- Hardcover: 634 pages
- Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (February 19, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1442232382
- ISBN-13: 978-1442232389
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.7 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 14 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #433,368 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Beyond Physicalism: Toward Reconciliation of Science and Spirituality
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
The Sursem project has been, in recent times, the longest lasting and most intellectually substantial enquiry into rogue phenomena. It has resulted in [a] mammoth work . . . Beyond Physicalism – a volume that not only provides much food for thought but is in itself a feast of thinking. (Network Review)
Beyond Physicalism presents a serious challenge to physicalism from psychologists, neuroscientists, physicists, philosophers, and Eastern scholars. This volume is no 'New Age' pap with easy answers, but it carefully considers so far intractable issues; and, it demands careful and repeated readings. . . .Beyond Physicalism should interest readers who are willing to consider the intricacies and extraordinary nature of consciousness, rather than dismissing them offhand. No doubt some of the ideas covered in the book will be shown to be limited . . . but they seek to provide a comprehensive explanation of mind and matter that has been lacking in most discussions until now. Beyond Physicalism does not offer a definitive theory, but it describes serious alternatives to materialism. The appropriate reply by the holders of the latter position should be not to ignore the phenomena explained by these alternatives, as they have usually done so far, but to advance a better materialist position to explain them. Will they take up the gauntlet? (PsycCRITIQUES)
[T]his is an excellent book on the subject[.] (De Numine)
Beyond Physicalism heralds an impending shift of epic proportion in humankind's efforts to understand the nature of reality, and potentially the most significant advance in the recent history of the mind-body debate. This landmark book provides an unprecedented synthesis of science, psychology, philosophy and theology, approaching the deeper truth of all existence. (Eben Alexander III, MD, Neurosurgeon and author of Proof of Heaven and The Map of Heaven)
Finally, a book that conclusively demonstrates that it is possible, in fact preferable, to reconcile genuine science with spirituality. Drawing upon a massive amount of compelling empirical data, and weaving together several interrelated and extremely thoughtful theoretical perspectives offered by a range of highly respected scientists and humanists, Beyond Physicalism articulates a cogent and compelling alternative to the distorted “all or nothing” dichotomy between a narrow-minded religious fundamentalism and an equally dogmatic and rigid scientistic mentality. (G. William Barnard, professor of Religious Studies, Southern Methodist University)
Beyond Physicalism lays several stones for the foundation of a new world-view. No book has gone further toward reconciling science and spirituality. (William Eastman, former director of SUNY Press)
In this wonderful sequel to Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century, "rogue" phenomena that are the essential facts denied by psychology too long mired in varieties of physicalism are rightly accepted as empirical fact. Abandoning neither the truths of science nor those of religion, evolutionary panentheism provides the tertium quid that that can steer us safely home. This is a must read book. Marvelous! (Ralph W. Hood Jr., professor of Psychology, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and former editor, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion)
Dogmatic materialists, sometimes called skeptics, claim that to accept the possibility of any non-physical force or entity requires that we sacrifice all of modern science. No matter the apparent evidence, we are told, the future of scientific progress and rationality are at stake. Creationism and the flat Earth lie in wait. Beyond Physicalism, however, presents both solid empirical evidence and fully rational theoretical views demonstrating that the materialist’s dichotomy is false. This book offers a third way, reconciling science and spirituality without diluting either. Robust and evidence-based, this work by highly respected scholars and scientists demolishes orthodoxies right and left, allowing the reader a way forward past the Scylla and Charybdis of religious and scientific fundamentalisms. (David J. Hufford, professor emeritus, Penn State College of Medicine.)
