Earlier today I wanted to look up a quote from Charlton Heston's autobiography In the Arena in order to post it on my Facebook page. (The quote was a humorous anecdote about the making of Planet of the Apes.) It's a long book, 592 pages, and I had only the vaguest idea of where the passage might be found. I knew it had to be closer to the end than to the beginning, simply because I have a general idea of where Apes lies in Heston's film chronology. But that was all I knew. I picked up the book with the intention of finding the passage, but without thinking about it too much, and simply flipped it open.
You guessed it – I opened the book to the precisely correct page.
This kind of thing happens a lot, to a lot of people. The phenomenon is so common that there's a term for it – "the library angel." The library angel is the tongue-in-cheek explanation provided for those times when we pick a book off the shelf at random and discover it's exactly the one we needed.
Although I don't know if any formal study has been done, my guess is that this sort of thing happens too frequently to be dismissed as chance coincidence. It seems to be a function of psi. But how does it work? Are we really supposed to believe there is a guardian angel who assists us in such trivial tasks as looking up an excerpt in a book?
Here's the way I've come to look at it. What follows is a combination of the "George" hypothesis advanced by Arthur J. Ellison in his book Science and the Paranormal, and the information-processing universe idea that is picking up some support on the fringes of physics (and metaphysics).
Let's start with George. This was Ellison's name for the active agent in the unconscious, the part of us that obeys simple instructions, such as those given by a hypnotist. If we tell George to track down a certain memory – the name of an old movie star, for instance – and then put our conscious mind on other things, George will doggedly work behind the scenes to retrieve the information and bring it to our conscious attention. At that point the name will simply "pop into" our mind.
But George can do much more than this. He seems to have direct access to the world of psychic phenomena. Under certain circumstances, he can obtain information of which we have no normal awareness. Naturally, some people have developed this ability more highly than others; most of us have only rudimentary and inconsistent abilities.
George is enormously resourceful and incredibly persistent, but he lacks wisdom. He will believe whatever an authority figure tells him. If a hypnotist, bypassing the conscious mind, tells George that he is drunk, George will make his human host act drunk, even if the person hasn't touched a drop.
It's my contention that George is the library angel. Let's look again at what happened when I opened In the Arena. I had set the intention of finding that particular passage, in effect giving George instructions. But I had not given much conscious thought to where the passage might be found; I opened the book without thinking. This gave George the freedom to operate without being constrained by my conscious guesses (which undoubtedly would have been far less accurate).
But how does George do it? How does he know which page to find? Here we come to the information-processing universe idea. If we accept the hypothesis that everything in physical reality boils down to information, then the location of that passage in that copy of the book is just one more data point in a vast information matrix. And George, remember, is able to access the world of psi directly – which means he can interact directly with the information matrix. He is like a programmer who can go below the surface of a web page and look at the source code.
Given the instruction to find the relevant passage in Heston's book, and not having any interference from my conscious mind, he can scan the "source code" of pure information that undergirds our physical world and find the relevant datum. And, still bypassing my conscious mind, he can direct my hand to open the book to just that page – much to my (conscious) surprise.
Similarly, if a person in a library sets himself the intention of finding a certain book and then is able to let go of the chattering interference of the conscious mind, George can lead him straight to the book. The answer, after all, is right there in the source code, which George can see even if the conscious mind can't. But the whole process depends on trust. If the person starts to doubt, George's activity will be short-circuited. I can't emphasize this strongly enough: He believes whatever you tell him, so if you even hint that he is not capable of doing the job, he will be unable to do it.
The process as I imagine it is somewhat similar to some old experiments in remote viewing, in which the test subject was given geographical coordinates and told to zero in on that location. The coordinates meant nothing to his conscious mind, but to George they were highly significant. True, such coordinates are a strictly human convention, but they have a known correspondence to actual locations. And what is known must be in the source code … somewhere.
George used those coordinates to track down the relevant locale and then passed along the necessary information, in visual form, to the test subject's conscious mind. Note that, in these tests, positive reinforcement increased the subject's confidence and trust, making it likely that his performance would improve over time. The more he believed he could do it, the more able he was to do it again. (What mattered, of course, is ultimately what George believed.)
Many people have noted that psi is goal-directed, and that its mechanism of action is obscure. I suggest that it is goal-directed because George needs instructions in order to act; like a robot or a computer, he has very little mind or purpose of his own. I also suggest that the mechanism of action, while still obscure, can perhaps be slightly clarified by thinking in terms of George's ability to read the source code that generates our 4D space-time universe.