THE NEXT ENLIGHTENMENT: Integrating East and West in a New Vision of Human Evolution

Walter Truett Anderson, Author . St. Martin's $24.95 (263p) ISBN 978-0-312-31769-0

Anderson offers a skillful and mostly successful re-description of the "Eastern" enlightenment experience—which dissolves or at least softens the boundaries of self—in terms accessible to Western philosophy and science. Although acclimatized to the Californian atmosphere of human potential movements and alternative spiritualities and psychologies, Anderson's writing exudes a savvy and secular tone that should please readers interested in enlightenment experiences without spiritual entanglements. He shows restraint by rationing references to "cosmic consciousness" and "paradigm shifts," and he questions whether a revolution in human consciousness is really just around the corner—a retreat from the Aquarian enthusiasms of the 1960s and early 1970s, which he covered as a journalist. Today he favors a longer view, while remaining convinced that "many or most (possibly all) people have transcendent experiences in their lives that they do not understand or satisfactorily integrate." To put these experiences in perspective, Anderson surveys not only the New Age as generally defined, but its background in the European Enlightenment, evolutionary biology, cosmology, psychology and existentialism, as well as some possible convergences with cognitive science research over the past two decades. Anderson is widely read and strikes a good balance between clarity and accuracy, with the exception of some cheap shots at "organized religion," which come off like dogmatic anti-dogmatism. His (qualified) endorsement of hallucinogens as an aid to enlightenment may also raise a few eyebrows. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 06/30/2003
Release date: 08/01/2003
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