Sunday, 20 March 2011

The value of disagreements

Here is an old dream from 2010:
October 24, 2010

> I see all the things of the universe woven together in a huge spiral funnel shape. Each item emanates or projects knowledge of God; even those that deny God do this, for that is how they are built. In this way, the information is projected everywhere, without exception.

All of the people and things in this dream contribute to the final product, which is understanding of God and other spiritual matters. All the skeptics and all the believers, all the Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Christians, Mormons, atheists and even Scientologists, everyone contributed somehow to the overall goal which was to discover and describe God.

This may not make sense at first, because there are so many mistakes, misunderstandings, and contrary mutually exclusive positions out there, but it actually did make sense. A person like the atheist Richard Dawkins, everyone really, no matter who they are, somehow brings people closer to God even when they are trying to accomplish the opposite. The reason is that their strenuous efforts to contest the existence of a spiritual reality that includes God invariably draws attention to the idea of God and spirituality. By raising a topic that might otherwise not have been raised, it can be considered by others who may not have thought of it themselves. At death, as anyone with knowledge of an NDE is aware, the Dawkinses of the world will finally have their empirical evidence of the afterlife, and in the meantime, they will have people thinking about the subject.

More than that, for some people it is clear that Dawkins, James Randi, a so-called "psi-debunker" or scientist Richard Wiseman either know little about their subject or obfuscate the truth when they do. This is an indication that the opposite of their positions are true. Some people may be temporarily fooled, but eventually this contest results in people becoming more aware of the spiritual reality around them, including its fiercest critics.

It is undeniable that fraud does exist in this world, but having found some in the realm of religion or parapsychology does not justify the assumption of fraud in every single example, particularly when many frauds are perpetrated by debunkers like Randi himself, such as when he "hoaxed" researchers at SRI back in the 1970's by having associates break into the lab when it was closed to alter materials in an effort to falsify research conducted there. It is in fact actions such as this that have such a powerful effect on other people's beliefs, because they show clearly that the debunking effort was not fair and above board, leaving plenty of room to doubt the message it was meant to convey.

This however, is all top-level material. In the dream I saw that the very existence of people was enough to give everyone a hint in the right direction. There are clues to God's existence that are so normal and all-pervasive that few bother to think about them, instead looking for exotic signs. What the dream showed was that everything, no matter what it was, somehow was a true reflection of God. Not only that, but even those who deny that God cannot help but be living proof of his reality, regardless of what they have to say.


Saturday, 19 March 2011

Where are we and how are we found?

Last night I dreamed that I looked over the shoulder of a young woman as she read my book. She was on page 76, reading the section where I describe seeing a future TIME magazine cover. My impression was that she thought the book was interesting, but that this page was particularly interesting. She was outside, seated on the ground, with other people walking by from time to time. Not a particularly interesting vignette in itself, but it did suggest an interesting question.

I have a large number of dreams where I go and visit people while I sleep. If the person is known to me, I am often able to confirm that the details I remember from the dream match a recent event in the subject's life, often an event that is roughly simultaneous with the dream or no more than a a couple days old. In some of these, I was surprised to discover that the person I saw had actually wanted me to come. Admittedly, we are only talking about a couple of people here, but they enjoyed remarkable success when they tried to get me to visit them during my sleep by focusing on me mentally.

There are hundreds of other dreams in my journals that appear no different from my visits to friends, except they are visits to people I don't know. There is no way to verify these dreams because I have no way of contacting these people. Imagine if you could hover invisibly near a random stranger in a park in some town you've never seen before. How would you know who the person is? In many cases, there wouldn't be any way at all. These dreams have always bothered me because I would have liked to confirm at least a few of these stranger visits. This brings us to the question raised by last night's dream.

If my friends can get me to visit them while I sleep by focusing on me, could strangers accomplish it also? Is it possible that the mere act of reading my book could, in certain conditions, lead to an OOB visit from me? Is that what happened last night? It is at the least an intriguing possibility. If it happens again, I'll post the details.

Of possibly greater interest is that this dream and others like it suggest that at least some amount of navigation from within a dream state is done via telepathic communication. Not only that, but that the sending of such a signal is equivalent to pinpointing the origin and a correct path to the sender. If this is true, does it shed light on the remarkable navigation skills of some animals? The reason I ask is because it seems to me that people and animals frequently resort to psi in everyday life without realizing it. It is called instinct sometimes, but is actually the act of tuning in to this inner source of information.


