I’ve had the pleasure of teaching the philosophy course Science & Spirituality at the Community College of Vermont’s Montpelier campus for the last 5 or so years. Each semester I’ve been surprised to discover how difficult it is to find a solid, balanced textbook to use in class. The ones I’ve ended up using have been heavily slanted in either one camp or the other – the author’s biases clearly broadcast throughout.
Last spring, I happily stumbled across Elizabeth Mayer’s book Extraordinary Knowing: Science, Skepticism and the Inexplicable Powers of the Human Mind (Bantam, 2007). It has quickly become one of my favorite books. Mayer, who died shortly after completing the book, was an internationally known psychoanalyst, researcher, clinician and professor at UC Berkeley. Her steadfast rational worldview was challenged after her young daughter’s stolen harp was found by a dowser who lived on the other side of the country.
Mayer’s journey to understand this seemingly inexplicable experience is beautifully captured in Extraordinary Knowing. While researching anomalous experiences, Mayer discovered a wealth of little known, but, in many cases, scientifically stringent research that supports the theory of non-local awareness.
It’s no secret that I’ve struggled to make sense of my visionary/shamanic experiences since they spontaneously started happening in 1998. I have to admit to a bit of embarrassment when the subject comes up around super smart people who are deeply entrenched in the currently popular mechanistic scientific paradigm, and are not shy about their skepticism. I don’t blame them. Claiming to intentionally enter an altered state in order to directly interact with and change someone else’s symbolic unconscious patterns sounds like complete and utter bullshit. But since the beginning, these visionary experiences have consistently given me access to information I have no business knowing. I’m simply not that smart. And it seems that many people who’ve found their way to me report receiving benefit from these unusual shamanic interventions. So, something’s going on. I know I’m not the same person since this crazy journey began.
To discover that the mind, or more accurately, consciousness, can defy the “known” laws of nature was a big dose of validation despite the fact that most scientists still dismiss the findings Mayer compiled in her book. And to witness Mayer’s rational belief system expand as she struggles to assimilate the research findings supporting anomalous experiences was a breath of fresh air.
The more I’ve explored the gray space where science and spirituality converge, the more I respect people like Mayer, who maintain a balance between healthy skepticism and an open mind. As Extraordinary Knowing reveals, there’s a lot we don’t know about how the mind works, so being certain about anything seems a bit premature.
(Extraordinary Knowing is available for purchase at Lucid Path Wellness & Healing Arts’ Amazon Page)