Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

I recently received from its author a reprint of the following article about the Society for the Study of Consciousness: Imants Barušs, “A Vision for the Society for Consciousness Studies” (Journal of Consciousness Exploration & Research, 2014, 5, 551-555).

Dr. Imants Barušs

Dr. Imants Barušs

Here is the abstract:

“This editorial is based on a presentation given by the author at the inaugural meeting of the Society for Consciousness Studies at The California Institute of Integral Studies on May 31, 2014. The author discusses the hegemony of materialism and some of the deleterious consequences of its entrenchment in the academy. In particular, research into the nature of consciousness is curtailed, those with demonstrated psychic abilities are oppressed, and little gets done to find effective interventions for resolving existential anxiety. The author’s vision for the Society for Consciousness Studies is that: (1) it is a society that values open inquiry into the nature of consciousness; (2) its members can regard themselves as leaders who are guiding the direction of consciousness studies; (3) practical projects can be undertaken to advance the open study of consciousness; (4) the society can cultivate support for the discussion of existential issues, self-transformation, and transcendent states of consciousness; and (5) the founding of the Society for Consciousness Studies can be a turning point in the history of the study of consciousness.”

One of the points the author makes is the prevalence of a materialistic outlook and the negative consequences in academia to challenge this overarching view of the world. The latter includes various forms of persecution that prevents, or at least, inhibits, open discussion and empirical studies.

Barušs continues saying that another “problem is that those who have demonstrated psychic abilities need to conceal those abilities, particularly from mental health professionals . . . There is still a widespread tendency to regard anyone who manifests or claims to have such abilities as lying, cheating, and as being mentally ill . . . A third problem brings us back to . . . the occurrence of existential angst among teenagers . . .” He also addresses the need to deal with existencial issues, a need that is generally not addressed or fulfilled by formal academic studies. In his words “rather than being marginalized in the academy, my vision is that we should see ourselves as leaders who are guiding the direction of consciousness studies. And rather than retreating from repressive institutions we should seek to transform them from within by asserting, as much as possible, our right to be part of them.”

The author would like to see the Society helping seekers and students in a practical way. “By our numbers we can seek to protect those whose academic freedom is violated because they have chosen to challenge conventional ways of thinking about consciousness. We can provide resources for those who wish to teach courses about consciousness. We can create an endowment fund to financially support research into consciousness. We can create annual awards that recognize outstanding contributions to the study of consciousness. We can create a publications office to publish academic books and journals. We can create a communications office to disseminate information about consciousness to the public as well as to solicit financial resources for an endowment fund. We can actively network with other organizations that support our goals. And we can assist other academics and professionals who become interested in consciousness.”

A few organizations have attempted to do some of this over the years, as seen in the work of the Parapsychological Association and the Society for Scientific Exploration, and the efforts of the Society for Consciousness Studies would indeed be welcome.