Discerning review of First Sight by British author Robert McLuhan

February 03, 2014

From website PARANOMALIA (scroll down to entry for February 3 — string of responses are interesting too)

First Sight

I was given a review copy of James Carpenter’s First Sight: ESP and Parapsychology in Everyday Life some time ago, and I found it fascinating, but not one to knock off in an afternoon. When I got to the end I started to read it again, and have been dipping into it ever since.

A big complaint about parapsychology is that it lacks a theory. First Sight goes a long way towards filling the gap, at least from a psychological perspective. In the 1930s Joseph Rhine introduced the idea of psi as a universal feature of human functioning. But that notion has jostled uneasily ever since with the rival, and still probably more widespread view, that it’s something rather rare, an exotic appendage possessed by a few freaks. Professional mediums and healers seem to have it in abundance. A lot more people experience occasional psychic ability, or think they do. However the vast majority of us have never experienced anything of the kind, can’t imagine what it’s like, and may suspect it doesn’t exist.

Counterintuitively, Carpenter argues that psi is a fundamental element of human psychology, something that happens all the time. He sees it functioning smoothly, but for the most part invisibly, among all of our other mental functions, including memory, perception, motivation and creativity. The active component we call psychokinesis, the receptive aspect is ESP.

This idea is revolutionary, Carpenter says, because it turns so many things on their heads.

Are you being contained within your skin and confined to the present moment of experience? First Sight says that you are not. Are the paranormal lightning bolts and the parapsychological findings odd anomalies that don’t fit in with normal experience? First Sight says that they are not, they are only a handful of visible expression of processes that are going on all the time and that we unconsciously use with exquisite efficiency. Are we ultimately alone within our spheres of personal experience, with no real bridge to others? First Sight says that we are intimately entwined with others, and we swim in that unconscious sea each moment of our lives. Do your thoughts and feeling express only what you know about and remember? First Sight says they often show traces of things that haven’t even happened yet. Does this make the world bizarre and disorienting? We have all been living with it comfortably from the moment of birth.

In particular, Carpenter sees psi intimately involved in the process of subliminal perception. This concept is now a pillar of modern psychology, but interestingly was once almost as hotly contested among psychologists as psi has been, and for similar reasons. As he says, ‘it seems an insult to common sense to think that something so brief or faint that it is not consciously experienced can act as if it were a kind of experience by arousing meaningfully related responses.’

Yet experiments have shown over and over that people’s attitudes and behaviours can be influenced by exposing them to subliminal primes, a fact that is universally exploited in marketing, whether of products or political parties. We’re not aware of the concealed influence, but it nevertheless directs us. If ESP is like subliminal perception it might work in the same way, Carpenter suggests, affecting our experiences and behaviours but without being consciously available.

Having stated the thesis in some detail, Carpenter then looks to see how this relates to areas such as creativity, fear, and extraversion, with detailed reference to research findings from psychology and parapsychology. There’s a particularly interesting chapter on how the theory can be applied retrospectively to actual psi experiences, featuring Mary Craig Sinclair and Joe McMoneagle.

McMoneagle makes the point that a lot of training is required to access psi-based intuitions and make sense of them. They come in many forms, a vague sense of movement, a flash of shape, the hint of an odour, a feeling that raises goose bumps. Understanding the meaning behind such things involves a lot of practice, and learning how your unconscious mind works.

A great deal of this training has to do with a disciplined process of consulting fragmentary inner experience and writing it down as it is, with no interpretation at all for a long while. [McMoneagle] expects this fragmentary material to be made up of feelings, pictures, and words (more pictures for most men, more words for most women). Like Sinclair, McMoneagle insists that the material be consulted in the raw, not construed, and laid down as bits of nonsense only to be compared later with the actual thing.

This is hard to do, Carpenter comments.

The mind reflexively interprets experience, even the barest fragments of light or shadow or mood. It will look like a snowman or feel like a certain song. Like the meditator practicing detachment, move away from these interpretations and then move away again and again. Stay with the fragments and do not interpret them. If you work at this, you will get a little better. Then see if you are hitting targets. Tolerate lots of failure and you may get better at that too.

