Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The truth behind our dreams

by Erik J. Martin

“Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow—
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.
--A Dream Within a Dream, by Edgar Allen Poe

We all do it. It’s as common and natural as breathing oxygen. We simply close our eyes, fall asleep and succumb to what Shakespeare called “the children of an idle brain…begot of nothing but vain fantasy.”

Sometime after drifting off, the dreams come. And go. And come and go again. Yet, by the time we awaken, we’re lucky if we remember even the merest snatches of the last journey our unconscious mind just took us on.

Where do dreams come from? What do they mean? What’s their purpose? Scientists and psychologists are just beginning to unlock the mysteries of the human mind and shed light into the dark corners of sleep, separating dream facts from fictions. Whether you dreamed last night of your neighbor’s bodacious bod or a surreal netherworld straight out of a Salvador Dali painting, chances are that there was a reason behind it.

Dream analysts and researchers continue to dig for the clues, and more people than ever are turning to experts for answers to their subconscious Sandman signals.

Dream machines
Windows to the soul or waste vehicles for our unconscious mind to dispose of its insignificant trash? The debate on exactly what dreams are and why they happen continues. Meanwhile, there’s much that we’ve learned about our sleeping selves, and so much more that we have yet to learn.

Every night, we typically dream several dreams that last anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes, according to the Association for the Study of Dreams. Our most vivid dreams occur during a type of sleep called Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep—a period when the brain is very active, the eyes dart back and forth quickly beneath the eyelids, and the body’s large muscles are relaxed. During REM sleep, we generally have a new dream every 90 minutes or so. Our most vivid dreams occur as our sleep progresses, especially in the hour before awakening.

Experts have discovered that during REM sleep, electrical activity flows from the brain stem into the thinking and motor regions of the brain, leading scientists to believe that the cortex works feverishly to process and understand the senseless nerve impulses it receives. By this logic, some researchers theorize that a dreamer may have an erotic dream in response to being sexually aroused, and not vice versa.

During the first ten years of life, a child’s dreams are more simple and typically unemotional—although nightmares can be more common. But by the time of adulthood, dreams become more complex and dramatic, and dreamers find themselves involved in their own dreams, unlike most children. Unpleasant emotions such as anger and fear are more commonly expressed in dreams than pleasant ones, and sexual arousal during dreams is frequent and normal.

Contrary to popular belief, most dreams are in color, although you might not be aware of it, and you are not in danger of dying during sleep if you dream that you have died. And, though laboratory studies have tried to prove whether dreams can predict the future, there is still no concrete scientific evidence to support this belief.

Perhaps what’s most amazing about dreams is that, though you may remember explicit details of one or more of your dreams after waking up, the reality is that nearly everything that happens during sleep is forgotten when you become conscious, according to the Association for the Study of Dreams.

The history of dream interpretation
Humans have been trying to decipher their dreams for thousands of years. The earliest known dream records, which date back about 5,000 years, are found in Mesopotamia. The clay tablets of seventh-century BC scholar-king Assurbanipal help tell the epic story of Gilgamesh, a ruler whose related dreams to his goddess-mother for interpretation.

The ancient Egyptians and Greeks believed that god visited dreamers in their dreams, and the Chinese contended that the soul left the body during sleep and produced dreams based on its expereinces. The holy Hebrew book the Talamud has more than 200 references to dreams, and the Sacred Books of Wisdom, written in India between 1500 and 1000 BC, depicted dreams to be good or bad omens depending on the dreamer’s actions during the dreams.

During the Middle Ages, dreams began to be analyzed in terms of their relationship to God. Many Christians preached that Satan was responsible for dreams, and many dreams were misinterpreted to signal whether or not you were chaste or sinful. Some women were even burned at the stake on the basis of their dreams.

Dream analysis changed dramatically at the dawn of the 20th century, when Sigmund Freud introduced his psychoanalytic dream theories. Freud believed that there are two types of dream content: latent (which contained unconscious fantasies or wishes), and manifest (superficial content that signified underlying or unconscious issues).

Freud’s contemporary Carl Jung had his own theory—that dream content can provide revelations that help us solve emotional problems, concerns, fears and conflicts. Jung postulated that recurring dreams demonstrate that emotional matters you consciously neglect can surface repeatedly in dreams via symbols and representational images.

