• Paranormalia is written by Robert McLuhan, a journalist and author based in London. Please contact me at robertmcluhan@gmail.com

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April 08, 2014

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Interesting the point about judging her own experience as more valid than others. I made the same observation of myself when reporting an evening at a ghost/paranormal vigil night in January. I reported the whole thing on another website being as honest and objective as I could. When it came to the one truly intriguing incident I could personally attest to...an audible, single, exhalation of breath from an empty corridor...I reported with amusement how the other participants around me were claiming the sound had an ever more extravagant nature. This one said it was a chuckle, this one a growl, a third an evil cackle, another speculated if it was the ghost of a guard dog.

But then I had to step back and pull myself up as it raised a simple question: why should I consider my own perception and recollection to be any more accurate or valid than theirs?

I think in the end because we're each alone inside our heads we only have ourselves to use as a template for normality. When someone starts dating a person we rate unappealing we doubt their sincerity, when they vote for the "wrong" political party we doubt their intelligence. We ourselves are all we have to go on to judge what's real or normal. Even a sociopath must suspect the rest of us are making this whole emotion and empathy thing up...

"Ehrenreich has joined the growing number of people who sit on the cusp of two worldviews, facing both ways. They have to make sense of an experience that jars mightily with what their tribe considers to be true. It’s the ultimate challenge for a responsible, thinking person – to reconcile their idea of what ought to be the case with the strong suspicion that it’s actually something quite different."

But isn't that what any sane person does in the modern world, Rob? Don't we all have to hold in our minds to opposing views of reality and learn to function with the ambiguity?

Robert, I wanted you to know how much I enjoy reading your posts. They are always thoughtful and carefully considered. I also appreciate what a good writer you are.

The subjects you cover need someone like you; your reasoned analyses give them the weight and respect they deserve.

Thank you.

Thanks, Kestrel, and to others who have made similar kind comments - much appreciated!

'But isn't that what any sane person does in the modern world?'

Yes indeed, Julie. I'm just saying the dissonance must be more than usually difficult to deal with in cases like this.

Serves 'em right, soft buggers. ;)

The thing that struck me was her insistence that we had to use "our science" to figure it out. Science is a wonderful collection of disciplines. I see to drive using my glasses and of course I'm driving a car. I use a computer. I do social work and I go to a doctor to get help with blood pressure. Which of these is this guy I'm hearing about called "Science?" I mean to say isn't science just a word for what we as a people do? Not knocking science ;-) just saying that some people use the word "science" as if it's a single "being" and I think they misuse it. Similar to the way bible thumpers use the scripture. But, I digress.

What if instead of using her "science" to figure it out she tried to go "inside herself" and try to figure it out. We should use all of our tools and one of our tools is our own sense of being and life experience. The thing is right now we are stuck as a society. We look for the answers in the brain. That's fine, nothing wrong with that so far. But, once something transends or even points to the possiblity of non local why can't we study that? What would be wrong with testing remote viewers and testing mediums?

Oh, I forgot. That's just woo woo and charlatan territory. But, what if one simply meditates for oneself or prays or just thinks without asking Pat Robertson or Richard Dawkins for permission?

Trouble is, Stephen, that only the insane are certain of their own position, and only the sane experience profound doubt.

A fun coincidence....after reading this column this morning, I hopped in the car this afternoon and there was Ms. Ehrenreich being interviewed on a radio program here in the USA called Fresh Air with Terry Gross. I liked Barbara a lot, but did find her certainty about the behavior/motivation of other beings amusing. Here is a link to the program:

http://www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air/?prgDate=01-26-2013

I was grateful to Robert for the background information.

To my transcendental experiences are uninteresting because we have no way to find out whether they correspond to an objective reality, since the experimenter can not know it and the neuroscientists can only discover the objective correlates of the experience. Instead, I would put emphasis on the psychic experiences, which can transmit verifiable information by other people.

Nothing new here. In the 19th century, there were plenty of real scientists and philosophers who took all this seriously, and tried to investigate ghost materialization and telepathy and telekinesis and all the rest of it as if it was all based on some unknown form of energy -- electromagnetic, radioactive, or what have you. These efforts largely faded away in serious scientific circles because nothing ever came of it, and spectacular results proved invariably to be fraudulent. I suppose this is far enough in the past now that there are people who think they're thinking of this for the first time, and that they have something new to bring to the table. I doubt it.

Dear Egypt Steve, before making such an over-confident and under-informed comment, you should read more of the posts on this site.

For a start, you may discover that there have been many 'real scientists' (yes, real ones, not imaginary ones!) who investigated psi phenomena in the 20th century, and indeed continue to do so in the 21st. Oh but maybe that's just in 'unserious scientific circles'.

Piers

@ Piers!

I wouldn't waste your time with people like Egypt Steve!

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  • ‘These disturbing phenomena seem to deny all our usual scientific ideas. How we should like to discredit them! Unfortunately the statistical evidence, at least for telepathy, is overwhelming. It is very difficult to rearrange one’s ideas so as to fit these new facts in.’ Alan Turing, computer scientist.

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