Art and psi/Arte y psi/Art et psi/Kunst und psi.
We are currently witnessing an enormous interest in psi phenomena
as cultural and experiential events, displayed in landmark exhibits
throughout the world and discussed from historical and other
perspectives. This essay focuses on the various connections between art
and psi. We mention how many forbears of parapsychology were artists or
had a serious interest in the arts, and discuss how ostensible psi
phenomena have been central to artistic works of great import and
influence. After reviewing controlled psi research with artists and
radical proposals of a form of "psychic art," we describe
ostensible psi phenomena in the life and works of such seminal artists
as Ted Hughes and Susan Hiller, among others. Both personal accounts and
research support a strong connection between artistic and psi phenomena;
we discuss various reasons why this may be so.
Keywords: art, literature, psi, parapsychology, Ted Hughes, Susan Hiller
En la actualidad hay un enorme interes en los fenomenos psi como eventos culturales y experienciales, como muestran importantes exposiciones en todo el mundo y discusiones desde perspectivas historicas y de otra indole. Este ensayo se centra en las diversas relaciones entre el arte y psi. Mencionamos que varios de los fundadores de la parapsicologia eran artistas o tenian un serio interes en las artes y discutimos como posibles fenomenos psi han sido centrales en obras artisticas de gran envergadura e influencia. Despue de describir la investigacion psi controlada con artistas y propuestas radicales de una "forma de arte psiquica," analizamos posibles fenomenos psi en la vida y obras de artistas tan seminales como Ted Hughes y Susan Hiller, entre otros. Tanto los recuentos personales como la investigacion apoyan una fuerte conexion entre los fenomenos artisticos y psi, y discutimos las razones de ello.
Nous sommes actuellement temoins d'une enorme vague d'interet pour les phenomenes psi en tant qu'evenements culturels et experientiels, presentes dans des expositions it travers le monde et discutes selon differentes perspectives, notamment historiques. Cet essai se focalise sur les diverses connexions entre art et psi. Nous mentionnons plusieurs noms de la parapsychologie qui etaient aussi des artistes ou avaient un serieux interet darts les arts, et discutons comment certains phenomenes apparemment psi furent centraux dans certaines oeuvres artistiques de grande importance et influence. Apres une revue des etudes psi contro1ees avec des artistes et des propositions radicales d'une forme d' << art psychique >>, nous decrivons des phenomenes apparemment psi dans la vie et l'oeuvre de fameux artistes tels que Ted Hugues et Susan Hiller, parmi d'autres. Tant les temoignages personnels que les recherches pointent une forte connexion entre les phenomenes artistiques et psi, pour diverses raisons que nous discuterons.
Gegenwitrtig lasst sich ein enormes Interesse an Psi-Phanomenen-verstanden als kulturelle und erfahrungsbasierte Ereignisse--beobachten, die weltweit zum Thema bahnbrechender Ausstelhmgen wurden und von historischen wie anderen Perspektiven aus diskutiert werden. Im Mittelpunkt dieses Essays stehen die unterschiedlichen Beziehungen zwischen Kunst und Psi. Wir weisen darauf hin, wieviele Vorlaufer der Parapsychologie Kunstler gewesen sind oder ein tiefergehendes Interesse an den Kunsten hatten, und erortern, wie offensichtliche Psi-Phanomene fur bedeutungsvolle und einflussreiche Kunstwerke eine zentrale Bedeutung erlangten. Nach einer 15bersicht fiber kontrollierte Psi-Forschung mit Kunstlern und radikalen Vorschlagen in Form einer "parapsychischen" Kunst beschreiben wir offensichtliche Psi-Phanomene im Leben und in den Arbeiten massgeblicher Kunstler wie Ted Hughes und Susan Hiller (neben anderen). Sowohl personliche Berichte wie auch Forschungsergebnisse sprechen fur eine enge Beziehung zwischen Kunst und Psi-Phanomenen; wir diskutieren einige Grunde dafur, warum dies so sein mag.
Art (Psychological aspects)
Iribas, Ana E.
