Guest Post: Summary of Some Benefits of Meditation

Note from Loyd Auerbach: The practice of meditation is one form of altered states induction that can allow for increased psychic perception and development. Research has shown that meditation has, of course, many other benefits — some of which are summarized here in this guest post.

Summary of Some Benefits of Meditation

Ruby Andrew

Meditation, though it may appear to some to be a time-wasting activity, has a host of benefits ranging from psychological, mental, physical, and social as illustrated below based on the various scientific researches and proves done by different universities and researchers.

PSYCHOLOGICAL BENEFITS

Enhances satisfaction: People can evaluate their lives and set goals that they want to achieve and work towards. It helps them acknowledge their failures, not to feel guilty about them but to learn from them. This gives them strength to overcome their weaknesses.

Self-realization: It provides a chance for one to get oriented to one’s person/self. It is ‘me time’. With no one in the picture, being all alone in one’s own world makes one think through each aspect of life and know better who he/she is. This enhances self-image.

Helps one develop humane feelings: Naturally, humans are moral beings, social in nature and able to feel pain and empathy. Having time with oneself enhances one’s ability to relate to situations naturally.

Reduces bad feelings: Anxiety, stress and depression are always experienced as long as one lives. These feelings do increase and often impair performance especially when one is caught up in so many activities allowing no time to meditate over/ponder what one is undergoing. Some realities are not pleasant and thus many prefer pushing them off their memory.

To the contrary, meditation helps one analyze each situation and plan how to overcome it. Thus reactions to such encounters can be more positive.

It makes Self a refuge: In situations where one could retaliate, burst out in anger or break down, one can resolve to engage a habit of keeping it to Self and thinking over the situation before hurting the other party, thus enhancing the ability to cope with difficult situations.

BRAIN-RELATED BENEFITS 

Meditation has been proven to enhance growth of some areas of the brain which increase performance of the individual. The portion of the cortical area responsible for attention and introspection increases, enhancing attention and internalization and thus a better and faster understanding of concepts. There is evidence for increased grey matter portion of areas responsible for memory and thought. Increased neurons in this area can enhance memory recall and judgment. Increase in size of the area responsible for generation of positive emotions and frontal area which regulates emotional reactions can enhance happiness, positivity and self- control.

PHYSICAL BENEFITS

Weight Control: Meditation can aid the ability to control appetite. Overweight and obese individuals might be able to cut their weight through self-control if that is their issue. Weight loss has been shown to be part of the treatment of and prevention against diabetes.

Decreases blood pressure: Meditation decreases body and brain activity, thus decreasing the basal metabolic rate. Alongside decreasing anxiety and stress, the blood pressure decreases and is maintained at normal levels.

SOCIAL BENEFITS

Enhances relations with other people thus better social ties. This is because of a better self-image and appreciation of oneself and other people. Accommodation of differences in personality improves reaction to different situations giving a better meaning to life.

Note: In some parts of the world, one might find physician guided meditation programs which may even be part of one’s health coverage.

Ruby Andrew’s author bio

Ruby Andrew, a guest writer and blogger by profession, lives in Bristol, UK. For a long time, she has had a passion for writing and found she could write on any topic. Her areas of interest includes travel, health, fitness, automobile, fashion, technology and weddings. At present, she works as a guest blogger on behalf of health insurance card.

Guest Post: Bioenergy Therapy: Restoring Balance to Creat Healing

Introduction by Loyd Auerbach to Jennifer Lewis’s article (below)

Parapsychology covers the wide range of psychic phenomena, experiences and abilities. That, of course, includes Psycho-Kinesis (PK). Essentially “mind over matter,” this includes any affect of Consciousness/Mind on energy and energetic systems.

While we think of PK as mainly affecting things outside the body, by strict definition it also includes mind/body issues as the mind affects the body and its systems. Extraordinary self-healing, and even psychosomatic illness, can be a result of conscious or unconscious intention/activity.

Psychic healing in all its forms is naturally a subset of PK activity, and there is quite the variation in healing techniques (for healing others). Healers might somehow act directly on the healee’s bodily systems – even down to the cellular level or below – with PK (note: no specific form of energy has been detected or even heads a list of possibilities for PK in general).

