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Front Matter 







Consciousness and the Physical World






Douglas M. Stokes











May, 2006










©2007 Douglas M. Stokes














To Iris and Rachel, my closest companions in this strangest of journeys.




I would like to thank all those who have pushed, prodded and led me to construct the Person I am (even though I will be shortly arguing that this very construction is ultimately an illusion).  

These people include the faculty members of Tabor Academy (including my parents), Harvard University and the University of Michigan.  They provided me with the tools I needed to embark on this journey.  Ultimately, however, I refused to enter the dark and narrow tunnel into which these last two institutions guided me.

I am especially indebted to the editors of parapsychological journals who have guided my writing and given me a voice in parapsychology over the years, including K. Ramakrishna Rao, Dorothy Pope, Laura Dale, Betty Shapin, Rhea White, Stanley Krippner, John Palmer, Suzanne Brown and Nicola Holt. 

I would also like to thank those who have helped me formulate my views, including J. B. and Louisa Rhine, Karlis Osis, John Beloff, Susan Blackmore and too many more to mention here.  At least one will be surprised to find herself on this list.  Sometimes you learn the most from those you ideas you initially find foreign and wrong-headed.    These ideas have a way of chipping an entrance into one’s thick skull, slowly but surely.  It may take decades, but one’s inner sanctum is eventually penetrated.

I would especially like to thank Robert Franklin and the rest of the staff at McFarland books, who have provided the main avenue through which serious books on parapsychology and radical investigations of the mind-body problem could be published.  Without their efforts, these fields would be much the poorer, if they would even exist at all.   

Table of Contents

0.  Dreams and Awakenings. 3

1.  Mind and Matter 10

2. Mind and the Quantum.. 24

3. The Evidence for Psi: Spontaneous Phenomena. 30

4. The Evidence for Psi: Experimental Studies. 56

5. The Implications of Psi 77

6. Death and the Mind. 110

7.  The Nature of the Self 140

8.  The Self Writ Large. 151

9.  A Summing Up. 161

Bibliography. 162



This is a book about the self, the soul as it were (to use two terms with all the wrong connotations).  It argues for the view of the self as a field of pure consciousness or “Cartesian theater” (to use the dismissive terminology of Daniel Dennett).  It draws conclusions about the self and its relations to the physical body and the physical world that the reader may find unorthodox and surprising.

This book will explore many familiar areas in a hopefully unfamiliar way.  These areas include the perennial mind-body problem, the role of consciousness in quantum mechanics, the anthropic principle, the evidence for Intelligent Design, and parapsychology (the investigation of ostensible paranormal abilities such as ESP and psychokinesis).

This book retraces many of the themes of my earlier book The Nature of Mind (Stokes, 1997) and in places may be regarded as an updating of that book.  It also contains a comprehensive updating of my chapter on theoretical parapsychology in Stanley Krippner’s Advances in Parapsychological Research series (Stokes, 1987).  However, the central focus in the present book is much different from that in these two earlier works, as are the ultimate conclusions drawn. 

The central themes are introduced in Chapter 0, which may be regarded as the real introduction to the book; these themes then are expanded in more detail in the remaining chapters.

The reader may find the ultimate conclusions drawn to be unsettling and disconcerting, as did I in arriving at them.  Once they begin to hack their way into your brain, however, they may provide you with a sense of peace greater than that offered by the dogmas hawked by religions that are still mired in the concept of the Person.

Postscript added on August 6, 2007

A condensed and abridged version of this manuscript was published by McFarland in 2007 as The Conscious Mind and the Material World: On Psi, the Soul, and the Self.  This original manuscript contains a complete updating of my previous book The Nature of Mind as well as of my chapters on theoretical parapsychology and spontaneous psi experiences in Volumes 5 and 8 (respectively) of Stanley Krippner’s Advances in Parapsychological Research series (all three of these books were also published by McFarland).  I would encourage readers of this work to also read the aforementioned book The Conscious Mind and the Material World, as it presents a more streamlined (and updated) development of the central themes in this manuscript. 


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