement beyond traditional and wake up into levels and values for rational and post rational to begin making the critical changes for seeing war, climate, political polarizationt that all lead to using our powerful developed technological break throughs in destructive ways versus the needed now creative innovations, especially with our younger generations here to take this technological breakthroughs to breaking free our gravitational field and its limitations. Thank you always for your beautiful Soul awareness.

Levels and layers and more to come

Dear Robert, Paul, Maria, Siobhan, Keith, Bruce, Don, Henry, Pete, Andy, John and Jon,

Normally, I try to reply to a decent percentage of the comments on my blog posts. But I'm off teaching in Guatemala and Mexico, and a LOT of meaty, thoughtful, passionate, and truly interesting comments are arriving while I'm otherwise occupied.

This is just to let you know that I'm reading each comment, more or less as they are arriving, and appreciating the way this conversation is deepening and gathering context and nuance. And your comments are enriching my thinking in some important ways. There are several layers to this conversation, and multiple dimensions too.

I had intentionally gone deep into one particular angle on the truth of our emerging scientific spirituality (all truths being also partial) in this "Part 2" blog post on Sam Harris. I stand by what I said in that blog post, but admittedly, it set forth only certain elements of my overall perspective.

My whole take on this will probably continue to evolve for the rest of my life. Nevertheless, I intend to set forth as much of it as I can, a provisionally "complete" expression of something important and paradoxical, by the time this series of blog posts is done, and I can see that there will be at least two more, if not three.

In the meantime, I see that my serious work on Part 3 won't be able to begin until next week, so it might not appear until the week of the 8th or even later. I think it will profoundly expand the context in which you'll want to interpret Parts 1 and 2. So I'm tuned in, appreciating your contributions to this conversation, still as passionate as ever about this, and about to say a lot more....

Thanks for engaging,

Some things Terry AND Sam are BOTH missing

1) The largest issue in all spiritual paths--including Sam's--is about mastering human EMOTIONS. But everybody is still making the huge mistake of lumping all "thoughts" together, both emotional and intellectual. I posit to both "camps" that the sooner humans perceive and comprehend that emotions are actually a DIFFERENT BANDWIDTH OF CONSCIOUSNESS--of "knowing," and then proceed to take psychology (especially trauma psychology and somatic psychology) more seriously, we will still be painted into our "mind vs. body" corner and still be an adolescent, suicidal species. Yes, meditation works well with trauma memory, but only in that it actually INTENSIFIES the body- and emotion-energy blocks to full relaxation and "no-thought". What I posit we actually need is to learn how to ENJOY emotion...WITHOUT needing to automatically act it out. And the best way to do this--we have several tools already, but one astonishingly simple one--is to PRACTICE having emotions--directly, without the omnipresent compulsive (and very adolescent) need to see them projected in films, books, and especially onto other people. Sam's tragic mistake is to believe that the only kind of "knowing" is intellectual--linear, logical, "scientific." Please read Iain McGilchrist about how immature, arrogant and self-destructive THAT is (The Master and His Emissary). The intellect is supposed to be the human faculty that comprehends the other parts of us--physical, sexual, and emotional--and THEN comes to a decision about what to believe and how to act. But if it willfully remains ignorant of, and projects its own modus operandi onto, the other kinds of "knowing" (i.e., consciousness) we are imbued with, it will always, always be trapped in the dilemmas we currently face as a species, since most of them are rooted in EMOTIONAL self-ignorance and hypocrisy (mostly still men) and SEXUAL self-ignorance and hypocrisy (mostly still women). Sam would do himself a favor if he stepped out of his neurological model and studied some somatic and trauma psychology. This entire species is currently displaying all the symptoms of collective trauma recall.
2) Which brings me to Sam's very sad out-of-hand rejection of Jung's work. He needs to read Gregory Bateson (a very logically-minded scientist and one of the greatest minds of the last century) and re-examine his own definition of what Mind is. Bateson shows very clearly that a species IS a mind, as is a planet, as is a solar system, a galaxy, etc. If Sam threw his preconceived ideas to the side for awhile he would realize that there are many LEVELS of Mind, and that the ancient ideas about Minds nesting inside each other--and this relates directly to the newest Complexity Theory work--have tremendous validity. We CAN talk about collective Mind with scientific modernity, even if we can't quantify or measure it (yet). He would also begin to comprehend that the debate on whether there is an "I" is silly, because it all depends on what part of "us" is perceiving! And he would also come to see that another difficult person he ridiculed out of hand, Gurdjieff, might actually be right about us having simultaneously multiple operating "I"'s--the most problematic one being the Emotional one. Many readers of this comment will also sneer and sniff at Gurdjieff (he had some definite flaws and he was probably also a con man) but SCIENTIFIC reasoning could tell you, if you let it percolate, that we wouldn't have all these levels of being/experience/ consciousness/"I" unless they occurred in Nature in the FIRST place. Everything is energy, yes? Then even if you can't measure it, even if it doesn't obey "linear" logical laws, emotional energy could still have its own operating laws. Which is what somatic and trauma psychology work has been telling us for some decades now, and which INDIGENOUS spiritual work has been preserving for us as well.
3) Which leads me to the next item: Reverence. All humans (and probably most mammals) experience this emotion, and apparently NEED to. I personally would like to get rid of institutionalized religion, but Sam doesn't realize he is making a big mistake--one that has been made repeatedly since at least the beginning of the Industrial Revolution (Descartes, Leibniz)-- he is making Science into its own religion, complete with rituals, formulas, dogmas and priests.

