Landscapes of the Mind: The Faces of Reality

By Lawrence LeShan

From the publisher’s website: What Linneaus did for biology, LeShan does for human consciousness and behaviour — provide a classification system for aspects and states of consciousness. This framework contains both the objective and subjective aspects of life and shows that they can be intelligibly connected.

Table of Contents:

You and Your World Pictures: How Things Are and Work

Consciousness and World Pictures

The First Classification System: The Realms of Consciousness

The Realms of a World Picture

Some Implications of the Classification System: Technology and World Pictures

Dealing with the World Pictures of Terrorists: The Problem of Fundamentalism

World Pictures and the Structure of Consciousness

The Realms of Consciousness and our Frequent, Strange and Inconsistent Behavior

The Roads To Truth

The New Beginning

Appendix I — Where Does Consciousness Come From?

Appendix II — A Dialogue Concerning World Pictures

Lawrence LeShan published his first professional paper in 1942. Since then he has authored over 150 papers and 20 books, which have been translated into 19 languages. He holds a PhD in Human development from the University of Chicago, has taught at various universities and has lectured and given seminars widely in this country, Europe and elsewhere. He has worked as a research psychologist for over 60 years including six years as a psychologist in the U.S. Army.


Landscapes of the Mind. Eirini Press, August 2012. ISBN-13: 978-0979998980

Reviewed for the SPR by: Robert Charman


Born in 1920, Dr Lawrence LeShan has had a long and very distinguished career in psychology and parapsychology especially with regard to research into psychic healing, psychic readings and mediumship. He holds a PhD in Human Development from the University of Chicago, and worked as a clinical and research psychologist for over 50 years, including six years as a psychologist in the US Army. He has authored over 150 papers and written 20 books on a wide range of topics including psychotherapy, parapsychology, meditation, medicine, mind-body medicine in the treatment of cancer and the psychology of Nazi racial philosophy. I can still remember reading The Medium, the Mystic and the Physicist (1974, reissued as Clairvoyant Reality in 1980) with total fascination.

   With his mind as sharp as ever, LeShan has distilled his inquiry into the different ways that we interpret the world and how adoption of this or that interpretation as a World Picture determines the boundaries of what type of event(s) or experience(s) we consider to be possible or impossible.  Each World Picture  determines the ‘boggle threshold’ of believability in what is possible, beyond which point each of us will say ‘No matter what you present to me as evidence for claimed event X or experience Y it just could not have happened as described. There must be some other explanation because the universe just doesn’t work like that.’ What LeShan has proposed is that in the same way that the botanist Linnaeus created a taxonomy of living things by dividing them first into Kingdoms of Animal and Vegetable and then, for animals, into Realms of animals with backbones and animals without backbones, and then into genera and specie subdivisions, so a taxonomy of World Pictures can be drawn up, each representing a particular interpretation of reality that allows different degrees of freedom as to the possible. Each of us may adopt a different World Picture and therefore different boundaries of the possible, according to personal circumstance at the time such as danger, or an everyday acceptance of a World Picture advocated by our particular society as the correct norm for all ‘right thinking people’.

     What he has proposed is that there are two fundamentally different Kingdoms of interpretative World Pictures distinguished by what he terms the observables appropriate to them. I will use italics to help distinguish between them with a brief summary according to my understanding.

KINGDOMS ONE (K1) and TWO (K2).

K1. QUANTITATIVE. This is the world picture of consensual external reality shared by science and practical commonsense concerning anything that can be detected, defined and measured using equations and formulae. It consists of quantifiable observables. K1 is centered upon an objective universe that exists in its own right and is therefore independent of ourselves as observers. In K1 an observable is real only if it has a quantifiable effect on other quantifiable entities. It deals with what, where, when, who and how. In K1 claims for the existence of psi and the possibility that subjective intention can have an objective effect are rejected as impossible in principle so impossible in practice. For K1 a quantifiable attic has an independent reality but a non-quantifiable ghost said to dwell within it has not. 

