Sam Harris - An Atheist guide to Spirituality

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karmarider
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Sam Harris - An Atheist guide to Spirituality

Post by karmarider » Sat Aug 23, 2014 10:10 am

I found this interesting from cultural icon of atheism:

http://nautil.us/issue/16/nothingness/a ... irituality

I haven't read any of his books, but I generally thought that Sam Harris was good because he promoted rationality over blind faith. That he is into traditional spirituality (Dzogchen) is a bit of a surprise, and it sounds like he has been exploring it for many years.

"Given this change in my perception of the world, I understand the attractions of traditional spirituality. I also recognize the needless confusion and harm that inevitably arise from the doctrines of faith-based religion. I did not have to believe anything irrational about the universe, or about my place within it, to learn the practice of Dzogchen."

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Re: Sam Harris - An Atheist guide to Spirituality

Post by smiileyjen101 » Sun Aug 24, 2014 3:52 am

I was a little put off by his unawareness of his own hypocrisy about beliefs and their impositions on others calm man.

It was in some presentation about how irrational 'spiritual' beliefs were and how 'controlled' people were by such beliefs. In my interpretation, after he got comfortable he launched into this 'offhand', off the cuff personal remark about how essential it was that his daughter (then about 11 or 12 I think he said) just HAD to have braces put on her teeth so that she could have a 'straight smile' and be accepted by the right people, get the right education and opportunities etc and how he would 'counsel' her to accept the discomfort and pain for future 'gain'.

.... I was confused :wink: so I emailed and asked him about it.. .never did get a reply :wink:
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Re: Sam Harris - An Atheist guide to Spirituality

Post by runstrails » Sun Aug 24, 2014 4:00 am

Here is a conversation that Sam has about meditation, spirituality, and his new book (Eckhart Tolle for smart people, as he says :lol:)
http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/taming-the-mind

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Re: Sam Harris - An Atheist guide to Spirituality

Post by Phil2 » Sun Aug 24, 2014 11:41 am

runstrails wrote:Here is a conversation that Sam has about meditation, spirituality, and his new book (Eckhart Tolle for smart people, as he says :lol:)
http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/taming-the-mind
Thanks RT, I particularly liked this quote from Sam Harris:

"The illusoriness of the self is potentially of great interest to everyone, because this false construct really is our most basic problem in every moment. "
"What irritates us about others is an opportunity to learn on ourselves"
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Re: Sam Harris - An Atheist guide to Spirituality

Post by karmarider » Sun Aug 24, 2014 3:25 pm

smiileyjen101 wrote:I was a little put off by his unawareness of his own hypocrisy about beliefs and their impositions on others calm man.
I don't know much about the guy. He seemed to be on the atheist icons. There seems to be an atheist trend, which I think is both good because it brings rationality to light, and bad because it seems to be a religious movement in itself, convinced of its dogma.

I found it very interesting that he has been seriously exploring Dzogchen, a traditional spiritual endeavor. I'll probalby read his book.

---
runstrails wrote:Here is a conversation that Sam has about meditation, spirituality, and his new book (Eckhart Tolle for smart people, as he says :lol:)
http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/taming-the-mind
Thanks, RT. This is interesting. I'll have to go through it a couple of times. I found it interesting they are bashing, though gently, Deepak Chopra towards the end of this conversation.

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Re: Sam Harris - An Atheist guide to Spirituality

Post by KathleenBrugger » Sun Aug 24, 2014 4:12 pm

Thanks Karmarider, that was a very interesting article. I'd already read the interview RT posted, but this really went into his experiences more deeply. I've read one of Harris' books, "Free Will." He is definitely a strong proponent of atheism, so I was also surprised to learn he was in to meditation.

