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Body Mind Spirit: Exploring the Parapsychology of Spirituality

Book Number: 
Date Fred Read: 
March 2018
Fred's Rating: 
Total Pages: 
Hampton Roads

Charles T. Tart, known for psychological work on altered states of consciousness and parapsychology, is the author of 3 of this book’s 13 chapters. The works of Tate and the ten other parapsychologists are described in 11 pages at the beginning of this collection.

He who gave me this book told me that in the past 20 years much has changed in the world of ‘psi’ research, but this work summarizes where ‘psi’ studies were as of 1997.

The Amazon only has on its website the paperback edition, available only from third-party sellers:

[None of the ISBN-10, ISBN-13, or ASIN numbers on Amazon’s websites for the three editions (Kindle, hardcover, or paperback) are recognized by Amazon, thus the ‘no image Circle' appears. I think this new change by Amazon is not good. However, you can see the images of this books' covers at the website above.]

The home page has three reviews – the second, third and fourth (dated in the early 2000s) – from its Top Customer Reviews. They together describe this collection well enough.

Use Amazon’s option to ‘Look inside’ and scroll down to the book’s 2-pp Contents. The 13 chapters cover a variety of approaches to the field of ‘psi’ studies. I’m glad the book has a 7-pp Glossary. After the Contents comes the 11-pp Contributors section, but Amazon’s preview skips the first page and two other pages, so some contributors backgrounds are excluded in part.

Next comes an 11-pp Editors Introduction. Since the first page (21) is excluded in Amazon’s preview, I give it here, since this first page sets the tone of this book [Comments by me are in square brackets]: “We are spiritual beings, with incredible potential. No, we are nothing but animals, meaningless electro-chemical machines with grandiose and pathological delusions about being more than that.

“Which statement would we ‘like‘ to be true? Which statement ‘is’ true?

It is instructive and disturbing to compare the following two columns, one of the results of a 1994 Newsweek survey of Americans’ religious experience, the other a quote from a recent article by chemist Peter Atkins [a well-known British atheist], published in the prestigious British scientific magazine New Scientist (1992). Atkins is commenting on an article by well-known British author, Mary Midgley (1992), who was concerned about the way science appears to have undermined religion.

[Atkins] “In a Newsweek Poll (of Nov. 3-4, 1994, a majority of Americans (58 percent) say they felt the need to experience spiritual growth. And a third of all adults report having had a mystical or religious experience. . . . 20% of Americans have had a revelation from God in the last year, 13% have seen or sensed the sacred during meditation, 68% at the birth of a child, 26% during sex . . . . 50% feel a deep sense of the sacred all or most of the time in church or at worship services . .”

[Midgley] “Fear. Fear seems to me to be what motivates authors to write . . . about the encroachment of science on the tender patches of the soul. . . . There is indeed room for some people to fear, for those who seek to found their lives on the vaporous precepts so favored by religion now find themselves teetering on the brink of an abyss wherein lies truth: the truth of our mortality, the truth of the absence of soul and the truth of the ultimate insignificance of all human activity. These truths are so consuming as to inspire subconscious fear and to generate the only resort of the vanquished and the disarmed: the stridency of protestation.” [End of page 21]

Also excluded is page 27. Since the Editor’s Introduction includes detailed comments about many chapters, which I found to be very useful, I give page 27 here: “we live, we are unfinished creatures. Moreover, that is not our curse but our glory. I think Keats was correct in saying that earth is ‘a vale for soul-making.’ Because we are transnational creatures, there will always be more for us to grow into and become – more to learn, more to know, more to be, more to share. Everyone’s life aim, then, should be not simply to maintain the status quo, but to expand both inner and outer boundaries. The question each of us must ask, and that only we can answer, is: What is the best way for me to grow? What directions should I take that will enable me to express what I am in the fullest way, given my native talents and my life circumstances? [Rhea] White enriches these questions by surveying the hidden assumptions of our Western world view that are highlighted and brought into question by exceptional experiences.

“Philosopher and parapsychologist Michael Grosso notes in Chapter 5, provocatively titled ‘The Parapsychology of God,’ that ‘ In spite of the onward march of science and the propaganda of disbelief, people persist in attitudes of fear, petition, worship, propitiation, and even of love towards supernatural entities.’ Why?, he asks, ‘do so many insist on peopling the universe with gods and goddesses, angles and demons, and other supernatural beings?’ After examining the roots of belief and parapsychology’s contributions toward showing how some of this may be real, he goes on to argue, ‘Parapsychology, insofar as it confirms the existence of a transcendent psi factor, thus opens up the world of human experience. It does so by remythologizing and reenchanting experience with magical and spiritual potencies; at the same time, it gives substantial hints on how even an adventurous skeptic might, in harmony with the free spirit of science, explore the mysteries of godmaking and spirituality . . . . The parapsychology of god, as I conceive it, is not a religion, nor is it a branch of science, although it draws upon, and aims in part to synthesize, these traditionally opposed forms of thought. It borrows from religion – from magic, mysticism, and shamanism – its raw, transcendent data and poetic power while shedding its dogmas, superstitions, tribalism, and absurdities. It borrows from science its detached love of truth, its methods where appropriate, and its evolutionary cosmology, while shedding its conceit and doctrinaire materialism.

“Chapter 6, ‘Some Thoughts on Parapsychology and Religion‘, by Stephen Braude, another philosopher/parapsychologist. Discusses [End of page 27].

I limit my comments on this book to the above provocative Editor’s Introduction because of my limited readings about the science of parapsychology. At the time this book was written, many people were skeptical of or unwilling to call parapsychology a science. Now, twenty years after this book was compiled, I believe there are fewer, but still many, skeptics in the traditional sciences – both the ‘hard sciences’ (where math plays a great role) and the ‘soft sciences’ (where words play the great role). I still find it hard to believe that things like clairvoyance, ESP (extrasensory perception), precognition, psychokinesis, telepathy, and other psi events can be described in a science of parapsychology. My own ‘extraordinary experiences’ have been spiritual and exceptionally powerful experiences of God and Jesus that I treasure every day. I remain skeptical of the ‘mind reading’ of hidden cards and such things that are said to be reproduced in parapsychology labs.

I did not expect a lack of discussion of experiences like NDEs (Near Death Experiences) or verified OBEs (Out of Body Experiences). But careful studies of these experiences have been examined for dead patients, those legally dead by cardiac arrest (heart attack) with sensors attached showing the absence of brain activity, blood flow or active lungs. For a summary of some of the recent studies, I have put them in a list at the end of my review of book 620.

I am not really eager to add readings of books by parapsychologists, but, as for the present book, I thank my friend who gave it to me to summarizes for me where ‘psi’ studies were as of 1997. I wonder if this is an example of like talking to like – in this case, parapsychologists talking to parapsychologists. I rate this book at four stars.