The best books on consciousness beyond the brain

The Books I Picked & Why

Consciousness Unbound: Liberating Mind from the Tyranny of Materialism

By Edward F. Kelly, Paul Marshall

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.


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

By Deepak Chopra, Menas C. Kafatos

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.


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Is Consciousness Primary?

By Stephan A Schwartz, Marjorie H Woollacott, Gary E Schwartz

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.


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Transcendent Mind: Rethinking the Science of Consciousness

By Imants Baruss, Julia Mossbridge

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. 


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The Principles Of Psychology

By William James

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.


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