Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Reflections on Rhea White's Presidential Address to the 1984 Convention of the Parapsychological Association

One of the many good things about not having read every book, article and research paper in the field of parapsychology is that I am regularly thrilled by a new find.

The downside of course is that I sure wish I had read Rhea White's Presidential Address to the 1984 Convention of the Parapsychological Association years ago. These presidential addresses usually cover a lot of ground, but there are some fantastic points she makes that shed a lot of light on current thinking in the field. You may have been present for her speech, or you may have read the article years ago, but something struck me at the beginning of the speech that may benefit us to take another look today.

Remember, its 1984 when the speech was made. The parapsychological world is just learning about Remote Viewing from Targ and Harary's book "Mind Race". Cellphones had just been invented, were the size of a brick, and wouldn't become widely used for another decade or two. In 1984, the Macintosh was introduced, the first personal computer using a mouse and a graphical user interface.

Rhea White's address emplored parapsychologist to break out of their current mindset in viewing PSI and its mechanics, since she felt new approaches were needed to discover productive areas of research. To stress the frustrating nature of PSI research at the time, she used the example of the telephone ringing spontaneously, as PSI events are almost always just as capricious.. She asked, how can we make it ring again, who is calling, why are they calling?

The telephone model, with a sender and reciever, was and still is a popular way of conceptualizing how PSI works. Her point in 1984 I don't think was to reinforce or support the sender/receiver idea of PSI, but to point out the difficulty in figuring out what is going on with a random phone ring, something we can still relate to in 2010. But my point here is to take her example and look at it in the light of our current telephone technology, and then update our view on how PSI works.

Back in 1984, for the most part, all calls had a sender and a reciever. Calls were carried with electrical signals on wire, from point A to point B. Other than the occassional thunderstorm, when the phone rang, it was because someone sent a signal on a line to make it ring. So back then, remote viewers talked about signal/noise ratios, and worked to make the signal stronger or the line noise less. To clean up the "signal line", efforts were made to insulate the line with all sorts of things, faraday cages, the ganzfeld, controlled remote viewing, hypnotism, you name it.

Modern phone technology is a little different. Signals from sender and reciever are sent out in every direction, the communication only occurs because the two locations share an agreed upon frequency upon which to transmit the signal. Hundreds of other signals are flying through the air at the same time, but your phone rings because it is receptive to a particular piece of information. The frequency can change with each use, if it does NOT change its an unusual conincidence. So if you get a call, then turn right around and try to find the sender again on that same frequency, it probably won't work. Many of the suggestions Ms. White makes for new approaches to research make a lot more sense if we update her 1984 phone technology to the present one.
Take this process and now think about the transmission of information in PSI events (if transmission of information is actually what is happening). Every person is receiving the information, but only if the person is tuned in to a particular signal will they get a useful communication. The other implications for updating our view of communication via "extrasensory perception" also provide new ways of working with research design and the "how-to" of PSI. I will leave all that up to the reader, my main point here is that evolving technologies such as computers, holograms, and many others give us an opportunity to likewise evolve our way of looking at PSI. Rhea White was asking readers in 1984 to change their course in researching and understanding PSI, and we can do just that by examining what new technologies can perhaps suggest to us about an old problem.
- Benton Bogle

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