Or healers might somehow kick-start the healee’s own internal healing mechanisms, effectively helping them speed up the process. One healer suggested to me that on some occasions, he believed he was only acting as a placebo for the sick individuals, who held that the healer absolutely could and would help them, yet on other occasions he felt he definitely “connected” with the healees and was able to affect a change more directly.

Some healers somehow take on the illness/damage the healee is experiencing, describing the process as one of passing the disease or damage through their own bodies. One can look to the episode of the original series of STAR TREK called “The Empath” for a demonstration of this.

And then there are the energy healers…

The tradition of working with subtle and not so subtle energy, whether the energy of the healee or energy put out by the body of the healer, is many centuries old in many cultures around the world (potentially thousands of years in some cultures). What kind of energy is being used has been a subject of discussion and disagreement, but what’s apparent from the evidence is that some kind of energetic exchange – even if it’s only heat from the body of the healer – is happening.

The healing techniques, such as Therapeutic Touch or Reiki or even laying on of hands, have different approaches, but one can consider any energy given off by the healer (if the energy comes from their bodies) or manipulated by the healer (if the energy being affected is that of the healee) as bioenergy.

In this guest contribution to the Paranormal Network, Jennifer Lewis provides us a little background on the use of bioenergy in a therapeutic context.

 

Bioenergy Therapy: Restoring Balance to Create Healing

By Jennifer Lewis

Bioenergy healing is not a new idea at all. This type of therapy has been used for thousands of years and is known around the world. Also known as laying on of hands, it is based on bringing the matrix, or energy body, back into alignment. The matrix will reflect an imbalance before the physical body develops any signs of a disease or illness.

When the matrix, or aura, is in balance, the immune system has all the information required for good health. When something causes it to become unbalanced, the energy body is unevenly distributed, and the physical body becomes ill.

Stress and Broken Heart Syndrome

One of the most difficult situations a person can experience is the breakdown of a relationship. If you have ever been so upset after a breakup that you felt that you were going to die of a broken heart, you may not have been that far from the truth. Some people who experience intense emotional reactions, such as the ones that would normally occur following the loss of a loved one, may experience symptoms similar to that of a heart attack. The stress would definitely throw the person off balance emotionally for a time. For individuals who experience full-blown Broken Heart Syndrome, the effects are even more profound. They report feeling shortness of breath and chest pain. When examined by doctors, they may even have low blood pressure. The condition looks similar to a heart attack but is not the same medical condition. Unlike a heart attack, which damages the heart muscle, Broken Heart Syndrome does not appear to cause any permanent damage. Patients are able to make a rapid and complete recovery after the event.

Bioenergy Healing to Restore Health

Physical or environmental stress definitely leads to illness, and bioenergy healing is a tool that can be used to restore a person’s health. Over time, stress causes the immune system to break down at its weakest point. According to bioenergy practitioners, this type of situation results in the cells becoming confused, weak and misinformed. They are unable to function properly. Visiting a practitioner allows the body to restore the correct “information” to the cells and bring them back into alignment so that client is able to enjoy good health and renewed energy once again.

How Bioenergy Can be Used 

  • Individually

A practitioner can see a client on a one-to-one basis, in an office or by visiting the client in his or her home or another location.

  • Group Sessions

Participants may see a practitioner in a group setting. Some people may benefit from being in a supportive atmosphere during the healing session. They may also be more receptive to the healing process if they see other participants experiencing benefits from the natural healing. The group would develop its own unique dynamic, and the energy force would become stronger than the sum of its parts, which would aid in the healing benefits for all participants.

  • At a Distance

It is not necessary to be in the same room, or even in the same city or country as the the practitioner to get the benefits of bioenergy healing. The practitioner and client can make contact by phone and establish a connection in that manner.

What Happens During a Bioenergy Session

During a bioenergy session, the client is directed to sit or stand by the practitioner. During the session, the practitioner will move his or her hands around the client’s body. No direct contact will be made without the client’s permission.

Some clients may feel some tingling, coldness, warmth, or pins and needles during the session. It’s also normal not to experience anything unusual while the practitioner is working. Each person’s experience is different and equally valid.

