parapsychology

IMG_2328I have recently been in correspondence with one of the readers of this blog, by the name of Wayne Cole, who was kind enough to share some of his reflections after reading my book Apparitions. In his writings, Wayne ponders some key questions – crucial for those of us interested in psychical research – about the nature of reality and our perception of it. With his permission, I thought of sharing some of his thoughts with my broader audience, for this is indeed very nourishing food for thought. In a very personal manner, Wayne begins by saying:

“I’ve experienced many things that I’ve not been able to readily explain. Though I cannot point to anyone of those events as being proof of the existence of the paranormal, I will take them as evidence. I can readily admit that the ghost I saw years ago could be explained as a hypnopompic state; the UFO I saw flying overhead may have been a very, very strange acting weather balloon; the disincarnate voice of a recently departed loved one which was experienced by both myself and my wife separately and on separate days and who said exactly the same thing (an event we only recently shared with one another) may have been grief; the countless number of synchronistic events and déjà vu type experiences that have filled my life may just be all in my head. . . But what isn’t, in the end, in our heads? And does that make any of these events untrue? What is true? That is it, isn’t it? We are left with a lot of questions. If anything it seems we must get used to living with a fairly high level of uncertainty.”

Then his reflection deepens:

“I’ve often thought that some of our difficulties in approaching the paranormal, whether it be apparitions, UFOs and/or other PSI related phenomena, may lie in our definitions of terms like “real”, “physical”, “objective” and “subjective”. In some of the phenomena there appears to be a materially real or physical component, sometimes there is not and then sometimes inexplicably there can be both! Same goes with the so-called objective/subjective aspects. For instance two or more people can perceive the same apparition which another in the same group cannot see. And yet, those who can see it can describe the apparition’s characteristics in such a way that points to an objective reality. To complicate matters further, that objectively real apparition can also present itself in a subjective manner to different percipients (e.g. gesturing towards one person while not appearing to move at all to the other person). Obviously, this points to a reality most of us are not at all acquainted with. And the reductive materialist paradigm that most of us are raised to believe in cannot in any way accommodate this view of reality. It can only dismiss or deride. It seems we may have to redefine our very conceptions of “matter”. Maybe “matter” is not at all what we’ve been led to believe. To me, feeling that I’ve rationally weighed the evidence available, I’ve had no choice but to abandon the dominant reductive materialist paradigm. Sometimes, though, I’m not certain where this leaves me.  In fact, it seems what we normally perceive as our waking reality may be as Pascal noted, “. . . a dream a little less inconstant”. I am endlessly fascinated by this!

In another striking example, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, two unconnected groups of people who did not know each other and were in separate cars at the same crowded intersection perceived what they referred to as a UFO. They then filed two separate reports and were apparently the only ones to take note of it amongst the many present at that time at the intersection! What is going on here? Not only we seem to have similarities between so called UFOs and apparitions (in as they can be perceived or not perceived, or perceived differently, by different people at the same time), but also with mythology and folklore in this latter case because the two parties saw the “UFO” at a crossroads!

The implications are staggering. What we are presented with is a series of phenomena and mental states that seem at first glance disparate and unconnected but are actually upon closer examination interconnected upon a continuum. The nexus point seems to be consciousness itself! It seems to me that we should tread carefully when applying labels such as “real”, “physical”, “objective”, and “subjective”. That is certainly not to say that definitions do not have their use or that we should not be willing to use our minds to sift through the evidence and follow it were it seems to lead weighing both logical possibilities and empirical possibilities. But I believe when we settle on an answer we should also be careful in defining it as Truth. In the end, I think, we must be willing to sit with and be open to the question. The True Believer says, I believe, therefore. . . The Skeptic says, I do not believe, therefore . . . And both find their expectations met. But, after all, ‘tis but a part we see, and not a whole.

Well, what more can I say? What more can be said as such? Wayne seems to me to beautifully capture, as I said, some crucial elements of the debate we’re all interested in. We must thank him for this contribution, then, and leave it at that?