|Publication:||Name: The Journal of Parapsychology Publisher: Parapsychology Press Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Psychology and mental health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2012 Parapsychology Press ISSN: 0022-3387|
|Issue:||Date: Spring, 2012 Source Volume: 76 Source Issue: 1|
|Topic:||Event Code: 310 Science & research|
|Geographic:||Geographic Scope: Spain Geographic Code: 4EUSP Spain|
We are experiencing a veritable explosion of interest in psi
phenomena, not just from an evidential viewpoint, but as cultural and
experiential events to be discussed from historical, artistic, and other
perspectives (see also the two reviews by the first author in this issue
of the journal). In this essay we concentrate on the relationship
between the arts and psi, mostly leaving aside the vast and complex area
of automaticity in creative endeavors, although some instances such as
the case of Fredric L. Thompson, who suddenly started drawing sketches
similar to those of a dead artist, straddle both realms (cf. Gauld,
One of the links between the arts and psi has been the depiction of ostensible parapsychological events as artistic materials. In the last few years there have been many exhibits on this theme, including The Edge of Reason in Norway and Blur of the Otherwordly in the USA, and the works by Kathleen Rogers, Susan Mac William (2011), and other artists, including reputed interviews of dead artists through mediums (see http://www.physicsroom.org.nz/log/archive/14/artafferdeath/). Noteworthy was the exhibition The Perfect Medium in the venerable Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which displayed photographs of mediumship seances and purported ghostly phenomena, most of them evidently fraudulent (e.g., of ghostly faces or faeries cut out from magazines, see also Jolly, 2006), but also some arguably paranormal ones. Foremost among the latter are the "thought-photographs" of Ted Serios, which have not been explained away by the critics and were not duplicated by "The Amazing Randi" despite his offer to do so (see Braude, 2007, and his chapter in the catalog to the exhibit, Cheroux, Fischer, Apraxine, Canguilhem, & Schmit, 2005).
The most impressive exhibition, fruit of the collaboration of dozens of museums and galleries from 13 different countries, comes from Europe. L'Europe des esprits ou la fascination de l'occult 1750-1950 (see the catalog edited by Pijaudier-Cabot & Fauchereau, 2011), traced the influence of spirituality, occultism, and related topics on important artists of the Romantic, Symbolic, Abstractionist, and of course, Surrealist schools (see also Choucha, 1992; Waldo-Schwartz, 1977). The artists discussed in the exhibit catalog include Brancusi, Kandinsky, Klee, Mondriaan, and many Surrealists, part of a very long and impressive list. To them we can add one of the most eminent architects of the 20th century, Le Corbusier, whose art reflected his interest in Freemasonry (Birksted, 2009).
A related thread has been the manipulation of consciousness to deliberately induce altered states and perhaps even psi phenomena, as in the art of Susan Hiller, who recently had a one-person show at the Tate Gallery (see below). Along these lines, Levy (2012) has described how a number of past and contemporary artists have devoted themselves to meditation and shamanic practices as a source for their inspiration.
Although not the focus of our essay, we should also mention that ostensible psi phenomena have been central not only to B-class horror films but to very substantial artistic creations, among them the novel The Emperor of PortugaUia by 1909 Nobel prizewinner Selma Lagerlof; Andre Breton's Nadja, considered one of the greatest books in French literature (discussed later on); George Eliot's The Lifted Veil, on a character who experiences telepathy and precognition; Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris, based on Stanislaw Lem's novel, on the telepathic communications between a sentient planet and visiting astronauts; the poem The Changing Light at Sandover partly "channeled" through a Ouija board, which earned James Merrill a Pulitzer and a National Book Award (see also the discussion on Ted Hughes below) ; the acclaimed play on precognition Time and the Conways byJ. B. Priestley; and the excellent opera The Medium by Gian Carlo Menotti. Also related are works that depict a sense of an interconnected and/or occult order of the world, including the masterpiece Arcana by Edgar Varese, one of the most important composers of the 20th century; and choreographies by some of the founders of modern dance, among them Rudolf von Laban, who created modern dance notation, and Mary Wigman.
Artist as Psychic
Unarguably, the most radical stance concerning a marriage between psi phenomena and art is the proposal for the manifestation of art through direct transmission of thought (i.e., "telepathy"), without the need for an external object (Drinkall, 2005; Lippard, 1973). We can mention the Czech Frantisek Kupka (1871-1957), one of the pioneers of abstract painting, who worked as a professional medium in his youth and practiced spiritism throughout his life. He spoke of an emission of the artist's vision to the public: "The artist could then make visible for the beholder the film of his rich, subjective inner world, making unnecessary the current labor of producing a painting or a sculpture" (in Daniels, 2009, p. 117, our translation).
The conceptual artist Robert Barry attempted to achieve something similar in his Telepathic Piece of 1969. He wrote that during the exhibition he tried "to communicate telepathically a work of art, the nature of which is a series of thoughts that are not applicable to language or image," and at the end of the exhibition the information about the work of art was made public through the catalog (Lippard, 1973, p. 98). The final examples are from the former Yugoslavia. The performer Marina Abramovie declared:
I got the idea of how the art in the future can exist. You could tune your body so well, and use your inside powers, to transmit your image, your mental image, to the observer ox" the person you want to give the message to. (in Phipps, 1981, p. 50)
Andrej Tisma, a visual artist, critic, and curator, wrote (1992): "By a mental resonance, the viewer is led to a state of fascination, the same as the artist [...]. Such experiences, where the artist is directly transmitting his inspiration, can rightfully be named spiritual art."