Simply because a person isn’t experiencing a particular sensation, it doesn’t mean that he or she isn’t getting any benefit from the experience. The session will probably take 15 or 20 minutes. Each person has a bioenergy field around his or her body and the practitioner is there to redirect it to bring it back into its natural alignment.

It’s normal to attend more than one session to get the benefits of bioenergy healing. The practitioner will schedule appointments over several days so that the client is able to get the benefits from this type of therapy.

NOTE from Loyd Auerbach: There is a large amount of literature research various alternative healing methods and their efficacy, including energy healing techniques – psychic healing research is of particular interest to those in and around Parapsychology. However, one should always seek out all possible treatments, including of course, seeing your regular doctor, and as with traditional Western medicine, consider getting a second opinion even with energy healers (even if that opinion is your regular doctor).

Guest Post: The Placebo Effect & Mind-Body Healing

The Placebo Effect & Mind-Body Healing

Jennifer Lewis

Latin for “I Shall Please,” placebo, or the placebo effect, can be defined by measurable, observable or perceived improvement within a patient’s health or behaviour, not attributable to ‘faux’ medication or treatment that has been administered, which the patient believes to be genuine. Instead, sugar pills or saline solutions are used, which have no medical properties, along with faux surgeries and therapies. The subject of many scientific studies, the placebo effect is a psychosomatic phenomenon that demonstrates the power of the mind when it comes to healing, that the simple ‘belief’ of being treated with effective medication is enough for some patients to see improvements or be cured of their ailments altogether. Consequently, the power of the human mind when it comes to healing is often the subject of much discussion, as is the potential to harness it.

The Placebo Effect in Medicine

In some instances placebos are used by medical professionals to treat patients, with notable medical organizations endorsing such methods. As one would expect however, using the placebo effect has been controversial throughout history. The ethics when it comes to treating patients with placebos is still a subject of debate, due to the ‘deceptive’ way in which these medications are prescribed. A common counter argument for this however is that if the doctor himself believes in the placebo effect as a means of healing, then his morality is intact when he prescribes placebo to a patient. When the desired results are apparent however, then the placebo effect is ultimately embraced within the medical community. A vast array of studies carried out over the years has shown the placebo effect to be very effective. For example it can last up to eight weeks for panic disorder, two and a half years for rheumatoid arthritis, can treat mental illness such as depression, along with a whole host of physical conditions. One study conducted by Harvard University, tested the effectiveness of the placebo effect across a range of ailments, including chronic pain, asthma and arterial hypertension. 30 to 40% of patients reported relief after using a placebo. Whilst a complete cure isn’t necessarily common and improvements aren’t guaranteed with placebos, the studies are non-debatable evidence that the power of the mind is not to be underestimated.

Scientific Origins of Mind-Body Healing in the Western World

Throughout history there has been compelling evidence to support the minds ability to heal the body. Many medical practices of the ancient world, for example traditional Chinese medicine, emphasized and focused on the link between the mind and the body, where as western medicine was often the opposite – viewing the two as almost separate entities. Shaped by this, medicine in the western world eventually moved forward in 1964 when psychiatrist George Solomon noted that symptoms in those with rheumatoid arthritis got worse during phases of depression. Prompted by this discovery, he began to investigate the link between the mind and body, with a particular focus on inflammation and the immune system. Shortly after, psychoneuroimmunology was born. As the western world began to discover more and more about the links between the mind and body, it eventually sparked interest in ancient practices such as yoga, meditation and other alternative methods of healing and promoting health – which have a prominent place in our societies today.

Harnessing Mind-Body Healing

The placebo effect works on the basis that the patient expects to be cured. As human beings in modern times, we have long been conditioned to associate a pill, dose or medicine, surgery, or therapy as a means to make us better – because they can. However, as evidence shows so can our minds. The belief factor plays a huge part when using our minds to heal, and consequently this has given rise to things like healing crystals and Reiki, which would prove ineffective in those who don’t believe in them. Of course, whether the effectiveness of such practices is rooted in science or not is irrelevant – if they can be used as a tool to ‘harness’ the placebo effect, and work, then they are no less valid than conventional medical treatment for certain conditions.

