January 30, 2006

The epiphenomenal view of mind

The Presence of Other Worlds In Psychotherapy and Healing
by Roger J. Woolger, Ph.D.This article is a partly edited transcript of a lecture given at the second Beyond the Brain Conference sponsored by the Scientific and Medical Network (UK) and the Institute of Noetic Sciences (US), held in St. John's College, Cambridge, England, August 21-24, 1997.
A further remark by Sri Aurobindo puts it similarly to Kabir. He says "all of the body is in the mind, but not all the mind is in the body. Nevertheless, I'm not entirely happy with this view of things because even Aurobindo and Kabir come close to substituting another spacial metaphor for the presence of spirit, soul or energy. Instead of being in the body, mind or spirit are now seen to be "outside" or "around" the body. This kind of picture used to be called, in philosophy, the epiphenomenal view of mind. It is the idea that mind is some kind of fuzz around the body, usually just "around" the brain. This is not very different from the view of spirit as the aura or the energy field that surrounds the body.
Now before I describe the more radical opposite viewpoint of spirit I must say that I have enormous respect for the extremely productive and enlightening work that the epiphenomenal or energy field model of mind or spirit has produced in recent years.
  • I want to mention in passing Elmer Green's extraordinary work of nearly 30 years at the Menninger Foundation in Kansas where he records vibrational changes in what he calls the biofield. He has successfully measured the fields of several practicing yogis, healers and shamans.
  • In the traditional Hindu teachings these fields are called the sthula or energy sheaths and there are hierarchies of them.
  • Barbara Brennan's book Hands of Light give us excellent clairvoyant images of these sheaths or fields as they relate to western concepts or energy blocks in the body discovered by Wilhelm Reich.
  • Another western version of the yogic doctrine is David Tansley's theory and practice of what he called Radionics.
  • In Tansley as in Brennan you will find descriptions of a hierarchy of subtle energy sheaths or bodies called the etheric, emotional, mental and higher bodies that surround the physical body. (Interestingly Tansley's picture was derived from Alice Bailey's esoteric works which include a theosophical commentary on The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the locus classicus of Hindu teaching.)
  • Then there is the well known Russian work on the Kirlian Aura popularized in English by the excellent anthologies of Stanley Krippner and John White.
  • Recently in the Journal of the Scientific and Medical Network there has been reference to Professor Sarkar's concept of the microvita, minuscule elements of energy which he describes as the ultimate source of life.
  • In the world of hypnotherapy and birth regression David Cheek has independently introduced using the notion of cellular consciousness, the idea that memory is stored "in" the cells--a metaphor once again, but one that is becoming more and more popular.
  • In like vein, for many years psychotherapists who work with regression, psychodrama, rebirthing and other deep experiential therapies have been talking loosely of body consciousness--though in my own practice I have found myself more and more using the term "etheric memory or consciousness" in deference to the subtle body theory.
  • I should also mention the contribution to energy thinking made by Viktor Inyushin in Russia. This is a later derivative of the Kirlian work on the auric field which talks of bioplasm as the fifth state of matter--the others being solids, liquids, gases and plasma.

Inyushin defined bioplasm as follows: A living organism can be described as a "biological field" or a "biofield," a "field" being a region consisting of lines of force whichaffect each other. The biofield has a clear spacial formation and is separated and shaped by several physical fields, electrostatic, electromagnet, acoustic, hydrodynamic and quite possibly others inadequately explored. Clearly for Inyushin the biofield or the subtle energy field which is made up of bioplasm is a product of existing physical energy fields in the body. What we have here, we could say philosophically, is a kind of energy monism, where everything can be reduced to energy and derived from greater or larger energetic fields that exist here in the level of the physical world.

Of course, with our knowledge of radio waves, vibrational frequencies, microbiology and Kirlian phenomena it's not difficult to appreciate the appeal of such a model. It is always easier to explain what we don't understand in terms of what we do. Yet the biological metaphor of "bioplasm" is so patently reductive to a materialist paradigm that I'm afraid such thinking remains ultimately limited by its choice of language and metaphor. This is how science gets caught in a conceptual prison of its own making.


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  2. It is obvious there is a semantic gap when discussing the unseen scientifically. There is 'particle reality,' and then there's 'quantum reality.' The gap beween the two is so vast, most people react negatively and no discourse is possible.

    Another one of the pioneers in this area is Dr. Yury Kronn. He has developed technology that can record the 'subtle energy signature' of one thing and transfer it to another. He is using this in therapeutic medicine therapy. He can record the energy of, say, an acupuncture meridian and transfer that information into an ionic mineral solution. The body will react as though that meridian has been stimulated, just by ingesting the solution. Amazing stuff.

    Check out Dr. Kronn's research in depth and watch an interview video at