Category Archives: Psychical research

How many bodies do we have?

I first became a practitioner of Emotional Freedom Techniques (“EFT”) in 2003. I later became an Advanced Practitioner and I’m now an EFT Master Practitioner, and also a practitioner of a related energy therapy, EmoTrance (“ET”, but now renamed by its originator Silvia Hartmann as EMO). Both of these therapies, and several related ones, are based on the theory that each of us has an energy body, whose “circulatory system” comprises the meridians also used in acupuncture. Energy therapies are designed to clear blockages in the energy body, or the body’s energy system, caused by a wide range of emotional (and physical) conditions.

Because of my scientific background I’ve had some difficulty in accepting the existence of an energy body, but nevertheless I’ve proved many times – with clients and on myself (to the astonishment of a certain medical consultant) – that EFT and ET are very effective indeed. On the whole, I don’t trouble myself too much with how they work, only that they do.

The concept of an energy body has other applications besides therapeutic ones. As I’m also interested in psychical research, I recently read Demystifying the Out-of-Body Experience by Luis Minero. Mr Minero is the Education Director of the Brazil-based International Academy of Consciousness (“IAC”), which runs training courses for controlled out-of-body experiences (“OBEs”).

The founder of the IAC, Waldo Vieira, developed the new study of “Conscientology”. He wanted to avoid occult connotations, such as use of the old term “astral projection” for an OBE, so he invented his own terms. This has had the unfortunate side-effect of making IAC books very difficult to read (although Mr Minero’s book is clearer than some); IAC writers never seem to be able to use a short word when a long one will do.

The first chapter of the book, Fundamental Concepts, defines the four bodies that make up the whole body (the “holosoma”):

Soma (physical body)
Energosoma (energetic body)
Psychosoma (emotional body)
Mentalsoma (intellectual body)

Each of these is then discussed in some detail, but it’s the energosoma that concerns us here. It may also be referred to as the “holochakra” and it’s the etheric body of classical literature. It has two main functions. Firstly, it links the physical body (soma) with the astral body (psychosoma). While this is important for understanding and promoting OBEs, it’s not really relevant in the context of energy therapies. Secondly, and more importantly here, it vitalises the physical body. A healthy energosoma promotes general well-being, while numerous issues result from blockages and imbalances. It’s these that we can clear with energy therapies.

The next chapter, Bioenergy, is lengthy and complex, and it defines many new terms that I’m not going to attempt to explain here. It’s worth reading in full if you are interested in the subject. In this chapter, Mr Minero describes the energosoma as comprising all the body’s chakras and their energies. A chakra is a vortex, a processing centre or gateway for sending and receiving energy. Although most writers concentrate on the seven main chakras, there are apparently about 88,000 of them in all. Chakras feature prominently in some energy therapies, but not in EFT, which concentrates on meridians, or ET, in which energy simply flows freely.

The chapter includes exercises which will be useful to energy practitioners. I personally find the most important one, “VELO”, fairly easy, but that may be because I’m used to stimulating energy flows in my body. It involves rapid movement of energy flows up and down the body. VELO stands for “Voluntary Energetic Longitudinal Oscillation”, and it has a number of benefits including:

unblocking and balancing the energosoma;
identifying and diagnosing energy blocks;
preventing the onset of energetic blockages or problems; and
making us physically healthier.

In other words, the benefits of VELO are similar to those of EFT and ET, so it may well be worthwhile for energy practitioners to add this technique to their toolkits.

I said earlier that my scientific training has made it difficult for me to accept the bioenergy concept. When I first started using EFT, I regarded it as a form of hypnosis, and it can certainly work as a trance induction. Nevertheless, from the personal success I’ve had in feeling the energy flows, using EFT and ET and with exercises such as VELO, I’m now inclined to give the idea of an energy body rather more credence, particularly after reading Mr Minero’s book. Although it’s difficult to digest, the ideas put forward do mostly seem quite sensible.

