Introduction: Mediumship is an ancestral practice whereby mediums can access information they should not be able to access based on the materialist paradigm. During advanced meditative practice or mediumship sessions, unusual perceptions can arise, including the sense of receiving information about unknown people who are deceased. As with meditation, this mental state of communication with the deceased involves calming mental chatter and becoming receptive to subtle feelings and sensations. We show that it is an ideal field of study for testing the hypothesis that consciousness is nonlocal, as it is (1) widely practiced, (2) involves extreme emotions — such as the ones associated with death — which usually trigger the most spontaneous paranormal reports, and (3) there are also prior, reputable studies. We review three experiments we performed on this topic.
Experiment 1: In our first experiment, psychometric and brain electrophysiology data were collected from six individuals who had previously reported accurate information about deceased individuals under double-blind conditions. In the first task, the participant was given only the first name of a deceased person and asked 25 questions. Mediums’ accuracy was rated above chance expectation in this blinded test. The correlation between accuracy and brain activity during the 20 seconds of silent mediumship communication was significant in frontal theta for one participant. These differences suggest that the impression of communicating with the deceased may be a distinct mental state distinct from ordinary thinking or imagination.
Experiment 2: In our second experiment on this topic, we improved experimental design to increase statistical power. We invited 12 mediums to see if they could tell if a person was alive or dead based solely on a brief examination of his or her photograph. Participants examined 404 photographs displayed on a computer monitor, one photo at a time, each shown for a maximum of 8 seconds. At the time the experiment was conducted, half of the individuals in the photos were deceased and half were alive. The images in the two classes were balanced using 11 image characteristics so that not a single characteristic could help with classifying the images. Participants were asked to indicate if they thought the person in a photo was living or deceased by pressing an appropriate button. Overall, the mean accuracy on this task was 53.6%, where 50% was expected by chance (P = .005, two-tailed). Statistically significant accuracy was independently obtained in 5 of the 12 participants. We also collected 32-channel electrocortical recordings and observed a robust difference between images of deceased individuals correctly vs. incorrectly classified in the early event-related potential at 100ms post-stimulus onset. Our results suggest that some individuals can intuitively assess mortality based on some as-yet-unknown features of the face.
Experiment 3: In our third experiment, a classification task asked participants to look at 180 facial photographs of deceased individuals (photographs were taken years prior to their deaths) and guess the cause of death from three equiprobable categories: heart attack; death by firearm; or car accident. Electroencephalogram (EEG) and electrocardiogram (ECG) data were simultaneously collected during the task. The participants included individuals who claimed “mediumistic” (psychic) abilities and controls who claimed no mediumistic ability. Pooled data showed accurate guesses for the cause of death (p = 0.004), and control subjects were primarily responsible for this effect (p = 0.005). EEG and ECG differences were found between the mediums and controls. Control participants had larger amplitude event-related potentials (ERP) following the presentation of the images than the mediums, between 80 and 110 ms, and between 200 and 350 ms. This result could be interpreted as reflecting greater attention and less response inhibition by controls as compared to the mediums.
Discussion: We explain how these results, suggesting that consciousness is not limited to the brain, have important consequences for our model of the world. We may interpret this result as mediums accessing global consciousness shared by all living beings and matter. Our results suggest that we are connected to each other in ways not fully explained by the materialist paradigm. Although these results do not yet demonstrate that consciousness is primary, it indicates that the materialist paradigm is incomplete at best.
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Published on June 13, 2023