dick.richardson @ ymail.com
The Transhumanation Hypothesis
Michael A. Thalbourne
The term “Exceptional Human Experience (EHE) autobiography” may not be familiar to many readers of this Journal. According to Rhea A. White and Suzanne V. Brown (19??) such an autobiography is “An EHEer’s in-depth written essay/report and personal story in which his or her life is not told primarily in terms of objectively verifiable events but by her or his exceptional experiences, especially those that become EHEs.” I would like to submit my own EHE autobiography. But before doing so I must define three crucial terms that I will be using a great deal: “the paranormal”, “mystical experience”, and “Kundalini”. I take these definitions from the second edition of my Glossary of Terms used in Parapsychology (Thalbourne, 2002c).
Firstly, “paranormal”. “A phenomenon is paranormal if it refers to hypothesized processes that in principle are physically impossible and outside the realm of human or animal capabilities as presently conceived by conventional scientists (adapted from Irwin, 1993, p. 1); often used as a synonym for “psychic,” “parapsychological,” “attributable to psi,” or even “miraculous” (though shorn of religious overtones).” (pp. 83-84).
Next, “mystical experience”. “An experience which, according to Michael A. Thalbourne (1991a, 1991b), consists of a majority of the following features: it tends to be sudden in onset, joyful, and difficult to verbalize; it involves a sense of perceiving the purpose of existence; an insight into “the harmony of things;” a perception of an ultimate unity—of oneness; transcendence of the ego; an utter conviction of immortality; and it tends to be temporary, authoritative and to be attributed supreme value. Some people interpret the mystical experience as an experience of unity with God.” (pp. 74-75).
And finally, “Kundalini”: “A Sanskrit term variously translated, but most commonly as “life-force,” and sometimes, simply, as “the energy;” often used as a theoretical construct to explain a syndrome of various psychophysiological and other phenomena, which are described as energy-like sensations starting usually at the base of the spine and then progressing rapidly with a powerful surge, upwards through the body to the crown of the head; the experience is said to lead to higher and more desirable states of awareness, such as mystical consciousness, along with the manifestation of paranormal phenomena.” (pp. 61-62).
With these three definitions in place we may proceed to my EHE autobiography, under four headings: paranormal physical phenomena, paranormal mental phenomena, mystical experience and Kundalini.
The paranormal: Physical phenomena
Because it is important for the interpretation of the phenomena that I am about to share with the reader I should emphasize at the outset of this autobiography that I am single and live alone. Access to my home is therefore restricted. I also want to preface my remarks by noting that a potentially important fact about myself is that I have been a regular meditator for the last 30 years. With that, let us begin.
I have in my possession what may well be an apport: I thought at first it was a button, but it has no holes in it. It is lenticular in shape, blue, and the size of a thumb-tack. It appeared without warning one day on the south side of my coffee table, and, as interesting, next to a scraping of an unidentified blue substance right next to it that has resisted removal (though I don’t want it to disappear). No guest has claimed to have played a trick on me with these objects.
I also have an example of ostensible teleportation. On Wednesday September 4th, 2002, I was waiting for the bus, having put my multitrip ticket into one of my coat pockets. The bus arrived and I got on, but had to get off at the next stop because my ticket was nowhere to be found! I thought at first that I had dropped it, but I had not. Feeling around inside the coat I felt something the correct size but next to the pocket on the inside of the lining. You will say there was a hole in my pocket. There was no such thing. I checked thoroughly and found no means of entry into the lining, so I took it home and reluctantly used scissors to cut open the part of the lining nearest the card. And there it was! So back to the bus-stop a half an hour later! It might be worth mentioning that at the time I was putting some additions into my second-edition Glossary, and teleportation of matter through matter was one of the entries. In addition, next evening there was a TV science-program about (physical) teleportation (a program which I knew on the Wednesday was coming up). My friend James Basil reports (6th December, 2002, personal communication) on a similar experience with a pocketful of money, one coin “falling” through to his shoe though the pocket turned out to have no holes.
Moreover, I have witnessed a case of dematerialization: On Thursday September 5th 2002, I was in my kitchen, and dropped a capsule of the medication Neurontin; it rolled along the carpet (I followed it with my eyes) until it reached the very edge of the carpet, and then suddenly disappeared from sight! Lifting the edge of the carpet did not reveal the capsule. Since I wrote this, I may have had an experience of rematerialization: again I was in the kitchen at approximately the same place as before, when I looked down, and there was a capsule of the particular medication that I had lost, by my shoe. The odd thing is that none of my blister-packets of this medication was open at the time, so could not have dropped down to the floor. This occurred on Wednesday January 8th 2003.
I interpret these phenomena as indicating strange properties of matter, properties which orthodox scientists would probably not allow; they may also be at the basis of the multiple cases of disappearing objects, to which I shall come in due course.
I have also experienced effects on my computer or its files several times (Thalbourne, 1998, 1999a, 1999b, 2000a, 2002a), even though I am the only person to have access to it. Since I have described these episodes in print elsewhere I will confine myself to one which was especially interesting. I was writing a poem called “Nirvana, nirvana”, two verses with four lines in each. But in both cases the fourth line eluded me. Imagine my astonishment when I opened the relevant file one day to find that the poem had “somehow” been completed, and quite a good job it was too. The final poem was as follows:
Nirvana, nirvana I’ve come to you, rock;
Nirvana, nirvana I’ve come to you: stay;
That is amazing enough, but more was to follow. On or about Thursday, May 27th 1999 I received an e-mail from the editor of the Paranormal Review saying “my poem” would eventually be published (Thalbourne, 1999b). I coyly sent a message to him that my memory was bad and could he please tell me the opening words of the poem. He replied: “Nirvana, nirvana, I’ve come to you, rock”. I breathed a sigh of relief that the poem was one of my better ones. But who sent the e-mail to him with the poem in the first place? Certainly not I. To this day I do not know. How to get published without even trying!
The computer has done strange or even bizarre things on other occasions as well. For example, I was once sitting motionlessly in front of my computer, and the blinking cursor by itself moved one character to the left. Thinking this may be a random event, I repeated the process, returning the cursor to the starting point. Again the cursor all by itself moved one place to the left.
I remember once that when I was about to type the letter p, with my finger poised about three centimeters above the key, hey presto p appeared on my screen!
