Summary of Jim Carpenter’s “First Sight” theory of parapsychology
From Dr. Sheila Joshi’s site: http://neuroscienceandpsi.blogspot.com/2012/08/james-carpenters-first-sight-model-and.html
Saturday, August 11, 2012 James Carpenter’s First Sight model and neurological damage-induced psi openings
What is the First Sight model?
Clinical psychologist and parapsychologist James Carpenter, Ph.D. has recently published his magnum opus “First sight: ESP and parapsychology in everyday life.” It may very well turn out to be the turning point in a profound paradigm shift that moves psi from its reputation as anomalous, skittish in the lab, and rare to normal, robust, and ubiquitous.
This is an incredibly impressive, rigorous, scholarly piece of work that integrates a lifetime’s encyclopedic familiarity with parapsychology, clinical psychology, and general psychology.
The name for the model is a play on the colloquial term “second sight” historically used to describe inherited psychic ability. Carpenter’s theory turns the colloquial assumptions on their head and proposes that psi is not an ability, it is not inherited, and it is going on all the time unconsciously without any sensory input. Instead, we are continually existing and transacting in an extended, nonlocal universe in a way that extends beyond our physical boundaries, so it is “first sight” (Carpenter, 2012, pp. 8, 13, 18).
Carpenter’s model proposes that psi is analogous to subliminal perception. Subliminal perception has been very well substantiated by experimental psychology and by clinical observation. We have an unconscious level of functioning that goes on all the time, integrates sensory data, handles automatic activities, and feeds information to our conscious level based on what is most salient to us at the time. Carpenter’s innovation is to say that psi behaves analogously. It is unconscious, going on all the time, integrates non-sensory data, contributes to the handling of automatic activities, and also feeds information to our conscious level. In the case of PK, it manifests as unconsciously-driven behavior.
As a normal, ongoing, unconscious way of being in the world, psi undergirds all psychological functioning for all people all the time. Therefore, it is not an ability or gift or character trait that only some possess, nor is it anomalous. It is aggregating into our other normal, unconscious processes constantly. For Carpenter, what’s unusual about it is that we sometimes consciously see the effects of it, such as when we have an experience of ESP or PK. Most of the time, it operates unconsciously, shaping our choices and way of being in the world.
People who appear to be more psychic can more accurately be said to have more “control over the expression of psi and some skill in understanding and using these expressions” (Carpenter, 2012, p. 315). These people tend to be interested in psi and in subliminal processes in general, and to cultivate them. They tend to be less anxious, more adventurous, believe more is possible, tolerate ambiguity, and have very aligned, unconflicted healthy entitlement to being efficacious in the world.
There are many more corollaries to his theory. These are just the highlights.
Extending the model to neuro-damage-induced, abrupt psi openings, where psi is initially camouflaged
How might we extend this model to understand what happens when neurological damage triggers a discontinuous increase in psi? Specifically, we will focus on people who have a neurological incident, followed by indications of an abrupt psi opening, but who take awhile to learn how to interpret the phenomena they are experiencing. This experience of the psi being initially camouflaged as something else is much more common than the instances of neurological incident leading immediately to a huge increase in accessible, clear-as-day psi, such as in the case of Peter Hurkos.
Some people have been using psi extensively since childhood. Some people have relatively gentle and satisfying psi openings in adulthood. Today, we are going to focus on psi openings that originate in a form of neurological trauma, are unprepared for, and are highly distressing and confusing. In this type of situation, it’s often not clear what’s psi, what’s a symptom of trauma or healing, or how to interpret either. Also, much potential psi gets overlooked because of the general chaos.
This extension of the First Sight model will also be relevant for other abrupt, yet camouflaged, psi openings stemming from other causes such as NDEs, other spiritually transformative experiences, illnesses and trauma.
Carpenter refers briefly to the connection between brain damage and psi. He suggests that it is the prolonged disorientation, confusion, cognitive uncertainty and possibly passive acceptance of brain damage that may facilitate the bringing to consciousness of the normally unconscious, ongoing psi interface between the individual and the universe (Carpenter, 2012, p. 71).
We are going to expand on this; look closely at the relationship of fear to psi; follow his example of using analogies from other fields of psychology to look at the question of unconscious v conscious psi; and propose a strategy to facilitate neurological healing and psychic development.
Fear, psi, and abrupt openings
Fear is such a big part of this kind of experience. So let’s start with what Carpenter’s First Sight model has to say about fear and psi, and then add a few other observations specific to neurological damage from psychotropic medication and distressing psi openings.
- Carpenter’s collation
Carpenter has collated dozens of research studies that have bearing on the relationship between anxiety and psi, and he generates several over-arching observations. We will focus on three main points here – 1) anxiety can be a feature of any one of three constituents of a situation, 2) anxiety tends to interfere with psi, and 3) anxiety may explain psi-missing.
In trying to understand the role of anxiety in experiencing psi, it is useful to consider three ways that anxiety can enter into any given situation – the person may be fearful, the thing being perceived may be fearsome, and/or the context, itself, may be stressful. All of these factors will influence the person’s ability to process psi (Carpenter, 2012, p. 189).
