1. Telepathy, Clairvoyance and Precognition
We can all obtain information with our minds. When that information comes from another mind, we are using telepathy. When we obtain information about objects, events or situations which could not have come from another person's mind, we are using clairvoyance. And, most extraordinary of all, if our minds were to obtain information about events which have not yet happened, we would be experiencing precognition.
These three psychic abilities are often discussed together under the label of extrasensory perception (ESP). This emphasizes the fact that our everyday, normal sense organs do not play a part in the psychic world. Truly, extra sensory preception is the 'sixth' sense!
As we shall see, there are easy and simple techniques which everyone can use to develop their psychic ability. We shall look at these in a later chapter. First of all, however, I want to describe some scientific experiments which have been conducted with people to demonstrate whether or not they have psychic ability. If you doubt the existence of ESP at the moment, these experiments will go a long way towards changing your attitude. If you already believe in extra sensory preception, I hope this chapter will still be interesting. If it does nothing else, it will reinforce your belief.
Together with these scientific accounts, I have included some anecdotes of how ESP can act in everyday life rather than the laboratory. Comparison of the scientific experiments and anecdotal cases is especially interesting because it allows us to make some important deductions: first, the conditions demanded by scientists for controlled tests can be artificial and unnatural; second, perhaps psychic ability comes much more naturally to a person who is relaxed and self-motivated; third, our psychic ability may be used in many different ways.
The first serious scientific attempts to investigate psychic techniques were made in the 1930s at Duke University, North Carolina, when Dr J. B. Rhine established a department for psychical research. Rhine used a series of simple tests to try and detect psychic ability in his experimental subjects. As we shall see, the results which he obtained constitute good evidence for the existence of telepathy, clairvoyance and precognition.
Rhine's work was based on the use of a special pack of cards - a Zener pack. This consists of twenty-five cards. There are five designs in the pack (circle, wave pattern, square, star, cross) and each card bears a. single design on its face. Thus each pack is made up of five complete sets of cards. In the first tests for telepathy, Zener packs were shuffled and handed to one person, who was termed the 'agent'. The agent slowly turned the cards over and looked at each one in turn. As he did so, a second person (termed the 'recipient') tried to guess which design the agent was looking at. Clearly, the experimental design is crucial. The recipient must not be able to see either the agent or the pack of cards. This prevents him picking up any clues to the design on each card as it is turned over. He must, however, be sure when each card has been turned. And, of course, the results must be open to analysis in a way that proves beyond question whether or not some psychic faculty has been involved. In fact there are many suitable statistical techniques to do this. They are used to compare the number of times that the recipient would (in theory) be expected to guess the card correctly with the number of times that he actually did so.
The probability of guessing each card correctly is one in five. This is because there are five designs in the pack in equal numbers. Thus random guesswork would produce an average of one in five (20 per cent) accuracy; anything above that should be examined very closely, because it may indicate that the recipient was using his psychic ability to pick up information telepathically from the agent. This would enable him to identify the card correctly even though he could not see it. To make the interpretation of these statistical analyses as easy as possible the conclusions are usually expressed in terms of the probability of obtaining a particular score of correct 'guesses', or calls, by sheer luck or chance. The higher the number of correct calls, the lower the probability that the score was obtained by chance. (In familiar terms, we would express probability as 'odds'.)
With tests like these, Rhine obtained incredible results. His subjects often scored way above expectations, sometimes obtaining results which would be expected to arise by chance only once in about every million tests. (Or, to put it another way, results at a level of odds of more than a million to one against chance.) It would be pointless to try and discuss the statistics here. The essence of them is that over hundreds of thousands of tests, two definite trends emerge: first, some people are exceptional and score very highly, say eighteen correct calls out of twenty-five on one or two tests; second, others work only slightly higher than five out of twenty-five, but do it so persistently that their results just cannot be ignored.
What flaws might there be in these tests? Many scientists attacked the accuracy of the statistical analysis. However, in 1937 the American Institute of Mathematical Statistics issued a statement which vindicated Rhine. They stated that 'if the investigation is to be attacked, it must be on other than mathematical grounds'.
Another objection could be that the design of these experiments was not really conducive to telepathy. After all, they involved long and boring tests with little personal interest to keep up the morale of the subjects. Yet, oddly enough, this really supports the results, because under such conditions, it is remarkable that telepathy was demonstrated at all!