The association founded by Silvia Hartmann with which I’ve taken all my energy therapy training how now been renamed as The Guild of Energists, reflecting Silvia’s emphasis on energy flows rather than the mechanical process upon which the original version of EFT was based. (Silvia’s version, as taught in her Master Practitioner course, is referred to as “Energy EFT”.) I’m personally not happy with the association’s name change, as I thought the old name was better suited to a professional body, but the Guild now includes many members who are not professional therapists. More at https://goe.ac/

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How a Ouija Board Really Works

I’m sorry to disappoint you, but spirits don’t move the pointer on a Ouija board – well, not directly, anyway. We’ll get to that shortly.

Ouija boards come in a wide variety of styles, classic and modern. They all have letters, probably numbers, and maybe words and symbols too. Here’s mine, based on the familiar William Fuld design:

Ouija 002

You’ll see that this one was marketed by the games manufacturers Waddingtons. It was sold in high street shops as a toy, in the late Sixties, and got them into a great deal of trouble, mainly from religious groups. It was quickly withdrawn from sale. I’ve blanked out the central window of the pointer (it originally had a nail in the hole in the middle) because the design is otherwise ambiguous; do you look through the window or at the tip of the pointer?

The pointer is referred to in the instructions as a “mysterious message indicator”. Sometimes the term planchette is used, but strictly that refers to an earlier device of a similar shape, with a pencil at the tip and castors at the rear corners.

Spiritualism began with the Fox sisters, whose spirits communicated by raps. This was a slow process, so later Spiritualists used automatic writing, either by directly holding a pencil or with a planchette. Unless a medium is particularly gifted, automatic writing is likely to produce illegible gibberish, so mediums moved on to using an upturned wine glass with paper letters on a smooth table and eventually marketed Ouija boards especially designed for the purpose.

As I said at the beginning, spirits do not directly move the pointer, wine glass or planchette. All the above techniques are automatisms; they work through what is now known as ideomotor responses – automatic, involuntary muscular movements which are controlled by the unconscious mind (“UCM”). Dowsing instruments such as pendulums are also automatisms and work in a similar way.

This is not, however, a full explanation. Automatisms certainly reveal information from the UCM, but this leaves open the question of how that information entered the UCM. There are several possibilities, which I’ll discuss with specific reference to the Ouija board.

Metaphor

This is the conventional explanation – the UCM is communicating symbolically, either by making up a story from its contents, or by regurgitating or modifying one previously read or heard but forgotten – cryptomnesia. Jung’s idea of the Collective Unconscious could be brought in too. This type of explanation certainly accounts for many cases – but not all of them.

Telepathy

A more promising explanation is that information enters the UCM through telepathy – direct mind-to-mind communication without the use of the known senses. This could be from other sitters at the table working the pointer, from onlookers – or it could be from spirits.

Past Life

The board could conceivably be communicating details of the past life of one of the sitters, or one of the onlookers through telepathy. I don’t want to go into past life theories in any depth here, but the main explanations for a genuine past life would have to be either reincarnation or genetic memory.

Super-ESP

This is the sceptic’s get-out-of-jail-free card. When faced with communications giving information which can’t be explained away by cryptomnesia or through other “normal” (i.e. non-paranormal) channels, a sceptic who rejects the idea that human consciousness can survive bodily death will resort to the “Super-ESP” hypothesis. He will argue that the information has entered the UCM through Extrasensory Perception – not just telepathy from someone in the room, but from a living person anywhere in the world, or from a book or other object (clairvoyance) – also anywhere in the world. He could also argue that this information could come from the future (precognition), the past (retrocognition) or from some universal memory bank. Many modern psychical researchers feel that this sort of explanation is more far-fetched than the simpler one of belief in spirit communication, and in any case there is no evidence that ESP is this powerful.

Safety First

Whether or not a Ouija board is communicating with spirits – evil or otherwise – or simply with the contents with our unconscious minds, great care should be taken when using one. Our UCMs contain some pretty unpleasant material. Sessions should always begin with a prayer to an appropriate deity or by setting up another form of psychic protection, and any entities summoned need to be properly dismissed at the end – treat them as “real” even if they may not be. Also take any information or advice received with a very large pinch of salt – you don’t know where it’s coming from.

