Delving Deeper. The Gale Encyclopedia of the Unusual and Unexplained. Editor: Brad Steiger & Sherry Hanson Steiger. Volume 3. Detroit: Gale, 2003.
In their biennial report on the state of science understanding released in April 2002, the National Science Foundation found that 60 percent of adults in the United States agreed or strongly agreed that some people possess psychic powers or extrasensory perception (ESP). In June 2002, the Consumer Analysis Group conducted the most extensive survey ever done in the United Kingdom and revealed that 67 percent of adults believed in psychic powers. Report author Jan Walsh, commenting on the statistics that found that two out of three surveyed believed in an afterlife, said that as far as the British public was concerned, “the supernatural world isn’t so paranormal after all.”
Michael Shermer, author of Why People Believe Weird Things (2002) and publisher of Skeptic magazine, was among those scientists who deplored the findings that such a high percentage of Americans accepted the reality of ESP. In Shermer’s analysis, such statistics posed a serious problem for science educators. Complaining that people too readily accepted the claims of pseudoscience, Shermer concluded his column for Scientific American (August 12, 2002) by writing that “for those lacking a fundamental comprehension of how science works, the siren song of pseudoscience becomes too alluring to resist, no matter how smart you are.”
Ever since he entered the field of parapsychology full time in 1947, Dr. Robert A. McConnell, holder of a doctorate in physics and the leader of a radar development group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology during World War II (1939-45), has primarily devoted his efforts to answering the question of why so many scientists reject ESP. As early as 1943, after reading the literature on British and American scientific psychical research in the Harvard library, he came to the conclusion that ESP did occur, although presently beyond explanation by known physics and psychology. McConnell is a life senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, a fellow of the American Psychological Society, research professor emeritus of Biological Science, and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He became the founding president of the Parapsychological Association in 1957 and saw that group admitted to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1969. In McConnell’s opinion the adamant denial of the existence of extrasensory perception by materialist scientists can best be explained by their fear of the consequences that might follow in the event of their acceptance.
According to McConnell in Joyride to Infinity (2000), “all general textbooks of psychology and physics would have to be rewritten.” In the field of physics, recognition of psychic phenomena might require no more than an acknowledgement that there is a nonphysical realm “with which the physical realm can interact, both spontaneously and experimentally.” In psychology, however, McConnell states that “the fallout from a universal recognition of the reality of [ESP] would be catastrophic.” Experimental psychology as it is currently practiced would be destroyed as a “scientific enterprise.” Psychiatry would have to go back to its beginnings and start all over again. The prevailing contemporary worldview of materialist science would shatter, McConnell says, and “any attempt by a thoughtful scientist to reconcile the established facts of parapsychology with his understanding of his philosophic commitment to his profession would encounter an emotional block.”
In September 2001 physicist Brian Josephson of Cambridge, England, winner of the Nobel Prize for physics in 1973, provoked an academic controversy when he declared that there was a great deal of evidence to support the existence of telepathy, but scientific journals censored such research and would not publish articles on the paranormal. Josephson expressed his belief that certain psychic-sensitives might have the ability to direct random energy at subatomic levels and that developments in quantum physics “may lead to an explanation of processes such as telepathy still not understood within conventional science.”
Serious-minded scientists have been researching ESP since the mid-nineteenth century. It was Max Dessoir (1867-1947) who first coined the term “parapsychology” in an article he wrote for the German periodical Sphinx in 1889. Although he would later become a distinguished professor of philosophy, Dessoir was a student when he defined “parapsychologie” (in German) as something that went beyond the ordinary, as phenomena that was outside of the usual processes of the inner life. The study of this unknown area between ordinary and pathological states, this “paraphysical” phenomena, he suggested, should be called parapsychology.
William James (1842-1910), the foremost American psychologist of the nineteenth century, explored the nonphysical realm of psychic phenomena and mysticism in his classic work The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902).
Sir William Barrett (1844-1925), professor of physics and fellow of the Royal Society of London, became convinced of the reality of telepathy and was one of the founders of the British Society for Psychical Research in 1882.
Frederic Myers (1843-1901), a classical lecturer at Cambridge, wrote Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death, which was published posthumously in 1903.
Psychologist William McDougall (1871- 1938), fellow of the Royal Society, provided sponsorship to Drs. J. B. (1895-1980) and Louisa E. (1891-1983) Rhine, which allowed them to conduct parapsychological research at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, in 1927.
Gardner Murphy (1895-1979), an American psychologist, championed the early ESP experiments at Duke University and served as the editor of the Journal of Parapsychology for two years.
L. L. Vasiliev (1891-1966), professor of Physiology at the Institute of Brain Research in the University of Leningrad, holder of the Order of Lenin, carried out experiments in ESP from 1921 to 1938, focusing on the theory that ESP was a form of electromagnetic radiation.
By 1930, Drs. J. B. and Louisa Rhine expanded their investigations of ESP beyond college courses at Duke University and established the first scientific laboratory dedicated to research of psychic phenomena. It was Rhine who first coined the term “extrasensory perception” (ESP) to describe the ability of some individuals to acquire information without the apparent use of the five known senses. He also applied the term “parapsychology” to distinguish research in psychic phenomena from the pursuits of mainstream psychology.
Considered by many to be the “Father of Modern Parapsychology,” Rhine first collaborated with Professor McDougall, chairman of the Department of Psychology at Duke University, on a series of experiments in the area of extrasensory perception. Most of these tests involved the use of Zener cards, a specially designed deck of 25 cards that include five cards each of five symbols—a cross, star, wavy lines, circle, and square. The Rhines enlisted hundreds of volunteer subjects to guess the symbols of the cards or to determine the number of dots in rolled dice. Louisa Rhine became a leading parapsychologist as a result of her own studies in spontaneous psychic phenomena, exploring such areas of ESP as clairvoyance, precognition, and telepathy.
Louisa Weckesser and Joseph Rhine had been teenaged friends who married in 1920. Although they had both earned doctorates in botany from the University of Chicago and had embarked on promising careers in the field, a lecture by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) on his research into psychic phenomena changed their lives. The young couple were so inspired by the prospect of conducting serious investigations into the world of mediumship and the afterlife, that they made the decision to abandon botany for psychical research.
Some of their early experiences sitting with spirit mediums were discouraging, for the Rhines felt that they caught the individuals employing trickery to delude others into accepting their abilities to contact the realm of spirit. In their opinion, psychical research would best be examined in the laboratory under controlled conditions. Learning of Dr. William McDougall’s interest in the paranormal, the Rhines contacted him at Duke University, and Professor McDougall invited them to join him at Durham.
In 1934, after they had established the parapsychology laboratory, J. B. Rhine wrote a monograph entitled “Extra-Sensory Perception,” which managed to get noticed by the media and subsequently gained wide attention for the ESP lab at Duke. The monograph led to Rhine’s New Frontiers of the Mind (1937), which became a Book-of-the-Month Club selection. Within a short time after achieving such a level of celebrity, Rhine had a prime-time radio program and was focusing attention on the work in psychical research that was being conducted at Duke. Such attention did little to earn the approval of many of the professors in the material sciences at the university, who were dismayed that Duke was becoming known as a center for pseudoscience and weird research projects.
After decades of conducting controlled experiments in ESP, the Rhines offered their conclusion that such psychic abilities as telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, and psychokinesis did exist. Many scientists were unimpressed by the Rhines’ accumulated research and questioned the validity of their statistical analyses.
In the summer of 1957, J. B. Rhine suggested that parapsychologists form an international professional society in parapsychology, and on June 19, 1957, the Parapsychological Association was founded with R. A. McConnell, president; Dr. Gertrude R. Schmeidler, vice president; and Rhea White, secretary-treasurer.
For six years during the 1950s, Dr. Karlis Osis (1917-1997) worked with J. B. Rhine at the parapsychology laboratory at Duke University. Born in Latvia, Osis received his doctorate in psychology from the University of Munich in 1950. His dissertation topic, “A Hypothesis of Extrasensory Perception,” reflected an interest in the field of parapsychology prompted by an experience as a teenager in which he had undergone a mystical encounter with a mysterious light source that had filled him with sublime joy.
