Friday, February 08, 2019

why self-help books are NOT to be dismissed & why parapsychology is anti-establishment







Der fürchterliche Pauli as a young student (picture taken from the Internet/CERN);
Rupert Sheldrake's TED talk;
Stephen E. Braude interview (Closer to True);
Stephen E. Braude interview (with Jeffrey Mishlove);

"... unless his incantations should chance to be thwarted and foiled by the more potent charms of another sorcerer..."
A. C.
"I kept the TV on all the time, especially while people were telling me their problems, and the television I found to be just diverting enough so the problems people told me didn't really affect me any more. It was some kind of magic."
A. W.

"This in some respects augments who and what we think we are. If telepathy is true, it means that what you think of as your private thoughts aren't so private after all. It means that you have to think of your mind as mostly located in here but spread out a little bit in both space and time. And if it is spread out in space and time it means that your thought and other people's thoughts commingle at some stage. That creates a very dramatic change in terms of our personal ontology about who and what we think we are. Another thing is that it challenges the view which says we are completely isolated, we live in a mechanistic world in which mind is brain, and in a completely pointless existence. You see this sometimes in people who have been to the neurosciences in a while, specially students, they become really depressed, because the world view that is presented is 'you are a meaningless zombie, there is not going on and everything is pointless, there is no meaning for anything.' Or as Francis Crick wrote in his book, 'you are nothing but a pack of neurones,'" [my transcription of] Dean Radin's "Science and the taboo of psi", a 2008 Google Tech Talk  (you should learn, by the way, from the first question raised by the audience, that the Google's tech-fanatics corporation-suckers are looking as always just for hightech applications, that is, new ways to freakishly control things and make big money out of everything, since this is the only thing that matters to them in the entire universe; Radin seems to have a different perspective);

placebo domino:


"The tendency for prophecies to be self-fulfilling is well known in the realms of economics, politics, and religion. It is also a matter of practical psychology. Various ways of using these powers are the bases of countless self-help books, showing how avoiding negative attitudes and adopting positive ones help to bring about remarkable successes in politics, business, and love. Likewise confidence and optimism play an important part in the practice of medicine and healing—and in sports, fighting, and many other activities" Rupert Sheldrake, Seven Experiments That Could Change the World (Riverhead Books, 1995). 
"A survey of a wide range of drug trials has revealed that placebos are, on average, about a third to a half as effective as specific medication—a big effect for blank pills that cost almost nothing. But placebos are not just blank pills. They can also be forms of blank counseling or psychotherapy, or even blank surgery... in medical research, placebo effects are generally regarded as a nuisance. But perhaps the negative attitudes of physicians to placebos is just as well, since it is the other side of the coin of their faith in the special efficacy of their own techniques, which therefore tend to work better—because of the placebo effect!" Sheldrake, Seven Experiments.

"In his analysis of the many documents we have about such practices, Levi-Strauss underlines that the fallaciousness involved in them is at the same time acknowledged and simply ignored, brushed aside, by the shamans themselves. What matters to the shamans is the effect they produce in the imagination of the sick, no matter if the instrument they use is a fake one. Actually a clear distinction of what is fake and what is not fake is obstinately eluded by the very characteristics of the procedure... [Walter Cannon's] classic paper “Voodoo Death,” begins exactly with a reference to Portuguese colonizers such as Soares de Souza, who “observed instances of death among the [Brazilian] Tupinambás Indians induced by fright when men were condemned and sentenced by a so-called medicine man” (Cannon, 1942: 169). Although Cannon attributed the cause of such effects to the superstition of the primitive mind (primitive men really believe in witchcraft), he nonetheless acknowledged these effects to be real, and he was very impressed by them, for they can be quite astonishing. Healthy people can die in less than twenty-four hours, if they believe with enough strength that they have been bewitched or if they discover they have eaten some (normal and not poisonous) food they associate with certain well- established taboos in their culture (Cannon, 1942: 170). It should be understood however that the superstition in question would be better characterized not as a naive belief in some falseness at the expense of what reality would truly be. What the shamans do is to theatrically blur fiction and ordinary reality in order to conjure some power coming from what would be a more fundamental source of reality which is not visible and cannot be immediately given. They could thus, correspondingly, accuse someone such as Cannon of actually being more superstitious than they are, exactly because of Cannon’s inability to treat ordinary and visible reality as the fiction it truly is when compared to what would be its fundamental source," Alessandro Zir, Luso-Brazilian Encounters of the Sixteenth-Century (Fairleigh Dickinson Univ. Press, 2011).

