Exploring Your Psychic Powers
**Article by T.E.Watts**
This work will prove unsatisfactory to many. There are New Age types whose anti-rationalist prejudices will be offended by my use of 'scientific language'. Then, there are skeptics in the vein of Marvin Gardener and James Randi who would not recognize the occurrence of anything outside nineteenth century materialism if it bit them on the butt. I consider myself fairly adept at criticizing experimental design. But as Robert Anton Wilson has pointed out (as well as others before him) it can be useful to suspend disbelief when attempting the unusual.
If the design lends itself, one can always crunch the numbers later if the need is felt to make points in an argument on the subject. I have some question concerning the use of the word "paranormal" since to my way of thinking anything that happens is by definition normal. The term is so widely used that I will yield to the temptation to continue its use. The grouping of phenomena termed "paranormal" seem rare and exotic to many westerners. There are multiple possible explanations for this. If, as some hold, these phenomena are genetically linked, it is possible that the linked genes have been made relatively rare by centuries of persecuting people who display such abilities.
Some traditions hold that siddhis (psychic abilities) are unimportant byproducts of 'spiritual development'. From such a viewpoint the desire to attain these abilities is either a juvenile phase, or a case of arrested development. In this connection, consider if you will the science fiction movie "Forbidden Planet." A great technological race was destroyed when their subconscious minds (complete with infantile rage?) were given access to unlimited power. The point here is that if people with extreme negative emotions had strong powers, this might actually be a negative from a Darwinian point of view. An angry child who had the ability to kill or make ill its parents might very well have a shorter life expectancy due to the presence of that ability (see "Carrie"). Thus, in violent cultures such as our own, such abilities might be self-limiting.
Since I am writing, and you are reading a book on "Improving your Psychic abilities" I will try to make both of us more comfortable by refraining from making any judgment concerning what this says about your 'state of spiritual development' (and mine!) To paraphrase Will Rogers, I never metaphysics I couldn't like. One of the possible reasons for the apparent scarcity of these phenomena may be connected to what has been termed the "experimenter effect." It has been noted repeatedly in parapsychology labs that experimenters who believe in things like ESP are much more likely to find them than experimenters who don't. This causes skeptics to claim that fraud or delusion are responsible for all "apparent" manifestations of such phenomena. But since such things are almost by definition the product of a special 'state of mind,' the negative evidence produced by skeptics could be likened to a hostile audience heckling a juggler--the performer will have difficulty attaining the type of concentration necessary to the performance. The juggler probably won't be able to successfully handle the axes that night.
The last reasons I will cover in this regard I shall lump under the category of "cultural prejudice."
People whose beliefs are highly structured in such a manner as to lead them away from acceptance of these phenomena:
a) will be much less inclined to notice these things to begin with
b) will tend to deny and/or forget them when they do notice them
c) will be strongly inclined not to discuss these things with their peers for fear of ridicule.
For sociological purposes, if no information concerning an event enters the streams of interpersonal communication, then that event remains invisible- -virtually nonexistent. Add to this those groups that have a vested interest in denying even the possibility of such things (to avoid excess polemicism I will not name them here) and it requires no imagination to see that only those whose cultural attitude differs markedly from the above will be truly open to the investigation of these phenomena.
The flip side of such skepticism is gullibility. Rejection of 'unduly rigid rationalism' can lead to an unreasonable acceptance of any and all claims. Barring sainthood or divine intervention, all people are more or less capable of tremendous amounts of self-deception. To avoid breaking arms in patting oneself of the back, You (and I) should repeat that dictum several times a day.
The following exercises are partially responsible for the depth of my belief in the existence of the phenomena described. I have found each of them useful in developing my ideas concerning the abilities of the human mind, or as some would insist, "the nervous system."
It is, of course, up to you, the reader to make up your own mind (or nervous system) on these points. I make the following promise to you:
I shall do my best not to deceive you in these matters. If I am deceiving myself in any way, I hope fervently to deceive you no more than I do myself.
All the exercises described here would probably be best accomplished in a quiet setting, although some may prefer light instrumental music. Some traditions claim that unless one is meant to be a musician that music will interfere with 'higher states.' It will be left to the readers to determine this for themselves. The exercises which are not based on computers or television may very well be enhanced by altering the lighting of the room. (dimmers, candles, etc.) Before attempting these exercises, it would probably be wise to clear yourself of worries and distractions. Persons with a history of mental illness are strongly discouraged from doing the mirror exercise (Exercise II) without first discussing it with their therapist.
It is my firm belief that the types of experience deemed "paranormal events" are available to most, if not all human beings. I hope in my own modest way to help people realize that they have capabilities that most people are hardly aware of, and that many people deny even as theoretical possibility. While this information is general in application, I hope to provide tools that both the merely curious and the serious researcher may find useful.