No, there is one last, and, for me, essential element that has to be disclosed. The beautiful and beautifully expressed thoughts you’ve just been reading about are not, as one may expect, the product of the mind of a highly learned scholar or a famous academic, or the musings of an old sage. Wayne writes:

“I’ve spent my entire 38 years living in small-town New England in the United States. I currently live with my wife, Neva and our 4 year-old daughter, Lila in the house I grew up in together with my Mom and Dad. My two older sisters live close by with their families. I’ve worked as a mason for the last 15 years alongside my Dad who is a master mason. I’ve been blessed with a wonderful, loving, kind and supportive family.”

Well… I must thank Wayne, very personally, because getting to know him and learning about his story and thoughts rekindled my love and appreciation for mankind, so dramatically challenged by the happenings all around us. All this reminds me, yet again, that people can think beautifully, that refined introspection and reflection can be found in absolutely all walks of life. And, perhaps, that there is indeed some truth about the idea that some individuals have a much older, experienced and wiser soul that others…

down_app

 

palmerA couple of years ago, the Paranormal Review published by the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) in the UK, carried a most interesting article by a clinical hypnotist, Terence Palmer PhD, introducing what I regard as a subject with colossal implications. The overall subject of the article is nothing less than the science of spirit possession and its therapeutic applications for a range of mental disorders. I have been wanting to discuss this subject for quite a while, and I will shortly begin a mini-series of articles doing just that.

Dr Palmer’s original article, in fact, is so densely packed with important ideas and perspectives that practically every other paragraph offers material for deep reflection. As a “starter”, before I attack the subject of Spirit Release Therapy, I would like to quote a part of Dr Palmer’s article reviewing a little known area of investigation of the early SPR, and contribute a few thoughts of mine.

Palmer writes:

“[SPR founders] Frederic Meyers and Edmund Gurney conducted large-scale experiments where agents used strong-tasting substances, such as spices, to create strong sensations that were transmitted to blindfold percipients. The objective was to test the hypothesis that taste-sensations could be transmitted from agent to percipient without receiving suggestion. The results, published in 1883 in the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, were overwhelmingly conclusive that sensations can be transmitted by telepathy under controlled conditions.

In order to further eliminate the possible influence of voiced suggestions, expectations and beliefs, Meyers went on to experiment with telepathic hypnosis with the French psychiatrist Pierre Janet. As related by Janet in the Journal of the History of the Behavioural Sciences in 1886, it was demonstrated that a person could be induced into a hypnotic trance at a distance even against their conscious will.

Janet’s and Meyer’s experiments inspired a long line of researchers in the USA, Europe and Russia to test their repeatability. The results of these experiments were discussed at an international conference well into the twentieth century with the participation of the American, British and Greek Societies for Psychical Research at the University of Leningrad. The russian researchers, led by Leonid Vassilev, a senior neurologist at Leningrad University’s Brain Research Institute,  tested the hypothesis that the transmission of telepathic hypnotic suggestions were carried by electro-magnetic waves which could be measured by EEG in the brains of the agents at source and the percipients at destination. There were correlations in the measurement of these waves, and together with the observed results of hypnotic suggestion for percipients to perform specific actions, such as, for example, lifting an arm, proved conclusively that there was a telepathic transmission of hypnotic suggestion.

Experiments were conducted by the SPR in London to test the effect of hypnotic induction between London and Australia. At the Athens SPR in 1925, the effect was measured from Athens to Paris, at a distance of 2,101 km, from Warsaw to Athens (1,597 km) and from Vienna to Athens (1,284 km). Vasiliev’s own experiments were conducted between Leningrad and Sevastopol (1,700 km).

Over great distances of many hundreds of kilometres, and penetrating iron and led-lined rooms, it was thus proven that distance and barriers were no obstacle to the telepathic instructions. However, it could not be proven that these influences were carried by electro-magnetic waves simply because they were not prevented by iron and lead barriers.”

