Review of “Mysteries of Knowledge Beyond Our Senses: Dialogues with Courageous Scientists” by Bob Charman

Mysteries of Knowledge beyond our Senses: Dialogues with Courageous Scientists (2020) edited by Gayle Kimball. Review by Bob Charman, UK.

      Together with The Mysteries of Healing: Dialogues with Doctors and Scientists (reviewed June 29, 2020) this is the second book in the Mystery Trilogy edited by Dr Gayle Kimball. The third book in this huge undertaking will be The Mysteries of Reality: Dialogues with Visionary Scientists, scheduled to be published in March, 2021.In her Introduction headed Scientists Discover Reality is Consciousness Dr Kimball provides an overall view of her interviews with sixty four ‘visionary and courageous’ doctors and scientists in the Consciousness Movement who think that the universe, including ourselves, encompasses far more than can be explained by materialistic orthodoxy. The sixty fifth interviewee (Dr Susan Blackmore this volume) holds very different views so is not included when mentioning a consensus viewpoint. Professionally, these MD and PhD contributors span the spectrum of the physical sciences, medical and neurosciences, psychology, philosophy and social sciences. Nineteen interviewees have contributed individual chapters to this book.

     The format is that Kimball asks each contributor where they place themselves on the Myers-Briggs Type 1 Indicator (MBTI), the Enneagram of Personality and astrological birth sign, and whether they think that these findings accurately define their own personality. She then explores their family background, upbringing, why they chose their orthodox profession(s), their subsequent career, why they decided to explore the professionally perilous path of expressing views counter to conventional orthodoxy, and why they continue to view the world as they do. The resulting discussion is interwoven with Kimball’s insightful questioning and comments arising from her own experiences and her obviously deep knowledge of the literature.  Each chapter closes with a ‘Resources’ section comprised of books, online article references and websites. The video interviews were conducted on Skype and have been posted on her YouTube channel.

     In a commendable attempt to provide balance Kimball invited psi sceptics, including Chris French, Richard Wiseman, Arthur Reber and James Alcock to contribute by explaining why they rejected psi and non materialistic interpretations of reality and approached the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry as well, but all except Dr Blackmore refused to be interviewed. Reber and Alcock said that they didn’t read studies of psi phenomena as they knew they violated physics so there wasn’t any point. (Several of the Kimball’s interviewees have responded to sceptics on the website Skeptical about Skeptics – a collection of the essays, edited by Cathi Carol, is also available in book form).

     Kimball, who took her PhD in Religious Studies at UC, Santa Barbara, says that her motivation in producing and editing this trilogy has been her personal and academic interest in spirituality in its widest, non religious, sense. Personal, because after she had experienced episodes of confirmed precognition and clairvoyance she found  she was  a healer and now teaches courses in clairvoyant healing; academic, because as she talked with psi researchers such as Larry Dossey, Dean Radin, James Carpenter, William Bengston, Beverley Rubik, Marilyn Schiltz, Russell Targ  and many others she felt that their studies of psi phenomena such as ESP, psychokinesis and healing,  demonstrated the conceptual inadequacy of materialistic orthodoxy in rejecting these findings. This view was strengthened by consensus opinion that accounts of OBEs and NDEs imply that the mind can separate from the brain and survive death. Kimball is the author of over 20 books, including Essential Energy Tools: How to Develop your Clairvoyant and Healing Abilities (2001).

     Kimball found that the contributors either believed in, or were sympathetic to, the idea that personal consciousness is not created by the brain so does not die with the brain. It has its origin outside the brain as part of a cosmic consciousness, referred to as One Mind by Larry Dossey. In manifestations of ESP for example, it is not solely dependent upon the bodily senses for incoming information (hence knowledge ‘beyond our senses’) and can act in its own right as a causative agent as in healing intention. That we continue to exist as ourselves after brain death seems strongly supported by apparent mediumistic communication with those who have died as  interpreted in triple blind experiments conducted by Dr Julie Beischel (Windbridge Research Institute), double blind experiments with mediums performed by Professor Gary Schwartz (University of Arizona), and new research being carried out by Professor Chris Roe (University of Northampton) with mediums at the Arthur Findlay College, Stansted Hall.  These findings, together with some 3,000 carefully investigated cases of apparent reincarnatory experiences reported by young children as documented by Drs Ian Stevenson, Ed Kelly and Jim Tucker, University of Virginia, seem to present a case for which the brain-is-mind materialist can offer no answer beyond denial.

