Morris Berman

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Morris Berman
Born (1944-08-03) August 3, 1944 (age 79)
Rochester, New York, United States
OccupationEducator, scholar, writer
LanguageEnglish, Spanish
CitizenshipUS (born); Mexico (resides)
Alma materCornell University (BA, Mathematics, 1966)
Johns Hopkins University (PhD, History of Science, 1971)
Notable worksThe Reenchantment of the World, The Twilight of American Culture
Notable awardsRollo May Center Grant (1992) Neil Postman Award (2013)
Dark Ages America

Morris Berman (born August 3, 1944)[1] is an American historian and social critic. He earned a BA in mathematics at Cornell University in 1966 and a PhD in the history of science at Johns Hopkins University in 1971.[2] Berman is an academic humanist cultural critic who specializes in Western cultural and intellectual history.

Life and work[edit]

Berman has served on the faculties of a number of universities in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Berman emigrated from the U.S. to Mexico in 2006, where he was a visiting professor at the Tecnologico de Monterrey in Mexico City from 2008 to 2009. During this period he continued writing for various publications including Parteaguas, a quarterly magazine.[3]

Although an academic, Berman has written several books for a general audience.[4] They deal with the state of Western civilization and with an ethical, historically responsible, or enlightened approach to living within it. His work emphasizes the legacies of the European Enlightenment and the historical place of present-day American culture.

He wrote a trilogy on consciousness and spirituality, published between 1981 and 2000, and another trilogy on the American decline, published between 2000 and 2011. Book reviewer George Scialabba commented:

Most historians would be content to have written one deeply researched and interpretively wide-ranging trilogy on a large and important subject. Berman has written two: one on alternative forms of consciousness and spirituality (The Re-enchantment of the World, Coming to Our Senses, Wandering God) and one on the decline of American civilization (The Twilight of American Culture, Dark Ages America, Why America Failed). The second trilogy, a grimly fascinating inventory of the pathologies of contemporary America and an unsparing portrait of American history and national character, is a masterpiece.[5]

Participating consciousness[edit]

The term participating consciousness was introduced by Berman in The Re-enchantment of the World (1981)[6][7] expanding on Owen Barfield's concept of "original participation," to describe an ancient mode of human thinking that does not separate the perceiver from the world he or she perceives. Berman says that this original world view has been replaced during the past 400 years with the modern paradigm called Cartesian, Newtonian, or scientific, which depends on an isolated observer, proposing that we can understand the world only by distancing ourselves from it.

Max Weber, early 20th-century German sociologist, was concerned with the "disenchantment" he associated with the rise of modernity, capitalism, and scientific consciousness. Berman traces the history of this disenchantment. He argues that the modern consciousness is destructive to both the human psyche and the planetary environment. Berman challenges the supremacy of the modern world view and argues for some new form of the older holistic tradition, which he describes as follows:

"Participating consciousness" involves merger, or identification, with one's surroundings, and bespeaks a psychic wholeness that has long since passed from the scene. Alchemy, as it turns out, was the last great coherent expression of participating consciousness in the West."

The concept of participating consciousness has been used and further developed by philosophers and analytical psychologists, among others, and the idea of re-enchantment is a recurring theme among scholars.[8][9][10] Some compare participating consciousness to the thinking of non-Western indigenous peoples. Others link it to esoteric traditions or religious thought.[11][12][13]


In 1990, Berman received the Governor's Writers Award (Washington State) for his book Coming to Our Senses.[14] In 1992, he was the recipient of the first annual Rollo May Center Grant for Humanistic Studies. In 2000, Berman's book The Twilight of American Culture was named one of the ten most recommended books of the year by the Christian Science Monitor[15] and was named a "Notable Book" by The New York Times.[16] In 2013 he received the "Neil Postman Award for Career Achievement in Public Intellectual Activity" from the Media Ecology Association.[17] Berman moved to Mexico in 2006 where he continues to reside as of 2023.[3]

Selected works[edit]

