Do you like this website?
Please support Integral World!
INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Publication dates of essays (month/year) can be found under "Essays".
SEE MORE ESSAYS WRITTEN BY STEVE TAYLOR
Steve Taylor is a senior lecturer in psychology at Leeds Beckett University, and the author of several best-selling books on psychology and spirituality. He is the current chair of the Transpersonal Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society. He is the author of The Leap
and his new book Spiritual Science: Why the science needs spirituality to make sense of the world
, Watkins Publising, 2018. See: www.stevenmtaylor.com
Why science needs a spiritual perspective
to make sense of the world
In this article I will suggest that the assumptions of materialism are groundless, and that there is actually a good deal of evidence against them
Secular western culture is dominated by a belief system which in its own way is just as dogmatic and irrational as a religion. This is the belief system of materialism, which holds that matter is the primary reality of the universe, and that anything that appears to be non-physical - such as the mind, our thoughts, consciousness, or even life itself - is physical in origin, or can be explained in physical terms. This belief system is so pervasive and taken-for-granted that we may not even be aware that it exists - in the same way that, say, for the peasants of medieval Europe, the belief system of Christianity was so deeply embedded into their lives that they might not have been aware of it.
In philosophical terms, materialism is a form of monism. Here mon literally means one, so we could call it oneism - the belief that the world consists of one fundamental or primary thing. And according to materialism, this primary thing is matter. There are no 'higher' levels of reality, no different dimensions, no heaven or hell, or gods or spirits. Human beings do not have souls or spirits, and even our minds are material in the sense that they're just a product of our brains. Only the physical is real - the physical stuff of the world around us, and the physical stuff of our bodies. We are machine-like entities made up of tiny material building-blocks, of different types of atoms and molecules working together, forming different parts of our bodies and organising the interactions between them. In this way, you could refer to materialism as a 'bottom up' approach - that is, it tries to explain all human behaviour and experience in terms of biology, chemistry and physics.
Every belief system has a number of basic tenets which everyone who adopts the religion has to adopt. I'll highlight a few of the most important ones of materialism here:
- Life came into being by accident, through the interactions of certain chemicals. Once it had come into existence, it evolved from simple to more complex forms through randomly occurring genetic mutations acted on by natural selection. The driving force of evolution is competition, or the 'survival of the fittest.'
- Living beings consist of 'selfish genes' whose goal is to replicate themselves. Human beings are merely vehicles for the propagation of our genetic material. The survival and replication of our genes is the main motivation of everything we do, which means that our behaviour is essentially selfish.
- All mental phenomena can be explained in terms of neurological activity. Consciousness itself is generated by the brain. The billions of neurons in our brains work together - some as yet undiscovered way - to produce our subjective feeling of being 'someone' who can think and feel.
- Since consciousness is produced by the brain, and we are nothing more than physical stuff, there can't be any life after death. When the brain and body cease to function, my consciousness and identity will disappear just as the picture on a television screen disappears when the plug is pulled out.
- Paranormal, 'mystical' or 'spiritual' phenomena cannot be genuine because they contravene the fundamental laws of nature. For example, there is no known energy field which could link one mind to another and make telepathy possible, and no known force which could account for the ability to move objects by mental effort.
Many people pride themselves on holding these 'rational' views, believing that the only alternative would be falling back into ignorance and superstition, a pre-enlightenment, medieval view of the world in which people's views of reality were based on faith and heresy rather than on evidence. How could a rational, intelligent person believe in the possibility of life after death, or the existence of something non-material like a soul or spirit?
However, to what extent are the tenets above actually based on evidence? To what extent are they assumptions rather than proven facts?
It is a fact that atoms and molecules exist. It is a fact that consciousness exists, and that it is associated with neurological activity. It is a fact that evolution has taken place. But it is an assumption that life can be explained wholly in terms of the action and interaction of various chemicals. It is an assumption that consciousness is produced by neurological activity (and therefore that consciousness ends with the death of the brain). It is an assumption that evolution can be explained wholly in terms of random mutations and natural selection.