Beyond Physicalism” is much more than a book. It is the intimate expression of a decade and a half of critical but collegial conversations between established scientists and professional humanists around some of the most important but still unsettled questions facing humanity: those involving the nature of mind or consciousness—that is, the nature of us. (Jeffrey J. Kripal, Rice University)
Beyond Physicalism is an eye-opening (perhaps one might be permitted to say “soulful”) collection of essays by disciplined researchers who seek to develop a credible conception of the spiritual nature of human beings. The authors are hard-nosed scientists and humanistic scholars who believe it is possible to reject the “old man in the sky pulling the strings” version of theism without embracing dispiriting contemporary versions of materialism. (Richard A. Shweder, Harold Higgins Swift Distinguished Service Professor, Department of Comparative Human Development, University of Chicago)
Some of the philosophical problems that occupied William James longest and deepest, along with solutions he thought most promising, have literally been written out of history. This volume presents the first serious collective attempt since James’ death to revive his project. Its chapters are characterized by an intellectual ethos reminiscent of the ‘father’ of modern American psychology himself: sympathetic open-mindedness made fruitful through disciplined, calm and penetrating rigor. (Andreas Sommer, junior research fellow in history and philosophy of science, Churchill College, University of Cambridge)
If you are personally content thinking of yourself as a meaningless byproduct of accidental chemical reactions, what I’ve called the Total Materialism view of reality, and think you’re superior for being so “scientific,” you don’t want to read this book, not that you can actually freely make a choice, because it will upset you and you’ll need some tranquilizing drugs to calm your agitated brain. But if you believe facts are more important than currently fashionable scientistic theories and wonder about the spiritual side of human nature, you will find this volume fascinating! (Charles T. Tart, professor emeritus of psychology, University of California, Davis)
I see this book as a landmark publication that may help to catalyze two urgently needed, radical transformations in modern civilization. The first is the first true revolution in the mind sciences, which is bound to have profound repercussions all the way down to the foundations of physics. The second is a renaissance in the world’s great contemplative traditions. Both science and spirituality need to return to a spirit of open-minded, radical empiricism, casting off the shackles of dogmatic metaphysics, whether materialistic or religious. (B. Alan Wallace, physicist and Buddhism scholar, president of the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies)
When I first encountered Kelly and colleagues’ first book, Irreducible Mind, I enthusiastically read all 800 pages, excited to see a book that so carefully documented the research that supports the notion that consciousness is not simply a product of neural activity. When I completed the book, I wanted to know more. I wanted to know details of a theoretical framework they had alluded to, which might include both mystical experiences and scientific understanding of consciousness within one “big picture.” Their second book, Beyond Physicalism, brings together key scholars in the areas of quantum physics, psychology, Asian philosophy and mysticism to thoughtfully explore ways that mystical and psi experiences can fit into an expanded scientific worldview. (Marjorie Hines Woollacott, professor, Department of Human Physiology and Institute of Neuroscience, University of Oregon)
About the Author
Edward F. Kelly is a research professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the University of Virginia, with interests in psychical research and functional neuroimaging. He is lead author of three previous books: Computer Recognition of English Word Senses; Altered States of Consciousness and Psi: An Historical Survey and Research Prospectus; and Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century.
Adam Crabtree is a psychotherapist in private practice and on the faculty of the Centre for Training in Psychotherapy in Toronto, with interests in the history of animal magnetism and hypnotism, as well as the history and practice of psychodynamic psychology. He is author of six books including From Mesmer to Freud: Magnetic Sleep and the Root of Psychological Healing;Multiple Man; and Memoir of a Trance Therapist.
Paul Marshall is an independent researcher with interests in mysticism, philosophy and psychology of religion, science-religion relations, and consciousness studies. He is author of two previous books, The Living Mirror: Images of Reality in Science and Mysticism; and Mystical Encounters with the Natural World: Experiences and Explanations.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
For several decades, Michael Murphy has sponsored a variety of seminars at Esalen (the institute he founded) aimed at advancing human potential. “Beyond Physicalism” (like Kelly’s previous edited volume, “Irreducible Mind”) is the product of the longest running seminar in Esalen history, the “Big SUR Seminar,” also known as the SURvival Seminar, or SURsem for short. A diverse array of scholars and practitioners of various meditative and growth disciplines – including neuroscientists, physicists, psychiatrists, historians and philosophers – have had wide-ranging conversations regarding the empirical evidence for human survival of death, as suggested by research on mystical experiences, psychical phenomena, near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences, and children who are able to remember past lives (you can find supplementary material for “Beyond Physicalism” at the website for the “Esalen Institute Center for Theory and Research (CTR).”
