A group of British experimenters are holding weekly meetings in an effort to counteract the Arizona conference's approach to untangling consciousness.
The group has been meeting to hear about such subjective experiences as telepathy, hauntings and lucid dreaming. Organiser Ijaz Rasool, founder of Stanmore-based Qinetics International, said that without exploring such experiences it was impossible to understand consciousness properly.
He believes that the mainstream thinking represented in Arizona is too remote from the public's experiences of consciousness. He says the goal of consciousness studies should be spiritual to see "how people could use it to improve the character of their lives. It should have some practical application".
Speakers at his sessions include Bernard Carr, professor of astrophysics at Queen Mary College, on the paranormal; Tony Cornell, president of the Cambridge University Society for psychical research, on ghosts and hauntings; and Arthur Ellison, an electrical engineer and past president of the Society for Psychical Research, on lucid dreaming.
Mr Rasool, who has a degree in astrophysics from Queen Mary and Westfield College, has interspersed these talks with sessions from mediums, psychic healers and other practitioners.
Antonio Pittaguarl, who heads the Institute of Projectiology in Catford, south London, introduced last week's audience to lucid dreams and out-of-body experiences. He advocates developing such abilities because enhanced consciousness leads to moral development. "This is not extra-physical tourism," he said.
Mr Pittaguarl wants more research on such experiences, which he believes happen when the soul leaves the body. Most scientists take the wrong approach, he says. He has this message for Roger Penrose, Daniel Dennett and Francis Crick, three of the leading mainstream thinkers on consciousness: "Have your own experience and you will see the immense gap between the experience and their [current] explanations."
Mr Rasool says: "Until now study of consciousness has been labelling but now people have to try and understand the meaning behind the phenomena they do experiments with".
He concedes that the Arizona conference has tried to link science and spirituality - "but they're not coming up with anything," he said. We want to know "how people could use it to improve the character of their lives."