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Michael -

I for one appreciate that blogging is work and a time-sink. Nonetheless, I enjoy your posts and support your continued (if attenuated) writing. My own interests over the past 10 years somewhat parallel yours: why the rigid adherence by scientists to materialism and the fanatic skepticism towards anything that cannot be explained by prosaic means? Why the hostility? Can *every* encounter with the unknown be explained by conventional means? (I highly doubt it).

I am a big beliver in life after death, and have a high degree of confidence that most near death experiences and death bed visions are "real." However, what levitating tables, making accordions play, and other so called physical manifestations has to do with life after death is beyond me. Am I to believe that life after death is so boring that spirits have nothing better to do than do parlor tricks for sitters at a seance? When a person's consciousness leaves their body, they are free to explore the whole Universe, but instead these spirits focus their attention on doing little tricks for sitters? I find it very hard to believe and it makes very little sense to me. Sorry! - Artie

Michael,

I enjoy your commentary on the paranormal because you seem about as open-minded levelheaded and fair about this controversial topic as one could be. There are far too many true believers out there who are not willingly to look at the paranormal rationaly and discern between what is backed up by evidence and what is not, and conversly there are far too many close-minded skeptics who made up their mind a long time ago and have no interest in looking at any evidence.

You strike a nice balance and also bring a lot of interesting angles and topics to the discussion of the paranormal.

Thanks!

>instead these spirits focus their attention on doing little tricks for sitters?

Braude argues in The Limits of Influence that the physical phenomena are probably examples of psychokinesis, not spirit activity.

Do you agree with him? I thought you didn't believe in super-psi.

PK is not super-psi.

Art: why do you assume that spirits, once freed from their bodies, are suddenly "free" to explore the whole entire universe at will? I could easily imagine it being quite as limiting a place as here, only different in its limitations.

"PK is not super-psi."

What do you think the term "super-psi" means? Braude has defined it as "highly-refined psi among the living." (PK is a psi phenomenon.)

Super-psi is usually taken to mean a medium's purported ability to read the mind of the sitter, read the minds of other people some distance away, use clairvoyance to obtain information unknown to any living person, and (sometimes) see the future. The medium would then weave all this information together to produce a credible impersonation of a deceased individual. It is usually postulated that the medium does all this unconsciously.

I find this theory unconvincing because it gives the medium virtual omniscience, and because such robust ESP has not been observed in the laboratory. Macro-PK, on the other hand, has been observed, for instance in Jack Houck's PK parties.

"Super-psi is usually taken to mean a medium's purported ability to read the mind of the sitter, read the minds of other people some distance away, use clairvoyance to obtain information unknown to any living person, and (sometimes) see the future. The medium would then weave all this information together to produce a credible impersonation of a deceased individual. It is usually postulated that the medium does all this unconsciously."

It means this when used in the context of mental mediumship, but the term can also be applied to physical effects. "Highly-refined psi among the living" isn't theoretically limited to just ESP.

"I find this theory unconvincing because it gives the medium virtual omniscience, and because such robust ESP has not been observed in the laboratory. Macro-PK, on the other hand, has been observed, for instance in Jack Houck's PK parties."

First, Jack Houck's PK parties aren't conducted in laboratories. Second, some of Palladino's phenomena (e.g., the materialization of phantoms) are not exactly analogous to cutlery bending. Third, I can think of numerous displays of ESP which exceed the psychic robustness exhibited by Houck and his guests (see e.g., Pat Price, Joseph McMoneagle, Mary Craig Sinclair, and Stefan Ossowiecki).

As far as I can tell, you do not disagree that Palladino displayed "highly refined psi." You believe though, that super-psi only exists in relation to PK and not ESP. I do not think that position is justifiable. As I have indicated, there are many cases of ESP which could arguably fall under the rubric of super-psi. Further, if we acknowledge that Palladino "could levitate tables and other objects, produce air currents in a sealed room, cause musical instruments to play even at a considerable distance, and effect the materialization of spirit hands and other forms" without recourse to spirits, there is little reason to think the same prodigiousness can't be exhibited through ESP.

>As far as I can tell, you do not disagree that Palladino displayed "highly refined psi."

I don't know what kind of abilities she displayed. The point of my post was that Baggally and Feilding were convinced she was genuine, and Pearsall misrepresented their position.

>You believe though, that super-psi only exists in relation to PK and not ESP.

Frankly, I don't know what I believe. There are a lot of ambiguities in this area. I don't think any theory covers all the data.

My problem with super-psi is that it is unfalsifiable, therefore not a testable theory. Also it does not seem to explain the motivation of (alleged) discarnate communicators, especially communicators of the drop-in variety. Braude covers this issue in his book Immortal Remains. Alan Gauld discusses it extensively in Mediumship and Survival.

Too little is understood in this area for me to be dogmatic about it. The data are hard to argue with, but the interpretation of the data remains open to question. Maybe it always will. I've resigned myself to accepting (and living with) the ambiguities.

"I've resigned myself to accepting (and living with) the ambiguities."

You've come a long way from the Days of Rand!

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