The best books on consciousness beyond the brain

Who am I?

I am a teacher and professor of psychology and consciousness studies. I have been fascinated by the enigma of consciousness my entire adult life. Over the years I have written and taught in a number of different fields including biology, psychology, history, art, and philosophy, always looking to the nature of consciousness, and always exploring its spiritual dimensions. My writings include the present selection, Consciousness Explained Better, described by Ken Wilber as “the finest book on consciousness in modern times, bar none” and The Radiance of Being, that shared a book of the year award with Nobel laureate Roger Penrose’s book, The Emperor’s New Mind. 


I wrote...

Book cover of Consciousness Explained Better: Towards an Integral Understanding of the Multifaceted Nature of Consciousness

What is my book about?

This book is about the nature of consciousness. I wrote it at the suggestion of my friend Ken Wilber. It is an effort to write a highly readable yet sophisticated book on consciousness. In it, I follow Wilber’s integral model of “all quadrants all levels.” This approach divides our perspectives of the world into inner or subjective vs. outer or objective, and into singular vs. plural. For example, my view of my own inner life is subjective and singular, whereas my perspective on my relationship with those I love most is subjective and plural.

On the other hand, if I am a scientist studying a particular example of a butterfly, I see it in a singular objective way, whereas a flock of butterflies is seen as objective and plural. Most scientific investigations are on the objective side of the fence, but much of psychology, and especially consciousness studies, is on the subjective side. In addition to the above, living things including minds and consciousness tend to grow over time through developmental stages. 

The books I picked & why

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Consciousness Unbound: Liberating Mind from the Tyranny of Materialism

By Edward F. Kelly (editor), Paul Marshall (editor),

Book cover of Consciousness Unbound: Liberating Mind from the Tyranny of Materialism

Why this book?

This is the third and most important of three recent volumes that have come out of Esalen Institute’s Center for Theory and Research. Together they explore dimensions of experience that extend beyond the limits of traditional materialistic science. In Alfred Korzybski’s famous words, “The map is not the territory,” and nowhere are these truer than regarding the territory of consciousness.

This book explores topics such as reincarnation, out-of-the-body experiences, precognition, and more, offering metaphysical and spiritual models of the place of consciousness in the cosmos. It is remarkable for drawing together an enormous amount of research and scholarship hitherto largely ignored. Michael Murphy, co-founder of Esalen Institute, likens it to the Lewis and Clark expedition into the previously unknown territory of western North America.

Consciousness Unbound: Liberating Mind from the Tyranny of Materialism

By Edward F. Kelly (editor), Paul Marshall (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Consciousness Unbound as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Building on the groundbreaking research of Irreducible Mind and Beyond Physicalism, Edward Kelly and Paul Marshall gather a cohort of leading scholars to address the most recent advances in the psychology of consciousness. Currently emerging as a middle ground between warring fundamentalisms of religion and science, an expanded science-based understanding of nature finally accommodates empirical realities of spiritual sorts while also rejecting rationally untenable overbeliefs.

The vision sketched here provides an antidote to the prevailing postmodern disenchantment of the world and demeaning of human possibilities. It not only more accurately and fully reflects our human condition but engenders hope and…

You Are the Universe: Discovering Your Cosmic Self and Why It Matters

By Deepak Chopra, Menas C. Kafatos,

Book cover of You Are the Universe: Discovering Your Cosmic Self and Why It Matters

Why this book?

This book presents a deeply spiritual inquiry into human consciousness, set in the context of a wonderfully clear explanation of up-to-date ideas about cosmology, quantum physics, and the nature of the universe. The authors explore the idea that we as human beings are integral to the fabric of the universe, and that consciousness itself is an undergirding feature of that universe. They point out again and again that everything we know about the universe is intimately connected to conscious experience.

At first glance, this may appear simply a latter-day version of classic idealism, but for these contemporary authors, consciousness is inexorably tied into quantum uncertainty and the collapse of the wave function. For readers with a scientific eye to spiritual experience, this book is a delight.

You Are the Universe: Discovering Your Cosmic Self and Why It Matters

By Deepak Chopra, Menas C. Kafatos,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked You Are the Universe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Is Consciousness Primary?

By Stephan A Schwartz (editor), Marjorie H Woollacott (editor), Gary E Schwartz (editor)

Book cover of Is Consciousness Primary?

Why this book?

This book includes essays by some of the foremost thought leaders of our time, on the topic of consciousness seen through the eyes of postmaterialist science. Each seeks a scientific understanding of consciousness that is not reducible to physical processes in the brain. Their intention is not to exclude traditional science and its reliance on neurology and the brain, but rather to reach for a broader view of reality, one that includes well documented nonphysical dimensions of conscious experience, including phenomena such as out-of-the-body and near-death experiences, as well as telepathy, precognition, and more.

Each of these authors is well known and respected in their own field and presents here the cream of a lifetime of research in these areas.

Is Consciousness Primary?

By Stephan A Schwartz (editor), Marjorie H Woollacott (editor), Gary E Schwartz (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Is Consciousness Primary? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Transcendent Mind: Rethinking the Science of Consciousness

By Imants Baruss, Julia Mossbridge,

Book cover of Transcendent Mind: Rethinking the Science of Consciousness

Why this book?

This book, published by the traditionally conservative American Psychological Association, is one of the first scholarly works coming out of the new look of consciousness. It goes beyond the taken-for-granted assumptions of traditional materialism. After addressing the limitations of the materialist view, it organizes its chapters into broad topics such as shared mind, the nature and experience of time, interactions with discarnate beings, separation from the brain, and direct mental influence.

In later chapters, the authors examine what all this tells us about the essential nature of consciousness itself and its relationship to physical phenomena. 

Transcendent Mind: Rethinking the Science of Consciousness

By Imants Baruss, Julia Mossbridge,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Transcendent Mind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Where does consciousness come from? For most scientists and laypeople, it is axiomatic that something in the substance of the brain - neurons, synapses and grey matter in just the right combination - create perception, self-awareness, and intentionality. Yet despite decades of neurological research, that ""something"" - the mechanism by which this process is said to occur - has remained frustratingly elusive. This is no accident, as the authors of this book argue, given that the evidence increasingly points to a startling fact: consciousness may not, in fact, reside in the brain at all.

In this wide-ranging and deeply scientific…

The Principles Of Psychology

By William James,

Book cover of The Principles Of Psychology

Why this book?

In my view, this is the finest book on consciousness ever written. William James was one of the leading minds of late 19th and early 20th century America. His book, published in 1890, was written as a textbook for his psychology class at Harvard. At that time “psychology” was understood to be the study of consciousness. Here James introduces consciousness as a “stream of thought,” an idea that later influenced many 20th century thinkers, including American philosopher Alfred North Whitehead and early quantum physicist Niels Bohr. It is written with an elegance and clarity of style to match that of his brother, the writer Henry James.

James’ broad interests in consciousness, seen in this book, is consistent with the fact that he was an original co-founder of The American Society for Psychical Research, and was deeply interested in mediumship and questions regarding mind beyond the brain.

The Principles Of Psychology

By William James,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Principles Of Psychology as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in consciousness, psychology, and the brain?

6,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about consciousness, psychology, and the brain.

Consciousness Explore 59 books about consciousness
Psychology Explore 280 books about psychology
The Brain Explore 103 books about the brain

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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