Some general questions of philosophical interest
We should perhaps address ourselves to the question of how far it is possible to contribute to the problems of philosophy by making observations of psychic phenomena. It is a question without unique answer. Physics is still officially termed ‘Natural Philosophy’ in some older universities, and there are those who hold that there is no philosophy other than that which derives from physics, mathematical logic and language.
Some prefer the idea that there are two contrasting ways of learning about reality: the intuitive or mystical, and the logical; the latter is an appropriate blend of logic or mathematics with observations and scientific method. The two methods are applied together more frequently than is often supposed.
Within the scientific method, it became fashionable early in this century to make everything subservient to physics. The rest of science was ‘mere stamp-collecting’. Not only is our experience in the second half of the century complementary to this view, but also there is a formal mathematical argument which casts doubt upon whether mechanical materialism is actually valid. The argument has arisen from what is known as indicate calculus, a branch of mathematics formulated by Gödel.86 His theorem states: ‘A proposition which includes in its substance a statement of the truth of that class of propositions of which this one is itself a member cannot be shown (proved) to be true.’ It follows that there are levels of complication in structure at which entirely new laws and modes of behaviour come into being, laws which are unprovable by the mere extension in complication of the laws of physics themselves. Thus the science of psychology, and even parts of biomolecular science, are based on concepts which are not provable by physics, although in the working out of these concepts there must be no contradiction of physical laws.
In the dualistic approach which we favour, a mind is capable of operating according to its own laws, without these being determined mechanically by the laws of physics. Only the interface must conform to physical laws, and it is this interface which we are investigating in parapsychology and psychic research.
Possibly the most interesting question that is posed by the whole phenomenon of psychokinesis is the relationship between mental time and physical time (real time, local time, etc.). Psychokinetic action is, in part, goal-oriented and observational. On the first occasion the action occurred, perhaps, by chance. The psychic then learned to expect the same result, provided that it was displayed visually, or at least reached his senses in some way, when his consciousness was in a certain state. In a pointer-movement experiment, for example, the psychic does not know which direction the first movement of the pointer will take. Once a movement has taken place, in either direction, he is able to influence the ballistic swing, and reverse its motion, eventually more or less at will. Only the first movement remains something of a lottery, and Dr Krmessky claims that very small oscillations precede it.
Goal-orientation is also important in the electronic psychokinetic experiments pioneered by Helmut Schmidt.42 The subject is asked to influence an electronic random number generator whose output is displayed as a suitable pattern of lights which he can see. Success is strongly linked to goal-orientation, although the components are subject to influence at the structural or even at the nuclear level. Perhaps the psychic perceives the particular universe in which the lights have taken on a certain pattern, and transports the minds of the observers thither. But at a detailed level he is bringing about structural changes in an atomic nucleus, a Zener diode, or similar component; such detailed effects have been demonstrated and discussed in chapter 16.
One feature that emerges is that the goal is in the future, but the moment of willing the action is in the present. Often the time difference is very small, but the fact that it is there at all raises an important difficulty. Consider the influencing of an electronic device connected to a display which is viewed by the subject. A finite time is taken for the display light signal to reach the subject, and for it to reach his brain and mind. The moment of cognizance of the achievement of the goal is after the moment of will of the action. Goal-orientation on a parallel universe model and indeed on other models implies precognition, and this could imply some modification to physical theory such as the advanced waves of Costa de Beauregard.87 Precognition is far from unknown as a psychic phenomenon, and on the observational model of psychokinesis it must be invoked in this context.
The model for psychokinesis discussed in the last chapter is based on a particular view of the mind-matter relationship – the ability of mind to transcend the many-co-ordinate system of Hilbert space which is required for the formulation of the behaviour of material phenomena. Perhaps such a model could also be applied to the mind-brain relationship. If we admit the trans-spatial and trans-temporal character of mind, then its interaction with material brain presents problems; the clues to their solution could be in the quantum theory of measurement. The proposal has been made88 that the mind-brain interaction need not be dissimilar to the model proposed for psychokinesis.
