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by Professor Ruth Finnegan, author of Entrancement: The consciousness of dreaming, music and the world, an edited volume on the study of imagination, death and shared consciousness. Dr Finnegan was the recipient of the Royal Anthropological Institute’s Rivers Memorial Medal in 2016.

This book should never have been written. Let alone published.

Well, so a lot of people thought. And think. Famous publishers too. Controversy! Arguments! NEW 21st-century ideas, and outside-the-box science! As bad as Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

Shall we not talk about controversies? Like Galileo. Einstein. And oh my goodness, Christ or Muhammad (pretty controversial in their time, as well as now). Gandhi and Mother Teresa and overcoming through non-violence? We may not know exactly where we stand on all of these issues – but we’re pretty sure they can, and should, be discussed.

And ‘Entrancement’. What a weird, hippy sort of title – ambiguous too. A state of being enthralled and delighted by something? A reference to trance and dreams and visions and all that irrational sort of thing? And dogs (dogs!) knowing when their owners are coming home. Head under the blanket please!

Well, these contributors don’t bury their heads. Puzzles are to be confronted, not ignored. And if we cannot find the final answers and need to keep searching, maybe that’s good – aren’t such explorations the stuff of science? Not ostriches after all.

So – can dreams predict the future? Can there really be contact between dead and living? Is the sea conscious? What is the altered state of consciousness of music? Is a new paradigm of science emerging and what does that mean for our views of causality and shared consciousness (‘con-sci-ous-ness’, knowing-together; as in ‘sci-ence’)?

Argument and evidence, that’s what it’s about. What could be more rational? And if there’s a bit of inspiration and, well, poetic insight around as well, don’t we find that in the great scientists too?

Ruth Finnegan is Emeritus and Research Professor at the Open University. Entrancement