Examining Psychic Ability: The People, The Theory, The Science, The Skeptics
“I think, therefore I am.” This statement by René Descartes perfectly encapsulates the mystery of consciousness. It is responsible for our ability to think and act and to experience our surroundings. It is so important to us, yet we know so little about it.
Most theories of consciousness treat consciousness as a macro effect. There is Rupert Sheldrake’s Morphic Resonance and Morphic Field theory, The Integrated Information Theory (ITT) by psychiatrist and neuroscientist Giulio Tononi of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Tononi; the Electromagnetic Theory of Consciousness by Susan Pockett and Johnioe McFadden to name a few. They all arise from the assumption that something is creating consciousness. However, when we look at the available evidence for consciousness, it becomes clear that this is not the only interpretation available. The truth is something closer to panpsychism. A recent theory that encompasses panpsychism is Biocentrism, which argues that the universe, which exists because of a delicate balance of forces, was created by an act of consciousness. There is also an older theory which doesn’t directly address consciousness, but allows for it. The Holographic Universe Theory.
I am going to walk you through a discussion of a theory that consciousness is fundamental to reality. That is to say, it is as important to our universe as energy. The universe would not exist without it. If you can wrap your head around this concept and start to see how all the pieces begin to fit together, the obviousness of it becomes a head slapping doh! When consciousness is seen in this light everything falls into place.
For any theory of this sort to succeed, it has to explain consciousness in all it’s myriad forms, such as ghosts, hauntings, out of body experiences, near death experiences, the placebo effect, the power of positive thinking etc. I realize that many of these things are not completely accepted by the scientific community, but they are all linked nonetheless and together form a powerful picture of consciousness as something that cannot be created or destroyed, but simply exists.
The key to understanding the true nature of consciousness begins by exploring whether plants have consciousness. Turns out they do. If plants have consciousness, then they are somehow able to process information; How? Turns out they do it through their roots, which operate as a neural network. What makes this really fascinating is that roots are an entirely different way to create a neural network. A root system is not a brain, but they are doing the same types of things. There is evidence that plants have the ability to recognize and react to different people in the usual ways. (fear when confronted with a human attacker, happiness when confronted with a caregiver, etc.) Here are a couple of articles on intelligence in slime mold. (And here)
You are not going to find evolutionary tracks much more different than humans and plants, yet we are finding consciousness in both. How can that possibly be? This is simply not going to occur if consciousness is a macro effect. The only way it can occur is if humans and plants have developed different adaptations to the existence of consciousness. Further, The fact that humans and plants both posses consciousness clearly demonstrates that consciousness is not something a brain achieves when it gets to be a certain size. Of course we already knew that because so many animals have displayed consciousness and some of them are quite small. So far as we know, there is no animal or plant that does NOT display some form of consciousness. It’s been demonstrated in invertebrates and birds and there are some indications that it has been demonstrated in insects. Here is a video of worms displaying what appears to be group consciousness. Cleve Backster, who did the groundbreaking research on plants, also discovered consciousness in living foods and human cells. (My article on this is here.)
So here we have large brain human consciousness, root based consciousness, group insect based consciousness, invertebrate consciousness and bird brain consciousness and even consciousness in living foods and human cells. How is it that pretty much any life for we care to examine displays some form of consciousness? If all living creatures have consciousness, as they appear to, then consciousness cannot have been created through evolution. While all of these different creatures have an incredibly diverse set of adaptations to the land air and water of our world, consciousness stays pretty much the same. It is eerily consistent. If we take the two most dramatically different forms of consciousness, the human brain and the roots of plants and trees we find that they can relate to each other. People can empathize with plants and plants can relate to humans. And animals of different species can relate to each other. (And here.) In short, we are not finding huge differences in consciousness despite huge evolutionary differences.
The more we examine consciousness and apply the template of evolution to it, the clearer it becomes that the pieces are not fitting the puzzle. Consciousness cannot exist as a result of evolutionary forces; it is not demonstrating any traits associated with evolution so therefore it must be something else.
Now we turn to quantum physics where we have two very interesting properties of the universe and one helluva mystery. The mystery and one of the properties of our universe is the observer effect: (From Science Daily)
One of the most bizarre premises of quantum theory, which has long fascinated philosophers and physicists alike, states that by the very act of watching, the observer affects the observed reality.
In a study reported in the February 26 issue of Nature (Vol. 391, pp. 871-874), researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science have now conducted a highly controlled experiment demonstrating how a beam of electrons is affected by the act of being observed. The experiment revealed that the greater the amount of “watching,” the greater the observer’s influence on what actually takes place.
So what is doing the watching/observing? Science does not have an answer for that but consciousness is really the only logical conclusion.
Now if the observation effect is indeed created by consciousness, then we would see some proof of that. Right? We would need to demonstrate that consciousness, has the ability to affect our reality. Is there proof? Yes there is: They are called psychokinesis studies. From 1979 to 1993 the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Program, (PEAR) had conducted over 5 million PK (Psychokinesis/Telekinesis) trials. A paper titled “The PEAR REG Experiments: Database Structure” was presented using data collected by the PEAR program over 12 years of research and 5.6 million trials performed by 108 individuals using a random event generator. Its conclusion: The PK phenomenon is real. (Here are the technical papers.) You can find a similar ongoing PK trial here.
Let’s move on to that other quantum oddity, entanglement. The main feature of entanglement is the instantaneous transfer of information across any distance without regard to physical barriers and with no signal loss.
