Dec 182010

In some Eastern Systems of Personal Development there are only three questions that are considered of importance for the student to answer: Who am I? What am I? Where am I?  The answer to each of these questions seem simple enough for the Westerner to answer, but only because the meanings of Who, What and Where are viewed differently in the West.  In the East however, these questions often form a life’s work for the student of Yoga. Many never get past the first question for it is a type of question that defies answer from the intellect alone. 

Who am I? cannot be answered through the mind, it can only be experienced.  To come to an awareness of Who I Am through personal experience, the student must become proficient in the use of a number of tools, each designed to open a level of awareness of the world that exists beyond that of the physical.  The different forms these tools come in make up the body of the Eastern Yogic disciplines.

The Eastern Yogic traditions are not to be confused with the form currently popular in the West which focuses primarily on only one school of Yoga, Hatha Yoga. Hatha Yoga, as it is practiced in America, has become little more than a form of physical fitness with little emphasis on the development of the spiritual self.

One tool used in the Eastern traditions to facilitate experiencing the answer to Who Am I? is through the expansion of one’s knowledge of self during meditation (another one of those answers that until you have experienced it yourself, seem to be leading you in a circle).  The student is taught that to expand one’s knowledge of self it is important to clear away all things that are “not you” during the meditation.  A key aspect of this practice is the development of Detachment.  There are numerous reasons why Detachment is a key to much more than just a meditation practice, but for the sake of this discussion we will only address the process, not the justification for its importance.

Detachment can be reached in two ways:
           (1) Detachment through Denial (will)
           (2) Detachment through Perspective (experience)

Detachment through Denial is generally the first form of Detachment that a student can find some success in mastering.  I should make it clear at this point that Detachment through Denial is in no way related to the psychological coping mechanism of being “in denial”.  Detachment through Denial simply means that once the student has recognized the existence of a personal desire or craving for an object or a situation, they consciously decide to exercise their will to “deny” the desire or craving any power over them. Obviously a lot easier to say than to accomplish, but change can come about through conscious effort with time.

The value of developing a state of Detachment in one’s personal development is described by Patanjali in his Kriya Yoga Sutras:

“Detachment allows one to remain in the presence of our true Self.  It is characterized by the feeling of calmness, despite the presence of many objects of attention or potential distractions.  This calmness is the emblem of detachment and includes not only an outward passivity, but an inner equilibrium.”
Kriya Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Siddhas [1]

In the Sutras, the distractions referred to are “cravings” for objects and/or situations.  Detachment reached through Denial through exercising the Will over cravings for objects – things – emotions, as described by Patanjali, will not eliminate the cravings, but through Denial they will be under a reasonable level of control.  The goal of the continuous exercise of Denial of a specific craving is to get to the point where the mind “forgets” the form of the craving, and the amount of energy that must be expended in exerting control over that specific craving will become minimal, and thus less of a distraction.

The intent of developing this sense of Detachment during meditation is that as it becomes a permanent part of your “inner self” it will spill over into the remainder of your life resulting in your eventual development of a complete sense of Detachment from the daily affairs of the manifest, mundane world. Development of a complete sense of detachment means you experience the experience, but you have no reaction to it.  Someone gives you a raise for a job well done, you have no emotional reaction; someone fires you for a job not well done, you have no emotional reaction to it either.  But here is where a problem can arise from our efforts to become a more spiritually developed individual.

If one is living in a Monastery with walls to protect you from the outside world, and a rigid social structure to function within that provides protection from the individuals that you interface with, this level of detachment can be safely practiced. 

For the rest of us, Detachment through Denial, when used in balance and in its proper place can be beneficial, but the use of this method in the mundane world, as opposed to the artificial environment of a monastery, can result in unintended consequences.

The fact that we must be aware of is that the overwhelming majority of our fellow inhabitants of this planet neither understand, nor are much interested in understanding, our interest in developing a sense of detachment.  As a result, they can misinterpret one of the aspects that manifests in an individual as they develop a sense of Detachment through Denial.

“This calmness is the emblem of detachment and includes not only an outward passivity, but an inner equilibrium.” (Emphasis mine.)

The appearance of “outward passivity” has become a prominent goal in many of the Westernized Yogic and New Age Philosophies.  It has been promoted as a character trait to be prized and developed on its own, rather than recognized as an outer manifestation of an inner development. 

