Panpsychism has not always been taken seriously, and in fact until recent years it hardly ever was, so why the rush towards it among those who favor the filter model? There seem to be basically two reasons. One is that panpsychism is consistent with interpretations of quantum mechanics that place consciousness at the center of existence and suppose that consciousness is primary. Dualistic views used to be more in vogue but with a greater understanding of quantum mechanics is coming a turn to idealism, as it is called. Rather than a dualism of mind and matter, mind is considered to be responsible for the creation of matter, from which it follows that some sort of mind may be inherent in all sorts of matter. Panpsychism and idealism are different philosophical positions, but they are compatible and contemporary panpsychists are idealists also.
The other reason for the increasing acceptance of idealist panpsychism is that its world view is very compatible with mystical states of consciousness. This is how Woollacott got there. Alongside her scientific work, she practiced yoga and meditated. She had experiences that she could not reconcile with materialist reductionism and eventually she realized that she needed to bridge the two parts of her life. She found panpsychism—and panentheism, which considers some part of God to inhere in everything—to be in many ways exactly like the Eastern teachings she was following and gave up the materialist world view in its favor.
Now, the reason this turn to idealist panpsychism is important for us, the reason I am writing this post about it, is that many of these same writers embrace postmortem survival and reincarnation. This is very significant. If it were just the reductionist model that were being rejected, then it is more or less obvious why survival and even reincarnation might follow. If consciousness is understood to be independent of the brain then nothing would keep it from surviving the body’s demise. Panpsychism itself says nothing about the survival much less the reincarnation of consciousness and survival is not implied or contemplated by it. Koch does not see a survival implication, yet many people have. Why? And how would it work?
I believe that it has to do with the joining of idealism with panpsychism. Panpsychists as I have said believe that there is consciousness in everything, but not that everything is conscious in the same way. Idealism carries with it evolutionary implications, because if consciousness is the ground of everything, and if it is in everything, then it could have been differentiating and evolving over time, just as the physical and biological worlds have differentiated and evolved over time. Perhaps it was with the emergence of biological life that streams of consciousness capable of survival began to emerge.
So survival and reincarnation are entirely compatible with an evolutionary idealist panpsychism and may be even be logical extensions of it. Survival and reincarnation are also compatible with dualistic ideas of mind /body relations, of course. The question naturally arises, what if anything does panpsychism bring to our understanding of survival that substance dualism does not? Are there advantages to considering survival from the point of view of an evolutionary idealist panpsychism?
I believe that there are advantages. Substance dualism cannot explain why mind, or soul, or whatever one wishes to call the enduring fundamental essence of the self, came into existence, or what it was doing before there were human bodies for it to occupy. An evolutionary idealist panpsychism, on the other hand, presumes consciousness to be the origin of all and that it has differentiated and evolved over time. Evolutionary idealist panpsychism also allows more readily for new streams of consciousness to come into being, emerging from the background consciousness or evolving from more primitive forms, whereas substance dualism seems to require that the souls we have now have been with us all along.