Indeed, in this article I will suggest that these assumptions are groundless, and that there is actually a good deal of evidence against them - much of which has emerged fairly recently.
The Cultural Roots of Materialism
Where did the materialist worldview come from? When did some of the basic findings of science become adapted into a belief system? And why did this belief system become so dominant?
In the second half of the 19th century, scientific discoveries - in particular, Darwin's theory of evolution - made Christian beliefs less feasible as a way of explaining the world. It was no longer viable to believe that God had created the world, and human beings. The authority of the Bible as an explanatory text was fatally damaged. Scientists began to realise that religion wasn't even necessary to help explain the world. The new findings of science could be utilised to provide an alternative conceptual system to make sense of the world - a system that insisted that nothing existed apart from basic particles of matter, and that all phenomena could be explained in terms of the organisation and the interaction of these particles. One of the most fervent of late 19th century materialists, T.H. Huxley, described human beings as “conscious automata” (1) with no free will. Another prominent scientist of the time, Henry Maudsley, stated that “mind is an outcome and function of matter in a certain state of organization.” (2)
The First World War was also probably a significant cultural factor in the rise of materialism. The First World War was such a cataclysmic event - by far the most destructive and brutal war in history at that point, with eighteen million people dead, millions more maimed and disabled, all without any clear reason - that it brought about a collapse in values. It led to a distrust in abstract philosophical systems and beliefs, and a desire to pare things down to their simplest and most certain forms. It also accelerated the decline in institutional religion. The First World War seemed to offer proof of what the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche had proclaimed thirty years previously - that God was dead. How could a deity permit senseless destruction on such an enormous scale? How could a species that could plume such depths of depravity and destruction possibility be made in God's image?
In the 1920s, the desire to pare things down led to behaviourist psychology, which suggested that all human behaviour was simply the result of environmental influences, and that mental phenomena and consciousness itself could be disregarded, since they could not be observed. In philosophy, the same impulse led to the field of logical positivism, which held that only things that could be observed and verified by the senses were meaningful, and that metaphysical statements could be disregarded because they couldn't be verified.
Shortly afterwards, the discovery of genes offered another way in which things could be pared down, and led to a new understanding of evolution (which became known as Neo-Darwinism) which in turn led to the field of evolutionary psychology. At the same time, the medical advances of the twentieth century were amazingly successful, defeating illnesses that had blighted human life for thousands of years. This lent support to the idea that the human body is nothing more than a very complex machine, that can fixed when it malfunctions. The fields of neurology and neuroscience - facilitated by brain-imaging technologies - applied to this model to the brain, which was also seen as very complex machine whose interactions could account for human experience and behaviour. All of these developments seemed to suggest that the reductionist enterprise of 'paring things down' to their essential elements was valid.
As a result, materialism took hold as the dominant explanatory paradigm of our culture.
Every culture has to have a metaphysical system to make sense of the world, a belief system that answers fundamental questions about human life, the world and reality itself. And since religion is no longer - for most educated people - a viable metaphysical system, materialism performs this function.
Problems with Materialism
Materialism as a metaphysical system has given rise to materialism as a life style, that is, a life style of acquisition and consumption.
However, in many ways materialism is very deficient as a metaphysical system. I believe that there are three main problems with it.
Firstly, materialism has had a severely detrimental effect on our culture, in that it has created
what the psychologist Viktor Frankl called an 'existential vacuum' - a loss of purpose and meaning. If human beings are nothing more than genetic and neurological machines, if the universe is empty and cold and purposeless and there is no causal force in the universe except blind chance, then life is fundamentally meaningless. This existential vacuum underpins the crazy consumerism and status-seeking of modern life. Materialism as a metaphysical system has given rise to materialism as a life style - that is, a life style of acquisition and consumption. Believing - if only unconsciously, at the back of our minds - that this life is all there is, and that it has no meaning apart from survival and reproduction, we have developed a 'devil may care' attitude, a sense that we may as well just enjoy ourselves as much as we can. If this world is all there is, we may as well just take as much from it as we can, without worrying about the consequences.