Anxiety tends to decrease conscious psi, but increase unconscious psi. Fear affects the mind’s unconscious use of extrasensory information the same way it affects unconscious usage of subliminal, sensory information. Although unconscious attention orients rapidly to threat, “anxiety reliably hampers the effort to bring preconscious information quickly, completely, and accurately to conscious awareness” (Carpenter, 2012, p. 241).
And, to combine these first two points, Carpenter states: “Anxiety must be low enough to be manageable, whether the anxiety is about psi itself, the information involved, other aspects of the situation at the moment, or some more general state” in order for psi to be a useful resource (Carpenter, 2012, p.316).
Lastly, anxiety may explain psi missing. Psi missing is when a person misses the target more than could be accounted for by chance. In other words, something non-random is going on; they are demonstrating an unconscious, negative use of psi to *not* hit the target. Carpenter attributes this to two things – in an anxious state, our focus of attention narrows to managing our anxiety. We are less open to the infinite array of information out there. And, also if the material is seen as fearsome, it is likely to be perceived unconsciously, but avoided consciously (Carpenter, 2012, p. 66).
He refines this generalization later in greater detail, taking into account the existence of different defensive styles (Carpenter, 2012, pp.229-241). One observation particularly relevant to our topic is cited from the work of De Graaf and Houtkooper (2004). They found that people with more trauma history demonstrated *displaced* psi. In other words, they avoid the assigned target (psi miss), but they accurately fixate on a nearby target – say the one in the previous or following test (Carpenter, 2012, pp. 229-230). This is a fascinating glimpse of the unconscious, suggesting a combination of hypervigilance and avoidance.
- Neurological damage from psychotropic medication
One type of neurological incident that occurs is the withdrawal and recovery from psychotropic medications. Chronic, intense fear is a common symptom of this syndrome. The nervous system has been altered by exposure to the medications, and it is deeply unbalanced for a long time until neurogenesis finally re-creates equilibrium. So, in a simple way, the anxiety is a symptom of neurological damage.
In addition, this sometimes very long-lasting recovery syndrome can be seen as a toxin-induced Kundalini rising. As such, the process of healing the damage may also re-activate very early developmental stages in order to heal any psychological or physical harm in the individual’s past. Like Grof’s holotropic breathwork, it may even go back to perinatal experience. So, in this way, the anxiety may be a symptom of deep working through or Kundalini clearing blockages.
Also, those of us who have stumbled into this syndrome are going through a shockingly unexpected, severe, chronic illness. This is anxiety-provoking, and we will each deal with it in our characteristic, pre-existing personality / defensive style. So, in this way, anxiety is a reaction to a current stressor.
However, in addition to all these real sources of anxiety, the pervasive anxiety may also a reaction to a psi opening which has been triggered. The evidence for this is that many people report an uptick in psi experiences and report the overall sense of being relentlessly in the kind of altered state that is psi-conducive. However, this putative psi opening is a chaotic, elusive one.
One of the ways that Carpenter’s observations about First Sight theory and fear may illuminate this situation is that there may be a big increase in unconscious psi, but only a small increase in conscious psi. One other person in recovery who I know of and I have shown unusually high waking delta on an EEG, which the neurofeedback and meditation expert Anna Wise has interpreted as a primal tracking beacon and a major component of intuition.
“Though usually thought of as the brainwaves of deep sleep, in a waking state delta waves are often referred to as the orienting response….On the very deepest level, they are our beacon that senses danger and safety. They serve as our automatic tracking device, our scanning function….This very primal, almost animalistic response can be fine-tuned to sense emotions, needs, and attitudes in other people.
“I like to call delta a kind of radar. As such, these brainwaves are a major component of our intuition and empathy….These very slow, low-frequency brainwaves are also present during most experiences of psychic phenomena and ESP” (Wise, 2004, p. 198).
This jibes nicely with Carpenter in a couple of ways. Like Carpenter, Wise also posits an ongoing, unconscious level of psi. And the fact that two of us with this neurological syndrome are having so much waking delta, but only sporadic psi experiences, and plenty of anxiety fits suggestively with the general rule that anxiety may increase unconscious psi, but decrease conscious psi.
Let us now apply to this particular neurological syndrome / psi opening Carpenter’s organizing idea that the potential source of anxiety in any situation is either in the person, in the stimulus, or in the context.
There is anxiety in the person. In this neurological syndrome, autonomic arousal goes through the roof, cortisol levels are constantly high, with adrenal overactivity, depopulation of serotonin and dopamine receptors, and a generally dysregulated and over-reactive neuroendocrinological system. Several studies by parapsychologist Dean Radin and others suggest that presentiment or anticipatory physiological arousal is strongest when the stimulus is more aversive and when the person is especially vulnerable to a stress response (Carpenter, 2012, pp. 200-202). It is an open question as to how much of the autonomic arousal of this syndrome is a symptom of brain damage and how much is a symptom of unfamiliar psi.
