Ingo Swann (24Nov97)
NOTE OF EXPLANATION: During the last two years I've received an increase of media requests concerning ESP and related matters. It became apparent that the interests and requests were based in concepts of ESP, Psi and parapsychology that are broadly shared, but are dated and backward looking if viewed in juxtaposition to advances in other science areas.
These other science areas have been in process of providing new facts and information relevant to various human processes that directly increase comprehension of ESP phenomena that have not yielded to resolution in parapsychological terms. This new information is accumulating outside of parapsychology, but is not being incorporated into parapsychology in any significant way.
A strange situation has thus resulted. A paradigm shift relevant to "Psi" is taking place outside of parapsychology.
The most probable meaning of this paradigm shift external to parapsychology is that at least some significant part of parapsychology will soon become acknowledged as obsolete, being replaced by some kind of new perspective based on discovery in other scientific fields.
It has proven difficult to discuss this mostly unrealized paradigm shift with media and other people because a broad reality basis (including appropriate concepts and nomenclature) is still missing. I got tired of trying verbally to discuss this, and therefore began providing short written position statements as handout materials. I combine and expand these into this larger handout document for the edification of those interested in this somewhat non-visible situation.
Because I'm about 65 per cent conservative I am particularly sensitive to change. There are many things I'd like to see stay as they are, or were. But alas for little me, change is continuous. Change rolls on and on, and also rolls over many things.
With regard to parapsychology and Psi, anyone even somewhat familiar with that research realizes that it is now about 120 years along. Many might also realize that mainstream science rejected psychic matters from the outset of organized research in about 1882, and that the scientific rejection of Psi is still on-going today.
None the less, several vital forms of
psychic research formulated external to science proper. Since
about 1935, psychic research has collectively been referred to
as "parapsychology." Parapsychology has brought into
existence concepts, ideas, nomenclature, and frames of reference
-- all combined into a sort of parapsychology-speak or lingo.
I'll shorten this to "para-speak," and indicate that
it is appropriate to parapsychology but not to any other mainstream
In other documents in this database, I have referred to the exclusion of parapsychology from science as the "ghettoization" of Psi and parapsychology. I have also stipulated that the ghettoization is the fault of the mainstream sciences, and that its mandated basis was mounted on philosophical rather than scientific grounds.
Because of this, parapsychology and para-speak
developed more or less independently of science proper -- with
the result that several further and quite subtle separating phenomena
ALSO came into existence, but which phenomena were seldom realized,
discussed, or acknowledged as existing.
As but one of these subtle phenomena,
the study of the sociology of science and of scientists and their
brotherhoods easily reveals that the brotherhoods forbid the introduction
of parapsychology concepts and nomenclature into the main sciences.
This embargo was enforced -- to the degree that mainstream scientists would experience professional damage to their careers if they proposed any cross-over concepts. This embargo is still in effect.
Several social affects came about because
(1) The mainstream sciences do refer to psychic phenomena, but only under terms pejorative terms such as superstition, abnormal, hallucinatory, and in psychiatry as illness-like mental phenomena emanating from deranged or diseased psycho-physical causes.
(2) The mainstream sciences have remained sanitized of any non-pejorative concepts and nomenclature redolent of anything psychic, paranormal, or parapsychological -- and so the language and nomenclature of non-pejorative connotations is para-speak.
(3) The cross-over of para-speak into the mainstream sciences is not permitted -- and so mainstream scientific papers whose contents might touch upon Psi in any way have to be written in a manner that does not suggest a cross-over.
(4) When the public, or anyone, wants to refer to the so-called paranormal in non-pejorative ways, they are obliged to utilize parapsychological concepts and nomenclature.
One of the principal fall-outs of this
four-part situation is that that the mainstream sciences and parapsychology
were and still are viewed as mutually incompatible -- or, at any
rate, no cross-over of concepts and nomenclature is permitted
by the major sciences.
And, as with all mutually incompatible
social factors, another very important fall-out has been a DECREASED
rate of mutual information-exchange between science proper and
Thus, it was, and still is, largely assumed
that discovery, if any, about the paranormal (so called) would
take place in parapsychology -- meaning external to the main sciences
The obverse to this was that the main sciences would not make any discoveries pertinent to the parapsychology paranormal -- because the main sciences had neither the desire, commitment nor tradition of working along such lines of scientific inquiry.
