Super-psi is the theory that the evidence for the afterlife is really caused by the unconscious psychic abilities of living persons. However, there is overwhelming evidence for the afterlife which cannot be explained by super-psi. Parapsychologists who believe in super-psi are probably suffering from perceptual bias.
Evidence For Survival that cannot be Explained by Super Psi:
- Spirits have to learn to communicate through certain forms of mediumship and some spirits are better learners than others. Super-psi is not a good explanation for this phenomenon.
- Other characteristics of spirit communication vary with the spirit not the medium or the sitters.
- Some haunting phenomena are not dependent on the presence of any single person, some of which are ended through spirit communication. Guy Lyon Playfair, William Roll, and Ian Stevenson all thought some poltergeist phenomenon were caused by spirits.
- Birthmarks: When a child remembers a past life, and has a birthmark at a location of an injury in the past life, it suggests the spirit body may carry information from one life to the next. It would be absurd to believe the fetus was psychic and was fulfilling a psychological need by unconsciously creating the birth mark.
- Shared Death Bed Visions, Shared Near-Death Experiences, and Multiple Witness Crisis Apparitions are not well explained by super-psi. You'd have to be a super-duper-psychic not just a super-psychic to induce hallucinations in other people.
- Near Death Experiences: Cases of NDEs where the experiencer has vivid realer-than-real experiences when there is no brain activity and no veridical information, cannot be explained as psi from a living person because there is no evidence of psi and no live person during the experience. These experiences cannot be explained as ESP during an abnormal brain state shortly before or after the experience. Near-death experiencers neurosurgeon Dr. Eben Alexander, psychiatrist Dr. Carl Jung, and military remote viewer Joe McMoneagle, who have special qualifications to judge the phenomenon, all believed their near-death experiences represented evidence for survival after death.
- Drop-in Communicators: A medium might be said to be fulfilling an unconscious psychological need when using super-psi to obtain information about deceased relatives of the sitters. However when the medium brings through spirits who are unrelated to the sitters and who communicate for purposes of their own, there is no psychological motivation. Super-psi cannot explain these cases.
- Cross Correspondences: When more than one medium spontaneously, without being prodded by an investigator, brings through parts of a message, and the message only makes sense when the parts are put together, this indicates that spirits are independent of any medium. This also shows that spirits have initiative and the ability to organize complex tasks. Super-psi cannot explain this.
- ESP is not Produced by the Brain: ESP is not limited by time or distance. It cannot be explained by the known laws of physics including quantum entanglement. Since human consciousness is capable of ESP, consciousness cannot be the result of any physical process in the brain. Anyone who acknowledges the reality of ESP has already admitted that consciousness is non-physical so they have no grounds upon which to deny survival of consciousness.
The illogical argument for Super-psi
- Inaccurate and Unverifiable Control Spirits: When a trance medium brings through communications from a control spirit who gives inaccurate information, or who fishes for information, and who claims to be a person for whom there is no evidence of ever having lived, it is often said to be evidence of super-psi. This is not logical, super-psi is supposed to explain how a medium can provide accurate information about the deceased but in these cases the hypothetical super-psi is providing inaccurate information about the deceased.
When a psychic obtains information without the use of the bodily senses, it is called extra sensory perception (ESP). Some researchers incorrectly believe that all phenomena which seem to be evidence of spirits and the afterlife are really due to the psychic functioning of living persons. This type of psychic functioning is called super-ESP or super-psi. In the case of trance mediumship, the medium is presumed to obtain information using super-psi and then unconsciously impersonates or dramatizes the spirit. However, there is much evidence for survival after death that cannot be explained by super-psi.
Super-ESP is defined differently by different authors.
Hornell Hart in Survival Versus Super-psi defines super-ESP as
- The use of telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition and retrocognition to obtain information from anywhere in the world and from any time.
Hornell Hart's definition was proposed to explain how a medium might get information about a dead person needed to dramatize their personality when the information is not available through telepathy from the minds of the sitters. According to Hart's definition, the medium has access to any information in the conscious or unconscious mind of any person anywhere in the world or from any other source (such as events or documents) from any time in the past or future.
Neal Grossman in Further Thoughts on Super-psi: A conversation. defines superESP as:
- Non-propositional knowledge obtained through ESP.
In the article, Grossman explains that knowledge about facts, "knowledge-that", is propositional knowledge. Other types of knowledge, "knowledge-how", such as skills, are non-propositional knowledge.
Grossman's definition of superESP explains how a psychic might use ESP to get the skills needed to dramatize the spirit of a deceased person. The ability to obtain facts through ESP doesn't explain how a psychic might obtain skills. To play a piece of music on the piano, you have to practice. No amount of reading about playing the piano can replace practice. One way skills are transmitted psychically is through mediumship. A medium in a trance may be able to speak in a language they never studied. In this case a spirit is controlling the medium's body and the skills come from the the spirit. Super-ESP, or super-psi, refers to the ability to obtain skills through psychic means from sources other than spirit influence. Some researchers who don't believe in the afterlife, believe super-psi allows a psychic to obtain skills and the psychic may demonstrate those skills while dramatizing the spirit.