Ostensible Psi in the Life and Work of Artists
Given that the manifestation of their subjective experience in their canvas, music, pages, or other media can become intensely real, it is not surprising that artists have been attracted by the notion that something intangible underlies the world of physical objects. The nature of this "something" has been interpreted differently, as a rejection of a sharp distinction between imagination and perception, the reality of tao and the attempt to find and harmonize oneself with an underlying natural order, a sense of cosmic interconnectedness, or even specific esoteric systems to interpret quotidian reality. One of the most important film directors in history, Sergei Eisenstein, expressed it in his journal thus:
The coherence of all parts of the performance, the plastic correspondence of rhythm and image ... ultimately has a deeply mystical foundation that symbolizes the oneness of the rhythm of the Universe. Not for nothing do I experience a kind of vertigo when I imagine the perfectly organized theatrical act moving in an uninterrupted rhythm; I feel like I am losing consciousness. (in Bulgakowa, p. 20; see also Rosenthal, 1997)
In order to experience or understand more an interconnected timeless and spaceless realm (or "implicate order" to use physicist David Bohm's term), writers, artists, and musicians have used various strategies to alter their ordinary state of consciousness (Cardena & Winkelman, 2011; Iribas, 2000; Iribas-Rudin, 2008), including experiments with table rapping and various automatisms, although they have also experienced ostensible psi phenomena spontaneously.
We begin with some striking examples. The important Romanian Surrealist Victor Brauner made a number of self-portraits depicting himself with a detached left--if interpreted as a mirror image--eye (e.g., Self Portrait with Enucleated Eye, 1931; see Figure 1). These works preceded the later (1938), completely unforeseeable, loss of that eye as the result of intervening in a fight between two other artists.
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
One of the most important 20th century playwrights and poets, Federico Garcia Lorca, provided an equally uncanny example. His last play, Asi que pasen cinco afios. Leyenda del tiempo (1995), chronicles the saga of the main character who, 5 years after the beginning of the plot, dies after another character shoots at the image of a heart. It was finished the 19th of August of 1931, 5 years to the day before Garcia Lorca's own execution during the Spanish civil war (and there is no reason to suppose that his killers knew the date of composition of the play).
Closer to our time, the well-known American visionary and entheogenic artist Mex Grey described how during an LSD trip with his wife-to-be they both seemed to visit the "same transpersonal space ... at the same time" (Grey, 2007); a similar experience to that of mutual hypnosis (Tart, 1967). Grey also believes that his 1989 painting Gaia anticipated a number of details related to the 9/11 attack on New York (Grey, 2007).
Skeptics may point out that these are just bizarre random coincidences and stop there, although they typically fail to estimate the actual odds of something like this occurring by chance (as parapsychologists Sidgwick,Johnson, Myers, Podmore, and Sidgwick did in 1894 with regard to crisis apparitions) or discuss alternative views on the nature of coincidences and synchronicities (e.g., Koestler, 1973). As Robinson (2010, p. 29) remarks in a different context:
The facile dismissal of events such as the ones discussed above as useless anecdotes impoverishes our understanding of reality outside of the confines of a research laboratory. We now review the literature on controlled research on psi with artists and then discuss in detail the central importance of these phenomena in the life and work of four contemporary artists.
Controlled Research With Artists
Artists seem to be over-represented among individuals who have proffered evidence of psi in the context of controlled research. Mrs. Leonard, one of the best studied of the mediums who provided evidential material during the earlier part of the 20th century, attempted to be a professional singer but had to turn to acting after suffering vocal problems (Leonard, 1931/1989). One of the pioneers of psychical research in France was the sculptor and attach6 to the Russian embassy Serge Yomievitch. Pascal Forthuny, pseudonym of Georges Cochet, was a writer, pain ter, and musician who stirred Breton's interest in psi. He was tested at both the Institute Metapsychique and the Society for Psychical Research, and in both produced extraordinary feats of clairvoyance and psychometry (Meheust, 1999). Two individuals associated with the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) remote viewing program were artists Hella Hammid, a photographer (for a demonstration of her remote viewing for a TV program see www.youtube.com/watch?v=HloGG3CWJ-w), and Ingo Swann, a painter, who helped develop the remote viewing method with Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff. Malcolm Bessent, a photographer, gave evidential dream reports during the Maimonides psi dream experiments (Ullman, Krippner, & Vaughan, 1974). Professional artists or those seriously interested in the arts have also contributed as researchers, including some of the major forebears in the history of parapsychology: William James, who apprenticed as a painter for more than a year and whose prose would make most writers envious; F. W. H. Myers, an award-winning poet; Edmund Gurney, a music theorist; as well as Lady Una Troubridge, sculptor and translator, who wrote one of the most interesting analyses of alterations of consciousness among trance mediums (1922).
Controlled psi research supports the conclusion that this apparent over-representation of artists among the psi-gifted is no coincidence. With respect to subjective paranormal experiences (i.e., experiences of putative psi not formally tested), Holt, Delanoy, and Roe (2004) gave questionnaires of creativity and other variables to 211 participants, including professional artists. A factor analysis found that potential parapsychological experiences loaded on a factor of "intrapersonal awareness" that also included a number of other anomalous experiences such as mystical experiences and dissociation. This factor loaded on emotional creativity, heightened internal awareness, and nonlinear cognition, and correlated significantly with writing and the visual arts, and nonsignificantly with the performing arts.