A positive ‘mind over matter’ mind-set, entwined with the belief that one will get better, can also be a hugely beneficial mind-body healing technique. This has been noted many times in those overcoming physical and mental addictions, be it drugs, alcohol or cigarettes – sometimes even through treatments such as hypnosis, which can also yield the placebo effect. A study conducted by David Spiegal M.D at the Stanford School of Medicine demonstrated the healing power of the mind for more serious conditions. Over 80 women who were in the late stages of breast cancer took part in the study, half received normal medical treatment, whilst the other half received the same treatment but went to a support group as well. David Spiegal’s study found that the latter half, who attended the support group, went on to live for twice as long as those who didn’t. Other studies have come to similar conclusions – in particular, those that suffer ‘hopelessness’ whilst battling cancer, are often associated with having a lower chance of survival.

Harnessing the minds ability to heal the body is achieved through many ways. As noted above, methods such as Reiki, crystals, yoga, meditation, hypnosis, or other ancient practices long associated with their positive health and healing benefits can focus an individual’s ‘mind over matter’; whether they have a scientific basis and utilize the placebo effect or not. Because of this, their value and place in our society should be considered no less relevant than the conventional healing methods of today.

“The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well.” – Hippocrates

 NOTE FROM LOYD AUERBACH:
While the placebo effect is the benchmark against which much medical and pharmaceutical research is conducted, that there is little understanding of this effect AND that the effect is acknowledged as a mind-body/psychosomatic effect makes one really wonder why so many in those fields are so opposed to psi research. After all, psychokinesis — movement by the mind, a.ka. mind over matter — covers not just mind effects on things outside the body, but also in the body. Self-healing — perhaps an extension of the placebo effect (or vice versa) is PK!

Guest post: The Academic Route to Parapsychology

The Academic Route to Professional Parapsychology

Guest post by Linda Forshaw

At first glance you might be forgiven for thinking that mainstream science and parapsychology have little in common. Indeed a bias against acceptance of the validity of parapsychological research has often led to the closure of academic parapsychology laboratories in the U.S.

Although there are still a number of private institutions and organizations conducting parapsychological research, just two public universities in the U.S. currently have laboratories of this kind: The Laboratory for Advances in Consciousness and Health at the University of Arizona and the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia, and no colleges or universities have degree programs in the field of Parapsychology in the United States.

So how does one become a professional parapsychologist with limited study opportunities available? Perhaps surprisingly, the answer could actually lie with mainstream science. One possible route to a professional career in the field of parapsychology is similar to that of the study of any academic field – in that it typically involves between two and three stages.

The first stage many students will undertake is that of a Bachelors degree; typically in psychology, but may also be within the fields of physics or cultural anthropology. The length of study is three to four years. The second (optional) stage is that of a Masters of Science/Masters of Art degree studied for a period of between one and two years. The third (also optional) stage is that of a Doctoral degree (Ph.D). Most already in the field strongly suggest either the M.S./M.A. or Ph.D. to move into the field.

Some students will have encountered some opportunity to take courses in parapsychology during the Bachelors and Masters stages, as there are a number of colleges and universities and a few reputable organizations that offer a course in or related to the subject. In some Masters’ programs, work can be directed at a parapsychological topic, provided at least some faculty are open to the subject’s exploration. However, it is mainly during the three to five year Doctoral stage that the majority of opportunities to focus on parapsychology will occur.

It’s a not insignificant commitment that can involve up to eleven years of study. With that level of commitment in mind it goes without saying that a parapsychology student should be fully committed and sure of their interest in the field. There are a number of ways in which this can be achieved.

A must is to read “An Introduction to Parapsychology” by Harvey Irwin and Caroline Watt (5th Edition, 2007). Covering subjects including extrasensory perception, psychokinesis, reincarnation, and poltergeist experiences, the book offers an excellent all-round introduction to parapsychology from an academic perspective and is considered the core text for many teaching in the field of parapsychology.

It is also important to stay abreast of current developments from relevant professional bodies. The Parapsychological Association is an excellent place to start. Founded in 1957, publications of interest include the Mindfield Bulletin and the Journal of Parapsychology. Aspirational guidelines concerning ethical and professional standards for parapsychologists are also provided.

Also worth considering is how the Internet has opened up the possibility for students to take distance learning courses from institutions based both in the U.S. and overseas. A number of universities in the U.K. actually have Parapsychology offered on-site, and it’s likely online versions of the course will follow. Atlantic University in Virginia Beach, VA, currently offers one course online, for academic or continuing education credit, though it can also be taken by anyone even if no credit is needed.

