Mind-Matter Interaction: A Review of Historical Reports, Theory, and Research

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MIND-MATTER INTERACTION: A REVIEW OF HISTORICAL REPORTS, THEORY, AND RESEARCH by Pamela Rae Heath. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011. Pp. 319. $45 (paperback). ISBN 978-0-7864-4971-2.

Pamela Rae Heath's (2011) newest work, Mind-Matter Interaction: A Review of Historical Reports, Theory, and Research (or MMI for short), is the result of a common postdissertation trajectory. The new scholar publishes his or her dissertation, or parts of it, in a journal article, as Heath (2000) did, and then, much later, in a book. In Heath's case, MMI actually represents an additional step in that trajectory, for it is a second book, a second incarnation, of Heath's (1999) Psy.D. dissertation, Into the Psychokinetic Zone: a Phenomenological Study of the Experience of Performing Psychokinesis (PK). Yet, far from being an overkill repeat performance, MMI is a substantially expanded, revised, and in many respects, very much improved version of her first book (Heath, 2003) based on her dissertation: The PK Zone: A Cross-Cultural Review of Psychokinesis (or The PK Zone for short).

Usually, such books stick closely to the original dissertation structure. An introduction and literature review are followed by the study, its findings, and implications for that literature. The opening literature review serves to situate the doctoral study in it. Although such books tend to be geared toward an academic audience, many scholars make more extensive revisions so that the work may become accessible to the general educated public as well. This is what Heath has done with MMI. The potential benefits of doing that are great (e.g., an easier read, fuller explanations, and greater overall clarity), but so are the risks (e.g., oversimplification, generalization, and problematic changes in how sources are acknowledged to facilitate the read).

Briefly, in all three of her major works--the dissertation, The PK Zone, and MMI--Heath devotes more than half of the text to a literature review. This is a critical and insightful review of anecdotal accounts (Part I) and scientific research (Part II) on a huge range of phenomena and experiences that potentially entail some form of "psychokinesis" or "mind-matter interaction" as she prefers to call it in MMI. In her revision of The PK Zone for MMI, Heath substitutes "MMI" for "PK" wherever it appears, without any substantive differentiation of the referents for the terms. In fact, she uses a standard definition of PK by Dale and White (1986, p. 931) to define MMI (MMI, p. 3), the same definition she used to define PK in The PK Zone (The PK Zone, p. xxiii), as I will discuss later on. Then, in the remaining sections of Part II, Heath draws on the literature to identify salient factors in the performance of PK, discusses the facilitation and training of PK, and reviews prominent theories. Finally, in Part III, Heath presents her own phenomenological study of the experience of performing PK for eight individuals who meet her criteria of being PK performers.

Overall, The PK Zone and MMI reflect the structure of her dissertation. But while the literature review is spectacular and enthralling in the range of phenomena and research it covers (see details below), it is really a separate work of its own. It does not serve to contextualize her study in that literature (substantively or theoretically), as it does not treat what her study focuses on, the experience of performing PK; nor is there any review of the vast number of phenomenological studies of experience and their critiques (e.g., in anthropology, alone: Desjarlais & Troop, 2011; Kultgen, 1975). Of course, I understand that there is comparatively little in the psi literature on the experience of performing PK, and Heath's study certainly helps fill that gap. But the point is that the literature review (Parts I & II) does not serve to directly contextualize the study presented in Part III and thus strikes me as a separate work with separate goals. …