I found these historical snippets very interesting, not because they tell us something we didn’t know already (namely that humans do possess psychic powers and that consciousness is evidently a non-local phenomenon), but because they cover an area of investigation that I was not aware of. I thought, after many years as a scholar of psychical research, that I more or less knew everything there was to know, at least in terms of broad research areas. And here I discovered a considerable body of work which spans two of the most fundamental challenges to materialist theories of consciousness, telepathy and hypnosis. If any of these two exist, then materialism is a false theory. And now I learned that not only we have huge empirical evidence for the existence of both hypnosis and telepathy, but also that the two have been conclusively demonstrated to work together.

My own sad reflection is – where has all this led to? How is it possible that these phenomena are not studied by every laboratory in the world? How is it possible that the inescapable conclusions (the ones discussed here, and the myriad others covered by parapsychology), reached by trained scientists in academic institutions, have been completely, utterly ignored? These are facts, hard facts, and they are quite simply incompatible with the theory which is presented to us as “definitive”, namely that brain generates mind. How can a false theory have “won” so spectacularly?

And – more sadness – where are today the intellectual giants who have dealt with these matters in the past? Where are today the luminaries, the established academics who lent an authoritative voice to these controversial, revolutionary experimental results? With the old generation not getting any younger, with research budgets for parapsychology dwindling to the point of near-extinction, with less and less young and brilliant researchers being attracted to what is increasingly perceived as a career dead end, we are turning away from the study of the most important thing there is to know. Who are we?

down_app

Lovely little easter chick, only 24 hours old, isolated on whiteThe latest issue of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research features one of those scientific papers which are still capable, after many years spent studying parapsychology, consciousness and its survival of physical death, of dealing a powerful blow to my own sense of reality. Just as I thought I had seen everything, and somehow had come round to “digesting” even the most baffling, eye-popping pieces of evidence pointing to an intimately connected – and essentially nonmaterial – universe, here come German researcher Réne Peoc’h, PhD, and his… chicks.

Before many of my readers stop reading, thinking that I have crossed a “boggle threshold” they are not willing to cross themselves, let me remind you that the JSPR is a scholarly publication. In order to appear on it, papers have to undergo the process known as peer review: 1) one or a group of scientists completes a study and writes it up in the form of an article. They submit it to a journal for publication;  2) the journal’s editors send the article to several other scientists who work in the same field (i.e., the “peers” of peer review); 3) those reviewers provide feedback on the article and tell the editor whether or not they think the study is of high enough quality to be published;  4) the authors may then revise their article and resubmit it for consideration; and, 5) only articles that meet good scientific standards (e.g., acknowledge and build upon other work in the field, rely on logical reasoning and well-designed studies, back up claims with evidence, etc.) are accepted for publication.

Furthermore, the paper I am referring to builds upon other studies by the same author, beginning with his own PhD dissertation, in 1986, at the University of Nantes (France). We are therefore definitely not talking about “pop science” or the latest New Age fad (although skeptics would like us to think that way).

The experiments of Dr Peoc’h are in fact brilliant. He combined ideas and evidence from several, apparently unrelated fields of investigation and came up with a bit of an “extreme” hypothesis, and one which can actually be tested. And he did test it, several times. And found that his “extreme” hypothesis actually holds true.

These experiments test for psychokinesis (PK), or the alleged capacity of thoughts to influence inanimate matter or physical processes. In particular, they push the limits of a long and celebrated series of experiments showing that untrained volunteers can influence the output of a device called Random Numbers Generator (RNG). Based on a radioactive decay process, such a device produces a string of numbers totally at random and, when left unaffected, it produces very exactly 50% of even numbers and 50% of odd numbers, as predicted by the laws of statistics. When untrained volunteers are asked to “wish” for more odd or even numbers to be produced, this actually happens, to a small but astronomically significant degree. Several millions individual trials conducted by different laboratories around the world consistently show a deviation of 51.5% in favour of the “wished for” option.

Dr Peoc’s “extreme” hypothesis was that such an effect might be produced by the thoughts of an animal as well.  And his brilliance was to devise a method to be able to test it.