K2, NON-QUANTITATIVE.  This is the non-quantitative world picture of mental reality, the components of which are not physically detectable so are not physically measurable and therefore not amenable to equations and formulae. K2 is the world picture of  a subjective universe that is  separate and different from the consensual external universe consisting of non-quantifiable observables such as self,  love, hate, imagination, morals, ethics ,images, thoughts, desires and emotions whether of humans, animals or other types of  being. In K2 an entity is real if it can be conceived as in a claim that there is a ghost in the attic. In this reality a ghost or apparition can assume equal status with K1 objectivity. K1 deals with why?

These two Kingdoms can then be divided into two Realms each:

K REALMS.

K1i. QUANTITATIVE DISCRETE as in separate objects such as mountains, houses, cars, planets, stars together with shape, size and distance. 

K1ii. QUANTITATIVE CONTINUOUS as in hydrodynamics, weather patterns, electromagnetic fields, space and gravity. Also as in gas pressure where pressure, temperature and volume cannot be separated and measured independent of each other as they are mutually interactive.

The realms of K1i and K1ii are the realms of external reality as determined by our sensory systems together with observational extensions supplied by scientific equipment from electron microscopes to radio telescopes. In this world cause-and-effect, or its quantum equivalent of statistical probability of change, reign supreme. The underlying logic in K1 is induction from the observed particular to the general.  An apple falling from the tree is a particular example of a general gravitational attraction between bodies that applies equally to all bodies across the universe according to mass and distance apart. In inductive logic the general remains conditional subject to modification as particular observations change.  To use LeShan’s analogy, enjoying three or more excellent meals in restaurant X implies the generality that X is a consistently excellent restaurant. One poor meal revises that generality to X usually being an excellent restaurant and more poor meals revises that generality further to ‘We never go there now’.

K REALMS

K2i. NON-QUANTITATIVE DISCRETE as in individual selves and fictional characters in novels and plays, and in myths, sagas and fairy tales where each character is instantly recognisable because of their fixed characters and behaviour within the whole story of which they part. All such beings are separate observables.  In fairytales stepmothers are wicked because that is what stepmothers are. First born Princes and Princesses find love and live ever after while Third born Princes go on quests because (apparently) that is what Third born Princes do. In K2i Nazi philosophy white Aryans were (and are) pure human beings whereas Jews were subhuman because that is what Jews were (and are).  The same status of sub humanity applied (and applies) to gypsies and Slavs who could no more be decent human beings than, as LeShan observes, the Wicked Witch could change character and open a women’s refuge. In K2i individuals can demonstrate psi abilities such as telepathy, clairvoyance and precognition.

K2ii. NON-QUANTATIVE CONTINUOUS as in the flow of emotions, memories, thoughts and in transcendental states of Cosmic Consciousness, Satori, Nirvana where individual minds merge into the continuous Oneness of One Mind in which, as LeShan says, you are no longer your brother’s keeper but are as one with him. K2i and K2ii World Pictures often interpret the world from a mythic viewpoint.

In K2 the logic is deductive from a given general which is held to remain true despite particulars running counter to it. If the chosen general is a monotheistic Almighty God  then the lucky survivor of a disaster will thank  God for personally  ensuring his or her survival but the priest will exonerate that same God from any blame concerning the unlucky non survivors because ‘He/She works in mysterious ways’. God still remains Almighty. K2 deals not with K1 ‘how to’ practicalities, as in catching and eating food, but the ‘why to’ of using K1 because, in this case, we need to eat to stay alive.  K2 often deals with questions ‘why’ through the language of symbolism where flag and country are as one.