There is also a chapter on psychotherapy, where the theory predicts that psi information is likely to be more heavily weighted if it is highly relevant to a person’s unconscious goals and intentions. That will make it observable, as it will express itself in dreams, moods and accidents.

Carpenter relates how a patient of his, a middle class white male, one day delivered a vigorous lecture about the ‘foolish arrogance of America and our illusion of safety’.

Many people hate us, he said, much more than we imagine, and our smug isolation would soon be shattered. According to my notes, he said, ‘Our oceans won’t protect us. Remember the World Trade Center bombing in ’93? That was just a shot across the bow. Believe me, a shot across the bow. It was the tip of an iceberg. Things will come down in a fiery ruin!’

The patient had previously mentioned that he considered himself to be somewhat psychic and in the habit of making prophecies, which people were often unhappy about. On the other hand he had previously shown no interest in subjects relating to politics and terrorism. Carpenter chalked his rant up to his anger at some family members. However this session occurred a few days before the 9/11 attacks, and it was when he read back his notes at the start of the next session that he realised the coincidence, one of several such that he noted with this patient.

I have to say honestly, I have found this book curiously hard to review, which is probably why I have been putting it off for so long. This puzzles me because I actually rate it very highly. It’s an absolute treasure trove of insights, and persuasive in promoting a new way of thinking about psi. Quite apart from that, it provides an excellent overview of contemporary parapsychology, with an unusual richness of detail. Some of it would make more immediate sense to a psychology graduate than to a lay reader, and indeed, I can imagine it one day being read in universities as a text book. But none of it is inaccessible; on the contrary, the ideas are clearly and elegantly expressed. It’s the sort of book that one could pick up anywhere and dip into to get a sense of the mechanism working in different contexts.

In fact nothing I can say here will really do justice to it. I’d rate it along with Irreducible Mind as a major contribution to the field.

So what explains my hesitation? I wonder whether it might be because the book is so far ahead of its time. It looks forward to an intellectual climate where psi is seen to be integral to human functioning, talking in the present tense about something which, alas, is still firmly in the future.

I don’t mean at all that Carpenter does not recognise this. On the contrary, he sees the idea as revolutionary. But much work still has to be done to make it acceptable. Like many parapsychologists, Carpenter is entirely secure in the belief that psi has been demonstrated by empirical findings. He speaks on behalf a community that accept that psi is real and isn’t fixated on the uncertainties and ambiguities that reassure sceptics. The problem is, this community is still very small, at least in terms of qualified people who are prepared to discuss the matter openly.

Even so, this is surely where psychology is heading, part of the eventual paradigm change. When materialist models of consciousness have started to fall out of favour this way of thinking will become normal and natural. Anyone who wants a sense of what that future might feel like will enjoy reading this book.

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Call for papers: 2014 Parapsychological Association Convention

