Review of what Dr. M., A.D. and D. DeG. have written on OOBEs and PSI, with additional comments by Daniel Caldwell
Jun 11, 1996 10:50 PM
by Blavatsky Foundation
Various comments have been made by Dr. Mike Mueckler
on the "reality" of out-of-the-body- experiences and psychic
phenomena. [Only excerpts given. Originally posted on alt.religion.eckankar]
Dr. Mueckler writes:
>>>As someone who has experienced this phenomenon of OOBE=soul travel=astral
>projection=lucid dreaming for some 25 years (they are all the same), I
>have discussed this in detail before on this newsgroup. Neither I nor
>anyone else has ever produced evidence for knowledge at a distance during
>a lucid dream or out of the body experience. Period. Including tests
>conducted under laboratory conditions. Experiments with brain probing
>indicate that the OOBE is a mental state that can be reproduced by the
>excitation of certain regions of the brain.
To a trained observer, this [testimony of OOBEs and Near Death Experiences]
is not evidence, it is closer to fable, story
telling or wishful thinking. People lie, exaggerate, bend the truth, and
convince themselves of things that never happened. There are perfectly
rational explanations for all of these cases when one takes the reality of
human fallibility into consideration. When the heart stops beating, the
brain continues to function for many minutes. If it didn't the people
really would be dead and would not be capable of being resuscitated.
Visual and auditory sensory inputs during this state can be processed and
translated into dream like images. Nothing mysterious about it at all.
We know that the perception of disembodiment can be induced by sensory
deprivation and electrical stimulation. Hypoxia probably induces a
similar state under the right circumstances. Trivial.
> Of course, I am very familiar with the *claims* of positive
>results--these are a combination of statistical blips, wishful thinking,
>sloppy, uncontrolled experiments, faulty equipment, and forgery and
>fakery. Indeed, the entire field of parapsychology has been rife with
>these unfortunate occurrences. Every time the so-called positive
>experiments have been repeated by others using a proper protocol, the
>"positive" results vanish. If you saw some of the so-called "positive"
>data, most of you would wince and say, so what? We are not talking about
>demonstrating the existence of the soul--rather, observing something like
>a tiny deviation from the statistical norm using Psi cards or the like. A
>Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Ernst Rutheford, once said--if you have to
>use statistics to prove something--go back and design the experiment
>properly! If a certain type of experiment is repeated often enough, the
>outcome will come out "positive" a certain percentage of the time.
>One last thing. It is certainly possible that my materialistic views are
>completely wrong. Scientific theories are constantly in a state of flux
>as we gather more data. I would place the odds that I am wrong in this
>regard at one in a thousand or less. Religion has been given a fair shake
>for millenia, and has proven to be a miserable failure at explaining
>anything. The further we advance in our knowledge of the universe, the
>more religious viewpoints have to be abandoned. The odds are getting less
>and less every day.
[end of Dr. Mueckler's comments]
[The above comments were reposted on theos-l (a theosophical discussion
list). I give below a few comments by Alexis Dolgorukii on Dr. Mueckler's
above statements and Dr. Don DeGracia's replies to what Mr. Dolgorukii
had written. Alexis Dolgorukii wrote]:
My only problem with the "scientific facts" behind the statements of Dr.
Mueckler is based upon the fairly obvious perception that they are based
upon the a priori rejection of ANY AND ALL extra-physical or trans-physical
[Dr. Don DeGracia replies to Dolgorukii]:
Part of this attitude amongst scientists reflects the historical roots of
science: science grew as a counter-cultural movement to the unthinking dogma of
the Medieval Church. And, like a brash teenager trying to proove his own,
science rejected its connection to spirutal truths. Although, this is not true
in general. Many great scientists, including Newton, Einstein, and many others
were imminently spiritual men, and saw science in a spritual light.
Another part of this attitude has to do with finding the least complicated
explanation. Science is driven by Ocam's razor, which is to find the simplest
explanation for a phenomena. When this fails, more complicated explanations
are then invoked. Necessity drives this process, not fancy or speculation. The
history of science is replete with such examples.
Thus, to attribute OBEs as phenomena created by the brain is the simplest
explanation, and also the most obvious. It is a starting point, and a good one
that has worked well for the past several decades in which this paradigm has
been used. Again however, Dr. Mueckler simply has a bad attitude to come off
as if these issues are all black and white.
Even Manly Hall himself has said that we should not try to invoke super-physical
explanations when a physical explanation will suffice. This of course is
different from rejecting spirituality in any sense, which is a mistake many
scientists make. Scientists who flat out reject spirituality simply expose
their ignorance and lack of depth and subtlety.