Conclusion

So, how does a Ouija board work? Well, the pointer is certainly moved by ideomotor responses from the sitters – but does it spell out messages from spirits? The answer is clearly “no” in some cases – but in others it may be “perhaps”. I don’t think we’ll ever be able to “prove” that spirit communication exists, because the sceptic can always fall back on the Super-ESP hypothesis (however unlikely) – but there’s strong evidence in some published cases of automatic writing. In the end it’s going to be subjective – is the evidence strong enough to satisfy you?
http://www.magicofthemind.co.uk/

The ABC of ESP

Back from the Dead?

Have you ever had a close brush with death, or been brought back to life after having been declared “clinically dead”? If so, you may have had a near death experience (“NDE”). The term was coined in 1975 by Dr Raymond Moody in his book Life After Life, in which he sets out the following elements of a composite “model” NDE:

  1. Hearing sounds such as buzzing
  2. A feeling of peace and painlessness
  3. Having an out-of-body experience
  4. A feeling of travelling through a tunnel
  5. A feeling of rising into the heavens
  6. Seeing people, often dead relatives
  7. Meeting a spiritual being such as God
  8. Seeing a review of one’s life
  9. Feeling a reluctance to return to life

Dr Moody based his book on about 150 case histories. Many more cases have been reported since the book was published, and there have been no doubt innumerable unreported cases since the dawn of history. In fact, the earliest report of an NDE can be found in The Republic, written by Plato in around 380 BC.

My copy of Dr Moody’s book has the following tag line on the front cover:

“Actual case histories reveal that there is life after death.”

Is this true? Is that what these (and other) case histories reveal?

Well, as with any other paranormal research, the answer is – maybe! Certainly it seems that anyone who has been through an NDE believes that he has had a glimpse of an afterlife. On the other hand, super-sceptics such as Dr Susan Blackmore, whom I have mentioned before, will tell you that:

  1. By definition no-one who has had an NDE has actually died; and
  2. NDE phenomena are hallucinations caused by medicinal drugs and the malfunctions of a dying brain.

Perhaps the most convincing – to non-sceptics – published case is that of Pam Reynolds, who featured prominently in a BBC documentary (you can currently find the segment on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNbdUEqDB-k ) and in the 1998 book Light and Death by Dr Michael Sabom. Pam was rendered “dead” for a difficult brain operation – her body was chilled and her brain completely shut down – before being successfully resuscitated. During the operation she experienced an NDE and was later able to give a detailed description of the surgical procedures. Sceptics have argued that the NDE took place before Pam’s brain was flatlined, and this may well have been the case for at least part of it. She did however describe one event which took place while her brain was inactive and in any case the rest of her experience is extremely difficult to explain away (especially as her eyes were taped shut and her ears blocked). Both Pam and her neurosurgeon were interviewed for the BBC documentary; Pam describes her experience and the surgeon comments that he is unable to explain her description of the surgical procedures. So far it’s the closest that we have come to an experimentally induced and controlled NDE and I recommend the YouTube clip if you haven’t seen it before.

Like the other paranormal phenomena which I have discussed in my earlier blogs, NDEs may not be conclusive proof of an afterlife – but taken together with reincarnation studies, mediumship and out-of-the body experiences – not to mention ESP, which I haven’t covered yet – one gets the strong impression that it can’t all be explained away…

Have you ever been out of your body?

Have you ever seemed to see the physical world from a location outside your body? If so, you’re among the 10% or so of people who have had an out of the body experience (“OBE”). Many of those have also apparently seen their own body from another point in space. This can be frightening when it happens for the first time, but generally speaking these experiences are not only harmless but also make you feel good afterwards; you don’t need to wonder whether part of you can live on when your body eventually dies – you know that it can. This is especially so in the special case of the Near Death Experience (which may be the subject of my next blog…).

Terminology has changed over the years. The early writers, such as Sylvan Muldoon, Oliver Fox, “Ophiel” and “Yram” called the phenomenon astral projection, on the assumption that we all have an “astral body” as well as a physical one, and that this second body can be projected spontaneously or deliberately. Later, parapsychologists referred to travelling clairvoyance or ESP Projection. Currently the neutral term OBE (or occasionally OOBE) is preferred as it doesn’t imply any particular explanation.

