When you start to develop an interest into the realm of metaphysics, meditation and magick – this curiosity naturally extends into some paranormal topics as well (although I generally steer clear of ghost related things and ‘darker’ stuff). I find studies into these areas quite fascinating, especially how the studies are designed and the creative problem-solving involved (such that I caught myself eating popcorn while reading these articles LOL! Not indented, but proves that I’m such a nerd!). After reading some interesting topics regarding extra-sensory perceptions, I though I’ll discuss some of the things I found.
The scientific branch which attempts to study psychic abilities or psi (as a blanket term for extra-sensory perceptions and related abilities) is known as parapsychology. Extra-sensory perceptions or ESP usually refers to telepathy (mind-reading), clairvoyance (remote viewing, see objects/people at a distance with your mind’s eye), precognition (ability to see/hear/know the future) and psychokinesis (i.e., telekinetic abilities to move/manipulate objects with the mind).
Similar to crystal healing and other energy-based healing systems, parapsychology is seen as a pseudoscience, which falls under a great amount of scrutiny and mockery by the larger scientific community. As I stated before, I always try to keep an open mind about such things, since science has not provided conclusive evidence either for or against such systems. Mainstream science, especially academia, is after all not free of its own problems, cheating and bumbling. Also, when reading ESP studies it strikes me that more-often-than-not such studies actually have lot more rigor and robust designs for data collection and analyses than some mainstream studies. I have also noticed that a lot of additional attention is given to the particular oddities of these studies. For instance, the botanist-turned-parapsychologist and father of parapsychology J. B. Rhine studied ESP using the geometric cards designed by his colleague Karl Zener.
The Zener cards (1930) are a set of 25 cards with 5 different geometric designs specifically; a hollow circle, a Greek cross, three wavy lines, a hollow square and a hollow star. Two participants are involved in the test, after shuffling the researcher holds a card facing her/himself and the potential psychic guesses at the card shape. Scores are kept on the number of correct and incorrect guesses, which are tallied after a session. By chance a person could guess correctly 20% (i.e., more than 5 out of 25) of the time, thus scores above 20% may be indicative of ESP or psi abilities. This method was criticized due to sensory leakage, where those guessing the cards could see through the poor card stock, could see reflections of the cards in the glasses or eyes of the researchers and manual shuffling could make predicting certain cards easier. Subsequently, this method has been refined – even to the point where computers are now being used to deliver the test between researcher and potential psychic (REF 1). Sometimes additional numeric values are assigned to the cards to differentiate between potential telepathy and clairvoyance (REF 1).
Today many mentalists and people seeking to test or train their psychic or intuitive abilities use Zener cards, even though the physical cards aren’t being used in scientific ESP studies anymore. This lead me to reading about how ESP abilities are being tested without the cards and I found a study on how our circadian cycles may impact potential precognitive performance.
The psi-pineal gland hypothesis states that neurochemicals produced by the pineal gland during sleeping and dreaming may mediate spontaneous psi events (REF 2). This hypothesis is driven largely due to 33-68% of spontaneous ESP occur during dreams. Melatonin and N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) are the main neurochemicals involved during sleep and dreaming, they fluctuate during the day and each peaks at around 3 AM. In addition to increased psi experiences during dreams, the experience of apparitions or sensing a presence are also highest during the 2 AM to 4 AM window – a time frame known by many folklore as the “witching hour” and/or “graveyard shift”.
… So this is why a lot of us wake up at 3 AM in the morning shivering from some vivid or horrifying dream! Promptly followed by not being able to sleep for the next few hours. I have also had many inspirational moments during these wee hours, including the creation of my Celestial Rune Sigils as well as various inspirational writing pieces from both the crazy and equally terrifying dreams! 😉 Now this weird behaviour makes a lot more sense LOL! So its more of a “psychic hour” or a “tuning-in hour” rather than a bad one…
Thus, from their research the scientists found supportive evidence for the psi-pineal hypothesis as their ESP participants performed significantly better at precognitive tests at 3 AM rather than 8 AM. Although, a lot more study is required here including a bigger, more diverse sample size and some day-time tests. However, it is an interesting perspective none the less! BTW, apparently ladies can consistently recall dreams more often than gents.
Another article, discusses the problem pertaining to studying ESP with rigid, proof-based empirical systems, since these abilities extend into the realm of metaphysics and quantum science (REF 3). Here subjective reality or ideas influence our real-world perceptions and in the realm quantum physics nearly anything becomes possible (REF 3 and 4). It has also been shown that observing a quantum event can influence its result! Likewise, psi abilities are closely linked to the stochastic nature of human behaviour, where if a person tests positive today, they may not test positive tomorrow (REF 3). It basically is a problem of objective & quantitative vs. subjective & qualitative. Thus, it has been suggested that our approaches towards studying the paranormal and the metaphysical need to move away from the materialistic and reductionist measurements that science holds as the only true way to provide evidence (REF 3 and 5). One would also imagine that this is not a small feat, to loosen scientific dogma, but still be able to provide conclusive results. Such that the scientific aim would be the resolution and clarification of psi problems, instead of the falsification of its existence (REF 3). Thus, much still needs to be developed and refined in these systems, and that the assistance rather than ridicule from the larger scientific community would also go a long way.
For the progress of parapsychology, it is proposed that we accept psi as a conceptual problem (Castro, 2009) and admit the following propositions:
a) That we require, as a hard core, an expanded view of human consciousness, for psi seems to contradict mental functioning based only on the brain structure and its correlate electrochemical activities.
b) That we accept psi as an empirical anomaly, on the basis of both phenomenological and laboratory research.
c) That we recognize that psi raises essential problems about the nature of
reality, such as the acquisition of information without the usual limitations of space, time, and energy, and that the accepted views of the nature of perception, memory, cognition, and communication are incomplete.
Castro (2011) Neuroquantology
So, if you want to train your psychic abilities you better do it at 3 AM! 😛
Nah, I’d rather sleep 😉
All Natural Spirit
- Joshua Brennan (2015) A design for a mobile application to measure telepathic ability. Honours Report. Rhodes University
- David Luke et. al. (2012) A Sideways Look at the Neurobiology of Psi: Precognition and Circadian Rhythms. NeuroQuantology 10:3 580-590
- Jalmir Freire Brelaz de Castro (2011) Reflections about Parapsychology and thePhilosophy of Science: Has Parapsychology Progressed As a Science to the Point Where Science Can Include Psi and Transpersonal Views In Its Hard Core? NeuroQuantology 9:1 106-117 [I really recommend reading this one, it is very informative, well written and not overflowing with jargon!]
- Quantum Meta-Physics by Paul Levy
- Setting Science Free from Materialism. Rupert Sheldrake, PhD. 2013. Explore. 9:211-218.
3 thoughts on “Parapsychology, Zener cards and precognitive dreams: Scientific problem solving for ESP and psychic abilities”