Thinking About And Interpreting The Ever-Increasing Body Of Scientific Evidence Of Nonmaterial Natural Phenomena

I was asked to write a report on the three and a half day online interdisciplinary conference presented by the Scientific and Medical Network on the theme of Beyond the Brain. My report is not going to give a detailed review, because there was so much of interest in the various talks by the presenters, but I will be writing more of a thematic overview. To that end, I want to jump to the last day of the conference first, and highlight what was, for me at least, the most important insight presented. It happened during the dialog between Bill Bengston and Dean Radin on the subject of Energy Medicine and Healing Experiments, in an exchange between Radin and Marjorie Woollacott:

Marjorie Woollacott:

… I’ve heard this argument. In fact, I’m part of the group now looking at what conscious fields really are. Are they informational fields? Are they energy fields? I think the paradox is that the person, as you said, feels it as energy in their body, so some receptors in their body, some aspect of their subtle fields, is detecting something that feels like energy, and yet it doesn’t have the properties that we associate with energy. And so perhaps, does it mean that maybe we need to find, either some new terminology for it, or say that it might be a “both and” — it’s not transmitted energetically, but it’s experienced energetically? What is your feeling?

Dean Radin:

Yes to all of the above. Yeah. So, we don’t have the proper language yet — the proper concepts perhaps. This makes me think of the book, “Stranger in a Strange Land,” and also the recent movie called “Arrival,” where changes in language allows us to do things that otherwise we cannot do, because we don’t have the concepts. So at some point in the future someone will come up with — and people are already creating — new words and new concepts to try to describe what’s happening here. And I think that’s where we need to go. We need to get a language that is appropriate for the task, which we don’t have yet.

Although a case can be made — a weak case, I think — that in the esoteric literature there are descriptions of these kinds of things, often with language that’s now considered ancient, and so we may not understand it very well; but perhaps, if we spoke something like Sanskrit fluently, we would be able to discuss the stuff better than we can today.

Marjorie Woollacott:

Fascinating point. So, in fact you’re bringing up the point that I like to make myself on my own research. Of course, I did study Sanskrit, getting a second degree in Asian studies, because of exactly what you are talking about — these ancient texts are often mirroring what we’re seeing today, with their own understandings, and perhaps we can learn a little bit from them as we move forward technologically with our new terminology too.

The reason that I highlight this brief exchange first is that it brings out a general problem with our language, found even in the title of this conference: our modern language was forged within the mechanical (reductionist) materialism that has developed over the last three centuries, and this creates obstacles for our thinking about and interpreting the ever-increasing body of scientific evidence of nonmaterial natural phenomena. Simply put: How do we think about that which is beyond the brain?

The conference started with a pre-conference showing of an absolutely brilliant film titled: “Living with Ghosts — Science Weighs In On The Healing Power of After-Death Communication,” which was produced by Stephen Berkley. It is a documentary that follows the lives of a mother who is suffering from prolonged grief disorder, which has overwhelmed her life after the sudden early death of her husband, her two concerned daughters, and also two older widows: one who communicates via ‘automatic writing’ with her dead husband and has been able to heal her grief that way, and her friend who thinks it is silly. Over the course of the film, we saw how such non-medicinal techniques can have a significant benefit in people’s lives. The film was followed up with a very interesting panel discussion between the producer, two counseling professionals who took part in the film, and the SMN’s David Lorimer and Marjorie Woollacott.

The conference officially started the next morning with an introduction by David Lorimer. He started by making a very important observation that the etymological derivation of the word ‘consciousness’ points to cognizance of things that are literally vivisected from our embodied experiences — cut out of such experiences, as David Bohm said — that entails discursive reasoning and ratiocination about these things, and he compared this to the ancient understanding of gnosis as a direct cognizance that bypasses all the calculations involving distinguished things — finding truth directly in the totality, rather than trying to put a jigsaw puzzle of not-necessarily well-fitting pieces of knowledge back together. For me, this added a very profound depth to the point about our language that Dean and Marjorie made on the last day of the conference — bookending this problematic that science faces today.

