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Consciousness Unbound: Liberating the Mind from the Tyranny of Materialism

What if consciousness is fundamental and even primary?

A partnership between


Galileo Commission
Scientific and Medical Network
Division of Perceptual Studies
Academy for the Advancement of Postmaterialist Sciences
Institute of Noetic Sciences


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Join some of the leading researchers in the sciences and humanities for a series of round tables to launch the landmark volume Consciousness Unbound: Liberating Mind from the Tyranny of Materialism, edited by Edward F. Kelly and Paul Marshall, and initiated under the auspices of Esalen Institute’s Center for Theory & Research and University of Virginia’s Division of Perceptual Studies.
This online, donation-based event will be chaired by Dr Emily Williams Kelly, Dr Paul Marshall, Prof Marjorie Woollacott, Prof Edward F. Kelly … and John Cleese!


I regard consciousness as fundamental, matter is derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.There is no matter as such; it exists only by virtue of a force bringing the particle to vibration and holding it together in a minute solar system; we must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. The mind is the matrix of all matter.
Max Planck


The Galileo Commission Report argues for an expansion of the philosophical basis of a science of consciousness beyond the conventional physicalist worldview by widening the evidence base to examine the implications for our understanding of reality of research into significant human experiences such as veridical OBE perceptions in NDEs, children who remember previous lives, and extensive scientific studies of parapsychological phenomena. The Galileo Commission encourages scientists and academics to ‘look through the telescope’ at this evidence base that represents a fundamental challenge to the prevailing materialistic outlook.
There is now growing support for the idea that consciousness is fundamental and even primary, as Max Planck noted – and these views have considerably greater explanatory power when it comes to accounting for this wider evidence base, which materialist positions tend to ignore or dismiss – as Jeff Kripal observes, our conclusions are a function of our exclusions and that to ‘dismiss is to miss’.
This latest Galileo Commission Summit will feature a series of roundtables with contributors to Consciousness Unbound, the third volume to emerge from one of Esalen Institute’s Center for Theory and Research projects. Building on the groundbreaking research presented in Irreducible Mind (2007) and Beyond Physicalism (2015), Edward F. Kelly and Paul Marshall gather a cohort of leading scholars to consider the significance of extraordinary experiences for our understanding of reality. Currently emerging as a middle ground between warring fundamentalisms of religion and science, an expanded science-based understanding of nature finally accommodates empirical realities of parapsychological and spiritual sorts while also rejecting rationally untenable overbeliefs.



Since its founding in 1962, Esalen Institute has regularly sponsored research fellowships in fields that mainstream scientific and religious institutions typically neglect or avoid altogether. Consciousness Unbound is the latest offering to emerge from one of these fellowships, the Sursem or ‘Survival Seminar’ project, initiated by Esalen Institute co-founder Michael Murphy in 1998 to investigate evidence suggestive of postmortem survival—the persistence of aspects of human mind and consciousness following bodily death. This investigation evolved into a broader study and assessment of the many kinds of phenomena that challenge common assumptions about the limits of consciousness, assumptions grounded in the influential materialist worldview of our times. Consciousness Unbound presents the latest fruits of this research, presenting new information regarding some of the most theoretically challenging empirical phenomena (near-death experience, cases of the reincarnation type, precognition) and additional philosophical positions that are potentially capable of making sense of them, plus reflections on what all this work may mean for contemporary scholarship on the humanities, science and philosophy as well as for human affairs more generally.



Friday 24th September • 4:00 – 8:30 pm (UK, BST)


4.00 – 4.10 pm • Consciousness Unbound and the Sursem Project
Prof Edward F. Kelly – Introduction to the Sursem research project and the trilogy that came out of it: Irreducible Mind, Beyond Physicalism, and Consciousness Unbound.
4:10 – 6:00 pm • Expanding Empirical Research Horizons • Chair: Emily Williams Kelly
Prof Bruce Greyson – Near-Death Experiences
Prof Jim Tucker – Cases of the Reincarnation Type
Dr Bob Rosenberg – Precognition
6:30 – 8:30 pm • Mysticism and the Evolving Divine • Chair: Paul Marshall
Prof Edward F. Kelly – Mystical Experience and Panentheism in the Sursem Project
Dr Glenn Alexander Magee – A Neo-Hegelian Theory of Mystical Experience and Other Extraordinary Phenomena
Prof Roderick Main – Mystical Experience and the Scope of Jung’s Holism


Saturday 25th September • 4:00 – 8:45 pm (UK, BST)

4:00 – 6:00 pm • Liberating Mind from the Tyranny of Materialism: Toward A New Metaphysic • Chair: Marjorie Woollacott
Prof Max Velmans – Is the Universe Conscious? Reflexive Monism and the Ground of Being
Dr Bernardo Kastrup – Analytic Idealism and Psi: How a More Tenable Metaphysics Neutralizes a Physicalist Taboo
Federico Faggin – Consciousness Comes First
6:30 – 8:45 pm • The Emerging Vision of Consciousness and Why It Matters • Co-Chairs: Prof Edward F. Kelly and John Cleese
Dr Paul Marshall – Mind Beyond Brain: Surveying the Metaphysical Landscape
Prof David E. Presti – Expanding a Science of Consciousness
Prof Jeffrey J. Kripal – The Future of the Human(ities): Mystical Literature, Paranormal Phenomena, and the Contemporary Politics of Knowledge
Pointing the Way Forward – David Lorimer


About the speakers:

Federico Faggin croppedFederico Faggin received a laurea degree in physics, summa cum laude, from the University of Padua, Italy, in 1965, and moved to Silicon Valley in 1968. He developed the MOS Silicon Gate Technology in 1968; the world’s first microprocessor, the Intel 4004, in 1971; and several highly successful microprocessors, like the Intel 8080 and the Z80 produced by Zilog, his first start-up company. He was chief executive officer of several high-tech start-up companies he founded and directed since 1974. He is currently president of Federico and Elvia Faggin Foundation, dedicated to the science of consciousness. He has received many international awards, including the 2009 National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Barack Obama.

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Bruce Greyson is Chester F. Carlson Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences and director emeritus of the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia. He was one of the founders of the International Association for Near-Death Studies and for twenty-seven years edited the Journal of Near-Death Studies. He majored in psychology at Cornell University, received his medical degree from the State University of New York Upstate Medical College, and completed his psychiatric residency at the University of Virginia. He practiced and taught psychiatry at the University of Michigan and the University of Connecticut, where he was clinical chief of psychiatry before returning to the University of Virginia twenty-five years ago. His research for the past four decades has focused on the aftereffects and implications of near-death experiences. He is coeditor of The Near-Death Experience: Problems, Prospects, Perspectives and The Handbook of Near-Death Experiences: Thirty Years of Investigation, coauthor of Irreducible Mind, and author of After: A Doctor Explores What Near-Death Experiences Reveal About Life and Beyond.


Bernardo Kastrup has a PhD in philosophy (ontology, philosophy of mind) and another PhD in computer engineering (reconfigurable computing, artificial intelligence). As a scientist, he has worked for the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and the Philips Research Laboratories (where the “Casimir effect” of quantum field theory was discovered). Formulated in detail in many academic papers and books, his ideas have been featured in Scientific American, Institute of Art and Ideas, Blog of the American Philosophical Association, and Big Think, among others. His most recent book is The Idea of the World: A Multi-Disciplinary Argument for the Mental Nature of Reality. For more information, visit www.bernardokastrup.com


John Cleese is a tall person who likes lemurs, coffee and wine. He’s also been known to write. His latest book is Creativity: A Short and Cheerful Guide.


Edward F. Kelly is a professor in the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia. He received his PhD in psycholinguistics and cognitive science from Harvard University in 1971 and spent the next fifteen-plus years working mainly in parapsychology, initially at J. B. Rhine’s Institute for Parapsychology, and then for ten years through the Department of Electrical Engineering at Duke University, and finally through a private research institute in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Between 1988 and 2002, he worked with a large neuroscience group at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, mainly carrying out electroencephalographic and functional magnetic resonance imaging studies of human somatosensory cortical adaptation to natural tactile stimuli. He returned full-time to psychical research in 2002, serving as lead author of Irreducible Mind (2007) and Beyond Physicalism (2015). He has now returned to his central long-term research interest—application of modern functional neuroimaging methods to intensive psychophysiological studies of psi and altered states of consciousness in exceptional subjects.


Emily Williams Kelly is Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Perceptual Studies, University of Virginia. She has a PhD in psychology from the University of Edinburgh, where her dissertation focused on the development of scientific psychology in the late 19th century, with an emphasis on F. W. H. Myers and his contributions to psychology. From 1978 she worked with Dr Ian Stevenson in research on cases of the reincarnation type and near-death experiences, and has edited a collection of his selected writings, Science, The Self and Survival After Death (2012). With Edward F. Kelly, she was lead author of Irreducible Mind (2007).

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Jeffrey J. Kripal is J. Newton Rayzor Chair in Philosophy and Religious Thought and associate dean of the humanities at Rice University. In addition, he is associate director of the Center for Theory and Research at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. He is the author of eight monographs, including, most recently, The Flip: Epiphanies of Mind and the Future of Knowledge (2019). He is presently working on a three-volume study of paranormal currents in the history of science and esoteric literature for the University of Chicago Press collectively titled The Super Story. His full body of work can be seen at http://jeffreyjkripal.com


Glenn Alexander Magee received his PhD in philosophy from Emory University and is professor of philosophy at the C. W. Post Campus of Long Island University. He is the author of Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition (2001) and The Hegel Dictionary (2011), and editor of The Cambridge Handbook of Western Mysticism and Esotericism (2016) and Hegel and Ancient Philosophy: A Re-Examination (2018).

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Roderick Main works in the Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies at the University of Essex (United Kingdom), where he is professor and director of the Centre for Myth Studies. He holds a BA and MA in classics from the University of Oxford and a PhD in religious studies from Lancaster University. He is the author of The Rupture of Time: Synchronicity and Jung’s Critique of Modern Western Culture (2004) and Revelations of Chance: Synchronicity as Spiritual Experience (2007), editor of Jung on Synchronicity and the Paranormal (1997), and coeditor of Myth, Literature, and the Unconscious (2013), Holism: Possibilities and Problems (2020), and Jung, Deleuze, and the Problematic Whole (2021).

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Paul Marshall is an independent researcher with interests in mysticism, religion, philosophy, science, and their interactions. He studied natural sciences at the University of Cambridge and received his MA and PhD in religious studies from Lancaster University. His books include Mystical Encounters with the Natural World: Experiences and Explanations (2005) and The Shape of the Soul: What Mystical Experience Tells Us About Ourselves and Reality (2019). With Edward F. Kelly and Adam Crabtree, he coedited Beyond Physicalism (2015). Details of his publications can be found at https://mystical-encounters.com\


David E. Presti is a teaching professor of neurobiology and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, where he has been on the faculty in molecular and cell biology for thirty years. For more than a decade, he worked in the clinical treatment of addiction and of posttraumatic stress disorder at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in San Francisco. And for the past fifteen years, he has been teaching neuroscience and conversing about science with Tibetan Buddhist monastics in India, Bhutan, and Nepal. His undergraduate training focused on physics, mathematics, and chemistry and his graduate training on physics (MS, California Institute of Technology), molecular biology and biophysics (PhD, California Institute of Technology), and psychology (PhD, University of Oregon). He is author of Foundational Concepts in Neuroscience: A Brain-Mind Odyssey (2016) and Mind Beyond Brain: Buddhism, Science, and the Paranormal (2018).

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Bob Rosenberg received an AB in history and science from Harvard University, an MS in physical sciences from Stanford University, and a PhD in the history of science and technology from Johns Hopkins University. He spent two decades at Rutgers University on the staff of the Thomas A. Edison Papers, a historical documentary project, the last seven as director of the project. Since 2001, he has lived on the San Francisco peninsula, working from 2005 to 2013 for John Wiley & Sons and otherwise as an independent scholar. He participated in the annual Survival Seminar at Esalen’s Center for Theory and Research from 2003 to 2013, a venture that produced the books Irreducible Mind (2007) and Beyond Physicalism (2015).

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Jim B. Tucker is Bonner-Lowry Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the University of Virginia. He is also director of the University of Virginia Division of Perceptual Studies, where he is continuing the research of Ian Stevenson into children’s reports of past-life memories. He received his undergraduate and MD degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After completing a residency in general psychiatry and a fellowship in child psychiatry at the University of Virginia, he spent nine years in private practice. He returned to the university in 2000, where, in addition to his research work, he served as the medical director of the University of Virginia Child and Family Psychiatry Clinic for nine years. He is the author of two books that together have been published in more than twenty countries: Life Before Life: A Scientific Investigation of Children’s Memories of Previous Lives (2005) and Return to Life: Extraordinary Cases of Children Who Remember Past Lives (2013), a New York Times best seller.


Max Velmans is emeritus professor of psychology, Goldsmiths, University of London, and has been involved in consciousness studies for more than forty years. His main research focus is on integrating work on the philosophy, cognitive psychology, and neuropsychology of consciousness. He has more than 130 publications on this topic, including his major work Understanding Consciousness (2000) (now in its second 2009 edition), the coedited Blackwell Companion to Consciousness (2007) (now in its second 2017 edition), Towards a Deeper Understanding of Consciousness (2017), and the recently published four-volume collection of major works on consciousness in Consciousness: Critical Concepts in Psychology (2018). He was a cofounder and, from 2004 to 2006, chair of the Consciousness and Experiential Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society, and an Indian Council of Philosophical Research National Visiting Professor from 2010 to 2011.

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Marjorie Woollacott, PhD, is Professor Emeritus of Human Physiology and Neuroscience at the University of Oregon. Her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and includes both research in rehabilitation medicine and alternative forms of therapy such as tai chi and meditation. She is president of the Academy for the Advancement of Postmaterialist Sciences (AAPS), the Research Director of the International Association of Near Death Studies (IANDS), and has written more than 200 peer-reviewed research articles—several of which were on spiritual awakening and meditation, the topic that motivated her to write her latest book, Infinite Awareness: The Awakening of a Scientific Mind. She coedited AAPS publications Is Consciousness Primary? and Expanding Science.

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David Lorimer is Chair of the Galileo Commission and Programme Director of the Scientific and Medical Network. His new book of essays, A Quest for Wisdom, has just been published.



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Sat, 25 September 2021
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4:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Local Time

  • Timezone: America/New_York
  • Date: Sat, 25 September 2021
  • Time: 11:00 am - 3:30 pm