A Trip to the Society for Psychical Research
It’s not often that I have the chance to head into London for the Society of Psychical Research (SPR) Study Days, but this was one that I really didn’t want to miss. Especially given that there were some excellent people speaking and that it was this very area that helped me to stop and re-think my own perception of the paranormal at one time. You see it was whilts scanning through YouTube a few years back, that I stumbled upon a TED Talk by Rupert Sheldrake in which he discussed telepathy and the large amount of evidence that supports its existence. What I found particularly facinating about this talk was that it was information delivered by a biologist that had seen similarities in the natural world. It was that talk that inspired me to read up on his theory of Morphic Fields and look into the ‘Sense of Being Starred At’. These helped me to see many similarities in the field I am usually associated with which involves the investigation of ghosts and spirits. Perhaps our very perception of ghosts and spirits were actually telepathic interactions of some kind.
This all haunted me (pardon the pun) and actually had me re-read Myers work on the survival of personality. Then inspired the creation of my own theory of telepathic interaction with ideograms whilst on holiday in Turkey, a copy of which is available in the SPR library or on my website.
One of the other speakers at the Study Day was Cal Cooper, who I have also had a few brief conversations with regarding the paranormal and some of his work has also fascinated me too. So, I knew it would be a great opportunity to meet him face to face, rather than behind the social media curtain.
Even though this was the first time I had managed to attend an SPR Study Day, the first thing that struck me was the new SPR premises in Vernon Mews. I know I never had a chance to visit the old premises, but discussions with other SPR members certainly highlighted how much more space the new place has in comparison. This was evident by the excellent lecture room on the ground floor and the library on the top floor. All in all a fantastic space that is great for lectures, but also an amazing place to immerse yourself and work on research.
Charmaine Sonnex – Effects of Healing on Animals, Plants & Cells
The first lecture of the day was by Dr. Charmaine Sonnex, who told us about a meta-analysis she had worked on regarding the healing of animals, plants and cells. A meta-analysis is a method for statistically combining the results of studies that are included in a systematic review, in order to conclude the overall effects of an intervention. In this case the intervention being healing at a distance, if I understood correctly that is!
What I found particularly interesting about the lecture was that in each case there did seem to be some indication that this healing at a distance was having an effect on the animals, plants and cells. Although this wasn’t particularly unknown to me as my more spiritual friends have been telling me this for years and I had certainly read some anecdotal reports to confirm their beliefs. As many that know me know what I am like though, without a more scientific balance to the subject the jury from my point of view would have always remained out. However Charmaine certainly helped to balance that understanding during her lecture placing a much better understanding on the subject.
There were some interesting points that she made though during this presentation too. The first being that in some cases, I think regarding the mice used for some of the experiments. I believe the experimenters or perhaps healers looked in on the control mice and this concern for their wellbeing was enough to improve their health too. Obviously from a scientific view point this may be seen as contaminating the control subjects (again I’m no expert), but it also highlights to me something fundamental. Something which Charmaine also eluded to I believe. Although the method of healing was important, the intent to heal or concern for wellbeing can equally give the desired results. Thus the process in which we go about the healing simply needs to be believed by those taking part as correct, as long as their intent is real then the desired results maybe maintained. For me, that makes the whole scenario less spiritual or religious and more about what our minds are capable of! Perhaps we could even think someone better? Saying that though, the spiritual or religious approach does bind the intent with a process or ritual, which in turn brings the belief that it will be successful.
Thank you Charmaine for a wonderfully thought provoking lecture that ties into some of my own personal research, giving it the more of a science balance.
John Poynton – Assumptions of Zoologists
Next up to talk was the SPR President Prof. John C. Poynton, who knows a little bit about biology himself. What I found interesting about what John Poynton had to say was that it was contrasting in relation to why we were there I guess. John raised some very excellent points regarding how zoologists may look at the natural world defining it by the very physical signs that they measure. Taking this viewpoint alone as those measurable physical signs are enough to help us understand the natural world. This approach of course doesn’t particularly leave room for a concept like Psi in the framework.