Countless research studies on dreams and sleep have been undertaken in the last few decades. REM sleep studies conducted at the University of Chicago in the 1950s confirmed that dreams can have physiological causes and that dreams are dependent on the different stages of sleep.

Dr. Stephen LaBerge, a psychologist at the Stanford University Sleep Research Center and founder of the Lucidity Institute in Palo Alto, California, has shown that humans are able to remain awake during sleep (a phenomenon called “lucidity”).

While little is still known about dreams today, most dream experts agree that our dreams mirror our unique underlying thoughts and emotions. While there are common themes, symbols and archetypal dreams that are shared by many dreamers, these images and symbols can have different meanings for different people. Scientists continue to argue whether or not dreams have meaning, but there is no denying that every dream is unique, personal and meaningful to the person dreaming it.

The value of dream analysis
Today dream analysis is deemed worthy by nearly all psychologist and scholars. It is a powerful tool for self-discovery and is also used in therapy to uncover past events and trauma. And even if you don’t have a nagging dream, dream analysis can be a fun way to know more about our personalities and our inner being. All we need to do is pay attention to the messages that are being transmitted.

“As our own constructions, dreams tell us how we see the world—what we wish for, fear, and in general, expect,” says Dr. LaBerge. “Dream analysis is still much more an art than science. The aspects of dreaming that are scientific include knowledge about the brain state involved in dreaming, what determines dream content, and techniques and technology for controlling lucid dreams.”

Bonnie Russell, a dream analyst from Del Mar, California, who has been studying dreams for many years, says that we each dream a task through a story. “Your job is to figure out three things—what’s the story, what’s the problem, and what has to be resolved to get to the solution. My theory is that if you suppress feelings and memories, they have to come out somehow—where better than dreams? I believe that every dream has a message. The trick is in figuring that message out.”

Lauren Lawrence, a dream expert for and a former practicing psychoanalyst from New York city, concurs. Dreaming "is like sucking blood from the unconscious,” she says. “Dreaming is kind of like downloading a file from the computer that is your brain. Dream interpretation is kind of like being able to open the file. We spend roughly 20 years of our life sleeping and have about 350,000 dreams in our lifetime. And every single dream you have is important because it tells you something deep about yourself. ”

Lawrence has been able to help hundreds of subjects decipher even the most cryptic and bizarre types of dreams. For example, one teenage subject suffered from a haunting, reoccurring dream of being in her bedroom while a fierce, room-shaking thunderstorm raged outside, visible via two windows that shattered from the storm’s force. Outside, the water levels rose and threatened to flood the house, and the panicking girl didn’t know how to escape from the house. Lawrence interpreted the dream to represent the adolescent girl’s unhappiness with her life setting.

“The windows represented the eyes of her parents watching her, and the storm and the flood water signified a nullification of her space,” explains Lawrence. “And breaking glass symbolizes something coming up from the unconscious.”

Once the girl realized how depressed and discontented she was about her parent’s unhealthy encroachment into her life, she learned to cope with the anxiety and change her life. “And the dream never came back,” adds Lawrence.

“Your dreams reflect your deepest emotional responses to your waking-state experiences,” says Tidiani Tall, founder/CEO of eSpirituality Inc. and an expert dream interpreter. “Therefore a correct analysis of dream is only possible if they are viewed in the context of your particular life. This includes your past, your most profound attitudes, hatreds, prejudices, fears and pains. The adult personality is largely the result of the emotionally charged experiences of your life. Through your dreams, your unconscious will tell you what you need. It is up to you to use those keys in your conscious state. “

There are two to three thousand universal dream symbols that are basically the same for all of us, insists Tall. “They can be colors, places, actions or objects. Common dream symbols are falling, flying, sexual intercourse, and being chased.”

According to Lawrence’s book “Dream Keys: Unlocking the Power of Your Unconscious Mind,” there are also nine major types of dreams: anxiety; traumatic anxiety; self-affirmation; wish-fulfillment; problem-solving; initiation; prophetic; examination (the one where you have to take the final exam and you didn’t study); and, of course, oedipal (those erotically unforgettable dreams).

