Friday, February 16, 2007

I Want a Classy Kind of Woo Woo

Keywords: Zen; dependent origination; Buddha; Tapestry; Oprah Winfrey, PEARS; Dean Radin; Jeane Dixon; John Edward; Brian Josephson; parapsychology; channelling; mediums

In my bathroom I keep a huge, intellectually challenging book on by a . I’ll never get through it all but I’ve been sampling it for over a year. It mixes high-falutin science with first-hand descriptions of experiences. I don’t have the patience to because I know I’m not good at it, but I have no doubt that there is something to it — something powerful enough to be worth the hard work that's involved.

Intellectually, I acknowledge that there’s also something to “” — the Buddha’s way of describing the reality that everything in the universe is connected to everything else, everything is causally related to everything else. (Or something like that.) In fact, those insights, if I could attain them, are pretty damn classy kinds of awareness. So I offer no resistance to . Indeed, if I had what it takes, I’d be one myself.

Even in the laboratory is dignified enough for me to take seriously. There was a CBC radio show on Tapestry a few weeks ago about , a lab at Princeton where some guy runs experiments showing that whenever the whole world is having a common experience (e.g. on September 11, 2001) his random number generator goes off kilter. I don’t know what it means, but it’s interesting and I am not particularly skeptical about the finding.

But today, I happened to tune into when she was interviewing mediums who contact dead relatives and pass along messages. The TV (see photo) is one of them. The other is a woman who is the real-life medium on which the TV character Medium is based. They showed clips of “readings” that both of these psychics did for bereaved persons, transmitting messages from their dead loved ones.

Everyone was convinced except one woman in the audience who was pointed out as a determined skeptic. She remained that way. Oprah asked her what she thought about God and she said she’s a . That figures. “Humanist” means . In my experience, there are more atheists in this world than disbelievers in parapsychology. I don’t know why, but quite a few people who say they are atheists still believe in “some kind of energy out there,” or “a presence,” as they often put it. I myself find it far harder to question the existence of God than spooks.

But why is that? If the bereaved families are satisfied with these greetings from the “other side,” why should I question them? Because they are so banal. These are not powerful emotional experiences. The spirits do not have anything wise to say. They refer to such things as their nicknames. These are cheap picture postcards of heaven: “Having a great time, wish you were here.”

Of the two mediums (media?), John Edward seemed the more convincing. His face looked un-managed, with genuinely spontaneous feelings. The other woman, who got more air time, seemed to be a nice enough person, but with a Pan American rather than a . They both came up with tidbits of information that seemed to satisfy the relatives of the dead persons. If Oprah herself had any doubts, she didn’t show them — but then I wouldn’t expect her to. She’s deeply warm and caring. My own problem is that the messages from “the other side” were so trivial. In fact, the performances seemed cheesy. We were spectators in a sideshow instead of worshipers in a temple.

And in the audience was the psychologist who had done the PEARS experiments with the random number generators. Oprah called on him twice and he looked very credible — a class act — bald and intellectual-looking, with nicely-chosen rimless glasses. He convinced me to go look up his web site, and I’ve even ordered his book on-line. It’s called Entangled Minds, and his theory seems to be Dependent Origination dressed in the language of quantum theory. It was good enough to win applause from the Nobel laureate physicist , so it ought to be worth the $14 Canadian.

Oprah came up with a story of her own about , the late medium who predicted (I believe) the death of John Kennedy. It seems that she, Oprah, had been doing a show for a few hundred people with Dixon and after it was over she got the word. Dixon told her that she was going to be a powerful woman, speaking to millions of people and living like a queen. So there you are. QED.

I sound more cynical here than I actually am. It’s just the camel’s head under the tent. Once you open up the possibility that anything weird is going on, then every weird thing on earth has as much right as anything else to crawl into the tent.

My way of managing this is to forget things. I’ve had a few weird things that convinced me at the time. But then I forget them and act as if I never believed any of it. And that’s what I’ll do this time too. What else is there to do — sit around all day wondering whether every stray thought that crosses your mind is a message from the other side?

Because there’s not much you can do that’s practical. Even Radin admits that the success rate is not generally a high percentage – just enough higher than statistically predicted to be way beyond chance. Say 56 percent when one would expect 50 percent. And those additional six percentage points are not packed with profound insights. Me, I want a classy kind of woo woo.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here are a few thoughts to chew on....

(By the way, I love your blog, your writing is wonderful, and I am surprised others have not responded to this!)

People not only have common experiences, they can see things before they happen. It's not a literal thing, it's just as if the universe has certain vibrations that makes the registration out of whack. You get a piece of what's to come. A lot of people, just prior to September 11 experienced sensations of falling, or dreams where they collapsed through something. This is prophetic. It's significant. But not only is it a warning of something about to come, it is a gift. WE CAN CHANGE IT. WE CAN ALTER THE COURSE. (And sorry about the caps.)

As for John Edward. You are right! He is selling postcards from Heaven. And he is getting totally rich off it. You can't deny the power, it's evident. I have been to one of his shows. I walked in a believer and walked out still believing, but questioning his motivation.

People put a lot into the spiritual realm. But isn't it interesting to think of all the Polytheistic cultures who pointed out different characteristics of their gods? Some were nothing more than jokesters! Perhaps if we reincorporated the trickster in to religion, people would look at it with a critical eye and question, "is this real? is it a prank?" I think of all the evangelicals who contort themselves into theatrics. People are so desperate, people want convenience, they would do anything to "fix their pain". Except think. And what's sad, is so many have the capacity to think.

I want to offer a book I found interesting. Perhaps you will find it more engaging than your bathroom reader. I suggest it for your kitchen, actually. Read Messages From Water by Masaru Emoto. Our livelihood is dependent on water. That is truth. As a result of destroying our planet, we will be displacing our freshwater for for salt. Water will become a future struggle and we need to learn what it is that is around us and part of us that unites all things.

I am not selling truths or the book, save a tree and borrow from the library. But it makes you think about the power in every day stuff. The influence of your words, the ability to go from death to life because of a simple change in structure.... The book offers no scientific sense, and yet it's something I think is fundamental to know about.

6:11 PM  

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