T. E. WATTS
Find a comfortable position to sit, or lie down where you can see a wall one to two feet away from you. Choose the smallest spot on the wall that you can clearly see, and gently gaze at it. As you continue, you may notice that you can clearly see an even smaller spot near the first. If so, you may shift your attention to the second spot. You may find after continuing your gaze for several minutes that your apparent point of view changes. The spot may seem much closer to you. Accompanying this, you may experience a change in your body image. Do not try to force these things, and do not be alarmed by them. Do this three to seven times a week for a month to six weeks. You may find when repeating this exercise, the spot may seem to expand to fill the entire field of vision, as if it were being seen through an extremely powerful microscope. It may then seem to dissolve into a window, through which visions or dreamlike images can be seen similar to those reported by users of crystal balls. You do not need to consider anything you might experience as being literally true. Indeed, it is probably better if you avoid investing any emotional energy in defending any such perceived "truth." If any of this seems intimidating to you, try regarding it as an exercise of your "visual imagination." Keep a written record of anything unusual you experience, or if you prefer take notes into a tape recorder after each session. If you see anything which seems "psychic" in nature, try to check and see if your information is correct. If you are very serious about this, it might be wise to have a witness sign your notes before checking any information derived in this fashion.
An alternate form of this exercise is to obtain a candle which is esthetically pleasing to you and use the flame as your focus instead of the spot on the wall.
WARNING: Persons with a history of mental illness are warned against using this exercise without guidance from their therapist. Hatha yoga and/or stretching performed before this exercise will enhance it. You may be siting in the same position for a long time.
Place a mirror where you can sit in front of it and see yourself. If it will make you more comfortable, remove your clothes. Sit in front of the mirror. Look into your eyes. Gaze into them. Try not to blink excessively.
Depending on your susceptibility, after a few minutes to an hour you may start to experience visual disturbances and hallucinations. The latter usually take the form of what Jung called "archetypes." Your image may take on the appearance of animals, mythological beings, people of different race/sex/ culture than your own, etc. Seeing these images where you are used to seeing your own may be disturbing to you. Usually any given image is transitory and will fade to another. If a given imagepersists, and you are bothered by this, take a break from the exercise.
These images can form a basis for self-analysis, but the purpose of this exercise in this context is to enhance your ability to visualize on the theory that such practice improves conscious access to subconscious material.
A variation of this exercise which has less potential to cause disturbance is to look at the face of another person instead of the mirror.
A few words on Vitalism
Philosophers, religionists, mystics, and some scientists have advanced ideas that for purposes of discussion I shall lump together under the classification of vitalism. Put as shortly as possible, the basic idea is that there is an energy associated with life, which is not recognized by traditional western science.
I believe that this idea is one of the oldest in the world. This principle is clearly stated in ancient Egyptian writings, and seems to me to be inherent in the "magickal" practices of prehistoric peoples. Thisconcept recurs throughout recorded history under many names, Ka, Barakka, Prana, animal magnetism, elan' vital, odic force, orgone, etc.
I neither advance nor dispute the claim that this idea is literally true, for reasons which I will discuss later. What I do claim is that there are phenomena which have been observed throughout history which are compatible with vitalist ideas, and which are incompatible with 19th century materialism, which is what many people believe constitutes science.
Two phenomena intimately connected with the concept of vitalism are "auras," and "healings."
In this exercise you will attempt to see the human aura. Some writers have claimed that this is best accomplished by placing the subjectagainst a dark background in subdued lighting. Personally I have found the exact opposite of this to be true for me. Therefore, rather that telling you exactly what conditions to use, I suggest trying this under a variety of conditions to find out what works best for you.
Place the person whose aura you wish to see against the background. Stand three to six feet away from them and look at the space around them. You are looking for structures which have been described as appearing like "glass in water." These occur in layers (the "glass onion" effect) which are generally greater in visual density closer to the body. The more ephemeral layers, which are harder to see, extend as far as several feet from the body. The claim has been made that you cannot see your own aura; my experience contradicts this. With practice, (or even without practice in gifted individuals) it is possible to see great variations in the density, color and structure of a ureas. These variations can be used to determine health and mood of the individual in question. In massage, this technique can be used to spot areas of chronic muscular tension. Auralike structures are not limited to human beings, or even to animals. Highly structured fields can be seen around many plants, especially palm trees. If you are having trouble seeing auras, I suggest checking out the works of the artist Abdul Mati Klarwein. He has incorporated in his some of his paintings what to my eyes are highly accurate depictions of auras.
The viewing of aura-related phenomena are not limited to living things. In this exercise, you will be watching the clouds and sky. Plan to spend a couple of hours performing this exercise. A partially cloudy morning with a bit of breeze is ideal. Find somewhere outdoors to sit where you can see as much of the sky as possible. Watch a group of clouds for a while. After your eyes have adjusted to this, try to look for glassy structures in the space surrounding the clouds. If you succeed in seeing this phenomenon, try to see it in areas of the sky where there are no clouds. Some of these structures are truly huge, extending over many miles of sky. A very common form that they take is that of a double helix.
