Pan-experientalism, a Catholic's Belief


Breif outline here of my beliefs before I go further:

  1. There is one God, in three Persons, as defined by the Catholic Faith.

  2. The universe started from nothing, by God’s power, through his Son, with the Holy Spirit.

  3. Nothing that exists was made without God in all three Persons. All of creation rightly worships the one God. God existed before anything in this world existed, and He is apart from it, in control of it, and not subject to it. He is not the universe, he created the universe.

  4. Humans sin, which is why bad things happen, and God offers us salvation through the blood of his Son.

  5. Pantheism (the worship of nature or all of creation as a god) is bad, heritical, and not aligned to the truth.

I believe all that, whole heartedly. Now that I’ve got that out of the way…

I read a lot during my nervous breakdown, and one of the things that I find fascinating is the theory of how consciousness arises. There are all kinds of different beliefs about where consciousness comes from. These seem to be the “big four” theories that I read.

  1. Epiphenomenon - consciousness is a by-product of the brain. It’s something that arises from matter when matter becomes complex enough.

  2. Dualism - consciousness is completely separated from the brain. The body is one thing, and the brian is another, and while they work together, they are totally separate entities.

  3. Non-existant - consciousness isn’t really real. We’re not conscious because all we are is matter that’s working in a complex way. We just think we’re conscious because we input data in a way that makes us think that we have a first-person perspective. In reality, all we are, are combinations of chemical and electrical impulses acting in a specific organized way.

  4. Pan-experientalism - mindless matter can’t cause a mind to arise - you can’t get something from nothing. Consciousness is completely different from matter, so dead matter shouldn’t be able to bring up a live mind. Likewise, dualism suggests there’s some “other” out there where the mind is for it to be separated from the body yet controling it. And of course we have consciousness, because we’re sitting here having first-person perspectives. So the only logical explanation is that mind is an inherent part of matter, and that all matter has a form of mind. In particles such as light or simple atoms, it would be “proto-consciousness,” and the more complex the organism, the more complex the consciousness, until you come to full, true consciousness in human beings.

I totally dig on number 4.

To me, from a Catholic perspective, it makes some sense. Consider - God crafted man and woman to have phyiscal bodies, and at the end of days we’ll get our bodies back, and they will be physical. Jesus had a physical body when he was resurrected. Granted, because it was glorified it could do things that ours can’t, but he could eat, and sleep, and walk, and talk, and he had the wounds he had when he died. So having a body is important to us. It’s what God wants for us.

Now, number one is impossible, because matter is dead and cannot cause a living mind. Besides, that’s atheistic thinking that suggests that God isn’t needed to create a soul, just complex matter.

Number 2 is what we think of because we know that when we die our souls go to heaven. That is, our essential selves leave the universe and enter the realm of God. But we know that when we’re concieved we have a new soul the moment we’re first created. And we know that the soul is in the body while we are alive, which is not possible by dualism, which suggests that the mind is “out there somewhere” and is just running the body. Like, the mind is a radio signal and your body is the radio playing out what it picks up. But we know that our souls are specifically fit to our bodies and that our souls will get back our bodies, just glorified, at the end of days. Dualism is a weak fit in that respect.

Number 3 is another atheist-held belief explaining why we’re not really people and why we can do whatever we want - if all we are, are bags of water with chemical reactions guiding us, then we should be able to do whatever we wish, since we’re just following our wiring.

But number four appeals to me. It explains the unique bond between human soul and human body - once we’re concieved, the proto-consciousness that the two separate sex cells in the mother and father join up to create a full, new, completely unique consciousness that fits with the full, new, and completely unique body that is created.

It goes a long way to explaining twins, who are totally unique individuals who share many spiritual and physical characteristics - if the cells divide and create two new souls and bodies, since they were created in the same moment and divided, they will have similarities while still being unique.

It explains why at the end of the world God will return our bodies to us - the physical matter decays for a time while God keeps our spiritual selves alive, but at the end of it all we’ll get to be whole again!

It brings home the fact that ALL of creation really DOES worship and praise God. It also explains why all of creation is groaning for redemption. Before the Fall, all of creation was in harmony and existed properly. Now it’s in pain because of the Fall, but eagerly awaits being put to rights.

I love it. It works for me… even though a lot of atheists hold on to it, too, it has way more implications for a Catholic than it does for an atehist, in my humble opinion.

I suggest looking up David Chalmers and the University of Arizona for anyone who’s interested. Love his stuff. Disagree with his philosophy (he’s an atehist) but love his scientific work because it really drives home how God makes humans.

Thoughts, opinions?


Grr, corrections -

– 2) Dualism - consciousness is completely separated from the brain. The body is one thing, and the brian is another, and while they work together, they are totally separate entities. –

That should read, the MIND is one thing, and the brain is another.

And I think I misspelled “atheist” at one point. Gah, sorry.


:eek: Tripple Grrrr! I left out the reason I posted this in the Apologetics thread! Beat me with a wet noodle, I deserve it!

