Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

Pondering a Journey to the Far Reaches of Mind: An Essay Review of Transcendent Mind/ Voyage Meditatif Dans Les Confins De l'Esprit: A Propos De Transcendent Mind/ Erwagungen Zu Einer Reise in Reichweiten Des Geistes ein Besprechungsaufsatz Von Transcendent Mind/ Reflexiones Sobre Un Viaje a Las Fronteras De la Mente: Una Critica/Ensayo De Transcendent Mind

Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

Pondering a Journey to the Far Reaches of Mind: An Essay Review of Transcendent Mind/ Voyage Meditatif Dans Les Confins De l'Esprit: A Propos De Transcendent Mind/ Erwagungen Zu Einer Reise in Reichweiten Des Geistes ein Besprechungsaufsatz Von Transcendent Mind/ Reflexiones Sobre Un Viaje a Las Fronteras De la Mente: Una Critica/Ensayo De Transcendent Mind

Article excerpt

In Transcendent Mind Baruss and Mossbridge let the world of psychology know that, like it or not, the materialistic view that the brain is the basis of consciousness--traditionally accepted as something of a matter of faith by many (most?) psychologists--is, on grounds of both empirical evidence and logical considerations, in the process of being replaced by the view that consciousness is primary and that physical circumstances depend on it. This bold, wide-ranging book ventures into philosophy, ancient and modern physics, serious psi research, and, on occasion, mind-boggling anecdotes.

The Introduction describes the book's purpose as exploring "what consciousness looks like when we do not automatically assume that consciousness must arise from the workings of matter" (p. 3). The fundamental thrusts of their eight chapters are sketched. The book is intended for professionals in areas related to mental function and for others ready to consider new directions for understanding consciousness.

Chapter 1 (Beyond Materialism) begins with a historical examination of the concept of materialism and characterizes its historical form as the "billiard-ball version of reality" (p. 8, their italics), a wholly mechanistic account of reality. The authors name and describe six allegedly fundamental elements of that view.

The Disappearance of Matter argues the indefensibility of materialism, asserting that modern physics undercuts the idea of matter as described in the materialistic model. Major elements of both theoretical physics (quantum theory and Einstein's relativity theories) and some of the related research are said decisively to contradict one or more of the six assumptions of the materialistic perspective, and some explanation is provided for those claims. Having argued that quantum theory refutes the historical version of materialism, they also note that it is needed to understand certain aspects of brain function (e.g., quantum mechanical tunneling at synapses and any consequences thereof). They argue that these quantum effects in the brain may open neural function to currently unexplained influence(s), including extrasensory ones related to other minds (telepathy), physical information not accessed sensorially (clairvoyance), and future events/information not inferable from sensory information (precognition). Special emphasis is given to changes in understanding time in modern physics and to the evidence from psi research that events, in the absence of any apparent sensory or inferential bases, can be anticipated (as reflected in cognitive, behavioral, or physiological expressions) prior to their occurrence. The authors repeatedly write about "shared mind," by which they mean what most psi researchers call telepathy. Empirical demonstration of telepathy is, despite their repeated use of the "shared mind" term, conceptually muddied by the problem of empirically differentiating influences due to telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition, which they admit (but nonetheless use "shared mind" as the title of Chapter 2).

Variations on Materialism describes and critically discusses some conceptually somewhat divergent, more recent, versions of materialism. One version given strong critical emphasis is physicalism, which proposes, as the authors describe it, "that the world contains just those types of things that physics says it contains" (p. 12). Their critique of physicalism is that physics is always changing due to needing to revise theories in the face of new evidence, and that physicists often disagree on how to interpret the data. Therefore, physicalism is itself always changing or at least in question. My comment: What scientist really believes in physicalism as the authors describe it? Every scientist knows that the current view in any science is tentative and may need replacement or modification. That is how one moves away from misconceptions. I do not see why holding such a view, ready for, even inviting, revision in the face of high-quality new evidence should be devalued or treated as dogma. …

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