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on 31 March 2013
This is a courageous, ground-breaking book; but more significantly it is almost certainly a promise of things to come. The authors are a group of academics from Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychology departments (with the exception of Michael Grosso who comes from a more philosophical background) who have the distinction - rare in such environments - of being characterised by one overriding ambition: to take the mind seriously as mind. In their view it merits nothing less and they are determined not to submit to the common knee-jerk practice of pronouncing the mind to be `nothing but' matter.
Their basic assumptions are that scientific psychology is not at all well served by following the materialistic-naturalistic agenda of reducing all mental phenomena to the complicated operations of the neural mass in the skull. Indeed it is their view that this agenda has resulted in a kind of reductio ad absurdum within the discipline in which the practitioners of the method, writers such as the Churchlands, Dennett, Pinker, Hofstadter, Freeman, Wegner etc., despite the modish allure of their theories and the optimistic talk of a `computational theory of mind', have actually succeeded in the absurd project of pronouncing themselves non-existent. No bad thing, one may say; but this does not prevent the materialistic theory of mental function peddled by such high-profile ideologues from being the most dominant view of mind in academic circles. Academic psychology manages to live with the almost farcical situation in which we are supposed to believe inconsistent propositions of the following type:
- that the persistent conviction human beings have always entertained, and continue to entertain, about the reality of consciousness is, `in reality', a delusion;
- that the investigators of human consciousness are themselves likewise deluded, but emerging from their delusion by means of their `discoveries';
- that these investigators are `in fact' unconscious along with every other apparently conscious being despite becoming conscious of their unconsciousness through their theories;
- that the theories elaborated by such investigators not only arise from unconscious activity, however much they may broaden consciousness, but are themselves held unconsciously;
- that this unprovable `truth' is true, despite the fact - for fact it is - that no-one either inside or outside of their little coterie seriously believes anything of what they say;
- and that life, human relations, planning, intention, moral decision-making, self-awareness, empathy etc... etc. are impossible if one genuinely believes their tenets, indeed that believing and living by them would be psychopathic or psychotic.
The authors of this collection of essays will have none of all this stuff. They begin from the premise that psychology lost its way once the `matter' branch of the Cartesian bifurcation was enthusiastically pursued to the complete exclusion of the `mind' branch. They believe that the works of writers such as Frederick Myers, William James and Alfred North Whitehead among others, are not only worth rediscovering but stand in vital need of rediscovery. Thus they take seriously the entire range of mental phenomenology from the mere irrefutability of self-awareness, clear to everyone, to such `rogue' phenomena as near-death experiences, out-of-the-body experiences, reincarnation, telepathy, telekinesis, genius and so on. They neither prejudge such things nor do they pronounce them to be impossible on the basis of slavish adherence to the dogma of materialism.
The fact that such matters have preoccupied the human family for millennia means that there is a wealth of material on which to work; and the authors are determined to explore this material in a purely empirical manner, without credulous acceptance and without materialistic bias or behaviouristic preconception, in the belief not only that there is something in it, but that developments in modern quantum physics have made the business of examining such phenomena scientifically that much more credible.
These brave psychologists are to be thanked and congratulated for sticking their heads above the parapet and daring to declare in the face of academic totalitarianism and vested interest that the emperor has no clothes. The `no mind' theory of mind is a patent absurdity, whose absurdity is not diminished by means of the impressive scientific paraphernalia with which it is promulgated. The authors of this collection have simply woken up to the human reality of the situation and realised that there is a whole world of potentially paradigm-shifting discovery to be made by the application of genuine, open-minded - as opposed to doctrinaire - scientific investigations to the true range and true wealth of documented human experience.
The materialistic dogma is ripe for destruction. It works for technology but literally leads nowhere in psychology. This book deserves a wide readership, for it dares to take on an entrenched establishment, determined to diminish humanity, in the interest of normal human experience in all its variety and richness.
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on 13 June 2013
I borrowed this 'door stopper', as another reviewer called it, from the library, and have so far managed to read only one chapter - the one on NDE and OBEs. I'll probably leave it at that; but if I ever get a chance to be abandoned on a desert island, I might buy a copy to take with me.

I have some sympathy for the authors, as they are trying to come to a balanced assessment of subject matter that is considered by orthodox thinking, and therefore most scientists, as baloney. The chapter I read did an excellent job of evaluating all the explanations science has put forward for NDE and OBEs and then comprehensively dismantling them. It did this in a professional way, which necessitated many quotes and references. I found it hard work to read, but tremendously reassuring to discover my gut instinct (that science had no clear answer, and was casting about for straws) was right.

