I often get emails (through the Contact form) where people tell me some unusual things that happen to them and then ask for some help, reassurance or advice about how to deal with this. And although over the years I’ve become somewhat more skeptical and don’t tend to believe that many claims of paranormal (not that I ever did), I can not ignore the fact that simple people report these things all the time. And I don’t even ask them to. They are really looking for help and support.
The following message is repost with permission, but I omit the name and email of the woman, for obvious reasons:
I guess it has always bothered me that when my Father was diagnosed with Lung Cancer a number of years ago, that he had no symptoms. He was apparently given 6 weeks to live, (although he lived for 2 GOOD years) and instead my Mother was the one suffering from the illness as far as the symptoms go.
The night my father was taken to the Hospital (2 hours before he passed on) my Mom was the one throwing up blood. She had every symptom that you would expect from my Dad, but he had none. When I took him for his last x-ray (2 weeks prior to passing) they made him repeat his test. They thought they had got it wrong, as his lungs showed that they basically were non existent. He definitely was having troubles breathing, and was weakening… however was up on his feet (as he was 2 hours before passing) while my Mom was sitting at home resting while Dad and I were at the Doctor.
My Mom definitely was special, and was actually removed from her family as a toddler due to “other” family members feeling her parents entertained the “wrong” type of people. They actually had a huge beautiful old home in Britain where they had other folk with similar “extra senses” come and stay. My Mom’s Auntie didn’t think this was an appropriate environment to raise a child. My mother was ashamed of her inherited gifts and protected my sister and I from them as we grew up. Still, I know that I have had many different situations that I can only attribute to some of Mom rubbing off on me!
I have SEEN, the deceased Mother of someone I didn’t even know. She appeared as a light beside her daughter at a counter. She gave me a message for her daughter, and as reluctant as I was to pass it on ..that Mom wasn’t about to let me off!!!
I did eventually pass it on, and BINGO the daughter knew and confirmed it was her Mom. The Mother had provided me with ONE word to let her daughter know that it was truly her, and that she was with her.
The one word was FLOWER, and that word meant a great deal to the daughter. The daughter went into great lengths explaining to me that when her Dad died she of course bought her Mom flowers. The week after her Dad had passed the Mother felt that she should buy the daughter flowers, and it became a weekly event. Flowers from daughter to Mom, the next week flowers from Mom to daughter. Well, when the Mother became ill and passed on, the daughter was lost! The flowers had become so much a part of her life that she couldn’t let it go. From that point she started buying herself flowers… every week. She was pretending they were from her Mom.
Believe me, I’m not the kind of person to ever approach a perfect stranger with such information but I felt I had too. I actually didn’t do it immediately, and had believed the girl had left the property. It was the Mother that announced in “silent” words that her daughter was returning, and I actually stood up from a desk to look out a window to see her coming into the driveway in a Van. Don’t know how it happens, but I can get quite good at it when I want to.
Normally I just try and avoid such things, but like I said…THAT Mom was not letting me off the hook. I don’t see that I could have been dreaming, and I had witnesses, including my husband and the young ladies friend. SO.. my question is 2 fold. How did my Mom take my Dad’s symptoms from him and give them to herself, and how come I can (many times) see things that apparently aren’t supposed to be there?
Another interesting comment I’ve got earlier was from the post about Telepathy experiments with twins. Here’s the comment:
I am not a twin, although the identical twins that I have known all agree that there have been times when they have responded to something that is happening to their twin when that twin was absent and they couldn’t have known what was happening to them.
As a mother, I have experienced this phenomenon myself. The first times were when my first son was born. He developed an infection and was in a special care baby unit for the first week of his life. The unit was three floors below my room and yet every time my baby randomly woke up during the day or night, I knew, and was sitting at the door ready to go down to breast feed him when the nurse called up for me. The urge to go to him was even strong enough to wake me from a deep sleep.
Knowing when he needed me continued very strongly and he was 5 or 6 before it began to lessen. On one occasion, when he was three, I was with some of the other mums in the kitchen at a birthday party when I suddenly couldn’t breathe. I rushed through to find him and a much older boy had sneaked him into a bedroom under a pretext and was trying to strangle him. My son was blue in the face and passing out.
Though not always so dramatic, this happened so often that it couldn’t have been coincidence, and although it did get less, I still know when things are going badly or well for him, even when I haven’t seen him for a while. It happened with my second son, too.
So, given that there are people who report such extraordinary stories is something that really keeps me interested in the psi. Although these are all stories, lives of many people are filled with stories like these and I don’t think all of them should be just dismissed since it can’t be or can’t be proven.
When a mother in a simple blog post comment tells about how she saved her child from strangling I don’t see any reason for her to tell lies. It’s not self promotion and she doesn’t offer any services. It looks simply like an experience that moved her so deeply that she remembers it all these years and not afraid to tell, at least not over the Internet.
How many similar stories have you heard in your personal life?
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
Richard Wiseman, a known British psychology professor, is going to perform an ESP (Extra Sensual Perception) experiment using Twitter as the tool. The experiment will be performed in conjunction with the "New Scientist" magazine. The experiment "protocol" is described by Wiseman:
"At 3 PM (GMT) each day, I will travel to a randomly selected
location. Once there, I will send a Tweet, asking everyone to Tweet
about their thoughts concerning the nature of my location. Thirty
minutes later, I will send another Tweet linking to a Web site that
will allow everyone to view photographs of five locations (the actual
location and four decoys), think about the thoughts and images that
came to them in the 30 minutes before, and vote on which of the five
they believe to be the actual target location. If the majority of
people select the correct target, then the trial will count as a hit."