But the strangest of these miscellaneous phenomena occurred on February 3rd, 2000. I had typed in “Precognition is superpsi”. No sooner had I done that when the word “precognition” vanished in front of my eyes and the following Greek omega appeared in its place: Ω. Note that the omega provided in the computer’s Greek font is different in small but distinctive ways: W.
[Insert Figure 1 about here]
I took this to be a reference to my theory of psychopraxia (“the self accomplishing”), in which I discuss the acme of psychic development (or superpsi) and call it “omega-psychopraxia” (Thalbourne, in press). Omega is a very potent symbol for me, as I know it is for others also.
On the other hand, the Thing giveth and the Thing taketh away: On Friday November 1st 2002 two files (each containing the anomalous omega) somehow contrived to disappear from my hard disk. They were not deleted in any ordinary way. Had I not transferred a copy of the omega to the file containing this manuscript it would have been lost.
Finally, I quote verbatim a poem which just “appeared” in toto on my computer, in a rhyming scheme that I do not myself use, and which I call “On yonder night”. Its theme is rather Gauquelinian:
night all filled with Moon and stars
Of those which circle in their appointed orbs
My book did fully tell and then some more
About their reign on Man on Earth before,
Which every babe at birth we say absorbs.
I realize that these instances of macro-psi are hard to accept for those who have not experienced them, but I can only report the events as they happened. For me they provide an expanded view of the potency and capabilities of psi, verging as they do on superpsi.
I have had what I suppose is the usual number of electrical malfunctions, such as an aberrant electronic clock (showing the time as “100”!), a VCR which refused to record my favorite program, producing static instead, and a TV that went on by itself (witnessed by my parents: Sunday, February 16th, 2003). In the latter case it is interesting that I was holding and operating the remote control for the VCR, which my father presumed was able to turn the TV on, which in fact it could not. So perhaps the psychic effect sprang in part from my father’s expectation.
I have also had three cases of small objects displaced apparently paranormally from their accustomed position, though I admit I did not see them in transit.
But what I have had most of are disappearing objects. I have dubbed this my thieving poltergeist. A thieving poltergeist is one in which objects disappear from the environment, usually never to return. I believe that I have been and am still experiencing one such poltergeist. Since it took me a considerable while to come to this conclusion (I thought I had merely lost things, and being highly transliminal (ideation is likely to be lost from consciousness more readily than in low transliminals) I am also liable to faulty memory: see Houran & Thalbourne, 2003). I have not thought to document the time and date of the discovery of their disappearance, though eventually I made a rough inventory of things missing. It may be important to point out that these events have occurred not only at home, but also at my office in the Department of Psychology, University of Adelaide. The widespread nature of the phenomenon will suggest to many that they are characteristic of some pervasive forgetfulness on my part, and I am bound to consider this explanation because I am indeed rather forgetful. But I am no longer convinced that this is the complete explanation.
The first object that went missing was a video cassette of the movie “Meet me in St. Louis”, which had lain out of sight under a bureau in the master bedroom where I am wont to keep videos. Approximately the next thing to go missing was an electrical adaptor which I had bought in Hong Kong to be used with my Lotus Lamp. I looked high and low, in storage cupboards and tins, never to locate it. It was small, which meant the search had to be meticulous. The next thing that went missing was a pair of Icelandic woollen mittens with bells on, gone from a cupboard in the study. A psychic failed to locate these mittens, and a request for a search at the local movie-house where I had once worn them also failed to locate them.
The next object to disappear, apparently, is interesting, because it came back! It was a subliminal relaxation tape, sent to me by my friend Kathy Ross. I looked “everywhere” for it, to no avail. And then when I picked up and accidentally dropped a number of cassettes, lo and behold the missing one was among them! Due to this incident I hold out hope that other missing objects will turn up, but apart from the capsule of medication, none ever has.
It seems unbelievable, but even favorite shirts and a jacket have gone missing from their usual places, much to my chagrin.
To complete the list of home disappearances, I have tucked away under my study desk a couple of file binders. One of them contained materials in connection with my essay “The psychology of mystical experience” (Thalbourne, 1991a). One day I decided to look inside these file binders, and the mysticism one was empty! Finally, the book which I reviewed about hauntings in ancient Greece and Rome (Thalbourne, 2001) simply vanished from study and office, its absence first noticed in January 2002.
Shifting now to my University office, a bevy of things have gone missing. An article by Nancy Zingrone and Carlos Alvarado about psi in broken relationships (Zingrone & Alvarado, 1997) disappeared and had to be replaced, courtesy of Harvey Irwin. An article by Eric Dingwall on levitation disappeared without trace, or certainly could not be located when I needed it. More recently, when all seemed quiet with no disappearings, reprints which I needed¾an article on dissociation by Douglas Richards (1991) and another on hypnotic susceptibility by Ås, O’Hara and Munger (1960) ¾also could not be found, in a very orderly filing cabinet. Could all these losses be due to carelessness? An audio cassette made for me by the Psychology Department at Goldsmiths College University of London just vanished. And finally, a packet of reprints of the above-mentioned article by Thalbourne and Fox (1999) disappeared in the mail when I sent it to the second author, living in another part of the state. You may say that the mail has a tendency to go wrong in this way, but that does not explain the utter disappearance from my office of a box of reprints of an article by Evans and Thalbourne (1999) on the feeling of being stared at; in this case Linda Evans kindly supplied me with a second box.
Also bridging the distance from my home office to my University office is a four-line poem, written as a file on my computer, called something like “Fire and Ocean”. It was originally, I believe, written on the hard disk of my Macintosh, and then transferred to a Macintosh floppy, then transferred to the hard disk of the Macintosh at University, and then lastly to an IBM floppy. I made one (?) hard copy and sent it to a friend, Michelle. She has lost it, and do you think I can find it or a copy on any of the media to which it was transferred? No way!
