Classic and Contemporary Perspectives
by Deane H. Shapiro, Jr., and Roger N. Walsh
Reviewed by ELENA GUTIERREZ
Aldine Publishing Co.
(out of print)
THE FIRST TWO-THIRDS of the twentieth century, yoga
and meditation were almost completely ignored by university
researchers, despite the fact that these activities
pose questions of obvious interest for numerous academic
disciplines including psychology, psychiatry, physiology,
religion, and anthropology.
changed very suddenly in the late sixties. Almost overnight,
a torrent of research papers began to appear on these
topics in respected peer-reviewed journals. By the end
of the 1970s, more than one thousand had been published.1
Based on a count of entries in the bibliography of the
volume under review.
main cause of this dramatic change was, of course, the
sixties counterculture. This was the decade when psychedelic
drugs including LSD and mescaline became a fad, provoking
widespread interest in altered states of consciousness,2
which in turn stimulated experimentation with yoga and
meditation. The whole dynamic was neatly embodied in
the spiritual odyssey of the Beatles, the most popular
rock stars of the day, who, after using LSD for several
years, went to India as disciples of Maharishi Mahesh
Yogi, the founder of Transcendental Meditation.
The phrase "altered state of consciousness"
was apparently invented during this period. See Arnold
M. Ludwig, "Altered States of Consciousness,"
reprinted in the anthology
of the same name edited by Charles T. Tart.
The surging interest in meditation extended beyond
the popular culture into classrooms and laboratories.
As researchers published papers about meditation,
universities offered courses about it and students
signed up for them. By 1984 this virtuous cycle was
sufficiently mature to lure Aldine, a publisher of
textbooks, into releasing a fat anthology of the best
papers published on the subject so far.
The editors were Deane H. Shapiro, Jr., a clinical
psychologist, and Roger N. Walsh, a psychiatrist.
Both were (and are) faculty members at the University
The book contains sixty papers, most of them reprinted
but some published there for the first time, plus
an epilogue by the editors and a bibliography with
over a thousand citations.
The papers represent a very broad range of methodologies.
Some of them are pure hard science; others are discussions
of ancient texts. Some are theoretical; others empirical.
Some invent new conceptual frameworks; others elucidate
Approximately two-thirds of the papers fall into
the categories of psychology or physiology. Some representative
"Meditation in the Treatment
of Psychiatric Illness."
"A Rorschach Study of the Stages
of Mindfulness Meditation."
"Autonomic Stability and Transcendental
"Spectral Analysis of the EEG
The rest of the volume covers a variety of topics
whose diversity defies summarization. I'll mention
a couple of papers that were particularly interesting
One of the papers contains the clearest description
and analysis I have ever seen of Mahamudra, an important
form of Tibetan yoga. The paper, "Tibetan Yoga:
A Model for the Levels of Concentrative Meditation,"
by Daniel P. Brown, attempts to construct a "cartography"
or map for the stages through which a student moves.
An equally ambitious attempt to construct a cartography
of meditative states is contained in "The Buddha
on Meditation and State of Consciousness" by
Daniel J. Goleman. (This paper was later incorporated
in Goleman's well-known book The Varieties of Meditative
Experience, also published as The
Meditative Mind.) Goleman bases his map coordinates
on a careful reading of the Vissudhimagga,
a classical Theravada text.
Some of the book's most interesting papers are contained
in a section on electroencephalography (EEG), the
measurement of electrical signals from the head. Several
classic papers on the alpha-blocking question are
included, which present evidence that yogic (concentrative)
meditation has different effects than Zen (insight)
I recommend this volume very highly for readers with
an academic or intellectual interest in meditation.
In fact, for such readers, I think the book is indispensable.
Unfortunately, it's out of print, but you can probably
find a copy on the Advanced
Book Exchange. I bought a pristine copy there
2000 Elena Gutierrez
Gutierrez writes frequently for this website.
STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS
By Charles T. Tart
This is the book that popularized
the phrase "altered states of consciousness." This classic anthology
of research papers, first published in 1969 and now in its third edition
(1990), was instrumental in making the study of altered states like hypnosis,
dreaming, meditation, and drug-induced states respectable. It brings together
many ground-breaking papers on biofeedback and meditation, including articles
about EEG analysis of experienced meditators while they are meditating.
The Varieties of Meditative Experience
By Daniel Goleman
If you're looking for an
overview of the main meditation systems, something that will help you
navigate the bewildering thicket of competing traditions and religions,
this is probably the best book in English. Goleman first explains the
classical Theravada system, then contrasts and compares it to others,
and finally attempts to show what they all have in common by means of
the useful categories of concentration and mindfulness. The book also
contains a long section on Buddhist psychology and a few other odds and
ends. Goleman has considerable personal experience with meditation and
it shows. Read more about it here on Amazon.com.. ORDER IT
page was published on November 27, 2000 and last
revised on November 28, 2000.