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Kazimierz Dabrowski

Suffering is both a reminder and a guide. It stimulates us better to adapt ourselves to our environmental conditions, and thus leads the way to self improvement. In every suffering one can find a meaning and a wisdom. But it is not always easy to find the secret of that wisdom. It is sometimes only when all our suffering has passed that we become aware of its usefulness. What man considers to be evil turns often to be a cause of infinite blessings.

(Shoghi Effendi: Unfolding Destiny pages 134-135)

My recent post on the plight of Ramin Zibaei, as well as the recent executions by IS, called to mind my various attempts to grapple with problem of  the existence of intense suffering in a world created, as I believe, by an all-powerful and all-loving God. This entails factoring in natural disasters, the Ebola outbreak being perhaps the most significant recent example, as well as human atrocity, the latter being also something I have attempted to understand

I felt it might be timely to republish some of my earlier posts on the issue of suffering. For reasons I explained in the second of this first sequence of posts republished last week, they are not meant to convince a sceptic that God exists, but may help to persuade him that believing in God is not completely irrational in spite of all the pain there is in the world. 

This is the first of three posts. The next will come out tomorrow.

Suffering

Sometimes an issue keeps poking you harder and harder until you simply can’t ignore it anymore. Suffering is one such issue for me at the moment. I did a couple of blog posts on the topic fairly recently and felt I had laid it to rest, if not for good, at least for a very long time. No such luck apparently. I kept producing poems that were locked into its gravitational field. The news keeps thrusting it before our eyes. I began to realise it was not finished with me yet even if I thought that, for my part, I had completely done with it.

Just before I made a recent visit to the Bahá’í Shrines in Haifa and at Bahji, I started a series of blog posts on mental health related issues. A comment was made on one of them:

. . . . two things that have encouraged me to see . . . mental suffering as growth have been developing a deeper spirituality, and learning about a theory of personal growth developed by Kazimierz Dabrowski, a Polish psychiatrist/psychologist, known as the “Theory of Positive Disintegration.”

I have to admit I’d never heard of Dabrowski but I’ve learned to catch at the hints life gives when I manage to spot them and I spotted this one. It was the first strong hint of something new in 20th century thinking, a different angle on the issue, and fortunately I snatched at it and obtained a book about his Theory of Positive Disintegration (TPD).

I began reading it on the plane out, continued reading it in the Pilgrim House at the Shrine of the Báb after my prayers, and carried on reading it in the plane home. Conversations in the Pilgrim House explored the issue of suffering and some of his ideas. Even BBC iPlayer programmes I was watching on the plane out rubbed my nose in the possible value of suffering.

I heard Dave Davies of the Kinks, in Kinkdom Come, stating at 58 minutes in: ‘If there hadn’t been bad times I might not have have got interested in spiritual things.’

So, here I am blogging about it yet again.

The Effects of Suffering

Stephen Joseph

Perhaps the best place to start is with a recent article in ‘The Psychologist.’ To my surprise, when I got home I found that the latest issue contains an article by Stephen Joseph about the psychology of post-traumatic growth. Trauma can shatter lives, it is true, but for some it seems rather to be an opportunity for growth. He draws an interesting distinction between two kinds of reaction to trauma (page 817):

Those who try to put their lives back together exactly as they were remain fractured and vulnerable. But those who accept the breakage and build themselves anew become more resilient and open to new ways of living.

Work has begun on teasing out what specific factors might be involved in creating this difference in approach (ibid):

Research shows that greater post-traumatic growth is associated with: personality factors, such as emotional stability, extraversion, openness to experience, optimism and self-esteem; ways of coping, such as acceptance, positive reframing, seeking social support, turning to religion, problem solving; and social support factors (Prati & Pietrantoni, 2009).

I wasn’t pleased to see that introversion is not included in the list of factors associated with ‘greater post-traumatic growth’ though it’s good to see that ‘turning to religion’ is definitely one. I remain quietly confident that the positive value of introversion will finally be recognised.

Joseph concludes (ibid):

Psychologists are beginning to realise that post-traumatic stress following trauma is not always a sign of disorder. Instead, post-traumatic stress can signal that the person is going through a normal and natural emotional struggle to rebuild their lives and make sense of what has befallen them. Sadly it often takes a tragic event in our lives before we make such changes. Survivors have much to teach those of us who haven’t experienced such traumas about how to live.

