To those who’ve been following this site over the years, it’s no secret that I’ve been a devoted listener of the Skeptiko podcast and have also interviewed Alex Tsakiris, a couple of times. As such, it was very interesting for me to read a book that summarizes his journey.
I’ve actually published the review of this book, “Why Science is Wrong… About Almost Everything” on Amazon first, so in order not to repeat myself here, head over to read the review on Amazon. And don’t worry, my review is not long.
Michael Tymn has a very interesting blog at his gaia page. Michael often writes about the issues of survival after death, such as mediumship and NDE. Recently he published a short interview with Dr. Charles Tart.
Tart is a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of California (Davis campus), where he served for 28 years and is now a core faculty member of the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto, Calif. He has authored more than a dozen books, including Altered States of Consciousness (1969) and Transpersonal Psychologies (1975). He studied electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before deciding to be become a psychologist. He received his doctoral degree in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1963, and then received postdoctoral training in hypnosis research with Professor Ernest R. Hilgard at Stanford University.
Michael Tymn starts with generic questions about how Dr. Tart came to parapsychology and about his latest book, The End of Materialism
. But later focuses his questions on the subject of survival. I must say that Dr. Tart had some really interesting answers. He definitely holds his own opinion about things. He also thinks that the basic 5 ESP types, such as telepathy and precognition were proven beyond reasonable doubt.
Read the full interview with Dr. Charles Tart.
I’ve received this book from Quest books for a review. The full title is The Force Is With Us: The Higher Consciousness That Science Refuses to Accept. The author, Thomas Walker, D.C is a chiropractic physician, master-level martial artist, professor of natural science, and former Green Beret.
I’ll start with going over the structure of the book, chapter by chapter, and will conclude with my impressions of it.
In the preface Thomas tells that he started this project back in 1995 and worked on the manuscript for seven years. Several years later, in 2008 his son Clint was dying of cancer. Before he passed away Clint had promised his father to “keep in touch”. And he kept his promise. According to Walker, numerous anomalous and highly improbably events have happened later that year, described in the preface.
The book has 10 Chapters, each touching different aspect of parapsychology, spirituality or research.
The first chapter, titled “The Force – From Ch’i to Cosmological Constant and Beyond”, Walker starts with the Chinese concept of Ch’i (also spelled Qi), which is what chinese call the Life-force. Ch’i is believe to flow in the body, mainly through a system called meridians, which are highly relevant into Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). He refers to 1960s research of Professor Kim Bong Han in which he identified a series of unknown ducts in the bodies of animals and people that followed the paths of acupuncture meridians. He later discovered 2 more networks of such ducts bring to greater interconnection of cells in the body. Later follows a story about how the knowledge of Qi was brought to the west in the 20th century and how it was tested in medical tests to be helpful. Following with some research that was done on Qi, he finishes with the research of Professor William Tiller of Stanford University in which he develops a new theory build upon Einstein’s cosmological constant.
Chapter 2 – New Dimensions: Perceptions beyond the Body – talks about Near Death Experiences (NDE), Out of Body Experiences (OBE), explains what psi and parapsychology is. Explains the main areas of psi research from its early history in late 19th century through the 20th, including detailed history of Stanford Research Institute (SRI) research into remote viewing, backed by CIA.
Chapter 3 – More Dimensions: The Body beyond the Body – tells about the more esoteric subject of human bodies beyond the physical, such as etherial, astral and further, based on Theosophy. Detailed history of Kirlian photography and its research is described.
Chapter 4 – Where Do We Go? Arguments for an Afterlife – delves deeper into the research of NDEs, reincarnation research by late Dr. Ian Stevenson. Wakers covers the subject of mediumship, both in history and in research, such as Gary Schwartz’s research. Ending the chapter a detailed story of the great magician Harry Houdini and Arthur Conan Doyle.
Chapter 5 – Paranormal Panache: Superstars of Psychokinesis – tells about the rarer macro-psychokinesis events, starting with 19th century Daniel David Home , who even performed for emperor Napoleon III and Tsar Alexander II, researched, and never found cheating. He was most known for his ability to levitate objects and even himself. Following is the story of Nina Kulagina, heavily researched Russian woman with strong psychokinetic abilities. Later follows the story of most controversial Uri Geller. The chapters ends with an overview of micro-PK research by PEAR, Dr. Dean Radin and others.
Chapter 6 – Magnetically Magnificent: Exploring the Human Energy Field – starts with Mesmer and his research into fluidum (the force) and animal magnetism. The story continues with Baron Karl von Reichenbach, a promising chemist, discoverer of paraffin who changed his career path to research magnetism in humans, which brought him conclusion similar to that of Mesmer that it’s not regular magnetism but other force, which he called the odic force. Next is the story of English physician Walter Kilner, who on the turn of 20th century, found that he could see energy field around living organisms with special equipment. The chapter ends with more recent research by William Tiller and Chinese Dr. Zheng.
Chapter 7 – Orgasmic Outcast: Was Wilhelm Reich Right? – tells the famous story of Austria-born Wilhelm Reich, physician, whose writings were burned thrice – by German Nazis, by Soviets and by US government. Follower and of Freud and even the director of his clinic in Vienna, Reich linked many health issues with the flow of psychic energy, which he called Orgone energy. He decided to research orgone theory. Thomas Walter tells in detail about the history of his research and his life, which ended in US Prison in 1957.
