The best books on the extra-physical potentials of the mind

Mitch Horowitz Author Of Daydream Believer: Unlocking the Ultimate Power of Your Mind
By Mitch Horowitz

Who am I?

I'm a PEN Award-winning historian of alternative spirituality and a writer-in-residence at the New York Public Library. I track the impact and substance of supernatural beliefs—a source of fascination since my Queens, NY, boyhood—in books including Occult America, The Miracle Club, and Uncertain Places. I often say that if you do not write your own history, it gets written for you—usually by people who may not care about or even understand the values that emanate from your work. Given my personal dedication to the spiritual search, I call myself a believing historian (which most historians of religion actually are). I labor to explore the lives, ideas, and practices behind esoteric spirituality.

I wrote...

Daydream Believer: Unlocking the Ultimate Power of Your Mind

By Mitch Horowitz,

Book cover of Daydream Believer: Unlocking the Ultimate Power of Your Mind

What is my book about?

My latest book is Daydream Believer. In it, I consider—from the perspective of both intellectual history and practical methodology—the prospect of thought causation, or what is sometimes called New Thought. This is the philosophy behind pop-spiritual ideas like the Law of Attraction and the power of positive thinking—flawed notions that nonetheless display an instinct for some of the underlying abilities of human nature, as seen in today’s most ambitious studies of the placebo response, neuroplasticity, psychical research, and interpretations of quantum mechanics and inter-dimensionality. Daydream Believer responds to the ablest critics of New Age ideas, such as social historian Christopher Lasch, and explores the validity of academic ESP research, which forms the basis for some of the books listed here.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Elusive Science: Origins of Experimental Psychical Research

Why did I love this book?

This book being out-of-print represents one of the great gaps in the historical catalogue of modern science. Mauskopf and McVaugh present a rare and invaluable survey of ESP research as a scholarly field from its inception in the late 19th century to its emergence as a recognized academic science in the 1930s thanks largely to the efforts of Duke University researchers JB and Louisa Rhine. It is difficult to overstate the integrity and meticulousness that the Rhines brought to the field. Polemical skeptics often misrepresent or misreport the Rhines’ work and that of other parapsychologists—a problem of near-crisis proportions on Wikipedia—and The Elusive Science provides an uncommonly clear and deeply researched corrective. I hope that an enterprising publisher restores it to print. 

By Seymour Mauskopf, Michael McVaugh,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Book by Mauskopf, Professor Seymour, McVaugh, Professor Michael

Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness

By Bruce Rosenblum, Fred Kuttner,

Book cover of Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness

Why did I love this book?

The most controversial aspect of nearly a century of research in quantum mechanics is how the perspective of an observer, either sentient or mechanical, determines reality on the subatomic scale. What does this say—if anything—about life in our above-ground, macro world? With zero sensationalism and great rigor, not to mention witty and accessible writing, physicists Rosenblum and Kuttner sort out questions of particle mechanics, quantum theory, and consciousness in a manner that is understandable to the layperson yet faithful to the findings of this most confounding of the hard sciences. 

By Bruce Rosenblum, Fred Kuttner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In trying to understand the atom, physicists built quantum mechanics, the most successful theory in science and the basis of one-third of our economy. They found, to their embarrassment, that with their theory, physics encounters consciousness. Authors Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner explain all this in non-technical terms with help from some fanciful stories and anecdotes about the theory's developers. They present the quantum mystery honestly, emphasizing what is and what is not speculation. Quantum Enigma's description of the experimental quantum facts, and the quantum theory explaining them, is undisputed. Interpreting what it all means, however, is heatedly controversial. But…

Book cover of Stalking the Wild Pendulum: On the Mechanics of Consciousness

Why did I love this book?

It is possible to understand a fact intellectually while being unable to viscerally believe it, such as the proven reality that time slows down in conditions of extreme velocity or gravity (thanks, Dr. Einstein). In a scholarly yet friendly and appealing manner, Bentov explains and illustrates some of these surreal realities, including the myth of linear time, the existence of multiple dimensions, and the infinitude of the psyche.

By Itzhak Bentov,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Stalking the Wild Pendulum as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In his exciting and original view of the universe, Itzhak Bentov has provided a new perspective on human consciousness and its limitless possibilities. Widely known and loved for his delightful humor and imagination, Bentov explains the familiar world of phenomena with perceptions that are as lucid as they are thrilling. He gives us a provocative picture of ourselves in an expanded, conscious, holistic universe.

Book cover of Unbelievable: Investigations into Ghosts, Poltergeists, Telepathy, and Other Unseen Phenomena, from the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory

Why did I love this book?

I have been praising this book for years and have no plans to stop anytime soon. Using investigatory skills and a keen sense of human pathos, journalist and NPR producer Horn tells the full-circle story of the parapsychology lab founded by the Rhines. She doggedly and accurately presents the “unbelievable” findings of the Duke lab and the struggle of its founders to swim against a tide of orthodox reaction. As a work of history, it is significant—and as a piece of dramatic historiography it is enthralling. 

By Stacy Horn,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“Author Stacy Horn dissects all the things that go bump in the night—ghosts, poltergeists, your ex-boyfriend Klaus—in [her] macabre book.”
 —Marie Claire

A fascinating, eye-opening collection of “Investigations into Ghosts, Poltergeists, Telepathy, and Other Unseen Phenomena, from the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory,” Unbelievable by Stacy Horn explores science’s remarkable first attempts to prove—or disprove—the existence of the paranormal. A featured contributor on the popular NPR program “All Things Considered,” Horn has been praised by Mary Roach, bestselling author of Spook, for her “awe-fueled curiosity [and] top-flight reporting skills.” Horn attacks a most controversial subject with Unbelievable—a book that will appeal to…

Book cover of The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena

Why did I love this book?

If, after all this, you remain a skeptic—and skeptic, in its classical sense, is a noble term that any of us should gladly claim—scientist Radin sorts out the issues in a manner that reflects both his integrity as a researcher (something that most critics are not) and his humor and skills as a communicator. Radin is, in my estimation, the inheritor of JB Rhine and a tireless seeker after truth in a clinical setting. He is the generational voice of many contemporary parapsychologists and philosophers of consciousness. Radin has personally rescued me from more errors than I can enumerate and in this book he impeccably surveys some of parapsychology’s evidence-based insights—and the social reasons for resistance to them.  

By Dean I. Radin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Radin draws from his own work at Princeton, Stanford Research Institute, and Fortune 500 companies, as well as his research for the U.S. government, to demonstrate the surprising extent to which the truth of psi has already been tacitly acknowledged and exploited. "The Conscious Universe" also sifts the data for tantalizing hints of how mind and matter are linked. Finally, Radin takes a bold look ahead, to the inevitable social, economic, academic, and spiritual consequences of the mass realization that mind and matter can influence each other without having physical contact.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in parapsychology, cosmology, and philosophy?

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