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Anomalies of consciousness: Indian perspectives and research.

Eastern and Western Traditions

In the Western scientific tradition, consciousness is considered to be localized and bound to individual cortical structures and to therefore have no existence independent of the brain. It is assumed to be self-evident that to have awareness of a physical event or a material object without being in sensory contact with that event or object is impossible and that it is also impossible for the mind/consciousness to cause any changes in the material world other than changes in one's own brain (Broad, 1953). These assumptions rule out the possibility (a) that consciousness can survive bodily death; (b) that one can have information about objects and events that are shielded from his or her senses; and (c) that mind/consciousness can directly influence external objects or events.

There is growing scientific evidence to suggest the possibility of acquiring information that is apparently received independently of our sensory processes, as in extrasensory perception (ESP), and of direct action of mind over matter independent of our motor system as in psychokinesis (PK) (K. R. Rao & Palmer, 1987). Also, there are a number of cases in which a person has claimed to remember events in a previous life (Stevenson, 1974, 1975, 1984). Clearly all these phenomena are inconsistent with the Western scientific worldview. Therefore, they are regarded as anomalous.

From the perspective of Indian tradition, these phenomena are not anomalies of consciousness. Consciousness is not conceived as local and specific to a cortical structure. Individual streams of phenomenal consciousness emerge from and merge into an immense ocean of pure consciousness. Even the purusha (the Yoga concept of individual consciousness) in its multiple forms is nonlocal and without distinctions. It is unaffected by time-space, cause-effect constraints. Most of the classical systems of Indian thought, including Buddhistic and Jaina, regard ESP or yogic perception as a valid source of knowledge. In fact, procedures to develop ESP and other means of acquiring what appear to be super-normal abilities are described in some detail in the Indian tradition. The third chapter of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras is devoted to a discussion of these phenomena. References to the acquisition of extraordinary abilities through ascetic practices are found in the Vedas and Upanishads. Yoga Vasistha, an ancient Sanskrit yogic text, contains numerous illustrative stories of a variety of yogic abilities and supernormal experiences, as well as the psychological, mental, and spiritual practices necessary for developing them (Atreya, 1954).

Theoretical Studies

I have previously reviewed Indian theories of yogic perception (K. R. Rao, 1957). In addition, Sinha devotes a chapter on supernormal perception in volume one of his Indian Psychology (Sinha, 1958). The NyayaVaisesika thinkers regarded what we now call ESP as essentially perception obtained directly by the mind. Whereas in normal perception the cognition of an object is mediated by our senses, in supernormal or yogic perception the mind (manas) functions independently of the peripheral organs. ESP is considered somewhat analogous to memory. S. P. Mythili (1982) discussed the ideas of classical Indian thinkers concerning memory nonlocalized in time and space. Jayantha Bhatta, in his Nyayamanjari for example, describes precognition as perception of a future object that comes into one's awareness via memory. The Samkhya school similarly holds yogic perception to be mediated directly by the mind without the senses. According to Samkhya, one can potentially perceive objects distant and far in space and time because of the connection of the mind with the prakriti, which is the ground of all material existence. However, the tamas component of the prakriti acts as a veil that can be removed in normal perceptions by the contact of the sense organs with the objects. In yogic perception, the yogin, through meditation, acquires the ability to pierce through the veil of tamas so that the mind can make direct contact with the objects.

Paranjpe (1982) suggested that yoga offers a theory of pre- and retro-cognition that is, in principle, testable. He points out that according to the law of karma all events are lawfully governed, which means that they are in principle predictable. Past events leave traces that can be the source of information about them. Future events can be predicted if one has access to present conditions leading to them. These traces and implicit conditions are accessible only to those who are able to achieve higher levels of concentration by practicing disciplines such as meditation. Inasmuch as the steps to be taken for achieving the higher states of consciousness are meticulously described, it is possible to test the yogic theory. In fact, there is some evidence that meditation may help to enhance psychic abilities (K. R. Rao, Dukhan, & P. V. K. Rao, 1984).

Unlike many who write on yoga uncritically glorifying its virtues, Emilio Servadio (1966), an Italian psychologist who lived in India for many years, presents a very balanced view emphasizing the complementarity of psychoanalysis and yoga. According to him, they both aim at dissolving a world of delusions and seek to make us better aware of the true nature of reality. In an unconcealed jibe at the over-enthusiastic yoga promoters, Servadio writes, "Most of the people who wish to take up yoga are also neurotics, in the clinical sense of the word, who would do better to seek help from psychoanalysis than to crouch on a mat everyday and try to achieve pranayama, or meditation".

There are a number of other publications that have discussed the relevance of yoga to parapsychology (Atreya, 1964; Dosajh, 1963; Joshi, 1964; Sampurnand, 1961-1962; Vedantasastri, 1959). They are generally of an inspirational kind. Here and there we find mentioned some significant connections between them; but there are seldom any specific suggestions or hypotheses that could be subjected to experimental testing. A special issue of the Research Journal of Philosophy and Social Sciences (Oct., 1963) was devoted to parapsychology and yoga. The majority of the contributors were from Western countries and only a few of the articles had anything to say about yoga. The articles that have some relevance for yoga and parapsychology are by B. L. Atreya (1963), H. N. Banerjee (1963), J. C. Crumbaugh (1963), I. J. Good (1963), R. C. Pandey (1963), G. Zorab (1963), R. N. Sharma, the editor of the journal (1963), and R. J. Singh (1963).

T. G. Kalghatgi (1960) and Ramjee Singh (1964) discussed parapsychological ideas in Jainism. Houston Smith (1966) discussed parapsychology in Indian tradition and its importance in the promise it holds for self-transcendence. Jamuna Prasad (1973) wrote: "Parapsychology in India has a long past but a brief history". He was referring to the relatively recent attempts at scientifically studying parapsychological phenomena despite the belief in them from time immemorial. The first book on modern parapsychology was published in India by B. L. Atreya (1957), in the form of a collection of his popular articles on this subject. In the same year, I published Psi Cognition (1957), in which I discussed evidence for psi (ESP and PK), the attempts to explain it in the West, and the Indian theories of supernormal perception. I later published Experimental Parapsychology: A Review and Interpretation (1966). A collection of my lectures on parapsychology given at the University of Mysore appeared in 1972.

Chari's Contributions

C. T. K. Chad of Madras Christian College was, of course, the one who made outstanding contributions to the philosophy of parapsychology. Although he was known primarily for his informed and analytical comments on a host of parapsychological issues ranging from reincarnation to quantum theories of psi, Chari's early interests included field studies and empirical data collection (Chari, 1959). The results, however, were largely negative, confirming once again that the widespread anecdotal evidence for the paranormal popularized in the media does not withstand close scientific scrutiny.

Among the parapsychological phenomena, it was precognition that fascinated Chaff most. His first article in a psychical research journal was on precognition (Chari, 1951). In that article he took issue with C. W. K. Mundle, who had raised the question of whether precognition could be explained by a combination of PK and nonprecognitive ESP. Chari had grave misgivings about the notion that time is ordered linearly with postulated "betweenness" among instants. "I venture to suggest," Chari wrote, "that in working out a theory of precognition, the conception of a time the instants of which are all linearly ordered may have to be abandoned" (Chari, 1951) Chad had more sympathy for Salt-marsh's concept of "specious present." He felt that spontaneous cases of the precognition type "lend support to the hypothesis that telepathic interaction occurs between 'subliminal selves' with 'extended specious presents'".

