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The Transcendent Brain

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The Transcendent Brain by Alan Lightman
Hardcover $26.00
Mar 14, 2023 | ISBN 9780593317419

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  • Mar 14, 2023 | ISBN 9780593317419

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Praise

“Mr. Lightman [has a] gift for distilling complex ideas and emotions to their bright essence. . . . He displays a beautiful economy of language. . . . Mr. Lightman, though, belongs to a noble tradition of science writers, including Oliver Sacks and Lewis Thomas, who can poke endlessly into a subject and, in spite of their prodding, or perhaps because of it, stir up fresh embers of wonder.”
The Wall Street Journal

“Thoroughly researched, well-written. . . . Moving.”
The Washington Post

“A revelation about how mere atoms and molecules can give rise to the very persuasive experience of a self, of a soul, of something that feels so vast and complex and magnificently irreducible to matter. . . . Radiant. . . . Largehearted.”
The Marginalian

“Scientists don’t do enough to emphasize the mystery of the world behind appearances, and what is so often taken for granted, missed entirely, or unexamined in the domain of human experience. This book is an inspiring and convincing antidote to that trend. It is a rigorous and yet very personal inquiry into and recounting of how scientific knowledge does not preclude, diminish, or extinguish the experience of transcendence, but rather brings it very much to the fore. Lightman provides direct inspiration to the reader to apprehend for oneself and revel in the wonder that is everywhere.”
—Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and author of Meditation Is Not What You Think and Falling Awake
 
“With scholarly verve and unbounded curiosity, Alan Lightman asks how our experiences of awe, wonder, and the sublime can unfold in a universe—and in our brains—built only of atoms. A fascinating exploration of where science and humanism meet.”
—David Kaiser, Germeshausen Professor of Physics and the History of Science, MIT
 
“A remarkable meditation on the emergent structures, feelings, and values that arise from the self-organization of neurons, atoms, and creatures. The book is an invitation to reflect on the wonder of firefly group flashes, sociality and, ultimately, consciousness itself.”
—Peter Galison, University Professor of the History of Science and of Physics, Harvard University and author (with Lorraine Daston) of Objectivity

“Science and spirituality converge in this probing examination of humanity’s connection to the divine. . . . The prose is reflective and lyrical, and Lightman’s arguments succeed in walking the fine line between honoring spiritual experiences without lapsing into pseudoscience. Thoughtful and intellectually rigorous, this treatise impresses.”
Publishers Weekly

“A scientist explains experiences that seem inexplicable. . . . Never shy about tackling big, complex issues. . . . Lightman urges readers to accept a scientific view of the world while embracing experiences that cannot be understood by material underpinnings. We need to balance a yearning to know how the world works with a willingness to surrender ourselves to things we may not fully comprehend.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Lightman writes with passion and panache about how the search for knowledge need not inhibit moments of transcendence, offering a poignant reminder that wonder is everywhere, if we only look.”
Booklist

Table Of Contents

Introduction . . . . 3

1. The Ka and the Ba: A Brief History of the Soul, the Nonmaterial, and the Mind- Body Duality 13
2. Primordia Rerum: A Brief History of Materialism 44
3. Neurons and I: The Emergence of Consciousness from the Material Brain 83
4. To See a World in a Grain of Sand: From Consciousness to Spirituality 121
5. My Atoms and Yours: Science and Spirituality in the World of Today 166

Acknowledgments . . . . 173
Notes . . . . 175

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