When a miracle happens, the first reaction of skeptics is to say, “He or she is a fraud”, attacking that person. Since my experiences, I am willing to suspend disbelief, and with an open mind, set out to the US, to find out what respectable scientists have discovered so far. It seems quite a bit of research has been done in the field of 'psi' phenomena, or 'miracles of the mind'. I am not a skeptical in the sense that I am unwilling to see the evidence. But skeptical in the sense that I need to see objective evidence. I am not simply a 'believer.' I like to see 'proof'.
And so I decided to fly with about 80 kilo's of equipment, camera's batteries, tripod, tapes etc, to the US where I hoped to meet top scientists with solid credentials investigating psychic (psi) phenomena.
California has always had a great tolerance for innovation and new ways of thinking.
There are plenty of scientists on my wish-list, and the one who has agreed to guide me on this journey is Professor of Psychology at UC Davis, Charles Tart.
You could consider him the 'granddad' of parapsychology. For years he has been investigating science and spirituality, and he has written many books on the subject. He lives with his wife in one of the suburbs in my old university town of Berkeley.
We met and talked and I followed him around with my camera for about a week. We did several interviews, and when he saw that my intentions were sincere, he was so kind to introduce me to a small band of courageous men (mostly men ..?), The frontier scientists with solid credentials who are doing research on psychic phenomena .
This is fortunately as most of these scientist are very tentative to meet me.
There is a lot of prejudice and a lot of skepticism against psychic or 'psi' research. Some scientists have even lost their jobs over it.
I asked professor Tart, “Can we actually investigate” spirit? Or spiritual phenomena? And what has been discovered so far? “
What I learned from this man is that you can always define spirit in a way that puts it beyond the realm of scientific investigation, but that's a matter of twisting your logic so you can not do anything. The human mind does things that kind of like what is called spiritual, and we have firm scientific evidence for that.
Charles Tart has a typical professor's office: Full of books, a PC, pictures of Buddhist Masters, written jokes, and wise sayings, like: ” Do not believe everything you think .”
THE BIG FIVE
It is here in his office that he tells me something I did not know: Namely that scientific evidence in the laboratory has been found for five psychic phenomena.
Professor Tart taught me also about psychical research or parapsychology has been around for roughly a hundred and some years. And during that time there have been a few psychic phenomena that have been explored at great length, such that there are hundreds of experiments illustrating the reality of each of those. There are also some things that simply have not been investigated that much that might or might not be real, but the ones that are real, by any reasonable criteria of science, are the ones we call The Big 5 and that is :
1. Telepathy on the one hand- mind to mind communication. One person thinks of something and the other person once in a while picks that out where it could not happen by chance.
2. Second is Clairvoyance : direct knowledge of the physical world when it's not known to anyone else at that time. Somebody knows the nature of a distant place, for instance, there's nobody they're fending it as it was, but they just pick it up accurately.
3. The third of the big 5 is Precognition , and I must say this is the one I have the most trouble with intellectually, because I can not really imagine how it would happen, but the evidence shows that it can happen.
You ask someone to predict what will happen in the future, you have a future event that is determined by chance so there is no logical way of predicting it and people get it right often enough that you know that somehow the mind can reach into the future sometimes and tell what is going to happen.
4.The fourth of the big five is Psycho Kinesis or telekinesis, which is mind over matter, someone wishes for something to happen and it happens.
5. And the fifth is Psychic healing , now this might be a form of psychokinesis maybe. Then there is really only four phenomena but five looks worthy at the moment, and psychic healing is striving for a change in some kind of biological system. People have effects on the rate of healing. These Tart calls the big five simply because there are hundreds of experiences supporting the reality of each one and their very rigorous experiments, they are done at much higher standards of control than experiences in almost all other fields of science.
I accompanied professor Tart in his hybrid Prius to Palo Alto, where he lectures at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology. The school is buzzing with activity. I see a sign on a door: “Spiritual Guidance in session”, and I attended a class where Tart explained how important it is for people to talk about their experiences. He said that although he is not a psycho-therapist, he ended up essentially being a kind of therapist for a lot of people, because of the simple fact that someone in society gave prestige to Dr. Tart, Professor Tart, the psychiatrist, who then listened to the weird experiences of his pupils, which had confused and frightened them and then sort of brave it a name, as if he understood it.
Over the years Tart must have gotten thousands of phone calls, letters, and mostly emails now from people who have had unusual experiences and in a lot of cases that they are afraid, confused, they do not understand what's happened to them. He said he would look at them and tell them that a telepathic experience and that's an apparition of the dead and so forth. The very naming seemed to be very comforting to him.
I also learned from the class about Trans, which is when someone expresses breakthrough or mystical experiences or apythonies or a persons experiences being a part of something much larger than just their ordinary biological and social self. So if someone dreams as though they have contacted God or been at one with the universe or unified with nature or something like that and its a real feeling, not just an idea, that's what we mean 'my a trans personal experience.' They forget their ordinary little self and are something much bigger at least temporarily. The reason I want to research Trans personal experiences is because they are the most important thing that can happen to a person. Tart told his class that a few seconds of a trans-personal experience is reliable to do more to change the direction of a person's life than years of ordinary kinds of experiences.