The first experience of an OBE is usually spontaneous – it’s accidental and unexpected. There are cases, for example, of road accident victims finding themselves floating above the scene looking down at their own injured bodies, and of patients who are able to describe everything which went on in the operating theatre while they were under general anaesthetic. Oliver Fox began with lucid dreams and false awakenings (discussed in my earlier blogs); Sylvan Muldoon and Robert Monroe, a more recent writer, began their experiences while lying awake in bed. The experience may take place (apparently) in the physical world, a close copy of it with differences from “reality”, or in another completely different “plane” or “dimension”.

One thing which is immediately clear from reading accounts of OBEs is that there is a wide variety of experience. Writers such as Fox, Muldoon and Monroe learnt to induce OBEs deliberately; they all give detailed descriptions of their own experiences, and detailed instructions based on them – but their experiences, and therefore their techniques, are all different.

What is an OBE?

Well, it’s unlikely that a second body is physically projected, firstly because it wouldn’t have sense organs such as eyes and secondly because it usually seems to “travel” in a pseudo-physical world, a reconstruction, rather than the real one. It’s more likely to be a product of the “mind” (whatever that is), possibly involving an element of ESP.

How do you deliberately induce an OBE?

The most comprehensive examination of the subject that I’ve come across, summarising the experiences of all the above writers, is Beyond the Body (1982), the first book by Dr Susan Blackmore. (I mention that this is her first book because I can’t recommend her later ones; she is now one of the “super-sceptics” and her opinions have become extremely biased.) She suggests the following techniques, most of which assume that the body is extremely relaxed and therefore immobilised:

  • Imagery – imagine yourself floating, or visualise a duplicate of yourself and “transfer your consciousness” into it;
  • Inducing a special motivation to leave your body – Muldoon suggested extreme thirst;
  • Ophiel’s “little system” – memorise a familiar route and try to project yourself along it;
  • The Christos technique – described in detail in one of my earlier blogs;
  • Monroe’s fairly complicated techniques, beginning with “vibrations”;
  • Ritual magic methods – advanced visualisation techniques such as the use of “astral doorways”;
  • Hypnosis – requires a skilled hypnotist and a fairly deep trance (and doesn’t work for everyone); and
  • Dream development, starting with a lucid dream.

For more details you should of course refer to the original sources; I particularly recommend the classic The Projection of the Astral Body, by Sylvan Muldoon and Hereward Carrington, and Journeys Out of the Body by Robert Monroe.

My own OBEs…

…have started either from lucid dreams or from the hypnopompic state, the half-awake state when you’re just waking up from sleep. For me this usually starts with the feeling that I can see the room even though I know my eyes are closed, and I can occasionally move my non-physical arms and apparently roll out of bed, leaving my body behind. Once I “walked” around what seemed to be my bedroom – finding objects that I knew shouldn’t be there – then onto the landing and downstairs. On other occasions I have passed through the closed window into the garden. These examples can be regarded as lucid dreams, but they qualify as OBEs if, as Dr Blackmore does, you define an OBE as the experience of being outside your body.

Control your dreams

Have you ever had a dream in which you have realised that you’re dreaming? This kind of dream is known as “lucid” and it has some remarkable properties.

A lucid dream is generally far more realistic than a “normal” one, often brighter and vividly coloured. The senses of hearing, touch and taste may also be experienced (although pain is rare). Although you’re asleep, your conscious mind is also functioning, so that you can explore your dream world and reflect on what you find there. Also, perhaps because of the realism, lucid dreams are more likely to be remembered after waking than ordinary ones, which often fade very quickly. Speaking personally, I hardly ever remember my non-lucid dreams, but memories of a few of the lucid ones that I’ve had have stayed with me for years.

Perhaps the most important point about lucid dreams is that you can control them – to some extent, anyway. If you’ve been having an unpleasant dream, for example, you can take action to deal with whatever’s been bothering you. To give one example of my own: I dreamed I was being menaced by a tiger. I concentrated on it, made it shrink, and it turned into a cat! There are also possibilities for creativity and problem solving, and even healing, both psychological and physical, although research into healing in this way is in its infancy.