    While everyday experience tells us that we live in an objective world of solid objects, including our own bodies, that exist in space and change sequentially in time, ultimate physical reality at atomic level is completely different as solid objects dissolve into almost empty atoms and subatomic particles held together by powerful internal  forces at quantum level. She quotes Max Planck who said that atoms and molecules are not solid entities but vibrational centres held together by a force indicating an underlying conscious and intelligent mind, thus implying that the properties of matter arise out of a primary universal consciousness (To me, this seems a conjectural jump too far as I  can’t see how one necessarily implies the other). Nevertheless, it appears to be in line with the consensus view, and in trying to express these unorthodox views about consciousness and ultimate reality Kimball finds that contributors use synonyms like ‘One Mind, spirit, energy, the Force, matrix, hologram, meaningful fields, biofields, cosmic intelligence, information fields, panpsychism, beyond space and time, substrate, non-physical web, spiritual computer, and  fifth dimension.’ Her Introduction closes with an extensive resource section including online bibliographies concerning psi research, the Mysteries Trilogy webpage: https://visionaryscientists.home.blog  and lists of abbreviations, definitions and online articles.  The book concludes with a list of online endnotes.                                         

    The nineteen contributors to this volume have been loosely grouped under four sections: Experiencing other Dimensions in Dreams and Visions; Near-Death Experiences and Mysticism; Extrasensory Perception (ESP, Remote Viewing, Mediums); and Mind-Matter Interaction. As with my review of the previous volume it has proved impossible within 4,000 wordsto adequately summarise and comment on each chapter as each contains far more autobiographical detail (especially important in this volume), research findings and wide ranging scientific and philosophical discussion than can be adequately summarised in a few words.  Instead, main chapter topics are listed so that readers can obtain an overall view of each contribution. It is important to add that each contributor has published books presenting their particular approach to their subjects in depth. There is some inevitable overlap of subject matter as contributors discuss the same or similar topics from different viewpoints which adds valuable depth.

Section One. Experiencing other Dimensions in Dreams and Visions.

Susan Blackmore. A Skeptic’s View of Consciousness. Astrology a pernicious and misleading pseudoscience. OBEs are nothing more than brain generated ‘disruptive body schemas’.  Psychedelic experiences remain brain driven personal experiences not cosmic, our sense of a continuous self is a brain construct. Consciousness not a self sustaining entity but an intermittent, brain sustained, mental process. NDEs not evidence for life after death, apparent childhood reincarnatory experiences not evidence for reincarnation. Belief in psi destroyed by a personally witnessed example of statistical cheating in Gansfeld studies. Mental health benefits of regular meditation. Complete disbelief in the consensual viewpoint. Atheism as default position.

Larry Burk. Let Magic Happen: From Academic Radiologist to Holistic Coach. Dream diaries showing precognition, self diagnostic dreams presaging cancer and other illnesses, implications of Jung’s acausal synchronicities, Holotrophic Breathwork, chakra energy systems and acupuncture energy flow meridians. Teilhard de Chardin’s noosphere concept and planetary consciousness.

J.J. Hurtak & Desiree Hurtkak. Future Science. Discussion of the metaphysical concepts underlying ancient and classical texts from the major religions and philosophical systems, including the 3rd century Coptic Pistis Sophia  (Sacred Wisdom) manuscript, and the Nag Hammadi library. Insightful sacred geometries, ETs, life on other worlds, spirit guides, remote viewing (RV), cosmic consciousness.

David Luke. Altered States and Exceptional Experiences. Psychedelic drug experiences, neurophysiological effects, altered states of consciousness (ASC), brain/cosmic consciousness filter hypothesis, panpsychism, dualism, perceptual entopic geometries, schizotypy, NDEs. Pineal gland – Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) as psychoactive agent and ASC experiences.

