A Short History of (Nearly) Everything Paranormal

A Short History of (Nearly) Everything Paranormal: An Interview with Terje G. Simonsen

Author Christine Skolnik interviews Terje G. Simonsen, author of the new A Short History of (Nearly) Everything Paranormal for Watkins Mind Body Spirit magazine.

Christine: Hi, Terje!  So nice to finally have the opportunity to chat—at a distance.  

Terje: Thank you for your interest!

C: Your book, A Short History of (Nearly) Everything Paranormal illustrates that telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition are common experiences, and yet a culture of skepticism generally dismisses such experiences and the people who have them.  Who are some of the most famous and respected individuals who have regarded paranormal experiences as objectively real?  I’m particularly interested in scientists and Nobel Laureates, for example, because skeptics tend to characterize intuitive and psychically gifted people as unintelligent or weak-minded.

T: Well, let’s start with stating the fact that statistics show not the least regard for debunkers as half of the population will have experiences of telepathy, clairvoyance, or related phenomena during their lifetimes! But, as you hinted at, even so, the conversation around this topic tends to be tainted by bias, which is, I think, because these phenomena do not conform all that well to a modern Western ‘map of reality’. Conventional physics and psychology have no good explanatory model for these phenomena, ergo–the skeptics say–they cannot exist! Luckily there are a number of great minds, many with a background in quantum physics, who have voted passionately ‘No’ to wearing such an intellectual straitjacket! One being the physicist genius Wolfgang Pauli, one of the founding fathers of quantum theory, who was awarded the Nobel prize in 1945. He was nominated for the prize by no less grandee than Albert Einstein. Pauli had himself experienced strong psychokinetic phenomena, which he felt were an external manifestation of his internal chaos; part of Pauli’s complex genius entailed being a deep and conflicted soul.

C: Could you say a little more about Pauli’s experiences? There was a pattern to them, I believe.

T: Sure. The phenomena tended to start with Pauli feeling ‘something’ building up inside of him, and a little later a nearby object—a chair, a vase, some electrical apparatus—would break, crack, smash or snap. So it was rather difficult for him to deny the existence of psychokinesis! As he wanted to get a real grasp on these phenomena, as well as his own inner life and also the relation between Mind and Matter in general, Pauli engaged in a long-lasting conversation, a series of profoundly philosophical letters, with C.G. Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and mystic. This process went on for more than 25 years! In 1952 they co-published a book called The Interpretation of Nature and Psyche, where an important theme is synchronicity, i.e. meaningful coincidences orchestrated by deep forces in the unconscious Mind.

C: Pauli was obviously a genius and very open-minded, but are there other examples of ‘psi-friendly’ geniuses, perhaps living even closer to our own time?

T: Certainly! For example, the great American-British physicist David Bohm, who as a young man had collaborated with Einstein. He developed a worldview where the world can be seen as a kind of hologram, a physical 3D picture, where each little part contains information about the whole–‘the droplet mirrors the universe’. Bohm thought his worldview allowed for several phenomena which are difficult to accommodate within a commonsense view of Space and Time, e.g. telepathy and clairvoyance. Bohm in fact also participated in parapsychological experiments himself!

C: Really?  So, Bohm didn’t see any conflict between science as such and “belief” in the paranormal?

T: Correct. Also, Bohm said explicitly that conventional psychology suffers from not having taken the discoveries of modern physics–e.g. quantum theory’s notion of non-locality–to heart. Non-locality, in some form must likely be part of any viable explanatory model for paranormal phenomena. For, if consciousness is taken to be only a local phenomenon, i.e. just something existing inside one’s own head, well, then it seems impossible to allow for phenomena such as telepathy and clairvoyance.

C: Yes, it seems reasonable that consciousness is “distributed” in some sense, given what we know about animal instinct and communication.

T: I’m glad you agree! Let me briefly also mention that Etzel Cardeña, professor in psychology, tenured at Lund University, Sweden, has published an important article called The Experimental Evidence for Parapsychological Phenomena: A Review. Here he argues along somewhat similar lines as Bohm, that we need a new model of consciousness, likely including perspectives from quantum theory, to be able to account for the paranormal phenomena. Cardeña’s article was printed in the highly prestigious journal American Psychologist in May, 2018, which is a strong testimony to its quality. Also quantum theory’s idea about time-symmetry–that some processes seem to occur independent of time–could be important in developing an explanatory model that could account for, say, precognitive dreams, i.e. seeing the future while asleep. Again, I would suggest that readers consult Cardeña’s article for valuable sources and perspectives!

C: I had not heard of Cardeña . . . another academic in the mix and another contribution of your book.  I am aware that Bohm has been quite popular in some countercultural milieux.  And he was also, as is so much other alternative thought, partly inspired by Indian traditions.  Is that correct?

T: Yes. Bohm is among the surprisingly many modern thinkers that, in some form or other, has been inspired by the age-old Indian Vedanta-tradition. ‘Vedanta’means ‘knowledge’, and since I just love etymology! allow me to mention that ‘vedanta’ is the root of both the Norwegian and German word for ‘knowledge’, namely ‘Viten’ and ‘Wissen’, respectively. Vedanta tends to regard the Mind, or at least some aspects of Mind, as being ubiquitous. This notion will often go hand in hand with the view that paranormal phenomena and abilities–‘siddhis’, as they often are called–are indeed real, and are in essence to be regarded as normal, but little known aspects of consciousness. A great contemporary physicist who also is inspired by Indian thought and who also is fully convinced of the existence of paranormal phenomena, is the Cambridge-professor Brian Josephson, who won the Nobel prize in physics in 1973. I don’t know about today, but at least when he was younger he was into Transcendental Meditation. Josephson claims that both telepathy and psychokinesis are “objectively occurring phenomena,” a view which has put him at odds with several of his colleagues, and claims even to have had them convincingly demonstrated!

C: So, none of these scientists saw any conflict (on the level of experience, say) between science and the paranormal. 

T: Yes! I could go on for quite a while dropping names, but let me rather refer the readers to the website of the Society for Psychical Research where they can find an impressive list of stellar scientists, Nobel laureates, thinkers etc. with a strong interest in psi: https://psi-encyclopedia.spr.ac.uk/articles/eminent-people-interested-psi

C: One of the most fascinating applications of remote viewing (or clairvoyance) is in the field of archaeology.  I read about this in your book as well as some of the academic literature in archaeology.  Could you tell us about some of the most compelling stories of parapsychology (psi) assisted archaeological finds in your book?  I believe one story involved finding Cleopatra’s palace for example.

T: That’s correct! You are referring to the so-called Alexandria Project, which in 1978-79 was conducted by the colorful archaeologist Stephan A. Schwartz—in my book I refer to him as a kind of paranormal Indiana Jones— in the enormous harbor area outside Alexandria in Egypt. His team did in fact succeed in discovering Cleopatra’s palace! And also several other highly interesting buildings and artifacts, for example remnants from the enormous Pharos lighthouse, which in antiquity was regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and likely was about 130 meters tall.

From more recent times, an intriguing example is the 2012 discovery of the remains of Richard III, in Shakespeare’s eponymous play famous for the line: ‘A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!’ His remains had been lost since 1485, but were sensationally found after the Scottish screen-writer Philippa Langley had conducted some psychic archaeology. The short version is that she went to an asphalt-covered area in Leicester where in medieval times there had been a monastery in which Richard’s body once might have been placed, but no one knew anything for sure. Let me quote verbatim from an interview with Philippa:

I walked around that car park and I just knew there was nothing there. It was ‘dead.’ As I walked away, I saw another, private car park over to the right. I know how mad this sounds, but I snuck under the barrier and, on a very particular spot, I had the strongest sensation that I was walking on Richard’s grave. (…) It was a hot summer and I had goose bumps so badly and I was freezing cold. I walked past a particular spot and absolutely knew I was walking on his grave. I am a rational human being but the feeling I got was the same feeling I have had before when a truth is given to me.

Based on this hunch, which surely deserves the label ‘clairvoyant’, Langley organized an excavation, and about three feet under the ground, at the very spot she had pointed out, voila–a skeleton was found! When it later was DNA tested against the living descendants of Richard III’s sister, Anne of York, it was found to be a 99.999 percent match. Meaning, this WAS really Richard! And in 2015 things were made truly official; Langley was awarded an MBE by Queen Elizabeth for ‘services to the exhumation and identification of Richard III’, and Richard was finally, following a week of commemorative events, put to his royal resting-place in Leicester Cathedral.

