What Is Extrasensory Perception?
What is the source of this power? Is it something for Christians to cultivate?
THE man with the X-ray mind,” “the man with the radar mind”—such are expressions sometimes used to describe extrasensory perceiver These are persons, whether men or women, who are said to have the means to learn something without the aid of any of the five senses. This power is usually referred to as ESP, the telescoped term for extrasensory perception; it is also known as the “psi” (psychic) faculty. What is this mysterious “psi” faculty or ESP?
ESP is said to include telepathy or the consciousness of what is taking place in the minds of others and clairvoyance, a supernormal mode of perception, which may result in a visual image being presented to the conscious mind. The perception may be of objects or scenes, or forms distant in space, or in time, past or future.
Obviously there is something “extra” or something beyond the normal senses involved in ESP. “I believe,” says one extrasensory perceiver, “that ESP can and does give glimpses of worlds and states beyond my ken, and beyond the ken of any twentieth-century earthling.”
SCIENTISTS LOOK AT ESP
In view of such claims by extrasensory perceivers, how do scientists regard ESP? Many are skeptics. They say tests proving ESP must be faulty or else frauds, since ESP is “against common sense.” Dr. D. O. Hebb, professor of psychology at McGill University, says: “Personally I do not accept ESP for a moment, because it does not make sense. My external criteria, both of physics and physiology, say that ESP is not a fact.”
Thus many scientists either reject ESP or come to no definite conclusion. “If we accept these observations [regarding ESP] for what they are said to be,” concludes Dr. W. Grey Walter in The Living Brain, “we cannot fit them into the physical laws of the universe as we define them today. We may reject the claims of transcendental communication on the grounds of experimental error, or statistical fallacy, or we may withhold judgment, or we may accept them gladly as evidence of spiritual life; but it does not seem easy to explain them in terms of biological mechanism.”
Though unable to explain ESP except in terms of the “subconscious,” many psychologists now acknowledge ESP phenomena. Some even spend their time studying it. These ESP researchers, called parapsychologists, have published numerous volumes about tests conducted by university scientists to substantiate the claims made for ESP. Some of the most noted tests were conducted by Dr. J. B. Rhine at Duke University. Recent telepathy tests conducted in a laboratory on a celebrated extrasensory perceiver resulted in odds against its being mere accident of 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. Recent studies in England were reported in the book Modern Experiments in Telepathy, by S. G. Soal and F. Bateman; the authors’ work concludes that the odds against ESP being mere chance are astronomical. For the work on telepathy the odds against its being chance were of the order of 1070 to 1, or 1 followed by seventy ciphers—a million to 1 being only 106 to 1.
In view of the numerous tests conducted by reputable scientists, Dr. H. J. Eysenck concludes in Sense and Nonsense in Psychology:
“Unless there is a gigantic conspiracy involving some thirty University departments all over the world, and several hundred highly respectable scientists in various fields, many of them originally hostile to the claims of the psychical researchers, the only conclusion the unbiased observer can come to must be that there does exist a small number of people who obtain knowledge existing either in other people’s minds, or in the outer world, by means as yet unknown to science.”
WHAT THEY DO
A number of extrasensory perceivers give their clairvoyance in a manner called object-reading or psychometry. “Psychometry,” explains an extrasensory perceiver, “is obtaining a ‘spirit message,’ or as I prefer to call it, an E.S.P. impression, from holding some inanimate object closely associated with the person.”
To read an object, psychometrists use no crystal balls, no divining rods, no pendulums, no ouija boards, although some of them go into a trance for the reading. Many of them, however, handle the object while in the conscious state and almost immediately visions flash into their minds. Then they make their comments about people. So actually the object is read in a relative sense. It is the personal data—the characteristics and personal experiences—of those who have handled the object that are brought out by the reading. The object merely establishes “contact.” The principle is similar to that in which a voodooist, in order to cast a spell on someone, has a possession taken from an intended victim and brought into the sorcerer’s presence; or an object or article may be transferred from the voodooist into the presence of the intended victim, to establish “contact.”
In psychometry “contact” can be established even when the person associated with the object is dead. Even this aspect of ESP has been substantiated by scientifically controlled tests. An example is given in a recent book about Peter Hurkos, a prominent extrasensory perceiver: “In Antwerp I had worked with Dr. René Dellaerts, a professor of psychology at the University of Louvain, to try to unravel some of the mysteries of extra-sensory perception. Dr. Dellaerts would give me a number of photographs of men and women and as I went through them, one after the other, I would describe the sensations I had when I handled the photos. ‘This man is living in Antwerp,’ I said, of one, ‘but he is much older now than when this photograph was taken—it must be 20 years old.’ ‘This woman is dead,’ I said of another. In fact nearly half of the photographs were of persons who were dead and nearly always I could tell whether the person pictured was alive or dead.”—Psychic: The Story of Peter Hurkos.
ESP impressions, whether psychometric or not, deal to a great extent with personalities. Hence, extrasensory perceivers have been used to find missing persons, to track down criminals and to give information about dead persons. Some have analyzed problems of big business. Some give predictions about a person’s future, which are said to be amazingly accurate. Some find lost objects or possessions. Some look at a map and either pick out land that contains precious ore beneath it or a place where water can be found. Some are said to be even able to detect diseases. In general they perceive the past and foretell the future.
HOW IT COMES TO THEM
Extrasensory perceivers usually explain very little about their clairvoyant powers and how the impressions come to them. Peter Hurkos says: “I have no easy answers. I know what happens to me—that my personal life and personal thoughts are swept away as if by a wave, and that I am actually seeing the world through the eyes of the other person whose vibrations I am absorbing.”