One of the most highly recommended of such distance learning courses is “An Introduction to Parapsychology,” taught by the internationally respected Koestler Parapsychology Unit at the University of Edinburgh in the U.K. Closer to home is The Rhine Research Center, which, through its various research methodologies, seeks to bridge the gap between science and spirituality, and offers recommended online courses through its Education Center. Other non-academic courses are taught via distance learning by parapsychologist Loyd Auerbach through HCH Institute.

Throughout one’s academic studies – even if one does not get the opportunity to do parapsychological research as part of a Masters’ or Doctorate program – students should make their interest known to those in the field, through the various organizations like the Parapsychological Association and Rhine Research Center, as well as smaller institutes such as the Windbridge Institute and related groups like the Forever Family Foundation, and in the U.K. with the Society for Psychical Research.

Following academic studies, it’s most important to become active in some way with the organizations and foundations, and to attend professional conferences such as those offered by some of the organizations mentioned above, in order to find opportunities for moving directly into the field.

Clearly, and unfortunately, there is no quick route to becoming a professional parapsychologist, but those who are sufficiently determined to do so stand to enjoy an extremely interesting and diverse career path.

Author Bio

Linda Forshaw is a Business Information Systems graduate from Lancaster University in the UK. A leading contributor to Degree Jungle, Linda is also a full time writer and blogger specializing in education, social media, and entrepreneurship. Contact her on Twitter @seelindaplay

 

Guest post: Measuring the Immaterial

Measuring the Immaterial: Ghost Hunting Devices, Theory and Skepticism

Guest post by (with a little editorial assistance from Loyd Auerbach)

One could certainly argue that the 21st Century is the “Show Me” era. For any argument to hold water today, tangible evidence must be presented that can be tested and verified through many levels of scrutiny and peer review. This holds in any science in contemporary Western culture, including the study of the paranormal and the serious study of ghosts.

In the words of novelist James Houranin From Shaman to Scientist: Essays on Humanity’s Search for Spirits, “Unlike other cultures, which readily accept belief in ghosts—as either mystical phenomena or culturally useful folklore—Western culture needs to analyze and codify the spirit world.”[1]

These are the fruits of 300 years of scientific labors and unprecedented advancement. Without some form of video or audio evidence—the “Show Me” factor—people will generally think a ghost sighting was a convincing hoax put on by someone in a ghoulish costume sooner than an actual brush with the paranormal.

As a result, in our efforts to codify paranormal activity, ghost hunters have begun to rely on technologies like digital recorders, cameras, temperature measurement devices and the like in increasing numbers. But this begs the question, how “scientific” are our modern devices for measuring actual paranormal activity? And what are the underlying theories justifying their use in such arenas?

The Modern Ghost

Ghosts, in modern times, are often associated with phantom temperature changes, light orbs, vortexes, spikes in electromagnetism, disembodied voices caught on tape (electronic voice phenomenon or EVP) or ghostly apparitions caught on film in either the visible, infrared or full color spectrum.[2] Much of these associations are the result of lingering folklore, hobbyist ghost hunters, and certainly the paranormal TV shows, rather than the evidence gathered by researchers and investigators of the field of Parapsychology (and its predecessor Psychical Research) over the last 130 years.

Underpinning the ‘science’ behind these theories is the unproven assumption that spirits leave behind energy signatures that can be measured in some capacity, with an alternative hypothesis that whatever ghosts are “made of” is something that can affect the local environment, which can be measured. One way to imagine this phenomenon is to picture an invisible boat on a lake. While you can’t directly see the boat, you might be able to see water breaking on its hull or other environmental perturbations caused by the boat. With the proper instrumentation, you may even be able to document the anomalous behavior of the water and conclude, “There’s a boat there.” In the same sense, measuring environmental factors and finding inconsistencies or anomalies is crucial to ghost hunting.

But our boat metaphor leads to one critical question: Why couldn’t the invisible boat be an invisible hippopotamus or an invisible log? While this may sound a bit overly metaphorical, it hits on the ultimate impasse facing ghost hunters once evidence is in hand; where do we draw the line between correlation and causation?