There is empirical evidence that supports the super-psi hypothesis. Some of this evidence comes from psychology where it is known that multiple personality disorders or hypnosis may cause people to exhibit alternate personalities that behave like some of the spirit controls of trance mediums. Other evidence for super-psi comes from parapsychology where experiments have demonstrated that ESP is not limited by time, distance, or the complexity of a task.
However, much of the evidence said to show that super-psi is the explanation for evidence of the afterlife comes from trance and other forms of mediumship. Much of this evidence is based on spirit controls of mediums who act like an alternate personality of the medium and whose identity cannot be verified and/or who give incorrect information when asked questions about the spirits they claim to be communicating for or otherwise act inconsistently with the character they purport themselves to be.
There seems to be a flaw in this reasoning. Super-psi proponents point out the possibility of super-psi based on evidence from psychology and parapsychology. But, then they identify examples of flawed mediumship that don't live up to the capabilities of what they say super-psi can achieve. Yet super-psi proponents assert these cases of flawed mediumship are instances of super-psi in action and conclude that mediumship that does yield verifiable evidence of identity of the spirit is a result of super-psi.
It is hard to understand how this flawed mediumship could be due to super-psi. According to the believers in super-psi, super-psi should give verifiable and correct information. If these mediums were using super-psi, their mediumship should be verifiable and accurate. Since it is not, then it is either not super-psi or super-psi is not capable of accurately portraying a deceased individual. In either case this is not evidence that super-psi is the explanation for accurate mediumship.
In fact there is another explanation for some flawed mediumship and it is based on empirical evidence not convoluted logic.
One of the observations that helped convince Richard Hodgson that spirits exist and can communicate through mediums was made when he began to understand the source of errors in Mrs. Piper's mediumship. This happened when spirits began to communicate through writing rather than by using the control Phinuit as an intermediary. Hodgson learned that there are many conditions that caused confusion in the communicating spirits. Confusion was caused by unfamiliarity with the conditions that occur when communicating through a medium, and by the transition from physical life to spirit life, or by a long period of illness or mental turmoil preceding death. When spirits communicated by writing and controlled the medium themselves, their confusion was apparent. When spirits communicated indirectly through the spirit control Phinuit who spoke for them, confusion on the part of the communicating spirit was obscured because Phinuit was acting as an intermediary. This explains some of the failures of spirits to correctly answer questions aimed at proving their identity, and it explains some instances when Phinuit was inaccurate. These same phenomena are likely to explain other cases where flawed mediumship is purported to be evidence for super-psi. More information on Hodgson's research on the mediumship of Mrs. Piper can be found in the post Mrs. Piper: Evidence for Survival After Death
Hodgson's observations weaken the case for super-psi because they provide an alternative to the super-psi hypothesis to explain flawed mediumship and they are based on empirical observations not supposition.
There are several phenomena that seem to demonstrate the existence of spirits and the afterlife which are not easily explained by super-psi and for which the survival hypothesis seems much more likely. This type of evidence often involves phenomena that are independent of any living person and often produce highly accurate information about a deceased individual. Furthermore, if someone is going to assert a phenomenon is due to super-psi, where a living person unconsciously imitates a spirit or simulates some type of afterlife phenomenon, he must consider what is known about how the unconscious acts. There must be some identifiable unconscious motivation or psychological need being fulfilled, otherwise the super-psi hypothesis becomes fatuous because it would be unfalsifiable and any phenomenon could be explained by it. For example, a medium giving a reading has a need to bring through information about the customer's deceased relatives and acquaintances. When the medium brings through spirits unrelated to the sitters it does not fulfill any psychological need. In many of the phenomena which are better explained by survival than super-psi, there is no identifiable unconscious motivation or psychological need being fulfilled. These phenomena include:
- Drop-in Communicators
- Cross Correspondences
- Spirits have to learn to communicate through certain forms of mediumship.
- Other characteristics of spirit communication vary with the spirit not the medium or the sitters.
- Haunting phenomena that are not dependent on the presence of any single person, some of which are ended through spirit communication.
- Birthmarks in children who remember past lives suggest the spirit body carries characteristics from one life to the next.
- Shared death bed visions, multiple witness crisis apparitions, and shared near death experiences.
This is explained in more detail in Mrs. Piper: Evidence for Survival After Death
These examples of phenomena which appear to be due to survival and cannot be easily explained by super-psi are very strong evidence for survival after death. Furthermore, once you obtain evidence for survival from one form of evidence, survival becomes the more parsimonious explanation for many other afterlife phenomena and super-psi becomes a poorer explanation for those phenomena as well.
More information on these forms of evidence for the afterlife can be found here.
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