Wonder why you’re usually unable to recall what you dreamed last night? Lawrence has a sound theory. “When you are awake, you’re speaking the language of the conscious,” says Lawrence. “When you’re sleeping, you’re fluent in the language of the unconscious, so waking up means you’re no longer in that country. You’re like a foreigner trying to peace the language together, so it becomes difficult to remember the dream.”

Lawrence’s advice? “As soon as you wake up, lie very still, keep your eyes closed, and focus on what you just dreamed and what it meant. Then, immediately jot it down on paper. Keep a dream journal and refer to it for more clues and insights about yourself.”

Monday, September 28, 2009

Close encounters of the entertainment kind

by Erik J. Martin

If you had been alive on Halloween eve in 1938, you probably would have been scared out of your wits. And for good reason: Ruthless, grotesque Martians were taking over the planet. At least that's what thousands of Americans believed while listening to Orson Welles' infamous radio dramatization of H.G. Wells’ book "The War of the Worlds."

Welles’ clever hoax underscores an essential truth about the entertainment hungry public in the modern media age—that we want to believe in extraterrestrial life, and that the media, which continues to saturate our collective consciousness with science fiction films, TV programs, books and other offerings, is very good at making us believers.

If you want to know how popular extraterrestrials are these days, just open the movie section of your newspaper, take a walk down to the bookstore, stroll down the video game aisle at Wal-Mart, or simply turn on your television. Practically everywhere you look for entertainment these days, a classic Grey alien with those big black oval eyes—or one of his distant cosmic cousins--is staring you in the face.

Why this growing cultural obsession and consumer feeding frenzy over UFOs and their otherworldly occupants? For one, there are more supposed alien encounters and UFO sightings reported today than ever before. Word of mouth, however tabloid-like ridiculous in nature, gets around. And recent outer space explorations and scientific discoveries—including the possibility of life on Mars--are stoking our interest in uncovering the unknown truths of the universe. Hollywood, book publishers, television producers and other savvy media powers that be have their fingers on the pulse of what the public wants: namely, more xenomorphs, interplanetary predators, little Grey men, X-File conspiracies, and brain-eating zombies from outer space.

The evolution of alien life
The flourishing science fiction entertainment industry of today can thank 19th century pioneers of the genre like Mary Shelley, who penned the original "Frankenstein" novel, Jules Verne, author of fantastic tomes like "From the Earth to the Moon," and H.G. Wells, famous for books such as "The Time Machine." It was early literary visionaries like these who sparked cosmic curiosity and intergalactic imagination among the masses and laid the foundation for sci-fi pulp.

In the 1920s and ‘30s, sci-fi magazines first began to appear, including the granddaddy of them all, Hugo Gernsback’s Amazing Stories. It and rival magazines such as Astounding Science Fiction and, eventually, Galaxy Science Fiction, featured short sci-fi works by masterful authors like Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov. The success of these monthlies paved the way for more science fiction books and short story collections by a newer generation of authors, including Ray Bradbury, Frederick Pohl, Harlan Ellison, and "Dune" creator Frank Herbert.

Movies were just as important as the printed page for sparking the sci-fi revolution. In 1902, filmmaker George Melies created a landmark special effects-laden sci-fi short called "A Trip to the Moon," depicting a lunar landing and our first look at fictional aliens on the big screen. Longer feature films like Metropolis and Things to Come followed.

But it wasn’t until the 1950s that sci-fi films came on with a fury, thanks largely to America’s fear of the spread of communism and nuclear annihilation, two themes that perfectly represented themselves in the form of evil aliens and science run amok. "The Thing From Another World," "The War of the Worlds," "The Day the Earth Stood Still," "Angry Red Planet" and other films stirred up the country’s Cold War anxieties and packed movie houses everywhere. Viewers got their first taste of the cerebral sci-fi film a la "2001: A Space Odyssey," in 1968, and in 1977 with the groundbreaking "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (CE3K), which ushered in the era of the friendly alien, portrayed to perfection in "E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial."

Television also advanced the image of science fiction, especially early series such as "The Outer Limits" and "The Twilight Zone." "Star Trek" came along in the late 1960s, creating a whole new universe of alien characters and an avid sci-fi fan base. And "The X-Files," which debuted in 1993, brought an unmatched level of realism and credibility to the visual genre, further piquing our desire for contact with aliens and our yearning to unlock rumored secrets being held from us by the government.