psychokinesis: 


"In the physical sciences, although there has been very little empirical research on experimenter effects, there have been many sophisticated discussions of the role of the observer in quantum theory... if the active influence of the experimenter's mind is taken seriously, then many possibilities open up—even the possibility that the observer's mind may have psychokinetic powers," Rupert Sheldrake, Seven Experiments.
"If [subjects with psychic powers] are anxious, uncomfortable, or treated in a formal and detached way by the scientific investigators, they do not perform so well. In fact they may show no significant psychic powers at all... The pioneering parapsychologist J. B. Rhine actually quantified this effect in a series of trials with a gifted subject, Hubert Pearce, having noticed that when someone called in to see Pearce at work his scores at once dropped down," Rupert Sheldrake, Seven Experiments.
"There is a good reason for the conventional taboo against parapsychology, making it a kind of outcast from established science. The existence of psychic phenomena would seriously endanger the illusion of objectivity," Rupert Sheldrake, Seven Experiments.
"An experimenter preparing his apparatus, getting his animals ready, and then leaving them with some feeling of assurance that the experiment will run and the animals will appropriately 'do their thing' cannot but remind us of certain aspects of magic, ritual, or perhaps petitionary prayer... Such circumstances may provide an optimum opportunity for psychokinetic intervention," R. G. Stamford, "An experimentally testable model for spontaneous psi occurrences" (Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research 66, as quoted by Sheldrake in Seven Experiments).
"Generally speaking scientists are no Carries, though there might have been a few registered but far less noxious cases such as Wolfgang Pauli and the Pauli effect," Alessandro Zir, The Sixteenth-Century Corpus of the Portuguese Colonizers of Brazil (Dalhousie, PhD thesis) [the paragraph of this sentence (which refers also to Ludwik Fleck) unfortunately wasn't incorporated in the book Luso-Brazilian Encounters published in 2011 by FDU Press].
"I have here reached the limits of what might be knowable in the framework of contemporary knowledge, and I have even approached the realm of 'magic'..." die Geissel Gottes, as quoted in Harald Atmanspacher's & Hans Primas's "The Hidden Side of Wolfgang Pauli," Journal of Consciousness Studies, 3, 2, 1996, pp. 112-26. 

A tale of how bitterness caused by envious people can make an off guard good fellow to crack:
"Cantor was embarrassed to be associated with a second-rate school... He expected to be called any day to take up a professor ship at the University of Berlin. But Kronecker sensed that if he mounted a strong opposition—and made the attack personal—eventually Cantor would crack... Kronecker was vilifying Cantor, calling him a charlatan and a corrupter of youth, and referring to his work as 'humbug.' Cantor was besieged, lonely, angry, and frustrated... Cantor became more enraged. He sought to retaliate against Kronecker, and in despair came up with a bizarre plan. He was now convinced that he could never obtain a professorship in Berlin since Kronecker, entrenched and powerful, would always stand in his way. So Cantor decided to apply for a professorship anyway, for the mere purpose of annoying his enemy... Cantor wrote Mittag-Leffler of his ploy and its results: 'I knew precisely the immediate effect this would have, that in fact Kronecker would flare up as if stung by a scorpion, and with his reserve troops would strike up such a howl that Berlin would think it had been transported to the sandy deserts of Africa, with its lions, tigers, and hyenas. It seems that I have actually achieved this goal!' But Kronecker's turn to strike back at Cantor. Kronecker wrote to Mittag-Leffler asking to publish in his journal, Acta Mathematica. Kronecker was shrewdly trying to push Cantor out of the only mathematical journal that had a sympathetic editor interested in his work. Cantor suspected that Kronecker's paper would constitute an attack on his own work published in Acta Mathematica, the journal he considered his home turf, and would discredit him there, where it would hurt him the most. In frustration and fear, Cantor wrote to his friend Mittag-Leffler threatening to stop sending him his work... As it turned out, Kronecker had no paper to send, he had simply pretended to want to publish in the journal in order to upset Cantor... Cantor's response eroded his relationship with one of his few remaining fiends, Mittag-Leffler... The strain of these battles, which Cantor never stood a chance of winning, was taking its toll on his health. In May 1884, Cantor had his first nervous breakdown, lasting over a month..." Amir D. Aczel, The Mystery of the Aleph (WSP 2000).