A good place to look for answers is within the devices themselves, and the theories postulated by the paranormal community for the underlying application of each. Unfortunately, many of the “theories” put forth by these folks are either not supported by or contradicted by the evidence (including the actual experiences with ghosts that are reported), field work and research by parapsychologists and psychical researchers.

The Devices in Action

It seems that every year the ghost hunter’s tool belt gets a little more versatile and advanced. In The World of Horror: Ghosts and Goblins, author Sue Hamilton points to a host of devices used in paranormal investigations. Electromagnetic field (EMF) meters, thermometers, thermal imaging scopes, motion detectors, compasses, cameras and digital recorders are all essentials in the ghost hunting utility belt. [3]

Director of the Office of Paranormal Investigations, parapsychologist Loyd Auerbach, M.S., who is also a Professor at Atlantic University, an Adjunct Professor at JFK University and an instructor at the HCH Institute, Parapsychological Studies, provided his expert opinion on each of the major devices listed in the chart below:

Device

Paranormal Use/Theory

EMF Meter

Whatever a ghost is “made of” is something that can interfere with (or otherwise affect) the local electromagnetic environment. If a ghost were made of EM energy, and was radiating it, there would be all sorts of issues with that ghost interfering with all types of electrical appliances and devices (and other materials). However, parapsychology research has shown that psychic abilities are not electromagnetic in nature, and it’s highly unlikely that our presences after death, which use such abilities to perceive the world around them (and move things) would be electromagnetic.

Thermometer

The idea that ghosts can affect room temperatures by drawing from surrounding energies to manifest is an explanation mainly  from the mediums and spiritualists of the past, and posits that spirits can change the temperature in a room by absorbing or giving off energy. Hot spots are sometimes reported, and most often no temperature changes are reported. However, in many reported cases that include “cold spots” or perceived temperature changes, thermometers show no physical temperature change at all. The “cold” is felt, but more of that cold chill we all sometimes get may be psychological or something we’re picking up psychically. Or it may be a misperception of something else physically happening in the environment.

Thermal Imaging Scope

The theory posits that ghosts may even take a shape in the form of a temperature differential, which though invisible to the naked eye, may be visible with a thermal imaging scope. However, these devices typically do not pick up floating temperature differentials (they need a surface), unless certain types of gases (i.e. carbon monoxide, for one of the devices) are floating around in blobs – highly unlikely in a well-ventilated or occupied room.

Motion Detector

The theory is that ghosts can trigger a motion detector the same as any other moving object. Most devices are IR and some are acoustical. There’s been no evidence that ghosts interrupt IR sensors or generate sound to affect them. However, there has been research showing that some people can mentally interrupt IR beams.

Compasses

Ghosts, able to affect the electromagnetic environment in some way, can also disturb the needle on a compass, though this could also be a result of psychokinesis (PK).

Cameras

People once believed that ghosts can leave impressions on film, even though the ghost may be invisible to the naked eye. Cameras, however, cannot pick up things invisible to the human eye in general. Most film is not sensitive to such things. Some digital cameras may pick up small traces of the infra-red spectrum (mostly reflections of the IR sensor that is used for auto-focusing) or ultra-violet light (which is extremely unusual), but this does not explain why some people in a room can see the ghost and most people (at the same time) cannot.Today, the theory has evolved and states that in the case of both cameras and recorders, an apparition consciously directly affects the recording media to have an image or voice (either film/tape or digital media) or causes the actual device to create the image/voice (in the case of digital cameras or recorders). However, because we know living people can unconsciously do this as well, it’s also possible the affect is caused by the unconscious PK of an investigator.

Digital Recorders

A common misconception is that ghosts can create vibrations that leave disembodied voices on tape. It  has been clearly shown over the last 40+ years by actual researchers looking at the question of EVP that “vibration” or “sound” has nothing to do with this phenomenon. Recordings have been made with no working microphone in both analog tape and digital recorders. Recordings have “appeared” on devices with backups attached to them not getting anything, and no one hearing anything. Not to mention that the term EVP – electronic voice phenomena – refers to voices created in the device/recording medium itself.
With EVP it’s been noted that certain people seem to always get EVP, while most of their teammates get nothing. Why should that be? Two possibilities: (1) The person is unconsciously affecting the recorders or (2) that person is a kind of medium, unconsciously working with the consciousness that is the ghost to cause the affect.