It must be pointed out that while transhumanation implies an eventual well-adapted state, the developmental sequence may be a rough road at times. We already know this from descriptions of the mystic path and the Dark Night of the Soul. The events described above as due to a thieving poltergeist actually lead to anxiety (Where on earth is the missing object?; What is the next object to go?). While writing the above, on October 15th, 2002, I had a major experience inasmuch as six issues of Exceptional Human Experience were not to be found on my bookshelves, were not any place I frantically looked, and had to be replaced, through the kindness of Rhea White. I used to wonder why Kumar, Pekala and Gallagher (1994) had an item in their Anomalous Experiences Inventory which went “I have had a psychic or mystical experience which scared me to death” and indeed they have a whole scale for “Fear of the Anomalous/Paranormal”. Kennedy and Kanthamani (1995) have some interesting data:
Despite the overall positive effects, 45% of the respondents reported that they have seen or experienced paranormal phenomena that made them very afraid. However, only 9% indicated that their paranormal experiences have been scary with no positive value. Thus, the fear reactions were either a short-term effect or occurred simultaneously with positive effects. (p. 258)
I note that in their sample they have 8% of respondents who affirm that “[m]y paranormal or transcendent experience(s) have made me more anxious and insecure” (p. 256). Just as the mystic path has its downside, perhaps these poltergeist-like thefts are to be expected until a certain level of transhumanation has stabilized. Maybe a more flexible attitude to ownership is required, viewing my possessions as on loan to me but able to be taken back at any time. As Dick Richardson commented, one day all my possessions will be taken away from me! Or perhaps the moral is to expect nothing, for that is surely what you will sometimes receive.
But I wonder, particularly in regard to reprints, which can be replaced, whether a pattern is emerging: whenever I seek certain literature in my possession (at one time), it may disappear, with the results that I am (temporarily) blocked and have to make an effort to replace it. It may be no coincidence that as I was typing into the computer the 60-item Ås Experience Inventory (from Ås, O’Hara & Munger, 1962) when the computer crashed, and destroyed all my input, which had to be put in again. So psi may act to elicit effort and a greater appreciation of what is replaced.
The most recent incident occurred on September 29th, 2003. It appears on the surface to be trivial, but I argue that it is not. I had a kitchen spoon, plain, not fancy, but unique in its size. I was (perhaps inordinately) fond of this spoon. One night I was doing the washing up; the spoon was on the counter off to the left. I turned around, and it was gone! I brought my eyes to the front and said aloud “Please return the spoon!” I again turned my head to the left, and hey presto, the spoon was back again, to my relief. I promised not to show it so much favoritism in future. But in fact I did fail to be democratic with all my spoons, and focused on this one.
Later that afternoon when I made the realization that my spoon was not to be found (I looked everywhere I could think of, but it failed to materialize; was there a dish running away too?!). An hour or so later I was reading, for the first time, Plato’s Republic (Plato, 1955) and, coincidentally as they say, I encountered the following highly relevant passage:
‘And what is more, we reckon that the good man’s life is the most complete in itself and least dependent on others. So the loss of a son or brother, or of property or what not, will hold the least terrors for the good man, who, when some such catastrophe overtakes him, will mourn it less and bear it more calmly than others.’ (p. 124, italics added)
I also wish to acknowledge the ideas of Mary Rose Barrington (1991) on JOTT (just one of those things), on disappearing and reappearing objects. Particularly relevant is her classification called “flyaway”, where the “article disappears from known location and is never seen again”. The return of the relaxation tape she might call a “turn-up”. She comments:
If this were the only evidence to suggest that natural law may sometimes be overridden or bypassed then we should surely have to assume in every case carelessness, absent-mindedness, hallucination, lies or anything consistent with cause and effect. But we do know that paranormal events happen¾or if we do not know then either we have not read enough about it or we are congenitally unable to accept the idea (p. 6).
But that still leaves us with the question, who is responsible for these disappearings? It is not my conscious self. Could it be my unconscious, eager for convincing examples of psi? Could it really be a discarnate entity, as Spiritists aware of the case have claimed?
The paranormal: Mental phenomena
In the domain of mental paranormal phenomena I have had untold coincidences. For example, in regard to coincidences with passages in books (leaving aside the I Ching) I had so many in the 1990’s—a total of 70—that I wrote (but did not publish) a book manuscript (Thalbourne, 1997). I choose one out of many possible coincidences:
No. 16: The Case of the New World Symphony and Francesco Stelluti
I’d recently invented a new psychic game involving music. A drawer in my living-room contains approximately 50 cassettes of various styles of music. On the morning of Tuesday, January 22nd, 1991, I wanted to choose a cassette at random and have it somehow correspond in a striking way to an event later in the day. I removed the drawer containing the cassettes, closed my eyes and spun it around and around several times until I had no idea which section would meet my hand as I placed it in. The tape thus selected was Dvorak’s New World Symphony, which I played and enjoyed. I wondered how the “new world” might come up in the day’s events. Or was the phenomenon itself to be a part of a New World for me?
I went to the Barr Smith Library [at Adelaide University] to see whether perchance they had yet gotten up from store a book entitled The controversy on the comets of 1618, in which was a paper by Galileo that I wanted to read. The first few pages I flipped through were actually a poem to Galileo by one Francesco Stelluti, and on p. 157 there appeared the following verse:
Some men dare to turn their backs
I thus had my new world coincidence.
More recently I have been tabulating what I call “TV coincidences”, and I quote from, and add to, the paper I wrote on them submitted to the Paranormal Review:
I HAVE UNCOVERED what may be a new expression of psychic ability, or alternatively a new form of what are pure coincidences. For years, I have been watching TV for a few hours in the early evening, and a word comes into my mind, and immediately that word is uttered on the TV. I once mentioned this phenomenon to Susan Blackmore, who dismissed it as chance, saying that she had experienced it also. But it happens to me quite a lot, so much so that I have recently taken to recording the details, and my entire record to 18th October 2002 is given in Table 1 below. Note that it is the word, and not necessarily the meaning, that is the basis of the coincidence. For example, I happened to be thinking fleetingly of the parapsychologist Matthew Smith, and the word “Smith” was thereupon written on the TV screen, referring of course to some other Smith.
[Insert Table 1 about here]
Several points are to be noted. First of all, and perhaps most important, the “matching words” were not predictable from the words preceding them, and thus came as a surprise.
Second, there were no coincidences recorded in June. Either I did not experience the phenomenon at all then, or I did and did not make the effort to record it, it was so common. There are more occurrences logged recently after I had resolved to write an article about them.
