Bridging the Worlds of Matter, Mind, and Spirit

Printed in the  Spring 2021  issue of Quest magazine. 
Citation: Carr, Bernard"Bridging the Worlds of Matter, Mind, and Spirit" Quest 109:2, pg 14-21

By Bernard Carr 

bernard carrAll of us inhabit the three worlds of matter, mind, and spirit, though these terms can be used in different contexts. For example, they correspond to different modes of knowing (senses, reason, contemplation), to different academic disciplines (sciences, humanities, religious studies), and to different types of embodiment (physical, mental, spiritual) within esoteric traditions. They are also associated with different paths in life (scientist, artist, mystic), and this is the context on which I will focus here.

While everyone has a foot in all three worlds, the amount of time we spend in each one clearly varies, and most people are drawn to one path. Ambitious people in particular generally focus on a single path, because success usually depends on being very dedicated: a successful scientist must be narrowly focused on their area of specialty, while a dedicated mystic must devote their whole life (or even many lives) to their goal, unimpeded by distractions in the material domain. Specialization is necessary because the evolution of humanity as a whole evidently depends upon many individuals fulfilling their potential in some narrow area of expertise.

Nevertheless, this article will emphasize that it is important for some people to follow all three paths because the different worlds are connected and a full understanding of the universe must surely embrace them all.

As illustrated in figure 1, the three worlds are connected by various bridges. There is a lot of emphasis on the bridge between science and religion at the bottom, but the other two bridges are equally important. The nature of each bridge also depends on which branch of science, art form, or mystical tradition is involved. There are many bridges, and even someone aspiring to follow all three paths only glimpses a small part of the rich nexus of connections.

 In this essay I will try to illustrate this idea with reference to my own life, since I’ve tried to follow all three paths. Although this may appear self-indulgent, hopefully the lessons I have learnt will be of general interest. Because of my specific interests, I regard psychical research as providing a bridge between matter and mind, transpersonal psychology as providing a bridge between mind and spirit, and the anthropic principle as providing a bridge between matter and spirit. This is indicated by the green connections in figure 1. However, someone approaching the subject from the perspective of medicine or the arts would see a different set of bridges.

   carr figure 1
   Figure 1. This diagram shows various aspects (red text) of the three worlds (blue circles), some bridges between them (green links), and the central role of consciousness. Diagrams in this article by Bernard Carr.

Building a bridge requires effort and is generally resisted by people on both sides. As regards my first bridge, many scientists don’t want a link with psychical research because they don’t believe in the phenomena; on the other hand, many psychical researchers don’t want a link with science, since they see it as too materialistic. As regards my second bridge, many psychical researchers prefer to avoid trespassing into spiritual domains because they fear this will tarnish their scientific image; on the other hand, many spiritual practitioners avoid psychical research because they believe the scientific approach will distract from the spiritual path. As regards my third bridge, many scientists resist the notion that there is any room for a divine element in the universe; on the other hand, many mystics resist attempts to understand the divine through the methods of science.

 Personally I disagree with all these opponents to bridge building, partly because I have my own proposal for a model which purports to unify matter, mind, and spirit. I will briefly describe this in the third part of this essay, and a fuller description can be found elsewhere (Carr, “Hyperspatial Models,” “Worlds Apart”). However, my model could be wrong, so I prefer to frame the discussion within the broader context of attempts to find a unifying paradigm—for example, the perennial philosophy, various forms of esoteric science, and most recently the postmaterialist science movement. All these approaches regard consciousness as a fundamental rather than incidental feature of the universe, which is why consciousness is placed at the center of figure 1.

An excellent exposition of approaches to the unification of matter, mind, and spirit can be found in the two volumes edited by Ed Kelly et al.: Irreducible Mind and Beyond Physicalism. These were the result of a series of workshops held at California’s Esalen Institute, some of which I also attended. The group seeks a middle way between the polarized fundamentalisms of science and religion—an enlarged conception of nature anchored in science and including spiritual realities. The following quote from Beyond Physicalism summarizes their position: “We think it requires astonishing hubris to dismiss en masse the collective wisdom and experience of a large proportion of our forbears, including persons widely recognized as pillars of all human civilization, and we believe that the single most important task confronting all of modernity is that of meaningful reconciliation of science and religion.”

