Robert Schoch Ph.D., Author of the Month for April 2008
Thoughts on Parapsychology and Paranormal Phenomena
By Robert Schoch Ph.D.
Dr. Robert Schoch, who earned his Ph.D. in geology and geophysics at Yale University, has been a full-time faculty member of the College of General Studies at Boston University since 1984. He became world famous in the early 1990's as the first mainstream geologist to support the notion that the Great Sphinx of Giza may be much older than the dynastic civilization of ancient Egypt and his evidence and arguments continue to fuel debate around this highly-charged subject. In his new book, The Parapsychology Revolution, co-authored with Logan Yonavjak, he continues his controversial trajectory in a new area of research - one of great interest to many visitors to www.grahamhancock.com. Robert will be available to join in discussion and respond to comments and queries from posters on our Author-of-the-Month Message Board throughout April 2008.
Most of you reading this piece may know me from my work on the Great Sphinx, the Great Pyramid, and other ancient monuments, as discussed in various articles and my books Voices of the Rocks, Voyages of the Pyramid Builders, and Pyramid Quest (see my website, www.robertschoch.com). It was through our mutual interest in the origins of civilization that Graham Hancock and I came to know each other, and it is a pleasure to be Author of the Month on his website. I have a new book out, The Parapsychology Revolution: A Concise Anthology of Paranormal and Psychical Research (compilation and commentary by Robert M. Schoch and Logan Yonavjak; Tarcher/Penguin, 2008), and it is this subject that I will focus on in this piece and the accompanying discussion.
I am commonly asked how my studies in parapsychology relate, if at all, to my studies of ancient monuments. Even though I am a geologist, and my initial concern was dating various ancient structures, I could not help but wonder why they were built, especially given the enormous efforts that must have gone into their construction. The why behind the monuments, more often than not, apparently included religious beliefs and practices, initiation rites and rituals, which in many cases seemed to have an ostensible paranormal aspect, whether it was clairvoyance, divination, or manifestations of higher levels of consciousness. The temples and tombs of ancient Egypt, Mexico, and Peru seemed to cry out "paranormal." So, was it all a mixture of ancient myth, superstition, and downright fraud on the part of many a seer, priest, and priestess, or could there be something to it? Were the ancient structures used, at least in part, to alter consciousness, and possibly enhance paranormal phenomena?
In all honesty, I have always been highly skeptical of any alleged paranormal phenomena. However, my concept of skepticism is not the same as dismissal, and in my studies of ancient and traditional cultures alleged paranormal phenomena kept making an appearance. When a former Boston University student, Logan Yonavjak, encouraged me to delve deeply into the serious parapsychological literature, I found the topic both fascinating and enlightening. The immediate tangible result of our research is the volume The Parapsychology Revolution in which we include selections from fourteen seminal papers, dating from 1886 through 2007, by major figures in the field plus a hundred pages of our own commentary. For me, however, the real result of my immersion into parapsychology is a new appreciation for human potentiality and the connections we share with all of life and ultimately, perhaps, with the cosmos. But, that is perhaps the subject for future articles and books.
People often ask me if I now "believe" in the paranormal. Let me just say that after looking at the hard evidence, and sifting out the fraud and bunk, I have come to conclude that there definitely is something to such phenomena as telepathy and psychokinesis. Here I should point out that in The Parapsychology Revolution we discuss paranormal and psychical phenomena in a strict sense, including the concepts of ESP (extrasensory perception: telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition) and psychokinesis (PK, or mind over matter, both on a micro- and macro- scale). Certain topics that are sometimes included in more general definitions of the paranormal and parapsychology, such as UFOs, aliens, Big Foot, and so forth, were not our concern in this book. Likewise, our primary focus did not include evidence bearing on survival beyond the grave (though we do briefly discuss evidence for reincarnation). The survival issue is highly controversial and the evidence typically used to support life after death is subject to many interpretations. We felt it was important to first establish what is possible in terms of paranormal phenomena while people are still alive. Perhaps the survival issue will be the subject of a future book on my part.
Most people who have seriously studied the subject conclude that telepathy (mind to mind interactions) is the best supported class of paranormal phenomena. There is strong laboratory evidence for telepathy, such as classic card-calling experiments as well as many more sophisticated tests of telepathy, clairvoyance, and remote viewing. There is also a large and compelling body of evidence from spontaneous cases supporting the reality of telepathy. For instance crisis apparitions, veridical hallucinations, or "ghosts" are well-known, as documented in the classic two-volume scientific monograph of rigorously authenticated events produced by the Society for Psychical Research titled Phantasms of the Living (we include an excerpt from this work in our book). The evidence for PK is also strong, including micro-PK studies using random event generators and similar devices, such as the evidence developed by the PEAR (Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research) labs over more than a quarter of century, and the carefully studied incidents of macro-PK associated with genuine spontaneous poltergeist cases. Another line of compelling evidence for the reality of paranormal phenomena is the study of presentiments or "pre-sponses," essentially a form of short-term precognition as measured by physiological parameters (heart rate, electrodermal activity, and so forth). Numerous replicated experiments have demonstrated the physiological responses of individuals to, for instance, disturbing photographs a second or two before they are actually viewed by the person. According to conventional science, this should not be possible.
As a natural scientist, I expect genuine phenomena (be they psychical and paranormal phenomena, or more conventional phenomena) to exhibit patterns and share elements in common, and this is just what has been found in spontaneous cases of the paranormal. Even when viewed cross-culturally, such commonalities persist.
Perhaps even more compelling for me is the work of various modern researchers that has demonstrated a weak but persistent correlation between low levels of geomagnetic activity on planet Earth and cases of apparent spontaneous telepathy (based on records going back to the latter half of the nineteenth century). This, in my opinion, is a very strong argument supporting the contention that there is something genuine to the concept of telepathy. It suggests that spontaneous telepathic phenomena are real and natural and, as might be expected of natural phenomena, their manifestation is influenced by other natural parameters. Alternatively, are we to hypothesize that hundreds of hoaxers over nearly a century and a half have conspired to fake telepathic incidents in identical correlation with geomagnetic activity? This latter hypothesis strikes me as rather far-fetched, if not downright ludicrous. It has also been found that incidents of the paranormal correlate with Local Sidereal Time (which relates to the position of the horizon at any particular point on Earth relative to the center of our galaxy).
Note that a correlation between geomagnetic activity and spontaneous telepathy does not necessarily imply that the "telepathic signal" is magnetic or electrical in nature. The human brain is influenced by magnetic and electric fields, and whatever may be the carrier of the telepathic signal, the transmission, reception, and manifestation of the message by the brain could be hampered or enhanced by differences in the magnetic and electric fields that the brain is subjected to.