Index to This Site

Sunday 1 June 2014

Telepathy, Anyone?

     What's the difference between mind reading and thought transference? Essentially, the same as between listening and speaking. Mind reading means eavesdropping on somebody else's thoughts: the power all police detectives and suspicious spouses wish they had, while thought transference is the deliberative sending of a message by means of thought. Where the analogy breaks down, of course, is that listening and speaking use two separate organs, whereas mind reading and thought transference both use the brain, so it is possible that the two are connected.
     That's assuming, of course, that they actually exist. Proving their existence in the laboratory would be, to say the least, rather difficult. In the film, What Women Want Mel Gibson convinced his female doctor that he could read women's minds by asking her to think of a number, and then telling her what it was. However, while that experiment might have convinced her, there was no objective evidence which a third party could grasp. After all, we can't read her mind to determine whether he was correct. With this in mind, what I am about to tell you are anecdotes, rather than scientific experiments. But I think they are good anecdotes.
     In an earlier post, I introduced you to Alexandra David-Néel, an intrepid lady explorer who not only investigated the by-ways of Tibet, but also explored the complex philosophies and mind exercises of the inhabitants. Importantly, she carefully distinguished between what she saw and what she merely heard about. She witnessed, and learned how to perform tumo, the art of raising the temperatures of her extremities by mind power alone. She observed, and learned how to produce, tulpas or mind phantoms. She also heard talk of levitation, but never witnessed it - and since then, the Dalai Lama has denied its existence.
     Relevant to this discussion, however, were messages sent "on the wind", or telepathy, which she discussed in chapter 6 of her 1931 book, Magic and Mystery in Tibet. As you might expect, fundamental to its performance is the emptying of the mind of all thoughts and distractions and the intense concentration on the issue by both the sender and the recipient. In this way, pupils are alleged to be able to pick up some of the thoughts focused on them by their teacher. Madam David-Néel herself considered she had tuned in to some of the mental messages her own guru had sent her. More to the point, however, were the following experiences.
     The first occurred when she and a Tibetan companion were travelling disguised as beggarly pilgrims, and happened to come across a lama, who promptly offered them food. Just then, one of the lama's horses took fright and ran away, requiring one of his disciples to go out to catch it. Meanwhile, noticing that the lama had apparently just eaten curds purchased from a nearby farm, David-Néel whispered to her companion that, as soon as the lama was gone, he should go to the farm and ask for a little curd. (You must understand that the food of an itinerant Tibetan is pretty monotonous.)
     At that point, the lama overhead them, muttered an expression of compassion, and gazed fixedly on the assistant, who was in the process of returning with the fugitive horse. Abruptly, the man halted, looked around, tied up the horse, and walked to the farm. In a short while, he returned with a wooden pot full of curd. Instead of handing it to the lama, he gave him an interrogative look, as if to say, "Was this what you wanted?", and the lama told him to give it to his visitors.
     For the second anecdote, you have to understand that Bönpo is the pre-Buddhist religion of Tibet, but its practices are still required in some Buddhist ceremonies. The following occurred in the eastern provinces which, even in those days, were under Chinese control. Six travellers joined her small party: five Chinese and a disciple of a Bönpo magician who was about to perform a ritual on a neighbouring hill. When Madam David-Néel expressed a desire to visit the magician, the disciple told her that his master could not be disturbed for the entire month of the ceremony. She therefore instructed her disciples not to let him depart unnoticed, as she intended to follow him. Unfortunately, he found out, and explained to her that, although he would not attempt to escape, it would do her no good, for he had already "sent a message on the wind." Naturally, she considered his boasting rather dubious but, sure enough, after the Chinese had departed, along came a group of half a dozen riders to announce that they had come on orders from the magician to beg her to renounce her intention of visiting him.
     She also heard talk of visual telepathy, but added that, considering the amount of fiction which often gets mixed up with fact in such tales, it was best to remain skeptical. Nevertheless, in view of the phenomenon of tulpas (see my earlier post), it should not be ruled out altogether. A lama astrologer told her how, not long before, another lama, an old friend whom he hadn't seen for several years, turned up while he was taking his meal, attended by a young pupil. They exchanged pleasantries, and he noticed that the pupil's robe was badly torn at one end. Then the vision vanished. A few weeks later, the same young man appeared in person to say that his master wanted to be taught some astrological calculations. His robe bore the same tear.
     Although this is a second hand account, I mention it because of what I am relate about completely different people a continent away.

