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  1. It seems obvious to me (and probably to others) that I do not belong in the Mormon community and, while I am still a member of record, I have felt this way for over fifty years. It began, perhaps, at UCLA when I specialized in the neurosciences and was convinced that all behavior can (and will eventually) be explained by brain activity. I was at that time a converted Materialist. Somewhat later I became a student of A Course in Miracles for approx. 9 years and wrote extensively during that time as an Idealist, supporting the position that there is only consciousness and that our experience of a material world is an illusion. Over the last twenty years or so I have read extensively of people’s supernatural experiences, including, among others, near-death experiences, mediumship (trance, direct, and physical), and out-of-body experiences. Based on what I have read I am thus amazed that besides being unable to answer the hard problem of how consciousness (something immaterial) can arise out of brain function (something material), those who hold to a materialist position, as seems to be the case with the panelists, must continue to completely ignore much if not all of the valid evidence in support of the supernatural.

    Even though my everyday experience tells me otherwise, I am still convinced that consciousness is fundamental and our experience of a material reality arises out of, and is dependent upon, our being conscious. Thus while we are each currently having the conscious experience of a material world, for each of us our body (along with our brain) will eventually die and every indication is that our conscious awareness will persist. All the evidence that we have accumulated as to the reality of a material world, and so forcefully argued for, will vanish. Poof. And we will find ourselves experiencing another reality. While some will experience another kind of material reality that they will accept as real, others will recognize that they can consciously create any reality that they desire (i.e. matter does not exist in and of itself but is a creation of consciousness).

    I accept the possibility that Joseph Smith was a medium and that the Book of Mormon was channeled through him. I also accept the possibility that he had contact with spirit beings that were the source of some of his revelations. What I do not accept is the necessity of these supernatural experiences in any way being connected to or associated with God. I say this because it is my position that everything that appears as having been created in this physical world first had its origin in the spirit world. Everything. But, in turn, what we have experienced, and will yet experience, in this physical world is only a minuscule representation of what has already been created, and is being created, in the spirit world, exclusive, as far as we know, of God’s control. Therefore, it is small wonder that there are numerous religions as well as a wide diversity of choices in literature, music, and other creative human endeavors that can be considered inspired (i.e.they can have their source in the spirit world without God necessarily being the source).

    Mormonism has at various times embraced Materialism and Dualism. I wonder, will it ever be open to the possibility of embracing Idealism?

    Tom D

    1. After 20+ years of study and (supernatural) experiences, I have come to the same conclusions and now ask the same questions. Thank you, Tom,for such a thorough and succinct overview. Dan and panelists…great podcast! Alaine

  2. Are you saying that Joseph Smith and the others accessed untapped areas of their brains from which these organized stories and documents issued forth and they would not have been able to produce them with normal brain activity? Thus, their creations came from out of themselves, rather than from something outside of themselves. How can you say with any certainty that what they tapped into wasn’t a higher, separate power?

  3. Super interesting episode. Can’t wait to read Ann’s book. I haven’t finished all the episodes yet, but I’m curious to know why Ann chose the 3 people/movements she chose to profile? With all the people, including Jane Roberts, who have professed to receive messages from the divine, what was the criteria used to select these 3?

  4. Almost didst thou made me buy this book Dan!! Seriously, great job guys. Something worth pondering and channeling.

    In my youth, I played AD&D, which consisted of roleplaying made up characters in a made up world. Not sure how relatable that could be, but the closest thing to it would free style improv acting.

    Would the creators of roleplaying games be considered creating a religious movement by it’s followers/gamers?

    Perhaps thinking of other potentially analogous situations would sports teams, and companies exhibit group think mindsets?

    Perhaps the ultimate connections is thinking that you have interacted with God somehow at a communal level, by following the voice or the holy ghost… anyways interesting analysis.

  5. I’m not quite through with this (on episode 3 of 4), but this has been a really fascinating series of conversations. I remember hearing Ann at the Joseph Smith Sunstone battle royale a couple of years back, but I definitely think that I’ll have to dive further into Ann’s book.

    A couple of things I would want to note that have come through here:

    1) I think Ann was trying to express this at points, but it didn’t quite get through, but there’s obviously a difference between what Mormons mean when they express a thoroughgoing materialism (it’s matter all the way down, just matter more fine, etc.,) and what secular scientists mean when they express a thoroughgoing materialism. I don’t think secularists expect to find finer particles that will line up with Mormons call “intelligences” behind quarks and leptons and things like that. And, likewise, in terms of dualism vs monism, I actually really don’t think Mormons think of intelligences as having the similar sorts of determinism/laws-of-nature qualities that we would acknowledge things like quarks and electrons and whatnot have. Even if spirit is called matter more fine, there are different qualities to spiritual matter than mundane matter. So I agree with the distinction between what is practical vs what is theoretical.

    2) I think that regarding what Michael said at some point regarding the Turing test (and making the comparison with whether revelation and inspiration comes from outside or from a different place inside), I think one big reservation is that if one cannot say it came from outside, then the big question is whether or not any particular piece of inspiration, revelation is distinguishable from other mundane things. Like, I know that folks who have spiritual experiences are loath to hear it reduced to mere emotion, and I get that…but there definitely is a more reason to doubt one’s own experiences if it’s all internal. (This actually probably gets in with my 1st comment…Theologically, Mormons may be OK with saying everything is matter, but I think on a practical perspective, most Mormons are going to want to make a distinction between some forms of matter from other. Even if one accepts that spiritual revelation may be coming from inside, people will want it to be a place “inside” that’s different than, say, emotion.)

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