Philosophy is concerned not only with questions of reality but also with questions of absolute value in motivation, that is, with ethical problems. The relevance of psychic phenomena is more indirect here. The value of human motivations can be judged only from a standpoint of substantial knowledge about these motivations. Therefore the achievement of such knowledge is the minimum necessary motivation. This knowledge includes a knowledge of the complete human potential, of which psychic ability is surely a part. Therefore the motivation to experiment upon psychokinesis is good. I mention what might appear to be obvious simply because numbers of people attack this sort of research on the grounds that it is immoral, forbidden, or unscientific.
It is important to look with foresight on any social dangers that might come upon us as a result of our new-found knowledge of metal-bending, primitive as it is. Dangers might arise from a lack of control of the phenomenon. It is often maintained, but we do not yet know whether it is true, that there is a built-in safety-catch on psychokinetic phenomena, ensuring that we cannot bring about anything which will hurt ourselves or our friends. Such a concept, for which I have found no experimental evidence, is surely related to the idea of ‘white magic’. But I have come across very few reports of even so much as a skin abrasion by metal-bending in several hundreds of events. Some playful misdemeanours have come to my attention, for example, Graham P.’s bending of his granny’s knitting-needles when she was at a critical stage of purl and plain! However, the Japanese metal-bender Masuaki Kiyota is troubled by his ‘powers’ and affirms that he always takes care not to ‘think-ill’ of people, even when provoked, in case there should be dangerous events.
Nevertheless, anything not understood is uncontrollable, and should be investigated until it is understood. It would be dangerous if the increase in magnitude or frequency of occurrence of metal-bending events were to exceed the speed with which we come to understand them.
An obvious danger is that in the presence of a metal-bender ‘spontaneous’ faults or artefacts could happen in mechanical or electronic control equipment, thereby causing accidents. But if electronic equipment can be affected, and there is a case for taking such a claim seriously, then why do not the television sets of the metal-bending families break down when the children dislike the programmes? We just do not know enough to say, and on environmental grounds alone the sooner we get sufficient knowledge the better.
A programme of screening large numbers of the adult English population has already been started by Julian Isaacs. Of course only the weakest effects on a strain gauge sensor are searched for or found. Sometimes members of an audience at a lecture queue for a 2-minute individual session; sometimes customers take their turn at a booth in an exhibition. No one seriously suspects that he is personally responsible for paranormal dynamic strain gauge effects, and at this stage it is indeed not possible to be certain that it is the one person being screened who is responsible for the effects observed. Nevertheless nearly a thousand people have had their sessions and the data show that perhaps one or two people in a hundred may be producing very weak effects.
We can expect metal-benders to produce paranormal effects on the running of delicate machinery. Most metal-benders cannot wear watches; the continual breakdowns are usually attributed to banging or to chemical action; but in my opinion paranormal action is just as likely. There could be trouble from metal-benders in instrument workshops where the engineering demands very high tolerances. As to other areas where ‘psychokinetic noise’ could be detectable, the medical area is obviously the most serious; the borderline between psychic and psychosomatic effects is unclear, and indeed may not exist at all.
The usual reaction of scientifically educated people to psychic healing phenomena is one of great caution. No one doubts the common occurrence of psychologically-induced illness, and it also seems that hypnotically-induced anaesthesia, and even hypnotically-induced wounding and healing, are well established.
The so-called ‘spirit healing’ or ‘faith healing’ is widely practised, but is perhaps less universally accepted, largely because it is difficult although not impossible89 to assess its value accurately. Temporary relief and sometimes permanent cure of arthritis and similar conditions are claimed to have been produced by many healers on their friends and others. In Britain this activity is legal, although in many countries it is not. Some hospital nurses are supposed to possess the ability, and medical tests have been made in United States hospitals on quite a large scale. The question of whether the activity might be described as ‘paranormal action on molecular structure’ or as ‘entering parallel universes’ has been raised but not answered.