My Personal Path

When I was a fifteen-year-old schoolboy at Harrow—a well-known English public school—I misbehaved and as a punishment was “roomed” for a week, which meant that, apart from lessons, I was confined to my room. Having nothing else to do, I read three books which determined the subsequent course of my life. The first, The ABC of Relativity by Bertrand Russell, was about Einstein’s theory of relativity and got me interested in physics and the nature of space and time. The second, An Experiment with Time by J.W. Dunne, was about his precognitive dreams and got me interested in psychical research. The third, The Third Eye by Lobsang Rampa, allegedly by a Tibetan lama who had taken over the body of a plumber from Devonshire, England, was about various psychic and mystical experiences associated with his life as a monk; this book got me interested in Buddhism and religious experience. It is strange that my misbehavior had such beneficial consequences!

These three books not only triggered my interest in science, psychical research, and religion but also made me aware that these three domains are intrinsically linked. The link between the first and second books was time, while the link between the second and third was psychical experience. Despite my limited knowledge of the subject, I became convinced that my life’s purpose was to develop a theory of physics which could accommodate psychic and spiritual phenomena. I even had a primitive notion of how this could be achieved by invoking extra dimensions, and over the next year I spent almost every free hour writing an overlong and pretentious dissertation on the topic. I sent it to Hermann Bondi, the leading cosmologist of the day, who (remarkably) read it and wrote back to me. He said that from a cosmological perspective it was lacking in interest, because it did not make any predictions. I realized with a shock that this was correct, but it did not dampen my enthusiasm.

 A little later, I became interested in out-of-the-body experiences (OBEs) as a result of reading The Projection of the Astral Body by Sylvan Muldoon and Hereward Carrington. This discussed techniques for inducing the experience, which I was eager to try. I recall waking up one night in the lounge of my home while my physical body was still in the bedroom. Although I couldn’t be sure this was not an illusion, I was sufficiently worried that I really was out of my body to be frightened by the experience. So for a while I tried to stop having OBEs, and it was not until I started meditating several years later that I started having them again spontaneously.

Nevertheless, I was intrigued by the notion that consciousness can leave the body and visit other places, maybe even beyond the physical world. This claim clearly challenged the standard view of physics, suggesting that there are levels of reality that go beyond ordinary space and time.

In 1968 I went up to Trinity College, Cambridge, as an undergraduate to read mathematics. Keen to pursue my interests further, I immediately joined three university societies: the Cambridge University Astronomical Society (CUAS), the Cambridge University Society for Psychical Research (CUSPR) and the Cambridge University Buddhist Society (CUBS). Although my academic studies were most closely related to the first, I spent most of my time in activities related to the other two. With the CUSPR, I devoted many hours to conducting ESP experiments, visiting haunted houses, and investigating mediums under the guidance of Tony Cornell, a leading ghost hunter of the time who was to become my mentor and close friend. With the CUBS, I took up samatha (calmness) meditation with Nai Boonman, a teacher from Thailand, and began to study Buddhist philosophy.

Not many CUSPR members were spiritually inclined, and not many CUBS members were psychically inclined. However, I always thought the activities of the two groups were linked. After all, meditation is supposed to lead to the development of psychic powers (siddhis), and I probably had more psychic experiences through meditation than through CUSPR activities.

I also tried to link my interests in these areas through experiments. The first was a telepathy experiment with the samatha group after a meditation session, in which I looked at images with strong emotional content and the meditators had to “pick up” the emotions. I think the group was surprised that Nai approved, but he did and we found interesting (if unexpected) results. There was a correlation, but it was with another of the meditators rather than with me!