As Alan Wallace wrote of “Beyond Physicalism”, it goes a long way toward "blowing away the fog of ignorance and confusion that materialists have imposed on the scientific community and humanity at large.” Lest you think Wallace is going too far in accusing the materialists of creating a “fog of ignorance and confusion,” Ed Kelly writes eloquently in the introduction of the “astonishing hubris [of materialists who] dismiss en masse the collective experience and wisdom of a large proportion of our forebears, including persons widely recognized as pillars of all human civilization”
Kelly describes the target group for “Beyond Physicalism” as “scientifically-minded, intelligent adults,” fitting generally into the “spiritual but not religious” category. They are skeptical both of scientism (‘fundamaterialism’, as Neal Grossman refers to it) and religious fundamentalism. SURsem made a commendable effort to insure that scholars of both science and the humanities contributed. In the introduction, Kelly has an amusing description of his shock at the extent to which academic religious scholars adhere to an almost dogmatic brand of materialism, allegedly to maintain objectivity (this reminds me of the head of one prestigious religious department which had a number of excellent courses in Buddhism. When asked if he would hire the Buddha as a professor, he said no, because the Buddha could not be objective about Buddhism!).
Whereas “Irreducible Mind” was focused mostly on presenting the research that supports the idea that consciousness is not limited to brain activity, “Beyond Physicalism” goes far beyond, exploring the ways that paranormal and mystical experiences can fit into what the authors repeatedly refer to as an “expanded scientific worldview.” I believe their choice of the evolutionary vision of Frederic Myers and the radical empiricism of William James is excellent, providing a solid grounding in science while pointing toward a dramatic revision of our understanding of the universe. As Alan Wallace puts it (Wallace has referred repeatedly to James’ “radical empiricist” approach), “[‘Beyond Physicalism’ represents a] return to the true spirit of open-minded empiricism that heralded the rise of modern science.”
“Beyond Physicalism” has three parts – Chapters 1 and 2 in PART I, Chapters 3 to 13 in PART II, and chapters 14 and 15 in PART III.
In chapter I, Ed Kelly (in what I think is his clearest writing to date) reviews the main arguments for various unusual paranormal and mystic phenomena (Kelly’s group commonly refers to them as “rogue” phenomena) presented in “Irreducible Mind”. He quite wisely informs us that SURsem’s aim is to insure that even the most abstruse theorizing is always grounded in careful empirical investigation.
In chapter 2, Paul Marshal describes various theoretical challenges that mystical experience presents to the physicalist paradigm. His descriptions of such things as expansive knowing (also often referred to as “gnosis”; what Sri Aurobindo calls “knowledge by identity” as compared to our usual “separative” or dualistic knowledge), altered time sense and overwhelming feelings of unity are very well articulated – showing that mystical experience – particularly the “extroverted” type that Marshall is especially interested in – can in fact be described, at least to some extent.
PART II presents several of the theoretical perspectives that the SURsem group thought had the most potential to incorporate the various “rogue” phenomena described in “Irreducible Mind”.
In Chapter 3, Michael Grosso focuses on the filter model of Myers and James, while providing a broader history of relevant thinkers. Eloquently written and quite accessible, his historical overview shows how odd the current focus on physicalist theories is from this greater historical perspective.
Ed Kelly and David Presti follow up in Chapter 4, providing several neurobiological and psycho-physiological details that they believe could should light on the “permission” metaphor common to the filter theories of both James and Myers. Though somewhat technical, it is still quite accessible. I should mention briefly here that Carpenter’s First Sight theory could add a lot to this – see more on First Sight below.
Chapters 5-7 are written by specialists in the physical sciences. Most notable is that you won’t find here any of the simplistic “quantum physics proves consciousness is the ultimate reality” claims that have made it difficult for many to see the radical implications of contemporary physics. In Chapter 5, Henry Stapp shows that even the most extreme “rogue” phenomena such as after-death experience and rebirth are compatible with current theories in physics. Harald Atmanspacher and Wolfgang Fach present the dual-aspect monist theory of Pauli and Jung in Chapter 6. They do an excellent job of showing how this view provides a much stronger basis for understanding unusual experiences than the prevailing physicalist view. In Chapter 7, physicist and astronomer Bernard Carr presents his hyperspatial theory, drawing on the work of philosophy C. D. Broad and neuroscientist Jon Smithies, among others. As a psychologist with a very limited background in the physical sciences, I can’t say too much about this, but his description of the possibility of multiple dimensions seemed like a very important link with the multi-dimensional view of Taimni which is unfortunately slighted by Wicher and Kelly in chapter 9.
In chapter 8, Greg Shaw presents a lucid overview of the mystical metaphysics of Plotinus, who had an enormous influence on the development of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, particularly in regard to their mystical aspects. He shows how Plotinus provides a valuable link between Asiatic and European mysticism. He quite wisely suggests that the writings of Plotinus (who also, by the way, presented a multi-dimensional view of the cosmos not that different from the vision of the Upanishads) could be important in developing a basis for dealing with various “rogue” phenomena.