Osis had a long and distinctive career in parapsychology, and he worked in such areas as animal ESP, distance effects on extrasensory perception, psychokinesis, out-of-body experiences, and life after death. In the 1960s, Osis did a pilot study of deathbed visions for the American Society for Psychical Research, which was later verified across several different cultures. Osis was a past president of the Parapsychological Association, director of research for the Parapsychology Foundation from 1957 to 1962, and the author of more than 70 scientific articles.
In 1962 the Rhines dissociated their research with Duke and established the Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man. Although the foundation remained in Durham, J. B. Rhine felt that their controversial work required the scientific freedom of becoming a privately funded, independent research organization.
In 1964 experimental methods for studying ESP during dreams was pioneered under the directorship of Dr. Montague Ullman and Dr. Stanley Krippner (1932- ) at the Dream Lab at the Maimonides Medical Center in New York. Krippner received a doctorate in Educational Psychology from Northwestern University, and he has done pioneering work in the scientific investigation of human consciousness, especially such areas as the relationship of creativity to parapsychological phenomena and altered states of consciousness. Extremely prolific and diverse in his interests in investigating the mysteries of psychic phenomena, Krippner has written more than 500 articles and many books, such asHuman Possibilities (1980), Dream Telepathy (with Montague Ullman and Alan Vaughan; 1989), and Healing States(with Alberto Villoldo; 1986).
In the 1970s, Dr. Russell Targ and Dr. Harold Puthoff conducted some of the best-known experiments on the connections between ESP “senders” located at a distance from the “receivers” of the psychic communication. The designated receiver was placed in a sealed, opaque and electrically shielded chamber, while the scientists would situate the sender in another room where he or she was subjected to bright flashes of light at regular intervals. Each of the experimental subjects was connected to an electroencephalograph (EEG) machine that registered their brain-wave patterns. After a brief period of time, the receiver began to produce the same rhythmic pattern of brain waves as the sender, who was exposed to the flashing light. Targ and Puthoff also carried out experiments in what came to be known as “remote viewing,” in which sender and receiver were separated by distances that eliminated any possibility of any form of ordinary sensory communication between them.
Dr. Charles T. Tart (1937- ) studied electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before deciding to become a psychologist. He received his doctorate in psychology from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill in 1963 and while a member of the faculty at the University of California at Davis for 28 years became internationally known for his research on the nature of consciousness, particularly altered states. Tart is one of the founders of the field of transpersonal psychology and has authored such classic books as Altered States of Consciousness (1969),Transpersonal Psychologies (1975), and Learning to Use Extrasensory Perception (1976). Tart considers his primary goals as being able to build a bridge between the scientific and the spiritual communities and to help accomplish an integration of Western and Eastern approaches for knowing the world.
In 1995, in honor of the 100th anniversary of J. B. Rhine’s birth, the Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man was renamed the Rhine Research Center. On June 8, 2002, the Rhines’ daughter, Sally Feather, welcomed well-wishers to the Rhine Research Center when it officially opened its first new building. Feather had worked with her parents at the facility at Duke and later at their ESP laboratory when they left the university in 1964. The new building, said to be the most advanced parapsychological facility in the United States, was declared by Feather as “the culmination of a dream that my parents had, but it’s my dream now.”
ESP research remains a source of constant controversy between parapsychologists and their colleagues in the material sciences. Dr. Robert Morris, director of the Koestler Parapsychology Unit at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, toldNew Scientist magazine (March 3, 2001) that he recognized the skeptics’ mocking accusation that ESP stood for “Error Some Place” and he understood that parapsychology needed two things to satisfy the critics: “One, effects of sufficient strength and consistency, so you know something is going on that isn’t readily understood by other means…[Two]…coming up with a mechanism. One big question is whether we are talking simply about one mechanism or three or four.” Morris stated that he is convinced that ESP is presently “above and beyond what present-day science could account for,” but he remains confident that future scientists will one day figure it out.
The Netherlands’ Gerard Croiset (1909-1980) was claimed to be a gifted clairvoyant. Perhaps the most remarkable of the many experiments conducted with Croiset was an endless series of chair tests that had been devised for him by Professor Tenhaeff of the Dutch Society for Psychical Research. From the outset of the tests in October of 1947, the results were startling and Croiset repeated the experiment several hundred times in front of scientists in five European nations.
The test itself was conducted quite simply. Croiset was taken to a theater, an auditorium, or a meeting house, where a chair number was selected completely at random by a disinterested third party. Croiset then predicted, anywhere from one hour to 26 days, who would sit in the chair. The descriptions given by the paragnost (as such sensitives are called in Holland) were never vague and generalized but quite exact and astonishingly detailed. Often, not only was the individual’s appearance described but also characteristics of his or her personality and even certain emotional difficulties that the subject may have been experiencing at the time. Sometimes Croiset saw the subject’s past and was able to predict things about the person’s future.
In June of 1964, Croiset was consulted in the murder case of the three Mississippi civil rights workers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. Via transatlantic telephone wire, Croiset accurately described the area where the three young men’s bodies would be found and correctly implicated the local law enforcement officers as participants in the slayings. Although the FBI later made no formal acknowledgment of the clairvoyant’s aid in the case, according to writer Jack Harrison Pollack, the federal agents actively sought information from the Utrecht sensitive.
Another famous Dutch clairvoyant, Peter Hurkos (1911-1988), manifested latent powers after he had suffered a fractured skull in June of 1943. After the Second World War (1939-45), Hurkos began to devote most of his time to psychic crime detection. In one of his first cases as a psychic sleuth working with police, Hurkos had only to hold the coat of a dead man to be able to describe the man’s murderer in detail that included the assailant’s eyeglasses, mustache, and wooden leg. When police admitted that they already had such a man in custody, Hurkos told them where the man had hidden the murder weapon.
Clairvoyants have been cooperating with law enforcement agencies for years, but usually in an unofficial capacity, the Dutch police being among the few official agencies who openly consult clairvoyants for assistance in crime detection. In the United States, England, and Canada, in spite of some astonishing results achieved with the help of such psychics as Irene F. Hughes, Dorothy Allison, and Bevy Jaegers, the official policy is to discuss such important cooperation only in “off the record” interviews and unofficial statements.
In an attempt to determine the amount of clairvoyance the hypnotic state might produce, extensive laboratory tests have been deliberately designed to allow the subject to achieve a hypnotic state amenable to manifestations of ESP. In one experiment Dr. Jarl Fahler, a Finnish psychologist, had four subjects go through 360 runs of an ESP deck, performing half of them in a waking state, and the other half in a hypnotic state.
The results of this experiment showed scoring at chance level in the waking state with significantly higher scoring in the hypnotic state. The subjects did much better on the part of the experiment that tested clairvoyance than on the precognition portion.
Experiments combining clairvoyance and hypnosis go back for centuries. In 1849 the famous mathematician, Augustus de Morgan (1806-1871), wrote of his first experience with what came to be known as “traveling clairvoyance.” The early mesmerists (hypnotists) carried out many experiments during which the subjects would be asked to “go somewhere” mentally and to describe what they saw. In the particular experiment of which de Morgan wrote, the mathematician told of dining at a friend’s house that was about a mile from his own. De Morgan’s wife was not present, having remained at home to treat a young epileptic girl with mesmeric therapy. When de Morgan returned to his home, his wife greeted him with the words: “We have been after you.” While in a hypnotic trance the girl—whose clairvoyant abilities had been demonstrated on numerous previous occasions—had been instructed to “follow Mr. de Morgan.”
When the girl’s mother had heard the name of the street on which the mathematician could be located, she told Mrs. de Morgan that her daughter could never find her way there, for she had never been so far away from home. But in a moment, the girl announced that she stood before the house. Mrs. de Morgan told her that she should knock at the door and go in. The hypnotized clairvoyant answered by saying that she could not knock at the door until she had entered the gate. Mrs. de Morgan was puzzled at this, and it was only upon Mr. de Morgan’s return that the mystery was explained. Having never been to this particular friend’s house, Mrs. de Morgan was not aware of the fact that the house stood in a garden and that the front door was reached only after one had entered at the garden gate. But the hypnotist bade her subject to simulate entering the house and continue in her pursuit of Mr. de Morgan.
The girl said that she was inside the house and could hear voices upstairs. She “walked” up the stairs and gave a detailed description of the people assembled, the furniture, objects, pictures in the room, and the colors of the drapes and curtains. De Morgan, admittedly awed by the clairvoyantly gained information, verified that each detail was precise and exact. He was even more astonished when the girl repeated the conversations she had overheard and described the dinner menu.
