Sunday, November 17, 2013

Reality and the Extended Mind - a documentary by Adrian Nelson

This is a rather lovely video that does a nice job of introducing the viewer to consciousness research. It includes contributions from Dean Radin, Garret Moddel, Rupert Sheldrake, Robert Jahn, Brenda Dunne, Adam Curry, Herb Mertz, York Dobyns, Larry Dossey, and Roger Nelson.



(Documentary) Reality and the Extended Mind -Part 1 from Adrian Nelson on Vimeo.



(Documentary) Reality and the Extended Mind -Part 2 from Adrian Nelson on Vimeo.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Why It's Not OK to Pathologize Psi

Those of us who have Psi/spiritual experiences often have to deal with discrimination and bigotry. It's hard enough handling our own self-doubts and concerns about whether or not these experiences are "real". But we also have to deal with people who are quick to label us as being "delusional, deceptive or mistaken" without even the slightest allowance made for any alternative possibilities. There is a false assumption that science, and scientists themselves, overwhelmingly support that premise as if it were the standard scientific response to all such experiences. But truthfully, that isn't the case. 

In a study presented by Yolaine Stout at the 2011 IANDS conference in Durham, NC, it was found that 46% of people who had reported a Spiritually Transformative Experience (STE) and who had shared the experience with a trusted professional such as a medical doctor or mental health practitioner felt "believed, validated or respected" as a result of the disclosure. A slight majority (48-54%) of respondents felt that the professional was "open-minded, interested or understanding". So even though there is definitely room for improvement in regards to how professionals deal with experiencers, the good news is that skeptics are mistaken about the standard educated professional's response to unusual experiences. That same study found that 31.9% of those surveyed answered "yes" to the question, "Have you ever felt as though you were very close to a powerful spiritual force that seemed to lift you out of yourself?". Chances are there are medical and mental health professionals numbered among those who answered "yes".

A term used in the talk that I had never heard of before was "Iatrogenic Harm" which is harm "resulting from the activity of physicians", including "any adverse condition in a patient resulting from treatment by a physician or surgeon". The reason it was mentioned was to emphasize the point that when medical doctors or other professionals mistreat a patient by pathologizing  their spiritual experiences, they are doing real and substantial harm to that patient. According to the study, of those who had reported an STE and who had shared the experience with a trusted professional, 44% felt "unsupported", 25% felt "ridiculed", 23% felt "pathologized", 18% felt "demoralized" and 10% felt "suicidal" as a result of the disclosure. I have to wonder what those educated professionals would say in their own defense knowing that they may have caused suicidal feelings in a patient as a result of their actions?

At the 2013 ACISTE conference in Arlington DC, a talk was given by David Hufford which addressed the positive aspects of Extraordinary Spiritual Experiences (ESEs) while drawing attention to the need to educate professionals about the harm caused by stigmatizing such experiences. The abstract of the talk is as follows (emphasis mine):
"Extraordinary Spiritual Experiences (ESEs), such as near-death experiences and after-death contacts, are common around the world and have been shown to be normal and salutogenic. Substantial data indicates that several of these experiences are associated with better psychological health. ESEs have healing power, a power partly rooted in the way that the knowledge they confer to the experiencer produces a cognitive re-appraisal of threats and, therefore, stress. Since stress can produce morbidity and death, and cognitive appraisal modulates stress, the spiritual resources arising from Extraordinary Spiritual Experiences can be potent mediators of the stress response and, therefore, health.  To facilitate the use of this resource it is necessary to combat the stigma of psychopathology that has been consistently used by skeptics to “debunk” ESEs, and to assist experiencers in an appreciation of the empirical and rational support that exists for taking ESEs seriously."
Given the potential harm which can result from pathologizing spiritual experiences, you have to wonder, "What kind of person would do such a thing?" If the evidence suggests that these experiences can be positive for those who have them, then why would anyone suggest otherwise? Well, it turns out that there are organized groups of individuals out there dedicated to promoting the idea that Psi/spiritual experiences are pathological. Groups such as CSI (Committee for Skeptical Inquiry) and JREF (James Randi Educational Foundation) attract followers by using the age-old, tried and true method of inciting an angry mob. Instead of burning witches, modern day skeptics vilify and ridicule those people brave enough to come forward with Psi/spiritual experiences (such as NDEr Eben Alexander), as well as any scientist who dares to investigate these commonly occurring, normal human experiences.