The selection of Ian Whicher to co-author a chapter on Patanjali was a particularly good one. Whicher, almost alone among scholars, suggests that Patanjali may have a much more nondualistic view than is commonly assumed. This aligns Patanjali with Abhinavagupta (the subject of the next chapter) and Aurobindo, whose integral vision has informed so much of Michael Murphy’s work. Chapter 9 focuses in particular on the third section of the Yoga Sutras, analyzing the various siddhis (powers) in relation to various findings in the parapsychological research. By the way, I found this chapter much more illuminating than Dean Radin’s “Supernormal”, which is also based largely on the Part III of the Yoga Sutras.
In chapter 10, Loriliai Biernacki connects the modern theory of Panentheism with the tantric views of medieval Indian yoga Abhinavagupta (this may be overly simplistic, but as I understand it, the “pan” of panentheism signifies that God and the universe are one, while the “en” denotes that God at the same time transcends the universe, which is seen as being “in” God, as in St. Paul’s declaration that God is “He **in** whom we live and move and have our being”). This is a very rich and well-written chapter, though it is quite dense and will require a lot of careful study for those not familiar with Indian philosophy. The tattvas or principles of the nondual school of Kashmir Saivism (which was greatly inspired by Abhinavagupta) are packed with implications for understanding the relationship of consciousness to contemporary theories of modern physics as well as to the graded nature of consciousness which must be understood for the development of an expanded science (if someone can work on connecting the tattvas with Carpenter’s First Sight theory, this will, I believe, have revolutionary implications for all the sciences – see also physiologist Don DeGracia’s description of the “fractal nature of consciousness” in his online book, “Beyond the Physical).
In Chapter 11, Paul Marshall lays out an essentially idealist theory focusing on the filter theory described in chapter 4, showing how it’s compatible with modern science in general, and has much power to explain “rogue” phenomena.
In Chapter 12, Adam Crabtree presents what I think may the most accessible outline of Charles Sanders Peirce’s thought available. It is a very well written chapter, as is all of Crabtree’s work I’ve come across. He suggests that the contemporary development of evolutionary panentheism owes a great deal to Peirce (as does the entire process philosophy and process theology movement).
In Chapter 13, Eric Weiss does for Whitehead what Crabtree did for Peirce – rather remarkably presenting a quite accessible (though of course, brief) overview of Whitehead’s work. He goes one step further, grounding Whitehead’s predominantly theoretical speculations in the yogic experience described by Sri Aurobindo. He quite credibly states that this integration of Whitehead and Sri Aurobindo’s views may be one of the most comprehensive means of understanding rogue phenomena and developing a truly expanded science.
PART III of “Beyond Physicalism” summarizes the overall progress of SURsem, and offers a preliminary assessment of where things stand now as well as possible future directions.
In Chapter 14, Ed Kelly draws on the 14 year history of SURsem to give us a rough draft of a new psychological model. Kelly here draws together the work from “Irreducible Mind” as well as the rich conversations of the ensuing 5 years since the publication of that book. He draws particularly on Frederic Myers’ evolutionary view, and says the group is now moving toward adopting some kind of synthesis of idealism and panentheism, adding that they are “taking into account various historical theisms as well.”
In Chapter 15, (full text available here: http://www.itp-international.org/library/print/emergence-evolutionary-panentheism) Murphy presents the world view of “evolutionary panentheism” which has guided him – at least implicitly – for the past 50 years as the overseer of the Esalen Institute. He traces EP back to its roots in such German idealist philosophers as Fichte and Schelling, and looks back to the world’s mystical traditions, such as those of Vedanta, Buddhism, Tantra, Judaism, Kashmir Saivism, and Neo-Platonism. It’s a very readable and enjoyable chapter and a fitting conclusion to this marvelous work. Murphy concludes that evolutionary panentheism can be of major importance in leading to an expanded vision of science, as portrayed both in the two SURsem books and Murphy’s own “The Future of the Body.”
Kelly’s comments at the end of Chapter 14 are a good summary of the potential effects of the kinds of effort this book represents. He states his belief that this vision has “tremendous practical implications… in terms of providing us with an expanded worldview that is fundamentally life affirming and optimistic, profoundly spiritual and ecumenical in character, and defensible in light of our most fundamental traditions including that of leading edge modern science.”
