Traditional Science and Unexplained Phenomena

As a practicing Reiki Master Teacher and someone who has a long-term interest in the science of healing, I am intrigued by the numerous scientific forays into the energy-healing world. Additionally, as the co-editor of the Rhine Online with a personal interest in psi, I have often noticed audiences at Rhine events lamenting the scientific community’s lack of acceptance and validation for psi experiences as well as psi researchers expressing their disappointment at the lack of funding for such research. It is a widely accepted fact that our mainstream scientific community by and large ignores the fascinating and forward thinking on-going research in the field of psi.

I could cite numerous studies that prove the existence of psi occurrences (the effectiveness of energy healing, clairvoyance, remote viewing, and the like), but these studies are not supported and enhanced by excitement in the mainstream scientific community. Rather than grabbing the ball and running with it, mainstream scientists generally overlook the promising results of psi studies, leaving these results largely on the margins of our society — Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, etc., give very little attention to groundbreaking results in the world of psi. The ball remains untouched in the middle of the field. Why?

Bob Gebelein, in his book The Mental Environment (2007), broaches the subject when he discusses scientism, “the belief that there is no reality beyond the physical” (245). He explains, “people have made thousands and millions of scientific observations and have never seen any spiritual reality in the universe. But please note that these observations were made with the physical senses, and one isn’t likely to be able to observe the spiritual reality with the physical senses. So to conclude that the spiritual doesn’t exist, on the basis of physical observations, is simply bad logic” (245-46). In the same way, psi ability seems to transcend our five physical senses, yet we continue to try to prove its existence with our Western culture’s traditional, five-sensory mindset. Gebelein remarks that the term “scientific ridicule,” which should be an oxymoron, has become so common in our culture that it needs no explanation. “Ridicule is not part of the scientific method,” Gebelein reminds us (245). If “science” as a term remained pure, scientific ridicule would come across as nonsensically as “chemical ridicule” or “astronomical ridicule.” Unfortunately, the word science has become so loaded that it can be used as an adjective in such a judgmental way.

Jonathan H. Ellerby, PhD., writes in his book Return to the Sacred (2009), “Dreams, intuitions, gut feelings, visions, and subtle sensations are the eyes and ears of the soul. These felt-senses and similar spiritual senses aren’t measurable, but they’re clearly felt in the body and in subtle ways that can only be described as inner feelings. Although many of us have been trained to overlook these senses, to deny them is to deny the fullness of our humanity. To shun these senses and the world they point us toward comes at our own cost. We need the supernatural world as much as we need the natural world” (21).

Why, then, with the promise of a new world, a new frontier – which the human race has always embraced – might psi events draw more “scientific ridicule” than on-going scientific support from enthusiastic researchers? Many scientists and much of the population of any given era, even the most open-minded, take great comfort in the surety of that generation’s understanding of “natural law.” New discoveries and theories have always caused great controversy and discomfort: Copernicus, Galileo, Darwin, Newton, Einstein, and other visionaries all caused quite a stir in their time, our fragile human understanding of the world seemingly turned upside down, and society reacting strongly, as is natural. In time these new theories become accepted, often after the presenter has passed away carrying the burden of social ridicule. The great temptation of “proven” traditional science is its promise of permanent black-and-white answers to age-old human questions about the mystery of life, yet in truth we live in a reality burgeoning with color and infinite possibility, and psi experiences seem to suggest that the mystery is greater than we are comfortable admitting. As Rainer Maria Rilke, a visionary in his own poetic right, admonished: “beware, oh wanderer, the road is traveling too.”