It is...unfortunate that occultists feel justified to
ignore the knowldege of the brain without first studying it and trying to
understand it. I used to hold this attitude, but I was force to learn about the
brain in my PhD program, and what i learned so fascinated me that I now am
enamored with the study of the brain. I can literally think of no more
interesting topic. The brain is a vast mystery and to dismiss its study so
nonchalantly only reveals that you are not well informed about our current state
of knowledge of the brain and mind.
The brain and mind are two different views of the exact same thing. The mind is
not different from the brain. The mind is a process created by the brain. Now,
this does not need to imply that there is no mind that transcends brains, as for
example, with the occult idea of the mental plane. From another angle, God's
mind created not only the brain, but the entire physical world.
All I am saying is do not sell yourself short by rejecting ideas with which you
have no familiarity. If your brain was to become damaged either by trauma,
stroke or other means, you would quickly appreciate the significance of the
brain in the action of the mind. I hope it never comes to this and that you can
simply open your mind to current knowledge and discover intellectually just how
important the brain is for the operation of your mind.
I use to believe that the brain was merely a channel for our non-physical self.
I no longer belief this idea. I consider the idea, but I do not believe it.
What I do know, and have seen in hospital settings is that people who experience
brain damage undergo drastic changes in their mental and psychological
To me, the crux of the matter always rested on dreams. Dreams, supposedly are
our nonphysical experiences, or at least some of them are. The fact is however,
when people suffer symptoms of brain damage, these symptoms are also present in
their dreams. If our dreams were, say, our astral body acting
semi-independently of the physical body, there is no reason to believe that
brain damage would affect the action of the astral body. However, brain damage
symptoms do occur in the person's dreams, indicating that dreams themselves are
a product of the brain.
This idea leads to a very different line of thought than the traditional occult
view that seperates physical and nonphyscal bodies. Instead of simply rejecting
this view because it appears to counterdict what you presently believe, I would
recommend opening up to this view, even if it does challange your present
believes. I have discovered, and unfortunately, again do not have time to
dwell on this issue, that the idea that the brain creates our conscious
awareness is not contradictory to traditional occult ideas of transcendental
realities. however, by mixing the two viewpoints, a new viewpoint emerges that
is substantially different than either alone, and, not suprisingly, is a view in
complete harmony with the great mystical and religious truths of the aeons.
[Then Alexis makes another comment relevant to what Dr. Mueckler had wrote:]
But as they deal with matters spiritual they are not, and never
will be totally amenable to "scientific proof" at least not in the current
state of scientists. Any investigation, of any subject, must be open and
[Don replies to Alexis as follows]:
And the flip side to this is, again, that you, or people with similar interests
and background, make the effort to familiarize yourself with current evidence
and thinking. You will see that scientific ideas are not biased, that they are
driven by necessity (for example, trying to determine how to treat a victum of
brain damage). You must ask yourself: as an occultiust who makes a claim to
understanding the human constitustion, how would you personally deal with a
person who has suffered brain damage? How would your ideas be of practical
value in helping such a person?
[end of Alexis' and Don's comments.]
[Daniel Caldwell's comments on all of the above are as follows:
I must say that I agree with the thrust of Alexis' comments.
In his comments to Alexis, Don urges Alexis to "familiarize
yourself with current evidence and thinking." But considering
the other side of the coin, I have no idea how
knowledgeable Don is with the parapsychological literature. I have
studied this field of endeavor for more than
20 years, and I find that far too many scientists know little
if anything about parapsychology and its findings. Also I have
found that the scientific community
has a prejudice against the STUDY of psychic phenomena.
This is also the opinion of Dr. Ray Hyman, one of the foremost
critics of parapsychology. Dr. Hyman has written:
"...members of the scientific community often judge the parapsychological
claims *without firsthand knowledge of the experimental evidence.*
"*Very few* of the scientific critics have examined *even one* of the
many experimental reports of psychic phenomena.
"Even *fewer, if any*, have examined the bulk of the parapsychological
"*Consequently, parapsychologists have justification for their complaint
that the scientific community is dismissing their claims *without a
fair hearing*....." [asterisks added.]
Don also writes: "It is...unfortunate that occultists feel justified to
ignore the knowldege of the brain without first studying it and trying to
understand it." But conversely (to paraphrase Don)
it is unfortunate that scientists feel justifed to ignore the knowledge of
the paranormal without first studying it and trying to understand it. So, Don,
won't you agree with me, that maybe more scientists need to (at least)
familiarize themselves with the findings of parapsychology?
I agree 100% with Don when he writes:
"Dr. Mueckler simply has a bad attitude to come off
as if these issues are all black and white."