Quantum physics was another of Chari's major interests. He dealt with the perplexities of quantum mechanics in a paper he published in the Philosophical Quarterly. In an article in the Journal of Parapsychology (Chari, 1956), he examined the suggestions of Pascual Jordan and Henry Margenau that quantum mechanics may provide fruitful models for understanding psi phenomena, and he concluded that quantum mechanics does not offer "much interpretative aid to parapsychology." The issues about time, precognition, and intervention raised by parapsychological data, he argued, are inconsistent with any current physical formulation. He reiterated the same view in a later article (Chari, 1972) by saying that "all attempts to crack the fiddles of psychical research by relying on quantum mechanics are, for the present, premature and hazardous". In another paper, Chaff (1978) wrote an extensive critique of Walker's quantum-mechanical theory of consciousness.

In an earlier article, Chari (1966) discussed the relevance of information-theoretic approaches to ESP. Although he noted six ways in which information theory can be a useful tool for psi research, Chad despaired at its inability to shed any light on precognition. According to him, the metaphysically noncommittal attitude of communication theory to the mind-body problem is its supreme advantage.

Chad speculated that ESP may be analogous to moral sense, or sense of humor, or to religiosity, which is extremely sensitive to psychological variables. "ESP," he wrote, "may indeed involve neurophysical correlates, but these may not serve to explain its modus operandi. ESP may be a direct (noninferential) knowledge of certain contemporary or noncontemporary (past or future) states in the world, attained without the operation of any sense organ or physiological mechanism"

Chaff (1974) suggested that the challenge of psi calls for a new physics and a new biology. He insisted that "there is no known physicalistic theory that covers, even in principle, the manifold aspects of psi". Therefore, "instead of asking whether present-day physics can contribute to a new understanding of psi, it may be more profitable for us to ask whether psi can hint at some reinterpretation of present-day physical theory". Pointing out that the issues raised by parapsychological data go beyond the reductionism vs. nonreductionism debate, Chari suggests that "parapsychology has to do with problems which are more fundamental and far-reaching than the much debated 'mind-body' identity".

Chari shared Rhine's views on the question of survival. He wrote:

It is fallacious to represent ESP and survival as necessarily exclusive and rival hypotheses, even though it is true that most survival data could be comfortably accommodated by a rightly-conceived ESP functioning in the life-setting. Survival, if it is not a solipsistic dream-state, presupposes a very comprehensive ESP. It is safe to say that until explicit solutions to the more compelling problems of 'psi physics' and 'psi biology' have been spelled out, the problem of human survival cannot be posed effectively for science and philosophy, let alone solved. We need, as Rhine ... has said with prophetic wisdom, a science of the total man. (Chari)

The issues relating to the survival of human personality after death and reincarnation were of special interest to Chari. I know he had many questions about the reported cases suggestive of reincarnation. I persuaded him to write a comprehensive article detailing his ideas and concerns on research in this area. He agreed to do such an article. It is unfortunate that he passed away without giving us his final thoughts on this important subject. I believe, however, that the following sentences from his article in Wolman's Handbook of Parapsychology indicate the direction of his thinking:

Reincarnation, if it occurs on anything like a major scale, is a thinly disguised Lamarckism. The hypothesis demands that the habits, the memories, and even the scars on the bodies, which were acquired by individuals in historically earlier times, are transmitted to later generations by their 'surviving egos' being reborn in large numbers. There seems no way, either in modern molecular biology or in quantum-mechanical versions of it, of allowing reincarnating egos to influence genetic information systems directly. (Chari, 1977)

Beginnings of Systematic Studies

Clearly the attempts to scientifically investigate psychic phenomena in the West did not go unnoticed by contemporary Indian thinkers. S. Radhakrishnan keenly followed the investigations of the Society for Psychical Research and the early work of J. B. Rhine. When he was the Vice-Chancellor of Andhra University, the university library acquired a respectable collection of books on psychical research, including the Proceedings of the SPR. It is this collection of books that inspired some of us to enter the field. When I met Radhakrishnan, then Vice-President of India, and presented him with a copy of my book Psi Cognition, he expressed his happiness that I was interested in parapsychology, which he thought had a great relevance to the Indian context. T. M. P. Mahadevan, a highly respected Vedanta scholar, spoke about psychical research and the Indian approach to it in his presidential address to the Indian Philosophical Congress in 1955.

There have been numerous anecdotal accounts of poltergeist activity in India. Thurston (1953) has a chapter full of Indian haunting episodes in his Ghosts and Poltergeists. Carrington and Fodor (1951) also refer to poltergeist cases in India. Chari (1959) tells us about his investigations of a girl who claimed to produce apports in the shape of birds, and a woman who was known to produce silver idols of gods in a paranormal way; and he mentions his inability to confirm any of the claims that came to his notice. There are also cases of water divining in India (West, 1954). But Chari (1959) says, "I must point out that in my own studies of Pogsen's feats [those reported in West's book] I have found no evidence of experimental checks, statistical analysis, or other scientific methods that would confirm his claims to the satisfaction of the most sympathetic parapsychologists, physicists, or engineers".

Some empirical research inspired by J. B. Rhine's publication of Extra-Sensory Perception (1934) began in the early forties at Mysore University by a well-respected psychologist, M. V. Gopalaswamy, who used some mechanical devices for psi testing and attempted to study sex differences in psi scoring. His successor at Mysore, Kuppuswamy, also carried out some experimental studies. In one study he attempted to test possible differences in ESP scoring among the literate and illiterate populations of Mysore (Chari, 1959; Kanthamani, 1971). Chari (1959) also tells us about the experiments he and his students were doing to test precognition. Regrettably, the results of these studies were never published.

H. N. Banerjee did much to popularize parapsychology in India by publishing numerous articles and issuing frequent news releases in the print media. He also established and edited the Indian Journal of Parapsychology and organized a number of symposia on parapsychology at several national level conferences. He first operated as the Director of the Seth Sohan Lal Memorial Institute of Parapsychology in Ganganagar, Rajasthan, and later moved to the University of Rajasthan in Jaipur. He published several reports of reincarnation cases and some ESP experiments. Following criticisms of his research (K. R. Rao, 1964) and later when his unit at the University of Rajasthan was closed and the Indian Journal of Parapsychology ceased publication, the publicity he helped to generate had in a significant sense backfired and dampened the interest in parapsychology among the Indian academics. However, by then Ian Stevenson's work on reincarnation cases in India had progressed sufficiently, steps had been taken to establish a department of parapsychology at Andhra University by the University Grants Commission, and a number of younger Indian parapsychologists had been trained at Duke University under the guidance of J. B. Rhine, and India was ready to begin serious systematic research into psychic phenomena. Since then, Indian scientists have made significant contributions to parapsychology, both at the level of field studies and laboratory research. The field studies in India have been devoted mostly to reincarnation research with few exceptions, such as a survey of psychic experience on school-going children in Uttar Pradesh (Prasad & Stevenson, 1968), studies of so-called "god men" (Haraldsson, 1987), death-bed observations (Osis & Haraldsson, 1977), and some cases of "possession."

Indian contributions to the study of anomalies of consciousness may be considered from more than one perspective. One perspective is from the actual research carried out in India by Indians. This can be extended to include the work done in India by scientists from other countries. Another perspective is to consider the research carried out by Indian scientists without regard to their place of work. The third perspective is to focus on Indian models and concepts that inspired research world-wide, and not necessarily on research carried out by Indians or in India. For example, Charles Honorton, like several other psi researchers, was inspired by Patanjali's Yoga Sutras in his work on internal attention states. The present review does not include the studies from the third perspective, even though they constitute an important aspect of Indian parapsychology.