My one major criticism of the book is that Jim Carpenter’s work is too hastily dismissed. Carpenter has developed what many consider to be the best theory of psi phenomena to date. His First Sight theory, as I understand it, suggests that rather than being unusual, paranormal activity is occurring all the time, but at a subliminal level. There is one mention his work in Beyond Physicalism, which is quickly dismissed as adhering too much to the reigning physicalist paradigm. In my reading of First Sight, and in a brief correspondence with Carpenter, it’s been my sense that he is not at all wedded to a physicalist view.
There are a number of statements in the book that provide excellent links to the First Sight theory. On page 231, Bernard Carr states that the existence of “multiple spaces is necessary for the solution of many problems in parapsychology.” He cites mystic/sage Paul Brunton’s call for us to learn to “mentalize space and spatialize mind.” If we understand that the prior psi perception that Carpenter identifies is indeed in a different “space” from the material space we’re accustomed to, I believe that an integration of Carr’s observation with Carpenter’s theory could yield tremendous insight.
On page 344, Kelly and Whicher rather brusquely dismiss Taimni’s correlation of Patanjali’s stages of Samadhi, stages of the gunas and structural classifications of the koshas (bodies) in the Upanishads as “too simplistic.” Yes, perhaps - but if this correlation was tweaked somewhat, I believe it has profound implications. Francisco Varela and Jeremy Hayward, integrating observations from neuroscience with the Tibetan Buddhist view of the skandhas, developed a multi-dimensional understanding of the evolution of consciousness that fits perfectly with First Sight theory, and gives cues as to how to connect the stages of the gunas (which Sri Aurobindo translated into modern terminology in his chapter on “The Triple Transformation” in “The Life Divine”) with the various koshas and lokas (planes of consciousness) in the Upanishads.
Even arch-materialist J. Alan Hobson, in his Scientific American book, “Consciousness,” noted that consciousness is “graded” over three times – over the course of billions of years of evolution, over our lifetime, and – mirroring quite closely the work of Varela and Hayward – in each moment. According to what I’ve earned from correspondence with Don Degracia, these various accounts of the unfolding of consciousness are quite close to what he describes as the ‘fractal nature of consciousness.”
On page 366, Loriliai Biernacki gives us another clue, remarking that “consciousness and matter functioning in a continuum,” which is also at least somewhat distantly related to the notion of continuum as expressed by mathematician Herman Weyl. First Sight theory can, I think, add a great deal of empirical substance as well as theoretical insight to the observations of Weyl, Biernacki, DeGracia, Hobson, Carr, Kelly, Whicher, Aurobindo, Varela, and Hayward.
From a less theoretical and more empirical (albeit “yogically” empirical) perspective, Sri Aurobindo presents a view of how consciousness unfolds in his commentary on the Kena Upanishad. Most of the 400+ page book on integral yoga psychology that my wife and I spent 5 years on is based on this observation: "As our human psychology is constituted, we begin with “samjnana”, the sense of an object in its image; the apprehension of it in knowledge follows. Afterwards we try to arrive at the comprehension of it in knowledge and the possession of it in power. There are secret operations in us, in our subconscient and superconscient selves, which precede this action, but of these we are not aware in our surface being and therefore for us they do not exist. If we knew of them, our whole conscious functioning would be changed."
A very minor note of criticism – actually, more a suggestion. Since the entire book is written in a **very** complex manner, it might be nice to consider offering something that is more widely accessible. To that end, I suggest taking a look at Bernardo Kastrup’s evolving model of idealism (quite close, in some ways, to Abhinavagupta’s nondualism, as well as evolutionary panenetheism, though with a less overtly theistic quality). You can watch Bernardo present his ideas at Deepak Chopra’s Scientists and Sages Conference, here: http://www.bernardokastrup.com/2014/10/debating-materialism-at-sages.html
Here’s a very brief summary (in my words) of some of the points he makes:
The claim idealism is making is that all reality is in consciousness, therefore the body/brain would be in consciousness too. If reality is in consciousness, then it is reasonable to infer that there is a segment of our psyches – the deepest, most obfuscated level, where our apparently distinct or “separate” psyches are unified – which generates the world of common experience. This avoids having to postulate the existence of an abstract world, a world fundamentally outside consciousness experience for which there can never be – by definition – any proof. By postulating such an abstract non-conscious world, we create the hard problem of consciousness, which can never be resolved as long as we make such a postulate. By contrast, the assumption that all reality is in consciousness completely resolves the hard problem, by preventing it from arising in the first place
I’d like to conclude by making two requests, one to the readers of this review and another to the authors.
