Some Gist of First Sight

Here’s a big part of the gist of first sight theory.  First of all, psi is always going on.  That is, every person is always actively engaged at an unconscious level, with an indeterminately huge amount of reality.  This engagement has an active, expressive side, and a receptive, becoming-aware-of side.  When the engagement has to do with chunks of reality that are outside the ordinary sensory boundaries of the person, we call this engagement “psi.”  The active, expressive aspect of this we call “psychokinesis,” and the receptive, coming-to-know side we call “extrasensory perception.”

Think of it this way, focusing just on the familiar stuff, the engagements that are within the sensory boundaries.  I sit here with my beautiful Lenovo laptap.  If I engage it actively, I peck at the keys.  We call this “action” or “intentional behavior.”  If I gaze at it in appreciation or consternation (depending upon how well it is working) we call this “seeing” or “taking in.”  In one case I’m physically doing something to the computer, in the other I am taking in an awareness of it.  Still staying inside the sensory boundaries, we know that “action” and “taking-in” go on unconsciously as well as consciously.  I do many things without clearly knowing why I am doing them, or even exactly that I am doing them (say, keeping my balance as I walk to another room).  Such actions are automatic, not clearly conscious, but still intentional.  On the receptive side, I am constantly bombarded with sensory impressions that are too faint to register consciously, or too outside my focus to get my attention.  Even though these impressions are unconscious they can still act as unconscious primes and influence my experience in various ways.  So, okay, let’s agree about this:  within the sensory boundaries, action and taking-in go on both consciously and unconsciously.

First sight theory adds to this picture by saying that unconscious action and taking-in also go on with reality that is ongoing beyond the sensory boundaries.  Like what goes on within the boundaries, this out-of-bounds action has both an active and a receptive side, is always going on, and is always guided by our unconscious goals and intentions.

Unlike the sensory engagements, psi engagements are always unconscious.  This is a kind of action and a kind of taking-in that is never conscious.  Why?  Because consciousness comes from sensation.  Without sensation there is no consciousness.  As the phenomenologists say, to be aware is always to be aware of something.  The something is always some kind of sensory engagement (even if it is only an “inner” sensation of memory or imagination).  Since psi is beyond the sensory system, it can never be conscious (or remembered or imagined).  We can only know about it by inferences we can draw from its effects.

What guides our unconscious transactions with reality, both sensory and extra-sensory?  It is our unconscious intentions.  Where do our unconscious intentions come from?  They primarily come from our conscious intentions, especially the ones that we are strongly holding at the moment, or that we hold habitually.  Our goals, our sense of our needs, our deepest wishes, our longings – these things all take up residence within our unconscious functioning and guide it.  They guide our sensory transactions and they guide our extrasensory transactions.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Skeptical about Skeptics

As someone who has never had enemies, it took me quite awhile to understand that as a parapsychologist, I have enemies.  As a psychotherapist who sometimes works with people beset with paranoid delusions, I have to say that this band of enemies would merit inclusion in the Delusional Hall of Fame — except for the fact that it really exists!

A couple of years ago I gave a reading of my book, First Sight, at a local bookstore.  The little audience was made up of perhaps 20 people who seemed interested and congenial.  When the time for questions came, the first several were intelligent, somewhat skeptical, genuinely curious.  Then a flood of others started, from about 7 or 8 people scattered through the audience.  The first man asked why I had written a book defending creationism.  This set me back, since my book has nothing to do with creationism, but I tried to respond thoughtfully.  Then I was scolded for not understanding scientific method.  I pointed out the large body of scientific work that my book treats.  I was told that J. B. Rhine cheated in his research and was careless to boot.  I gave personal stories about Rhine (I knew him fairly well) illustrating his remarkable honesty and self-critical integrity.  I was told that I did not understand the mind’s capacity to deceive itself by seeing illusory pattens in random data.  I pointed out places in my text in which I dealt usefully with just that possibility.  And so on it went, all from people who clearly had not read a word in my book and had no idea what it contained.  After the reading was over, one man, a physicist from a nearby university, lingered and chatted about this and that in regard to the possible physics of psi if it should exist.  As he was about to leave, he said “A lot of us came tonight, you know.”

Who came?”

“The Triangle (Research Triangle) Atheists.  We were hoping to make a fool out of you.”

“Oh!”

I checked the group’s website later and found that they had indeed organized a gathering at the reading for the sport of exposing the foolishness of a woo-woo peddler.  A couple of desultory remarks that followed up confirmed my impression that their fun was spoiled by my responses, which I believe were well-informed, thoughtful and consistently kind and courteous.

Thus I discovered first hand a local “chapter” of an international group.  They often refer to themselves as Militant Atheists or Guerrilla Atheists.  They are intensely motivated to attack religious belief, superstition, and what they consider pseudo science — which by definition includes everything about parapsychology.  No matter how rigorous the parapsychological research may actually be, it simply must be attacked relentlessly.  Ridicule and slander are favorite tools.  There are no compunctions about being uninformed.

This group has astonishing control of how parapsychological work is presented in the media, and in the online resource, Wikipedia.  For an account of the truly operatic pitch of this drama, see Craig Weiler’s book Psi Wars:  TED, Wikipedia and the Battle for the Internet

Now a fine new resource has come upon the internet for those who wish to have some perspective about this brand of zealous “skepticism.”  It is called “Skeptical About Skeptics.”  

The designers of this site have done their homework.  Their elucidation of this odd group of people and their somewhat puzzling motivation (why do they care so much?) is fair and enlightening.  Science is an inherently skeptical enterprise, and this is a natural and generally productive thing.  This skeptical instinct can be hijacked by ideologues, however, and when this happens, scientists and all the rest of us need to be informed about it.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dedicated skeptic reports a puzzling anomalous experience — in Scientific American!

Michael Shermer, one of the most consistently devoted skeptics of all things paranormal and parapsychological is newly in love.  His friends may fear that this has temporarily unglued him. At any rate, he and his new bride experienced something eerily evocative during their wedding.  He has discovered mystery, and shares it here:

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment