Abstract and Keywords
Spiritual psychology, in science and practice, propels psychology into the 21st-century consciousness-based sciences rather than strictly a 20th-century material science. The current postmaterial spiritual psychology propagates a clarification and broadening of ontology. A consciousness-driven psychology unites the human inner life and surrounding physical events into a singular inquiry addressed by a range of formerly separate disciplines. From this postmaterial view, a human science sees human mind as an extension of the fabric of universal consciousness yet dialectically in dialog through perception, awareness, and choice. Science now can wed the vast majority of human history, understood through transcendent cosmology and religion, by exploring an intentional universe.
The constellation of research across spiritual psychology represents a broadened ontology, vastly expanding the explanatory power of psychology. Most people (a Gallup poll suggests over 90%) have had moments of great consequence derived from spiritual experience that simply cannot be explained through a psychology based exclusively on mechanism and materialism. These pivotal and illuminating moments, which forge our lives and create our opportunities, call for understanding through a psychology that spans across a broadened ontology. Over the most recent five thousand years, most humans have held a cosmology, often through religion, that engaged transcendent experiences. A 20th century science that refused room for investigation of intentionality in the fabric of the universe or vitality in the physical world precluded the study of major questions, particularly as concerns significant moments of human consciousness.
Psychology, to unite significant inner and outer realities, now becomes a 21st-century science that includes consciousness as bedrock in the nature of reality. This idea is quite familiar within our peer academic disciplines, such as contemporary physics, as pointed out by Everett Worthingon (Chapter 4) or the life sciences as explained out by C. Edward Richards (Chapter 5). We live in an era of consciousness based physical sciences. Our own spiritual psychology, as a consciousness-based science, reaches across once disparate disciplines to view consciousness as extending through humans and the surrounding physical world. In addition to the paradigm shift fueled by physics, biology, and medicine, psychology also benefits from wisdom contained in thousands of years of human healing practice and ritual, and, as Ralph Hood (Chapter 1) points out through academic science carefully engaging ideas in religion. Our current point in intellectual history, as suggested by Worthington, Richards and Hood points to a current concomitant emergence of postmaterial ideas across disciplines that potentiates the unification of disciplines.
(p. 612) That consciousness exists in states other than matter expands our notion of the human brain and is the linchpin of a postmaterial psychology. Within postmaterial science at some ontological levels, there are no differences between the inner life and the outer world because consciousness is continuous, not exclusively local, through space and time. Consciousness is in us, through us, and around us.
A consciousness-driven science can address nonmechanistic interrelatedness across space and time. Many people have premonitions of negativity or anxiety or see related information before a large-scale event of devastation, or joy concomitant with an event of love and harmony, even when it occurs at a great distance without our having been a priori informed.
A consciousness-driven science evokes curiosity around the recurrent patterns across various scientific levels of analysis. While scientific paradigms were previously lodged within level of analysis, religious and spiritual traditions have comfortably made the lead with insights such as “As above, so below.” The question of recurrent patterns from great to small is posed through art; for instance, the work of the accomplished photographer Ansel Adams asks: Why does an aerial view of a canyon resemble the close-up view of the bark of a tree?
The notion of a consciousness-driven science opens up explanatory possibility and the opportunity for new models and eventually paradigms for science. For instance, research using electroencephalography shows that spiritual experience in humans is associated with readings of high-amplitude alpha. The wavelength of alpha from the human brain is the same wavelength of Shumann's constant, a long-standing measurement of the energy in the Earth's crust. From the perspective of the postmaterial science in this volume, the brain detects consciousness, not merely constructs consciousness. Therefore, a quantitative reading of the same level of energy in the spiritually engaged brain and the living Earth invites a fascinating, open ended, and certainly much expanded explanation. Is the brain detecting the same form or dimension of energy that is part of the inherent set point or nature of Earth? Is the brain, in a spiritually engaged moment, in the same form of energy or consciousness as other life thriving on Earth? Awareness of the broader relationship invites study on the sameness or deep relationships between the function of the spiritually engaged brain and living beings beyond humans, such as plants, earth, animals, and water. This may be detected, in light of Tiller's contribution (Chapter 35) as consciousness shared at the level of the atom.
The physicists in this Handbook explore the possibility that as humans we function both as a point and as a wave. In other words, we walk on solid earth from home to work and pour water into reliable cups, thus functioning as a point. Then, we suddenly remember or discover an idea at the same moment as our beloved partner back home, thus functioning as a unified wave. Through his meticulous research on Near Death Experiences, Bruce Greyson (Chapter 33) shows human consciousness to be independent of the material brain and to exist in the arena of greater consciousness. A consciousness-driven human science harmonizes with our fellow scientists, as it explains humans living both as discrete points and as wave functions.
