Dr. V.K.Maheshwari, M.A. (Socio, Phil) B.Sc. M. Ed, Ph.D. Former Principal, K.L.D.A.V.(P.G) College, Roorkee, India
Mrs Sudha Rani Maheshwari, M.Sc (Zoology), B.Ed. Former Principal. A.K.P.I.College, Roorkee, India
Extrasensory perception (ESP), perception that occurs independently of the known sensory processes. Extrasensory perception (ESP) involves reception of information not gained through the recognized physical senses but sensed with the mind. The four most commonly reported types of extrasensory perception are telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, and psychokinesis.
Telepathy (from the Greek τηλε, or tele, meaning “distant,” and πάθεια, or patheia, meaning “feeling”) is the claimed ability of humans and other creatures to communicate information from one mind to another without the use of extra tools such as speech or body language.
Clairvoyance (from 17th-century French, clair meaning “clear” and voyant meaning “seeing”) is the purported ability to gain information about an object, location, or physical event through means other than the known human senses. It is a form of extra-sensory perception. A person with this ability is referred to as a clairvoyant.
Precognition, or precog (from the Latin præ-, meaning “prior to,” and cognitio, meaning “getting to know”), is a form of extrasensory perception in which a person is said to perceive information about places or events through paranormal means before they happen.
The term psychokinesis (from the Greek ψυχή, psyche, meaning “mind, soul, heart, or breath,” and κίνησις, kinesis, meaning “motion, movement” — literally, “mind-movement”), also referred to as telekinesis (literally, distant-movement) strictly describes the movement of matter. Sometimes abbreviated PK and TK, respectively, these are terms coined by publisher Henry Holt to refer to the direct influence of the mind on a physical system that cannot be entirely accounted for by any known physical energy (i.e., moving objects with the mind)
Most ordinary people and many scientists assume that conscious and sensuous experiences are the only realties in the world. However, there are some experiences in human life which are not connected with immediate sense perception. These are generally named in various ways. Some of them are called telepathy, extrasensory perception, miracles, supernatural phenomena, and mystic or religious experiences.
There are critics of these extraordinary happenings among religious groups as well as outside them. In August 1955, Science carried an editorial on ESP research by Dr. George R. Price, a chemist from the University of Minnesota, stating that scientists had to choose between accepting the reality of ESP or rejecting the evidence. Price had carefully studied the data and he frankly admitted the best experiments could only be faulted by assuming deliberate fraud, or an abnormal mental condition, on the part of the scientists. Price felt that ESP, judged in the light of the accepted principles of modern science, would have to be classed as a miracle (this judgment, as we will point out later, is ill founded). Rather than accept a miracle, he suggested accepting the position of the eighteenth-century philosopher, David Hume, who said those who report miracles should be dismissed as liars.
Official recognition of the experimental competency of psi researchers did not come until December of 1969 when the American Academy for the Advancement of Science granted affiliate status to the researchers in the Parapsychological Association. Recent decades have shown authoritative scientific voices displaying a new willingness to deal with the evidence for ESP
Other criticisms relating to repeatability, fraud, statistical inferences, experimental design and interpretation of data have continued. In fact, psi researchers closely scrutinize each other’s work and have often been their own most thorough critics (making it rather easy for would-be debunkers to seize upon their criticisms as grounds for discrediting the entire field). As a response to criticism psi researchers have slowly, sometimes erratically and sometimes steadily, improved the quality of their experiments while continuing to obtain data which they believe is anomalous.
They were not studied by scientific mind until Professor William James of Harvard University collected, compiled, and classified some of them as religious experiences. Most of the psychologists ridiculed these extraordinary experiences studied by Professor James and often called them pathological states. We are happy that he collected these facts for general observation and study in a thorough going and scientific way. He did not ridicule them nor show any preconceived notion or prejudice against them. Rather he submitted them for fair and dispassionate study and investigation.
Some honest sceptics, meanwhile, while continuing to reject the psi hypothesis, reluctantly acknowledge that some of the research deserves careful scrutiny from the mainstream scientific community. It is admitted that these unusual experiences of man cannot be observed objectively as they are not generally repeated for controlled observation at the convenience of the investigators. Yet it is the height of folly to ridicule or condemn them without thorough scientific investigation.. There are a few advanced societies, like the Society for Psychical Research, which are trying to investigate some of these phenomena. They have studied such experiences and have collected some undeniable facts which fall within the scope of the science of psychology.
