Some Thoughts on Rare Phenomena & Science

Much psychical research relies on minute effects and their statistical interpretation, sometimes making tiny punctures in the prevailing worldview. The evidence of Kluski (and quite a few others) tears that worldview apart. We may find the reports incredible but, perhaps, if we start asking what the world would have to be like for them to be true, we might at least learn where to look for clues to what might lie beyond.

Weaver, Zofia. Other Realities?: The enigma of Franek Kluski’s mediumship . White Crow Productions Ltd. Kindle Edition.

I am not interested in whether or not séance phenomena are indicators of spirits or are the products of living forces, but in the phenomena themselves and how they are produced– The kinds of phenomena that seem “magical,” that seem to defy the physical laws as we know them, which shake our sense of reality and may threaten our world-view so that they are difficult for people to accept.

Part of the difficulty is their rarity. The author of the very popular “Outlander” books, Diana Gabaldon, has her heroine discussing just this problem—“It isn’t a fact if you haven’t seen it?” — with a naturalist in VOYAGER.   She remarks that not everybody can perform these things, only certain people. The naturalist answers ironically, “If everyone can do it, it’s science.  If only a few can then it’s witchcraft or superstition, or whatever you like to call it.”

She persists, asking “What about things where the rules of science seem not to apply; odd things that cannot be explained rationally?” His response: “I say it’s the place of science only to observe, to see cause where it may be found  . . .” and that if cause is not found it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, just that we “know too little to find it. 

When she notes that people go on wanting explanations, “It isn’t the place of science to insist on explanation but only to observe in hopes that the explanation will manifest itself.” 

Gabaldon also has her character wisely state that “hypotheses must never be confused with explanation.”   It was not a book in which I expected to find such wisdom.  You never know.

Medium Eileen J Garrett (1893-1970)

Medium Eileen J Garrett (1893-1970)

TO BE(LIEVE) OR NOT TO BE(LIEVE)


Another problem in psi research has to do with attitudes or entrenched beliefs: 

Even within the psi community there is an ongoing, never-ending, sometimes hostile debate between those who believe in an afterlife and maintain that psi phenomena are proof of survival, and those who contend that psi phenomena are the result of living forces having nothing to do with spirits or an afterlife.

I admit to strongly leaning toward the latter opinion, but I am agnostic, that is, I don’t think it’s possible to know for sure, at this stage of our knowledge at any rate, and try to keep an open mind.  There are certainly forms of psi—children who seem to recall past lives, for instance—that are intriguing, but are they “proof?”

Lisette Coly, president of the Parapsychology Foundation, founded by her grandmother, the famous medium Eileen Garrett, summed it up nicely recently:

“Eileen Garrett, my maternal grandmother, herself a trance medium, caught a lot of flak because everybody thought if she was supposedly talking to spirits she would be a believer in survival, or life after death, and she was not sure,” Coly says, describing her grandmother’s healthy skepticism and desire for answers. “I tell people, a true believer in all this, to me, is just as dangerous as a true disbeliever. Because when you’re a skeptic and you reject everything, or you believe everything, well hello, I like to sit in the middle. … There are multiple possible explanations. I always say you have to eliminate all normal explanations before you jump to the paranormal, which people tend to not do. And the more you know, the more you don’t know.

Lisette Coly quoted in: Dan’s Papers: Greenport Parapsychology Library Seeks Life After Financial Death By Oliver Peterson  posted Oct. 31, 2021

Excerpts from  Gabaldon, D. Voyager. (1993). New York, Delacort Press.

For more on this topic see “Fraud & Trickery”