If you are a graduate student looking for material for a thesis or dissertation, this book, along with Irreducible Mind, is filled with possible topics. My sense is that the SURsem group is eager for others to follow up on their work – Ed Kelly’s concluding chapter (14) has some suggestions for next steps in research and theory.
If you are an interested layperson – not directly involved in academia but still wishing to contribute to this extraordinary project – write to the authors, or visit the Esalen CTR site, and ask for ways to contribute.
To the authors, please make it easier for interested folks to contribute. My estimate is that there are hundreds of thousands of people around the world who are very eager to see the kind of changes you call for. Perhaps you could create some kind of forum at the CTR site, or some other way that more people can participate.
If you are put off by the price of the book, don’t be. This is too important a book to let that get in your way. Buy the book, contact the authors, visit the CTR site, get the conversation started. The world needs this kind of radical revisioning of science and spirituality. Hopefully, “Beyond Physicalism” will play a vital role in this revisioning process.
As a collaboration rather than a single integrated thesis, the different chapters are stand alone essays which do not necessarily share all of the same assumptions. They instead illustrate different variations on a theme. The worldview, broadly, is that of a Psycho-Physical Dualism in which the psycho is dominant and can restructure the physical. The psycho half of this worldview includes some aspect of Universal Mind, and some degree of panentheistic intentionality to the universe. It verges on an idealist perspective, but the authors generally take matter more seriously than Idealism does.
Panentheistic idealist-leaning dualism is not a widely propounded view today. Many of the chapters emphasize a theme of tracing the history of their views through Western thinkers, to show its deep roots and compatibility with science, as their views were held by many of the originators of the scientific method. Plato, William James, Bertrand Russell, Alfred North Whitehead, Abraham Maslow, the list of Idealist, dualist, or neutral monist thinkers they reference who have contributed significantly to the modern Canon of western thought is lengthy.
Parapsychology is one of the primary science fields the team draws upon. This is the second work this team produced – their first, Irreducible Mind, laid out the evidence from parapsychology for a non-physical mind, and in this work, they assume the reader has already read and accepted the previous work. They also reference Dean Radin’s, and Charles Tart’s volumes which make the same point. For those who have not read these works, they cite the accumulation of evidence that validates psi phenomenon: multiple field observations, ability to replicate in lab testing (~6 different psi phenomena are verified through meta analyses of sets of lab test data), ability to improve effectiveness (signal strength for telepathy went from under 5% with card guessing, to ~15% with Ganzfeld), and successful field applications (Remote Viewing was effective enough to be an active CIA program for a quarter century, and Energy Healing treatments have proven effective per meta analyses for many ailments).
In addition to the weak Psycho kinesis demonstrated in labs, macro PK has been seen in the world. Primarily it appears in testimonials about mystics and psychics. Macro PK is a key piece of evidence which drove the team to accept a psycho-dominant dualism, rather than a material-dominant dualism like Descartes’. They consider that a weak interaction could not explain the extended periods of levitation, apparating of medium size objects, and spiritual surgery that witnesses testify to. Instead, they postulate that the physical world is highly malleable to a sufficiently conditioned psyche.
The other science field leaned on heavily is physics. One chapter builds off the current trend of postulations of multidimensional physics models, discuss ways to adapt multi-dimensional models to be compatible with macro PK observations. Another chapter by Henry Stapp elaborates on the von Neumann model of Quantum Mechanics – abbreviated for the rest of the review as VN-S. In VN-S, consciousness plays a crucial role in quantum behavior – matter stays in a wave until a conscious entity observes it, when it collapses to a single point, with the specific location determined by a probability function. These chapters attempt to show the compatibility of their thinking with modern physics.
Another evidence source used is the insights of mystics. Mystics of every tradition have reported an ability to assess universal knowledge, often through merging with a Mind at Large. The team endorses a “filter” model of consciousness, in which we all have potential access to the entire universe of information, and our brains act as a filter to limit what we perceive to our own locality and issues that matter to us directly, so we are not lost in an oversaturation of irrelevant information. Controlled breaches in this filter are postulated to be how mystics, remote viewing, telepathy, etc work.
Evolutions is seen by the team teleologically, as an intentional effort by the universe to develop higher and higher degrees of consciousness.