As I have read Dr. Mueckler's posts on alt.religion.eckankar, I have come
to the tentative conclusion that Dr. M. is as much a TRUE DIS-BELIEVER
as many of the Eckists he criticizes are TRUE BELIEVERS!
Furthermore, notice the dogmatic nature of Dr. Mueckler's following
"Neither I nor anyone else has ever produced evidence for
knowledge at a distance during a lucid dream or out of the body experience...."
How does he know all of this? Maybe HE has never produced such
evidence, but how can he speak for the whole of humanity?
I personally have had a number of OOBEs. Most of these
I would concede offer no evidence of knowledge at a distance. They
could be the product of my "imagination", just hallucination or a lucid
dream. But I have had SOME OOBEs in which I gained knowledge at a
distance and on three occasions my presence was noticed by the people
at the distant locations. I know directly that these are the facts. I cannot
produce these experiences on demand; nevertheless, I know they happened
as much as I know that I am at this very moment sitting at my keyboard
typing these words on the screen. And I concede that my "personal"
knowledge is not "scientific" knowledge. No doubt, Dr. M. would have
some sort of possible explanation for my experiences. I lied; I somehow mixed
things up, etc. etc. My experience cannot be taken at face value, according
to Dr. M.'s dictim.
Dr. Mueckler writes: " People lie, exaggerate, bend the truth, and
convince themselves of things that never happened. There are perfectly
rational explanations for all of these cases when one takes the reality of
human fallibility into consideration." Yes, Dr. M., SOME people do lie,
SOME exaggerate and bend the truth, and SOME convince themselves of things
that never happened. But it is also true that SOME people do NOT lie,
SOME do NOT exaggerate, SOME do NOT bend the truth, etc. And maybe sometimes
there are no perfectly "rational" explanation for ALL these cases. And
human fallibility?? The deficiences of human testimony are to be recognized.
But we have in our daily lives and in law courts learned to estimate the
varying value of evidence, and in other departments of life, we do not
helplessly refrain from seeking truth because of the fallibility of human
testimony. You have great FAITH in the assumption that ALL witnesses
to the paranormal are bound to be hopelessly misled (when not misleading!).
It is simply illogical to reason that because some percipients were
mistaken on this or that occasion, all witnesses must henceforth be
deemed unreliable. The person or skeptic who demands "reliable"
testimony is under an obligation to state explicitly what he will
accept as reliable. Reliability should be seen as a matter of
degree and seldom if ever *absolutely* reliable. Complete rejection as well
as uncritical acceptance of eyewitness testimony (whatever the subject matter)
are both counterproductive responses to the delicate evaluation needed
of such testimony.
But there are many other cases (anecdotal and some
experiemental) which confirm my own OOB experiences. Now I am not asking
anyone to blindly believe any of this, but science should be willing to
STUDY such phenomena without the kind of attitude displayed by Dr. M.
In regards to Dr. M.'s dismissive comments on the whole field of parapsychology,
I reproduce BELOW relevant material written by Dr. Brian Josephson and
Dr. Jessica Utts. I agree with what these two individuals write and I offer
this material as food for thought to those who want to neither blindly
believe or dis-believe in the paranormal. This material is from the WWW
and I give the URL addresses. I will give later the URL address for
a comprehensive bibliography
on these subjects as compiled by Dr. Daniel Kortenkamp.
Don, could you please provide us with some of the references
to brain research, etc, which you alluded to in your postings to Alexis?
Daniel H. Caldwell
> Brian Josephson, Nobel Laureate, is professor of physics,
> University of Cambridge, and heads the Mind-Matter Unification Project at
> the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge.
> Letter sent to Nature, May 2, 1996:
> [by Dr. Brian Josephson]
> An intelligent observer, knowledgeable of the guiding principle of
> science that the crucial means to distinguish truth from falsehood are
> those of experiment, but unfamiliar with the notion that paranormal
> phenomena are 'impossible', would raise his eyebrows on coming upon
> the following assertions, made recently by two supposedly reputable
> (i) Crane (1) suggests we can save ourselves the trouble of looking at
> claims of the paranormal by invoking Hume's argument that it is more
> reasonable to believe that human error lies behind such claims than it
> is to 'believe that some fundamental law of nature has been
> (ii) Hyman, for the purposes of dismissing apparently strong evidence
> for a 'remote viewing' capability (2, 3), asserts somewhat similarly
> that no matter how many investigations of the paranormal, carried out
> by whatever means, yield positive results, there will still be no
> proof that the alleged phenomena occur.
