B. Alan Wallace

For the New Zealand cricketer, see Alan Wallace (cricketer).
B. Alan Wallace, Padma Samten, Marlene Rossi Severino Nobre, and Roberto Lúcio Vieira de Souza, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, 2009

Bruce[1] Alan Wallace (born 1950) is an American author and expert on Tibetan Buddhism. His books discuss Eastern and Western scientific, philosophical, and contemplative modes of inquiry, often focusing on the relationships he sees between science and Buddhism.[2] He is founder of the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies.[3]

Wallace promotes a dualist hypothesis about consciousness that lies in opposition to the neuroscientific understanding of consciousness. It has been criticized for referencing paranormal phenomena and employing pseudoscientific terminology characteristic of quantum mysticism.[4]

Life and career

In 1987, Wallace obtained a B.A. in physics, philosophy of science and Sanskrit from Amherst College, followed in 1995 by a Ph.D. in religious studies from Stanford University.[5] His doctoral dissertation was on The Cultivation of Sustained Voluntary Attention in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. He taught for four years in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara.[6]

Wallace founded the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies in 2003, with the objective of "furthering such interdisciplinary and cross-cultural investigation of the nature and potentials of consciousness and extending its benefits to the general public." One of the institute's projects is the Shamatha Project, a longitudinal scientific study of the effects of intensive meditation training.[7][8] This developed into the International Shamatha Project (ISP).

Wallace worked with psychologist Paul Ekman and Eve Ekman on the Cultivating Emotional Balance (CEB) project.[9]

View of consciousness

Wallace puts forward the hypothesis that individual consciousness emerges from deeper, underlying levels of consciousness, an idea that he says originates in Buddhism.[10][11] He explains, "The psyche is not emerging from the brain, conditioned by the environment. The human psyche is in fact emerging from an individual continuum of consciousness that is conjoined with the brain during the development of the fetus."[2][4] He describes this view as being opposite to the view taken by neuroscientists, who see consciousness as the product of brain functioning.[2]

Wallace believes these underlying levels of consciousness are supported by quantum mechanics and that they are the source of paranormal phenomena such as clairvoyance and extrasensory perception.[11][12][13] This has received criticism on the grounds that evidence strongly points to such paranormal phenomena not existing, and that the use of quantum mechanics in this context amounts to "quantum woo" or quantum mysticism.[4] For instance Wallace employs the phrase "vacuum state of consciousness" to describe one of these deeper levels of consciousness;[4] neurologist Steven Novella remarks that this is a case of "using the language of quantum mechanics without applying its meaning - a classic feature of pseudoscience."[4]

Selected works

Books on Buddhism and Science

Books on Tibetan Buddhism

See also


  1. "The Cultivation of Sustained Voluntary Attention in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism". PhilPapers. 1995. Retrieved July 19, 2016.
  2. 1 2 3 Paulson, Steve (November 27, 2006). "Buddha on the brain". Salon. Retrieved September 4, 2015.
  3. "GENUINE HAPPINESS: Meditation as the Path to Fulfillment". Publishers Weekly
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Novella, Steven. "B. Alan Wallace and Buddhist Dualism". Retrieved February 25, 2013.
  5. Paulson, Steve (1 November 2010). Atoms and Eden: Conversations on Religion and Science. Oxford University Press. pp. 145–. ISBN 978-0-19-978150-8.
  6. Alumni of Stanford's Buddhist Studies Program
  7. "Meditation Research - replacement source".
  8. "To make a killing in the markets, start meditating". Bloomberg News, by Katherine Burton and Anthony Effinger, via Financial Post, May 29, 2014.
  9. Kemey, Margaret; Foltz, C.; Cavanagh, J. F.; Cullen, M.; Giese-Davis, J.; Jennings, P.; Rosenberg, E. L.; Gillath, O.; Shaver, P. R.; Wallace, B. A.; Ekman, P. (Dec 12, 2011). "Contemplative/Emotion Training Reduces Negative Emotional Behavior and Promotes Prosocial Responses" (PDF). Emotion (Winter). doi:10.1037/a0026118. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-10-22. Retrieved 2015-07-15.
  10. Repetti, Rick (28 July 2016). Buddhist Perspectives on Free Will: Agentless Agency?. Taylor & Francis. pp. 6–. ISBN 978-1-317-36209-8.
  11. 1 2 Smetham, Graham (August 2015). Quantum Path to Enlightenment. Lulu. pp. 91–93.
  12. Scialabba, George (25 February 2007). "Contemplate this: AI vs. meditation". The Boston Globe.
  13. Smetham, Graham (2012). Quantum Buddhist Wonders of the Universe. Lulu.com. pp. 77–. ISBN 978-1-4717-7368-6.

External links

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