Chapter 5. Paranormal Research
Coming as we do from mathematics, science, and spiritual practice, we have an interest in the acceptance of scientiﬁc results on the so-called paranormal phenomena by the scientiﬁc community, and hence, the compatibility of these results with our models. In this chapter, we review the best attested phenomena, and later on, after describing our model in Part Two, we will return to the question of compatibility.
To our knowledge, there are rather few experimental scientists active today in the domain of paranormal phenomena; we will call them parapsychologists. Among the leaders who have written recent books are Dean Radin of California and Rupert Sheldrake of London. We now brieﬂy summarize their writings.
5.1. Dean Radin
Dean Radin is a scientist with a masters degree in electrical engineering and a PhD in psychology from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. After a career in telecommunications, he shifted into consciousness research and is currently Senior Scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS). He is the author of two books, The Conscious Universe: The Scientiﬁc Truth of Psychic Phenomena (1997), and Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experiences in a Quantum Reality (2006).
Radin passes over popular phenomena such as ghosts, poltergeists, contacts with the deceased, channeling entities, and so on, in favor of phenomena that are well supported by careful scientiﬁc experiments. He has pioneered the use of ”meta-analysis” (in widespread use since 1985), meaning the statistical combination of many experiments on the same phenomena to compute the overall probability of the phenomena, expressed in chances per million, etc. Radin, although a devout parapsychologist, has given careful consideration to the skeptics and their arguments, and presents a fair and balanced summary of results with expert use of statistical methods. He ﬁnds the most robust results, and statistical signiﬁcant according to meta-analyses, in six categories of phenomena, each the subject of a chapter of his 1997 book. These are telepathy, perception at a distance, perception through time, mind-matter interaction, mental interactions with living organisms, and ﬁeld consciousness. Of these six categories of phenomena, the ﬁrst ﬁve are called the big ﬁve by the eminent parapsychologist, Charles Tart (2009). We now summarize the big ﬁve from Radin (1997).
Chapter 5, Telepathy comprises three experimental arrangements: dream telepathy, ganzfeld telepathy, and autoganzfeld telepathy. In dream telepathy experiments, a sender tries to mentally send images to a receiver who is asleep in a shielded sleep laboratory. The original series of trials were conducted by Montague Ullman and Stanley Krippner at the Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York, from 1966 to 1972, and have been replicated numerous times by others. A total of 450 sessions were reported in the literature. In ganzfeld
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telepathy, the receiver is prepared in a receptive state in a sensory deprivation situation. The original trials, in the mid-1970s, were conducted by Charles Honorton, William Braud, and Adrian Parker. Twenty-eight studies were analyzed in 1985. Autoganzfeld telepathy continued the ganzfeld program, but with various improvements of design, until 1989.
Chapter 6, Perception at a Distance includes three types of clairvoyance: ESP card guessing, remote viewing, and precognitive remote perception (PRP). ESP card experiments begun in 1889 were popularized by J. B. Rhine in a book of 1934. The subject guesses which card has been hidden nearby. By now, an enormous number of experiments have testiﬁed to the eﬀect: 3.6 milliion trials involving 4,600 subjects. Remote viewing, begun in 1882, became popular in the 1970s. A program was run by Harold Puthoﬀ, Russsell Targ, and Edwin May, at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) from 1970 to 1994. A sender went to a remote location which the receiver attempted to capture in a drawing. Sometimes, only the latitude and longitude of the target were given to the receiver. PRP refers to a remote viewing program conducted at Princeton University from 1978. The adjective ”precognitive” was prepended to the name ”remote perception” (synonymous with ”remote viewing”) because the targets were usually selected after the drawing!
