“Where Earth Touches Heaven”
I promised personal paranormal experiences, I will start off with a truly exciting one: the flying cucumber. OK, it wasn’t that exciting, just strange. My ex-wife and I were in the kitchen one day. The previous day we had made a salad, and the end of a cucumber had fallen and gotten knocked into a corner. So while we were in the kitchen, the cucumber end flew gently out of the corner to to middle of the rug and stopped. It flew about an inch above the ground, and it was “fluttering” as it flew. We were both like, wtf? (Well, people didn’t say WTF back in the pre-computer dark ages, but that’s the general idea.) How can a cucumber fly? Good question, science as yet doesn’t have an answer for it.
How could this have happened? Technically, it can’t. Even some spring loaded device wouldn’t have made the cucumber flutter, this truly was a mystery. Oddly enough though, this mystery falls into broad class of very similar events that have been witnessed throughout human history and culture. Stuff that moves all on its own is commonly known in the west as poltergeist phenomena. The proper scientific term for such events is recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis, commonly called RSPK. Poltergeist is German for “noisy ghost” since these events tend to cluster in one home or around one person, and often involve rapping or other noises. Easy enough to see why this might be considered a haunting of some sort.
RSPK phenomena have been recorded throughout history and around the world. It most commonly involves objects being moved or tossed. Sometimes abjects appear disappear and reappear in other locations. Occasionally hallucinations or visions have been reported, though that is rare. The one thing that is common to all of these events is that no one gets hurt. They also tend to be very much focused around a single person, often a somewhat disturbed or stressed out adolescent.
What the hell can explain this away? The skeptics claim that it’s all fraud and self-deception. Fair enough, RSPK has certainly never been caught on film and conventional physics offers little by way of explanation. And there’s certainly plenty of fraud that has been exposed. However, the skeptics are basically arguing that since we see fraud and there is no other accepted explanation, why, fraud can be the only explanation! Um, because scientists can’t explain something isn’t proof of anything, except how limited the thinking of many skeptics is. I love the skeptic’s dictionary and there certainly is plenty of fraud and self deception in the world. Look at politics. (oops, sorry, that just slipped out.)
However, the hardcore skeptics annoys me because their disbelief is so strong they ridicule everything that science can’t yet explain, thus driving legitimate researchers away from fringe phenomena. Thus making paranormal investigation a fertile ground for fraud and misunderstanding, a self fulfilling prophecy if there ever was one. These are the same people who delayed the study of meteorites for decades in an earlier scientific era because they pronounced that “rocks can’t fall from the sky, because there are no rocks in the sky.”
Assuming that not all RSPK involves fraud or self deception, what is going on here? The first thing to keep in mind is that whatever is going on, there is going to be a scientific explanation. And some scientists have continued to study the problem since at least the thirties, with some tantalizing results but no breakthroughs. In studies with dice rolling and other random events there is an as yet unexplained tendency for people to be able to will some desired result more often than can be accounted for by chance. In studies of RSPK events in the wild so to speak, the objects that move seem to mostly do so in the same way and in the same vectors in relation to the person who is the focus of the event. The fluttering motion that my wife and I observed is also commonly reported. This again hints that a human is somehow influencing physical reality in some unknown way.
How can people influence physical reality with their minds? No one really knows, but quantum physics hints that it may not be as impossible as the skeptics claim. Quantum physics shows us that at least on some level the universe is more than just a three dimensional clockwork machine, that the observer appears to play some roll in events, and that physical particles that are separated by vast distances are still intimately entangled with each other. So what may be “impossible” in a strictly three dimensional sense might be perfectly understandable from an as yet undiscovered quantum physics standpoint. As I said in my previous post on logic, reality and logic are two different things. As J.B.S. Haldane nicely put it: “My own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.”
I never would have imagined a flying cucumber end, that’s for sure. Tomorrow: Ghosts on UFOs or something like that.
(The above image of the Flammarion Woodcut is public domain under US copyright law. Its artist is unknown, it first appeared in print in a book published in 1883 by Camille Flammarion. For more information about RSPK experiments see Hard Mind, Soft World.)