Within the “wave function” consciousness healing is possible within us and among us. The model of health and healing proposed by Wayne Jonas and colleagues (Chapter 23) posits a layered model of medical healing that includes a core source of healing through universal sacred consciousness. The model applies at the level of the individual and extends to collective psychological healing of our global village. As for the method of unification and healing with the scared consciousness, there are multiple chariots. Lee Joyce Richmond (Chapter 29) shows relationships and right livelihood to be vehicles for joining in the unified consciousness. Kartikeya Patel (Chapter 22) shows through some Eastern traditions our deliberate contemplative and meditative consciousness work to unite us into what I am calling the wave function of consciousness. Prayer and sacred meditation invoke direct healing, as highlighted by Thomas Plante (Chapter 25) in physical healing, and P. Scott Richards (Chapter 16), Mark McMinns and colleagues (Chapter 17) and David Lukoff (Chapter 26) in psychological healing across faith traditions as well as outside of traditional religious practice.
What physics encouraged human scientists to acknowledge is the notion of a consciousness-driven science in which intention changes the unfolding of material events. Perhaps the greatest emergent contribution of a consciousness-driven science is room for research to explore intentionality in the fabric of the universe. Science can take seriously that we live in a universe propelled by ultimate intention, the Source as referred to by Schwartz (Chapter 36) and expressed throughout space as in the consciousness of an atom, as explained by Tiller (Chapter 34). Many religions view an overarching intention of love and guidance in the universe, and nearly all faith traditions detect some intention to the (p. 613) workings of the world. Until recently, this profound and pressing question has not been touched by science, perhaps due to its historical packaging. From the view of a consciousness-driven science, all of life, to include humans, is not necessarily a so-called random event but may be formed and sustained through intention. Sensing this possibility, popular contemporary culture has taken a rather solipsistic focus upon manifesting human intention as an anthropocentric command upon reality. This model does not explain how humans receptively detect events nor does it explain how humans encounter unenvisioned opportunity. However, a science that views consciousness throughout the fabric of the universe may show that the force of intention supercedes that of hedonic desires of the individual. Joseph W. Ciarrocchi (Chapter 27) advocated for a spiritual positive psychology based upon pursuit of virtues “in and of themselves” rather than as driven by hedonics or for instrumental gain, as common in the 20th Century psychology. Ciarrocchi empirically showed that a broad range of virtues, expressed through sensitivity to the momentary context, can be cultivated, and connect us with the world. The effect of virtues, considered by other authors as intentions of love, compassion and empathy, may in practice be a dynamic dialog or a joining with the ultimate powerful intention throughout the universe. Perhaps right intentions is where human psyche is part of ultimate consciousness.
From the view of epistemology and methodology, post-Enlightenment scientific gains from within materialism exist comfortably alongside scientific postmaterialism. Scientific awareness of materialism as an explanatory paradigm, taken alongside postmaterialism, is an expanded science that states at each moment the operative ontology surrounding the research question and interpretation of data. Too often 20th-centurty science has assumed materialism, without being clear on the ontological context selected by the investigators. Science in this Handbook is presented within a broadened and sophisticated clarity of ontological context. Elegant examples of explicit statement of ontology appear throughout the handbook. Spiritual psychological science, that unifies material and postmaterial thought, promises a vast horizon.
This expanded science lights a different set of lived daily assumptions that help us better negotiate the 21st-century world. The spiritual psychology in this Handbook is one of dialog between humans and the universe—a discussion that eventuates in life-creating possibility. Consciousness as Tiller explains exists in and through all beings – to include all nature, trees, birds and water – the universe is alive and guiding. Awareness of the consciousness throughout our world allows us to learn from other life forms; our relationship to the environment greatly gains possibility. From a 21st century postmaterial view, humans learn by listening to the environment, in contrast to the 20th century view of controlling or dominating the environment.
The studies in this handbook suggest there is an awe inspiring expedition ahead on the grandness of this dialectic – psyche attuned yet contributing towards consciousness – our role in between consciousness and matter. How precisely we as humans are co-creators is just starting to be discovered–but we have shifted into a different laboratory built on sacred ground. The insights and scientific revelations of these authors are well timed for a rising generation who will need to listen with great openness and intent to find a new way of relating in the world. (p. 614)