I highly appreciated the writing clarity, and the science/evidence focus of the work. The history of ideas discussions showing the co-development of science by people who held to idealism or similar views helped me deal with mental roadblocks against taking this worldview seriously. I now agree that any effort to justify a metaphysics must take a pseudo-idealist dualism seriously.
However, and this is a huge caveat, the author’s science history looks back too far, they seemed to have missed the last 80 years of philosophy of science. The definition of science, and the scientific method itself, have been significantly revised to place refutability, hypothesis forming, and hypothesis testing at the center of the scientific process. Instead of challenging their views with refutation tests, the authors seek confirmation of them. This weakness appears in chapter after chapter, where interesting evidence supporting their views is cited, but where potentially refuting challenges are not discussed.
The authors implicitly admit to this – they assert they are building a model, and assert it is up to others to try to tear it down. The flaws in this approach should be obvious. If one does not address refuting test cases, and the reader can identify plausible refutations, then the reader will presume the refutations were not addressed because they cannot be. The degree of acceptance of these views will depend on the degree of knowledge of the subject the reader has, with the more informed readers typically rejecting it because of known and unaddressed flaws. If, alternatively, authors of an idea challenge it themselves, and can identify resolutions , or at least work arounds, then the hypothesis is strengthened, and the informed readers will be more likely to accept the idea.
But they did not do this work themselves, and the reader must therefore try to identify the test cases. I will try to do so myself, for this review. As I have not been working with these ideas for 15 years, and I am not a multidisciplined team, this will be an incomplete list.
Micro vs. Macro PK. The team considers macro PK well established. That is not obvious to me. The evidence for macro phenomenon is only from uncontrolled field events, is very rare, and seems to be getting rarer, and does not appear at all in lab testing. And the “macro” events described are not really very “macro”. Continents don’t shift, buildings don’t appear or disappear or change location, constellations don’t change, new moons are not conjured, etc. The authors claimed that if they can explain macro PK, then micro PK will be easy. But this isn’t the case. Their macro is too rare and too micro, and real micro is far too common relative to macro for their model to appear valid. Specific predictions:
1. If the physical is fundamentally malleable, macro events should not be upper effect limited
2. If PK is explained by malleability of the physical to psychology, then PK should be primarily conscious, and occur at the scales that humans think/perceive (ie lab tests should not be micro only, and often unconscious)
3. Macro PK events should increase with increasing population
4. The proliferation of recording media should be producing increasing quantity and quality of evidence for this increasing number of macro PK events
5. Macro PK should be observable with animals and plants
6. Evolutionary processes should have seized upon the PK manipulation ability as a major adaptive/survival tool, and macro PK should be a reliable evolutionarily tuned ability
This is a disturbingly long list of unaddressed potential refutations for just one aspect of the thesis . I also consider the evidence to be pretty good to refute all of these predictions. The weakness of their leaving others to identify falsifying test cases, and their lack of strengthening their ideas by accounting for them, should be pretty clear at this point.
Multidimensional Physics. Multidimensional physics has a long history of being tested, and the inverse square law for gravity, and the movement of vibration energy of a solid among its vibration modes, are both evidence there are only three material dimensions active. Multi-dimension theory is therefore limited to “rolled up” extra dimensions. And these claims have consequences too, and so far have failed most tests: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/blogs/physics/2014/04/how-many-dimensions-does-the-universe-really-have/ The author appears to be familiar with these tests, and works with models using the rolled up dimensions – but some of his explanations for how the PK and telepathy would work using extra dimensions seem to require them to be accessible rather than rolled up. The author tries to find a way around this by allowing use of the uncertainty limits of dimensions bound by quantum physics. Muiltidimensional physics treats time as a dimension, creating a “block” of time containing past and future. Block time contradicts our experience of the present, our sense of freedom of will, and quantum wave collapse, which is not symmetric in time. The author postulates a second time dimension, in which the movement through time is tracked, creating the “present” experience. Neither free will nor the problems of quantum collapse are described as solved in this model, so presumably the author is fine with rejecting free will, despite it being the evolutionary rationale for consciousness. Whether this additional time dimension is “rolled up” or not, and how it could do anything if it wasn’t and why we don’t know its there if it isn’t were not mentioned, nor any additional test cases. This chapter contained the strongest understanding of the need to identify and address refutations, and this author attempted to do so for most of them. The resulting model comes across as patched, not predicatively robust, and forced into a narrow unrefuted range, but is stronger than the other sections which do not address refutations.