Henry Reed. The Validity of the Intuitive Imagination. Humanistic psychology, dream diaries, creative dreaming, Edgar Cayce and medical clairvoyance, intuitive knowing.

Section Two. Near-Death Experiences and Mysticism

Peter Fenwick. Experiencing other Levels in Dreams and Near-Death Experiences Meditation as doorway to ASCs and experience of the infinite. Epilepsy and biofeedback control, deathbed visions of being welcomed into an after life, consciousness debate, status of qualia. Nonlocal quantum physics connection as analogy for psi, significance of NDEs and life after death, brain’s cosmic consciousness filter, evidence for past lives.

Brian Les Lancaster. Sacred Science and the Kabbala.  Transpersonal and spiritual psychology, Alef Trust, Jewish history and mysticism.  Kabbalah and the Tree of Life, Neoplatonism, the Buddhist Abhidhamma, esoteric anatomy, possible cosmic holographic patterning, cosmic proto-consciousness, transcendence, Sacred Wisdoms Archive.

David Lorimer. A Quest for Wisdom. Swedenborg, Jung, Peter Deunov and other mystics. Medical & Scientific Network, the Galileo Report, consciousness as universal ‘ground of being’, significance of NDEs concerning life after death. Spirituality as central to life.

Robert and Susanne Mays. What We Learn from Near-Death Experiences. NDEs as examples of temporary separation of mind from brain and reunion implying separation of mind from brain at brain death. Zen meditation, esoteric knowledge, Rudolf Steiner, cosmic Akashic Record, 5th dimension of mind allows for psi phenomena, veridical OBEs, phantom limb phenomena extending in space, transcendental reality.

Penny Sartori.  Near Death Experiences Teach Us about Consciousness. ITU nursing experiences, PhD thesis on NDEs and findings implying brain/mind separation and life after death.  Brain acting as universal consciousness filter not as generator of consciousness, spirituality central to the meaning of life.

Peter Russell.  The Consciousness Revolution. Meditation as gateway to ASCs, cause and effect thinking relates to only one level of reality, Jung’s meaningful acausal synchronicity implies other levels of mental reality besides cause and effect. Artistic and scientific creativity arising from nonconscious levels of being, mind map thinking.

Section Three. Extrasensory Perception (ESP, Remote Viewing, Mediums)

Julie Beischel. A Scientist Studies Mediums. Personal experience of accurate information provided by a medium that she could not possibly have known by normal means led to conviction that to dismiss them as fraudulent was a misjudgement. She set up the Windbridge Research Centre (WRC) for controlled trials of possible post mortem communication, exploration of the mediumistic state of mind compared to normal and neuropsychological correlates. Establishment of mediumship training courses has led to 20 Windbridge certificated mediums. WRC published Threshold: Journal of Interdisciplinary Consciousness studies. Free, online only.

James Carpenter. First Sight: A Theory of Psi. Psi as a basic precognitive sense in continuous operation from birth. Successful group trials using remote viewing (RV) of one of  four images  selected by random computer choice well beyond 25% chance. Psi based, mother – daughter communication system, personality and ESP awareness, long term memory, not short term memory, is a more psi conducive state of mind.

Dale Graff. A Physicist Explores Remote Viewing. Physicist, former director of Stargate RV programme and personally successful remote viewer with many examples given. Diagnostic dream diaries, dream workshops, ESP and precognition, acausal synchronicities, cosmic Akashic records.

Diane Hennessy Powell. A Psychiatrist Researches Extrasensory Perception. Strong evidence for ESP phenomena, particularly precognition. Hypothesis of an informational, multidimensional universe accessed through mystical experiences. Kim Peek’s astonishing savant memory abilities, despite having a large hydrocephalus, no corpus callosum connecting the hemispheres and a resulting small brain  mass implies that brain is more a transducer of cosmic information than source.

Serena Roney-Dougal. Where Science and Magic Meet. Yoga asanas, prana and Buddhist meditation. Low subliminal threshold implies increase in psychic sensibility. faery lore, pineal gland – serotonin – Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) hallucinogen and psi. Dalai Lama supported psi research with volunteer Tibetan monks in Buddhist meditation, repeated demonstration of verifiable psi phenomena with advanced Lamas.  Seed germination trials with healers demonstrating enhanced germination and growth compared to controls. A proposed philosophical Middle Way.