Third, I do not believe that there is any “message” or “meaning” to be located in most of the words thus targeted. The main interest is in the sheer fact of a matching word, whatever it may be. A possible exception is the word “homo” (Latin for “human being”), which was meaningful in the evolutionary sense (sapientior/Neanderthalis). It thus qualifies as a synchronicity.
Fourth, notice that I have not put in common words like “is” and “don’t” and “and”, but rather relatively rare words that just popped into my mind or were floating in my consciousness prior to their occurrence on the TV.
Finally, note that we have no statistical tool to tell us how likely or unlikely these matches are. Rather, I am merely sharing this article with other readers, who may experience the same phenomenon. If many people do, that may mean that it is a common form of paranormal ability at work like the feeling of being stared at, or alternatively it may point to a new source for coincidences that may dazzle, but undeservedly. If very few people report this phenomenon, then we may tentatively suggest that it does indeed indicate a psychic phenomenon, but a rare one. Note finally that there exist books which tabulate the frequencies of word-occurrences. For example, the word “tin” is probably relatively rare. I have not, however, been able to procure one of these books.
See also my short article in the Experiences column of the Paranormal Review of a series of coincidences about, of all things, worms (Thalbourne, 2002b). The impression that all this makes on me is to see the universe as a non-random process, but rather one that seems to be orchestrated or planned, perhaps by a Higher Power.
Paranormal and Mystical Experience: After-death communication?
I have had a number of optical experiences suggestive of survival of death, even to the point of seeing suspended in the air above me a bright golden light at the end of a tunnel, but these experiences tend to be in the form of vivid images: I am a good visualizer, and little of the information I receive I did not know previously. Of all my episodes the one least open to this normal explanation is as follows, taken from Thalbourne (1993). The events occurred on Saturday November 4th, 1989:
It was some time after lunch that I finished writing the poem. I was overcome with a sense of weariness, and lay down on my bed, over which hangs the painting of the swimmer that used to grace my dining room in my flat in St. Louis. I don’t know how long I slept, but when I awoke I felt a tremendous surge of joy within, gushing forth like a fountain. I drank it in like a thirsty athlete. I got up and realized that my world had changed. No longer did I wish to take my own life. On the contrary, the more I remembered episodes in my life the more sense each part made. I felt cleansed and forgiven and loved, but loved by the Source of all those things with which we are ordinarily familiar. I shed tears for joy. After 17 years’ absence, mystical experience was again upon me. I’ve been here before, I thought.
I can’t remember exactly why, but I went outside to the back garden. Looking up at the blue sky, towards the south, I saw a vision of my maternal grandparents, like pictures in a locket or set in a cameo, Gran to the left, and Laurie to her right. Laurie—my biological grandfather—had died by his own hand when my mother was a small child, and I don’t recall seeing many photos of him, so that probably accounts for the fact that his image was rather fuzzy. But my grandmother’s face was much clearer, the two faces being surrounded by bright silvery clouds. Whether her lips moved I don’t remember, but I clearly heard her voice saying that my mother was doing good work looking after her step-father (from whom she’d once been alienated), and how proud she was that my mother had turned out the way she had. (I later learned that these were the last words my grandmother had said to my mother before her death in 1984; I was living in America at the time, and had had no information about this death-bed conversation.) I said to my grandmother, “Thank you for helping me through this.” Her reply caught me off-guard: “Don’t thank me, my boy: we did it together.”
I came inside again, with utterly no doubt in my mind that the dead exist on some level, and that, together with the living, we formed the communion of saints, and that as Richard Bucke (1901/1969, p. 10) had written, “the happiness of everyone is, in the long run, absolutely certain”. The revelation of this source of joy within had saved me from my death. All the pain and deprivation had a place in the school that was life, and somehow, miraculously, we would all, eventually, attain the beatific vision.
In the domain of the mystical, which touches most strongly on the metaphysically wise person, rather than the merely knowledgeable person, I have written at length about my experiences (Thalbourne, 1991a,b). I continue to have milder versions of my two major episodes, going so far as to construct a questionnaire scale measuring extent of mystical experience, based largely upon my own experiences. This scale, which is internally reliable, correlates highly with other measures of mystical experience, so it has at the least some degree of convergent validity as well (Thalbourne & Delin, 1999). An especially refined (“top-down purified”) version of the scale is currently under review (Lange and Thalbourne, submitted).
The existence of mystical experience, if it makes a person more ethical and moral (and there are those who doubt this) and the existence of its correlation with psi, may tend to act as a counterbalance to the pessimism displayed by some parapsychologists who worry about “ethical abuse [of psi, veridical or merely claimed] by unscrupulous or misguided persons” (Kennedy, 2002, p. 177) or unbridled chaos due to the development of superpsychic powers. (Radin, 2000, pp. 359-360)
Effects on belief in survival
At a certain stage this year, 2003, I was under the cloud of cancer, and I wrote a short speech, to be read at my funeral, about my belief in life after death. I quote the relevant sections:
“My dear family and my friends, you have gathered here today to farewell me and cremate my mortal remains. Ever since I became convinced that there is a joyous life beyond this one I have been unable to feel disconsolate at the passing of my own family and friends. It would take too long to elaborate upon the reasoning behind my belief, but most of all I owe it to apparent contacts with departed loved ones, such as my maternal grandmother and my colleague Frank Dalziel, and the sense of immortality engendered by repeated mystical experience. I expect to be present here today in spirit, and to be observing the proceedings with interest. Say hello to me in your heart, and I may be able to produce an appropriate image of myself.
Moreover, I cannot believe in the existence of blind chance and lack of purpose. One day not so very long ago I found amongst my many books a slim volume that I cannot remember purchasing and called simply Butterflies. I went slowly through the book, cover to cover, admiring the colors and patterns of all the species shown. I then put the book away, and turned to my regular reading—Joseph Campbell’s (1964) The Masks of God: Occidental Mythology. To my astonishment and delight, the next section of the book referred to two butterflies and their corresponding chrysalises (that is, the pupal form) on the so-called Ring of Nestor. Campbell explains their symbolic significance as follows:
Placed as they are in connection with their pupal forms, it is difficult to explain them otherwise than as an allusion to the resurgence of the human spirit after death. (pp. 50-51)
It should be emphasized that nowhere else in this book are butterflies mentioned.
