(Join Craig Weiler and I, along with our special guests for a six session digital seminar titled – Everybody’s Psychic: Discovering Your Psychic Potential and What to Do With It)
“Craig Weiler, David Metcalfe and other “psychic” woo-meisters are hosting an online psychic course due to be released in 2014. “
– Whitedude, from a post on Michael Shermer’s SkepticForum.com
We often miss beautiful opportunities to engage in conversation through a mere moment of misperception that draws us into the conflicted rationale of preconceived notions. These missed opportunities are a key ingredient in the noxious mix of antagonism that has plagued the human quest since the first religious rationalist lost their invitation to the Mysteries and declared with frothing fervor the undeniable irrationality of what others called divinity.
If we can be so bold, let’s begin a reexamination, pretending, if we can, that the first religious rationalist had understood the root of rational, which is ratio, and understood that ratio means ‘reckoning’ or ‘numbering’ in its original sense. It is a mark of measurement used for business, fitting for corporate ledger books, but some might say less pleasurable than poesis, the art of making, and the root of poetry.
So let us make something different from this conversation that has been so mislead for centuries. Let us remeasure these reckonings that seem so sound, and see the proper poetic balance of meaning in what at first seems so obvious to the religiously secular mind.
We’ll begin with a question:
Who am I?
Let’s repeat that again:
Who am I?
And, in honor of that sacred ratio of 3, once more:
Who am I?
A good question really, who am I? Today we could enumerate the possibilities of the ‘Self’ and seek some identity in definitions that roll the I into ‘self-identified’ groups. Yet this is slippery, for what we self-identity as can be so many things, one of the most important, and often missed things being that the self itself is a self-identified object. For without self-identity, what is the self? Or in other words, Who am I?
I for one, would like to think that everybody is psychic. That’s why when Ken Jordan, Craig Weiler and I were thinking of titles for our upcoming webinar I jumped on that simple phrase for the opening kicker. Yes, everybody’s psychic, and it’s kind of funny how true this is, even funnier that not everybody gets the joke. In fact I don’t really get the joke in its totality, but I do get that psychic doesn’t mean what I think it means. In fact, any skeptic will tell you that, let’s return to SkepticForum.com for confirmation from Shen1986:
“No one on the planet knows how PSI works and that means even the parapsychologists.”
There we are, neither I nor anyone, including Shen1986, really know what psychic means, or I’m sorry PSI if we’re to use the rational term which represents an unknown. However, I do know where the word psychic comes from, it comes from the root ψυχή, which is the Greek term for ‘breath.’
Let’s pause there for a moment and consider this deeply, perhaps we may even need to take a breath and realize that we’ve been saying a word, and arguing about a reality, that we don’t even know how to talk about. For so many people psychic means a bunch of pseudo-science bullshit that some inept researchers think exists, some call it magic (from the root magh, which means to have power.) others call it supernatural (meaning above nature, but let’s be honest, nothing is ‘above’ nature.) we might even consider it paranormal (which means beside or contrary to nature, and that is in some ways even less likely than being above it.) In the end it looks like magic is the best bet, since those who claim to be ‘psychic’ usually appear to have power over something unseen, and those that hate the idea that psychics have that power usually get pretty emotional about it which is a sign that they are afraid of the power that might hold over them.
Yet, psychic comes from a root which means breath, so do these psychics have power over breathing? Whose breathing? This is more confusing than it was at the beginning and it makes more sense now why Shen1986 is sure that nobody knows what psychism is. This problem is perpetuated by the fact that the skeptical sub-culture often doesn’t know what research is either, such as our friend Whitedude who states “Julie Beischel…was asking for $35,000 last year from people to host a psychic experiment – we have not heard anything since from this experiment. Her psychic Windbridge Institute runs on money she takes in from her “customers” and donations.” It seems he missed the latest issue of Frontiers in Psychology Journal (which we’ve linked a number of times at Limitless Minds) which published the fruits of some of Windbridge’s research in a recent study looking at physiological correlates during mediumship experiences. That end bit about ‘taking money,’ I’m not even sure how to address that considering the fact that research, like rent, food, clothing and many other things in our capitalist society requires money.
