08 Communication: Local

CHAPTER 8

Communication: Local

One of the essential requirements for the development of multicellular organisms is the existence of some means of transmitting information from one cell to another. Where the cells that need to communicate are in direct contact, as is true in the most primitive of these organisms, the actual mechanism of transmission presents no particular problems, since it is possible to pass substances containing the information from cell to cell through the walls that are in contact. The development of an appropriate language—attaching a particular meaning to each of the information-carrying substances and adaptation of the cells to a recognition of that meaning—is a more difficult task, and it no doubt took a long time to accomplish.

Once such a communication system was established, it lent itself readily to expansion, and in the more complex organisms, “chemical messengers” carry a great variety of information and instructions from place to place within the organism. However, this messenger system is too slow and too limited in capacity to take care of all of the requirements, and a more sophisticated system of internal communication utilizing electrical impulses has therefore been developed. Between this electrical system and the chemical messengers, the internal needs of the organisms are adequately met.

Chemical methods of communication are also capable of being utilized for conveying information from one organism to another, and airborne chemicals (odors) are employed for a number of communication purposes by land-based organisms. The amount of information that can be transmitted by this means is, however, very limited, and the advantages to be gained by having a better communications system are great enough to cause evolution in this direction. Two types of systems have developed, one using the sense of sight and conveying the information by means of appropriate positions or motions; the other utilizing the sense of hearing and conveying the information by generating different sounds. To these systems, in general use by the more advanced living organisms, man has added some more sophisticated techniques.

This is the communication situation as we observe it. Living organisms are communicating with each other by a variety of means. Since the activities of these organisms are under the control of life units, the communication takes place between the central controls. The warning signal of the rattlesnake, for instance, does not emanate from the still inactive material mechanism; it comes from the control, which is warning us that unless the presence which it considers a menace is removed it will order the material mechanism to take action. Thus, communication in the material sector is not between material entities, but between the life units.

The question then arises: Can the life units communicate directly with each other through Sector 2 channels without the necessity of transmitting this information by material means? As the cosmic sector of the universe is identical with the material sector except for the reversal of space and time, it follows that there are cosmic living organisms which communicate with each other by the cosmic equivalents of sight, sound, etc. This, of course, suggests the possibility that the cosmic units present in the living organisms of the material sector may also be able to use these cosmic communication channels.

A theoretical consideration of this question leads, however, to the conclusion that communication in this manner is not possible. The life units, being physical entities, are limited to using physical facilities, and the physical facilities peculiar to the cosmic sector do not exist in the local environment. The cosmic equivalent of sound, for example, cannot be used for communication in the material sector because we live in the cosmic equivalent of a vacuum. It follows that all communication between the life units must utilize the facilities of the material sector. The same conclusion can be reached on empirical grounds. Sector 2 communication signals, even though non-material, are physical phenomena, and if present, could be detected by our physical instruments. Since no physical trace of such communication has ever been found, the physical evidence corroborates the theoretical conclusion that it is not possible.

Turning now to Level 3, we again find that the normal method of communication utilizes physical facilities. Ethical man, under control of Sector 3, communicates with his neighbors in exactly the same manner as a human being who is completely under the domination of Sector 2. But when we examine the possibility of communication through other than normal channels, we find that the situation in Level 3 is quite different from that in Level 2, the purely biological level. The control unit is non-physical, and while it can and usually does utilize the biological mechanisms over which it exercises direction as tools by which to communicate through physical channels, it is not limited to these physical means of communication.

The significant point here is that the control unit exists in a physical location by virtue of its association with a biological organism, and also in a non-physical location, a location in existence as a whole, the general metaphysical region, as we have called it, by virtue of its own inherent nature. We may compare the coincidence of these two locations to the point of intersection of two lines. Such a point is located on both lines, and if these are lines of communication—telephone lines, for example—communication via either line is feasible. We have no direct knowledge of the means of communication that exist in Sector 3, but in view of the multiplicity of communication media that are available in the material and cosmic sectors, there is an ample basis from which to extrapolate the existence of communication facilities to the metaphysical region. Indeed, there is reason to believe that there should be more channels open for communication in Sector 3 than in the space-time universe, as the specific properties of space and time are, in a sense, limitations, and there is greater flexibility where such limitations do not exist.