57th Annual Parapsychological Association Convention
Hilton Hotel Concord, California
August 14-17th, 2014
The 57th Annual Convention of the Parapsychological Association (PA) will be held from Thursday evening, August 14th, through Sunday noon, August 17, 2014, at the Hilton Hotel in Concord, Callifornia. The closest international airports are Oakland (OAK) and San Francisco (SFO).
Deadline for the receipt of papers submitted for presentation at the convention is Wednesday April 30, 2014. Submissions received after this date will be considered only in exceptional circumstances. Abstracts of accepted submissions other than workshops will be included in the convention booklet, provided that they are received before the deadline.
All submissions to the 2014 PA convention must be submitted electronically. They should be emailed, as attachments, to the chair of the Program Committee, Dr. Dean Radin at dean@noetic.org . Authors who do not have ready access to email should contact Dr. Radin prior to submitting a paper, either by mail: c/o IONS, 625 Second St., Suite 200, Petaluma, CA 94952 USA, or by phone call to Dr. Radin’s assistant, Leena Michel at +1-707-779-8277.
Preparation of Submissions
The PA Board of Directors determined in 2009 that papers presented at the convention will no longer be published by the PA. Instead, the convention booklet will consist of paper Abstracts only. The purpose of this policy is to encourage publication of our material in professional journals. However, submitted papers will still be peer reviewed and they should be submitted using this template.There is no length limitation for submitted papers, but they should include sufficient information for referees to judge the paper’s adequacy. The paper must be accompanied by an abstract, which will be published in the booklet. For some submission categories, only an abstract is needed. Please use this template if you are submitting just an abstract.
Anyone may submit a full paper, poster, or research brief for consideration by the Program Committee. The paper may be on any aspect of parapsychology. They may also report field work or case studies relevant to parapsychology.
Papers submitted for presentation should be accompanied by information about any audio-visual aids required. If a paper has multiple authors, the submitted paper should indicate which author will give the presentation. In absentia presentations will be allowed in very exceptional circumstances. Indicate in a cover letter or email the presentation category for your paper.
Note that the abstracts accompanying accepted papers will be published in the convention booklet and on the PA website in an area accessible only to PA members. The first author’s email address will be published in both places with a notification that an electronic copy of the full paper can be obtained from the author. Those who present such papers at the Convention are expected to honor such email requests. In recognition of the lengthy time interval between the original submission and the Convention, the article sent in response to such requests may be an updated or expanded version of the original. Abstracts of full papers and posters may also be published in the Journal of Parapsychology.
Full papers should be of sufficient depth for a 20-minute presentation followed by 10 minutes of discussion. The Program Committee will not consider proposals for research that have not yet been carried out, nor will the Committee consider papers already published in English prior to the Convention. Recent papers that have been previously published in a language other than English are acceptable provided that the paper is translated and submitted in English. Abstracts accompanying full papers must be between 400 and 1200 words. If the paper is not destined for eventual journal publication, it is recommended that the abstract be longer rather than shorter.
Posters are papers or other materials presented in summary form on poster board in a room near the convention floor. Poster sessions are appropriate for short papers, material that is particularly amenable to visual displays (e.g., demonstration of equipment or techniques), or highly technical papers that cannot be communicated effectively in a brief lecture format to a general scientific audience. Authors who want their papers presented in a poster session should pay particular attention to preparation of visual materials. Copies of photographs to be used in the poster may be included with the submission. Otherwise, the submission requirements are the same as for full papers.
Symposia consist of formal presentations on related topics. Proposals for symposia should include a summary sheet indicating title, chairperson, participants, order of presentation, and proposed time allotment (up to 90 minutes, including discussion periods). Symposia submissions must include full papers plus abstracts from each of the participants, prepared according to the instructions presented above. Only PA Members may propose a symposium, but non-members may participate in thesymposium. Research briefs are short papers reporting recently completed work or research in progress. The brief should be adequately summarized within a 15-minute presentation, including time for questions.
Abstracts for research briefs must be between 400 and 500 words.
Panel discussions and workshops. Only PA Members and Associates may propose a panel discussion or workshop. Panel discussions are intended to maximize spontaneous interactions among panelists and between panelists and the audience. They should not be used to report original data or analyses. Panel discussions could range from 60 to 90 minutes, and the chairperson should provide for substantial discussion time. Proposals should include a summary sheet that lists the panel title, chairperson, panelists (at least four), order of presentation, and time allotments, as well as an abstract of up to 500 words from each panelist. Submitters are encouraged to set up panel discussions in a debate format.
Workshops are informal discussions of specific topics. Proposals for workshops should include a summary sheet listing the title, chairperson, other presenting participants, type of activity, and a description of the intended content not exceeding 500 words. Student Members of the PA participating in the convention are eligible for travel assistance through the Robert L. Morris Student Travel Grant Program. Additional information and application materials are available here.