Of course this very view point is something that has been something that has caused a flashpoint of discussion. The arguments for an involvement of Psi constantly countered by arguments against.
However John did mention two key areas of the natural world that could certainly present good cases for the apparent presence of Psi in nature; 1) the flocking of birds, and 2) tracking over long distances. The flocking of birds has always been a fascinating part of nature, how can birds like Swallows in large flocks change direction and maintain their formation without crashing into each other at high speeds. There certainly doesn’t appear to be audible or visual cues helping the formation. The aspect of tracking is something we have all encountered somewhere along the lines. Whether its the stories of domestic pets travelling long distances across country to be with their family, or homing pigeons finding their way home, these aspects seem to suggest some kind of supernormal ability. Perhaps Psi related.
Rupert Sheldrake – The Sense of Direction
As I previously mentioned Rupert Sheldrake was one of those people in the Paranormal that I kind of stumbled upon. Often this kind of discovery can be more then just informative, it can be inspiring too.
Sheldrakes talk on the sense of direction presented some excellent points that suggest the apparent existence of psi within nature.
The first was back to the cases that surround animal migration. It is fascinating how these many animals manage to navigate the planet to arrive at locations that are familiar to them. The very concept to us could be alien, as most of us rely heavily on sat nav etc. What is more significant is how some return to the same location even when they start from unfamiliar ground or are young and have never been before.
This migration occurs in various types of animals too, not just birds.
Sheldrake then went on to mention homing pigeons, the extensive research with them and the arguments they have sparked too. After all how the pigeons always manage to get home is still a relative mystery, even though everything from their smell to the sun has been suggested and tested.
In fact the interesting research that Sheldrake performed was involving the moving of their actual home. This was to test if the location itself was important or the home that was familiar and often containing family members was the pull.
Turns out that in Sheldrakes original tests the pigeons found their home in its new location, but were not so keen on going inside. Well would you if you arrived home to find your house re-located to another street?
This same experiment was expanded somewhat later in Sheldrakes life when he used ships at sea too. That way the pigeons home could be moved great distances, but still the pigeons would find it and come home.
Sheldrake suggested I believe that these animals may be using some kind of field in order to navigate the planet.
Personally I believe it’s possible that both people and places can have a specific pull to them allowing others to gravitate towards them. Perhaps this is something similar with animals having it hardwired into their DNA for example allowing them to return to breeding grounds which have successfully sustained their species in the past. That could in a way fit with what Darwin tells us about evolution, although I’m no expert in biology .
Lunch and the SPR Library
As many took their break for lunch at the local pub I presume, I decided to spend mine in good company. So, I headed to the top floor of the SPR building and sat in the library for an hour or so, lost in its books and journals.
The SPR library is kind of the picture of the library I want to build myself, if I could of course. So, the one at the SPR will be a wonderful substitute.
After a little while I got talking to the librarian who was very helpful and reminded me of the additional manuscripts and works held at Cambridge University too. Another place I must visit soon.
The library is a fantastic place to study and work, and I really look forward to visiting it again soon.
Rupert Sheldrake – Animal Premonition
After lunch Sheldrake took the floor again this time to discuss premonition in relation to animals. A subject which sounds pretty crazy until you put some context around it.
This section was kicked off by discussing how the behaviour observed for groups of animals could potentially be significant in warning of upcoming natural disasters. Disasters like earthquakes for example.
Once again more explanations have been placed on this like; perhaps animals sense the seismic activity before we do, maybe it’s coincidence and many more. Suffice to say how animals know this is unknown, but they do and it’s beneficial to their survival, so back to Darwin right ?
It would seem that this activity isn’t restricted to natural disasters either as Sheldrake stated cases from World War II too. In these dogs alerted their owners to incoming V2 rockets before they hit.
The modern application of all this are dogs that are used to alert their owners to the possibility they may soon have a seizure. That’s a real world application of something possibly related to Psi, which for me as a researcher and epileptic, but I don’t have seizures, is fantastic.
Sheldrake ended this particular section on a more funny note. This was in the form of how cats know that their owners are going to take them to the vets. It’s apparent to many Cat owners that as soon as the intention from the owner is there in place, the Cat disappears and can not be found! Sheldrake even looked into this to the point where he rang the vets to understand if many Cat owners cancelled appointments. Which they confirmed to the point where some had even stopped appointments for cats as they kept cancelling.
Cal Cooper – Animal Psi
Cal Cooper delivered an excellent overview of animal Psi and plenty of probable examples to boot. Cal’s presentation was packed full of references which I hope I managed to make notes of as I listened.
I was particularly happy to hear him start with the story of Gef the Mongoose too, Gef has been quite prominent recently hasn’t he.
A lot of the lecture discussed various stories and examples of probable animal psi that had been found on Fate Magazine, which were interesting.
However Cal did also mention the work of D. Scott Rogo too; from ‘ESP and your Pet’ and throughout the lecture. Someone I will need to look up and read more on. The Rhine’s even got a mention too.
Of course once again there was a little humour amongst the cases too; whether it was a homing cow or Paul the Psychic Octopus, although I’m not sure they were supposed to be funny. Sometimes life just is a little funny.
Still plenty of references as ever from Cooper, which I will have to look into at some point. Once again there seems to be plenty of available information out there which supports the understanding that there is a possible presence of Psi in animals.
Rupert Sheldrake – Telepathic Animals
Sheldrake’s last lecture of the day was to focus more on telepathic animals and some just seem to know stuff they surely couldn’t do. This began with the information that Rupert had gathered on domesticated animals such as Cats and Dogs. This was also something I had read about previously and found interesting, especially as whilst growing up I am sure I had witnessed this myself with our pets too.
Sheldrake presented some data to support this and told of how he created an experiment to test the fact too. This was based on monitoring the behaviour of dogs at home prior to their owners coming home. It would seem that once the owner had the intention in place to return home, then the dogs behaviour would then change in relation. Sheldrake tested this by sending the owners home at times which were not associated with a schedule and even the owners didn’t know until the last minute.
Sure enough these experiments provided some interesting results, which certainly suggest a likelihood of a telepathic link between dog and owner.
In fact Sheldrake looked into this in such detail that he even ensured that this behaviour change wasn’t related to the dog picking up its owners scent by checking the distance blood hounds could work at, which is roughly a half mile. In Sheldrake’s research this wasn’t the case as many owners worked well over this distance away from their home.
Sheldrake concluded this lecture by introducing us to a rather wonderful African Grey Parrot, which was extremely close to its owner. What was fascinating about this particular parrot wasn’t just its rather extensive vocabulary, but its ability to speak the thoughts of its owner. Surely an amazing example of telepathic interaction that was bolstered by the bonds between a pet and its owner. In fact Sheldrake tested the parrots ability by placing the owner upstairs in separate room out of sight of the parrot, then showed the owner several pictures which were linked to words the parrot knew. Astonishingly the parrot would get many right or similar.
One other thing that was apparent was the strong loving bond that the owner and parrot had, something which was equally apparent in some of the cases with dogs. Personally I think Psi is present in all of nature in varying forms and for different reasons. However that singular connection is more apparent in those with very dominant emotional ties, whether it is one human to another, animal to animal or animal to human.
Heading Home with Thoughts of Animal Psi
Whilst heading home on the train I had plenty to think about and realised that days like the one I had at the SPR were fantastic for arousing the creative thinking. Although animal psi was something that I have thought about in the past and has certainly helped me to realise a great many things regarding the Paranormal, the SPR Study Day pretty much pushed the boundaries on that in one day. What I have written about in this blog post has literally only scratched the surface of what was discussed throughout the day. Which is why I urge anyone that may find this aspect interesting to join the SPR in order to benefit from the wealth of information available.
The concept of Psi in nature is in my opinion something that is vastly obvious, and we should take time to observe in order to learn more about it too. It is most certainly an area that requires greater research, its certainly not all about the afterlife, survival, ghosts and spirits.