Field Studies

Spontaneous Case Studies

In a major project to study ESP among school-going children, Prasad and Stevenson (1968) administered, among other things, a questionnaire that sought to learn the frequency of contemporary and precognitive psychic experiences. The subjects, aged between 11 and 13, were eighth-grade students in 31 government higher secondary schools. All the students in the classes were required to participate. Out of the total number of 2,494 boys and girls, 900 (or 36.1%) reported experiences suggestive of ESP. This percentage of people reporting ESP experiences is much larger than, and in fact about three times as high as, comparable percentages reported in Western surveys. There were obvious differences between the subjects in the Indian and Western samples: The Indian sample consisted of "captive" participants, who were children limited to a narrow age group, unlike the subjects in the Western surveys, who voluntarily reported their experiences and were much older. Despite these differences, there are several common features between the groups. As in the Western surveys, the Indian survey showed that (a) ESP occurrences came more often in the form of dreams and waking intuitive experiences; (b) there was a high incidence of death and illness in these reports; and (c) very often close relatives were involved.

"Possession" Cases

Harper (1964) reported that 10 to 20 percent of women sampled in South India belonging to a subset of Brahmins were believed to have been possessed by a spirit at some time in their lives. The event of "spirit possession," it is observed, wins attention, prestige, and a deferential treatment that such a woman could not otherwise attain for herself.

Freed and Freed (1966) did an interesting study of spirit possession in a North Indian village. Their extensive two-week study of a young bride and several others in Shanti Nagar near Delhi revealed that spirit possession is very much an illness, resembling hysteria, that may occur when difficulties in the family situation are experienced and the expectations of mutual aid and support are low. The investigators point out: "The primary gain of an attack of spirit possession is to relieve the individual's intrapsychic tension; secondary gains include attention, sympathy, influencing relatives, and other manipulations of the individual's current situation". Chandrashekar et al. (1982) investigated an epidemic of spirit possession in a South Indian school and concluded that the phenomena were due to cultural expectations and learned behavior. Because some who claimed possession were rewarded, other children simulated the behavior.

Near-Death Experiences

Osis and Haraldsson (1977) carried out a pioneering survey of deathbed observations of physicians and nurses working in Indian hospitals. They were assisted by Indian psychologists Jamuna Prasad and Parmashwar Dayal, among others. The survey consisted of face-to-face contact with over 700 physicians and nurses who were asked about their observations concerning hallucinations of persons or surroundings by dying patients, including patients who were close to death but who recovered. They were also asked about mood elevations, such as heightened sense of happiness or serenity of dying patients. Osis and Haraldsson reported that their survey showed that in 319 cases, the dying patients (whether dead or recovered) saw hallucinations of persons, and in 48 cases they had hallucinatory visions of surroundings (not persons). Also there were 68 cases in which a rise of mood to serenity was noted.

A comparison of the results of the Indian survey with those obtained in two earlier studies by Osis in the United States showed a good deal of consistency among them. The apparitions, for example, exhibited a predominant "take-away" purpose in all three surveys. Among the other commonalities between the Indian and American surveys: (a) The duration of the experience was short, as in an ESP experience; (b) the apparitions were seen coming from another world; (c) the apparitions of persons were usually of relatives; (d) most patients appeared ready to "go" to the other world; and (e) the most frequent emotional response was one of peace and serenity and religious experience. There are, however, some differences that Osis and Haraldsson attribute to cultural influences. For example, a significant minority of Indian patients refused to "go" (that is, to die) whereas in the American sample almost all of them were ready to "go." In the American cases, most apparitions portrayed the dead, whereas in the Indian cases, most apparitions portrayed religious figures.

Pasricha and Stevenson (1986) reported sixteen cases of near-death experience (NDE) in India. Western studies of such experience indicate unusual cognitive and emotional outcomes when people experience a close brush with death and are revived. A comparison of Indian cases with American cases revealed some commonalities and some differences. The common features include seeing deceased relatives, "beings of light," and religious figures. Unlike their American counterparts, the Indian subjects felt that they were taken to the other world by messengers, that they went to a "man with a book," and that they were sent back because of a mistake.

In a survey of near-death experiences in India, which consisted of interviewing 645 people in four villages in Karnataka with an estimated population of 6,430, Pasricha (1993) found 18 people who were revived after being close to death or even were believed to be dead. Of the 18 such people, NDEs were reported among 13. Therefore, Pasricha estimates that two in one thousand of the population may have an NDE. Her analyses of these cases essentially confirm the findings reported earlier by Pasricha and Stevenson (1986).

The main problem with surveys such as this, including the one by Osis and Haraldsson, is that it is difficult not to influence the respondents' answers in subtle ways even when the interviewer is aware of the problem of biasing their responses. Respondents tend to give answers the investigators expect. Therefore, cross-cultural research by the same investigators who have prior expectations must involve tight controls against what may be called respondent's conformance behavior.

V. Krishnan made some important theoretical observations on near-death experiences. First, he critically examined near-death experiences as evidence for survival of consciousness beyond physical death (Krishnan, 1985). Second, he made empirically verifiable suggestions for understanding out-of-body vision (Krishnan, 1988, 1993). Pointing out that out-of-body experiences tend to occur under conditions of sensory deprivation, Krishnan suggests that out-of-body vision may be a way of satisfying the need for information or stimulation and it may be "useful therefore to investigate whether sensory deprivation, or the stress that it causes, has biochemical or other concomitants that can alter receptor sensitivity" (1993).

Miracle Makers

India is known in the West as much for its "god men" as for the legendary rope trick. When I first came to the United States, thirty-six years ago, people used to ask me about the rope trick. Now they ask me about Satya Sai Baba. In India itself, there is a growing number of "god men" and alleged miracle makers who have a huge following, not only among the masses, but also among the cultural and political elite. Therefore, one would think, parapsychologists here have a tremendous opportunity to discover a lot of useful information. Regrettably, there is very little by way of a systematic investigation of the phenomena associated with "god men."

In the seventies, I spent a considerable amount of time searching for yogins, swamis, or anyone who claimed to produce psychic phenomena in a reliable manner. The search brought a lot of anecdotal information about the alleged observation of miracles; and we were able to identify several persons associated with them. A few of them agreed to cooperate with us. I had personally visited them and sought to observe in their natural setting any paranormal phenomena that might manifest. To my disappointment I did not encounter any phenomena I could classify as paranormal. I enjoyed meeting most of them. Many of them were gracious and generous with their time. There were, however, three who tried to produce the phenomena for me. My observations convinced me that they were using sleight-of-hand tricks in a somewhat crude manner I could easily detect.

Along with S. Parthasarathy of S.V. University, I visited a well-known god man in Madras, who was highly recommended to us by a well-educated and highly regarded long-time friend of mine in whose judgment I had a lot of confidence. According to my friend, this swami materialized a number of things and some of them occurred in his presence. It took Parthasarathy and me just a few minutes to unambiguously observe the Swami's sleight-of-hand "materializations" and "dematerializations." For example, he took my ring and "dematerialized" it. But I knew it was under the pillow by his side. After a few minutes of diversion he asked me to stretch my hand and open my palm; and I knew what to expect. As his hand went under the pillow I quickly grabbed it with my other hand. He forcefully pushed my hand away and placed my ring in my outstretched palm. Many of the devotees gasped with utter amazement at the "materialization" of the ring which a few minutes ago was made to "disappear" by the Swami. Parthasarathy saw what I saw, and the swami knew that I had caught him with his trick. He became emotional and was no longer cordial to us. Even my friend who earlier believed in the genuineness of the Swami's miracles was completely disillusioned. When asked why he did not see the simple tricks before, he said that it never crossed his mind that a swami who is worshipped as holy would cheat.