The more extreme techniques of ‘Psychic surgery’ are not at all well understood and are largely rejected by medical scientists. The connections between the Filipino, Brazilian and Mexican psychic surgery and psychic phenomena seem to be close. Genuine Filipino psychic surgeons (some of the more prominent are Tony Agpaoa, Alex Orbito, Josephine Sison and David Elizalde)90 perform their ‘operations’ with their bare hands, passing them over the skin and flesh of the patient, who feels very little. There is sometimes what might be termed an ‘entering’ of the body, without any surgical cut being made. The hands feel ‘inside’; there is blood and even flesh to be seen; often, something is removed. Since there is no cut, no healing is necessary; after he has been wiped up, the patient is allowed to get up and walk away. Sometimes, perhaps often, there is some cure.
All manner of things have been ‘taken out’: tissue, but not always human tissue: sometimes sheep tissue, although the nearest sheep to the Philippines are in Australia. Sometimes the things which are taken out are not animal tissue but pieces of paper, metal, wood, etc. Naturally, conjurors have learned to imitate these curious happenings; I have as yet had no personal opportunity to make first-hand assessments.
Similar curious items appeared in the psychic surgery of the late José Arigo of Brazil; the difference was that he used a knife – not a surgeon’s knife but any handy sharp instrument, such as a penknife borrowed from a spectator; there was no attempt to obtain aseptic conditions, and Arigo felt compelled to act in the way he did, being in something of a trance. The operations were little more than crude, rapid probes of the affected organs (especially the eyes) and often some real flesh was cut out. When Dr Andrija Puharich was with Arigo, the psychic surgeon thrust a knife into Puharich’s hand and pointed to where he was to cut. But Puharich claims that when he cut he did not feel the flesh under the knife; rather, the flesh appeared to part while the air resisted the knife.
The best-authenticated feature of psychic surgery appears to be the ‘psychic injection’, by which the surgeon can cause a local pricking pain in the patient merely by pointing his finger at, or sometimes lightly stroking, the area of skin to be injected. I have suffered this being carried out on myself, and several investigators have found that one or more thicknesses of mylar or other plastic sheet are punctured by the psychic injection; sometimes blood is drawn.
We are now familiar with such phenomena as ‘apports’ and teleportations. We are not so familiar with paranormal ‘entering’ of the body, but some years ago two of the metal-bending children reported being able to ‘feel inside’ the neck and limbs of their bodies: so far as I know, these two children had not heard of psychic surgery, although it is impossible to be certain. Might it be that there are several ‘parallel universes’ involved, and that a surface of action covers the psychic’s fingers, and moves inside the patient’s body? The ‘apports’ are in the nature of symbols of success; the role they play would seem to be psychological – to give confidence to both the healer and patient that psychic events are taking place. The patient is taken mentally into a new universe, one in which he has become healed.
Probably such speculations about healing do not represent a realadvance in our knowledge, but they contain a seed by the cultivation of which medicine could extend its branches.
There is one question which all the physical experimentation we have described has not answered, and indeed to which no amount of physical experimentation could obtain a certain answer. That is whether there is for each metal-bender a separate mental entity, apart from the unconscious mind of the metal-bender himself, but able to play a part in the metal-bending. Let us, if only for the purposes of discussion, call such an entity a ‘spirit’. Do such spirits exist, and are metal-benders in touch, mentally, with them?
Our starting-point for answering such a question is to ask the metal-bender himself. But this must be done in such a way that there is no suspicion that we are putting such an idea into his head. I never ask such a question outright, but I do, by asking related questions, encourage such statements to be made.