The problem with testing for a possible animal influence is how to make sure that the animal “wishes” for a certain outcome. Explaining the difference between odd and even numbers to even the most developed primates is obviously an impossible task…

So, Dr Peoc’h looked for something much more basic – an urge, an instinct, a desire which is natural for an animal species. A perfect candidate was the relationship between chicks and their mother, either real or surrogate. Ethologist Konrad Lorenz famously showed that geese follow the first moving object they see, during a 12-17 hour critical period after hatching. This process, known as imprinting, suggests that attachment is innate and programmed genetically.

Moreover, it is well-known that any psi effect is stronger if there is a relationship between the subjects being tested, and the closer and more intense the relationship, the stronger the effects. Research volunteers who have spent some time together before the experiment perform better at telepathy, for instance, than volunteers unknown to each other. Couples perform better than volunteers who have spent time together. Etcetera.

The stroke of genius by Dr Peoc’h was to build a small robot capable of moving about on wheels, the movements of which are controlled by a Random Numbers Generator, and to “imprint” chicks making them believe the robot was their mother. Sure enough, in the preparatory phase, the chicks immediately started following the movements of the small robot, exactly as they would do with their real mother. An emotional bond was therefore created between a very simple brain and a mechanical device.

The next step in the experiments was to place the robot in an enclosed perimeter, about three square meters in surface, and to record its movements during a certain period of time. As predicted by statistics, the movements were totally random.

Finally, an imprinted chick was placed in a glass cage just outside one of the corners of the perimeter. And, lo and behold, slowly but surely the small robot started gravitating, in its movements, towards that corner.  The chick was wishing his “mother” to come near.  The procedure was repeated many times, using imprinted chicks and non-imprinted chicks. The robot was 250% more likely to move towards the cage of imprinted chicks than non-imprinted ones.

And, if this was not astonishing enough, the same effect appeared when the Random Number Generator device controlling the movements of the robot was not inside the robot itself (as in the first round of experiments), but was placed in another laboratory, 30 km away, and controlled the robot wirelessly.

The nut-sized brain of a new-born chick is shown to have an impact on a radioactive decay process in a device placed 30 km away. Such impact has a definite purpose: to reunite the chick with a device it believes to be its mother.

Once again, love appears to be a measurable force.  And the universe appears as an incredibly more mysterious and fascinating than even the most daring among us believed.

Anybody speaking French can watch this interesting interview with Dr Peoc’h himslef, carried by the prestigious Franco/German TV channel Arté: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4dEget9UD7A

down_app

unnamedIt is amazing how one of the most intriguing stories – and definitely one of the most intriguing pictures – I encountered in my 10 years as a scholar of psychical research actually originates from my own family. I am sharing it with my readers, with apologies for the fact that – in order to protect the privacy of the persons concerned and to focus on the essential – details are kept at a minimum.

The story begins some ten years ago, when a close relative of mine, then living in London, decided to a have a Feng Shui consultant survey the house he and his partner were living in at the time. The consultant did his things, gave advice on arrangement of the living spaces and, upon leaving, said something like “Do you know you have a spirit living with you?” My relative – a “thin boundary” personality who had already had a few paranormal experiences – said that yes, he could sense a presence, but that they were not bothered. The consultant said “OK, but if you ever wanted the spirit to go away, here is the procedure you have to follow.”

One evening a few months later, admittedly out of boredom, my relative decided to go through the “procedure” and have the spirit move. A couple of hours later, he was dozing off in front of the TV, a massive flame erupted from out of nowhere, roughly in the centre of a low glass table. He obviously jumped out of his skin and shouted for his partner – who was in another room in the upper floor of the house – to come and see. The phenomenon – described as a “living, burning flame, three to four feet high” – lasted long enough for the partner to come down from upstairs, grab my relative’s hand and watch in consternation for 10-15 seconds. Then, as abruptly as it had started, the phenomenon disappeared. Nothing else unusual was noted afterwards, except for the fact that, the morning after, the entire room was covered in a thin layer of fine ashes.

