SCIENCE IN THE WIDE, WEIRD WORLD OF PSI
OUIJA BOARDS NOW OUTSELL Monopoly games. Books on reincarnation and clairvoyance sell in the hundreds of thousands. Spiritualist churches report booming membership; an Indian mystic called The Maharishi has supplanted LSD-promoter Timothy Leary to become the new godhead; you can buy a computer-composed mail-order horoscope for $15; and in the past 18 months, one and a half million ESP parlor games, costing seven dollars apiece, have been sold in the U.S. and Canada.
There’s no telling where it will all end, for the Western world plainly wants to believe in magic. But this new public fascination with The Unexplained has tended to obscure an even more remarkable fact: the square, skeptical world of science is finally beginning to regard the mysterious world of Psi (for psychic), in fact all things supernatural, as a legitimate field of inquiry. In a sense, magic has at last entered the laboratory, and there are signs that it may soon be accepted in the boardroom as well.
What it boils down to is that scientists have stopped regarding telepathy, dreams that foretell the future, levitation, auras and reincarnation as the illusions of the hysteric or the charlatan. Now they are trying to
understand the unexplained, not simply trying to explain it away.
Until recently there was a parapsychology study group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. There is a degree-credit course in parapsychology at New York’s famous New School of Social Research. Bishop James Pike belfeves in spirits, and said so on CTV. Professor Henry Margenau, the Yale University physicist-philosopher says, “Many scientists are more interested in the paranormal than they are prepared to admit because it’s still not scientifically respectable. There are no absolutes in science anymore. The old distinction between the natural and the supernatural has become spurious.”
This month, Dr. Margenau is moderator at an international conference on parapsychology in France. With him will be about 40 scientists. The conference is staged by the U.S. medium, Eileen Garrett. A conference highlight will be the day she and Douglas Johnson, the British medium, go into simultaneous trances.
It is the birth of a new science — the Science of the Unexplained. What follows is a report on a few of its first probes into the world of the paranormal.
AMONG THE MOST COSTLY experiments in parapsychology thus far is one designed to measure the effect of distance on telepathic reception. The American Society of Psychical Research spent $15,000 sending business consultant Fred Hamilton Rindge, a burly, common-sensical man of 55, on a 50,000-mile round-the-world trip. At preset times in New York, Paris, New Delhi and Sydney, Australia, he went through an elaborate, mathematically designed procedure in which he laid 100 cards in four rows on the floor. Each was a picture of either a hummingbird, a sailboat, two yellow roses, a collie dog, or a mare and her foal. Sixty receivers in the U. S., having spent a day trying to work themselves into a receptive
mood, set about listing the order in which they believed Rindge had laid the cards.
“We wanted to measure the reception of transmissions from the same sender from widely spaced places,” says Dr. Karlis Osis, Latvian-born psychologist and director of the society. “Receivers were chosen from people with the best results in elimination tests and each was given a photograph of Rindge, and a card which Rindge had carried with him for several days. It seems some contact of this kind with the sender helps the receiver receive.”
This was the second of two long-distance experiments. The first involved transmissions by different people in New York, Los Angeles and Tasmania. All the receivers in both tests were given brief psychological tests to determine whether they were extroverts or introverts, and were also asked such questions as: “Were you tense or relaxed at the reception time?”, and, “Did you drink tea, coffee or other stimulants before the test?” The results were fed into a computer. The results from Rindge’s journey aren’t known yet, but the findings from the first experiment indicate (says Dr. Osis) that distance diminishes the power of both sender and receiver — and may even confuse
things a little since in New York and San Francisco receivers seemed to be one jump ahead of the senders and were often receiving the next picture they were about to send. This “forward displacement” was of such a magnitude that it could be explained by the laws of chance only if it took place over 4,000 experiments of this kind and size.
“ESP seems to be as difficult to conjure up and control as the creative idea,” says Dr. Osis, a lean, cadaverous man who admits to only one psychic experience in his life. “Our main purpose is to try to find out how to activate it and reproduce it at will. There must be something in nature that provides a system of co-ordinates for ESP. If we ever find out what it is it will change our view of reality.
“Parapsychology is an infant, in its babyhood, but I believe it will ultimately tell us more about who and what we are. Perhaps the military will help. A French magazine once reported the U. S. atomic submarine Nautilus tried communicating with the surface by ESP, and the Russians promptly claimed they had been making such experiments for years. I am convinced that something is going on there, but 1 don’t know enough to talk about it.”
