By Paul Kieniewicz (SMN Website Editor)
In launching this blog, I am going back to some of the key ideas discussed in founding the Network over forty years ago. In those days, parapsychology was, as it is today, a disreputable field. Outside publications of the Society for Psychical Research and others dedicated to the field, mainstream scientific journals ignored parapsychology. Doctors who practiced homeopathy did so in secret. Meditation was new, practiced among student groups or followers of the Maharishi. When the first meetings of “the Conspiracy” took place — that was how the founders called themselves, their thought was for establishing a safe place for dialogue on scientific topics such as parapsychology, energy fields, dowsing, higher modes of consciousness. The Network was a means for people with such interests to find each other.
Some things have changed today. Meditation is commonplace, many varieties and techniques for meditation are being taught. Dean Radin, Pim van Lommel and Michael Persinger have published papers on parapsychology in mainstream scientific journals, that document positive results. Their papers are controversial, but are being discussed. However, such topics, along with complementary and alternative medicine are still viewed with suspicion by most scientists. Today, there are serious efforts in the UK government to ban homeopathy. Those who want advancement are very circumspect at showing an interest in those fields. Another unfortunate development is that with the growing volume of popular books on those subject, the science is not always presented with enough rigor to be credible. Scientific terms such as “nonlocal”, “quantum” or “epigenetic” are often used inappropriately in ways that tend to alienate scientists who might otherwise be sympathetic to the subject.
And yet science is changing, and areas emerge each day where science seems to draw closer to what one would call spiritual or mystical, though many scientists deny that this is the case. Those are some of the topics I would like to explore in this blog. Our basic physics, quantum mechanics, relativity and cosmology have reached a crisis. In trying to explain new observations, those disciplines are faced with their own inconsistencies. Some are discussed by Roger Penrose in his recent book, “Fashion faith and fantasy in the new physics of the universe”. Physics is ready for a significant change, though no one can agree on what it will be. In biology, I am struck by the growing recognition that electricity and electric fields play a major role in living organisms. The forgotten work of J.C. Bose on electricity in living and nonliving is being rediscovered. Epigenetics is a growth field, whose implications are yet to be understood. Many biologists feel that Lamarckian evolution needs a second look, that some acquired characteristics can be passed down many generations. As always, the nature of consciousness remains an unanswered question. What do we even mean by consciousness? Who is conscious? Humans (at least most of them), some animals, plants? How about atoms, or the universe? Can an electron possess an awareness of its quantum state? Those questions are raised these days in many mainstream science journals.
Medicine seems to be the most resistant to change. Yet even here, we see a growing recognition, following many new studies, that acupuncture and Chinese medicine may work after all, that meditation may be a cure for depression, and that religion has a positive role to play in a person’s health and well-being. Near Death Experiences are being discussed (and still often dismissed as not having any significance), even though they are accepted as commonplace. Research frontiers are in neurology and fMRI studies. Each day we hear some fantastic new feat, such as a man who moves a mechanical object with his thought. Many researchers feel that computers will soon be able to read our private thoughts. There are fewer discussions on whether this is a good thing. Some neurologists are exploring how the human brain interacts with the Earth’s magnetic field. They speculate that we all may be connected electromagnetically, be able to listen in on each other’s thoughts. Unfortunately, most psychologists still regard the notion of “the psyche” as fanciful, something you don’t mention to your colleagues.
There is no shortage of topics to write about. Discoveries are constantly being made, but their philosophical or spiritual implications are often not understood until many years later. In these pages, I will try to present some of these discoveries and make some educated guesses on what I think they mean. I can’t write about everything. For the moment, I’ll focus on the hard sciences, rather than religion or spirituality. Not to devalue spirituality, but I feel that an open study of the science will eventually take us to the other.