I weathered a storm, and traveled to Florida to see astronaut Edgar Mitchell. He was the sixth man to walk on the moon. On his way back to mother earth, he had a spiritual transformation experience when he was coming back from the moon. Mitchell told me he was able to observe the heavens and look at the earth, the moon and the sun as they pass through the cabin window as the crew was coming home. He suddenly realized that the molecules of his body and the molecules in the space craft had been manufactured and prototyped in some ancient generation of stars and instead of an intellectual knowledge it was a visual knowledge and connection with the star systems that created us, created the matter in our bodies. It was accompanied by a very blissful feeling that he never experienced before and continued for three days after the return to earth. Because of this mysterious experience he started doing research, but could not find anything in scientific literature or religious literature and so he turned to mystical literature instead based in ancient India. What he found was Samadhi, which means an altered state of consciousness characterized by bliss, an experience where you see things as they are exist in nature. But you experience this internally and you feel one with all … A life changing sort of experience and one that he has come to realize is different our evolutionary destiny, provided we survive that long. Because once you've had that type of experience, the idea of being violent and being unthoughtful of nature is simply not possible anymore.
After his trip Edgar Mitchel founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences in California in search of a common ground between science and spirituality.
'Noetic', means to reveal a deep and profound truth.
After a week with Professor Tart, I drve an hour north to Petaluma to meet with Dr. Dean Radin, America's most famous parapsychologist, who for 30 years has been experimentally proving the far reaches of human consciousness.
He is senior scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences where they investigate science with a spiritual dimension.
Radin is one of the most famous para-psychologists in the US Like professor Tart, he is a well-published author and has been doing experiments into psychic phenomena for thirty odd years.
I showed Radin my bend spoon, but he was sort of evasive at first and told me this is useful in the sense of demonstrating to someone something that is interesting but it does not count as evidence in a scientific sense. In this case you have to ask yourself is it possible in principle to do this with force, and the answer is yes. Then the question is, can somebody dissociate so that they are not aware what they are doing? The answer he told me is yes.
Radin told me when you look at the overall results on experiments on telepathy and on clairvoyance and on unconscious and also psycho kinesis, you find that the cumulative data is quite strong in favor of existence at these effects. You also find that the effects are much weaker in what you see in the laboratory than what people typically report in their real life. Some of the experiences people have in life with so called 'crisis telepathy' and awareness and dreams, we know that in principle some of that is real sometimes. But in the basis of any given story, you never know.
Dean is in the middle of his experiences investigating 'precognition'. Also called 'presentment', an ability to foresee or fore-sense the future.
Dean asked me to follow him to his lab. A pretty wooden, earthquake-proof structure located in the rolling hills of Northern California.
I asked Dean, can a person see information about a future place or event before it actually happens? Can we see the future?
Dean told me he asked his sophomore students to sit behind a computer screen and watch 592 randomly selected pictures. Some have either a very strong emotional content (blood, sex, a ship sinking, etc). Others are very calm or neutral pictures like a towel, or a pot of jam. And just before each picture, there was a three second interval with nothing, just a gray screen.
While the experiment was running, Dean tracked the students' eye movements before, during, and after they viewed the photographs on the screen with their varying degrees of emotional affect.
Dean also measured papillary dilation, and spontaneous blinking, under conditions that excluded sensory cues, statistical cues, and other conventional means of inferring the future.
Dean's hypothesis is that, if present were real, he would see an anticipatory bump in arousal levels before the presentation of charged pictures and a neutral response before the neutral pictures. And sure enough, he has found that the movement of the pupil is reflective both of the amount of light that's coming in, but it also reflects your emotional response to what you are looking at. Dean said what he hoped to find in this experiment is that when you see an emotional picture you may have a certain big response in your pupil. And when you see a calm picture you have a response but it's not so big, that's when you see it. The question is what happens to your eye before you see it? Now in the case before you see these (emotional-or calm) pictures you're always looking at a gray screen. For three seconds: there's nothing there. So you would not expect by any conventional reason that the eye would be changing. But the present study studies that the eye and the body, everything in the body does change during these three seconds. It is responding to apparently your future.
So the tests show that a significant number of people measure emotions during the 3-second interval, correlating exactly with the emotional or calm content of the photo, suggesting that sometimes seers do see the future. It can occur as a vision, a mental flash or a dream, according to Dean. He told me that in science we are always very cautious to say what has been proven or not. Before we say there is evidence, we first of all need to know that the effect can be replicated by independent investigators. We also need to see this effect in different physiological parameters; in the scan of the head and so on-before we suggest that the effect is probably real. The primary implication of presentation is that there is some aspect of our future experiment, which is influencing us now. So in general it means that our perception of time is not limited to what William James called the 'spacious present', this half a second of what we consider to be now is in some respects an illusion. Our actual ability to perceive in time expands through time.
Dean thought of his study like this – as it is looking through the window to the soul to see the future – that's the poetic way of thinking about this.
I asked Dean if we are looking at a future event? He said he thinks at the moment of perception you are the future and that there are actually two ways of thinking. One way is that you perceive literally through time, that you're looking at a future time; So you're getting it now but your looking at it somewhere sometime else. But to suggest that that future is absolute, that it is a destiny effect that must occur. He said he was not sure.
I also learned from Dean that there are some experiments looking at what recognition actually is. What are we looking at? Is it the effect that is going to happen regardless? Or is it a probabilistic effect? He said there are conflicting results in these experiments. Some suggest you're looking at probable events and others suggest you are looking at the actual events regardless of a temporary probability. Dean's preference is that we are looking at probable futures because it gives us more of a sense of free but the jury is still out on that too, we do not know what the right answer is.
Dean says that most of the evidence in the laboratory comes from the equivalent of college sophomores. Ordinary people who are perhaps interested in psychic experiences or not. He said we see evidence there as well. The effects tend to be weak because we choose people more at random. Sometimes a pair of people will show a really amazing result, the next day they show nothing and we do not know why this is. From a psychological perspective it is not too surprising that it is very variable because we are dealing with human performance, and human performance is always variable.