© 2004. Journal of Conscientiology, London, UK
2003 Colloquium on Consciousness Studies
Gainesville (Florida, USA) 02nd August 2003: Residents of this Florida city and students and faculty of the University of Florida were presented with the opportunity to attend and participate in a meeting convened at Williamson Hall on the university’s campus. Representatives of a number of consciousness research organizations delivered presentations on a variety of subject related to consciousness. Circa 20 individuals were in attendance and the discussion, organized by the new Science of Self Club was engaging and reported reward by participants.
The University of Florida is amongst the largest and most prestigious in the United States; multidisciplinary, multicultural and research-funded, the UF features substantial liberal arts, engineering, and medical colleges as well as the Shands Hospital, the McKnight Brain Institute, and the Center for Health and Spirituality. Located in Gainesville, north central Florida, the University is within striking distance of Orlando (Disney world), Tampa Bay and the Busch Gardens, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral and “Spring Break Capital” Panama City, as well as Miami.
The Science of Self Club was established as an official student organization of the University of Florida in May 2003 with support from the University’s counseling and clinical psychology faculty. Shortly thereafter, the Club launched its maiden event, inviting speakers from a number of organizations engaged in consciousness studies to deliver a lecture on campus. On 2nd of August 2003, the Colloquium on Consciousness Studies took place, featuring representatives from the International Association for Near Death Studies (Diane LaRoe, Panama City, Florida); the International Academy of Consciousness (Patricia Sousa, Miami, Florida); Florida Institute of Noetic Sciences (Sharon Kleitsch, Saint Petersburg, Florida) and the American Holistic Medical Association (Carol Roberts, MD, Saint Petersburg, Florida).
The event was aimed at illuminating recent breakthroughs in consciousness related research and at stimulating debate on the subject of the study of the consciousness, discussing the potentially earth-shattering implications of this work.
Consciousness studies integrate a variety of established sciences such as psychology, sociology, physics, medicine, and neuroscience. Its scope encompasses a myriad of interrelated topics, a brief selection of which might include artificial intelligence, cloning, alternative medicine, abortion, teen suicide, racism, criminal justice, complementary alternative medicine (CAM), ethics, military intelligence, missing individual searches. Many of these are hotly debated by the laity, scientists, philosophers and religious scholars and feature regularly in contemporary media.
This medley of consciousness-related subjects appeals to individuals curious regarding scientific studies of anomalous phenomena and altered states of consciousness. It is also likely to attract those with a professional interest in psychology, especially those engaged in clinical and cognitive psychology, as well as other health professionals. Popular interest in the subject by the general public at large appears strong and growing; a wealth of popular, silver screen paranormal thrillers and increasing frequency of subject inclusive radio and television production suggest a new all-time high.
Certain individuals recognize the potential impact of these studies on spirituality and human culture and cite the positive effects that often arise from near-death experience(s) as an initial example.
Such a colloquium as convened by the Club has the potential to generate lively discussion, including within its scope unconventional but nevertheless scientifically-sound research into epistemologically-challenging and controversial subjects – each with wide-ranging, potentially earth-shattering consequences.
"What is the consciousness (what are we)?" is the age-old ‘hard question" of both science and spirituality.
Nelson Abreu, president of the Science of Self Club, introduced the audience to the subject at hand. Abreu began by explaining that after centuries of avoidance, a ‘new’ science of consciousness appears to be emerging in human society a notion supported by the rapid and apparently widespread increase in scientific activity in this area. Abreu went on to describe the substantial spectrum of interpretations and assumptions regarding the precise nature of the consciousness and the variety of contemporary scientific approaches to the ‘hard problem’ of science and spirituality.
Abreu asserted that whilst the majority of scientists work to demonstrate that consciousness arises from neural processes, alternative, non-conventional studies and theoretical models are also under consideration. The cover article of the latest issue of Scientific American (as at August 2003) referred to the Holographic Universe Model, a theory derived from quantum physics that may fundamentally affect the way we think about the nature and origin of humankind. Professor Sir Roger Penrose of Oxford University has meanwhile proposed a model of consciousness in which ‘consciousness information’ is encoded in ‘nanotubules’ in the brain at the quantum mechanical level. The Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research lab has similarly employed quantum mechanical non-locality and wave mechanics as analogies for a theoretical model of consciousness following 20 years of research into precognitive remote viewing and consciousness-physical process interactions. Nobel laureates Francis Crick and Christof Koch’s Nature Neuroscience article describes a framework to develop a theory of consciousness in terms of competing cellular assemblies.