The second experiment involved an attempt to weigh the soul at Addenbrookes Hospital in 1970. The idea was that the soul might leave the physical body during sleep, so if the soul has weight, this should be indicated by a decrease in weight on falling asleep and a corresponding increase on awakening. I cannot claim that the results were very convincing, because my apparatus was very crude, but many of my undergraduate friends still remember me as the person who weighed their souls. This illustrates how a spiritual question—about the existence of the soul—can potentially be addressed scientifically.

These were also the groups within which I formed my deepest friendships. I found my CUBS friends were gentler and more loving than my Christian friends and always hugging each other. Among them was Pete Betts, a natural science student with long, black, curly hair, who was also a member of the CUSPR. He was a much more devout Buddhist than me, and he later became Ajahn Brahm, the founder of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia. (An interview with Ajahn Brahm appeared in the winter 2018 issue of Quest.) I first met him when I was manning the CUBS stall at the University Societies Fair. Apparently I discouraged him from paying his subscription until he had attended a meeting to check that Buddhism was his cup of tea, but he insisted on joining immediately. Some of my memories of our friendship are recorded (Carr, “Ajahn Brahm”).

I also formed close links with the Tibetan Buddhist community. When Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche visited my rooms in Trinity one evening, I was so awestruck that the armchair in which he had sat became an object of veneration for a while. Another friend was Sogyal Rinpoche, who was a student at Cambridge in attendance with Tenzing Namgyal (the crown prince of Sikkim, whom I’d known at Harrow). Sogyal was fascinated by science, so he taught me Tibetan meditation, and I taught him physics. He also arranged for a visit by the Dalai Lama, and we all had tea together with other CUBS members in Trinity College.

 After graduating, I realized I could not pursue a career as a Buddhist, so I had to decide whether to study for a PhD in cosmology, the area of physics in which I was most interested, or parapsychology, the area to which I was devoting most of my time. I therefore spent the summer working with Dr. John Beloff in Edinburgh (the only academic psychical researcher at the time), ostensibly to write up some of the CUSPR experiments but also to see if I was interested in doing a PhD in the subject. In the end, Professor Donald West (an eminent criminologist but also an experienced psychical researcher) advised me that there were no career prospects in parapsychology and that I would benefit the field more in the long run if I first established myself in a respectable field and then championed it as an outsider. Also, since my ambition was still to extend physics to accommodate mind and associated phenomena, I realized that I needed to gain a better understanding of physics in order to achieve this.

 Another incident influenced my decision. One evening during my undergraduate period, I was watching a TV documentary, The Violent Universe, which described the latest developments in astrophysics and cosmology (such as the evidence for black holes, pulsars, and the big bang). I was enthralled by this, but what most impressed me was a scene in which the astronomer Maarten Schmidt was peering at a distant quasar through the Mount Palomar telescope while listening to the third movement of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. I was transfixed by both the music and the science and immediately resolved to buy the record of Beethoven’s symphony (which I did the next day) and become an astronomer (which I did a few years later). But what most impressed me was the realization that there is a spiritual aspect to the wonder of the heavens.

So I chose to do a PhD in cosmology and was fortunate that Stephen Hawking was assigned as my supervisor. He wasn’t so famous then—indeed I had barely heard of him—but he’d already made important scientific contributions, and I was somewhat awed when my tutor (the physicist Jeffrey Goldstone) told me that he was the most brilliant person in the department. Ours was not the usual type of student-supervisor relationship. Because of Stephen’s disability, I spent a lot of time with him, sharing an office with him and living with his family for a year when we visited Caltech in 1975. We became good friends, and although I stopped working with him after my PhD, I maintained my friendship with the family. I’ve recorded some of my memories of him elsewhere (Carr, “Stephen Hawking”).

Working with such a great physicist certainly gave me a good start in my professional life. I was also lucky that my PhD coincided with his discovery of Hawking radiation, because this gave me a ringside seat for one of the most important developments in twentieth-century physics. In fact, my most cited paper is the first one I wrote with Stephen in 1974 on primordial black holes. These are black holes that formed in the early universe and the only ones which could be small enough for Hawking radiation to be important. I’ve continued to study these objects for forty-five years, but we still do not know for sure whether they exist. If they do, then I helped to pioneer an important field of research. If they don’t, then a lot of effort has been wasted. So an interesting feature of the scientific path is that one may not know for a long time whether it leads anywhere interesting.

