Sceptics dismiss claims that direct, non-sensory-system, communication, can, and does, occur between individuals, whether animal or human. Brains are programmed to receive, and respond to, input from their outlying sensory systems and those systems only. There are two recognised exceptions to this rule. Brain tissue can be activated by direct electrical stimulation and by the application of transcranial magnetic impulse stimulation. Any brain-generated electromagnetic field radiating beyond the head is far too weak to influence other brains. On these grounds scepticism seems fully justified but, despite such an apparent impossibility, paired electroencephalograph (EEG) recordings from stimulated brains and non-stimulated brains have shown sudden changes in voltage amplitude and frequency occurring in the non-stimulated brain coincident with stimulus-evoked potentials occurring in the randomly stimulated brain. According to our present understanding of physics this communication anomaly, observed across a range of studies, cannot occur but, seemingly, does occur. In one recent study, now replicated, time-locked EEG records from non-stimulated brains recorded the onset of voltage fluctuations some 150 milliseconds before flash presentation and 200ms before the onset of visually evoked potentials (VEPs) in the stimulated brain. Following a review of the experimental literature the implications are discussed.
Psi researchers often use the term ‘sensitivity’ when theorizing that certain persons may be more apt to register anomalous influences than others. Through a review of the literature it is argued that some individuals are disposed toward a range of innate sensitivities that, in novelty as well as intensity, distinguish them from the general population. It is hypothesized that such persons will exhibit greater susceptibility to a range of environmental factors, including allergies, migraine headache, chronic pain and chronic fatigue, and that they will also report a higher than average degree of psi perception as well as apparent electromagnetic influence. A 54-item survey was designed by the author and completed by 112 individuals (62 self-described sensitives and 50 controls), to evaluate the following issues: the extent to which persons who describe themselves as ‘sensitive’ appear to be affected by such factors; whether their immediate family members may be similarly affected; to what extent environmental sensitivity parallels apparitional experience; and how such findings compare or contrast with replies to questions asked of a control group. On the basis of both the literature and the survey results, the author argues that sensitivity is a bona fide neurobiological phenomenon. While no single factor in a person’s background is likely to distinguish him or her as ‘sensitive’, eight demographic or personality factors are found to be statistically significant. If further studies were to document similar results, a more tangible basis would be provided for the study of apparitional experience than has been possible to date.
A chess match purportedly between living and deceased Grandmasters was staged by Eisenbeiss and publicized in the 1980s in the popular media. Upon reviewing the case, and taking account of material which had hitherto not been published, Hassler concluded that the case was worthy of deeper analysis and publication for the scientific community. A resumé of the match, which was played at international championship level, and the circumstances of its intermediation by an automatic-writing medium who had no knowledge of chess or chess history, form the introduction to the newly disclosed material in this case: during the course of the match, a substantial body of information on the life of the discarnate Grandmaster was elicited, which has subsequently been successfully verified, including an unanticipated element. An evaluation of the verification reveals that the ‘hidden’ part of the information communicated was 94% accurate. The value of the case is to be seen in the ostensible communication of objective facts (knowing that) combined with the exercise of acquired mental and intellectual skills (knowing how) over a sustained period of time, as well as the revelation of unanticipated hidden information. Weighing on the one hand the psychological motivation underlying the production of this information by the medium, and on the other the discarnate psyche suggests the survival hypothesis as the more plausible explanation for the information flow.
Many people report having had an ‘out-of-body’ experience (OBE) in which they felt as if their phenomenal self was separated from their physical body. Previous work has found OBE experients (OBErs) to score higher on measures of dissociation (e.g. Richards, 1991) and to differ from non-experients (non-OBErs) with regard to the perceptual experience of their body (Irwin, 2000). These findings have been interpreted as supporting a dissociational theory of the OBE. More recent work has suggested that an examination of other dimensions of body experience might reveal further aspects of such dissociational experience (Murray & Fox, 2005a, 2005b). In this work, OBErs have been found to score higher on a measure of body dissatisfaction, and lower on a measure of confidence in their physical self-presentation than non-OBErs. However, this prior research did not distinguish between those who had had a spontaneous OBE or an OBE as part of a near-death experience (NDE). The circumstances surrounding the spontaneous OBE and the NDE which includes an OBE appear to be very different; the former usually takes place when the person is on the verge of being awake or asleep, while the latter usually occurs when the person is placed in very stressful and fearful circumstances in which they perceive themselves to be near to death, are by some objective criteria near to death, or both. Given the very different contexts in which these forms of OBE occur, in the present study it was hypothesised that the causes of the spontaneous OBE and the OBE which takes place as part of an NDE have different causal psychological mechanisms. If this was supported by research findings, this would suggest at least two pathways to the OBE and the need for research which distinguishes between these. It was predicted that people reporting a prior spontaneous OBE would score more negatively on a variety of dimensions of body-related experience than people reporting an OBE as part as an NDE. Not all of the hypotheses were supported, but spontaneous OBErs were found to score significantly higher on measures of somatoform dissociation, body dissatisfaction and self-consciousness. The findings reported here support the theory that there are pre-existing differences in the body experience of NDErs and spontaneous OBErs.