More:
"When I received a grant in 1968 from the Royal Society to go and study tropical plants in Malaysia, at the University of Malaya, I traveled through India on the way there. I found India a very exciting place to be, and as I traveled through that country I encountered gurus and ashrams and temples, which opened my eyes to a range of phenomena I was completely unfamiliar with. When I got back to England I got interested in exploring consciousness, and I had various psychedelic experiences, which convinced me that the mind was vastly greater than anything I'd been told about in my scientific education," Rupert Sheldrake's interview (TBS);
"... contemporary physics imbues the venerable and therapeutically useful term ‘psychodynamic’ with rigorous neurophysical efficacy. This new theory of the mind–brain connection is supportive of clinical practice. Belief in the efficacy of mental effort in emotional self-regulation is needed to subjectively access the phenomena (e.g. belief in the efficacy of effort is required to sustain mindfulness during stressful events)," "Quantum physics in neuroscience and psychology: a neurophysical model of mind–brain interaction," by Jeffrey M. Schwartz, Henry P. Stapp and Mario Beauregard (Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 2005);
"The question of the observer and observed was raised, for example, to say that they were not really separate. I felt from quantum mechanics this must be very significant. Krishnamurti was applying it to the human being himself, saying that the human being as observer was not different from human being as observed... these two are actually one. The confusion that they are separate is the cause of tremendous misery, at least that was saying. I had sort of an intuitive feeling this was right. He was also hinting at something much deeper, some ground, some emptiness in a wholeness ground which everything came, which if we could contact that, then we would sort of rise beyond all these daily problems into a totally different area..." David Bohm, conversation with Maurice Wilkins;
"Gurdjieff used to invite people to eat with him and he would prepare enormous elaborate meals and drink, and even those who did not want, he would press on them. He would get them to go along with him against their will, showing that they really had no will. He did not say that, but the ultimate meaning of it was they had not any. Through this, they would be awakened into looking at their real reactions, what is really going on," David Bohm, conversation with Maurice Wilkins;
"Not that I favored thought, but I am saying that thought would win and produce all sorts of destructive effects because it could just keep at it, like Stalin, day after day, putting in his men here and there and sort of knocking out everybody else. When I felt it was really necessary to really understand the workings of thought, the nature of thought beyond just simply the content, but actually the process, how it operates and this irrational destructive way," David Bohm, conversation with Maurice Wilkins;
"... thought imposes a show in consciousness, a show of reality. Every thought contains not only the image and the imagination, but also all sorts of feelings and neural chemistry. The thought that somebody is your enemy will contain various neuro chemicals that will stir you up. Comforting thoughts will produce endorphins and you feel nice. Then you remove those comforting thoughts and the brain demands to have them back. You are sort of hooked on them... we call them props... as in the case of morphine..." David Bohm, conversation with Maurice Wilkins;
"... there would be a way of being without this self-centered thought, which the mind would be intelligent, quiet, alert, and silent... It is like a sleepwalker, as Ouspensky was saying, that the sleepwalker is dreaming that he is awake and looking at it and directing it, and so on. The point is therefore you need an awareness, an attention to all this, to see the actual process of putting on the show as such, because the show is put on in such a way to conceal the fact that it is a show... The props are part of it. Also, insensitivity is part of it, and dullness... science is part of the props for the show, religion is another part" David Bohm, conversation with Maurice Wilkins;