I just wish I had the time, patience and stamina to read the rest of the book.
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on 30 April 2014
Although not the actual author, Michael Murphy with his partner set up Esalen Institute Big Sur California in 1962, and created a Gateway for the emerging ideas in Physics, Philosophy, Scientific Psychology, Health, Alternative treatments and the growing awareness of the Eastern Wisdom Traditions, to be accessed by lay persons. This book, with 6 contributing authors looks comprehensively at all the research on consciousness, the neuroscience of the mind and is already becoming a landmark publication that has helped spark the revolution of further scientific investigation into the nature of consciousness. At 800 pages - quite a tome and original copies are expensive - so very pleased to get this copy (though as a layperson I could use a few diagrams/images to break it up), but reading it in measurable bites, it is a treasure trove of information.
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on 18 December 2015
I am a retired research chemist with experience also in computing. Since my student days I have also taken an interest in philosophy, religion, evolutionary theory, physics and so on. Particularly intriguing have been issues involving the mind, brain and consciousness and unexplained associated phenomena. Good examples are mysticism, near death experiences (NDEs), the capabilities of yoga adepts and occurrences of 'terminal lucidity' in the dying. It is clear to me that a model of the brain/mind as a computer is woefully inadequate and that consciousness is a distinct entity separate from the world as described by traditional physics. A short while ago I read Eben Alexander's book 'Proof of Heaven'. So many things that I had pondered over the years seemed to be coming together. At this point I decided to tackle 'Irreducible Mind' to find out more.

Be warned, 'Irreducible Mind' is an academic tome, but carefully put together by a group of authors. It is not for the fainthearted! I have read a substantial portion of it and some sections, e.g. concerning NDEs, I have read more thoroughly than others. A huge range of topics is covered especially certain phenomena, well proven, that cannot be explained by main stream psychological theory. The authors have been truly scientific and considered all relevant phenomena including those that do not fit easily into the 'conventional wisdom'. The book strikingly reveals what miserable progress has been made, in the previous 100 or so years, in describing what consciousness really is . They stress that we must develop in psychology a 'theory of everything' that will bring together many disparate threads of human experience. They do not themselves claim to have all of the answers. They point to further scientific experimental work needed to expand earlier comprehensive psychological theories (e.g. of Myers and James) that have been either largely ignored or decried for decades.

John F. Kennedy said - 'We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.' The same could be said of the nature of consciousness -'We choose to develop a sound overall theory of consciousness, not because it will easy, but because it will be hard'.
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on 6 December 2012
An excellent collection of essays by experts in the field. The writing is scholarly and very thorough. It left me with my respect for so-called professional scientists much reduced. It's seems they are far happier working with their heads buried deep into the sand.
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Kurt Godel was one of the few people who could terrify the brightest minds of the 20th century. Godel wondered why people can be so illogical in believing that the brain produces mind. Wittgenstein asked what would it look like if the Earth orbited the Sun? Well the same as this but people still believe the wrong way round. Kurt Godel saw the same sloppy thinking when it came to mind.

See Rudy Rucker 4th Dimension. Bernardo Kastrup's Why Materialism is Ballony contains excellent critiques of the mind equals brain cult.
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on 9 July 2013
Bought this because it was recommended by Dr Eben Alexander in his book Proof of Heaven. Dr Alexander is a neurosurgeon who underwent a near death experience and his book is thought provoking and well written. I bought the Kindle version of Irreducible mind which has no chapter listings and appears to run to several thousand pages. The book appears to be written by academics for academics and although I have a university degree and am used to reading obscure stuff, this book is so dense I think Einstein would struggle with it. Only buy if you are an insomniac and have about £12 to spare
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on 24 July 2014
It took me a long time to read through this book. English is not my first language, and I truly struggled with a highly scientific text. Some contributors to the volume are easier to read then others.

The book often refers to events that are dozens of years old, and pays a lot of attention to interpretation of developments in scientific understanding of human mind, starting from Victorian era.

However I give it 5 stars because it most definitely implies that even modern science doesn't understand all about our minds and their connection to the wider universe. And this corresponds well with what I instinctively feel.
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on 7 September 2015
it's a very ambitious peace of work and very interesting, but a bit awquardly written with unusual long sentences. Although mentioned, as needed in this context, the theory and work of CG Jung is very poorly reported with the most important perspectives of his work missing where justly it should and where it most fitted beside Myers. Yet, the overall approach with Myers suggestion of broadening the method of science instead of its method of reducing the object of study.
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on 12 August 2013
I have recommended this book to more people than I can remember, clearly and persuasively argued, gives a good understanding of the challenges faced by people trying to do serious enquiry into these phenomena. Fantastic, a philosophical page-turner.
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