Parapsychology Journalism: The People, The Theory, The Science, The Skeptics
In most literature that I have run across, particularly parapsychology, much is made of tying psychic experiences to the ordinary world. But anyone who is actually psychic knows that most experiences are far more ambiguous. They may or may not tie into the rest of our lives or have relevance. This subject came up in an e-mail exchange that I had with parapsychologist George Hansen who wrote the very profound book The Trickster and the Paranormal. He was asking me whether I had any information on the connection between UFO’s and psychic people. (I didn’t.) But I did mention that personally I feel like I can contact them telepathically, but since this cannot be verified in any way, I cannot really tell if this is true, or if I’m making it up.
Many, many psychic experiences are like that. They are inherently liminal. In my case, I “feel” like I have contacted E.T.’s telepathically. The “feeling” of a unique presence that is attempting communication with me is present and is quite strong. I have the sense that this being is quite adept at telepathy and is calmly and patiently helping me adjust to this reality. There is no communication of ideas and ordinary thoughts, it is something deeper than that. What sets this apart is that I have a “sense” of being in contact with someone who is quite a bit more emotionally advanced than I am; something I have never run into in my daily life. That aspect of the experience is what is personally convincing for me. Whatever this presence is, it is emotionally unburdened and no one on earth matches that description.
I put the word feeling in quotation marks to draw attention to it. That “feeling” is my only real connection to the experience. Is this really true? Am I really telepathically contacting an E.T.? There are several layers of answers to this question. First, there is the practical answer: telepathy with aliens and $1.75 will buy you a cup of coffee (provided you bring the $1.75.) That is the way I usually approach this subject and why I have no fascination with UFO’s anymore. There is nothing practical about it. There is the skeptic viewpoint: If it’s in your mind it didn’t really happen. There is the emotional viewpoint: If this experience helped you grow as a person, then it is of value to you. And there is also the scientific viewpoint: We have no evidence of this, so we can’t say for sure that anything happened.
The truth about this experience, and others like it, is that they defy such straightforward categories. They exist, they are real, but in an in-between way; they are not completely real because they lack verification, but they are not fantasy either. In my case, this telepathic contact is not completely useless to me. I find myself in a heightened state of awareness about my own mental and emotional state and a clear sense of what I want in these areas. The details are vague and undetermined, (such as who I’m having contact with. It could be myself for all I know) yet the purpose is still achieved.
Occasionally, I hear stories from other psychic people which I cannot relate to at all. They are simply too fantastic. Yet I cannot, nor would I choose to dismiss them; experiences without an objective underpinning are still experiences and have their own value. I have found it to be much better to simply accept these experiences and leave them in their in-between state. All too often, I am the first one in that person’s life to ignore the question of reality and simply explore the experience for its meaning with them. If you approach these experiences for their possible meaning, then the basic question of their objective reality becomes less important.
And an interesting thing happens: exploring the meaning of a subjective psychic experience will reduce the importance of some of them and increase the importance of others. Once people take their attention away from the question: “Is this real?” they can then move on to the deeper question of: “Is this of value to me?”
It’s important to ask that question because of the trap that I have seen psychic people fall into: holding on to the subjective experience and trying to convince other people of its reality or looking to other people to confirm the reality of the experience. None of that is helpful and it can leave people emotionally stuck in the experience.
Understanding the in-between status of these experiences can be important for reasons of basic sanity as well. A psychic person who becomes too attached to these liminal experiences will find themselves out of touch with ordinary reality. Fundamentalist Christians can make this mistake by giving too much credence to the Devil and to demons. New Age’ers can make this mistake with spirit guides, angels and such. They are an addition to normal reality, not a substitute for it and when that line blurs, it can have consequences. Take for example, the plight of the Sioux indians at the battle of Wounded Knee:
The Messiah would raise all the Native American believers above the earth, during this time the white man would disappear from Native lands, the buffalo herds and all the other animals would return in abundance and the ghosts of their ancestors would return to earth. Hence the word “Ghost” in “Ghost Dance”. They would then return to earth to live in peace. This would all be brought about by performance of the “Ghost Dance”. While performing the Ghost Dance they would wear special Ghost Dance shirts, which they were told would shield them from the white man’s bullets.
Suffice to say, the Ghost Dance shirts did not work as advertised. Long time consciousness researcher Ingo Swann stated in his 1998 autobiography Penetration: The Question of Extraterrestrial and Human Telepathy:
Swann describes his work with individuals in an unknown agency who study extraterrestrials, his remote viewing of a secret E.T. base on the dark side of the moon and his “shocking” experience with a sexy scantily dressed female E.T. in a Los Angeles supermarket. He concludes that extraterrestrials are living on earth in humanoid bodies. A friend warns him that there are many extraterrestrials, that many are “bio-androids”, and that they are aware their only foes on earth are psychics. While Swann and an individual known as “Mr. Axelrod” are secretly watching a UFO appear and suck up the water of a lake, they are discovered and attacked by the UFO. Swann is injured but is dragged to safety by his colleagues.
As can be seen in these two examples, the line between ordinary reality and subjective reality has been blurred and the results were a massacre on the one hand and what appears to be a descent into paranoia on the other. These are admittedly extreme examples; more ordinary ones include being the reincarnation of a famous dead person, ascribing extraordinary spirituality (that isn’t obvious to anyone else.) to a child or animal that one possesses or treating spirit guides as if they were family members.
In my opinion, this is a common problem with psychics who claim to channel higher beings. (Around here the Archangel Michael is a popular one.) Who is to say what is really happening? It is another example of a liminal, shadowy form of psychic abilities. It has no grounding in ordinary life . . . but it is accepted. For some people, it is important to get their information packaged in that way, so in that respect, it has value.
Again, it doesn’t mean that these experiences aren’t real, they are. But they are also betwixt and between, in a shadowy place between our personal reality and the ordinary one. The most helpful approach is to not try to move them from this place, but to leave them there, look for whatever meaning they might bring and then get on with life. These experiences can be useful and enrich our lives, as long as we understand that their existence will always remain in the shadows.