There is anxiety in the context. This is not an intentional psi opening, and it comes at a time of illness. To the extent that there is new, conscious psi, it may be anxiety-provoking because of its implications. It is a momentous paradigm shift to discover that we are more connected all the time than we thought, and that we have more ability and power than we thought. The conscious psi that people seem to be experiencing is sporadic and inchoate, yet there are some indications of unconscious psi. Psi missing might be part of the explanation for what is going on. Carpenter found considerable support for the theory that anxiety can lead to psi missing.
Furthermore, the particular form of psi missing that De Graaf and Houtkooper (2004) found, where people displace psi and avoid the target but accurately fixate on a nearby target (Carpenter, 2012, pp. 229-230) may explain, in part, the common symptom in psych med neuro recovery of OCD or obsessive rumination. Of course, these symptoms may be thought of as purely signs of neurological damage, or as psychological attempts to cope with neurological damage, but it may be that they are also driven by an unconscious need to psi miss.
There may be anxiety in the stimulus. It seems likely that there is some bias in what we unconsciously target during this syndrome / opening. There are many factors conspiring to cause this – this was not a voluntary, planned developmental step; we are unprepared; there is bona fide neurological damage; Kundalini may be exacerbating old hurts as it repairs the system; and the morphic field or energy pattern of these medications may predispose one to pick up on a darker part of the collective unconscious. (Anecdotally, several alternative healers and psychics have said that they can’t tolerate or interpret the energy of someone on Paxil (Paroxetine)and that is very abrasive).
One piece of evidence for this is that people in recovery from antidepressants often report spontaneous, hypnagogic, closed eye visuals of faces that are very sharply focused and specific. This is something they do not recall experiencing before withdrawal from the medication. In early recovery, the faces tend to be emotionally darker – angry, startled, even grotesque. Often, as recovery progresses, people report a shift to faces that are curious, friendly, smiling.
It is certainly possible that these visions are solely the product of psychoneurological distress, however, it is noteworthy that they are more sharply focused than other mental images or dreams that we experienced before exposure to drugs and after. Another possibility is that we are spontaneously connecting with other people, who could be drawn from somewhere in the contemporary world, or the past, the future, etc.
Carpenter cited one study that might support the theory that we are initially skewed in the direction of picking up more threatening material from the infinite options out there. “Gray et al. (2009) showed that subliminal presentations of frightening material induced a heightened tendency to quickly perceive angry rather than neutral faces (but only for people who were high in vulnerability to anxiety)” (Carpenter, 2012, p. 208).
Are we spontaneously tuning in to the collective unconscious like parapsychologist Roger Nelson’s REGs dotted around the world in the Global Consciousness Project, but due to the toxin- and damage-driven nature of the psi opening, we home in on whatever threatening material out there jibes with our own psychoneurological profile?
Many people also report hearing music in early recovery. These are people who have never heard music before. And, again, there can be a skew to the ominous. I heard very threatening, specific, minor chord symphonic music for several months in 2004, after an episode of moderate serotonin syndrome. Recovery from medication-induced neurological damage is very much like a bad LSD trip – initially acute, then attenuating — where the doors of perception may be more open but you’re either picking up only on the negative half of reality or you’re negatively misinterpreting everything.
How can we help people who are going through a neurological damage-induced, abrupt psi opening, where there is a lot of fear, and the psi is coming to consciousness in a sporadic, confused, and skewed way? One approach would be to help people to make the spontaneously occurring psi more conscious, and to interpret it more accurately. Let us look at the issue of unconscious v. conscious psi.
Unconscious v. conscious psi and “the return of the repressed”
Carpenter proposes in the First Sight model that psi is a continuous, unconscious engagement with the world beyond our senses that informs our every thought, feeling, and behavior. He uses the concepts of subliminal perception, unconscious process, and defense mechanisms from perceptual, cognitive, and clinical psychology (including phenomenological, existential, and psychoanalytic orientations) to explain unconscious psi.
I’m going to extend his First Sight Model to address the experience of neurological damage-induced psi openings by using psychoanalytic psychology. In order to do this, I’m going to extend the model’s correct emphasis on continuous, unconscious psi to encompass conscious psi as well. I think that people going through this kind of distressing, chaotic psi opening are experiencing “the return of the repressed’, and would benefit from help to make their psi more conscious.
Carpenter has developed a brilliant model, which makes excellent sense to me. However, I would extend it in just this one way. Unconsciousness and consciousness are polarities on a continuum, with infinite gradations. Psi is continuous and unconscious, but it also can be sometimes conscious. And we need to make it more conscious for people who are being buffeted unconsciously by it.
For Carpenter, it is a major tenet of his model that psi can be only unconscious (Carpenter, 2012, pp. 76, 89), therefore let me take a moment to defend my belief that psi can be conscious as well.
Carpenter focuses on situations where it seems very legitimate to say that people are only noticing the clues left by unconscious psi, such as when they interpret fragments of their own free association and espy an instance of clairvoyance, or when they notice ex post facto that a dream held a vague precognitive reference to something that happened in the day after the dream. But, this does not cover the full range of psi experiences that people have.
