Far Closer than we Thought
You are looking out the window, gazing at the branches moving in the wind when your partner says: “I forgot to stir the vinegar.” “Wow!”, you say. “That's exactly what I was thinking. Telepathy!”
Yes, well, what tree is it exactly that you are both looking at? It happens to be the apple tree from under which you picked the fallen apples for vinegar two weeks ago. Rather than adhering to formal logic, human thoughts tend to follow an often convoluted path of associations. Apple tree - apple picking - apple vinegar. Oops, it needs to be stirred. Oh, I should also wash up that disaster in the sink. If you're really on the same vibe with your partner, the next idea you might have in common is emigrating to New Zealand. But at least up to the vinegar, there is a perfectly ordinary explanation for how you both arrived to the same thought.
Later it stops raining and you go out to the garden to weed. How nice that shower was, you think, now it's so easy to pull out those nasty weeds. It occurs to you that, yes, here in the hills there’s still rain sometimes, but what can it be like in the dry lowlands? I wonder if it's rained at John’s? Then you hear your phone ringing through the open window. When you finish the work, you wash your hands, go into the house, and check the phone. You may have already guessed who the caller was. John.
Has anything like this ever occur to you?
Well, that's a coincidence, the engineers say. “Statistically it’s bla bla bla.” And yes, if you call each other all the time, why couldn't it be a coincidence? Suppose you talk to John every day. You're awake for about a thousand minutes a day, during which time you think of him several times and he calls you at just such a moment. But what if it's been three years since you last spoke to him? Three years is roughly a thousand days, each of which has a thousand minutes spent awake, so if you think of him once a day you’d have a one in a million chance for this to occur when he calls. But you never think about him, he’s completely gone from your life. Have you ever experienced that? It often happens with the phone: you go to make a call, and when you pick it up, it's already ringing, the person is calling. Or you think of someone you haven't thought about for a long time, and later on you receive news that they died the next day.
If this kind of thing happens once in a while, it could be a ‘coincidence’, although the concept is rather unclear. But if you experience something like this almost every day, especially with certain people, then this explanation seems less rock solid. It's not logical to cling to a concept that explains nothing, when there is a more obvious possibility: that we are somehow able to influence each other from a distance.
In primary school, one of my classmates invented a game. When you were utterly bored with sitting there you stared at the back of someone's head. For a while nothing happened. But soon the person started to become agitated. They moved their head nervously to the right, then to the left, finally turning around. Their eyes would meet yours. “Oh, you're hypnotizing again,” they would say in a slightly scolding voice tone. Some people noticed sooner, others later, but as far as I can remember, eventually the person always turned around, unless you quickly took your eyes off them. Everyone in the class could do this, at least those of us in the back benches.
The telepathic abilities of animals were demonstrated by Rupert Sheldrake in a series of perfectly orderly scientific experiments. His results show that certain dogs, and to a lesser but still statistically significant extent some cats, can sense when their owners are coming home. They go to the door and wait.
Oh, this is silly. The guy must be some amateur, a dreamer with no understanding of scientific methodology. It’s just that he owners always come home at the same time and the dogs know it.
Oh, the dog’s are able to read the clock? Because if not, then we have found a new sense, one that measures time. But in this experiment, a random phone message indicated to the owner when to go home, always at a different time, at any time of day.
Yeah, well, then the dogs heard the sound of the car.
The owners didn't arrive by car.
Then the dogs heard the sound of footsteps or smelled the people, you know how sophisticated animals' senses are.
The dogs couldn't have heard or smelled the signs, because they moved to the door a quarter of an hour before the owner got off the tram. All known senses were systematically ruled out in the experiments.
Then the owner’s wife must have known when he was coming, and that's what the dog observed.
No one knew, and no one was home. A camera was placed near the door, recording when the dog sat there.
Then they generalized from too few cases.
They worked with the appropriate number of owners and animals. We are talking about completely regular experiments with proper scientific methodology.
Well, they must have erred somewhere or they cheated or they drew the wrong conclusions. Telepathy does not exist.
Fine, then you, as a serious scientist, repeat the experiment to find out the truth.
Are you out of your mind? I don't waste time on non-existing phenomena.
Sheldrake had an illegal idea and he got properly punished. Despite his earlier, succesful scientific career, he was labelled a ‘pseudoscientist’ and banished from ‘real’ scientific discourse. His TED talk criticizing the dogmas of science was removed. Here is the banned video, with subtitles in many languages.
In this civilization we know that the world is rational and telepathy is nonsense. Although actually, if you think about it, believing in rationality is quite irrational. Why take something for granted for which there is no evidence? Many people insist that the world can only be as Newton described it in the 17th century. They say it with a religious zeal that would put jihadists to shame. Why do so many of us cling to this idea? Perhaps because this world view has been the basis of many discoveries and technical innovations. But I wonder: Just because quinine cures malaria no other kind of healing can exist?