Dr. Milan Ryzl, a Czechoslovakian chemist and physicist who became interested in the field of parapsychology in the 1960s, developed the working hypothesis that if a hypnotic trance could produce the proper level of consciousness for manifestation of ESP, then these extrasensory abilities could be not only induced hypnotically but eventually brought forth spontaneously by the subject without the aid of hypnosis. Ryzl’s experiments involved three major phases: 1) achievement of the proper level of consciousness through hypnosis; 2) perfecting the manifested ESP by a long and intense training period; 3) self-induction by the subject for the state of consciousness receptive to psi manifestation, with encouragement for the subject to use his other ESP faculties independently of the experimenter who trained him or her.
Ryzl originated his experiment with 463 subjects, mostly university student-volunteers between the ages of 16 and 30. Out of this large group only three individuals had sufficient patience and diligence to complete the extensive training period with any degree of proficiency. The parapsychologist’s most talented subject was Pavel Stepanek, a man who came to Ryzl’s laboratory at the age of 30 and who had the tenacity to stay with the program for three years.
When he began the experiment, Stepanek demonstrated no extrasensory abilities and was evaluated as psychologically normal. Stepanek was given a standard test throughout the experiment. He was asked to tell whether the green or the white side of a two-color card was facing up. Under these conditions a chance score would have been 50 percent.
To test the repeatability of Stepanek’s above-chance scoring and to confirm to visiting researchers that the subject was free from any dependency on Ryzl, the testing procedure involved three phases. In the first, or control, phase of the experiment, Ryzl handled the proceedings with the visitors observing. In the second phase, Ryzl was present to stimulate the subject with the procedure in the hands of the guests. The third phase was conducted entirely by the visitors, with Ryzl in no way present or participating.
In the actual procedure of the experiment, Pavel Stepanek was to ascertain the color of the face-up card from a series of ten two-color cards completely enclosed in opaque covers. As the experiment progressed, even more precautions were taken. The cards were shut up in packs of opaque cardboard and wrapped in layers of blue wrapping paper. Enclosed in the pack was a strip of sensitive photographic film, which was examined after each test for further assurance that the deck had not been opened.
In an adjoining room Mrs. Ryzl prepared the cards, determining their order by astronomical data available for the day of the experiment. She handed the cards to Ryzl, then sat in a corner of the room. Ryzl and Stepanek were separated by an opaque screen through which there was no possibility of seeing the cards or the envelopes.
The first test of 200 sets was run, giving a total of 2,000 individual cards. For this test Stepanek performed under hypnosis, not having achieved a high enough degree of proficiency to function without it. He scored 1,144 hits and 856 misses. In all successive tests the subject brought himself to the level of consciousness in which ESP manifests.
Several parapsychologists began accepting Ryzl’s invitation to come to Prague to take part in the experiments. Among those who came were British psychologist John Beloff, American parapsychologist John Freeman, Indian parapsychologist B. K. Kanthamni, and American parapsychologist J. G. Pratt. Each of these men suggested variations of the test; and from these variations, additional observations were devised for the steadily growing body of research. Stepanek consistently scored above chance.
At one point, however, his abilities did begin to deteriorate. To help him regain his ability, Ryzl gave Stepanek a deck and told him to go home and try to rebuild his psychic powers himself. Ryzl suggested that he return when he once more felt confidence in his abilities.
This Stepanek did, and eventually he returned to the lab, stating that he once more felt assured of successful high scoring. The tests were resumed and Stepanek immediately regained his former high level of accuracy. Ryzl interpreted Stepanek’s ability to retrain his ESP ability by himself, without any outside help, as indicative of the fact that the subject exerted at least some conscious control over his extrasensory process.
In a review of the total experiment, Ryzl concluded that there had been a number of obstacles to be overcome. The first of these obstacles occurred during the initial phase of the experiment, when the subject was first brought to a hypnotic trance corresponding to the proper level of consciousness in which ESP manifests. At this stage the subject was in an extremely suggestible state. Unfortunately, the maintenance of such a state requires the suspension of critical thinking. Without this discriminatory aid the subject makes mistakes, as he or she is unable to determine the difference between true impressions and other sensory impressions. To overcome this difficulty, Ryzl juggled the different levels of hypnosis. Thus, while the subject was in deep sleep, he was more receptive to extrasensory impressions, and while in the lighter stages, he could use his critical faculties and memory. In this way the subject was able to progress by correcting his own mistakes and by learning to rely upon, and trust, his own judgment.
An interesting difficulty that arose concerned the resistant aspect of psychic impressions. Psi impressions do not seem to occur in the same set patterns and symbology as do sensory impressions. Extrasensory perceptions are usually perceived subjectively and manifest most frequently through the physical senses as hallucinatory experiences. This means that a color may manifest itself as a texture, sound, or temperature.
Ryzl learned that one of the difficulties in testing for ESP lies in the fact that psychically received impressions, manifesting as false sensory hallucinations, are frequently indistinguishable from conventional hypnotic hallucinations. ESP subjects must double their energy for they must constantly be assessing their impressions against what they know to be reality.
In addition to tests for clairvoyance and other manifestations of ESP conducted under hypnosis, numerous experiments have been conducted with the subjects under the influence of various psychotropic or psychedelic drugs. In 1966 R. E. L. Masters, a psychologist, and Jean Houston, a philosopher, were running LSD, mescaline, and psilocybin experiments at the Foundation for Mind Research. While engaged in this study, a number of subjects reported instances of telepathy and clairvoyance. These consistent reports were responsible for Houston’s and Masters’ inauguration of a specific ESP experiment. Their goal was to elicit extrasensory impressions during the psychedelic sessions.
The original setup of the experiment required 27 subjects to run through a Zener ESP deck (five cards for each of the symbols circle, square, cross, wavy line, star) ten times. The cards were reshuffled after each run of 25. This procedure proved boring to the subjects, who were more interested in following the subjective impressions being triggered in their minds by the drug. The majority of the subjects, 23 of the 27, scored consistently at chance or below-chance levels. They averaged a score of 3.5, which is below chance. The other four subjects averaged a score of 8.5—considerably above chance—and were personal friends of the guide. They were cooperative throughout the test, providing additional indication that attitude influences psi performances.
Masters and Houston learned from this experience to make their tests more compatible to the psychedelic state. The testing further revealed that a subject was more likely to manifest ESP during the leveling-off segment of his “trip” than during the core of the experience. The attention span was much greater and more easily motivated toward taking part in the experiment.
On the basis of these developments, Masters and Houston designed a test utilizing 10 emotionally charged images of historic or aesthetic content in place of the ESP cards. These pictures attempted to trigger the subjective, visual impressions a subject would receive while in the drug state. The agent opened the envelopes containing the target images in an adjoining room. In the room containing the subjects, an assistant attempted to elicit verbal responses from the 62 individuals who had volunteered for the test. Of the 62, 48 described approximate images at least two times out of 10. Of the 62, only 14 were unable to give descriptions corresponding to at least two of the images, and these poor performers were either unknown to the experimenter, anxiety-ridden, or “primarily interested in eliciting personal psychological material.” The full results of this experiment were published in 1966 by Masters and Houston in their The Varieties of Psychedelic Experience.
Out-of-Body Experience (OBE)
To primitive humans, a dream was an actual experience enacted by the soul as it wandered about during sleep. Today a great deal is still unknown about the mysteries of sleep and dreams, but electroencephalograph records of brain waves and the study of rapid-eye-movement patterns have convinced psychologists and dream scientists that the action of a dream (for most people) takes place within the individual dream machinery and is confined within the brain. However, some individuals have experiences in which they feel certain that their soul, their mind, truly did leave the body during sleep or an altered state of consciousness and travel to other dimensions or other geographical locations on Earth. Are such out-of-body experiences (OBEs) actual journeys of the soul or are they only vivid dreams or hallucinations?
Dr. Hornell Hart’s investigation of out-of-body experiences (also known as astral projection) and psi phenomena led him to theorize that the brain was but an instrument by which consciousness expressed itself, rather than a generator that produced consciousness. Hart contended that the available evidence strongly supported the testimonies of those individuals who claimed that their personal consciousness had observed scenes and acted at long distances away from their physical bodies.