     Physically and culturally, it is a long way from Tibetan mystics to quite ordinary Europeans, particularly Britons, but the latter was the the subject of a classic study by Edmund Gurney, Frederic Myers, and Frank Podmore entitled Phantasms of the Living. Published as it was by the Society for Psychical Research back in 1886, it is now no longer in print. However, thanks to the wonders of the internet, you can read it, or even download it, by clicking here. (Warning: it is not a page-turner, but more like a wade-through, and there are more than 1360 of those pages.) The vast majority of the two volumes is taken up with 702 cases of apparent spontaneous telepathy or clairvoyance. For each case, the researchers sought to obtain evidence from all the participants. In other words, if A told B that he had had a dream, vision, or other impression that C had suffered an accident, and this proved later to be correct, the authors attempted to obtain signed statemenst from both B and C as well as A - and usually quoted their addresses as well as their names. If, as is often the case, the message concerned a death, it was confirmed from official records. The sheer volume of evidence should be sufficient to convince any reasonable person that the phenomenon exists. It is noteworthy that distance appears to be no barrier; psychic information about a death in America, South Africa, Australia, or New Zealand was often received in England at the very time of the victim's demise. It is also interesting to note how many of the percipients were members or family of the clergy. Nearly every one of the percipients claimed that they had not been thinking, let alone worrying, about the agent when the message was received, and that they had never experienced any other such "hallucinations".
     However, I am more concerned here with a number of private, albeit not terribly scientific, experiments of attempts at active thought transfer, as described on pages 101 - 109.
     The first was actually cited from the German Archiv für den Thierischen Magnetismus ("Archive of Animal Magnetism" ie hypnosis) of 1819, where Councillor H. M. Wesermann of Düsseldorf described how, on four occasions in 1808, he successfully managed to induce specific events into the dreams of unsuspecting friends at distances ranging from an eighth of a mile to three miles. On the fifth occasion, he sought to make a certain Lieutenant N., nine miles away, see in his dream a woman who had been dead for five years. The experiment was made at 11 pm but, unknown to him, Lieutenant N. was not asleep; he was wide awake, talking to a friend, S. about the French campaign. Just then, the door appeared to open, and the lady walked in, dressed in white, with a black kerchief. She waved to S., nodded to N., and departed. Both had seen her. Both immediately followed her, and called the sentinel, but she had disappeared. Some months later, S. informed the Councilor by letter that the door always used to creak, but failed to do so when the lady entered. Presumably therefore, the opening of the door was merely part of the vision.  [I also presume that the lady  appeared to close the door behind her, and the two men then opened it in actuality.]

    The next case took place in England. The agent, whose name was not given, decided one night to appear to his friend, the Rev. W. Stainton Moses, without telling him beforehand. He concentrated and concentrated, and then went to sleep. The next morning he asked Rev. Moses if anything had happened the previous night. Indeed it had. He had been entertaining a friend, and finally saw him out about half past twelve. He then sat back to finish his pipe when he suddenly saw his friend (the one trying to communicate with him) sitting in the chair the first friend had just vacated. A similar experiment succeeded a few weeks later. Unlike the case of Councillor Wesermann, the account was confirmed by a written statement from the Rev. Moses.

     Finally, we have the private experiments of Mr. S.H.B., who wrote the results in his diary shortly afterwards. Afterwards, the chief author of Phantasms managed to acquire signed statements from all the parties involved, and also cross examined the percipients.
     The setting was 22 Hogarth Rd, Kensington, London where the three Verity sisters lived. L., aged 25, and E., aged 11 slept in the front bedroom on the second floor, and the middle sister, A. in the adjoining room. At the time, Mr. S.H.B. was living about three miles away at 23 Kildare Gardens. About 1 a.m. on a Sunday evening (probably really early Monday) in November 1881, just before retiring to bed, he suddenly got the urge to try, with the whole force of his mind, to be in spirit in the front bedroom where the two sisters slept. He felt a tremendous influence flowing through his body, which he found difficult to describe.
     Meanwhile, back at Hogarth Road, the eldest sister was still awake. All of a sudden, she saw Mr B. in the room, and screamed in terror. "There's S.!" she cried, waking up her little sister. Both insisted they saw him, standing in a particular spot, wearing evening dress. (He himself could not remember what his clothes were at the time.) They called out to the third sister, who woke up and entered their room, where they told her of their experience. But it appears that the "phantasm" had vanished by then. It took a long time for them to regain their composure, and when they next met Mr. B. the following Thursday, L. volunteered the information without his asking anything.
     They must have forgiven him their fright, because on the evening of Friday 1st December 1882, he decided to do it again. By now, the ladies were living at Kew, and he was at Southall. At 9.30 pm he fixed his mind on the task, and appeared to go into a "mesmeric trance", and was unable to move his limbs. After half an hour, he managed to force himself out of the trance, and wrote on a piece of paper:
"When I went to bed on this same night, I determined that I would be in the front bedroom of the above-mentioned house at 12 p.m., and remain there until I had made my spiritual presence perceptible to the inmates of that room."
     What he didn't know was that the ladies' married sister, Mrs. L.H. had been staying the night with them, and when he visited them the next evening, she volunteered that she had seen him twice the previous night. Here is her signed statement.
 On Friday, December 1st, 1882, I was on a visit to my sister, 21, Clarence Road, Kew, and about 9.30 p.m. I was going to my bedroom to get some water from the bathroom, when I distinctly saw Mr. S.B., whom I had only seen once before, about two years ago, walk before me past the bathroom, towards the bedroom at the end of the landing. About 11 o'clock we retired for the night, and about 12 o'clock I was still awake, and the door opened and Mr. S.B. came into the room and walked round on the bedside, and there stood with one foot on the ground and the other knee resting on a chair. He then took my hair into his hand, after which he took my hand in his, and looked very intently into the palm. 'Ah,' I said (speaking to him), 'you need not look at the lines, for I never had any trouble.' I then awoke my sister; I was not nervous, but excited, and began to fear some serious illness would befall her, she being delicate at the time, but she is progressing more favourably now.
      She seems to have taken it all very calmly. No doubt her sisters had informed her about the earlier visitation. The above statement also matched his own recollection of what she had told him. Upon hearing it, he handed her the afore-mentioned piece of paper to prove that he had planned it beforehand. What is interesting to note is that he himself had no memory of this ghostly visitation.
     He tried the same experiment again at midnight of 22 March 1884, when the girls were living at 44 Norland Square, and again L. Verity was awake when she saw him enter and stroke her hair.