We do not mean to say that all the claims of such extraordinary and extrasensory experiences are valid. There have been many unjustifiable elements ‘which were not verified and supported by facts. So we cannot blame anyone for being skeptical and critical about them. ‘We ourselves are also critical and discourage mystery mongering. Such indulgence demoralizes and confuses the minds of the people, and it often makes them gullible and superstitious. .As a rule we do not condemn them, as Professor Carlson would have us do, but we advocate a critical attitude and openness of mind so that ,we can actually find the truth about them. The attitude should be scientific in all the investigations. Psychology and science should also have the true spirit of observa- tion and investigation as expressed by Professor James even though these experiences cannot be repeated for the purpose of controlled observation. For that matter, there are many facts in our mental life which cannot always be objectified, as, for instance, the actual contents of emotional reactions.
Professor Rhine in his book, New Frontiers of the mind, describes some of these extrasensory experiences of man and has tried to develop a technique for understanding them. He and some of his colleagues have come to the conclusion that the mind has certain powers for getting knowledge other than through the usual nerve reactions. McDougall seems also to be sympathetic to this system of investigation. It is true that ordinary perceptions are gathered through the nervous system, but extraordinary experiences are achieved without direct contact of the sense organs and nervous system. Yet they have exact and immediate value. So far as the experience is concerned, the same value as if they had been acquired through the senses. They are not imaginative and poetic but are of practical value, as they furnish knowledge of certain facts. These experiences fall within the range of immediate knowledge as opposed to inferential knowledge. Although they may or may not have a connection with religious experiences, many religious persons ,who have higher mystic realizations also have these extrasensory perceptions.
Let us examine a few instances in which such perceptions have actually taken place. The daughter of a friend of ours, who is a great medical man and authority in this section of the country, had a peculiar or extraordinary experience .when she ,was about thirteen years old. She called her mother one night after she had gone to bed and reported that she smelled something burning in the house. The mother made light’ of the statement and asked the little girl to go back to bed and rest. After a few minutes the child called again and insisted that she could smell the burning of ,…flesh. The mother at once got out of bed and ,went around the house but found no trace of fire; so she advised the daughter to go to sleep and told her that perhaps she had been dreaming.
In a short while the girl came out of her room and insisted that she detected a very strong odour of something burning, but the mother could do nothing about it. Early the next morning they received a telephone call from a city about a hundred miles away, bringing the news that during the previous night one of the nearest relatives of the mother had been burned alive by a fire “which destroyed the home. This very experience and other such experiences definitely suggest that a human being can have direct perception of something that is happening at a distant place without direct contact through the senses or the nervous system.
A friend was sitting with us in our living room . She suddenly declared: “There ‘will be a death in this house, and burst into tears. I told her that I had no indication that I would die in the near future nor had any feeling that her daughter or any of my friends or anyone else would die suddenly. So I tried to console her.
About three days later in the course of our service a man, ,who had just played suddenly had a heart attack and died within a few minutes. This experiece of our friend in foreseeing the death is an undeniable fact which witnessed and which ,was verified by all ‘who attended the 5ervice This same friend, while staying in India, on one occasion suddenly told me that there would be a death. She had an immediate experience of that future happening. After a day or two we received a cable from .America that one of our very dear friend of had passed on.
There are people in all parts of the world ‘who are unusually constituted and understand future happenings immediately and directly even before the occurrence of the incidents. Many of us know that thoughts can be transferred to a distant place. Some persons are emotional1y attuned in such a way that they can transfer their thoughts and emotions to one another without speaking or being directly in touch ,with each other. An American friend of ours often used to tell us that he and his mother ,were so close they did not’ have to talk or express their thoughts and emotions; each would know the other’s thoughts and feelings directly and would act accordingly. Again, we often hear of friends or…parents and children who became aware of sickness, of the other, through mental telepathy, even though they may have been in different places or in separate countriesThere is no need to illustrate these further, although many such events which ,were verified could be meniIoned. Generally these are regarded by religious groups as miracles or divine visitations. For instance, the extraordinary happenings in the life of Jesus, the Christ, are regarded in western countries as divine power displayed through Him. ,western devotees often understand these man-ifestations as miracles in some of their Christian or Jewish mystics.
