chapter  8
15 Pages

The promise of parapsychology

When Jung addressed Basel University in 1905, calling spiritualism a religious movement that champions a “scientifi c” hypothesis, and went on to hope that it could ultimately integrate our view of the psyche-if only science would get busy and conquer the fi eld-he summarized the place where we still stand more than 100 years later. We are still divided over what to make of spiritualism and ESP. When we see them as requiring something akin to religious faith, we render their claims “unreal” in the sense of being unavailable for scientifi c study. When we dismiss them as deliberate acts of fraud or innocent tricks of the unconscious, we render them unworthy of any study at all. When most earnest about parapsychology, we take the position of the thirty-year-old Jung: the phenomena should be studied in all seriousness, and their day will come. As we shall see in this chapter and the two that follow, that day has indeed come in the sense that a great deal of good scientifi c work has been done. But it still lies a long way off in the sense that educated, serious-minded people are still expected to “know better.” Those who “believe that stuff” are considered gullible. More to the point, as anthropologist C. Roderick Wilson puts it, we have no hypothesis to test, and this leaves us with no way of deciding what our data mean (C. R. Wilson 1998: 197f). Parapsychologists do not doubt that ESP events occur, but they still have no explanation for how they come about, and they do not know what questions to ask. ESP remains unthinkable, even though it clearly happens. It seems likely that the testable hypothesis will have to come from another fi eld of investigation, probably astrophysics or quantum mechanics. It will have to be a fi eld whose fi ndings are substantiated by mathematics, for this is the only thing we in the West take for proven. Second, it will have to take a holistic shape, like electromagnetism and space-time, a relatively simple picture that has room for everything. Third, it will have to be a principle which includes consciousness in the structure of the universe. Western materialistic science has no place for consciousness. Although it obviously exists, it is an embarrassing reality, an add-on to our picture of the cosmos. When we learn to visualize reality in a manner that includes consciousness, the phenomena of parapsychology will be far less problematic. For, in the end, they are attributes and capabilities of consciousness.