The snag is that Passivity developed as a personality trait alone, can actually draw conflict.

Ok, that is a pretty strong statement and one that seems to be counter to most of the Spiritual Development movements popular today.  To be able to put this statement into context and to understand the social process involved, Passivity must be viewed in terms of one of the many personality related energy signals that we unconsciously radiate.

As a Human Consciousness (Soul) made up of a complex compilation of pure energy patterns, we constantly radiate information in the form of signal patterns (waveforms) that our fellow beings are aware of on a “sub-conscious” level.  Someone instinctively knows when we a feeling down, or ill, or angry.  They get this knowledge from the signals that we transmit just as a part of being an active consciousness, and then they interpret the pattern received in terms that they are familiar with as a result of their own energy patterns.  In other words, they recognize the signal pattern of the emotion of say, happiness, in themselves, so when they receive a similar signal pattern from another individual, they interpret the signal to mean that the other individual is “happy”.  In a Parapsychology Laboratory this process is studied under the classification of ESP, but it is a process that goes far beyond the limits that mainstream science has placed on the laboratory definition of ESP.

One segment of these patterns, the Active Personality, is associated with the type of person or personality type that we exhibit under normal social conditions.  This personality type can be portrayed as a signal pattern located within a frequency spectrum where one end of the spectrum is labeled as Totally Passive, and the other end of the spectrum is labeled as Totally Aggressive.  It is doubtful that anyone remains long at either end of the spectrum, except possibly for a brief moment in time, or that anyone is at any given position in between the two extremes for all situations in their life.

[Totally Passive    –    Assertive    –    Totally Aggressive ]
(lower frequency)  –  Active Personality Spectrum  –  (higher frequency)

The flow of energy between individuals whose personality types are normally located at different positions on the spectrum between Passive and Aggressive is similar to that experienced in Thermodynamics, the science of heat.  In Thermo, the direction of flow of heat is always from the material of greater temperature to that of lesser temperature.  Since heat is simply an expression of the rate of vibration of the material, the direction of flow is from the material that is vibrating at a higher rate, or frequency, to that which is vibrating at a lower rate, or frequency.

If you equate Aggression with the higher frequency of the warmer material, and Passivity with the lower frequency of the cooler material, you find that Aggression automatically flows towards Passivity.  This flow occurs as a natural process without thought in most individuals and its sudden appearance can frequently be a surprise to them.  It is an unconscious reaction, although some people do find that allowing their aggressive side to come out results in their getting their way, and then come to consciously use it.

The goal in our personal development is to strike a balance between the two extremes of being either totally passive or totally aggressive.  This balance point can be described as Assertive.

Assertiveness does not refer to a specific point or frequency on the spectrum.  Rather it refers to the process of conscious decision making involved in the individual’s attempt to maintain a balance in their interactions with other Human Consciousness’s.  Balance refers to being able to maintain whatever position we have chosen to occupy between the two extremes in the Active Personality energy spectrum.  

For example, if we are interacting with an individual who is further toward the Passive end of the spectrum than we occupy, we can consciously decide to control (consciously reduce) our own level of aggression, thus preventing the flow of our more aggressive energy to that individual.  In this way we prevent the imposition of our Will over theirs. 

Likewise, if we find ourselves in a situation where someone else is attempting to exercise their Will in an aggressive manner with the intention of exerting control over us, we can respond by increasing our own level of aggression by a sufficient amount to first block, and then push back their aggression. 

To maintain balance, to be Assertive, one must be capable of both reduction and amplification of their personal position on the passive – aggressive spectrum.  The point at which an Assertive person resides between the two extremes of Passive and Aggressive is not some magical mid-point on the scale.  The Assertive person adjusts their position to reflect the situation that they find themselves in.  Focusing on remaining as close as possible to the Passive end of the scale actually stimulates aggression in others.  It is the same principle as the flow of heat in thermodynamics discussed earlier.

Our culture has promoted a passive approach to both personal and international interactions for the last 50 to 60 years.  One of the unfortunate outcomes of this shift in the approved method of response to aggression towards the passive end of the scale can be seen in the rise in the number of cases of “bullying” of children and young adults in this culture. 