SCIENCE AND PSI
IT BEGAN, DAVID THOMSON readily admits, as a very subjective search for something to explain his own inability to get along with people. It became a scientifically oriented experiment in which his psychiatrist, Dr. Jack Ward, became his partner. It has ended with the two men announcing that all humans may be surrounded by a force field — a sort of invisible aura — which, with the right electronic measuring equipment, can reveal a man’s state of mind.
Thomson, 28, writes technical instruction books for complex electronic equipment. When he left the U. S. Navy, which trained him as an electronics technician, he took his personality problems to Dr. Ward in Trenton, New Jersey. Thomson’s basic problem was hypertension, or anxiety. He believed his tension was communicable and made others uncomfortable, just as a man’s fear, or happiness, is communicable. Witness how panic spreads through a crowd.
Nervous and physiological activity is electrochemical, and Thomson’s work was based on the presumption that the low-frequency electromagnetic field generated by this activity should be measurable some distance from the body. Body electrochemical activity is, of course, already measurable in some ways by equipment such as the electrocardiograph, which uses electrodes actually attached to the skin.
Thomson reasoned that the greater the tension, or anxiety, the more acute the electrochemical activity. He built a receiver of two capacitor plates, a preamplifier and a line record-
er of the kind used in electrocardiographs. Dr. Ward examined 25 patients and diagnosed their anxiety levels as either high, medium or low. Thomson then measured their force fields. In each case his equipment’s diagnosis was the same as the psychiatrist’s. “Since I’m not an electronics engineer I can’t testify to the technicalities of Thomson’s equipment,” says Dr. Ward. “I can testify to the fact that the hypothesis at which we arrived jointly seems to be supported by the results of tests with the equipment.”
Thomson has extended his theory. He argues that man is sensitive to all frequency ranges, from the low frequency of audible sound to the high of ultraviolet light, which cannot be received by any senses but which affects the skin. Therefore man must be sensitive to the very low frequencies of the human electrochemical force field: he must be able to receive the force field of other humans. This, he argues, would explain man’s ability to sense the fear or aggression or panic or friendliness in another.
He has no proof of this theory. But he did build a transmitter that generates an electromagnetic field similar to that of a hyper-anxious man. He walked around with it in his pocket for a year — and says that it made people miserable. “In a restaurant a man would be eating his steak with obvious enjoyment until I turned on my transmitter. Then he’d become tense, and get up and leave his meal. It’s subjective proof, this, so I’m reluctant to talk about it. But even my personality problems can’t explain how I can walk into a crowded room, turn on the transmitter and clear the room in 15 minutes flat.”
Psychiatrist Ward refused to try out the anxiety-maker: “There’s no point in making people worse,” he said. So Thomson has produced about a dozen transmitters which, he says, duplicate the force field of a relaxed, happy man. Several friends have these happiness machines and, Ward says, they report feeling better since they’ve had them. A group of psychologists in Saskatoon are this summer testing the machines. Dr. Abram Hoffer, former director of psychiatric research for the University of Saskatchewan and a leader among psychiatrists who believe mental illness may have a biochemical cause, says their results arc “quite encouraging.”
Thomson says, “If I’m right, the machines would be set working near disturbed or anxious hospital patients, particularly children upset because they’re away from home, and it would help them relax. You could use it in unruly crowds, too. If panic and violence is contagious, perhaps tranquility is as well.”
DR. CHARLES TART, a psychologist and lecturer at the University of California in Sacramento, recently completed a unique laboratory experiment that tends to prove that some people have the ability to leave their body, in spirit, and float off to the ceiling, or into another room or, in extreme cases, to another town altogether.
Says Dr. Tart, “The out-of-body experience is a widely reported psychological phenomenon and you can find accounts of it throughout history. You can go into Egyptian tombs and see diagrams on the walls of how it’s supposed to be done. Greek mystic religions apparently had techniques to induce this experience that were the crux of their initiation ceremonies.
“It seems to be an altered state of consciousness, which is my principal area of research. In the Western world we’ve rejected these states, we deny they exist when in fact we should be asking such things as, Ts ESP an evolutionary factor just coming in or just dying out?’ And yet in other cultures — all Asia, almost — the altered states of consciousness are acknowledged and used.”
The problem with setting up an experiment for out-of-body experiences is that even people who have them often can’t produce them at will. Dr. Tart found one girl, a college student in her early 20s, who claimed to leave her body almost every night. In a four-night series of laboratory experiments Miss Z, as he called her in the scientific paper subsequently published, went to sleep so burdened with electronic measuring equipment that she could not raise her head more than two feet off the pillow.