Dr. Eugene E. Bernard, professor of psychology at North Carolina State University, who studied astral projection extensively, stated that he found it highly improbable that so many people who were apparently psychologically healthy were having hallucinations of leaving their bodies. Bernard estimated one out of every 100 persons has experienced some sort of out-of-body projection and stated that his study indicated that such projections occurred most often during times of stress, such as undergoing natural childbirth or minor surgery, and at times of extreme fear. In addition to these kinds of spontaneous instances, Bernard stated he also had encountered a number of individuals who seemed to be able to have out-of-body projections almost at will. Acknowledging that there was still much that remains unknown about the mind and its abilities, he expressed his opinion that the astral projection theory can be proved and controlled.
In Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death, his classic work published in 1903, psychical researcher Frederic W. H. Myers (1843-1901) believed out-of-body experiences to be the most extraordinary achievement of the human will. What, he wondered, “could be a more central action—more manifestly the outcome of whatsoever is deepest and most unitary in man’s whole being—than the ability to leave one’s body and return to it?” Such an ability, this self-projection, Myers said, was the most significant of all vital phenomena. And, even more wondrous, astral projection “appeared to be the one profound act of the spirit that one might perform equally well before and after physical death.”
Here are some of the most common types of out-of-body experiences, or situations in which OBEs might occur:
- Projections that occur while the subject sleeps.
- Projections that occur while the subject is undergoing surgery, childbirth, tooth extraction, etc.
- Projections that occur at the time of an accident, during which the subject suffers a violent physical jolt that seems, literally, to catapult the spirit from the physical body.
- Projections that occur during intense physical pain.
- Projections that occur during acute illness.
- Projections that occur during near-death experiences (NDEs), wherein the subject is revived and returned to life through heart massage or other medical means.
- Projections that occur at the moment of physical death when the deceased subject appears to a living percipient with whom he or she has had a close emotional link.
In addition to these spontaneous, involuntary experiences, there are also those voluntary and conscious projections during which the subject deliberately endeavors to free his or her mind from the physical body.
Dr. Robert Crookall, the British geologist and botanist who was also a pioneer in the study of out-of-body experience, stated in the introduction to his More Astral Projections (1964) that the astral, the etheric, body “is normally enmeshed in, or in gear with the familiar physical body” so that most people are not aware of its existence. “But many people have become aware of it, for . . . [their] Soul Body separated or projected from the physical body and was used, temporarily, as an instrument of consciousness.”
Crookall perceived this “Soul Body” as consisting of matter, “but it is extremely subtle and may be described as ‘super-physical.'” In his view the physical body is animated by a semi-physical “vehicle of vitality” that bridges the physical body and the Soul Body and is the “breath of life” to which the book of Genesis refers. Crookall suggests that some projections “involve the Soul Body only; others merely represent an extrusion of part of the vehicle of vitality; most are a combination of the two— the Soul Body goes out accompanied by a tincture of substance from the vehicle.”
Many individuals who have undergone out-of-body experiences have made mention of a kind of cord of silver color that seems to attach their soul or mind to the physical body. Such glimpses of the silver cord have prompted those experiencers and researchers of a religious orientation to recall the verses in the book of Ecclesiastes which refer to the time of death when “the silver cord is loosed and the golden bowl be broken.…Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (KJV Ecclesiastes 12:5-7). In Tibetan Buddhist tradition, out-of-body experiencers have also long observed that a strand exists between the astral double and the physical body. In diverse cultures, many individuals who have undergone out-of-body phenomena have noticed that their “silver cords” were highly elastic. In the oft-cited case of the Reverend Bertrand, the French clergyman saw that his etheric double was attached to his physical body by “a kind of elastic string.” An American student of OBE, Sylvan Muldoon, reported “an elastic-like cable” linking his two bodies.
On many occasions, out-of-body experiencers have commented that the silver cord appeared to be luminous, like a beam of light. Others state that it was not really any kind of actual physical cord, but a stream of light that continued to connect them to their physical bodies. Crookall mused from his gathering of accounts of OBE that the so-called silver cord corresponds “to the umbilical cord in childbirth (where an old body gives birth to a new body)”; and if such is the case, its severance may mean death.
Dr. Alexander Cannon saw the various strata of physical and nonphysical human beings a bit differently. In his Sleeping Through Space (1938), Cannon related the view of the Master-the-Fifth of the Great White Lodge of the Himalayas, Kushog Vogi of Northern Tibet, who believed that the astral body surrounds the physical body “like an eggshell surrounds the egg within it and is linked up with the physical body by invisible vibrations on the ether in the air being carried to the mind centers on the plexuses of the involuntary nervous system.” In Cannon’s view, the astral body is the scriptural “golden bowl” and the etheric body is the linking “silver cord.”
“The astral body,” he wrote, “is mainly the emotional body and has to do with emotions, moods, and feelings. The astral body is not only linked up with the physical body through the solar plexus, but also linked up with the etheric body through vibrations passing from it through the physical body between the eyes…to the top of the etheric body.”
Cannon compared the etheric body to a “streak of light running down the front of the spinal cord of the physical body but independent of either the astral or physical body, whereas the physical body is dependent, through the involuntary sympathetic nervous system, on the astral body, and in turn the astral body is dependent on the etheric body.”
According to Cannon, the East has long believed that when the physical body dies, the astral body containing the etheric body separates from the physical body after three days, and that after years, perhaps centuries, the astral body dies and leaves only the etheric body to become a spirit. The Eastern schools of initiation, Cannon informed, teach the chela (student) how to withdraw his or her astral body under the direction of a master. To achieve such control of the spirit, the student must subject himself or herself to a rigorous and prolonged period of highly intensive and specialized training. Such esoteric knowledge, Cannon reminded his readers, had been acquired by centuries of effort and experimentation by Eastern adepts. The Western world is only beginning to be made aware of the existence of the spiritual self.
Students of astral projection, bilocation, and OBE have frequently commented on the phenomenon of dual consciousness, i.e., having complete awareness of one’s body, its functions, and the room in which it is lying at the same time that one is traveling astrally to visit a faraway person or place. The lines between out-of-body travel and other psi phenomena are nebulous and may overlap a great deal.
In 1951 Sylvan Muldoon, who was accomplished in seemingly leaving his body almost at will, collaborated with Hereward Carrington (1880-1958), a psychical researcher of international reputation, to produce The Phenomena of Astral Projection. In this book, the authors felt confident that they had presented a considerable number of case histories that proved beyond reasonable doubt that astral projection is a fact, that humans can leave their physical bodies spontaneously and project to considerable distances at will. Muldoon and Carrington were certain that such a fact represented an important truth to all humankind: individuals are not their material brains, nor are they a product of their brains’ functional activities. Muldoon and Carrington argued that if humans are here and now spiritual entities, then the prospect of another life in a spiritual world becomes not only a possibility but nearly a certainty.
There is nothing new about the belief in immortality and in humankind’s possession of a nonphysical capacity that remains aloof to the physical considerations of time, space, and matter. But just how could science go about proving out-of-the-body experiences? Can an astral, or soul, body be weighed and measured? Can it be seen as it rises from the host body of a laboratory volunteer? Certainly it cannot be followed to determine the validity of the experience, nor can it disturb carefully arranged flour dusted on the floor.
Dr. Charles T. Tart (1937- ), a core faculty member of the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto, California, is responsible for pioneer work in bringing the soul out of the body and into the laboratory. His books Altered States of Consciousness (1969) and Transpersonal Psychologies (1975) are considered classics in the field of consciousness studies and scientific parapsychology. The first of Tart’s experiments with OBE were conducted in the electroencephalography laboratory at the University of Virginia Hospital during the early 1960s. At that time, Tart was primarily concerned with spontaneous OBEs during the sleep state, as this appears to be the most common state in which such projection occurs. His two subjects, a man and a woman, were individuals who claimed knowledge of leaving their bodies in sleep. To test the validity of the out-of-body experience, the two subjects were asked to read a five-digit numeral placed on the shelf of the equipment room in the laboratory. The number was so placed that the subjects would be unable to see it under normal conditions, but in a state of conscious disengagement from the body, they could supposedly read it off with ease.