Again, when I asked the Chinese oracle the I Ching what should be my attitude towards my own death, it replied “Adapting leads to Promotion”, saying that “Adapting brings exceptional progress. There is an advantage in correct persistence. Then there will be no mistake.” And describing the illustration for this hexagram it said “The branches of this stand of bamboo are bent under the weight of a snowfall. These branches, however, do not break and the bamboo does not die. It has withdrawn from battling the elements, adapting itself instead to the conditions imposed by its environment, and growing stronger as a result” (italics added). Again, it should be emphasized that in none of the other 63 hexagram illustrations is death or dying mentioned.
It is such coincidences and ideas such as these that have dominated my consciousness for many years, and which leave me believing that death is not final but a radical transformation of consciousness.
Therefore, do not mourn for me, but be glad that my understanding of the universe has grown in leaps and bounds in these past few days since the death of my body. Whether or not I am bound for another sojourn on this earth I do not yet know. Whether I am to mingle with you a while longer and have you know my touch, again I do not know. Both scenarios will surely depend upon that o’erarching Purpose with a capital P which is so characteristic of life on your plane and on mine. Thus I bid you not farewell, but hello again forever.”
I cannot say much about this phenomenon, which Bronwyn Fox my mentor believes is an essential precondition for the occurrence of paranormal and mystical experience. I have had fully and properly functioning Kundalini, sparked off by beautiful music, where the energy starts most frequently at the base of the spine, rushes up to the top of my crown, and then, fountain-like, descends through my limbs. Strangely enough, this incident occurred in hospital. But the phenomenon is not a highly repeatable effect, so that the same music may not arouse the same experience of Kundalini, at least not until some time has passed. Steven Rosen (1992) describes a Kundalini-type experience occurring in the hypnagogic state. He thought of it as “a transformative experience that creates an opening to a new kind of consciousness” (p. 190).
One of the foremost exponents of Kundalini is Gopi Krishna (1971), and I quote him:
…I am irresistibly led to the conclusion that the human organism is evolving in the direction indicated by mystics and prophets and by men [sic] of genius, by the action of this wonderful mechanism [i.e., Kundalini] located at the base of the spine, depending for its activity mainly on the energy supplied by the reproductive organs. Though not in its general application as the evolutionary organ in man, but in the individual sphere as the means to develop spirituality, supernormal faculties and psychic powers, the mechanism has been known and manipulated from very ancient times. When manipulated and roused to intense activity by men already advanced in the path of progress and subject to numerous factors, especially favourable heredity, constitution, mode of conduct, occupation and diet, it can lead to most remarkable and extremely useful results, developing the organism by general stages from its native condition to a state of extraordinary mental efficiency, conducting it ultimately to the zenith of cosmic consciousness and genius combined. (pp. 241-242).
He concludes by stating his opinion that “The highest products of civilization, prophets, mystics, men of genius, clearly indicate the direction and goal of human evolution.” (Krishna, p. 242). The topic of evolution leads us directly to Part 2.
I have read Evelyn Underhill’s (1911/1974) classic book Mysticism several times. In discussing the so-called unitive life she quotes on page 426, without translating, two lines from Dante (Paradiso, I.70):
“Trasumanar significar per verba
non si poria.”
Though I do not know medieval Italian I do know Latin, and it was my guess—later confirmed—that the word trasumanar meant “transhuman”. Thus the meaning of the lines is “Words may not tell of that transhuman change”, (translation by Rev. Henry Francis Cary ). That is how I came to coin the word “transhumanation”, which comes from the Latin trans, meaning “across”, and of course “human”. I mean it to denote a more highly evolved state of humanity, in which the mystical and the paranormal (which I believe to be closely intertwined) become noticeably more frequent—in fact commonplace—and our present rather ordinary state is left behind. It is as if homo sapiens transcends the boundaries set by worldly wisdom and becomes a species more metaphysically wise—homo sapientior.
I have conjoined the paranormal and the mystical ever since I was working in 1994 on the Kundalini experience (Thalbourne & Fox, 1999), and my mentor Bronwyn Fox habitually used the two in tandem, as if the mystical experience was a broader type of ESP, cosmic in scope. Other researchers have used the two in tandem, speaking of paranormal and mystical/spiritual (or transcendent) experiences, though to avoid theoretical connotations they prefer the umbrella term “anomalous”, which I do not think does the experiences justice (Kennedy & Kanthamani, 1995a,b; Kennedy, Kanthamani & Palmer, 1994). Quite early on parapsychologists found a positive correlation between paranormal and mystical experience. For example, Kohr (1980) found that a composite index of mystical experience correlated .45 with the number of different types of 11 psi and psi-related experiences a person had and .46 with the total number of psi and psi-related experiences. Bronwyn Fox and I found that paranormal experience was correlated with mystical experience to a comparable, moderate and highly significant degree (r  = .46, p < .001), and that both were correlated with the experience of Kundalini as measured by a scale we constructed (the correlation with paranormal experience was r = .35, p < .001, and with mystical experience was r = .42, p < .001). White (1997b, p. 91) notes that “…members of the Kundalini Research Network have subsumed all types of mystical and psychic experiences as expressions of kundalini awakening.” Kennedy and Kanthamani (1995a) found a correlation of .52 between multiple paranormal experiences and multiple mystical/spiritual (transcendent) experiences. These variables, together with creative personality, magical ideation and manic-like experience, were found to be underpinned by a single factor, which I have called “transliminality” (“the tendency to cross thresholds”: Thalbourne, 2000b). So there is something in common between all these variables. I single out paranormal and mystical experience (and to a lesser extent Kundalini) as two or perhaps three related spearheads of transhumanation.