Thanks for your consideration.

Bekah, yes yes

Bekah, I think you are making an important point. The inner human is multidimensional. I feel we have an emotional dimension, an intellectual dimension, and also conscious, sensual, and willful dimensions. Each needs to be understood in its own way. Each has a path.

I agree with what you said (that I understood) except the comment on churches. The willful individual needs authority and a code of honor to control their power. I think we need to fix churches, not eliminate them.

That my opinion for what its worth.

What Might Happen Outside of Intellect?

What happens when a Sam Harris-like meditator rewires her brain so she steps out of her intellect and witnesses Naked Love standing there? What if she realizes Naked Love is the template for human Collective Self? Wouldn't that smack of "an order of existence" aka religion? She might not become a fan of church, mosque, synagogue, or temple, but would she continue to view her "meditative consciousness" solely as a "neurological state"? Wouldn't "observable reality" and "empirical evidence" seem predictably linear when she had just experienced the vertical intersection?

I am a physicist

I have to vote with Keith Price when it comes the scientific approach used by some vocal materialist. The scientist is supposed to observe reality, all of it, in an unbiased way then report and try to explain the observations. Rather than doing this, Harris seems to be telling reality what to do. This is bad science from a closed mind.

A collaboration with Harris might have some short term use, but I hope that the intellectual community will discover their own spiritual path and he will be remembered as a passing fad.

I would like to reply to some of the comments I have read here by pointing out two facts from the physics world. First, a new important finding must have a 5 sigma, 99%, certainty before it is accepted. I have seen several 95% certain phenomena disappear with better statistics. This standard is much higher that in medicine for example, but then the systems are simpler in physics.

Second, the physics world has an interesting point to make as to whether the individual is an illusion or not. There is a proven duality called the wave-particle duality which says that all things have a dual nature. This was debated by the best minds for a long time because it means that reality defies simple logic.

Getting to the point, this would imply that the a person is not either an individual or the whole, both that the person is both the individual and the whole. In Hindu terminology one is both the little self and the greater Self. Which defies simple logic.

Back to Harris, there seems to be some common ground between scientific atheism and what I call practical or applied Buddhism and this may provide a comfortable inner environment for many. Who am I to judge, but for me life without religious experience and metaphysics is like sex with a condom.

I am a physicists 2


I would like to start over. I have a bad habit of starting in the middle, and would like to apologize for that. So, here goes.


I am a scientist who tries to maintain an open mind. As best I can, I have been observing the domain of consciousness in an objective and unbiased way. And my reply is wow.

Buddhism and Adviata Hinduism are tremendous accomplishment which are essential for creating and maintaining a compassionate human society. You and your colleagues are the experts in this field. You are the awakened ones who have the wisdom and practice of this path.

I would like to honor all of the hard work that has been going on for centuries that brought this path to its present condition.

In my opinion the spiritual paths for the intellect and the will are in ruin at this time. If only they were as well defined as the path of consciousness, the world would be in much better shape.

