Spirituality: The Legacy of Parapsychology

Archive for the Psychology of Religion 31 (3):277-308 (2009)
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Abstract

Spirituality is a topic of recent interest. Mindfulness, for example, a concept derived from the Buddhist tradition, has captivated the imagination of clinicians who package it in convenient intervention programs for patients. Spirituality and religion have been researched with reference to potential health benefits. Spirituality can be conceptualised as the alignment of the individual with the whole, experientially, motivationally and in action. For spirituality to unfold its true potential it is necessary to align this new movement with the mainstream of science, and vice versa. Hence, both a historical review, and a systematic attempt at integration is called for, which we are trying to give here. It is useful to go back to one of the roots: parapsychology. Parapsychology was founded as a counter movement to the rising materialist paradigm in the 19th century. Adopting the methods of the natural sciences, it tried to prove the direct influence of consciousness on matter. After 125 years this mission must be declared unaccomplished. Surveying the database of parapsychological research it is obvious that it will not convince sceptics: Although there are enough exceptional findings, it has in general not been possible to reproduce them in replication experiments. This is, however, a characteristic signature of a category of effects which we call effects of generalised entanglement, predicted by a theoretical model analogous to quantum theory. Using this perspective, parapsychological effects can be understood, and the original aim of the founding fathers can be recovered, as well as a new, systematic understanding of spirituality be gained. Generalised entanglement is a formal and scientific way of explaining spirituality as alignment of an individual with a whole, which, according to the model, inevitably leads to non-local correlations

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