Parapsychology, Spirituality, and the Battle Against Scientific Materialism — Introduction
This is the beginning of a series — I assume that the title is self-explanatory. My overall purpose is to explain why parapsychology is an essential tool to revolutionalise our understanding of what it means to be human. It demonstrates clearly that the philosophy of physicalism/materialism, favoured by much modern science, is inadequate. We therefore need to move beyond it towards a new paradigm.
The best known parapsychological powers are: telepathy, clairvoyance - which would include remote viewing and precognition - and psychometry. All these can be included under the general heading of knowing things by means outside the five senses.
And then there is psychokinesis, the ability of mind to move or affect material objects. The best known example of this in modern times is Uri Geller’s metal bending, but scientific experiments have suggested that gamblers can affect the throw of dice, and that random number generators can be influenced. Other examples include the levitation of physical objects, and what is known as thoughtography - the ability of the mind to produce images on photographic plates.
These psychokinetic effects can be achieved consciously, by the power of mind, but sometimes seem to happen spontaneously or unconsciously, as in the case of some poltergeist phenomena. It also seems that some kind of discarnate intelligence is capable of producing such effects, as in the case of so-called ghostly photographs.
As I was saying above, parapsychology is important for spiritual thinking because it challenges the philosophy of materialism. It therefore lends weight to spiritual teachings, most obviously that our consciousness is not an epiphenomenon of, and closely connected to, the brain. To complete this introduction, I’ll quote some significant statements that have been made on that theme.
Former Oxford Professor of Philosophy H.H. Price said: “psychical research is one of the most important branches of investigation which the human mind has undertaken”; that it seems likely “to throw entirely new light upon the nature of human personality and its position in the universe”, and that in time “it may transform the whole intellectual outlook upon which our present civilisation is based”.
J.B. Rhine, parapsychology pioneer, says that “science cannot explain what the human mind really is and how it works with the brain”. “It was reasoned that if thought can be transferred directly from one mind to another without the use of the senses, man must possess mental powers transcending brain mechanics. Proof of telepathy, then, would be a successful refutation of materialism and its physical theory of the mind”. Telepathy “did not fit into the physical picture of the world… There was either some serious error running through all the evidence of telepathy, or else a different order of reality had been introduced into science, one that had not been recognized before”.
Parapsychology researcher George Tyrrell said that parapsychology was “a subject which lies at the meeting place of religion, philosophy and science, whose business it is to grasp all that can be grasped of the nature of human personality”.
The parapsychologist Lawrence LeShan could not have put the case more clearly. Having noted “the many hundreds of carefully studied cases and precise laboratory experiments that have been published in the professional literature of this field”, he says that this “indicates that there is far more to man than we have known. We have data that are strong and clear, but they could not exist if man were only what we have believed him to be. If he were only flesh and bone, if he worked on the same type of principle as a machine, and if he were as separate from other men as we have thought, it would be impossible for him to do the things we know he sometimes does. A new concept of man, a new way of looking at others and ourselves, a knowledge that there is more to man than our old concepts allow is scientifically demonstrated by these facts. And that is the real importance of ESP”.
He further says: “And we must not underestimate how terribly we need a new concept of man. The philosophical legacy of the seventeenth century, which Western civilisation has been living on, is used up. The materialist metaphysics that gave us the Industrial Revolution is now destroying us”. “It is imperative that we now develop a new and more complete concept of what man is or we will perish”. “Psychical research has given us the clues and clear signposts to a new concept, a more accurate picture based on a deeper understanding”.
In the next article, I’ll describe my own experiences of ESP, including the method I was taught for achieving them.
I hope you have enjoyed this article. I have written in the past about other topics, including spirituality, metaphysics, psychology, science, Christianity, politics and astrology. All of those articles are on Medium, but the simplest way to see a guide to them is to visit my website (click here and here). My most recent articles, however, are only on Medium; for those please check out my profile.