The second major problem is the environmental consequences of materialism. From the materialist perspective, natural phenomena are just objects. We don't feel respect or responsibility for them - we're only concerned with the use we can make of them. The Earth itself is just an insentient ball of rock - covered with some vegetation - which we think of nothing more than a supply of resources, to provide energy and produce goods. In a similar way, materialism affirms our sense that we are distinct entities, collections of atoms with a mind that's just a projection of our brains. So we are separate to the natural world and entitled to colonise and conquer it.
And the third major issue that materialism does not actually work well as a way of explaining the world. Its explanatory power is actually very limited. On the one hand, there are a wide range of 'anomalous' phenomena that it cannot account for, from psychic phenomena to near-death experiences and spiritual experiences. These are 'rogue' phenomena that have to be denied or explained away, simply because they don't fit into the paradigm of materialism, in the same way that the existence of fossils doesn't fit into the paradigm of fundamentalist religion. On the other hand, there are many scientific and philosophical issues that it cannot adequately explain, such as consciousness, the relationship between the mind and brain (and the mind and the body), altruism and even evolution.
The Riddle of Consciousness
How is it possible that this grey soggy stuff can give rise to the richness and depth of your conscious experience?
To begin with, let's briefly consider the issue of consciousness. The materialist model explains consciousness as a product of brain activity. But after decades of intensive research and theorizing, there is no convincing explanation of how neurological activity could give rise to consciousness. In fact, this assumption has become increasingly problematic. For example, brain cells fire almost as much in deep sleep as they do in the wakeful state, despite the lack of (or at least lower level of) consciousness in the former. They also fire to a high degree in epileptic absence seizures (when a person blanks out) even though consciousness is lost. In certain parts of the brain - such as the thalamocortical system - you can identify some neurons that correlate with conscious experience, while other neurons do not seem to have any affect on it. Why should consciousness correlate with some neurons but not others? All of this suggests a lack of a direct and reliable relationship between brain activity and conscious experience.
However, there is an even bigger issue. Many philosophers have suggested that the very assumption that the brain produces consciousness should be abandoned. If you held a brain in your hand, you would find it to be a soggy clump of grey matter, a bit like putty, and about as heavy as a packet of flour. How is it possible that this grey soggy stuff can give rise to the richness and depth of your conscious experience? The physical matter of the brain - no matter how complicated the interactions between the cells are - belongs to one category of substance, and the non-physical qualia of conscious experience belong to another, so how can the latter be explained in terms of the former? As the philosopher Colin McGinn has put it, to say that the brain produces consciousness is like saying that water can turn into wine. This is what the Australian philosopher David Chalmers has referred to this as the 'hard problem.'
It seems that materialism cannot explain the puzzle of consciousness. As a result, many scientists and philosophers have turned to alternative perspectives, such as panpsychism. (I will present my own alternative perspective shortly.)
The Problem of Evolution
The central tenet of Neo-Darwinismthat natural selection has the creative power to generate noveltyis dubious.
There is also growing doubt about whether the standard scientific model can explain evolution. The Neo-Darwinist explanation of evolution is that it occurs through random mutations acted on by natural selection. One of the problems with this theory is explaining how natural selection can give rise to new structures and features, and especially new species. The standard assumption is that random mutations slowly create more and more variety over millions of years, and eventually these differences build up into distinct, new species. But it is questionable whether this is actually possible. As the French zoologist Pierre Paul Grasse pointed out, mutations only cause trivial changes. They are equivalent to “a typing error made in copying a text” with very little “constructive capacity” or innovation, so that they cannot create complex organs or body parts (3). There are invisible boundaries between species which mutations cannot cross, so that they can cause variation but never true evolution. Or as the contemporary evolutionary theorists, Gerd Müller and Stuart Newman, have put it, the Neo-Darwinian paradigm “has no theory of the generative,” and consequently is unable to solve the problems of phenotypes complexity (such as the anatomical and structural features of living beings) and phenotypic novelty (that is, the development of new life forms) (4). In other words, the central tenet of Neo-Darwinismthat natural selection has the creative power to generate noveltyis dubious.