If we now look to professional researchers associated with the paranormal and archaeology, the most prominent is probably the Canadian archaeologist, Professor John Norman Emerson (1917-1978), sometimes referred to as ‘the father of scientific Canadian archaeology’. On several occasions, when excavating settlements of the Huron-Iroquois First nations peoples (formerly referred to as Indians) of Ontario, Canada, Emerson summoned the help of the psychic George McMullen, and he estimated that ca 80 % of the time, McMullen would indeed be correct when trying to detect, e.g. hidden ruins etc.! McMullen later wrote a book, One White Crow, which among other things contains several entertaining pieces that Emerson wrote on the subject of ‘intuitive archaeology’, as he dubbed it.

C: Amazing.  And how can such evidence be merely dismissed?  There are so many examples like this in the literature… 

The paranormal studies literature suggests that precognition is one of the most common types of paranormal experiences and I imagine that many readers have had at least one or two precognitive experiences.  Precognition has also been studied extensively in the laboratory over the last century, as your book makes clear.  Could you tell us about some of those experiments?

T: Sure! Some enthralling experiments were conducted already in the 1960s by professors Montague Ullmann and Stanley Krippner in the Dream Research Laboratory at the Maimonides Medical Center in New York. As Dr Louisa Rhine found out, seeing the future while dreaming is one of the paranormal phenomena most often reported. And Ullmann and Krippner’s research did in fact support that precognitive dreams likely are real–not just figments or chimeras. Their main focus, though, was to investigate the connection between dreams and telepathy, which eventually was solidly corroborated by their trials.

C: So, we may send ‘mental emails’ to family and friends during the night… to employ your analogy of a Mental Internet?

T: That’s a good way to put it! Yes, I think that’s possible. At least the mentioned experiments seemed to suggest this. Now about precognition: some quite exciting research has been done by Dean Radin, who probably is the most famous parapsychologist today. He tested if the brain would be able to detect upcoming events in the following manner: Test-persons would be wired to an apparatus measuring skin-conductivity, i.e. the skin’s resistance to electricity, which changes according to a person’s levels of stress. Radin’s computer-screen would then present, to the test-persons, different pictures that were pleasant, scary or neutral. And, stunningly enough, before a picture was shown on the screen, the body’s reaction to it would be measurable! E.g. the person would typically show an increased level of stress 3-5 seconds before a scary picture was shown. Not always, but a significant number of times. Radin has run this experiment with, among others, the Nobel prize winning chemist Kary Mullis, who became convinced the effect was real, and has said: “I could see about three seconds into the future. It’s spooky (…) There’s something funny about time that we don’t understand because you shouldn’t be able to do that.”

C: This strange effect could perhaps be an experience of the time-symmetry, or non-temporality, that you mentioned above… I have mixed feelings about time-symmetry, which seems deterministic.

T: I think that perhaps could be the case, yes, but you know, these things are really difficult to understand. But at least the effect, precognition, seems to be very real, and points to the need to reformulate our understanding of both Time and Consciousness, I think. Also the highly respected psychology professor Daryl Bem of Cornell University has conducted experiments on precognition. In one of them, a great number of students would watch a computer-screen with a couple of ‘doors’; behind one door the computer would present erotic imagery, whereas behind the other door it would present a neutral image. The task of the students was then, as one would suspect, to detect the erotic activity . . .which the students in fact managed to do a statistically significant number of times! This was but one of 9 different experiments Bem conducted to see if humans really have the ability to perceive the future. He published an article about his experiments called “Feeling the Future,” printed in March 2011, in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, one of the most respected psychology journals in the world, which caused much brawl among skeptics and more conservative souls.

C: The role of affect—the emotions.  It makes sense from an evolutionary perspective one might argue.

T: Of course, one might perhaps feel that perceiving an event just a few seconds before it happens is not all that exciting compared to, say, prophesying things years ahead! But long-time precognition is, understandably enough, rather impractical to run experiments with. And if it really is possible to perceive something before it actually happens, even just seconds before, this means the strictures and confinements of linear time are not absolute but rather are up for review! Which indeed opens new horizons, because if you are able to see/perceive something 3 seconds before it happens, why, in principle, not 3 hours, 3 weeks or 3 years?