The trials will be held Tuesday to Friday this week (1st trial already ran).
My personal opinion is that this is a far cry from being any kind of a scientific experiment. To me it’s more like a publicity stunt by Richard Wiseman (granted, he’s a known person and might not want more publicity). I have run my own Psi Experiments a couple of years ago (site’s still alive). Experiment also presented an image with a choice of 1 of 5, where only one was correct. The skeptics (rightfully) criticized the experiment because it was so unscientific and the results of my first psi experiment showed that people are much more biased to answer options 2 or 4 out of 5 options present.
I believe even my 3rd psi experiment (still running) is much better designed.
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.
A member of our parapsychology forum , advised using FEC (Forward Error Correction) codes in psi experiments. This should help, in his opinion, create a more remarkable result out of psi test. Here’s an edited excerpt of his post (a little technical):
Most ESP tests show only a slight (but consistent) deviation from the expected results (e.g. in a test where the nominal chance of a hit is 50%, someone consistently scores 52%). In the long run, such an effect is statistically significant, but it is by no means “impressive” by human measures. BUT, consider these:
3. …So, instead of trying to apply ESP on “raw” tests (e.g. testing telepathy with Zener cards), and just comparing the results with the expected hits, why not make the objects (e.g. the Zener cards) code some digital data (the “message”), protected with a heavily redundant error-correction code (e.g. one that increases data size to 1500%, but only needs 10% of the transmitted, protected data to recover the original). As the “receiving” subject senses the cards, assuming that we are witnessing actual psychic ability, the received results will likely contain enough signal (that is, receptions produced by ESP, not by random chance, i.e. noise) to recover the original message.
If you’re not familiar with FEC, here’re a couple of real examples which I gave later in the forum. I studied some of it in university but it was quite a few years ago so I might not be 100% accurate, so beware.
A basic example would be a Compact Disc. You know that even if it has scratches in a moderate amount, the player will still play it will. This is since it can reconstruct the correct information using data that is still available (if there’s enough of it).
A more basic example of actual ECC would be transmitting everything 3 times. Then, if one of 3 is received with error it’ll still be able to select the right result (2 of 3). Of course, there are much better ways.
Since I liked his idea I decided to email Dr. Dean Radin, one of the leading parapsychologists today. His first reply on the topic was as follows:
OpenSourceScience, led by Alex Tsakiris, the host of Skeptiko podcast about parapsychology, with the help of several other people have started their long-awaited experiment to determine the possibility of anomalous information being received by mediums.
You too can help this experiment at this time. Just go to this site and fill the skeptic’s survey. It goes like this (from the site):
You’ll hear from four people. Each one wishes to connect with a deceased person. You’ll match the deceased to one of four descriptions and provide reasons for your answer. You may review and change your answers before submitting your results. Remember to explain your selection.
Here’s what you know about the deceased:
- all are deceased and somehow connected to the sitters
- all are men
- each of the descriptions match one of the deceased
- three passed away younger in life; one was only 13
- two of the names, Luke and Gabriel, have been designated as younger names, but do not necessarily correspond to younger descriptions
- one name, Bill, has been designated as an older name, but does not necessarily correspond to an older description (see below)
There’s some more explanation at the site about the controls etc.
To learn more about the experiment, download episode 59 of Skeptiko from http://www.skeptiko.com/index.php?id=70.
To discuss the experiment, join the discussion at Skeptiko forum on this topic.
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.
Dr. Dean Radin (of the Institute of Noetic Sciences) posted on his blog a note about two recent speeches that he’s done. The first speech was on January 16th in the Google headquarters (Telepathic search engine, anyone ?).
The good thing about the speech is that the video is available on Youtube with the full speech (over 90 minutes), which is really great. The video is edited, showing the slides well and with good sound quality. The abstract of the speech is as follow:
Do telepathy, clairvoyance and other “psi” abilities exist? The majority of the general population believes that they do, and yet fewer than one percent of mainstream academic institutions have any faculty known for their interest in these frequently reported experiences. Why is a topic of enduring and widespread interest met with such resounding silence in academia? The answer is not due to a lack of scientific evidence, or even to a lack of scientific interest, but rather involves a taboo. I will discuss the nature of this taboo, some of the empirical evidence and critical responses, and speculate on the implications.
On January 19th, Dr. Radin talked in a conference entitled “Investigations of Consciousness and the Unseen World: Proof of an Afterlife?” where he talked about the possible implications of Psi on the possibility of afterlife.
Our Parapsychology forums member, WhiteTiger, will give free Tarot readings for forum member in the thread Free tarot readings in the forums.
Tiger is a retired engineer/machinist/inventor, in his mid fifties, passed the Mensa qualification test back when it took a minimum 150 to get in before they lowered the standards. He ended up years back on a quasi-shamanic path as a result of looking for answers to the weirdness that have always been present in his life.
Here’s the offer in Tiger’s words:
I answer direct, specific questions on most subjects. I prefer to have the question only, with absolutely no backstory or qualifications to it that could be “read into” for a mentalist cold reading. “Life readings” and the tired old “does my bf/gf really love me” questions are so open to simple psychological manipulations that they are useless for demonstration purposes. Same goes for the sneering skeptic questions about change in the pocket or color of my car… that isn’t tarot, that would be RV.
Ask your questions in the Tarot readings thread. Free registration to the forums is required in order to post.
On the same occasion I would ask you to check out our forums once again, we’ve got a little nice community of interesting people there. If you like philosophical and scientific discussions of psi phenomena and research, join the discussions in the Skeptiko forum. We also have sections on psi ability development, health and alternative medicine.