I did not investigate Sri Satya Sai Baba, though I did try to work with him. I went to Puttaparthi and Whitefield near Bangalore hoping to investigate the Baba. I even sought the good offices of Gokak, whom I knew. At the time, he was working as a kind of secretary to Sai Baba. All this was of no avail. Finally Gokak said, "Baba knows everything; if he wants to work with you, he will come to you." Of course, this has not happened as of yet.

Some of my Western colleagues have been luckier: Haraldsson and Osis were able to visit with him, to observe firsthand some phenomena, and to discuss with him face-to-face the nature of his abilities. After many visits to India, Haraldsson (1987) published a book on the miracles of Satya Sai Baba. It is clear from the book and the conversations I had with Haraldsson and Osis that they were impressed. Haraldsson's book refers to a number of ostensible materializations and a host of alleged paranormal phenomena such as healing, precognition, mind-reading, and many other anomalies. Haraldsson recognizes that his observations would have been considerably strengthened if Baba had produced any phenomena under controlled conditions. However, Baba could not be persuaded to participate in any controlled study.

One argument in favor of the genuineness of the Baba phenomena is that they are so abundant and have lasted for so long without anyone catching Baba at his tricks. It is suggested that none of his critics has ever produced any tangible or plausible evidence of any deception on Baba's part. We may therefore infer that the phenomena may be genuine, so goes the argument.

There are, of course, allegations of fraud. The most recent one is the "expose" in the Deccan Chronicle, an English daily published from Hyderabad. According to the paper's account, Baba was caught on a TV camera receiving a gold chain from an accomplice when the Baba made it appear that he materialized it from nowhere. Later on there were scandals in his ashram. It was alleged that an attempt was made on his life. His assistant was murdered and the assailants were shot dead by the police, even though from all accounts the police could easily have apprehended them alive. These events must be somewhat unsettling for those who believe in the Baba phenomena on grounds that they were not exposed as spurious. It must be pointed out, however, that I saw no evidence that unambiguously indicated deception. The newspaper pictures are not sufficiently clear. We have obtained a copy of the video taken at the time of Sai Baba's "materializing" the gold chain. While one can note some unusual movement of Baba's hands under the trophy, the video does not unambiguously establish that Sai Baba received the chain from his assistant. Regarding Baba's materializations, Grosso (1990) writes, "The man is either an imposter or a thaumaturge" (p. 376). Regrettably, we still do not know which.

Reincarnation Studies

That death is not the end is a matter of faith shared by many in India. Reincarnation is a living belief for a good majority of Indians. The doctrine of karma and rebirth is one of the pervasive themes of Indian thought. From the time of the Vedas and the Upanishads through the development of various systems of Hindu philosophy and those that opposed them, like Jainism and Buddhism, reincarnation is something that is taken for granted.

Vedas refer to a variety of ritual practices, sacrifices that were originally offered to propitiate gods. In due course, these became ends in themselves, sometimes more important than the gods invoked. Sacrifices were regarded as possessing mystical potency, which came to be called karma. Karma is an unalterable law that is presumed to produce distinct effects either in this world or in other worlds. In the Brihadaranya Upanishad it is said that the soul leaves the body at the time of death with the knowledge and skills it has acquired during the lifetime. "Whatever he desires, he wills; and whatever he wills, he acts; and in accordance with his acts, the fruits happen." What is important here is the emphasis on desire as the cause of rebirth rather than karma, which is merely the link that connects the desire and rebirth. When the soul is without desire, it escapes the cycle of births.

We find in later Hindu thought a more complex formulation of the doctrine of karma. In the Yoga system, for example, the mind is regarded as containing samskaras and vasanas that predispose one to act in certain ways and to choose certain things. Vasanas and samskaras are the vestiges of previous life experiences, the carriers of karma and the vehicles that help manifest the consequences of past karma.

The concept of karma is, of course, not limited to the Hindu tradition. In Buddhism and Jainism karma occupies the center stage. In Milinda Panha we find Nagasena saying, "It is through a difference in their karma that men are not all alike." It is interesting that the Buddhists believe in reincarnation in spite of their no-soul theory. As in the Upanishads, desires and craving are regarded as basic to rebirth in Buddhism. Action without craving would have no fruits, no karma. It is the desires that produce karma, and with the cessation of desire, there will be no accumulation of karma. When there is no karma there is no rebirth. When all desires are extinguished and when all the past karma is dissolved, one attains a state of transcendence and nirvana, thus suffering no more rebirths.

In the context of such pervasive belief in karma and reincarnation, it is not surprising that there are in India sporadic occurrences of reincarnation cases, claims of recalling events of an alleged previous life. Until recently there were, however, no systematic studies of these cases, and there was a kind of general skepticism among scholars who paid any attention to them. For example, C. T. K. Chari (1959) had only two small paragraphs on reincarnation in his review of parapsychological studies and literature in India. Referring to the celebrated 1935 case of Shanti Devi, who, it was claimed, recognized her alleged husband in a former life, Chari wrote: "No detailed scientific study of the case was ever attempted, but there seems little doubt that it would reveal a history of pathological frustration and identification". The other reference in Chari's article is to an anecdote narrated by S. K. Bose in which a boy's apparent memory from a previous life turned out to be no more than a case of "cryptomnesia."

The credit of pioneering systematic research in reincarnation-type cases goes to Ian Stevenson of the University of Virginia, who earned his reputation first as a psychiatrist with a special expertise in clinical interviewing. His initial step in researching reincarnation was to examine the published reports of several hundred cases of claimed memories of past lives. He found among them 44 cases in which there were apparent recollections of specific people, places, or events relating to a person who was deceased before the birth of the subject. A majority of these cases were from India and Burma. Stevenson described in some detail five cases, including the case of Shanti Devi mentioned previously in this review. After examining possible alternative hypotheses to reincarnation, including fraud, cryptomnesia, racial memory, ESP, and possession, Stevenson concluded that reincarnation is "the most plausible hypothesis for understanding the cases of this series" (1960, p. 108). He was cautious, however, in pointing out that he did not consider them to "prove reincarnation either singly or jointly."

The second phase of Stevenson's research was to personally investigate the alleged cases of reincarnation himself instead of depending on the reports of others. This took him to various parts of the world, including India, where he was assisted, among others, by P. Pal, H. N. Banerjee, Jamuna Prasad, and, more recently, Satwant Pasricha of the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences. Stevenson's first book, Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation, first published in 1966 and revised and reprinted in 1974, included seven cases from India. In a later book he discussed ten more Indian cases (Stevenson, 1975).

