Here's something I'm just noodling on. I don't know if it has any validity. Much of what follows isn't very polished - it's just a slightly cleaned up version of some notes I scribbled to myself. As such, it's repetitious and disorganized. But maybe it will strike a chord with someone.
I was thinking about a series of séances in which Victor Hugo participated while he was exiled on the Isle of Jersey. The subject came up because I'm in the middle of reading a very interesting book about these séances, Victor Hugo's Conversations with the Spirit World, by John Chambers. Despite the title, the book does not insist that these communications really came from spirits. They may have been mental projections of the sitters, especially of Hugo himself. Little evidential material was obtained, and when tests were applied, the spirits usually failed. Nevertheless, it seems unlikely that the séances were the result of conscious fraud. They continued over two years, during which time a variety of people handled the planchette (a precursor of the Ouija board), obtaining many messages. No money was involved, and only friends and family participated.
The séances, then, seem to have been on the up-and-up ... but how to account for the bizarre messages that came through, many of them from historical figures liker Hannibal and Shakespeare, or from entities calling themselves "Death" or "Civilization"? Was it all some kind of psychic projection on the part of the sitters? Were real spirits involved sporadically? Mischievous entities? How to make sense of all this?
Musing on this question, I found myself thinking of some excerpts I'd just read from the book Consciousness Is All, by Peter Francis Dziuban. It occurred to me that the problem might be easier to address if I adopted, at least provisionally, the idea that consciousness is the ground of being - that ultimately there is only one consciousness, and that everything that is specific and individual, whether trees and houses and mountains or thoughts and personalities, is ultimately an expression or manifestation of this great consciousness.
Now, in this case, hard-and-fast distinctions perhaps become more difficult to maintain. After all, the ultimate hard-and-fast distinction is that between consciousness and external reality. But if there is no clearcut line of demarcation between consciousness and external reality - if external reality emerges from consciousness - then not only is that fundamental distinction blurred, but many other distinctions may be blurred, as well.
The idea that ultimately there is only one consciousness may get some support from science. According to most interpretations of quantum physics, the observer affects the quantum phenomenon that is observed. But no two observers of the same event ever get different results; their observations always agree. Why is this? Perhaps the simplest explanation is that, in reality, there are not two observers, but only one. One consciousness, one observation, and therefore no possibility of disagreement.
In other words, if there is only one consciousness, then its division into separate minds is an illusion - or at least not the final truth.
Getting back to the séances, perhaps we can say that if there is only one consciousness, then Hugo and the spirits are all one. The spirits can be real or can be projections of Hugo's own mind - it makes no difference, or at most it makes only a superficial difference, of secondary importance.
To put it another way, suppose there is a vast field of consciousness that can produce innumerable varieties of manifestations. We cannot discriminate as finely as we might like among these manifestations. So we mix up real spirits with mental projections, and we mix up objective phenomena with subjective. We are hampered by the belief that hard-and-fast distinctions can be drawn, when the actual nature of reality is more like a sliding scale. We believe in hard-and-fast distinctions because we start with the fundamental hard-and-fast distinction between physical reality and consciousness. All our other discriminations follow this pattern.
If we start by saying "consciousness is all," then we can still draw distinctions, but they are more shaded. Since everything is ultimately one, we expect the lines of discrimination to be blurred. We do not expect hard-and-fast distinctions, but subtle shadings.
Instead of the Aristotelian duality of A or non-A, we have a range of possibilities, a spectrum in which each possible state of being blurs into the next, as colors on the color spectrum blur into one another. It is still possible to discriminate, but the categories cannot be so neat.
So we can say Hugo's spirits are mostly mental projections, while Leonora Piper's "control" George Pelham is mostly real (in the sense of apparently having more of an independent existence), and her later "control" Imperator might be somewhere in between. Imperator is more abstract than Pelham, but more independent than Hugo's spirits. Of course this independence is merely relative. All these entities are ultimately manifestations of the one and only consciousness, as is Hugo himself, and Piper, and all the sitters, and all the rest of us.
Similarly, poltergeists may be mental projections in some cases, spirits in others, and a combination in still others. Ditto for apparitions, which may be telepathically received or seen with the senses, and may be astral shells or memory patterns or actual spirits or mere hallucinations. Ditto again for electronic voice phenomena, which may exist on a continuum ranging from imagination to hallucination to psychic projection to spirit contact.
The key advantage of seeing consciousness as the ground of being is that it frees us from the supposition that absolute, hard-and-fast, black-and-white distinctions are normal and inevitable. It gives us the flexibility to say that different phenomena may overlap, and that there is a sliding scale rather than a sharp division. Dualism invites and requires two-sided, bifurcated thinking. Monism or Idealism allows for subtle shading. A particle can be a wave. A spirit communication can be, in the same sitting, a genuine message and a case of mental projection.
If "consciousness is all," one would actually expect the sitter or the medium to contribute to the phenomena. After all, there is no clearcut dividing line between the consciousness of the sitter and the consciousness of the medium or of the spirit. There are no clearcut dividing lines, period.
And how about synchronicities? Aren't they simply cases where the dividing line between objective and subjective is more obviously blurred than usual? I think of something, and a moment later it appears in my "external" world. But really it appears in my consciousness, just like the thought itself.
Again, this is not to say no distinctions are possible. We can still distinguish between thoughts and objects, and so forth. But the distinctions are gentle, not severe; relative, not absolute; provisional, not final; there is room for ambiguity.
Perhaps the difficulty we encounter in studying the paranormal lies precisely in our habit of thinking dualistically and thereby missing the fine gradations that take us subtly but inexorably from "objective" to "subjective," from "real" to "unreal." Perhaps the scientific method, which is rooted in Aristotelian logic, is not the best way to approach these phenomena or to establish their legitimacy. Perhaps what is needed is a new way of thinking.
Or perhaps not. I'm not sure!