Have you ever wanted to be impervious to the insults thrown at you by sceptics? That’s what you are about to find out how to do, below. The following is an extract from my upcoming book The Deepening: The Art of Unconditional Love. Here I write about something familiar to many people who are on a spiritual or awakening path, or perhaps just interested in psychic experience: the psi wars!
Note: Currently there are two longer (10 000 word) extracts from The Deepening available as ebooklets on Amazon.com. The Truth about Karma, and Trolls and Demons: How to Remain Awake in the Age of Online Zombies.
Awakening out of the Psi wars
One thing that is very apparent from my perusal of the blogosphere and literature on spirituality, mysticism and especially parapsychology, is that many spiritually-inclined folks have an issue with sceptics. Here I am referring to hard-core sceptics who are hostile to any notion related to the spiritual. These people can be contrasted with open-minded sceptics. The later may have strong doubts about spirituality and so-called psychic experience, but they are more open-minded, and perhaps even affable and inquisitive.
I have seen these discussions pop up again and again. The query goes something like this? Who are these sceptics? What’s wrong with them! They are blocked, brainwashed by science. They are too dumb to understand! To hell with them! There is then always a tale or two about how some sceptic was dishonest or aggressive towards them or another psi proponent.
The “psi wars” refers to the professional conflict that exists between hardcore sceptics on the one side and the proponents of spiritual experience on the other. At the top of the tree we have well-known public sceptics like Richard Dawkins, James Randi, Richard Wiseman, Susan Blackmore and (the late) Christopher Hitchins. Their counterparts include Deepak Chopra, Rupert Sheldrake, Dean Radin, and Larry Dosey.
Quite often the discussion deals with professional dishonesty amongst sceptics, aggressive behavior by them or the way a sceptic has deliberately misrepresented the work of a proponent. These are all genuine professional issues in the psi wars that need to be addressed. For people like Sheldrake and Radin, they are either directly involved in the conducting of experiments in parapsychology, or talking and writing about others who are conducting research. And they are often doing this in public forums where those dreaded sceptics lurk. It’s their job to confront sceptics, and it is very important science. So I certainly have no issue with that. In fact I have great admiration for Sheldrake and Radin for their professional courage.
A not-so-wise man?
Amongst the proponents’ community, certain sceptics have a rather poor reputation (the reverse is true in sceptics’ communities).
One fairly well-known and notorious case occurred in 1995, when sceptic Richard Wiseman cooperated with radical biologist Rupert Sheldrake to investigate some fascinating experiments that Sheldrake had conducted regarding a dog that allegedly knew when its owner was coming home – without any visual, auditory or sensory cues. The owner of the dog, Jaytee, had reported the dog’s remarkable behaviour to Sheldrake. Here’s what Sheldrake wrote about what happened when Wiseman went about conducting and reporting his experiments, as described on Sheldrake’s website.
…rather than argue academically, I suggested that (Wiseman) did some experiments with Jaytee himself, and arranged for him to do so. I had already been doing videotaped experiments with this dog for months, and I lent him my videocamera. Pam Smart, Jaytee’s owner, and her family kindly agreed to help him.
With the help of his assistant, Matthew Smith, he did four experiments with Jaytee, two in June and two in December 1995, and in all of them Jaytee went to the window to wait for Pam when she was indeed on the way home. As in my own experiments, he sometimes went to the window at other times, for example to bark at passing cats, but he was at the window far more when Pam was on her way home than when she was not. In the three experiments Wiseman did in Pam’s parents’ flat, Jaytee was at the window an average of 4% of the time during the main period of Pam’s absence, and 78% of the time when she was on the way home. This difference was statistically significant. When Wiseman’s data were plotted on graphs, they showed essentially the same pattern as my own. In other words Wiseman replicated my own results.
I was astonished to hear that in the summer of 1996 Wiseman went to a series of conferences, including the World Sceptics Congress, announcing that he had refuted the ‘psychic pet’ phenomenon. He said Jaytee had failed his tests because he had gone to the window before Pam set off to come home.
In September 1996 I met Wiseman and pointed out that his data showed the same pattern as my own, and that far from refuting the effect I had observed, his results confirmed it. I gave him copies of graphs showing may own data and the data from the experiments that he and Smith conducted with Jaytee. But he ignored these facts. He reiterated his negative conclusions in a paper he submitted to the British Journal of Psychology together with Smith and Julie Milton. This paper appeared in August, 1998, with a fanfare of sceptical publicity in the British media, initiated by a press release accompanying the publication of the paper. ..
