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God 4.0: On the Nature of Higher Consciousness and the Experience Called “God”

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This book is about what it means to go beyond our ordinary perception of reality, and to understand why, throughout human history, almost all of humanity has had the concept of transcendence and connection to “the other” – to "the spirit world", to “God", or to "the One behind it all”.

Drawing on the modern research—from neuropsychology and religion, to evolutionary psychology, anthropology, archeology, and genetics—the authors delve deeply into what we now know about how the process of transcendence happens in the brain and the ways in which it has been sought since Paleolithic times. They begin by coalescing findings from the shamans of the Ice Age (God 1.0), to the first temples, priests and gods of the Neolithic era and Mesopotamia (God 2.0), to the Axial Age prophets and the three major monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam (God 3.0).

They explore in detail how verbal descriptions of a nonverbal transcendental experience were always understood to be metaphorical but that gradually became taken as literal truth. The differing interpretations of this literal view have been the cause of much conflict between religious denominations and between science and religion.

The authors explain how our “everyday” mind works as a device for selecting just a few parts of the outside reality that are important for our survival. We don’t experience the world as it is, but as a virtual reality—a small, limited system which evolved to keep us safe and ensure our survival. This system, though essential for getting us safely across a busy street, is insufficient for understanding and solving the challenges of the modern world.

But we are also endowed with a quiescent “second network” of cognition which, when activated, can dissolve or break through the barriers of ordinary consciousness. We all experience this activation to some degree when we suddenly see a solution to a problem or have an intuitive or creative insight – when we connect to a larger whole beyond the self.

By combining ancient teachings with modern science, we have a new psychology of spiritual experience – the knowledge to explore how this second network can be developed and stabilized, providing the much-needed higher perceptive capacity that is humanity’s next evolutionary step.

The authors take care to differentiate this development from temporary trance experiences or from overloading the brain with drugs, dancing, drumming, or other practices.

Instead, they emphasize the need, both individually and collectively, to reflect on and explicate the functional value of virtues such as generosity, humility and gratitude, and of service. These attituted and activities shift brain function away from the self toward an expanded consciousness, an experience of the world’s greater interconnectedness and unity and an understanding of one’s place in it.

Neither an academic tome nor a religious treatise, God 4.0 is a comprehensive, thoroughly researched work addressed to inquisitive, open-minded people genuinely trying to understand life and meaning. It is written for critical thinkers, for readers of news, history, biography and science who seek more from life than is accessible through any one of these disciplines, people who may find religion as they’ve encountered it to be unsatisfactory.

The authors neither advocate nor dismiss organized religion but contend that knowledge we have now of how higher consciousness happens in the brain allows us to move beyond faith, belief, and ritual to a direct experience of self-transcendence which has been called “seeing God.” Developing this innate second system of perception could be the first step toward finding the vital common ground that reconciles science, religion and spirituality, allowing us to approach our global problems from a new spiritual literacy and enter a new era—God 4.0.

402 pages, Paperback

Published October 15, 2021

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About the author

Robert Ornstein

28 books83 followers
Psychologist Robert Ornstein's wide-ranging and multidisciplinary work has won him awards from more than a dozen organizations, including the American Psychological Association and UNESCO. His pioneering research on the bilateral specialization of the brain has done much to advance our understanding of how we think.

He received his bachelor's degree in psychology from City University of New York in 1964 and his Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University in 1968. His doctoral thesis won the American Institutes for Research Creative Talent Award and was published immediately as a book, On the Experience of Time.

Since then he has written or co-written more than twenty other books on the nature of the human mind and brain and their relationship to thought, health and individual and social consciousness, which have sold over six million copies and been translated into a dozen other languages. His textbooks have been used in more than 20,000 university classes.

Dr. Ornstein has taught at the University of California Medical Center and Stanford University, and he has lectured at more than 200 colleges and universities in the U.S. and overseas. He is the president and founder of the Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge (ISHK), an educational nonprofit dedicated to bringing important discoveries concerning human nature to the general public.

Among his many honors and awards are the UNESCO award for Best Contribution to Psychology and the American Psychological Foundation Media Award "for increasing the public understanding of psychology."

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Displaying 1 - 19 of 19 reviews
1 review3 followers
September 14, 2021
GOD 4.0

Since the publication of The Psychology of Consciousness in 1972, Dr. Ornstein has continued to explore the boundaries of what we call God. In God 4.0, he has combined the latest research from a number of domains to create a new spiritual literacy that offers an understanding of the transcendent nature of consciousness and by doing so allows us to truly see God. Humbling, profound and, ultimately, transformative.”