There is another word like “transhumanation” which may be referring to a similar process: it is Michael Grosso’s (1997) “transhumanizing”. He describes some encounters with beings that fit all of three categories—the subpersonal, the transpersonal and the superpersonal. The change he undergoes in this process of “soulmaking” he calls “transhumanizing”: “I come away feeling as if my boundaries have opened to new frontiers” (p. 22). Though he coined this word he does not use it further in his book, but he has some interesting things to say, such as “Our worldviews have become so hardened, so sealed to the mystery of being, that we need to be confounded by miracles” (p. 53), and though he gives little space to mysticism he does talk about evolution:
I found there was a family of experiences similar to the near-death experience. I wondered if I had struck a deep vein in the collective unconscious, a pattern of psychic imagery and energies associated with death and dying. I dubbed this pattern the Archetype of Death and Enlightenment, and came to think it was a clue to the evolution of human consciousness. (p. 51)
Life after death, like mind itself, may be a product of evolution. As life itself presumably evolved out of dead matter, perhaps a new form of life—free from the constraints of matter—is also evolving. (p. 165)
Are there signs of transhumanation happening? One approach is that one could conduct an anthropological study and measure amount of these claimed (or better, verified) paranormal, mystical and Kundalini experiences as they occur in one generation perhaps tested in their 40s, and see whether the “quantity” is greater in a subsequent generation or generations. I should mention here the concept of the “indigo”¾the wise child¾a construct which is being promulgated by a person who claims to have been one and to have come to maturity in a state approximating transhumanation, where the paranormal and mystical are commonplace (Basil, 2002).
Already there is evidence from Kennedy and Kanthamani (1995) from their questionnaire indexing changes resulting from such experiences that these events lead to increased interest and belief in spiritual matters and increased well-being:
…the most extreme changes were for spirituality-related items such as desire to achieve a higher consciousness, belief in life after death, and interest in spiritual or religious matters. A preponderance of positive responses were also found on well-being items such as feelings of happiness and well-being, sense of connection to others, optimism about the future, purpose or meaning for life, and motivation to maintain health. Reciprocal responses were found on the negative well-being items: feelings of isolation or loneliness, feelings of depression or anxiety, and worry and fears about the future (p. 254).
Kennedy, Kanthamani and Palmer (1994) studied a sample of college students, and found that “transcendent” experience correlated .27 (p = .005) with psychic experience, while the catchall phrase “anomalous experience” correlated .20 (p = .04) with the goal of expressing artistic creativity and .36 (p = .0002) with the goal of observing spiritual or religious beliefs, while they were less interested in obtaining wealth (r = -.22, p = .02). Fifty-nine percent of the 105 respondents indicated that they had experienced a psychic and/or transcendent/spiritual experience.
Kennedy and Kanthamani (1995b) found significant correlations between psychic and transcendent experiences in two samples of adults (r = .39, p = .0001, and r = .31, p = .0009). Transcendent experiences were rated as valuable by over 90% of the respondents in three samples; paranormal experiences were rated as valuable to a lesser degree. The authors note that one of their respondents “rated her psychic experience as ‘somewhat detrimental’ but wrote on the margin, ‘at the time, but I’m learning to make it beneficial’” (p. 339)
These studies are valuable for demonstrating how the combination paranormal/mystical appears to be valid, and how transhumanation may be operating in group settings.
In the meantime, we can also point to individual cases, and suggest that transhumanation is taking place or has taken place in them. One possible location for these is in exceptional human experience (EHE) autobiographies, an example being that written by “Gregory” (1997), who says “I am experiencing a transfiguration, and living the next step in human evolution.” (p. 208). We may also cite Suzanne Brown (1995), who describes “metanormal”, paranormal, transcendental and even Kundalini events and how they became EHEs. She also describes how the “teaching of young people in high school has shown me that our future generations seem eager to question and explore their dreams, déjà vu experiences, precognitions, and athletic zoning… their parents may not be so enthusiastic.” (p. 6). We have no idea how many generations it will take for transhumanation to begin to prevail, but perhaps it is fewer than we think. Brown (2000) has also written an instructive article about EHEs and a tentative “map” of the process, some of which article I quote below. The italics are mine.
…anomalous or Exceptional Experiences (EEs) have the potential to be experienced and subsequently integrated into new personal and world view contexts. At these points of catalytic transpersonal insight ¾ where/when the event is no longer apprehended as separate from the experience of the event and the experiencer realizes that he or she is wholly integral to the creation and resolution of the EE ¾ the experience is potentiated, transmuted, and humanized, and becomes an Exceptional Human Experience (EHE) (p. 69).
Some examples of types of EEs (potential EHEs): (Psychical) precognitive dream, clairvoyant vision, telepathy, out-of-body experience; (Mystical) ecstatic bliss, cosmic consciousness, outer space experience, religious conversion; (Death-related) near-death experience, haunting, apparition, past life recall; (Encounter) UFO/alien, shrine/power place, ancestor; (Enhanced) in the sports zone, nostalgia, déjà vu, reverie, falling-in-love, remarkable coincidence (p. 70).
The central message of the EHE Network [is] that by going beyond the phenomenological, event-centered issues into questions of personal meaningfulness of the whole experience (before, during, after), experiencers could become aware of who they are, and the “More” they can be (p. 70).
This marking of renewed balance between qualitative and quantitative experience is best measured in the words of experiencers who have repeatedly visualized, in one form or another, a new dawning of conscious awareness ¾ an evolution of humankind, so to speak (p. 74).
In this connection, Rhea White (1997a) writes as follows (italics in the original):
When the experiencer incorporates the [anomalous] experience into his or her life, he or she works…¾sometimes for many years initially¾to seek out the personal meaning of the experience and later, its social and cultural ramifications. Then one could say that the raw experience has become “humanized.” As a result, the experience that initially was “anomalous,” that is, disconnected from the person and his or her life and worldview, will have become an exceptional human experience. (p. 1)
What we …are writing about and from is not the knowledge of the rationalists, nor that of the scientists, but the wisdom inherent in the fact of our humanity, a wisdom that is felt and perceived in our exceptional experiences as much as it is thought. (p. 3)
I felt after transcribing these words that I still needed a quote to do justice to the EHE process. So I took the book Mysticism (Underhill, 1911/1974), inserted my thumb at random into the book towards the end, and came up with the following, directly underneath my thumb:
It is interesting to compare with this objective description, the subjective account of ecstatic union which St. Catherine gives in her “Divine Dialogue”. Here, the deeper self of the mystic is giving in a dramatic form its own account of its inward experiences: hence we see the inward side of that outward state of entrancement, which was all that onlookers were able to perceive. (p. 365)
This “random reading” appears to confirm in barest outline the EHE process as it deals with the exceptional experience of mystical ecstasy.