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A New Call for Objective Inquiry into Psi


Etzel Cardeña1*
  • 1 Lund University, Sweden

 Science thrives when there is an open, informed discussion of all evidence, and recognition that scientific knowledge is provisional and subject to revision. This attitude is in stark contrast with reaching conclusions based solely on a previous set of beliefs or on the assertions of authority figures. Indeed, the search for knowledge wherever it may lead inspired a group of notable scientists and philosophers to found in 1882 the Society for Psychical Research in London. Its purpose was “to investigate that large body of debatable phenomena… without prejudice or prepossession of any kind, and in the same spirit of exact and unimpassioned inquiry which has enabled Science to solve so many problems.” Some of the areas in consciousness they investigated such as psychological dissociation, hypnosis, and preconscious cognition are now well integrated into mainstream science. That has not been the case with research on phenomena such as purported telepathy or precognition, which some scientists (a clear minority according to the surveys conducted1) dismiss a priori as pseudoscience or illegitimate. Contrary to the negative impression given by some critics, we would like to stress the following:
1) Research on parapsychological phenomena (psi) is being carried out in various accredited universities and research centers throughout the world by academics in different disciplines trained in the scientific method (e.g., circa 80 Ph.D.s have been awarded in psi-related topics in the UK in recent years). This research has continued for over a century despite the taboo against investigating the topic, almost complete lack of funding, and professional and personal attacks2. The Parapsychological Association has been an affiliate of the AAAS since 1969, and more than 20 Nobel prizewinners and many other eminent scientists have supported the study of psi or even conducted research themselves3.
2) Despite a negative attitude by some editors and reviewers, results supporting the validity of psi phenomena continue to be published in peer-reviewed, academic journals in relevant fields, from psychology to neuroscience to physics e.g., 4-7.
3) Increased experimental controls have not eliminated or even decreased significant support for the existence of psi phenomena, as suggested by various recent meta-analyses 5, 8-16.
4) These meta-analyses and other studies17 suggest that data supportive of psi phenomena cannot reasonably be accounted for by chance or by a “file drawer” effect. Indeed, contrary to most disciplines, parapsychology journals have for decades encouraged publication of null results and of papers critical of a psi explanation18-19. A psi trial registry has been established to improve research practice20.
5) The effect sizes reported in most meta-analyses are relatively small and the phenomena cannot be produced on demand, but this also characterizes various phenomena found in other disciplines that focus on complex human behavior and performance such as psychology and medicine21-22.
6) Although more conclusive explanations for psi phenomena await further theoretical and research development, they do not prima facie violate known laws of nature given modern theories in physics that transcend classical restrictions of time and space, combined with growing evidence for quantum effects in biological systems23-24.
With respect to the proposal that “exceptional claims require exceptional evidence,” the original intention of the phrase is typically misunderstood25. Even in its inaccurate interpretation what counts as an “exceptional claim” is far from clear. For instance, many phenomena now accepted in science such as the existence of meteorites, the germ theory of disease, or, more recently, adult neurogenesis, were originally considered so exceptional that evidence for their existence was ignored or dismissed by contemporaneous scientists. It is also far from clear what would count as “exceptional evidence” or who would set that threshold. Dismissing empirical observations a priori, based solely on biases or theoretical assumptions, underlies a distrust of the ability of the scientific process to discuss and evaluate evidence on its own merits. The undersigned differ in the extent to which we are convinced that the case for psi phenomena has already been made, but not in our view of science as a non-dogmatic, open, critical but respectful process that requires thorough consideration of all evidence as well as skepticism towards both the assumptions we already hold and those that challenge them.