Certainly our traditional science, based on objective trial and error, has given us tremendous answers and advancements, and the promise lures of ever more knowledge: more cures, more buildings, more food, more technology. Why, then, would a scientist want to promote a field that undermines the basics of “natural law” as we know it today? Why open the possibility that space and time are not fundamentally static or linear when most of what we have created in the past few centuries has been built on the traditional understanding of these concepts? Furthermore, if an open-minded scientist wanted to participate in experiments on psi occurrences, how can he or she use traditional “science,” with its emphasis on sensory knowledge, to prove the very things that seem to demonstrate that humans have extrasensory perception? In the past few hundred years, our traditional science has slowly become almost 100% left-hemisphere oriented; unsurprisingly, psi events occur in the right hemisphere of our brain. It is nearly impossible to use one to prove the other, for they operate in different ways.

As Martha Suzanne Patterson, author of, more formally states, “The purpose of science, in the end, is to understand nature, not to define it. Scientific methodologies, strictly objective in origin and implementation, cannot reliably measure or define the inherently subjective nature of nature.” Furthermore, the scientific bias against subjectivity is erroneous, as Laura Dunham of reminded me, because it has been demonstrated that an observer always affects the outcome of an experiment. Because of this observer effect, a scientist, with the greatest intentions of remaining objective, cannot help but bring subjectivity to his/her experiments.

And so, what is one to do? Our world and the current scientific view will rely on classical physics, relativity, and the perceived limitations of space and time for some time to come, thus efforts to prove psi events using traditional science will help us make some headway with mainstream science and the general populace. However, a new validation technique will slowly emerge, one that trusts intuition, one that accepts our connectedness to each other and to the greater whole, one that understands that the life force does transcend space and time. Will we call this technique science? Perhaps so, and perhaps “scientific ridicule” will once again become an oxymoron. Perhaps, though, the word is too loaded, and the term science itself will become outdated, the concept of an individual being able to present objective data using trial and error with the five physical senses seen as one-dimensional. Whatever it is called, the new understanding of our way of knowing will be the accepted worldview, just as our present understanding is the current accepted worldview. Both will change as our understanding evolves.

Daniel Quinn, the famous environmental author, focuses on this shift from a biological perspective, and claims that this type of shift must happen if we are to survive as a species. In an address delivered at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, on March 7, 2002, which he later put on his website, he calls this shift a “new renaissance” (titling the article as such), saying, “we don’t know how people will live here in 200 years, but we do know that if people still are living here in 200 years, they will recognize that we are as much a part of the living community–and as thoroughly dependent on it–as lizards or butterflies or sharks or earthworms or badgers or banana trees.” Change will happen, he claims, and many of us already see the need for it and want it to be instantaneous. “But social change doesn’t come about that way,” Quinn reminds us, “any more than technological change does. It would have been useless to show Charles Babbage a printed circuit or to show Thomas Edison a transistor. They could have done nothing with those things in their day–and we could do nothing today with a picture of life a hundred years from now.”

However, we are changing — in whatever haphazard, choreographed, subjective fashion as is natural for a human conglomeration of our size. So take heart – all of you believers in psi, all of you who have had a precognitive dream or a valid premonition, all of you who kept psi abilities and events private because you knew friends and family would react negatively, and all of you who rail against the inflexible objectivity of mainstream science — change is coming, even to the term “science” itself.

“Each of you,” Quinn says to us, the willing participants of this new renaissance, “is about where Galileo was when he was told in no uncertain terms to shut up about the earth moving around the sun. As far as the gentlemen of the Roman Inquisition were concerned, the earth’s movement around the sun was a wicked lie they had to suppress–and could suppress. But as he left his trial, Galileo was heard to mutter, ‘All the same, it moves!'”

In the same way, many of us know that time is flexible, space is no obstacle, and life is intricately connected in ways far past the left hemisphere’s understanding. As our society slowly shifts with this new understanding, we will rely on the right hemisphere of the brain in equal part to our steady but ego-filled left brain. With acceptance of right hemisphere abilities will come major breakthroughs, greater respect towards all of life, and a more proper niche for human inhabitants on the earth. If this does not happen, then what? Well, as Quinn reminds us – and most scientists would agree – the human race will likely not be around to see the alternative.

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