Paul H. Smith. A Remote Viewer on the Threshold of Spirituality and Consciousness. Military career leading to involvement as successful remote viewer in the US government sponsored Stargate programme working with Hal Puthoff and Ingo Swan on controlled RV studies. Mormon belief that our basic ‘I’ness’ or personhood has always existed and passes through numerous reincarnations, and angels and other divinities inhabit the spirit world. Dowsing as a successful form of RV. Successful presentiment studies indicate other levels of  reality beyond cause and effect.

Section Four.  Mind – Matter Interaction.

Mary Rose Barrington. Material Reality Actualised by Psychic Force. The Polish clairvoyant Stefan Ossowiecki trials. Poltergeistic activity as externalised psychokinetic phenomena, spontaneous ESP phenomena as unrecognised norm. Unexpected disappearance and reappearance of objects dismissed as ‘Just One of Those Things’ (JOTT) but is a real phenomenon. Universe composed of ‘mindstuff’ an ‘inseparable amalgam of mind and matter.’ The matter-state of the material world is the inert, mind state whose existence depends upon the active, conscious mind-state that creates consensual perceptual reality ‘out there’.  Universal group telepathic network sustains this apparently ‘objective’ external reality. When a person’s mind-state unconsciously lapses objects such as keys or spectacles can disappear, maybe into virtual existence, and later reappear in perceptual reality as lapse ends.

Stephen Braude. Psychokinesis. Personalexperience of table moving séance phenomena in broad daylight led to research into psychokinesis. Toronto group filmed ‘Philip’ table movement and question and answer tap phenomena quoted. Interactive social psi phenomena and meaningful synchronicity of events. Implications of multiple personality disorder (Dissociative Identity Disorder) on the effect of consciousness through the mind-brain-body relationship when different personalities are associated with changing physiologies – Annie with acute allergies and Betty with none. Discussion of Gold Leaf Lady of Florida. Mediumship.

Jon Klimo. Channeling and Mediums. Mind-at-large, brain as variable reducing valve of cosmic consciousness, channelling knowledge with astrological extraterrestials, post mortem mediumship communication. Physicist William Tiller and his ‘Intention imprinted devices’ demonstrating mental effect discussed. Interpretation of the universe in terms of quantum idealism.

Jeffrey Mishlove. Parapsychology Case Studies. Precognitive dreams, experimenter hoped for outcome may psychically affect all research findings, psychokinetic effects. Case studies as valuable evidence of psi.

Helené Wahbeh. Mind-Body Connection. Epigenetics and transgenerational trauma imply a prolonged mental effect on genomic expression. Social studies demonstrating periods of sustained local group TM meditation correlated to local crime reduction.  Trance channelling a form of mediumship, psycho-neuro-immunology implies a ‘top down’ mind-brain-body relationship. Consciousness as a universal fundamental. Mindfulness meditation. Naturopathic medicine based upon a philosophy of mind/body wholeness.

Comment and discussion. Many contributors come from families where their mother, grandmother or other relatives demonstrated psychic ability such as telepathy, clairvoyance, or precognition that was just accepted by the family as the norm. Many also came to their Universal Consciousness conclusions through their feeling of a dissolving sense of self into a sense of universal Oneness during ASC experiencing, conveying an emotional certainty that we are part of a greater, all knowing, cosmic Mind or Consciousness. This leads to the concept that our brain functions not as a generator of conscious experiencing but as a selective filter, or transducer, of incoming cosmic Knowledge. This input is turned down very low when in the state of our everyday practical self that needs to be centred upon sensory input and intentional bodily action. But, as during an ASC, it can open up into an overwhelming sense of Oneness with Ultimate Reality.

