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.

The books I picked & why

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The Elusive Science: Origins of Experimental Psychical Research

By Seymour Mauskopf, Michael McVaugh,

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

Why 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. 


Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness

By Bruce Rosenblum, Fred Kuttner,

Book cover of Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness

Why 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. 


Stalking the Wild Pendulum: On the Mechanics of Consciousness

By Itzhak Bentov,

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

Why 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.


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

By Stacy Horn,

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

Why 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. 


The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena

By Dean I. Radin,

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

Why 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.  


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