- IONS Film Project
Publications Book Reviews
Conversations on Science, Imagination, and Spirit
Reviewed by David Jay Brown on Dec. 1, 2009
The Evolutionary Mind contains fascinating conversations between three of the most interesting thinkers of our time: revolutionary biologist Rupert Sheldrake, chaos mathematician Ralph Abraham, and the late visionary ethnobotanist Terence McKenna. These interdisciplinary discussions—or “trialogues,” as they’re called—explore the frontiers of human thought with profound philosophical reflection, uncanny scientific precision, and playful elfish humor.
The deep thinking and imaginative speculation in this book cover an incredible range of topics, from the nature of time to the end of reality. Each participant takes a turn initiating a discussion, and then the other two join in, almost like circus jugglers adding layers of complexity to their performance. A rare alchemy is created when these three scholars and close friends begin exchanging ideas, provoking and challenging one another into new dimensions of thought.
The result is an explosion of new ideas, novel theories, and exciting revelations on a variety of topics—among them the unexplained powers of animals, the nature of language, the increasing complexity in the universe, the values and pitfalls of skepticism, fractal geometry and the evolution of consciousness, the boundaries between reality and the imagination, and the relationship between psychedelic shamanism and visual mathematics. Another important theme explored in this book is how apocalyptic visions of “the end of history” are related to the ecological crisis facing this planet. At times there is a great sense of urgency to these discussions, as though they were a wake-up call to the human species. When the conversations become progressively more speculative, mysticism and religion frolic hand-in-hand with mathematical models, computer science, quantum physics, and evolutionary biology, as these mischievous philosophers contemplate the cutting edge of scientific thought and its relationship to spirituality throughout the ages.
What emerges from these conversations is a kind of collective intelligence that appears to transcend each thinker’s individual limitations. The combined perspectives form a single mind that is more imaginative and intellectually balanced than one might expect examining their ideas separately. It’s as though each holds a piece to the cosmic puzzle, and the pieces begin to fit when they explore the frontiers of thought creatively together.
Some of the trialogues in this collection were previously published in 1998 under the title The Evolutionary Mind: Trialogues on the Edge of the Unthinkable; this revised edition contains several new trialogues that were conducted shortly before McKenna died in 2000. The Evolutionary Mind offers readers a treasure trove of fruitful ideas, worthy of thoughtful reflection and deserving of serious attention.