This episode became a bit of a tale, sometimes told at family gatherings. The accepted wisdom was that the flame was “the sign of the spirit leaving”. No further disturbances were reported… until a few nights ago.

Many years later, in another house, in another part of the country, just as my relative was watching TV, the same kind of flame erupted from a (recently emptied) whisky glass. This time, the phenomenon was shorter in duration and somewhat shorter in height (two to three feet), but still long enough for the partner to be called in, watch in similar consternation, and grab a mobile phone. The picture shows the final stages of the phenomenon, when the flame was down to about one foot in height.

As I said, at face value, this picture is easily one of the most interesting and intriguing ones I’ve seen. In my opinion, it belongs to the same category of the extraordinary pictures taken, for example, during the Scole experiment. The main difference lies in the conditions in which the pictures were taken: whilst this one captures a phenomenon in a “naturalistic” environment (when and where it happens), the Scole pictures were taken under strictly controlled conditions, following a rigorous procedures supervised by three top academics.

You have to understand that the people at the centre of this story are amongst the very closest persons I have in my life. Therefore, for me the hypothesis of a hoax is nonsensical. Furthermore, if a hoax it were, it would be a particularly elaborated/sophisticated one. The flame in the picture seems to be “blown” upwards, as if coming from gas under pressure. I cannot readily think of any flammable substance which, poured into the glass and set alight, would produce quite the same effect.

In psychical research terms, this looks to me as a case of “living agent RSPK” – Spontaneous Recurrent Psycho Kinesis (commonly known as Poltergeist) linked to a living person rather than a discarnate, as it sometimes appears to be the case. If this is the case, it is all the more intriguing that the manifestation only appeared twice over so many years.

down_app

HorganJohn Horgan is a highly respected science journalist and author. He is also the Director of the Center for Science Writings at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey. A former senior writer at Scientific American (1986-1997), he has also written for The New York Times, National Geographic, Time, Newsweek, The Washington Post, Slate and other publications around the world.

Dear Mr Horgan,

I hope you will not mind me taking the liberty to use the platform of my blog to publicly address a brief letter to you. I do so because I know the issues I will raise are of interest to my readers, and because I was not able to find a public link through which I could have addressed this directly to you.

I write to you in follow up to the interview you gave to Alex Tsakiris for his excellent Skeptiko podcast, which was published recently and which I found very interesting (readers of this blog can access the interview here). In particular, as a scholar and practitioner of applied psychical research – the practical use of the research findings, in my case for the specific benefit of the bereaved and the dying – I would like to briefly react to a few statements you made concerning a subject I feel passionately about.

First of all, unless I seriously misunderstood what you were saying, you put in the same basket religious faith (belief in God) and “belief” in things such as ESP, reincarnation and an afterlife. I am of the opinion that this is a serious logical fallacy. Whilst, in the absence of any empirical evidence, the existence of God is indeed a matter of belief, a judgment about the existence of psychic powers and on the possible survival of human personality of bodily death can be made based on a critical analysis of a very considerable quantity of data. I agree that, in principle, different people may arrive at different conclusions, but I don’t think it is correct to say that one “believes” or “doesn’t believe” in ESP. How would you react if I said that “I don’t believe in general relativity”?

I feel passionately about this because putting on the same plane a process of critical evaluation of the evidence, on the one hand, and religious faith on the other is not only logically wrong, but also extremely damaging. Damaging for those of us – and we are the vast majority – who come to psychical research from an entirely nonreligious perspective. Damaging for the public, who is led to believe that laboratory mediumship research, for instance, belongs with a commentary on a verse of the Bible. And damaging for the advancement of science, as this all too common confusion is one of the reasons why funding for legitimate psychical research is practically non-existent – just as its visibility on mainstream media.

Secondly, I am of the opinion that “things such as ESP, reincarnation and an afterlife” are also very different, and should not be put in the same basket. Let me briefly explain, at the risk of sounding pedantic.