Chapter 8 – Healing the Rift: Alternative Medicine Arrives – gets into the details of many studies done in the 20th century, following the introduction of Chinese medicine and other alternative medicine practices in the west. Numerous studies showed the intent of healers, such a prayer or applications of the force, whatever it’s called, can greatly and positively affect organisms, including humans. Special attention is paid to Therapeutic Touch and to Chiropractic.
Chapter 9 – Schlock Science: Who Makes the Call? – tells about the difficulties that scientists who challenge the status-quo encounter on their way. Starting with Thomas Edison and his electric bulb invention, following the discovery of cold fusion by Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons. Then Walter talks about non-psi subject of Mars exploration and the Cydonia region research by Richard Hoagland and the lies of NASA regarding issues related to Mars research. The second half of the chapter leaves the “science” and goes on to describe the history of CSICOP (Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of Paranormal), established in 1976 and now called Committee of Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), started by Ray Hyman, James Randi, Marcello Truzzi and others. CSI is claiming to be an investigating organization but it appears to be a dogmatic Skeptical organization which denies any possibility of psi, without a deep look into things.
Chapter 10 – A Path with Heart: The Way Back Home – argues that the heart plays a more central role in the humans than just pumping the blood. Thomas describes various studies that suggest that not everything is controlled by the brain and that some neurological functions are scattered through the body.
Overall, I liked the book very much for several reasons. First, it is easy and fun to read. I simply enjoyed reading it, the text flowed smoothly. Secondly, I learned a lot of new stuff. Even though I thought I knew a lot about psi research, after reading such books as the Entangled Minds
by Dr. Dean Radin, I found a lot of subjects that I didn’t know about.
The book starts with the subject of Ch’i. Being a Qigong (Chi Kung) student myself for almost 3 years now, I tend to believe that there is something to it. I can relate to the fact that martial artists and Qigong masters can feel and “utilize” it.
The book goes over lots of subjects but has points where it goes deeper, telling about a specific person for several pages. So, even if I read about someone in short previously, I still found lots of new information.
Some might argue that the book is not scientific or that it doesn’t present the opposite point of view, i.e. criticisms of the studies. But having a chapter devoted to showing how science refuses to accept views that drastically differ from the status-quo and about the organized pseudo-skeptics, he clearly chose a side. I think it’s OK to write a book which shows what the author believes to be true. After all, there’s enough totally baseless criticism as well. And I also believe that the media and other establishments will much easier accept and transmit any skeptical argument, however vague, over a study proposing any psi effect.
In conclusion, I highly recommend the book to anyone who’s interesting in these areas of the paranormal or parapsychology which are presented in it. If you are a highly scientific person you’ll have 2 choices. Either skip the book or better yet, follow the studies present in the book (there is bibliography and notes) and try to read them yourself before deciding what’s right or wrong.
Robert Waggoner is the author of the recently released book, Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self . An experienced lucid dreamer for more than thirty years, he has logged approximately one thousand lucid dreams. Waggoner is also President-elect of the International Association for the Study of Dreams.
Could you describe to the people not familiar with Lucid Dreaming what it means?
When you consciously realize you are dreaming, while in the dream state, you are lucid dreaming. So, lucid dreaming requires conscious awareness of dreaming while in the dream. Normally it occurs after a sudden insight like noticing an impossible event, and you realize, “This is a dream!”
Once you realize that you are dreaming, you can think about what you want to do, make deliberate choices and act on your decisions. It’s like your own magic kingdom – you can fly around the room, ask the dream figures to explain the dream symbols, make items appear or disappear, and other incredible things.
By contrast in a normal dream, you usually accept whatever happens. If you are riding a horse, which suddenly becomes a bicycle and then a skateboard, you just unthinkingly accept it.
Can anyone achieve the ability to have lucid dreams?
Almost anyone can learn to lucid dream. Scientific surveys of college students around the world have shown that 47% to 92% claim to have become consciously aware of dreaming while in the dream state at least once. So the lucid dreaming experience seems relatively widespread, especially among the college age population.
Source: The Incidence of Lucid Dreaming within a Japanese University Student Sample
Daniel Erlacher, et.al., International Journal of Dream Research, Vol 1, No 2 (October 2008)
In my book, I provide a number of simple tips and techniques to help people become consciously aware in their dreams. Often people will have a lucid dream after simply hearing about it for the first time. Some people have emailed me about their first lucid dream after reading the first fifty pages of my book.
Children, who suffer from recurring nightmares, sometimes naturally learn how to become consciously aware in their dreams. They realize that the bogeyman only appears in their dream, and so then the next time they see the bogeyman, they conclude, “Hey, this must be a dream” and become lucidly aware. Some of the most prolific lucid dreamers are those who learned it as a child.
What is your personal experience with lucid dreaming?