People have macro-psi experiences ranging from intentional energy healing that yields immediate, tangible results through “crisis apparitions” where the vivid image of a person in mortal danger appears to a distant loved one at the exact moment of the crisis to cases like that of Eileen Garrett and the zeppelin accident where she had multiple precognitive visions and synchronicities.
The accomplished British medium Eileen Garrett saw a distinct and vivid image of a zeppelin over peacetime London in 1926, 1928, and 1929. Each time she saw it, it was in progressively worse condition due to fire. It was also a design that had not been made public yet. Once the new design and the plan for a flight to India were publicly announced, she began to meet people who were scheduled to be on that flight. She did pass on a warning. The flight did end in flames and 48 deaths. Later, she learned that another medium had also passed along a message from a recently deceased military man who tried to warn his friend, the navigator of the flight (pp 210-13).
Just as Carpenter has so aptly used analogies from other fields of psychology to illuminate unconscious psi, so can we use analogies from psychoanalytic psychology to show that psi exists on a consciousness gradient. Just as sensory perceptions and memories can be repressed or return from the repressed or be sort of repressed, so it is with psi.
Sometimes, the unconscious comes barreling through to consciousness like a freight train. A classic example would be the spontaneous recall of childhood sexual abuse that had been forgotten for several decades. There can be also the spontaneous recall of something wonderful that has been forgotten for several decades. Contrariwise, things that have been consciously experienced can be repressed.
A lovely example of someone experiencing conscious psi and then repressing it and then unrepressing it can be found in psychoanalyst Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer’s account of having a paradigm-cracking experience with a dowser, and only then unrepressing the memory that she, herself, had once found an intentionally-hidden wristwatch in a closet by non-sensory means. She had completely forgotten that she had done that. Because of this incident of spontaneous recall, she proposed that many of us forget a lot of psi phenomena because to remember it would rupture our whole worldview (Mayer, 2007, pp. 58-59).
Freud created the construct “the return of the repressed,” and explained that wishes, fears, memories, and thoughts that a person cannot accept are repressed into the unconscious. Yet, they never go away, and they continuously seek to reveal themselves, because they are important to the health of the individual. They are inconvenient truths. Sometimes, they emerge in partial, disguised, distorted forms that allow for some expression or relief of unconscious pressure, while still safeguarding the person from the consequences of full awareness. These forms are sometimes uncomfortable psychological and physical symptoms, which can drive a person to seek help. The psychoanalytic therapist provides support for the process of making the unconscious conscious, and the symptoms become unnecessary. (http://www.answers.com/topic/return-of-the-repressed).
So, here we have psychoanalytic descriptions of how the conscious can become unconscious and vice versa. The earliest psychoanalytic theorists thought in terms of a more clear-cut topographical map of the psyche with an unconscious, preconscious, and conscious. Later analytic thinkers have proposed a less black-and-white view.
In the essay “Knowing and not knowing: A clinical example,” the 20th c. psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott presented a short anecdote that illustrated the paradoxical phenomenon of unrepressing something, knowing that one has unrepressed heretofore forgotten information, yet also feeling that somehow one has known it all along (Winnicott, 1989, pp. 24-25).
Contemporary psychology professor Matthew Erdelyi sees unconscious and conscious knowing as polarities, not categories.
“Erdelyi (2001, 2006) further believes that the claim that repression is unconscious and suppression is conscious is based on an outmoded and erroneous conception of mentality. Rather than proposing a categorical distinction between consciousness and unconscious, he refers rather to an “unconscious-conscious continuum” (Erdelyi, 2006, p. 513), comparing the distinction between conscious and unconscious with the arbitrary “child-adult”distinction: ‘It does seem clear that our popular distinctions—conscious-unconscious, explicit-implicit, supraliminal-subliminal—are polar rather than categorical. They are more-or-less . . .’ (Erdelyi, 2004, p. 88)” (Boag, 2010, p. 169).
Psychologists in other fields have also contributed to the view of consciousness as a gradient. Social cognition psychologist Alain Morin and developmental psychologist Philippe Rochat have written about self-awareness. Morin (2006) compared and integrated several recent models that are predicated on there being various levels of consciousness, and Rochat presented a very interesting model suggesting that adult self-awareness is a “dynamic flux between basic levels of consciousness that develop chronologically early in life” (Rochat, 2003, p. 717).
The First Sight model makes a vitally important contribution to our understanding by proposing that unconscious psi is operating absolutely all the time, and that it is a substrate of all human experience. This fits quite nicely with all the other processes that psychoanalytic theory claims are operating unconsciously all the time, but which can, under the right conditions, be brought to consciousness. And, just as psychoanalytic theory assumes that part of the reason things are kept unconscious is that they are threatening in some way, so we will assume that part of the reason psi is kept unconscious is that it is threatening in some way. (It is also true that part of the reason things are kept unconscious is that they are being held as procedural knowledge and that it would be inefficient to be conscious of all things at all times.)