Suffering is not all bad

I have been aware for a long time that suffering is not all bad. In 1993 I had read Charles Tart’s Waking Up.

He argues, in the first part of this book, that most of us are to all intents of purposes asleep, or more accurately in a trance (page 106):

Each of us is in a profound trance, consensus consciousness, the state of partly suspended animation, stupor, of inability to function at our maximum level. Automatised and conditioned patterns of perception, thinking, feeling, and behaving dominate our lives.

He discussed ways of breaking this trance. Self-observation is a key tool. In describing its usefulness he also brings in a crucial insight (page 192):

Self observation is to be practised just as devotedly when you are suffering as when you are happy. Not because you hope that self observation may eventually diminish your sufferings – although it will have that effect – but because you have committed yourself to searching for the truth of whatever is, regardless of your preferences or fears. Indeed, suffering often turns out to be one of your best allies once you have committed yourself to awakening, for it may shock you into seeing aspects of yourself and your world you might never notice otherwise.

Dabrowski’s position, though, is far more complex than this, placing suffering in the context of a whole theory of personality development. A fuller explanation of this will have to wait for the next post. For now it is perhaps useful simply to note how Dabrowski’s idea of suffering seems closely related to Tart’s concept of a trance breaker. Sam Mendaglio, in the book he edited on the subject of TPD, writes (page 23):

Intense negative emotions and moods, typically regarded as impediments to growth and development, actually set the stage for advanced development by their disintegrating power. Intensely negative affective experiences begin the process of loosening a tightly integrated mental organisation. Though painful to individuals, negative emotions – the hallmark of inner conflict – allow people to achieve a more advanced level of human development.

His definition of what he feels lies at the end of this path through pain is of intense interest and concern to anyone seeking to gain support for a spiritual perspective on human suffering (page 23):

A developed human being is characterised by such traits as autonomy, authenticity, and altruism.

That seems as good a place as any to pause for now until the next time.

An exhumed mass grave outside of Potocari, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in 2007. Photo adapted from: Adam Jones. For connected article see link.

An exhumed mass grave outside of Potocari, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in 2007. Photo adapted from: Adam Jones. For connected article see link.

View from kitchenWe looked out of the kitchen window yesterday morning and got a shock. It may not be immediately clear why. Yes, there are no chairs where they would usually be alongside the table. But we knew that. We’d stacked them out of the way in the expectation of high winds.

The shock, it is true, is in terms of what is not there rather than in terms of what is.

The next picture tells it all.Fallen tree

Somehow, during the night, the small but apparently solid tree in the corner of our garden had come crashing down without hitting the glass-topped table and smashing it into pieces.

After last winter we had cut down one fork at the base of the tree as the whole of that part of the tree had died: not a leaf to be seen. The gales last night had clearly found a weakness in the half we were trying to preserve and as a result introduced something that had not been on my todo list for the day until that very moment.

It seemed a good idea to do some basic tidying up. I have blogged about how unpleasant I found watching the dismemberment of the cedar in our neighbours’ garden after the storms earlier in the year. Even though I had not chopped this tree down, chopping it up was not a prospect I relished. Still it had to be done.

It was a strange experience. I’d read about how the way a tree grows can be described as a fractal process, meaning that the trunk forks, then the branches this has made fork in their turn, then further forks make twigs, and later twigs fork to make more twigs and so on, each component forming a kind of replica of every other part. It’s not until I began the slow process of cutting this fallen friend into manageable pieces that I realised how powerful this description is of the structure of a tree. Every fork creates a thinner version of its origin traceable back to the trunk itself.

Green bag

I started with the thinnest twigs, some of which boasted leaves: others, which were dry and brittle, did not. They all ended up in a green bag ready for transporting to the tip.

This process then prepared the way for dismembering the thicker twigs that led back to the branches. As this sequence of activities unfolded the twigs were laid on the ground ready for further surgery. The picture shows just the beginning of the pile.

Pile of twigs

As I looked at the work that lay ahead I decided that it made more sense to saw the base of the trunk first into smaller pieces so that it could go into the bottom of the bag. The smaller bits could then be laid more easily on top.

This logic was compelling so I set to work on the bottom of the trunk. When you are up this close to a dead tree you can see things you would never otherwise have noticed.

Trunk with cut

The colours and the patterns, some native to the tree, some from the mould that had grown over the bark, were like a painting, a kind of landscape.

