September 23, 2016
Once upon a time, not so long ago, there was a kingdom called Science whose citizens were guided by a uniform belief — that their consciousness is produced by the chemistry, physiology, and anatomy of the physical brain. Forfeited in this belief was the capacity for free will, as well as any higher meaning and purpose to existence. The possibility that consciousness might survive the physical death of the brain and body was considered heretical and blasphemous. Enormous pressure was exerted on the guardians of science to conform to the concept of materialism undergirding this precious belief system. In support of these beliefs, the centurions of science marshaled enormous bodies of data that, they were convinced, confirmed their views. They were so emphatic in their position that data to the contrary were largely dismissed as irrelevant, and those who dared to challenge the materialistic perspective were often denigrated as traitors to the scientific tradition. But just when the materialistic perspective was considered beyond reproach and safe from significant challenge, there came this shocking announcement from two prominent consciousness researchers: “We are in the midst of a sea change. Receding from view is materialism, whereby physical phenomena are assumed to be primary and consciousness is regarded as secondary. Approaching our sights is a complete reversal of perspective. According to this alternative view, consciousness is primary and the physical is secondary. In other words, materialism is receding and giving way to ideas about reality in which consciousness plays a key role.” This is the opening salvo of Transcendent Mind: Rethinking the Science of Consciousness (page 3).
I have introduced my comments about Transcendent Mind as a kind of fairy tale, a product of the imagination, because that is how this book may be regarded by those who have not followed the revelations of consciousness research for the past few decades. Across this period, a formidable body of data has accumulated that the materialistic credo is not merely off base in a few minor details, but is fundamentally flawed beyond repair. The trend toward this view is “quietly occurring within a swiftly evolving and increasingly postmaterialist paradigm,” the authors contend. The explanation of how this “sea change” has come about is the theme of Transcendent Mind.
In their challenge to materialism, authors Barušs and Mossbridge contend that “the deep structures underlying our waking consciousness are fundamentally spatially and temporally nonlocal in nature (page 81).” The implications for our understanding of our own minds, and the practical ways in which we lead our lives, are enormous.
The authors explore empirical data, too long ignored, indicating that “consciousness is capable of existing in an extended or transcendent state in which it is not completely bound to the brain (page 171).” This data supports the concept of “shared mind,” minds linked across space and time to form a collective, unitary human consciousness. This view of nonlocal, shared, transcendent mind is supported by abundant empirical evidence, as the authors show, such as near-death experiences, telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition. These phenomena might be predicted from an “unconstrained mind that is directly connected to other minds, probably outside the usual confines of space and apparent time (page 177).”
Do not suppose that the idea that consciousness is fundamental and irreducible to anything more basic is some hare-brained notion conjured in the fever dreams of wayward new agers, as is often charged. In fact, consciousness as fundamental has an impressive pedigree. It has been endorsed by some of the greatest figures of twentieth-century science such as Max Planck, the founder of quantum physics: “I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.” Erwin Schrödinger, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist, agreed: “Although I think that life may be the result of an accident, I do not think that of consciousness. Consciousness cannot be accounted for in physical terms. For consciousness is absolutely fundamental. It cannot be accounted for in terms of anything else.” As to the contention of Barušs and Mossbridge of shared, unitary minds, we find Schrödinger in agreement: “The overall number of minds is just one…. In truth there is only one mind.” And as the eminent physicist David Bohm observed, “Deep down the consciousness of mankind is one. This is a virtual certainty … and if we don’t see this it’s because we are blinding ourselves to it.” (Citations for these quotations are available in my book One Mind, mentioned below.)
If you are not intrigued by the evidence in Transcendent Mind, well, bear in mind the adage, “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance — that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”
But if you are among those who are hesitant to adopt materialism as part of your personal credo, this erudite, reader-friendly book will perhaps fill in some of the blanks on your map of reality. You may discover not only empirical evidence for transcendent, shared mind, but for a transcendent reality as well.
~ Larry Dossey, MD
Author: One Mind: How Our Individual Mind Is Part of a Greater Consciousness and Why It Matters