Abreu continued, stating that a group of individuals exist who propose that consciousness does not arise from neural processes and is not a result of matter or energy but rather, that the inverse is more likely – and that compelling non-conventional evidence has been amassed to support this concept. Stating that whilst most researchers appear to ignore parapsychic phenomena, Abreu explained that for others, such phenomena forms the central focus of their research; that whilst some dedicate themselves to efforts to disprove claims of para-psychic occurances, others investigate such abilities of their subjects, still others employing astral projection as a tool for self- and hetero-research.
Commenting on the universality of the occurrence of and interest in the phenomena addressed by the colloquium, Abreu noted that this is considerable. Tens of surveys conducted in many countries around the world suggest that more than 10% of individuals report having had at least one out-of-body experience in their lifetime. Historical evidence accruing since the ancient Egyptian era indicates the out-of-body experience has and continues to be widely experienced, transcending national, racial and other boundaries and classifications.
On December 15, 2001, the highly respected international medical journal, The Lancet, published a 13-year study examining the phenomenon of the Near Death Experience or NDE. Observations were made in 10 different Dutch hospitals in one of few NDE studies to be conducted prospectively, meaning a large group of patients whose heart and/or breathing function ceased were resuscitated during a fixed period of time. Eighteen (18%) of these patients reported an NDE. The majority of these patients felt this was one of the most positive experiences of their life, re-prioritizing their activities to live more purposefully, experiencing a reduced fear of biological death and in some cases, even improving their personality and behavior towards others and themselves. Abreu also mentioned that studies, involving blind human subjects experiencing NDEs but nevertheless making accurate visual observations, have recently surfaced. It was estimated that one in every one thousand patients checked-in to these hospitals experienced an NDE.
During a recent BBC Radio debate, Dr. Olaf Blanke revealed that the epileptic patient - who unexpectedly reported out-of-body perceptions when her right-angular gyrus was stimulated - actually made visual observations of the operating room that the conventional scientific paradigm cannot explain. Even though he understandably excluded these details from the article published in the journal Nature, the Bern neuroscientist did not dismiss the possibility of the objective out-of-body experience, stating his opinion that it would be valuable to carry out further studies. It is worth noting that The American Psychology Association has published Varieties of Anomalous Experience, a move towards placing more rigorous, scientific parapsychological studies onto a more serious footing. Abreu also noted that Dr. Waldo Vieira’s seminal volume Projections of the Consciousness had received a positive evaluation in this review.
In his closing comments, Abreu included details of one of the first researchers to perform laboratorial experiments related to the OBE, a psychologist named Dr. Charles Theodore Tart (1937 - ). In 1966, Tart invited a young projector to participate in a series of experiments in the sleep laboratory of the University of California - Davis. The resulting projectiological experiments took place over four nights during which time the projector - "Miss Z" - lay down and was instructed to attempt to depart the physical body whilst connected to a series of devices measuring her physiological conditions. The objective of the experiments was to identify a quasi-randomly generated five-digit number, approximately 1.5 meters above her head that could not be observed physically.
From Monday to Wednesday, the projector reported seeing the clock whilst floating out of body. In coincidence with periods of projective activity reported by Miss Z, the physiological montoring devices recorded unusual brain-wave patterns. An absence of rapid-eye movements (REM) was also observed. On Wednesday night, Miss Z identified the target number: 25132. The brain-wave pattern during conscious projection differed from that of the patterns occuring during the waking state, during sleep and other ‘altered states of consciousness’ an expression coined by Tart.
GUEST SPEAKERS’ PRESENTATIONS
Diane La Roe, author of The Awakening, member of the Florida Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) and member of the International Association for Near Death Studies (IANDS) provided an anecdotal account of her own Near-Death Experience. Ms La Roe described lucid experiences and perceptions ‘in another plane’ whilst clinically dead following an automobile accident, prior to her medical resuscitation.
The author also provided a compelling account of parapsychic communication with her grandmother. After the two had apparently met in ‘the other place,’ her grandmother (who was not contacted about her accident) informed La Roe’s parents, who were on vacation, about the incident. Even though her lesions interrupted her singing, acting, and television anchor aspirations, Ms. La Roe described this experience as the most positive experience of her life and went on to explain how it transformed her.