Hindu psychologists, like Patanjali and others, discovered laws of the mind which explain such extraordinary occurrences. Extrasensory perceptions or occult powers are not miracles nor are they accidental; they are governed and controlled by subtle mental laws. Western psychology by ridiculing and ignoring these facts is losing an opportunity of studying some interesting mental phenomena. Indian psychology, on the other hand, took account of these extraordinary powers and developed methods by ,which they can be experiaenced and manifested by everyone. It seems to us that Western psychology is partial in ignoring and condemning these phenomena without thorough scientific investigation. We admit that there are some difficulties in scientific investigation, as the methods of development of these extraordinary powers are quite different from the methods that are adopted by the physical sciences. The methods that are used both to manifest and verify such
powers are purely subjective and internal. Patanjali gives an elaborate description of these phenomena and also the ways in which one can develop them through prescribed methods of concentration on certain objects. He also explains that some persons are born with these tendencies and others can cultivate by systematic practice.
It is ‘necessary now to say a ,word regarding the criticism of these extraordinary powers. We go to a chemist with chemical problems, and he has to apply certain methods which are suitable to the investigation of chemical facts. On the other hand, a biologist will take up quite a different method for his investigation, while an astronomer will apply his telescope and other apparatus for the study of astronomical data. We cannot apply astronomical apparatus to biology or physics. Similarly, psychological facts can be investigated only by psychological methods. So Patanjali prescribes such methods with which to develop mental power.
If anyone wants to investigate these extraordinary powers of extrasensory experiences, he must come to the same state of development as the persons who manifest them. Without having the required mental power it would be impossible for a person to observe and evaluate properly such subtle displays of extrasensory perceptions ,and occult powers. It seems to us the height of folly on the part of scientists to ridicule these experiences without thorough investigation.
We certainly advocate that the experimenter be thoroughly trained as well as the person studied, so that ,we can have a proper and correct evaluation, just as the jeweller, and notthe grocer, can properly evaluate a jewel. ‘We, too, want to be critical in our observation.
There are abnormal persons ,who talk of visions and extraordinary experiences, but those claimed experiences are mere figments of their minds. They have delusions and hallucinations about certain events and also about themselves. People who have delusions and hallucinations show symptoms of mental disintegration. Their emotions are not controlled, their nerves are shattered, and they are much inferior to an average person. A little critical study Will reveal that such persons are abnormal and belongs to department of psychopathy. Many psychopathic cases have such extraordinary illusions and hypnotic spells that they seem to live in a dreamland. It is quite evident that they do not have normal integration of mind, and their behavior is vitiated by their fancies and imaginary perceptions. The real criterion is the effect on the character of the person. If we observe that the claimed experiences have weakened the personality and demoralized the individual, then these experiences are mere figments of the imagination.
This does not mean that all extrasensory perceptions are within the realm of hallucination, however. we can easily differentiate between hallucinations and actual extrasensory perceptions by a critical test of the validity of their effects and by a study of the character of the person involved. The same scientific test will prove when extrasensory perceptions are valid and when they are only figments of an unstable mind. In the case of hallucinations no new information is added to the fund of knowledge. A person who has them is often confused, while in extrasensory perception new knowl.. edge of a fact or event is gained. Patanjali, in his description of the various extrasensory powers and methods of attaining them, states definitely that they are great obstacles to higher spiritual experiences and mystic realizations.
As we have already stated, Buddha, Sri Ramakrishna, and others strongly discouraged the use of occult powers. They also said that if anyone wants to have higher spiritual realizations he must discourage preoccupation with extraordinary phenomena, although these may occur simultaneously with spiritual practices. In fact, we know intimately that in the course of some intense spiritual practices one sometime, unconsciously and unintentionally develops these powers. A real teacher of spiritual life always advises his disciple to stop their manifestation; otherwise, the mind of the disciple would be lowered to the level of these powers instead of being lifted to the divine plane.
Reference-Hindu psychology by Swami Akhilananda