 As is well known, Stephen was not enamored of religious ideas, and although he was blessed by four popes and interred at Westminster Abbey next to Isaac Newton, he certainly never aspired to be spiritual. People sometimes ask me why I didn’t try to interest him in spiritual matters, but I always avoided that. The spiritual path is not suitable for everyone, and he would surely not have made such an enormous contribution to physics if he had turned his attention in that direction. Humanity needs both spiritually and scientifically enlightened people, but only a few of them need to be—or would aspire to be—both. Nonetheless, he was still a spiritual inspiration to many people, partly because of his cosmological revelations but also because of his courageous fight against disability.

Stephen was also skeptical of psychic phenomena (although he had read a book by the parapsychologist J.B. Rhine as a teenager), but I did occasionally discuss my interest in the subject with him. On one occasion I had a dream in which he explained how I could solve an equation. When I awoke, I remembered the dream and the advice turned out to be correct, so I mentioned this to Stephen to check whether he had shared the dream. He hadn’t and dismissed any suggestion that telepathy might be involved, so I joked that in that case he would not be on the paper! After forty-five years I’m not confident this memory is accurate—I doubt that I would have been so cheeky—but I do recall the dream.

After my PhD, I remained at Cambridge for another ten years and continued to conduct experiments in psychical research. My most important influence was Professor Ian Stevenson, who used to visit Darwin College, Cambridge, as a guest of Donald West. Ian was best known for his work with children who remember previous lives, providing another interesting link between psychical research and religion. In the summer of 1980 Stevenson invited me to visit his group at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where I met Carlos Alvarado, Emily Cook, and Satwant Pasricha. I also became a member of the national Society for Psychical Research and joined its council. My main contribution was to organize its study days and annual conferences, which I did for thirty-five years, and to chair its research activities committee for a while. I served as its president in 2000–04 and am still a vice-president. I also joined Donald West as a manager of the Perrott-Warrick fund, which is administered by Trinity College, Cambridge, and the main source of funds for research in the area. I succeeded him as secretary in 1995, and I like to think this has enabled me to make a positive contribution to the subject.

My Buddhist links also led to other religious and esoteric contacts. Through Lance Cousins, one of the key people in CUBS, I was introduced to Glyn Davies, a Kabbalah teacher who became another important influence on my life. This led to the formation of a Kabbalah group in Cambridge and later to the founding of a UK-wide religious philosophy group called Saros, formed from an amalgamation of influences from Kabbalah, Buddhism, G.I. Gurdjieff, and Sufism. The group has now broken up, but it has sown many seeds, which are still bearing fruit. My own religious energies are now channeled into the Scientific and Medical Network, an organization founded nearly fifty years ago, which promotes consciousness studies and the links between science and spirituality. One of its important recent achievements has been the production of the Galileo Commission Report (Walach), which advocates an expanded view of science, very much in the spirit of this essay and the postmaterialist science movement.

The Anthropic Principle: Linking Cosmology to Mind and Spirit

In 1979, Martin Rees and I wrote a paper for Nature entitled “The Anthropic Principle and the Structure of the Physical World.” The first part of the paper showed that the mass and length scales of all naturally occurring objects in the physical world depend on just a few dimensionless coupling constants. That was conventional physics, so there was nothing controversial about it (although it has some surprising results). The second part showed that there are unexplained coincidences involving the constants of physics in order that there can be observers in the universe: this is called the anthropic principle. People had been writing about this for a while—the word anthropic was actually coined by my colleague Brandon Carter in 1974—but we were able to bring all the anthropic constraints together.

