I N 1989 I IN T R O D U C E D the term
‘n o n l o c a l m i n d ’ in my b o o k R ecoverin g the Soul because o f i b u n d a n t evidence s u p p o r t i n g this particular view of consciousness. Since then evidence supporting this concept lias continued to accum ulate, and the term nonlocal mind has become widely used. Let’s unpack this term and explore why the ideas it conveys a re crucial for h um a n existence.
T h e street meaning of nonlocal is, literally, ‘not local'. 11 something is nonlocal, it is not localised or confined to a specific place in space or time. Nonlocal, therefore, is another word for infinite’. T he implications for consciousness are p ro found — for if something is nonlocal or infin ite in space it is o m n i p r e s e n t ; and if nonlocal o r infinite in time it is e te rn a l o r immortal.
T h e r e are compelling scientific, historic, and experiential reasons for believing that consciousness behaves nonlocally or infinitely in space and time — that it is spatially unconfinable to brains and bodies and that it cannot be locked up in the present. This evidence suggests that space and time are simply not applicable to certain operations o f consciousness. Consciousness is both transspatial and trans-temporal; it is not in space and time.
Nonlocality is a term that has also been applied by physicists to a class of events whose definition relates to the speed o f light. But physics does not own nonlocality, nor do physicists enjoy a monopoly on nonlocal e v e n t s a n d t h e l a n g u a g e t h a t describes them . People were r o u tinely experiencing nonlocal manifestations of consciousness millennia before quantum physics was invented in the twentieth century, and we are not obligated to cede nonlocality to scientists who have chosen to nuance the term differently. Neither should we fall into the common trap of believing that the nonlocal events d e s c r i b e d in q u a n t u m p h y s i c s underlie or somehow ‘explain’ consciousness, for there is 110 evidence that this is so.
In contem porary neuroscience, consciousness is equated with the workings o f the brain — a local or finite view. This implies that when the brain dies consciousness is completely annihilated. In the graphic w o r d s o f p h i l o s o p h e r M i c h a e l Grosso, “According to [this] official view, c o n s c i o u s n e s s p e e p s o u t momentarily, a flickering phosphorescence o f nerve tissue, and is destined to vanish forever after death.” In striking contrast, the idea o f nonlocal mind affirms ancient concepts such as ‘soul’, ‘spirit’ and ‘B uddha n a tu r e ’ that designate an ongoing something that survives the death o f the physical body. In short, nonlocal m in d n o t on ly m a k e s r o o m fo r immortality, it mandates it. Why? A limited nonlocality is a contradiction in terms. Temporal nonlocality does not mean ‘for quite a while’ o r ‘a long tim e ’, but infinitude in time: eternality o r immortality. IM M O R T A L IT Y HAS BEEN ridiculed in science in the twentieth century, and the results have been disastrous. As a u t h o r G eorge O rw ell pu t it, “T he major problem o f our time is t h e d e c ay o f b e l ie f in p e r s o n a l immortality.” G. G. J u n g th ought similarly. He held that immortality was real and that for most people belief in it was vital to psychological health. “As a d o c to r ”, he said, “ I make ever}' effort to strengthen the belief in immortality.”
In contrast, the public stance of most scientists is to keep a stiff upper lip, flex their intellectual muscle, deny any need or desire for such a belief, and often, unfortunately, d e r id e those who feel o therw ise. Even to address the topic of immortality in academic circles is considered a sign of intellectual weakness. Yet the old rivers within the psyche run deep, and merely declaring the yearning for immortality to be irrelevant does not make it so.
Make no m is take: th e fe a r o f death is hum anity’s Great Disease, the terror that has caused more suffering th roughout history than all the physical diseases combined. As Ernest Becker said in his book The Denial o f Death, “T he idea of death, the fear o f it, haunts the hum an ani mal like nothing else; it is the main spring o f hum an activity — activity designed largely to [deny that death] is the Anal destiny of m an.”
Nonlocal mind is the Great Cure for this affliction, because it assures us that the most essential aspect of who we are cannot die, even though the physical body perishes. This is not mere speculation: evidence suggesting survival is ex trao rd in a r ily varied and has been chronicled by Grosso in his brave book Experiencing the Next World Now.
But if the evidence favouring survival o f bodily death is profuse, why isn’t it accepted within science? One reason is ignorance. In spite o f the widespread rejection o f survival, says scholar David Ray Griffin, “Probably not one intellectual in a thousand, including college and university p ro fessors, is conversant with the kinds of evidence [relevant to the survival of bodily death].”
Another reason science demurs is that the evidence is indirect. No-one has yet r e t u r n e d f rom the d ead , held a press conference about what the o ther side is like, and resumed his o r h er former life. Yet this is not a convincing negative, because much o f modern science rests on indirect evidence. No-one actually saw the Big Bang, a n d th e re are no controlled, prospective trials confirming it, yet it is widely accepted as an explanation o f the origin of the universe. A great deal o f m odern science operates along these lines.
But perhaps the most important reason that the evidence favouring survival is rejected is because the evidence is feared. To acknowledge it would require a reversal o f textbook claims that have dominated science for generations, on which countless careers and reputations have been built and still are. Evidence for survival, it is believed, would wreck not ju s t reputations but science itself. Some scientists find this too horrifying to contemplate. A century ago, Harvard psychologist William James reported that a leading biologist told him, “Even if such a thing [an afterlife] were tru e , scientists ought to band together to keep it suppressed and concealed. It would undo the uniformity o f Nature and all sorts of other things without which scientists cannot carry on their pursuits.”
If anything, this attitude has only increased since Jam es’s time. Grosso, a s e r io u s s c h o l a r a n d a c a d em i c philosopher, illustrates the revulsion with which the idea o f survival of death is still greeted in current scientific circles: “ 1 once let on to a serious ecologist, that I was interested in life after death. He reacted as if I had set fire to the American flag or spat on the Shroud o f Turin. I was fiddling while Rome burns and worrying about matters insignificant and personal while Earth was reeling from corporate p lunder and pollution. Wishing to survive death was
R e s u rg e n ce N o . 224 M ay /Ju n e *2004 2 9