Waking Up

Sam Harris Waking Up

Much to my surprise, it was quite a busy summer with a lot of time spent travelling between events. Everyone settling into the back-to-school routine has afforded me a little break and I've been catching up on my non-magical reading and there has been some really interesting stuff which I wanted to share.

The release of Sam Harris' new book, Waking Up, comes almost exactly ten years after the release of his first book, the game-chaning, The End of Faith, which was the catalyst which ignited the so called "New Atheist" publishing revolution. That revolution yielded bestsellers like The God Delusion, God is Not Great and Breaking The Spell and did, to a large extent, change the way religion was discussed in public.

This book is in some sense his least controversial. It's slightly more difficult to argue with the results of scientific research than it is to abstract claims about faith, morality and free will. It may also be the most useful since it's directed at the individual instead of society at large.

Sam explains how to explore notions of spirituality and transcendence while keeping your efforts separate from all of the religious and new age mysticism and woo that often clutters things up. Spirituality is a loaded term. Christopher Hitchens used to try and discuss it calling it the "numinous" which was wonderful, except it was a word that no one understood so that conversation couldn't really go anywhere. It's a tremendously important conversation that the secular community has been dodging for a long time.

Rather than just dismiss the experiences of millions of people we need to figure out how to embrace those experiences, carefully picking out the nonsense while retaining the genuinely useful benefits we can get from them.