If you see a group of moving clouds, and these structures are present in their path, you may notice that the shape of the clouds actually changes to closely match the shape of the structures!
A little stranger than this is that it seems to be possible to intentionally manipulate these structures: utilizing your visual imagination pretend that these structures are a form of "energy." Find a group of clouds which are similar in shape and size. Choose one of them. (No fair switching!) Picture the energy as being strong inside the cloud. Imagine this energy leaving the cloud and entering the ground. If you are near a body of water, especially flowing water, picture the energy entering the water.(If you wish, you may actually picture this "energy" flowing through you as if you were a human lightning rod.) Alternate this image with another image. Close your eyes and picture the chosen cloud shrinking and disappearing. Open and close your eyes, alternating the energy and shrinking images. If your operation is a success, the cloud will shrink and/or disappear while the other clouds in the group are unaffected. This technique can even be used to punch a hole in a definite area of a solid cloudbank.
A more difficult variation is to picture the "energy" leaving the space surrounding the cloud, alternating with an image of the cloud growing in size. If successful, the chosen cloud will actually grow.
These techniques can also be used to manipulate the appearance of the structures in cloudless sky.
If someone you know has a headache or other minor ailment and consents, this technique is frequently useful. Place your dominant hand on the person's forehead and your other hand on the base of the skull. Visualize that there is a stream of energy flowing through your friend's body, and that the ailment is a result of a "blockage" of that "energy." Vividly picture a ball of light about the size of a baseball forming in the palm of your dominant hand. Imagine strongly that you feel the hand tingle and get warm.
Imagine this light moving through the afflicted area, and catch it with the other hand. Move it up your arm, through your chest, down the other arm back into the first hand. Repeat this several times, and imagine that this will restore the normal flow of "energy" in your friend. Sometimes this works, sometimes not.
It is not necessary to tell the person just what you are doing. It is probable more effective if you do tell, due to an added placebo effect but I have had a subject with no exposure to vitalist ideas tell me that he felt "electricity" coming from my hands when I had not told him what I was doing other than taking a break during a massage.
In the earlier discussion of vitalism, I implied that it might not be necessary to take vitalist theory literally in order to use it. Let me explain a couple of reasons why I say this.
The science of Neuro-Linguistic-Programming deals with the relation-ship between thought and sensory perception. I have seen explications of NLP that claim that all human thought is based on sense perceptions. "ESP" and "Psychic phenomena" have been referred to as a "sixth sense," but they usually manifest as a perception by one of the usual five senses.
The famous psychologist Carl Jung advanced the idea of a "collective unconscious," that is, parts of the mind common to a culture or to the entire human race. Combining Jung's idea with the formulations of NLP, I would advance the possibility that there exist what I call "shared subjective visual fields." I would define these as extrasensory information being mapped onto the visual parts of the brain or mind. These may be either apparently subjective, as in the case of clairvoyance or telepathic images, or apparently objective. The existence of these fields may provide a partial explanation for phenomena which have been derided as "mass hallucination." To my knowledge, no materialist has ever provided an explanation as to how many people must see an "hallucination" before it becomes a reality. In the case of some aura-related phenomena, this provides a working model which does not involve the literal truth of a "life energy." If I see a disturbance in a person's aura, and interpret this as being the result of illness, what may be occurring is the following. If a person is ill, it is presumptive that their subconscious is aware of that fact, or by extrasensory means my subconscious may be aware of the fact. In either case, visual symbolism is a primary means by which subconsciously perceived information is transferred to conscious awareness, as in dream analysis. Thus, the unusual appearance of an "aura" could be an attempt to communicate the information about the illness by the subconscious of either person, or even by the "collective unconscious." The auralike structures in the sky previously described might likewise be considered as a manifestation of those parts of the mind we share with others.
This model might also be applied to some sightings of UFOs and other controversial phenomena.
In this exercise you may learn to use your television to demonstrate the existence of shared subjective visual fields.
Tune your television to an unused channel with no interference from used channels. For unknown reasons on which I will not speculate, UHF seems to work best for this exercise. Set the contrast higher than usual. Sit back and watch the static for a while. You will probably notice that images from your mind's eye appear in the static. This can be done intentionally. Start with simple geometric figures. Once you have attained proficiency at this, the projections can be made progressively more complex, up to and including "movies of the mind." You may note that this phenomenon is unusual in that it is not possible directly to tell whether these images are subjective or objective. The images on the tube appear to directly change in response to thought, although the thought to which they respond seems to be subjective.
The most startling aspect of this is that these projected images can be seen by others. In this variation of the exercise, one person acts as projector and others as receiver. Standard tests of telepathy such as card tests can be performed in this fashion with startling results.