Friday, 18 March 2011

Fatigue and dreams

Twenty years ago I tried to figure out what kinds of things prompted me to have interesting dreams. This means that I would make notes in my journal about ambient issues at the time I went to sleep or when I woke. Some entries describe going to bed with a headache (and waking with one), noisy neighbors keeping me up, goals for things I wanted to dream about, if I was sick, etc. Of all the many varieties of external conditions I could think of, I couldn't find strong evidence that anything influenced my dreams at all.

Occasionally I would have a dream that reflected my goal for the evening, but this was very rare and highly specific. Sometimes it seemed to work if: I tried to see a certain person in an oobe, or I prayed for an answer to a question. I did not dream of random thoughts of the day, but if I meditated enough on seeing one person and only that person, I found that I could occasionally accomplish exactly that. Then, I would go see several other people, often in different states and all on the same night. The same is true for meditating on getting the answer to a question. The common factor is meditation. I concentrated on achieving these goals and sometimes it worked. However, other goals that I meditated on never happened. I could go see someone specific or I could get an answer. I did not dream of any other specific subject on request (such as winning lottery numbers, future disasters, etc.)

For awhile I thought that fatigue affected my sleep to such an extent that I would surely have poor recall on mornings after fitful sleep, only a few hours of sleep, or deep sleep after too many hours of wakefulness. But then I had a couple of extremely profound dreams while utterly fatigued. Another theory shot to pieces.

So tonight I am going to bed utterly exhausted. I am working on a PhD, have a full-time job, and am about to pitch a big project that I've had to prepare for. My thought as I sat down to write this was that "there is no way I remember anything tonight", but then I've been proven wrong before in these circumstances. Not only that, I am almost always wrong when I try to link physical conditions with dream experiences.

This makes me wonder if it could be used as a tiny little prop to buttress a dualistic view of mind and spirit? After all, if the body's condition has no effect on dreaming at all, and dreaming is an expression of consciousness, then perhaps consciousness is not body-centric. We'll see if there is anything interesting to report tomorrow morning. Until then,

Good night.


Thursday, 10 March 2011

A blameless life

I have now been asked twice to post more about my spiritual dreams on the blog, so I'll answer that request now by doing so. I do not intend to post all of them as they happen because I think some require the context of other dreams to be properly understood, but others certainly do stand on their own, like one powerful dream I wrote about earlier here in a blog titled "Modern Honesty" (look it up if you haven't seen it.)

In a dream from June 29, 2010, a spirit guide gives me some advice regarding the utility of wishing for material comforts. He brings me to a vantage point from which I can see the Earth far below. He points to a specific location on the planet and it is brought close for us to see. It is a squalid scene in a slum like those found in Cairo or Calcutta. People live in tin-roofed shacks surrounded by garbage. I am asked to look at one shack. Inside, there is an average-sized family for this part of the world. Among the children is one boy of about six to eight years old. The guide asks me to consider his life of poverty and squalor as he explains his message.

"Why should you wish for a life of comfort when true comfort comes from peace? The best thing is to live a blameless life. Why should you or anyone be allowed to live in a place of enduring peace unless you yourself are peaceful? Until you become this yourself, you cannot be allowed to live in such a place."

The boy I was asked to watch was an example of a person who was living a blameless life, and so his comfort in that slum was greater than anything offered in any palace of the world. That kind of comfort could be had by anyone immediately by making the effort of becoming peaceful themselves.

It is easy enough to project our lack of comfort onto many external things, but the power is within each of us to change that by changing ourselves. I just read a wonderful book by Laura Hillenbrand titled "Unbroken" that touched on this theme strongly. If you enjoy reading long well-written non-fiction about personal growth under trial, I recommend it highly. At the moment, it is high up on my all-time top ten list of favorite books.

A blameless life is an ample reward, just as the cost of anything less may be too high.


Wednesday, 9 March 2011

The fear of uncertainty

I've had quite a few dreams that are primarily spiritual in nature. Most of these are left out of my recent book, and some of the ones that were included had large sections left out. This was partly because I had to keep the book to 90,000 words and that meant heavy editing (it started as 116,000). The other reason is that it was difficult to publish certain items because I didn't know how to verify them. In a way, that is the primary reason I organized Dreamer the way I did. By showing the dreams that could be verified first, then how they related to other dreams I hoped to demonstrate how I came to trust the spiritual-themed dreams.