VN-S model of QM. In VN-S, the wave function of QM exists in the macro world as well as the micro, and consciousness of a phenomenon collapses that wave. This model appears, therefore, to be in explicit conflict with the Filter theory of mind – in which consciousness is always in contact with every fact of the universe, and the brain just masks that awareness. With VN-S and Filter theory, there should be no QM exhibited, as Mind would always be collapsing waveforms before they could form. This applies to unconscious awareness, a Mind at Large, amoeba awareness, etc. This incompatibility with QM is a common problem for all Omniscience worldviews, and Stapp in this chapter ascribes Omniscience and intentionality to the universe. We know that QM works, and that uncollapsed waveforms are present in many material processes, so either there is no such universal consciousness, or consciousness does not collapse waveforms. Stapp does not discuss this refutation. Other tests: one could in principle test for whether observations by cats, plants, or amoeba collapse waveforms – this possibility is not discussed. There is one test discussed – that after a first known observation of a phenomenon, one can go back to examine written historical records that had a bearing on the observed state. This has been done, and in every case, the record was consistent with the more recent observation. This is not what one would expect, if the prior observations were by uninformed/unaware consciousnesses, and it undercuts the VN-S focus on “consciousness” rather than any interaction collapsing a waveform. The more widely accepted Copenhagen model would predict that the waveform collapse occurred with the first non-quantum interaction, while VN-S was arguing that the macro-level historical records were in indeterminate superposition. Their consistency with the later observations is nearly inexplicable in VN-S. Rather than accept this refutation, Stapp proposes that prior to our awareness that we did a test, the historical records were in an indeterminate state, and the Universe actively rewrote them to be consistent with the recent observation. Stapp in this explanation is postulating the universe is acting as a Great Deceiver to rewrite evidences that we might look for. Great Deceiver and Long Dream hypotheses are irrefutable, and any theology or science claim that invokes one of them should be considered “not even wrong”. Science operates to help us make predictions, and when a model is compatible with ANY outcome, it is predicatively useless for us. Henry Stapp is a good theoretician, but his chapter is one of the weakest from a science perspective in the book.
Filter Theory of Mind. If Filter theory is true, I would expect the following to be the case:
1. Neruology should be organized primarily to be exclusionary of non-sensory data, rather than integrative and focused on sense data
2. Creatures that lack a sense organ should often be able to compensate with direct knowledge of what is being sensed despite the lack of any sensors
3. Remote viewing and telepathy should be common capabilities, and strong, for humans and animals, and amplified/tuned to be highly effective by evolutionary processes
4. Remote viewing and telepathy should be most apparent in living things with simple neurology
5. Remote viewing and telepathy should be least present in living things with the most complex and largest brains, since in filter theory brains exist to PREVENT these activities.
I think that predictions 1-3 are falsified, 4 and 5 its not as clear, but it is likely they are too. 5 also is a conflict with the assumed teleology of the universe trying to achieve mystics through evolution – if consciousness and brains filter out Mind at Large, then direct awareness of Mind at Large was the starting state, not the end state of evolution.
In this brief discussion, I have raised over a dozen possible refuting test cases against the hypothesis this team put together. A few of them have been addressed in the physics chapters, but overall these have mostly been unaddressed. These test cases also appear mostly to be predictive failures, ie the theory looks to be refuted by them.
When I picked up this book, I was a Cartesian style dualist. When I can identify some dozen plus refutations of a more idealist dualism, and they are not addressed by the authors, I am putting this book down now, still a Cartesian dualist.
The first part documents the strange phenomena that the authors are trying to fit into a coherent world-view or cosmology or philosophy; I shall use the term View. The first part can thus be regarded as a summary of "Irreducible Mind". The second, and largest, part presents many different Views, both Eastern and Western. I was particularly interested in the Quantum Mechanical View, and the various Western Views. The Western Views were new to me and so I was surprised that my culture had such a hidden heritage. The Quantum Mechanical View showed just how close science is to having a View that can accommodate the non-physical part of reality. The third part tries to synthesise a View while being aware of the different Views of part 2.
This is not an easy light bit a reading, but it is very much worth the effort needed. References are provided so that further exploration is possible. The authors and organisers of the book need congratulating and thanking.
Most recent customer reviews
I've no idea, though this book presents a variety of scientific and philosophical arguments about how these...Read more