Most of the objections to these tests actually resulted from the fact that in the 1930s the climate was not right for such revolutionary ideas as experimental investigations into telepathy. Opinion became divided between the supporters and believers on one hand and the critics - often trained scientists - on the other.
Many of the latter group were abusive and ill-informed in their criticism. Fortunately, there were some scientists who made fair and rational objections to the techniques. This allowed the experimenters to modify and develop their tests until they had fulfilled all the conditions necessary to give their work a powerful authority. For example, the recipient was prevented from picking up information about the cards through watching the agent by excluding the possibility of any communication between them.
There were many other similar refinements of technique. Despite this approach, however, objections are still being raised. Professor John Taylor, in his book Science and the Supernatural, writes: "...it is hard to accept the data, based as they are on the laborious piling up of tens or even hundreds of thousands of guesses to magnify a supposedly real but very small effect." But the validity of Rhine's work is later grudgingly admitted by Taylor, when he writes: 'The hypothesis that initial success is purely by chance ... could only be made to stick if there had been incorrect use of statistical assessment. This had been discussed by Rhine, who notes, I think correctly, that "This hypothesis ... is easily recognized as ... denials of the efficacy of the mathematics of probability".' Such attitudes are often held by those who do not believe in the reality of extra sensory preception. I think it is pointless to spend time and energy trying to devalue experiments which were the first serious scientific attempts to demonstrate the existence of telepathy - experiments which have stood the test of time.
There was, however, one fundamental objection to these first tests. You may have realized that even if the score of correct calls is well above chance, this does not necessarily prove that the recipient was using telepathy. He might have been using a clairvoyant faculty to predict the fall of the cards. If this was actually so, he would get them right whether they were turned over by an 'agent' or by a machine. Rhine therefore extended his work to investigate clairvoyance; we shall return to this shortly.
More recent work on telepathy has been carried out by Dr Thelma Moss (Assistant Professor of Medical Psychology) and Dr J. A. Gengerelli (Professor of Psychology) at the University of California. They also used an agent and recipient, although they called them 'transmitter' and 'receiver' respectively. The investigation did not use cards, either. Instead, the transmitter was shown pictures which had been chosen for their strong emotional content. This was done because Dr Moss had noticed that spontaneous telepathic contacts often seem to occur when two people experience strong emotions. The tests were conducted as follows. The transmitter was seated in an isolation booth, where the pictures were displayed on a screen facing him. The chosen scenes included Nazi concentration camp victims, naked women, men on the moon, the Madonna and Child, and so on. Each scene was accompanied by suitable music, so as to reinforce the impression made on the transmitter. After each session, the transmitter recorded his impressions on audio tape; this provided an unalterable record of his feelings during the experiment.
The receiver was seated comfortably in a separate room about seventy-five feet (twenty-two metres) away. While the transmitter was looking at the pictures, the receiver was told to relax and relate any thoughts which came to mind; these were also recorded on tape. After each session, the tapes recorded by the transmitter and receiver were compared - the occurrence of similar expressions or phrases is good evidence of telepathy. But additionally, the receiver was shown a number of photographs arranged in pairs. In each pair there was one of the pictures which the transmitter had been viewing. Now, we would expect the receiver to guess correctly 50 per cent of the time - after all, there are only two choices for each scene. But a success rate greater than 50 per cent is almost certainly the result of telepathy.
Over a large number of trials, Dr Moss and Dr Gengerelli obtained some very interesting results. People who believed that they had ESP ability guessed correctly at a rate which represented odds of 3,000 to 1 against chance. This may not sound very much, but the results of many orthodox scientific experiments are regarded as acceptable if they show odds of only 100 to 1 against chance. But, perhaps more importantly, Moss and Gengerelli also found that people who did not believe they had extra sensory preception ability (or who did not believe in the existence of ESP) scored no better than the average expectation of 50 per cent. We shall come across more examples of this effect in other areas of psychic work; the implication is that belief is an important aspect of success in psychic work.