I paused in the process of sawing just to look. As I did so I caught sight of a hawk overhead, and a yellow leaf blown all the way from the sycamore in the road outside the front of the house fluttered to my feet. I was reluctant to resume my sawing as it would destroy the picture I thought I saw, but it had to be done. I placed the saw back in the cut I had made and carried on.

Trunk with saw

And that is that really. Just a picture of the stump to show all that’s left. The part we had cut earlier shows at the back: the trunk at the front shows signs of the disease or rot that rendered it too weak to survive the storm. Thank goodness no one was hurt and the table survived intact.

Odd that I should find the whole experience so resonant with no real way to convey what I had felt.

Stump

 

 

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Time may be running out

As I explained at the beginning, I am very late indeed in getting round to reviewing this thought-provoking book. I read it a number of years ago but was reminded of it recently when I spotted and re-blogged an article on near death experiences (NDEs) by Mario Beauregard, who, along with Denyse O’Leary, wrote The Spiritual Brain. My understanding of what follows in this part has also been informed by other books such as Irreducible Mind, which I have reviewed already.

Beauregard’s book is comprehensive and thorough. It seemed best to tackle it in three parts on three consecutive days, focusing in turn on:

(1) his critique of materialism (posted on Monday);
(2) his treatment of consciousness (posted yesterday; and now
(3) his assessment of the costs of missing the spiritual point, along with an account of his own mystical  experience.

This is the last of the three aspects.

Counting the Cost

In the process of describing the effects of this mistaken dogmatism and possible ways forward, he makes a telling point (3640):

While consciousness lies in the no man’s land between religion and science, claimed by both yet understood by neither, it may also hold a key to the apparent conflict between these two great human institutions.

A failure to resolve this so far has led us to an appalling impasse (4523):

Madeleine Bunting, of the . . . . Guardian, . . . . notes: There’s an underlying anxiety that atheist humanism has failed. Over the 20th century, atheist political regimes racked up an appalling (and unmatched) record for violence. Atheist humanism hasn’t generated a compelling popular narrative and ethic of what it is to be human and our place in the cosmos; where religion has retreated, the gap has been filled with consumerism, football, Strictly Come Dancing and a mindless absorption in passing desires.

A recent book – John Ehrenfeld’s Flourishing – analyses in detail exactly where such a mindless absorption has brought us and summarises it at one point as follows (pages 82-83):

Executives of the firms that are pushing sustainability… are unaware or purposely ignoring that the global economy is already consuming more than the Earth can provide. No matter what happens in the United States and Europe, the burden will increase as the rapidly growing economies of China, India, and elsewhere strive to attain the same levels that we “enjoy.”

But do we “enjoy” our consumer lifestyle? Data on drug abuse, crime, social alienation, and disintegrating communities might suggest otherwise. And yet, we continue to seek satisfaction in having and consuming more stuff.

As more of us consume more as more countries get wealthier, time may be running out. And all the while the whole argument could be about a straw man – while scientism argues its materialist case and more people swallow its message and get even more addicted to things, we all, including them,  become more like the man made of the sand into which he seems to be sinking, that I captured on film in Dublin many years ago (see top of post).

Beauregard basically agrees with Alvin Plantinga’s position that the conflict is not between religion and true science but between materialism and religion (5388):

There is no need to choose between science and spirituality. But there is certainly a need, as there always has been, to choose between materialism and spirituality.

em_spectrum

His Final Point

His final thesis is music to my ears and I will quote it at some length, even though I am aware it contains many echoes of other posts on this blog, including the idea ‘that our brains do not produce mind and consciousness, but rather act as reducing valves, allowing us the experience of only a narrow portion of perceivable reality.’ This is another way of describing what others have referred to as the brain being sensitive to part of the spectrum but not all, or as a transceiver that can decode certain signals but not all possible ones.

He draws on his own experiences of mystical states and the conclusions these have led him to in the light of all the other evidence he adduces (5695-5725):

One of these experiences occurred twenty years ago while I was lying in bed. I was very weak at the time because I was suffering from a particularly severe form of what is now called chronic fatigue syndrome. The experience began with a sensation of heat and tingling in the spine and the chest areas. Suddenly, I merged with the infinitely loving Cosmic Intelligence (or Ultimate Reality) and became united with everything in the cosmos. This unitary state of being, which transcends the subject/object duality, was timeless and accompanied by intense bliss and ecstasy. In this state, I experienced the basic interconnectedness of all things in the cosmos, this infinite ocean of life. I also realized that everything arises from and is part of this Cosmic Intelligence. This experience transformed me psychologically and spiritually, and gave me the strength necessary to successfully recover from my disease.

