Authors, colleagues and friends were the only subjects taking part. The reason for this is not that we consider ourselves to be specially 'gifted' subjects. It's simply because of the 'exotic' nature of the ES rituals that demand a strong group cohesion and interpersonal trust, a certain Ganzfeld 'competence', familiarity with each others idiosyncratic mentation (for judging and rating purposes), and the unanimous acceptance of a certain 'world view', all qualifications and attitudes that one may expect to find in a close group of likely minded members.
Participants discussed and agreed upon the background philosophy of this experiment. Among other sources of inspiration, this philosophy can be traced to magical traditions and mysticism (Zen), as well as to modern day critical philosophy (Frankfurter Schule, Heidegger, Kuhn). There is no fixed set of propositions; some of the ideas were mentioned in the introductory philosophy of science above, some are inserted in the procedure below, others will be elucidated in the discussion chapter. In general, participants made an effort to think of psi phenomena not as strange epiphenomena in an ultimately objective reality, but rather as 'signs' that contrast ostensibly fundamental dimensions of that reality, and in doing so indicate how the rusted dualism of external reality and internal consciousness is 'constructed'.
In short, the ES background philosophy acted as an intersubjective Batcheldorian 'programming' Batcheldor, 1984) - it did so in a way that reminded us of Schopenhauer's belief (Schopenhauer, 1961) that parapsychology should be considered as 'practical metaphysics' (hence the title).
The ES procedure consists of three main parts. The lay-out of the lab is depicted in figure 1.
Figure 1. Lay-out of the experimental rooms
- After a relaxation period (length and method at the option of subject), subject (S) first experiences a 15 minute period of normal Ganzfeld stimulation using a mixture of red and blue lights, white noise, and translucent pingpongball halves. During this stage s/he provides a continues verbal report of ongoing imagery and mentation. At this stage, some Ss deliberately tried to 'deregulate' their sense of time, thereby hoping to create a confluence of their experiences during this first 15 minute period with the experiences during stage III, in which the target picture is actually known to them (cf. the notion of Roll (1989) of precognition as 'memory', and the 'respeption' concept of Radin (1996)).
After adjusting light and white noise levels, experimenter (E) breaks contact with S, and randomly selects a target-set from a pool of 20 four-picture sets (mainly composed of pictures taken from the National Geographic, click here for an example). For this, s/he uses a MacroMind Authorware professional random function, taking it's seed number from the computertime. Next, s/he places the control set of 4 duplicates between the double doors of the room in which the judge (J) is sequestered (door 2 is closed at this stage, although this would not be not necessary since E has not yet selected the actual target). Only after closing door 1, E, using the same randomnization programme as above, selects and takes out the actual target, and starts acting in the routine of 'telepathic sender'.
This first stage is concluded after precisely 15 minutes (if though S is in the process of reporting an impression, E waits until s/he finishes his/her sentence). During this time, both E and J have direct feedback on (and J takes notes of) S's ongoing report. In concluding this first stage, E doesn't contact S verbally; instead, E just turns off the white noise, which acts as a prearranged signal for S to break the connection with E and J by taking out the microphone plug.
- In the intermediate second stage, E enters S's room, checks whether the microphone plug has been taken out, and attaches the target picture on the GRB, a contraption developed for the display of written material for hospital patients who are unable to use their hands. After this E leaves the room, and rewinds the taped protocol. Leaving door 1 closed, J takes the control set from behind door 2 and closes it again.
- During the last stage E replays the taped protocol for both S and J to hear. Being able at self chosen moments to lift the pingpongball halves, S is now in a position to serve as his/her own 'precognitive sender' (hence the nickname 'Eigensender', derived from the German 'eigen', meaning 'own'). Obviously, with 'sender' and 'receiver' being one and the same person, we may expect an absolute maximum of congruence between 'sender' and 'receiver' with regard to the state of consciousness and the internal cognitive and affective contexts in which target perception takes place. This we felt, would facilitate the confluence of experiences referred to in I. In other words: the effort made by S to identify him-/herself with the person s/he was during stage I combined with the Ganzfeld deconstruction, i.e. the 'meditative' discontinuity of the one-directional time sequence that characterises our ego-logocentred state of consciousness, might facilitate moments of target related cognition during stage I. We expected this confluence would be enhanced even further 1) by the fact that S's external surroundings are identical (S still being situated in the Ganzfeld), and 2) by allowing S to hear his/her own replayed mentation, thereby enabling S to render - 'translate' as it were - protocol elements to target elements.
During stage III, E remains concentrated on his/her memory of the target picture. Meanwhile, J tries to rate the degree (1 - 100) to which each of the four target alternatives matches S's mentation. The session is concluded in 'the moment of truth' when J steps out of his/her room, revealing the highest rated picture to E and S.
ADDITIONAL TECHNIQUES: ES+
The standard ES procedure described above was used as a basic structure for all 32 sessions. However, starting from session 18, and with an initial pilot at session 5, we applied additional techniques. These were derived from intercultural magical principles. We are aware of the fact that magical thinking is presumed to be a primitive, pre-rational cognitive style that has become historically obsolete. On the other hand, parapsychology has provided empirical evidence for the direct non-mechanistic connectedness that underlies magical thinking and practice.
Following are some techniques that illustrate the ES+ condition.
- The optimal time would be during waxing or full moon, a rule that might have more than just a superficial symbolic value (Radin & Rebman, 1995).
- Preparatory ceremonies would follow a definite schedule and would involve cleansing and consecration of the lab-setting using candles, incense, and powerful quintessential symbols to transform it into a sacred place, isolated from its profane surroundings.
- From our cognition that our personal efforts or any postulated 'underlying mechanisms' per se are incapable for 'causing' psi, we would carry out rituals of evocation and invocation, thereby properly appealing for a 'solution', some sort of 'grace' (cf. participants 'silent wish to connect' in Braud & Schlitz, 1991).
- Directly preceding the Ganzfeld sub-routine itself, we applied the principle of contact magic, which states that any contact between persons is extended beyond the limits of physical separation (e.g. Roll, 1989, on 'the long body').
- Finally, animistic principles of identification and personification can be distinguished in our attempts to experience mimesis with the total experimental system as an 'organism'.