Stevenson (1974) concludes his review of the cases he himself investigated "without opting firmly for any one theory" as an explanation for all cases. He believes, however, that the evidence in support of the reincarnation hypothesis has increased since his first review. "This increase," he points out, "has come from several different kinds of observations and cases, but chiefly from the observations of the behavior of the children claiming the memories and the study of cases with specific or idiosyncratic skills, and with congenital birthmarks and deformities" (p. 384). The behavioral features associated with these children include:

(a) Repeated verbal expressions by the subject of the identification; (b) repeated presentation of information about the previous personality as coming to the subject in the form of memories of events experienced or of people already known; (c) requests to go to the previous home either for a visit or permanently; (d) familiar address and behavior toward adults and children related to the previous personality according to the relationships and social customs which would be proper if the child really had the relationships he claims to have had with these persons; (e) emotional responses, e.g., of tears, joy, affection, fear, or resentment appropriate for the relationships and attitudes shown by the previous personality toward other persons and objects; and (f) mannerisms, habits, and skills which would be appropriate for the previous personality, or which he was known to possess. (p. 360)

C. T. K. Chari (1967) published a critical review of Stevenson's Twenty Cases. He argued that Stevenson's inability to understand the local languages and his dependence on interpreters was a major weakness in his studies. Chari pointed out the disparity in the frequency of cases reported in North and South India and the time trends in the occurrence of these cases which, according to him, are due to social and cultural factors. "The South Indian cases that I have been able to investigate personally," he wrote, "have been very, very few and far too unconvincing" (p. 218). Chari also called attention to some discrepancies between the earlier reports of these cases and Stevenson's report, thus raising the question of the reliability of the recorded statements. Chari also expressed skepticism about birthmarks as evidence of reincarnation. He wondered further how reincarnation could be a viable explanation in cases where the alleged reincarnated person was still living after the individual carrying the "memories" was born. Finally, he concluded that the reincarnationist interpretation of these cases fails to appreciate the possibility of the operation of what he calls general psychometric ESP, which could in principle account for the alleged paranormal events in these cases.

In an earlier paper, Chari (1961-1962) warned us against accepting the reincarnation hypothesis too readily. "The posing of an ill-understood hypothesis to the exclusion of rival hypotheses," he admonished, "is little calculated to advance research in an obscure field like parapsychology" (p. 20). Chari felt that reincarnation cases can be explained in just as plausible a manner by the hypothesis of "spiritistic revival of memories" or "mediumistic possessions."

The third step in Stevenson's reincarnation studies was to involve others, not merely as interpreters and translators, but as independent investigators so as to enhance the reliability and authenticity of the reports. There were, of course, earlier independent reports of some of the cases Stevenson investigated. For example, P. Pal (1961-1962) investigated the case of Sukla in 1960, and Banerjee (1960) published a report on Swarnalata. In the new phase Stevenson had collaborators fully trained in his methods of investigation who either shared with him the responsibility of studying the case or independently carried out the investigation themselves. The principal collaborator for the more recent Indian studies is Satwant Pasricha, a clinical psychologist from Punjab who is currently on the staff of NIMHANS in Bangalore. Pasricha has since published a number of papers in collaboration with Stevenson and his colleagues (Barker & Pasricha, 1979; Pasricha & Stevenson, 1979; Stevenson & Pasricha, 1979; Stevenson & Pasricha, 1980). A book based on her PhD dissertation containing her study of Indian reincarnation cases was published in 1990.

Pasricha and Barker (1981) investigated a reincarnation-type case in India entirely independently using Stevenson's method. They also conducted a systematic survey of reincarnation cases in Fatehabad (Barker & Pasricha, 1979). Pasricha and Stevenson (1979) compared the results of two series of reincarnation cases they investigated independently. They believe that the similarities between the two series of cases provide additional evidence for their authenticity. In her book, Pasricha (1990) presents the similarities and differences between her results and Stevenson's. Pointing out that her data are similar to Stevenson's in numerous and important respects, she argues that such cross-cultural regularities in the data indicate that the reincarnation experience may be genuine and not due to cultural expectation or fraud.

Delhi University psychologist N. K. Chadha and Stevenson (1988) analyzed 326 reincarnation-type cases obtained from eight different cultures. In some of these cases the person whose life the subject claimed to remember had met with violent death. In others, the death was normal. Chadha and Stevenson found that (a) violent death cases had a shorter interval between death and rebirth than the natural death cases; and (b) in violent death cases, the age at which the subject began speaking about the previous life was significantly lower than in cases of natural death.

Perhaps the most important case investigated by Stevenson and Pasricha is the case of Sharada, which in many respects is very unusual. Others who were involved in the investigation of this case and whose records were made available to Stevenson include P. Pal, M. C. Bhattacharya, and R. K. Sinha. Briefly, the case of Sharada is this:

Uttara was born to G. M. Huddar and Manorama on March 14, 1941, in Nagpur. She had a normal childhood, attended college, and obtained postgraduate degrees in English and Public Administration. When she was about 32 years old, she began behaving strangely and spoke in a language other than Marathi (her mother tongue), which was later identified as Bengali. Beginning in March of 1974 there were periodic alterations in Uttara's personality. These episodes occurred more than fifty times, each episode varying in duration from over forty days to just a couple of hours. In the altered state she called herself Sharada, the daughter of a Sanskrit scholar who lived at Burdwan in Bengal. She claimed that she was the wife of a physician by the name of Viswanath Mukhopadhyaya of Shivapur in Bengal and that she died of a snake bite at the age of 24 when she was in the seventh month of her pregnancy.

According to the investigators, Uttara, in Sharada phase, wrote, spoke, and conversed in Bengali, a language she did not understand or speak as Uttara. As Sharada, Uttara manifested behavioral characteristics appropriate to a Bengali woman of the last century and gave information about people and events that she could not have normally known.

The case of Sharada is different in some important ways from typical reincarnation-type cases, which normally appear during the childhood years of the subject. When Sharada emerged, Uttara was already 32 years old. Also some of the subjects in reincarnation-type cases speak a language they have not learned. In some cases of xenoglossy (the ability to recite or converse in an unlearned language), the alleged paranormal linguistic ability has manifested under hypnosis. In the case of Uttara, it manifested naturally, even though there is some reason to believe that the early Sharada episodes occurred when Uttara was in an altered state of consciousness following meditation. Another significant feature of this case is that a number of well-trained investigators studied the case and even observed firsthand the Sharada phase of Uttara.

Prof. V. V. Akolkar, a social psychologist who spent some time in J. B. Rhine's Parapsychology Laboratory at Duke University in the early sixties, investigated the Sharada case completely independently of Stevenson, using his own method. Akolkar interviewed a large number of people associated with the case, including Uttara, and observed the Sharada phase several times. Apparently he had an excellent rapport with Uttara. She spent two days in Akolkar's house in Poona; and the Sharada phase appeared there as well. Apart from the usual interviewing associated with cases such as these, Akolkar (1992) was able to obtain a lot of psychological information that seemed to suggest that there was some overlapping between the two personalities. Stevenson noted a "complete or almost complete suppression of Uttara's ordinary personality during the Sharada phases" (1984, p. 150), a feature quite unlike his other cases. He seemed to sense, however, a possible gradual merging of the two personalities.

Akolkar, like Stevenson, appears to favor reincarnation as a more appropriate explanation of the Sharada case than alternative hypotheses. However, he goes further than Stevenson in suggesting how Uttara was able to remember her previous life. According to Akolkar, Sharada perhaps constitutes "the deepest stratum of Uttara's personality" (p. 245). He suggests that the practice of meditation, severe frustrations in her love life, and her strong maternal urge may have regressed her to the deepest stratum and thus manifested the Sharada personality.

