What is ESP?
Back when I was in elementary school, during the 1970s, TV shows about ESP and other tales of the paranormal were popular. Leonard Nimoy's In Search Of ... ran from 1976 through 1982, and I remember it being one of my favorite shows. He'd investigate UFOs, ghosts, telepathy, the Loch Ness Monster, and those sorts of things. The wave of faddish interest in paranormal experiences peaked with Steven Spielberg's Poltergeist, and then the rise of the Religious Right seemed to eclipse the nation's brief foray into non-Christian explanations for ghosts, visions, and funny feelings about impending disasters.
I'm mostly finished with my first reading of Seth Speaks: The Eternal Validity of the Soul. It was my first real exposure to the type of metaphysical thinking that commonly underlies various New Age philosophies. I find it difficult to summarize this book in a paragraph or less ... but it purports to be a book written by a non-physical personality communicating via a human medium. It covers concepts like reincarnation, multidimensional reality, simultaneous systems of probable realities, how consciousness creates the material world, the purpose of dreams, the innate consciousness of everything, and other related topics.
Although I don't agree with everything in this book, and I feel like it could have been edited better, I do conclude that it contains many important ideas to consider.
Most saliently, it leaves me feeling as though I understand the nature and limitations of ESP better than before. I hadn't spent much time contemplating ESP since the faddish years of the late 1970s ...
ESP is something that divides people. Either they believe in it, or they don't. Not many people think that ESP includes a set of phenomena that can be scientifically studied and verified. Those who believe in it seem to think it is a powerful and inexplicable force allowing us to communicate with the spirit world. Those who don't believe in it think it is nonscientific hooey.
I think that ESP is more than the skeptics think, and less than the faithful believe. ESP (a.k.a. extrasensory perception) is the set of perceptions we experience that don't originate within our physically oriented sensual apparatus -- perceptions that don't originate within touch, smell, vision, hearing, or taste.
Using this definition, ESP is simply those perceptions that seem to originate in our dreams, our imaginations, our thoughts, or even our hallucinations, anywhere but physical reality. Using this definition, ESP exists, and we all have ESP. Every day and every night.
So, the question is not whether to believe in the existence of ESP. ESP exists. The question is what these extrasensory perceptions mean, if anything.
If a medium channels a voice from another personality, where is this voice really coming from, and what can it really tell us?
If you recall a dream from last night, what does it mean, and what should you do about it?
If you feel a strong sense that a loved one is in danger, how should you react?
Does it do any good to visualize our internal bodily systems in order to help them fight diseases?
Can ESP activate the placebo effect? And why does the placebo effect work at all?
Can some people predict the future, peer into the past, or travel outside of their bodies in the present?
Can people communicate merely via their internally expressed thoughts?
I don't have comprehensive answers for all of these questions, but I think they are all valid areas for exploration, both personally and professionally, and that all of them can be studied using observation, intuition, logic, and experimentation.
I think that both our scientific investigations and our everyday lives are unduly limited by assumptions that 4-dimensional "objective" physical reality is the complete basis for everything that happens.
I think it is naive to assume that 4-dimensional physical reality is all there is. Such a framework is anthropomorphic at best -- to think that reality is best described by the perceptual systems to which humans are most obviously and readily attuned, LOL! Is the universe defined by the cognitive maps inside your cat's brain? No. Is the universe defined by the cognitive maps inside your brain? No. The universe is far more than you or I can ever understand. That's why we invented God ;-)
The metaphysical theories spawned by ESP are attempts to generalize our understanding of the universe beyond the obvious 4-dimensional physical reality we can see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. Why couldn't there be more dimensions than we can perceive via these senses? Why can't there be connections between two points of space-time that function via other dimensions?
And why the hell are we conscious at all, instead of fully-functioning non-sentient biochemical androids? Where does consciousness come from, and where does it go? What does it mean that we can feel what happens to us as we focus upon our particular portions of reality?
If we are going to wonder about the origins of the known universe, along with black holes, quarks, and anti-matter, why not also wonder about the possibilities of the unknown universe, and what our extrasensory perceptions might signal about these possibilities?
On the other hand ... what good do these theories do me here and now, in my very human life, which finds itself subject to all the understood and misunderstood forces of 4-dimensional physical reality?
Well ... they could do a great deal of psychological good for me, if nothing else. If I better understood my dreams, my occasional hallucinations, my funny feelings, and my empathic imagination, I might better understand myself and my motivations. It could help a great deal to know where "I" came from, and where "I" am going, particularly after I die. These theories could correct a lot of harmful religious dogma, and help people to treat each other (and other species, and natural resources) with more love and respect.
But, for the most part, ESP is not taken seriously by educated people. Educated people let what they "know" blind themselves to other possible interpretations of reality.
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