About the Book
Consciousness is the distinctive and defining future of human condition. Its study is at once fascinating and frustrating, because consciousness is too familiar to ignore and too complex and elusive to understand and explain. Many consider understanding consciousness the greatest challenge facing twenty-first-century science.
Cultivating Consciousness is an absorbing East - West dialogue on the conceptual, methodical and theoretical issues. In this unique collection of scholarly articles by eminent researchers in and exponents of consciousness studies we find transdisciplinary discussions on the nature of consciousness, the methods of studying it, the relevance of consciousness to our values and its role in enhancing human potentials and wellness. Ramakrishna Rao discusses consciousness from the perspective of classical Indian thought in separate chapters devoted to Yoga, Advaita and Buddhism, and contrasts the Indian views with those in the West.
Over all, the book gives the nature of things to come, the controversies and complexities involved and the imminent clash of paradigms. This volume is more than a study in contrast; it is an intellectual bridge that facilitates the travel and exchange between the spiritual and scientific traditions of East and West and between first-person and third-person perspectives.
About the Author
Prof. Koneru Ramakrishna Rao is currently Chancellor of GITAM University. His previous assignments include Chairman, ICPR (2006- 12); President, Institute for Human Science & Service (1998), Executive Director, Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man, USA (1988- 94); Vice-Chancellor, Andhra University (1984- 87); Director, Institute for Parapsychology, Durham, NC (1976-84) and Professor of Psychology, Andhra University (196-8-82).
Prof. Rao was thrice President of Parapsychological Association, the US-based international society of scientists involved in parapsychological research and twice President of Indian Academy of Applied Psychology. He is currently President of the Asian Congress of Philosophy. Prof. Rao received numerous academic and civic honours, including Padmasri, D.Lit (Honoris Causa) by Andhra University and Kakatiya University and honorary degree of Doctor of Science by Acharya Nagarjuna University.
Prof. Rao published twenty books and over 200 research papers. His major books include Cognitive Anomalies, Consciousness and Yoga, Gandhi and Applied Spirituality, Consciousness Studies: Cross-cultural Perspectives, Gandhi and Pragmatism, and Experimental Parapsychology.
This volume is an expanded and revised edition of Cultivating Consciousness, published by Praeger in 1993. This book has been out of print for several years now. Following the demand for it in India and considering the need to include the Indian perspectives on cultivating consciousness, Part II is added. All the chapters in the first edition are included in Part 1. In Part II, we added four more chapters. They are again revised version of three chapters from my book Consciousness Studies: Cross-Cultural Perspectives published by McFarland & Co. Jefferson, NC in 2002. The last chapter "Two Faces of Consciousness" is a revised version of the paper published with the same title in the Journal of Consciousness Studies. I thank Praeger, McFarland & Co. and the Journal of Consciousness Studies for making this expanded version of this volume possible. I am also thankful to Prof. D.P. Chattopadhyaya, Prof. Bhuvan Chandel and the Centre for Studies in Civilizations for allowing me to use some materials published by them in my book Cognitive Anomalies, Consciousness and Yoga (Rao 2011).
I gratefully acknowledge the help and support of several others in publishing this volume. First, I thank the then Board of Directors of the Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man (FRNM) and the Chairman, Russel Moores, who enthusiastically supported this project to honor the Birth Centenary of Dr. Louisa E. Rhine. Second, I am grateful to the Fetzer Institute and its President Rob Lehman and the Institute for Noetic Sciences and its President Willis Harman, who evinced keen interest in this project and provided grants to organize the Conference on Cultivating Consciousness where the chapters that are printed in Part I of this volume were first presented. Third, my grateful thanks go to all those who contributed chapters to this volume and to those who travelled long distances to participate in the consciousness conference. Fourth, I acknowledge my appreciation to the following organizations which as co-participants supported the conference: American Society for Psychical Research, Archaeus Project, Atlantic University, Center for Frontier Sciences of Temple University, Consciousness Research and Training Project, Human Potentials Foundation, Isthmus Institute, Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, International Society for the Study of Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine, Parapsychological Association, Parapsychology Services Institute, Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness, Society for Scientific Exploration, and the West Georgia College Psychology Department. Fifth, I thank all my colleagues at FRNM who helped me in various ways, especially Rick Steeves, Administrative Assistant, Anne Carroll, Business Manager, and Pat Spivey, who was of special help in editing the Part I of this volume.