For some time now I've been feeling that what the world needs is a 21st-century spirituality. Iow, religion stripped of the beliefs that have clung on from earlier centuries. For example, I remember the day I realized that I wasn't a Christian. I'd been raised a Christian and even though it had been years since I'd been to church and I had rejected a lot of the associated beliefs, like heaven and hell, I'd always assumed that "being Christian" was just part of who I am. Then one day I saw that I didn't believe the central belief of the Christian religion: "Jesus is God and died for my sins." Now my perspective is, there was a person named Jesus who was enlightened, whose teachings are still extremely valuable, yet the meaning of his teachings is twisted and distorted by centuries of accumulated beliefs. I think what Sam Harris is talking about is stripping away those beliefs and getting to the core of what any spiritual teaching is: self-transcendence. And this self-transcendence can be achieved more easily, in this age of science, when we aren't called on to believe in the irrational.* I think its possible that the decline in the belief in God and general interest in religion is because people are rejecting ancient-belief-saddled religions, but the increasing levels of anxiety and depression at the same time demonstrate that a fundamental human hunger is not being fed. That's why I'm excited about an atheist like Harris publishing a book called "Waking Up." (You can read the first chapter here.)

For example, in the essay karmarider posted, Harris wrote this:
While the philosophy of Advaita...may tend to support a metaphysical reading of teachings of this kind, their validity is not metaphysical. Rather, it is experiential. The whole of Advaita reduces to a series of very simple and testable assertions: Consciousness is the prior condition of every experience; the self or ego is an illusory appearance within it; look closely for what you are calling “I,” and the feeling of being a separate self will disappear; what remains, as a matter of experience, is a field of consciousness—free, undivided, and intrinsically uncontaminated by its ever-changing contents.
No beliefs required. I am definitely looking forward to reading his book! He has a PhD in neuroscience, has been writing philosophy for many years, and is a long-term serious meditator. What an interesting combination!

*EDIT: By irrational I don't mean wrong, stupid, crazy, etc. I mean not understandable by the rational mind.
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Re: Sam Harris - An Atheist guide to Spirituality

Post by runstrails » Sun Aug 24, 2014 10:41 pm

Thanks, Kathleen. I enjoyed Chapter 1. I'm glad Awakening is going more and more mainstream.

Thanks, Kr. I enjoyed his essay that you linked to. First a book on no free will, now a book on no-self and consciousness. I think Harris will be a force in making self-realization a mainstream topic. We can hope anyway :D.

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Re: Sam Harris - An Atheist guide to Spirituality

Post by smiileyjen101 » Mon Aug 25, 2014 12:08 am

Karmarider said: There seems to be an atheist trend, which I think is both good because it brings rationality to light, and bad because it seems to be a religious movement in itself, convinced of its dogma.
That was kind of my query to him, we're all to a degree unaware of our hypocrisies and our deeply ingrained 'irrational' beliefs creating our realities and, when imposed on others, our societies.

I have this 'vision' of all these people admiring each others' straight teeth as a secret 'sign' of their fundamentally materialistic and external 'faith' :lol: and looking down upon or condemning those who won't or cannot get theirs straightened --- kind of already a reality in some societies isn't it :wink:

Of course atheism is the pendulum swung and held tight the other way.

I would think the middle way would be agnosticism. It sits in the middle and observes the evidence and arguing of both, (and if you're unafraid the experiential understanding of both or any or all) . If you do this with enough perspectives you get a pretty good idea of the views. So for me, agnosticism - with genuine open minded enquiry and respectful to self and others scepticism is closer to scientific rigours and honest self enquiry.

Some people might think it's sitting on the fence, but it's not, or doesn't have to be. One holds room for perspectives and experiences and the fair and the foul in them, without necessarily being seduced by any of them. The 'ironic' thing that struck me in his presentation --maybe it was about No Free Will, was that he didn't realise that he was actually choosing to indoctrinate his daughter into his 'religion' (for me only belief system) that has irrational beliefs and practices.