EHE autobiographies are to be found a-plenty in the pages of the journal Exceptional Human Experience. I have read all 29 such autobiographies, and have engaged in preliminary analysis of them by grossly classifying them as containing evidence of the paranormal (or not), evidence of the mystical (or not), and evidence of Kundalini (or not). The autobiographers and my conclusions are displayed in Table 2.
[Insert Table 2 about here]
Note that it would be preferable to have more than one rater, ignorant of the transhumanation hypothesis, to establish the reliability of the ratings. The given ratings must therefore be regarded as preliminary: For example, Suzanne Brown expressed surprise that I should classify one of her experiences as Kundalini, and surprise again that I did not classify Simon Sherwood’s vision of a black dog as paranormal. There is thus room for disagreement. As they stand, they are only my (possibly biased) judgements.
But if we provisionally accept these ratings, we note that evidence of the paranormal was found in 90% of cases, evidence of the mystical in 79%, and evidence of Kundalini in 35%. Evidence of both the paranormal and the mystical was to be found in 72% of the cases (the mystical and Kundalini in 31%, the paranormal and Kundalini in 31%), and the triadic combination paranormal, mystical and Kundalini was found in 28% of cases, which I submit are most likely to be transhumanating or to have transhumanated.
Dick Richardson (2001) alludes to the end product of transhumanation when he says:
Ever since human beings first existed on earth, and even unto this day, a percentage of people in each generation, and each population on earth, have, in some mysterious way, been made cognisant of a deeper level of reality appertaining to our own existence and our place in the scheme of things. Above all else that such folk knew was the fact that they themselves were no more special than anyone else, and even though, and by whatever means, they themselves had become aware of something special; a certain kind of knowledge and understanding which revealed things unattainable by ways of reason, deduction, logic and external sensory data and its analysis. (p. 1)
This “certain kind of knowledge and understanding” we could call the sapientia altior, the higher/deeper wisdom of transhumanation. But what is this wisdom? In his EHE autobiography Richardson (1995) writes:
In this life we tend to think of wisdom as that of knowing what to do, of doing the right and proper thing; because it is wise to do that thing; but that is intelligence, not wisdom. However, the wisdom within that [eternal] consciousness is not like that. Its wisdom is the knowledge of creation itself; the knowledge of the heart: the knowledge of itself and its eternal existence. Knowledge also of that which is not itself; otherness; that which gave event to paradise and oneself; it is uncontradictable certainty of creation; purpose; being; and the wisdom of the beginning and end of all things. And thence all of which I sum up in the terms the “Eternal Gnosis” or the “Eternal Wisdom”. (p. 20)
Richardson also gives another spin on the topic of wisdom:
Wisdom is knowing that root ground of conscious existence, and thence living one’s life according to that essential (of Essence) mode of being. It is far far deeper than rational logic yet it does not conflict with logic or reason—indeed it enhances it. It also entails a passion for life and being (some call it love) which is beyond existing words and language to define; it also entails the absolute unconditional love (passion) and empathy with every manifestation of ‘creation’ (all extant things). (personal communication, October 26th, 2002)
Michael Grosso (1997) also drops some hints when he says
A profound lesson of soulmaking is that deeper than the surface of daily existence lies a hidden source of blissful light, waiting at a moment’s notice to fill our consciousness. (p. 196)….Music uses time in such a way that it can fill us with feelings of eternity. (p. 197)
All these hints, then, these foreshadowings of soul power—the genius for bliss we latently possess, the inner transcendence of space and time, and the intimations of immortality—enlarge our idea of who we are. (p. 199)
John F. Miller (1997) refers to the past and the present when he says
The ancient wisdom tradition holds that life is a journey from Darkness to Light, from Ignorance to Knowledge and Truth, from Death to Life Eternal. (p. 217)
And William Braud (2001) contributes to the question of wisdom when he says:
Wonder-joy tears also serve as confirmations or affirmations of Something More. They lead me to appreciate the great power, wisdom, and goodness that is behind things and shines through things. (p. 109)
Rhea White (1997b) lists a (controversial) set of criteria for metaphysical wisdom:
One of the most famous descriptions of the wisdom acquired through mystical or cosmic consciousness is given by Richard Bucke, speaking here in the third person:
Among other things he did not come to believe, he saw and knew that the Cosmos is not dead matter but a living Presence, that the soul of man is immortal, that the universe is so built and ordered that without any peradventure all things work together for the good of each and all, that the foundation principle of the world is what we call love and that the happiness of every one is in the long run absolutely certain. (Bucke, 1901/1969, p. 10)
Time and again in EHE autobiographies one comes across the thought “I have felt an increasing pull into the paranormal/mystical/spiritual realm throughout my life” (Guiley, 1995, p. 28). This particular author also described episodes of powerful Kundalini.
Another place to look for transhumanation is in the records of near-death experients, who frequently undergo a positive transformation leading to greater metaphysical wisdom, paranormal and mystical experience.
Yet another place is those controversial people who claim to have been abducted by aliens. Such people seem to experience the paranormal to an exceedingly high degree (Basterfield & Thalbourne, 2002), and it may follow that they experience mystical insights to a similarly high degree, at least after they have recovered from the trauma repeatedly reported after the alleged abduction.
Transhumanation may also be found in synchronicities, a forum for which was established in 1996 in EHE News, overseen by Suzanne Brown (1996, March, 3(1), pp. 8-9) until approximately September 1997 (Brown, 1997). There she reminds us that “synchronicities—grand and subtle—have provided the sparks, catalysts, reminders, and encouragement to continue learning and growing.” (p. 13)
Transhumanation may be kindled in the wake of specific technology. An example of this is the work of Todd Joseph Masluk (1998, 1999): his study “examined the nature of self-reported peak- and other powerful experiences during a 6-day residential, neurotechnology-based training program. Neurotechnologies are methods and devices that purportedly enhance mental functioning by entraining brain-wave patterns, often producing a psychophysiological state of hemisphere synchronization.” (Masluk, 1999, p. 1)
In Masluk’s study, 160 people participated in the Monroe Institute’s Gateway Voyage program. A large number of transpersonal experiences were reported, including peak and peak-like and psychical experiences, to an extent greater than all other major categories combined. Masluk goes on to say that “Perhaps the most obvious or striking feature of these experiences…is their overwhelmingly positive and life-enhancing nature…out of all 291 experiences, only 2 negative or nadir experiences were reported” (1999, p. 18). One problem in interpreting the outcome of this program is “the absence of a suitable control group” (p. 23). In response the author states that “The Gateway program, although not necessarily eliciting or determining the production of particular kinds of experience, may create the necessary preconditions that ‘allow’ or make possible the emergence of an unspecified range of psychical or other exceptional experiences.” (1999, p. 98)
Masluk’s closing paragraph is worthy of quoting in full:
As with peak- and other exceptional human experiences, psychical experiences were generally found to be inherently meaningful and potentially life changing, particularly when the participants took the time to actively reflect on their meaning. Such reflection frequently resulted in a kind of call to transpersonal growth. Heeded, the experiences cannot be viewed as ends but as beginnings, or as seed experiences, as Ring (1984, pp. 27-28) has called them, or seeds of transcendence, as White (1992, pp. 39-40) has described them. By following the call, individuals move a step closer to fulfilling their potentials as human beings, and they may be participating in what many scholars believe to be the next great evolutionary thrust of humanity.