NON SENSE .... The separate self DOES EXIST ... it is critical

I am ME … The human separate self DOES exist … furthermore it is CRITICAL …

Scientists and Spiritualists of the post-post-modern and trans-rational (et al) current era … that seek to find marriage between the two of them … DELUDE them ‘selves’ … they FOOL them ‘selves’ if they attach to the denial of existence of the human separate self which largely consists of the Ego structure which is a NECESSARY working machine mechanism within every human being …

IT (our Ego) is a working machine entity that should allow Soul the purpose to exact itself … and which is therefore a necessary and critical component which cannot be deleted or side-lined … and should not be fraudulently ‘spiked’ around … otherwise the human as individual and collective will STALL as is the case on this planet … for 7.23 billion people are in a STALLED (noun or verb) position … and as OFFSET - 7.23 billion people are evolutionarily under-developed (immature) … and as further OFFSET – 7.23 billion people are FORCED to run pretences at Integral Level 6 – at an Inter-Individual stance – at an ‘each to their own’ status … to simply survive until solution arrives …

… 7.23 billion people on this planet FLY both under and over the limited slim horizontal bandwidth called The System – which consists across the board-game of life as old outdated and LESSER perceived norms … which consists of carry forward governance rules and regulations which are the false flags and standards of nowadays lesser Consciousness – 7.23 billion people attempt to survive via escape of what is the current false and fraudulent and greed riddled System Radar Screen of governance …

… and at time of death of body housing … at failure to achieve metaphysical growth and purpose in this lifetime … each and every single Soul will simply recycle ITSELF back into the system … carrying forward whatever wisdom and virtue it has accumulated or lost accumulation of thus far … it will recycle (reincarnate) for further evolutionary growth and development and opportunity … it will recycle to a new start location dependent on if its metaphysical heart is “as light as a feather” (or not) … using the weighting measurement concept of the Ancient Egyptian ‘bit part’ Soul …

… and this weighing or measuring of a human being as per current and varying Religious and Scientific ‘out-fitting’ traditions and disciplines …. relates to how CLEAN or clear is the individual human metaphysical ‘heart’ and attendant Soul … and so who amongst us has a truly clean heart and a truly clean Soul … who amongst us has CLEANED (not deleted) memory held by and/or drawn from by our separate self ‘Ego’ entity or identity …. who amongst us is CLEAR of heavy vibration and negative colour intensities? … and therefore CLEAR and flying free and independent of the separate self’s resultant Ego attachment to outcomes? …

… the separate self has a direct linkage to both +/- information stored on-board its housing or vessel of existence … and to that which is stored in the space-time often called the Akasha … and ALL the information is a vast resource called MEMORY which has degrees of colour or intensity that affects action and operational choices … and this our information or memory is pulled from various descriptive sectors - such as the unconscious realm to the conscious realm … and action or non-action is a resultant factor …

The separate self when highly aware becomes operant … tapping into both the smallest quantum and the largest cosmological constants that the separate self thus far knows … tapping into the space-time Consciousness coordinates or limit of expanse that it thus far knows … working with the particles and waves of the aether energy that is thus far knows … working within the event horizon (or vacuum or space-time boundary limits) that it thus far knows … working within the worldview capacity and resultant thus far collected perspectives that it thus far knows … working with the wisdom and virtue it has thus far collected … it is heavily dependent on its calibrations … on the platform it stands … its cosmic address … or its Level of Conscious Awareness thus far attained …

… the separate self has constant feed-forward and feed-back loops … through atoms and ions and cells and neurons et al … linkage points from and to banks of memory stored at a DNA level by genetics … from both this life and past lives experience … and this on-board data as in-form-at-ion is known as MEMORY … whether conscious, or unconscious all information is recorded as memory … and seeking to DELETE or sideline the negative data is erroneous ... for it needs to be reintegrated and values added as offset, lessons learnt and wisdom and virtue obtained from – and growth and maturity step ups …

… the separate self is aligned to or is our Unique SOUL Self … which collectively is aligned to a Nations SOUL Self (as Vladimir Putin the Leader of Russia states) … and the span goes onwards and upwards … all of which need to adopt and publish flagged ‘standards’ and goals … published as VMA statements … Vison Mission and Aims … the VMA intent and resultant action now being MEASURABLE by the fact that VMA has been laid on the table ... for all to see for themselves … and measure and stake themselves against accordingly … which allows discernment – judgement – decisions – goals and intention - action or non-action – laying VMA on the table allows human energy and intelligence to be productioned … allows forward movement … allows evolutionary growth … and failure to do so is IMO a Crime Against Humanity … a denial to humanity of its Basic Human Right to travel forward unencumbered …

VMA intent MUST be placed on the table at every point that takes leadership and/or proxy agency power over another human and or environment … and thus INTENT will be evidentially clear and thus INTENT will become measurable which humanity at large and especially the entity called LAW (and all other PROXY agents) … all or most of those whom govern over the top of humans and environment … all or most proxy agents FAIL to do … ‘The They’ currently FAIL to measure intent … ‘The They’ do not publish VMA and therefore are unmeasurable and are therefore not able to be held accountable … they run amok … they cause detriment to the individual and whole … they escape justice … and the whole cosmos suffers as offset …

WHEN humanity realizes the TRUE VALUE and validity of the separate self:-
1. as a working machine with a Soul driven VMA design and purpose …
2. as a necessary and CRITICAL part of the human being
3. as a part of an individual entity as well as a part of the WHOLE quantum-cosmological entity

WHEN humanity reaches atonement – at-one-ment - a oneness with all that ever was is and will be … and aligned to the Higher Consciousness Law of ‘Honour and Include’ which is self-evident and therefore non-debatable …

WHEN humanity re-cognitions itself to the factors that its on-board stored negativity will cause entropy (lag and drag) that is signified and signalled by colourings or intensities associated to negative behavioural outputs …

WHEN humanity re-cognitions itself to the factors that on-board negativity is coming directly from ‘coloured and intense’ on-board information sources called ‘banks’ of MEMORY … the dye or colour/behaviour of which can be reversed or superseded or over-written with the con-joining or marriage/merger with the higher-self VMA and other higher like-VMA and indeed also with the PURE Source evolutionary (impulse) SPIRIT ‘FORCE’ that is always apparent and pulls us into its straights ... but only via free will …
WHEN humanity at large adjusts The (current) System (culture and governance et al) to be in alignment with the biggest whole picture of all … when the mergers or marriages or uniting of deconstructed and separate parts called Science and Spirituality (et al) begin to happen at a higher apex point …

WHEN humanity wakes up to the processes of obtaining readily available higher TRUTH and higher meanings …

THEN an under developed and a wrongly developed humanity will GROW – will developmentally mature … and as offset humanity will FIX the under-development of ‘self’ and ‘country’ – will FIX The Human Condition and FIX the lands and environments that support and sustain us and future generations … and humanity will be mindful and careful of and with all other life presences … and the LEADERSHIP of humanity will become HIGHLY Conscious and aware …

WHEN humanity works congruently on all three evolutionary advancement levels … being STS and STO and STE – Service to Self, Service to Other and Service to Evolution …THEN the whole COSMOS will Latin ‘evolutio’ = ROLL FORWARD … we will all roll forward into our collective family future …

The separate self is a necessary and critical component of being human – which is in desperate need of knowledge about itself and its environment … it needs proper guidance … and negating ITS existence in any way, form or fashion is extremely ERRONEOUS … and causes detriment and under-development across the board - and indeed causes a backwards roll …. for negation of its both +/- information causes a carry forward devolution of individual and collective … as is the historical case for many thus far!

WHEN the separate self … the Ego … is not negated but re-cognized and actualized … then the individual and collective Unique SOUL self … will FLY free with the growing world-wide and cosmic Consciousness Revolution … with this new era of enlightenment … a tipping point approaches … and that spells DISASTER for current old and outdated Religious ‘out-fitters’ and Scientific disciplines (including LAW and HEALTH and EDUCATION) … that ALL raise false flags as now lower standards … apply false and fraudulent governance and proxy agent ‘Standards’ … apply power over the top of past unaware humanity … for WHEN the mainstream become more conscious than its current leadership structures … then leadership has two options – it can CHANGE or it can COLLAPSE.