C: Yes, I’ve thought sometimes there may be a lag in perception, in these cases, though perhaps it amounts to the same thing.  

T: Precognition, ‘seeing’ the future before it, from a common-sense perspective, happens, is obviously a tricky thing, both in a philosophical and in a practical sense. To just state the most obvious problem: if it is possible to see the future—which could seem to imply that the future is somehow already there, being able to be perceived—what then about our precious free will? If things ‘seen’, say in a precognitive dream, are bound to happen anyway, whether we would have it or not, aren’t we then somehow reduced to biological robots without any real agency? This is a view of ourselves which could be correct, but which I think most of us still would not be fully comfortable with:  The novelist Isaac Bashevis Singer once, with a glaring and funny paradox, stated: ‘We must believe in free will—we have no choice!’

But perhaps precognition—if we regard the phenomenon to be real, and in my book I present several stunning cases which support that this indeed could be the case—is not to be understood as perception of a fixed future, but rather as a glimpse of a hitherto undetected freedom? A bit like getting to look at a track-map at the railroad-station, which shows that track A leads to Scotland whereas track B leads to Wales—but still leaves me fully free to choose which train to get on? If so, precognition would not at all destroy our agency, rather it could enhance our possibility to make more informed, freer, and thereby also better, choices. The philosophical physician Larry Dossey has written a couple of books giving suggestions on how to use precognition to better navigate everyday life. 

As I said, this is obviously a difficult issue; Dean Radin, the great parapsychologist, once commented wittily that one should not ponder precognition more than 10 minutes at a time, since “it hurts your brain”. Personally, I think that at the end of the day there might be an unresolved, and even unresolvable, issue here, which may ultimately stem from the limited capacity of Words to grasp and represent Reality—the menu will never be the meal, the map will never be the terrain. So perhaps Wisdom is to live with this paradox, accept the Mystery, listening carefully to our intuition, doing what feels right, without knowing, and without needing to know, to which extent our choices might be part of a fixed or fully free future.

C: Wow… I love that perspective.  I believe you’re saying that the brain, or the intellect, is a technology that is (or may be) necessarily limited.  I also like what you say about intuition.  It reminds that humility is a form of common sense… but let’s move on… so much to discuss. I really appreciate your sense of humor in the book.  In general, my academic colleagues and I are trying to get away from the cliché of paranormal phenomena as dark and dangerous, partly because we think it could inhibit the experience as well as the exploration of psychic phenomena. Could you mention some funny or entertaining examples of paranormal phenomena? Do any of those involve well-known scientists or other well-known thinkers?  

T: Well, it is quite natural to have a certain fear of the Unknown, and the paranormal to most people is a rather unknown area. And modern men and women – and trans persons, not to forget! – will often have the fear of losing their rational mind if opening up to the paranormal in earnest. Allow me to quote a stanza from a poem by Hermann Hesse; it is from the Glass Bead Game, or Magister Ludi, as the book is also called:

For if there were additional dimensions 
Beside the good old pair we’ll always cherish, 
How could we live in safety, without tensions? 
How could we live and not expect to perish?

So there you go! And the film directors of course know very well that horror sells, so they will tend to profile the paranormal in horrific ways. Which I think is kind of horrible, as it may shut the doors to mental rooms containing valuable parts of our human heritage.

Now, as for the humor, thanks for the compliment!

C: Right! That’s so important—so insightful. What you say about horror.  And thank you for your humor.

T: Stefan Zweig, the great Austrian writer, once said that ‘what happens to a person resembles the person it happens to.’ So if you have a sense of humor in general, not only episodes in your daily life but also the paranormal will, I think, tend to manifest in humorous ways. I could mention examples from my own life, but since you ask for stories involving well-known thinkers I am a non-starter…  There are a couple of stories from the book that come to mind; I don’t think I can classify them as overly ‘funny’, but they definitely contain entertaining elements. Would you like me to…?