In the experiment, electrodes were attached to each subject’s head for electroencephalograph (EEG) readings. (The EEG records brain waves.) Additional equipment was used to measure the subjects’ rapid eye movements (REMs). A great deal of study in recent years has indicated that REMs accompany dreams and early sleep stages, but are absent in later stages. Finally, an electrocardiogram was made, recording heart action. Tart hoped, with such equipment, to provide psychophysiological substantiation to each subject’s out-of-body projection. He also wished to learn from bodily responses more of the nature of an OBE.
The male subject was tested on nine different nights. Although he claimed he could project himself at will, he was unable to do so, by his own account, until the next to the last night of the experiment. On that evening he reported leaving his body twice within a few minutes. The subject’s first OBE found him in the presence of two men and one woman, all unknown to him. He tried to arouse their awareness of him by pinching and touching, but he was unsuccessful in his attempts. The validity of this experience could not be verified. During his second OBE, he reported walking through the doorway into the equipment room. Not finding the technician on duty, he continued on his way to the office section of the building. There he found the technician, talking with a man whom he did not know. Again he tried to attract attention to his presence. When he was once more unsuccessful, he returned to his body, awakened, and called out to the technician. She confirmed that she had been in the office with her husband. The subject’s description of her husband was exact.
It was determined by the EEG record within the few minutes before he awakened— which was the time the subject indicated he had been out of his body—that he had been in a state of Stage One dreaming. It is in this state that sleep is lighter and dreams are accompanied by rapid eye movements. Since the subject’s experience had occurred not in the later or deeper stages of sleep and not in a state of drowsiness, but totally during the dream state, Tart labeled the experiment “inconclusive.” Even though there was objective evidence that the technician was not at the controls when the subject said she was not, and she had been in the office with her husband, whom the subject was able to describe, Tart did not feel he could offer irrefutable evidence that an actual OBE had occurred.
The female subject was tested for four non-successive nights over a period of two months. This woman was subjected to even stricter laboratory controls and physiological response measuring devices. Her efforts were concerned mainly with attempts to read the test numeral Tart had placed on the shelf. On the third night of the experiment, the subject claimed that she had visited her sister in another city, and although this astral flight could not be verified, her EEG pattern sequence was “unusual.” On the fourth and final night of the experiment, the subject correctly identified the number on the shelf as 25,132.
Tart termed the experiment a “conditional success,” but he refused to call it conclusive. Jumping ahead of the skeptics’ disclaimers, Tart said that the subject could possibly have seen the number high on the shelf reflected in the black plastic case of a clock. Although he did not himself believe this to be the case, he deemed it necessary to make due note of it.
Tart, who for 28 years was professor of psychology at the Davis Campus of the University of California, has stated that to him the most significant aspect of his early experimentation was not the tentative findings that they produced, but the fact that such traditionally “occult” manifestations as astral projection, OBEs, can be subjected to scientific study. A considerable number of scientists have become convinced of the reality of out-of-body travel because of such pioneering experiments as those conducted by Tart, but it remains extremely difficult to satisfy the more material sciences’ demand for controlled and repeatable laboratory proof. Science is the art of definition; therefore, the intangible must somehow be made tangible.
“Once we rid ourselves of the stubborn and conventional notions that man is separate from his universe, that external reality is separate from internal reality, and that the study of consciousness is a waste of time, the taboos against imaginative investigation in creativity, parapsychology, hypnosis, and the psychedelics will diminish,” Dr. Stanley Krippner has observed. “To perceive and understand reality in its totality, we will want to utilize the insights obtained in altered states of consciousness, as well as those available to us in the everyday, waking state.”
In the assessment of many parapsychologists, the thousands of anecdotal cases of spontaneous out-of-body projection and laboratory experiments in controlled mind travel demonstrate that the human psyche is not to be held in thrall by the limitations of time and space. Even while humans’ physical bodies exist in this physical world, wherein the limitations of mass, energy, space, and time shape and control the environment, the human essence is capable of extending outside of itself.
Precognitions, visions of future events to come, have been noted regularly not only in the literature of psychical research but in that of science itself for more than 2,000 years. The Bible includes a collection of divinely inspired prophecies and promises. Over the centuries, an argument that time is not an absolute has been building up. A great number of psi researchers have suggested that the common concept of time might be due to the special pattern in which humankind’s sensory apparatus has evolved. One thing seems certain about true precognition: whether it comes about through a dream or the vision of a seer, the percipient does not see possibilities but actualities.
In 1934, H. F. Saltmarsh issued a report to the London Society for Psychical Research in which he had made a critical study of 349 cases of precognition. In the report, and later in his book Foreknowledge (1938), Saltmarsh established the following conditions that would, in his estimation, make a case of precognition wholly satisfactory:
- It should have been recorded in writing or told to a witness or acted upon in some significant manner before the subsequent incident verified it.
- It should contain a sufficient amount of detail verified by the event to make chance coincidence unlikely.
- Conditions should be such that the following phenomena may be ruled out as explanations: telepathy, clairvoyance, auto-suggestion, inference from subliminally acquired knowledge and hyperaesthesia.
Saltmarsh used the above criteria to proclaim 183 of the 349 cases as being wholly satisfactory cases of precognition. One of these, the “Case of the Derailed Engine,” will serve as an illustration of the sort of experience that Saltmarsh assessed as truly precognitive.
A minister’s wife and daughter were staying at lodgings at Trinity, near Edinburgh, Scotland, on July 15, 1860. It was a bright Sunday afternoon, and between three and four o’clock, Mrs. W. told her daughter to go out for a short walk on the “railway garden,” the name that she had given a strip of ground between the seawall and the railway embankment. The daughter had only been gone a few minutes when Mrs. W. distinctly heard a voice within her say: “Send for her to come back or something dreadful will happen to her.”
Mrs. W. was seized by a sense of foreboding that progressed into a feeling of terror that soon had her trembling and physically upset over the nameless dread. She ordered a servant to go and bring her daughter home at once. The servant, seeing her mistress visibly distraught, set out immediately. Mrs. W. paced the floor, more upset than ever, fearful that she would never again see her daughter alive.
In about a quarter of an hour, the servant returned with the daughter, who was safe and well. Mrs. W. asked the child not to play on the railroad embankment and obtained her promise that she would sit elsewhere and not on the spot where she usually played.
Later that afternoon an engine and tender jumped the rails and crashed into the wall where her daughter had been playing before the servant brought her home. Three men out of five who were there, were killed. Much later, Miss W. and her brother visited the scene of the tragedy and saw that the smashed engine had crashed into the precise spot where she had spent two hours with her brother on the previous Sunday afternoon.
Saltmarsh theorized that what is called the “present moment” is not a point of time, but a small time interval called the “specious present.” According to his theory, the human subconscious mind has a much larger “specious present” than the conscious level of being. For the subconscious, all events would be “present.” If, on occasion, some of this subconscious knowledge were to burst into the conscious, it would be interpreted as either a memory of a past event or a precognition of a future event. The past is neatly cataloged somewhere in the subconscious. Some psi researchers, such as H. F. Saltmarsh, believe that all events—past, present, and future—are part of the “present” for the deeper transcendental mind.
In view of such concepts as Saltmarsh’s, some researchers maintain that the age-old query, “Can the future be changed?” has no meaning. The foreknowledge of the future, of which some level of the subconscious is aware and of which it sometimes flashes a dramatic bit or scene to the conscious in a dream or trance, is founded on the knowledge of how the individual will use his or her freedom of choice. The “future event” conditions the subconscious self. The level of the subconscious that “knows” the future does not condition the “future event.” The transcendent element of self that knows what “will be” blends all time into “what is now and what will always be.” For the conscious self, what is now the past was once the future. One does not look upon past events and feel that one acted without freedom of will. Why then should one look at the future and feel that those events are predetermined? That a subconscious level in the psyche may know the future, these researchers insist, does not mean that the conscious self has no freedom of choice. Simply stated, if the future could be changed it would not be the future. In a true precognitive experience when one perceives the future, he or she has glimpsed what will be and what, for a level of subconscious, already exists.
The fact that precognitive dreams that tell of future events, accomplishments, dangers, and deaths appear to be so common has persuaded many psi researchers that somehow, in a way that is not yet understood, every individual is aware of the future at an unconscious level of his or her mind. Such knowledge usually lies imprisoned at a subconscious level, out of the grasp of the conscious mind. Occasionally, however, in especially dramatic dreams, bits and snatches of scenes from the future bubble up to become conscious memories. Then, later, as the experience is lived through in waking reality, it is astonishing to have the dream play itself again before conscious eyes.
