Blog Archives

Indigenous myths, animal ESP, and portents of apocalyptic transformation

Here’s science writer Carrie Arnold, in a newly published article at Aeon titled “Watchers of the Earth,” discussing the possibility that indigenous myths may carry warning signals for natural disasters:

Shortly before 8am on 26 December 2004, the cicadas fell silent and the ground shook in dismay. The Moken, an isolated tribe on the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean, knew that the Laboon, the ‘wave that eats people’, had stirred from his ocean lair. The Moken also knew what was next: a towering wall of water washing over their island, cleansing it of all that was evil and impure. To heed the Laboon’s warning signs, elders told their children, run to high ground.

The tiny Andaman and Nicobar Islands were directly in the path of the tsunami generated by the magnitude 9.1 earthquake off the coast of Sumatra. Final totals put the islands’ death toll at 1,879, with another 5,600 people missing. When relief workers finally came ashore, however, they realised that the death toll was skewed. The islanders who had heard the stories about the Laboon or similar mythological figures survived the tsunami essentially unscathed. Most of the casualties occurred in the southern Nicobar Islands. Part of the reason was the area’s geography, which generated a higher wave. But also at the root was the lack of a legacy; many residents in the city of Port Blair were outsiders, leaving them with no indigenous tsunami warning system to guide them to higher ground.

Humanity has always courted disaster. We have lived, died and even thrived alongside vengeful volcanoes and merciless waves. Some disasters arrive without warning, leaving survival to luck. Often, however, there is a small window of time giving people a chance to escape. Learning how to crack open this window can be difficult when a given catastrophe strikes once every few generations. So humans passed down stories through the ages that helped cultures to cope when disaster inevitably struck. These stories were fodder for anthropologists and social scientists, but in the past decade, geologists have begun to pay more attention to how indigenous peoples understood, and prepared for, disaster. These stories, which couched myth in metaphor, could ultimately help scientists prepare for cataclysms to come.

Reading this triggered a flood of associated thoughts this morning, mostly related to things I’ve read elsewhere that resonate with it. Although the basic focus is different, for me this article somewhat recalls a starkly apocalyptic and millenarian passage from the ending to Benjamin Hoff’s The Te of Piglet (1992), a book that many readers found off-putting for its semi-grimness, which represented a departure from the more charmingly whimsical presentation of Taoism that Hoff had adopted in its predecessor, The Tao of Pooh: Read the rest of this entry

Legacy’s End: The Rise and Fall of the UCLA Parapsychology Lab

Many people are curious about the real story of UCLA’s former parapsychology lab (not a department!), which existed from about 1967 through 1978. In the early 1970s I personally conducted research there along two fronts. One front was in the lab itself, where I conducted psi training research groups from 1971 through 1980. The other was in the field, where I investigated ghosts, hauntings, and poltergeists (as in the Entity and Hollymont cases). Both of these endeavors yielded considerable evidence that have helped us better understand the nature of psi at many levels.

The lab was located on the fifth floor of the former Neuropsychiatric Institute (NPI; now the Semel Institute) at UCLA’s Center for the Health Sciences. In many ways it was a clearinghouse for various researchers and scientists to visit and share data, conduct their own research, or participate in ours. Each member of the lab sort of did his or her own “thing” in relation to the lab’s operations.

Many factors were involved in the lab’s demise, but chief among them was a series of events that, while they should have been fortunate, since they underscored the popularity and effectiveness of the lab and its research, apparently attracted too much media attention for UCLA in general and the NPI in particular to stomach. Read the rest of this entry

Remote Viewing, Reality, and the Human Condition: Reflections on a Weekend with Russell Targ

There is no other discipline that I know which engages at the same time a person’s critical faculties and his imagination and then stretches them both to a comparable extent.

— John Beloff, “The Study of the Paranormal as an Educative Experience

On the campus of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, the United States’ longest running parapsychology research laboratory is hidden behind a humble facade. This is fitting for a research institute that delves into the very root of our experience of consciousness: that hidden realm lying beneath our own humble human facades.

Founded in the 1930’s by psychologist J. B. Rhine, the Rhine Research Center, as it is now called, has been at the forefront of research into anomalous human experience for more than seven decades.  More importantly, it continues today as one of the major parapsychological research groups in the world, and the friendly folks at the Rhine are more than happy to share that experience with anyone who is honestly inquisitive about their work.

The Rhine Research Center, then and now

On October 19th and 20th, I attended a two-day seminar that was hosted by the Rhine Research Center and presented by Russell Targ, co-founder of the Stanford Research Institute‘s Remote Viewing program, which has become famous for providing training to the U.S. military’s so-called “psychic spy” initiative. As John Kruth, Executive Director for the Rhine, pointed out, the training given to those that attended the recent seminar at the Rhine (including myself) was the same training provided to the original SRI group. Read the rest of this entry