Daryl Bem, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Cornell University, USA
Etzel Cardeña, Thorsen Professor in Psychology, Lund University, Sweden
Bernard Carr, Professor in Mathematics and Astronomy, University of London, UK
C. Robert Cloninger, Renard Professor of Psychiatry, Genetics, & Psychology, Washington University in St. Louis, USA
Robert G. Jahn, Past Dean of Engineering, Princeton University, USA
Brian Josephson, Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of Cambridge, UK (Nobel prizewinner in physics, 1973)
Menas C. Kafatos, Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor of Computational Physics, Chapman University, USA
Irving Kirsch, Professor of Psychology, University of Plymouth, Lecturer in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, USA, UK
Mark Leary, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, Duke University, USA
Dean Radin, Chief Scientist, Institute of Noetic Sciences, Adjunct Faculty in Psychology, Sonoma State University, USA
Robert Rosenthal, Distinguished Professor, University of California, Riverside, Edgar Pierce Professor Emeritus, Harvard University, USA
Lothar Schäfer, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Physical Chemistry, University of Arkansas, USA
Raymond Tallis, Emeritus Professor of Geriatric Medicine, University of Manchester, UK
Charles T. Tart, Professor in Psychology Emeritus, University of California, Davis, USA
Simon Thorpe, Director of Research CNRS (Brain and Cognition), University of Tolouse, France
Patrizio Tressoldi, Researcher in Psychology, Università degli Studi di Padova, Italy
Jessica Utts, Professor and Chair of Statistics, University of California, Irvine, USA
Max Velmans, Professor Emeritus in Psychology, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK
Caroline Watt, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Edinburgh University, UK
Phil Zimbardo, Professor in Psychology Emeritus, Stanford University, USA