Ironically, I probably now have far more "evidence" to support trusting the spiritual content of dreams than I have ever seen for more common concepts, like the idea that democracy is a better form of government than any other. And yet, I still worry sometimes. The funny thing is that we make decisions based on very little information all the time, but when it comes to spiritual concepts, the amount of evidence required is huge even if the concept comes down to an angelic request that we stop using profanity. That shouldn't be too hard to accept, but then there is the way it is expressed, through an angel, and that can be very distracting. Additionally, and in this case I am thinking of a specific dream I wrote of in my book, there is the penalty of non-compliance. The angel showed me the penalty, and it was a kind of spiritual disfigurement. This wasn't visible physically, but it was there regardless. That is where it suddenly gets difficult for people. The advice sounds good, but that consequence sounds pretty severe, so let's chuck the entire idea without more evidence to back it up.

What about non-angelic, non-human, non-animal nature spirits? I dream of these regularly, though not often. They come across as perfectly real, but associated as they are with childhood fantasy, I left them out of my book altogether. I would have liked more evidence to be comfortable presenting those dreams, and this is despite an incident where I actually saw many of these creatures when I was young. But then, I was young, so it isn't good enough. Best wait for another sighting, and maybe I will, before writing about them in more detail.

Still, how much evidence do I really need before I feel comfortable? I probably have a lot more than other people. Out of over 3,100 records, I have hundreds that are verified in some way. Surely that would lead to a great deal of confidence, and it does, but within carefully proscribed limits. I trust my family to be honest in their dealings with me and do not expect proof of their every statement, but that is sometimes how I treat my dreams--with extreme suspicion. But is this fair? Surely after over twenty years of verified dreams some trust has been earned or is deserved?

This is on my mind right now because I just finished writing a presentation I will give at a conference on dreaming this summer. One of the topics I will discuss is how spiritual psi is verified. Because there are often no physical connections, it is quite resistant to all normal forms of verification. While writing it I realized how much I feared uncertainty. I like to be as sure of myself as anyone else, but sometimes you have to just accept that it is up to you to make your best guess based on what information you have.


Everyone's a scientist (now)

When it comes to psi, "science" has an opinion. According to "science" psi doesn't exist. If you don't believe it, try and find a single scientific paper that says otherwise. This is what "skeptics" will tell you if you if you bring up the subject. To be clear, it is only fair to point out that "skeptics" seriously corrupt the meaning of the word by applying it to themselves. According to Merriam-Webster's, a skeptic is "a person who questions or doubts something". Originally, it meant only a person who was thoughtful or who "looked into" things. On the surface, it does seem fair to say that skeptics doubt things. The problem is, they only doubt things that fall into certain categories. Their selectivity ruins the value of the word. Doubt, generically applied, could be looked at as a trait in common with the dispassion that is so valuable in an investigator or a scientist.

Skeptics, or at least the people who choose to identify themselves this way, not only avoid dispassionate attachment to their positions, but they don't appear to have ever seriously considered their positions in the light of criticism. This is to say that when confronted with criticism, it is not evaluated with dispassion or what the ancient Greeks once called "skepticism." They can be fiercely critical of any statement supportive of paranormal phenomenon (psi), but will often shun examining their position in any depth at all. A favorite and rather strange statement frequently heard in these debates is "It's not science!" It is strange because whether something is or is not science is irrelevant to whether something is or is not real. Additionally, to say that an entire field of scientific study--parapsychology--isn't "science" also makes no sense. By definition, it is. The people who write papers in the field are scientists. They have doctoral or post-doctoral degrees, they publish in peer-reviewed journals, and some of them, like Brian Josephson, have won the Nobel Prize in scientific categories.

"Science" is "...knowledge about or study of the natural world based on facts learned through experiments and observation." One could argue that parapsychology does not concern itself with the natural world, but it cannot be argued seriously that their experiments and observations do not take place in the natural world. It may be that they attempt to study aspects of the physical natural environment that suggest a non-physical environment as well, but this hardly qualifies it as a non-science.

I'm writing this partly in response to the numerous frustrating conversations I have seen or participated in recently in various forums. The fact is that as soon as anything related to psi comes up, hecklers from the "skeptic" crowd drown out all attempts at conversation. They probably don't see themselves as hecklers. To them, they are merely asking reasonable questions "Prove it!" and making reasonable statements "Psi is not science". I've decided that it is too much effort to try and play their game by their rules. After all, when they ask for papers and papers are produced, they normally do not read them. So far I have had a few acknowledge that they started but did not finish a couple and that really isn't enough. They ask for evidence, such as it is (how much can be given over the Internet that is truly evidential?) it is given, and then they make complaints unrelated to the items presented. It is like a bad magic trick: You say hello, and they say what's that behind you? While you look the other way, they rearrange the contents of your pockets.

