William James and the search for scientific evidence of life after death: Past, present, and possible future

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Abstract

William James's historic fascination with psychic phenomena, including the possibility of life after death, has become more widely known with the publication of recent books and articles on this controversial aspect of his scientific legacy. However, little is known about the emerging evidence suggesting the possibility that James's scientific interest in these topics has not waned since he died. This paper reviews preliminary observations, including two exploratory double-blinded mediumship investigations, which are consistent with the hypothesis that James (with others) may be continuing his lifelong quest to address the question of the survival of consciousness after physical death 'from the other side'. These proof-of-concept investigations illustrate how future systematic laboratory research is possible. The limitations of current neuroscience methods are explicated in terms of investigating the hypothesis of the brain as a possible antenna-receiver for consciousness. If James's tentative conclusion about the nature of the relationship between consciousness and the brain turn out to be accurate, then it is logically plausible (if not essential) to posit the possibility that his efforts have persisted in the recent past and present, and may even continue in the future. Scientific integrity plus the pursuit of verity require our being open to this important theoretical and empirical possibility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)121-152
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Consciousness Studies
Volume17
Issue number11-12
StatePublished - Dec 7 2010

Keywords

  • Beliefs
  • Consciousness
  • Double blinded experiments
  • Life after death
  • Materialism
  • Mediums
  • Mind-brain relationship
  • Spirituality
  • Survival of consciousness
  • William James

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Philosophy
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Artificial Intelligence

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