My children looked at this issue’s cover picture and asked ‘how do they do that?’ Still young enough not to be quite sure if it is a trick or real magic, they nevertheless see that it is extraordinary, if not impossible. This, in a sense, is how we often encounter the ‘paranormal’, in liminal situations where we are not sure whether what we are experiencing is true or false: the fleeting vision of a ‘ghost’, did I see it or imagine it? or the phenomena of a darkened scéance room. However, in our feature article, Dr Rupert Sheldrake argues that ‘psi’ is normal, not paranormal, and may be going on all of the time. If ‘psi’ is real, then this makes sense. We do not switch our other senses on or off, they are on all of the time, even when the conscious self may not be. But the crux of Sheldrake’s argument is that, if real, then psi must have a biological purpose that brings an evolutionary advantage. This line of argument is also explored by Prof. Chris Roe in his examination of Jim Carpenter’s theory of ‘First Sight’ and Rex Stanford’s theory of ‘Psi-Mediated Instrumental Response’ (PMIR), where ‘psi’ functions unconsciously as a practical aid to the individual’s survival..
This, of course, only applies to psi as a ‘sixth sense’ (or even seventh), leaving other areas of the ‘not-usuallyconsidered- normal’ with the contentious tag of ‘para-’. Here Jim Matlock presents a strong case from his new book Signs of Reincarnation to show that reincarnation, like telepathy and precogition as considered by the writers mentioined above, is also a real and normally occurring phenomenon.
These arguments build nicely to David Lorimer’s piece on the Galileo Commission’s report, Beyond a Materialist Worldview – Towards an Expanded Science written by Prof. Harald Walach. As Chairmain of the Galileo Commission, among other things, Lorimer challenges the scientific status quo, rooted in materialist ideology, asking us to face the growing body of apparent evidence that shows that things may not be as material as some of us think they are.
With such strong arguments pushing at the boundaries of the mainstream in science, we must ask where is the SPR in this debate? Committed to holding no corporate views, the SPR is, of course, firmly on the sidelines. I would not want the SPR to change its stance on this, but can it do more than just sit on the sidelines? My editorial in PR92 has spurred on some readers to discuss the SPR’s role in the world today and I am delighted to include two of those responses in this issue. Dr Tom Ruffles, who has been involved with the Society for many years, holding several important positions in that time, picks up on my suggestions for promoting a ‘citizen science’ programme and increasing the Society’s reach and reputation through publishing. Randy Liebeck, a long-standing member from the US, places the emphasis more on outreach, specifically targeting the ‘ghost hunting’ community. To its credit, the SPR has recently addressed this, running two workshops on ghost hunting, largely at the instigation of Council Member Steve Parsons. Whilst a welcome move, it still leaves the problem of reach: a single issue of the Journal or Paranormal Review reaches the same number of people as approximately twenty workshops, making it much more cost effective, and over the same period (it would take ten to twenty years to hold all of those workshops) will deliver far more content and value, all without geographical limitations and, unlike live events, will have a shelf-life for as long as the British Library is standing. This is why I see publishing as one of the most important things the Society can do. It may make money for the Society in addition, but it is not primarily about that (none of the Society’s other activities is run as a profit-making venture), it is about fulfilling the Society’s purpose as an educational charity by using the most effective strategy to advance the understanding of events and abilities commonly described as ‘psychic’ or ‘paranormal’, without prejudice and in a scientific manner. As hinted at in the last editorial, I am delighted to unveil a new project to that end, with a call for chapters for a forthcoming book to tackle one of the most fundamental questions we face, Is There Life After Death? I hope that you will share my excitement in seeing how this project develops and with your support we can ensure its success.
Dr Leo Ruickbie