Most child metal-benders mentioned in these chapters have no belief in any spirit controlling or advising them. Some reject the idea strongly. But some of the powerful psychics and metal-benders have such beliefs, and surely we must pay attention to them. Sometimes these beliefs are engendered by the ‘external’ nature of the physical phenomena themselves. For example, Andrija Puharich relates that he hypnotized Uri Geller and was astonished to hear and tape-record a powerful voice giving dramatic precognitive information. Geller’s reaction to hearing the tapes after return from hypnosis was to believe that the voice came from outside himself. But an alternative interpretation is that Geller was paranormally ‘producing’ the effect. If one cannot decide between the two interpretations, then the distinction is an unreal one.
The Mexican Psychic Surgeon Pachita believed that she was guided throughout her work by a spirit with an Indian-sounding name. Masuaki Kiyota believes that he is in touch with a spirit too advanced in its nature to have a name; but for the purposes of communication it is known as ‘Zenofu’.
I take the view that the question of reality of discarnate entities is meaningless, because it is a subjective question, incapable of physical proof or logical answer, and therefore in the philosophical sense not a question at all. How can one determine by experiment whether independent spirits are real but non-physical, or whether they are simply a mode of behaviour of the human mind, both conscious and unconscious? The spirits have a subjective existence, and sometimes the breadth of this subjectivity increases, covering dozens, hundreds or even millions of subjects. But there remain other subjects who regard the spirits simply as modes of behaviour. It would seem appropriate to conceive of a term ‘partial existence’ to cover this state of affairs. Spirits have partial existence. It is possible that the depth of human understanding will so increase that all will treat these matters with the seriousness they deserve, and then it might be more appropriate to speak of ‘quasi-existence’. ‘Quasi’, the Latin ‘as if’, well reflects the situation that it is necessary to treat spirits ‘as if’ they existed, while at the same time recognizing the objectively true state of affairs. Psychic subjects are seriously affected if they are told that their spirit does not exist; for them this is an obvious untruth, irreconcilable with their own experience. In the last analysis, we can believe only in the existence of what we experience. Which of us can ourselves claim more than a partial or quasi-existence on this basis? How are we to prove to an intelligent creature of, let us say, a quite different size or environment, that we exist; I can well imagine the arguments in progress amongst the possible denizens of UFOs about whether those soft, spindly creatures walking about on the surface of the planet, and glimpsed only for brief moments, are in fact real, or just products of the humanologist’s imagination. (I should explain that a ‘humanologist’ is their equivalent of Urologist.)
Elsewhere I have drawn attention to the interesting experiments of the Canadian researchers91 who invented a ghost, whom they called ‘Philip’, and then succeeded in obtaining paranormal physical phenomena only by invoking the reactions of the all-too-human Philip. An earlier example of fictitious communication experimentation was conducted by investigator P. Stanley Hall,92 using the medium Mrs Piper, whom he succeeded in making receive spoken communications from a fictitious relative named ‘Bessie Beals’.
But this achievement does not prove objectively that other paranormal physical phenomena are entirely the product of human ingenuity, any more than Uri Geller’s claim that metal-bending is produced by God is an objective proof of His existence.
Many scientists are far too cautious to have any time for such things. Perhaps the origin of their attitude lies in the social antagonism between the religious, mystic and occult establishments on the one hand, and the new technological establishment on the other. The interests of these groups have always been socially opposed, and traditionally it has been science which replaced magic. Some physical phenomena have remained within the sphere of the mystic and have therefore been rejected by those scientists who, like most of us, are prisoners of their social background. We recall that one of the pillars of nineteenth-century science, the physicist Helmholtz, wrote: ‘Neither the testimony of all the Fellows of the Royal Society, nor even the evidence of my own senses, would lead me to believe in the transmission of thought from one person to another independently of the recognized channels of sense.’ Today there are many scientists who feel the same, but lack the opportunity or the wish to say so in print.
Since the writings of Bernal93 and, later, those of Thomas Kuhn,94 there is an increasing realization that scientific advance does not proceed at an even pace, without impact of social and human forces; these forces play a large part in determining what is accepted and what is rejected at any time. So true is this about our state of knowledge of the nature of psychic and metal-bending phenomena that already science sociologists regard this as a fruitful field of study; they are constantly on our tails!