On a shelf five and a half feet above her head Dr. Tart laid a slip of paper containing a five-digit number selected by a scientific ran-
domization technique. On two of the first three nights the girl, who had once received psychiatric treatment, reported that she had left her body but had not read the number. Once she reported visiting her sister in a neighboring town (and later her sister vaguely remembered dreaming she’d had a visit from Miss Z). The second experience, she said, was one in which sine left her body but didn’t get high enough to see the top of the shelf. She did read the time on a clock, which was out of her physical vision, and called out that it was 3.15 a.m. It was.
On the fourth night she awoke at 6.04 a.m. and called out that the number that she could not possibly have actually seen was 25 132.
She was right.
“I do not think it was a conclusive experiment,” says Dr. Tart. “There were some interesting characteristics about physiological activity which we measured at the time, but otherwise she seemed to be normally asleep. Her account of the experience, and accounts given by a man we have tested correspond with accounts written by people who claim to have had similar experiences 100 years ago.
“Most people who have this experience react well and seem to think, 'Wow, am I glad to get out of that lump of clay! It feels a lot freer out here.’ Others panic. I’ve now got reports of 200 to 300 cases, and a couple of dozen from people who say they have out-of-body experiences frequently. One man in Denver, Colorado, wrote and said he could do it at will, so I. told him that next time he does it he can come and visit my house in Sacramento and make a note of a number I’ve got written on the wall. He’ll never do it, of course, but supposing he ever writes me from Denver with that number . . . now that would be quite impressive.”
RADIO WAVES ARE inaudible sound waiting to be plucked from the air and amplified so we can hear them. The same may be true of our thoughts. In the basement of the sprawling Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn there is an elaborate Dream Laboratory where psychiatrists and psychologists arc demonstrating that what we dream may be based on the thoughts of someone else.
Dr. Montague Ullman, the hospital’s director of psychiatric services and a professor of psychiatry for the State University in New York City, and Dr. Stanley Krippner, psychologist, both use scientific understatement in saying that five of their eight experiments have produced significant statistical evidence to prove it is possible for one person to “influence” the dreams of another.
In a continuing series of experiments, men and women who have never had a conscious telepathic experience are isolated in soundproof rooms and their eyelids are wired with electrodes which, through an electroencephalograph, reveal when they are dreaming. They are then asked to sleep, perchance to dream. And in another part of the dream lab a “sender” tries to give them something to dream about by attempting to “transmit” a famous painting.
Usually, the sender spends the night looking at, concentrating on and thinking about the randomly chosen picture. Sometimes he has done more: when the picture was of an artist at work the sender — usually a staff psychologist — set up an easel and began painting. To send a picture of dancers in a glen, he pranced around a potted plant. The dreamers have ranged from a New York cabbie to secretaries, a girl model, an illustrious doctor and even Dr. Ullman himself. When the LEG machine shows that a sleeper is dreaming (we spend about 10 minutes per hour of sleep dreaming, whether we later recall the dreams or not), he or she is wakened and asked to report his dream into a microphone suspended above the dream-lab bed.
The sender tried to transmit George Bellow's painting “Dempsey and Firpo” to the cabbie. It is a picture of two boxers in the ring at Madison Square Garden. The cabbie's dream report said it was “something about posts . . . about Madison Square Garden and a boxing match.” Transmission of Gauguin's “The Moon and the Earth,” which shows a naked, dusky Polynesian woman from the rear with her arms uplifted, prompted a girl secretary to dream about “bathing suits . . . about getting out of the bath . . . hanging a bathing suit to dry . . . about getting a tan.”
The most tuned-in dreamer thus far is Dr. William Erwin, a New York psychologist. Fie once received Van Gogh’s “Boats on the Beach” as “being on a boardwalk or the beach . . . the sea coast ... it makes me think of Van Gogh perhaps.” Twice, Dr. Erwin was supposed to receive Salvador Dali’s “The Sacrament of the Last Supper.” The first night he reported dreams involving a table, the ocean, a glass of “very unusual wine,” a magician and a group of people in which one was trying to do something destructive. The second-night’s dreams involved the ocean, fishing boats and fishermen, the Christmas season, a doctor, a psychiatrist, the Mediterranean area, Biblical times — and food and a sea-food restaurant.
Since Drs. Ullman and Krippner began publishing accounts of their work in scientific and medical journals they have been in great demand as speakers at medical and scientific societies. They have also lectured at courses in parapsychology at New York University and the city’s New School for Social Research.
Says Dr. Krippner, “At present, psychology and psychiatry view each of us as basically alone, alienated, and essentially isolated from others and our surroundings. Telepathy may teach us how wrong that is; that everyone and everything is an enmeshed, integral part of all life on earth.” continued overleaf
FIVE YEARS AGO a farmer who advocated singing to the garden to make it grow better risked his reputation for sanity. This summer Dr. Pearl Weinberger, a tiny (four-foot-10) botanist and associate professor of biology at the University of Ottawa, serenaded wheat seeds
with sound and they grew into plants three times bigger than normal.