C: Yes… I think that’s what I meant.  A kind of wit. Please continue…

T: The German poet and thinker Johan Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) once experienced an amusing episode. We are in Weimar, in 1813. After working long hours in a laboratory, Goethe and his assistant, August Klemm, had an evening stroll. Then suddenly Goethe starts to gesture and talk into the empty air, as if someone is standing right in front of him. Klemm becomes worried, wondering if the great poet is hallucinating, for he realizes that in some mystical way the poet is experiencing the Presence of his friend, the musicologist Friedrich Rochlitz (who, for all what they knew, was far away, in Frankfurt). Goethe starts to laugh, and exclaims: ‘Truly, it’s him! My friend Friedrich!—here in Weimar!—But for God’s sake man, what’s the matter with you? In my dressing gown—with my slippers you’re walking here, right in the middle of the street?’ After the vision had faded they both were a bit apprehensive, wondering if the vision was some sort of foreboding. But arriving at Goethe’s home a little later, they had a pleasant surprise: There was Rochlitz—clad in Goethe’s dressing gown and slippers! Having become wet after a rainfall he had borrowed some pieces of clothing from Goethe’s closet. Then, after a glass of wine, Goethe told Rochlitz about the strange vision. Rochlitz then replied that at that very same time he himself had been dozing, dreaming about meeting Goethe who exclaimed: ‘In my bathrobe and slippers in the street?’ I find this to be a most charming tale! And also, if truthfully related, a stunning example of clairvoyance and/or telepathy, where the two men had a shared experience, participating in each other’s worlds, even if physically apart.

C: That’s exactly what I’m talking about.  It’s a stunning example but it also has a kind of grace, in the aesthetic sense. I just love that anecdote.

T: The other story involves the mythologist Joseph Campbell, whose work on The Hero’s Journey (humanity’s spiritual quest) was of great importance to George Lucas when he developed the Star Wars mythology. Early in the 1980s Campbell was engrossed in a project concerning the role of animals in shamanic imagination. In the myths of the Kalahari Bushmen the praying mantis is an important figure, and one day when Campbell was sitting in his apartment on the 14th floor in Greenwich Village, New York, immersed in myths about the mantis, he suddenly got an impulse to open a window facing Sixth Avenue. Campbell says that in the 40 years he had been living in the apartment, this window had been opened no more than two or three times, but now he felt he had to open it! And then, looking out and to the right, he saw a huge mantis! Campbell said he felt it looked at him with a ‘meaningful’ glance…

As with the first story, this is not humorous in the ‘ha-ha-ha’ sense, but neither are they scary or creepy. They are entertaining in a ‘meaningful’ way; I definitely feel that they emanate light rather than darkness, to put it that way!

C: May depend on the size of the mantis… 

T: Ha!

C:  Next up: Your book proposes the concept of a “Mental Internet” as the basis for psi phenomena.  Could you tell us more about that concept?  And could you point us to two or three examples from the book that support the concept of a Mental Internet as an explanatory hypothesis?

T: Sure! The Mental Internet is basically a modern way of trying to describe the age-old, and very wide-spread idea–or perhaps even better: experience–that there is some sort of Mind at Large of which our own little mind is a part. Such a concept is found both in the East and the West, and also in indigenous cultures around the world. I think it qualifies to be described as an Urerfahrung, a human primordial experience–an experience that also we moderners have a brush with each night, when we are asleep. Gnostics and Alchemists will sometimes refer to this collective sphere of consciousness as Anima Mundi, the world-soul, but for us modern folks I think the Internet–which daily demonstrates to us that our small personal computer is part of a vast network of computers and which contains a vast amount of information–provides a useful description.

So that’s, roughly, the idea. But then, of course, we’ll have to ask: IS it really like this, or could the idea of a collective consciousness be merely a chimera? Personally I have become convinced it is real, and in my book I present a great number of cases–both from real-life and from the laboratory– that seem to substantiate this notion. Do you want me to give you some examples?

C: Sure!

T: OK. Jimmy Carter, former president of the United States, gave a speech to students at Emory College, Atlanta on September 20, 1995 where he related that during his term in office, which was 1977–81, a ‘special plane’, probably a Russian spy plane, had crashed in the Congo, and was unable to be found with the help of normal military means such as spy-satellites etc. But as some readers likely know, at that time the military and the CIA ran a program, usually referred to as Stargate, where they sought to use clairvoyance to detect enemy weapons-installations, maneuvers etc. So the CIA proceeded to put a ‘remote viewer’, a trained clairvoyant, on the job. And as Carter said: ‘She gave some latitude and longitude figures. We focused our satellite cameras on that point and the plane was there.’ So to employ our Internet-metaphor: the remote viewer was ‘Googling’ the Mental Internet for information about the lost plane’s whereabouts. And, according to President Carter, the information she found was correct to a “T”!