P. Baseilhac, Researcher in Theoretical Physics, University of Tours, France
Eberhard Bauer, Dept. Head, Institute of Border Areas of Psychology and Mental Hygiene, Freiburg, Germany
Hans Bengtsson, Professor in Psychology, Lund University, Sweden
Michael Bloch, Associate Professor of Psychology, University of San Francisco, USA
Stephen Braude, Professor of Philosophy Emeritus, University of Maryland Baltimore County, USA
Richard Broughton, Senior Lecturer, School of Social Sciences, University of Northampton, UK
Antonio Capafons, Professor in Psychology, University of Valencia, Spain
Allan Leslie Combs, Doshi Professor of Consciousness Studies, California Institute of Integral Studies, USA
Deborah Delanoy, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, University of Northampton, UK
Arnaud Delorme, Professor of Neuroscience, Paul Sabatier University, France
Vilfredo De Pascalis, Professor of General Psychology, “La Sapienza” University of Rome, Italy
Kurt Dressler, Professor in Molecular Spectroscopy Emeritus, Eidg. Techn. Hochschule Zürich, Switzerland
Hoyt Edge, Hugh H. and Jeannette G. McKean Professor of Philosophy, Rollins College, USA
Franco Fabbro, Professor in Child Neuropsychiatry, University of Udine, Italy
Enrico Facco, Professor of Anesthesia and Intensive Care, University of Padua, Italy
Wolfgang Fach, Researcher, Institute of Border Areas of Psychology and Mental Hygiene, Freiburg, Germany
Harris L. Friedman, Former Research Professor of Psychology, University of Florida, USA
Alan Gauld, Former Reader in Psychology, University of Nottingham, UK
Antoon Geels, Professor in the Psychology of Religion Emeritus, Lund University, Sweden
Richard Conn Henry, Academy Professor (Physics and Astronomy), The Johns Hopkins University, USA
David J. Hufford, University Professor Emeritus, Penn State College of Medicine, USA
Oscar Iborra, Researcher, Department of Experimental Psychology, Granada University, Spain
Harvey Irwin, former Associate Professor, University of New England, Australia
Graham Jamieson, Lecturer in Human Neuropsychology, University of New England, Australia
Per Johnsson, Head, Department of Psychology, Lund University, Sweden
Hideyuki Kokubo, Researcher, Institute for Informatics of Consciousness, Meiji University, Japan
Jeffrey J. Kripal, J. Newton Rayzor Professor of Religious Studies, Rice University, USA
Stanley Krippner, Professor of Psychology and Integrated Inquiry, Saybrook University, USA
David Luke, Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychology and Counselling, University of Greenwich, UK
Fatima Regina Machado, Researcher, Universidade de São Paulo, Brasil
Markus Maier, Professor in Psychology, University of Munich, Germany
Gerhard Mayer, Researcher, Institute of Border Areas of Psychology and Mental Hygiene, Freiburg, Germany
Antonia Mills, Professor First Nations Studies, University of Northern British Columbia, Canada
Garret Moddel, Professor in Electrical, Computer, & Energy Engineering, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA
Alexander Moreira-Almeida, Professor in Psychiatry, Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora, Brasil
Andrew Moskowitz, Professor in Psychology and Behavioral Sciences, Aarhus University, Denmark
Julia Mossbridge, Fellow in Psychology, Northwestern University, USA
Judi Neal, Professor Emeritus of Management, University of New Haven, USA
Roger Nelson, Retired Research Staff, Princeton University, USA
Alejandro Parra, Researcher in Psychology, Universidad Abierta Interamericana, Argentina
José Miguel Pérez Navarro, Lecturer in Education, International University of La Rioja, Spain
Gerald H. Pollack, Professor in Bioengineering. University of Washington, Seattle, USA
John Poynton, Professor Emeritus in Biology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
David Presti, Senior Lecturer, Neurobiology and Cognitive Science, University of California, Berkeley, USA
Thomas Rabeyron, Lecturer in Clinical Psychology, Nantes University, France
Inmaculada Ramos Lerate, Researcher in Physics, Alba Synchrotron Light Source, Barcelona, Spain.
Chris Roe, Professor of Psychology, University of Northampton, UK
Stefan Schmidt, Professor, Europa Universität Viadrina, Germany
Gary E. Schwartz, Professor of Psychology, Medicine, Neurology, Psychiatry, and Surgery, University of Arizona, USA
Daniel P. Sheehan, Professor of Physics, University of San Diego, USA
Simon Sherwood, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, University of Greenwich, UK
Christine Simmonds-Moore, Assistant Professor of Psychology, University of West Georgia, USA
Mário Simões, Professor in Psychiatry. University of Lisbon, Portugal
Huston Smith, Prof. of Philosophy Emeritus, Syracuse University, USA
Jerry Solfvin, Associate Professor in Indic Studies, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, USA
Lance Storm, Visiting Research Fellow, University of Adelaide, Australia
Jeffrey Allan Sugar, Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA
Neil Theise, Professor of Pathology and Medicine, The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, USA
Jim Tucker, Bonner-Lowry Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, University of Virginia, USA
Yulia Ustinova, Associate Professor in History, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel
Walter von Lucadou, Senior Lecturer at the Furtwangen Technical University, Germany
Maurits van den Noort, Senior Researcher, Free University of Brussels, Belgium
David Vernon, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Canterbury Christ Church University, UK
Harald Walach, Professor, Europa Universität Viadrina, Germany
Helmut Wautischer, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, Sonoma State University, USA
N.C. Wickramasinghe, Professor in Astrobiology, Cardiff University, UK
Fred Alan Wolf, formerly Professor in physics at San Diego State University, the Universities of Paris, London, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Robin Wooffitt, Professor of Sociology, University of York, UK
Wellington Zangari, Professor in Psychology, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil
Aldo Zucco, Professor, Dipartimento di Psicologia Generale, Università di Padova, Italy

Keywords: Consciousness, scientific method, Parapsychology, PSI, psychical research

Citation: Cardeña E (2014). A CALL FOR AN OPEN, INFORMED STUDY OF ALL ASPECTS OF CONSCIOUSNESS. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 8:17. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00017

Received: 10 Dec 2013; Accepted: 08 Jan 2014.

Edited by:

Christian Agrillo, University of Padova, Italy

Reviewed by:

Christian Agrillo, University of Padova, Italy
Imants Baruss, King’s University College at The University of Western Ontario, Canada

Copyright: © 2014 Cardeña. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Etzel Cardeña, Lund University, Lund, Sweden, etzel.cardena@psy.lu.se


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