Thursday, July 19, 2012

Susan Blackmore's OBE

This is ironic. Susan Blackmore is an oft-cited critic of the paranormal, yet she herself had an OBE as a student at Oxford, when she was dabbling in the occult. She then spent the rest of her career trying to explain it away. Why invest so much effort in disproving her own experience?

EVERYONE THINKS they are open-minded. Scientists in particular like to think they have open minds, but we know from psychology that this is just one of those attributes that people like to apply to themselves. We shouldn’t perhaps have to worry about it at all, except that parapsychology forces one to ask, "Do I believe in this, do I disbelieve in this, or do I have an open mind?"

I became hooked on the subject when I first went up to Oxford to read physiology and psychology. I began running the Oxford University Society for Psychical Research (OUSPR), finding witches, druids, psychics, clairvoyants, and even a few real live psychical researchers to come to talk to us. We had Ouija board sessions, went exploring in graveyards, and did some experiments on ESP and psychokinesis (PK).

Within a few weeks I had not only learned a lot about the occult and the paranormal, but I had an experience that was to have a lasting effect on me—an out-of-body experience (OBE). It happened while I was wide awake, sitting talking to friends. It lasted about three hours and included everything from a typical "astral projection," complete with silver cord and duplicate body, to free-floating flying, and finally to a mystical experience.

It was clear to me that the doctrine of astral projection, with its astral bodies floating about on astral planes, was intellectually unsatisfactory. But to dismiss the experience as "just imagination" would be impossible without being dishonest about how it had felt at the time. It had felt quite real. Everything looked clear and vivid, and I was able to think and speak quite clearly.

She also admitted that she hasn't bothered to keep up with current developments in the field:


  1. Your post is misleading. She was a believer in the paranormal and was trying to prove its existence - she wasn't trying 'to explain it away' as you disingenuously put it. It was only after she was unable to produce evidence in favor of the paranormal, and also discovered fraud and incompetence among researchers who did, that she became a skeptic. All this is outlined in her autobiography, 'In Search of the Light'. She may not keep up with the latest research anyway - and why would she at this point? – but she's pretty fair-minded overall about the paranormal.

  2. Of course she tries to explain it away.

    And her experience is, itself, prima facie evidence for the paranormal. Was she a "fraud"?

    Her mistake is acting as if paranormal events should be repeatable in the way natural forces are repeatable.

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  4. An Order of the British Empire?! While still a student at Oxford... (-;