C: And this information hails from President Carter… not some hippie-guru. That really helps to lend it gravitas! Not some conspiracy theory… speaking of U.S. presidents past.

T: I feel the same way. Another ‘grave’ example could be the telepathy experiment conducted in Denmark in 2010 by psychologist Dr. Adrian Parker, tenured professor at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. In the laboratory he had Sara and Vicky, two twins in their twenties. Vicky was placed in one room, wired to an apparatus measuring heart-rhythm and skin-conductivity, which would detect changes in her stress-level. Whereas Sara was placed in another, totally separated room, where she was – of course voluntarily! – exposed to several small shocks. And what was almost miraculous was that–I’ll just give the short version here–when Sara got the shocks, Vicky’s meters would spike! So, in the lingo of the Mental Internet, Sara and Vicky definitely seemed to be online!

C: Since this magazine is Mind Body Spirit, I’d like to ask about your views on ‘the body.’  What role does the body play in psychic phenomena?  How does the body interface with the Mental Internet, for example?

T: A profound question, and therefore not at all easy to answer… especially since I don’t have a medical or physiological education. I would presume a person with background in, say, energy medicine would be far more qualified to opine about this. But offering my two cents let me mention that Dean Radin, whose books a number of the readers probably will know, has suggested that the synaptic fluid between the neurons in our brains might be entangled with the universe at large—re: quantum theory’s notion of non-locality, and that Space in some sense can be seen just as much as that which connects things as that which separates them—thus allowing for transfer of information across distances, an interaction via the Mental Internet. I could also give a mention to Dr. Bernard Beitman, a psychiatrist whose main interest is synchronicities, meaningful coincidences, and who has coined the concept ‘psychosphere’, an idea closely resembling the Mental Internet. Bernie has conducted an impressive series of more than 100 interviews where many of the interviewees have a great deal of interdisciplinary competence–from psychology, medicine, energy medicine, healing etc. These interviews are found at his website, and I would guess that the readers here will be able to find valuable perspectives germane to the theme.

C: Great stuff! Wow. I was not aware of either of these theories. But I want to know what you think also. You’ve reviewed the literature comprehensively and that makes you uniquely qualified. So, what’s your gut instinct?  I asked for your “two cents.”

T: Ha ha! Ok, I’ll try! In one sense the body is obviously totally separate from the Mental Internet, since it can, and will, sadly enough, eventually die. Whereas the Mental Internet will indeed persist. A bit like my PC, tablet or phone may crash, while the Internet will still be up and running. That said, there is, based on many reports, also a very intimate connection between the two, where the body seemingly functions as ‘decoder’, as it were. E.g. clairvoyance will typically convey information in the form of inner pictures, which obviously utilizes our body’s repertory of eyes and seeing. But information may also present itself via ‘the inner voice’, which then makes use of our ears and hearing. And very common is, as we know, the experience of having a ‘gut feeling’ about a person or situation–a feeling which, at least in my perception, need not stem only from earlier experiences, but may very well be based on a ‘download’ from the Mental Internet. Bodily ‘decoding’ of information has often been reported in connection with so-called ‘crisis-telepathy’, the essence of which is that one person gets hit by crisis (injury, shock or death) whereas simultaneously another person gets a strong sense that something is wrong, often accompanied with a quite specific bodily sensation corresponding to the crisis.

C: Yes.  Fairly common experiences, again.  Could you also give us a specific example of this?

T: Well, a classical case was reported by the famed Swiss psychiatrist C.G. Jung:

Once, after he had given a lecture at a conference, he went back to his hotel-room where he soon fell asleep. At 2 AM he suddenly awoke, feeling a wariness so dense he was convinced there was someone in the room. Then he felt as if his forehead had been hit, the sensation extending through to the back of his skull. Next morning he was informed that during the night one of his patients had committed suicide by a frontal shot to the head. It would seem that the sensation experienced by the patient was simultaneously perceived by Jung, his own body acting as ‘decoder’ for the information about the tragic incident made available via the Mental Internet. 

Would it be all right if I now extended, and also ended, the interview with a few historical and cultural perspectives?