In the world of international affairs, our passive response to attacks on our embassies, the USS Cole, the Marine Barracks in Lebanon, and other passive actions such as our withdrawal from Somalia after the Battle of Mogadishu, directly led to influencing the level of aggression openly exhibited by individuals like Osama bin Laden. 

Our lack of “appropriate” response to these events influenced the decision making process that resulted in the attack on the World Trade Center.  We know this from bin Laden’s own words. After our withdrawal from Somalia bin Laden described the US as a paper tiger who no longer had the will (had become passive) to stand up to those who were prepared to attack it, and as such it was now possible that the United States could be defeated in matters of armed conflict.

These types of situations can, unintentionally, arise when Detachment through Denial and its accompanying outward passivity is practiced without taking into account the outer world we function in.  If we are successful in becoming completely detached from the outcome of events in our lives, we not only give the appearance of being Passive, but in fact we do become Passive, accepting of any form of Aggression, without limits, that we may be subjected to.

The second way of reaching Detachment, Detachment through Perspective, comes to the individual almost as a side effect, as they develop an understanding of Who Am I?  As the individual, through practice, experiences the expansion of one’s knowledge of self, the location of items on their lists of things that are “important in their lives”, and of things that are “nice to have but that are not all that important”, and of things that are “no longer important” in their lives at all, began to shift, with more and more items moving to the “no longer important” list. 

It is at this point in the individual’s development that a different kind of detachment process begins to occur.  At this point the person becomes detached from cravings and desires, not as a result of a conscious decision, but as the result of the process of putting things into perspective. 

Because the individual who is practicing Detachment through Perspective will typically appear to be calmer, more centered, outwardly they will present much the same appearance of passivity as occurs in the person who is practicing Detachment through Denial.  But there is a significant difference.  Because the outer appearance is as a result of an inner change, it is not fixed in one place on the Active Personality Spectrum as it is when the outer appearance is as the result of a decision to not allow events to trigger any emotional response, regardless of the provocations involved.

Detachment as a result of perspective allows the individual to evaluate each situation and apply the appropriate response (be assertive) without that response being based on emotion. Remember, this was the original goal of developing a sense of detachment, the ability to control ourselves through conscious choice, with the choices being grounded in our personal values, in place of being driven to act (being distracted) by our emotional response to stimuli.

So, since it can take a lifetime to develop Detachment through Perspective, and working on our program of personal spiritual development utilizing the process of Detachment through Denial can result in inviting aggression by projecting passivity, what are we to do? 

I would suggest that the individual who is working on a program of personal development, in addition to the kinds of meditative processes used to acquire a sense of detachment that are outlined in works such as Patanjali’s Kriya Yoga Sutras, spend some time meditating on just what constitutes a reasonable response to the various kinds of situations that an individual is likely to encounter in their daily life.   By using the concept of Assertiveness detached from emotional response as a guide in determining what constitutes a reasonable response during their meditations, if or when one of the situations meditated on arises, the individual will be better prepared to react to the situation appropriately.

 [1] Kriya Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Siddhas, Translation, Commentary and Practice by Marshall Govindan

Dec 052010

I am always baffled by “Researchers of the Paranormal” when they mock those with personal experience of the very subject that the researcher professes to be studying, personal experience acquired as a result of an individual’s possession of any number of forms and degrees of psychic abilities.  For the paranormal researcher to discount or make light of the use of Psychics and/or Mediums indicates a lack of knowledge of the subject matter being investigated.

My guess is that by doing so they are attempting to create the perception that they are approaching the subject from a real world “scientific” point of view, and therefore should be accorded the appropriate level of respect customary for one who is involved in “scientific research”.  It has always had just the opposite effect on me, leading me to wonder just how qualified the researcher is, and do they even understand what it is that they are attempting to do research on?

To do “serious” research one is expected to use the scientific method. By definition, when using the scientific method, one is not supposed to allow oneself to be influenced by preconceived biases, in this case, a bias against data collected through the human psychic.  The research is, ideally, to be based upon a starting theoretical model that is modified over time as data is collected and analyzed.  The parts of the model that can be verified, or at least not discredited, are kept in the model.  The parts of the model that are demonstrated to not be accurate are discarded or modified.