Meanwhile, Wiseman continued to appear on TV shows claiming he had refuted Jaytee’s abilities, and even as recently as February 2, 2000 he was still making this claim in his public lectures. Unfortunately, his presentations are deliberately misleading. He makes no mention of the fact that Jaytee waits by the window far more when Pam is on her way home, nor does he refer to my own experiments. He gives the impression that my evidence is based on one experiment filmed by a TV company, rather than on more than two hundred experiments, and he implies that he has done the only rigorous scientific tests of this dog’s abilities. I confess that I am amazed by his persistence in this deception.
Unfortunately this is not the only instance where Wiseman has deliberately lied about the evidence base in parapsychology. Nor is he the only sceptic to engage in such unprofessional behaviour.
Given the level of dishonesty displayed by sceptics like Wiseman, it is only to be expected that Sheldrake and proponents would feel genuine distrust and even anger towards them. Again, this is perfectly understandable.
The problem, though, comes for those of us who do not want to be mere believers in a spiritual journey, but want to ground ourselves in deep presence. We want to awaken, and to remain there, not be regularly dragged back into mind games. And you cannot remain in presence when you are in hostile engagement with another. For when you are doing that, you are buying into the illusions of the mind; in a state of separation. And with that there is suffering.
The truth is that many advocates of spiritual disciplines or philosophies are doing just this. Most, if the truth be told.
A perfect example comes from is Kyle (not his real name) – a strong psi proponent – who has put forward discussions about why sceptics are apparently incapable of perceiving the psychic world. Kyle, who is strongly psychic, revealed that he’d spent a great deal of time trying to answer this question. He argues that sceptics are stuck in the left brain, unable to process psychic information.
Nothing wrong with arguing that, you might say. And you would be correct – if that was all that was going on. However, one of the benefits of being an intuitive is that I can peer into the souls of people (Richard Wiseman might dispute this!). What I perceive is that Kyle’s energy is engaged in battle with skeptics, and this detracts from his capacity to be at peace with himself.
I see the very same energy issue in so many psi proponents and those with a spiritual worldview. The reason for the problem is that many of them are coming from the world of mind and belief. They are not grounded in presence.
The truth is that both armies in the psi war are fighting a battle of the mind. The sceptics think that they are superior because they are more rational and don’t believe in superstitious things. The proponents believe they are superior because they have developed an inner life and are more spiritual, or perhaps more psychic. Yet from my perspective, they are both on the same paying field.
At the deepest level, what another person thinks about the nature of spiritual or psychic experience is none of your business. Certainly, at a personal (rather than professional, if you work in this area) level, you should not be trying to change their opinion. This is your mind giving its power away to an external focus.
Many spiritually-inclined folks have not developed the right relationship with the mind. For this reason, they remain the mind’s servant, not its master.
The world through worldview
To understand what is happening when we become engaged in dramas with others who hold different perspectives from us, we have to understand the idea of worldview, and how it operates. As you grow into adulthood your mind establishes maps of reality. Over time, the mind becomes attached to this worldview. The mind’s identity becomes rooted in it. When that map becomes threatened by opinion or experience, the immediate response from the mind is fear. If you pay close attention to the process, that fear is quickly followed by anger. Finally, the mind will then tend to launch into attack, and try to eliminate the opposing view, experience or information. This whole process effectively bypasses reason (even when the attacker identifies his position as being “rational”), as whatever data or experience is presented to the mind, it will simply retreat to its position of safety – the known.
This same process is true for all of us, regardless of worldview. Both a sceptical worldview and a spiritual worldview are maps of reality held within minds. They have no existence beyond the mind that holds them.
As someone who has explored both very subtle and very deep emotional energies within my body, I know that this fear/anger/attack response to worldview threats is true for me, too. It has remained true regardless of whatever mindful or awakened states I have developed over time. Remember. The ego does not disappear even after awakening.
This is why it is important to develop a practice of presence, and the ability to bring the mind into stillness. It is really only in this state that the mind is detached from experience and data, and can process it in a neutral way. When presence becomes deeply rooted within an individual, the mind is no longer the dominant aspect of self, and the attachment to worldview becomes much less. Yes, it still remains. It is just that a different relationship develops with the mind and its rigidity. This relaxation process occurs because one can see that everything the mind believes is ultimately an illusion. It’s just an approximation of the truth, and none of it perfectly aligned with truth (although some beliefs will get closer to the truth).
With that relaxed presence, a person feels no threat from a worldview which contradicts her own. Ultimately, as Leonard Jacobson says, there is only one ego – and it is us. With the awakening process, you will simply see yourself reflected back in the other. Her worldview may differ. It may even be diametrically opposed to yours. But each of you shares the one ego. Her agenda – at the level of mind – is precisely the same as yours: to eliminate all threats to its beliefs. The difference between you and the unawakened other is that you will rest in presence, as a master of mind.