Introduction to Volume 4

Velmans, Max. 2018. Introduction to Volume 4. In: M Velmans, ed. Consciousness (Critical Concepts in Psychology) Volume 4: New Directions: Psychogenesis, Transformations of Consciousness and Non-reductive, Integrative Theories. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 1-20. ISBN 9781138848672 [Book Section]

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This introduction and the associated readings in Volume 4 begins with a review of mental influences on states of the body and brain (psychogenesis), which are often thought of as theoretically problematic for conventional materialist theories of mind. The evidence is nevertheless extensive, for example in psychosomatic illnesses and studies of the physiological consequences of meditation, imagery, biofeedback and hypnosis. Such effects are also central to developments in psychoneuroimmunology and studies of placebos, dealing not only with how to control for such effects in clinical trials, but with how such effects operate, and how to harness them for the benefit of patients. The introduction and readings then survey altered states of consciousness, including the conditions for their emergence, their adaptive as well as maladaptive potential, and the influences of culture on how these are understood. The analysis deepens with reviews of the major ways in which consciousness can be usefully transformed, starting with the burgeoning literature on the nature and effects of meditation practices, including their effects on neural dynamics and the varied ways in which they have, in recent years, been incorporated into a range of psychological therapies, focusing particularly on mindfulness and its potential consequences for psychological health. The survey then turns to mystical experiences, which, of all the positive altered states of consciousness, are perhaps the most extraordinary and transformative. Reported over millennia and recognized by William James to combine ineffability with a noetic quality, their generation, effects and interpretation have, once more, become the subject of research. In this connection, we also review the resurgent interest in the use of drugs in the transformation of consciousness focusing particularly on recent research on the clinical and neurophysiological effects of major psychedelics such as psilocybin and LSD. It will be apparent that the four Volumes of this Collection cover a vast range of phenomena that cannot comfortably be accommodated into a materialist, reductionist worldview, so this introduction (and the entire collection) concludes with a diverse sample of non-reductive, integrative theories that offer unifying ways of understanding consciousness, drawing on information theory, neuropsychology, psychodynamics, physics, psychology, parapsychology, and philosophy.

As with the other Volumes in this collection there is an associated online Companion that has many links to background resources and to the selected readings themselves.

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This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge in Consciousness (Critical Concepts in Psychology) Volume 4: New Directions: Psychogenesis, Transformations of Consciousness and Non-reductive, Integrative Theories on 30 April 2019, available online:

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30 April 2018Published

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Date Deposited:

20 Mar 2019 14:43

Last Modified:

12 Jun 2021 00:01


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