In fact, it is axiomatic that psi is threatening to many people at this time in history, and it can easily be imagined how more people with more efficacious psi would threaten various political, economic, and social protected interests. Over the last year, it has come to my attention repeatedly that famous financiers and politicians have consulted assiduously with some medium, astrologer, or clairvoyant. Yet, for centuries the dominant message in most of the world’s cultures has been that such things are hogwash or evil. What would happen if the vast majority of people were to become more personally effective with their psi?
Personal, familial and societal pressures have encouraged the repression of psi, keeping it unconscious and small. As Carpenter says, we are all psychic all the time, but mostly at a level that acceptable to our families and cultures. In other words, what we call normal, non-psychic behavior is, in fact, informed by psi, but the influence of psi is mostly hidden and unconscious and the behavior that manifests is at a level of efficacy that is acceptable in the world. More efficacy than that – ESP and PK — is taboo.
When someone has a neurological incident and psi starts to leak through more, it can be thought of as the return of the repressed. Some kind of pressure – from the personal unconscious, from the collective unconscious, from Gaia, from the Tao – has demanded that the individual repair the normative, but unnatural repression of psi. Perhaps pressure has been mounting for some time out of sight.
This is a chaotic opening – in fact, a spiritual emergency. Psi is still so taboo. The paradigm shift from not believing in it to believing in it is so big. The ramifications of greater personal knowledge, power, and connectedness are so huge. Very few people can roll with the punches as they are introduced abruptly to a whole new relationship with reality. There is often tremendous fear. People may also feel guilt and shame about having so much more potential. And, for all the exciting aspects of it, it is still terribly inconvenient. A big psi opening requires that you change your life. So, there is an opening to psi and, for many reasons, a lot of resistance or blockage to psi. Tempest ensues.
We are also completely unprepared for and untrained in how to integrate psi into our lives, so there is much misinterpretation of what’s coming up. You could say, in general, that in the First Sight model, psi is camouflaged as “normal perception and behavior” most of the time. Only once in awhile does it shed its protective coloring and stand out like a white crow in a flock of black crows. By extension, you could say that when neurological incident triggers a sudden increase in psi, and there is chaos, the psi is camouflaged as various psychological and physical symptoms. The predominant one is fear. And, as Carpenter’s review of the literature shows, anxiety interferes with psi.
What can we do to help?
If we extend our psychoanalytic analogy, we might say a good therapeutic relationship, abreaction, working through, and insight would be indicated. However, these elements may be either contraindicated or not enough in a full-on spiritual emergency….That is, unless you can be in a 1940s Menninger’s Clinic type set-up where you are housed, fed, secure, and have no responsibilities….The fact is that in the early part of recovery from the neurological damage caused by many psychotropic medications, the dysautonomia is so severe, that people cannot use these techniques.
Indeed, early recovery is a very primal struggle just to survive – to be able to tolerate eating, to be able to sleep, to weather the storm of physical and psychological symptoms such as akathisia, where relentless inner vibration and agitation make you want to crawl out of your skin. For many people in this phase, the idea that they might be having a psychic opening, and that they might get some relief from re-interpreting some of their symptoms in this way, would be abhorrent. Each individual has to cobble together the best approach for them in this nearly impossible situation. But, for others, this idea is a hopeful pinprick of light in the darkness.
For these people, we need more systematic guidelines for how to slowly, gently facilitate the return of the repressed psi on their own, when a therapeutic relationship is not available or tolerable. With some guidelines, these people who have become dismantled can slowly begin to put themselves back together in a new way. Teasing out the psi from the neuro-psycho-spiritual chaos should lead to symptom reduction.
Indeed, the ethnologist and psychologist Holger Kalweit (1988, 1992) has interviewed countless shamans from many different cultures, and found a common thread which is relevant for us here. The shamanic initiatory illness – a chaotic, miserable concatenation of physical and psychological symptoms that the culture has no treatment for – can go on for years, and often abates only when the sufferer agrees to shamanize. Shamanizing can take different forms – prophecy, healing, clairvoyance, etc. – but only when the person embraces their latent, greater psi potential do they emerge from the debilitating illness.
There are examples of contemporary Americans who illustrate this pattern. Laura Alden Kamm (personal communication 2005, 2006) had a massive cerebral infection and surgery, and later a neurological shaking syndrome. She found she could get relief from the non-stop shaking when she used her newly emerging ability to see inside the human body at every level from the molecular to the gross anatomical. Laura Bruno (2008) sustained traumatic brain injury from a car accident, and began having terrible migraines, the first of which lasted many months non-stop. She found she could get relief from the migraines when she communicated to the intended recipient medical intuition that came to her through claircognizance.
Facilitating the return of the (transpersonal) repressed
Psychoanalytic theory is about the return of the repressed personal unconscious. It could be said that we are now talking about the return of the repressed transpersonal unconscious, which is starting to leak through more, wants to be known, but which needs help for that to happen, due to pathogenic beliefs and the traumatic nature of what spurred the opening. Our hypothesis is that facilitating the bringing to consciousness of psi – our non-sensory connection to the whole – will bring relief from suffering and ultimately lead to greater happiness.
