Beyond the Brain is the world’s premier conference series exploring new research on whether and how consciousness and mind extend beyond the physical brain and body. This year’s event covers near-death experiences, the sense of being stared at, extra-sensory perception, technology and consciousness, magic and cosmic consciousness. It also features a virtual reality NDE and a ‘sound journey’ meditation experience, facilitated by Urubu.
Our minds seem to extend far beyond our brains. Many experiments have now shown that people can influence others at a distance just by looking at them, even when all normal sensory clues are eliminated. The sense of being stared at also occurs among non-human animals and may have evolved in the context of predator –prey relationships: if a prey animal knows when a hungry predator was watching it, it might have a better chance of escaping than if it didn’t know. Intentions can have effects at a distance, and can be detected telepathically, as shown in experiments with dogs that know when their owners are coming home, and in people’s ability to anticipate who is about to call on the telephone, or send them an email or a text message. Minds are also extended in time. Just as memories connect us with our pasts, precognitions and presentiments sometimes connect us with our futures.
In this presentation I will describe the PA as it operates in the 21st Century, focusing in particular on recent advances in parapsychological research as practised by PA members. This research has its historical origins in dream ESP and Ganzfeld studies, which I shall describe as a means to make unconscious material available to conscious awareness. But I will concentrate on more recent experimental designs that interrogate the suggestion that psi might operate at a more subtle, unconscious level that moderates decision making and behavioural responses without awareness. This will include recent high profile experiments by Daryl Bem and colleagues, and also a suite of experiments that I have conducted to look at the effects of reward/punishment upon performance at an implicit psi task.
Decades of research have examined anomalies which challenge a one-way street interpretation of the nature of reality (in which matter gives rise to consciousness), in favour of a more subtle, conditional, and contingent interplay between the material and immaterial aspects of existence. But how shall we bridge between the past and the future of consciousness research? How do we inspire a younger generation of researchers to be bold, and to also continue to build what hard-won credibility has been painstakingly built over time for the field of parapsychology? What doors can new technologies such as virtual reality, mobile devices, and big data open for the field of consciousness research? And what is the relevance of this research in today’s society? Join Cassandra Vieten, President of the Institute of Noetic Sciences to explore the future of consciousness research.
The esoteric form of magic, called magick by occultists, involves three types of phenomena. All three have been extensively tested in psi research, and at least two of those types are known to exist with very high degrees of scientific confidence. This means magic also exists. However, taboos about magic are so strong that the evidence is not only ignored by the scientific mainstream, the psi-magic connection is nearly invisible to the very field that studies it — parapsychology. I will explore why this is so, and I will present a modest revision of the prevailing scientific worldview that accommodates all of existing science, plus psi and magic.
The place of consciousness and its role in the universe remain unknown and controversial. Western philosophy and mainstream science consider consciousness to be computational, epiphenomenal, acausal and illusory, whereas Eastern philosophical and quantum physical approaches consider consciousness to be an intrinsic feature of the universe, playing an active role. But which specific intrinsic feature of the universe entails consciousness? Sir Roger Penrose proposed consciousness results from self-collapse of the quantum wavefunction by ‘objective reduction’ (‘OR’), a process in the basic structure of spacetime geometry. The Penrose-Hameroff ‘Orch OR’ theory further suggests OR events in cytoskeletal microtubules within brain neurons are ‘orchestrated’ by inputs, memory and vibrational resonances, and terminate by ‘orchestrated OR’ to give meaningful conscious moments. If so, consciousness as an intrinsic feature of the universe (one offering pleasurable experience) may have prompted the origin of life and driven its evolution, and perhaps that of the universe itself. In the contest of the ‘anthropic principle’, which considers the extraordinary ‘fine tuning’ in the various physical constants enabling life and consciousness in the universe, it is suggested here that the constants may mutate and evolve over aeons to optimize consciousness, that, in some sense, consciousness is guiding the universe.
We know veterans are committing suicide at the rate of 20 service members a day. Is there a way we can help address this terrible statistic with a new intervention and different approach? Currently, NDEs are not addressed at all in their care, yet recently new research shows that 48% of combat related service members are having NDEs in addition to their other injuries and emotional trauma. I am proposing we look at helping veterans across the globe with a new approach.
During the course of my prospective hospital research it was evident that NDEs occur and have very real, sometimes life changing, effects on those who experience them. It is therefore paramount that all healthcare workers are educated about NDEs to ensure that patients can be directed to the necessary support to help fully integrate such a transformational experience. I will discuss the transformative power of near-death experiences and give examples of people who feature in my forthcoming book co-authored with Kelly Walsh.