With regard to potential psi under experimental conditions, four studies comparing artists with nonartists in a free-response paradigm showed that the former had significantly higher rates, whereas an additional six studies using a ganzfeld protocol found that they obtained an average hit rate of 40% (Holt et al., 2004), higher than the typical hit rate in meta-analyses of around 33% (Storm, Tressoldi, & Di Risio, 2010). For instance, a study by Schlitz and Honorton (1992) with Juilliard performing art students found an overall direct hit rate of 50% (75% among music students), and Morris, Summers, and Yim (2003) obtained a 37.5% hit rate among artists of different disciplines, with visual artists performing the best (44.4%). The high psi hit rate by artists was replicated later using an experiential sampling technique (43% in this case; Holt, 2007). That creativity likely interacts with other variables in psi performance is suggested by Moss (1969), who found that the interaction of being an artist and believing that one had experienced psi produced the strongest psi performance in a controlled study, supporting a more general finding that reporting previous psi experiences and believing that one will be successful in a psi experiment are positively correlated with success in the experiment (e.g., Marcusson-Clavertz & Cardena, 2011). We now move from consideration of artists as a group to consideration of specific individuals for whom psi phenomena have been an important part of their work, with detailed discussions of the writers Andre Breton and Ted Hughes, and the visual artists Denita Benyshek and Susan Hiller.
In the second half of the 19th century, the modern Spiritualist movement in Europe spread partly because of the involvement of several renowned writers. In France, the playwright Victorien Sardou, best known for Tosca, did automatic writing and drawing, as did Victor Hugo during his exile at Guernsey (Anonymous, 1906). A number of eminent British writers have been members of The Ghost Club, founded in 1862 and still active, including the poet Siegfried Sassoon; the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; and author Charles Dickens. The latter famously wrote many a ghost story, such as A Christmas Carol and The Signal-Man. The 1911 winner of the Nobel prize for literature, Maurice Maeterlinck of Belgium, was convinced of the validity, of psi phenomena, as was the 1927 winner, French philosopher Henri Bergson, who was a president of the Society for Psychical Research. Another eminent Nobel winner (1923) who was supportive of the reality of psychic phenomena was Irishman William Butler Yeats. From 1887 till 1905 he was an important member of The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and cowrote the rituals of magical practices for the order, influenced by the works of William Blake, which he was editing at the time (Werblowsky, 1970). Another example is a major American author, Upton Sinclair (1930-2001), who wrote the book Mental Radio on telepathy experiments with his wife, with an introduction by Albert Einstein.
A contemporary to Yeats, Prague-born poet Rainer Maria Rilke, wrote reports of seances he had been attending and in his semi-autobiographical novel Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge [The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge] he included a description of automatic writing that he supposedly experienced himself (Barz, 2010). The lack of conscious control in automatic writing and the idea of the writer as a medium are not so different from other reported creative processes. Contrary to the poet's power celebrated in Wislawa Szymborska's poem The Joy of Writing, Vermont poet Ruth Stone, in an encounter with novelist Elizabeth Gilbert, related how she would feel a poem coming toward her over the fields, making the ground tremble. She would reach for a pen and paper in time to write the poem down as it was inside her; when she did not have those implements handy, the poem had to continue its search for another medimn. Once, as she felt the poem escaping her, she was able to grab it by its tail and pull it back inside her, writing it down entirely, hut backward, from the last word to the first (for Gilbert's statement, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86x-u-tz0MA). More commonly, but referring to the similar sensation of being taken over by a presence external to them, artists have described being "inspired," "breathed into" by the "breath," the spirit, or taken over by poetic mania, as Plato would have it (Cardena, 2011).
In 1927, writer and founder of the Surrealist movement Andre Breton retired to a secluded Normandy residence to write the novel Nadja, an account of his relationship with the woman referred to by the title (identified as Ldona Delcourt, Albach, 2009) and the "petrifying coincidences" that marked their encounters and this period in his life (Breton, 1928/1964, p. 20). Breton starts off describing a series of synchronicities, such as when he and Picasso attended an Apollinaire play and a shy, stammering man who, mistaking Breton for an old friend given up for dead in the war, approached him. Not long after, Breton began a correspondence with the poet Paul Eluard, without either of them knowing what the other one looked like. When first they met, Eluard turned out to be the man from the performance. Other anecdotes describe experiences meaningful to Breton that were always, symbolically or through the impossibility of explaining them logically, connected to his encounters with Nadja (Coffman, 2006). In providing these observations he hoped for people to become conscious "if not of the futility, then at least of the severe insufficiency of all allegedly rigorous plans regarding the self, of any action that could have been premeditated and require an ensuing utility" (Breton, 1964, p. 68, our translation). And it is exactly when he has no specific plans or deviates from his routine that spontaneous encounters with Nadja occur (the first and the third are of this nature). She fascinates him from the beginning with her mysterious words and ways as well as her apparent clairvoyant abilities, such as when she correctly describes his wife, whom she has never met.