The involvement of several independent, well-qualified investigators, like Akolkar and Pasricha, who clearly had the necessary understanding of the cultural factors, greatly enhances the credibility, authenticity, and reliability of the Sharada case. There is no doubt that Uttara in her Sharada phase was able to read, write, and speak Bengali, a skill that she was not known to possess as Uttara. Also, there is little doubt that some of the information that Sharada gave corresponded in a significant measure to persons who lived in Bengal during early nineteenth century. Beyond this, the interpretation of the case at this stage remains very much a matter of one's preference based on one's prior inclination. Chari, I have no doubt, would have preferred a possession or super-ESP hypothesis. I personally find these alternatives no less complex than the reincarnation hypothesis.

Stevenson's preference for a survivalistic explanation of past life memory cases, especially those involving the manifestation of skills such as speaking in unlearned languages, is based on his assumption that skills require practice and that therefore they may not be acquired paranormally without practice. This position is contested by S. E. Braude (1992) on the grounds that (a) "cases of multiple personality suggest that dissociation facilitates the development or acquisition of personality traits and skills which might never be developed or displayed under normal conditions" (p. 139); and (b) "suddenly emerging skills of child prodigies often far exceed anything displayed by the subjects investigated in xenoglossy cases or other cases suggesting survival" (p. 141). Stevenson (1992) counters by arguing that he knows of no evidence that child prodigies "manifested the skills without practicing them. If they did, perhaps they brought the skills from a previous life" (p. 149).

There may be those who reject any paranormal explanation of this or similar cases. Stevenson (1984) himself refers in his book to the newspaper reports alleging that Uttara learned Bengali in a normal way and to a "vociferous critic" who was "sure that Uttara had taken extensive lessons in Bengali" (p. 141) and who gave him the names of persons who could provide the necessary information. The search led Stevenson and Pasricha to T. K. Waghmare, who said that "he had seen Uttara taking a test in Bengali" (p. 141). Stevenson believes, however, that Waghmare may have mistaken Shailaja, Uttara's sister, for Uttara. Other possibilities that Uttara learned Bengali in a normal way are discussed by Stevenson as well as Akolkar. For example, a friend of Uttara claimed that he and Uttara studied Bengali during their final year in high school and "progressed enough to read a Bengali primer" (Akolkar, 1992, p. 215) and that Uttara's older brother told Akolkar that "Uttara had learned Bengali" (p. 215). Stevenson mentions that two of Uttara's relatives have some knowledge of Bengali, including her younger brother, Satish. He also mentioned that Uttara in a Sharada phase was reading a Bengali book when Bhattacharya and Sinha visited her. Both Stevenson and Akolkar remain unconvinced that Sharada's skills in responsive xenoglossy could be explained even if we grant that Uttara had learned how to read Bengali.

Laboratory Psi Research

Systematic experimental investigation of ESP in India first began at Andhra University after I returned in 1965 from a three-year stint at Rhine's Parapsychology Laboratory at Duke University in the United States. There were, of course, sporadic and somewhat casual attempts at testing for psi at Andhra and other places even before then. In one of the early ESP experiments, M. Verma (1954) administered a telepathy test to students by using playing cards as target material. The results gave no evidence of telepathy because the score did not differ significantly from chance. There was also no significant difference in the scores of male and female subjects. Jalota (1952, 1956) included some psi tests in his textbook on experimental psychology. I carried out some ESP tests on children in an ashram school. However, it is the establishment of the Department of Psychology and Parapsychology at Andhra University that helped to put India on the parapsychological world map. There are interesting antecedents to the starting of this department that may be of historical significance.

My book Psi Cognition (1957) was favorably reviewed in Main Currents of Modern Thought, an elite journal that reached many intellectuals around the world. D. S. Kothari, a prominent theoretical physicist who had just taken charge as the Chairman of the University Grants Commission in India, happened to read that review. He took time to write me a note of appreciation. Learning that I was by then at Duke, Kothari invited me to return to India and prepare a report for the UGC on establishing a parapsychological research center in one of the Indian universities. It so happened that J. G. Pratt was in India at that time on a different assignment. After visiting a number of Indian universities, Pratt and I prepared a report for the UGC that became the basis for establishing the Department of Psychology and Parapsychology at Andhra University.

Anticipating this outcome, a number of people, including S. Parthasarathy, B. H. Bhadra, H. Kanthamani, and P. Sailaja, were invited to Duke University for training in experimental parapsychology. Therefore, by the time the new department was established, a core staff was in place to continue parapsychological research. Since then, a substantial amount of ESP research has been carried out and one DLit and six PhD degrees have been awarded for work in parapsychology at Andhra University. Rhine often referred to the Andhra experience as an example of true international institutional collaboration for advancing a science.

Personality and ESP

The first major Indian project in the area of psi research was designed to study the relationship between ESP and personality factors. More specifically, the research attempted to answer the following questions (Kanthamani & K. R. Rao, 1971):

1. What are the personality factors that distinguish psi-hitting and psi-missing subjects?

2. Can we separate psi-hitting and psi-missing subjects more reliably by combining factors that are known to be related to ESP scoring?

3. Do the personality factors known to be related to ESP act separately to affect psi or do they affect it insofar as they are a part of a known cluster representing a broad dimension like extraversion or neuroticism?

A pilot and three confirmatory series of experiments were conducted with senior high school and junior college students. The ESP task was to blindly match 50 randomly shuffled ESP cards against five key cards that were visually shielded from the subject. The scores on the personality characteristics of the subjects were obtained by administering Cattell's High School Personality Questionnaire (HSPQ). The results gave strong evidence that factors A, E, F, and I are related to ESP scoring. In other words, the subjects rated as warm and sociable, dominant, "happy-go-lucky," and "tough and realistic" obtained significantly higher ESP scores than their counterparts. A further analysis of the results showed that combining factors A, E, F, and I to derive a combined personality measure (CPM) was a better device for separating the high- and low- scoring ESP subjects than any one of the four component factors (Kanthamani & K. R. Rao, 1972a).

Analyzing the previous personality-ESP studies, Eysenck (1967) suggested that all of them refer either directly or indirectly to two well-known dimensions of personality--extraversion/introversion and neuroticism. Eysenck argued that because psi is an "ancient and primitive form of perception," conditions of high cortical arousal are unfavorable to its function. Since introverts, according to Eysenck, tend to be in a state of greater cortical arousal than extraverts, the latter should do better in ESP tests than introverts. The results of the Indian study strongly supported the expectation that the extraverts would obtain higher ESP scores than the introverted subjects (Kanthamani & K. R. Rao, 1972b). The results also showed that subjects with lower neuroticism scores tended to obtain significantly higher ESP scores than those with higher neuroticism scores (Kanthamani & K. R. Rao, 1973). A number of studies since then have generally tended to give results indicating that extraverted subjects would do better than introverted subjects (Honorton et al., 1990; Sargent, 1981) even though the results in the area of neuroticism and ESP are less consistent. Honorton, et al. criticized some of the personality ESP studies on the grounds that in some experiments the personality tests were administered after the subjects had the feedback of their ESP

results, which presumably could influence the way subjects respond to the personality questionnaire. It should be pointed out, however, that in the third confirmatory study of Kanthamani and myself, the personality test was administered before the ESP test by a different experimenter. Therefore, the criticism of Honorton is inappropriate to this series. Krishna and I (1991) carried out a study to test Honorton's hypothesis and found no evidence that knowledge of ESP scores would bias the responses of the subjects so that the hitting subjects tend to respond in the direction of extraversion and the missing subjects in the opposite direction.