Media make-believe

Psychologically speaking, why is it that we are so intrigued by aliens and their craft, especially considering we have no proof of life beyond this planet? Dr. James E. Gunn, Emeritus Professor of English and Director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas, has his own theories.

“I have the feeling that the ready acceptance over the years of flying saucers and the aliens they involved was a kind of replacement of religion,” says Dr. Gunn. “If God is dead, as some theologians claimed, then we had to look elsewhere for some kind of superior creatures that might save or damn us.”

The notion espoused in popular science fiction that aliens might covet our planet or our women or our bodies is an old one, says Dr. Gunn. “It makes good fiction, but it isn't logical. In fact, it isn't rational that aliens would ever come to our solar system or our planet. The distances are simply too great to make such a trip practical, even if it is practicable. But we like to speculate about such matters because it is a great burden to imagine that we are the only intelligent creatures in the universe, and on our shoulders is the responsibility for understanding it and making our existence matter.”

Believing in UFOs and aliens has a lot to do with our openness to identifying reality and asking the simple question, ‘What is real?’” says Patricia Baker, a psychotherapist and sociologist who has investigated UFO cases and worked with people who claim to have been abducted by aliens. “To think that there is life out there on other worlds is a sign of our culture’s intelligence. It’s also a reflection of our yearning for ‘wholeness,’ the feeling that something—call it a higher purpose or a deeper connection to explain the mysteries of life--is missing in our lives, something bigger than ourselves.”

Baker asserts that the media has the power to influence our image of and beliefs about aliens, and it certainly makes a lot of money off of our enjoyment of sci-fi. “But the consciousness of our culture has created the media’s obsession with science fiction entertainment. Once the media gives us a quality, credible program like 'The X-Files', the public responds and interest in extraterrestrials and making contact with them grows all the more. But the interest was there long before those savvy TV and film creatives introduced their sci-fi products.”

The ever-evolving face of aliens
We’ve seen all manner and species of aliens illustrated in movies, programs and stories over the last hundred years—everything from wet leathery Martians to Klingons to Wookiees. And though their appearances vary wildly and their attitudes range from bloodthirsty to benevolent, we just can’t get enough of their brood, no matter how boring the outer space stereotypes get.

“Hollywood has difficulty with aliens. To keep audiences watching, aliens are usually either virtually human, or monsters,” says Josh Calder, consultant with Coates & Jarratt, a futurist consulting firm. “Most movies depict aliens as funny-looking foreigners with different emotional tendencies. Real aliens will be far stranger to us than Chinese or Inuit, and possibly stranger even than dolphins or elephants. We share a lot of DNA with other animals; we will share no DNA with aliens. Given the course of life on Earth, most aliens should either be primitive life forms or fantastically advanced.”

Dr. Gunn says he liked CE3K because it never once mentioned that the aliens might be dangerous. CE3K also made popular the image of the amiable otherworldly being, as evidenced by the popularity of "E.T." and even "Mork and Mindy." He also counts "2001: A Space Odyssey" as a top sci-fi film favorite.

“Even if the aliens are never shown in 2001, at least we can believe in their theoretical existence. Most other aliens in movies are believable only in fictional terms--that is, they make good stories,” he says.

“The trend in the eighties was definitely more toward the benevolent alien, as you see in movies such as 'E.T.', 'Starman,' 'Brother From Another Planet,' and the 'Abyss,'” says Ann Crispin, science fiction author of many Star Wars and Star Trek novels based on the movies and television series.

In the late eighties and early nineties, Crispin continues, aliens became more malevolent—a la the "Alien" movie sequels and "The X-Files" TV series. Calder argues that the best movies depicting E.T.s show the gulf between humans and aliens.

"'Contact' and '2001' are good, as they both show how bewildering interaction with aliens is likely to be. 'Starman' is a nice representation of how hyperadvanced technologies will appear essentially magical. As depictions of aliens with plausible motivations, 'Aliens' and 'Starship Troopers' aren't that bad. The least realistic are those that have aliens like us in their motivations, emotions, and communication forms," Calder says.

"Star Trek" and "Star Wars" fall into this category, says Calder.

