Waking Up

A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion
by Sam Harris | 256 pages

Sam Harris is part philosopher, part neuroscientist (with a Ph.D. from UCLA) and part contemplative seeker. His writing is smart, incredibly clear, and unapologetically direct. In Waking Up, he applies his intellect to the subject of discussing spirituality rationally—devoid of the baggage of both religious superstition/dogma and New Age woo woo-ness. Big Ideas: Mindfulness + meditation, stages of spiritual development, cultivating choice, and accepting while striving.


“Twenty percent of Americans describe themselves as ‘spiritual but not religious.’ Although the claim seems to annoy believers and atheists equally, separating spirituality from religion is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. It is to assert two important truths simultaneously: Our world is dangerously riven by religious doctrines that all educated people should condemn, and yet there is more to understanding the human condition than science and secular culture generally admit. Our purpose of this book is to give both these convictions intellectual and empirical support. …

This book is by turns a seeker’s memoir, an introduction to the brain, a manual of contemplative instruction, and a philosophical unraveling of what most people consider to be the center of their inner lives: the feeling of self we call ‘I.’ I have not set out to describe all the traditional approaches to spirituality or to weigh their strengths and weaknesses. Rather, my goal is to pluck the diamond from the dunghill of esoteric religion. There is a diamond there, and I have devoted a fair amount of my life to contemplating it, but getting it in hand requires that we remain true to the deepest principles of scientific skepticism and make no obeisance to tradition.”

~ Sam Harris from Waking Up

Sam Harris is part philosopher, part neuroscientist (with a Ph.D. from UCLA) and part contemplative seeker.

And, as you know if you’re familiar with his work, he’s brilliant.

His writing is smart, incredibly clear, and unapologetically direct.

In Waking Up, he applies his intellect to the subject of discussing spirituality rationally—devoid of the baggage of both religious superstition/dogma and New Age woo woo-ness. My book is nearly entirely underlined. (Get a copy here.)

Sam walks us through 5 chapters: Spirituality, The Mystery of Consciousness, The Riddle of the Self, Meditation, and Gurus, Death, Drugs, and Other Puzzles.

It’s packed with Big Ideas.

As always, in this Note I’m going to focus on the uber-practical stuff we can apply to our lives today. Get the book for more insight into the theoretical constructs (and practical applications) or rational spirituality.

For now, I’m excited to share some of my favorite Ideas so let’s jump straight in!

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About the author

Authors

Sam Harris

Author, neuroscientist, co-founder and the CEO of Project Reason.