Let’s broaden the definition of ESP to include all psychic powers and ask, Can humans obtain information present in the mind of other humans, or at a distance in the environment, or in the future, when all known sensory channels are unavailable? And, Can thoughts influence inanimate matter, physical and biological processes? You will agree with me that these are testable questions.

Indeed, these questions have been tested through thousands of carefully designed and increasingly rigorous laboratory experiments, amounting to several million individual trials, carried out for nearly a century by some 50 of the same kind of academic and research institutions who deal with any other branch of science. The results of these studies have been regularly published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. What has this to do with “belief”?

Incidentally, the results of such studies have convinced a list of “serious scientific proponents” much, much longer than Dr Rupert Sheldrake alone that psychic powers exist. So much so that the position taken by the more knowledgeable and intellectually honest among the hardline skeptics is that, by the standards commonly used in natural science, parapsychology is proven (hence the debate on “extraordinary evidence” supposedly needed for “extraordinary claims”…) Thanks to University of North Carolina’s Prof James Carpenter, we now also have a consistent, coherent theory for PSI capable of explaining the evidence and making predictions.

A different question is, Do aspects of human personality survive the demise of the physical body?

This, I believe, is currently not a directly testable question. That does not mean, however, that we do not have masses of compelling evidence (anecdotes, investigations carried out by trained scientists and, yes, experiments under controlled laboratory conditions), coming from about a dozen separate lines of investigation, which is consistent with the hypothesis that, in a way in which we do not yet understand, significant aspects of mind are independent of a functioning physical brain and survive the death of the body.

I am today reasonably convinced of survival not because I read it in a holy book. A man of reason and of science, “I am compelled to believe by the inescapable logic of facts”, as famously said by Swiss physicist Raoul Pictet speaking to the Society for Psychical Research. Over the years, academics and scholars immensely more bright and learned than me have looked at the evidence with the care it deserves, and have come to the same uneasy conclusion.

This is not faith, Mr Horgan, this is reason. Heaven knows if we need more intelligent, informed and honest science journalists who, very much like yourself, are not afraid to ruffle feathers and go against fashionable worldviews. However, I am not trying to recruit you to the cause of psychical research, for no such cause exist. Data are there for everybody to ponder on. Simply, I am hoping that you will not make things even more difficult for us – the researchers, the practitioners and the public at large – by putting together things that do not belong together.

With deep appreciation and respect, and many thanks for reading me.

sharing

Enter your zip code here

timeA short and rather well-made documentary suggested to me by my friend and frequent contributor to my blog’s discussion David Haith provided quite some food for reflection during the last few days. Unaptly titled “God Science”, the documentary (available here) makes a compelling case for consciousness as the ultimate ground of reality (and for the universe we live in to be some sort of simulation, à la Matrix, the movie). The documentary, reportedly praised by Dean Radin, is perhaps a little science-heavy for the casual watcher, but is certainly interesting.

One of the many baffling quantum-level effects described in the film is the well-known “collapse of the wave function”: when a conscious observer looks at an elementary particle, that particle ceases to exist as a wave of probability and appears as a material object. And not only that. The effect of this conscious observation is clearly shown to travel back in time, a phenomenon called “retrocausation”. Interestingly, the parapsychology research literature offers us mind-boggling examples of retrocausation on a grander scale.

In one particular experimental design, successfully replicated many times by several university departments over the last thirty years, an experimenter records a series of truly random sequences – for instance a series of odd and even numbers based on the decay of a radioactive isotope. He does not look at the results, but makes a copy (by automated means) to present to the operator, and places the master copy in a safe place. The operator then plays the recorded copy and attempts to influence the sequences, just as though he were experiencing them in real time. Common sense would say that the operator cannot possibly affect them because they have already been recorded. However, when the data is examined, it shows psychokinesis results in accordance with the intention the operator was instructed to hold. Somehow, the intention of the operator to obtain an excess of odd or even numbers travels back in time and affects the way a radioactive isotope decays! And, in later refinements of the methodology, the decision on whether to try to have excess odd or even numbers is made after the original sequence is recorded. And still, the retroactive influence of the operator is clearly shown by the data.

