October 5, 2008

Book Review: Living Deeply: The Art & Science of Transformation in Everyday Life (Marilyn Schlitz, Cassandra Vieten, and Tina Amorok)

This is one of the more interesting self-help books out there, presenting information that represents ten years of research from the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS).

The essence of this book isn’t a “this is the way that others have done it and so can you” type of book; instead it acknowledges that there as many paths to transformation (not enlightenment, an important difference) as there are people, and rather than lay out one specific path, Living Deeply points the way to possibilities but also puts forth that the path itself is up to the individual.  The difference is that the authors don’t offer any sort of mystical experience towards any sort of enlightenment, instead offering the possibility of transformation; the difference is that transformation is simply a shift in the way one perceives one’s world and how one fits in it.

Noetics is essentially the study of consciousness and how it relates to the outside world, a way to quantify what may well be unquantifiable. That being said, one point in favor of this book is that the authors drew from a variety of philosophies and faiths in an attempt to create as broad a range of perspectives as they could.  However, for all of its claims towards science, the book addresses a sample of only fifty people interviewed over a period of ten years, hardly a scientifically significant sample.  There is also no mention of how the respondents to their surveys were selected, which doesn’t lend itself to sound scientific research.

That’s not to say that this isn’t a book worth reading and not to say that what is offers isn’t valid.  People do have significantly transforming experiences every day that are worth documenting and discussing, and the exploration of consciousness and how it relates to the outside world is a study long in waiting.  The only real hesitation comes from accepting this as pure science or pure research. Living Deeply represents the tip of an iceberg, and it will be interesting to see what work will follow from IONS, with an eye towards questions that the authors themselves acknowledge have been left unanswered.  From New Harbinger Publications and Noetic Books, and available from your local, independent bookseller.

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