Click here for the PF Lyceum Site Index
Click here for Previous Blog
Click here for Complete Blog List
Recent Publications 8:
The End of Materialism:
How Evidence of the Paranormal is Bringing Science and Spirit Together
Charles T. Tart, Ph.D.
PF Lyceum Blog #28
Posted July 10th, 2009
Since my first parapsychological experiment while still a sophomore at MIT in 1957, I have usually been prudent in keeping my more acceptable work on consciousness and altered states of consciousness separate from my parapsychological work. I was well aware of the prejudice against parapsychology in mainstream psychology, and since I was pushing the envelope there in promoting interest and research on altered states, I didnít want to have any extra, unnecessary resistance from parapsychological associations. Yes, I know, scientists are supposed to be open-minded, unprejudiced and objective, and psychologists as scientists should additionally have good self-knowledge and be even less biased but science is done by humans, not computers, and prejudice is there. (For discussions of how academia treats those involved in parapsychology click here.) I fight prejudice when I need to, but try to not unnecessarily provoke it when I want colleagues to pay attention to my other work. (For a brief biography click here).
Iíve been retired from my mainstream position at the University of California, Davis, for a decade now, and teaching part-time at one of the few graduate schools in the world that is friendly toward parapsychological and spiritual matters rather than prejudicially hostile, the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology . Transpersonal psychology trans: beyond ordinary personal, beyond egoic levels of existence could have been called spiritual psychology, as it takes the spiritual side of human nature as something at least partly real, of great importance, and calling for study, refinement and practical application, rather than being neglected, rejected, or ďexplained away,Ē as conventional psychology and science do. Iíve now put the full range of my interests in human consciousness, spirituality and parapsychology together.
I am proud to announce the publication of what may be my most important book, The End of Materialism: How Evidence of the Paranormal is Bringing Science and Spirit Together. (For the “Table of Contents” click here.) It took me more than three years to write, fifty plus years to prepare to write.
To give you the flavor of the book, I met with a dozen staff members of the publisher, New Harbinger, in Oakland in late 2008, and they asked me to tell them, in a few words, why the book was important. What could they tell potential readers? I responded with a question: how many of them had some sort of personal spiritual practice, such as meditation or prayer? Now I had just met these folks, so this was a rather personal question to ask them to respond to in front of a group, but this was California, we’re supposed to be honest and open folks, right? Our ďleft coastĒ image had to be lived up to, so after a few seconds everybodyís hand went up.
I looked at them seriously, and after a few seconds of silence told them that, if I spoke from the position of a modern scientist (I could imagine myself wearing a white lab coat as my robes of office!), which I certainly was, I would have to tell them that they were all fools. Ignorant fools at best, neurotic fools at worst. Didn’t they know that science had long ago shown that all religion and spirituality were nonsense, the only reality was that of the physical world?
Like most of us, I have a strong need to be liked and accepted, so I felt like I was taking a risk in calling them fools, but I wanted to quickly get across the main thrust of The End of Materialism in modern life many of us do believe that science has shown all spirituality to be nonsense. Yet my experience, both personally and scientifically, has convinced me that there is some real and vitally important sense in which we do have a spiritual nature, and to deny and repress it wounds us and lessens us. If you think the supposedly smartest people in our culture, the scientists, have proven your spiritual feelings to be dumb and neurotic, of course you try to suppress them
people have them. So many modern people are thus wounded.
But my scientific work, as well as that of many colleagues, has shown me that, properly applied, essential science has actually provided a great deal of support for the reality of some kind of spiritual nature for us, so the suffering that comes from denial and suppression is unnecessary and useless. My hope is that The End of Materialism will give readers the kind of data that allowed me to reach a personal resolution where I can be both devoted to science and trying to develop and practice my spiritual side. If two living people, for example, can occasionally demonstrate telepathic communication under tightly controlled laboratory conditions, is the idea of prayer, a telepathic kind of communication with someone/something beyond us inherently nonsensical? If prayer or psychic healing can affect the healing rate of physical diseases, is the idea of a spiritual world that affects us inherently nonsensical? I don’t think so.
Of course there are nonsensical elements mixed in with religion and spirituality: that’s true for all areas of human life. But to totally deny our spiritual nature, as science apparently does, harms and inhibits people. Indeed, it’s not science that denies our spirituality, it’s scientism, a rigid philosophy of materialism, masquerading as science. Helping people discriminate essential science from scientism is one of the main themes of my book.
I think the New Harbinger folks ended up liking me at the end, and they got the point. The End of Materialism is aimed at reducing useless human suffering by showing people that it’s rational and sensible to be both scientifically and spiritually oriented.
New Harbinger is in the business of selling books, so they will soon prepare a fancy e-postcard I can send around to my correspondents, full of glowing endorsements, such as the forward to the book by one of the world’s foremost scholars of religion, Huston Smith and his wife Kendra and all that, but my style is this more personal introduction. Basically, if you have ever found your spiritual interests and aspirations inhibited or held back because you think science has shown it is all nutty and dumb, you’ll find The End of Materialism helpful. The official release date was April 2, 2009 you canít release a book touching on parapsychology on April Fools Day! (Click here if you’re interested and want to buy the book on Amazon.)
If I can help even a single reader whoís spiritual life has been undermined and invalidated with The End of Materialism, Iíll be very pleased. If I can help lots of people eliminate such useless conflicts, Iíll feel even better, so feel free to pass this information along to any friends you know who may be conflicted about science and their spiritual aspirations.
Now thereís a lot more writing to be done. I would like to do a book on the psychology of spirituality, and meanwhile Iím starting a blog to share ideas and stimulate discussion on topics like parapsychology, spirituality, and consciousness, including altered states like meditation, dreams and hypnosis, all strong research interests of mine throughout my career.
For the index of all previous blogs, click here.