Extrasensory perceivers usually agree that the more they use their powers the stronger they become, although some find a long session of ESP exhausting. They say they usually have no control over the initial reception of the impulses, except that they may be able sometimes to direct them toward a particular person or thing. Most of the impressions that come to them are concerned with petty things, similar to the messages given on ouija boards. And as a ouija board may convey messages in languages unknown to those using them, so extrasensory perceivers can sometimes produce sentences in languages they know nothing about.
One of the most informative descriptions of ESP and how it arrives is given by Ronald Edwin, more than thirty years an extrasensory perceiver. In his autobiography, Clock Without Hands, he tells about the speed with which ESP impressions arrive and then vanish. “This,” he states, “immediately suggests one important factor: That the normal processes of memory are not closely involved in the E.S.P. impression, and in its initial stage not at all.” He further explains:
“E.S.P. thought appears to use some of the normal channels of my brain, but it has what I can only call a different ‘texture’ from a normal thought. There is usually no possibility of confusing the two. . . .
“E.S.P. thought comes to me always as an inner disturbance. It arrives without using any of the usual senses of smell, sight, hearing or touch. Its most interesting characteristic is an accompanying feeling of compulsion to do something about it. I have always felt as though I was being forced to say what had come into my head, to tell somebody about it or to write it down. The arrival of an E.S.P. impression is almost impossible to describe. It seems either to burst suddenly in my head like a bubble . . . or to occur as a sudden awareness of something as though an ordinary conscious thought process is about to begin. It appears to slide into my brain from above through the head itself, at an angle of 45 degrees. . . . Names frequently come to me as if they were spoken in my head.”
IDENTIFYING THE SOURCE OF POWER
“Where does E.S.P. come from in the first place?” asks this same extrasensory perceiver. “Here I have to admit that I do not know.” He says the clues are slender, if there are any. Yet in his own autobiography he gives ample clues. For instance, he tells of the time when he tried to prove that it would be easy to fake a spirit medium’s séance, including the ectoplasmic materializations. He bought some cheesecloth for fake ectoplasm. During the seance he went into a trance and later discovered that he had really produced ectoplasm, which was proved by scientific test not to be mere cheesecloth but a kind of protoplasm:
“A percentage of the phenomena photo graphed was . . . quite genuine. . . . In all cases, I was conscious of a strange feeling of ‘extension’ and an inexplicable sense of loss. . . . While entranced on one of these occasions, I gave permission for one of the sitters to break off a piece of the white substance which photography afterwards showed had hovered over my face.
“This independently taken sample was handed to a public analyst, Percy Egerton. This was his report, for those who may be interested: ‘ . . . a sticky material containing many squamous epithelial cells with their nuclei. There were also a few epithelial cells without a nucleus and some disintegrated cells of a similar character. A large number of highly refractile ovoid bodies resembling a yeast were also seen together with a few threads resembling cotton. No pus cells, but a few organisms and much amorphous debris were also observed.’ It is a strange thought that a man in the midst of fraud may also be capable of producing genuine phenomena.”
Here we see ESP linked to spiritism, for the extrasensory perceiver was able to produce, rather unexpectedly, the ectoplasmic figures common to spirit mediums. Moreover, this same extrasensory perceiver admits: “Witchcraft, with its basic ingredients of E.S.P. and, in some other cases, perhaps, of other psychic phenomena, is still practiced even in this country [England].” Note that he speaks of witchcraft as having the “basic ingredients of E.S.P.” Further, spirit mediums are able to produce some of the phenomena done by extrasensory perceivers, although not always in a conscious state. The famous American spirit medium Mrs. Piper was carefully studied by members of the Society for Psychical Research, and, as the volume Beyond the Reach of Sense says, “they all agreed that she had a remarkable gift of ESP.”
What, then, is the source of ESP? The same as the power behind spirit mediums, voodooists, ouija boards and the like—the spirit creatures that the Bible speaks of as “the angels that did not keep their original position but forsook their own proper dwelling place.” (Jude 6) These spirit creatures materialized as men on earth before the Noachian flood; this was disobedience to God, and thus these angels turned themselves into demons. After the Flood God restrained them from materializing again, and now these self-demonized angels operate through humans or mediums. Jesus Christ expelled demons by God’s holy spirit—these self-demonized angels that have power to cause physical disabilities, to torment people and to possess people.—Matt. 12:28; Luke 9:38-43; 11:14, 20.
Demon powers can give humans the power to perceive the past or foretell the future. Their giving clairvoyant powers to humans is nothing new. The Bible tells us how the apostle Paul once met up with a girl who practiced “the art of prediction.” She was a “girl with a spirit, a demon of divination.” (Acts 16:16) Or as The New Testament in Modern English puts it, she was a “girl who had a spirit of clairvoyance”; according to Knox, “a girl who was possessed by a divining spirit.” After the apostle Paul expelled the “demon of divination,” the girl lost her power to foretell the future; she no longer had ESP.
Even though extrasensory perceivers say they help people, this does not alter the fact that God’s Word shows spiritism to be a violation of his commandments: “There should not be found in you . . . anyone who employs divination, a practicer of magic or anyone who looks for omens or a sorcerer, or one who binds others with a spell or anyone who consults a spirit medium or a professional foreteller of events . . . Jehovah your God has not given you anything like this.”—Deut. 18:10-14.
God, therefore, is not the source of such ESP. His own Word condemns the “practice of spiritism” for Christians. (Gal. 5:20, 21) True Christians do not seek to cultivate ESP nor do they consult extrasensory perceivers, the so-called “psychics,” for help. They know that God has given Christians the Holy Bible for their guidance—the Book that exposes ESP to be nothing more than a modern term for the power to produce spiritistic phenomena.