Humanity – the mainstream is on its way – we grow and roll forward into our evolutionary future … and time can either be seen as our enemy or our friend … the clocks tick tick tick …

Love all ways - Sandy


Dear Terry,

I really enjoyed your interview with Candice and as someone else has pointed out carefully strips away conflicting ideologies. I have become a dedicated practioner of "short moments" and the direct experience is truly trans formative.
To your blog on Harris: it really resonated with me. We do need to move beyond that which would seemingly split us off from our shared identity on Open Intelligence.

You have always expressed a concern we could destroy ourselves. But I agree with another interviewee you had Irvin who suggested it may get worse as those with power are unlikely to want to yield to a more balanced view! And that the grassroots will gain strength and the old paradigm will collapse from the center.

Seán Ó Nualláin

Seán Ó Nualláin is the author of "One Magisterium: How Nature Knows through Us" which was acclaimed by the well known theoretical biologist and complex systems researcher Stuart Kaufmann. He wrote to Terry offering a critique on Sam Harris’ interpretation of neuroscientific imaging data, saying that FMRI results don’t mean what Harris thinks for many reasons, including some he says he makes clear here: and here:

Seán also offered several links to his free and paid online courses:

1.Neuroscience and Experience Sampler/syllabus at and

Course at-

2. Biosemiotics Sampler/syllabus at

- Course at

3 Science and Society Sampler/syllabus at - Course at

Passwords for the major courses require a $75 donation at

Science and Society is a prerequisite and is a free course;

Sci/Soc EOLaioicht is the password

An introductory lecture:
Open science, academic freedom and paradigm change

Sunday, 30 Nov 2014 3:00 PM Omni Commons 4799 Shattuck Berkeley

Even in the depths of the recent recession, smaller and economically challenged countries kept scientific research programs that attempt to replicate the NSF and NIH running. The current bloat in scientific journals allowed the system to be gamed to make this appear a reasonable step. The first part of this talk focuses on three burgeoning areas of research; cancer, computational semantics and immunology to show how this game is implemented. The conclusion is that, with the possible exception of the USA, these national programs are a waste of taxpayers' money.

The second part of the talk attempts to find gaps in knowledge that small, economically distressed countries could exploit, It is argued that limits to “big data” and other brute force statistics approaches have been found. What is needed, at a time, when the word “ontology” has become to mean no more than a hierarchical inventory/taxonomy, is approaches to algorithms that honour distinctions in levels of being. This part of the talk looks at how the elision of syntax and semantics have caused an asymptote in performance both in genomics and natural language processing; why neuroscientists urgently need to master physics techniques like the harmonic oscillator; and, finally, why the description of subjective states need to be eliminated wholly from science in order to allow them be done justice in other processes in society. We can talk of science asserting the existence of the subjective through QM; its characterizations are the focus of the arts.

In the last section, we look at the current state of universities. It is argued that their disciplinary structure mimics the departmental weights assigned by science funding research after WW2. This has led to anomalies whereby popular subjects like cognitive science are relegated to the “interdisciplinary” category; indeed, in this vein, computer science was not taught as a major at Caltech until the 1980's. This opens up opportunities for the creation of online universities that use the myriad excellent freshman and sophomore foundation courses freely available on the web to create low-price majors in subjects currently ignored in the science, arts and humanities. The talk concludes by envisaging a way to do world-class education and research at a fraction of their current cost both to the student and taxpayer.


am going out on a limb with this comment!
my respect and admiration to all of you displaying such wonderful, great abilities & capabilities for intellectual debates.
i am a baby boomer, have meditated for decades and turned my back to
religion (anything organized) decades ago.
Einstein said that one cannot resolve problems with the same mind that
created them.
the intellectual mind has gotten us into today's situation.
the intellect, the ego has ruled us for the last century- or so.
we are going in circles....getting nowhere.
debates never end. never re-solve. for our mind always is able to find
a phrase that supports our viewpoint.
and what does it really matter... it's someone's's interesting! and it is relative.
can truth be revealed through the intellect?

Tom Harris's newest book ( i haven't read it) may revolutionize our
thinking....or be another viewpoint...or perhaps a stepping stone to a newer, more evolved opinion...
and it is wonderful to hear of and read books that offer something that has not been in "mainstream thinking" and stimulate our intellect.
it is very satisfying! but how important is this and how is it serving mankind?