Profile Image for H.M..
Author 6 books56 followers
October 24, 2021
Followers of the Sufi thinker and author Idries Shah, and fans of the psychologist Robert Ornstein, Sally Ornstein and the Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge (ISHK) will lap this book up, as will those with an interest in spirituality, those hesitant to dip their toes into spiritual waters, and like-minded heretics (ie "free thinkers").

God 4.0 is quite sharply focussed, whereas Iain McGilchrist's magna opera The Master and his Emissary, and The Matter with Things, which explore similar and other topics, are panoramic in scope.

The critical path here is the gap between the theory (“know what”) and praxis (“know how”) of nurturing and developing higher consciousness. Things like immersion in Sufi teaching stories and in poetry (among other arts, crafts and creative endeavours) that stimulate the right hemisphere of the brain (and promote holistic experience – though with the left brain a faithful servant of the right) can hopefully bridge that gap and provide a new pathway that is available to the many, rather than how it has been in the past only open to a select or elite few largely under the direct physical guidance of teachers.

In this age of ever-increasing escalations in our societal and global woes and crises, there is a desperate need for change before it's too late to act – change that must come first and foremost from within each of us. And this is where this work can make a useful and timely contribution.

On this basis, I unhesitatingly give the book 5 stars.

Maybe it's just me, but given that the book calls for a new spiritual literacy in the world (a task that will require a great deal of real effort from both a few key players and from the many tasked with implementing it), I was hoping that there would be more crossover and outreach to others who are looking beyond the current materialism, scientism and the late stages of the "deficient mode of the mental-rational structure of consciousness", who express a need to re-enchant the world, and who are engaged in what has been termed "the battle for the Soul of the World".

However, as I say, this is just my own personal bias, and this in no way detracts from this wonderful, very readable, inspiring, and timely work.
6 reviews
October 22, 2021
I cannot recommend this book enough.

On its own, God 4.0 presents so many ideas about so many varied yet unified things (religion, spirituality, psychology, history, etc. etc.) that it's simply stunning in its scope and connections.

But as a reader of the late Idries Shah's works, God 4.0 also acts as an important piece (in a puzzle? or mosaic?) that, at least for me, shed enormous light on things stated by Idries Shah in his books that I hadn't previously considered nor understood. Reading God 4.0 reiterates the need to continue to familiarize oneself with the proper teaching stories, and I'm floored by the Ornsteins' ability to put complex and seemingly unrelated facets of life and history into such succinct language.

I shall for sure read this book again and again.
21 reviews3 followers
November 21, 2021
I just finished reading GOD 4.0. It is a deeply researched document in which the authors spent their lives studying such diverse topics as brain research, human consciousness, and the history of the rise of organized religions. I hope many readers will discover this book. It has the power to change how we view today's religions and go beyond them to help create a more enlightened world. It gives us the guidance to do exactly that.

I see several reviewers called it “stunning” I agree one hundred percent. Right now our world is on the brink of many intertwined disasters. The insights and advice in this heavily researched book is a game changer if we act upon it.

The back cover of the print version eloquently sums up this book with a review by Tony Hiss:

“What does it mean to go beyond our ordinary perception of reality? Why has almost all of humanity, throughout our history, had the concept of transcendence and connection to “the other” - to “the spirit world”, to ”God”, or to “the One behind it all?”
This concept has been at the root of our search for meaning troughout history, from the Shamans of the Ice Age (God 1.0) to the priests of the Neolithic era and Mesopotamia (God 2.0), to the prophets and spiritual teachers of Judaism, Christianity and Islam (God 3.0.)
In a stunning unification of science, religion and spirituality, God 4.0 presents a new understanding of transcendence as the activation of an innate quiescent faculty in the brain, a second system of cognition we all share. If developed, it can help to dissolve religious, tribal and cultural biases and user in a higher level of conscious connection – a new “spiritual literacy”.
40 reviews3 followers
October 17, 2021
The authors state that, “.. All over the world, and seemingly throughout our history, those people interested in transcending to a higher consciousness appear to do strange things….” In this regard they traverse the shamanic with its carefully secreted cave art and its current practitioners. They note the metamorphosis of cave to temple, from many spirits to many gods and how agriculture may have been stimulated by worship rather than vice versa. They track the rise and inevitable decay of the monotheistic religions, Yahweh at first being one amongst many gods. And then, following their analysis of brain function, psychology and science they return to another strange thing. They outline the scientific basis for the use of specific stories as tools of transcendence. Very interesting publication.
Profile Image for Susan Josephs.
19 reviews1 follower
November 28, 2021
God 4.0 is a brilliant compilation of the history of humankind’s search for spiritual understanding. The Ornsteins divide our evolutionary history into four phases, and shares copious brain research insights about them. Reading this book puts into perspective how we have evolved and some of the reasons some of us prefer spiritual paths while others are drawn to more fundamental, religious approaches. Working together on the book, Bob & Sally Ornstein provide the reader with an understanding of where we are and what has to happen if we are to evolve consciously. They share several of Idries Shah’s teaching stories. Reading and reflecting on these stories can help develop “second sight”, described by Ornstein as something we can experience that takes us out of the everyday reality we live in.

