Are psychic phenomena illusory? (ch 09)

Are psychic phenomena illusory? (ch 09)

In chapter nine of The Science Delusion Rupert Sheldrake asks “are psychic phenomena illusory?” He produces research based evidence of telepathy and precognition and states that many people experience psychic phenomena. He avoids the term “paranormal” as they are everyday occurrences – such as thinking about someone and getting a phone call from them. These occurrences can be dismissed as coincidence by the cynical, but ideally we keep an open mind.


Telepathy is the communication of thoughts or ideas by means other than the senses. It is more likely to happen between people who know each other well. Rupert Sheldrake has widely researched telepathy in animals, especially his research into dogs anticipating the return of their people. He cites the example of a terrier called Jaytee who started waiting for the return of his owner, Pam 85 times out of 100. Jaytee usually started waiting for Pam just before she set out for home, typically when she formed the intention to return. On the 15 occasions when Jaytee didn’t anticipate Pam’s return there were distractions, such as Jaytee being ill, or the presence of a bitch on heat in the next flat. This research was conducted under strict conditions with both Pam and Jaytee recorded on time stamped video.

Abdu’l-Bahá affirms that there is more to this world than meets the eye.

Know thou that the Kingdom is the real world, and this nether place is only its shadow stretching out. A shadow hath no life of its own; its existence is only a fantasy, and nothing more; it is but images reflected in water, and seeming as pictures to the eye.[1]

He also asserts that “The reality of man is his thought, not his material body”. [2]


A wide range of animals exhibit precognition. There are many recorded examples of animals being agitated or fleeing for higher ground well before the massive South East Asian tsunami of 2004. A friend of mine had repeated dreams about being in a Tsunami – in response to the impending threat, she would go around the house closing windows and doors. She went on holiday to Samoa and stayed on Lolomanu beach. When she felt the earthquake, she managed to stir her travelling companion and convince her that they needed to run. They scrambled up the hill as the tsunami swept up the beach.

`Abdu’l-Bahá has this to say about dreams:

Furthermore, this immortal human soul is endowed with two means of perception: One is effected through instrumentality; the other, independently. For instance, the soul sees through the instrumentality of the eye, hears with the ear, smells through the nostrils and grasps objects with the hands. These are the actions or operations of the soul through instruments. But in the world of dreams the soul sees when the eyes are closed. The man is seemingly dead, lies there as dead; the ears do not hear, yet he hears. The body lies there, but he – that is, the soul – travels, sees, observes. All the instruments of the body are inactive, all the functions seemingly useless. Notwithstanding this, there is an immediate and vivid perception by the soul. Exhilaration is experienced. The soul journeys, perceives, senses. It often happens that a man in a state of wakefulness has not been able to accomplish the solution of a problem, and when he goes to sleep, he will reach that solution in a dream. How often it has happened that he has dreamed, even as the prophets have dreamed, of the future; and events which have thus been foreshadowed have come to pass literally.[3]

Rupert Sheldrake has been ostracised from science orthodoxy because of his research interests in psychic phenomena. His appeal for greater balance in science points to the benefits that might accrue from science liberated from materialistic doctrine.

Dropping the taboo against psychic phenomena would have a liberating effect on science. Scientists would no longer feel the need to pretend these phenomena are impossible. The word `skepticism’ would be liberated from its association with dogmatic denial. People would feel free to talk openly about their own experiences. Open-minded research would be able to take place within universities and some of this research would be applied in useful ways, for example in the development of animal-based warning systems for earthquakes and tsunamis…

You have probably had some experience of psychic phenomena, or known someone that has had a near death experience, or premonitions, intuitions, telepathy or some other phenomena. Please leave a comment.

P.S. if you have already seen Jeremy Rifkin’s video about the empathy, it includes evidence of empathic communication in everyday life.

[1] Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 177

[2] Paris Talks, Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 17

[3] The Promulgation of Universal Peace, Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 416