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Infinite Awareness: The Awakening of a Scientific Mind

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Book Number: 
Date Fred Read: 
April 2017
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Rowan & Littlefield

Marjorie Hines Woollacott, a neuroscience professor at the University of Oregon for more than three decades and a meditator for nearly four decades. Meditation can provide consciousness and spirituality that the organic brain of neuroscience cannot explain.

The Amazon website for the Kindle edition is

I bought the hardcover edition but I give above the Kindle edition because it contains more than does the hardcover edition. This is important because all of the 6-pp Foreword by Pim van Lommel is in the Kindle online preview, which also contains all of her Ch. 1. The home page has a very brief summary (click on ‘Read more’). I highly recommend reading Pim van Lommel’s Foreword. His work as a cardiologist has reinvigorated the study of NDEs (Near Death Experiences) and OBEs (Out of Body Experiences). In his book 602 – Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of the Near-Death Experience – he tells of his own experiences with NDE and OBE patients who had cardiac arrest. They were legally dead for short times of 5-10 minutes (longer if body is chilled) but were revived with strong memories of NDE and OBE. He convinced other cardiologists in Amsterdam to keep records of revived cardiac-arrest patients who had been revived from death with unusual stories to tell. Pim van Lommel interviewed his patients after two years and again after ten years, learning that their stories had not changed at all. He was the first to propose that we had both a ‘local consciousness’ (i.e. within the brain) and a ‘non-local consciousness’ (not within the brain, but accessible when dead.)

I have appended to book 620 by neurosurgeon Eben Alexander a list of nine books about NDEs and, for some of them OBEs. In my review of book 620 I included a paragraph about these experiences. In short, most focus mainly on religious NDEs. Since nobody comes back from a spiritual NDE with any evidence that could verify their life-changing NDE, that leaves some OBEs as the sole source of evidence to convince neuroscientists that an OBE in an operating room can somehow be seen and heard by the clinically dead patient. The evidence is that they remember seeing and hearing what’s said and done while they lay there dead. Their memories have been verified by the operating room’s staff present when the dead patient was observing the actions and words spoken. Other things (such as seeing things outside the operating room) observed during an OBE have also been verified. So, to my mind, the only way to convince highly skeptical neuroscientists is the verified OBEs. There is no way for these sceptics to believe what an OBE patient experienced than to accept van Lommel’s duality of an in-brain consciousness and also an out-of-brain consciousness. That is, if they don’t run away from these OBE stories. Many avoid listening to these stories, perhaps because most neuroscientists don’t want to hear about them. They have enough ahead of them in their trying to understand in-brain consciousness! There are very many unanswered questions.

Now, back to this book by Marjorie Hines Woollacott, whose experiences as a neuroscientist did not lead her to the belief in a non-local consciousness – for her it was through meditation. Above I strongly advised reading the Foreword by Pim van Lommel – it tells of the studies of NDEs and then tells us about Marjorie Hines Woollacott. To get her experiences, read Ch. 1 – The Making of a Renegade. The 13 chapters listed in the Contents page reveals an orderly progression of this book – Infinite Awareness: The Awakening of a Scientific Mind. I like her choice for this subtitle and I hope it makes other scientists wake up to the duality of the concept of awareness (or consciousness or mind). But I think they should have avoided using 'Infinite' in the title (Amazing would be a better choice). Her duality of mind clearly involves the spiritual along with the non-spiritual (or physical or material mind, if you prefer something more specific that non-spiritual). Let me be more specific with human senses. We all know of the five so-called physical senses – sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. I feel we have a sixth sense that involves only our memories of the physical senses; I call it imagination and feel that non-humans lack it. Our imagination conjures up unicorns, centaurs, mermaids, and many other part-human and part-animal concepts. Can any animal do the same? I also have a seventh sense – the transcendental sense that goes beyond our imagination sense. It contains the spiritual, the divine, and other topics. But enough of my seven senses.

The author’s last chapter, Ch. 13 – The Consciousness-Brain Interface – is her conclusion. It begins with the following paragraphs. I’ll use single quotation marks where she used italics:

“Coming to the final chapter, we’re left with many of the same questions we raised early in the book – ‘What is the interface between consciousness – or the mind – and the brain? What is the nature of the interaction between the mind and the brain?’ Throughout this book we have been looking at the psychic and paranormal experiences individuals have reported having, experiences that from the bottom-up, materialist view of this mind-brain relationship – actually from their perspective, a brain-mind relationship – could not have happened.

“These events ‘could not have happened,’ and yet again and again we have seen researchers following rigorous scientific methods who demonstrate that such events did happen. The response of traditional science to this paranormal research is to ignore it. Because I am one of the individuals who have had such experiences, I am committed to finding another approach.

“So, how do we map out an extended scientific framework, a perspective that takes into account the otherwise inexplicable experiences that I and untold millions have had – in meditation, near death, of past lives, in silent communication with other minds, as a recipient of energy from healers, and on and on?

“This entire area of experience, an anomaly to traditional science, is often brought together under the term ‘psi,’ short for ‘parapsychology’ – ‘psychology’ being the study of the mind and ‘para’ meaning ‘beyond’ or ‘abnormal.’ In this final chapter we explore parapsychology: how paranormal experiences might – possibly – be accounted for within a scientific model.

“Nothing I say in this section is new. I have drawn on the research of many reputable scientists, including neuroscientists, quantum physicists, psychologists, and physicians as well as philosophers and spiritual seekers. My aim is to integrate and also to elucidate for myself and others the nature of consciousness. As a neuroscientist, I wish to adopt an understanding of the mind that encompasses my experiences of meditation.”

She covers much in the 30-pp of Ch. 13, but does not achieve her goal. At the end of Ch. 13 she says: “The scientific box is expanding, and it may be that in the not-too-distant future consciousness will be accepted as a primary phenomenon from which everything in the universe springs into being.” This has often been said before and I think we will keep on hearing it if we look only with a scientific mind. However, if we look using the insights of many spiritual minds, we can see glimpses of the Godhead – the ineffable Godhead who lies beyond ‘the cloud of unknowing,’ for whom we have only a mystical sense of transcendence.

I think Marjorie Hines Woollacott covered the ideas some have of the mystery of consciousness. I will add this book to my list in book 620. For an advanced approach to the mystery of the universe, see my last two books by John Shelby Spong: book 693 – Eternal Life – and book 698 – The Fourth Gospel. As for the present book, 699, I rate it as four stars.

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