By Andrew Nichols, Ph.D.
Psychic phenomena are controversial, and any discussion of the paranormal provokes debate. For more than a century psychical research, or parapsychology as it is called today, has been attempting to use scientific methods to unravel the mysteries of psi (psi is the first letter of the Greek word psyche and is used to denote any type of psychic phenomena). Recent developments in parapsychology and neuroscience have revealed new clues about the way ESP and other psychic abilities are processed by the brain.
Psychic abilities and experiences are much more common than most people think, and involve a wide variety of seemingly unrelated experiences including precognition (dreams or visions of the future), telepathy (mind to mind communication), clairvoyance (receiving psychic impressions from a location or object), psychokinesis or PK (mind over matter), as well as hauntings, poltergeists, reincarnational memories and a variety of other paranormal events. PK, psychic healing and poltergeist-type phenomena are referred to as projective (or expressive) psi, since they seem to involve some type of force or energy directed by the human mind, interacting with the external environment.
ESP, precognition and some types of haunting are referred to as receptive psi, since they involve receiving information without the aid of normal means of communication. One of the most interesting discoveries in the field of parapsychology is that environmental factors, particularly magnetic and electromagnetic fields, apparently affect the brain’s ability to produce psychic effects or receive psychic impressions. The Earth itself produces its own magnetic field, which varies in response to a variety of climatic and geological factors. Sun spots and solar flare activity, for example, in addition to causing radio and TV signal interference, the aurora borealis, and other straight-forward physical effects, also has an effect on paranormal phenomena and experiences.
Several recent studies have shown that projective psi phenomena, such as psychokinesis and poltergeist effects, are more active when the Earth’s geomagnetic field is high, as it is during solar magnetic storms. Psi receptive phenomena such as ESP and precognition, on the other hand, seem to be inhibited during times of high geomagnetism and increase when the Earth’s magnetic field is at its lowest ebb. Hauntings and other types of spontaneous paranormal phenomena such as UFO encounters, also seem to be more prevalent in the presence of man-made electromagnetic fields of high intensity, such as those produced by high-voltage electrical transmission wires and household appliances.
Our research team has measured unusual electromagnetic activity in many “haunted” locations over the years. These findings seem to suggest that increased magnetic or electromagnetic energy somehow provides a trigger or “boost” to paranormal phenomena which require the expenditure of energy. These same energy fields may create “static” which drowns out the subtle signals of ESP, making reception more difficult for receptive types of psi. But what is it about the structure or physiology of the brain which makes psi reception possible in the first place? Fortunately, science is providing some answers along those lines too.
There is strong evidence to support the argument that each hemisphere of the brain has a separate and conscious ego. There are at least two personalities cohabitating in every normal human. Each hemisphere of the brain has a self-reflective consciousness, and a substratum that allows us to process information and symbols. Whatever we see, feel, hear, or touch gets channeled into this system that abstracts these sensations and allows for language, conceptualizations and abstractions.
When one of these centers is active, a neurophysiological mechanism actively inhibits the other from expressing its mental contents. This means that the “unconscious” is always thinking and aware, self-reflective, and needs to express itself from time to time. Most of us rely heavily on processing in the left hemisphere, the center of verbal communications, logic, and linear thinking. But the psychic centers of the brain seem to be primarily in the right hemisphere, the part of the brain which controls our artistic, musical, intuitive, and non-verbal communication skills.
The corpus callosum is the part of the brain which connects the two hemispheres. In patients where the corpus callosum has been severed, communication between the two hemispheres continue, although at a reduced level of efficiency. We do not fully understand how the two egos communicate, but those who become more aware of the other ego inhabiting their brain, begin the spiritual awakening of their psychic abilities. Psychic tools, such as Ouija boards, pendulums, and dowsing rods, are really nothing more than amplifiers. They amplify very small motor signals. And very small signals are usually as much as your “other ego” can organize. I believe that the people we refer to as “psychics” may not necessarily have any more psi ability than anyone else, but they are simply more able to receive information from the unconscious portion of their minds, where psychic information is processed. Of course, everyone has a “Psi-Q,” and like any talent, some people do have more natural ability than others. Some of us seem to have very little psi ability, and a few are truly “psychic savants.”
The psychic center of the brain seems to be located primarily in the temporal lobes, especially the right temporal lobe. This is part of the primitive emotional part of the brain known as the limbic system. In spite of the Hollywood version of ESP where the person attempting to use psychic abilities is instructed to “co-n-n-n-centrate!”, parapsychologists have long been aware that it is emotional involvement, not concentration or will power, which enhances psychic functioning. Psychic abilities stem from the more primitive limbic brain, not from the intellectual cortex.
Tests administered to many people who report frequent psychic experiences, or those who live in “haunted” houses, indicate that many of them have unusual properties in the temporal lobe area of their brains. Interestingly, the temporal lobes of the brain are the most sensitive to electrical and magnetic stimulation. Studies conducted by Dr. Michael Persinger and others suggest that many subjective sensations associated with paranormal experiences can be reproduced in the laboratory by applying magnetic fields to the temporal lobes. These effects are transient and apparently harmless, but result in a temporary increase in the subject’s psychic awareness.
Another recent discovery of interest to the psychic researcher is the discovery that the human brain containes magnetite (ferrous oxide) which renders the human brain sensitive to the Earth’s magnetic fields. It has long been known that birds and other animals use magnetite in their brains to aid in navigation. Magnetite is especially concentrated in the pineal gland and the temporal lobes. The pineal gland is a small structure in the center of the brain, corresponding to the “third eye” of Eastern mysticism, or the sixth chakra. This gland is indeed a type of vestigial eye, and is sensitive to light and other types of electromagnetic radiation.
Perhaps the most astounding discovery of all is that the brain produces a psi enhancing neurotransmitter. A class of substances known as Beta-Carbolines are secreted from the pineal gland. This neurochemical is only produced at night (the time when most psychic experiences occur), and breaks down into melatonin, another substance which has been associated with psychic experiences. Beta-Carbolines are a class of alkaloids which have been known to scientists for some time, although only within the last two decades have they been discovered in the brain. In the 1940s, Richard Schultes, the famed Harvard ethnobotanist, brought back samples of a strange plant from the Amazon jungles. Known as Ayahuasca or “vision vine” to the Colorado Indians of Ecuador, Bannisteropsis caapi is used to make a hallucinogenic drink by the shamans of numerous South American tribes. This drink induces a trance-like state in which visions of various types are experienced, and which is widely believed to greatly enhance psychic abilities. The active ingrediant in this plant is a Beta-Carboline, very similar chemically to the substance produced in our brains every night. This substance was originally dubbed telepathine due to its purpoted psi inducing properties. The subtance is also related chemically to Dimethyl Triptamine, or DMT, another hallucinogenic drug which has been linked to increased spiritual, mystical and paranormal experiences.
The dualistic model of the human psyche proposes that human thought, emotion and behavior is the result of interactions between a physical brain and a non-physical consciousness. As parapsychologists continue to study the links between these two functional units, a new understanding of psychic phenomena is beginning to emerge, and may one day lead us to the ability to induce ESP or PK at will. Whether we choose to use such awesome power for the benefit or detriment of the world, remains to be seen.