Ancient Wisdom and Modern Science

Reviewer: David Christopher Lane
Publisher: FATE magazine
Publication date: 1987

E-mail David Christopher Lane directly at

I want to go back to the home base now.

Fate Magazine Book Review: Ancient Wisdom and Modern Science

Ancient Wisdom and Modern Science edited by Stanislav Grof, State University of New York Press, Albany N.Y., 1984, 285 pages, $24.50 hardcover, $10.95 paperback.

Ancient Wisdom and Modern Science comes from a conference sponsored by the International Transpersonal Association and held in Bombay, India, in February 1982.

The 22 essays are from a variety of contributors inclusing transpersonal psychologists and theorists (Stanislav Grof and Frances Vaughan), religious personages and aspirants (Swami Muktandanda, Mother Teresa and Jack Kornfield) and scientists (Fritjof Capra, Rupert Sheldrake and Karl Pribram). The result is an occassionally uneven but basically worthwhile book.

The most valuable piece from the transpersonalists is Grof's introductory paper "East and West: Ancient Wisdom and Modern Science," from which the book dreived its title. It clearly draws the parallels between the revelations of mystics and the discoveries of modern science on the ultimate nature of reality.

Mother Teresa contributes "Love Until it Hurts," a short but moving piece which gains its eloquence not so much from its content but from the living presence of its author. When Mother Teresa speaks of God and love, the reader knows that she is not just reciting platitudes but talking from years of day-to-day applications.

The same cannot be said of Swami Muktananda whose writing and influence are prominent throughout the book. Although Muktananda writes of "Understanding Your Own Mind," apparently he couldn't fully comprehend his, given the recent revelations in Co- Evolutionary Quarterly about the swami's numerous sexual liasons with young females in America and in his Ganeshpuri ashram in India. Although these disturbing did come to light until just recently, they nevertheless must be a source of embarrassment for the publisher and the editor. Indeed, most of the spiritual community was shocked when reports from many different quarters surfaced about Swami Muktananda's "hidden life."

Swami Kripananda and Ajit Mookerlee present detailed accounts of the kundalini, an evolutionary force believed to reside "coiled up" in the base of the spine waiting for proper awakening. Kripanaanda's article "Kundalini: The Energy of Transformation," based upon his religious experiences with Swami Muktananda, is a personal narrative of the kundalini process. Mookerjee's "Kudalini: The Awakening of the Cosmic Energy," the more scholarly of the two, is an informative overview of kundalini metaphysics, complete with elaborate charts.

The strongest section of the book is part three, "New Paradigms In Western Science," which contains provocative essays by Capra, Pribram, Joseph Chilton Pearce and others. Outstanding among these papers is Pribram's "The Holographic Hypothesis of Brain Functio: A Meeting of Minds" and Sheldrake's "Morphic Resonance," reprinted from A New Science of Life (1981). Both works, while controversial, reflect the new studies being done in neurophysiology and biology.

Overall, Ancient Wisdom and Modern Science has much to recommend it, especially as an introduction for the lay reader and as a textbook for alternative philosophy classes.
--David Christopher Lane

E-mail The Neural Surfer directly at

I want to go back to the home base now.