 

*Important Note: Psychokinesis (PK) is another major piece of the puzzle to consider. PK is essentially “Mind Over Matter.” The reality is that, while unexplained itself, the idea that a mind affects the devices directly, or physically affects film/tape/recording media, has lots of evidence from both field work and better evidence from laboratory work over the last several decades –though the latter is of course focused on the minds of living people.

PK – by the mind of a living person or a deceased one — is what moves objects, whether a book or chair or compass needle (even, perhaps, the needle on an EMF meter, in which case there really is no EM change – something we have yet to really consider). PK could also effects the workings of a thermal imaging device, or any other device. Unless one has human detectors who can correlate their perceptions with the measurements, all you have are a bunch of anomalous measurements. Without the human experience of ghosts, there’s no context or connection.

Parsing Out the Evidence

Once an investigator believes in a device and that it is measuring the phenomenon they intended to capture, the next thing they need to do is tease apart the situation to the best of their abilities. Essentially, investigators will ask, is there a natural explanation for the phenomenon I’m documenting? Many ghost hunters and paranormal investigators use something like “debunking phase” to describe this. But the word “debunk” has been misapplied by the guys on GHOST HUNTERS and adopted by their fans (and spread rampant through the paranormal community).

The word is related to “bunk” (the earlier word “bunkum”) which is “fraudulent” and used for example to describe the work of con artists. The skeptical movement/community used that word appropriately (for them, given they don’t believe in psychic anything) to “debunk” psychic experiences, phenomena and research coming from the assumption that it was “all bunk” – in other words, fraud (either purposeful or more often self-deluded). It is absolutely the wrong term to describe the required activity for any investigator or research to look for alternative explanations for the reported experiences and phenomena. In other words, science looks for explanations. Science doesn’t go in to situations looking for fraud (though fraud may be found), which is what “debunking” would be. Use of that term is insulting to anyone who has reported phenomena or had experiences with the phenomena, and some parapsychologists have seen clients of ghost hunter groups get upset when the “team debunker” is introduced (as if it’s not the responsibility of everyone in a group to look for alternative explanations).

Several devices, including EMF meters, thermometers, compasses and even cameras need to be treated with careful, unbiased scrutiny because of their environmental and mechanical sensitivities; and it is the responsibility of investigators using them to know what else might affect them.

Consider the case of the EMF meter. “Because EMF meters detect magnetic and electric energy,” writes Amy Rockwood of the Massachusetts Academy of Mathematics and Science, “it is more feasible that the high EMF readings suggest electricity nearby, rather than a ghost.”[4]

Indeed, since many of these devices simply measure environmental factors, one should certainly look for sources of electricity in a building when an EMF spike is detected. Looking for sources of magnetic interference (even kids’ magnets) is also important. Some of the EMF meters – specifically the ones that measure natural fields – often work by detecting the strength of a fluctuation or change in the local field, and even living people can affect such changes. In fact, merely moving such a meter causes a shift, and a measurement.

In the case of thermometers and other temperature reading devices, caution should definitely not be thrown to the wind. Cold spots are often associated with the presence of a spirit. But again, correlation does not necessarily equal causation, and in some cases hot spots have been reported instead of cold. Countless environmental factors can lead to pockets of colder air in a building. Simply put, like water in a lake, the convection of heat in the air is a fluid transfer from hot to cold. Hot and cold spots can come and go as air moves through a drafty home, so this type of evidence should be carefully scrutinized.  In addition, over the last 130 years, parapsychologists/psychical researchers have found that many reported cold spots are actually psychological (like a “cold chill up the spine” one feels watching some horror movies), as no physical temperature change could be found.

Devices like thermal imaging scopes take this type of measurement to the next level. Utilizing infrared technology, a thermal imaging scope allows the investigator to see the size and shape of a cold spot. Should a cold spot suddenly take on humanoid form, while this could still be coincidental, it would certainly seem to be harder to devalue. But the real problem here is that thermal imaging devices need surfaces to “read.” While some will pick up certain pockets of gas floating in the air (as the IR beams reflect back), a typical cold spot or hot spot in mid air cannot be detected by such devices. A passive sensor thermal imaging device would pick up heat being given off, and technically could pick up something in mid-air, however such heat sources would be felt and could be otherwise measured.

