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Thrive and Survive

In 2021 more than 400 scientists endorsed a Manifesto for a Post-Materialist Science that includes these affirmations:


1. Scientific methods based upon materialistic philosophy have been highly successful in not only increasing our understanding of nature but also in bringing greater control and freedom through advances in technology.


2. However, the nearly absolute dominance of materialism in the academic world has seriously constricted the sciences and hampered the development of the scientific study of mind and spirituality. Faith in this ideology, as an exclusive explanatory framework for reality, has compelled scientists to neglect the subjective dimension of human experience. This has led to a severely distorted and impoverished understanding of ourselves and our place in nature.


3. Conscious mental activity can be experienced in clinical death during a cardiac arrest (this is what has been called a "near-death experience” (NDE). Some near-death experiencers (NDErs) have reported veridical out-of-body perceptions (i.e., perceptions that can be proven to coincide with reality) that occurred during cardiac arrest. NDErs also report profound spiritual experiences during NDEs triggered by cardiac arrest. It is noteworthy that the electrical activity of the brain ceases within a few seconds following a cardiac arrest.


4. Controlled laboratory experiments have documented that skilled research mediums (people who claim that they can communicate with the minds of people who have physically died) can sometimes obtain highly accurate information about deceased individuals. This further supports the conclusion that mind can exist separate from the brain.[1] 


Psychologist William James (1842-1910) proposed that consciousness has many levels, which may include a level of reality after physical death.[2] He published an account of a missing girl, who was only found because a woman named Nellie Titus, living five miles away, “dreamed of where the child was trapped underwater beside a bridge.” James concluded the Titus case “is a decidedly solid document in favor of the admission of a supernormal faculty of seership.”[3] James suggested that the brain was transmitting consciousness rather than producing consciousness.[4]


Nobel prize winning physicist Max Planck (1858-1947) asserted: “I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”[5]


Philosopher Mary Midgley (1919-2018) argued that: “mindless materialism, this belief in something called ‘matter’ as the answer to all questions—is not really science at all.” For, “In reality, not all questions are physical questions or can be usefully fitted to physical answers.”[6]


Biophysicist Joyce Whiteley Hawkes, who did not believe in God, affirms: “My near-death experience established a connection between me and something much, much bigger than myself. If it is a part of God, the Source of creation, the bond has never failed. I lost my fear of death, and with it, my fear of separation from the Source. I lost any notion that the Source is available to only the few who belong to a specific religion. The Healing Presence of the Source is for everyone.”


“I thought there was no afterlife and, consequently, no continuation of consciousness. In my view, death was total, complete, and utterly final. Much to my surprise and joy, after my near-death experience the notion of the continuation of consciousness became an unshakable reality.”[7]


In her book Cell-Level Healing: From Soul to Cell, Hawkes explains how she was called and trained to heal. She also learned how to accompany the dying, to reduce their fear, as they pass from physical life. “I often feel,” she says, “as if I have one foot here and one foot on the other side. The clarity of insight and palpable touch of healing energy are strongest at those times.”[8]


I suggest three ways of embracing a post-materialist view of reality. The first involves accepting our world as a “living-world.” It is an astounding fact that our bodies host more micro-organisms than the cells of our own bodies. Each of us is a community of life, an ecosystem, a living-world.


Of course, we would not be alive without a community of other persons and also the biosphere of the earth that sustains all life. Yet, referring to the “world” does not acknowledge our complete dependence on the earth community. Perhaps affirming a living-world will remind us that we are one species among many. We are who we are because of a creative living process—an evolving living-world of mental and material creativity—with countless other organisms.


My second suggestion involves recognizing that all our choices are “eco-choices.” Our choices are the result of the ecology of our bodies as well as the ecosystems we share with a multitude of other organisms. What we eat, drink, trash, and construct—all affect our living-world.


An eco-choice not only has ecological consequences but also embodies our intent to live more sustainably. An eco-choice is a value-choice. Every eco-choice celebrates the living-world—seen and unseen, heard and unheard, known and unknown, loved and unloved. 


My third suggestion is that we embrace Albert Einstein’s appeal to widen our compassion. In 1950 he asserted: “A human being is part of the whole called by us the universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”[9]


We can choose not only to weigh the likely consequences of our actions on our living-world but also to rejoice in the wondrous creativity and beauty in nature. We can choose to live with hope and compassion despite all the exploitation, devastation, and dying in our living-world.


Embracing a post-materialist view of consciousness as fundamental will strengthen our resolve to widen our compassion. To follow our hearts and not only our heads. If consciousness is fundamental, consciousness is not just a brain-product and need not end with physical death.


Moreover, consciousness resonates in the awareness and intelligence of the living-world, as Suzanne Simard, Professor of Forest Ecology in the Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences at the University of British Columbia explains in her book Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest. “My queries started from a place of solemn concern for the future of our forests but grew into an intense curiosity, one clue leading to another, about how the forest was more than just a collection of trees.”


“One of the first clues came while I was tapping into the messages that the trees were relaying back and forth through a cryptic underground fungal network. When I followed the clandestine path of the conversations, I learned that this network is pervasive through the entire forest floor, connecting all the trees in a constellation of tree hubs and fungal links.” Her research confirmed “that the biggest, oldest timbers are the sources of fungal connections to regenerating seedlings. Not only that, but these mother trees connect to all neighbors, young and old, serving as the linchpins for a jungle of threads and synapses and nodes.”


Simard’s conclusions breach the barriers of materialist science. She affirms the “intelligence of the forest,” is grateful that “the trees have shown me their perceptiveness and responsiveness, connections and conversations,” and describes the trees at the hub of a forest/fungal web as “mother trees.” Her data on forests as living-worlds has verified that injury among the trees prompted the mother tree “to transfer even more carbon to her kin. Facing an uncertain future, she was passing her life force straight to her offspring, helping them to prepare for changes ahead. Dying enabled the living; the aged fueled their young.”[10]


A forest as a community, trees dying yet helping their offspring survive. A wise and caring tree mothering her own seedlings as well as trees of other species. Simard’s account of eco-choices by mother trees in a forest reveal how a living-world may “survive, grow, and thrive”[11] amidst degradation, destruction, and death.


We must change our lives! To live with gratitude, hope, and compassion despite all the dying in our living-world. To thrive as we strive to make eco-choices that will help other species survive. Accepting the post-materialist scientific evidence that the living-world of consciousness extends beyond physical existence may enable us to embrace this challenge. James, Planck, Midgley, Hawkes, Einstein, Simard, and others have shown us the way. Our eco-choices will matter.

[1] See also “Beyond a Materialist Worldview: Towards an Expanded Science” at


[2] Leonard Gibson, “Amplified Subject,” Rethinking Consciousness; Extraordinary Challenge for Contemporary Science (Process Century Press, 2020), Leslie Kean, Surviving Death: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for an Afterlife (Three Rivers Press, 2017), 200.


[3] Deborah Blum, Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death (Penguin, 2007).


[4] I discuss the “transmission hypothesis” of William James in Extraordinary Experiences: On Our Way Home (KDP, 2021). See also Chris Carter,




[6] Mary Midgley, What is Philosophy For? (Bloomsbury Academic, 2018).


[7] Joyce Whiteley Hawkes, Cell-Level Healing: The Bridge from Soul to Cell (Atria Paperback, 2006), 142. I quote Hawkes more extensively in Extraordinary Experiences: On Our Way Home.


[8] Ibid., 148.




[10] Suzanne Simard, Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest (Knopf, 2021), 4-5, 287.


[11] Ibid., 189.

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