The psychoanalyst and clinical parapsychologist Djohar Si Ahmed has observed that non-ordinary states of consciousness – which can be triggered by trauma or by certain therapies – create the opportunity for needed transpersonal material to emerge to consciousness. The individual unwittingly will “recall to the surface…the exact material that the psyche most vitally needs to promote a process of change, development and healing” (Si Ahmed, 2012, pp. 69-70).
The Jungian analyst Marie-Louise von Franz wrote that the Self (the Jungian construct meaning the individual’s whole psyche – ego, unconscious, and conscious) is at the center of the field of the collective unconscious (von Franz, 1980, p. 64). It’s an intriguing paradox that Jungians sometimes also say that the collective unconscious is at the center of the Self! (Gad, 2000, jung.org) Von Franz went on to say that, according to Jung, the Self “is in an eternal process of constant rejuvenation” that has a certain rhythm that dominates “the field of the collective unconscious” (von Franz, 1988, pp. 65-66).
Especially relevant, for our purposes, is von Franz’s belief that one could use well-crafted, classical divination techniques to bring useful information to consciousness.
“…[O]ne could say that divination techniques are attempts, by a chance throw of numbers, to find out what is the rhythm of the Self at a particular moment. Jung sometimes describes what we do when we consult the I Ching oracle by saying that it is like looking at the world situation watch to find the moment one is in, while the oracle would give the inner and outer world situation by which to govern one’s actions” (von Franz, 1988, p. 66).
These observations by Si Ahmed and von Franz complement Carpenter’s premise that all conscious experience and behavior are derived from an ongoing, unconscious process of information-gathering and assessment that includes psi (Carpenter, 2012, p. 18). These observations jibe even more with what Carpenter says later in his book about how people who are more psychic seem to get that way.
Carpenter coins the term “inadvertency” to capture the way unconscious psi perceptions (he more precisely calls these “prehensions” since they are not conscious perceptions) are often inadvertently alluded to by spontaneous psychological events such as in image, mood, slip of the tongue or impulsive act. Only through careful observation and with enough data can we discern that such an inadvertency is the telltale sign that we are being influenced by unconscious psi perceptions (Carpenter, 2012, pp. 48, 52-55).
According to Carpenter, people who are more psychic are more receptive to these inadvertencies, and more skilled and interested in exploring them (Carpenter, 2012, pp. 317, 319-320). He is focusing on those persons who show some control over the expression of psi and some skill in understanding and using these expressions (Carpenter, 2012, p. 316).
However, the case being made here is that people having a neurological damage-induced psi opening are in a chaotic, crisis condition caused, in part, by pressure for normal unconscious psi to become more integrated into conscious awareness, as it probably should have been all along. The thesis is that some of our symptoms are misinterpreted psi or are caused by overly repressed psi, and that if we could make the chaotically intruding, mostly camouflaged, psi more conscious, symptoms would be reduced.
There are many methods for increasing effective access to psi, including formal divination techniques, brainwave entrainment, meditation, psychotherapy, psychic development circles, classes, and exercises. All of these have great value, but in the case of some neurological incidents, including the early phase of recovery from psychotropic medication damage, most people simply cannot tolerate them. The drug-induced dysautonomia is so severe that even the most gentle therapies – such as guided relaxation and visualization — are over-stimulating!
What’s left is giving people a tool they can use themselves, alone, at home, at their own pace, under their control, and that responds to what is already going on. What’s being proposed is a kind of divination of daily life, which can be started slowly and sporadically, and can be developed, if found useful, into a whole new way of walking through life. This means approaching daily life with an eye out for things like synchronicities, and paying close attention to thing like spontaneous precognitions, and putting more focused effort into interpreting them.
The ultimate goal would be for one to integrate information from these sources more automatically, and to graduate to more advanced psi. This scrupulous interpretation of subtle evidence of psi is not the end point; it is the gateway. In a class I once took with parapsychologist Loyd Auerbach, he paraphrased the renowned psychic Alex Tanous as saying “Everyone is psychic. You just have to notice. Once you notice, you notice more. Then, it snowballs.”
Many people already live their lives this way, using daily life as one big divination. But many people do not, or only do it spottily. If neurological incidents are partly about the return of the repressed, natural psi, and if psi can be made much more conscious, then this approach might be a crucial element of the recovery process.
At this point, I’m not sure whether the symptoms of neurological damage contain specific unconscious psi meaning, or if it’s more that they are a general sign that psi is being over-repressed and needs to come out. The latter seems to have been the case with Laura Alden Kamm and Laura Bruno, mentioned above, who both became medical intuitives after brain trauma. Their neurological symptoms simply abated when they “shamanized”; the symptoms did not seem to be related to the specific content of the psi that was expressed. Conceivably, it is the general release of repressed psi that causes the general reduction in painful symptoms.