A significant portion of the audience seemed unsatisfied with the support for La Roe's claims about physical actions of what she called angels (like hiding an object and then later placing it at an unlikely spot). Certain of the attendees hypothesized these could be mischievous extraphysical consciousnesses, rather than Helpers – highly evolved extraphysical persons with assistantial roles. Most, including a psychology graduate student and the president of the Undergraduate Philosophy Society thought it was more likely that she misplaced it herself without realizing it. La Roe remained firm on this issue, stating as the basis of her belief the fact that these events had occurred on several occasions. In one such instance, La Roe claimed to have laid a towel on a chair, left the room in which it was situated and upon her return, discovered its disappearance.
Some attendees felt that, on certain occasions, the speaker seemed evasive, avoiding questions, and felt an excessive proportion of her presentation was devoted to ‘self-healing’ foods and methods. La Roe later explained that she wished to avoid overlapping into the next speaker’s subject. However, most agreed that hearing a first-hand account of an NDE was indispensable and that if parapsychic abilities exist, training to develop them should be available to the general population. Ms. La Roe’s NDE has not apparently motivated frequent lucid projections, but Diane recommended a practice described in her book The Awakening of “quieting the mind” and relaxing, which leads one to an altered state of consciousness after which the ‘answers will come.’ Amongst other roles, Ms. La Roe is currently a religious minister.
Patricia Sousa, officer of the Miami and Mexico City offices of the International Academy of Consciousness (IAC) entertained more probing questions regarding parapsychic phenomena, mainly the out-of-body experience (OBE, projection of the consciousness, astral projection) and described how such an experience can function as a tool for self-research. As prescribed by that organization, the audience was advised ‘not to believe in anything’ but rather to ‘Experiment - Have your own experiences’.
Ms. Sousa, who like all IAC instructors is a volunteer, argued that ideas and experiences of others - as powerful and convincing as they can be - provide no real change in another individual. A policy of ‘99% practice and 1% theory’ encourages each individual to have OBE’s through the application of their own will and subsequently, comparison of reports allows to a consensus to be derived as opposed to simple attempts to convince others of their veracity.
Since consciousness is not palpable, the IAC studies its attributes. After more than 40 years of research by hundreds of researchers worldwide (a principal contributor being Dr. Waldo Vieira, MD), the construction of 18 laboratories in a research campus at Iguassu Falls (Brazil), the compilation of a library of more than 60,000 consciousness-related books, and the delivery of classes on the subject to more than 150,000 students, the following list of attributes was compiled and ascribed to the consciousness:
constantly-evolving ∙ self-conscious ∙ muldimensional (able to manifest itself in different realities) ∙ multiexistential (undergoes several periods of physical and non-physical existence) ∙ with integral (or holo-) memory (archives memories of all its intra-and extraphysical existences) ∙ parapsychic perception ∙ differentiated from both matter and energy.
These assertions were heavily contested by the audience, and an engaging discussion ensued. Anecdotal accounts, histories of previous scientific experiments and thought-experiments somewhat surprisingly led the audience to adopt an open-minded position with respect to this very controversial set of proposals. Amongst the most striking of the ideas proposed was that all individuals undergo the transition to an out-of-body state every night, usually lacking only the lucid capacity to recognize and recall these events – apparently being pre-disposed to the condition of ‘blackout’. Such situation is, however, not irremediable according to these observations. In fact, Sousa maintains, a state of uninterrupted awareness is eventually reached by all persons.
Amongst questions considered were:
Is it possible for animals to perceive projectors? What does astral projection tell us about life after death and the seat of consciousness? Is it possible to develop abilities that allow us to interact with multiple dimensions? Do we have a history of previous lives? If this is the case, why do we not remember them? Is it possible to recall such lives through projective experiences? Can individuals meet others who have already ‘desomated’ (died) or with those preparing for ‘resoma’ (rebirth)? Are there counter-indications to forced retrocognitions brought about through hypnosis? Do techniques exist that one could apply in any moment to attempt a projection? Does the human body have a subtle energy field? Is it possible to manipulate those energies? If so, how can this be achieved and why should we wish to do so? Do the energetic fields of individuals’ interact one with the other? What are the benefits that might be associated with OBEs? Do we have any responsibilities in physical and the extraphysical world? Are personal attributes derived solely from ‘nature and nurture’ or could certain of our previous conditioning, talents, and deficits (cons, or units of awareness) derive from previous physical existences (existential seriation)? What is the role of emotional balance in the out-of-body experience? What is the difference between the out-of-body experience and clairvoyance? How does one ‘feel’, let alone control, bioenergies? What is the vibrational state, how is it induced, and for what purpose? What laboratorial or personal experiments might be carried out in the future? Are certain health problems intimately related to issues originating beyond the physical body?
