Tag Archives: mind

Part II: THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT

Sir Robert Ottley, Royalist

Sir Robert Ottley, Royalist

 Continuing with JH Brennan’s, Whisperings: The Secret History of the Spirit World, I wanted to mention the research conducted by Dr. A.R. G. Owen a few years after Bacheldor’s work. A Canadian research group led by Owen wondered if they could create a ghost.

Working a lot like fictional writers, the group created “Philip” and gave him a whole history. Philip had been a Cavalier officer during the English Civil War and had resided at Diddington Hall (a real place). The story of his life was a fabrication and went like this. Although Philip was married, he had an affair with a gypsy girl which had enraged his wife. The wife managed to have the girl denounced as a witch and burned. So distraught was Philip that he threw himself off the battlements of the hall committing suicide. Poor Philip!

Diddington Hall. Photo: John Evans

Diddington Hall. Photo: John Evans

The group held séances for a year trying to contact the Cavalier with no luck. I think it’s pretty amazing they’d keep at it that long with no result. One of the group eventually read Bacheldor’s work and wondered if a lighthearted atmosphere might make a difference. Giving it the old college try, they sang and told jokes, and oddly enough, after a few more séances, things started to happen. They heard their first rap and the table slid across the floor. Success at last! Encouraged, someone asked if Philip was doing it and was answered back with a loud rap. Having contacted the entity, the group used the one knock for yes and two for no method, to go on to communicate with Philip. Phillip affirmed the basic facts of his fictional life story and went on to reveal additional details the group had not created. The séances also produced various physical phenomena. The most spectacular was recorded for a television program. A table climbed a set of steps joining the panelists being interviewed.

Battle of Marston Moor, 1644

Battle of Marston Moor, 1644

I’ll leave you to ponder the significance of the Philip research. As a fiction author, I’m already concocting plots about how the other side conspires to have a good laugh at Owen and the other sitters.

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THOSE THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT

whisperers

JH Brennan’s, Whisperers: The Secret History of the Spirit World explores the powerful undercurrents flowing just beneath the surface of the history we’re taught in school. Whether or not you believe in ghosts, spirits, or faeries, is immaterial (pun intended). The fact that various phenomena have been occurring throughout pre-history right up until today is undeniable. Brennan doesn’t set out to prove the existence of ghosts as disembodied, earth-bound entities but rather he examines the effect they may have played on history.

It’s a fascinating book with lots of little surprises. I read the last two sections first and went back to the older histories later. While I love a good ghost story (and Brennan does share two personal experiences), it was some of the research into the phenomena that caught my attention.

ghost1

There have been many theories put forth to explain all manner of ghostly happenings, but none seem to fully explain everything. Indeed, although we tend to lump everything under the vast heading of the paranormal (or PSI), different phenomena may be different things entirely.

Brennan cites two studies which are fascinating. I’m going to outline the first one here and then take on the second in a follow-on piece.

In 1966, Kenneth Batcheldor (a UK psychologist) published findings in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research concerning the levitation of tables. Recall from the Victorian era, the spiritualism craze which involved spirit contact and various physical manifestations including rappings, materializations, levitation, etc.

ghost2

In 1964, Batcheldor conducted a series of 200 séances with a small group of sitters. In 120 of the sessions, no phenomena were observed but in 80 of them (40%), physical phenomena was seen. While table movement early in the trials could possibly be dismissed by involuntary muscle movement, by the 11th session, Batcheldor watched as a table rose and floated in the air. At this point he couldn’t rule out fraudulent means so he worked with an engineer to tighten his experimental controls. Once the controls were in place, the phenomena stopped- but over time, the phenomena returned. This was a pattern Batcheldor saw over and over again. Introduced slowly, the sitters appeared to acclimate to the controls and the happenings would start anew. Astonishingly enough, Batcheldor observed not only table movement and levitation, but a whole range of spirit phenomena reported by Victorian spiritualists and witnesses. Amongst the phenomena observed were rapping sounds, breezes, lights, the feeling of being touched, movement of objects including the pulling back of chairs, apports, and holding the table to the floor so it couldn’t be lifted.

levitation

The experiments seem to indicate people have the ability, through unconscious means, to produce a variety of physical phenomena. While it doesn’t definitively rule out spirit action, it does point toward interesting avenues for further research. Batcheldor theorized that early movement of the table due to muscle contractions conditioned sitters to expect phenomena and opened them up to actually producing it. This is something later PSI researchers discovered when examining other kinds of phenomena in a lab setting. Belief makes a difference, and in Batcheldor’s case, seeing the phenomena may have led to its manifestation. So here we learn nothing really about spirits, but it does indicate how little we (or science) know about the mind.

The book on Amazon:http://www.amazon.com/Whisperers-Secret-History-Spirit-World-ebook/dp/B00EOARZGY/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1395336244&sr=1-1&keywords=whisperers+the+secret+history+of+the+spirit+world

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THE UNEXPLAINED POWERS OF ANIMALS

LUKE

LUKE

In the last two weeks, my husband and I have welcomed a new dog into the family. Luke is a friendly, almost two year old, Golden Retriever who has had a rough start in life. As we are getting to know each other, I’m drawn back into the routine and wonder of dog ownership. All the while, our elderly cat, George, raises an eyebrow and wonders why he can’t live in a one cat household.

