Mind over matter

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Mind over matter is a phrase popularized during the 1960s and 1970s that was originally used in reference to paranormal phenomena such as psychokinesis.[1] However, it has also been used in reference to mind-centric spiritual and philosophic doctrines such as responsibility assumption.


The phrase "mind over matter" first appeared in 1863 in The Geological Evidence of the Antiquity of Man by Sir Charles Lyell (1797–1875) and refers to the increasing status and evolutionary growth of the minds of animals and man throughout Earth history.[2]

It may be said that, so far from having a materialistic tendency, the supposed introduction into the earth at successive geological periods of life — sensation, instinct, the intelligence of the higher mammalia bordering on reason, and lastly, the improvable reason of Man himself — presents us with a picture of the ever-increasing dominion of mind over matter.

— Sir Charles Lyell, 1863

Another related saying was coined almost two millennia earlier (19 B.C.) "the mind drives the mass" by the poet Virgil in his work Aeneid, book 6, line 727.[3] The latter saying in Latin, mens agitat molem, is the official motto of the University of Warwick and Eindhoven University of Technology in The Netherlands.


The possible first use referring somewhat more directly to psychokinesis could be the 1903 book titled Mind over matter: the influence of will power on disease by J. W. Martin, Commercial Publishing, 78 pages.[original research?] In 1972 the parapsychologist Louisa Rhine published a book titled Mind over Matter: Psychokinesis. Another researcher D. Scott Rogo published Mind Over Matter: Case for Psychokinesis (1986). Jeffrey Mishlove wrote The PK Man: A True Story of Mind Over Matter (2000) which discusses the controversial claims of Ted Owens regarding his alleged ability to influence the weather by psychokinetic activity.[4]

Starting in 2007, the Dutch artist Iebele Abel used scientific methods to create artworks and music related to mind-matter correspondence which developed into an electronic instrument called Real-time Indeterminate Synthetic Music Feedback (RT-ISMF), which was designed for empirical research on subjective experiences induced by music derived from micro-psychokinetic effects.[5]

Mao Zedong[edit]

"Mind over matter" was also Mao Zedong's idea that rural peasants could be "proletarianized" so they could lead the revolution and China could move from feudalism to socialism. It departs from Leninism in that the revolutionaries are peasants, instead of the urban proletariat.[6]

Controlling pain[edit]

The term also relates to the ability to control pain that one may or may not be experiencing, such as holding one's hand under extremely hot water and feeling no pain.[citation needed] Self-help personalities such as Tony Robbins claim that, through the power of concentration and positive thinking, people can walk on hot coals without getting burned.[citation needed] This claim is made despite the fact that there are solid, scientific explanations for firewalking.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Berger, Arthur S.; Berger, Joyce (1991). The Encyclopedia of Parapsychological and Psychical Research. New York: Paragon House. ISBN 1-55778-043-9.  Page 341: "Psychokinesis (PK). The response of objects such as dice or the environment to a person's wishes is commonly labelled 'mind over matter.'"
  2. ^ Bartlett, John; Kaplan, Justin (Editor) (2002). Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, Seventeenth Edition. New Fork: Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 978-0-316-08460-4. 
  3. ^ Stevenson, Burton (Editor) (1948, seventh printing 1968). The Macmillan Book of Proverbs, Maxims, and Famous Phrases. New York: The Macmillan Company. 
  4. ^ Jeffrey Mishlove The PK Man: A True Story of Mind Over Matter Hampton Roads Publishing, 2000 ISBN 1-57174-183-6
  5. ^ Iebele Abel, Manifestations of Mind in Matter, ICRL Press, Princeton. ISBN 978-1936033072.
  6. ^ Asian survey, Volume 4 University of California Press, 1964, p. 1049
  7. ^ Brain, Marshall (2004-08-28). "HowStuffWorks "How Firewalking Works"". People.howstuffworks.com. Retrieved 2013-10-01.