I taught myself how to lucid dream in the spring of 1975 after reading Carlos Castaneda’s book, Journey to Ixtlan. In the book, don Juan suggests to Carlos that he ‘find his hands’ in the dream state and become consciously aware. So each night before sleep, I sat there looking at the palm of my hands for a few minutes while mentally suggesting, “Tonight in my dreams, I will see my hands and realize I am dreaming.” After a few nights, I dreamt that I was walking through my high school, and suddenly my hands appeared right in front of my face. I thought, “My hands? This is a dream!”
In many respects, this technique reminds me of Ivan Pavlov’s operant conditioning of dogs. Whenever he would bring food, he would ring a bell. Soon the dogs associated the presentation of food with the ringing of a bell, and would salivate whenever they heard a bell ring. In much the same way, I taught myself to associate seeing my hands with the conscious thought, ‘this is a dream,’ and mentally conditioned a lucid response.
In your book you state that through the use of lucid dreaming techniques one can achieve "paranormal" abilities, such as telepathy, clairvoyance etc. This is a bold statement and I’d like to review this subject in more detail.
Actually in my book, I state that 1) experienced lucid dreamers have numerous reports of seeking out and receiving valid telepathic and precognitive information while consciously aware in the dream state, and 2) scientific experiments could be easily set up to test the validity of these claims.
In my book, I show many examples of experienced lucid dreamers (some with PhD’s), who have actively sought out unknown information in lucid dreams, awakened with it and later discovered its validity. In the case of precognitive information, they often had to wait for the information to appear before confirming it.
Lucid dreamers did this to disprove the idea that lucid dreaming involved merely expectation and mental models, while others wished to determine the limits of awareness, when conscious in the subconscious of dreams. In seeking unknown information, these experienced lucid dreamers learned that lucid dreaming provided access to a broader field of awareness. Though Carl Jung proposed the idea of a ‘collective unconscious’ with internalized, biologically based ideas, forms and archetypes, lucid dreaming may allow science to experiment with Jung’s idea and expand it to include much more.
Why do you think gaining such inner abilities in lucid dreaming state is better than in the waking or meditative states?
Since recorded history, much of mankind has experienced precognitive and telepathic dreams. Dreaming naturally seems to ignore ideas of linear time and space. In a dream, we may be in our childhood home with our present day friends, and then hear an odd comment, which someone repeats in the waking world tomorrow. Dreaming may be a natural state of consciousness for the receipt of precognitive and telepathic information. Moreover, when you are consciously aware in the dream state, you have the capacity to pursue telepathic and precognitive information, and actively seek out the Muse.
Not all lucid dreamers will attain the level of proficiency and conceptual openness needed to gather unknown information, however. In those capable, lucid dreaming provides another means to investigate inherent, exceptional human abilities and to do so scientifically. Lucid dreaming may not be ‘better’ than waking or meditative states; rather, lucid dreaming may be another natural state that gives access to extra sensory information and capabilities.
In my book, I recount a story of a lucid dreamer who had a number of painful plantar warts on her feet. For months, she had tried visualizing and suggesting them away, but to no effect. Finally, she became lucid in a dream, recalled her painful plantar warts, and then placed a ball of light on each foot in the lucid dream along with her healing intent. In the morning, her plantar warts had turned black. Within a week, they all fell off and never returned. I read that a Buddhist lama said that a suggestion made in the lucid dream state was nine times more powerful than one made in the waking state. Lucidly aware in our subconscious seems surprisingly amenable to suggestion.
How one would know that what he perceives is not a dream. As I understand this, lucid dreams are still dreams and the remarkable events that may happen during this time are still the results of dreaming.
If a person becomes consciously aware in a dream, seeks out unknown (but verifiable) information, wakes with it, hands it to a scientist or impartial observer, who discovers that the information has validity, then the dreamt information has validity in the realm of waking consensus reality.
A lucid dreamer realizes that he consciously exists in a dream. He or she knows it. The question revolves around the validity of dream information; can a lucid dreamer, knowing that he or she is dreaming, discover unknown but verifiable information about waking reality? In my book, I share numerous anecdotes from many experienced lucid dreamers that show the answer appears to be, ‘yes.’ Now on occasion, the information comes metaphorically, but more frequently it comes literally. Experiments could be devised to focus on non-metaphorical responses.
Is there any scientific proof for this? Many would say that existence of telepathy, precognition or other such phenomena still needs proof. It’s not a widely accepted fact, you know, and one would find it hard to prove these are real phenomena. Why go as far as to use lucid dreaming, which by itself a little known phenomena, to prove the existence of this abilities.
Scientific proof for lucid dreaming dates back to the late 1970’s. Keith Hearne at the University of Hull in England devised a sleep lab experiment in which a lucid dreamer would signal that he was consciously aware and dreaming by moving his eyes left to right eight times in a row.Hearne knew that in dreams, we have REM (rapid eye movement), so he deduced that the REM polygraph pad would capture any intentional eye movement signal. In April of 1975, his lucid dreaming associate, AlanWorsley, became lucid in the sleep lab and moved his eyes left to right to signal that he was consciously aware. Hearne, watching the REM polygraph in a nearby room, deemed the event scientifically and philosophically “mind-blowing.”
Unaware of Hearne’s work, Stephen LaBerge at Stanford, performed a very similar experiment a few years later by lucidly signaling his conscious awareness from the dream state through eye movements.LaBerge published his results in a widely read scientific journal in 1981, and has done much research on lucid dreaming since that time.