And yes, we know people with vivid imaginations who believe in everything, read (and write) esoteric books, without ever producing any evidence for their far-fetched theories. Well, the fact that Aunt Mary meets angels every day does not rule out the existence of angels. And what about the masses who believe all the nonsense coming out of mainstream media? There are more of them, yet we don't think they are zaned like Aunt Mary. I think scepticism is very useful, so let's extend it to accepted explanations, such as the universe being a machine made up of Lego-like pieces and there being nothing else.
A third possible reason for believing in a billiard-ball universe is that we are afraid to let go of perceived control. Billiard balls are easy to grasp, they give you security, you can whack them with a cue, all you have to do is calculating their path. Every few billion years an asteroid comes along, but we won't be caught like dinosaurs, we’ll put a rocket engine on it and will deflect the menace from Earth! Meanwhile, the high priests of physics have changed their doctrines. They have gone beyond grey-clad Newtonian laws. The current universe is much more interesting, full of dragons. Which interaction has kidnapped the charming quark? I've always liked physicists for having such disciplined minds. Could we follow them to their dragons? And quarks are like little ducks, going quark-quark! They are the building blocks of the universe, that’s why the world's so unpredictable and impolite. The heads keep disappearing under water flaunting only the asses in our face. The world of quantum physics puts any folk tale to shame. Two giraffes come through the door, then turn into three rhinos and swoosh out the wall.
And then there is our own behavior, which would be difficult to be called rational. Otherwise I don't believe that a billion people would smoke and so many teenage girls were obliged to have a body weight of 30 kilos. We are creatures who behave in a completely irrational way, our most respected scientists, physicists, say that the foundations of the world are also totally irrational, so we conclude that things in our everyday lives must absolutely only be rational. Many people even assume (though they may not have consciously thought this through) that science has proven the universe to be rational.
If we do not reject telepathy out of hand (while also allowing that it may not exist), some interesting questions arise. In science fiction literature, telepathic communication is usually thought of as a kind of a telephone. Certain people have it in their pockets (heads) while others don’t. Some people or beings can communicate telepathically, others can’t. Another possibility would be that we all have this ability, but some of us are more in touch with it. In some societies, such as many Australian aboriginal tribes, it is a conscious part of the culture, so it is better developed.
Another common assumption is that telepathy is voluntary. If you want to send something, you just push the right buttons in the telepathic area of your brain. Some people may be able to do this, or perhaps with practice you can get to this level. I confess that I have never managed to connect with anyone telepathically, while the described strange ‘coincidences’ happen quite often by themselves. That’s actually not so surprising as most of our functioning is involuntary. Unless you’re an advanced yogi, you can't consciously control your liver function, yet your liver still does its job.
There’s also the idea of a sender and a receiver. One person has an idea, sends it to the other person, who then receives it. And then follows a response in the reverse direction. But what if there’s no such cause-and-effect chain? What if the thought arises in both people at the same time? It's as if both would have access to some kind of an information cloud. It’s possible that we're not completely separate units. Not in the universe in general, and even less us, human monkeys, social beings, who may not be so separated mentally as we think. We just imagine ourselves to be individuals and this conception of modern society obscures relationships that exist at a more subtle level.
Alongside individualism, technology can also distract us from deeper connections. Why try to send a thought to someone when you can simply call them? We cannot rule out that mobile phones arose from an unconscious desire for our lost telepathy. Somewhere we feel that we should have this capacity to which we have very limited access. Living in a society where everything is achieved technologically, we have constructed a little device that seems to solve the problem.
From the above, it may seem that I believe in telepathy. That's not quite accurate, because I don't believe in telepathy, any more than I believe in helicopters. I've seen so many helicopters, and had so many instances of the ‘I just thought of something and the other person starts talking about it’ phenomenon, that I take the existence of both for granted. I don't know if anyone has done a scientific experiment to prove the existence of helicopters, but I think most of us wouldn't be falling off our chair to find out the answer.
What I would be very interested in is some kind of exercise to start reawakening our ability. So far I have had two experiences of this kind. The first is that when, at the age of twenty, I was initiated into the basic version of Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation my telepathic-like intuitions increased at least tenfold for a few months. Unfortunately, they didn't stay that way. In any case, it seems likely that regular meditation brings us closer to that something within from which telepathic communication can operate.
Another possibility is identification with our fellow human beings. In NLP, this is called ‘going second position’. It is done by taking on the breathing of someone, adopting their posture, their muscle tone, their movements, their tone of voice, their basic behavior patterns. It’s not that you’re imitating the content of their actions, it’s their rhythms, their vibrations that you internalize. It's like stepping into their body, taking on their feelings. This is one of the basic skills not only of acting, but also of therapy and many kinds of learning, such as language learning. Some people just imagine they are connected to others, while others can actually step into other people (and even animals and plants). When you really refine this ability, things that border on telepathy start to come through.
If you have any further suggestions, ideas, intuitions, I'd be happy to read about them:
Or just simply send them directly…