    This state of Oneness is usually induced through deep meditation or, as some contributors argue, through psychedelic drugs, but can also occur spontaneously. Instances of ESP, including verifiable OBEs, are interpreted as further evidence that mind is a primary agent in its own right, and NDEs as demonstrating that minds can separate from nearly dead brains and reunite again during successful resuscitation. It follows that minds, as self existent entities, can separate from the dying brain to live on in a purely non physical, mental reality with, according to some beliefs, the possibility of reincarnating in another brain. Such dualistic, mind existing separate from body beliefs are in line with many philosophies and religious teachings from animism to monotheism. Dualism, in the sense of ‘my mind’ and ‘my body’ has been, and still is, the majority belief throughout recorded human history and probably back through the millenia of prehistory because, as individuals, this is how it feels to each of us. There is an external, observable world ‘out there’ that exists independently of me-the-observer living ‘in here’ behind my eyes. Dualism forms the basic tenet of scientific investigation of an objective, measurable and predictable outside world unaffected by being the object of subjective observation. In sum, the consensus view is that the physical brain cannot possibly be the sole source of our mental being. All the evidence points elsewhere. A useful reference for this consensual viewpoint is ‘Noetic Field Theory’ that can be found online.

A counter view   

Why then, does Dr Blackmore, a psychologist, lecturer and writer researching consciousness and anomalous experiencing, who says that she has taken just about every psychoactive drug going to note its effects, is a very experienced Zen meditator who regularly experiences the state of Oneness and knows the literature, think the opposite to ‘The Mind is a Universal Primary’ consensus? Her argument is that although we do not know how brain activity relates to mental activity, it is a fact that it does without any known exception. All subjective activity, including the sense of Transcendent Oneness, is accompanied by recognizable, correlated, brain activity. Central to this brain-mind relationship and sense of an extended bodily self are the left and right Temporo-Parietal Junctions (TPJs) where sensory input into the cerebral cortex and subcortical nuclei from all the senses converge to form the subjectively experienced body schema of ourselves.  This, again, is an empirical brain-mind fact. Our mental image of our bodily selves in space is dependent upon coordinated, left-right, TJP functioning. This bodily image can be disrupted experimentally by electrical stimulation during which you sense your bodily self as floating separate from where your physical body is and returning to it when the stimulation has stopped.  Likewise, although the separation of mind from body during an OBE feels totally real, it is an illusional displacement of the TPJ body schema, not an actual separation and return of conscious mind from the brain (Blackmore, 2017). The sense of Oneness is accompanied by suppression of the TPJ body schema to such an extent that it is no longer consciously perceived during that experience.

         Central to Blackmore’s argument is that ‘consciousness’ as a self existing entity is an illusion generated by the brain as a continuous succession of new selves that provides our sense of self continuity like the screen projection of film stills (my analogy). The reality is that the ‘conscioning’ (my term) of self is a continuing process of psychological change, not a self existent state of mind. The self on waking is not the self that went to sleep and disappears for good if the brain dies during sleep. Current neuro-psychological research is based on this inescapable, brain-mind relationship, with the latter dependent for its existence on the former, not the other way round. This concept provides testable hypotheses so our knowledge of their relationship is constantly improving. Conversely, as Blackmore sees it, the concept of the brain acting as a filter of a universal consciousness, with the latter being the origin of our minds as self existent entities that separate from our brains at death, leads nowhere because it is based upon a false premise. It can only be an article of faith. As for NDEs, Blackmore points out that as we do not know when any NDE actually occurs we do not know how active the brain would have been at this unknown time, so the assumption that the brain was not functioning at that moment is no more than that.

      As for ESP, Blackmore feels that from her own research with nil results, and her exposure of deception as described in her chapter, that ESP is a non existent phenomenon. In sum Blackmore denies that we can obtain knowledge ‘beyond our senses’ because there is no ‘Knowledge beyond our Senses’ to obtain.

Two competing interpretations

     We have, then, two competing interpretations of the brain-conscious mind relationship and the nature of the universe. The consensus view of the contributors is that Mind, and therefore Consciousness, is the Universal primary, and the brain acts not as a generator but as a receiver of a Universal Consciousness converted to individual consciousness. Blackmore presents what is probably the consensual position of the neurosciences and mainstream psychology that all the neuroscience evidence to date demonstrates that the brain is primary and the individual mind secondary to it. In this interpretation brain and mind live and die together, and one day we will discover how the brain generates mental activity ranging from the everyday level of conscious experiencing to the ultimate sense of bodiless Oneness. According to this view, ESP does not exist because the brain is designed to receive sensory input only, OBEs are illusionary experiences of separation, and NDEs (often a misnomer as they can occur in non death situations) will be found to have their neural correlates as suggested by Borjigin et als EEG findings (2013a, 2013b). See also Charman (2017, 2020) and Rivas (2018).