In each instance of each question, participants were curious about how IAC researchers had reached their conclusions. Ms Sousa explained how verification could be obtained through personal experience. At least one point of disagreement remained: whether Ms Sousa was able to perform some demonstration as proof of these phenomena, there and then. The speaker insisted that each individual strive to have their own experiences, however certain attendees argued that such a demonstration would provide a great deal of motivation, pointing out that obtaining direct, personal evidence could take considerable time and effort.
A topic generally agreed to deserve much more ‘airtime’ is that of cosmoethics, a universal code of ethics mentioned following a question form the audience regarding the spiritual implications of the IAC’s work. Apparently, the ability to project or at least to recall the experiences (as well as affecting the overall quality of it) is limited by unethical behavior over time. Whether the mechanism that controls such a response is natural or a by-product of a particular consciousness is a subject that was agreed worthy of further investigation.
The concept of thosene (thought-energy-sentiment) as an inseparable unit of manifestation of the consciousness was raised several times during the event, including the observation that an individual cannot practice deceit whilst projected as one’s energies accurately transmit actual intentions, sentiments, ideas, and thoughts immediately perceptible by others. Does this have any future role in our judicial system? One of the interviewees felt conscientiology could support the development of legal institutions to be less combative or retaliatory and more reformative or assistantial in spirit.
The colloquium’s next speaker, Sharon Kleitsch, a community consultant working with the Florida Institute of Noetic Sciences (FL-IONS), briefly introduced several ideas and their integration into her ‘project in development’. The Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) lab, the Global Consciousness Project, The World Café, the OpenSpace method, and HeartMath have compiled scientific evidence and personal verifications that emotionally-charged events can bias the randomness of natural systems and phenomena and that a so-called ‘heart-field connection’ can be established between a small and large group of persons. This coherence and resonance is, in turn, reflected in significant biasing or distortion of random event generator (REG) data.
Kleitsch described a project in Sao Paulo (Brazil) in which 8th grade students were making profound changes in their slum community as an analogy to the heart-field she intends to install in an area of the city of Saint Petersburg. Students were invited to experience this field first hand and later, to attempt connection to the larger field; Klietsch proposed this experiment take place despite the participants being physically located in Gainesville, claiming that distance apparently had no effect on the phenomenon. Kleitsch shared her vision for a widespread REG network throughout Florida, including one in Gainesville, proposing that the Science of Self Club might assist with its operation and monitoring. Kleitsch reported that she has identified more than 20 grant opportunities that might be employed to fund this project, which would require REG’s priced at about $300.
Accompanying Kleitsch, Carol Roberts, MD (recently elected president of the American Holistic Medical Association) shared illustrations by Alex Grey of the human energy system and described the function of the main chakras to clarify the heart-field concept. Although Mrs Kleitsch and Dr. Roberts did not provide technical details of the heart field and Global Consciousness Project, Ms. Kleitsch provided literature and contact information on these and other projects as well as donating books by renown scholars Rupert Sheldrake, Peter Russell, George Leonard and Willis Harman (incidentally a historical UF faculty member). IAC-Miami offered each participant a copy of the proceedings of the 3rd International Congress of Projectiology and Conscientiology (which includes a paper co-authored by Sousa); journals; Out-of-Body Experience: a glimpse of immortality (a video documentary on the OBE); and a copy of the landmark scientific treatise Projectiology: a panorama of experiences outside of the human body by Waldo Vieira, MD. Ms. La Roe also offered a copy of The Awakening.
All speakers traveled and lectured free of charge. The Club thanked each speaker for their generosity.
During the event, students actively engaged in discussion, asking pertinent questions and sharing their experiences. Two participants mentioned instances in which they had successfully induced projections or pre-projective phenomena after reading a book on the subject. Neither had had such experiences before applying the techniques. The majority of those who attended filled out a (preliminary) version of a survey on views and experiences related to consciousness studies, spirituality, and parapsychism. An important part of such an event is the conviviality, familiarization, and exchange of ideas amongst the speakers before, during, and after the event. Overall, organizers, speakers and attendees alike appeared to be pleased with their experience.
2003 Colloquium on Consciousness Studies
August 2, 2003. 11 am – 6:30 pm.
Geology Building / Williamson Hall 100
University of Florida
Gainesville, Florida, USA
 ( meaning: that which we are; the self-aware, sentient, intelligent, individuality principle, soul, ego, spirit, essence, atman, or self)