Chapter 7, Perception through Time covers two kinds of precognition: forced-choice and unconscious precognition. Forced-choice tests ask the subject to guess which of a ﬁxed number of targets (eg, ESP cards) will be selected later. Charles Honorton and Diane Ferrari analyzed all forced-choice experiments published in English from 1935 to 1987, including two million trials by 50,000 subjects. Unconscious precognition refers to the detection of a future event by an unconscious nervous system response. In the presentiment experiments conducted recently by Dean Radin himself, the subject sits in a comfortable chair, her ﬁngers connected to apparatus that records her skin conductance, heart rate, and blood volume. When she is ready, the computer selects an image from a ﬁxed set of 120 photos, waits ﬁve seconds, then shows it to her on a screen for three seconds. There is a ten second rest before the next cycle begins. The analysis of the data sometimes shows a reaction to an arousing image, in the ﬁve seconds before the image appears on the screen. This is called presentiment. As in the PRP experiments reported in Radin’s preceding chapter, presentiment is an occurrence of information from the future appearing in the present, violating the usual scientiﬁc belief in causality.
Chapter 8, Mind-Matter Interaction reviews tests of mental inﬂuence on inanimate matter: dice, and physical random number generators (RNGs). Tests of people trying to inﬂuence the fall of dice have been ongoing since 1935. Radin and Diane Ferrari analyzed the results of these trials up through 1989, 2.6 million throws of the dice by 2,569 people. Tests of people trying to mentally inﬂuence an RNG (eg, radioactive decay times) were pioneered by Helmut Schmidt in the 1960s at the Boeing Laboratories. Many more studies were done at Princeton University. In 1987, Radin and Princeton professor Roger Nelson analyzed the data from nearly 600 studies.
Chapter 9, Mental Interactions with Living Organisms considers mental inﬂuence on animate matter: remote healing, telepathic excitement, and the feeling of being stared at. A study
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of the massive literature on remote healing is presently ongoing. Extensive studies of mental inﬂuence of human physiology have been pioneered by William Braud and Marilyn Schlitz from 1974 to 1991. The sender was instructed at random times to send to the receiver, whose skin conductance was being recorded, an arousing thought, a calming thought, or no thought. The feeling of being stared at has been the target of studies since 1913, including the new studies by Rupert Sheldrake discussed below.
After describing all this history and analysis in great detail, Radin (1997) reports the results of meta-analyses of each group of experiments. One measure of the strength of the eﬀect under study is in terms of the ”statistical signiﬁcance”, p. For example, p = 0.001 means that there is only one chance in 1000 that the found results could be obtained by chance. In other words, if the result concerns 100 throws of a die, then the 100 throws should be repeated 1000 times to obtain the result by chance. Radin usually expresses p in the form, for example, ”Honorton’s autoganzfeld results overall produced odds against chance of forty-ﬁve thousand to one.” This means that 1/p = 45,000, or p = 1/45000 = .000022..., or about 2.22 times ten to the power (−5). We will use the symbol e to indicate the negative exponent of statistical signiﬁcance; in this case it is 5.
Results as odds against chance from Radin (2006) are shown in Table 5.1. Here we summarize Radin’s results simply by giving the value of e for the meta-analysis of each eﬀect. These are listed in order of strength, with the most signiﬁcant eﬀect ﬁrst.64
TABLE 5.1. e values for the strongest eﬀects.
Eﬀect Studies Trials e ================================== Dice PK 269 26 million 76 Conscious staring 65 34,097 46 Ganzfeld psi 88 3,145 19 Dream psi 47 1,270 10 RNG PK 595 1.1 billion 3 Unconscious intention 40 1,055 3 Unconscious staring 15 379 2 Combined 1,019 1.126 billion 104 ==================================
All these eﬀects are synchronous, that is, they do not involve precognition. We might also mention one asynchronous eﬀect, presentiment, which has e = 5.65
64(Radin, 2006; p. 276) 65(Radin, 2006; p. 168)
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5.2. Rupert Sheldrake
Next we examine two books of Rupert Sheldrake that report on original research projects: Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home and Other Unexplained Powers of Animals (1999), and The Sense of Being Stared At and Other Aspects of the Extended Mind (2003). Dogs that Know reports on many experiments. The experiment giving the title to the book is the subject of Chapter 2, on telepathy between dogs and humans. The most extensive experiment involved a terrier, Jaytee, and his owner, Pam. The results are analyzed in Appendix B.66 The overall statistical signiﬁcance reported is e = 6, a very strong result for a single experiment. Like the presentiment results of Dean Radin, Sheldrakes’s analysis of JayTee’s time at the window shows short-term precognition.