. . . . Individual minds and selves arise from and are linked together by a divine Ground of Being (or primordial matrix). That is the spaceless, timeless, and infinite Spirit, which is the ever-present source of the cosmic order, the matrix of the whole universe, including both physis (material nature) and psyche (spiritual nature).

. . . . It is this fundamental unity and interconnectedness that allows the human mind to causally affect physical reality and permits psi interaction between humans and with physical or biological systems.

. . . .The proposed new scientific frame of reference may accelerate our understanding of this process of spiritualization and significantly contribute to the emergence of a planetary type of consciousness. The development of this type of consciousness is absolutely essential if humanity is to successfully solve the global crises that confront us (e.g., destruction of the biosphere, extremes of poverty and wealth, injustice and inequality, wars, nuclear arms, clashing political interests, opposing religious beliefs, etc.) and wisely create a future that benefits all humans and all forms of life on planet earth.

It should come as no surprise that the theme of interconnectedness has a strong appeal for me, given my earlier post on the topic and my desire to effectively enact my understanding of that truth as a Bahá’í. If sufficient numbers of us cannot each learn in our own way, Bahá’í or not, to live an understanding of our connections with all life and with the earth, humanity may discover too late how to avoid its own near-destruction. The idea of the Ground of Being also resonates as a recent somewhat Wordsworthian poem of mine testifies:

A few hear nature as it flows
Along the wind and in the sap
Of trees, see music in the fall
Of autumn leaves, and in the slow
Stately motion of white clouds. All
This glory shines for those who truly see
The Ground of Being as mirrored in the mind.

If I were capable of writing an accessible book on the topic closest to my heart, this would probably be it, which is a relief as it means I don’t have to bother because Mario Beaurigard and Denyse O’Leary have already done it. What they have said I couldn’t possibly have put better myself, except that they don’t mention the Bahá’í Faith, but I have at least attempted that as best I can on this blog even if I never write a book.

gThe Conscious Universe IRMAs I explained, I am very late indeed in getting round to reviewing this thought-provoking book. I read it a number of years ago but was reminded of it recently when I spotted and re-blogged an article on near death experiences (NDEs) by Mario Beauregard, who, along with Denyse O’Leary,wrote The Spiritual Brain. My understanding of what follows in this part has also been informed by other books such as Irreducible Mind and The Conscious Universe. The former I have reviewed already and a review of the latter will appear soon.

Beauregard’s book is comprehensive and thorough. It seemed best to tackle it in three parts on three consecutive days, focusing in turn on:

(1) his critique of materialism (posted yesterday);
(2) his treatment of consciousness; and
(3) his assessment of the costs of missing the spiritual point, along with an account of his own mystical  experience (to be posted tomorrow).

This is the second of the three aspects.

Consciousness & Mind

So, back to consciousness (2251):

Studying consciousness presents us with a curious dilemma: Introspection alone is not scientifically satisfactory, and though people’s reports about their own consciousness are useful, they cannot reveal the workings of the brain underlying them. Yet, studies of the brain proper cannot, in themselves, convey what it is like to be conscious. These constraints suggest that one must take special approaches to bring consciousness into the house of science.

The computer analogy is for him fruitless, as it has been for others as well (2307):

To make any sense of human behavior, we must confront mind and consciousness, which means confronting beliefs, goals, aspirations, desires, expectations, and intentions, none of which is relevant to the functioning of computers.

Evolutionary theory is equally bankrupt (2462):

The claim that “Darwinian principles” will solve the problem is merely a statement of faith—in this case, a faith at odds with historical experience. . . . . . The fact that “Being human in mind and brain appear clearly to be the result of an evolutionary process” tells us nothing. The question is not whether evolution occurs, but what drives it and what exactly it has produced to date. Finally, whether “Darwin’s is the most ideologically significant of all grand scientific theories” is irrelevant for the purposes of their discussion. Darwin’s theory neither predicts consciousness nor describes it.