These investigations were later developed and gave even more impressive results. For example, tests were conducted with twenty-two transmitters in Los Angeles and fourteen receivers in Sussex University, England. The same procedure, involving the use of emotional scenes, led to results at the same level of success - with odds of 3,000 to 1 against chance. This time, however, some neutral or non-emotional scenes were used: and the score then showed absolutely no evidence of telepathy. As in the original experiment, the receivers' impressions were recorded onto tape and later compared with the pictures which the transmitters had been shown. In many cases, there were remarkable resemblances. For example, a picture of astronauts and rocket ships shown in Los Angeles elicited these comments in Sussex: 'Outer space with a ship heading for the moon'; 'I can see the world as if I'm in a space ship ... I'm in a cabin where everything is floating'; '... the Use Of Satellites and flying platforms'. This is unlikely to be a coincidence, because references to space ships did not appear in any other experiments. Therefore we have yet more proof that telepathy actually exists. There are some other conclusions we can make: that telepathy is independent of distance; that an emotional scene (or more correctly, the emotional involvement of the participants) promotes or facilitates contact; and that belief in telepathy does indeed seem to be essential for success in experiments of this kind.
But the experiments show more than all that! They actually tell us something about the nature of telepathic communication. The point here is that telepathy does not necessarily involve clear communication from one mind to another. The receivers in these tests sometimes seemed to be 'interfering' with the impressions they received of the pictures. In one case, a woman receiver referred to hearing the music from My Fair Lady and a feeling of calmness when the Madonna and Child was being displayed to the transmitter. In another case, a receiver mentioned the Swiss Alps, little boys and ice creams when a picture of Disneyland was being transmitted. What may be happening is that the receiver is 'processing' the images in his subconscious or conscious mind after he has received them. This is called 'primary process distortion' and is actually fairly common during psychic work.
These experiments were generally well conducted, and the results satisfactory. Unfortunately, no attempts were made to investigate either the effects of different conditions on the facility of transmission or the nature of primary process distortion. Fortunately, other workers 1ave developed techniques to tackle these problems. Possibly the most important of these is the 'Ganzfeld' technique. This is a German word which means 'all field', adapted here to imply a uniform field of information surrounding the senses of the receiver. The receiver wears eye shields which allow only a diffuse pink light to pass through, and his hearing is restricted to a background of white noise (this is a mixture of frequencies which sounds somewhat like the rush of distant water). The experiment commences only when the receiver is relaxed, so that internal distractions such as tension, worry and stress are also avoided.
One of the first people to use the Ganzfeld technique for telepathic transmission and reception of information was a medical centre worker in New York, Charles Honhorton. On one occasion, he was working with a nurse called Ellen Masser, who had reported spontaneous psychic experiences. With Masser under Ganzfeld conditions, a transmitter was shown slides of night clubs in Las Vegas. The commentary recorded by Ellen Masser included the following remarks: 'I am floating over some sort of landscape; it's surrealistic; a night club on 72nd Street. And marquees, night club marquees ... just seeing night club marquees in Las Vegas.' Not unnaturally, when the experiment was finished, and she was shown the transparencies which the sender had been looking at, she exclaimed: 'It's fantastic! I can't believe it!'
Ganzfeld work is now widespread. When Charles Honhorton combined his results with those from ten other establishments, he calculated that their overall success rate showed odds of over 100,000 million to one against chance.
Kit Pedler gives an account of how he participated in some Ganzfeld experiments in his book Mind Over Matter. After he had rid himself of the temptations to intellectualize and to create mental images, he found that impressions halfway between mental images and language descriptions formed in his mind. They seemed to come from a part of his mind that he 'had not previously been aware of'. One of the pictures which he was attempting to receive was a cluster of black witches' hats on a group of women. His commentary recorded during the 'receiving' period was along the lines of: 'Black saw tooth pattern like an old wood saw. All slopes, triangular slopes pointing upwards.' Obviously there is a clear similarity between the target and impressions received, although primary process distortion is taking place to some degree. In another test he accurately identified the silhouette of a palm tree halfway up a mountain. These experiments were well conducted and are very convincing evidence of telepathy. They go a long way towards dispelling the doubts of complete sceptics, and they reinforce the belief of those who already think telepathy exists. Such reinforcement is occasionally necessary; after all, the thought that we can 'tune' into someone else's mind is somewhat disturbing!