I am happy to include in the revised edition four additional chapters discussing the subject of consciousness from the perspective of classical Indian tradition. Together the two parts give us a more wholesome account of consciousness from two distinct traditions. I express my thanks to Dr M.V.V.S. Murthi, President, GITAM University and Shri Susheel K. Mittal of DK Printworld for undertaking the publication of this volume. I would consider this effort worthwhile if this volume could help to spur interest in the study of consciousness by philosophers and psychologists in this part of the world.
IN a significant sense, consciousness is the defining characteristic of the human condition. Yet, the currently dominant scientific paradigm virtually ignores consciousness and renders our deeply-held values irrelevant to our existence. This state of affairs has led some who believe that advances in our knowledge will lie in the area of consciousness to raise significant questions about the nature of science and its role in society. Again, those who see the incompleteness of the physicalistic worldview, the reality of anomalous phenomena such as extrasensory perception (ESP), and the intrinsic difficulties in casting consciousness in a sustainable deterministic and reductionistic mold have started to look into alternative paradigms or radical extensions/modifications of existing theoretical constructs. All these attempts portend exciting times ahead, where a clash of paradigms appears imminent.
This book gives us glimpses of the nature of things to come, the controversies and questions about assumptions, concepts, methods, and possible outcomes. In this unique collection of scholarly articles contributed by eminent researchers involved in consciousness studies, the authors discuss from a transdisciplinary and intercultural perspective the nature of consciousness, the methods of studying it, its relevance to our values, and its role in enhancing human abilities and wellness.
The birth centenary of Louisa E. Rhine was the occasion for the first edition of this volume, which incorporated the papers that were presented at the conference, "Cultivating Consciousness for Enhancing Human Potential, Wellness and Healing", held on 8-10 November 1991, in Durham, North Carolina. Author of six books and numerous research papers, Rhine was the first lady of parapsychology for half a century. Her vast collection of spontaneous "psychic" experiences, the largest in the world, is a veritable gold mine. Her motivation in collecting these cases was not merely to document cases suggestive of psi occurrence in the human condition but also to explore the extent of human potential and the outreach of consciousness to encompass those aspects of our nature that are simply inconsistent with mechanistic and materialistic conceptions of our being. As I have pointed out elsewhere (Rao 1986), Mrs. Rhine's studies (Rhine and Rhine 1978) led her "to challenge the concept of physical determinism into which the sciences had all allowed themselves to slip" (pp. 195-96) and to believe that "there is at least something beyond physics" that "profoundly changes the picture of man's nature" (p. 196). Both the conference and this volume are dedicated to address this challenge and to discuss consciousness as an aspect of our being that goes beyond the mechanistic perspectives provided by those disciplines that ignore or deny the existence of consciousness.
The purpose of this book is to call attention to the importance of consciousness research and its implications for improving the human condition. The contributors come from a variety of disciplines, reflecting the transdisciplinary character of consciousness research. The diversity of topics represents the richness and broad scope of consciousness studies. In my opinion, the conference was an important event. I know of no other occasion when so many organizations with scholarly and scientific interest in the study of consciousness participated in a conference of this kind and thus provided a unique opportunity for a frank exchange and clarification of ideas from several perspectives.
In a book like this, it is customary for the editor to present brief synopses of the contributions. I wish to do something different, for I do not believe that a short summary can adequately address the richness and complexity of the issues and problems dealt with by the authors. Instead, I will give a brief account of the accomplishments of L.E. Rhine, to whose memory the conference was dedicated, and at the same time attempt to bring out the relevance of the Rhines' work to consciousness research and vice versa.