The paper had quite an impact because it was the first time Nature had published a review on this topic. However, many physicists were very opposed to the anthropic principle, because they regarded speculating about counterfactual universes as philosophy rather than science. Indeed, some felt it was theology, because a fine-tuned universe suggests a tuner, which smelled of God. The term anthropic was also unfortunate, because it comes from the Greek word for human and therefore suggests that the universe is created for humans in particular. But these coincidences are not specific to humans; they are just required in order to have galaxies, stars, planets, and chemistry, so I prefer to call it the complexity principle. In any case, for many years the term anthropic was taboo in physics circles, so people would just refer to the “A” word.

Some forty years later, the situation has changed, and the topic has become respectable in the sense that eminent physicists (like Steven Weinberg, Leonard Susskind, and Stephen Hawking) take it seriously. The reason is that we now have the concept of the multiverse: the idea that our universe may be one of a large number of universes, in which the constants could be different. This concept isn’t just invoked to explain the anthropic tunings but comes out of independent developments in particle physics and cosmology.

For example, one of the predictions of M-theory (which I will discuss later) is that there could be a string landscape in which there can be many different vacuum states. It used to be hoped that M-theory would give a unique solution in which all the constants would be determined, but it now looks as though there could be a huge number of solutions, maybe 10500. The concept of the multiverse has also come out of developments in cosmology. A popular view is that the early universe went through an inflationary phase in which it was expanding exponentially fast because of the effects of the vacuum energy. This can create lots of bubbles in which the constants of nature are different; our visible universe is just part of one of those bubbles. 

The multiverse provides a natural basis for the anthropic principle. The tuning of the physical constants seems like a miracle if there is only one universe, but it is a natural selection effect if there are many universes, since we are necessarily in one that can support life. For many physicists, this has legitimized anthropic reasoning, because one no longer needs to invoke God. On the other hand, some physicists don’t like the multiverse either and regard the idea as just as mystical as that of God. There is certainly a legitimate debate about whether it counts as science or philosophy. From my perspective, the multiverse theory neither proves nor disproves the existence of God, because if God can create one universe, presumably he can create as many as he wants.

There’s still the question of what the anthropic principle is selecting for. The original assumption was that it relates to the presence of observers in the universe. But what counts as an observer? Is it only a human being, or would a mouse or an ant or a computer qualify? We do not know the answer to this, but my own view is that it must relate to consciousness, because this is the natural culmination of the complexity which the tunings have allowed to arise during the big bang. I just don’t think that it’s related to human beings in particular.

The anthropic arguments certainly suggest a matter-mind link in figure 1. Whether they suggest a matter-spirit link is more controversial. While physicists of a mystical disposition may see evidence for the divine in the revelations of modern cosmology (Wilber), more atheistically inclined ones (such as Hawking) come to the opposite conclusion. The “C” word (consciousness) is slowly becoming respectable, but the “S” word (spirituality) remains taboo in most quarters.

Linking Matter, Mind, and Spirit with Higher Dimensions

Physics has been triumphant in explaining the multitude of structures in the material world, from the smallest scales of subatomic physics to the scale of the observable universe. It has also been able to unify the various forces which link the microscopic and macroscopic domains. The culmination of this link is the big bang, from which the universe emerged 13.8 billion years ago. Physicists also claim to be close to a “Theory of Everything.” However, I’ve always been skeptical of this claim, because current physics makes no reference to the most conspicuous aspect of the world—consciousness and the whole domain of mental experience. For example, I recall attending the premiere of the Oscar-winning film The Theory of Everything with the Hawking family in London some years ago. This movingly portrayed Stephen’s relationship with his first wife, Jane, but I found the title rather ironic, since the film was primarily about love, which is a phenomenon that a Theory of Everything will surely never explain.

Most physicists assume that consciousness is an epiphenomenon produced by the brain, with mental experiences being outside the domain of physics altogether. However, I don’t see why in principle physics shouldn’t be expanded to accommodate them. Furthermore, if one accepts the evidence from psychical research that consciousness can interact directly with the physical world (as opposed to indirectly, via the brain), then one definitely needs an extension of physics which accommodates them. Twenty years ago consciousness was a taboo topic within physics, but now it’s almost mainstream. One reason for this is the role of the observer in quantum theory and the possibility that consciousness may collapse the wave function, with Roger Penrose even relating consciousness to quantum gravity.

carr figure 2  
Figure 2. The amalgamation of space and time by relativity theory, and of matter and mind by quantum theory, suggests a deeper amalgamation, in which highter dimensions may play a role.  

