[Warning - this is going to be very very long]
Well, I can’t believe I’m going to go out on this limb, especially in a public forum. However, since everyone in this thread has been nice and civil so far…
I believe that psychic abilities of some sort exist, but I am also very skeptical of the vast majority of people who publicly claim to be able to consciously use these “abilities”. There are a lot of cooks and unscrupulous people just out to make a buck in this world. There are also a great number of phenomena that seem psychic/paranormal that can be explained by more mundane means.
We may eventually devise some type of study or measurement that can definitively prove that abilities normally considered “psychic” exist, but I’m not aware of such a test yet. If such powers exist, and they are anything like some currently accepted “scientific” concepts like quantum physics, where the mere act of observing an experiment can affect the outcome (i.e. Schroedinger’s Cat), I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to prove or disprove psychic powers to the masses. (Like the naked guy in Mystery Men who could only disappear if nobody was looking :eek: )
My personal belief that certain psychic abilities are possible stem from a few first-hand experiences I’ve had. Like most experiences of this sort that people report, they have been vague enough, or questionable enough that skeptics can easily dismiss them or explain them away as coincidence or hallucination (or hey, maybe I’m just nuts! :D). For me, it has been the combination of different things that have happened rarely, but often enough over the years to give me pause more than any one specific event. I don’t really expect anyone to just take my word for it and say, “Oh, well that settles it.”, so I’m just offering this for anyone looking for more opinions. Some of the things I’ve experienced/seen (or think I’ve experienced/seen) I cannot easily explain through commonly accepted scientific principles. To be honest, I can’t explain what the psychic mechanism behind them would be either (but I have a few theories).
So here are brief descriptions of two of the “weird” things I’ve experienced:
#1: Scary dream with too many “coincidences” for me to ignore
Six years ago I was a senior at Purdue University (Go Boilers!). My wife and I were living at an apartment complex off campus. I had a dream one morning that went something like this:
I was walking along the street and passed an alley between two buildings. I looked down the alley and saw a man with a shotgun holding three people at gunpoint. I saw white powder in bags, and “knew” (you know how that happens in dreams) that it was cocaine. I ran into the building on one side of the alley, and found that I was in my old dormitory at Purdue, Tarkington Hall (I stayed there my first two years of college). I ran to a phone on the wall and tried to call the police, but the phone was dead. I then ran up the stairs and tried the phone on the wall on the second floor - it was dead too. I ran up one more flight of stairs into room 3xx (I forget the exact room number now) and tried the phone there. It worked, so I dialed 911. I yelled to the operator that there was a man in the alley holding people at gunpoint, and for whatever reason (I recall thinking that they would be able to ID the location of the phone) left the phone off the hook and ran to a window at the end of the hall that overlooked the alley. The man had already shot and killed the three people, and then turned the gun on himself and blew his own head off. Then I woke up.
This dream was realistic and startling enough to stand out from normal dreams I have. It had enough of an impact on me that I actually woke my wife up and told her about it in the same detail as above. I went to class, and came home later in the afternoon. When I turned on the TV, they were showing live footage of a hostage situation on campus. They had evacuated Wiley Hall. It is important to note here that Wiley is built right next to Tarkington. They are twin buildings built from the same plans. As I watched, police fired tear gas through a window and entered the building. After everything had settled down, here’s what came out: a student had been turned in by his floor counselor for cocaine possession. He apparently left the dorm before being apprehended, and came back with a shotgun. He shot and killed the counselor who had turned him in, and then blew his own head off in his room. It was the exact same room number (3xx) as in my dream.
Now, I realize that the dream and reality did not match up perfectly, but there were enough matches that it freaked me out for a good long time. It happened later in the same day, I recognized the building (or its twin anyway), the weapon used was a shotgun, an innocent was killed because of cocaine, the perpetrator blew his own head off, and it happened in the same room number that appeared in my dream. I might be more inclined to dismiss this as mere chance if I frequently had dreams involving any of the above subjects, but I don’t. Add that to the fact that I awoke uneasy enough to wake my wife up and tell her, and it’s enough to convince me that SOMETHING weird had happened. Of course, like I said, a closed-minded skeptic can easily dismiss this, or simply doubt my honesty, so it’s certainly not proof of anything.
#2: Now I see him, now I don’t… Oh wait, now I do
While at Purdue, I was a member of a martial arts club and trained very regularly. For those unfamiliar with the idea, many martial arts contain beliefs of one type or another that one’s spirit/energy is refined through rigorous training of the body (and sometimes abilities that some might consider psychic are gained as a result). Part of the idea is that one’s spirit/energy should optimally move with one’s intention. Most martial arts don’t spend much time dwelling on those concepts though.
At the point this happened, I was teaching most of the classes (not because I was that skilled or anything – more for lack of anyone better in the area at the time). I was at a class one night that was being taught by my senior student. We were practicing a technique that most people were not getting the hang of. This was mostly due to the fact that people were training in a half-assed manner without much focus or intention (the attacks were poor, and therefore the defenses could be sloppy too). The instructor was getting frustrated with the students’ lack of focus, and decided to demonstrate the technique again at a more realistic speed and power. So to set the scene for you visually, I was supposed to attack him (with a punch to the head), and he was planning to step to one side or the other, and do something dastardly and painful to me.
Since he wanted realistic, I threw the punch with the intention of knocking his head off. If that sounds a bit extreme, try to realize that anything less would have been robbing him of the opportunity (and incentive :)) to respond as realistically as possible. Anyway, I trusted that he’d move in time to keep from getting killed, so I let it rip. Now the whole thing only took a fraction of a second, but about halfway through my punch, I saw him move to the side (his left, my right) out of the way of my punch. As quick as this was happening, I still had time to think to myself that he’d blown it. He had moved WAY too early – as fast as I was going, I’d still have had time to adjust and track him. He should have been moving at the last possible instant so I could not follow him. For the sake of the demonstration, I just kept the punch headed for where his head originally was (remember again that this was all in a split second). Just as my fist was about to get to where his head started out, he was right back in front of me! I literally saw the “him” to the side disappear and blink right back to where he originally was – then the real “him” (who had never really moved at all) stepped neatly out of the way just in time – right back to where I had “seen” him go a fraction of a second earlier. This startled me so much that he couldn’t finish the technique because I had started to fall backwards from the surprise.
To recap in case I wasn’t clear: I threw the punch, “saw” him move way too early, then “saw” him disappear and reappear where he had started just in time to really step out of the way at the right moment. Everyone watching assured me that he had only moved once, and had never disappeared/reappeared anywhere. Within the context of the spirit/energy thinking of the art, I guess one explanation is that he was so intent on what he was planning to do ahead of time (that’s a big no-no), that I “saw” what his intention was before he actually did it. Who knows? Again, while it is easy to dismiss as any number of things, I know what I saw – or at least what I think I saw. I also certainly know how startled I felt – something that has only happened one other time to such a degree in the 10 years I’ve studied the art. It was just one more thing that leads me to believe that there is SOMETHING going on.
Like I said before, these types of things have happened rarely (or I’ve only noticed them rarely), but often enough to be more than statistical anomalies. All the usual discalimers apply – I’m not given to hallucinations, don’t use drugs, wasn’t drinking, etc. I’m perfectly open to the idea that these things and others I haven’t mentioned can be explained through various scientifically acceptable means, but at this point I think I would be stretching just as much to do so. Who knows what really happened? It’s certainly not enough to prove anything to anybody else (even if they believe me), but it’s enough for me to keep an open mind. Sorry to take up so much white space, and thanks for reading. (BTW: if you read this whole thing, you are obviously a masochist and should seek help. ;))