There are more signs of a possible telepathic connection between the two. As they observe a water fountain, Nadja remarks how the streams are like his and her thoughts, rising from the same place, falling, and then taken upwards again with the same force as before, thus describing the same image to the same purpose as used in the third dialogue of philosopher George Berkeley's Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous that Breton had just read but not told her about. At other times Breton is more of an astonished spectator to her apparent psychic abilities, as when she is watching the dark windows in the houses while they are having dinner in a restaurant, then points to one window as black as the other ones and says that after one minute it will lighten up and become red. A minute passes, the window lightens up and the curtains turn out to be red.
Breton was also impressed by her sensitivity toward art, apparent in her explanation of the complex meaning of a painting by Max Ernst, Of This Men Shall Know Nothing, completely congruent with the detailed caption attached to the back of the canvas, as well as in drawings and cuttings by her that are included in the book, such as La Fleur des amants (Breton, 1928/1964, pp. 138-139) and Le reve du chat (Breton, 1928/1964, pp. 142-143), that were done after visions she had had. Nonetheless, after 10 days Breton decided he would no longer see Nadja, who had been destroying the enigma she was to Breton by telling him in detail about her sad past, a part of her life that did not seem to interest him. Furthermore, in spite of his previously expressed admiration for her ability to live life outside of the earthly world, he had also become simply frustrated with her distracted soliloquies and her inconsiderate unawareness of time, making her late for appointments. (Shortly after his almost purely spiritual connection with Nadja, Breton began a very physical affair with another woman.) Nadja and Breton remained in contact, but in 1927 she was sent to a mental asylum. She died in 1941 at the age of 38.
As for another celebrated writer, most of those familiar with British Poet Laureate Ted Hughes will know about, or at least not be surprised by, his interest in the occult and the esoteric, apparent, for example, in his reviewing Mircea Eliade's classical Shamanism and his knowledge of birth charts, sometimes applied inappropriately as he persistently drew them out for people who had never asked for them. However, his experience with ostensible psi phenomena is not so widely known. Apart from his publications, varying from poetry to prose and plays covering over four decades of the previous century, it is his early-career marriage to American poet Sylvia Plath, who committed suicide in 1963, that is best known about him, overshadowing other facets of interest.
He was born on August 17, 1930, in the Yorkshire village of Mytholmroyd, located in a valley surrounded by the desolate moors, rising fields, and shimmering woods that would become his playground as a boy and the world his imagination would roam while writing later on. In his family it was his mother Edith who showed psi abilities, which seem to have been intertwined with his life from the very first years. In his autobiographical story The Deadfall (Hughes, 1995), he describes how the deaths of family members as well as strangers were precognized by Edith in a variety of ways such as thousands of crosses appearing before her over a church as the allied soldiers, unbeknownst to her, were about to disembark and die in droves in Normandy during the Second World War, or as a noise that "shook the house," transitory yet so intense and realistic that she went looking for its source (she found none), accompanied by a persistent ache in the neck that was explained and relieved by a telegram the next day, confirming the death of one of her brothers--confirming, because by that time she had already recognized these phenomena in her life as predictions of death. Another brother ostensibly walked into her living room around the time his comatose body died in the hospital. But the appearance consistently returning to her, as a thread throughout her life, was that of her dead sister, the sibling with whom she had been closest and who, according to Edith's own account as reported by Ted, with the years turned gradually into an angel: tall, bright, and, finally, winged, without losing her identity or becoming unrecognizable. She, too, fulfilled the function of announcing deaths to Ted's mother.
Ted's encounters with psi phenomena did not only take place through his mother. In the same story he narrates how, at the age of 7, he and his older brother Gerald go camping quite close to home, in the Crimsworth Dene valley. Their goal is to hunt rabbits and they carry a rifle for that purpose. Fortunately for the rabbits, the young hunters have no luck, but what comes to dominate their trip instead is referred to by the story's title, The Deadfall. It is a trap designed for larger animals and consists of a heavy, flat stone, one side held up by several sticks or a tree trunk, under which a bait awaits the prey that will unsteady the support and release the stone to come crushing down. At night, as the brothers lie sleeping in their tent, Ted is woken by a voice whispering his name. Not afraid, but not immediately sure what to do either, he is surprised to feel tears sliding down the sides of his face. Coming out of the tent, he beholds the indistinct figure of an old lady, who tells him that there has been an accident and he needs to follow her quickly. She leads him upwards, through the trees, until they arrive at the deadfall. There, a fox cub, one hind paw and its tail trapped under a corner of the stone, is struggling to get free. With some effort Ted is able to shift the weight just enough for the young animal to haste away. As he looks up, the old lady has vanished. Having stood nearby only moments ago, she is now nowhere to be seen. He also notices that something else lies captured, already dead, under the stone, but he is not strong enough to lift it by himself and decides to return the next day with his brother. Gerald, in the morning light, pushes back the stone to reveal the body of a big, red fox. Together they bury it. Finally, while breaking up the tent, Ted finds a small silver figurine, fox-shaped, that, without telling his brother, he takes home with him.