Psychiatrist Dr. Jan Ehrenwald has theorized that at the lower level of the subconscious—which Freudian analysts refer to as the “id”— time and spatial relationships may be all mixed up. Here and there, past, present, and future may all be interlocked and interchangeable.
Is it possible to avoid foreseen danger? The question is probably as old as humankind itself. Can one change the course of future events or is everything inexorably preordained? It is perhaps not so much a question of free will as it is a matter of what constitutes time. “In any attempt to bridge the domains of experience belonging to the spiritual and physical sides of our nature, time occupies the key position,” mused A. S. Eddington in Science and the Unseen World (1929).
There is a general consensus among psi researchers that there are five types of precognitive experiences. At the most elementary level is subliminal precognition, or the “hunch” that proves to be an accurate one. Next would come trivial precognition, which takes place only a short time before the actual occurrence of a rather unimportant event. Then, in the area of full-blown, meaningful precognitions, which indicate a power of mind not limited by space or time, there are beneficial, non-beneficial, and detrimental previsions. In a beneficial premonition, the transcendent self may over-dramatize a future event in such a way that it proves to be a warning that is acted upon by the conscious self’s characteristic reaction to such a crisis.
On a July morning in 1952, according to a case in the files of Louisa E. Rhine, a woman in New Jersey attempted to avoid the death of a child as she had foreseen it in a precognitive “vision.” In this glimpse of the future, which had occurred as she lay resting in a darkened room, she envisioned the aftermath of a dreadful traffic accident. A child had been killed and lay covered on the ground. Because the child was covered, the woman could not identify the victim.
In the morning, she told her next-door neighbor of the strange dream and begged her to keep close watch on her five-year-old child. Next she phoned a son, who lived in a busy section of the town, and admonished him to keep an eye on his two small children. She had another son who lived in the country, but she felt there was little need to warn him to be wary of traffic. Nonetheless, it was his little Kathy who was killed that same day when a township truck backed into her.
To take a final example from Louisa Rhine: A young mother in Washington State awakened her husband one night and related a horrible dream. She had seen the large ornamental chandelier that hung above their baby’s crib crash down into the child’s bed and crush the infant to death. In the dream, as they ran to discover the terrible accident, she noticed that the hands of the clock on the baby’s dresser were at 4:35.
The man laughed at his wife’s story, rolled over, and went back to sleep. Although she felt foolish for doing so, the young woman slid out of bed, went into the nursery, and returned with the baby. Placing the sleeping child gently between them, the woman fell at once into a deep sleep.
A few hours later, the young couple were awakened by a loud, crashing noise. The sound had come from the nursery, and the couple found that the chandelier had fallen into the baby’s crib. The clock on the baby’s dresser indicated the time as 4:35.
For the young woman’s deep level of subconscious, the falling of the chandelier was a present fact that was still a future fact for her conscious self. The absence of the baby in its crib was also a present fact to the transcendental self because it was aware of how the conscious self of the young mother would react if she knew the safety of her child were threatened. To stimulate the woman to action, the deep level of her psyche formulated a dramatic precognitive dream with an attached tragic ending. The future, therefore, had not been altered by the woman’s action, only implemented.
In his book An Experiment with Time (1938), J. W. Dunne gave many examples of his own precognitive dreams, which he recorded over a period of several years. Dunne firmly believed in sleep and dreams as the prime openers of the subconscious and formulated a philosophy, which he called “Serialism,” to account for precognition. In Dunne’s view, time was an “Eternal Now.” All events that have ever occurred, that exist now, or that ever will, are everlastingly in existence. In a person’s ordinary, conscious, waking state, his or her view is only of the present. In sleep, however, the individual’s view might be sufficiently enlarged to allow several glimpses of the future.
Although Dunne’s theory is considered too deterministic by the majority of psi researchers and has been generally discredited, one of his theories in regard to deja vu, the sense of the already seen, is quite intriguing. Dunne suggested that this curious experience (which almost everyone has had at one time or another) of “having been here before” is due to the stimulation of a partially remembered precognitive dream. When the conversation becomes familiar or the new location becomes suddenly recognizable, one may, according to Dunne, simply be remembering a precognitive dream, which had been driven back into the subconscious.
For those researchers who study precognition, the conventional idea of time existing as some sort of stream flowing along in one dimension is an inadequate one. In this linear view of time, the past does not exist: it is gone forever. The future does not exist because it has not yet happened. The only thing that exists is the present moment. But the present does not really exist, either, since it is no sooner “now” than that “now” becomes part of the past. If the past completely ceased to exist, one should have no memory of it. Yet each individual has a large and varied memory bank. Therefore, the past must exist in some sense—perhaps not as a physical or material reality, but in some sphere of its own. Similarly, certain psi researchers maintain, the future must also exist in some way in a sphere of its own. The subconscious does not differentiate between past, present, and future but is aware of all spheres of time as part of the “Eternal Now.”
There are certain kinds of precognitive experiences that can be easily identified as part of the normal process of the subconscious. A woman dreams of coming down with the measles and laughs it off. She did not succumb to the disease as a child; why should she weaken as an adult? In two days, she is in bed with the annoying rash covering her body. Rather than judge this to be a prophetic dream, one might better regard the experience as an example of the subconscious mind being much more aware of the condition of the inner body than the superficial conscious mind.
In other cases, a keen intellect and a great awareness of one’s environment will enable one to make predictions. Much of the affluence of the contemporary economy, from stock market juggling to hemline raising, is based upon the ability of certain knowledgeable people to make predictions concerning the preferences of a mass society.
In contrast to these “explainable” predictions, however, are the many examples of men and women who seem beyond any doubt to have experienced precognitions. Parapsychologists will state that this “power of prophecy” rested not in some occult knowledge, but within the transcendent self, which seems to be aware of events that belong in the realm of the future for the superficial self.
Some psi researchers have presented time in an analogy that has a man riding on the rear platform of a train. The man looks to the left and to the right. As the train chugs along, he is able to see a panorama of new scenes as they come into his view. As the train continues, these scenes fade into the distance and are lost to view. They have become the man’s past. But these scenes do continue to exist after they have passed from the man’s view, and they were in existence before the man perceived them, even though he was only able to see them at the time that they were his present. However, if another man were flying high above the train in an airplane, he would be able to see what has become the train passenger’s past and present, as well as foreseeing future scenes that lie beyond the man’s limited ground level view. All scenes for the man in the airplane exist as an “Eternal Now.”
Apart from the uncontrolled eruptions of psychokinetic power examined in the cases of poltergeist hauntings described in chapter ten, there are individuals who have demonstrated the ability to discipline psychokinesis (PK). Professional gamblers have long alleged that they can “make the dice obey” or make the little white ball in the roulette wheel stop wherever they wish.
Parapsychologist Dr. J. B. Rhine began his experimental lab work in PK in 1934. Using dice-throwing experiments and utilizing several volunteers who claimed to have been able to use “mind over matter” to bring in tangible rewards at the gaming tables, Rhine and his associates conducted tests and accumulated data until 1943 before they made any announcement of their results. In his The Reach of the Mind (1947), Rhine set forth an analysis of this data and concluded that psychokinesis had been established beyond all question.
In 1964, when Loyola University professor James Hurley was contemplating writing a book on ESP, he contacted Rhine, the dean of academic parapsychologists, and was told about the remarkable psychic-sensitive Olof Jonsson (1918-1998), who had the ability to produce psychokinetic effects, as well as demonstrate clairvoyance and telepathy. One night in the summer of 1964, Hurley and Jonsson were finishing dinner in a Chicago restaurant when Jonsson demonstrated PK by causing an individual globe to move in a chandelier located across the dining room.
Two Swedish doctors, Anders Perntz and Sven Erik Larsson, conducted numerous psychokinetic experiments that they conducted with Jonsson under full control. In one test, Jonsson turned a pewter candlestick weighing 1.25 kilograms 180 degrees while standing three yards away. In another experiment, Jonsson stood in front of a table and caused a piece of wood sculpture to slide at an even speed across the table top before it fell down to the floor.
