«Reaching for Consciousness: Expansions and Complements by William G. Braud M anifestation is mind; and so is Voidness too. Enlightenment is mind; and ...»
Reaching for Consciousness: Expansions and Complements
by William G. Braud
M anifestation is mind; and so is Voidness too.
Enlightenment is mind; and so is blindness too.
- Tilopa, The Vow of Mahamudra
Stop talking and thinking, and there is nothing you will not be able to know.
- from the Hsin-hsin-ming ("On The Believing Mind")
of Seng-ts'an, Third Patriarch of Zen
I initially thought of entitling this presentation "Reaches of Consciousness," then thought a more appropriate title would be "Reaching for Consciousness"—as a drowning person reaches for a life preserver...or as a growing plant reaches for the sun...or as a Seeker reaches for the Object of the Quest. And since Nature appears to abhor vacuums but adore complements, I felt it would be good to acknowledge and honor complements both in my title and in the content of my remarks.
Complements In Nature and in our everyday lives, as well as in our science of parapsychology, balance is the key to proper functioning, well-being, and success. I believe a recognition and an appropriate honoring of complements is, in turn, a key to achieving balance. A complement is that which fills up, completes, makes perfect. Complements mutually supply each other's lack. Both are necessary to the completion and functioning of the whole. Each is incomplete without the other and, in fact, each can only be defined and only makes sense in terms of the other. Neither is more important than the other. To overemphasize the one, to ignore the other, is to miss at least half of reality, is to encourage imbalance, is unwise. An appreciation of complements is a healthful antidote to a limited and myopic view of the world. It replaces a quarrelsome, antagonistic, competitive "either/or" view with a more agreeable, cooperative "both/and" position.
The challenge of a complementary view is to learn to look beyond appearances, beyond polarities, to recognize that what seem to be opposites or contradictions or incompatibilities are not truly so.
Each aspect is true and real and important under certain conditions. The challenge is to learn to live with and be comfortable with apparent contradictions. Physics has achieved this comfort with respect to the complementary wave/particle nature of light. Parapsychology can grow to appreciate and become comfortable with the complementary nature of its subject matter and of the various methods that have been proposed for its proper study.
Everywhere in Nature, complements abound—chaos and order, darkness and light, birth and death, ass
never attached too long to either extreme, never out of balance, ever leaving, ever returning. Life, as is Nature itself, is a shifting rhythm of complements, a dance of complements. So too, complementary approaches shall swirl and dance through this presentation.
I am speaking with you today as one who is interested in consciousness. Psi functioning is but one aspect of consciousness, and parapsychology is one of a number of complementary approaches to issues of consciousness. Parapsychology's findings regarding psi functioning remind us of those aspects of consciousness that do not appear to be limited by spatial, temporal, and material constraints as these are conventionally understood. They speak to us of the reaches of consciousness into remote, otherwise inaccessible recesses of space, time, and circumstance, for purposes of direct knowledge, direct influence, and, no doubt, for other purposes which remain largely obscure.
In my homage to complements, let me begin by recognizing an obvious one in today's sociological realm—the advances and declines in parapsychology. On the one hand, we have stronger empirical evidence than ever (in the form of effective methodologies, extensive databases, impressive metaanalyses, and supportive review articles), rising public interest, and increasing media attention (in the form of articles, books, and television programs). On the other hand, we are experiencing reduced funding, greater academic and scientific resistances, reduced membership, enthusiasm, and excitement in our professional organizations, reduced contributions to our technical journals, and our laboratories are closing down right and left. Even some of those whose doors remain open are facing troubling and sometimes painful re-evaluations of how, and even whether, they plan to support parapsychological studies in future. To one familiar with Nature's ever-continuing dance of opposities or complements, such a situation is neither strange nor unexpected.
The chief message of my presentation is that we expand our research endeavors. Expansions, provided they are wise rather than narrow or redundant, will necessarily allow us to confront increasing numbers of complements and broaden and deepen our appreciation of psi and of reality.
I shall suggest several dimensions along which useful expansions may be possible. We can expand our experimental designs, the aspects of reality that we ask psi to address as we use these methods, the levels at which we ask psi to reveal itself, the accompaniments of our procedures, our subject matter, our methods of invesigation, our sources of inspiration, our attitudes toward psi, our conceptualization of psi, our audience, and ourselves.
Expanding Our Experimental Designs
In recent years, experimental parapsychology has become synonymous, in large part, with ganzfeld-ESP and random event generator-PK research. I have viewed this development, alternately, as promising, expedient, and pragmatic and as limited, amusing, and troubling. And I say this as an early ganzfeld researcher and one who has done his share of RNG-PK experiments.
Let me suggest that we complement our ganzfeld and RNG research with research on direct mental influence of biological systems (that is, what we used to call "biological psychokinesis" or "bioPK" research). M y motive for emphasizing this kind of research is selfish, for I have been engaged Reaching for Consciousness 3
in this happy pursuit for many years.