In my case, I taught myself how to lucid dream in 1975 before this scientific proof was published. Later I discovered that Buddhists have been teaching lucid dreaming, or dream yoga, for more than a thousand years.
Why use lucid dreaming? Again, the dream state seems naturally conducive for telepathic and precognitive information. Scientific studies of dream telepathy were conducted at the Maimonides Hospital sleep lab by Montague Ullman, M.D. and Stanley Krippner, Ph.D., in the 1960’s and ‘70’s with very significant, positive results. Using lucid dreaming, you can directly seek out the information as part of a scientific experiment, wake with it and provide it to the scientist. Lucid dreaming may be the revolutionary tool that provides the convincing evidence for these abilities.
Could you shortly tell the most compelling evidence you have to back your claims regarding these psychic abilities being gained while in lucid dreaming state?
In researching various books and articles and in talking with a wide range of experienced lucid dreamers, I discovered assorted evidence for lucid dreaming as a means to obtain unknown information that later proved to be valid. Some lucid dreamers would get information, then write it down, date it, seal it in an envelope and show it to others, once the event occurred. They felt convinced in advance that they had lucidly discovered future information.
Because the scientific proof of lucid dreaming only goes back thirty years, and most of the research has focused on the neuro-physiological experience, the ‘compelling evidence’ to date involves personal experiments by talented lucid dreamers.
For example, a college student wrote me to ask if I truly felt a person could discover unknown information in the lucid dream state. I encouraged him to conduct his own experiment and find out for himself. So he and a young woman in his dorm devised an experiment. She told him that she had a “bizarre freckle” on her back, and he should become lucidly aware in a dream to discover where it was. In his next lucid dream, he remembered the goal, and headed off to her dorm room to discover the bizarre freckle. Oddly, acquaintances (that did not believe in lucid dreaming) appeared and told him this was crazy, and he suddenly found it hard to move forward, and woke up. Apparently, these ‘distracters’ represented his own lingering doubts made manifest.
So he tried again in another lucid dream. This time he lucidly intended for the young woman to come to him. Suddenly, she was at the door, and he asked her to show him the bizarre freckle. She turned around and he could see it right above her rump. He felt shocked, since he believed that she had hinted it was on the side of her back – but he saw it right above her rump. He decided to wake and recall the unexpected information. Later, he went down to her room, knocked on the door, and announced that he lucidly dreamt the location of her bizarre freckle. When she turns around, he puts his finger on the spot. She pulls up her shirt, and ta-da, the bizarre freckle is directly under his finger.
Obviously this is not a scientifically devised experiment, but it does show some of the challenges, e.g., overcoming doubts, and some of the promise of lucid dreaming as a revolutionary tool to investigate time, space and unknown non-local information.
Back to your book, who’s the target audience for your book? Whom would you recommend to read it?
Though my publisher would exclaim, “Everyone! The answer is everyone!”, this book is for those interested in the nature of mind and consciousness, serious lucid dreamers who want to become better at lucid dreaming and conduct their own experiments into the far reaches of lucid awareness, and those involved in Buddhism and dream yoga.
Besides the chapters on getting unknown information, I also have chapters on lucid dreamers who have apparently healed themselves in lucid dreams, sought out conceptual information from the ‘awareness behind the dream’ and seemingly encountered other dreamers in the dream state. Most importantly though, I recount what happened when I decided to go beyond lucid dreaming. Years later, I discovered how that experience apparently connected to the Buddhist tradition’s ultimate goal in dream yoga.
Lucid dreaming is a revolutionary tool to explore the nature of the unconscious mind, which Freud called, “the true reality of the psyche.”
My thanks to Robert Waggoner for this interesting interview
I’ve just finished reading Lawrence LeShan’s book A New Science of the Paranormal: The Promise of Psychical Research. I’ve received the book for the review from its publisher, Quest Books. It went out in April this year.
I must say that I’ve never heard of Lawrence LeShan earlier although, based on the book, he was researching paranormal for several decades. He was born in 1920, he’s trained and published psychotherapist, and is the author of the best selling book How to Meditate: A Guide to Self-Discovery.
“A New Science of the Paranormal” consists of seven chapters and an appendix. Each chapter also includes one or two “case histories” – a paranormal case from Lawrence’s career or another famous case. The chapters in the book are:
- Psychic Research and the Consistency of the Universe.
- What Do We Know About Psychic Phenomena
- Normal and Paranormal Communication
- Designing a Science of Psychical Research
- Psi and Altered States of Consciousness
- The Next Step: Implications of the New Science
- What Dare I Hope
The Appendix in titled: “When is Uvani”.
Chapter 1 tells some history of psi research, the concepts, why is it difficult, including psychological factors. One tidbit is his current disapproval of connecting psi and quantum physics which has become so popular lately.
Chapter 2 describes the 4 things that were proven about paranormal research and 9 which are almost certain to be true.
Chapter 3 tries to compare normal and paranormal types of communication. He gets away from the “paranormal” terminology into cleaner one in order to better understand the differences and similarities between regular and “paranormal” communication types.