So, I'm tired of that, at least for today. So what I am going to do instead is talk about the things I want to discuss here. My goal is to exercise some restraint and ignore all unoriginal posts from skeptics. All this means is that if they come up with things that look like they came off the common sheet of anti-psi propaganda they all seem to read from, it will be ignored. Examples of this are:

Skeptic statement:"That was debunked by [insert name]"
Answer: Probably not. Every time I've looked these up, they turn out to be a bunch of wishful thinking. There will indeed be an article that claims that it has debunked something or other, but on reading they fall apart. In many of these, I have found powerful counter-papers that, unlike the so-called "debunking" are not littered with supposition and imaginary facts. Therefore, as a true skeptic myself (in the original sense of the word) I must accept that these debunking claims are far more likely to be false than true.

Skeptic statement:"That isn't scientific!"
Answer:See above. This statement, and every scrap of everything offered to justify it cannot change its inherent falsity.

Skeptic statement:"Psi isn't repeatable. If it can't be repeated (on demand) it can't be proved"
Answer: While it has proven to be difficult to repeat on demand with individuals, it has also proven to be relatively simple to reproduce on demand in large studies involving multiple subjects. It has also been shown that psi can be repeatable by specific individuals within certain ranges of time, that is, that psi events occur at a regular rate even if exact timing is difficult to predict.

Skeptic statement:"Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence"
Answer: While I disagree with this principle on the basis that something either is evidence or isn't, I also disagree with the implication that extraordinary proof in this case is absent. To the contrary, there is a wealth of it. The work of Dr. Ian Stevenson, Dr. Brian Josephson, Dr. Dean Radin and Dr. Rupert Sheldrake are just a few scientists who have accumulated quite a lot of what could fairly be described as extraordinary evidence.

Skeptic statement: "There isn't one piece of evidence that psi is real!"
Answer: This comes down to how one defines "evidence". I've noticed that every time a description is asked of a skeptic and then the request for that kind of evidence is satisfied, they exercise some real ingenuity figuring out a new definition of evidence that must now be satisfied. In this way, parapsychology experiments may now be among the most heavily controlled against fraud in the world, and possibly the least likely place to find it in any of the sciences.

Skeptic statement: "To report an NDE, the patient cannot have died, therefore, the NDE report is a brain-based fantasy and the patient was never dead."
Answer: This is a kind of statement I see frequently on NDE threads. The fact is that NDEs also involve veridical OBE experiences that argue strongly for a separation between brain and mind, making all "brain-based hallucination" statements rather off base. Every time I've seen the veridical OBE information presented, it has been either completely ignored on the other side, or has been scoffed at in what is to my eyes a highly scoff-worthy manner in its own right.

Lastly, why is it that in normal life the people who are constantly invoking the white knight champion of "science" are not always scientists themselves? I know there are scientists out there, that some of them have a skeptical interest in psi, and that these people sometimes post to the Internet, but I also know that not every self-identified skeptic is also a scientist. Why then, these appeals to science? An irony is that they make these appeals sometimes in the face of pro-psi comments that are sometimes made by people who are in fact professional scientists.

I hope with this post to get back to more interesting subjects.


Monday, 7 March 2011

An annoying conversation

An hour ago I was just starting to work on the second of two presentations I will give at the International Association for the Study of Dreams conference in the Netherlands. I heard the doorbell ring downstairs, so I hustled down two flights of stairs and answered the door. It was G, a woman traveling door to door to discuss God. I don't mind discussing God in some circumstances, but standing there in my bare feet with icy wind creeping up my toes while I was trying to get some work done was not ideal.

She wanted to give me a copy of Watchtower magazine, which is perfectly fine with me because my wife sometimes reads them, but as she went on about things that sounded not only dogmatic but wrong, I pointed out that I had my own source for this kind of information. At the time she had been saying how God connects to us through the church (her church) and reading "his word" (their dogma). So I showed her my book. A bit cheeky, but I thought that would solve my need to get back to typing upstairs. When she saw the word "Psychic" on the cover, she had to remark on it. As soon as she started talking, I knew the Demons, Hellfire, and Satan Express was headed my way.

G whipped out a different copy of Watchtower headlined "Occultisme" ("Occultism" in Dutch). I tried explaining to her that "Occultism" and "psychic" aren't necessarily the same thing, and that religion is based on what we would now call psychic or paranormal events. However, she now had to defend herself against a person who wasn't just interested in "occultisme" (which I'm not by the way) but who had written a book about it (again, I didn't write about occultism). So at the same time as she wanted to show me the light to change my ways, she was simultaneously concerned about defending herself from my ideas. These, she spared no energy describing as inspired by Satan to deceive me and everyone else. During all this, as ungracious as it was for me to notice, I was wishing she would wipe off the lipstick she had all over her teeth. Listening to her leap from "psychic" to "Occultisme" to "Satan" to me while looking at her teeth and freezing at the front door was pretty uncomfortable.

