Parapsychology Journalism: The People, The Theory, The Science, The Skeptics
A few months ago, after the controversy at TED had died down, I was approached by Ken Jordan of Reality Sandwich about doing a webinar series which will be starting in just a few days. (I will be co-hosting it with David Metcalfe. You can find it here.) I quickly agreed and set about lining up, with David’s help, guests with a scientific background because I had a very specific goal in mind: introducing the scientists and innovate thinkers who are providing the ground work for fundamental changes in scientific thinking that are coming sooner rather than later. It can be extremely helpful to spirituality to get the information from this angle. If you’re psychically inclined, you can learn a lot about your ability by taking these webinars. (Ok, I had to do the sales pitch, but I have another point to make here.) I think that it’s people like my guests that represent the next stage of the New Age Movement.
We are moving away from a division of spirituality and science and starting to really put the two together. And that necessarily leads to a bit of a dust up with the gatekeepers of the status quo. As soon as we start legitimizing psychic ability and psychics there will be trouble. One thing that will always be true about society is that there will always be those that fight change and the only way to make the change happen is to defeat them. This can be done in a variety of ways, but the best of those is with the truth. And that is a battle that only scientists and the scientifically minded can fight. They are the advance guard for what’s coming.
Like it or not, Western society relies on science, not spirituality, as its most trusted source of information. Any change in the behavior of mainstream science, government and the media will have to come through science and not elsewhere. What this ultimately means is that respect, legitimacy and status, things that psychic people and spiritual seekers are currently denied, will all need to come about as the result of advances in science. We therefore need to acknowledge and support the scientists who are making this possible. These are people whose knowledge is grounded in the methods that our society most readily acknowledges as the source of truth.
One of the things that I hope people will take away from these sessions is that these scientists are also regular, down-to-earth people. I’ve met or spoken on the phone to many scientists involved in parapsychology and they are all very approachable and friendly and sometimes even funny.
Here’s who the guests are and why they are important:
Jim Carpenter (Jan. 15th) has not only provided an excellent working theory of psychic ability, First Sight, but he also counsels psychic people and helps them cope with their everyday lives. he wrote recently for Reality Sandwich on the bigotry that is inherent in the sciences towards psychic people. He’s also a clinical psychologist, so he has the status that comes along with that. Providing a practical theoretical foundation helps makes psychic ability less mysterious and unknown, which helps reduce scientific resistance to it as well as removing yet another skeptical objection. Legitimizing psychic ability legitimizes psychic people which increases their status in society. This is something that Jim very much acknowledges. That’s a very good thing.
William Bengston (Jan. 22nd) author of the book The Energy Cure, is legitimizing psychic healing through his rigorous laboratory studies with lab mice. What separates his experiments from many other psychic healing studies is that by using lab mice instead of humans, he was able to have mice that were controls and others that were experimental subjects and he was able to control their environments. This made his experiments the most robust and convincing psychic healing experiments that had ever been done. It’s about as skeptic proof as it gets. Like Carpenter, he’s a PhD scientist, so he has the necessary status in society to be taken seriously. These things matter. He also has years of personal experience in psychic healing, so like Carpenter, Bill Bengston has been “in the trenches.”
Dan Booth Cohen and Emily Volden (Jan, 29th) are PhD therapists who practice Systemic Constellations. (Here is an explanation) It’s an area where people have gone beyond merely looking at interesting theories of consciousness and put them into practice in a methodical and practical way. I think that it’s particularly important information to be shared because it shows what happens when people stop thinking outside the box and start making the box a lot bigger. I think that this method of treatment needs to be more widely known and accepted so that people who are sensitive and intuitive have an alternative to regular therapy, which might not be as effective for them. Treating people in therapy as though their consciousness is not entirely contained within their brains is intriguing, interesting and encouraging.
Chris Carter (Feb. 5) Although Chris is not a scientist like the other guests, he is no slouch when it comes to science. He has written several books on the scientific skepticism of the paranormal and provided clear, easy to understand rebuttals. His books, Parapsychology and the Skeptics, Science and the Psychic Phenomena: The Fall of the House of Skeptics and Science and the Near Death Experience were the first to really take the skepticism head on and start aggressively pushing back. His work is influential and he is certainly one of the people responsible for getting the controversy, including what happened at TED, to the place it is now. Parapsychology and the Skeptics, his first book, was first published in 2007. He has also published a scientific paper on some of the tricks a particular skeptic used to obfuscate some studies. If you are a spiritual person I think this is an extremely important topic. Learning about the true nature of skeptics from people have studied them extensively will help you stand up to them and feel better about ignoring them.
Julie Beischel (Feb. 12) is a scientist who studies mediumship. Why is this important? Because investigating mediumship scientifically will ultimately legitimize it. Systematic approaches also move us from guessing about what mediumship is to actually knowing about it. This way, mediums can get better at it. More importantly than that, the Windbridge Institute is screening and training research mediums. Standardization is one of the cornerstones of respectability.
What these guests all have in common is that their work has broad implications that go way beyond sharing some interesting information. The line between spirituality and science is getting ever thinner. They are contributing to a body of work that will eventually change the face of science entirely. I think that it sends the right message to learn who they are and support their work because it will ultimately benefit us all.