Kathleen said: I remember the day I realized that I wasn't a Christian.
Jesus wasn't a Christian either, and he fell foul of Judaism too, so you might think you're in good company :wink:
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Re: Sam Harris - An Atheist guide to Spirituality

Post by KathleenBrugger » Mon Aug 25, 2014 4:30 am

smiileyjen101 wrote:
Kathleen said: I remember the day I realized that I wasn't a Christian.
Jesus wasn't a Christian either, and he fell foul of Judaism too, so you might think you're in good company :wink:
:lol: That's fabulous!
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Re: Sam Harris - An Atheist guide to Spirituality

Post by Phil2 » Mon Aug 25, 2014 11:12 am

KathleenBrugger wrote: Harris publishing a book called "Waking Up." (You can read the first chapter here.)
Thanks for the link ... here are some interesting statements I wish to pinpoint ... :)
How we pay attention to the present moment largely determines the character of our experience and, therefore, the quality of our lives.

...

And then came the insight that irrevocably transformed my sense of how good human life could be. I was feeling boundless love for one of my best friends, and I suddenly realized that if a stranger had walked through the door at that moment, he or she would have been fully included in this love.

...

Although the claim seems to annoy believers and atheists equally, separating spirituality from religion is a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

...

a person can realize his identity with the One Mind that gave birth to the cosmos.

...

Our conventional sense of self is an illusion; positive emotions, such as compassion and patience, are teachable skills; and the way we think directly influences our experience of the world.

...


there is an alternative to being continuously spellbound by the conversation we are having with ourselves; there is an alternative to simply identifying with the next thought that pops into consciousness. And glimpsing this alternative dispels the conventional illusion of the self.

...

consciousness itself is identical to the very reality that one might otherwise mistake for God.
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Re: Sam Harris - An Atheist guide to Spirituality

Post by karmarider » Mon Aug 25, 2014 1:00 pm

KathleenBrugger wrote:For some time now I've been feeling that what the world needs is a 21st-century spirituality...
This is reasonable. Ancient wisdom is vast and I'm sure true but it's ancient and re-interpreted. What's said about the Buddha was written down a 100 years after his death and translated and transcribed. It really doesn't make sense to me that an enlightened being would prescribe precepts and rules in the way it purported that the Buddha did. Enlightened people speak, and as time passes, transcribers shift their focus from truth to dogma and division. The Christian Gnostics, Judaism's Kaballah, Islams' sufis, and of course Hinduism's Advaita are good examples.

I also have the same objections about Eckhart Tolle that Sam and Dan Harris came up with. I am forever grateful to ET, for the Power of Now rocketed spiritual adventure. After about a year of comprehending what he was saying, I decided that I it was time to move on. What ET said made compelte sense, but the practice of presence did not make sense to me for many reasons (including that I did not see much success with it). I decided that ET spoke the truth, but because his awakening was accidental, he did not quite know what happened to him, and so I wanted to find people who were or had worked on their awakening, and I found those, in Nisargadatta, Ramana, John Sherman, Jed Mckenna, Walsh and so on.

I prefer current people who communicate in contemporary language in contemporary circumstances.

I look forward to Harris' new book.

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Re: Sam Harris - An Atheist guide to Spirituality

Post by karmarider » Mon Aug 25, 2014 1:11 pm

smiileyjen101 wrote: would think the middle way would be agnosticism. It sits in the middle and observes the evidence and arguing of both, (and if you're unafraid the experiential understanding of both or any or all) . If you do this with enough perspectives you get a pretty good idea of the views. So for me, agnosticism - with genuine open minded enquiry and respectful to self and others scepticism is closer to scientific rigours and honest self enquiry.
Makes sense. Agnostic is a more appropriate word than atheist, but I think the atheists wanted to make the point strongly. People ignore agnostics.

Maybe that's why ET seems to demonize the ego and the mind. Maybe it gets the point across better.

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Re: Sam Harris - An Atheist guide to Spirituality

Post by KathleenBrugger » Tue Aug 26, 2014 3:38 pm

karmarider wrote:
smiileyjen101 wrote: would think the middle way would be agnosticism. It sits in the middle and observes the evidence and arguing of both, (and if you're unafraid the experiential understanding of both or any or all) . If you do this with enough perspectives you get a pretty good idea of the views. So for me, agnosticism - with genuine open minded enquiry and respectful to self and others scepticism is closer to scientific rigours and honest self enquiry.
Makes sense. Agnostic is a more appropriate word than atheist, but I think the atheists wanted to make the point strongly. People ignore agnostics.

Maybe that's why ET seems to demonize the ego and the mind. Maybe it gets the point across better.
I also participate on the Project Reason forum, which was started by Sam Harris. I learned there that atheism and agnostic are different claims. Atheism is about belief--"I don't believe God exists." Agnosticism is about knowledge--"I don't know whether God exists." (The word gnosis means knowledge.) So you can be an agnostic atheist! But I agree that anyone who claims 100% certainty that God doesn't exist is living in an unscientific fantasy world. All of human knowledge is limited. We don't know anything 100%.

Those were great quotes you pulled out, karmarider. Here's one I thought would be of interest to the Advaita Vedanta people here (from Chapter 1 link):
The whole of Advaita reduces to a series of very simple and testable assertions: Consciousness is the prior condition of every experience; the self or ego is an illusory appearance within it; look closely for what you are calling “I,” and the feeling of being a separate self will disappear; what remains, as a matter of experience, is a field of consciousness—free, undivided, and intrinsically uncontaminated by its ever-changing contents.
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Re: Sam Harris - An Atheist guide to Spirituality

Post by karmarider » Tue Aug 26, 2014 8:26 pm

karmarider wrote:I also participate on the Project Reason forum, which was started by Sam Harris. I learned there that atheism and agnostic are different claims. Atheism is about belief--"I don't believe God exists." Agnosticism is about knowledge--"I don't know whether God exists." (The word gnosis means knowledge.) So you can be an agnostic atheist! But I agree that anyone who claims 100% certainty that God doesn't exist is living in an unscientific fantasy world. All of human knowledge is limited. We don't know anything 100%.
What the word "God" refers to is probably important to define as well. If it's the conventional meaning of an external authority entity, I'm an atheist. If it is the ineffable intelligence which I see everywhere and especially in the feeling of I am, I'm a believer. If it's anything else, I'm agnostic.
Those were great quotes you pulled out, karmarider.
That was Phil2's post but I agree they are good quotes.
Here's one I thought would be of interest to the Advaita Vedanta people here (from Chapter 1 link):
The whole of Advaita reduces to a series of very simple and testable assertions: Consciousness is the prior condition of every experience; the self or ego is an illusory appearance within it; look closely for what you are calling “I,” and the feeling of being a separate self will disappear; what remains, as a matter of experience, is a field of consciousness—free, undivided, and intrinsically uncontaminated by its ever-changing contents.
This is good. Recently, I've been talking to someone who believes that "rational thinking" is the answer. I don't think it is; rational thinking has to keep up, but insights and recgonitions have not come to me through thinking. And the question is what insights are we talking about? What are the insights of awakening which cannot be had through thinking alone? And this quotation sums it up nicely. Consciousness is prior to every experience--this is an insight which can be experienced and known.

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Re: Sam Harris - An Atheist guide to Spirituality

Post by runstrails » Wed Aug 27, 2014 12:38 am

karmarider wrote: What the word "God" refers to is probably important to define as well. If it's the conventional meaning of an external authority entity, I'm an atheist. If it is the ineffable intelligence which I see everywhere and especially in the feeling of I am, I'm a believer. If it's anything else, I'm agnostic.
You took the words out of my mouth! I think Sam Harris writes for a highly mainstream audience so he's likely referring to a God out there when he says he's an athiest. His quotes suggest he would likely be a believer on this forum :wink:.

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