Differential Effect and ESP in Life Settings

I pointed out that psi is bidirectional in nature and that it may result in either hitting or missing the target (1965). The tendency to miss the target when attempting to hit it is called psi-missing. I observed that when a subject is involved in a testing situation that incorporates two contrasting conditions, such as two different sets of targets or two different methods of testing or any two contrasting test settings, he tends to hit in one condition and miss in the other. In one of my earlier ESP experiments, I used two different sets of targets (1962). One set consisted of cards with ESP symbols printed on them (the standard ESP deck) and the other consisted of "choice" cards that had a similar outside appearance but special symbols or words, appropriately chosen for each subject, printed on them. The results showed hitting on choice cards and missing on ESP cards. The scoring trends on the two sets of cards showed a mirror image, highest hitting on one set accompanied by strong missing on the other. I called this tendency to hit and miss in the same test the "differential effect." There are in the literature a large number of studies that provide evidence for the differential effect, suggesting that it is one of the more robust effects in parapsychology.

Some of my studies of the differential effect involved the use of words in languages familiar and unfamiliar to the subject. In experiments with American subjects, I had words in English (a familiar language) and Telugu (an unfamiliar language) and found that my male subjects tended to hit on the unfamiliar language targets and to miss on the familiar ones. The female subjects with somewhat less consistency tended to do the opposite (K. R. Rao, 1963b). In addition to sex differences, my results showed experimenter effects and situational differences in determining the direction of differential scores (K. R. Rao, 1979a; K. R. Rao & Davis, 1978).

In an attempt to replicate my studies, Kanthamani (1965) obtained results that provided evidence for the differential effect in language ESP tests. Her results, however, showed that the subjects tended to miss on Hindi targets (an unfamiliar language) and hit on English targets (a familiar language). Using Telugu and English words, Sailaja (1965) obtained results similar to those I reported. No evidence for the differential effect in language ESP tests was found with Indian subjects who were familiar with both the languages (Sailaja & K. R. Rao, 1973).

Although the occurrence of the differential effect appears to be fairly reliable, the direction of scoring has been somewhat inconsistent even with the same experimenters and similar testing conditions (K. R. Rao, 1963a, 1963c). The lack of consistency in laboratory ESP results is due, possibly, to the difficulty in controlling the myriad variables that seem to affect ESP in the lab. If one can build an ESP test into a life situation that involves the deeply felt needs of the subject with high motivational impact, it may be possible to minimize the effects of other variables and thus obtain more consistent results. On the basis of these assumptions, Sailaja and I carried out a series of experiments to study the differential effect in life settings (Sailaja & K. R. Rao, 1973).

The subjects in these experiments were either students seeking admission into postgraduate courses or people seeking employment in the university library. The ESP tests were built into the selection process. The subjects were given the ESP tests before and after they were interviewed for admission or for employment. The results showed that the subjects tended to miss in the ESP tests they took just before the interview and to hit in the postinterview tests. The difference between the pre- and postinterview ESP scores were statistically significant in the preliminary experiment and in two confirmatory experiments.

In an attempt to determine the crucial variable responsible for these results, Sailaja and I carried out a fourth study in which we divided the subjects into three groups. Group I subjects came for the interview without knowing that they had to take an ESP test, but were given the test before the interview. Subjects in Groups II and III knew in advance that they had to take the test when they came for the interview. Group II subjects were given the ESP test first and then were interviewed; those in Group III were interviewed first and then were given the ESP test. The results showed that Group I subjects tended to miss and the rest of the subjects tended to hit, which suggests that the set of test preparedness may be the crucial variable.

O'Brien and I published a report on a cross-cultural study that investigated the possible influence of ESP in academic examinations (K. R. Rao & O'Brien, 1977). In one series of tests, the subjects were American students in a parapsychology class. They were given a multiple-choice examination in which half of the questions (the real questions) could be answered from knowledge of the parapsychological literature. The correct answers to the rest of the questions (the made-up questions) could be obtained only by guessing (i.e., by ESP). The results showed that subjects who tended to give correct answers to literature questions when they simply guessed or were doubtful about their answers tended to obtain more hits on ESP questions than those who tended to miss the answers to the literature questions when they simply guessed or were doubtful. A second series conducted at Andhra University with psychology students confirmed the preceding finding.

Gowri Rammohan continued my studies of testing subjects for ESP in the mode of academic examinations. She designed a vocabulary test that consisted of real English words and pseudo-English words and failed to confirm the Rao-O'Brien results. Two more studies that resembled my procedure more closely also failed to replicate my findings. In one of these studies, Rammohan observed a significant reversal of the results reported by O'Brien and me (Rammohan & P. V. K. Rao, 1987).

Rammohan's experiments differed from mine in one crucial respect. My tests were administered in an intentional mode, that is, the subjects knew that they were taking an ESP test, whereas in Rammohan's studies the subjects did not know that they were taking an ESP test. To test whether the intentional-nonintentional variable is relevant to these tests, Rammohan carried out two further experiments. In the first, she administered the ESP test as nonintentional, that is, the subjects did not know that they were participating in an ESP test. The results confirmed her earlier results, which were the reverse of mine. In the second experiment, Rammohan administered her tests as intentional, as I did, that is, the subjects knew that they were taking an ESP test. The results of this experiment were consistent with the results reported by me and O'Brien. Thus, the intentional-nonintentional variable appeared to be relevant for ESP testing in the setting of an academic examination. An attempt to replicate this finding, however, was not successful (Rammohan & Lakshmi, 1993).

Meditation, Subliminal Perception, and Psi

At Andhra University, we carried out three series of forced-choice tests and one free-response ESP test to see whether subjects would obtain higher ESP scores after meditation than they would before (K. R. Rao, H. Dukhan, & P. V. K. Rao, 1984). The same subjects were tested in pre-and post-meditation sessions, thus acting as their own controls. Fifty-nine subjects who were practicing a nonstandardized form of meditation at Anandashram in Pondichery participated in this study. The results showed that subjects obtained significantly higher ESP scores in tests immediately after meditation than they did in tests carried out before the subjects meditated. Interestingly, the subjects obtained significantly fewer hits in premeditation sessions than would be expected by chance.

Working with a long-time meditator, Feola and I attempted to explore the relationship between EEG alpha activity and ESP (K. R. Rao & Feola, 1979). The subject, who had been previously trained to control his alpha activity through biofeedback procedures, was given a free-response ESP test while his EEG was monitored. The subject was asked to produce more alpha in one half of the trials and less alpha in the other half. The subject obtained higher ESP scores in the high-alpha condition than in the low-alpha condition. A review of all the published studies bearing on the relationship between EEG activity and ESP scoring suggests that (a) alpha density and ESP scores tend to correlate significantly and that (b) the change in alpha frequency from pretest to test period may correlate positively with ESP scores (K. R. Rao & Feola, 1979). These findings in turn indicate that noneffortful or relaxed attention may be conducive to psi manifestation.

Puri and I conducted an experiment to explore the relationship between extrasensory perception and subliminal perception (SP) and the effect of transcendental meditation on ESP and SP (K. R. Rao & Puri, 1978). A total of 28 university students participated as subjects. They attempted to guess target pictures tachistoscopically exposed for a fraction of a second. The target slides contained pictures of objects such as a book and a table as well as "blanks" that did not represent any specific picture. The "blanks" were ESP targets, and they were determined by following a random procedure. The successful guesses of picture slides and "blank" slides constituted the SP and ESP scores, respectively. The subjects were tested before and after they were initiated into transcendental meditation (TM). The results showed a significant negative correlation between the subjects' SP and ESP scores. The overall results did not give evidence of any significant effect of TM on the subjects' ESP or SP scores. A post hoc analysis, however, suggested that TM may have enhanced the subjects' psi ability in the postmeditation session.