> In response to enquiries as to why the usual mechanisms of science
> should be abandoned in this special context, our observer would be
> directed to study Soul Searching (Leaps of Faith in the U.S.) by
> Nicholas Humphrey (comment (i) comes from Crane's review of this book)
> in order to understand why claims of the paranormal are not taken
> seriously by scientists. But a subversive parapsychologist would
> suggest looking also at the review by Josephson (4), whereupon our
> friend would realise that Humphrey's arguments were flawed and hence
> of no value. He would study also some of the original research (5),
> and wonder whether possibly the scientists were making a monumental
> error in condemning it so vehemently.
> That scientists at large do not come to the same conclusions as our
> mythical observer stems, I believe, from two main factors, whose
> existence mocks the claim of science to be the agent of unveiling the
> truth however strange that truth may appear: 'received knowledge',
> reinforced by the activities of propagandists; and the publishing
> policies of journals, which limit very effectively the acquaintance
> that the ordinary scientist has with parapsychological research, and
> thereby make informed assessment of the work in general effectively
> To provide readers with a better perspective with which to evaluate
> the evidence, I append to this letter some key references. In
> addition, for the benefit of those with World Wide Web access I have
> created a parapsychlogy page with links to the text of some of these
> and to sites where more information may be obtained.
> (1) Crane, T. Nature 379, 685 (1996)
> (2) Lehrman, S. Nature 378, 525 (1995)
> (3) The assessments of this research, including that of Hyman, can be
> found in J. Sci. Exploration, 10(1), 3-62 (1996); see also home page
> of Jessica Utts
> (4) Josephson, B.D. Times Higher Educ. Supp. 1206, 19 (1995)
> (5) Bem, D. J. and C. Honorton, Does psi exist? Replicable evidence
> for an anomalous process of information transfer, Psych. Bull. 115(1),
> 4-18 (1994); Utts, J., Replication and meta-analysis in
> parapsychology, Stat. Sci. 6, 363-403 (1991); D. I. Radin and R. D.
> Nelson, Evidence for consciousness-related anomalies in random
> physical systems, Found. Phys. 19, 1499-1514 (1989).
> Brian D. Josephson
> Cavendish Laboratory,
> Madingley Road,
> Cambridge CB3 0HE, U.K.
> Nature's considered response was that...[my] letter dealt with 'matters
> of opinion rather than fact', and therefore would be 'insufficiently
> persuasive to be of compelling interest to [its] readers'.
> Jessica Utts is professor of statistics, University of California, Davis,
> and was one of two experts commissioned by the CIA to review the
> two-decade U.S. government psychic research programme in the Summer of
> 1995. She has recently published a book, _Seeing Through Statistics_,
> Duxbury Press, 1996, designed to improve understanding of statistical
> Response to Ray Hyman's Report of September 11, 1995 "Evaluation of
> Program on Anomalous Mental Phenomena"
> Jessica Utts
> Division of Statistics
> University of California, Davis
> September 15, 1995
> Ray Hyman's report of September 11, 1995, written partially in
> response to my report of September 1, 1995 elucidates the issues on
> which he and I agree and disagree. I basically concur with his
> assessment of where we agree and disagree, but there are three issues
> he raises with regard to the scientific status of parapsychology to
> which I would like to respond.
> 1. "Only parapsychology, among the fields of inquiry claiming
> scientific status, lacks a cumulative database (p. 6)."
> It is simply not true that parapsychology lacks a cumulative database.
> In fact, the accumulated database is truly impressive for a science
> that has had so few resources. While critics are fond of relating, as
> Professor Hyman does in his report, that there has been "more than a
> century of parapsychological research (p. 7)" psychologist Sybo
> Schouten (1993, p. 316) has noted that the total human and financial
> resources devoted to parapsychology since 1882 is at best equivalent
> to the expenditures devoted to fewer than two months of research in
> conventional psychology in the United States.
> On pages 4 and 5 of their September 29, 1994 SAIC final report, May,
> Luke and James summarize four reports that do precisely what Professor
> Hyman claims is not done in parapsychology; they put forth the
> accumulated evidence for anomalous cognition in a variety of formats.
> Rather than dismissing the former experiments, parapsychologists build
> on them. As in any area of science, it is of course the most recent
> experiments that receive the most attention, but that does not mean
> that the field would divorce itself from past work. Quite to the
> contrary, past experimental results and methodological weaknesses are
> used to design better and more efficient experiments.
