Telepathy for the non-believers
I have never had any difficulty believing that our minds talk to each other all the time. If only we'd listen
Hello, Thane of Cawdor," my friend Gulan greeted me, and I went very still. Goosepimples broke out along the nape of my neck.
An hour earlier, while driving, I'd passed some cows, and among other things had been reminded that methane from cattle farts accounted for a part of global warming. The word methane had reminded me seamlessly of Macbeth, the Thane of Cawdor. The phrase Me Thane of Cawdor had floated into my head briefly. MeThane.
An hour later, Gulan could not explain why she had used those particular words to greet me. She murmured something about 'the flux'; someone else spoke of 'synchronicity'. I wondered, for the entieth time in my life, is this the big T again? Are we talking Telepathy here?
Fortunately for me, I've never had any difficulty believing that we dip into each other's minds all the time. Since my schooldays, I've believed that we are innately telepathic. I've had far too many experiences that have refused to be explained in any other way.
1973 was a telepathic year for me. My school friend Dr Sugata Mitra, who would later go on to win the TED 2013 prize of a million dollars, visited me in my penurious Calcutta loft, excited by some tests his father had brought back from a Russian institute of parapsychology. The tests were used to gauge the telepathic potential of people who walked in claiming to be mind readers.
It's a simple experiment, requiring two people to sit comfortably in the same room, not quite facing each other. While one telepathically transmits a geometric figure chosen randomly from five — a triangle, a circle, a cross, a square and waves — the other will try to receive it. Both will record what was 'sent' and 'received'. Each round has 20 tries.
"See," explained Doc, "my father says it's a little like, like talking to someone in a language they don't understand. You must assume that your transmitted thought reaches at once. The problem is that to the receiver it feels like one of his own thoughts."
A success rate of about 20 per cent is considered mathematically insignificant. However, the higher your score goes over 20 per cent, the better the chances that some extrasensory business may have been going on.
Doc and I scored around 70 per cent consistently. Not only were we school chums but now it looked like we could also read each other's minds. Could we 'broadcast' to others? Might we be able to make people do things — against their will perhaps?
Boggled by the implications, we rushed to Calcutta's Deshapriya Park before darkness fell. It was sweltering summer and the park was full of people — couples, students, families, sportsmen. We sat down in their midst, and began to beam telepathic instructions at them. Simple stuff like — shift from your left elbow to your right; look at your watch; straighten your back; look up at the sky.
In every case, the subjects followed our instructions exactly, usually within a few minutes. There was a pattern: almost as soon as we'd start thinking thoughts at someone, he would become restless, as if something indefinable was bothering him. He'd fidget, shift about and glance around until, almost by chance, he'd arrive at the position or action we intended, always with great naturalness.
After that, peace would descend upon him again.
Doc, not prone to fuzzy thinking and totally free from confirmation bias, thought our success could be explained without parapsychology. I suggested we try to make someone do something impossibly absurd. Fifteen feet away, facing away from us, his terylene shirt stuck to his enormous back with sweat, sat a lone Bengali. Reach back and touch the middle of your spine, we commanded him. That sounded about as far-fetched a gesture as any.
It took him about three restless minutes before he did what we'd suggested. Straightening up, he reached behind to the middle of his back, got hold of his sweat-soaked shirt and aired himself a bit. It was an utterly natural move; no one would have dreamt he was acting under orders.
I believe you can develop your telepathic 'muscle' through practice. Work with a friend in a quiet place without pressure. There are no rules, really, except that you should not strain either to send or to receive. All sorts of random images and thoughts will normally flow through your mind. Do nothing whatsoever about them. Observe them, almost idly, and wait without waiting, if you can do that.
Suddenly, without much notice, when you're not trying at all, one thought will stand up and say, "Me!"
And that will probably be telepathy.
I'm interested in other people's brushes with telepathy. If you have had any experiences or insights worth sharing, please do write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here, viewed from there. C Y Gopinath, in Bangkok, throws unique light and shadows on Mumbai, the city that raised him. You can reach him at email@example.com. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper
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