We have already arrived at the conclusion that Sector 3 existences are intelligent, and since intelligent biological organisms are fully able to communicate with each other by means available in their sector of the universe, the intelligent units from Sector 3 should be able to communicate with each other by means available in their sector of the universe. The inability to detect any physical evidence of such communication is not an argument against its existence, as it was against communication between the Sector 2 units through Sector 2 channels. As noted earlier, the Sector 2 communication, if it existed, would be physical and therefore detectable physically, but the Sector 3 communication is not physical and consequently it cannot be expected that there will be any physical way of detecting it.

On the basis of the considerations outlined in the foregoing paragraphs, we must conclude that direct communication through Sector 3 channels between the control units that direct the activities of ethical man is definitely possible. Then let us ask: Is there any evidence that such communication actually takes place? There can be no question as to the answer. The validity of the evidence of this nature is hotly debated, but its existence is undeniable. This process and associated phenomena are systematically studied in the universities and research institutes, the reports of investigations of these phenomena are published and discussed in various journals, and a considerable body of literature on the subject now exists.

Inasmuch as the conclusions that have been reached as to the ability of the control units to communicate directly with each other through their own channels are based on factual premises and have been derived from these premises by sound scientific reasoning, so that they have a high probability of being correct even if observational evidence were entirely lacking, any supporting evidence from observational or experimental sources is highly significant. Obviously, however, the better the evidence the more support it gives. An appraisal of the validity of the evidence that has been accumulated is therefore in order. It would hardly be feasible to analyze a large volume of original data in detail in a work such as this, but we can accomplish the same result by examining the conclusions that have been reached by other analysts, giving special attention to the arguments that are advanced by those who are not convinced of the authenticity of the evidence.

The particular phenomenon with which we are now concerned has been given the name telepathy, and it is one of several somewhat similar phenomena that are grouped under the designation of extrasensory perception, abbreviated ESP. Closely connected with telepathy is clairvoyance, which is obtaining knowledge of facts or events by direct apprehension, without utilizing physical means. If this information concerns the future, the term precognition is applied. It is rather difficult to draw definite dividing lines and to place observed events definitely in one class or the other, and most of the discussion of the status of the investigations in this field therefore refers simply to the ESP phenomena as a whole, without further classification.

A related phenomenon, psychokinesis, which is non-physical action upon matter, is sometimes classed with the ESP group, but PK is not a communication phenomenon, and hence it is clearly on a different footing. Since the present discussion is concerned only with communication, no consideration will be given to PK at this point, but it will be discussed later in another connection.

The current situation in this ESP area is expressed in the words of Henry Margenau as follows:

Certain problems that were taboo in physics a generation ago, researches in which a physicist indulged at the risk of losing his reputation, such as paranormal perception and clairvoyance, are now more widely regarded as worthy of consideration.139

George R. Price, an outspoken opponent of the ESP concept, puts the case in even stronger language:

Believers in psychic phenomena—such as telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition and psychokinesis—appear to have won a decisive victory and virtually silenced opposition… during the last 15 years, scarcely a single scientific paper has appeared attacking the work of the parapsychologists.140

This “victory” is all the more impressive in view of the fact that it is only a relatively short time ago that scientists would not even listen to any talk of extrasensory phenomena. Only a few decades have elapsed since William James commented on the situation in this manner:

Why do so few “scientists” even look at the evidence for telepathy, so-called? Because they think, as a leading biologist, now dead, once said to me, that even if such a thing were true, scientists ought to band together to keep it suppressed and concealed. It would undo the uniformity of nature and all sorts of other things without which scientists cannot carry on their pursuits.141