Most of us never encounter skeptics in our daily lives. They are a very limited, but vocal, minority. Unfortunately, they can substantially change history, or at least the perception of it, by concentrated efforts such as Guerrilla Skepticism. Skeptics have turned something as innocuous as Wikipeadia into a weapon of censorship and a tool for self-promotion. Craig Weiler has been covering this issue on his blog.

The skeptics may believe they are doing a service by helping to rid the world of psychic-fair mediums, but how many people out there have been seriously harmed financially or otherwise by a medium? Probably far less than the 31.9% who have had STEs and who may require support from well-trained, well-informed professionals aware of the potential dangers of pathologizing Psi. We have to hope such professionals are smart enough not to believe everything they read on Wikipedia

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Jan Holden talks about The Handbook of Near-Death Experiences

In this series of videos, Dr Jan Holden gives an overview of the research presented in The Handbook of Near-Death Experiences. Dr Holden is the editor of the Journal of Near-Death Studies, a past president of IANDS and a professor of counseling at the University of North Texas. In addition to her own work as an NDE researcher, Dr Holden also supervises doctoral students conducting NDE research.

 
 
 
   
Note: the podcast mentioned during the question period can be found here.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Why Can't We Talk About Morphic Resonance?

Rupert Sheldrake is once again a target of the organized skeptical movement. Craig Weiler has made this the subject of his latest blog for those of you interested in all the gritty details. It's hard to imagine why such a distinguished and soft-spoken academic repeatedly raises the hackles of skeptics. Sheldrake comes across as the sort of person you wouldn't hesitate to invite to a dinner party. Most people wouldn't find him offensive in the least.

So who does find Dr Sheldrake offensive? And why?

They call themselves skeptics, but they follow a a strict set of beliefs which makes them anything but skeptical in the true sense of the word. They are characterized by a lack of curiosity and an abundance of free time. Let's face it, when you think that science has already figured out everything important (such as "Is there life after death?"), there isn't much left to do but mess with Wiki from the safety of mom's basement.

It's hard to understand that lack of curiosity. I have a pretty good education, a couple of undergraduate degrees as well as graduate school. I'm always interested in learning more. There was never a time when I thought science had everything figured out. There were times when I wished it did, particularly those times when I wanted to dismiss my own experiences of Psi. But in the end, I couldn't rationalize away my experiences or the large body of experimental evidence that suggests Psi is a possibility. It would have been intellectually dishonest to make Psi "disappear" in such a way. But once you accept Psi as a possibility, your universe becomes a lot bigger, and perhaps a bit more scary. I suspect that's why there are organized attempts to make it "disappear" along with other scary worldview changing concepts like Sheldrake's Morphic Resonance.

It takes a certain amount of courage to deal with a universe that isn't deterministic. One in which you aren't a robot, where you have to take responsibility for your own actions and how they impact on others around you. Perhaps a bit more courage than the average anonymous skeptic who edits Wikipedia is known for. The sad thing is, they are missing out on all the real fun to be had. By passively following orders, they forgo the joy of exploring new ideas for themselves.

In a perfect world, we'd be able to talk about Morphic Resonance. We wouldn't all have to agree on the validity of the hypothesis of formative causation, but it could be discussed like anything else. We could push the envelope and consider effects outside of MR's usual scope of ontogeny, crystallization, etc... There could be so many interesting discussions! Are large-scale evolutionary processes affected by Morphic Resonance? Who knows! But it sure would be fun sitting in a campus pub on a Friday afternoon drinking beer and arguing about it. 

I once toyed with the idea of whether or not Morphic Resonance could be used to explain diversification patterns seen in Ordovician fauna. Highly speculative, difficult to prove, but still fun to think about. This is some of what I wrote:
It is hard to conceive that there might be an intrinsic “something” that connects the past to the present within even our planet’s basic biological systems. But if there were such a “something”, wouldn’t it be evident in the geologic record? The geological record gives indications of all sorts of neat stuff that happened on this planet before we showed up. If there were intrinsic forces influencing the basic biological systems on this planet, one would think that this would be evident in the past record of faunal diversity.