Chapter 4 begins what I think was the main goal in writing the book in the first place. Lawrence explains how science approaches different subjects and argues which approaches would be best for psychical research. He writes that he now believes that psi research should be approached not with more laboratory testing, like exact sciences, but like social sciences which employ other methods of research and deduction.
In Chapter 5 Lawrence describes how theories about “reality” shape the worldview and how the conflicts between observed phenomena and what we think about reality should be handled, in science. It is quite a philosophical chapter, in the good sense of the word.
Chapter 6 starts with some more psychological effects of psi events. How people reject them after they happen. This chapter also has a call to scientist to bring psi research into the mainstream science and also explains how to do this.
In Chapter 7 LeShan hopes that the acceptance of the existence of psi by the public will bring change to the way people think of the world and how they behave, to the better.
The Appendix is like a chapter by itself. In it LeShan tries to continue his design of the new science of the paranormal. He explains how we might try to overcome some difficulties with psi research by asking the right questions and thinking of it all in more abstract way, like in mathematics, for example.
The case histories after each chapter are very interesting and diverse. I’ve never heard of any of them although they all seem very compelling. They are all what a skeptic of psi would call “anecdotal” but again, one of the main points that Lawrence LeShan tries to pass in the book is that psi research should be taken out of the laboratory and the focus should be on these unique and very strong cases, which he calls “need-determined”. These are the cases where something “paranormal” happens because of a great need of some other person.
If you’re serious about psi research, consciousness and want to get a wider point of view on the various difficulties of this research and how to approach it, you should read “A New Science of the Paranormal”. It is quite different from many other books which are either too unscientific on one hand, or those which are heavy on statistics on another.
I think Leshan could also be a good guest for the Skeptiko podcast.
The book I’m reviewing today, Personal Development for Smart People, by Steve Pavlina was one of my most anticipated books lately, since Steve announced it. And I was fortunate to be sent a review copy.
I’ve already written about Steve Pavlina here and there on this site, mostly as related to his and his wife’s experiences with developing psychic abilities, mostly mediumship. I’ve also interviewed Steve’s wife, Erin Pavlina in June 2007. She is a psychic medium. But this book is not about psychic abilities at all.
Steve is one of the most known personal development bloggers today. I’ve known his site for several years now and have found him to be one of the most original and prolific bloggers on the subject. He had many unique ideas and views on many topics and his writing style is very much to my taste.
Steve has published several hundred articles on his site on various topics and it was interesting to see what he could innovate in his book. Steve promised that the book won’t be a rehash of site’s content and I’m glad to say that he delivered.
The book is just about 150 pages but it is so packed with original ideas and concepts that other writers would have smeared it at least on a handful of books. Luckily for the readers, Steve’s ability to present his ideas succinctly, without much repetition packed the book dense with information.
So what is this book about? The book presents a way of how to look at conscious personal development. The book is built from the ground, in a bottoms up approach, which gives it a somewhat philosophical kind of depth. Indeed, Steve has tried, for the purpose of writing the book, to analyze, in his mind, many of the existing successful growth practices. He analyzed them by trying to identify the most basic principles that unite all of them.
His goal was to find a set of basic principles that would be universal, meaning that they should be for everyone and for all areas of personal development and life. They should be timeless – work in the future and should have been working thousands of years ago as well. They should be collectively complete, meaning that all laws of personal growth should be based on them. And the primary principles should be irreducible. Of course, they also shouldn’t conflict with each other.
Steve then introduces the seven principles. Three core principles: Truth, Love and Power. And four secondary principles, oneness, authority, courage and intelligence. These secondary principles are based on the first 3 in different combinations.
So, part I of the book explores these principles. There’s a chapter for each of them. This is the more “dry”, philosophical part of the book, where the reader builds the foundation.
The second part of the book shows how to apply each of these principles in various areas of one’s growth process. There are chapters for habits, career, money, health, relationship and spirituality. Every area is explorer through the lens of the principles.
Some of these chapter include practical advice as to how one should analyze his situation in the given area. Usually this is done by truthfully answering some very difficult questions. Sometimes feelings and emotion are the guide. But everywhere Steve tries to be only the guide, asking the questions and showing the way one should take to analyze his situation and find the correct answer for himself, which might be different for everyone.
Whoever follows Steve’s blog knows that he changed his diet, from regular to vegetarian, then to vegan. In the last year he switched to eating only raw food. One of the positive effects that Steve mentioned from these changes and that his mental clarity improved with each of this changes. His thinking abilities improved since concentration was easier and mental fog dissipated. This book clearly shows that Steve’s mind capable of going into real depths of thought, giving the process of personal development an almost scientific approach.
The book is titled “Personal Development for Smart People”. And it delivers.
JJ Lumsden is a UK based experimental parapsychologist who has just released his debut book “The Hidden Whisper” (See my review of The Hidden Whisper). Centring on a fictional poltergeist case in Southern Arizona, the book seeks to explain various aspects of parapsychology and where paranormal research currently stands. Lumsden gained his PhD at the Koestler Parapsychology Unit (University of Edinburgh), before moving into independent research.
Could you please start by telling about how and why you became a parapsychologist?