You could frame this issue in terms of the distinction between micro- and macro-evolution. There is no doubt that mutations can cause changes within species - that is, they can cause variation on a micro level. But macro-evolution - the emergence of different species - is much more problematic. The gradual, incremental mutations that supposedly link different species to one another have not been observed or properly explained. This links to the concept of 'punctuated equilibrium,' based on fossil evidence showing that evolution works through stops and starts, with periods of stasis for millions of years and then sudden bursts of changewhich can be as short as 1,000 yearswhich give rise to new species. This doesn't fit well with the idea of incremental random mutations, since these would surely occur fairly evenly. There would be no reason why some periods would see more change than others.
Because of issues like these, it is certainly not just religious-minded theorists - such as advocates of Intelligent Design - who express doubts about Neo-Darwinism. Many mainstream biologists and evolutionary theorists now believe that the standard model of evolution needs to be overhauled. In recent years a large group of eminent scientistsincluding James Shapiro, Dennis Noble, Eva Jablonka and Evelyn Fox Kellerhave formed a “Third Way” movement, aimed at developing an alternative to both creationism and Neo-Darwinism. (Sometimes this is referred to as the “extended evolutionary synthesis”). The “Third Way” theorists reject the idea that random mutations are the main source of variation in evolution, and argue that natural selection has “been elevated into a unique creative force that solves all the difficult evolutionary problems without a real empirical basis” (5). They believe that Neo-Darwinism ignores “much contemporary molecular evidence” and that the idea that hereditary variation arises accidentally is based on unsupported assumptions. Theylike Darwin himself - believe that the scope of natural selection is limited, and that evolution must include other important mechanisms, suggesting that these may include processes such as non-random mutation (or adaptive mutation) symbiogenesis, horizontal DNA transfer, the action of mobile DNA and epigenetic modifications. As Gerd Muller has written in a recent paper,
“a rising number of publications argue for a major revision or event a replacement of the standard theory of evolution, indicating that this cannot be dismissed as a minority view but rather is a widespread feeling amongst scientists and philosophers alike” (6).
Another phenomenon which materialism struggles to explain is altruism. If human beings are just genetic machines, only concerned with the survival and propagation of our genes, then altruism is difficult to account for. It makes some sense for us to be altruistic to people who are closely related to us genetically, but not to strangers, or to members of different species. A variety of different explanations have been put forward. According to some psychologists, there is no such thing as 'pure' altruism. When we help strangers (or animals), there must always be some benefit to us, even if we're not aware of it. Altruism makes us feel good about ourselves, it makes other people respect us more, or it might (so far as we believe) increase our chances of getting into heaven. Or perhaps altruism is an investment strategy - we do good deeds to others in the hope that they will return the favour some day, when we are in need. (In other words, reciprocal altruism.) According to evolutionary psychologists, it could even be a way of demonstrating our resources, showing how wealthy or able we are, so that we become more attractive to the opposite sex and so have enhanced reproductive possibilities.
However, these explanations seem unable to explain the full range and depth of human altruism. If human beings are fundamentally selfish, why should be willing to risk or our own lives for the sake of others? Altruism is often instantaneous and spontaneous - particularly in crisis situations, when it is most evident - as if it is deeply instinctive to us.
