chapter  11
10 Pages

A crisis of metaphysics

Accounts of ESP are always fascinating, especially if we merely hear about them. Those suddenly forced to deal with unexpected psychic phenomena, however, are often frightened at fi rst. Robert A. Monroe lived in terror for at least a decade, every time he took one of his out-of-body journeys. When caught unaware by a powerful instance of parapsychology, the safety and dependability we have been taking for granted is called into question; for if these things can happen, the world is not at all what we have believed it to be. This, it would seem, is the challenge of parapsychology. If we can be surprised by suddenly realizing things we have no business knowing, if premonitory dreams and visions-to say nothing of PK effects-can make us think we may be responsible for plane crashes and other disasters, if the world can disintegrate into “whizzing molecules,” if our psyche will not stay put in our brain, and if other people can read our minds: then the world is far more dangerous than what appears in our worst nightmares. We have a collective Western account of what is real that comfortably has no place for parapsychology. It also has no way to understand life or consciousness or what produces the leaps forward that the evolutionary record shows. Our picture of reality, our metaphysics, is full of holes, and we are insulted-if not frightened-when something happens to challenge our “rational” assumptions. There are understandable reasons for our denial of everything that lies outside of our comfort zone in the borderlands of exact science. On the one hand we do not want to be thought loony for accepting what everyone else rejects, and on the other we do not dare question the fragile illusion of solidity on which we stand.