Hughes is a wise enough writer not to definitely interpret these events for his readers. Mysteriously and realistically, he leaves the meaning of it all quite open. Apart from the literary freedom in his narrative, the extent of which is unknown to us, one must also bear in mind that he wrote down this stow, this memory, about 55 years after it happened. However, he identifies the experience as his own and uses it for a thrilling piece of prose that illustrates how the "supernatural" was as natural to him as nature, and as adventurous.
At the age of 18, the young writer, after reading Jung, decided to restrain his conscious thought and fantasy in order to stimulate the activity of the unconscious (Hughes, 2007). He later abandoned this idea and practice, but the manipulation of his states of consciousness continued to play an important part of his life and creative process--and not just his own. In a 1986 letter to poet Anne Stevenson (Hughes, 2007, p. 522) he recounts how he taught his first wife, Sylvia Plath, meditation techniques that allowed her to temporarily escape from her inner torments, free her mind, and write. Because she was responsive to hypnosis, Hughes gave her suggestions to help with her menstrual cycle and with the short and relatively easy delivery of their first child.
On several occasions Hughes attended Ouija sessions. The filet one reported took place in 1956 among friends and evoked a spirit who called itself Pan (Hughes, 2007, pp. 87-88). During another session with Ted and Sylvia, an apparently female spirit appeared, correctly predicting the magazines that would publish some of their poems. This happening inspired Sylvia's book Dialogue Over a Ouija Board, probably also her poem "Ouija," and his poem of the same title, included in the renowned and redeeming collection Birthday Letters.
In 1958 the spirit Pan returned to Hughes and asked him to write the poem "An Otter," after which he obediently wrote what is now the first part of that poem. Whether the request was an open one, contained specific instructions, or whether the poem was literally dictated by Pan, is unclear. The second part presented itself a few weeks later in the form of a mild hallucination that, in Hughes's interpretation, was also brought forward by Pan. He saw a written scroll suspended in the air, with verses on it that were only just legible. These he copied, without altering anything afterward, thus completing the poem. Hughes himself describes the act of writing this poem as involuntary, as if the poem were imposed on him (Hughes, 2007, p. 721). However, even if that was his experience, it is remarkable how much the topic, focus, and language of the lines are right up his alley. The whole poem strikes us as being recognizably his, as if Pan were his spiritual alter ego (similarly, the "controls" of the famous medium Mrs. Piper were analyzed as aspects of her personality, Gauld, 1982). Incidentally, it also stands out in clarity as one of his most beautiful animal poems. As far as writing is like hunting, it captures an otter in the depth of its being with poetic pinpoint precision.
In another instance, one night Hughes had a fully developed dream, like a film with accompanying verse, of which the military character was probably related to John Arden's play Sergeant Musgrave's Dance, which he had recently read. It also came to him as a Celtic version of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Bardo Thodol, on which he based a libretto for composer Chou Wen-Chung (disciple of Varese), who wanted to set this text to music (the project was never completed). He awoke from the dream, remembered it, then fell back to sleep and dreamt it a second time, every scene, every word unaltered. Unlike the poem suspended before him in the air, he did not write it all immediately down. Life interfered and he was only capable of noting some general lines about the plot. Later that day, the verse had faded. However, with some conscious effort he adapted it as a radio play, The Wound, which aired on BBC in 1962 and is included in his collection of stories Difficulties of a Bridegroom (1995).
Through his experiences, Hughes started to believe in the prophesying power of his stories--that what he wrote in them would become true in his own life--and therefore stopped creating them, which explains why there are relatively few of them. On the other hand, he did accept the magical purpose of poetry to influence the course of fate, evident in hunting poems. He gladly used and experienced this when after a season without catching salmon and driven by a fisherman's anxiety, he finally finished a poem he had been dabbling with for a while, "Earth-Numb," in this spirit. On each of the following days he caught a large salmon (Hughes, 1978). Funnily enough, dreams in which he caught a fish would precede the publication of a poem (Hughes, 2007, p. 96).
A few years after the suicide of his first wife, he started writing a series of poems about a crow, a mythical figure undergoing various trials and ending up in the pit of hell. Hughes was dragged down into the depths of depression with this creature of his own creation, affecting the people around him as well. Meanwhile, he was involved in a stormy relationship with Assia Wevill. As he wrote the chronologically last poem of the Crow series, "A Horrible Religious Error," he suddenly felt an enormous blow on the head, with no one near to cause it. Shortly after (in his own accounts it varies from a day to a week), Assia committed suicide and, surpassing Sylvia Plath but following Medea, also took the life of the 4-year-old daughter she had with Ted, Shura (Hughes, 2007).