     So, with all this evidence, what are we to make of the many cases documented in the book, where people have seen a friend or relative, often a long way away, appear to them at the hour of death? Were the dying person's thoughts suddenly projected to the loved one, and if so, how did he gain the psychic power to do so when, logically, all his faculties were closing down? Or was it his ghost? Indeed, can any real distinction be made between the two explanations? Perhaps a ghost is really a psychic projection from a now discarnate mind. In my post of May 2012, I recorded an incident from what is now Kiribati, where the deceased's dying thoughts were certainly not on the stranger who happened to see him, but on his expected journey down the path of the dead.
     Anyone who has made an in-depth study of ufology knows that many alien species, especially the greys and the Nordics, are strongly telepathic. However, until a few years ago I would have said that there was no credible evidence for it among human beings, but now it seems it may be a power latent in all of us. But I have yet to see any credible evidence for mind reading.
    And in case any of you wish to try the same experiments at home, just let me say one thing: You don't know where I live, and I'm not going to tell you!

1 comment:

  1. My father died a few years ago, aged mid-80s. We were not close. Further, we were separated geographically by a distance of 800 or so kilometres and were rarely in contact.

    About a year before he died, I dreamt about him. The dream was exhausting and difficult to shake off. When I went downstairs next morning, I detailed the dream to my family.

    Several days later, my father phoned. He said he'd just returned from hospital, adding, ' I nearly died ', before beginning to tell me of his ordeal.

    When he was a few moments into his tale, I interrupted him to say, ' It's like the dream I had about you last week '. My father paused, saying, ' Go on ... '

    I told him that in the dream, I'd seen him lying in a sort of shallow ditch, in the dark. He'd been screaming out in agony and had been trying to raise one knee to his chest with his hands. It seemed something was wrong with his legs. All around him on nearby verandahs or leaning on window sills, people were chatting, drinking, and trying to find a bit of breeze, because it was a very hot night. I could hear radios, or possibly televisions playing. For some reason, they didn't hear my father as he called for help. I tried to alert them so they'd go to help my father, but my voice wouldn't 'work'. I kept trying to gain their attention and struggled to make myself heard as my father groaned on the ground, sweat pouring from his face, his neck veins bulging. The dream had seemed to go on forever and when I awakened, I was exhausted and troubled.

    My father listened without interruption as I recounted the dream. At its conclusion, he said, 'Well, you've pretty much described what happened '. Then he went on to tell me that several nights earlier, he'd decided to turn in for the night, but had difficulty getting out of his recliner chair. He'd had a couple of heart operations in previous years and it had weakened his legs. He'd fallen to the ground and was unable to get up again. He became trapped between furniture and the more he struggled, the worse it became. As he lay there, he said, the air from the two fans he had running became frigid. As the hours passed, he repeatedly screamed out for help. He could hear people nearby, but no-one came. Then his legs began cramping. He described his ordeal as sheer agony. Finally, he must have passed-out, he said. He said next he knew, he awoke to find himself in a hospital bed.

    Apparently, a friend had dropped around to see him at about nine the following morning, but could get no reply. Fortunately, the friend was a persistent type and rather than leave, had decided to investigate, at which point he'd discovered my father unconscious on the floor in amongst the furniture. He'd called the ambulance, resulting in my father spending the next several days in hospital.

    It appeared I had witnessed my father's ordeal from a distance of 800 or so kilometres, as I slept