The Danish psychical researcher and photographer Sven Turck conducted repeated tests of Jonsson’s psychokinetic powers, guarding against any possible trickery by creating strong controls in his laboratory. In Turck’s laboratory in Copenhagen, the researcher photographed Jonsson, together with a select group of psychic-sensitives, performing feats of psychokinesis. Turck set up three cameras at different angles, so that one always showed the action from behind, one from underneath, and one from above. After a series of sittings with the sensitives, chairs and objects began to move. A large worktable rose up on one leg and began to whirl around its own base, pirouetting faster and faster. Turck’s greatest wish was that they might get the table to soar freely in the air so that he might photograph the phenomenon of levitation. A few evenings later, the photographer was able to capture the fulfillment of his wish on the film of three cameras.
These phenomena were repeated often during the course of several months’ of sittings in Turck’s laboratory and were always dutifully recorded by the trio of cameras that had been loaded with infrared film. On one occasion, a large commode, of such a weight that two men could not lift it without great effort, was moved soundlessly out into the middle of the laboratory floor.
Author Stig Arne Kjellen said that Turck had never been able to believe in such dramatic displays of psychokinetic force until he had become a participant in the sessions held in his own laboratory. In principle, the psychokinetic moving of a candlestick is just as remarkable as the moving of a heavy table. Both feats are quite impossible in the view of orthodox science. The series of photographs taken during Turck’s experiments in Copenhagen were carefully examined by five of Denmark’s foremost photographic technicians, among them the director of the Danish photographic professional school, Theodore Andresen, who had full access to the photographic negatives. Each of the photographers agreed that no manipulations whatsoever had been worked upon the negatives.
Kjellen recorded 140 carefully controlled experiments in psychokinesis before Jonsson left Sweden in 1953 at the invitation of Rhine, who asked him to come to Duke University for a series of parapsychological tests. Kjellen tells of how without any previous preparations whatsoever, accompanied by people he had never met before and in places so distracting and mundane as restaurants and hotel vestibules, Jonsson got bottles, flowers, jars, ashtrays, toothpick holders, and candlesticks into motion, while talking to others with an altogether untroubled smile. Frequently such demonstrations took place with Jonsson situated a great distance away, and yet he was able to exert such force that, on some occasions, objects were moved several yards in one direction or another, sometimes directly up into the air.
In Rhine’s view, clairvoyance and telepathy are sensory types of phenomena, matter affecting mind; PK is a motor-type phenomenon, mind affecting matter. In his opinion, the existence of one implies the existence of the other and he maintained that they are closely related phenomena.
In his series of tests, Rhine noted that dice-throwers with marked control over the dies were much more successful at the beginning of a run. The same sort of “decline” effect that has been noted by agents testing telepathic percipients in card-guessing tests was in evidence in testing for PK.
Other similarities existed between ESP and PK tests as observed in the Duke University parapsychology laboratories where Rhine and his colleagues conducted the tests. For example, mechanical devices made no difference in the effectiveness of PK, and neither did distance. Once again, as in ESP testing, a relaxed, informal atmosphere produced the best PK results. Another important similarity between the two paranormal abilities is the fact that the person who expects success and “believes” in his or her ability to produce the desired result will always score much higher than the individual who is indifferent to ESP or PK.
It appears that psychokinesis as well as extrasensory perception is a talent that can be developed and encouraged and is an ability present, to a certain degree, in all people.
In his The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1904), Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) had discussed several alleged supernormal occurrences and expressed a profound skepticism about prophetic dreams and telepathic phenomena. However, in 1922, he published his article “Dreams and Telepathy” and publicly proclaimed that he admitted the possibility of telepathic phenomena. He had written a much less cautious full-length essay, “Psycho-analysis and Telepathy,” which he would have read to the International Psychoanalytic Congress of 1922 if Ernest Jones, founder of the British Psychoanalytical Society, had not persuaded him to consider the damaging repercussions his outspoken attitude might have on the whole fledgling psychoanalytic movement. Consequently, the article did not see print until 1941, after Freud’s death.
In 1924 Freud wrote a letter to Jones in which he remarked how strongly he had been impressed with a report on telepathic experiments that Gilbert Murray had prepared for the Society for Psychical Research. Freud confessed that he was ready to give up his opposition to the existence of thought-transference and said that he would even be prepared to lend the support of psychoanalysis to the matter of telepathy. Once again, the skeptic Jones, fearful of the damage that such a public declaration might deliver to psychoanalysis, convinced Freud not to publish any such offer of support to parapsychological research.
Today psychiatrists and psychoanalysts vary greatly in their attitudes toward psi research. Those who profess nothing but an adamant skepticism say that the illustrations of ESP brought forward by their colleagues express nothing but the analyst’s own desire to believe in their validity. Those who consider psi research to be a serious and valuable contribution to human understanding insist that paranormal activities, particularly those of telepathy and clairvoyance, are too numerous to be dismissed by an arched eyebrow and a cursory examination.
Many psychiatrists have developed a respect for psi research when, during the course of analysis, a close relationship that can only be described as psychic, has developed between a doctor and his or her patient. Some doctors have reported patients who have related dreams that have dramatized actual incidents that the analysts themselves have experienced that day or even the week before. In several cases, the key to a patient’s mental disturbance has been located in a dream experience of the analyst. Reports have even been made of several patients of the same analyst sharing dreams or reenacting group or individual experiences, as if some strange circle of telepathic dreams had been established.
Parapsychologists have long contended that telepathy (and ESP in general) functions best between individuals who have a strong emotional link. This particular level of the human mind seems to operate best spontaneously, especially when a crisis situation makes it necessary to communicate through other than the standard sensory channels.
For quite some time, psi researchers have been aware that twins show unusually high telepathic rapport. A series of tests conducted by psychologists at the University of Alberta, Canada, confirmed this theory by establishing statistical evidence that identical twins, and to a lesser extent, fraternal twins, have remarkable ability to communicate with one another through ESP.
At the behest of Dr. J. B. Rhine of Duke University, Olivia Rivers, a psychologist at Mississippi State University, conducted tests with identical twins, Terry and Sherry Young. The Jackson, Mississippi, twins were able to pass entire sentences to each other via telepathy. The girls seemed to be in constant rapport; and even when separated, each knew if the other had turned an ankle, gotten a toothache, or developed a cold. Sherry was better as the receiver; Terry as the sender. Their schoolteachers despaired of ever receiving an accurate test from either girl. Even when placed in separate classrooms the girls still used similar phrases and got similar marks. They made no secret of the fact that they helped one another in their school work, but insisted that it was by telepathy alone. It was not cheating to them, nor could anyone consider it as being unfair or dishonest of the girls. It was not their fault if their minds functioned as one.
Remarkable experiments have been conducted with nontechnological traditional peoples to test the hypothesis that telepathy is an archaic means of communication, which, although remaining as a vestigial function of the mind, was once the sole method for conveying ideas. It has been observed that the bushmen in Australia can accurately transmit thoughts, feelings, and ideas to friends and relatives several miles away. They also use psi abilities to locate missing objects, straying cattle, and thieving enemies. In many cases, even today some bushmen live a virtual Stone Age existence. Their normal sensory abilities have been heightened by their struggle for survival. Their eyes can identify objects at great distances without the aid of field glasses. Their powers of smell are incredible. Their ESP talents are even more remarkable.
Dr. A. P. Elkin, an anthropologist from Sydney University, was forced to rearrange some of his scientific thinking after he conducted studies among the bushmen. In his Aboriginal Men of High Degree, Elkin writes that although his arrival was never announced by messenger, drums, or smoke signals, each village was prepared for his arrival, knew where he had just come from, and was aware of the purpose of his wilderness trek. Whenever the anthropologist heard of a case where a native claimed to have gained personal information telepathically from a faraway village, subsequent investigation proved the knowledge to be accurate. Whether the information concerned a dying parent, the birth of a nephew, or the victory of a successful hunt, the recipients’ knowledge of the event was completely in accordance with the actual happening.
Laboratory tests have indicated a number of interesting facts concerning the conditions under which telepathy—and, in general, all testable psi phenomena—work. Distance seems to have no effect on telepathy or clairvoyance. Equally remarkable results have been achieved when the percipient was a yard away from the agent or when the experimenters were separated by several hundred miles. Dr. S. G. Soal, the British researcher who has conducted extensive tests with “mind-readers,” has written: “In telepathic communication it is personality, or the linkage of personalities, which counts, and not spatial separation of bodies. This is what we might expect on the assumption that brains have spatial location and spatial extension, but that minds are not spatial entities at all…we must consider brains as focal points in space at which Mind produces physical manifestations in its interaction with matter.”