Lucid dreams can be either spontaneous or induced deliberately. The basic trick is to notice something “wrong” or impossible in your dream – a tiger in your bedroom, for example. Speaking of bedrooms, there is the related experience of the “false awakening”; you seemingly wake up, get out of bed, get dressed, perhaps – then suddenly find yourself back in bed. I have often had “chains” of these, where I’ve apparently woken up several times in a row. Again, finding something “wrong” can turn a false awakening into a lucid dream.

There are a number of techniques for training yourself to dream lucidly, mostly along the lines of conditioning yourself while awake or immediately before going to sleep. You can also buy expensive (and probably uncomfortable) electronic gadgets designed to turn ordinary dreams into lucid ones.

The techniques for healing, creativity and problem solving are similar to guided imagery, which is a helpful procedure in hypnotherapy. In fact, the very detailed imagery reported by clients undergoing past life regression is a very similar experience to lucid dreaming.

As I write this, I have in front of me two books, both titled Lucid Dreaming. One, by Stephen LaBerge (2004), is a short book concentrating on the practical aspects of inducing and using lucid dreams; the other, by Celia Green and Charles McCreery (1994), whom I mentioned in my blog on apparitions, is a detailed study with an academic slant. This book emphasises the close link between apparitions, lucid dreams, false awakenings – and then on to out of the body and near death experiences, which is probably where I’ll be going next…

Do you believe in ghosts?

If the question means “Do you believe that dead people sometimes walk the earth in their other-world bodies?”, the answer is probably no. G.N.M Tyrrell, in his classic book Apparitions, suggested many years ago that a better way to put the question is ‘Do people sometimes experience apparitions?’ – the answer to that one is definitely yes.

Apparitions may be seen, heard or felt. When they are seen, they often look so like a normal human being as to be mistaken for one, at least at first. In The Reality of the Paranormal, which I have mentioned before, Prof. Arthur Ellison lists five types of apparition, each of which is well documented:

  • hauntings – regularly perceived in a particular place
  • crisis cases – seen, heard or felt when the person perceived is undergoing a crisis (often near death)
  • post-mortem cases – perceived long after a person has died
  • experimental cases – where a living person is deliberately trying to make his apparition visible to another
  • suggestion cases – “tricks of the mind” in places believed to be haunted.

The first three of these types may be regarded as ‘ghosts’ but it’s debatable as to whether or not they have an independent existence; they are probably ‘hallucinations’ generated by the unconscious mind, existing only in the minds of those perceiving them (sometimes several people at once). This doesn’t make them any less “real”, but it’s important to distinguish these cases from apparent communications with departed spirits. Generally speaking, apparitions don’t communicate with the living, although spirits may, as I discussed in my previous blog.

It’s generally considered that most hauntings are something like a video recording – stored in the fabric of a building, perhaps, by a strongly emotional event. The classic TV ghost story The Stone Tape was based on this idea. Crisis apparitions are best explained by telepathy from the living (even if at the point of death). Post-mortem cases could be evidence of telepathic communication from the dead in some cases, or possibly just hallucinations created by the unconscious mind in the bereaved.

So while apparitions may be classed as “paranormal” they are not really evidence for life after death in themselves. How and why some people (and not others) experience apparitions are questions which are still to be answered; there’s no simple explanation. For a comprehensive analysis of the subject, I recommend the 1975 book Apparitions by Celia Green and Charles McCreery. They suggest that, when someone sees an apparition, it’s not just the apparition that’s hallucinatory, but the whole environment. This leads into a discussion of lucid dreams and out-of-the-body experiences – but that’s another blog…or two…

Is there anybody there?

Apart from the reincarnation evidence which I discussed in my last blog, the main area of research into life after death (“survival”) has been the study of mediumship. The Society for Psychical Research (“SPR”) was founded in 1882, shortly after the “birth” of Spiritualism. The work of the SPR initially focused mainly on mediumship, although they also investigated thought-transference, mesmerism and other paranormal phenomena. The investigation of mediumship declined, as the study of parapsychology became more experimental, but the popularity of recent television series such as Living TV’s Most Haunted makes it clear that both mental and physical mediumship are very much in the public consciousness.