In the English-language scientific literature, there are approximately one hundred published reports of experiments in which persons have been able to influence, mentally and at a distance, a variety of living target systems including bacteria, yeast colonies, fungus colonies, motile algae, plants, protozoa, larvae, woodlice, ants, chicks, mice, rats, gerbils, cats, dogs, and dolphins, as well as cellular preparations (blood cells, neurons, cancer cells) and enzyme activity. In human "target persons", eye movements, gross motor movements, electrodermal activity, plethysmographic activity, respiration, and brain rhythms have been influenced. M uch of this work has been reviewed by Jerry Solfvin (1984) and by Daniel Benor (1991).
And the work is not really new. Rather, it represents conceptual replications and extensions of human distant mental influence experiments conducted many years ago (just before and just after the turn of the century) in France (by Joire, Gibert, Janet, and Richet) and in the former Soviet Union (by Bekhterev, Vasiliev, and their co-workers).
I do not have time to describe our direct mental influence procedures or results in any detail; for those interested in such details, a very complete summary paper is now available (Braud & Schlitz, 1991). Suffice it to say that in our experiments on direct mental influence of remote biological systems, a variety of living targets have been used, including human electrodermal activity, muscular activity, and blood pressure; the spatial orientation of fish; the locomotor activity of small mammals; and the activity of in vitro cellular preparations (that is, rate of hemolysis—breakdown through osmotic stress—of human red blood cells). Using these eight target systems, we have conducted 37 experiments that have involved 655 sessions, 449 different "influencees", 153 different influencers, and 13 different experimenters. A statistical summary of these experiments yields a combined (Stouffer's) z = 7.72 (which has an associated two-tailed
-14 probability of approximately 5 x 10, and a mean effect size (r) =.33.
I recommend this direct mental influence of living systems paradigm for your consideration (and, hopefully, for your replication) for a number of reasons. First, the design has yielded positive and relatively consistent results. Conceptual replications of this work have been successfully carried out in independent laboratories in Brooklyn, NY, San Bernardino, CA, Freiburg, Germany, and M oscow, Commonwealth of Independent States (Kelly, Varvoglis & Keane, 1979; Khokhlov, 1983; Gruber, 1979, 1980; Protosov, Baron, Druzhkin & Chistyakova, 1983). Second, the experiments are easy to perform. Third, the living target systems are rich in free variability or lability, which has been shown to be favorable to the occurrence of psi effects. Fourth, the findings of such experiments are relevant to a potentially important psi application—mental healing (known also as absent healing, psychic healing, or spiritual healing). Fifth, the design is one that is rich in motivational components (which are accepted as critical to the success of psi experiments).
Influencers who might not relate well to inanimate targets (such as random event generators) nonetheless enjoy the prospect of influencing other people or other living organisms, and the motivational levels of influencers, influencees, and experimenters alike are boosted by the recognition of the potential applications (especially for healing) and implications of the findings of Reaching for Consciousness 4 these studies. Sixth, quantification of target activity is very straightfoward and objective in these experiments (compared, for example, with the complexities of quantification by judges of results of free response ESP experiments). Seventh, multiple "psi channels" can be active and can contribute to a successful outcome in this design. There can be a direct "causal" psychokinetic influence by the influencer upon the influencee's biological activity. There can be an "active agent telepathy" effect by the influencer upon the influencee. Positive results can occur even if the influencer is not a psi source at all by the influencee learning the influence/noninfluence schedule via telepathy and combining this knowledge with physiological self-regulation in order to bring about the desired outcome; all of this can occur outside of the influencee's awareness. Similarly, the influencee can access the influence/noninfluence schedule clairvoyantly. To the extent that there is freedom in initiating a session or the trials of a session, an experimenter's precognitive waiting strategy or intuitive data sorting strategy could yield positive results; again, this could occur without the experimenter's awareness. Eighth, the task can be represented as one requiring joint effort by both influencer and influencee. The influencer reaches out to influence the influencee, but the influencee makes himself or herself open and receptive to such influence and reaches out (unconsciously and psychically) to determine when the influencer is making influence attempts and (unconsciously) letting the body respond appropriately. This shared responsibility for a successful outcome serves to reduce performance anxiety and decrease the psi-inhibitory effects of what the late Kenneth Batcheldor called "ownership resistance" (Batcheldor, 1982). And ninth, the experiment is a "general purpose" one that can be represented in different ways to different participants in order to match their interest and increase involvement and motivation. For those interested in mind over matter effects, the task can be presented as one that involves a psychokinetic influence of the bodily systems of a distant person or other living organism. For those interested in healing, the task's healing analog nature can be emphasized. For those interested in telepathy, empathy, or connectedness, those aspects can be emphasized, with the physiological reactions serving as objective indicators or correlates of successful "merging" of influencer and influencee. I can think of no other psi task that is so rich in multi-purpose elements.
Regrettably, time permits only passing reference to some of our findings. Physical factors of lability (free variability) and (perhaps) the momentary condition of the earth's geomagnetic field may relate importantly to the outcomes of direct mental influence sessions.