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PSI EXPERIENCES: THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG  
Mario Varvoglis, Ph.D.

 
     
  What we're coming to realize is that there's a huge difference between the 'reception' of psi information, vs. its conscious detection -- its manifestation in the person's conscious mind. It's not like telepathic information just overrides everything else happening at the moment and crashes into consciousness, as if we had zapped the TV from one channel to another. Rather, psi information may be received at an unconscious level, but not surface into the conscious mind at all; or, it may emerge only hours after it has been received, when our body and mind are in a more calm or relaxed state.

More and more, psi researchers are finding that psi is largely an unconscious function. We are probably receiving a lot more psi information than we ever realize -- the occasional psi experience being simply the tip of the iceberg. So, while reception of psi may be occurring all the time, detection depends upon the complex interaction of a number of psychological and bodily conditions. The main task for modern researchers is to define conditions and techniques that allow us to better detect telepathy and other forms of psi information.

One of the conditions that stands out as particularly relevant is the person's state of consciousness. The tasks and busy-ness of day-to-day life create a kind of 'mental noise,' which tends to be reduced in certain mental states, such as sleep. So it's not surprising that subtle psi information could only be perceived in such states. Since the late 1960s, a good deal of parapsychological work has thus focused on telepathy in association with 'altered' states of consciousness -- dreams, deep relaxation, meditation, or hypnosis. All of these states are states in which people seem to be far more receptive to psi than our 'normal' or habitual state.

The dream telepathy work proved that psi could be reliably obtained in the laboratory under controlled conditions. (That's the good news). Unfortunately, (now the bad news), each single data point required at least three people to do the experiment, and two of them had to stay up all night while the third was constantly awakened during the night. A new experiment was necessary -- one that would give the same quality of results obtained in the dream telepathy research but was more efficient in terms of cost and personnel involved. In the mid-1970s two researchers, [the late] Charles Honorton and William Braud, both independently discovered the procedure that would revolutionize psi research: the mysteriously-named "ganzfeld" procedure.

Starting at Maimonides Hospital, and then at Psychophysical Research Laboratories in Princeton, New Jersey, we used the "ganzfeld" to induce a particularly receptive, dream-like state in volunteer experimental participants. In the ganzfeld, the receiver's eyes are covered with halved ping-pong balls, which filter out visual patterns from a bright incoming light, while through headphones the participant listens to white noise (resembling the unpatterned noise one hears between two FM radio stations). In this way, the receiver is surrounded by a uniform sensory field (a "ganzfeld," in the German language) which tends to induce a state of consciousness somewhere between wakefulness and sleep.

To determine whether the person can telepathically pick up distant information, we used visual 'targets' -- still images (like natural or urban landscapes) or video-clips which the sender attempted to focus on, and which the receiver is supposed to describe from a distance. The 'target' is randomly selected from a bank of images and directly projected onto a television monitor in the distant room of the 'sender.' Only the sender knows what the target is; even the experimenter who is conducting the experiment does not know the actual target for that session (the experimenter was "blind" to the target)

After a short adaptation period, the receiver starts describing, out loud, all the thoughts and images passing through their mind. The experimenter, who can hear the receiver's monologue through headphones, takes notes and records everything the receiver says. At the end of the session, four images, the target as well as three decoys, are projected on a television monitor in the receiver's room. Based on the mental imagery that was experienced during the ganzfeld, the receiver must try to recognize the target that was seen by the sender. By chance alone, the receiver has one chance in four to pick out the correct target. Over the course of many such sessions, however, we find that receivers tend to pick out the right target much more often; in statistical terms, we find a highly significant excess of 'first choices' or 'hits' over misses. This suggests that during the ganzfeld experience, receivers psychically pick up enough information to be able to discriminate the target sent to them from among the decoys. Sometimes, indeed, the information received is extremely accurate -- practically as if the receiver were seeing the image in the other room and describing it.

What's most interesting about these experiments is that they seem to work with quite 'normal' folks -- people who claim no special psychic talents. Over a thousand individuals have participated in formal ganzfeld experiments over the past 20 years, and we definitely can state now that voluntary psi is not just the exclusive privilege of a few 'gifted' psychics. Like creativity, intuition and other 'right-brain' potentials, psi is a universal capacity. Like muscles that have never been exercised, psi may be an innate ability that atrophies if we don't use it. The challenge today -- one which has inspired my own work -- is to develop personal training and testing techniques that can help us re-discover our latent psychic potentials.

 
     
     
 

[This article used with permission of the Psi Explorer CD-ROM]

 
     
 

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