Was this telepathy?

Here’s the story I mentioned at the end of the previous post.

Many years ago (39 to be exact) I had a girlfriend who I will call Anna. One night while we lay in bed, about to go to sleep, she told me that she had experienced telepathy several times. The fact that we were about to go to sleep is relevant to the story.

I said, “Can we try testing this? I’ll think of something, and you tell me what I’m thinking.”

I thought of the letter T. I tried to keep my attention focused continuously on that idea — in Yoga, this kind of mental activity is called single-pointed attention — but at this time, I had not yet started to practice meditation so I probably couldn’t hold the idea for very long. I also pressed my forehead against the back of Anna’s head.

Anna began to emit a list of seemingly random guesses. She pronounced each one as a question, tentatively and half-heartedly. It was clear from her tone that she had no idea what I was thinking.

Fabric softener?
Dental floss?

It was soon evident that our experiment was a failure and after a few minutes, we got bored and lapsed into silence.

I began to drift off to sleep, and then an interesting thing happened. As sleep enveloped me, my thoughts suddenly became free and effortless, a riot of associations. But because I had been maintaining one-pointed attention for several minutes, or at least making an effort to do so, my focus on T continued automatically, and every association had something to do with T.

Suddenly my mind was effortlessly filled with multiple forms of the idea T. I saw the top of a T-shaped cross arm on a phone pole; I saw a big black letter T superimposed on that cross arm; I tasted tea; I smelled tea; I heard somebody saying “T” — all of this simultaneously, filling my mind and pushing every other thought away because there was no room for anything else.

This state of mind was involuntary and effortless. I could not have brought it about deliberately.

At that instant Anna jerked around to face me, almost injuring my nose because it was touching the back of her head. “T!” she exclaimed triumphantly. “You’re thinking T!”

She wasn’t guessing. She knew what I was thinking and she knew she knew.

This story would be pretty good evidence for telepathy except that I was half asleep and might have murmured “T” out loud without realizing it. But Anna said she wasn’t asleep and that I was silent.

If telepathy did occur, perhaps it could happen only because as my brain fell asleep, it went into a peculiar state which I could not have brought about voluntarily.

I wonder if a similar effect could be produced by the state that Patanjali calls samyama. It might be interesting to experiment with adept practitioners of Raja Yoga to see if people can detect the yogis’ thoughts when the yogis are in that state.

8 thoughts to “Was this telepathy?”

  1. Many thanks for the last few posts you made. Glad to see you writing again.

    In the last post you asked if you should write more such as this post. Please do, I for one am very interested.

    With regard to scepticism, one issue is that people tend to have/want the same standards for “proof” for physical and non-physical phenomena. An x-ray or a rock is easy to demonstrate and irrefutable. To hold the same standards of “proof” for the non-physical won’t work, because there are many other factors at play. In this case for example, many sceptics would start out by looking for holes. And would even invent them to refute the phenomenon. In this way, nothing is ever acceptable proof.

    For the non-physical, expectations of what constitutes “proof” need to be adjusted. But I doubt if science is capable of this.

    The subject of proofs (means of knowledge) and reality is well defined in vedanta.

    1. Thanks Nishant. When you said you’re interested in more such posts, which subject exactly did you mean?

      Physics is the most successful branch of science, so I often think about how to apply the methods of physics to spiritual phenomena. Unfortunately I know very little physics. 🙂

      But one thing I do know is that physics has progressed by finding ways to measure things quantitatively. At the same time it finds equations (laws) that always describe the relationships between those measurements.

      How can anyone measure a subjective state quantitatively? And how could that tell us anything we would want to know?

      1. I meant posts about vasanas or your out of the ordinary experiences.

        “so I often think about how to apply the methods of physics to spiritual phenomena. ”
        Exactly my point; I don’t think it’s possible. Physical sciences have a scope. There are things outside that scope where they do not apply.

        “How can anyone measure a subjective state quantitatively?”
        Why would anyone want to, unless there’s the belief that it’s not real unless it can be measured. Which brings us to the question of what is real and what is a valid means of knowledge. And this is not the job of science to define but of philosophy. Science works from the assumption that what is perceived through the five senses is real.

        1. I meant posts about vasanas or your out of the ordinary experiences.

          Okay, I just added one: My reunion with Julia

          I think our conversation about science and means of knowledge is so interesting that I’ll write a blog post about it. So instead of replying here, I’ll think about this for a while and write a long answer.

        2. Nishant, I understand what you mean and while I agree that spiritual phenomena cannot be quantified or experienced in the same way that traditional sciences can, I do think it is possible to view them in a scientific way.

          I started meditating for medical reasons and eventually started experiencing things that were completely outside of my understanding of reality. I had no real notions of spirituality outside of some general platitudes so a lot of these things seemed crazy to me. However I decided to keep an open mind instead of discarding them as less real. These experiences were very positive and exciting and I didn’t want to give in to wishful thinking, so I decided to adopt a scientific approach to them. I did “experiments” and analysed the results in a way that was rational. This lead me to believe that these things, while not normally experienced by the majority, were just as real. Had I not applied a more scientific method to my experiences, I might not have been able to accept them as such and may have always wondered if I made them up.

          I think that while a lot of what we experience spiritually cannot be quantified or experienced with our thoughts, their existence can be.

  2. Freddie,

    I’m wondering if you have studied any vedanta texts. I’m pretty sure you must have. Vedanta accepts seven valid means of knowledge. I think patanjali mentions only three. If you haven’t, you might be interested in reading.

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