> As an example of the normal progress of inquiry expected in any area
> of science, the autoganzfeld experiments currently conducted by
> parapsychologists did not simply spring out of thin air. The original
> ganzfeld experiments followed from Honorton's observation at
> Maimonides Medical Center, that anomalous cognition seemed to work
> well in dreams. He investigated ways in which a similar state could be
> achieved in normal waking hours, and found the ganzfeld regime in
> another area of psychology. The automated ganzfeld followed from a
> critical evaluation of the earlier ganzfeld experiments, and a set of
> conditions agreed upon by Honorton and Professor Hyman. The current
> use of dynamic targets in autoganzfeld experiments follows from the
> observation that they were more successful than static targets in the
> initial experiments. The investigation of entropy at SAIC follows from
> this observation as well. This is just one example of how current
> experiments are built from past results.
> 2. "Only parapsychology claims to be a science on the basis of
> phenomena (or a phenomenon) whose presence can be detected only by
> rejecting a null hypothesis (p. 8)."
> While it is true that parapsychology has not figured out all the
> answers, it does not differ from normal science in this regard. It is
> the norm of scientific progress to make observations first, and then
> to attempt to explain them. Before quantum mechanics was developed
> there were a number of anomalies observed in physics that could not be
> explained. There are many observations in physics and in the social
> and medical sciences that can be observed, either statistically or
> deterministically, but which cannot be explained.
> As a more recent example, consider the impact of electromagnetic
> fields on health. An article in Science (Vol. 269, 18 August 1995, p.
> 911) reported that "After spending nearly a decade reviewing the
> literature on electromagnetic fields (EMFs), a panel of the National
> Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) has produced a
> draft report concluding that some health effects linked to EMFs such
> as cancer and immune deficiencies appear real and warrant steps to
> reduce EMF exposure... Biologists have failed to pinpoint a convincing
> mechanism of action." In other words, a statistical effect has been
> convincingly established and it is now the responsibility of science
> to attempt to establish its mechanism, just as in parapsychology.
> As yet another example, consider learning and memory, which have long
> been studied in psychology. We know they exist, but brain researchers
> are just beginning to understand how they work by using sophisticated
> brain imaging techniques. Psychologists do not understand these simple
> human capabilities, and they certainly do not understand other
> observable human phenomena such as what causes people to fall in love.
> Yet, no one would deny the existence of these phenomena just because
> we do not understand them.
> In any area involving the natural variability inherent in humans,
> science progresses by first observing a statistical difference and
> then attempting to explain it. At this stage, I believe parapsychology
> has convincingly demonstrated that an effect is present, and future
> research attempts should be directed at finding an explanation. In
> this regard parapsychology in on par with scientific questions like
> the impact of electromagnetic fields on health, or the cross-cultural
> differences in memory that have been observed by psychologists.
> 3. "Parapsychology is the only field of scientific inquiry that does
> not have even one exemplar that can be assigned to students with the
> expectation that they will observe the original results (p. 18)."
> I disagree with this statement for two reasons. First, I can name
> other phenomena for which students could not be expected to do a
> simple experiment and observe a result, such as the connection between
> taking aspirin and preventing heart attacks or the connection between
> smoking and getting lung cancer. What differentiates these phenomena
> from simple experiments like splitting light with a prism is that the
> effects are statistical in nature and are not expected to occur every
> single time. Not everyone who smokes gets lung cancer, but we can
> predict the proportion who will. Not everyone who attempts anomalous
> cognition will be successful, but I think we can predict the
> proportion of time success should be achieved.
> Since I believe the probability of success has been established in the
> autoganzfeld experiments, I would offer them as the exemplar Professor
> Hyman requests. The problem is that to be relatively assured of a
> successful outcome requires several hundred trials, and no student has
> the resources to commit to this experiment. As I have repeatedly tried
> to explain to Professor Hyman and others, when dealing with a small to
> medium effect it takes hundreds or sometimes thousands of trials to
> establish "statistical significance." In fact, the Physicians Health
> Study that initially established the link between taking aspirin and
> reducing heart attacks studied over 22,000 men. Had it been conducted
> on only 2,200 men with the same reduction in heart attacks, it would
> not have achieved statistical significance. Should students be
> required to recruit 22,000 participants and conduct such an experiment
> before we believe the connection between aspirin and heart attacks is
> Despite Professor Hyman's continued protests about parapsychology
> lacking repeatability, I have never seen a skeptic attempt to perform
> an experiment with enough trials to even come close to insuring
> success. The parapsychologists who have recently been willing to take
> on this challenge have indeed found success in their experiments, as
> described in my original report.
> Schouten, Sybo (1993). "Are we making progress?" In Psi Research
> Methodology: A Re-examination, Proceedings of an International
> Conference, Oct 29-30, 1988, edited by L. Coly and J. McMahon, NY:
> Parapsychology Foundation, Inc., pgs. 295-322.
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