“I think the science fiction genre is constantly redefining itself and going in and out of phases,” says Crispin, whose favorite extraterrestrials are the pug in "Men in Black" and H.R. Giger’s horrific monster featured in the "Alien" movie series. “For a while there, books with fantastic stories set on Mars were all the rage. Today, the focus of science fiction has shifted more inward. Instead of showcasing aliens from strange worlds, the spotlight and setting is more on our own planet and solar system. Movies like "Contact," "The Matrix," and "Mission to Mars"—in which the aliens are dead or not shown--demonstrate that.

Sci-fi trends, says Richard Schickel, film critic for Time Magazine, “depend on what the zeitgeist of the moment is—whether or not we’re feeling nervous or in control as a society. Like westerns, science fiction entertainment tries to plug into the themes of the day. That’s why I believe we’ll see more movies like 'The Matrix' and 'Contact,' which explore virtual alien realities and alternative universes.”

When it comes to sci-fi literature, “books about solar system exploration, robotic missions, and the military are very popular nowadays because their themes mirror the recent news and scientific advancements we read about,” says Crispin. “But the truth of the matter is that fantasy fiction is outselling written science fiction today, and we’re seeing a shift toward more fantasy features in theaters, which is fueled all the more by the 'Lord of the Rings' films.”

Sci-fi sneak previews
Indeed, the future of the science fiction genre in entertainment certainly appears to be at a crossroads. Does it hold infinite possibilities, or will consumers eventually get bored with it all as sci-fi writers scramble for fresh settings and more fantastic aliens and plots? And, as we learn more about the limits of time, space, and the laws of the universe, will this restrict sci-fi writers from penning creative yarns that science says isn't possible?

“I'd say the future of science fiction is infinite,” says Dr. Gunn. “Every advance in scientific understanding has had two consequences: either people suggesting that science fiction no longer has anything to write about, or the raising of new questions that make for even more dramatic and insightful stories. We have to go with what science says isn't impossible, not what it says is possible, and even the impossible looks more possible all the time, what with the uncertainty principle, quantum physics, nanotechnology, genetic and biological insights and techniques, and new discoveries in space and with advanced instrumentation.”

As for the possibility of alien conceptualizers running out of ideas and sci-fi lovers running out of interest, Crispin says relax. “Consumers, as well as science fiction creators, will continue to have wild imaginations that won’t let the genre suffer.”

When truth is stranger than science fiction
5 must-see movies and the real-life UFO cases they’re based on:
  • The UFO Incident (1975) This TV film tells the allegedly true story of Betty and Barney Hill (played by Estelle Parsons and James Earl Jones) and their purported abduction by aliens in September, 1961. The E.T.s, who allegedly probed the couple’s bodies (inside and out) on their spacecraft, are depicted as resembling the classic “Grey” alien.
  • Roswell: the UFO Cover Up (1994) This film, broadcast as an original Showtime cable movie, is loosely based on the famous Roswell story, which made headlines across the world in July of 1947. Kyle MacLachlan stars as Jesse Marcel, an intelligence officer troubled by having been made to lie about having seen the debris of a crashed flying saucer in the New Mexico desert. Rumor has it that four classic Grey alien bodies—originating from the Zeta Reticuli system--were recovered.
  • Fire in the Sky (1993) In the American northwest in 1975, Travis Walton and his timber-cutting coworkers claim that they encountered an alien vessel. Walton supposedly was zapped up into the UFO, and his buddies were accused of murdering their missing partner. The abductee returned days later, telling of his experience with blond Nordic and Grey aliens (only the latter are shown in the movie). James Garner plays a skeptical police officer trying to debunk the account.
  • Communion (1990) Based on author Whitley Strieber’s alleged encounters with possible alien beings who have been abducting him throughout his entire life—as detailed in his wildly popular book Communion. Christopher Walken portrays Strieber in this choppy adaptation of the bestseller that helped spark a renewed interest in UFOs.
  • Alien Secrets: Area 51 A strange two-part documentary that aired on the Learning Channel and is available on video, Alien Secrets explores some of the most intriguing UFO cases of the 20th century. Detailed in depth is Bob Lazar’s famous account of Area 51, the infamous military base outside of Las Vegas that the Air Force continues to deny even exists. Lazar claims to have worked there briefly on an out-of-this-world project: Reverse-engineering UFO propulsion systems. Stanton Friedman, Bruce Maccabee, and Glenn Campbell are among the prominent figures in the field who lend commentary.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Mind might: Psychokenesis explained

by Erik J. Martin

Think mind over matter isn’t possible? Dr. Larry Montz says think again. In his many years working in the field of paranormal research, America’s only full-time parapsychologist has encountered hordes of ghosts, communicated with an entity that took possession of a young child, and experienced more than his share of weird and wild supernatural phenomenon.