The kind of phenomena one might pay closer attention to includes synchronicities (ranging from the minor to the major), precognitive elements in dreams (including precognitions about “unimportant” things), occasional spontaneous hypnagogic visions (closed eye visuals), lucid dream visitations from deceased loved ones (including asking “why now?,” as well as paying closer attention to any messages and symbolism), mistakes or minor accidents, and treating the whole day as one coherent message.
Much of the time, we note these things fleetingly, say “that’s cool,” or “that’s weird,” and then forget them. A little practice with paying more attention to them reveals that they are meatier than they appear at first glance. We will briefly discuss a more substantial approach to synchronicities and to mistakes.
The “A Course in Miracles” teacher Robert Perry (2009) has done a remarkable job of creating an extremely helpful, thought-provoking model of how to scrupulously analyze your own synchronicities and more fully extract the guidance in them. This guidance can easily remain latent or camouflaged unless you have the mind-set and take the trouble to look at the synchronicities more closely.
In his book, “Signs: A new approach to coincidence, synchronicity, guidance, life purpose, and God’s plan, “ Perry focuses on super-synchronicities, which he calls Conjunctions of Meaningfully Parallel Events (CMPEs). His criteria for these super-synchronicities is that the two events occur very close in time (within 12 hours, preferably less), and occur independently. When you look at them more closely, you must be able to identify many parallel features in the two incidents (preferably about eight). Some of these parallels will be likely, some unlikely, and some more general. When, you string together the list of parallels, it will form a narrative (Perry, 2009, pp. 8-10, http://www.semeionpress.com/signs/model.php).
The first incident is called the Subject Situation. It will be something in your life that is “current, uncertain, unresolved, or at least needing confirmation” (Perry, 2009, p.58). The second incident is called the Symbolic Situation. Although it will have a lot of parallels to the first situation, it will also contain new information that illuminates the first situation.
There is often a lot of information in the synchronicity, not just one idea, although there is always a main idea. Two independent raters, trained in this model, should be able to come up with the same main message from the synchronicity, and many of the subsidiary messages as well.
Perry has observed that these super-synchonicities often occur in a series over time. In other words a new pair of synchronous incidents might occur a year later (sometimes on the very same date) that supports and elaborates on the first pair of incidents. Also, although each super-synchronicity is about a specific, current situation in your life, they usually contain more general comments about your life as a whole (Perry, 2009, p. 102).
Perry et al. (2011) recently published a pilot study of his model in Psychiatric Annals, which reported very encouraging, measurable results.
Having strict criteria helps enormously to avoid the potential errors of inflating very small synchronicities or of misinterpreting synchronicities in the direction of our hopes or fears. Following Perry’s rules is great training. Then, you can branch out and more loosely and tentatively apply this way of thinking to lesser synchronicities, and to other psi events in your life.
As you go about your day, errors, mistakes, and glitches can be another way that unconscious psi comes into view. In keeping with our theme of borrowing from and expanding on psychoanalytic ideas, analyzing errors to make psi more conscious can be seen as an extension of the psychoanalytic use of slips of the tongue or parapraxes as a way to reveal the personal unconscious. Also, you might think of mistakes as a kind of negative synchronicity.
The phenomenally innovative and accomplished electronic music composer Kim Cascone (2000) has written about the glitch genre of electronic music, which emerged in the 1990s and continues to evolve. Over time, composers shifted from ruing the glitches or errors produced by electronic and digital equipment to becoming interested in them. Composers began to utilize the spontaneously occurring sounds of technical error. Eventually, they started to create glitches on purpose. You can see how this would lead one to re-think what constitutes “failure and detritus” (Cascone, 2000, http://subsol.c3.hu/subsol_2/contributors3/casconetext.html).
More recently, Cascone (2011) has written a wonderful essay called “Errormancy: Glitch as divination” for an exhibition entitled T0P0L0G1ES by the Art of Failure collective. He explains that, in addition to using glitches as a valuable part of your artistic lexicon, you can also use them for divination. Digital glitches are not only a modern version of the age-old tradition of aleatoricism, or the use of chance, in creative endeavors. They are also non-random, meaningful breakthroughs of information from another part of reality.
Just like earlier divination tools, electronic and digital equipment can act “like a receiver,
carrying bits of wisdom from an a-temporal, non-spatial, non-manifest reality.” The glitch “parasitically uses a system as a conduit for the delivery of unexpected wisdom…” The equipment does not produce these messages on its own; it is a medium through which information arrives. The glitch “can form a brief rupture in the space-time
continuum, shuffling the psychic space of the observer, allowing the artist to establish
a direct link with the supernal realm” (Cascone, 2011).
Furthermore, like Perry, Cascone has observed that you can get a more elaborated message by following a series of glitches over time.
“Glitches can serve as accidental data points…encrypted hieroglyphics. Each successive glitch helps to further define the previous one by steadily sharpening a blurred focus. A cluster of glitches can form an outline, define an area, trace a route through uncharted space. This space is an n-dimensional ‘potential space’ and glitches can be used to navigate this space, seeking unexpected patterns, chance juxtapositions, and unveiling subliminal content” (Cascone, 2011).
