Stanley R. Dean, editor PSYCHIATRY AND MYSTICISM Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1975, 424 pp., $15.
"Metaphysics" is a term used by the editor to describe the interface between medical science, parapsychology or psychic phenomena, philosophy, and religious concepts. This work is an attempt to link common themes in these disparate areas of research.
There is a call on the part of the participants for the reader to accept psychic phenomena, precognition, and telepathy as ultraconsciousness; they ask us to free ourselves from the religious, cultural, and professional biases that have tended to disparage each of these endeavors.
Unfortunately, little more than anecdotal and subjective data are presented. No technology is yet available to measure and lend credence to psychic experience. The reader comes away wondering about the experimenter error that may have existed either in the design of these studies or in the psychic structures that report the data of extrasensory perception.
Slightly more promising is the section on the search for technology to study ultraconsciousness, energy fields, and voluntary control of bodily functions. The development of biofeedback and electroencephalographic monitoring of meditation states enables man finally to quantify heretofore experiential data.
Meditation states appear to be a universally reported experience, common to all cultures and religions throughout history. Before the development of scientific healing methods, the shamans or witch doctors probably induced these states in their clients, often with beneficial symptomatic and organic relief. Other papers pick up this theme and examine the role of mind control in perception of pain and voluntary control of internal organs.
The final section compares psychedelic, "peak," and transcendental states with psychotic symptoms, inquiring into the similarities between these experiences and the concomitant behavior. The review article by Julian Silverman is particularly well written.
One comes away from this volume with a deeper respect for scientific methods and their current limitations in studying the workings of the mind. Dr. Masserman may view science as a collection of myths that are used to create the illusion of man's need to master himself, others, and the universe, but - as so often happens with cynicism - he fails to offer a more tangible approach to understanding human experience.