And so on the surface of these matters,
the whole of this has taken on a somewhat non-changing vista --
parapsychology for parapsychologists -- science for scientists
-- and neither shall meet at any point.
BUT! Nothing ever stays the same, AND all things do change.
Whatever one might elect to think of them, the main sciences ARE vital sciences, capable of on-going discovery. They have their ups and downs, their stagnating periods, their blind spots. But over time they do accumulate data and information, and also undergo their own paradigm shifts.
In my own possibly wobbly estimation, the rate of discovery in the main sciences since the 1950s has been large and accelerated -- so much so that the implications of the discoveries probably cannot be adequately digested in many areas.
Additionally, many of the implications lay outside of established frames of reference, not only scientific frames of reference, but social and cultural ones as well.
If we permit ourselves to think about
this escalating accumulation of mainstream scientific knowledge
it is almost impossible to think that those sciences would not
somehow trip across discoveries that are entirely applicable to
the so-called "parapsychology" processes of our species,
somehow applicable to the central hypotheses of parapsychology.
Considering, however, the stalwart and
long-enforced separation of parapsychology from the main sciences,
we can well imagine certain professional difficulties arising
in linking mainstream discovery to the forbidden parapsychology.
If, however, the linking of mainstream
science discovery to parapsychology vistas was to be made, then
there is little doubt that parapsychology WOULD HAVE TO CHANGE
-- if for no other reason than the main sciences are gargantuan
compared to the exceedingly small fraction of effort of which
parapsychology is representative.
It is not entirely out of the question
that Modern Parapsychology, as a ghettoized field (small) could
vanish if discoveries pertinent to the "parapsychology"
realms of human functioning were seen as such within the main
sciences -- and, as I suppose it needs to be said, were ADMITTED
I will give one possible example. In
parapsychology, the perceptual forms of Psi (telepathy, clairvoyance,
etc.) are seen as some kind of particular mind-psychological formats
-- which is to say, seen as problems of mental perception.
Through the decades, a great deal of research has been undertaken to establish what kind of parapsycho-mental phenomenology and/or criteria cause, trigger, bring about, or accompany those forms of Psi.
I personally conclude that a great deal of progress has been made along these lines, but that parapsychologists jettison a great deal of it because it can't be seen as directly applicable to the central hypothesis that Psi is a function of the human para-mind.
So, in general, it is said that the accumulated parapsychological results are "not very robust" and are not amenable to "the repetitive experiment." Thus, in it's parapsychological context, Psi remains "elusive" -- while within parapsychology itself theories about it are exceedingly inconsistent.
Continuing with my one possible example.
One notable aspect of parapsychology's Psi perceptual phenomena
is that whatever their para-mental source or cause, those phenomena
clearly also involve matters of information transfer, information
acquisition, and information processing.
Thus, while the para-mental hypothesis certainly cannot be discounted, what if the more vivid and more easily dealt with Psi-perceptual problem consists of information processes?
Psi as mind and Psi as information, however,
are two completely different arenas of expertise -- while the
small field of parapsychology is not very thickly populated with
However, the field of Information Theory
and Applications is exceedingly Big Time in the main sciences.
In that VERY mainstream field, the existence of receptors, transducers,
the signal-to-noise ratio, and etc., are clearly understood --
and all of which are exceedingly relevant to information acquisition,
In yet another VERY mainstream field,
that of neurobiology, it has been discovered that the human systems
are themselves composed of receptors, transducers, signal-to-noise
decoders, and etc., and some of which seem to account for Psi-like
In other words, and in some special aspects,
neither the field of information theory or the field of neurobiology
has anything to do with parapsychology.
But discoveries in those two fields are speedily encroaching upon parapsychology "territory." And in some cases, it is only the dissimilarity of the NOMENCLATURE that is keeping them apart so far.
And, indeed, it is only if one doesn't
know about advances in information theory and neurobiology that
one can remain content (and ill-informed) to discuss Psi phenomena
ONLY WITHIN the circumference of parapsychology itself.
According to usual logic, if parapsychology
was going to undergo a paradigm change, one would suppose that
it would come about because of advances in parapsychology itself.
That has not happened.
However, when the main sciences learn more about Psi phenomena than parapsychologists have or can, then parapsychology will become part of a paradigm change that might roll over it altogether.
