The Authors of the Impossible Journal

The ESP Enigma


Diane Hennacy Powell was driven to research and write about psychic phenomema after she had two vivid encounters with the paranormal.  At thirteen she watched as a circus magician she'd met through a friend stood twenty feet across the living room and read, word for word, the contents of any books she randomly chose from among the hundreds on the bookshelf.  This fostered a deep curiousity that lead her to study neuroscience in college and neuropsychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.  While on faculty at Harvard Medical School she encountered a patient who claimed to be psychic.  The patient then told her several accurate details about her life and made specific predictions about her future, all of which eventually came true.  It was after this encounter that she decided to systematically investigate psychic phenomena.  The ESP Enigma is a summary of her research over 20 years into telepathy, psychokinesis, clairvoyance and precognition.

Written for a lay audience, The ESP Enigma clearly summarizes the latest psychical research.  I found the book quite convincing, validating the theoretical assertions made by Jeff Kripal in Authors of the Impossible, at times going even further (specifically, in her conclusion asserting that the universe is holographic, with all information existing everywhere at once).

Of course, the skeptics have no trouble finding fault in Powell's argument.  From Publisher's Weekly: "In science it is axiomatic that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Powell, a neuropsychiatrist who has taught at Harvard Medical School, certainly makes extraordinary claims about the four basic psychic abilities: telepathy, psychokinesis, clairvoyance and precognition. But her evidence is consistently below par. She relies on self-reported claims by psychics, hundred-year-old newspaper accounts and the results of studies published by organizations like the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research rather than in reputable, peer-reviewed scientific journals (and sometimes she cites no source at all)... Undaunted by the weak evidence, Powell asserts that she is on the forefront of a Copernican revolution of the mind." 

Despite this reviewer's distain for historical evidence and long-established, reputable institutions like the Society for Psychical Research, when looked at from a broad historical perspective, the evidence for paranormal phenomena is quite strong.  Skeptics typically dismiss this evidence as "anecdotal" because much of it is.  And therein lies the problem: the paranormal is not something that is easily measured in the laboratory, whose methods are designed to observe and measure repeatable, predictable phenomenon.  The paranormal is by definition anomalous and unpredicatable.  Nonetheless, experiments being performed by parapsychologists like Dean Radin and his collegues at The Institute for Noetic Science are extremely rigorous and are yielding impressive results demonstrating paranormal phenomena.  It's no real surprise that these results have yet to be published in "reputable, peer-reviewed scientific journals" when then entire subject is anathema to mainstream science.  Fortunately there is a small, elite group of intellectuals who, undaunted by the taint of the taboo, have set out to prove the reality of paranormal phenomena, understand its meaning, and advance new (and some not so new) and startling theories of consciousness.  In a recent email from Jeff Kripal he told me, "a consensus seems to be forming".