To develop the initial model and then to be able to do data analysis requires at least some knowledge of the field being investigated.  For example, I would not expect to find a Mechanical Engineer doing research in the field of Molecular Biology.  The individual might have an excellent education and be a very good Mechanical Engineer, but their ability to develop models, devise experiment protocols and then do data collection and analysis in the area of Molecular Biology, would not be consistent with their education or life experience.

It has been my observation that most of those who I have come in contact with who are interested in Paranormal Research are sincere, enthusiastic individuals with, at best, some background in either the popular culture’s fascination with meters, recorders and other Paranormal Research Equipment, or some background or belief in Psychic phenomena.   It is rare that I find anyone who has much of a background in the physical sciences.

As far as I can tell with only limited knowledge of their organizations and methods, of the various Paranormal groups that I am at least somewhat familiar with today, including the ones with the most popular shows on TV, none of them have, or at least do not state that they have, a working model to start with or use in their investigations, have no experimental protocols, and focus their entire efforts on the setting up of people and equipment for the collection of data.  The data analysis seems to consist of no more than reviewing the tapes/recordings afterwards to see if any anomalies show up, and then they stop at the point where they recognize that they “got something”.

I have no wish to discourage anyone from joining any of these groups.  I do understand the interest many people have in participating in events that might allow them to have a personal experience with a paranormal event, therefore gaining some assurance that there is “Life After Death”.  Many of the organizations I have looked at in my research have a common mission statement that recognizes this as their specific main function, “To find proof that there is life after death”.  At the same time, to let my sarcastic side out for the moment, the requirements for being a qualified Paranormal Investigator today seem to revolve around not much more than having a catchy name and logo for the group, and it helps if everyone has matching tee-shirts and or jackets with the logo printed on them.

But to be fair about it though, where can the sincere individual find a means of obtaining a solid background education in this discipline?  Although there are many individuals who I respect in this field from whom one could learn much within the specific area of their expertise, I am not aware of any school or group that has a program that could provide the basics in the all of the following areas: (1) basic scientific methods, (2) basic material world science/physics, (3) a beginning model for the non-physical portion of the universe that is supposed to be the area of origin of Paranormal phenomena, and (4) the development in the individual of any of the many forms of psychic abilities such as Clairvoyance, Clairaudience, Clairsentience, Empathic Abilities, Medium, Trance Medium, Psychometry, etc., any or all of which would be useful in Paranormal Research.  To understand why this split exists between the study of the non-physical realm (paranormal) and the working with this same realm (psychics) some history would be helpful.

When using phrases like Researchers of the Paranormal, Paranormal Investigator or Parapsychologist (or Ghost Hunter or Ghost Buster) it should be clearly understood that the root source for all of these phrases, “Parapsychology” has two very different meanings in Western Culture.  Professional Psychologists and Therapists have one definition for the word, and popular culture, thanks mainly to the entertainment industry, has a very different understanding of what the word suggests.  I believe that the divergence in meaning between these two areas came about to a large extent as a result of something as basic as how one obtains funding for their research.  Is the researcher working within classical academia where they must “publish or perish”, or within the entertainment industry, where one must both entertain, and if possible, thrill their audience, if one is to be able to obtain funding from the sale of books and/or from having their own TV show?

University Psychology Departments in the 1950’s recognized that an unexplored area existed within their field which they could no longer ignore.  Although still not willing to officially investigate any phenomena that fell outside of preset fixed boundaries that discounted any suggestion of the possibility of life in any form other than physical, or of an intelligence that resided somewhere other than the human brain, still, colleges and universities began adding courses in Parapsychology to their curriculums.  By the late 1970’s, for a short period of time, there were even a number of US Universities that were offering degrees in Parapsychology.

In what was probably an attempt to present an aura of scientific respectability about the subject, the fathers of modern parapsychology rejected the study of any area that could not be first demonstrated as valid using the “scientific method” in a laboratory setting.  By doing so, Parapsychology research in the University environment became restricted to only that which could be documented using statistical analysis.  Observational Data, no matter how ground breaking in the field, which could not be reproduced over and over again in the lab (the classic ESP Zener Card experiments) was rejected out of hand.  Field work to investigate such anomalies as hauntings were completely out of the question.  Funding for research in an academic environment is dependent upon the kind of physical results that can be produced as a result of the research, mainly in the form of statistical data reports and scholarly papers submitted for peer review.  One’s funding was likely to dry up if all you had to show for your research was some audio tapes of a onetime event where a haunting was being investigated.

