By Bruce A. Smith
Signaling a shift in the cultural, scientific and academic realms, the University of Washington at Bothell (UWB) has developed a scholastic program dedicated to the study of consciousness—the first in the nation.
The Bothell campus currently offers a minor in consciousness for undergraduate students as part of its larger STEM division – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. In the future, the UW hopes to expand this minor to include an undergraduate major, along with a graduate degree and concomitant research.
Presently, the minor in consciousness is directed by Dr. Kate Noble, a Ph.D in clinical psychology. Along with Dr. Noble, the program include a mix of academics, such as Dr. Warren W. Buck, a professor of theoretical physics, and Dr. Steve Collins, a professor of engineering and politics.
“I consider this program to be a study of the mind,” says Dr. Noble in a descriptive video on the proggram’s website, titled: “Why Consciousness?” See: http://www.cerc-uwb.org/why-consciousness/ .
Noble expands upon her introductory words: “The Minor in Consciousness is the study of expanded awareness…it’s the study of being.” She adds further, “Consciousness is vast, it’s multidimensional, and it encompasses everything—not just humans.”
As such, her program seems to reflect a societal expansion away from materialism—where physical reality is the end-all and be-all of life—to a view that our inner world is more important and that the material world arises from our consciousness. Further, since her program is an undergraduate minor in subject matter that many consider controversial because it challenges long-standing religious, academic and political paradigms, Noble acknowledged that she treads lightly in her teaching. She presents no material from channeled sources, such as Ramtha or Seth, or spiritual leaders. Rather, she sticks to science, especially quantum physics.
Here she stands on solid ground as the acclaimed mathematician, Sir Roger Penrose, has famously stated that any model of reality that does not include consciousness is incomplete. Along those lines, the program’s introductory material quotes the “Father of Quantum Physics,” Max Planck: “I regard consciousness as fundamental, and I regard matter as derivative from consciousness.”
These studies include such bulwarks of quantum theory as the Observer Effect, Super-Position, Non-Locality, and Quantum Entanglement. This latter concept deals with how beings, even at the sub-atomic level, can develop associations or relationships that transcend distance and separation via the phenomenon of non-locality. These theories are thought to explain how electrons from one atom, when placed miles apart, will still respond to magnetic stimuli simultaneously. It may also explain how one spouse can finish another’s sentences.
The prior two theories describe how reality may actually occur. As Dr. Noble puts it: “How does something come from nothing?”
In the aforementioned theory of Super-Position it is postulated that all potentials exist – somewhere, somehow, and perhaps in a grand matrix of multiverses – and when a thought or feeling is focused upon one of the potentials with sufficient intent the Observer Effect brings that possibility into existence. Hence, physical reality as we know it.
However, Noble also exposes her students to well-established traditions, such as shamanism. In addition, they also examine the growing body of research into Near-Death Experiences (NDE), and dream studies, especially lucid dreams and the research of Robert Waggoner.
Continuing, students also explore the nature of consciousness and the interaction of mind and body, in particular how meditative practices can impact the neurology of the brain. In fact, Dr. Noble begins all of her classes with five minutes of meditation.
Other class work includes the study of animal and plant consciousness, along with a study of the cosmos, in particular a study of black holes, worm holes, dark energy and dark matter, and, of course, the Big Bang.
In an interview with the Mountain News, Dr. Noble said that she and her team draw upon the works of many authors and experts in the field of consciousness, such as Larry Dossey and his work in healing, Dean Radin and his IONS program (Institute of Noetic Sciences), and the pioneering work on parapsychology championed by Robert Jahn at his Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research program (PEAR).
Her sensitivity to her students and the concerns of her faculty supervisors, leads Noble to treat some well-known phenomenon with kid gloves, such the Brazilian psychic healer known as John of God, who heals via mysterious methods including something he describes as psychic surgery. Noble says, “I don’t teach John of God, nor do I talk about his work, but I do show a wonderful documentary that illustrates these phenomena. It’s a Dutch film titled, ‘Something Unknown is Doing What We Don’t Know.’”
Noble doesn’t even talk about Deepak Chopra, the American sage who recently taught a TV audience how to mediate on the Jimmy Fallon—Tonight Show. “I can’t overexpose the students to too much esoteric material,” Noble said, noting her time limitations and the capacity of her students to absorb what can be very foreign information.
Nevertheless, Noble’s students seem to be thriving. In fact, a group of them formed the Consciousness Club, and one of the co-founders, Justina Wu, describes her experience as “transformational.”
To that goal, Noble says she watches closely her students’ reactions in class. “I see them get engaged and excited and re-energized—empowered in ways that I don’t see happening in any other discipline. I think it’s because we can talk about these very deep questions.”
Partially in response to her work in consciousness, Dr. Noble is becoming an acknowledged expert in the field, and appeared recently on an NPR radio broadcast to discuss lucid dreaming. During the show she described how she left her home in Boston at a young age in the early 1970s based upon a lucid dream experience, and hitch-hiked to California. She never looked back, either.
When questioned about her journey west, and her subsequent appreciation of the grandeur of consciousness, Dr. Noble told the Mountain News: “I have never not been aware of the power of consciousness. I always knew of the multidimensional nature of reality, and as a result it made me a weird kid.”
Continuing, Noble said that her clarity about the grand nature of consciousness “crystallized” in 1975 when she had three near-death experiences—all within a two-hour time span.
“I suffered an anaphylactic shock, and it triggered three heart attacks. After the third one I had to make a choice to return, and I did so with much trepidation.”
Noble said she chose to return after foreseeing humanity undergo profound changes, and she “wanted to see what would happen!” When she came back to wakefulness, she realized that she didn’t want to pursue a career in law, so she switched to psychology and eventually earned a Ph.D. She has been a practicing clinical psychologist for over twenty years, and she also taught in the Women’s Studies program at the UW- Seattle before coming to the Bothell campus.
Dr. Noble has written and published three books: The Sound of a Silver Horn: Reclaiming the Heroism in Contemporary Women’s Lives; Riding the Windhorse: Spiritual Intelligence and the Growth of the Self; and Remarkable Women: Perspectives in Talent Development (co-edited with Rena Subotnik and Karen Arnold).
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Dr. Kate Nobel