Parapsychological researchers have learned that the percipient’s attitude is of great importance in achieving high ESP scores. Personalities do enter into psi testing even as they do into other aspects of human relationships. It has also been demonstrated that those who believe in their psi powers score consistently higher than those who are skeptics and who regard it all as a lot of nonsense.
Although the staff in a parapsychology laboratory must be careful to create and foster a friendly and cheerful atmosphere, spontaneous psi seems to work best under conditions that Dr. Jan Ehrenwald terms a “state of psychological inadequacy.” Naming this state of psi readiness the “minus function,” Ehrenwald believes that “a necessary condition for telepathic functioning is a state of inadequacy or deficiency such as loss or clouding of consciousness (sleep, hypnosis, trance, fever, brain defects).”
The psi researcher faces another risk in the laboratory when he is engaged in the long-term testing of a percipient: the decline effects in ESP that can be brought on by sheer boredom in the method of testing. The exercise of psi ability does sap psychic energy and even excellent performers invariably score higher when they are fresh. Once the novelty of the test has worn off, the interests of the percipient wander elsewhere, and so, apparently, does his or her ESP. It is difficult to force psi into the laboratory for the controlled and repeatable experiments demanded by orthodox science.
It is interesting to note that, on the average, a man is more effective as an agent, a sender, and a woman is more effective as a percipient, a receiver. This seems to apply to spontaneous instances of telepathy and other functions of psi as well as to roles assumed under laboratory conditions.
In 1930 the novelist Upton Sinclair (1878-1968) published a record of experiments in telepathically transmitted drawings, which had been conducted with his wife and his brother-in-law, R. I. Irwin. Mrs. Sinclair was always the percipient, the receiver, and when Irwin was the agent, the sender, he “transmitted” from more than 40 miles away. The agent would make a set of drawings of such simple items as a nest with eggs, a flower, or a tree, and enclose each sketch in an opaque envelope. At the agreed-upon time, or later, Mrs. Sinclair would lie down on a couch and allow her mind and body to enter a state of complete relaxation. Experience soon taught her that other levels of mind would attempt to “guess” the sketch and thereby often confuse the true information that would come from a deeper level of authentic knowledge.
Mrs. Sinclair commented that for best results in such tests, one must develop the ability to hold in consciousness, without any sense of strain, a single idea, such as the petal of a flower. Association trains must not be allowed to develop, and, above all, no thinking about the idea must take place. A completely relaxed state of body and mind must be achieved.
It is difficult to measure the success of such tests with drawings, because often an idea associated with the drawing would come across rather than the actual sketch. In the Sinclair experiments of 290 drawings, 65 were judged successes, 155 partial successes, and 70 were failures. Professor William McDougall (1871-1938), a fellow of the Royal Society, a brilliant British-American pioneer of parapsychology, said of the Sinclairs’ experiments with their “mental radio,” that the degree of success and the conditions of the experiment were such that they could not be rejected and should be accepted as evidence of “some mode of communication” not presently explicable in accepted scientific terms.
While acknowledging the existence of telepathy, many parapsychologists became interested in proving that far from simply being a “mental radio,” telepathy must be some form of electromagnetic radiation that could be measured and understood. Russian parapsychologists, especially, seemed concerned with demystifying telepathy and ESP in general. In the 1920s, Vladimir M. Bekhterev worked with subjects who had been hypnotized and enclosed in an electromagnetically screened chamber known as a Faraday cage. The hypnotist, who was stationed in a separate room, mentally suggested that the subject perform certain tasks. This experiment was carefully planned so that the door to the screening chamber could be opened and closed without the knowledge of either the subject or the hypnotist. As long as the subject was screened electromagnetically from the hypnotist, none of the man’s telepathic suggestions were followed. When the door was opened, the subject responded to his suggestions with a high degree of accuracy.
These and other experiments (one of which even attempted to direct the telepathic signals with the use of a metal mirror) seemed to confirm the hypothesis that telepathy was basically electromagnetic in character. This school of Russian parapsychology was under the influence of the Italian neurophysiologist F. Cazzamalli, whose conclusions also pointed to an electromagnetic wave character for telepathic signals. Cazzamalli’s experiments have been criticized several times since the 1920s when they were performed, since they were not conducted under rigid controls.
Even while these experiments were being carried out, one of Bekhterev’s pupils, Leonid L. Vasiliev (1891-1966), was disturbing this pet theory with some astounding results of his own. Vasiliev’s original experiments were also conducted with volunteer subjects and hypnotists, but his concern was not to solicit responses from the suggestion of the hypnotists via telepathic means, but to induce the trance state itself by the use of telepathy.
The subject was given an inflated rubber ball that was attached by a hose to a pressure-sensitive recording device. He was then instructed to squeeze the ball with his hand. These contractions were recorded as notches on the moveable graph. When the subject was hypnotized, the rhythmic contractions would stop, and the notches would no longer appear on the graph. The subject and the hypnotist were separated by two intervening walls. The room between housed the recording equipment and those in charge of monitoring it. Time for each attempt of this telepathic hypnosis was determined by the use of a roulette wheel, and was thus completely random.
In 1932, Vasiliev was fortunate enough to find three very sensitive subjects with whom the goal of long-distance hypnosis was attainable. When the hypnotist was instructed to induce a trance on the person he could not see, he was able to perform the feat. Later, when instructed to bring the subject out of the trance, the hypnotist was again able to accomplish this by the force of his will, without once coming in contact with the subject during the entire course of the test.
As work in this series of experiments continued, a few unforeseen problems began to develop. After a number of trials, the subjects became so accustomed to the surroundings and the preparations for the tests, that they would automatically fall into trance. Such auto-hypnosis is not uncommon, even when the hypnotist is not trying to induce the trance state via telepathy. But even when this occurred, the effect of a telepathic impulse was striking. A subject could be put in a trance state two or three times faster when the hypnotist attempted to send a telepathic signal than when the auto-hypnosis was allowed to occur. As these tests with the same subject continued, it became more difficult to bring the subject out of the trance state with the use of telepathy. Yet telepathy was still a factor as the hypnotist could revive the subject momentarily before he would fall back into a trance.
Because these results were consistently good, Vasiliev was able to devise even more interesting tests. He placed the subjects within chambers that were heavily sealed from all forms of electromagnetic radiation. In this test the subjects responded exactly as they had without the shielding, contradicting the results of the other Soviet experimenters. Vasiliev’s rigidly controlled experiments showed that there was more to telepathy than electromagnetic waves. A Russian physicist, V. Arkadev, supported Vasiliev’s contention by saying that the intensity of the waves that could be spawned by the electric currents in the brain is so low that dissipation occurs very close to the skull. Even though it has been proven that electromagnetic radiation can affect the central nervous system, the electromagnetic waves generated by the electric currents that are constantly surrounding modern men and women are of a much higher intensity than any kind of electromagnetic radiation the brain could muster.
These contradictory results have not yet been explained, but former Soviet scientists and psi researchers have since leaned away from the theory that telepathic signals are electromagnetic waves. Even more than in other scientific endeavors, parapsychologists must be certain to eliminate all prejudice from their minds. It is possible that a researcher’s brain state may have as much effect on a subject as an intended telepathic signal. The early Soviet experiments may have shown that telepathy was electromagnetic in character because the investigators, under the heavy influence of the Italian Cazzamalli, wanted or expected them to show it. A prejudice that cannot be separated from the mind may be a decisive factor in any experiments involving psychic phenomena. These possibilities only add to the difficulty of conducting experiments, but they cannot be ignored.
Research into the nature of telepathy continues in parapsychological laboratories around the world. While telepathy is commonly thought of as mind-reading, psi researchers have commented that instances of telepathy in the laboratory seldom involve the actual perception of another’s actual thoughts. And sometimes the information that the percipient receives from the agent does not really seem to have been an instance of mind-to-mind communication, but rather an example of clairvoyance. Once again it must be recalled that there is a great deal of “bleed-through” from one parapsychological phenomenon to another.