Monday, January 12, 2015

Psychology Reexamined

A new book appeared in 2007 and then reissued in 2010 in paperback intended to nudge modern-day understanding of psychology forward—or perhaps back. What goes around comes around. The book is Irreducible Mind by Edward F. Kelley, Emily Williams Kelly, Adam Crabtree, Alan Gauld, Michael Grosse, and Bruce Greyson, Rowman & Littlefield.

I came across it just last month while doing some background lookups on Wilder Penfield for posts here (link, link, and link). It struck me as interesting that Amazon could not deliver the book (ordered in mid-December) until January 11—suggesting that it was in reprinting mode. The book, subtitled “Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century,” should become a widely used reference in psychology and parapsychology.

Herewith the first paragraph from the Preface:

This book originated from a seminar directed to theoretical foundations of scientific psychology, initiated in 1998 by Michael Murphy under the auspices of the Center for Theory and Research of Esalen Institute. By the year 2000 our discussions had advanced to the point where we believed we could demonstrate, empirically, that the materialistic consensus which undergirds practically all of current mainstream psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy of mind is fundamentally flawed. We therefore committed ourselves to developing a book-length [800 page] presentation which would systematically articulate and defend this point of view.

Michael Murphy was a co-founder of the Esalen Institute and is perhaps best described as a New Age author. The authors of the book are associated with neuroscience (Edward F. Kelly), near-death experience and paranormal research and authorship (Emily Williams Kelly), psychotherapy (Alan Crabtree, Bruce Greyson), psychology and parapsychology (Alan Gauld, Emily W. Kelly), and philosophy (Michae Grosso).

The authors all have at least one foot—if not both—off the orthodox reservation of materialism. Emily W. Kelly, presumably Edward Kelly’s wife, worked closely as a research assistant with Ian Stevenson, famed for his reincarnation studies at University of Virginia. Edward Kelly had spent a decade at the J.B. Rhine’s Institute of Parapsychology. Gaunt had been President of the Society for Psychical Research (1989-1992), some of Greyson’s work has been on Near Death Experiences (NDEs), Crabtree’s work has focused on borderline matters like hypnotism, and one of Grosso’s books is titled The Millennium Myths: Experiencing the Next World Now.

The combined profile will make it easy for Orthodoxy to dismiss their collective effort in Irreducible Mind, but the claim made in that prefatory quote to “demonstrate, empirically” that Orthodoxy is flawed is quite obviously accurate so far as I’ve gotten in the book.

The book’s subtitle—and the general tone of the text—show that its authors intend seriously to nudge along a paradigm shift in the study of the human mind. They seem to be right on course.

Irreducible Mind is dedicated to F.W.H. Myers, dubbed “a neglected genius of scientific psychology,” and to Ian Stevenson and Michael Murphy. Now I’m not surprised that, when buying that book, Amazon helpfully tried to sell me Myers’ Human Personality. Since that book came out posthumously in 1903, Irreducible Mind is looking back as it looks forward, anchoring itself in the work of Myers (1843-1901) and William James (1842-1910).

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