PSYCHOKINESIS (or PK) is an important branch of anomaly research, because it provides an insight into possible mechanisms behind certain allegedly paranormal effects. Whereas many experiments are judged against statistical probability, and hence are always open to the interpretation of coincidence, a physical effect which directly contradicts current theories of physics is unambiguous. The effect must either be accepted as true (and hence a challenge to current physical theories) or not true, for one of a number of different reasons.
Quantum theory to some extent blurs this distinction, but does not generally have a perceptible part to play at the macroscopic scale of everyday life. Anomalous physical affects that happen frequently would even leave quantum theory struggling. Any technique that can promote the study of PK is generally to be welcomed.
The sitter group (or table tilting) technique is a relatively easy way to promote PK. It is based on the old parlour game of table tilting. It has been developed into a modern research tool by such people as the late Ken Batcheldor. What makes table tilting groups so useful is that they can produce apparent PK without the use of rare, gifted individuals. It also has the advantage of making the effects fairly controllable. It is certainly an experiment that every serious, experienced group of paranormal researchers should consider trying at some stage. It ought to be said, though, that it should not be embarked upon with anything other than a serious, careful attitude nor by the inexperienced.
So what exactly is a sitter group? Well, the basic idea is for a group of people to sit around a small table with their hands on the top. It generally takes place in the dark or in low light. After a while the table will often produce small sounds and movements. Over a number of regular sessions, these phenomena usually grow in magnitude and variety until, ultimately, they may resemble the phenomena associated with physical mediumship. The method will be outlined in greater detail later in this article.
What kind of results have been obtained with table tilting? A whole variety of physical effects have been witnessed and different ones may yet occur in the future. The range of effects is often slightly different from group to group, especially in the later stages of development. It probably depends on the exact make up and circumstances of the group. Often in the early stages the phenomena consist mainly of creaks and groans in the table. There may also be matching sounds and slight movements. Cold breezes are often experienced and, sometimes, small lights seen. In later sessions, the table may move more dramatically, often with a rocking motion. The table may also slide about on the floor and might lift onto two legs, or even just one. If things go well, a complete levitation might ultimately be achieved, with the sitters' hands still on top of the table! There have even been reported incidents where a table has moved or even levitated while nobody was touching it at all. This is often only realised by group discussion after the event (remember that the sessions are usually in the dark). There have also been some even more dramatic effects recorded, such as the alleged appearance of physical objects which were not in the room to start with. In addition, some people have used sitter groups as a method of attempting to contact discarnate entities. There remains great scope for further study of these effects. So how does table tilting work in detail?
While there are many variations, the following notes are derived mainly from Batcheldor's work:
WHO: The table tilting, or sitter, group usually numbers around four persons. The attitude and personality of the people involved can be crucial to the success of the enterprise. The participants should ideally be open minded about the research, without holding any strong preconceptions about it. It is best if the participants are fellow researchers who have a scientifically motivated interest in the subject, rather than sensation seekers. People who are easily suggestible or who hold strong, fixed opinions about the paranormal are generally best avoided. It is also a type of work usually undertaken by more experienced anomaly researchers, who have a reasonable grasp of the possible psychological dangers involved. It is very useful to have a sympathetic psychologist in the group, if possible.
WHERE: The group normally meets regularly at the same location for each session. It is important to avoid being interrupted during a session, so a private house is often used. Ideally no one else should be in the house at the same time. It is best if there is little disturbing noise from outside the room.
WHEN: The group normally meets regularly and fairly frequently (weekly for instance). It is important that the people are the same each time. While there are obviously times when people cannot attend, it is usually made clear at the outset that regular attendance is expected.
HOW: The table is generally on the small side. It should be light enough for one person to tilt it on their own, when deliberately trying to do so. It should be large enough to allow the participants to put both of their hands on the top at once, without touching. The group members should be seated at the table in comfortable, but not too relaxing, seats. A light-hearted atmosphere seems to be best during the sessions. There is no need for meditation or chanting (which might even deter the phenomena). Most phenomena seem to take place when people are talking and not paying much attention to the table (at least in the early sessions). It is better not to draw too much attention to each event, but simply to accept it as a normal and natural part of the experiment. Attempts to record or control the phenomena, in the early sessions, usually damp these down. It is thought that natural or accidental movements of the table, in these early sessions, may induce a belief in their psychokinetic origins. This thought may actually encourage the real PK in later sessions. Recording these phenomena and possibly tracing them to their normal origins destroys the apparently important ambiguity. It does seem to be possible to use a tape recorder, almost from the first session, as this does not seem to have too serious an effect on the phenomena. It is a useful way of recording the sequence of events and getting descriptions of them from what was said. It is usual, and very wise, to write an account of the session once it is over. The tape recorder comes in very useful here. Such an account need not be detailed, but an idea of the type, frequency and strength of phenomena is useful. A subjective assessment of the mood of the participants on the night is also helpful.
What kind of experiments could be tried once regular, sustainable physical phenomena have been achieved? The phenomena may well continue to evolve by themselves, without any conscious effort by the sitters. If so, an exact history of this process would be very interesting. Obviously it would be extremely useful if the phenomena could be recorded in some way, such as with an infra- red video. This usually seems to dampen the phenomena. It would be interesting to vary different factors, to see what effect they may have. Some things, such as the moods of the members of the group, will vary in any case and should always be recorded. Other things which could be varied are: a) a different table b) a different room c) a different venue d) changing the layout of the room significantly, e.g. rearranging the large bits of furniture (not the table itself) e) playing music in the background during a session f) possibly introducing guests sometimes - these guests should be well briefed beforehand about what to expect! You should only change one factor at a time, and persist with it for several sessions. You should record any changes to the magnitude, character and variety of the phenomena with each change.
There are many other useful experiments which could be tried out with table tilting groups; the ideas here are merely suggestions. The table tilting technique is one of the most useful around at the moment, for the many researchers who do not have access to psychically gifted subjects. If any ASSAP, or other, groups are working with this technique, the ASSAP Research Department would be very interested in helping. Please tell us when you start and send regular updates on progress if possible. In the later stages the Department will be able to lend a hand. The table tilting technique is simple and effective. It is an almost ridiculously simple way to make a contribution to research into one of the most baffling phenomena of our time.
Note:You should regard the account above as forming general guidelines, not as hard and fast instructions, for developing your own experimental protocol. You are strongly advised to consult widely with suitably knowledgeable people (particularly psychologists) before starting any table tilting experiments. Neither ASSAP, nor the author, are responsible for any similar experiments you may do.