As a youngster, I was curious as to how things ‘worked’ in the world, and naturally intrigued by paranormal phenomena. This intrigue grew stronger as I got older; if telepathy and precognition, for example, were real – there were serious implications for our world view and how the universe operated. I didn’t enter the field because of any personal paranormal experiences, or because I wanted to prove or disprove anything. I just wanted to look into things for myself.
What do the studies of parapsychology in the Koestler Parapsychology Unit include?
Things have changed now, but when I attended (2000-2003), there was a buoyant set of research programmes in place. These were conducted by full-time staff, postgraduates working on their PhD studies, and undergraduates doing final year projects. We had a full Ganzfeld suite in the unit, so (as you can imagine) there was a fair amount of research into Extra Sensory Perception. In addition, there was Psychokinesis work, investigations into ‘haunted’ settings, and DMILS (Direct Mental Interaction with Living Systems) studies.
Between 1984 and 2003, almost two dozen people gained their PhDs at the KPU, but in recent years, following the untimely death of Professor Robert Morris in 2004, the unit has been substantially downsized. Nowadays, there are only two permanent members of staff, the laboratory space has been given up, and very few students are taken on. Today, Edinburgh University seems to prefer to focus resources on other areas of psychology.
What specific areas of parapsychology did you concentrate on?
I primarily investigated emotion and its bearing on Psychokinetic functioning (the idea that your mind can influence events in your environment).
Using ‘Random Event Generators’ to generate random data-streams of ones and zeros, (akin to lots of coin tosses with perfectly balanced coins) I looked at how highly emotive states like anger, sadness and happiness impacted on the behaviour of these devices.
Later on, I began to examine psychic healing (still using micro PK protocols), and spent time in Zululand, South Africa – working with indigenous healers (izangoma).
*The REG approach is a measure of so called micro-Psychokinesis. With micro-PK, we rely on statistical analyses to see if the behaviour of a measuring system (e.g. the REG) can be accounted for by ‘chance’ (i.e. the ones and zeros are summed, and compared with mathematical probability). This is in contrast to macro-PK events like levitation, where you can see the event with the naked eye.
What are your thoughts on the state of parapsychological research these days? After the PEAR has closed, there are not much research institutions left in the academia in the field. Why is that? Should it be different?
There’s little doubt parapsychology is going through a tough time right now, with a lack of funding and a lack of institutional support being the primary reasons.
In academia, particular research areas often come in and out of favour. Certain fields might find themselves lavished with resources one moment, and conversely, starved of them the next. I hope that parapsychology is simply experiencing a cyclical dip in appeal (and support), and that we are not witnessing any long term decline. Whilst the funding environment remains difficult, it will inevitably be more of a challenge to advance research programmes, and we should expect the field’s progress as a whole to slow.
Nonetheless, despite these tough times, parapsychology perseveres. In recent years, for example, Professor Deborah Delanoy has done sterling work at the University of Northampton, at the Centre for the Study of Anomalous Psychological Processes. Deborah has built up a unit of very capable and accomplished researchers doing valuable research. In turn, there are individual researchers dotted around various Universities who have an interest in parapsychology and who quietly work on their own experiments when they get an opportunity.
To return to the funding point, it should be pointed out that there remain a number of organisations who continue to support and promote parapsychology. These include, amongst others, the BIAL Foundation from Portugal, Trinity College, Cambridge (via the Perrot Warwick grants), and the Society for Psychical Research in the UK.
What areas of parapsychology are well researched, in your opinion, and which need much more effort?
Good question. I don’t think we’ve reached a point with any area of parapsychology where we can step back and declare: “aha – we’ve got it”. Psi (an umbrella term that’s often used when referring to ESP and PK together) is an elusive animal, and has a habit of tripping you up when you think you understand it. As I’m not holding my breath for a definitive experiment any time soon, it remains the case of patiently putting more evidence onto the pile.
Having said that, certain areas have been carefully researched for many years, and there comes a point when a sensible decision can be made as to whether more and more replications are needed, or whether we can move on – to new avenues of enquiry. The literature and meta-analyses from micro-PK research suggest the micro-PK is a valid, low order, but replicable effect. So the question that follows is how can we move things forward? Can we think of fresh methods to ramp up effects? Can we utilise new technologies to better measure the phenomena and the processes that underpin them? If a large cheque came though my letter box, I would love to instigate some MRI studies. In turn, I am always fond of experiments that try to break new ground with creative approaches. In recent years I’ve followed the Global Consciousness Project with great interest.
What are the most promising research areas in parapsychology in terms of establishing the fact that there’s something to it?
In terms of positive results, the Ganzfeld has shown itself to be an effective means of generating supposedly paranormal effects, as has the micro-PK/REG based research already mentioned. Of course, there is always the argument that these laboratory based investigations have limited crossover to the real world – which ultimately is something we need to address. But, once phenomena are established in the lab – it’s pretty likely they exist outside the lab in some way.
Some of the DMILS work has also enjoyed good results, and I’d like to see more of it, as I believe it should help us understand how psi might operate in the real world. If psi is real, it probably didn’t develop to enable us to influence the electrical current of Zener diodes (these form the basis of many Random Event Generators).