These tragedies may explain, in part, why there are hardly any more reports of psi phenomena during the second half of his life, because he perceived the former, as he himself put it, "as giant steel doors shutting down over great parts of myself, leaving that much less, just what was left, to live on" (Hughes, 2007, p. 489). In themselves, the last decades of his life appear to have gone by with less turmoil. He wrote, of course, was married to Carol Orchard, plucked the fruits from his garden and his long-lasting reputation as an outstanding poet, became Poet Laureate in 1984, and received the Order of Merit on October 16, 1998. He died of cancer 12 days later.
Denita genyshek, an American artist, performer, instructor, and researcher on shamanism, described to us (personal communication, March, 2001; see also Benyshek, in press, and www.denitabenyshek.com) a plethora of possible telepathy and precognition episodes that she attributes to a natural gift. "The psi experiences are not anomalous in my life, they are ordinary ... I rarely use these talents deliberately. I don't ask to know the future in advance. The knowings come as gifts ... They happen without expectation." These knowings, if trivial, can appear as matter-of-fact, without emotion, but when meaningful, they are affect-laden (e.g., when serious health issues are at stake). In either case, they always come to her imbued with a certain quality that distinguishes them from ordinary mentation. She describes an attitude of
Benyshek also has described possibly precognitive dreams. The attitude she takes towards these intuitions has changed with time:
She has learned to
Similarly, some people who have reported potentially precognitive events also mention having done something to alter that course of events (Irwin & Watt, 2007).
Benyshek recounted other types of psi including "feeling" relationships between persons, seeing presences (e.g., "With eyes closed, I saw my [deceased] mother floating above me"), and "reading" the minds of strangers ("knowing a lot of information about someone"). She also claims to be "able to heal, send a kind of energy through my hands, when touching others purposefully."
As with other individuals who have a talent to alter their consciousness (cf. J. Hilgard, 1970), she had a family tradition including her siblings and mother telling each other their vivid night dreams the following morning, and she mentions her mother's psi abilities (e.g., on a strong hunch, she left work and rushed home, in time to save the house from catching fire). As an artist, Benyshek is tuned into "landscapes of the interior sell" and can "paint about a psi experience or, more commonly, about living a kind of life in which psi is part of the many layered experience ... I can just be the tool of this greater power, the channel." Among the art works she describes as precognitive is a painting that reflects the grief of an abortion and the hopes of having a child in the future, depicting a golden infant with fair locks (The Healing Path, 1985), and the actual appearance, 16 years later, of her 3-year-old son who exhibited the same goldilocks as the painting, despite his parents being dark-haired. She also described to us an episode in which she told her pediatrician boyfriend very specific details about the current condition and a dangerous situation in the future of one of his patients she had never met or heard about, and another episode in which, during a seminar, she intuitively obtained very detailed information of a stranger (e.g., her illegal parking habit and a detailed description of her house).
The American-born British artist, curator, editor, and professor Susan Hiller combines a critical and skeptical mind with an interest in the overlooked, the marginal, and the irrational aspects of culture. For instance, she curated an exhibition, Dream Machines (Hiller & Fischer, 2000), that dealt with the transformative power of art, changing the viewer's consciousness to induce altered states. Hiller regards her activity as an investigation into the cultural unconscious and considers the nonconscious aspects of the mind as social in origin: "I am committed to working with ghosts, that is, with cultural discards, fragments, and things that are invisible to most people but intensely important to a few. Situations, ideas and experiences that haunt us collectively" (Hiller, 2011).
She describes the following as a fundamental influence and common reference in her production, although she does not accept them without question: "a quest for visionary, mystical experience," and for "in-between areas such as dreams and visions and supposedly extraordinary powers, for instance ESP" (in Buck, 2004, p. 35). Her training as an anthropologist has no doubt influenced her perspective on the paranormal as a social event in which reality is a collective construction (in Buck, 2004, p. 35). Hence, her works are never intended to prove or disprove their subject matter, psi included:
People say to me, "Well are these stories real?" Well, yes, [...] they're real social facts. "Are they really, really true?" What does that mean? I have no idea what it means, it's not my job. [...] I can't do the kind of thing that I do with the material if I always have to precensor myself by asking the kinds of questions that I think a scholar would ask. (Hiller & Malbert, 2007)
Her pieces are, first and foremost, art informed by a cultural sensitivity. Indeed, her installation From the Freud Museum (1991-1997) consists of a number of archeological collection boxes that contain various kinds of ctdtural artifacts, such as a Ouija board and a set of Zener cards to test psi, the labels of which contain remarks such as "practiced, 1995" or "validated, 1996." Referring in 1998 to Ideal work (1969-1970), her project of collective telepathy, she stated that she has tried to realize it ever since (in Grayson, 1998).