***An aside on Ian Hacking, Charles Sanders Peirce & Stephen Braude:
In his relatively well-known article about telepathy and statistics [Telepathy: Origins of Randomization in Experimental Design/ Isis, vol. 79, no. 3, Sep. 1988, pp. 427-45], Hacking portraits Peirce as being very unsympathetic to the way probability was used in parapsychological studies such as Gurney, Myers & Frank Podmore's Phantasms of the Living (1886). That is fair enough. He quotes this passage from a criticism Peirce published in the Proceedings of the American Society for Psychical Research [I: 150-157, Dec. 1887]: "[the authors of Phantasms of the Living] cipher out some very enormous odds in favor of the hypothesis of ghosts. I shall not cite these numbers, which captivate the ignorant, but which repel thinking men, who know that no human certitude reaches such figures as trillions, or even billions to one." Peirce then proceeded giving many detailed reasons why the authors' probabilistic inferences (grounded on an analysis of 31 favourable cases out of 300.000) was simply preposterous. But one should note that Peirce is not writing against the idea defended by the authors, and he doesn't give the impression of being himself a skeptic, quite on the contrary. At some point he says the following (which Hacking doesn't quote): "Although there is not a single one of the 31 cases considered which can be accepted for the purpose of the argument, yet some of them may be genuine for all that. It can only be guess-work to say how many; but in my opinion not more than two or three." A few years later than he wrote the paper on telepathy, Hacking wrote another one [Some Reasons for not Taking Parapsychology Very Seriously/ Dialogue, vol. 32, issue 3, Summer 1993, pp. 587-594] which is considered to be much more explicitly critical of parapsychology, and has been qualified as "pseudo-skeptical" (for dismissing parapsychology outrightly without a more careful and substantial analysis of the literature). The point is tricky and bitter. This 1993 Hacking's paper is a reaction to Stephen Braude's reaction to the way the mainstream academia would have regularly mishandled scientific evidence in favour of psychic phenomena. Hackings' stance seems slippery (as I suggest in another place, in relation to other related subjects). In Rewriting the Soul (1996) he reassesses similar issues (criticising other of Braude's books), and says: "One way to silence a topic of research is to treat it as a curiosity or turn it into a marvel. Science abhors a marvel, not because marvels are vacuous, empty of meaning, but because they are too full of meaning, of hints, of feeling. Marvels are meanings out fo control. You can expel a topic from science by making it a marvel. Conversely, if you are forced to look a marvel in the face, the thing to do is to bring it into the laboratory. There it will languish and die until the laboratory itself is cast out of science." If this is a criticism of marvels it is also a criticism of science. At least in a Feyerabendian perspective. The Brazilian philosopher who first brought my attention to the work of Hacking (while I was still an undergraduate), Anna Carolina K. P. Regner, had her work supervised by Feyerabend at Berkeley. I will never be able to see Hacking's philosophy without these peculiar glasses. Everything Hacking says about scientific realism sounds to me, always, as an opportunity for amplification of the eccentricities of a Feyerabend. And I always dream people like Feyerabend will win with revenge against their detractors (which Hacking somewhat also is or at least sometimes poses to be). In what matters Anna Carolina, besides being a very serious, obsessive but also open-minded scholar, she is an ethical person who ended being ostracized in Brazilian mainstream academic environment, but who never compromised her principles and standards.

Other very interesting and important articles and papers (the ones by Jessica Utts seem specially valuable):
- "Is Precognition Real? Cornell University Lab Releases Powerful New Evidence that the Human Mind can Perceive the Future," by Ben Goertzel (Humanity Plus Magazine);
- "Replication and Meta-Analysis in Parapsychology," by Jessica Utts (Statistical Science, vol. 6, n. 4, 1991, 363-403);
- "The Significance of Statistics in Mind-Matter Research," by Jessica Utts (Journal of Scientific Exploration, vol. 13, n. 4, 1999, p. 615-638);
- "The Paranormal: the evidence and its implications for consciousness," by Jessica Utts & Brian D. Josephson (originally published in Times Higher Education Supplement, April 5th 1996);
- "The Physics of Mind and Thought," Brian D. Josephson (Preprint of article to be published in the Festschrift celebrating the 90th birthday of Henry P. Stapp) [see also Josephson's "How Observers Create Reality"];
- "Biological Utilization of Quantum Non-Locality," Brian D. Josephson & Fotini Pallikari-Viras (Foundations of Physics 21(2), 1991, p. 197-207);
- "Evidence for Consciousness-Related Anomalies in Random Physical Systems," Dean I. Radin & Roger D. Nelson (Foundations of Physics, vol. 19, n. 12, 1989);
- "Electrocortical Activity Prior to Unpredictable Stimuli in Meditators and Nonmeditators," Dean I. Radin, Cassandra Vieten, Leena Michel, and Arnaud Delorme (Explore, September/October 2011, Vol. 7, No. 5);
- "Mind control, levitation and no pain: the race to find a superman in sport," Ed Hawkins (The Guardian, 18 Apr 2019);