What will be next? Is it equally possible that she will now shun our house in the future or will instead bring crusaders to the door? I hope she shuns us, but have a feeling that she now has a duty to annoy my family.

And all I had to do was not show her my book. The fact is that she has come by several times over the past few years to talk to my wife. My wife tolerates the visits but is not impressed by this woman's church. She wishes they would stop coming by, but doesn't know how to say it nicely. I figured showing my book would do the trick, but I obviously wasn't thinking strategically or I would have realized that I'd just given red meat to a hungry dog.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

More Hollywood Psi

I just saw a preview of the new Clint Eastwood movie Hereafter. It seemed to me that Eastwood has a sincere interest in NDEs and medium communication but the movie came off as naive to me. Like many other popularized treatments of the subject, the medium was morose and haunted. That all by itself is a serious problem when compared to actual mediums like John Edward or James van Praagh. He then compounds this problem by doing the same thing to his NDE representative (who to my irritation spoke French that was rendered into Dutch subtitles that I barely understood).

Just because relatives of deceased persons can be morose as a reaction doesn't mean that mediums and people who have NDEs are also morose. My impression is the exact opposite. There may be outliers, but the people I am aware of seem to be not just well-adjusted, but even more positive than would be considered average.

I think the problem is that the popular notion of things psychic conflates the reaction of grieving family members and the craziness of frauds with genuine psychics or genuine psychic experience. The Sixth Sense did this too. They had the little boy seeing gruesome images of death everywhere and he was frightened as a result. The problem is that spirits do not normally show themselves that way and anyone who sees this kind of thing customarily is more likely than not going to become inured to it and will not find it frightening at all.

Inception was an attempt to explore lucid dreaming. It did so in a highly unrealistic way by creating mechanical contrivances to limit the dream state in ways that make more sense in the context of materialism. It also made lucid dreams into something much greater than they are: a glorified version of a typical dream fantasy. If they wanted to explore dreams, it is a pity they didn't go after something with a paranormal element.

Audrey Rose from the 1970's is a bout a girl who relives the fiery death of her previous incarnation. The movie is a pretty standard horror movie, but as an explanation of past life memories it is pretty week. Ironically, the screenwriter for the movie got the idea after his son started mentioning his own past life memories at a very early age and he managed to track down who the previous personality was. The true story was far more interesting than the screenplay he wrote. Strangely, the author didn't just change a few names while retaining the core experience he knew of firsthand from his son, instead he made it over completely in the image of existing expectations among people who not only knew nothing about the experience but who disbelieved in it. In other words, while his inspiration was a real experience, the product was based on the state of his knowledge prior to the personal experience. This was done to appeal to people who weren't familiar with or willing to accept the subject as it really is.

The shame of this is that if writers and entertainers continue censoring this content to appeal to existing tastes, they not only create those tastes but also present a large and powerful body of false literature on the subject. As a debunking exercise you can hardly do worse than make a bunch of filmed entertainment that makes no sense.

Psi is not a completely unpopular subject in Hollywood, but the way it is portrayed is like an alternate form of psi, something that could literally be called "alt-psi" because it certainly is not psi. Movies like Premonition, Precognition, Carrie, The Amityville Horror, The Shining, and many others all contribute to a laughably false caricature of psi experience. It shouldn't be any wonder with these movies and the many books like them that parapsychologists have so much deprogramming to do before they get around to discussing the subjects of their research.

For anyone with a serious interest in the subject the first step is always to counter the pile of false programming, like so many mounds of leftover Carnival trash, before getting to the real subject. Unfortunately, the trash just keeps on coming.

It is possible to insulate oneself from the effect for awhile, either by working quietly in a lab or keeping one's experiences to oneself, but as soon as they are public the battle with the public's misconceptions begins.

The debate about brain-based NDEs is an example. So pervasive is the mind=brain propaganda that it is hard to let go of the notion when the most visible evidence from the other side is coming from places like Eastwood's Hereafter. It isn't that I think he was insincere. In fact, he was possibly more careful than many others who have attempted to deal with paranormal subjects in film. Unfortunately he still makes some big errors that cannot help but erode credibility for the point he is trying to make. Rather than present a fictionalized story of an NDE and a medium, he would have been better served by making a movie about the real thing. It couldn't possibly be the same kind of movie, but at least it wouldn't add to the confusion that already exists.