Supernormal by Dean Radin

radind-supernormalDean Radin is the senior scientist at the institute of Noetic Sciences. This is his third book on psychic phenomena. His first two, The Conscious Universe and Entangled Minds, concentrated on providing evidence for the reality of psi through statistical analysis of the wealth of experiments conducted over the past centrury or so. This new volume is largely concerned with why some people have a higher aptitude for psychic ability than others. The deciding factor that Radin attempts to identify as the culprit is meditation. The book is subtitled “Science, yoga, and the evidence for extraordinary psychic abilities.” Psi phenomena are extremely slippery to prove in a lab setting, except by doing a huge meta-analysis. But what if we could demonstrate a measurable trend, such as an observation that long-term meditators outperform non-meditators? Using a wealth of experiments, Radin builds a very convincing case.

The one aspect of the book I’m not so sure about was the wisdom of using the “siddhis” of Buddhism as a credible blueprint for a modern discussion of psi. Siddhis are the alleged supernormal abilities of Buddhist masters, recorded in Buddhist scripture. Radin reckons there is more than a grain of truth in the old scriptures, although there is almost certainly a large amount of overdramatism.

Having read Radin’s previous books, I’ve noticed that any discussion of technique was absent. It’s all well and good to have evidence for psi, but what does an experimenter actually do to cause psychokinesis, telepathy, or precognition. This absence is finally addressed in the latest volume, albeit in a rather vague way. If you want to play with psi, learn how to meditate. Why? Presumably because meditators have the required mental discipline and are competent at holding prolonged “empty” states of mind, where the ordinary, incessant mental chatter is silenced. From my own past experimentation, I concur that it is indeed the state of “no thought” that provokes psi phenomena. And there really is no shortcut achieving an effect. It takes persistent practice. I could occasionally perform limited acts of PK, using a device called a psi wheel, but only when I was daily practising. And even then it was hard to figure out exactly what mental mechanism was causing the effect. The daily practice had the effect of making it easier to slip into a state of “no thought.” Now that I’ve been out of practice for years, it appears to be much more difficult when I decide to just give it a try once in a while.

Most psi effects are small, although Radin has a striking personal story to tell about his own experience at a “PK Party”, where he accidentally ended up bending a spoon. I was also delighted to see the humble psi wheel get a positive mention, as this was my own personal area of interest and where I had some legitimate success.

Supernormal is written in a much wittier and more conversational style than Radin’s previous books. It’s very accessible, but no less deep. Although I have to say I didn’t much like the accompanying illustrations of superhero characters striking yoga poses. I think this image cheapens the credibility of psi and alludes more to those fraudulent career psychics who tout their so-called “powers.” The philosophical territory that the book deals with in the closing chapters is particularly profound. Psi phenomena provide the best evidence for the kind of non-dual underpinnings to reality that mystics have talked about for thousands of years. The book is written as a standalone volume, so there is some necesssary overlap with the previous books, in order to give a complete picture. But a little revision does us veterans no harm. I’ve learned a lot from all of Radin’s books. He is a meticulous thinker and a true pioneer. If I might indulge in a little prediction: when psi is eventually integrated into science, Radin will be looked upon as a key figure who was well ahead of the game. He’s doing really important work, especially when you consider that he’s investigating a side of reality that pioneers such as Stephen Hawking are not prepared to acknowledge. Those of us who are lucky enough to have had a legitimate paranormal experience might be ridculed, accused of fraud or self-delusion, but we know better. So does Dean Radin.

The Conscious Universe by Dean Radin

radind-consciousuniverseThis is the first book written by the senior scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences. It was first published in the USA in 1997, but did not have a UK publication until 2009, where it bore the title The Noetic Universe (some UK readers, having already sourced Radin’s earlier work, mistook this for a new book). Both the US and UK editions, stylistically, contain huge marketing blunders. The US edition features an illustration of a levitating spoon, which, let’s face it, is not the sort of image that conveys legitimate psychic research. Meanwhile, the UK edition has a bewildering title and is styled like a Dan Brown novel – because psychic dabblers and Dan Brown fans constitute the same audience, apparently.