This article presents the results of a study investigating how directed mental healing by traditional healers (izangoma) in South Africa impacted upon the functioning of a Random Event Generator (REG). In one test condition, individual healers held the REG and focused intention onto the device, attempting to administer healing as they would do with actual clients. In another condition, the device was held but not attended to. Control periods and further trials examining experimenter effects were also conducted. A non-directional effect that significantly exceeded chance expectancy was obtained during the healing condition (Chi^2 = 113.023, p = 0.009), whilst none of the other conditions demonstrated a significant REG anomaly.
The literature of mesmerism, Spiritualism and psychical research presents ideas of forces projected from the human body to acquire information and affect the environment. Franz Anton Mesmer and other workers developed the concept of animal magnetism to explain phenomena such as the induction of trances and healing. Nineteenth- and twentieth-century authors such as Edward Cox, Eduard Von Hartmann and Joseph Maxwell developed ideas of force as an attempt to explain the physical phenomena of mediumship. The studies of physical mediums conducted by Julian Ochorowicz, W. J. Crawford and others did much to support the belief that telekinesis and materialization were produced by forces coming from the body of the medium. With the rise of the Rhinean paradigm many parapsychologists set these ideas aside and adopted a mentalistic model. A study of these concepts helps us to understand how prevalent these ideas have been in the past, how they have been related to the body’s vital processes and to physical radiations, and how they have been used to explain psychic phenomena.
Every culture has its own world-view. Exploring a different culture can often shed light on our own belief systems and help us to see our own concepts. The Tibetan culture is renowned for its psychic practitioners, but there has been no scientific research into their practices. As a preliminary to experimental research with Tibetan monks, this paper presents a brief overview of a selection of Tibetan cultural beliefs involving psychic awareness (GESP). The oldest Tibetan traditions are those of the oracles, which involves deity possession; Mo divination, which often involves a Tibetan deity called Palden Lhamo; and a belief in consciously chosen reincarnation resulting in tulkus who are identified using a variety of psychic practices. There are more recent beliefs regarding attainment of psychic abilities through Buddhist meditation practice. These beliefs are surrounded by many taboos, revealing a certain fear of psi. These are mentioned in the hope that, by studying another culture’s beliefs and taboos, we may gain a greater understanding of psi and obtain useful hypotheses for further research.
A growing number of contemporary investigations into the apparitional experience highlight the importance of energetic/environmental factors underlying such instances. These factors have been ascribed with the capacity to influence the brains, perceptions and interpretations of certain observers. Examples include a suggested role for geomagnetic fields, electromagnetic fields, lighting levels, drafts, temperature and infrasound. In reality only a few of these factors have been investigated in depth and have received empirical support. This paper investigates the recent case put forward for infrasound underlying anomalous perceptions in some instances (Tandy, 2000; Tandy & Lawrence, 1998). Contrary to the growing interest in infrasound, here we question studies that claim to have shown a positive role for infrasound in eliciting strange experience. We re-examine these claims and demonstrations from the original studies, investigate the neuro-physiological mechanisms proposed for the effects of infrasound, and show that the case for specific effects due to infrasound alone has yet to be empirically demonstrated. Implications for future research are also discussed.
This paper outlines two studies conducted to test further the precognitive habituation (PH) effect using spider stimuli, following the success of Savva, Child and Smith (2004). The PH effect was first developed by Bem (2003) out of the conventional mere-exposure effect, in which the presence of a stimulus leads to participants showing a preference for it over other stimuli. The PH effect is a time-reversed mere-exposure effect, since participants are asked to make a preference choice between two stimuli before they are presented with (or exposed to) either of them. Bem had originally made use of violent and pornographic images as stimuli, but these were replaced with spider images in a successful conceptual replication by Savva et al. This paper reports on two further replications. In Study I fifty participants each completed 24 trials. Although there was a small but significant above-chance overall hit-rate (53% where MCE is 50%; p = 0.046), no PH effect was found. Study II incorporated a larger sample (N = 92), though testing took part in small groups rather than individually. Again no PH effect was found in the data, although post hoc analysis revealed a possible precognitive aversion effect. The authors tentatively present that interpretation, although the inability to replicate the original Savva et al. (2004) findings does raise doubts about the reliability and strength of the PH effect.