As the climate of opinion changes, more and more trained scientists are beginning to investigate all forms of psychic experience. Most of these researchers cannot be accused of errors in technique or faulty analysis of their results. Two such scientists are Dr. Russell Targ and Dr Harold Puthoff, who worked at the Stanford Research Institute for seven years on yet another technique to demonstrate telepathy. The procedure they used is called 'Remote Viewing'. Once again, a group of receivers are seated together. This time, however, they are trying to describe a location which is being visited by the other people taking part in the experiment (the transmitters). There is a complex experimental procedure which is designed to eliminate the possibility of fraud. About 100 sites are identified by map references; each site reference is placed in a sealed envelope. An independent observer picks one envelope at random and hands it to a driver, who departs with the transmitters. He opens the envelope only when he is well away from base. Meanwhile, the receivers have been locked into a room with another observer. No collusion is possible between the transmitters and receivers before the test begins and the possibility of fraud is therefore ruled out. At a prearranged time, the transmitters begin sending back signals about the site and its location. They do this simply by relaxing, looking around themselves and making good contact with the ground and objects in the vicinity.
Meanwhile, back at base, the receivers make two records of their impressions. First, they draw anything which comes to mind. Second, they record a commentary on a tape recorder. The idea is to prevent 'wishful thinking' when the transmitters bring back photographs of the site to compare with the impressions of the receivers. (Although I have simplified the technique, this is an effective and impressive way of demonstrating telepathy. Later I give you instructions on how to do this.) As in all telepathic experiments, the first impressions of the receivers are the most important. After the experiment has been proceeding for some time, primary process distortion begins to affect the results. And, as you might expect, better results are obtained when the transmitters and receivers are confident about their telepathic ability and the receivers are relaxed and quiet. The results are not always correct - but I hardly think one could expect that. Overall, the results show a statistical significance - there is significant correlation between the transmitters' location and the receivers' impressions. What are we to make of it?
The results were published in Nature (a highly respected scientific journal), and the result was very heavy criticism in great detail. As Kit Pedler has emphasized, this is an entirely normal part of the scientific endeavour, and once these criticisms have been met, the work is accepted by rational scientists. Targ and Puthoff answered the criticisms and went on to write a book about remote viewing in which they rebut other possible criticisms of their work. Apart from such reasonable and fair criticism, there was also 'a crop of vindictive, irrational, and often extremely silly attempts to ... diminish their status and integrity as people'. Other groups have continued work on remote viewing and their results are, broadly speaking, similar to those of Targ and Puthoff. From all these experiments we can see that the most likely deduction is that people's minds are able to communicate.
Scientists are reluctant to accept the idea of psychic ability because the concepts involved seem to break the scientific laws which they believe govern our whole existence. As we have seen, a lack of belief seems to affect people's success in creating telepathic contacts under experimental conditions; presumably the same applies to spontaneous telepathic contacts. In other words, we would expect most accounts of spontaneous telepathic experiences to be reported by those who have no scientific reputations or prejudice to consider. This does indeed seem to be the case. While I was writing this book, a series of bizarre events and coincidences began to develop; I interpreted them as spontaneous telepathic communication. For example, at one point I required information on brain wave physiology which did not seem to be immediately to hand. My choice seemed to be either to visit a reference library or carry on with a different subject. Putting the problem aside, I went out to lunch with a friend, a date that we had arranged some time previously. Jane was waiting for me when I arrived, and before I had a chance to say more than 'hello', she presented me with an article which contained all the information I needed about brain waves! When I expressed surprise, she told me that she had read the article and thought I might be interested in it. Because I had not mentioned my interest in the subject, it seems most likely that some kind of unconscious telepathy was going on. Possibly Jane had picked up my thoughts in some way without either of us deliberately attempting to establish contact. In passing, we should note that the fact Jane had this information at the exact time I needed it may also be some kind of psychic event.
On another occasion, I established what was quite clearly a telepathic contact, but again without any conscious intention to do so. I had agreed to accompany a friend on a car rally as his navigator. It was my first attempt at this sport, and I was more than a little apprehensive. On the day before the event I realized that I needed to obtain more information about the time we were starting, and I thought to myself, 'I must speak with David; perhaps I should phone him.' Even as the thought crossed my mind, the telephone rang. When I found I was speaking to David, I was, to say the least, surprised. When he informed me that he 'had had a feeling that he should ring me', my astonishment increased. (Even those who believe in ESP are often surprised or shocked when these events occur!) Now, on the face of it, this might all be coincidence. By that, I mean that one could perhaps regard all these events as totally unrelated. But when you begin to practise and develop your psychic ability, the 'coincidences' start to mount up, until there is no doubt in your mind that your psychic faculties are involved.