He argues that biology is out of step now with the current understandings of physics (2505):

As Harold J. Morowitz has pointed out, biologists have been moving recently toward the hard-core materialism that characterized nineteenth-century physics, just as physicists have been forced by the weight of the evidence to move away from strictly mechanical models of the universe toward the view that the mind plays an integral role in all physical events.

He ends up on Alvin Plantinga’s ground at one point (2520):

We regard promissory materialism as superstition without a rational foundation. The more we discover about the brain, the more clearly do we distinguish between the brain events and the mental phenomena, and the more wonderful do both the brain events and the mental phenomena become. Promissory materialism is simply a religious belief held by dogmatic materialists…who often confuse their religion with their science.

He refers in summary to the areas of exploration he has adduced which he feels a nonmaterialist view can explain more adequately (2528):

For example, a nonmaterialist view can account for the neuroimaging studies that show human subjects in the very act of self-regulating their emotions by concentrating on them. It can account for the placebo effect (the sugar pill that cures, provided the patient is convinced that it is a potent remedy). A nonmaterialist view can also offer science-based explanations of puzzling phenomena that are currently shelved by materialist views. One of these is psi, the apparent ability of some humans to consistently score above chance in controlled studies of mental influences on events. Another is the claim, encountered surprisingly often among patients who have undergone trauma or major surgery, that they experienced a life-changing mystical awareness while unconscious.

He refers to the work in neuroplasticity which I have also dealt with on this blog (2605):

Generally, Schwartz says, success with the four-step method depends on the patient doing two things: recognizing that faulty brain messages cause obsessive-compulsive behavior and realizing that these messages are not part of the self. In this therapy, the patient is entirely in control. Both the existence and the role of the mind as independent of the brain are accepted; indeed, that is the basis of the therapy’s success.

Placebo

Paul Pattison found a placebo helped his Parkinson’s

A recent BBC documentary gave telling support to the power of the placebo effect, including the example of a placebo inducing a brain supposedly incapable of producing dopamine to produce it simply by tricking the mind into believing the placebo was an effective medicine. Beauregard makes this process clear (2809):

The placebo effect—the significant healing effect created by a sick person’s belief and expectation that a powerful remedy has been applied when the improvement cannot have been the physical result of the remedy—must not be confused with natural healing processes. It depends specifically on the patient’s mental belief and expectation that a specific remedy will work.

He feels the placebo effect is coming in from the cold (2971):

Scientific medical research is beginning to help resolve the dilemma by accepting the mind-based nature of the placebo effect. It can be studied as an authentic effect and its power can be targeted, perhaps increased, which is so much more productive than continuing to treat it simply as a nuisance.

He quotes Radin from his book – The Conscious Universe (page 107) – describing the serious problem created by materialism’s position on psi, which applies across the board to other issues as well (3432):

If serious scientists are prevented from investigating claims of psi out of fear for their reputations, then who is left to conduct these investigations? Extreme skeptics? No, because the fact is that most extremists do not conduct research; they specialize in criticism. Extreme believers? No, because they are usually not interested in conducting rigorous scientific studies.

He tellingly adds (3497):

. . . as cosmologist Rocky Kolb, of the University of Chicago, noted recently, we don’t understand 95 percent of nature (dark matter and dark energy). Under the circumstances, it is a stretch to declare a phenomenon identified in a laboratory “supernatural” merely because it does not fit an established materialist paradigm.

Tomorrow we will examine the costs of scientists’ missing the spiritual point.

Ridván Garden This is just a quick alert to draw attention to a splendid BBC web piece that was posted today in honour of the Birthday of the Báb. Below is a very brief extract. For the full posting see link.

A young faith

Bahá’ís accept all the great world religions as having true and valid origins. Their central idea is that people of all beliefs and cultures should unite together for the common benefit of humanity.
This message had radical implications.
'Newton' by William Blake

‘Newton’ by William Blake

I am very late indeed in getting round to reviewing this thought-provoking book. I read it a number of years ago but was reminded of it recently when I spotted and re-blogged an article on near death experiences (NDEs) by Mario Beauregard, who, along with Denyse O’Leary, wrote The Spiritual Brain. I probably neglected to review the book originally because I was posting so many articles reviewing so many other books on overlapping themes: it looks as though I thought one more would be too much.

Once reminded, I thought that the least I could do is provide a brief heads up and pointer to its value.