There are many aspects that now need
to be discussed, and many of which have already been entered into
discussion in this database.
One of these is that certain phenomena occur as a paradigm shift comes into existence and gains momentum.
One of the first of these phenomena is that widely used words (terminology) that packed power within the retiring paradigm begin to lose that power as the contours of the new paradigm begin to take on form.
Sometimes it doesn't take much time at all for very popular terms to end up on the trash pile of forgotten nomenclature. Not only do the mind-sets that used the terms disappear, but the terms themselves fall out of usage and vanish.
This type of change represents much more
than whether terms are "in" or "out," or "politically
whatever." Terminology represents a kind of knowledge package.
Or, put another way, knowledge is structured in a particular way
within a paradigm -- and the term signifies not only what it means
itself, but the way the knowledge package is structured.
When, then, advances or discoveries make it necessary to restructure knowledge packages, well, the old terms cannot be utilized any longer since they represent the former knowledge package.
All knowledge packages are characterized by key words -- these being terms that are direct intellectual extensions of the knowledge package. And the knowledge package is in turn a particular format within which knowledge is structured in a particular way.
In any event, terms fall out of usage
and disappear because the way knowledge is structured undergoes
change -- usually because new discoveries require that former
knowledge packages be restructured into new formats so as to incorporate
the new knowledge.
When this process becomes so all-encompassing, it can result in a complete paradigm shift -- and in this case, of course, the old knowledge usually gets relegated to the trash pile of forgotten knowledge formats.
The term EXTRASENSORY PERCEPTION is clearly the major key word within the parapsychology conceptual contexts of the twentieth century.
The common use of that term (as ESP) is so wide-spread that it is difficult to imagine that it might disappear. But indeed, it is hardly utilized today except by an hype-word within an uninformed media and by certain parapsychologists whose basis for conceptualizing is out-dated and inefficient.
The major reason why the usage of ESP is on its way into historical oblivion is that very much overall is in process of being discovered about all kinds of human functioning. The general knowledge packages prevalent during the 1930s (when Dr. J. B. Rhine introduced the term ESP) are long gone. Many new knowledge structures have been erected. While phenomena similar to what ESP once meant can be treated in those new structures, the phenomena cannot be referred to as EXTRA-sensory.
The principal reason here is that the hard sciences have discovered subtle SENSORY receptors that were not known to exist when the term ESP came into vogue.
A great deal can be said and written
about ESP. But even so, not very much was actually known about
it. One of the results was that parapsychology, which studies
Psi and ESP, was often referred to as the "elusive science,"
since ESP discovery and knowledge have remained elusive.
This elusiveness probably accounts for why methods designed to teach and enhance ESP don't work very well. After all, it is difficult to teach something about which not much is known. Indeed, if such methods DID work well, then our planet would already have become populated with highly achieved psychics.
The comments just above have been necessary
so that a particular question can be asked. Organized research
into various ESP phenomena has been in existence for about 130
years by now -- with the result that the research is more notable
for elusiveness than for discovery.
The question, then, is why is this the case, why is this the outcome after so many decades?
Between 1973 and 1985, I was part of
a well-funded and serious effort to examine human potentials directly
associated with ESP. The plight of parapsychology was already
recognized as early as 1973 -- so much so that some observers
felt it moribund or dead in the water. Why this was so needed
to be examined and accounted for if possible, and so a multidisciplinary
inquiry was mounted to which numerous professional experts contributed.
Among other factors brought to light
was the discovery that not only was parapsychology an elusive
science, it was also an isolated science. It was also incorporated
(or trapped) within its own infra-social parameters. Those parameters
did not interact, or were not permitted to interact, with the
much larger global-sociological segments of science and philosophy.
Further, parapsychology could be seen as an introverting paradigm of and unto itself with its own special functions -- such as nomenclature, concepts, theories and behavior patterns.
There can be no doubt at all that the
basis for this self-isolating paradigm emerged from the early
rejection of Psi research -- a rejection that was ardently prosecuted
and maintained by science proper.
It was certainly the intent of the early researchers to integrate Psi phenomena into science proper. And this integrating project is still on-going in contemporary parapsychology today. It was science proper that did not want that integrating to take place.
