Nick Herbert
Nothing in this world is so mysterious as the human mind. Where does our ordinary perceptual experience come from? How do our minds--mere spirits--move muscles? And where do our minds go in deep sleep, under general anesthesia and at the moment of death?

In the past three hundred years science has made immense progress in comprehending the physical universe at all scales from quark to quasar. But the inner life of humans (let alone other conscious beings) is still an intellectual black hole. It's not that we possess bad, partial or flawed theories of the inner life. We have no such theories at all. Instead we possess only vague fantasies, philosophical hunches, and diffuse, speculative, untestable guesses. We do not even have any BAD THEORIES OF MIND. Make no mistake. We enter the new millenium at the kindergarten, sandbox stage of a true science of inner life.

Two major conjectures dominate scientific discussion about the nature of mind: 1) mind is an "emergent feature" of certain complex biological systems; 2) mind is the "software" controlling the brain's computer-like hardware. "Elemental Mind" explores a third hypothesis,that--far from being a rare occurrence in complex biological or computational systems-- mind is a fundamental process in its own right, as widespread and deeply embedded in nature as light or electricity.

"Elemental Mind" surveys what we know about the mind's outer dwelling place and certain tentative maps we have made of our own inner experiences. EM develops criteria for a true science of mind and shows how important such a science will be not only for science but for philosophy and religion. But the real meat of the book consists of descriptions of tentative pioneer proposals concerning possible ways consciousness might manifest as an elementary force in nature.

Two approaches are particularly stressed: those that stem from Einstein's special relativity theory-- such as the notions of Jean Charon and of James Culbertson--and those based on extensions of quantum theory--such as the ideas of John von Neuman, Sir John Eccles and Henry Stapp. An entire chapter is devoted to Culbertson's little-known spacetime reductive materialism (SRM) hypothesis: one of the few mind models that actually tries to explain the fine details of inner experience such as what goes on in the world to make the experience of red different from the experience of green. Of this chapter Culbertson has commented: "Nick, you understand my theory better than I do."

Most of the book is devoted to quantum theories of mind. Three features of quantum theory are especially suggestive for understanding how mind might enter matter at the quantum level. Coincidentally, these three features--randomness, thinglessness, and interconnectedness--were precisely the features that Albert Einstein, one of quantum theory's founding fathers, found so bizarre that he could not accept them. These three Einstein-abhorred features, however, have continued to play an increasingly important role in quantum thinking; quantum connectedness in particular has been securely confirmed by recent experiments motivated by the famous theorem of Irish physicist John Bell. "Elemental Mind" makes a plausible case from biological, psychological, and parapsychological evidence that these three features of supposedly inert matter are the external signs of three basic features of mind: free will, essential ambiguity, and deep psychic connectedness.

Elegantly written and startlingly original, "Elemental Mind" offers a fresh approach to the riddle of consciousness, which has challenged philosophers and scientists for centuries. Its implications are nothing short of revolutionary.

"Quantum possibilities contribute in a significant way to the gross motion of matter in only two situations: when the energy of the interaction is small, as in the case of atoms or molecules, and in "quantum razor" situations where the system's possibility wave is split into two or more disjoint parts, each having drastically different experimental consequences, such as Dr. Schreodinger's legendary live/dead cat."

"The passage of a quantum system from the thingless world of vibratory quantum possibilities into the ordinary world of fixed actualities takes place in two stages, which we might call "reality construction of the first and second kinds". Reality construction of the first kind consists of the choice of a measurement context. This choice, under the control of the observer, cause the formerly seamless quantum wave world to split into a family of definite possibilities.Reality creation of the second kind (also called "collapse of the wave function" or "quantum jump") occurs when one of these possibilities becomes an actual fact."

"One of the major mistakes of the medieval philosophers was their underestimation of the size of the physical world. This cozy earth, the seven celestial spheres, plus Dante's concentric circles of Hell: that was the full extent of the universe in the medieval imagination. No one at that time even dreamed of other solar systems, let alone galaxies like dust clouds in a vast room billions of light-years in diameter. I believe that modern mind scientists are making this same medieval mistake by vastly underestimating the quantity of consciousness in the universe. If mind is a fundamental force in nature, we might someday realize that the quality and quantity of sentient life inhabiting just this room may exceed the physical splendor of the entire universe of matter."