However, that does not mean such devices cannot be otherwise affected by a ghost, as parapsychologists/psychical researchers have gathered imaging data that cannot be explained by even the manufacturers. The issue is figuring out how the camera is being affected, as the normal operation of the device is not responsible. Parapsychologists consider psychokinetic effects (mind over matter) as responsible for not only this kind of result but also for EVP and film/digital images of apparent ghosts (and of course, for object movement).

Everything in Moderation

 

When talking about investigations, there are two types of phenomena where tech can be possibly useful: ghosts (apparitions, or consciousness/spirit of someone deceased) and hauntings (referred to as residual hauntings, or place memory). As hauntings are essentially imprinted in a local environment, this phenomenon is most likely to be repeating, and therefore measurements are more likely to be reproducible.

Keeping that in mind, an open yet skeptical attitude will generally keep you on the straight and narrow when ghost hunting. While there is no way for us to know for certain whether our “invisible boat” is a boat at all, through discipline, repetition and verification across different groups and ghost hunting organizations, the case for these devices will ultimately be built. If modern explanations and science cannot explain observed and documented phenomenon enough times, the link between correlation and causation becomes stronger.

In this regard, by carefully considering all of the environmental factors at hand, looking at evidence critically is perhaps the handiest tool in the ghost hunter’s utility belt. Moreover, a responsible paranormal investigator will always be sure to consider the psychological factors of a case and the possible perceptual mistakes that could be made along the way. These psychological factors may not be responsible for what the devices pick up, but certainly are a part of the witnesses’ experience (which is what the investigators should be investigating). Again, one tries to explain anomalous measurements, not ‘debunk’ them. In fact, if there is any fraudulent activity going on in relation to the devices, it’s going to be on the part of the investigators and not the clients.

At the end of the day, it takes countless hours logged in the lab or field, numerous instances where the same circumstances gave rise to the same or similar outcome, and eventually, exception by the community at large that the prevailing theory is justified beyond a reasonable doubt based on the evidence presented. However, there is one key difference we must remember to consider when studying the paranormal versus certain other (physical) sciences where outcomes are often identical and repeatable.

It is important to remember that there are many natural phenomena which are not necessarily reproducible on demand across many sciences and disciplines, such as astronomical occurrences or even earthquakes – one has to wait until they happen again. On the social science front (and Parapsychology/studying the paranormal is mainly a social science), Psychology, for instance, has an incredibly low replication rate. Similarly, if the ‘phenomenon’ we are studying is ghosts, the only way ghostly phenomena (as opposed to residual hauntings) are going to be reproducible is if the ghosts themselves cooperate. After all, if ghosts are/were people, then they are not “phenomena” per se. They are acting, deciding entities who can choose to produce evidence or inversely, avoid detection if they so choose.

Perhaps even more crucial to remember is that paranormal studies have a constant human element – both through the living and the dead – which must never be overlooked. The question arises: based on what the paranormal community seems to be doing most of the time, it’s not the experiences of humans they’re necessarily interested in. When you take pause, this is rather counterintuitive, since a report by a human of an experience is what is actually being investigated in the first place. The human element is key in this way, as “paranormal” is actually defined by the human experience of it.

Works Cited

Hamilton, S. (2007). The World of Horror: Ghosts & Goblins. ABDO & Daughters.

Houran, J. (2004). From Shaman to Scientist: Essays on humanity’s search for spirits. Scarecrow Press.

Martin, M. (2011). Ghost Hunters. Capstone Press.

Rockwood, Amy Lynn. “On the Hunt for Ghosts.” Massachusetts Academy of Mathematics and Science.

 

[1] Houran, J. (2004). From Shaman to Scientist: Essays on humanity’s search for spirits. Scarecrow Press.

[2] Martin, M. (2011). Ghost Hunters. Capstone Press.

[3] Rockwood, Amy Lynn. “On the Hunt for Ghosts.” Massachusetts Academy of Mathematics and Science.

[4] Hamilton, S. (2007). The World of Horror: Ghosts & Goblins. ABDO & Daughters.