Nevertheless, I don’t think that quantum theory alone can provide a full description of mental experience. After all, nobody understands quantum theory anyway, so merely explaining one mystery with another has little appeal. One probably needs a deeper paradigm which underlies both quantum theory and mental experience. Indeed, just as relativity theory links space and time through spacetime and quantum theory links matter and mind through observation, perhaps the final theory of quantum gravity which amalgamates relativity theory and quantum theory will accommodate mind in some way. This is illustrated in figure 2.

My personal view is that this deeper paradigm relates to the possible existence of higher dimensions. Most people adopt the common-sense Newtonian view that the arena of reality is the three dimensions of space and one dimension of time. This view works well in everyday life, but it was demolished in 1905 with the advent of Einstein’s theory of special relativity, in which reality is four-dimensional and time is the fourth dimension, and then with general relativity in 1915, in which gravity is interpreted as the curvature of spacetime. Then in the 1920s Theodor Kaluza and Oskar Klein showed that introducing a fifth dimension could provide a geometrical unified picture of gravity and electromagnetism. However, the fifth dimension in this model is wrapped up on the Planck length of 10-33 centimeters, so we cannot see it.

For many decades most physicists lost interest in this possibility, since we have learned that there are other forces, but in the 1980s it was realized that these could also be described by invoking extra dimensions. Superstring theory posited that there are ten dimensions, so one has the four macroscopic dimensions—three space plus one time—together with six internal dimensions. There were many different versions of superstring theory, but then in the 1990s it was realized that one could have an amalgamation of all of these, called M-theory, with one more dimension (giving a total of eleven). In one particular version, an extra dimension is extended, and the material world is regarded as a four-dimensional “brane” in a five-dimensional “bulk.” This is illustrated in figure 3.

  carr figure 3
  Figure 3. The paradigms of increasing dimensionality suggested by the history of phsics (left), with spacetime regarded as a slice of  a higher-dimensional structure in one version (right).

I suggest that one also needs a higher-dimensional space to describe mental and psychic experiences. For example, ordinary dreams take place in a space which can appear just as real as physical space and in a lucid dream it can be hard to tell the difference. Some paranormal experiences—such as an OBE or NDE—also involve some sort of space, which is not the same as physical space but bears some relationship to it. Accounts of apparitions are usually dismissed by skeptics as hallucinations, but there are also collective apparitions, which are seen by more than one person at the same time, or the traditional ghost, which is seen by different people at different times. These apparitions don’t seem to be in normal physical space, because they cannot be photographed, but they appear to be localized. Many mystical and psychedelic experiences also involve some form of space, and sometimes this is explicitly described as higher-dimensional.

My starting point therefore is that many mental experiences—be they normal or paranormal or transpersonal—involve some form of space or perhaps even a hierarchy of spaces. I term this the Universal Structure and link it with the higher-dimensional space of physics. For if the physical world corresponds to a four-dimensional brane in a higher-dimensional bulk (as depicted in figure 3), it is natural to ask what else resides in the bulk. The only other entities of which we are aware are mental. The important point is that this higher-dimensional approach goes beyond the normal four-dimensional view of materialistic classical physics. Because it is communal, it corresponds to an extended reality or Universal Mind.

I should stress that this connection between Universal Mind and higher dimensions is not the view of mainstream physics. Indeed, most of my M-theory colleagues would be horrified by this proposal, partly because they don’t accept the reality of some of the phenomena I’m trying to explain. Note that I claim that one needs a five-dimensional structure even to describe normal mental experiences (that is, percepts associated with the physical world). However, because of my interest in psychical and spiritual phenomena, I want to go beyond that and invoke further dimensions, for my experiences in these domains, however limited, have convinced me that there are levels of reality that go beyond the purely materialistic one. Most of my colleagues do not share my ambition to extend physics to accommodate these higher levels of reality because they have not had the relevant experiences.