But that is where the criticisms end, because, quite frankly, this book is phenomenal. It is a painstakingly detailed critique of psychic research across the twentieth century. It’s a little harder to read than the book’s follow-up, Entangled Minds, but that’s only because the sheer attention to detail in the facts and figures makes the reading experience a little dry at times. Perseverance is well worth it.

The usual attitude of the armchair sceptic is that there is no evidence for psychic phenomena. Unfortunately, the person who says this has, more often than not, never looked for evidence. This is exactly the sort of book that is essential reading for a genuinely objective sceptic who wishes to become better informed. No serious sceptic could maintain a scornful attitude towards parapsychology, after digesting this volume.

The reality is that psychic phenomena are real, but subtle and hard to replicate. Radin’s main argument is through the technique of meta-analysis – by combining the results of all available psychic experiments, the failures and the victories (as well as taking into account the problem of selective reporting), to achieve an overall odds-against-chance figure.

After making a credible case for the existence of “psi,” Radin concludes the book with some philosophical discussion about the nature of reality. What do experiences of extrasensory perception and psychokinesis teach us about how the universe works? This section, for me, was the most rewarding. My own past interest in doing personal psi experiments stemmed from a philosophical conviction that the universe is non-dual – which is exactly the sort of model that Radin identifies as necessary for explaining how psi phenomena can be real.

Radin seems to care passionately about influencing his peers in the scientific community. I applaud him for daring to stand alone, in a poorly funded field that is often ridiculed. I feel that this is an extremely important book, ahead of its time. If you read one volume on psychic phenomena ever, make it this one.

Entangled Minds by Dean Radin

My interest in books on psychic phenomena lies in the fact that I’ve had personal experience. First as someone who witnessed a genuine demonstration of psychokinesis, and then as someone who decided to go after the elusive proof by figuring out how to do it for myself (and getting results). I first heard of Dean Radin from the documentary What the Bleep Do We Know!? Sadly, he was confined to the DVD extras, but after listening to him, I felt he was the most impressive voice of all the interviewees (the less said about J.Z. Knight, aka Ramtha, the better). It’s worth tracking down the extended cut (Down the Rabbit Hole), where Radin takes his rightful place within the film itself.

Radin is currently Laboratory Director at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, California, and has been involved in parapsychological research at various universities for over two decades. At Stanford Research Institute he was part of the then classified US Government “Stargate” program, which investigated psychic phenomena. I would say his credential are in order. But the real question is, does his book come up with the goods?

In my opinion, this is the book to read on psychic phenomena, for both the open-minded skeptic and the psychic dabbler seeking a little more confidence. God knows, the world is awash with “psychic” frauds; it’s about time we had a book by a believer who is prepared to be rigorous and dispassionate with the empirical data.

Pitting my own conversations with skeptics against the historical information in this book, I can only conclude that when the skeptic says, “There’s no evidence,” this is more of a blind materialistic assumption than a statement of fact based on informed opinion. Across the 20th century, there is a wealth of statistical information in favour of the reality of psychic phenomena. The trouble with validating psychic phenomena seems to stem more from the fact that the observed effects are not large enough for many people to make the necessary paradigm shift regarding how the universe works. There is still an unfortunate philosophical materialism in the minds of scientists, which hasn’t yet been eroded by the assertions of quantum physics.

The majority of skeptics mischaracterise psychic abilities as “magic powers,” and when no magic (to their preconceived standard) is forthcoming, everything psychic is then characterised as ridiculous. But the real focus of this book is not power of any kind, but the deepening of our understanding of the nature of the relationship between mind and matter, something that is by no means well understood – except in the faulty presuppositions of the materialists, who suppose the mind to be nothing more than a product of the physical brain, and ultimately an illusion.

The book includes much data on intuition, telepathy, psychokinesis, presentiment. You won’t find anything on levitating objects, but you will find curious statistics on the outcomes of dice throws. There are some startling experiments on random number generators and their correlation to major world events like 9/11. At times the book is a little monotonous, simply giving example after example, but such repetition is justified in a topic as controversial as this.

Those interested in learning psychic abilities will not find any instruction sets in here. That’s not the focus of the book. Radin’s aim is clearly to effect some change for the better in a scientific community that is still stuck in the wrong paradigm. Entangled Minds is an important work. I can’t comprehend how any rational-minded skeptic could fail to be impressed with Radin’s handling of the topic.