This scientific evidence is a convincing link between consciousness and the observer effect, however there is more. Entanglement has been shown to be a real part of our universe and has even spawned a legitimate alternate physics theory known as The Holographic Universe. What is relevant here is what the physics phenomenon of entanglement and the parapsychology phenomena known as telepathy and clairvoyance have in common. Telepathy has been demonstrated as a fact through a series of experiments known as Ganzfeld experiments. (Here is the latest analysis I could find. It includes Milton and Wiseman.) There are a multitude of other experiments demonstrating telepathy: Zener cards:
Twenty seven (27) of the 33 studies produced statistically significant results — an exceptional record, even today. Furthermore, positive results were not restricted to Rhine’s lab. In the five years following Rhine’s first publication of his results, 33 independent replication experiments were conducted at different laboratories. Twenty (20) of these (or 61%) were statistically significant (where 5% would be expected by chance alone).
A meta-analysis was done specifically for precognition experiments conducted between the years 1935 – 1987. (Honorton, C., & Ferrari, D. . Meta-analysis of forced-choice precognition experiments 1935 – 1987. Journal of Parapsychology, vol 53, 281 – 308). This included 309 studies, conducted by 62 experimenters. The cumulative probability associated with the overall results was p = 10-24 (that is equivalent to .000000000000000000000001 where .05 is considered statistically significant). The scientific evidence for precognition, the most provocative of all parapsychological phenomena, stands of firm statistical grounds.
Experiments in staring: A Meta analysis by Rupert Sheldrake: JCSpaper
What these have in common is a demonstration of anomalous information transfer that bears a remarkable resemblance to entanglement. They both appear to be instantaneous over any distance with no signal loss regardless of physical barriers. Ask yourself: Can telepathy and clairvoyance be a demonstration of anything else besides a macro version of entanglement? No. In our universe nothing else comes even remotely close to demonstrating these characteristics. There is an unmistakable connection between the quantum demonstration of entanglement and telepathy and clairvoyance.
What we have so far is:
1. Consciousness has been demonstrated in virtually any living creature or plant we can test for it.
2. There is strong evidence linking it to the observer effect.
3. There is strong evidence linking telepathy/clairvoyance to entanglement.
What we have then is a demonstration of consciousness displaying force-like properties at every level of our reality that we can test. That is to say, consciousness acts directly upon our reality. It is not possible for a macro effect to do this, therefore, consciousness must be something more fundamental. One can even speculate that entanglement is an effect that is caused by consciousness.
The conclusion we can reach is that consciousness is not a product of evolution, but rather is something fundamental to the universe. That is to say, consciousness itself is not a macro effect of brains (in whatever form they might take), but rather an inherent property of our natural universe. To put this a different way, organisms evolved to use and shape a property of the universe, (consciousness) that already exists.
What we see in nature then makes sense: creatures and plants evolve to create different adaptations to consciousness. Humans and other mammals, birds, invertebrates and reptiles use their brains, trees and plants use their roots and insects use a collective group to best exploit this characteristic of the universe. Consciousness is not something that we have, it is something that we are. We don’t posses consciousness any more than we posses the atoms and molecules that make up our bodies. Consciousness is part of the fabric of everything. When viewed from this angle, consciousness is not nearly so mysterious. Because consciousness is fundamental to the universe it is part of everything and cannot be destroyed, only changed, like energy. Look at some of the things that can be explained with this model:
Placebo effect/positive thinking/power of belief/power of prayer/psychokinesis: As a property of the universe permeating and affecting everything, consciousness can be predicted to have an effect on the body and other matter.
Near Death Experiences/Out of Body Experiences/Ghosts: The existence of these phenomenon is further proof for this argument. If consciousness if fundamental to the universe, then it cannot be destroyed or cease to exist; it only changes form. Therefore, while the human body is something fragile, the consciousness of that body is not and the consciousness of that body can continue to exist even after the body perishes.
Mediumship: There is nothing preventing consciousness within a body from communicating with a consciousness that does not have one. They are after all, the same thing.
Hauntings: A consciousness fundamental to the universe means that consciousness in some form exists in everything, including objects that we regard as non living. As studies in telepathy demonstrate, communication can occur without a physical method. A haunting can be explained as the memory of a place that some people feel and experience when they visit that place.
All positive parapsychology studies. Parapsychology can be defined as the study of consciousness in physics.
Group Behavior: Consciousness patterns can form beyond individual humans.
The Decline Effect as seen in medicine and physics: In essence, because consciousness affects everything, the reach of psychological factors extends to all parts of reality.
The Effects of a full moon: Under this theory, the moon is conscious as well and may indeed have a psychic effect on humankind.
Global Consciousness: The Global Consciousness Project
The Water Crystal Experiments of Masaru Emoto. (Described here).
I’m sure there are more areas. I think that humankind is aware of this consciousness on an unconscious level. Captains of ships often feel that their ship has a personality; people tend to relate to their computers as though they had a relationship with it; they name their cars and boats sometimes and some people have a knack with machinery in general. Under this theory those relationships are real.
Most importantly for this theory, it is testable. Our current models of consciousness hold that consciousness can only occur in living things, however if it can somehow be demonstrated that consciousness exists in objects that we consider non living, then this theory will be supported by that evidence. You could theoretically argue however, that for consciousness to affect matter, the matter must be conscious too. I personally do not know how to test for this, but I have no doubt that someone can figure it out.
Existing evidence points to a universe in which consciousness plays a role at a fundamental level. The evidence strongly suggests that it is not a macro effect created by living entities, but rather something so basic to the universe that it interacts with the rest of our reality at every level of physics. In other words, our reality cannot exist without consciousness; it is like having our reality without energy. It’s not possible.
I think that it is important to examine this theory in depth because the evidence is so strong, so many ambiguous areas are explained by it and it affects every area of science in one way or another. If the theory holds up under testing, it could provide a building block for a much deeper understanding of our reality.