Beyond Physicalism: Toward Reconciliation of Science and Spirituality

Beyond Physicalism is the product of an unusual fellowship of scientists and humanities scholars who dispute these views. In their previous publication, Irreducible Mind, they argued that physicalism cannot accommodate various well-evidenced empirical phenomena including paranormal or psi phenomena, postmortem survival, and mystical experiences. In this new theory-oriented companion volume they go further by attempting to understand how the world must be constituted in order that these “rogue” phenomena can occur. Drawing upon empirical science, metaphysical philosophy, and the mystical traditions, the authors work toward an improved “big picture” of the general character of reality, one which strongly overlaps territory traditionally occupied by the world’s institutional religions, and which attempts to reconcile science and spirituality by finding a middle path between the polarized fundamentalisms, religious andscientific, that have dominated recent public discourse.

Beyond Physicalism book cover

The rise of modern science has brought with it increasing acceptance among intellectual elites of a worldview that conflicts sharply both with everyday human experience and with beliefs widely shared among the world’s great cultural traditions. Most contemporary scientists and philosophers believe that reality is at bottom purely physical, and that human beings are nothing more than extremely complicated biological machines. On such views our everyday experiences of conscious decision-making, free will, and the self are illusory by-products of the grinding of our neural machinery. It follows that mind and personality are necessarily extinguished at death, and that there exists no deeper transpersonal or spiritual reality of any sort.

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Endorsements of Beyond Physicalism

“Beyond Physicalism heralds an impending shift of epic proportion in humankind's efforts to understand the nature of reality, and potentially the most significant advance in the recent history of the mind-body debate. This landmark book provides an unprecedented synthesis of science, psychology, philosophy and theology, approaching the deeper truth of all existence.”

— Eben Alexander III MD, Neurosurgeon and author of "Proof of Heaven" and "The Map of Heaven"

“Finally: a book that conclusively demonstrates that it is possible, in fact preferable, to reconcile genuine science with spirituality. Drawing upon a massive amount of compelling empirical data, and weaving together several interrelated and extremely thoughtful theoretical perspectives offered by a range of highly respected scientists and humanists, Beyond Physicalism articulates a cogent and compelling alternative to the distorted “all or nothing” dichotomy between a narrow-minded religious fundamentalism and an equally dogmatic and rigid scientistic mentality.”

— G. William Barnard, Professor of Religious Studies, Southern Methodist University

“Beyond Physicalism lays several stones for the foundation of a new world-view. No book has gone further toward reconciling science and spirituality.”

— William Eastman, former Director of SUNY Press

“In William James' abridgement of The Principles of Psychology, fondly referred to as "Jimmy" by his students, James reminded psychologists that the natural science assumptions of the newly emerging science of psychology were merely provisional. In this wonderful sequel to Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century, "rogue" phenomena that are the essential facts denied by a psychology too long mired in varieties of physicalism are rightly accepted as empirical fact. Abandoning neither the truths of science nor those of religion, evolutionary panentheism provides the tertium quid that that can steer us safely home. This is a must read book. Marvelous!”

— Ralph W. Hood Jr., Professor of Psychology, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and former editor, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

“Dogmatic materialists, sometimes called skeptics, claim that to accept the possibility of any non-physical force or entity requires that we sacrifice all of modern science. No matter the apparent evidence, we are told, the future of scientific progress and rationality are at stake. Creationism and the flat Earth lie in wait. Beyond Physicalism, however, presents both solid empirical evidence and fully rational theoretical views demonstrating that the materialist’s dichotomy is false. This book offers a third way, reconciling science and spirituality without diluting either. Robust and evidence-based, this work by highly respected scholars and scientists demolishes orthodoxies right and left, allowing the reader a way forward past the Scylla and Charybdis of religious and scientific fundamentalisms.”

— David J. Hufford, University Professor Emeritus, Penn State College of Medicine

“Beyond Physicalism is much more than a book. It is the intimate expression of a decade and a half of critical but collegial conversations between established scientists and professional humanists around some of the most important but still unsettled questions facing humanity: those involving the nature of mind or consciousness - that is, the nature of us.”

— Jeffrey J. Kripal, J. Newton Rayzor Professor of Religious Studies, Rice University

“Beyond Physicalism is an eye-opening (perhaps one might be permitted to say "soulful") collection of essays by disciplined researchers who seek to develop a credible conception of the spiritual nature of human beings. The authors are hard-nosed scientists and humanistic scholars who believe it is possible to reject the “old man in the sky pulling the strings” version of theism without embracing dispiriting contemporary versions of materialism.”

— Richard A. Shweder, Harold Higgins Swift Distinguished Service Professor, Department of Comparative Human Development, University of Chicago

“Some of the philosophical problems that occupied William James longest and deepest, along with solutions he thought most promising, have literally been written out of history. This volume presents the first serious collective attempt since James’ death to revive his project. Its chapters are characterized by an intellectual ethos reminiscent of the ‘father’ of modern American psychology himself: sympathetic open-mindedness made fruitful through disciplined, calm and penetrating rigor.”

— Andreas Sommer, Junior Research Fellow in History and Philosophy of Science, Churchill College, University of Cambridge

“If you are personally content thinking of yourself as a meaningless byproduct of accidental chemical reactions, what I’ve called the Total Materialism view of reality, and think you’re superior for being so “scientific,” you don’t want to read this book, not that you can actually freely make a choice, because it will upset you and you’ll need some tranquilizing drugs to calm your agitated brain. But if you believe facts are more important than currently fashionable scientistic theories and wonder about the spiritual side of human nature, you will find this volume fascinating!”

— Charles T. Tart, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, University of California, Davis