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In a sense, it is a contradiction in terms to have science books that are relevant to Advaita. They are, almost by definition, contradictory - science is all about an observer forming theories about an objective world and carrying out experiments to test those theories. Advaita tells us that there are no subjects and objects, there is only the Self - and that can never be known in any objective sense. So all 'scientifically oriented' books are ultimately so much delusion, either an attempt to make sense of the illusory phenomenal universe or, worse still, an attempt objectively to study the nature of consciousness. Even so, there seem to be an increasing number of books available that attempt to do just this. They usually employ the latest theories of quantum mechanics or even more obscure mathematical formulations of multiple dimensions or parallel universes. Practically no one understands these anyway so it is relatively easy to blind the reader with science! If any reader can seriously recommend such a book as providing a useful insight into Advaita, I will be happy to include it on this page (and will probably take a look at it myself). Otherwise, you will not find such books recommended below.
Accordingly, there are not many entries on this page!
How the Mind Works - Steven Pinker (Sample pages may be viewed.) Steven Pinker is a cognitive psychologist, who explains our behaviour in terms of Darwin's theory of evolution. But he does this brilliantly and frequently amusingly. He is an excellent and intelligent writer, able to explain the most complex arguments in a readable manner. In his famous book 'The Language Instinct', he makes Chomsky's theory of language accesible to the mere mortal but here he deals with many fascinating aspects of the mind in an even more approachable way. Such topics as thinking machines, optics and perception, cultural evolution, intelligence, love and fear and 'doomsday machines' are discussed in a constantly fascinating way. It constitutes no problem to the Advaitin, of course, to have the mind explained mechanically in this way. (Buy US or UK)
"A good way to win the teenagers' game of chicken, in which two cars approach each other at high speed and the first driver to swerve loses face, is to conspicuously remove your own steering wheel and throw it away."
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat - Oliver Sacks. The surprising best seller of a few years ago, in which the neuropsychologist relates a number of strange cases of behaviour explained by damage to specific parts of the brain. Thought provoking on a number of topics of interest to Advaitins, one of which I referred to in my book in which a man loses his short-term memory function so that he effectively lives totally in the present moment.
(Buy US or UK)
Into the Silent Land (Travels in Neuropsycholgy) - Paul Broks (Sample pages may be viewed.) This is another book, published in 2003, in the style of Oliver Sacks (above) but more specifically thought provoking on mind-consciousness related topics, as Broks wrestles poignantly with trying to understand the Self through what he has found in the bahaviour of his patients, their physical brain disorders and the latest philosophical thinking. One feels one desperately wants to hand him a good book on Advaita and say 'look here - this explains everything'. This is not written as a straightforward third-person account of observations of patients but contains passages of dream experiences and stories imaginatively conceived and beautifully realised. Highly recommended.
(Buy US or UK)
"Reason is not a very effective tool for achieving happiness; if it were, we would all be a lot happier."
The Hundredth Monkey and Other Paradigms of the Paranormal - Edited by Kendrick Frazier. This is a collection of articles by various people on a wide range of subjects, including astrology, homeopathy, chiropractic, flying saucers. The articles were previously oblished in the 'Skeptical Inquirer' journal and their aim is to use science and reason in the correct manner to cast doubt upon or to discredit the claims of 'fringe' science. Again nothing to do with Advaita but this represents the right attitude of mind with which to approach any claims that may seem to be contrary to normal experience.
The title refers to a claim that is made in one of the books by Lyall Watson. The events take place on a Japanese island where monkeys had been found to pass on learnt skills to other members of the troop, (washing the grit and mud off sweet potatoes before eating them). Supposedly, after the hundredth monkey had learnt the skill, other monkeys on adjacent but unconnected islands suddenly acquired the skill too. In fact, analysis of the actual data showed that no such thing had occurred at all. He had completely misrepresented the original papers on the subject.