Born on 9 November 1891, on an island in the Niagara River to Christian Weckesser and his Mennonite wife, Louisa E. Rhine, ever since she could remember, "wanted to amount to something, something that most people never even heard of, something original, something different". This ambition was fulfilled when she and her husband, J.B. Rhine, decided to devote their professional lives to a scientific study of psychic phenomena - a career that lasted for almost sixty years, first at Duke University and later at the Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man in Durham, North Carolina. Throughout her long career, Mrs. Rhine's commitment to things she believed in was always tempered by her concern for objectivity. Her mind was an exemplary blend of laboratory precision and experiential richness. With her husband, Louisa Rhine helped to bring legitimacy to the study of psychic phenomena, a field previously shrouded in mystery. While her husband designed simple laboratory experiments to test the possibility of psi abilities, she collected and analyzed thousands of real-life psychic experiences and laid the groundwork for a taxonomy of psi.
Even though Mrs. Rhine is rightly recognized as the foremost researcher of spontaneous psychic experiences, her contributions to the experimental study of psi are also considerable. Apart from her day-to- day involvement with the experimental research carried out at Duke University, Mrs. Rhine did several experiments on her own, which are still cited in current publications.
Rhine's major contribution to parapsychology, however, was her study of spontaneous cases. Her collection is the most extensive in existence. She began her study with a research strategy somewhat different from that of her predecessors. Her focus was not to prove the existence of psi (the extra sensorimotor ability involved in phenomena such as ESP) but to see whether the cases would throw any light on the psi process and provide ideas that might form the basis for research under controlled conditions. As she put it:
It was partly in a search for clues for new insights by which to guide the framing of experiments that attention was turned to personal experiences. But besides that, another reason for the study was to get a more rounded, full-bodied conception of the effects trapped so laboriously in the laboratory.
Therefore, the Duke collection, unlike the British SPR collection, for example, did not involve any effort to authenticate the cases. The only consideration for inclusion was that the case must seem to involve some form of psi and "state explicitly what the experience was like, and also, just as clearly, the real happening and attendant circumstances.
With the overall objective of understanding the basic psi process, Mrs. Rhine attempted to classify and analyze her cases, to identify the main forms in which psi is expressed in consciousness, and to understand the extent of knowledge conveyed by them. Between 1951 and 1967, she published eighteen separate research reports, vastly adding to our understanding of spontaneous psychic experiences. The most important of her findings was the observation that psi seems to manifest in real life in the form of intuitions, hallucinations, unrealistic dreams, and realistic dreams. Other surveys (Haight 1979; Sannwald 1963) revealed a comparable distribution of cases into these forms.
Three of Mrs. Rhine's studies had to do with apparition cases, a subdivision of hallucinatory experiences that by earlier accounts had a bearing on the survival hypothesis. "The result of all three studies," according to her, "was to show that if apparitions had any bearing on the survival question, it cannot be because of the hallucinatory form of the experience. That, it was shown, is one of the basic ways in which psi is expressed in consciousness" (L.E. Rhine 1977: 72).
Her studies led her to emphasize the unconscious and dynamic aspects of psi (L.E. Rhine 1965). Following up on Tyrrell's suggestion, she hypothesized that psi is a two-stage process. Although we hardly know anything about Stage I, where psi interaction takes place and paranormal information is received, she suggests that the process by which the unconscious psi information finds its way into overt behavior may be understood to be the same in psi as it is in other psychodynamic functions. The four types of psi experiences revealed by her vast collection of spontaneous cases seem to fit neatly into the hypothesis that they are the "mediating vehicles" that bring the information received at Stage I into Stage II. Also, her analysis of cases with incomplete and distorted psi information suggests that these cases are better understood in terms of the two-stage hypothesis and that the incompleteness, distortions, and imperfections in overt psi responses seem to be traceable to known psychodynamic factors. She also suggested that psi-missing is due to blocking and repression of Stage I information from reaching Stage II awareness.
Her first book, Hidden Channels of the Mind, published in 1961, incorporated the results of her study of spontaneous cases. The New York Times described it as a "classic source book", and the Los Angeles Times called it "a voyage of discovery". The book addresses such questions as: Who has ESP and how common is it? Do sane, healthy people have it? Are women more "psychic" than men? Can foreseen dangers be avoided? What is the effect of time and space on ESP?
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