Let’s consider the work of Jack Sepkoski, a paleontologist best known for his global compendia of marine animal families and genera. Sepkoski (1981,1984, 1990) used factor analysis of marine family diversity to produce a model of Phanerozoic diversity patterns involving three “Evolutionary Faunas” (EF’s) with distinct periods of diversification and taxonomic dominance (Figure 1). Successive faunas demonstrate declining origination rates and increased levels if equilibrium diversity in comparison to their predecessors. Based on this model, Sepkoski proposed that the Late Cambrian plateau of taxonomic diversity represented the point where the equilibrium between extinction rates and diversification rates had been achieved in regards to the Cambrian EF. The Paleozoic EF initially exhibited a much slower diversification rate than the Cambrian explosion, but was able to attain much higher levels of diversity than the Cambrian fauna before being superceded by the Modern EF.

Based on his mathematical modeling of global diversity, Sepkoski (1979, 1984) viewed the Ordovician Radiation as the logical result of intrinsic factors, a natural consequence of diversity-dependent interactions between the established Cambrian EF and the newly diversifying Paleozoic EF. In light of more recent works that highlight external influences on diversity (i.e. Miller, 1997a, 1997b; Miller and Mao, 1995), the importance placed on such intrinsic factors has been diminished. In spite of this, Sepkoski’s model endures due to its success in modeling Early Paleozoic patterns of diversification. Nearly all of the phyla and most of the clades that radiated during the Ordovician originated during the Cambrian. Even without a definitive link, this suggests that the Ordovician Radiation was influenced on a very fundamental level by the Cambrian explosion (Erwin et al, 1987; Miller, 2004).

Does Sheldrake’s hypothesis of formative causation (Sheldrake, 1981) explain the influence of the Cambrian explosion on the Ordovician Radiation? I really can’t say one way or the other, but it's fun to explore such ideas. It's great to be curious. And it's very sad that instead of talking about and playing with new ideas, there are people out there whose main pastime seems to be quashing the conversation. I may never get that afternoon in the pub to talk about such things. Those ideas are being suppressed because some people would rather live in a very small, very safe universe, with a finite destination, than be confronted with an infinite space and all the time needed to explore it.What a shame.

References:

Erwin, D.H., Valentine, J.W. and Sepkoski, J.J. Jr., 1987. A comparative study of diversification events: The Early Paleozoic versus the Mesozoic. Evolution 41:1177-1186.

Miller, A.I. 1997a. Dissecting global diversity patterns: Examples from the Ordovician Radiation. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 28:85-104.

Miller, A.I. 1997b. Comparative diversification dynamics among paleocontinents during the Ordovician Radiation. Geobios M.S. 30(S1):397-406.

Miller A.I., 2004. The Ordovician Radiation: Toward a New Global Synthesis. In B.D. Webby, F. Paris, M.L. Droser, and I.G Percival (eds), The Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event, pp. 381-388. Columbia University Press, New York.

Miller, A.I. and Mao, S.G., 1995. Association of orogenic activity with the Ordovician radiation of marine life. Geology 23:305-308.

Sepkoski, J.J. Jr., 1979. A kinetic model of Phanerozoic taxonomic diversity, II: Early Phanerozoic families and multiple equilibria. Paleobiology 5:222-252.

Sepkoski, J.J. Jr., 1981. A factor analytic description of the Phanerozoic marine fossil record. Paleobiology 7:36-53.

Sepkoski, J.J. Jr., 1984. A kinetic model of Phanerozoic taxonomic diversity, III: Post-Paleozoic families and mass extinctions. Paleobiology 10:246-267.

Sepkoski, J.J. Jr., 1990. Evolutionary faunas. In Briggs, D.E.G. and Crowther, P.R. (eds) Paleobiology: A synthesis, pp. 37-41. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford.

Sheldrake, R., 1981.  A New Science of Life: The Hypothesis of Formative Causation. Blond and Briggs, London.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

NDE Links

I came across this page on the Skepiko forum and thought I would post it here. It provides links to a great number of NDE videos and documents. I'll leave you with one of my favorite NDE videos, The Day I Died:


The Day I Died - NDE - Consciousness Documentary by spiritsandbeyond

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Esquire Has Been Debunked!