Going to your book, The Hidden Whisper, why did you write it? What was your goal in writing it? Do you think you’ve achieved this goal?
When people find out what I do, I get a whole spectrum of responses. Some smile and change the subject, others tell me it’s all nonsense, and others instruct me at great length on esoteric and quite unique universal theories.
In between, there are a lot of people who are unsure as to what parapsychology is, and what parapsychologists do. They would like to know more without enduring a lecture. So, The Hidden Whisper is for them.
Who is the targeted audience for the book?
I tried to write a book that could be picked up and enjoyed by anyone, regardless of their knowledge of parapsychology. I wanted to keep the book accessible and easy-going, and not get bogged down with lengthy didactic explanations. I also hope that people who enjoy mystery stories get a kick out of the narrative.
How much is Luke Jackson, the main character, based on yourself or perhaps other parapsychologists that you know?
Luke is a mix of real life people and fiction. I originally thought the book would take about a year to write, but it took three. Over that period Luke’s character morphed quite significantly. Luke Jackson (Mk.1) was very different to the one we see today.
Why did you select the case of poltergeist for the subject of the book. I would not consider poltergeist as a central aspect of parapsychology.
I wanted to write a book that hooked people into an interesting fast-paced story, and reckoned that mystery fiction – something with a central puzzle – was a good way to do so. I wanted to have an interesting plot which I could frame the science around. Poltergeists seemed to fit the bill.
How was the book accepted so far, by critics and by general audience?
So far, the reviews have been very pleasing… which is reassuring. A lot of time and effort was spent developing and writing the book, and if it had gone down like a lead balloon – I’d be in a right old grump. The ‘mix’ of fiction and expanded endnotes has been received especially well, which is good, as that was the riskiest part. A number of publishers I spoke with, advised me strongly against it.
One of the reviewers on Amazon suggested you write a series based on this character. Is this something you might want to consider?
There is another book, circulating in the back of my mind, but it is very different to The Hidden Whisper. I have no immediate plans to bring Luke back in any sequel, but you never know.
What other books on parapsychology could you recommend to people who are genuinely interested in it?
There are a number of good introductory books out there, including:
Irwin and Watt’s “An Introduction to Parapsychology”, Dean Radin’s “The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena”, and “Varieties of Anomalous Experience: Examining the Scientific Evidence” (edited by Cardena, Lynn & Krippner).
Then, when you start to drill down into specific areas, there are numerous specialised titles. “Healing, Intention and Energy Medicine” (edited by Jonas & Crawford) is one I can recommend.
If people want to stay abreast of the latest research, the best thing to do is get hold of parapsychology journals, such as the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, the Journal of Parapsychology, the European Journal of Parapsychology, and the Journal of Scientific Exploration.
At the end of the book, you write about the skeptic-believer debate and how both sides need to consider that they might be wrong. What are your thoughts on the state of this debate today?
The broad ‘uninformed’ debate will tick along regardless of the facts. You find people on both sides who hold views that appear to bear no relation to the evidence. The debate between informed critics and advocates of the paranormal is more interesting in many ways, because it is one of interpretation. Informed critics are aware of the experiments and the positive results generated – it’s now a question of what they mean…
At the end of the day, I simply suggest that people form their own opinions by looking into parapsychology for themselves, from a fair and impartial starting point. It is up to both sides of the debate (proponents and sceptics) to put across their positions convincingly. They should do this backed up by evidence, not rhetoric or conjecture.
Let me thank JJ Lumsden for this great interview. I wish him best luck both in his parapsychology research and his writing career.
J.J. Lumsden, a UK-based parapsychologist, who did his postgraduate studies at the Edinburgh’s known Koestler Parapsychology Unit has recently published his book about parapsychology, The Hidden Whisper.
The Hidden Whisper is a great introductory book to the different aspects of parapsychology, its concepts, research accomplishments and criticism. The book tells a fictional story of a UK parapsychologist, Dr. Luke Jackson, who while heading to a professional convention in the US, stays for a week at his grandmother’s house in the deserts of southern Arizona. During this week he is asked to investigate an intriguing poltergeist case in the house of one of the local most known families.
The story-line of the investigation is by itself an interesting and thrilling story, written like a good detective book. Its style actually reminded me of Agatha Christie’s books about Hercule Poirot.
The different concepts of parapsychology are intervened in the book by the means of dialog between Luke and other characters. Since the latter are not scientists, the explanations are all on a very basic language, so that any one could understand. These parts are rich with endnotes references.
In fact, the endnotes themselves are perhaps the more important part of the book. There are about 70 page of endnotes, all going deeper into the subjects of parapsychology described in the story. So, to get more insight into the research, its results and criticism, you’ll need to read the endnotes.
The book covers the following subjects in the field of parapsychology:
- ESP (Extra Sensory Perception)
- Skepticism (including the “fundamental”, non-scientific skeptical arguments)
- Spontaneous ESP, different testing methods of ESP and the results of those
- Ganzfeld experiments
- Meta analysis in parapsychology
- Macro and micro Psychokinesis (PK)
- Presentiment research
- Using Random Event Generators in micro PK research,
- Cold reading and other means of pseudo psychics
- Near Death Experiences (NDE)
- Healing, including remote healing
- Out of body experiences (OBE).