Such a dramatic reversal of the attitude of the scientific community, which has changed what one author considered as an unjustified refusal to listen to the evidence into what another regards as an unduly friendly reception is a clear indication that substantial progress is being made toward establishing ESP on a firm footing. Just where the issue now stands is, however, subject to considerable difference of opinion. John Mann, for instance, says that “ESP, PK and related phenomena are, at best, tolerated and generally are ridiculed among psychologists.”142 Daniel Cohen, writing in 1967, agrees. “A survey taken among professional psychologists,” he reports, “showed that only a small minority believed in the possibility of ESP and the number who thought the existence of this ability was a proved fact was infinitesimal.”143 Cohen apparently assumed that these findings could be extrapolated to scientists in general, as he goes on to say, “No surveys have ever been taken among physical scientists on the subject, but it is probable that support there would be even more meager.” Just how far this assessment of the situation missed the mark can be seen from the fact that only three percent of nearly 1500 readers surveyed by the New Scientist six years later considered ESP an impossibility. Most of the others held it to be an established fact (25 percent) or a likely possibility (42 percent).144

In beginning an examination of the arguments that are adduced against the reality of ESP, we will first consider the issues raised by Price in the article from which the “victory” quotation was taken. He contends that the ESP results are incompatible with existing science. “These findings,” he says, “challenge our very concepts of space and time.” He then bases his argument on a principle, attributed to David Hume, which asserts that evidence in favor of an incompatible idea should not be accepted unless this evidence outweighs the evidence in favor of the previously accepted laws or principles with which the new idea is in conflict. To support his contention that ESP and accepted science are incompatible, he offers the following list of conflicts:

  1. ESP penetrates into the future even in situations where rational inference is powerless.
  2. ESP is apparently unattenuated by distance.
  3. Psi (the process of ESP) effects are apparently unaffected by shielding. Why do they not interact with matter in the shield?
  4. Dye patterns on cards are read in the dark. How does one detect a trace of dye without shining light on it?
  5. Patterns on cards in the center of a pack are read without interference from other cards.
  6. We have found in the body no structure to associate with the alleged functions.
  7. There is no learning but, instead, a tendency toward complete loss of ability.
  8. Different investigators obtain highly different results. For example, Soal requires a telepathic sender, but Rhine finds this unnecessary.

The usual objections to ESP are vehement but vague. It is therefore helpful to have a detailed statement such as Price’s which we can subject to a critical analysis to see just how much merit the objections actually possess. In this connection, it is significant that even on the basis of the scientific ideas then prevailing, without the benefit of the new information supplied by the Reciprocal System, this attack on the ESP results was not convincing, and the majority of the published comments on the article were wholly or partially unfavorable. If we look at Price’s arguments item by item in the light of conventional scientific thought, it is not difficult to see why this was true.

Item (1) is wholly dependent on the assumption that time is necessarily constant in direction. But this is not in accord with scientific thinking. The fact that the equations of motion are symmetrical with respect to time, and therefore suggest the possibility of time reversal, has long been recognized. Eddington, for instance, pointed this out very specifically. Such a reversal of time is also a feature of many current theories of events at the subatomic level. It is hardly in order to claim that this hypothesis is non-scientific when it is used by non-scientists, but scientific when it is used freely by the scientists themselves.

Item (2) assumes that since physical effects are attenuated by distance, ESP, if it actually exists, must exhibit the same kind of behavior. But there are no valid grounds for assuming that ESP is a physical effect, or that it must conform to the same pattern of behavior as physical phenomena. On the contrary, all of the information that has been developed about ESP suggests that it is non-physical. Items (3), (4), (5), and (6) rest on the same untenable assumption, but the first three of these are even less acceptable than item (2), as the facts cited are not even inconsistent with the existence of a possible physical explanation of the ESP phenomenon. Gravitation is equally as unresponsive to any attempts at shielding as ESP, and there are physical means (X-rays, for example) whereby matter can be penetrated in order to ascertain internal details.