NDE Researcher Robert Mays has posted an article on the IANDS website which does an excellent job of debunking Luke Dittrich's attack in Esquire Magazine on Dr Eben Alexander's reputation regarding the accuracy of his account in Proof of Heaven.

One has to wonder if the editors of Esquire care about journalistic integrity or not, given the very shoddy work they were so eager to publish. Not only did they publish it, they charged extra for it. Nothing like making a few bucks off of someone else's close call with death. Esquire somehow managed to make ambulance chasing lawyers seem less disgusting by comparison.

So will Esquire or Luke Dittrich answer for the harm they've done?

Probably not, but they have been given a chance to set the record straight. Skeptiko podcast host Alex Tsakiris contacted David Granger, Editor-in-Chief of Esquire, in the hopes that he would want to answer the concerns about journalistic integrity raised by the article posted at IANDS. Alex has also tried to directly contact Luke Dittrich, who is a contributing editor to Esquire in addition to being the debunked author in question.

It doesn't seem likely that Esquire will ever answer for the damage it has done to Dr Alexander's reputation, but at least people are now speaking out against this irresponsible, unjustified, and inaccurate bit of mud-slinging. It looks like Robert Mays may get the chance to be on Skeptiko soon. I'm looking forward to that!

------------------------------------------------------------------------
Update: Alex Tsakiris has just posted that Luke Dittrich has declined the invitation to be on Skeptiko.

I've posted additional commentary on The Weiler Psi.

A pdf of the original article can be found here.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Parapsychologists You Should Know

I just started up a series of guest posts on the Weiler Psi Blog in which I'll be highlighting some of the better known parapsychologists currently involved in research. Rupert Sheldrake is the first of that series. You can find the post here. Just for fun, I'll leave you with this 1998 video of Terence McKenna, Ralph Abraham and Rupert Sheldrake discussing The Evolutionary Mind.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Introduction to the Scientific Study of Psychic Phenomena

Back when I was still trying to figure out I was psychic, I contacted a parapsychologist who very kindly sent me some articles on mediumship. Up until then, I didn't know people actually studied the kinds of experiences that I was having. I was ashamed of having such experiences because when I went through the search engines at my university all I could find were articles suggesting that these occurrences were pathological. A sure sign of mental illness. I was terrified that something might be seriously wrong with me, something that couldn't be fixed.  It felt like my life was over.

Those articles changed things for me. I started actively looking for more information about Psi and discovered that Parapsychology wasn't just a made up profession found in movies like Ghostbusters. There were professional scientists doing current cutting-edge work. There was also a long history of research that came with a very interesting body of peer-reviewed scientific literature.  I remember the first time I read Dean Radin's book Entangled Minds. I cried. Then I read it again.

I think understanding these experiences is important to everyone, not just those of us who are waking up to being psychic every day. We all need to know psi is a normal human experience and not at all pathological. I would highly recommend to anyone having unusual experiences that they try to learn a bit about parapsychology. It doesn't have to be a chore either. Learning about Parapsychology can be fun!

Nancy Zingrone is teaching a great on-line parapsychology course and only charging $5 for it. That price gives you access to a previous online course, plus access to a number of future classes in October. There is a private forum and lots of interesting course material and videos to enjoy. And best of all, it isn't too late to join the fun. You can watch any classes you miss online whenever you want to see them.

The class is called Introduction to the Scientific Study of Psychic Phenomena. I enjoyed the first lecture. One thing I learned is that people who see auras (like me) are more likely to experience a wide variety of psi experiences (such as apparitions, pk, precognitive dreams) than people who don't experience auras but have had other psi occurrences. So if you see apparitions, that might be your psi niche, so to speak. You might not experience other varieties of psi. But if you see auras, then you are much more likely to have other unusual experiences. I found that little gem of parapsychological wisdom very helpful!

It was fun. I learned some new things. And I'm looking forward to the course forum where I'll get to discuss all sorts of cool stuff with other interested people. The July classes will include a lecture on mediumship by Carlos Alvarado, information about current research units, researchers and their work, plus a class on the origin and uses of the Ganzfeld method. Awesome!