J.J. Lumsden wanted to show the required critical thinking of both sides of the parapsychological debate. He wants the skeptics to see the research and not dismiss everything out of hand. Similarly, he doesn’t like people jumping to fast conclusions and attaching a paranormal label to even the most strange events.
To summarize, The Hidden Whisper is both an interesting read and a book to study. The story is captivating and the quality of 70-some pages of endnotes and over 12 pages of references to studies are an invaluable resource to anyone who takes these subjects seriously.
I’ve received an email from Buril Payne. At one time I was already in contact with Buril, who invented an apparatus called Biofield Meter and wrote a book about it, called “The spin force”, (which he sent me for a review in electronic form). I haven’t yet read it thoroughly but it looks quite interesting and has a collection of scientific work by the author. Buryl holds a M.S. in physics and a Ph. D. in psychology, both from the University of Washington. Anyway, it seems that age takes its toll and he asks for a distant group healing. If you have the ability and the time, take part in this healing. Here’s the email from him:
I, Buryl Payne, am in need of a group healing for a brain dysfunction that has slowly and increasingly hindered my balance, speech, and walking. I need my body to work well for a bit longer.
So, I invite and request you and any of your friends to do a thought power remote group healing for me on Thursday, June 19th at 7 p.m. Pacific time. Also, if you want, join in on the Global Meditation Healing during these special few days. See website, under Academy for Peace Research, www.buryl.com
For one minute, please visualize my brain working normally; normal balance, speech, walking easily, and with good coordination.
I will be sitting under a Biofield Meter, an invention of mine which measures the spin force around the body. In the past it has rotated as a result of remote healing.
Results will be posted on my website: www.buryl.com
Positive results from this experiment will add to all the other positive results of remote healing, prayer healing, and perhaps ultimately help hundreds of thousands of people.
Thank you in advance,
P.S. You might like to check out my latest little ebook: THE QUANTUM THEORY OF LOVE at www.buryl.com
This is a review of the book Practicing Conscious Living and Dying: Stories of the Eternal Continuum of Consciousness by Annamaria Hemingway. I’ve been sent this book for a review by Annamaria’s publisher.
I was not sure what to expect from this book, when I received it for a review. Annamaria has contacted me in August 2007 and told me the book was about “researching survival of consciousness” and that she would arrange a review copy for me when the book publishes in January 2008. I’m interesting in this topic very much, so I, naturally, agreed. But let me tell you, although this book deals with the subject of research of consciousness, it is much more than that.
About the structure of the book. The book is divided into 3 sections. Each section has an introductory chapter, followed by a number of personal stories. There are 16 such personal stories in the book. The sections are:
- Near-Death Experiences – Not the end but a new beginning (5 stories)
- Dying to experience Life (4 stories)
- Birth, death and rebirth: A continuum of consciousness (7 stories)
In the first section, there’s an introduction into NDE (Near Death Experience). Annamaria covers the subject from a historic perspective, by describing historic writings, such as Republic by Socrates and the Myth of Er by Plato which also touches the subject of dying and the world beyond. From historical accounts she moves into modern era research, such as those conducted by Dr. Pim van Lommel, Dr. Michael Sabom, Dr. Peter Fenwick and others. It is a good introduction into the subject of NDE, OBE and related research. The five personal stories tell different accounts of NDEs, including the personal background, the NDE experience itself and its effect on the life of the person. From the story of Reuben who wanted to commit suicide, through story of Tiffany, who was struck by a lightning, all the accounts are very interesting and in all of them the experience changes the lives of the people in a very strong way and in the positive direction.
The third section (I’ll return to the second) deals with the subject of the spiritual world, the continuum of consciousness, mediumship and other aspects of spirituality. The personal stories following the introductory chapter, are very touching as they usually deal with the deaths of close ones and later contact with them, either through mediums or some other way.
But the stories in the second section are those that made me cry when I read the book. There is nothing supernatural in these stories, except maybe the almost supernatural compassion that people may feel after being touched by the death of the loved ones. These 4 stories alone are worth the entire book, even you have no interest in NDE’s, spirits etc. Take the story of Joanne Cacciatore who gave birth to a stillborn and how this experience changes her life into a life of great compassion as she established the Kindness Project. She also befriend Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and then continued her work of teaching people to come to terms with the dying process.
Story of Peter Samuelson whose almost random act of helping a child dying from cancer to fulfill a dream turned him into establishing several philanthropies to help ill children pulled a lot of tears from my eyes. Other stories are very emotional as well and they give a small glimpse into the lives of some great people who after seeing death changes their life to help others in very remarkable ways. I believe these are the stories that tell about how to live and die consciously.
This is one of the more interesting and touching books I’ve read in a long time. Being interested in NDEs and the survival of consciousness I found the book very inspirational and thought provoking. It is not a scientific book, although it cites scientific work, and it is not written in such a manner. The book is written by a woman and it can be felt in the writing. It was much more emotional than I expected a book on NDE to be.
I can wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone. Even if you don’t take the subject of NDE and life after death too seriously, the stories are interesting and touching nonetheless. And if you are interested in these subjects then your enjoyment of the book will only be larger and more complete.