Every minute of everyday, someone somewhere is asking questions ranging from medicine to food. As humans, we worry about language and how it becomes sound, the countless interactions of different fields -quantum mechanics, neurophysics, neurosurgery, psychology – and how they affect us. We seek to address significant health issues like diabetes, asthma, obesity, headaches, depression and anxiety, gastrointestinal problems, Alzheimer’s disease, substance abuse, and HIV/AIDS.
We go even further in trying to understand ghosts, poltergeists, telepathy, demons, and a host of others? Now, why is this so? Why are we affected by realities that cannot be seen, the same way we see an injured person, or a hungry person or a disabled? Why should we be interested in paranormal behaviours?
These inquiries, come from people who have endured a severe acne on their bodies or a turbulence in their minds. They have seen a friend, a relative, a spouse, a sibling, a child, or even themselves, suffer incredible torments from uncommon diseases. This is one reason
we should be concerned about neuroscience and diseases like radiculopathy, neuropathy, visual snow, stroke, dementia, seizures, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, Tourette’s syndrome, multiple sclerosis, head trauma, sleep disorders, and neuro-muscular diseases.
How The Unseen Affects Us
Most persons know Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890) as the half crazed, earless, suicidal painter of Sunflowers or Starry Night or as the touched and touching subject of Don MacLean’s 1970 pop ballad “Vincent” (“Starry, Starry Night”). Few however realize that Van Gogh spent the early years of his adult life as a missionary evangelist, radically committed to Jesus Christ, as he saw him in the coal miners working the dreary mines of Borinage, Belgium. Van Gogh identified himself with the poor and gave away his food, clothing, and possessions as the natural overflow of sharing the gospel (Al Kresta, “Dangers to the Faith,” Huntington; Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, 2013: 11).
“Those who walk in the darkness, in the centre of the earth like the miners,” are more “impressed by the words of the Gospel” than those who do not face such dark conditions” (Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh, Laeken, November 15, 1878).
Not only did Van Gogh, the artist, see and paint the world differently, but he saw people differently (Catherine Claire Larson, 2008: 125 – 126). He did not see people as they were but rather as they might be. “I prefer painting people’s eyes rather than cathedrals, for there is something in the eyes that is not in the cathedral – a human soul, be it that of a poor beggar or a street walker”(Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh, Antwerp, c. December 19, 1885). C. S. Lewis said something similar: “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal…Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses” (C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, New York: HarperCollins, orig. 1949, rep. 1980.: 46).
Parapsychologists usually claim there is a good deal of evidence in favour of the existence of the soul. Even in their claims towards reincarnation, they brought about two pieces of alleged evidence namely: past-life regressions and cases of children who apparently remember past lives. Under hypnosis, some patients frequently have regressions and remember events from their childhood. But, some patients have gone even further and, allegedly, have vivid memories of past lives. (Karl Sclotterbeck, “Living Your Past Lives: The Psychology of Past-Life Regression,” Iuniverse, 2003). However, past-life regression, some others have noted, may be cases of cryptomnesia, that is, hidden memories. A person may have a memory, and yet not recognize it as such.
During the heyday of Spiritualism (the religious movement that sought to make contact with the dead), some mediums gained prominence for their reputed abilities to contact the dead. These mediums were of two kinds: physical mediums invoked spirits that, allegedly, produced physical phenomena (for example, lifting tables); and mental mediums whose bodies, allegedly, were temporarily possessed by spirits. William James, the American Pragmatist philosopher, was impressed by one such medium, Leonara Piper, and although he remained somewhat skeptical, he finally endorsed the view that Piper in fact made contact with the dead. However, most scholars believe that mental mediums work through the technique of ‘cold reading’: they ask friends and relatives of a decease person questions at a fast pace, and infer from their body language and other indicators, information about the deceased person (cf. Martin Gardner, “Are Universes Thicker Than Blackberries?” W.W.Norton, 2003).
Quantum physics has even more concretized this innate desire of all people to search for the unseen reality. This is one science that brings again to bear that old argument that the Universe is not just material after all. From the stars to the galaxies, to space and time and even on earth, there are as yet immaterial entities. We have all experienced this through our use of the computer, automated teller machines, codes, laser, x-rays, and so on. These new voyage in, and of science, is said to birthe such questions as “how could we be so wrong about something familiar?” Yes. Familiar phenomena like, electrons, protons, neutrons, atoms, molecules and consciousness, as well as psychological and neurological diseases of all kinds. These studies in quantum physics, have now exhumed the fact that the atoms present in us is also present in another person, in a star and in another universe.
Why Should We Care?
Stacy Horn, the author of “Unbelievable,” in an interview with the “Popular Science” magazine, edited by Catherine Schwanke, March 19, 2009, noted that paranormal phenomena (like ghosts, poltergeists, telepathy) can be indeed considered scientific. This is the case because, it also involves “establishing an experiment, refining controls and using statistical methods to analyze the results.” The consequences of this conclusion implies that, what we had considered to be ‘unseen science,’ can actually be accessed and its data collated. Nonetheless, we particularly live in a century and at a world that searches for meaning. Ironically, this search for meaning is rooted mostly in empirical evidence – the kind that is only tested or proven in the laboratory. The place of the abstract, the unseen, the immaterial, the unfelt and the unperceived is looked at, or approached with either disgust or reprove.
Our scientific knowledge would seem to suggest that the physical world is inanimate, purposeless, yet determined or fixed in the order of events within it.
The mental world, on the other hand, involves consciousness, planning, willing, desiring, and so on, yet, though these worlds may be different in many respects, our experience appears to indicate that they are interrelated or interconnected. When something happens in the physical world, this affects the mental world and may change one’s thoughts, wishes, and other factors. Similarly, a desire that one may have, can alter events in the physical world, as when one decides to strike a match. This decision, an event in the mental world, is then followed by a physical event of a match being struck and a flame being lit (cf. Richard H Popkin and Avrum Stroll (1993), ed., “Philosophy Made Simple”2nd Edition, Doubleday: Bantam Doubleday Dell publishing Group, pg. 108). We cannot afford to sit and watch how our lives unfold this way and not desire understanding.
Written By David Francis