The long-term result of this was that
parapsychology and psychic research were alienated from the scientific
mainstreams, and as such had to, or at least did, establish its
own paradigm approach to ESP phenomena. This paradigm was formulated
roughly after World War I, and was concretized during the 1950s
-- with not a great deal of change since then regarding basic
and fundamental premises and concepts.
Over the long-term, this alienation meant
that routes of information exchange did not form between the isolated
parapsychology paradigm and the greater and far larger other scientific
This obviously meant that science proper did not access developments occurring in parapsychology. But it also meant that parapsychology did not itself access and integrate developments in the other sciences.
This is to say that vital information exchange links between on-going science and isolated parapsychology has not really been established.
As but one example, somewhat amusing.
Although ESP is the acronym for extra-sensory perception, parapsychology
does not study perception per se. That kind of research is the
fold of perceptual researchers in the proper sciences, but which
do not study extrasensory forms of perception.
So, parapsychology studies the ES part, but not the P part, while other sciences study the P part, but not the ES part.
In other words, while perception is an element common both to parapsychology and the mainstream sciences of perception, there are no direct routes of information integration between the two.
The extent of this little difficulty
is actually quite gross. For one thing, the two fields, isolated
and barricaded from each other, have evolved different nomenclature
and theories for a number of phenomena that are identical in both
Additionally, science proper probably
has made more discovery relevant to extra-sensory perception than
However, proper science does not permit
the introduction of terms redolent of ESP.
And so it is difficult for the average person to realize, for example, that when neurobiologists talk of "bio-magnetic receptors" they are actually talking about a functional biological basis for dowsing, while dowsing itself is thought to be a form of ESP.
But the going here gets even a little
Most of the major structural ideas and concepts that continue to govern parapsychology thinking were formulated before, say, 1955. And one of those major concepts was the idea that only five physical senses existed, an idea that was more or less held in common agreement by everyone.
So, one of the dominant ideas in parapsychology regarding ESP is that ESP does not have a biological basis in any of the five major physical senses -- and so it was necessary to coin the term extra-sensory perception, referring to perceptions that did not have a physical, biological basis.
And so this is why ESP was called "extra-sensory" -- or outside of the normal senses. And, as well, this was why ESP was considered as originating from some cause or source independent of the material aspects of the human biobody.
It is now important to state that although
parapsychologists HAVE presented significant and copious evidence
that the human biomind can deal in information acquisition and
transfer, they have done so within the contexts of the information
being EXTRA-SENSORY -- that is, outside of, or independent of,
the capacities of the human sensing systems.
This is to say that although it can be shown that the information acquisition and transfer exist, the fact of the existence does not at the same time prove the theory of EXTRA-SENSORY PERCEPTION, or that the acquisition and transfer involve extra-sensory biomind equipment.
Indeed, the idea of EXTRA-SENSORY perception
was only minimally permissible back in the days when sciences
were convinced (erroneously) that the human systems possessed
only five physical senses. However, it is known that the human
systems have very many more than a mere five physical senses,
the many more being physical as well.
In this lately developmental sense, then, it can be observed that the concept of extra-sensory perception probably was oxymoronic all along. In any event, many earlier parapsychologists (and a whole lot of scientists) objected to ESP on the grounds that ESP WAS an oxymoron.
I'm not quite sure yet what the replacement
concepts for ESP will be, but it is quite certain that such replacement
concepts WILL come into existence, as they already are. The evolving
concepts will almost certainly focus on the concept of subtle,
multiple and recombinant receptors. Some ideas about these replacement
concepts will be discussed in a future essay.
New, and more efficient, knowledge structures cannot become visible if their information is filtered through old knowledge structures -- simply because the old is structured in ways that usually prohibit recognition (or acceptance) of new information.
It is, I think, rather well established via countless psychological studies that knowledge structures can access only what they can recognize -- and that what ever else is present but can't be recognized is rejected, deflected, resisted or merely dumped.
The average media or public awareness
of the astonishing elements of the human biomind continues to
consider those elements only via the limited and out-moded parapsychology
The main sciences have made copious discoveries
regarding increasingly refined elements of overall human processes.
Many of these discoveries are entirely applicable to mysteries and problems of extended biomind perceptions and functions. This can only mean that a paradigm shift is in the offing, or is already taking place -- even though media and the lay person is not aware of the shift.
One really should start thinking in terms of biomind receptors rather than in terms of ESP. The paradigm shift currently underway will be fleshed out in subsequent essays.