Friday, June 28, 2013

How to spin a Psi Wheel

So you've followed the directions I posted earlier and made a Psi Wheel. Chances are you will spend more time putting it together than you will spend on actually trying to get it to spin. Unfortunately, most people give up rather quickly. They try it once, convince themselves it was a silly idea, and that's as far as they go.

Well, Don't give up! Seriously, that's step one in getting a Psi Wheel to spin.

I find it helps to have a personal connection to the wheel. Some of my best results have come from pinwheels made from foil candy wrappers I've saved from holiday treats. And those peanut butter jars I use? Well I'm the only one in this family who eats peanut butter. But even if the actual materials aren't so personal, you can still develop a relationship with your wheel. Talk to it. Tell it jokes. Make friends with your wheel. I know it sounds silly, but it helps.

Now that you and the wheel are BFFs, it's time to party! Yes, have fun playing together. Don't be hard on yourself (or the wheel). You don't have to get it spinning inside the jar right away. It's perfectly fine to get acquainted with the wheel without using a jar to begin with. It took me a few months of practicing without a jar before I was able to start moving the wheel inside a jar. I just kept going until it happened. But it has to be fun. Make a game of it.

If you can practice with others, that really helps too. I've done well taking my pinwheel to the pub with friends to hang out. It's more fun when you make this a social activity. (Maybe Psi Wheels are just party animals???) But if it's just you and your faithful Psi Wheel hanging out for some quality time together, you can watch this video and see if it provides any inspiration. (Is there such a thing as PK Porn?!?)

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Ever Elusive Personal Experience of Psi

I just did yet another guest post on Craig Weiler's blog. (Apparently he isn't tired of me yet.)

How to make a Psi Wheel

These days I use a commercially available Egely Wheel for my experiments, but I know they are kind of a pricy item and I don't blame anyone who wants to start off with a cheaper option.. I originally began experimenting with just a simple homemade pinwheel. Nothing fancy at all, but a great first step in learning to control PK.

You'll need a few basic items to start with:


  1. A jar with a lid.I used a plastic Kraft peanut butter jar, but glass jars are fine too. The advantage of glass is that it isn't as affected by static electricity, which can make the wheel stick to the jar. But you can just use an anti-static dryer sheet rubbed on the inside of a plastic jar to take care of that problem. The advantage of plastic is that it's lighter and easier to carry with you if you want to take it anywhere (school, coffee shops, the Rhine Research Center, etc...). If you live in a high humidity environment (like I do), static isn't a huge problem anyway.
  2. A eraser small enough to fit inside the lid of the jar.
  3. A sewing needle.
  4. A square of Al foil (I used a 4.5 cm square in my example).
The first step is to push the sewing needle into the eraser, pointy end upwards (for the pinwheel to sit on). Just make sure to get the needle straight up and down and not at an angle. Even a bit of an angle impedes the movement of the wheel.


The next thing to do is to fold the Al foil square into a little pyramid shape. Start off by folding the square in half, forming a triangle.


Now open up the triangle into a square again, and then fold the other two corners together.


Open up the square again, and it will pretty much already be a pyrimid shape. You could actually stop there if you wanted to.


If you want to get things a little fancier, then make additional folds in the middle of each of the first four triangles, forming eight triangles.


Once that is done, open up the pyramid again. You will notice that the very top is quite pointy. You can leave it that way if you want to, but I find that the pin will tend to wear through that spot quickly when you do get it to spin.


My remedy is to flatten the point into a little square at the top. I use something like the flat end of a pen or knitting needle to shape it the way I want it. Just be careful not to poke a hole through the foil. I find that the wheel spins more easily and lasts longer if I shape it this way.


So now you have a base and a pinwheel:


You just balance the pinwheel on the pointy end of the pin:



The next step is to place the pinwheel inside a jar. If you use a plastic jar, rub the inside of it with an anti-static dryer sheet first. You now have a Psi Wheel to experiment with!


As far as spinning the pinwheel goes, I worked on getting it to spin without a jar first, and after I was very good at that I moved on to learning to move it inside the jar. After I could do that I started to work on distance PK, which is something I'm still learning to do in a reliable fashion. 

I wish you all the best of luck in your own experiments!