    I would add one proviso. Based upon her described experience of detecting data falsifying of Ganzfeld trials by Carl Sargent (strongly rejected by Trevor Harley, 2019, who was there at the time) Blackmore dismisses all claimed findings of psi as errors, either in methodology or interpretation, and her fellow sceptics, including the sub discipline of anomalistic psychology would be in full agreement. But is this denial of psi based more on a prior belief that ‘it can’t happen therefore it doesn’t happen’ so there is no point in wasting time looking at claimed ‘evidence’ to the contrary?

      But what if they did? They would find extensive anecdotal evidence of experiences, including documented evidence, for which there seems no other explanation than psi (Rhine, 1962, 1967, Feather & Schmicker, 2005, Mayer, 2007) and supporting laboratory evidence of many successful precognitive and remote viewing studies as summarised in Broderick & Goertzel (2015). This does not mean that a posited universal mind provides an explanation for psi is correct although, of course, it might be.  An alternative explanation more in line with the neurosciences may be, for example, that as in the emergence of new properties at certain levels in complex systems theory, the emergence of the qualia of mind and conscious experiencing is an emergent phenomenon with new properties arising from a required high level of neural data processing. In effect, neural data processing ‘jumps’ to qualial data processing in terms of conscious meaning, purpose, agency and sense of self, and it so happens that these new mental properties, absent from physical neural processing, include psi phenomena between minds.

   The subject matter of this book concerns the meaning of existence and two main viewpoints are expressed and explored in depth, with OBEs, NDEs, ESP and Oneness experiences central to the debate. As with the previous volume, the subject matter is very relevant to psi and will be of great interest to many readers.

REFERENCES

Blackmore, S. (2017) Seeing Myself: The New Science of Out-of-Body Experiences.

      London. Robinson.

Borjigin, J., Lee, U., Liu, T., Pal, D., Huff, S., Klarr, D., Sloboda, J., Hernandez, J.,

     Wang, M. M. M., & Mashour, G. A. (2013a). Surge of neurophysiological coherence

      and connectivity in the dying brain. Proceedings of the National Academy of

      Science, 110 (35), 14432–14437.

Borjigin, J., Wang, M. M., & Mashour, G. A. (2013b). Reply to Greyson: Experimental

      evidence lays the foundation for a rational understanding of near-death experiences.

      Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 110(47), E4406.

Broderick, D. & Goertzel, B. (2015) Evidence for Psi: Thirteen Empirical Research

       Reports. Jefferson, NC. McFarland & Co.

Charman, R. A. (2017). Do dying rat brains offer a possible explanation for the

       occurrence of near-death experiences? Journal of the Society for Psychical

       Research, 81,240–247.

Charman, R,A. (2020) NDEs and those dying rat brains again. Journal of the Society for

       Psychical Research. 84, 121-123.

Feather, S,R. & Schmicker, M. (2005) The Gift: The Extraordinary Paranormal

       Experiences of Ordinary People. London, Rider.

Harley, T. (2019) Obituary. Carl Lynwood Sargent. Journal of the Society for Psychical

       Research. 83, 124-127.

Mayer, E,L. (2007) Extraordinary Knowing: Science, Skepticism, and the inexplicable

        Powers of the Human Mind.

Rivas, T. (2018) On Robert Charman’s Research Note: Do dying rat brains offer a

       possible explanation for the occurrence of Near-Death Experiences? Journal of the

       Society for Psychical Research. 82, 187-188.

Rhine, L, E.  (1962) Hidden Channels of the Mind. London. Victor Gollanz.

Rhine, L,E. (1967) ESP in Life and Lab: Tracing the Hidden Channels. New York.

        Macmillan Co.

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