Decoding parapsychology: siddhis or simple tips?



Let’s not fall prey to simple tricks and pseudo-science

In all of the above “psychic” phenomena, what we see is that even scholarly scientists can be trapped in their preferred bias-permitting worldview. It was no accident when crooks faked psychic powers; quantum physicists have fallen prey to these simple tricks. Quantum physicists, for whom the strangest shows formed their daily area of ​​expertise, belief in psychic powers came naturally, which, in turn, facilitated the voluntary suspension of disbelief. The strangeness of quantum mechanics, however, has its role in everyday life – from consciousness, perhaps, to quantum computers in the near future, but we don’t need quantum mechanics to explain the trick of reading a sealed letter by a stage magician. Hindus too, with their wonderful worldviews and philosophies, are vulnerable to such errors, and we need to be aware of this vulnerability. It is good to remember here that Carl Sagan, who valued the timescale and cosmologies in the Hindu tradition, was also one of the most vocal critics of so-called psychic phenomena.

If this is the case with scientists, what about those who, even if they are scholars, are laypersons when it comes to stage magic? Therefore, in the case of a phenomenon like the so-called “opening of the third eye” or “activation of the midbrain”, any claim in the public domain should be subjected to rigorous testing which should include wizards of the world. the stage like PC Sorcar Jr. – leaning rationalist groups from Kerala demonstrated on stage how children can read through the blindfold, as our visual system can surprisingly adapt with a small amount of light, sneaking through the blindfold . Children can learn the art of looking through the blindfold, even unconsciously. Usually in supernatural claims the “Occam’s Razor” is a very useful tool in removing fraud. To this end, Hindus should study Dr Abraham Kovoor, James Randi and Michael Shermer. In fact, the Hindutva party should develop their own James Randi.

A real Indian approach

However, Indian philosophy has an important role to play in making science understand complex psychosomatic phenomena. Take the same case of the phantom limb. Dr Vilayanur Ramachandran begins chapter on phantom limbs, citing a passage from the Advaitic treatise Viveka Chudamani of Shankara who says not to identify with “the shadow cast by your body, or with its reflection, or with the body that you see in a dream”, etc. The reason Ramachandran uses this quote becomes clear as he progresses through the chapter. Through the experiments, he describes how he finds out what is going on in the brains of patients with ghosts, which gives a “deeper message” that his “own body is a ghost”, which the “brain has only temporarily constructed. for “Body image, despite all its appearance of durability, is an entirely transient internal construction.” And Ramachandran uses the classic Advaitic technique of using one illusion to remove another illusion by relieving the pain of people with phantom limbs. He developed a new method to remove numerous instances of ghost limbs through a mirror box. This method, developed by Ramachandran to deal with the phantom phenomenon, is rooted in the Indian theory of “the body as a useful dynamic construct”, devised by Maya.

So, in Sheldrake and Ramachandran’s approaches to the phantom limb phenomenon, we have a lesson in how not to mix up one’s worldview with science and how to use one’s philosophical tradition to stimulate avenues of scientific exploration. Therefore, it is high time that we looked into the idea of ​​Siddhis – the so-called supernatural powers that we are supposed to acquire during our adventure in consciousness which we call “saadhana”: perhaps we should not. we do not interpret them literally but understand them. symbolically, and like maps to a deep psychology.

Today, dharma needs a serious and scholarly dialogue with science and its implications for society and the environment. And those who are capable of such a dialogue do not have the luxury of being distracted by simple tricks as “Siddhis”.

For further reading:

Dr Jospeh Hanlon, Uri Geller and Science, New Scientist, October 17, 1974

James Randi, The Truth About Uri Geller, Prometheus Books, 1982

Lyall Watson, Lifetide: A Biology of the Unconscious, Hodder and Stoughton, 1979

Elaine Myers, The Hundredth Monkey Revisited, IC # 9, 1985

Michael Shermer, Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition and other confusions of our time, Souvenir, 2007

P.Brugger and KLTaylor, ESP, in ‘PSI Wars: Getting to Grips with the Paranormal’, (Ed. James E. Alcock, Jean Burns, Anthony Freeman), Imprint Academic: 2003

VSRamachandran & Sandra Blakeslee, “Ghosts in the Brain”, Harper Perennial: 2005

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