B. Alan Wallace

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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 expert on Tibetan Buddhism. Wallace founded the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies,[2] and has focused on the relationships between science and Eastern philosophy. A 2006 Salon article said that Wallace "may be the American Buddhist most committed to finding connections between Buddhism and science."[3] His books discuss contemporary findings among Eastern and Western scientific, philosophical, and contemplative modes of inquiry.

Wallace promotes an hypothesis about consciousness that he says is in opposition to that of neuroscientists.[3] It has been criticized for referencing paranormal phenomena and employing pseudoscientific terminology characteristic of quantum mysticism.[4]

Life and career[edit]

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[edit]

Wallace puts forward the hypothesis that individual consciousness emerges from "substrate consciousness", an idea that he says originates in Buddhism.[10] 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... There’s another dimension of consciousness, which is called the substrate consciousness."[3][4] He describes this view as being opposite to the view taken by neuroscientists who see consciousness as the product of brain functioning.[3]

Wallace cites as evidence for this hypothesis references to quantum mechanics and paranormal phenomena such as clairvoyance and extrasensory perception.[dubious ][11][12] These have been criticized[by whom?] on the grounds that evidence strongly points to such paranormal phenomena not existing,[citation needed] and that the use of quantum mechanics amounts to "quantum woo" or quantum mysticism. Wallace employs the phrase "vacuum state of consciousness" to describe "substrate consciousness";[13] 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]

Wallace believes that evidence of "substrate consciousness" may be obtained through meditative states and that the purview of science should be expanded to include the subjective testimony of meditators.[3] Novella sees this as analogous to an aspect of intelligent design, "Just as the [intelligent design] proponents want to change the rules of science to allow entry to supernatural causes, Wallace wants to change the rules of science to allow evidence from Buddhist contemplatives."[4]

Selected works[edit]

Books published by major academic publishers:

  • The Taboo of Subjectivity: Toward a New Science of Consciousness Oxford University Press, 2000
  • Buddhism and Science: Breaking New Ground (ed.) Columbia University Press, 2003
  • Genuine Happiness: Meditation as the Path to Fulfillment John Wiley & Sons, 2005[2]
  • Contemplative Science: Where Buddhism and Neuroscience Converge. Columbia University Press, 2007[11]
  • Hidden Dimensions: The Unification of Physics and Consciousness Columbia University Press, 2007
  • Mind in the Balance: Meditation in Science, Buddhism, and Christianity. Columbia University Press, 2009
  • Meditations of a Buddhist Skeptic: A Manifesto for the Mind Sciences and Contemplative Practice, Columbia University Press, 2011
  • Dreaming Yourself Awake, Shambhala Publications, 2012.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Cultivation of Sustained Voluntary Attention in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism". PhilPapers. 1995. Retrieved July 19, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b "GENUINE HAPPINESS: Meditation as the Path to Fulfillment". Publishers Weekly
  3. ^ a b c d e Paulson, Steve (November 27, 2006). "Buddha on the brain". Salon. Retrieved September 4, 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c d 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". [dead link]
  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. ^ a b "Contemplate this: AI vs. meditation". The Boston Globe, By George Scialabba | February 25, 2007
  12. ^ Smetham, Graham (2012). Quantum Buddhist Wonders of the Universe. Lulu.com. pp. 77–. ISBN 978-1-4717-7368-6. 
  13. ^ Adeline van Waning (31 January 2014). The Less Dust the More Trust: Participating In The Shamatha Project, Meditation And Science. John Hunt Publishing. pp. 370–. ISBN 978-1-78279-657-2. 
  14. ^ "Book review" Dreaming Yourself Awake". Spirituality and Practice, Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

External links[edit]