ASSAP: Paranormal Research
ASSAP: Paranormal Education
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22 January: Real or fake?

NB: might be better to drop 'fake' argument and concentrate on getting people to complete and write up xenonormal cases

There is a popular attitude towards the paranormal that divides reported events into 'real' or 'fake'. But is it a helpful way to examine such reports?

Unfortunately, there are certainly incidents of fraud in the paranormal fields. However, in my experience, they form only a tiny percentage of the reported incidents. So, by asking, real or fake, that would apparently imply that the vast majority of reports are actually 'real'. But to many people 'real' means actually paranormal. So, if someone sees a ghost and they didn't fake it, it would imply to many people that hey actually saw a spirit. The reality is far more complicated.

As I said, I only ever come across a tiny percentage of reports that are deliberately fraudulent. However, that doesn't mean that the remainder are paranormal. Instead, people are truthfully and accurately describing extraordinary experiences that happened to them. Most have xenonormal causes. That doesn't make the reports fake or invalid or mistaken in any way. Nor are they any less interesting simply because their cause is not paranormal.

Many people lose interest in paranormal reports if it becomes obvious that they actually have natural causes. That's a pity because such cases offer the chance to extend our knowledge of the xenonormal. And since paranormal investigation involves eliminating the xenonormal, that is a serious waste of valuable research. Even worse, such cases are seldom written up for the benefit of other investigators.

I think that a much better question than 'fake or real' would be 'what caused that strange experience'? And even if the answer turns out to be something xenonormal, the investigation should not end there. Instead, the investigation should continue until as much useful information about the real causes have been extracted as possible. I think we need to move away from the idea oif trying to 'gathering evidence for the paranormal' (somethiong people have been doing for decades) towards 'understanding reported paranormal experiences'. In other words we no longer look just for one explanation, and drop research if we don't find it. Instead, we research what we know undeniably to be true, that people have weird experiences, and discover their true nature, whatever it happens to be. It may be a radical change but it has much more likelihood of success than the current approach.

use bubble UFO photo as example - not manipulated spo not fake - so it's ET then? No actuaallly it's a soap bubblee. So it's a fake? No, it could easily have only been noticedafter exposure.




16 January: Can we see ghosts in dreams?

< remove MA stuff to shoirten>

Sky'Density is physically an important quantity!' This is what an unknown male voice said, seemingly out of thin air, to an acquaintance of mine who was sitting relaxing thinking about a recent meeting with a friend. Regular readers will guess that this is my acquaintance (MA) who gets microsleep with REM (MWR) episodes recently. Only a small number of people get MWR (often those with a sleep disorder). Normally, microsleep is just a few seconds of unconsciousness that many people get from time to time but rarely notice. It can happen when they are sleep deprived people or doing some monotonous task. With MWR, people go straight into a dream state. This results in strange voices from nowhere or even being whisked away to a completely different place in an instant. Clearly there is the potential here for this phenomenon to explain certainly apparently paranormal experiences.

To decide if this is likely we need to know what sort of things might occur in MWR episodes. In other words, we need to know what to expect in dreams. Surprisingly, this appears to be a subject little studied by science. Here';s what MA says about the experiences. The dreams are often unrelated to whatever was going on in real life just before (like the example above). Like normal dreams, the episodes often take place in unrecognized locations and often involve other, usually unknown, characters. They usually appear like a fragment from a TV drama. There will be something, apparently important, going on involving the characters present. Although these events are driven by MA's brain, they appear like a story written and controlled by someone else. Frustratingly, just as the plot is unfolding, the MWR usually ends so the situation is never resolved. It is like missing the final episode of a drama series!

This feeling that dream events are not under the sleeper's control makes them feel very real. Just as in real life, there is only so much any individual can do to influence events. Indeed MA usually feels like a witness rather than an active participant in the events. Witnesses to paranormal events often seem to just watch what is going on without even thinking about interacting with the phenomenon they are observing. This could just be shock at seeing something completely unexpected. But it could also indicate a hypnagogic or MWR experience.

In a recent New Scientist article, the experiences of early lucid dream researcher Marquis d'Hervey de Saint-Denys were described. In lucid dreams, the experiencer does have some control over events as they unfold. One of the striking things that d'Hervey discovered was that everything in his lucid dreams could be traced to his own waking memories. Though events were clearly different to real life, the objects the encountered in dreams were all things he'd seen while awake, though some were transformed in various ways and sometimes morphed from one thing into another.

In anomalous experiences people encounter things that they would not have met in real life, like ghosts, aliens or unknown animals. So how could such things occur in MWR or hypnagogic experiences, which also involved dream material? Well research, as well as common experience, implies that dreams can contain material derived from fictional sources as well as everyday life. The crucial thing seems to be this - if you've seen something, whether real or not, it can appear in your dream. We normally (mostly) differentiate between real and fictional things when awake. That may be because conscious perception is continually correcting any attempt by our minds to drift away from reality. But when unconscious, that corrective mechanism disappears and anything in memory appears to be fair game. It also probably explains when bizarre and impossible things happen in dreams. So, if you've seen aliens in a science fiction movie, there's no reason why they shouldn't turn up in your dream and appear perfectly real.

There's a lot more that could be said on this topic but even this brief exploration shows that MWR episodes could indeed explain how people can briefly experience something apparently paranormal. There appears to be no reason why ghosts should not appear in dreams including MWR and hypnagogia. MA hasn't had any apparently paranormal experiences in this yet but, now that the idea is out there, who knows ...?

PS: What does 'density is physically an important quantity' actually mean? Who knows?