You will probably have had similar experiences yourself. Although these accounts provide only circumstantial evidence in support of telepathy, together they build up to an inescapable conclusion: telepathy is real - and not uncommon. They also remind us that telepathy does not usually involve direct verbal communication between two minds; it is not a faculty which enables you, shall we say, to discuss the week's events at a distance with a friend. Normally, spontaneous telepathic contact is likely to involve only an ill-defined feeling or emotion in our conscious minds. Clearly the implication is that if we were able to cultivate the conditions in which telepathy occurs, then it would be much more controllable. The idea of telepathy on demand is an attractive one. And, as we shall see, it is also a realistic one.
Before we move on to clairvoyance and precognition, a word of caution is in order. Telepathy is a subtle technique which can easily be confused with other psychic abilities. It is important to be sure that any unexplained contacts, communications and coincidences really are telepathic. A rarely quoted study by Alister Hardy proves this point. He was trying to demonstrate, once and for all, that telepathy was very common. To do so, in 1967 he assembled a group of 200 people to act as transmitters and twenty to act as receivers in Caxton Hall, London. The receivers were trying to 'read the minds' of the transmitters, who were viewing target pictures and objects. Using careful procedures to eliminate fraud, he obtained good results, with very high odds against chance.
So far, so good. He then conducted a series of control tests, in which he assembled groups of pictures at random. The idea was to see how pure chance compared with the results which he had obtained. What happened was shocking: the randomly assembled pictures seemed to be grouped together with a correlation greater than that in the telepathy experiments. The reason for this is remarkable. Under appropriate conditions, objects and events can be brought together to appear in our lives as 'Coincidences'. This is another psychic phenomenon which is discussed later. For the time being, we need only bear in mind that telepathy is but one of many psychic influences at work in our lives.
Do you ever know, with complete certainty, details about an object or event when there is no way in which you could have obtained that information? That is clairvoyance: the passage of information to your mind when it is not possible for that information to have originated in another person's mind.
The original publication from LB. Rhine's department at Duke University, Extra-Sensory Perception, contained a great deal of information on clairvoyance. This was because Rhine had adapted his techniques so as to counter criticism of his experimental design. In doing so, he built an automatic card shuffling machine, which could lay a card face downwards with no human involvement. Clearly if a subject was able to guess the design on the face of the card, telepathy could not be the explanation. The answer had to be clairvoyance. (You might now be wondering how telepathy can ever be demonstrated in this kind of experiment. In fact, it is comparatively easy; you merely ask one person to think of a card and ask another to 'guess' what is in his mind. Exactly the same kinds of statistical analysis can be applied to these results.) Rhine obtained the same successful 'above chance' results whatever design of experiment he used. And there, in one matter-of-fact statement, we have proof of the existence of clairvoyance! But let us see what other points we can make about this extraordinary psychic technique. First of all, clairvoyance is a difficult word to define. You may like to consider the technique of dowsing (water divining) at this point. Suppose you walk across a field with a dowsing rod and succeed in finding water. You might be more ready to accept your success than you would be if you were told that you had scored highly on a clairvoyance test. Yet in both cases you are using a very similar faculty or ability. You are obtaining information about your environment - information which you are unlikely to receive telepathically - by the use of your psychic ability. The point is this: a mere name can affect people's attitudes towards psychic events and procedures. To overcome this an open mind and a willingness to try to suspend your disbelief are important.
Second, some writers use 'clairvoyance' as a generic term for all psychic techniques. This is, however, only a matter of opinion, and not very important. In fact, this point is only significant if you demand proof that clairvoyance is a real faculty, distinguishable from telepathy and precognition. Consider the following example: suppose I suddenly know that tomorrow I will receive a phone call or letter from one particular person. is that clairvoyance, or can it be ascribed to telepathic communication with the writer or caller? There is no way of knowing, and similarly in only a few series of experiments can total absence of any other mental influence be 100 per cent ~proven. Rhine's work was one such series; another was the work of Dorothy Martin and Frances Stribic at the University of Colorado between 1938 and 1940.
Under controlled conditions, Martin and Stribic asked their subjects to guess the order of cards in shuffled Zener packs. One subject, 'C.J.', guessed the design of cards in 110 packs at an average rate of 8.17 correct calls per pack (remember the result expected on average is five). His calls were then compared with the order of cards in other shuffled packs. This comparison acted as a control - no psychic ability was being used. When compared with random packs, the calls which 'C.J.' had made showed almost exactly the figure one would predict: 5.02 correct per pack. Clearly, this is powerful evidence for clairvoyance.