(don't get angry...don't take it personal...)

we are living in a new world (since dec. 2012) even though most of us
are not noticing it and responding to life in the same old ways...

we are now becoming a society of the heart!
as Bekah mentions in his recent (Nov 26) comment...-emotions must be paid attention to.-

the time has come to express that which we are. the mind thinks and does;
the heart feels and is!
i have read somewhere that HEART MIND confirms that the INTELLIGENCE

our task now is to focus on (our) emotions! not every emotion is our own personal emotion. like thoughts, emotions are being pulled from a
morphic field.

no intellectual idea will release pain and suffering!
only going into the heart and fully feeling what shows up, will do it.
still, every opinion has value; it is part of all.

another point in regards to the "generation gap"
we, babyboomers had our chance in the 60's to change the world.
most of us eventually joined the materialistic world.
don't fret; don't feel guilty! (everything is perfect as it happens.)

the two generations after us have new ways.
let's not impose our ideas, nor our wisdom, on them.
let them make their own choices!
we are to them like parents and those of you who are parents know:
"that our children do not belong to us....we may give them love,
but not our thoughts....we may strive to be like them but not make them
like us;"... for life goes not backward...
the younger generations will decide our planet's future!

we can help by being, by expressing our authentic nature and we can help clearing out
the emotional debris that we oldies are partly "responsible" for.

ARE THAT. LET'S ALLOW TO BE THAT. nothing else is asked of us.
we are one.
peace and love to all.

and thanks Terry for this verbal playground!

Path of the heart

Visitor, I agree with you that the path of the heart is critical. The path to unconditional love is essential. The teachings of Jesus, the Sufi mystics, Bhakti yoga, Kabir, and others are a powerful spiritual force. I recently discovered Andrew Harvey who speaks so beautifully on this subject.

I honor this path with all my heart. In return I would ask you to honor my intellectual path. I concede that most intellectuals have not traveled very far down this path, but the same is also true for the path of the heart. Hold intellectuals to a higher standard rather than condemn them.

reply to Ron

Ron, i did not mean to step on your foot!
i do not condemn intellectuals. on my 2nd line is written: my respect and admiration...etc.

every path is honorable!
intellectualism certainly has been very important in our evolution up to now.
i just dare to say that the time has come to focus more on the heart.
it is my opinion - that's all. and you have a right to differ.

Reply to Visitor

No problem. I am a thick skinned old warrior.

From reading your posts I would recommend that you check out Andrew Harvey's web page, if you haven't already. I think you would find him to be a kindred spirit.

Intellectual (scientic) spiritualism

I would like to provide some bits of information about intellectual spiritualism that I have come across. In the West the intellectual path began with Thales of Miletus. He was followed by Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, etc. The spiritual aspects of this path grew until Plotinus created Neo-Platonism.

Now I am going to give my opinion.

Unfortunately the West fell into the Dark Ages and intellectual spiritualism fell out of favor and the focus turned to the physical world (science). It is my hope that when the Dark Ages are over that this path will regain favor. The great genius Isaac Newton yearned for something more at the end of his career and he studied things like Astrology and Alchemy. Unfortunately there was no Upanishad for the intellect that he could turn to. Several of the greatest intellects, including Einstein, held a spiritual-like reverence for the universe and the great mysteries. However, the mainstream perspective is strongly atheistic these days. I have several ideals as to why there is this atheistic bias that I won’t go into now. It is a great way to get rid of old ideas, but I feel that atheists who don’t keep an open mind and don’t speculate about the Whole, or God, throw out the baby with the bathwater.

I have found two modern individuals who are pointing in the right direction. Maslow, the psychologist, late in his life talked about the “plateau experience,” and the “precipitation of insights.” The philosopher Jacob Needleman, who was an atheist most of his life, stressed thinking about God. The said something like, ”Thinking about God is to the soul, as breathing is to the body.”

I would like to add some of my own ideas here. The intellectual path differs from the path of consciousness in a few ways. First the intellect does not strive to experience God as self, but rather God as teacher. The seeker does not experience God’s consciousness, but God’s intellect. The seeker spends time “with” the teacher.

I see both of these paths as essential and while they are different they can be wed within the person. For me they can act like two hands working together, but it must be remembered that a person is either right handed or left handed.

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