To define these terms I’m going to give two quotes from the excellent book The Reality of the Paranormal by Prof. Arthur Ellison (a past president of the SPR).

“The psychic is called by Spiritualists a medium because he or she is assumed to act as a medium between this world and the next. According to the Spiritualist theory, when mediums’ minds are used in this way, they are called mental mediums. In other words, a mental medium is a person receiving data ostensibly communicated from the dead via the mind and body of the medium.”

“When the production of ostensibly paranormal physical effects take place during a séance then the medium is called by Spiritualists a physical medium and the phenomena, which are assumed to be produced by entities in the ‘next world’, are referred to as physical phenomena.” These phenomena include such things as cold breezes, whispered voices, table rapping and levitation and faint lights – the “orbs” familiar to viewers of Most Haunted.

The history of Spiritualism, and by extension that of psychical research, has been plagued by fraud; generally speaking, magicians are more competent investigators than scientists. Physical mediumship has always been particularly suspect, and in my view is largely irrelevant to the question of survival, but mental mediumship has provided some strong evidence.

In fact, there’s a huge amount of evidence, and I only have room here to give a very brief outline of two historical, related cases which appeal personally to me. The first is the Cross-Correspondences, apparently an experiment which originated from “the other side”. Communications ostensibly came from deceased leading members of the SPR, classical scholars who wove obscure literary references into automatic writing scripts received by several mediums living well apart, some even on different continents. This is such a vast subject in itself that the best I can do is refer you to online introductory articles at http://www.montaguekeen.com/page42.html One of the mediums involved, Mrs Piper, was studied in great detail (not only in connection with the Cross-Correspondences) and is particularly highly regarded among psychical researchers.

Another of the mediums involved in the Cross-Correspondences was “Mrs Willett” (in fact Mrs Winifred Coombe Tennant, the first British woman appointed as a delegate to the League of Nations), who, after her death, apparently started communicating with another medium, Geraldine Cummins. The Cummins-Willett scripts have been published in edited book form under the title Swan on a Black Sea, and I can recommend it as strongly convincing evidence suggesting that Mrs Coombe Tennant’s consciousness lived on after her death.

As with other paranormal phenomena, I don’t think that there will ever be definitive unarguable proof that the living can communicate with the dead; the sceptic can always fall back on the “Super-ESP” argument referred to in my last blog. Any verifiable information received by a medium must exist somewhere in the world, either in writing or a living person’s mind, for it to be checked. But if you read communications such as those in Swan on a Black Sea, where Mrs Coombe Tennant’s personality clearly comes through, you would be justified in wondering whether Super-ESP is the simplest explanation.

Past Lives – the Evidence

The scientific evidence for past lives or reincarnation – from formal research rather than just anecdotal evidence – comes from two main directions.

The first is hypnotic regression, but this is not generally considered to have produced anything conclusive. The principal reason for this is that it’s relatively easy for sceptics to come up with alternative explanations, such as suppressed memories (from books, newspapers, TV programmes and films), false memories implanted by the hypnotist, or simply fantasy.* Having said this, past life experiences under hypnosis are usually very convincing to the person having them, and there is some useful research in this area. I can recommend the book Reliving Past Lives: The evidence under hypnosis by Dr Helen Wambach for a comprehensive description of her own research.

The second line of research, which is rather harder for sceptics to explain away, comes from studies with young, sometimes very young, children, particularly those conducted by psychiatrist Ian Stevenson, who published a number of books on his research. There are two reasons why these studies are more convincing than those involving hypnosis: firstly, the suppressed memories argument is not plausible when the subjects are two to three years old and secondly Stevenson’s subjects mainly lived in semi-literate cultures where access to other sources of information was extremely limited.

To give you an idea of this research I’d like to give a very brief summary of one of Stevenson’s classic cases – that of Imad Elawar.** Imad was born in in a village in Lebanon in 1958, and the first word that he spoke was “Jamileh”, the name of the mistress of Ibrahim Boumhazy, who had lived in a village 20 miles away and died in 1949 at the age of twenty-five. As soon as Imad learnt to speak in sentences he began to talk about his past life, and at the age of two recognised a neighbour of Boumhazy’s in the street. He also gave many details about Boumhazy’s house, relatives and his life. At that time the people of the region tended to do little travelling, and the members of the Elawar and Boumhazy families insisted that they had never met. After collecting as much information as possible from both villages, Stevenson took Imad (then aged five) to Boumhazy’s village, where he recognised many of Ibrahim Boumhazy’s relatives and addressed them correctly. They were amazed at Imad’s behaviour, which was just like Ibrahim’s.

Stevenson collated 57 factual statements made by Imad; of these, 51 were verified as correct. This case, and others like it, is very difficult to explain if it is not a genuine example of reincarnation. Communication between communities in the region was extremely limited at the time. Imad had never visited the other village and the two families were adamant that they had never met. Fraud was also most unlikely, as Imad’s comments were more of an embarrassment to his family than giving any benefit.

“Super-ESP”, i.e. telepathy from Boumhazy’s family, is of course a possible explanation for the information given by Imad; it’s the sceptic’s “Get out of jail free” card, as it can explain almost anything – except perhaps Imad’s behaviour. In cases like this, reincarnation is the most straightforward explanation, and these cases do give very strong evidence – but not, of course, conclusive proof.

*None of these arguments affect the effectiveness of past life regression for therapeutic purposes, for reasons that I have explained in other blogs and articles.

** A detailed discussion of this case can be found at http://www.criticandokardec.com.br/imad_elawar_revisited.html#review

Outside the (brain) box

In my videoblog Have you been here before?, I comment that if past lives found during regression are exactly what they seem to be, then science needs a rethink. It may be helpful to explain this point further, also expanding points I made in my last blog, Where do you think?

According to orthodox scientific principles, the “mind”, “thought” and “consciousness” are simply electrochemical processes operating in the brain and cannot exist without it. The same, of course, goes for memories; they are stored in the brain’s cells (somehow, somewhere) and when the brain dies those memories cease to exist. Memories of past lives are therefore impossible unless they are stored outside the brain and can survive its death.

We therefore need to look at an alternative to the orthodox position, which is that consciousness and memories operate outside and through the brain rather than being generated by it. This “transpersonal” approach accepts that the mind is not limited by time or space and opens up the possibility of paranormal (or psychic) phenomena rejected by conventional science – life after death, reincarnation, telepathy, precognition (seeing into the future) and so on.

None of these phenomena have been “proved” for various reasons – one of which, as I commented in my last blog, is that sceptics can always come up with another explanation for any paranormal event, although these arguments can often be so far-fetched that the paranormal explanation would be by far the simplest. But there is certainly strong evidence for the paranormal – evidence that would be considered proof in any “orthodox” branch of science (with high levels of statistical significance).

A detailed commentary on this evidence would be enough to fill a fairly thick book, and even a cut-down version isn’t going to fit into a single blog post. So I intend to devote my next few posts to briefly covering evidence for:

  • reincarnation
  • survival of death
  • near death experiences and out-of-the-body experiences
  • extrasensory perception (ESP) – telepathy and precognition.

This may be a tall order, but I’ll have a go!

I’ll end this post by giving you my own position on psychic phenomena. One of the few ideas that I remember from my psychology degree is the difference between an “attitude” and a “belief”. An attitude has the following three components:

  • Cognitive – what one knows about the subject

  • Affective – what one feels about it; and

  • Behavioural – how one behaves in relation to it.

A belief, on the other hand, lacks the cognitive component.

I try to avoid beliefs and only hold attitudes, based on knowledge. My extensive reading on parapsychology (the semi-respectable modern word for psychical research), dating back over forty years, together with some limited personal experience, is enough to satisfy me personally that psychic phenomena exist in some form. But I am neither a “believer” nor a “sceptic” – I try to look at the evidence objectively. Unfortunately, most writers on the subject take one position or another, so when you’re reading about the paranormal you need to watch out for the writer’s prejudices and allow for them. I hope I don’t have any.