We indeed live in a universe which is more astonishing and ultimately fascinating than we could ever imagine.

sharing

M31Writing in 2001 in the European Journal of Parapsychology, researcher Edwin C. May looked at some very interesting correlations between performance in PSI experiments and some variables in the physical world. For instance, it appears that naturally occurring fluctuations in the earth’s magnetic field have negative impacts on ESP performance. Interestingly, the same fluctuations negatively affect radio communications on the shortwave bands. A possible interpretation of this result is that the magnetic field fluctuations produce some sort of low-level interference with brain processing, so that the processing of weak signals such as PSI is interfered with.

It has also been shown that ESP results are correlated with Local Sidereal Time (LST), which is the relative position of the stars for a given observer. More specifically, at 13:30 LST, plus or minus about an hour, ESP scores increase three fold over average values. A possible interpretation is that some sort of radiation, or perhaps fluctuations in radiation, comes from the central part of the galaxy and interferes with brain processing of weak effects. When the central part of the galaxy is below the horizon at 13:30 LST, its effect is shielded by earth, and brain processing would therefore be improved.

Quite apart from any speculative interpretation, these data indirectly tell us something we already knew: that PSI exists and has been demonstrated in the laboratory. If ESP was just a random process, purely governed by chance, there is no reason for performance to be better or worse in relation to physical variables. The fact that these differences exist indicates that these variables interfere with something that is happening inside the human brain. Ignorant skeptics please take note.

sharing

loveThe dry scientific language (Dunne, 2007) says, “Experiments in anomalous human/machine interaction wherein two operators simultaneously attempt to shift the means of output distributions produced by a microelectronic random event generator (REG) yield statistically significant correlations with the operators’ shared intentions. “

The layman’s understanding is a s follows: a) if you take a machine that produces a long string of numbers at random and leave it alone, it will produce quite exactly 50% of odd numbers and 50% of even numbers; b) if you ask a person to try to influence the machine in producing more even or odd numbers, the machine does (to a small extent, but it does); c) if you ask two people to do that at the same time, the effect is noticeably greater than if a single person does.

How much greater? The paper speaks of “an average effect size 3.7 times larger than that of the single operator data.”

Now, and to the specific point of this short article, the dry scientific language also says, “Of the opposite-sex pairs, four bonded couples achieve average effects more than twice the size of those of three unbonded pairs, and nearly six times those of the single operators. “

The layman’s understanding is as follows: couples with a deep emotional bond between them produce effects not only six times greater than individuals, but also twice as big as couples with no emotional links.

Love, an exquisitely human emotion and something that is supposed to exist only in consciousness has a detectable and marked effect on a completely random physical process.

Materialism, once again, is shown to be the real pseudoscience.

Dunne, B.J. (2007) CoOperator Experiments with an REG Device. The Journal of Science and Healing. 05/2007; 3(3):274-274.

sharing

is-the-law-of-attraction-real-300x164Let’s admit, for the sake of this brief discussion, that we are satisfied that the discarante communicators talking to us through mediums and other channels are indeed who they claim to be – people who have gone on living in a nonmaterial dimension of existence after the death of their physical body. When asked about the nature of the afterlife, or when spontaneously describing it in their communications, spirits are unanimous in telling us that the nonmaterial world that awaits us is organised in several levels. Some of these levels are “heavier”, closer to the material plane we inhabit, and others are “lighter”, more ethereal, closer to the ground of reality variously described as “the light” or pure consciousness. Interestingly, a frequently described feature of the “lower” planes is that they are “psychoplastic”. In this environment, we are told, we create reality with our own thoughts. It is very much like a dream, one in which we are in full control of what happens and which conveys a full sense of reality. This, incidentally, is confirmed by near-death and out-of-body experiencers.