The Sense of Being Stared At, likewise, deals primarily with one eﬀect. The results have recently been improved to e = 6 by conducting trials over the internet.67 This is consistent with the meta-analysis in Table 5.1. Sheldrake also reports telepathy trials over the internet with e = 12.68 This new research strategy is likely to increase the signiﬁcance of all of the paranormal phenomena.
Experimentalists, of course, like to speculate on paranormal scientiﬁc theory, especially if they have a strong scientiﬁc background. And this is the case with both Radin and Sheldrake. Sheldrake, in his ﬁrst book, A New Science of Life of 1981, oﬀered a theory of continuous ﬁelds called (depending on the context) morphic ﬁelds, mental ﬁelds, family ﬁelds, and so on. His treatment is similar to later authors writing on the psi ﬁeld, but is rather more detailed and speciﬁc than most.69 This concept may involve a new force, presently unknown to physics. Telepathy, for example, would be understood as a resonance phenomenon between vibrations in the mental ﬁeld. Like us, Sheldrake was greatly inﬂuenced by classical Indian cosmologies.
Radin, in his ﬁrst book, The Conscious Universe of 1997, devoted a chapter to a review of theories proposed by other scientists, with emphasis on quantum nonlocality and entanglement. In conclusion, he wrote,
An adequate theory of psi, however, will almost certainly not be quantum theory as it is presently understood. ...Living systems may require an altogether new theory.70
66See also (Sheldrake and Smart, 2000). 67(Sheldrake, 2008) 68(Sheldrake, 2003, 2005) 69See, for example, (Laszlo, 1987a). 70(Radin, 1997; p. 287)
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In his second book, Entangled Minds of 2006, Radin again devotes a chapter to psi theories. In this case, he presents a rather complete summary in seven categories:
1. Skeptical theories 2. Signal-transfer theories 3. Goal-oriented theories 4. Field theories 5. Collective-mind theories 6. Multidimensional theories 7. Quantum-mechnical theories
Of the thirty-ﬁve pages of this chapter, ﬁve pages are devoted to categories one through six (Sheldrake’s morphogenetic ﬁelds are mentioned under category 4), ten pages to category seven, which includes ﬁve quantum theories of psi (including Bohm’s implicate order and the measurement theory of Von Neumann, Wigner, and Stapp), and fourteen pages are devoted to entanglement. Radin is clearly betting on entanglement, while acknowledging that the jury is still out as far as theory is concerned.
As quantum theory is incomplete in some sense, as the measurement problem is still unresolved, one may resort to metaphorical thinking, and propose a quantum-like ﬁeld, something like the quantum vacuum, as the entanglement matrix, or connecting linkage, for microscopic and macroscopic phenomena. At the end of his current book, The Akashic Experience: Science and the Cosmic Memory Field, Laszlo writes regarding ESP,
We begin by noting that the information that reaches the mind in an extra- or non-sensory mode does not appear to have conventional limits in space and time. Such information could have come from anywhere, and could have originated at any time in the past. This suggests that the information is not local but universal. It is distributed information in a ﬁeld that is present throughout nature. This is a new and perhaps surprising hypothesis, but it’s borne out by cuttingedge physics and cosmology. A universal information- and memory-ﬁeld could exist in nature, associated with the fundamental element of physical reality physicists call the uniﬁed ﬁeld. ...Honoring an ancient insight, this is the aspect or dimension of the uniﬁed ﬁeld that I have called the Akashic ﬁeld.71
Our own cosmological model featuring both implicate order and entanglement, albeit without using quantum mechanics nor assuming a uniﬁed ﬁeld, is presented in Part Two of this book, to which we now turn. Our intention is to contribute a theory, more precisely a mathematical model, in which all paranormal phenomena may be understood, including quantum entanglement and the measurement problem.