Item (7) is meaningless. Since Price did not know how ESP operates, he was not in a position to say whether the observed loss of ability is consistent with the method of operation or not. J. H. Rush drew the opposite conclusion from the same experience. He listed this item as one of the features of the experimental results which lend credence to the assertion that the ESP phenomena are real.145 Item (8) can hardly be considered as a serious argument; indeed, two of Price’s colleagues who discussed his article in a subsequent issue of the same journal called it a “distressingly irresponsible comment.”146

There are two basic weaknesses in Price’s position. First, he assumes that ESP cannot exist unless it is explicable in terms of existing knowledge. The contention of parapsychologists, on the other hand, is that they are dealing with something new to science. Thus Price is in the position of attempting to prove them wrong by assuming that they are wrong. The second flaw in his arguments is that he is trying to put the whole weight of scientific knowledge into the balance against the weight that can be accorded to the ESP evidence. As pointed out by Meehl and Scriven in their comments on his article, his case is based on the assumption “that modern science is complete and correct,” an assumption which these authors rightly regard as “untenable.” To the extent that any conflict does exist between ESP and conventional scientific ideas, this conflict is merely with some particular aspect, or aspects, of scientific thought, not with science as a whole, and the verdict in the area of controversy is not nearly so automatically favorable to existing scientific ideas as Price assumed. The existence of a conflict merely means that one of the incompatible views is wrong; it does not tell us which one this is. R. H. Thouless saw the same situation from the opposite direction:

I suggest that the discovery of the psi phenomenon has brought us to a… point at which we must question basic theories because they lead us to expectations contradicted by experimental results.147

Now that the development of the Reciprocal System has clarified the basic relationships, it is evident that Thouless was right; some of the basic theories of physical science as they then stood were actually in need of revision. These ESP findings which, according to Price, “challenge our very concepts of space and time” are now seen to have challenged them justifiably. Experiments which show ESP to be independent of time and unattenuated by distance are in complete harmony with the explanation presented in this chapter: an explanation that places the channels which carry this kind of communication in a sector of the universe completely outside space and time.

The conclusions reached in the foregoing analysis of the arguments presented in Price’s article are equally applicable to the great majority of the arguments offered by other critics of ESP, those which, like Price’s, are based on the assumption that “non-physical” is synonymous with “non-existent”: an assumption that was never justified, and in the light of the new information now available is wholly untenable. C. E. M. Hansel, for example, in an extremely critical book entitled ESP—A Scientific Evaluation, makes the same mistake in assuming that there is something adverse about ESP in his observation that “Telepathy therefore… implies properties of matter unknown to physics.”148 As a non-physical phenomenon, telepathy must display characteristics which are unknown to physics.

Then, too, Hansel is indignant about the fact that “Parapsychologists… ask critics to accept ESP as proved and to change the rest of science so that it can include this new phenomenon.”149 But this is always necessary when new phenomena are discovered and the boundaries of science must be extended accordingly. His dictum that “a theory that fails to account for a variety of facts and that cannot predict what will happen in future tests is of no value”150 is another piece cut from the same cloth. Here again, this is always true when science is trying to understand the first scattered and indistinct facts that emerge in a newly discovered field.

These are some of the weakest arguments in Hansel’s book, but they are being cited to show the extreme lengths to which the critics are willing to go in their opposition to ESP. The book also repeats some of the more substantial criticisms which have already been discussed, or will be taken up later, but Hansel’s principal thesis is that the whole ESP investigation is based on deception and trickery, either on the part of the investigators themselves or on the part of their subjects. This is a rather astounding accusation to level at a large body of experimenters. Perhaps about as good an answer as any is the following statement by Vannevar Bush:

The one area in this whole [psychic] field that is at least relatively free of charlatanism and the distorted logic of fanatics is that of extrasensory perception, ESP, telepathy. Here serious, competent scientists are indeed at work.151

As this statement implies, fraudulent practices have been common elsewhere in the psychic field. But this is also true of most other fields of activity that deal directly with intimate aspects of human life. Medicine, for instance, has more than its share of quacks and false “cures,” yet no one suggests that this indicates that all doctors are tricksters. Even the physical sciences are not exempt from this sort of thing. Sir Alister Hardy points to an analogy between ESP and chemistry:

We all know that the great science of chemistry sprang from the cradle of alchemy, some of whose exponents… were as rank impostors as any false mediums or fortune tellers of today. This new branch of knowledge which is now struggling to be born will one day, I believe, look back to this period as the chemists of today look back to their own history.152

As the results of the survey by the New Scientist showed, the great majority of scientists are willing to look upon ESP as a legitimate subject of investigation and to judge it on the basis of the same criteria that they apply in other scientific fields. They do not find arguments of the kind advanced by Price and Hansel very persuasive. However, most of them are somewhat troubled by three points: (1) the lack of any substantial progress toward enlarging the scope of the experiments, (2) the inability to reproduce the experimental results, and (3) the failure of the experimenters to take advantage of sophisticated modern experimental apparatus. Item (3) is applicable only to psychokinesis, which will be discussed later. The other two items are pertinent to the present discussion and warrant some consideration.

Slow progress in a new field of study is not necessarily an indication of lack of reality of the phenomena being investigated. Sometimes it is. The development of the Reciprocal System has revealed, for example, that the current lack of progress in the investigation of such phenomena as gravitational radiation, magnetic monopoles, and black holes is due to the fact that these phenomena are non-existent. But this same development reveals that ESP is a form of communication through non-physical channels. It therefore cannot be expected that progress toward a detailed explanation will be very rapid until some kind of an understanding of non-physical fundamentals is established. This is one of the primary objectives of the present work. It should be noted that there may be more progress under way than is now realized. Some of the seemingly erratic experimental results that are now a source of embarrassment to the experimenters because of the way in which they are pounced upon by the critics may actually prove to be the key pieces in the explanation of the phenomena when they are fully understood. This point will be discussed further in Chapter 25, where we will consider possible ways and means of broadening the investigation of the subject.

The lack of reproducibility of the ESP results, item (2) in the foregoing list, is, in the opinion of many individuals, a very serious defect in the case for the reality of the phenomenon. In the so-called “natural” sciences, a discovery reported in one laboratory or observatory is promptly checked in many others, and whether or not attempts to reproduce the results are successful is an important factor, usually the most important factor, in determining whether the discovery will be accepted as authentic. The critics of the ESP investigations argue that this criterion of reproducibility should be equally applicable to the ESP results, and that, inasmuch as it is generally, perhaps always, true in the ESP field that the original results cannot be reproduced by other investigators, the standard practice of science requires that these results be rejected.

In sum, of course, the greatest weakness of parapsychology has been its unreliability. Experiments can be performed in one laboratory which yield stupendous odds against chance, and yet the same result cannot be found in a different laboratory with another experimenter. Such non-repeatability cuts right across normal scientific theory and practice.153 (Christopher Evans)

The reasoning of these critics is entirely valid, but their premises are erroneous. ESP experiments have never been repeated under identical conditions, unless it has happened by accident. Attempts have been made to reproduce the physical conditions of an experiment as closely as possible, but aside from such effects as they may have on the non-physical situation, these physical conditions are completely irrelevant. In order to repeat an experiment on a non-physical phenomenon such as ESP under “identical” conditions, it is necessary to reproduce the non-physical conditions. The primary obstacle in the way of so doing, as matters now stand, is the fact that, aside from some indication that motivation plays an important part, we do not even know what these non-physical conditions are, to say nothing of being able to duplicate them. All talk of reproducing an ESP experiment at this stage of understanding is meaningless, and application of the reproducibility criterion to the ESP results is impossible. The validity of these results will have to be judged on the basis of other criteria.

