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Saturday, August 20, 2011

PSYCHIC, FAIRLY

I'm about to launch into a series of posts prompted by a blogpiece on Curt Purcell's GROOVY AGE, but I'll start by referencing something I said out of that context.

I don't know that I believe in magic as such, but I have seen some evidence for psychic abilities.


In some quarters this would be a fairly innocuous statement. On one forum of my acquaintance, however, I've seen even the most cautious engagement with the idea of psychism excoriated by skeptics who worship at the feet of James Randi. I've seen one comic-book writer equate any degree of psychic-concept acceptance with backsliding into the horrors of organized religion.

It seems obvious to me that the two are not logically related, as there is no necessary association between psychic concepts and concepts of deities. A world in which some psychic talents exist does not automatically imply the existence of gods, ghosts, fairies, selkies, leprechauns, or vampires. Such a world doesn't even imply the existence of Kant's categorical imperative. There are, to be sure, people who believe in both telepathy and fairies. But in contrast to these believers, parapsychologists generally argue that what they study is an aspect of the material world, albeit an aspect subtler than most. It is quite possible that parapsychology will never be validated; that it will never be able to demonstrate the desired repeatability prized by the "hard sciences." But if the discipline does over time fail that test, it won't fail because of some illogical misassociation between telepathy and miracle-making deities.

In lieu of quantifiable evidence, those who claim psychic experiences have only anecdotes. Without question, anecdotes are useless within the sphere of science. I don't decry this exclusionary perspective in the least; there's absolutely nothing science can investigate in an anecdote. However, anecdotes, psychic or otherwise, are not irrelevant to the totality of human experience. The false notion that science *alone* can analyze that totality is nothing more than the posturing of pseudo-intellectuals who have deluded themselves into believing that they are being rigorously "tough-minded" (in the Jamesian sense) to regard telepathy and fairies as co-equal considerations.

And so we come at last to the matter of My Psychic Anecdote (which title I should maybe copyright in case "Scrubs" ever gets revived).

Four years ago, I'm driving home on a street I've driven on a hundred or so times. I'm coming back from my book club, which I've attended more or less monthly since 1993. Never had anything remotely psychic happen to me there before or since.

I pull up to a red light in the middle lane of the three-lane street. There's one car on my left. I remember nothing about the car itself; I don't think I exchanged glances with the driver or anything of the kind. It's early evening, but not dark yet.

As I'm sitting waiting for the light to change, it suddenly occurs to me that even though it's not dark, the two lanes might seem to merge into one into one if one isn't looking carefully. No fairies, no heavenly hosannahs. Just the sense that the guy next to me might *think* that my lane is his lane.

The light changes. I hang back.

Car number two barrels right into my lane, and would've hit me if I'd continued on my merry way.

I've looked at the same intersection many times since. The two lanes never again appeared to be blending into one lane.

I'm familiar with the skeptic's counter-arguments. The apparent "blending" could have been a trick of light that affected both me and Driver Two purely on the visual level, causing the other guy to cross into the wrong lane. If so, then it was a rare trick indeed, not duplicated in the dozens of times I've driven the same route at roughly the same time.

I would hope no sedulous skeptic would try the old "subvocalization" theory to explain away apparent psychic insight. When two drivers are idling in their cars, I think one would have to be Daredevil to pick up on another person's subvocal intentions-- not that the other fellow would be thinking to himself, "I'm going to drive into the wrong lane now."

After that, the skeptic's last defense is always: you're misremembering or lying.

As I said above, my anecdote won't-- and probably shouldn't-- convince anyone but me. I can't make anyone else see as through my eyes, can't communicate to anyone that the impression of blending simply was not a light-distortion, but was rather the other driver's mental image of what he saw ahead of him.

But my anecdote, like many aspects of life, aren't irrelevant to life simply because they can't be reduced to "patients etherized upon a table."

I wouldn't deride who chose not to believe the above anecdote, especially if that person had (or remembers) nothing remotely psychic occur in his own life.

But if that person had a comparable experience, and refused to believe he'd had it because it flew in the face of established science--

That person would be, like the unnamed comics-writer mentioned above, an unmitigated idiot.

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