The best books on the frontier areas of time in psychology and physics

Who am I?

I am a research fellow at the Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health in Freiburg, Germany. I studied Psychology and Philosophy at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) and Munich (Germany) and have a Ph.D. in Medical Psychology from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. Between 2004 and 2009 I was Research Fellow at the Department of Psychiatry, University of California San Diego. My research in the field of Cognitive Neuroscience is focused on the perception of time in ordinary and altered states of consciousness. The investigation concerning the riddle of subjective time as based on the embodied self leads me to answers of what matters most, the nature of our existence as self-conscious beings.


I wrote...

Altered States of Consciousness: Experiences Out of Time and Self

By Marc Wittmann,

Book cover of Altered States of Consciousness: Experiences Out of Time and Self

What is my book about?

In Altered States of Consciousness I explore personal reports, individual case studies, and scientific investigations of what happens at the frontier areas of personal experience, where the self and time are affected. In such peak states people report a feeling of ‘timelessness’ together with a loss of the sense of self.

Altered States of Consciousness covers a variety of mind-altering states in the healthy brain, under the influence of psychedelics, during meditation, in spiritual moments, as well as in near-death experiences. Important research is conducted studying the sense of self and time in patients with depression and schizophrenia, and in certain individuals with epileptic auras. This book summarizes anecdotal reports in combination with recent scientific investigations in order to help build ideas for an understanding of phenomenal consciousness, of our existence, of what makes us humans.

The books I picked & why

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The Physicist & the Philosopher: Einstein, Bergson, and the Debate That Changed Our Understanding of Time

By Jimena Canales,

Book cover of The Physicist & the Philosopher: Einstein, Bergson, and the Debate That Changed Our Understanding of Time

Why this book?

The debate on the nature of time between Henri Bergson, one of the most important philosophers at that time, and Albert Einstein, happened on April 6, 1922. Although many people believe that Einstein gained the upper hand in this showdown, comparable perhaps only with the ‘rumble in the jungle’ between Foreman and Ali in 1974, matters are more complicated. Jimena Canales has written a thriller about this clash of cultures fighting about time. She opens up a cosmos of philosophy and physics embedded in culture and shows how one hour of talk in 1922 still has relevance 100 years later for what it means to be human.


Neuropsychedelia: The Revival of Hallucinogen Research Since the Decade of the Brain

By Nicolas Langlitz,

Book cover of Neuropsychedelia: The Revival of Hallucinogen Research Since the Decade of the Brain

Why this book?

Anthropological fieldwork is not restricted to isolated indigenous people in remote areas. Anthropologists study scientists in university research labs. Langlitz did a remarkable feat: He immersed himself in the research activities of two laboratories studying psychedelic effects on humans and animals. Through this participation in everyday work, he delineated contextual sociological and psychological factors of what made it possible for researchers to be allowed to give healthy human subjects and patients with psychiatric problems mind-altering drugs in the lab and what motivates researchers to go into these frontier areas of research. LSD, psilocybin, and ayahuasca are studied again scientifically. What made that possible? Langlitz gives answers.


Divine Mania: Alteration of Consciousness in Ancient Greece

By Yulia Ustinova,

Book cover of Divine Mania: Alteration of Consciousness in Ancient Greece

Why this book?

In modern neuroscience there is a resurrection of a line of research on altered states of consciousness. We must not think that this fascination started with Woodstock or Timothy Leary… At all times mind-altering rituals and substances were used. Uptight professors of antiquity hardly spoke of what happened in ancient Greece where mind-altering rituals were part of society for spiritual insight, prophecy, and healing. Yulia Ustinova gives a fascinating account of how in ancient Greece sensory deprivation in caves, often in combination with the practices of fasting or use of psychedelics, induced altered states of consciousness in selected individuals.


Soul Dust: The Magic of Consciousness

By Nicholas Humphrey,

Book cover of Soul Dust: The Magic of Consciousness

Why this book?

I think that Nicholas Humphrey with this book comes closest to an explanation of how consciousness might have evolved. Present-moment awareness of what we subjectively feel as happening “now” might stem from the constant feedback processing of perception-and-action cycles which extend over time. In his brilliantly accessible language Humphrey convinces the reader that consciousness is “thick” sensory-motor activity of what you feel as extended over time, phenomenal present-moment experience.


What Is Real?: The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics

By Adam Becker,

Book cover of What Is Real?: The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics

Why this book?

If you thought that only Psychology would be full of controversy and taboo, think of the status of research into dreams or parapsychology, you will be surprised by Adam Becker’s account of the fight on the interpretation of quantum physics, i.e. on the foundations of everything. Mobbing, censuring, ridiculing of researchers who tried to find alternatives to Niels Bohr’s Copenhagen interpretation to quantum measurement prevailed for decades. If you want to find out how researchers at the frontier area of exact science behave like guards to a holy temple or like Stalinist persecutors, i.e. find out about the mechanisms underlying science, read this! At the same time, you learn about the essentials concerning the foundations of quantum mechanics.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in hallucinogens, Greece, and quantum mechanics?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about hallucinogens, Greece, and quantum mechanics.

Hallucinogens Explore 6 books about hallucinogens
Greece Explore 87 books about Greece
Quantum Mechanics Explore 70 books about quantum mechanics

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Head Trip: Adventures on the Wheel of Consciousness, Transcendent Mind: Rethinking the Science of Consciousness, and Energies and Patterns in Psychological Type: The Reservoir of Consciousness if you like this list.