Speculative interlude II
While the nature of the mechanism by which the "energies" and/or information involved in paranormal phenomena are transferred are unclear, their existence seems to me to be incontrovertible. A number of people who seem to me to know what they are talking about claim that modern physics does allow for at least the possibility of telepathy, clairvoyance, telekinesis, and precognition. While the mathematics of quantum theory are currently beyond my understanding, I am not aware of any evidence contrary to experiments which have demonstrated that "information" acts between subatomic particles across space faster than light, and even backward in time.
The awareness of ignorance in these areas need not inhibit us from proceeding to develop our abilities in these areas on a purely practical basis. While there is a great deal of overlap between psychic phenomena, it is possible to define under experimental conditions when something is happening. When a subject guesses an unseen card correctly, this is a definite and definable behavior. Fortunately, there is a branch of psychology which is dedicated to permitting us to alter the frequency of definable behaviors. That science is behaviorism.
Simply put, behaviorism treats its subject as a "black box." It is concerned with inputs (stimuli) and output (responses.) It is not concerned with the mental structures proposed by thinkers like Freud and Jung.
Indeed, B.F.Skinner, one of the leading proponents of the behaviorist school of thought, actually went so far as to deny the existence of the mind. While in Dr. Skinner's own case this may have been true, the fanatical philosophical views of this school need not concern us here.
The primary tool of this school, operant conditioning is based on the idea of reward for a behavior that one wishes to increase in frequency. In the jargon, reward (also called the reinforcer) reinforces behavior. There is a certain circularity of reasoning here, but the point is, the technique works.
Another key concept of this approach is that if a behavior decreases in frequency, it is said to extinguish. When reinforcement is consistently withdrawn, frequency of the reinforced behavior may drop back toward the baseline (pre-reinforcement) level. Also, most reinforcers are only reinforcers under narrow circumstances. A child stuffed with candy to the point of stomach upset is unlikely to cooperate for the sake of one more M&M. While I have not seen the term used in the literature, I shall designate reinforcers of this class as "extinguishing reinforcers."
There is another class of reinforcers which do not have such narrow limitations. One of these is cocaine (at least in experimental animals) another is electrical stimulation of the pleasure centers of the brain. When either of these stimuli is used as reinforcer, animals will press a bar to receive them almost indefinitely. I shall designate these as "non- extinguishing reinforcers."
Luckily for our purposes we need not resort to such invasive measures. There is another stimulus which, while not as strongly reinforcing as the other two mentioned, shares with them the fact that it can be used as a reward for a long time without a diminution of its capacity to increase frequency of a desired behavior. That stimulus is color.
There is an intimate connection between personality and color preference. So strong is this relationship that color preference formed the basis of a popular psychological test in the '70s. I do not know if these preferences last over many years in all cases, but that need not concern us.
The basis upon which to make use of all this is simple in principle. The basic experimental procedure is to find out what a person's favorite color is, and to use the presentation of that color as an immediate reward for a correct guess in a test of a paranormal phenomenon. One tool which makes this easy to do in an organized fashion is the computer.
You will need a computer with color monitor, and someone who can program it. In some way you need to get each subject to pick their favorite color from those available. One way to do this is from the palate of a paint program, and then paint the entire screen that color and save the image, provided that you have some way to load that picture from your programming language. Another method is to POKE every possible combination of number into the color registers, with a flag to tell you the correct number when you find the best color. Those of you with things like million-color palates will have to use your ingenuity.
This out of the way, you will need a program to do the experiment. In my case, what I did was to set up a program to simulate series of 100 coin flips using the random number generator. The subject would press "H" or "T" on the keyboard to indicate whether they were guessing heads or tails. If the guess was a "Hit," that is, correct, the screen would be changed to the reinforcing color. If the guess was a "miss" the screen would go black, or a color the subject didn't like. The number of "hits" per 100 flips is recorded for purposes of statistical analysis.
A possible variation here is when the random number is generated. If the number is generated before the key is pressed, then the test is defined as a test of clairvoyance. If the number is generated after the keypress, then by definition precognition being tested.
In practice there is overlap between various psychic phenomena. If you are guessing a card held by someone, are you "reading their mind" telepathically, or are you "reading the card" clairvoyantly? If you predict a future event you may be displaying precognition, or "causing" the event by telekinesis.
After a predetermined number of series have been run, the recorded results can be tabulated for statistical purposes. The computer can be programmed to do this automatically at the end of the run, or the results can be stored in a data file for later use.
Those so inclined can add all sorts of "bells and whistles" to the program. While I did not have any success with non-visual reinforcement, variations in sound might be used instead. One thing that did seem to help was written messages of encouragement ("HIT!"). Running percentages can also be displayed. Mess around! You might find something that works better than color for your subjects or yourself.