In a major study consisting of two series of experiments, P. V. K Rao and I attempted to examine the relationship between subliminal perception scores and ESP scores of volunteer subjects (P. V. K. Rao & K. R. Rao, 1982). The first study involved 50 subjects, who participated in an ESP test built into a subliminal perception test. The results showed no relationship between ESP and SP scores of the subjects. In the second study, the SP and ESP scores of two independent groups of subjects were compared. The subjects in one group practiced TM prior to taking the tests; no such practice was given to the subjects in the other (control) group. The results of the TM group gave a significant positive correlation between SP and ESP scores; for the control group the results were at chance. Also, the psi-hitters and psi-missers in the TM group differed significantly in their SP scores; and high- and low-SP scorers differed significantly in their ESP scores. Neither analysis yielded significance in the control group. A comparison of the SP and ESP scores of TM and control groups gave evidence that the TM group did better than did the control group on the SP task but not on the ESP task. However, the subjects in the TM group who obtained more SP hits than the group mean obtained significantly more ESP hits than the high-SP subjects in the control group. Also, the psi-hitters in the TM and control groups differed significantly in their SP scores. We interpret their results as providing some ground for thinking that the relation between SP and ESP may depend on the strength or gradation of the subliminal signals and the state of the individual and that ESP might be meaningfully related to other unconscious and subconscious phenomena such as subliminal perception.

In a significant sense, meditation is learning how to focus attention. It involves both the facility to withdraw as well as to focus attention. Many meditation techniques recommend turning attention inward and away from the sensory inputs. In other words, the possible benefit of meditation practice to psi manifestation may consist in the sensory noise reduction achieved by turning attention inward. Admittedly, the ESP signal is a very weak one that must compete with other information-processing resources of the organism. Therefore, it stands to reason to think that the reduction of ongoing sensorimotor activity may facilitate ESP. Parapsychologists have explored other techniques that can help reduce normal sensory activity. One of them, the ganzfeld, has been extensively used to create a psi-conducive environment. The results seem to suggest a high degree of success rate when subjects are tested for ESP in a ganzfeld environment (Bem & Honorton, 1994; Honorton, 1985). The term ganzfeld refers to a homogeneous sensory field. It can be obtained by covering the eyes with translucent hemispheres such as halved ping-pong balls and by exposing the subject to uniform visual stimulation, a bright red light, for instance. The subject in the ganzfeld also receives uniform auditory stimulation (e.g., the sound of the waves of the sea) through headphones.

V. Sudhakar and P. V. K. Rao (1986) reported an extensive series of ESP experiments with ganzfeld. In an elaborate design that involved university students both as experimenters and subjects, Sudhakar and Rao attempted to study the effect of belief in ESP, the personality characteristics of the subjects and experimenters, and the ganzfeld environment on the subjects' ESP scores. The results showed, first, that the subjects obtained significant ESP scores in the ganzfeld environment. Second, personality factor A of the 16 Personality Factors (cold, aloof, reserved vs. good-natured, easygoing) of the experimenters was significantly and positively related to the ESP scores they elicited from their subjects. Third, the length of the subjects' mentation reports and their ESP scores were found to be related positively and significantly. Fourth, subjects who reported more spontaneous, dream-like mental activity during the ganzfeld obtained the highest ESP scores. Fifth, subjects' expectation of success at the beginning and the end of the ganzfeld session correlated negatively with their ESP performance. The authors discussed the implications of these findings in terms of cognitive factors affecting the subjects' ganzfeld experience.

The importance of this study may be judged against the background of a large number of experiments carried out in this area that seem to mutually reinforce each other in suggesting that ganzfeld is a psi-conducive technique like meditation. Although this study was carried out with necessary care and controls, there was one avoidable procedural pitfall that considerably weakened it. The investigator who selected the target was also the person who transcribed the subjects' mentation, which leaves the possibility that any biased transcription errors could, in principle, bias the results. Such a criticism may be considered to be too far-fetched in psychological studies generally; but in controversial psi research it is necessary to control for all possible sources of error, however remote they may appear to be.

Sudhakar and P. V. K. Rao did not find any relationship between belief in ESP and the subjects' ESP scores. This is contrary to the general finding that the believers tend to obtain higher scores than do the disbelievers. Gertrude Schmeidler was the first to investigate the effect of belief on ESP scores. She found that the believers, whom she termed sheep, tended to psi-hit whereas the nonbelievers (goats) tended to psi-miss (Schmeidler & McConnell, 1958). A number of studies since then have supported this finding (Palmer, 1971).

B. H. Bhadra (1966) of S.V. University carried out a systematic investigation under the supervision of S. Parthasarathy to study the role of belief in ESP tests. He administered a specially prepared questionnaire to 150 college students to measure the level of belief. The students were also given a 10-run (250-trial) clairvoyance-type ESP test. The results showed a highly significant difference in the scores of those who believed in the possibility of ESP (sheep) and those who did not (goats). The results strongly confirmed the hypothesis that sheep tend to score positively and goats tend to psi-miss.

Cognitive Variables and Volitional Effects

The possibility of a relationship between memory and ESP has been a subject of interest to parapsychologists for many years. W. G. Roll (1966), for example, hypothesized that "a person's memory traces influence his ESP responses, but, more fundamentally, that his ESP responses consist of revived memory traces" (p. 157). Roll contends that in a significant sense memory images are the sense data of ESP. There is some evidence that memory and ESP scores may be positively correlated (Feather, 1967).

Kanthamani and H. H. Rao (1974, 1975a) carried out some experimental studies of ESP and memory that seemed to provide empirical support to Roll's hypothesis. The subjects in one experiment memorized 20 pairs of words and were asked to recall them after an interval of 2 or 3 minutes. An ESP test was embedded in the recall task by having the subjects guess which one of the pair of words was the correct ESP target.

Kanthamani and Rao found that ESP seemed to operate best on correctly recalled trials. In another experimental study, they used a different set of 20 word-pairs, half of which contained high-association words and half, low-association words. Again, the ESP test was built into the task of recalling the appropriate missing word in the pair. The subject wrote his response in one of the two blank spaces to match the position of the concealed target in an envelope attached to the record sheet. The results supported the previous finding that the subjects were more successful in their ESP task on words they recalled correctly than on incorrectly recalled words. This effect seemed to be confined only to the low-association word-pairs. The difference between the rate of ESP scoring between recall-correct and recall-wrong trials was highly significant for low-association pairs. The subjects scored significantly more hits than mean chance expectation on correctly recalled low-association words, and significantly more misses on incorrectly recalled low-association words.

My colleagues and I carried out a series of experiments to study memory-ESP relationships and obtained somewhat inconsistent results. In one study we obtained an insignificant correlation between subjects' memory and ESP scores (K. R. Rao, Morrison, & Davis, 1977). We reported, however, that the missing ESP responses of psi-hitters were more closely associated in the subject's mind with correct targets than were the missing responses of psi-missing subjects. A second study (K. R. Rao, Morrison, Davis, & Freeman, 1977) did not confirm these results. But it showed similarities between the associations of ESP and memory misses. A third study (K. R. Rao, 1978) gave inconsistent results. In a later investigation, we found support once again for the ESP misses to be significantly closer to the target than expected by
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Author:Rao, K. Ramakrishna
Publication:The Journal of Parapsychology
Date:Jun 1, 1994
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