Precognition is not the same as prediction. To predict is to foretell or prophesy. Often the word has no connection with psychic techniques; predictions can be based on reasoning from past knowledge or experience. But, in a psychic sense, prediction refers to some specific procedures which provide knowledge of future events. Examples are the I Ching and other systems of divination. Precognition is generally said to have occurred when a person has gained some knowledge of future events quite unexpectedly - with no intention to do so. This is what the word means - 'fore-knowledge'. Later I shall show how you can increase the frequency of precognitive insights to your own advantage by using a dream control technique.
Precognition covers a variety of experiences. As I have hinted, the most important are precognitive dreams. They are probably also the most common type of precognitive experience. Another type is what can loosely be termed a 'vision': that is, a scene flashing through the mind as though you were watching a film. These tend to occur during moments of altered states of awareness during the daytime. The third type of precognitive experience is a non-visual one. For example, if you had a sudden feeling of certainty that a particular event was going to happen at some point in the future, that would be precognitive. Often such feelings concern unfavourable or tragic events: they are then called premonitions or presentiments. It is my belief that many hunches and intuitions are actually precognitive psychic experiences. I have known several businessmen who attributed their success in business decisions to psychic fore-knowledge. But whatever the type of experience precognition is generally unexpected and unintended.
An individual who has had a precognitive experience often needs no more proof of the reality of psychic ability. I know one woman who woke in the middle of the night and said to her husband, 'Something awful has happened to one of the children.' Later she received a phone call from the police to confirm that an accident had occurred. Precognitive experiences often make a deep and long-lasting impression on people. Even the less serious ones are astonishing enough. But, once again, caution is in order. Consider the following example. A friend of mine experienced what he thought was precognition one day when he arrived home from work. As he walked in through his front door, he had an overwhelming certainty that his wife was going to tell him some bad news about a mutual acquaintance of ours. Sure enough, when he met his wife, she told him about a court case involving some serious charges levelled against this person. It seemed unlikely that he had known about this before, because the matter was quite unexpected, and a big surprise to all of us. When I heard about this, I decided to try and find out whether precognition was really involved. I travelled home on the train with my friend next day. What I believe had actually happened was far removed from precognition; he appeared to have subconsciously read the image of a newspaper headline reflected in the train window, even though this was upside down and inverted.
John Taylor gives a similar example in his book Science and the Supernatural. He relates how he often reached out to pick up the phone on his desk just before the bell rang. Only after this had happened many times did he realize that the phone gave an almost inaudible click just before ringing. That was what had subconsciously registered, and so caused him to reach out before the bell began to ring. I think that the lesson in these two anecdotes is that we should always be careful not to assume that the most appealing explanation (precognition) is necessarily the correct one. Let us now examine some more anecdotal cases of precognition, keeping this note of caution in mind. Perhaps the classic case of precognition is Abraham Lincoln's dream of his own assassination. Shortly before he died, he dictated these details to Ward Lamon, US Marshal for Columbia the White House, who recorded them in his diary:
About ten days ago, I retired late and began to dream. I dreamt that I left my bed and wandered from room to room, seeing no-one, but all the time hearing people sobbing as if their hearts had broken. determined to find the cause, so I went on to the East Room where, to my surprise, was a platform with a covered corpse on it, 'Who is dead?' I asked one of the soldiers. 'The President,' he replied. 'He was killed by an assassin.'
Dr Thelma Moss gives an account of how a cancer research student telephoned her laboratory and asked if he might meet her to discuss what he believed had been a precognitive dream. He arrived carrying a large picture drawn by his sister after she had a violent dream. In her dream she had seen herself in front seat of a car moving along a freeway. Suddenly, a car traveling in the opposite direction had crashed across the central reservation and smashed into her car. The left front wheel had flown into the air and changed into a skull. All these things were represented in an emotional way in the girl's drawing. Now, here is the interesting, yet tragic, part of the story. The student reported that two weeks after this dream, all the events had actually happened. His sister had been travelling in a car; it had been hit by one coming the opposite way, and the left front wheel had flown off and landed some distance away. The girl had been killed instantly.