It is because of the recurrent theme throughout my quotes of evolving, evolution and evolutionary processes that I dare to proclaim, with little or no empirical evidence as yet, that transhumanation is an evolutionary process. As we have seen thus far, the parapsychological literature is replete with such references. However, one referee voiced his doubt:
The manuscript proposes the hypothesis that psi and mystical experiences reflect mental evolution and are increasing. However, the manuscript presents no evidence for this hypothesis and negligible suggestions for research methodology for investigating it. It seems equally or more likely to me that psi and mystical experiences are decreasing due to the clamor and noise of over-population, the media (particularly TV), and generally much less solitude and introspection. The evolutionary hypothesis as presented appears to me to be unscientific speculation.
The referee seems alone in his point of view, but perhaps we can take from it the lesson that we need at the very start of our proceedings valid and reliable measuring instruments for transhumanation. Perhaps, when research gets under way, we shall find a negative correlation between amount of TV watched and transhumanation! This need is addressed in the empirical paper to follow this one.
Suggesting that transhumanation is occurring or has occurred in a particular person is dangerous for the person involved, because they may be put on the spot to demonstrate transcendent attributes, whereas, I suggest, the timing may be determined by the will of that Higher Power hypothesized earlier. Constantly in my experiences I have been led to suppose that the universe is governed by Intelligent Purpose.
In giving my EHE autobiography I am following in the path of various parapsychologists who have described at least their psi experiences, such as William Braud (1994), though they say little about mystical. An exception to this rule is Charles Tart (2002), who in his website The Archives of Scientists’ Transcendent Experiences (TASTE) provides a safe and anonymous forum for scientists from every discipline to report their paranormal and mystical experiences, contradicting the wisdom that says scientists do not have this sort of experience. Most recently, the parapsychologist Stanley Krippner (2002) provided a most illuminating EHE autobiography.
Spiritual emergence versus spiritual emergency
Just as in normal human development we can expect “growing pains”, such as teething in infants and unsteady gait and falls in toddlers, and pains in adolescence, as well as, in adulthood, the birth pangs of the pregnant mother, so too should we expect “growing pains” or “transformational crisis” in the psycho-spiritual journey. Spiritual emergence is the name given by Christina and Stanislav Grof (1990) to the process of spiritual awakening—slow or sudden—in such a way that it can be readily and painlessly absorbed.
None of these individuals will ever again think of themselves as completely separate. They all have had vivid and convincing experiences that transported them beyond the restrictions of their bodies and limited self-concept to a connection with something outside of themselves. (p. 35)
But integration of these experiences may not be so smooth. Spiritual emergence can become spiritual emergency:
People who are in such a crisis are bombarded with inner experiences that abruptly challenge their old beliefs and ways of existing, and their relationship with reality shifts very rapidly. Suddenly they feel uncomfortable in the formerly familiar world and may find it difficult to meet the demands of everyday life. They can have great problems distinguishing their inner visionary world from the external world of daily reality. Physically, they may experience forceful energies streaming through their bodies and causing uncontrollable tremors. (p. 35)
It is beyond the scope of this paper to discuss all the varieties of spiritual emergency that can arise and the way in which they may possess healing potential, except to mention in particular that Kundalini may manifest in such an emergency, causing great fear and misunderstanding (Grof & Grof, 1990, pp. 77-80; Krishna, 1971; Thalbourne & Fox, 1999); near-death experiences may also lead to spiritual emergency, as can also shamanic crisis and psychic opening (Grof & Grof, 1990, pp. 80-83, pp. 88-93). I myself have had a very clear experience of what was formerly called “Activation of the Central archetype” (Thalbourne, 1993), or what the Grofs now call “Psychological renewal through return to the center” (1990, pp. 86-88), though I have not had trouble but only delight with Kundalini.
In sum, the evolutionary, or transformative, nature of consciousness may not be without its obstacles and set-backs. We cannot assume that the process invariably unfolds in a linear fashion without any problems along the way. Thus, measures of psychological adjustment administered to an undifferentiated groups of transhumanants may or may not correlate positively with a measure of transhumanation.
To conclude. I am a star—and so are you! The process of transhumanation—first in a handful of individuals, and then in the species as a whole—is, I hypothesize, what makes stars bright. In the next paper my colleagues and I attempt to construct an empirical measure of transhumanation and examine its correlates.
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Table 1. Data from a series of TV coincidences.
Date Time Word(s)
13th May, 2002 5.49 p.m. direct(or)
18th May, 2002 5.34 p.m. clear
26th May, 2002 7.45 p.m. tin
26th May, 2002 7.45 p.m. love
9th July, 2002 5.10 p.m. heaps
14th July, 2002 7.35 p.m. one hundred
16th July, 2002 5.40 p.m. mark
16th July, 2002 7.04 p.m. depression
17th July, 2002 5.40 p.m. Smith
18th July, 2002 9.16 p.m. listen (twice)
19th July, 2002 7.11 p.m. jacket
3rd August, 2002 7.30 p.m. show (v.t.)
5th August, 2002 7.50 p.m. troph/y, ies
12th September, 2002 4.45 p.m. Eric
19th August, 2002 7.11 p.m. Harte/heart
7th October, 2002 5.50 p.m. Michael
18th October, 2002 6.00 p.m. Homo