Reviews written by James W. Macartney
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Penicillin should not have been discovered. But when Alexander Fleming observed one errant Petri dish responding oddly nestled among the many he was studying, he took note. Fleming’s willingness to set aside facts and theories to pursue the unknown, according to Lawrence Lashan’s new book The New Science of the Paranormal (2009), is of central importance in the elusive search for what constitutes human consciousness.
In a forty year career taking him from psychologist military to alternative medicine, Leshan has been prescient in his writings about cultural turning points. He was a pioneer in mind-based healing modalities, and predicted the mythic march against good vs. evil used to usher in our two wars a decade before they ignited.
He is no less visionary in his view of humanity presently at threshold of transformation—from deep division and animosity to unitary oneness. What stands in its way are entrenched beliefs and a science fixated upon experimental designs woefully incapable of winnowing out the intricacies of higher states of human awareness.
Much of the book examines our attachment to what we assume as a fixed reality. When confronted with something that reality tells us is impossible, deny it. If it happens anyway, we make adjustments, like adding special theories to keep our normal reality intact. He writes,
…paranormal events are called paranormal because they appear to be impossible to us. Impossible events do not happen. Once it has been established that a particular impossible event happens, science has devised a method of dealing with the problem. We do not change our definition of reality. Instead, we limit the realm in which our definition of reality holds sway. The revolutions led by Plank and Einstein were, in large part, accomplished by limiting Newtonian reality to those realms of experience which could, at least theoretically, be perceived by the senses or by mechanical extensions of the senses.
Leshan suggests a similar modification of reality needs to be applied to subtle human experiences that cannot be replicated. Curiously, he draws upon only a narrow wedge of research and anecdotal stories, almost as if he’s in a time warp revisiting the early years of paranormal research—most of the stories and references he uses are many decades old. The many well constructed studies streaming from medicine, physics, biology and psychology remain untouched. These studies evocatively demonstrate our consciousness cannot be contained within the brain.
For instance, Dutch cardiologist Pim von Lommel in the 1980s listened to an amazing account from a cardiac patient who had died and been revived. Like Fleming’s errant Petri dish, the incident led him to formulate the world’s first prospective study of the near Death Experience (NDE). When patients were successfully revived after cardiac arrest, excellent data was available before, during and after the event. Of the patients hundreds of patients revived, 18% reported NDE’s, undergoing astounding changes compared with those who did not have the experience.
Leshan’s best contribution is in framing the path for science to more readily engage in the field of consciousness research that will someday finally break itself free from its materialist shackles. He stands with von Lommel and many scientists in their vision of an incredible transformation unfolding in humanity’s relationship, not only to itself, but the entire universe.
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