As to why this is in “Apologetics:”

With society today getting more and more interested in the foundation of life and how the mind occurred, we should look into new ways to bring people around to the connection between Catholicism and Science. Unfortunatley, nobody has a “hard answer” to the “hard problem” of consciousness. How does the “wine of consciousness” come from the “water of matter?”

We Catholics know of course, but many people who aren’t Catholic are looking to science to answer those questions, and may main-stream scientists are saying that the results that they’re finding “disprove” God. After all, if mind is just an epiphenomon of matter, then what need is there for God? All we need is a lot of complex matter and to sit back and wait, right?

What Catholic scientists need to do is to study the alternatives and show how the most likely ones aren’t mutually exclusive from Catholicism. Faith and Science go hand in hand, and don’t exclude each other.

And I totally forgot to put that in my earlier post! Gaaaaaaaa! :banghead: :hypno:


Tabsie, all I have to say is that God must have gifted you with some brilliant mind to be able to do that kind of reading and thinking while you were having a nervous breakdown!

I had one once, and it was all I could do to get out of bed in the morning and try to figure out which was the left shoe and which was the right, and the most I could manage to read was the back of the Rice Krispies box:D



It’s proof of God’s Grace that I was able to do that heavy reading - I read anything and everything about life, death, life after death, Near Death Experiences, where the mind comes from, anything I could get my hands on to assure myself that I wouldn’t wink out of existance when I die.

I hadn’t been a very good Catholic before, but God knows that I really love Him and wanted to be a good Catholic, so he blessed me with a terrible thorn - a massive case of major depression and anxiety disorder and then sat back and waited for me to do something with it. And I did! At first I read a bunch of NDE websites and while I still find the phenomenon amazing, I’m no longer as obsessed with it. And then I got into some new-age kinds of things, then I got into the non-religious mindsets and how they define life after death -

…did you know there’s a website written up by an atehist who thinks that life after death has already been scientifically proven and is violently opposed to atehists who say there is no afterlife? Weirdness…

And from there I got into Protestant apologetics, which brought me right back around to Catholicism because some things in Protestantism didn’t jive with me. But if I hadn’t had my breakdown and didn’t still feel twinges of panic from time to time, I’d never have learned what beauty Orthodoxy is. So, I’m happy to be back in the Catholic Church.


Well the one thing we have in common is that our severe depressions brought us closer to God. I couldn’t do much praying, but I totally surrendered it to Him, and He brought me through it. Once I was well enough to reflect on it, I realized something of value of suffering if one chooses to learn and grow from it. It made me more compassionate toward those who suffer from mental illness, made me want to give hope to such people, cut through some of my sefishness, and allowed me to find forgiveness for certain people in my life. I refer to it as a “purgatorial experience.”

But I REALLY don’t want to go through that again. :smiley: That was many, many years ago, but it did prepare me more for some subsequent trials in my life (like open heart surgery) which God graciously led me through. I can now say it was a blessing, but I wouldn’t wish it on anybody, I don’t like pain, but I can understand how God can use it and turn it into good.

As for NDE’s, I have talked to a patient who had one, and done some reading on them, the jury is still out for me about them. I know they change people, but some of the fruits of that change are questionable when stacked up against my religious beliefs, and some of what is described doesn’t gel with what I have been taught. The patient I talked to had been electrocuted and his heart had stopped (I was his nurse in the ICU only a few hours later) and he confessed this experience to me and described the scene of the accident, the resuscitative efforts, etc–he had an out of body experience. It was weird. He was very calm and peaceful, but some of that could have been medication. He actually was clinically dead and was resuscitated after a prolonged period of time and survived with his mental facilities intact–very unusual. So they sort of baffle me.


Personally, I don’t doubt NDEs and OBEs, but I think that once the soul and body are back in one piece, the brain processes what happened and sometimes makes an error in judgement about the encounters on the Other Side.

One Evangelical preacher from here in Texas, right near where I live, died for about 90 minutes and had a strong experience that jives very well with what Christians know about Heaven. He wrote two books - “90 Minutes In Heaven” and “Heaven is Real.”

On the one hand, there’s a lot of stuff out there that sounds totally off the wall, like people coming back with some weird ideas about what God is like. On the other hand, there are plenty of people who have come back and become more orthodox in their beliefs. And one man, Howard Storm, started out an atheist and ended up a Christian when he went through hell and then was rescued by Jesus, according to his testimony.

I don’t believe that everything that these people think happened is exactly what did happen, but I think that it’s reasonable to believe that NDEs are proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the mind survives even if the body doesn’t. And since Catholicism has evidence from history, the Church Traditions, and Scripture to go by, combined with NDE evidence, well, there’s no reason for us to doubt that Christ was raised from the dead and we have heaven to look forward to if we sincerely and actively seek God’s forgiveness and His grace.

There was a case of a priest in the Vaticant who had an NDE and he correctly described what garments the Pope was wearing to His Holiness, but I don’t recall which Pope it was, I’m afraid. And there are those who say that Revelations is actually a detailed account of an NDE that the author had, meaning that he really was there, and explaining what he saw in very high quality literary terms. Oddly, people who say that say that it’s proof that traditional Christianity is right, because if people believe in NDEs and this author had one, then we should take his words seriously.