But one of the strangest occurrences he ever witnessed involved one of his own team members, Derek Acorah, a British investigator. Acorah, who was giving a presentation to a large audience, had just severed business ties with a deceitful man named John. The man defiantly showed up back stage and began trying to sabotage Acorah’s presentation.

The normally even-tempered Acorah politely but firmly asked the ex-business partner to leave, but when John wouldn’t, Acorah became enraged. Suddenly, John was mysteriously hurled back into a wall, from a previous, stationary and secure standing position. Acorah had not touched the man. But Dr. Montz was convinced that his otherwise mild-mannered partner had harnessed within himself the power of psychokinesis.

An inexact science explained

Maybe your parents were right when they told you ‘Put your mind to it and you can accomplish anything.’ At least that’s what most researchers and investigators in the field of psychokinesis believe. Also referred to as “telekinesis,” psychokinesis, or “PK” for short, is the use of your thought and will to make some sort of change in the physical world. It’s the enigmatic force at work in movies like “Carrie,” “Powder,” “Phenomenon” and “Firestarter.” According to the book “Paranormal Experience,” by Rosemary Ellen Guiley, PK is the influence of mind over matter through invisible means, such as the movement of objects, bending of metal and the outcome of events. It is also considered to be a form of “psi”--the symbol experts use to identify psychic phenomena that encompasses both extrasensory perception (ESP) and PK.

The term "psychokinesis" comes from the Greek words psukhe ("psyche") meaning "breath," "life" or "soul," and kinein, meaning "to move." Experts have demonstrated that PK happens both spontaneously and deliberately, indicating that it is both an unconscious and conscious process.

We don't know precisely what it is or how it operates. It isn’t something that be explained in terms of physics, nor it is affected by any of the forces or laws of physics. But we do know for certain that PK exists, and has been recorded since ancient times.

Since the 1930s, PK has grown into a high priority research interest, and it has become the fastest-growing field of parapsychology, particularly in the United States and the Soviet Union. Although experiments have scientifically demonstrated that it is possible to influence the roll of dice and the arrangement of numbers in machines (overall study results fall barely above a 50/50 chance), statistical findings from controlled lab studies have resulted in contradictory findings.

What’s more, some experiments have been attacked for their methodological flaws, and many human subjects have been accused of fraud and trickery. Due to perceived lack of credibility, the psychological and scientific community have grown skeptical of PK investigations and experiments.

Still, recent history is littered with popular examples of actual people who purportedly harnessed PK powers, including Ted Serios, a man who could look at something and apparently create an approximate photographic image of it on film. D.D. Home, a 19th century medium, was renowned for his ability to handle hot coals without being burned, and to levitate. And in the 1960s, an Israeli psychic named Uri Geller awed television audiences with his alleged powers to bend or break metal with a few taps of his fingers and mental concentration. Geller's powers were rumored to be so intense that while performing on TV, some viewers witnessed their own household objects undergoing similar changes. But attempts to test Geller in a laboratory were not successful. Naysayers insisted that Geller was a phony who used sleight-of-hand tricks.

“There have been people in the history of parapsychology who have claimed to have extraordinary psychic powers but are in fact using magic tricks to duplicate the effect,” says Dr. John A. Palmer, Director of the Rhine Research Center in Durham, North Carolina, which conducts parapsychology studies. He adds that what may seem like an utterly believable PK experience may actually how be a mind trick or a form of self or outer hypnosis. “This is why we rely primarily on laboratory research to provide scientific evidence for PK. In the lab you can control for magician's tricks by doing experiments.”