C: Of course!  I’m sure our readers would love that, so please go ahead! But let me just mention, there is so much more in the book than we can even touch on here. It has to be said. The book covers so much fascinating ground.

T: Good, thanks. And thank you for saying that. 

The Indian yoga-psychology contains, as many readers will surely know, elaborate charts describing connections between the body and corresponding energy-centers/chakras, and the different states and functions of consciousness. Most well-known is perhaps the pineal gland and its correlate chakra, the so-called ‘third eye’, often associated with clairvoyance–which, in our Internet-lingo, could be described as downloading information from the Mental Internet. Also Kabbalah, the Jewish mysticism, outlines similar, though not identical, connections. The central Kabbalistic map being Otz Chaim, the Tree of Life, with its ten sefirot, spheres representing the forces and qualities constituting the cosmos and the individual. The human body and mind mirrors, in some sense, the cosmos; ‘as above, so below’ as the old Hermetic saying goes. By meditating on the sefirot and the paths connecting them, the kabbalist will, at least in theory, create balance and harmony within his/her own body and consciousness. But simultaneously, because there is an intimate connection between the individual’s body and mind and the cosmic Mind–sometimes referred to as Adam Kadmon, the original Adam, a figure spiritually encompassing all humans, past and present–the kabbalist’s meditations will not only influence his/her own small body and mind, but will also, in a subtle way, act on the world and the Mind at large. Similar perspectives are, as is well known, found in Indian thought, where it is held that if many enough meditate, the ‘good vibes’ created by the meditators will–by an energetic-informational process which I think the biologist Rupert Sheldrake’s concept of ‘morphic resonance’ could be highly relevant to explore–seep into the collective consciousness. The TM movement has even made a number of statistical surveys with conclusions supporting that some of their collective sittings have had precisely this harmonizing effect (less criminality, accidents etc.) though I am not qualified to assess the validity of their research.

Anyway, I have found the concept of a collective consciousness, regardless of which name we give it or how we think we may best interact with it, to be utterly horizon-expanding, and to provide, or at least suggest, possible explanations for phenomena that otherwise would seem inexplicable, even impossible. And taking the perspective of the collective consciousness, the Anima Mundi, the Mental Internet, the psychosphere, into account, could perhaps even, as indicated, be crucial to the well-being of our species and to our planet. Dixi!

C: Thank you so much, Terje!

T: Thank you, be blessed–and may the Force be with us all!

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Christine Skolnik is a freelance writer and a mentor to first-generation college students in the Chicago area. Her current areas of focus are ecology, history of empiricism, history of religion, and paranormal studies. A former academic, Christine earned a PhD in English/Rhetoric from Penn State and, more recently, an MA in Urban Sustainability and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction. She is a trained spiritual director and has a longstanding, scholarly interest in comparative spirituality.

Terje G. Simonsen is a Norwegian Historian of Ideas and non-fiction author, specializing in the esoteric and occult. He is educated at the University of Oslo, where he also has taught introductory courses on philosophical and literary works. His dissertation on the anthroposophical journal Janus received much acclaim and was released as a book in 2001. In the prestigious series The Cultural Library and The World’s Holy Scriptures, Simonsen has published essays on I and Thou, the mystically inspired main work by the dialogue philosopher Martin Buber, and The First Book of Enoch, an esoteric text from antiquity. Simonsen has received several grants, and is a full member of ESSWE, the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism. 

In addition, Simonsen is educated in gestalt therapy and psychosynthesis, and his varied career has also included stints in psychiatry, kindergarten, museums, security, catering etc. Today he works as a freelance writer. Simonsen is also a café aficionado, salsa dancer, amateur pianist and chess player. 

Since childhood Simonsen has been fascinated by ‘magical’ phenomena as telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, and healing—an interest based on some peculiar experiences of his own as well as strange stories told by friends and family. Later, this fascination led to extensive forays into esoteric and occult traditions, where such phenomena are not seen as chimera but as part of an expanded consciousness, and also into the science about such phenomena, i.e. parapsychology. The result is the present book, an entertaining, colourful and multifaceted good read, endorsed by several of the world’s foremost experts in the field as well as a number of other authors and critics.



A Short History of (Nearly) Everything Paranormal by Terje G. Simonsen, published by Watkins, paperback (530 pages).

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