He makes the excellent point that the digital artist can easily be swamped by file upon file raw material and revisions. This is true for the rest of us as well. “Navigating this space with glitches can help one discover an essence, a grain hidden in the data – much like a divining rod is used to seek out pockets of water underground. Working with glitches can forge a path through this terrain, outline an approach, formulate an oblique strategy” (Cascone, 2011).
Cascone has made a poetic appeal for the use of errormancy in digital music, but the principle is the same for daily life. Glitches, errors, mistakes, parapraxes of all kinds can be used as another way to make psi more conscious.
iii. Daily life as divination
This discussion of synchronicities and glitches demonstrates how to begin to access unconscious psi, but these guidelines can be abstracted and applied to other elements of one’s daily life – including both events that seem anomalous, and those that simply call your attention. They can also be used to look for overall patterns in a day or an epoch.
Anomalous events include, but are not limited to, precognitive elements in dreams, occasional spontaneous hypnagogic visions (closed eye visuals), lucid dreams, including visitations from deceased loved ones, or minor synchronicities, such as seeing the same uncommon word in three different places in an hour. Events that simply call your attention could be anything. Examples might be a song coming into your head, an image in a magazine fascinating you, or any dream content.
The day, itself, can be treated as unit of meaning that has camouflaged psi within it, as can an epoch of your life, such as the recovery period from neurological damage. This way of thinking is analogous to the psychoanalytic approach of treating one whole therapy session as a single communication, sort of as if it were one dream..
In his chapter on people who have psi more integrated into their lives, Carpenter also mentions the idea of applying a divinatory approach more broadly –
“One particular technique apparently used by several relatively psychic persons I have known might be called ‘serial divination’, by which I mean a process of imagining associations to some inadvertency (say a bit of dream content), and following that by treating those associations as material to question by further imagining associations to those, and so on, all the while avoiding jumping to some conclusion that seems too ‘logical’. Then, finally, one reaches a sense of unanticipated rightness” (Carpenter, 2012, p. 320).
The main idea of daily life as divination is that there is more to be gleaned from looking in a systematic way at the small instances of psi that are breaking through in a chaotic psi opening, and that practicing this systematic attention will make psi progressively more conscious, and that this will lead to symptom reduction and a blossoming of one’s overall development.
This is a very analytic approach, and it will be absolute anathema to some people. There are many other ways to make psi more conscious. This avenue is proposed because it potentially more manageable to people in the deep distress of recent neurological damage, specifically dysautonomia, who cannot tolerate many of the more interpersonal or intensive approaches to psi development. This method is closely tied to what is actually happening in the individual’s day, and can be explored alone, and as slowly as needed. It is also clearly meant for people for whom psi is coming to consciousness in a camouflaged way, as opposed to those more rare individuals who suddenly find themselves with a great deal of unambiguous psi. They have different challenges.
Carpenter’s proposal of the ubiquity of unconscious psi is a crucial contribution to improving our understanding of what is happening in a neurological damage-induced psi opening, and to our brainstorming what to do to help it.
It’s like being born with two perfectly good arms, but you grow up in a culture that says you have no left arm, and if you ever use your left arm as a kid, your family frowns, so you stop using your left arm, and you go through the bulk of your life using only your right arm. You forget you even have a left arm; it atrophies, and you’re even in denial about it being there.
Then one day you get hit by a bolt from the blue in the form of some extreme experience. Your life is turned upside down. You’re sick as a dog. The nerves in your let arm start twitching. Circulation there increases. It may hurt. You sort of remember you have a left arm. You start flexing it. It’s discoordinated from lack of use.
Slowly, you integrate your left arm into your life. Now you’re whole….and now you can do handstands, which you could never do before.
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- LucAugust 16, 2012 at 11:00 PM ”Slowly, you integrate your left arm into your life. Now you’re whole….and now you can do handstands, which you could never do before.” That’s a nice metaphor… And I don’t doubt that it will happen… Reply
- Sheila JoshiAugust 17, 2012 at 3:43 PM Thanks, Luc. It’s hard to keep the faith on both the neuro healing and the psi development when it’s all so chaotic and horrible for so long. There has to be a way to help both more. Hopefully, necessity will be the mother of invention. Reply
Jim CarpenterAugust 27, 2012 at 8:04 AM Dear Dr. Joshi, I am delighted by this essay. Not only do you like my model, you summarize it so well! And the points you raise are very important, I couldn’t agree more. Yes, these sorts of spontaneous assaults are very important and badly misunderstood. And yes, there is a dark side to SSRIs (some especially) that I have seen in my own practice, that most seem to barely acknowledge. I hope you don’t mind — I’ve taken the liberty to link to this paper on my own website. Oops, now that I say that I feel I should’ve asked your permission to do that first, and I apologize for not doing that. Anyway, you are doing fine work here and I’m so glad to see it. Jim Carpenter