Another breath though, and let’s return to our calm examination of this intriguing question, who am I? and its implications for the idea that everybody’s psychic. Way back in 1872, ten years before the founding of the Society for Psychical Research (whose pseudo-scientific roster has hosted charlatans like the father of American psychology William James and a number of Nobel Prize winners,) we have the coining of this aggressively contested term, psychic, which was meant to indicate something that pertained to the soul. If you’ll recollect back in those days scientists were still trained in Latin and Greek, and through both their study of the classics as well as their study of the Tanakh (you know, that thing the Christians call the Old Testament) the term soul was associated with breath (ψυχή or psyche in Greek, and רוח or Ruach in Hebrew) as in:
“The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life” (Job 33:4)
Or if we consider Plato’s Socratic dialogue in the Phaedo as outlined in Francis E. Peters invigorating tome, Greek Philosophical Terms: A Historical Lexicon:
“The end of life, and the definition of philosophia, is a purification (katharsis) that is a preparation for death and the return of the soul to its natural habitat. Associated with this complex of ideas is the theory of recollection (anamnesis…) and it is this that leads Plato to more novel considerations. In the Phaedo, anamnesis suddenly shifts to the level of episteme and what is recollected is not the details of some other life but a knowledge of the Forms (eide). The psyche is the faculty whereby we know the eide and this because the soul is most akin to the eide like them immortal, immaterial, and invisible.”
While we’re digesting that, I’d like to point out that this is where my end of the joke comes in. When I jumped on the title everybody’s psychic, I knew that in order to fully grasp what that means one has to run down a very steep hill of recollection, reconsideration and reconfiguration in their understanding of such a common term in order to get at the root of what is implied by that statement. I even warned about it at the end of my first critique of Jerry Coyne’s New Republic piece:
“consider what “Everybody is Psychic” might mean in a broader context rather than the immediate assumptions that rest on preconceived ideas and biases. Go into the Latin roots, give etymology a try, stretch your brain. Don’t get drunk on cheap jargon like ‘woo,’ and don’t settle for priggish skepticism. Life is much too short to close your mind with the immature opinions of others, and the world is too beautiful to let brazenly ignorant pundits like Coyne hold power in the global conversation.”
What did that kind of warning get me? Well for one this kind of thoroughness lead to Whitedude concluding that “David Metcalfe is a conspiracy theorist who has claimed a team of skeptics have taken over Wikipedia to attack psychic claims. No evidence given of course, this conspiracy theory started with Craig Weiler and has no basis in fact.” If you’ve made it this far, dear reader, I’m sure that you already tire of the thoroughness I’m capable of.
I don’t recall claiming a team of skeptics has taken over Wikipedia, however I do recall mentioning that the term Guerilla, as used by the ideological entity invoked by Susan Gerbic which is called the Guerilla Skeptics, had implications for asymetric warfare which implied that no centralized group was needed to provoke action. If I danced down that road and explained asymetric strategies in psychological warfare Whitedude might blush a bit to realize that their own ‘woo’licious opinions are an example of how effective such strategies are.
In doing so, however, we would move even farther from our core question, the one that we’ve been trying to get to for so long, who am I? in order to explain very simply the idea that everybody’s psychic. We’re also still seeking to rediscover the intangible self as promised in the title of this long winded piece! All these words, all this history, latin roots, greek roots, hebrew roots, we even had that magh which is an Indo-European or Persian root, and all that poor Whitedude thought we were talking about is ‘woo’.
Why woo? well he thought that it was a woo’binar because this conspiracy theorist just proved that by using guerilla psychological warfare tactics (such as providing a provocative title, and by wording the webinar copy in such a way that it would trigger an emotive response in strongly biased members of the skeptical sub-culture, etc.) I could make a complete stranger verbally explode on a skeptical message board, triggering a series of responses from others who consider themselves ‘rational skeptics’ that could then lead into this post which details just how difficult this subject really is, especially when it touches on deeper levels than the rough and ready materia which we’re quite comfortable in assuming we know so much about and considering we’ve been hammering terms around in ways that don’t even make sense to what they mean it now seems very likely that even our much loved materia is probably misunderstood (which, by the way, it is since the root of materia is mater which is a root meaning mother, but I’m not going to drag you into alchemy just yet.)
I’m sweating a bit from all this round about word play, how about you? Let’s take another breath. At the beginning I mentioned that we miss opportunities for conversation, and Whitedude, had my guerilla tactics not been effective, had a very good opportunity to send me an email, hit me up on Twitter, or comment on any of my innumerable articles to spark a conversation. Yet that didn’t happen, instead there were assumptions, and in assuming things Whitedude stumbled into a display of irrationality that demonstrates very clearly exactly how we’ve been grossly misled by careless skepticism which we’ll be discussing in depth during our evocative, provocative and enlightening Evolver Learning Labs live, interactive video course titled:
It is my hope that you’ll join us (and yes, that means you as well Whitedude) for this exciting 6 session event, featuring some of the leading lights of psychical research, and that we can in some way get a little bit closer to answering that nagging question, Who am I? and perhaps even rediscover our intangible self.