The power of PK in you
Some people are born with extraordinary PK ability, just as some people are born with extraordinary artistic talent, says Dr. Montz. He believes that all people display varying degrees of Psi abilities--mostly ESP. “The people who are more advanced or focused can sometimes demonstrate PK abilities. In my estimation, the demonstration of different Psi abilities I've witnessed and studied are attributable to the mental discipline of the individual, combined with the energy life-force or spirit of that individual.”
Experts contend that PK can be cultivated deliberately through training concentration and intent. There are many ways, and techniques vary.

“PK happens spontaneously, too,” says Guiley, author of more than 20 books on such subjects as the paranormal, mysticism, ghosts, magic and vampires ( “We've all read stories about people do somehow perform superhuman feats when disaster strikes. That's PK at work.”

Okay, you ask: If PK is possible, why have we not seen more proof or examples of it among everyday people?

“I think this is because a combination of conditions is necessary for PK to occur and this combination rarely occurs naturally,” says Dr. Palmer. “If we could ever discover what this set of conditions is, we could increase the prevalence of PK.”

Popular culture on the occult usually portrays psychokinesis in very dramatic ways. Heroes and villains use the power of their minds to fling objects and people about with ease, cause disasters to happen (pr prevent them), and so on. Historical documentation of PK is dramatic, too, but in a different way. The acts of shamans, such as bringing rain, are deemed to be PK events. Many of the miracles of the saints, such as bilocation, levitation, controlling the forces of nature and manifesting food, have PK elements. Healing at a distance and magic also involves PK.

“If you let Hollywood define PK for you, with movies and TV shows of spectacular displays of mental power, then you will indeed see very little, if any, PK around you in life,” says Guiley. “However, PK is part of everyone's life. You become what you think and believe. The universe orders itself around you according to your thoughts. If you believe deep in side of you that you are creative, that you are talented, that you are a winner, you will consciously and unconsciously fulfill those thoughts. The same follows if you think negatively.”

Nevertheless, thought isn't everything, says Guiley. “To be truly effective, it has to be united with action. Your thoughts have the power to magnify your action. But harnessing the power of your thought takes effort. Thousands and thousands of thoughts, many of them conflicting, pass through our minds every day. The majority of our thoughts do not come to pass in reality because they are not organized into sufficient energy, powered by will and intent.”

As for the ability to use PK for mind control of others, Guiley says perish the thought. “Ultimately, you are not going to force anyone to do something that goes against their deepest will. The most responsible and productive use of your mental power is to improve your own life, help other people and make positive change in the world.”

If PK is real, then why don't more people win the lottery on purpose or make a killing in the stock market?

“Chance is 50-50, and results of controlled PK experiments fall barely above chance,” says Guiley. “Statistically, this is very significant, though it doesn't seem so from a ‘what's-in-it-for-me’ perspective. Also, there are subtle group factors involved. When you enter a lottery or play the stock market, you are going up against the hopes and intents of potentially millions of people. That's a lot of wills mixed together.”

Anxious to test your PK abilities? First, practice relaxing and focusing your thoughts through meditation. When you are ready, try simply rolling dice, using your focused mental powers to attempt to affect the outcome of the roll. To practice moving objects with your mind, Dr. Montz recommends placing a small piece of paper (2.5" long x 1/4" wide) folded in half, over a needle that's stuck in a cork. Concentrate on making the paper spin.

PK prognostications
In the future, Guiley believes that we will continue to advance our understanding of how mental power works, and be able to adapt it in practical and reliable ways. For example, researchers are already busy working on computers that respond to thought. Sci-fi scenarios in which we use thought to operate a variety of machines will someday come to pass, she believes.

Will we be able to flip objects through space like Keanu Reeves in “The Matrix”? To do so would require some sort of interaction with the law of gravity. History shows that this may be possible, because we have historical testimonials of saints, yogis and spiritual masters levitating in altered states of consciousness. Whether we will learn how to make them happen on cue, and to manage the experiences themselves, is another matter, Guiley says.

Dr. Palmer believes that tomorrow’s potential applications for PK and psi in general are mind-boggling.

“The one application we think of now is curing disease, like dissolving a cancerous tumor. But this is only one of an infinite number of potential applications. However, especially for PK, we have a long way to go to realize this potential. This is why I think it is so important that we continue doing research to further establish the reality of things like PK and, if it is real, bring it under control so that it could be reliably applied.”