  • Social Change & Scientific Organization: The Royal Institution 1799–1844. 1978. – nonfiction
  • The Reenchantment of The World. 1981. – nonfiction
  • Coming to Our Senses: Body and Spirit in the Hidden History of the West. 1989. —nonfiction[18]
  • Wandering God: A Study in Nomadic Spirituality. 2000. – nonfiction
  • The Twilight of American Culture. 2000. – nonfiction
  • Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire. 2006. – nonfiction
  • A Question of Values. 2010. – essay collection – nonfiction
  • Destiny. 2010. – fiction (a collection of three novellas)
  • Counting Blessings. 2011. – post
  • Why America Failed: The Roots of Imperial Decline. 2011. – nonfiction[19]
  • Spinning Straw Into Gold: Straight Talk for Troubled Times. 2013. – a philosophical memoir – nonfiction[20]
  • Neurotic Beauty: An Outsider Looks At Japan. 2015. – nonfiction [5]
  • The Man Without Qualities. 2016. – fiction (a novel)[21]
  • Are We There Yet?: Essays & Reflections, 2010-2017. 2017. – essay collection – nonfiction[22]
  • Genio: The Story of Italian Genius. 2019. – nonfiction[23]
  • The Heart of the Matter. 2020. – fiction (short story collection)[24]
  • Eminent Post-Victorians: Portraits of Genius. 2022. – nonfiction
  • Healing: The Defining Root of Our Existence. 2023. – nonfiction
  • The Soul of Russia: From Pushkin to Tarkovsky. 2023. – nonfiction[25]


  1. ^ Congress, The Library of. "Berman, Morris, 1944- - LC Linked Data Service: Authorities and Vocabularies | Library of Congress, from LC Linked Data Service: Authorities and Vocabularies (Library of Congress)".
  2. ^ Berman, Morris. "The Denial of Death". DARK AGES AMERICA. Retrieved 29 September 2017. I was Ph.D. from Hopkins in 1971 as well. All my bios, including Wikipedia, have it as 1972, but in fact it was 15 Feb 1971. Go figure.
  3. ^ a b "Blogger: User Profile: Morris Berman".
  4. ^ Prins, Nomi (2010-11-25). "America the Material". Truthdig. Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  5. ^ a b Scialabba, George (2015-10-27). "Fuse Book Review: 'Neurotic Beauty'—Japanese Therapeutics". The Arts Fuse. Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  6. ^ Morris Berman, The Reenchantment of the World, Cornell University Press, 1981
  7. ^ Morris Berman, Excerpts from The Reenchantment of the World,
  8. ^ Clive Hamilton, The Freedom Paradox: Towards a Post-Secular Ethics," Allen & Unwin, 2008
  9. ^ Stanley J. Scott, Frontiers of Consciousness: Interdisciplinary Studies in American Philosophy, Fordham University Press, 1991
  10. ^ Sharon Warner, "An epistemology of ‘participating consciousness’: Overcoming the epistemological rupture of self and world,"
  11. ^ Elizabeth A. Gowdy,"From Technical Rationality to Participating Consciousness," Social Work 39 (1994): 362–370
  12. ^ Joshua Landy and Michael Saler, ed. The Re-Enchantment of the World: Secular Magic in a Rational Age, Stanford University Press, 2009
  13. ^ Willeford, W. (1984), Magic and Participating Consciousness. Journal of Analytical Psychology, 29: 337–353.
  14. ^ "Washington State Book Award Winners". Archived from the original on 2015-05-14. Retrieved 2015-03-08.
  15. ^ "Recommended Books". The Christian Science Monitor. 2000-11-16. Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  16. ^ "Notable Books". New York Times. 3 December 2000. Retrieved 23 February 2021.
  17. ^ "Past MEA Award Recipients". Media Ecology Association. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
  18. ^ "Coming to Our Senses — Echo Point Books & Media, LLC". September 24, 2023.
  19. ^ Domino, Joseph A. (28 March 2019). "Why America Failed by Morris Berman (review)". American Studies. 52 (1): 198. doi:10.1353/ams.2012.0031. S2CID 144332400 – via Project MUSE.
  20. ^ "Spinning Straw Into Gold". Echo Point Books & Media, LLC.
  21. ^ Domino, Joseph A. (12 May 2016). "A Nation Without Qualities". HuffPost. Retrieved 2021-02-23.
  22. ^ "Are We There Yet?". Echo Point Books & Media, LLC.
  23. ^ "Genio". Echo Point Books & Media, LLC.
  24. ^ "The Heart of the Matter — Echo Point Books & Media, LLC". September 24, 2023.
  25. ^ "The Soul of Russia". Echo Point Books & Media, LLC.

External links[edit]