Another such example was related by Dr J. B. Rhine's wife, Louisa. One day, she had a vision of her elder son Hubert lying dead in the bath. As any mother would, she kept a special cheek on him while the vision continued to haunt her mind. Two years later the premonition came true. As she dressed to go out, she heard Hubert singing and whistling. Held back. by her innate fear, she suddenly realized that he had become quiet. Forcing open the door, she found him overcome by fumes from the gas heater. There is no doubt that he would have died if she had not acted in the way she did.
What should we make of this? What faculty is being used to foresee the future? Why do these dreams, visions or flashes of knowledge occur without warning or without any intention to produce them on the part of the subject? Can we even accept the existence of precognition in a framework of knowledge which includes our concepts of time? If we are looking at events which have not yet happened, how is the information reaching us? Does this not imply that our lives are running to a predetermined course? Alternatively, does it mean that we can use dreams like this to alter our actions and so prevent disaster (as Louisa Rhine did)?
In later chapters, the answers to most of these questions will become clear. I shall also suggest how the occurrence of precognitive dreams can be increased. There are examples of precognition in which a person has learned of good fortune, rather than tragedy. But there is no doubt that, for good or bad, to control precognitive dreams could be very useful. But before we look at ways of doing just that, we must first examine some scientific research.
To test for precognition, one really needs something which is completely random. For various reasons it is difficult to be sure that any sequence of events is not part of a larger pattern. For example, on my desk as I write is a small device which has eight neon bulbs linked by circuitry in such a way that they flash on and off, apparently at random. You certainly could not consciously detect any pattern or sequence just by watching the bulbs flashing. But here, as so often, appearances are deceptive. The bulbs are arranged in the circuitry so that each time one flashes, it affects the state of charge of all of the capacitors in the circuit. And since this is the variable which affects the rate of flashing, each bulb has an effect on all the others. It turns out that the flashes form a rather complicated sequence. Thus we can see that in designing equipment to test precognition there is an inherent danger of using a predetermined series of events. If this was the case, the subconscious mind might be able to detect the sequence. Correctly foretelling which event will occur next is then hardly demonstrating precognition.
The nearest thing which we have to the truly random event is the decay of radioactive atoms. Although radioactive material as a whole has a known half-life (time taken for half the material to decay), the actual decay of each radioactive atom is unpredictable. Dr Helmut Schmidt has invented a machine which uses the unpredictability of this event as a test for precognition. Briefly this is how his machine works.
All the time it is switched on, an electronic circuit drives a counter through four positions in the sequence 1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4, and so on, at very high speed. Each counter position is connected to a corresponding lamp. When the counter is stopped, the lamp corresponding to the position it has reached light up. Next to each bulb is a push button. Any of the four buttons will stop the counter, but not by switching off the counter directly. The buttons activate a circuit linked to a radioactive compound in such a way that the very next radioactive decay after the button is pressed will stop the counter. Thus, after pressing any button, there will be a completely indeterminate and unpredictable delay before the next decay occurs. When the decay occurs, the counter stops immediately and the lamp corresponding to that position lights up. Obviously if the button which a person presses to stop the machine corresponds to the light which comes on when the counter stops, we may assume precognition is at work. But to be sure of this, a subject must score more than one in four (25 per cent) correct - this being the probability by chance.
In one series of tests, a subject tried 7600 button presses and was 27.2 per cent correct. This is outstanding. Statistical anslysis shows that under such circumstances, a 27.2 per cent success rate would arise by chance only once in every 100,000 trials, each consisting of 7600 presses. An even longer series of tests produced results at a level of odds of 4,500,000 to 1 against chance. Though this seems very convincing, there is a drawback. It may be that psychokinesis, rather than precognition, is at work. If a subject can affect the equipment with his mind, he may be able to stop the counter at a particular point.
Schmidt took account of this by refining his equipment. He adapted the machine so that a paper tape with 100,000 digit codes punched in it would control the sequence of the counter. This is a fixed relationship, and the only way a subject could predict the next lamp to light would be by using his precognitive faculty. The results obtained were still at a level well above chance - conclusive proof of precognition.
All the experiments described in this chapter are of interest and reinforce one's belief in the reality of psychic work. But it is the anecdotal cases which may have more relevance for most of us. After all, we experience extra sensory perception in our daily lives, not in a laboratory. The two approaches combine, of course, and you can adapt the scientific techniques for your own use. In another chapter I shall demonstrate how you can do this.