I have read all of Dr. Robert Ornstein’s books on brain research and left/right brain functioning, and I’ve incorporated his work into my teaching and teacher training. This book brings all of the previous work to a whole cloth and illuminates what is possible.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
21 reviews3 followers
August 20, 2021
Just pre- ordered it. Bought the paper book version and the Digital version. Looking forward to reading this very important book.
6 reviews
January 13, 2023
I am proceeding slowly, pausing to consider many paragraphs, tales and references.
1 review
November 21, 2021
Staggering in scope and breadth, God 4.0 is the culmination of Ornstein’s work on the psychology of consciousness. Connecting the latest research from archeology, religious history, psychology and brain science, the authors extend a timely invitation to readers to explore a latent, intuitive faculty we all share — one that can move us beyond belief, faith, and doctrine to a wider perception of who we are and who we could become.
Some books take you to places you have not been or revisit places anew- this book offers the journey of a lifetime with seasoned, sensible tour guides. I encourage all to join the journey.
Profile Image for Glenn Davisson.
24 reviews3 followers
November 17, 2021
Outstanding in every way - this book is a must read. It is must have knowledge for a mature human. We all need to mature. Humanity needs to mature. This book is for a mature humanity. Let's make it happen.
Profile Image for Toni.
173 reviews14 followers
December 17, 2022
Monotheism. Impressed by this section. Shows (in a most interesting way) how approaches to the evolution of man, the hows of ways for man to evolve, become meaningless repetition, shells of something that once had an evolutionary function. And how 'men' of conscious evolution, men who have access to a stable higher consciousness have again and again refreshed the science of understanding and shown a unity of approach whatever the vehicle in which the understanding is offered and expressed, art science philosophy religion.
Page 23 'What happens is that the normal step- by step- moment- by moment- way of dealing with the world which is useful for crossing the street or cutting up carrots- gets by passed shoved aside. And inside the brain what's called the default mode switches from an everyday "small world" of limited connections to one in which connections are expanded.'
More comments 7/6/22. Makes clear how little man knows within his fields of learning or makes it clear to this reader. One knows this is so but acts as if quite the contrary were the case.
Profile Image for Miles Daffin.
4 reviews
December 3, 2021
The way out of 'this mess' is not loads of meetings to somehow reconcile an exploding plethora of heterogeneous tribes/people/opinions/points of view. The way out is for more of us to be able to actually see what's really going on beyond our subjective bubbles, and for this to become our common ground. Our brains are built for this. What an interesting idea.
Profile Image for Bridgette.
240 reviews5 followers
December 11, 2021
God 4.0 is a wonderfully written spiritual book. It offers an alternative way of thinking about spirituality, science and religion. You can tell this book was heavily researched and covers a variety of topics. I highly recommend this book, and the three others before it, to get the full package of not just religion, but spirituality.
26 reviews1 follower
November 23, 2021
A fascinating, clear-eyed and perspective-altering look at spirituality. Well worth the read!
Profile Image for Cindelu.
488 reviews21 followers
December 21, 2021
I won this book on Goodreads. It was fascinating and well written. The first three chapters looked at a brief history of religion and how agriculture and culture influenced it. All religions were treated equally. It moved on discussing how the brain works with meditation and other ways to attempt transcendence with a higher power. It posed and answered many interesting theories and questions.
Profile Image for Corey Norton.
12 reviews2 followers
March 30, 2022
Ornstein presents a very interesting mix of historical and scientific information about the second system of consciousness. Definitely an interesting read, although I think some of it may have gone a bit over my head. If you're looking for a religious or spiritual guide, this is not the book you want. However, if you're interested more in the anthropological history and novel psychological studies behind the manifestation of spirtuality, have at it! Be warned though, it can be very dry at times.
Profile Image for R.Z..
Author 7 books16 followers
August 31, 2022
An interesting look at alternative consciousness and what happens in the brain when we access this. A psychologist lays out the neurology of the brain changes that occur when we leave our normal everyday thinking to enter a state that seems to connect all things in the universe. He warns of the downsides of seeking this state of consciousness, and it's worth heeding this warning. The history of seeking "God" is laid out well. This book is a worthwhile read, as it sticks to its topic, and makes no effort to examine, for example, the paranormal, alternate universes, string theory, or other unknowns.
Displaying 1 - 19 of 19 reviews

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