And also:
Interactive while indifferent—Kinds & Phantasmagoria circa 1900;

*****List of books on "the power of affirmations" and "positive thinking"
(taken from Dean Radin's Real Magic, Harmony/Penguin 2018, p. 69-72):
- James Allen, As a Man Thinketh (1903);
- Roy Herbert Jarrett, It Works! (1926);
- Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence (1936);
- Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich (1937);
- Neville Goddard,  How to Manifest Your Desires (1948);
- Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking (1952);
- Earl Nightingale, The Strangest Secret (1956);
- Frederick Bailes, Hidden Power fof Human Problems (1957); 
- Joseph Murphy, The Power of Your Subconscious Mind (1963);
- Esther Hicks, Ask and It Is Given: Learning to Manifest Your Desires (2004);
- Rhonda Byrne, The Secret (2007);
- Larry Dossey, The Extraordinary Healing Power of Ordinary Things (2007);
- Richard Bandler, The Secrets to Quick and Lasting Life Change with Neuro-Linguistic Programming (2008);
- Lissa Rankin, Mind over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself (2013);

More from Radin's book:
- on the "Universal Self" [which can be referred to in several ways, such as "cosmic consciousness," or "the source and Ground of all being," as says Aldous Huxley in The Devils of Loudun (Harper, 2009, p. 70, 90]:
"... the goal of meditation across many traditions is to achieve a state of awareness where one gains the realization that the personal self and the Universal Self are one (in my shorthand, [c] = [C])... Learn to quiet your mind. See the world as it is, not as it appears to be when viewed through multiple layers of cultural conditioning..." (Radin, p. 76-77);
- on affirmations:
"Imagine that [the goal] has already been achieved in the future and it is inexorably headed your way. Write the goal on a piece of paper to focus your attention... Don't share your goal with others; they may inject doubt" (Radin, p. 78);
- on sigils:
"One meaning of the verb draw is to devise a picture or a symbol; the other is to pull together...(Radin, p. 80);
A point raised by Radin is that magic depends fundamentally upon two things: "maintaining strong belief" [even if you have a psi ability, you have to believe in it in order for it to manifest] and "secrecy" (p. 82, 122-24). I think this must be related also to moral issues, in the following sense: if you are an ethical person, a belief can be strengthened to the exact extent that it connects with willing something that is more profound and impact positively (potentializes) the life of others besides your own. This kind of belief can be more clearly assumed, intensified and it is not something you need to parade about. This is why I also believe that reading substantial, critical literature (like say Dostojevski, Proust, Joyce, Thomas Mann, Machado de Assis & many others) or the works of authentic philosophers and mystics (Spinoza, Swedenborg, etc.), in the long run stabilizes the ground for one to will things more properly, enhancing significantly the chance of the will to produce synchronicities and other environmental effects.
According to Radin, the most fragile point of our current scientific worldview is its understanding of consciousness (p. 184-85). And he enlists three tenets that hinder the development of a more comprehensive approach: (1) realism (understood in the sense that objects have to have properties completely independent from observers), (2) locality, and (3) causality (which presupposes a linear, simplistic conception of time as an arrow).
Behind the issue of realism might be what others have called the dogma of semantic uniformity. And it is possible to argue that people nowadays stick to ideas such as locality and to narrow conceptions of time only out of mere intellectual stubbornness. On the other hand, I prefer to bet on the fact that dichotomies such as mind/matter, intellect/will are in some way or another legitimately to persist (not to imply that Radin wouldn't agree). That is because their opposite concepts are indeed pervasive and entangled but ultimately cannot be collapsed. Reality might be information, but information itself is whimsical

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