A fashionable theory known as “law of attraction” would have it that this is pretty much what happens in the physical world as well. “Think right” – they say – imagine things in the right way, and “the universe” will “manifest” what you have imagined/thought of/desired for you in your life. The hard evidence offered by the proponents of this theory – who often seem more interested in selling their books/courses/methods than offering something of real use – is an endless series of testimonies. The basic story goes, “I imagined myself at the wheel of a fancy new car, and after a few weeks I found myself driving exactly that car”. Interesting, isn’t it, how what matters in life seems to be more expensive cars and bigger televisions… However, apart from my intellectually snobbish sneering, I often asked myself if there’s any truth in the idea that we to some extent created our own reality.

I myself, if I may speak personally, seem to be nowadays the perfect role model for the law of attraction. I am almost embarrassed to say that my life, for the last year or so, has been simply perfect. It has been very, very good for a number of years but now I find myself at the point in which it is really hard to think of anything that could be improved, anything which is important to me and I don’t have. Please appreciate that I do not say this lightly because I am all too aware of the mountains of unhappiness and suffering that surround me, hence my embarrassment at this situation of sheer privilege.

However, back to our discussion, the real question is whether all this is the product of me thinking, imagining in the right way (there is, apparently, a “wrong” way…) or the result of a complex combination of choices, hard work and sheer luck. This is a difficult call to make. On the one hand, if I look at my current life, it looks so unrealistically perfect that one may think that yes, it is the product of some invisible forces at work. On the other, the rational me knows full well that the mind over matter effects shown by a century of parapsychology research are undoubtedly true but also very, very small. When they are bigger – what we define as “macro” psychokinesis – they concern mundane, absolutely meaningless feats like bending spoons. Does bending a spoon or creating poltergeist effects involve the same mechanisms required to create a “perfect” life? Do the material world and the lower planes of the spirit world only differ in the degree to which our thoughts and intentions create are perceived reality?

These questions are essentially idle, as I don’t think they can realistically be answered in a rational way. My instinctive distaste for the so-called law of attraction, however, is mostly due to its frequently stated underside. Many of the proponents implicitly – and often explicitly – say that if the circumstances in your life are bad, that is essentially your fault. You have thought or imagined the wrong things, and the universe has “manifested” them for you. How on earth dare anybody say that to a bereaved person who is in pain over the loss of a loved one? How on earth dare anybody say that to any of the thousands of breadwinners left unemployed by major corporate shakeup? I would like to take any of these “wisdom teachers” and throw them into Za’atri refugee camp in Jordan, home to almost 700,000 Syrian refugees, and ask them, “have all these people brought about the destruction of the country, the loss of countless lives and livelihoods and unspeakable human suffering because they thought the wrong way?”

sharing

precogIt’s just a matter of coincidence, says the skeptic. You dream about a person, and the next day you bump into that person, whom you hadn’t seen in years. Yes, the skeptic says, that’s a very unlikely coincidence, but, you know, with 64 million people living in the UK, even something unlikely with odds against chance of one in ten million is bound to happen to six people, every day.

This is a very logical line of thought, one with which it is difficult to argue. So – are all episodes of precognition just a trick of statistics? Are we reading more into precognition than there actually is? Think again.

In a study of 148 cases of spontaneous precognition, British clinical psychologist J.E. Orme found that 57 occurred within 24 hours before the event, another 14 within 24 to 48 hours before the event, and in general the incidence of spontaneous precognition declined dramatically as the temporal separation between the precognition and the event increased. Likewise, in a literature review of 520 precognitive dreams, parapsychologists Theo de Graaf and Joop Houtkooper observed “an exponential decline of the time periods that had elapsed between the precognitive events and their fulfilment.”

If precognition was just a random event, there should not be any particular pattern in the length of time between precognition and event. But there is – quite a dramatic one. This not only suggests that spontaneous precognition is a real phenomenon (we already know that the precognition tested in the laboratory is a real phenomenon), but also that events have some sort of “emotional imprint”: the stronger such imprint, the farther a “trace” of the event can travel back in time and give raise to the precognition.

Fascinating, as ever.

sharing