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Zen and the Art of Consciousness

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  164 ratings  ·  20 reviews
Susan Blackmore combines the latest scientific theories about mind, self, and consciousness with a lifetime’s practice of Zen.
Framed by ten critical questions that are derived from Zen’s teachings, Zen and the Art of Consciousness explores how intellectual enquiry and meditation can expand your understanding and experience of consciousness and tackle some of today’s
Paperback, 182 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by Oneworld Publications (first published March 1st 2009)
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Ah, this is one of those books, (and what do I even mean by that? I'm not sure, but it seems true to me).

Ah, the author, Madame Blackmore is a trained psychologist and engaged in the business of consciousness studies all of which sounds like Philosophy to me, and apart from Sophie in The Tiger who came to Tea I don't think I've known anyone called Sophia, let alone loved her (view spoiler), anyway Blackmore is
Jan 21, 2013 rated it it was ok
This book started out in a very interesting way, very cleverly written and to the point. However, as we move forward, the author seems to lose herself in her thoughts (which she transcribes brilliantly to the paper! I really was impressed by how one could do such a writing!), and since they are her thoughts on whatever subject, they get really annoying, boring and tedious... I think the response Susan Blackmore got from John sums up perfectly what this book made me feel! Also, when she mentions ...more
Jan 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
if you ever wondered exactly who it is who is thinking your thoughts, or seeing the world through your eyes, do not miss this book. It's a fascinating, engaging, and thoroughly human read about consciousness and zen, filled with lovely illustrations drawn by the author herself.
Rob Adey
Jul 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
At first glance, this looks and sounds like it might be some awful 'spiritual quest' book. But Susan Blackmore is one of the most hardcore materialists on the planet, and this is an account of her using some of the tools discovered by Zen practitioners to - apparently - actually experience some of the way the brain really works i.e. without volition or a continuing, centralised self.

For a book that's mostly about someone sitting still and thinking/trying not to think, it's immensely compelling
Mar 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: meditators
Wonderful. Sue Blackmore's use of Zen koans to explore consciousness is inspiring, it's certainly got me back on the mat again.

Great for anyone interested in why and what we are and why and what we are doing, for atheists and Buddhists (and any other religious persuasion)
Dec 08, 2019 marked it as xx-dnf-skim-reference  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't do it. I have enjoyed some works by Blackmore, and really admire her as a bold & daring scientist, but this book doesn't seem to do what it claims to set out to do, and is not really about Zen but is rather, yet again, about the nature of Consciousness, and is not written in a way that I could connect to. I just don't think the way she talks about thinking. For example I would never want to make several visits to an ancient isolated Welsh 'estate' as a retreat to learn to better ...more
Dennis Littrell
Jul 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Zen meets the philosophy of consciousness

This book is about the problem of consciousness and how the practice of Zen Buddhism as experienced by Dr. Blackmore relates to that problem. She is a UK-based psychologist and author of, most notably, The Meme Machine (1999) in which she lends considerable support to Richard Dawkins’ notion of the meme as a Darwinian mechanism of culture.

This is a more personal book. It’s a bit self-indulgent as Blackmore takes us to her garden and her meditation shed
Aug 05, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I would like to suggest that this book could serve as a manual for the exploration of one's self, but along the way the author explains how the self does not actually exist. This is orthodox Buddhist dogma but I myself - yes! - believe that whether the self can be said to exist or not depends purely on how one defines the self.

Socrates is reputed to have said that the unexamined life is not worth living, which I regard as an overly extreme, unharmonious,and therefore unGreeklike position, but I
Alexi Parizeau
Oct 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is written in a brilliant stream of consciousness style which takes the reader along for the ride of deep meditative introspection. It's actually quite demanding on the reader, because introspection is tedious work, but Blackmore's final conclusions are worth it and I've come to many of them during my own years of introspections. Unfortunately, these conclusions cannot be explanations or truths in themselves; this is the unrealized insight of Blackmore's book: if we accept that ...more
Feb 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
"Vision seems so simple. We open our eyes and there is the world. Yet scientists have long appreciated how difficult this is to explain. For a start, we move our eyes about five or six times a second, fixating on something and then moving quickly on, but we don’t notice this, and the world appears stable. Also we can see clearly only a tiny area around that fixation point, yet it feels as though we are seeing the whole visual scene at once. How does this work? Information goes in through the ...more
Linh Nguyen
Jul 14, 2019 rated it liked it
The first half of the book is quite neat and the author raised some important questions of philosophy foundation, of consciousness and Zen. However, Susan began losing her thought from the second half until the end. She broke the rule of not-thinking in Zen and she thought too much and put too much of her personal emotion (sometimes quite negative) in her writing. That makes reader feel bored and also lose in her thoughts. Eventually, I think she achieved to a certain level of right meditation, ...more
Brian Perusek
Oct 02, 2019 rated it did not like it
The only thing worse than a Zen Buddhist book written for westerners “about Zen Buddhism” is a Zen Buddhist book written by a non-Zen Buddhist for westerners. It’s beyond me how Steven Batchelor was involved in this. Perhaps an attempt at a secular Buddhist writing... but if you have any knowledge of Buddhism, or are Buddhist... this will be a waste of your time.
Joska Pista
Jan 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
I am a neuroscientist and I am a beginner in meditation. The book is a personal account on the struggles, successes and insights of a the Author on meditation and how the mind is built. I learnt a lot reading it. But might be a reading for insiders. Many good hints on exploring Buddhist meditation and important authors.
Oliver Ho
Apr 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
For such a short book, it's surprisingly dense and took time to digest. I'm still thinking about it and will likely return to it. I loved the blending of traditionally eastern and western thinking and approaches to concepts related to consciousness. I particularly enjoyed how she seemed to capture the moment to moment feelings of meditation and her thought processes, her enthusiasm and frustration with insights and ongoing, unanswerable questions. Her bibliography added more books to my wish ...more
Ellen Keener
Feb 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Interesting combination of a personal journey and an attempt to use zen to figure out what consciousness is and how it relates to what we know of how the brain works. Last chapter a nice summing up of what she learned.
Dec 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2013
I liked it, but don't pretend to really understand the Zen questions or to have followed the thinking. I most enjoyed the early and late sections — on the nature or problem of consciousness and on being conscious. Also, the part about free will and responsibility.
May 22, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not a fan, really. I just don't like it. Maybe I'm just not into Zen!
Leonie Ferrer
Jun 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A must read for anyone who's interested in consciousness, what's next and the nature of 'self'.

Brian Baker
Sep 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Meme queen Sue Blackmore sits about a lot asking herself Zen inspired questions about consciousness reaching startling conclusions including her own non-existance.
Apr 27, 2011 marked it as to-read
I seriously need to stop buying books every time I leave my house!
Leni  Torvbråten
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Susan Jane Blackmore is a freelance writer, lecturer and broadcaster, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Plymouth. She has a degree in psychology and physiology from Oxford University (1973) and a PhD in parapsychology from the University of Surrey (1980). Her research interests include memes, evolutionary theory, consciousness, and meditation. She practices Zen and campaigns for drug ...more