Another problem for materialism is the influence of the mind over the body. If the mind is just an epiphenomenon of matter - just a shadow of the brain - it should not be able to influence the form and functioning of the body. That would be tantamount to saying that a shadow can change the object that it's a shadow of, or that the images on a computer screen can change the software or hardware inside the computer. But there are many different areas which attest to how powerful the mind can be, including the placebo effect, the healing and analgesic effects that can occur under hypnosis, psychogenesis and psychosomatic diseases.
Finally, there are the 'riddles' of anomalous phenomena, such as near-death experiences, psi phenomena and spiritual experiences. Materialism can only brush these phenomena away, claiming that they are the result of self-delusion, fraud, or aberrational brain activity. But there is so much evidence for them - and so much about them that can't be accounted for in physicalist terms - that to brush them away is as irrational as when the 16th church leaders refused to consider the evidence that the earth revolved around the sun. There is no satisfactory neurological explanation of NDEs, and there are many striking instances of 'veridical perceptions' where individuals gave detailed descriptions of the events during the period when they were clinically 'dead.' (The recent book The Self does not Die collects over 100 of these veridical perceptions .) The evidence for psi phenomena such as telepathy or precognition is surely sufficient to convince any open-minded person. (See my book Spiritual Science for a summary of this evidence.)
All of this shows that materialism is hopelessly inadequate. A metaphysical paradigm which can't account for so many fundamental aspects of human experience and the world should surely be discarded. We surely deserve a more satisfactory metaphysical paradigm, which can explain the world more coherently and doesn't deny the reality of so much of our experience.
Panspiritism suggests that the fundamental reality of the universe is not matter.
So what could this alternative metaphysical system be? I believe that what I call 'panspiritism' is a good candidate. I don't have space here to describe the model in detail (again, see my book Spiritual Science for this) but will provide a brief overview, showing how the model can offer a coherent explanation of many of the phenomena I have described above.
Panspiritism suggests that the fundamental reality of the universe is not matter. There is another quality, which is so fundamental that it actually pervades matter. This quality pervades all living beings, and all non-living things, so that they are always interconnected. This quality could be called fundamental consciousness, or spirit. You could compare it to fundamental forces like gravity and electromagnetism, which aren't caused or produced by anything - they simply are. Or perhaps this spiritual quality is even more fundamental than these forces. Perhaps it preceded the universe, and the universe - with all of its material particles and forces and laws - is an expression of it. One thing this means is that this spiritual quality is, to use a technical term, irreducible. In other words, it can't be reduced to anything else, or explained in terms of anything else. It is simply a fundamental quality of the universe.
Panspiritism has some similarities with panpsychism. Both are 'post-materialist' approaches in the sense that they don't believe that matter is the primary reality of the world, or that mental phenomena can be reduced to brain activity. They both propose that spirit or mind is a fundamental aspect of the universe, and can't be explained in material terms. They also both suggest that the universe is fundamentally alive and sentient, rather than mechanistic and inert.
Having said that, there are some significant differences between panpsychism and panspiritism. Panpsychism suggests that the most basic particles of matter have some of form of inner being, and some form of experience, but doesn't conceive of a spiritual force that pervades all things, including empty space. Panspiritism does suggest that spirit-force pervades all things, but not necessarily that it imbues them with an inner life.
The Explanatory Power of Panspiritism
The most impressive thing about panspiritism is its explanatory power.
The most impressive thing about panspiritism is its explanatory power. For example, let's return to the topic of consciousness. From the panspiritist point of view, consciousness does not emerge from complex arrangements of material particles; it isn't located in certain areas of the brain, or produced by certain types of brain activity. Consciousness doesn't emerge from matter because it was already there, as a fundamental quality of the universe. The brain does not produce consciousness, but it acts a kind of receiver which transmits and canalises fundamental consciousness into our own being. Via the brain (not just the human brain, but that of every other animal), the raw essence of universal consciousness is canalised into our own individual consciousness. And because the human brain is so large and complex, it is able to receive and canalise consciousness in a very intense and intricate way, so that we are (probably) more intensely and expansively conscious than most other animals.