 

George

George

I’ve been re-reading and thoroughly enjoying Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home (And Other Unexplained Powers of Animals) by Rupert Sheldrake. Sheldrake is a biologist with a Ph.D. from Cambridge. As a pet owner himself he wondered why the stories of pet owners were so universally ignored by scientists. He felt that confining research to lab animals or wildlife observation misses entirely to capture a unique understanding man has with his companion animals. Sheldrake set out to mine this field for its gold. He interviewed hundreds of people with experience with our closest companion animals. These included dog trainers, vets, zoo keepers, kennel owners, and pet owners. Later, he conducted formal surveys in Britain and the US to quantify the frequency of the most commonly reported behaviors in the area of perceptiveness. He took a special interest in reports of dogs that seemed to know when their owners were coming home. These dogs displayed anticipatory behavior which included alertness and going to a particular spot to await their owner’s return. Using a scientific approach, Sheldrake set out to learn what was at work in this commonly reported behavior.

He examined the common explanations many have given for this behavior. An established routine by the owner, a dog’s superior sense of smell, a dog’s keen hearing ability, human cueing, and the use of a familiar mode of transportation did not seem likely. When these things were eliminated, case histories suggested a human/animal bond along the lines of telepathy.

sheldrake

The best way to understand this is to look at the case of Jaytee and owner Pam Smart. Pam often left Jaytee with her parents when she went out and over time, the parents noticed Jaytee would go to a window and wait for Pam to return. Often the parents had no idea when Pam would return but started to trust Jaytee’s signal because Pam did show up shortly after the dog would go to the window. The Smarts kept logs of the incidents and before long an opportunity arose to film what was really going on. A camera was set up to watch Jaytee and a film crew followed as Pam was sent out. At a randomly selected time Pam was told to return home. On split screen and with the times synchronized, the film shows Pam being told it’s time to return while Jaytee reacts at the same moment with alertness and ears pricked. While Pam walks to a taxi stand, Jaytee goes to a window to wait. Jaytee seems to be responding to Pam’s intention to return suggesting a mind to mind connection. Telepathy! Further research carried out in 1995 and 1996, confirmed that Jaytee anticipated Pam’s arrival at randomly chosen times and in unfamiliar vehicles. Psychic debunker, Dr. Richard Wiseman, conducted his own experiment and found the same result.

Work with filming several other dogs indicated that Jaytee is not alone in her ability. Surveys indicate that the behavior is widespread in all kinds of dogs. About 51% of dogs seem to do this. Males display the behavior slightly more than females. A close bond with a human does seem to be necessary to induce the dog to engage in the behavior. Sheldrake advances the idea of morphic fields to explain the mind to mind connection we have with our pets. This invisible connection is likened to a rubber that can stretch over large distances to facilitate communication.

Sheldrake’s book is a delight. There are many stories of dogs, cats, parrots, horses and other animals engaging in behaviors because they are so connected to us. In later chapters, animal empathy, telepathy, precognition, and sense of direction are covered. I invite you to explore this fascinating book and rediscover your pet through the eyes of science. And don’t forget to share your stories here. I spent a lot of time on dogs, but how many of you have cats who know when there is a vet appointment? Mine does and not because the cat carrier is left out.

Watch the videos:

Unexplained Power of Animals http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLgyFQZxs40

Science Deluded       http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kO4-9l8IWFQ

 

 

 

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MONKS’ BRAINS ARE DIFFERENT

With the Mind & Life Institute kicking off its international symposia in Denver today, I thought it might be interesting to look back on some of the work this group and others who study contemplative traditions have found.  A member of one of my yahoo groups recently posted an article from the Wall Street Journal (How Thinking Can Change the Brain, Jan. 2007) which helped remind me of some of the discoveries in the last few decades dealing with the emerging field of neuroscience called neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity is the godsend that allows the brain to change its structure and function in response to experience including thinking. Nowadays we take this as a given. But once upon a time, not very long ago, the Dalai Lama asked a bunch of scientists if the mind might be able to affect the brain (the actual material entity). A brain surgeon told His Holiness that was impossible. Such downward causation from the mental to the physical was not possible.  Don’t you just love science! So wrong- but this would take a series of experiments to knock the surgeon on his butt.  You can find those and read about them, but my real interest is in the monks and what they can tell us. So let’s fast forward.

Since the 1990s Tibetan monks have been studied to see if their contemplative practice or mental training produces lasting changes in the brain.  The monks were wired to record brain wave activity while entering a state of contemplation focusing on compassion and loving kindness.  Gamma signals began rising and kept rising.  Even between sessions, the monks’ gamma waves remained high.  The more hours of meditation training achieved, the stronger and more lasting the gamma signal.  It supplied Prof. Davidson at UCSF with the evidence he’d been seeking.  Mental training can produce enduring brain traits.  So the conclusion for me, is that we should try to keep an open mind about things and not jump to conclusions about what we think the world is or how we think it should behave. We know far less than we think we do, and arrogance and close mindedness will not be allies in the quest for truth (or Truth, if you like).

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