Some of those who object to classifying ESP as a scientific field of inquiry do not contest the reality of the phenomenon. John Mann, for instance, concedes that the lack of reproducibility does not invalidate the results of the experiments. He freely admits the existence of ESP. “In exceptional subjects,” he says, “ESP seems to occur in a relatively striking degree.”154 Nevertheless he contends that the results obtained in the ESP experiments “scarcely are acceptable in a scientific sense.” To justify this conclusion he lays down the principle that “any general law in science must be applicable to all things and persons, and capable of replication.” ESP, he asserts, must therefore be rejected, because it “cannot be replicated nor can a subject with a high ESP be selected beforehand.”155

It is quite true that the results obtained in the general run of the ESP experiments are too close to the level of pure chance to have much significance, and it is also true that the reports of spontaneous ESP occurrences cannot be regarded as conclusive per se, because they lack positive verification, but Mann is not raising these issues. “When all is said and done,” he says, “the test results of the high scoring ESP subjects still stand,”156 and he recognizes that there is no justification for denying the existence of ESP in the face of this evidence. He is calling the ESP results scientifically unacceptable on rather arbitrary grounds: (1) because “only a few persons seem to possess this psychic ability,”156 and (2) because of the lack of reproducibility of the results.

Just where the boundary lines of science should be drawn is a matter of opinion, but excluding ESP on these grounds is certainly not consistent with current practice, especially since neither of these characteristics is necessarily permanent. The mere fact that the first crude methods of exploring this field find the ESP ability in only a small proportion of those tested is by no means conclusive. Such a situation is not at all unusual in the early stages of an investigation. Magnetism, for instance, was detected in only a few substances originally, and was long thought to be an unusual phenomenon. Now it is known to be a general property of matter. Likewise, as pointed out earlier, it cannot be expected that the results of the ESP experiments can be satisfactorily reproduced at will until the factors which affect this phenomenon are ascertained, so that the conditions under which the experiments are made can be accurately reproduced.

But in any event, science cannot justify closing its eyes to facts just because some of the details are still obscure or because these facts do not fit comfortably into the currently accepted framework of theory. If ESP exists, as Mann concedes that it does, then the fact of its existence is one of the things that science must recognize and come to terms with. This point was emphasized in the replies to the questionnaire sent out by the New Scientist. The believers (among whom physicists and engineers were very strongly represented) “argue that facts are facts, and that we must accept them whatever they imply for our cherished world models.”144 Hardy expresses the same sentiment:

I feel we are like proverbial ostriches with our heads in the sand if we refuse to consider phenomena which some very good scientists and philosophers regard as having already been demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt.157

There is no question about the place of ESP in the theoretical structure that is being developed in this volume. In Chapter 7 we applied our new knowledge of the physical universe to a study of the interaction of this universe with existence independent of it, and we were led to the theoretical conclusion that the most advanced living organisms—members of the human race—are under the partial or complete control of intelligent units from Sector 3, the sector of the universe outside space and time. Then, when we turned to the information that has been gathered by observation and experiment, we found the situation just as predicted by theory. The behavior of human beings is incompatible in many respects with the behavior of other living organisms and with the basic principles that govern purely biological entities. It is therefore evident that at least some human beings are subject to a different type of control, one which follows a different set of basic principles, just as the theoretical study indicates.

In this present chapter, we further deduced that the Sector 3 units which are combined with the human biological organisms and exercise control over them should theoretically be able to communicate with each other through channels independent of space and time. Now we find that there is evidence from observation and experiment which indicates that human beings are able, under appropriate circumstances, to communicate with each other independently of space and time by a process known as telepathy. The observed facts are thus in agreement with the theoretical conclusions derived by extension of the Reciprocal System of physical theory into the metaphysical region.

But, after all, is there anything surprising about this? Isn’t this just about what we would expect science to say when it finally got around to investigating the subject? Here, for instance, is the way W. F. G. Swann saw the picture in 1966 in an article published in the Smithsonian Treasury of 20th-Century Science:

In contemplating the harmonization of life with what we call the laws of inanimate matter, I expect to find a new set of laws…. I may expect to find the formal recognition of some kind of a new entity differing from those which we have encountered in physics. I do not necessarily expect that this entity will be something which can be described in terms of space and time…. I should expect to find it play a role in those phenomena which for long have lain in the borderland between what is accepted by all and what is accepted by only a few…. I refer to such things as extrasensory perception, the significance of the immortality of man, clairvoyance, and allied phenomena.158