In 1959 an Indian botanist announced what experts said was a “most unscientific” experiment, in which he’d played flute music to rice seedlings and stimulated their growth. As a new variation on an old wives’ tale, it produced scorn in the scientific community. Dr. Weinberger says, “My first reaction was to laugh, and then I heard myself giving my little set lecture to all students about the need for them to be open-minded, and to test their hypothesis by scientific methods. So that’s what I did with the flutc-and-rice theory.”
If anything, it was sound itself and not the music that stimulated growth, so she serenaded some wheat seeds with a high-pitched whine, and it worked. “At first I thought there was something wrong with the grain,” she recalls. “Then I realized I had stumbled onto something.”
She recruited Mary Measures, a willowy 25year-old PhD student, and mounted an elaborate, scientifically respectable and unique laboratory experiment. They .used two strains of wheat seedlings. By varying the temperature, the frequency of the sound and the stage of the growing cycle at which sound was introduced,
they produced some astounding results. One strain of wheat grew two to three times bigger than normal.
The experiments suggest that there is a sound-temperature coefficient that, when found by trial and error, could boost the growth rate of all plant life. This summer, Dr. Weinberger and Mrs. Measures are continuing their tests outdoors, in a wheatfield at the Department of Agriculture experimental farm in Ottawa. They’re trying to find out if their sound-serenaded seedlings, grown in the laboratory, will produce more, and equally sturdy wheat.
If they succeed, it could lead to nothing less than a worldwide revolution in agriculture — and a potential answer to feeding a badly overpopulated world.
When talking about her work, Pearl Weinberger, British-born and trained and mother of two teenagers, has a smile hovering always on her lips. Soon, she beams. “When I think about it I’m astounded at the possible implications of what we’ve done,” she says. “And if we can get money to pay for the experimental work, we ought within a couple of years to be able to find a sound treatment for the potatoes, rice and other grains and all the other foods the world is short of.”
SCIENCE NOW GENERALLY accepts that telepathy does happen and is trying to understand how and why. One of the most dramatic experiments is taking place at New Jersey’s Newark College of Engineering, where two scientists appear to have demonstrated that telepathy happens to some of us all the time — subconsciously.
Electrochemist Douglas Dean, 52, and John Mihalasky, 38, a professor of management engineering, have produced startling evidence that this subconscious telepathy triggers physiological changes in the human body.
Prof. Mihalasky, Dean’s boss and at first a skeptic, turned out to be Dean’s best subject. Their classic experiment involves Mihalasky lying in a laboratory classroom with one finger in a plethysmograph. This electronic equipment measures the amount of blood in the finger. Whenever there is brain activity, conscious or subconscious, blood rushes from the bodily extremities to the head.
Mihalasky gives Dean the names of five people with whom he is having, or has just had, dealings. Dean goes to another room, or another building, and takes five names from the phone book. He writes the names on 10 cards, and shuffles these with five blank cards. Then
he selects each of the 15 cards in turn and tries to “transmit” the contents to Mihalasky.
Mihalasky, meanwhile, is busily thinking about nothing in particular. And now a strange thing begins to happen. At the precise moment Dean “transmits” a name known to Mihalasky, the needle on the plethysmograph jumps to indicate mental activity. Mihalasky isn't conscious of receiving anything. His body, though, is apparently aware he is receiving a message, or impulse, unconsciously.
The experiment doesn’t always work. Mihalasky has picked up about 80 percent of Dean’s “transmissions.” But after testing scores of student guinea pigs, they found three out of four received nothing at all and the remaining students appeared to receive messages subconsciously about two thirds of the time.
Statistically, the odds are around 50-50 that the equipment would show reaction anyway. The odds against Mihalasky’s 80 percent reception are astronomic. They are tens of thousands to one against the students’ 66 percent.
Dean says, “The possibility is that all cellular life is sensitive to what happens to other cellular life with which it shares a common source. Similarly, it will be receptive to stimulus that has a direct relation to its own activities or well-being. John Mihalasky’s biggest unconscious reactions were to the mention of the name of his daughter, and to the name of a man with whom he violently disagrees.”
Mihalasky and Dean more recently used a convention of business executives as guinea pigs. By asking the executives to predict a number to be chosen at random by a computer, and again using the actuarial laws of chance, they decided that a high percentage of successful executives have precognition: the unconscious ability to foresee the future.
“As engineers we are concerned with the application of the unconscious-ESP phenomenon,” says Dean. “If we can refine and define it, it may be an invaluable communications system for submerged submarines, battlefields, even outer space.”