This perspective fits well with neuroscientists' finding that consciousness is associated with the brain as a whole, rather than located in one particular part or pattern of neurological activity. If the brain's role is not to produce consciousness but to receive and transmit it, then we would fully expect it to be widely distributed in this way. Consciousness does not depend on any particular part of the brain; the brain's receiving and transmitting role depends on it functioning as an integrated, interrelated whole.
Altruism can also be explained in panspiritist terms. Altruism is related to empathy. Human beings' shared fundamental consciousness means that it is possible for individuals to sense the suffering of others (through empathy), and to respond to it with altruistic acts. Since we share fundamental consciousness with other species too, it is possible for us to feel empathy with - and to behave altruistically towards - them as well. In the words of Schopenhauer,
“My own true inner being actually exists in every living creature, as truly and immediately known as my own consciousness in myself... This is the ground of compassion upon which all true, that is to say unselfish, virtue rests, and whose expression is in every good deed”(8).
Telepathy can also be seen as the result of human beings' fundamental connectedness, facilitating the occasional exchange of cognitive information between essentially non-separate subjects. Precognition can be seen as relating to the timeless nature of fundamental consciousness (which is also evident in mystical experiences and NDEs). In the same way that fundamental consciousness is everywhere in space, it is everywhere in time. So in a sense, the future may already have happened, and the past may still be happening. Precognitive experiences may simply involve a transcendence of the illusion of linear time. This interpretations are consistent with recent individual psi studies and overviews of previous studies, which point to significant positive effects (9).
Panspiritism also makes sense of mind-body phenomena such as the placebo effect and physiological influence under hypnosis and psychogenesis. These become comprehensible if we presume that mind is more fundamental than the matter of the body, a more subtle and fuller expression of fundamental consciousness, and therefore has the capacity to alter the functioning of the body. Matter is the external manifestation of fundamental consciousness, while mind is its internal manifestation.
Mystical experiences of oneness with the universe also make sense from the perspective of panspiritism. These are simply experiences of - or encounters with - fundamental consciousness, pervading our own beings and other beings and objects and the whole world indiscriminately. Near-death experiences - which also typically include mystical experiences, with the same sense of oneness - are possible because consciousness is not directly produced by the brain. As a result, it is feasible that can consciousness can continue in the absence of brain activity. There is no need to attempt to explain NDEs in neurological terms because they do not have their source in the brain, but beyond it.
Evolution in Panspiritist terms
In evolutionary terms, panspiritism suggests that fundamental consciousness or spirit has a dynamic quality to it.
I've saved the topic of evolution until last, as it is the most complex. In evolutionary terms, panspiritism suggests that fundamental consciousness or spirit has a dynamic quality to it. Once matter arises from fundamental consciousness, there is an inevitable movement towards increasing complexity, which impels the process of evolution. This means that evolution is not a random and accidental process, but has an impetus behind it, a tendency to move towards increased complexity and increased awareness. This innate tendency helps to explain the creativity and generative power of evolution. and what the paleontologist Simon Conway Morris has described as “the uncanny ability of evolution to navigate to the appropriate solution” (10).
One example of this is the way that life forms sometimes adapt to changes in their environment with a rapidity that would be impossible through random genetic mutations. The technical term for this is 'adaptive mutation.' In these cases, mutations sometimes occur in a specific response to environmental challenges or stresses, such as changes in temperature, in nutrients or population size. For example, research has found that if a strain of bacteria is unable to process lactose, and then placed in a lactose rich medium, 20% of its cells will quickly mutate into a Lac+ form, so that they become able to process the lactose. The mutations become part of the bacteria's genetic code, and are inherited by following generations. In adaptive mutation, it's almost as if the mutations aren't random at all, but are somehow being 'directed' to react to the situation in the appropriate way, exactly when they are required.