One person who put up an extensive NDE website once wrote: “The Bible itself gives us a test for whether an NDE is good or bad. Jesus says that you know something by the fruit it bears. An evil tree can’t give good fruit and good trees can’t give evil fruit. Look at the effect that these experiences have and study the fruit. If the experiences are good and have a positive outcome, they must come from God and not the devil.”

If an NDE brings someone closer to God and shows that person the right way to live, then I agree the fruit is good. But there are people who will misinterpret a situation and end up with bad fruit. So, I think it’s all case-by-case.

By the by - the majority of people who’ve had NDEs and have been interviewed about it are usually calmer, happier, and have almost zero fear of death in any cases. Not that they don’t want to live, but since they’re not scared of dying any longer, they feel free to live more fully.

One last thing - the NDEs of children and pre-adolescents are almost universal in the way they’re described, with almost all of them being completely positive, no matter the child’s race or upbringing. Meanwhile, adults’ NDEs vary widely, but I’ve seen it on one website where someone said that the NDEs of Christians trended to the positive, whereas non-Christians might have neutral or negative NDEs.

The website was a blog by someone from the Discovery Institute, so I can’t think of the person off-hand, but I know that he’s Christian, and I believe he might be Catholic, but I’m not certain. Anyway, he’s a scientist and he loves God and is a scientific apologist - meaning he argues from the book of Nature for God’s existance. I’ll see if I can’t hunt him up and post a link.


As someone who experiences panic and depression from time to time I know how awful it can be. One thing I thought I would try to battle depression and loneliness was to get out of myself and find someone else to help. There are 2 gentlemen that I do home care for when I’m not working my full time job… ironically on a psychiatric unit. I’ve found for myself, especially for depression that there’s nothing better. Of course exercise goes a long way as well… still trying to nail that one.


Let’s please stay on topic, to wit, Pan-experientalism.


Michael Francis:

Eep! Mea culpa.


Behold, I shall magically connect the two predominant topics from this thread into one seamless union!

Before I got back into Catholicism I went several rounds with former Catholics and non-Catholics and picked up a lot of metaphysical thinkin from them that made more sense to me in light of my Catholic upbringing than it did when I tried to look at such thinking from an atheistic angle.

For example, I spoke often with a gentleman named Dr. Christian de Quincey (the author of RADICAL SCIENCE and RADICAL NATURE) concerning panexperientalism. He’s a big-time proponent of the panexperientalism theory, though he’s a former Catholic and pushes what I consider heratical thinking in that regard. Still, he’s very opposed to the modern materialistic scientism that runs rampent in some scientific circles. And he’s someone I consider a good starting point if you’re trying to steer people away from materialism.

Materialism in this instance means the belief that the physical world is all there is, there is no God, and there is no life after death. So this is philosophical materialism, not simple greed here. Just to clarify.

Anyway. De Quincey and I talked a lot about NDEs while we were discussing panexperientalism (he also uses the word “panpsychicism” but I don’t care for that because “psychic” usualy means having a developed mind, and while I believe that everything might have the ability to have experience, I don’t believe everything has a mind except biological organisms with brains, so I don’t use that term).

His theory is that NDEs are proof that all matter has mind, and that when we die the consciousness we have dissipates into the consciousness shared by all matter.

Unfortunately, that’s the thinking that a lot of non-Catholic panexperientalists have, and it’s something that Catholics have to counter.

My argument against his theory is this: If we have a mind that contintinues to function after death in a state just like the one we live in while we’re in the body, then something has to be powering our minds to keep them going. The universe can’t do it - all the universe is, is a series of well-designed engins working together. And we know from NDEs that people maintain their unique individual identity after death. Likewise, that’s what the Church teaches - that we will still be ourselves after we die, just minus a body for the time being. So there’s no dissipating into protoconsciousness.

Therefore, we can assume that something outside of the natural world maintains the high level of human consciousness. And the only thing outside the natural world is God, who created it. So, since He designed and created us, when we die, He keeps our minds going, which is, like, a breeze to someone who can create time and space out of nothingness and then keep everything running smoothly.

But the problem is that too many people identify the fact that our souls live on after we die as dualism. And dualism is losing favor in the circles of sicence around Consciousness, also known as Consciousness Studies.

So people in those circles are becoming very materialistic. What we need to do is have Catholic scientists study consciousness and expand on the idea of panexperientalism to convince people that, no, the universe isn’t pointless and everything has a purpose. Which panexperientalism does.

And from there we can start to repair the wound that philosophical materialism has caused, until we get people back into the Church.

Science can only go so far, but it can go far enough to get people to turn their thinking around and become open to the idea of Faith.

On the one hand I’m in favor of anything that gets rid of philosophical materialism, but on the other hand, I don’t want people sucked into pantheism either, because that’s just as bad.

Trouble is, this is a very delicate balance to be walking on. Which is why I wish more Catholic scientists were around who could get into this stuff, because we need church men who know the Truth and are willing to rap knuckles if people start worshiping the trees. Which they should.

closed #11

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