His book is comprehensive and thorough. It seems best to tackle it in three parts on three consecutive days, focusing in turn on:

(1) his critique of materialism (today);
(2) his treatment of consciousness (tomorrow); and
(3) his assessment of the costs of missing the spiritual point (Wednesday).

There is a coda which draws powerfully on his own direct mystical experience.

Critique of Materialism

His book is a response to the default position of materialism as he sees it: he describes ‘an important tenet of materialism: materialist ideology trumps evidence.’ (Kindle Reference: 129)

In his book he addresses three issues that call that assumption seriously into question in his view (and mine). These are the psi effect, which I have tackled before on this blog and will be coming back to again soon, near death experiences (NDEs), also well-aired here, and the placebo effect, which I have only mentioned once at any length. As a result of the work of researchers such as Pim van Lommel, Sam Parnia, Peter Fenwick, and Bruce Greyson, there is a growing base of information about NDEs, for instance, as well as similar bodies of evidence from other workers in other fields. As these are topics I have covered already on this blog I won’t dwell on them now.

I’ll focus instead on his general case against materialism, which in itself will take quite some time. He illustrates its basic crass assumption with a telling quote from a proponent (277):

The whole materialist creed . . . . hangs off one little word, “Since”—“Since consciousness and thought are entirely physical products of your brain and nervous system…” In other words, neuroscientists have not discovered that there is no you in you; they start their work with that assumption.

He looks at a deep crack through what is perhaps the key stone in the central arch of the materialistic thought-cathedral – evolution (421):

We are driven to the conclusion that if the theory of evolution is to include or explain the facts of artistic and spiritual experience—and it cannot be accepted by any serious thinker if these great tracts of consciousness remain outside its range—it must be rebuilt on a mental rather than a physical basis.

He doesn’t hold out much hope for that rebuilding process, at least for now. He is dismissive of evolutionary arguments to explain away religion (1075):

Alper’s evolutionary argument requires him to describe religion in universal terms but his ideas about religion are strictly Western, monotheistic and personal; and his representation of religious worldviews is exclusively dualistic…. This argument is a clay pigeon, and could be blown away from any number of angles. The word “Asia” should suffice.

His final verdict on science is beautifully borrowed from a Mulla Nasrudin parable (1254):

Science is wonderful at explaining what science is wonderful at explaining, but beyond that it tends to look for its car keys where the light is good.

Redressing the Imbalance 

He then provides his own far richer description of spiritual or religious experience (1281):

For the purposes of this book, “religious” experiences are experiences that arise from following a religious tradition. Spirituality means any experience that is thought to bring the experiencer into contact with the divine (in other words, not just any experience that feels meaningful). Mysticism generally means pursuit of an altered state of consciousness that enables the mystic to become aware of cosmic realities that cannot be grasped during normal states of consciousness.

He hits another long nail firmly in the coffin of scientism (1878):

The culture of popular science is one of unidirectional skepticism—that is, the skepticism runs only in one direction. It is skeptical of any idea that spirituality corresponds to something outside ourselves, but surprisingly gullible about any reductionist explanation for it.

Michael Persinger (for source of image see link)

Michael Persinger (for source of image see link)

And then goes on to dispose of the God-helmet theory about spiritual experience – the one that interprets the evidence as saying that the brain creates mystical experiences purely out of its own activity, not in response to a spiritual dimension, making them by definition hallucinatory (1955):

A research team at Uppsala University in Sweden, headed by Pehr Granqvist, mirrored Persinger’s experiment by testing eighty-nine undergraduate students, some of whom were exposed to the magnetic field and some of whom were not. Using Persinger’s equipment, the Swedish researchers could not reproduce his key results. They attributed their findings to the fact that they “ensured that neither the participants nor the experimenters interacting with them had any idea who was being exposed to the magnetic fields, a ‘double-blind’ protocol.”

In other words, when the participants did not know what they were supposed to experience as a result of electro-magnetic brain stimulation, they didn’t experience anything.  He added (1978):

Granqvist and colleagues also noted that they had found it difficult to evaluate the reliability of Persinger’s findings, “because no information on experimental randomization or blindness was provided,” which left his results open to the possibility that psychological suggestion was the best explanation.

I have skated over his detailed discussions of evolution, brain function and brain pathology, in order to cut to the chase of my favourite topic: consciousness – which is the topic for tomorrow. This is not to imply that his examination of those areas is not careful, compelling and immensely valuable. There simply isn’t space in a brief blog review to do it justice.

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