One suggested explanation for adaptive mutation comes from the relatively new field of 'quantum biology.' Quantum biology attempts to explain mysterious biological phenomena in terms of principles of quantum physics such as superposition and entanglement. Applied to the example above, a quantum explanation would be that the genome of the bacteria exists in a state of 'superposition.' That is, it doesn't exist in any one particular state, but in a myriad of possible states, some of them mutated and others non-mutated. But when certain circumstances arise, the genome 'collapses' into the appropriate mutated state.
However, adaptive mutation could simply be an expression of the same creativity that allows life forms to move towards greater complexity and consciousness. This creativity gives life forms the flexibility to respond to challenges. In the above example, bacteria clearly aren't developing into a more complex and conscious form, but the same creative principle may be at work. There is dynamic quality in living beings which enables them to develop in the appropriate way.
This also suggests that a spiritual view of evolution doesn't have to dispense with genetic mutations as an important factor. Mutations may still be the main overt way in which change occurs. The only difference is that, according to this view, beneficial mutations don't happen (or at least don't always happen) randomly. Mutations may be generated by the impetus of evolution, as a means of creating change. According to this theory, mutations occur as a part of the unfolding of the process of evolution, generating inevitable changes that lead to more complex and conscious forms.
Of course, there are important areas that remain unexplained. I have not explained - and it is perhaps not possible to explain - the process by which matter arises out of fundamental consciousness, or the process by which cells and brains canalise fundamental consciousness. Nevertheless, I believe that panspiritism offers a sound basis for the understanding of the universe. It is certainly much more coherent and inclusive than materialism.
As a concluding factor, I believe that one of the main attractions of panspiritism lies in the value it places on all phenomena. Materialism denies the reality of mind, and at the other extreme, some forms of idealism deny the reality of matter. However, panspiritism sees both mind and matter as real and valuable, since both are seen as expressions of fundamental consciousness. Whereas materialism leads to a vision of the world as an inert, soulless machine, panspritism sees the world as a vibrant, interconnected whole. Perhaps most importantly, in panspiritism, human beings are not seen as individuated and separate biological machines, but as manifestations of the same essential consciousness. At the most fundamental level, we share the same being, and are therefore not really separate or distinct from one another. Neither are we separate or distinct from other living beings, the natural world, or the whole universe itself. As many of the world's spiritual traditions suggest, our sense of separateness is an illusion. We are pervaded with consciousness. Our own being partakes of the fundamental consciousness of the universe.
 Huxley, T.H. (1874). 'On the Hypothesis That Animals are Automata and its History.' Fortnightly Review, n.s. 16, pp. 555-580, 1874, p. 577.
 Maudsley, H. (1879). 'Materialism and its Lessons.' Popular Science Monthly, 15, pp. 667-683, p. 667.
 Grasse, P.P. (1977). Evolution of Living Organisms, Academic Press, New York, p.97.
 Müller, G. & Newman, S. (2003). On the Origin of Organismal Form (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, p.7.
 'The Third Way: Evolution in the Era of Genomics and Epigenetics.' Available at www.thethirdwayofevolution.com
 Müller, G. (2017). Why an extended evolutionary synthesis is necessary. Interface Focus. 2017; 7(5):20170015.
 Rivas, T, et al., (2016). The Self Does Not Die: Verified Paranormal Phenomena from Near Death Experiences, (1st. ed.), IANDS Publications, Durham, North Carolina.
 Schopenhauer, A. (1966). The World as Will and Representation. Dover Publications, New York, p. 379.
 Cardeña, E. (2018). The experimental evidence for parapsychological phenomena: A review. American Psychologist, 73(5), 663-677; Bem, D.J. (2011) 'Feeling the future: Experimental Evidence for Anomalous Retroactive Influences on Cognition and Affect.' Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100, pp. 407-425.
 Conway Morris, S, (2006). Life's Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.