There is a lot to be said for the argument that, on balance, the success that the mystics have had in capturing the minds of many young people has been harmful to human society; however, it may often have been beneficial to the individuals. On the whole, humanists have much to gain by the advance of psychic and metal-bending research. It might even be claimed that the unification of our system of space is essentially a progressive activity. In science it is necessary to pursue false trails in order that the true trail may be found.
Pseudo-science is certainly not a healthy influence in society; I can claim that although what I have been doing may turn out to be incorrect science, at least it is not pseudo-science. Some physicists claim to have a consistent view of material reality, but if of a religious turn of mind, they close their minds to the questions of the physical reality of miracles; thus they admit the incompleteness of their outlook. But perhaps miracles are not only physically real but understandable within the terms of future physics.
The object of scientific research is in great part to control the material universe. If we take the view that psychic phenomena can never be brought under control, even in very small part, then there is little point in researching on them. Further, what can never be brought under control could be dangerous and therefore should be eliminated (although this is itself a form of control). This line of unconscious reasoning is more common than most people reaise; and indeed, it has internal consistency. However, not only is elimination more difficult than control, but also the phenomena are already under some sort of slender control – perhaps the same degree as exists on the future of some of our endangered species of wild life. Metal-bending is itself an endangered talent, at risk of dying out in the world. The supply of new metal-benders is not keeping abreast of the weakening of powers of the old ones. How long will the metal-bending phenomenon remain alive? This is a question rather like those which I posed on the first page of chapter 1; in my final chapter it should not remain entirely unanswered. I can at least make one important point, namely that metal-bending requires, above all, confidence, and if this confidence can be maintained and increased, metal-bending will also be maintained and increased, and thereby controlled and developed.
This is why I have somewhat changed my attitude to the public image of metal-bending. I believe that it is necessary that the reality and detail of the phenomena be given publicity, since only in this way will an atmosphere of confidence be engendered. Of course we do not yet know precisely what the reality and the detail are, but we must work within our limitations. The ridicule of sceptics induces uncertainty and could ultimately bring about the demise of metal-bending. In the event of this happening, let us at least remember that it was once a reality.
Of course the control of such spontaneous phenomena, for public entertainment, is not yet possible for most metal-benders. The television ‘performances’ have a fairly low success rate. But metal-benders have a duty to practise and develop their powers, and eventually public demonstrations might become a simple matter. The difficulties of professionalism have to be encountered, but these could possibly turn out to be less serious than has been the case with mediumship.
Perhaps the best way to encourage reliable and controlled success is by treating metal-bending as a competitive game. All sorts of possibilities await the arrival of fertile minds. Through this channel the world of education might be reached. Whatever else may be said of educationists, they cannot in general be accused of closing their minds against new ideas. The key to planning the extension of psychic activity is to keep the goal always in mind: to develop a new human faculty; an extension of the stature of man. There must arise organizations dedicated to the development of the faculty; always on a scientific basis, but always hand in hand with imaginative and creative approach and with a faith to extend the abilities of mankind.
Above all, let the faculty be developed by and for the community at large, and not for some section – for a nation, for a class, for a religious or social group. Let the research be not secret, military, or narrowly competitive, but public, co-operative and subject to scrutiny. Let the scientists live up to the responsibility for their findings that all too often they have evaded.
Now, Reader, that our tale is told,
Canst thou the riddle guess?
Such things, in simpler days of old,
Were heard with faithfulness.
But we, it seems, are wiser grown;
Less willing to believe;
And till we see their causes shown
Can scarce effects receive.
But if these pages serve to show
A truth their moral brings:
How much imperfectly we know
Even in trivial things.
If you our sense of wonder call
From where it’s idle lain,
Why then, good metal-benders all,
You’ll not have bent in vain!
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