In a peacetime World Picture of  K1 and K2  all  agree that we are as one with another despite holding different viewpoints and values  and being different nationalities and sexes. Concepts of Good and Evil are open to interpretation, tomorrow will be very much like today, representative committees are set up and K1 practicalities chosen to implement recommendations for the common good. If war breaks out then for both sets of combatants the World Picture of K2 will change completely as each side now redefines itself as representing  Good (us) and Evil (them), invokes God to fight on our side to help defeat them, and agree that tomorrow will be very different from today depending upon who wins. In K2 peacetime killing another person of whatever nationality, race or creed is a crime, but in K2 war time killing as many of the enemy as possible, whether members of their armed forces or the women and children who obviously support them is not a crime. In fact, not killing them when you have the opportunity to do so might become a punishable offence. Each opposing K2 now employs every K1 means at its disposal in its attempt to defeat the other.

       LeShan quotes as an example of an irreconcilable clash between K1 realities and K2 realities the occasion when Ehud Barak, then prime Minister of Israel, attempted during the 2000 Camp David Summit held under President Bill Clinton to end the blood-stained years of Palestinian-Israeli conflict by offering to return large tracts of conquered land to the Palestinians in exchange for an agreement for peaceful cooperation. On behalf of the Palestinians Yasser Arafat rejected the offer and hostilities such as suicide bombings, rocket attacks and mass stone throwing was renewed. As LeShan interprets their respective taxonomic positions, Israel was using the World Picture of K1 in which it was willing to give up a large area of land as a reasonable basis for K1 type negotiations and expected the Palestinians to respond in the same way, whereas Yasser Arafat was using a K2 World Picture of absolutism in which the Israelis, by definition, were treacherous, evil and would never give up anything unless weakened by war. Therefore their offer should be rejected in favour of inflicting more death and destruction, thus weakening them further and maybe even destroying Israel completely. Each was speaking past each other using different World Pictures without even realising it. LeShan says that it is much more difficult to move from a K2 World Picture of mythic absolutism where the other side are ‘terrorists’ or whatever, to a K1 World Picture, but the latter may more easily understand the former and find a way out by proposing that both sides should combine to help a neutral entity in desperate need, such as starving children, which may then lead to a relaxing of a K2 mythical absolute. I am not so sure that this proposal would be as K1-neutral as it sounds. For those with an absolute K2 World Picture, surviving children of opposite nationalities or faiths would represent a future threat.

     LeShan describes at a personal level how a person may adopt realities implicit in different World Pictures as appropriate to a particular situation. When Mr Smith is running his engineering business K1 is his World Picture in which solutions are quantitative and it is no use wishing to God or anyone else that the steel rods delivered this morning were stronger because even divine wishing won’t make them so. At home he reads that there is a local epidemic of encephalitis amongst 4 year olds and hears his daughter suddenly crying upstairs. As he races upstairs he converts from K1 to a K2i World Picture in which he prays to God and is willing to make any bargain with Him to save his daughter because, unlike strengthening steel rods, this is something that God really can do. He finds that his daughter has had a bad dream so he comforts her, saying that she will be alright because they are together in a universe where love is all and nothing bad can happen to them, whereas in K1 he knows they will both die no matter what they do. Later that evening he goes dancing with his wife; on this evening something very special happens and he moves into a K2ii state of reality in which he, his wife, the music and the dance all become as one with no beginning and no end as everything flows together.

    As LeShan points out, how consciousness is defined and explained depends upon which World Picture, and therefore which observables, has been chosen to examine it. From a K1i neuroscience perspective consciousness is a phenomenon that is generated by synaptic activity within the brain, is localised within the brain and dies with the brain, so consciousness differs in degree but not in kind. From a K2i perspective consciousness is an entity that can be correlated with brain activity but exists in its own space, has totally different properties, and may continue to exist after brain death. It is different in kind not degree. In a K1i into a K2ii perspective each individual consciousness may be analogous to a holographic pixel in the screen of a universal Mind (my interpretation here, not LeShan’s). In this book LeShan offers a huge amount of reasoning and examples to support this taxonomic approach which, as he says, is a work in progress, and I do recommend it as a very stimulating read.