Final Reflections

The events described in the above reflections stretch back fifty years, and some of the friends who influenced my life went on to become very famous. Not all of them would have approved of my enthusiasm for bridge building. For example, few of my eminent scientific friends have shared my interest in matters psychical and spiritual. Nevertheless, they have all played a special role in my attempts to link the three worlds.

Sadly, many of the people who feature in my account have now passed on. Perhaps the most famous was Stephen Hawking. I last saw him at a small tea party to celebrate his seventy-sixth birthday in 2018. He died a few months later, coincidentally on Einstein’s birthday. Since he was also born on the 300th anniversary of Galileo’s death, it’s odd that he should be connected to his two greatest heroes in this way. I doubt Stephen would have attributed much significance to this, but he would certainly acknowledge that we don’t understand the mystery of time. In any case, the synchronicity is fitting because his first major discovery was that spacetime trajectories can have singular endpoints where strange things may happen.

As regards my own life, although my cosmological career got off to a good start, I soon found that as a result of becoming a professional academic, my time was being taken up by all the usual activities which this entails (giving lectures and administrative duties). So I’ve not been able to spend as much time as I would like on my cosmological research and I’m certainly not in the same league as Stephen Hawking. The amount of time I’ve been able to spend on psychical research and spiritual activities has been even more limited. Most of my experimental work in psychical research remains unpublished, and my main contribution has been on the theoretical side. If my hyperspatial model turns out to be correct, this will be important, but this probably won’t be known within my lifetime. My progress on the mystical path has been even less impressive, and enlightenment must certainly wait until another lifetime!

On the other hand, this is not an expression of regret, because—as I have explained in this article—I decided long ago that my purpose in life was to build bridges. If the price for the breadth required is that I’ve been a less successful scientist, psychical researcher, or mystic than I might have been, I’m fine with that. However, having recently retired, I now have more time to devote to my three passions, so I still hope to complete the magnum opus which I began writing at the age of fifteen.


Carr, B.J. “Ajahn Brahm at Cambridge.” In Enlightened Times: Newsletter of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia (winter 2016): 6–7.

———. “Hyperspatial Models of Matter and Mind.” In Beyond Physicalism: Toward Reconciliation of Science and Spirituality. Edited by E. Kelly, A. Crabtree, and P. Marshall. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield 2015, 227–73.

———. “Stephen Hawking: Recollections of a Singular Friend.” In Paradigm Explorer 1 (2018): 9–13.

———. Universe or Multiverse? Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

———. “Worlds Apart: Can Psychical Research Bridge the Gulf between Matter and Mind?” In Proceedings of Society for Psychical Research, 59 (2008): 1–96.

Carr, B.J., and M.J. Rees. “The Anthropic Principle and the Structure of the Physical World.” Nature 278 (1979): 605–12.

Kelly, E.F., A. Crabtree, and P. Marshall. Beyond Physicalism: Toward Reconciliation of Science and Spirituality. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015.

Kelly, E.F., E.W. Kelly, A. Crabtree, A. Gauld, M. Grosso, and B. Greyson. Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the Twenty-first Century. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007.

Walach, H. Galileo Commission Report: Beyond a Materialist Worldview—Towards an Expanded Science. London: Scientific and Medical Network, 2019.

Wilber, K., ed. Quantum Questions: Mystical Writings of the World’s Greatest Physicists. Boston: Shambhala, 2001.

Bernard Carr is emeritus professor of mathematics and astronomy at Queen Mary University of London. For his PhD, he studied the first second of the universe with Stephen Hawking at Cambridge University and Caltech. His professional area of research is cosmology and astrophysics and includes such topics as the early universe, black holes, dark matter, and the anthropic principle. He is president of the Scientific and Medical Network and a former president of the Society for Psychical Research.

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