Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Paranormal Experiences: The Cost of Openness

In November 2007 I attended a lecture by David Lorimer, Director of the Scientific and Medical Network, a leading figure in the growing movement toward reconciliation of the perspectives of science with those of religion and spirituality. He talked about the challenges of “going public with private knowing” regarding experiences of a paranormal nature and what the cost of such disclosure can be, especially in the field of mainstream science, eg losing credibility amongst your peers or getting your research funding cut off.

But he also talked about the cost of keeping such knowledge private – thereby “cutting oneself off from a key way of knowing.”

Both those statements struck a powerful chord with me; via this serialised memoir I have been acting upon the first, and have found in relation to the second that making peace with my ‘Other’ side has certainly, in recent years, given me access to interior levels of inspiration and assistance when I have needed all the help I could get in coming through a prolonged and at times frightening ordeal reasonably intact.

I hope at some appropriate future point to write about the inner experiences I had during the years 2001-6 (after which they largely ceased) which – this time around! – I recorded in detail at the time they were occurring.

In the meantime, back to the questions raised in the introduction to my account of thirty years’ worth of intermittent and unpredictable paranormal experiences about which you have just been reading in this serial. Where do they come from? What causes them? Why do we have them? What, if anything, do they mean? Are they of any value?

Human beings have been asking – and attempting to answer – these questions ever since the evolution of our consciousness, our social development, and the flowering of spoken language and especially writing led to the capacity to perceive ourselves as distinct from the natural world of which we are part. This separation – underpinning the whole of western civilization – has led us to levels of intellectual and technological achievement which have revealed, especially in recent years with the voyages of the Hubble telescope, the staggering immensity and grandeur of the Multiverse we may well inhabit.(12)

It is truly astonishing that such minute creatures as humans, on such a tiny and apparently insignificant planet as Earth, should have achieved this. But the cost of this achievement is now being spelled out daily both in print and in observed reality right across the globe, as we wrestle with what our options may be in the face of apparently accelerating planetary disaster.

However, there are still indigenous cultures remaining sufficiently intact, despite the depredations of western materialist society, that they retain their sense of ‘unbroken wholeness’ with the natural world to such a degree that it wouldn’t occur to them to ask those questions.

A good example is offered in scientist Lyall Watson’s book Gifts of Unknown Things: A True Story of Nature, Healing, and Initiation from Indonesia's Dancing Island in which he describes with eloquence and humility his time spent on one of the thirteen thousand islands in the Indonesian Archipelago to which he gave a fictitious name – Nus Tarian – in order to protect the islanders’ way of life. These people have the ability, astonishing to us but normal to them, to communicate with one another in ways which we would call paranormal.

Against this background of the same questions having been asked over centuries, and of those for whom such questions are irrelevant, I feel almost silenced. Leading me to speak out is my conviction that each individual’s honest witness to their unique experience is still a worthwhile, however small, contribution to the slowly evolving process of consciousness during the particular time in which they are living.

Science as it develops should be able eventually to come up with a paradigm which contains and explains many levels from the mundane to what is currently described as the paranormal. This is a view shared by many, including influential people like the physicist Bernard Carr who is Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy at London University and a recent past President of the Society for Psychical Research of which he has been a member for some thirty years. In researching a context within which to set my own wide spectrum of psi experiences, (13) I have found his perspective particularly helpful.


In a November 2007 lecture given to the Scottish Society for Psychical Research at Glasgow University called “Can science accommodate psychic experience? ” his answer to that question is a qualified “Yes ”. But he considers that there is a major barrier to be overcome: those who consider only experimental evidence, conducted under strict laboratory conditions, to be valid, clash with others who find well-researched experiential evidence to be of at least equal worth.

His view is that psi/the paranormal links those two poles, being part of a whole spectrum of well reported and documented human experience ranging from our fairly common ‘gut feelings’, through telepathy and clairvoyance, all the way out to the uncommon oceanic experience of mystical union with the Divine. This experiential range is seen as being outwith the remit of experiment-based materialist science, belonging more to the realms of parapsychology and transpersonal psychology.

I am with Professor Carr, and others like him, in considering it simply not good enough to dismiss a vast range and depth of human experience, by now extensively and meticulously recorded by people of integrity (and – often – prominence in other fields) over several centuries, simply because it does not fit into the reductionist model and therefore cannot be proved by its experimental methods.

This dismissive approach is not consistent with either open-mindedness or humility. Besides, I for one have found it enormously helpful and supportive over the years to read reputable, well researched and documented accounts in which other people have had similarly disturbing and unsettling events happen in their lives. These accounts made me feel less alone – and less peculiar!

Regarding questions concerning the cause, meaning and purpose of my own paranormal experiences, I am very aware of the limitations of a personal memoir – not the place in which to embark upon a greatly detailed discussion. However, it has been a very useful exercise to write up those thirty-seven episodes. Having done so has enabled me to consider them in a more focused way than I ever could when they were sitting, awkwardly, in a dusty corner of my memory banks.

Decades of intermittent reading, discussion and reflection, inspiration provided by the books I have read in the last five years and included in the booklist, combined with personal experience and observation, have all created the perspective which follows: for what it is worth, here are my thoughts!

However, I should preface them with the wise words of philosopher, scientist and nominee for the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, Ervin Laszlo:

“….Nearly two-and-a-half thousand years ago Plato recognised that in regard to ultimate questions there can be no certainty; the best we can do is find the most likely story….” (14)

12 The multiverse (or meta-universe) is the hypothetical set of multiple possible universes, including ours, which together comprise all of reality. The different universes within the multiverse are sometimes called parallel universes. Multiverses have been hypothesized in cosmology, physics, astronomy, philosophy, transpersonal psychology and fiction, particularly in science fiction and fantasy. The specific term “multiverse,” was coined in 1895 by psychologist William James. from Wikipedia.

13 psi : umbrella term used to designate a range of paranormal phenomena both mental and physical.

14 Science and the Akashic Field: An Integral Theory of Everything

© Anne Whitaker 2010 - Reprint permission granted to Phantoms & Monsters / Astral Perceptions