A college text of that period by two professors at Duke University, titled PARAPSYCHOLOGY, FRONTIER SCIENCE OF THE MIND, A Survey of the Field, the Methods, and the Facts of ESP and PK Research, by J. B. Rhine and J. G. Pratt[1], pretty well summed up the attitude of mainstream science in the title.  The boundaries set by science at that time placed parapsychology exclusively within the realm of the “mind,” and dealt almost singularly with ESP (Extrasensory Perception, non-physical communications between individuals) and PK (Psychokinesis, the ability to move objects with the mind).  Some excerpts from this textbook follow:

“It should from the very beginning be made clear that the phenomena with which parapsychology deals are all, without exception, events of nature. In other words, the field of problems belongs entirely to natural science. As the next chapter will indicate, the observations and experiments are dealt with strictly in the established manner of scientific inquiry. Accordingly, whatever comes out of the investigations of this field belongs, just as in any other branch of science, to the body of organized knowledge known as natural law.

What, then, identifies a psychical phenomenon as parapsychical? It is an occurrence that has been shown by experimental investigation to be unexplainable wholly in terms of physical principles. It is, in fact, the manifestly nonphysical character of parapsychical phenomena that for the present constitutes their only general identifying feature and marks them off from the rest of general psychology. This does not, of course, alter the fact that the data of parapsychology are natural. As a matter of fact, our concept of what is “natural” is built up out of just such discoveries of science as they are made; accordingly it goes on growing, and will continue to do so, with each added bit of knowledge. It is now clear that, contrary to some of the limiting philosophies that currently prevail, nature extends beyond the domain of purely physical law.

The distinction of these parapsychical occurrences from physics is not, however, an absolute one. Rather, they usually involve physical events or objects, either as stimuli or as effects. But there is always some distinct point at which a completely physical interpretation is manifestly inadequate. To illustrate, the direct influence of human volition on a moving object without the use of any kind of physical energy to achieve the effect would constitute a phenomenon for parapsychological study. Or again, an individual may obtain knowledge of an event occurring beyond the range of his senses and his reasoning abilities. If there should be no transfer of physical energy from the event to the individual, no sensory function could convey the knowledge and the experience would be parapsychical.”

The last paragraph would seem to provide justification for the categorizing as Paranormal Researchers those groups that go under the modern label of “Ghost Hunters”.  A common thread for these groups is the collection of data in the form of video and/or audio recordings of images/sounds that cannot be traced to a mundane physical source.

The naysayers claim that the study of Parapsychology using the Scientific Method has never produced a result indicative of any actual phenomena, and the enthusiasts tend to ignore the collection of hard data using the Scientific Method in favor of experiential data that by its’ nature cannot be replicated, thereby invalidating it to the mainstream scientific community (a Sensitive is used to experience discarnate entities).  It is my belief that the study of Parapsychology and Paranormal Phenomena can and should be undertaken within the standards of the Scientific Method, but absolutely also requires the inclusion of those areas of experience generally labeled as psychic or spiritualist.

Using the Scientific Method to prove a theory in Parapsychology, or to demonstrate that someone has actual ability to cause Parapsychological Phenomena such as PK to occur, would require that all variables be maintained at a consistent value for each test, and that by doing so identical results can be obtained each time the test is run.  For example, placing an individual in an identical environment for each test, and using the same deck of Zener cards each time for an ESP experiment, would theoretically result in obtaining identical test scores each time, something that researchers have not been able to accomplish.  The challenge that the researcher runs up against in using the scientific method is determining what constitutes an identical environment, and then being able to replicate it.

The disadvantage placed on the researcher in doing this type of research, compared to standard physical sciences research, are the restrictions placed upon the tester’s ability to identify the variables involved.  To be able to know what the variables are to such a degree that there is a high probability of their being either controlled in order to prevent variability between tests, or where their variability can at least be monitored and recorded for each test is an absolute must.

For most researchers though, if the testing is of a phenomenon that is tied to non-physical world events, such as a haunting, it may be not only impossible for them to identify the variables, but in mainstream science they are not even allowed to accept the possibility of the existence of such variables, much less be able to ensure that they are the maintained the same for each event.  Taking it a step further, when mainstream science refuses to even allow for the possibility that there may be non-physical variables involved, then their tests are in fact, not based on the Scientific Method, with the end result being that the tests are being rigged to always provide them with a negative answer which is the only answer that they can accept.

How is it that researchers in the academic environment cannot even speculate on the possibility of other, non-measureable variables in this field, let us take a look at another excerpt from this textbook:

“Parapsychology needs also to be distinguished from popular concepts connected with certain areas of practice or belief which are sometimes confused or associated with it. Occultism is one of these. This term designating the study of hidden arts or principles does not apply to the scientific type of approach that characterizes parapsychology. Spiritualism is another term that has been widely associated with parapsychology. Spiritualism, however, is a religion, having for its central emphasis belief in the existence of a world of discarnate personalities supposedly able to communicate with the living, mainly through mediumship. They are also believed capable of manifestations such as hauntings and poltergeist phenomena (a sort of rough‑housing attributed to noisy spirits). As with all religious systems of belief, there are certain doctrines in Spiritualism based upon the assumption of capacities that have not been verified by scientific method in parapsychology. The relationship of parapsychology to areas possibly involving its principles is, in general, something like that of a pure to an applied science area. There is the important difference, however, that in no instance in parapsychology as yet has such application grown out of preceding laboratory discovery.

Certain of the terms more commonly associated with spiritualism have come into widespread popular usage; for example, the terms medium and mediumship. Strictly speaking, the term medium implies a theory of spirit survival and of communication of discarnate personalities with the living through the intermediation of persons known as mediums. This is a doctrine in the Spiritualist faith and is not a scientifically established fact in parapsychology. It is, however, correct to say that the investigation of the hypothesis of spirit survival and communication would be a parapsychological one (see Chapter 6).”

By definition, according to this textbook then, if the source of phenomena cannot be found in the manifest physical world, then variables associated with experiments involving the phenomena cannot be taken into consideration, must be assumed to not exist, and therefore cannot be included in the research.  Makes it kind of hard to do research in the area of Paranormal Phenomena, which is also defined in this textbook as phenomena that has no discernable physical source, if one is forbidden to look to the non-physical for collecting data.  Any data collected that might be related to the possibility the existence of Life after Death is regulated to the religion of Spiritualism and consequently cannot even be considered in Parapsychological Research.  If it cannot be considered in research by the academic community, then it certainly cannot be included in any curriculum that the school might develop related to Parapsychology either.

I have worked with, been exposed to, and felt driven to reconcile the seeming contradictions between the areas of non-physical phenomena and hard science all of my six plus decades.  Although I didn’t know then that I was doing paranormal research, my first project lasted for a period of ten years, running from the age of 7 to 17.  My education and means of earning an income have primarily been oriented around the hard sciences.  My avocation has been the study and personal development of an understanding of the area the textbook above labels as Spiritualism, and how it relates to the area of knowledge generally referred to as “hard science”.

During the thirty years or so that I have worked with the local Southern California community of those involved in the field of Metaphysics, New Age and “Psychic” philosophies, it has became apparent to me that there is a need in this type of research for both the hard science equipment operator and the psychic sensitive if the research is going to generate the greatest amount of usable data.   The most sensitive instrument that can be used to detect paranormal phenomena is the human instrument; it is also unfortunately an instrument that can be of fluctuating reliability with results from the same individual varying from investigation to investigation (there are a number of reasons for this variation that do not compromise the value of the human instrument, but it is far too an extensive area of study to go into here).

As I stated in the opening, for the researcher to discount the use of Psychics or Mediums in the field of Paranormal Research I feel indicates a lack of knowledge of the subject matter being investigated, and will more importantly, limit the researcher’s ability to produce much in the way of new insights into science of paranormal phenomena.

Despite the official academic position regarding the reality of areas of life that are not measurable by yard stick or oscilloscope, it is my hope that those who are interested in doing research in the full field of Parapsychology, not just ESP or Hauntings, will do all they can to expand their personal range of knowledge in all of the areas of science and psychics, not just in one or the other.

[1] This text was first published in 1957 and went through a total of five printings, with the last reprint done in 1974, a respectable length of time for any college text to be in use.  If you wish to view this text, PARAPSYCHOLOGY, FRONTIER SCIENCE OF THE MIND is available in its’ entirety on-line at: