Articles & Chapters


Mind beyond brain: Surveying the metaphysical landscape  (2021)

In this chapter, I survey a landscape of metaphysical positions that in some way or other can support “consciousness unbound” or “mind beyond brain”: panpsychism and cosmopsychism, dualism, dual-aspect monism, neutral monism, and idealist monism (including its monadological variety). With the upsurge of interest in the mind–body problem, approaches that received only sporadic attention for many years are now more commonly discussed. Before looking at these philosophies and their application to rogue phenomena, I shall say a little about materialism, physicalism, and the assumptions that impose limits on consciousness. Here I draw attention to the decisive move that gave rise to the mind–body problem in the first place, an ancient “distinction between qualities” revived in the seventeenth century in efforts to move from a largely qualitative Aristotelian natural philosophy to a quantitative science. This problematic treatment of qualities ultimately lies behind present-day physicalism and its strained attempts to reduce or even eliminate mind. It will then become clear how the mind–body problem can be approached.

In Edward F. Kelly and Paul Marshall (eds), Consciousness Unbound: Liberating Mind from the Tyranny of Materialism (Chapter 11), Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2021.

Mystical experiences as windows on reality (2015)

Mystical experiences may shed light on several related kinds of extraordinary experiences, including psi cognitions and near-death experiences, for they have claims to reveal the deeper nature of things. Several characteristics of mystical experience are examined, including altered time-perception, noetic quality, and luminosity, and some speculations are put forward for consideration.

In Edward F. Kelly, Adam Crabtree, and Paul Marshall (eds), Beyond Physicalism: Toward Reconciliation of Science and Spirituality (Chapter 2), Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015.

Why we are conscious of so little: A Neo-Leibnizian approach (2015)

In what kind of metaphysical framework might psi phenomena (such as telepathy and precognition), mystical experiences, post-mortem survival, and the peculiarities of relativistic and quantum physics make sense? Drawing on philosopher H. H. Price, Marshall applies Leibniz’s philosophy of monads first to psi and then to the other areas of concern in search of an integrated theory.

In Edward F. Kelly, Adam Crabtree, and Paul Marshall (eds), Beyond Physicalism: Toward Reconciliation of Science and Spirituality (Chapter 11), Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015.


Does mystical experience give access to reality? (2022)

Mystical experiences can bring an overwhelming sense that deeper realities have been contacted or that the everyday world has been apprehended as it truly is. Philosophical study of the experiences has not given much attention to their metaphysical significance, especially to the insights they may offer on fundamental issues such as the nature of reality, self, consciousness, and time. There are reasons for the neglect, and in the present article I consider two major theoretical obstacles to finding metaphysical significance in the experiences: a radical form of contextualism and a reductionist approach to neuroscience. With these obstacles addressed, there is room to consider how mystical experience and metaphysics can be brought into dialogue, a task facilitated by the contemporary resurgence of interest in alternatives to materialist metaphysics and a renewed interest in mystical experience encouraged by psychedelic research.

Relgions, 13 (10). Full text available here.

The brain doesn’t create consciousness (2021)

Plainly consciousness—or at least consciousness as we ordinarily know it—is highly dependent on the brain. However, it may be a step too far to assume that consciousness is produced by the brain.

First published by

Full text available here.

Mystical experience and metaphysics (2014)

It is striking that mystics are often left with the conviction that they came into contact with deeper realities during their experiences, and if their convictions are warranted, then the study of mystical experience could be highly informative, providing insights that will enrich metaphysical theorizing. Such a study, however, faces some difficulties. Here I draw attention to two areas of concern, a mistrust  of metaphysics that impedes such inquiry and a challenge posed by the lack of metaphysical consensus among mystical traditions. Although supposedly informed by mystical insights, these traditions can have significantly different teachings about the nature of reality, which may suggest that mystical disclosures do not inevitably lead to similar understandings. In addressing the matter, I run through a variety of positions on mystical experience, mystical doctrine, and their relation, including the currently fashionable neuroscientific reductionism and radical contextualism.

Supplemental web material for ‘Mystical Experiences as Windows on Reality’. Full text of this article is available here.

The psychical and the mystical: Boundaries, connections, common origins (2011)

Notable exceptions aside, researchers in the fields of mysticism and parapsychol­ogy have not taken an active interest in each other’s domain of study. Mysticism scholars have tended to regard psychical phenomena as unworthy of academic study, as lesser phenomena that mystics themselves view with suspicion. For their part, parapsychologists have been inattentive to mystical experience despite their interest in a variety of extraordinary experiences. However, one type of mystical experience – the unitive apprehension of the natural world – does appear to have connections with psychical cognition, and other links are evident too, including shared triggers and predisposing factors. It follows that the psychical and the mystical require interdisciplinary study and a theory capable of explaining both. To this end, filter theory and kundalini yoga are invoked to suggest that psychical and mystical cognitions derive from a common source.

Journal for the Society of Psychical Research, 75, 1–13. Full text available here.

Transforming the world into experience: An idealist experiment (2001)

Idealism tackles the mind–body problem by giving precedence to mind and relegating matter to a dependent status. Contrary to popular opinion, idealism need not deny the existence of matter nor dispute the realist contention that objects exist independently of perceptual experience. However, idealism requires that matter and external objects are experiential or mind-dependent in a fundamental way. I develop a form of idealism that affirms the existence of an external world, but makes it experiential. The characteristics of the external experience are taken to be akin to those of perceptual experience, but attention is given to some likely differences. An attempt to accommodate modern physics in the experiential account yields an idealism with panpsychic features.

Journal of Consciousness Studies, 8(1), 59–76.

A pre-publication version of this article is available here.

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