Friday, June 11, 2010

I remember walking into my "Physics for Poets" class at Princeton University many years ago, and being totally charmed by the antics of my professor (who recently passed away at the ripe old age of 96). Professor John Archibald Wheeler was a tour de force in the world of physics. He is the person who coined the term "black hole" in astrophysics to describe the strange behavior of dead stars when collapsing in on themselves. His close teachers and mentors were Albert Einstein and Danish physicist Neils Bohr. He was a member of the famed Manhattan Project, headed by physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, that was created to develop the atomic bomb during World War II. Many of Professor Wheeler's students went on to become extraordinary physicists and Nobel Prize winners in their own right.

My physics class was not part of my major at college. I majored in languages. In fact, I only took the class because I thought I ought to know something about physics. I expected to be bored and overwhelmed. Instead I was truly fascinated. Professor Wheeler usually came to class with some odd contraption or simple machine and would demonstrate how they worked in front of the class. He explained that these were "Einstein's toys" - little gadgets that Einstein had created to graphically demonstrate how certain principles of physics worked. I loved these "toys." They were fun and simple. Professor Wheeler would run from one end of the lecture hall to the other waving these toys in the air to show how they worked. It was as if he had momentarily resurrected his good friend and teacher, Einstein himself, and brought him alive before our very eyes.

At my most recent psychic development worksop in New York, I decided to create some "toys" of my own to demonstrate to my students how psychic ability works. I was explaining to them about "psychometry" - a type of psychic sensing which involves holding an object and obtaining information about it (and its owner) merely by tuning in to the "vibrations" trapped within the object. This is clearly another "impossible" feat in the ordinary world in which we live. But, if you are willing to bend your concepts of physical reality a bit, such things become possible.

I created, for example, a box with a hole on each side. I placed all kinds of ordinary objects (e.g. a plastic hair clip with teeth, a barometer, an empty toothbrush holder, a nightlight, a plastic toy motorcycle, an electronic game, etc.) into the box. The job of each student was to put their hands through the holes, feel around, grab an object inside, and then describe it to the other students without using an language which presupposed that they knew what it was. In other words, they had to describe the object as if they were a space alien who didn't know anything about earthly objects, materials or functions. The job of all the other students was to guess what the item was that was being described. A strangely difficult task.

I watched and listened as each student put their hands inside the box and felt an object. They struggled mightily to describe it. Their eyes rolled upwards and they almost looked as though they were in a light trance. Most chose to focus on only a particular aspect of the object such as its surface texture, or its size, or the different types of materials it seemed to be made of. The more they focused on one aspect, the more they forgot about the others. It was like the old proverbial description of an elephant by someone who can only describe its trunk due to the fact that they are located in front of the animal. The descriptions ended up sounding vague and most students, including the ones holding the object, had no clue what it was!

What was the purpose of this toy? The box represented the human brain. Our hands are our perceptions. When we try to describe something that has no words already attached to it, we become extremely inarticulate. We over-focus on certain aspects and ignore others. We apply all kinds of preconceptions and biases in order to have the object "make sense" to us in our desperation to describe it. This is the problem that most psychics have when trying to describe psychic sensations or imagery that arrive in their brains. There are no prefabricated words or common understandings to share with others. You must really grope around in your linguistic library to find ways to describe to yourself and others that which you sense.

Professor Wheeler was once interviewed and stated:

"If there's one thing in physics I feel more responsible for than any other, it's this perception of how everything fits together. I like to think of myself as having a sense of judgment. I am willing to go anywhere, talk to anybody, ask any question that will make headway.

"I confess to being an optimist about things, especially about someday being able to understand how things are put together. So many young people are forced to specialize in one line or another, that a young person can't afford to try and cover this waterfront - only an old fogy who can afford to make a fool of himself

"If I don't, who will?"

I feel like I am listening to myself when I read Professor Wheeler's words. I have uttered similar things about my own work in the psychic realm. Neuroscientists, psychologists, and other students of the human brain are far too concerned about protecting their highly specialized professional careers than exploring the frontiers of the human mind. I have nothing to protect. I am willing to play the fool. I have nothing to lose!