David also brought to our attention the ‘central dogma of neuroscience’ as William James put it in 1898 — that the brain produces consciousness. This being an outcome of, and limitation on, science today. It means, as David points out, that because of this, there are a lot of phenomena that, while well-evidenced, are in principle impossible. He also highlighted the outcome of that dogma: that we humans are taken to be biochemical machines without free will — a bottom up, outside-in view, that is reductionistic (to mechanisms) and which is only a way of looking at, rather than being the truth of, our indivisible secular and spiritual reality. To wit, it excludes the latter completely.

His point being that between a choice of accepting real phenomena or continuing to stand with an understanding that those phenomena are impossible and therefore shouldn’t be looked at is, well, in my words, anti-scientific. David shared two quotes with us to support what he was saying. The first was from Alfred Russel Wallace, OM, FRS:

To put the matter in a simple form, the asserted fact is either possible or not possible. If possible, such evidence as we have been considering would prove it; if not possible, such evidence could not exist.

As the various presenters in this conference went on to show in their varied reports of the scientific evidence so far gathered — the evidence exists.

As well, and further to the overarching need to develop a new way of thinking and speaking about these phenomena, David shared this quote from Werner Heisenberg:

Most scientists are willing to accept new empirical data and to recognize new results, provided they fit into their philosophical framework. But in the course of scientific progress it can happen that a new range of empirical data can be completely understood only when the enormous effort is made to enlarge this framework and to change the very structure of the thought processes.

He went on to explain that the end goal, in conjunction with the SMN’s partners, is a metaphysical revolution that pushes back against the characterization of humans as biological machines, or worse, technological hybrids, while coalescing around an understanding of consciousness as a nonlocal matrix, and championing an ethic of interconnectedness and concern for all life, not just our own. I see this as necessary for our survival, and by ‘our’ I mean all life on Earth, so I was so very pleased to hear these words spoken at the introduction to this conference.

The presentations were wide-ranging and varied, but above all, extremely interesting given the sheer amount of evidence that has already been, and is being, accumulated for these ‘impossible phenomena’. One of the most enjoyable for me was the Bohmian dialog between Iain McGilchrist and Rupert Sheldrake which was a pleasure to attend, as so much of what we witness today is the opposite of dialog — really little more than bidirectional monologues.

I want to end with something Iain brought up. He mentioned a Combination Problem: how do we put mind and body together? Unity must be primordial. As he said: “The things we (currently) think are primary are not, and what we see as secondary are not.” This elicited a strong response from me, given that the mainstream of scientists not only exclude what doesn’t fit into the mechanical materialist frame of that kind of science, there is also a failure to explain so many aspects of our physical world — especially as we work to incorporate those excluded phenomena. In our best efforts to bridge the secular and the spiritual, we often fail to focus at all on the secular in order to put our whole effort into securing acceptance for the spiritual.

The problem I see with this, is that in the absence of an explanation of how the secular world becomes what it is, we don’t move past reductionism and materialism, as all existing explanations for the physical world stay as they are. And so, we find ourselves faced with paradoxes all around — and we need to understand that these paradoxes are evidence that we still do not have it right. We need a single answer that encompasses all phenomena. And I believe that this is the revolution that we need to obtain — not so much a meta-physical revolution but a revolution of ?… and this is where our current language and concepts fail, because we have no word for the fullness, wholeness, and completeness of the non-distinguished whole of reality.

Frankly, after spending three and a half days attending the presentations, dialogs, and discussions that made up the Beyond the Brain 2023 conference, I feel energized to work with these communities to advance human knowledge and human gnosis, and end the path that is taking us towards global ecocide, the devaluation of all beings into means to ends, and the accelerating ruining away of the cultural and intellectual legacy that our forbears have left to us.

For me, the conference was a grand success, and all those that took part in making it so, have my applause and gratitude.

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