Hiller's body of work deals extensively with altered states of consciousness and psi. Most of her earlier pieces were made from a position of shared subjectivity, where personal authorship was diluted in favor of collective groupwork. Although it may seem paradoxical, they do offer instances of Hiller's more personal implication in psi experiences than the works she authored on later dates, which are more mediated and controlled. The drawback of the earlier collective pieces, acknowledged by Hiller herself, was that their closure precluded open communication to an audience and therefore limited the experience to those directly involved in it as performers. We shall discuss one of Hiller's early pieces, which refers directly to psi phenomena (she has also done work on automatic writing and drawing, communal dreamwork, and similar topics).
Draw Together (1972) was inspired by Hiller's need to question the individual authorship of a genius as the origin of a work of art. Instead, she wanted to demonstrate the intersubjective dimension of art, with ideas flowing between people (in Einzig, 1996). She had read Upton Sinclair's telepathy experiments described in Mental Radio (1930/2001) and used them as a model for her project. Hiller designed the work as a formal ESP experiment (in Higgs, 2000) and invited 100 artists from around the world to take part. Someone--not her--had cut out around 1,000 images from magazines, and at a designated day and time either she or David Coxhead
would just blindly select one of these images and stare at it for a long time ... in a concentrated way [...] and try to think about sending it out to various friends who were scattered all over the world ... and artist friends would try to do a drawing, and they would send me the drawing, and we would decide whether there were interesting connections or not. (Hiller, 9008, p. 215)
Although many of the answers got lost along the way,
there did seem to be some interesting correlations, particularly on the images that were most vivid, and maybe had some emotional impact. There was one of a Navaho blanket, bright red, with sort of zig-zag motifs. And a number of people sent back either the word "red," or drew a red square, or something that said "mountains" or "triangles" or "zeds" or something like this. (Hiller, 2002, p. 943)
Although Draw Together was not a visually appealing piece--there remain no images, according to the author (personal communication, 2011)--it did open the way for unbeckoned automatic drawing and writing. While she was doodling, waiting to receive an image from a colleague, there appeared the primary images and text of what would become Sisters of Menon (1972-1979).
Later projects, such as The Dream Seminar (1973), would draw further into the investigation of the collective dimension of consciousness and creativity. Instances occurred not only of shared images in participants' dreams but, more interestingly, of the acknowledged presence of people in each other's dreams. According to a member, some artists of the New York group stopped their involvement because "they found they were walking in and out of each other's dreams ... they were sharing dreams. And they felt that their work would be adversely affected" (Hiller, 1996, p. 177).
The previous sections illustrate that a number of eminent artists have been interested in psi phenomena, used them in their work, and provided evidence of psi in their lives and through controlled research. We offer now some reasons why this may be so. First we should consider personality characteristics that may make artists more likely to experience putative psi phenomena. Some research has indicated that artists are more emotional, sensitive, independent, impulsive, nonconformist, and introverted (see Abuhamdeh & Csikszentmihalyi, 2004). These traits make it more likely that artists may sense subtle psi information and may not be swayed to disregard it to conform with skeptical positions. Almost by definition, artists may also be more likely to discover or create patterns more easily than others, as shamans seem to do (cf. Shweder, 1972), and thus might interpret more readily some coincidences as meaningful rather than as random events, regardless of the actual ontology of these events.
Another aspect that may explain why artists often report psi phenomena is that they are more likely to experience alterations of consciousness. For instance, as compared with other professionals such as engineers, artists have been found to have thin mental boundaries, that is, they do not experience rigid boundaries between psychological processes such as states of consciousness (e.g., being asleep and awake) or a sense of self and others (Hartmann, 1991). Studies have found an association between mental boundary thinness (more of "subjective experience thinness" than "attitude thinness," see Cardena & Terhune, 2008) and reporting paranormal experiences (Houran, Thalbourne, & Hartmann, 2003).
Along these lines, Rabeyron and Watt (2010) found a relationship between boundary thinness, unusual experiences, and trauma and negative life experiences, although not with actual significant performance in a psi task. Relatedly, Burch and collaborators (2006) found that, as compared with nonartists, visual artists reported more unusual experiences (some of which were likely about potential psi phenomena) as measured by a schizotypy questionnaire, as well as more divergent thinking and nonconformity. Holt, Simmonds-Moore, and Moore (2008) described a type of schizotypes known as "happy schizotypes," who tend to have good mental health (although notas good as those who are low in all forms of schizotypy), a belief in the "paranormal," and high scores on creativity measures. We do not focus here on the often-reported association between being an artist and having different types of psychological disturbances (see Burch,
Pavelis, Hemsley, & Corr, 2006), although the notion that artists exhibit more psychotic phenomena than nonartists has to be qualified by the recent findings that phenomena that have been considered "psychotic" are not necessarily indicative of psychological dysfunction (Moreira-Almeida & Cardena, 2011).
Besides personality and consciousness traits probably related to having anomalous experiences, some artists also specifically cultivate disciplines such as shamanism and meditation that have been associated with actual psi performance (Luke, 2011). In addition, involvement in artistic endeavors may itself produce at the very least experiences of absorption, as this quotation by Picasso about working on a canvas at night suggests: "There must be darkness everywhere except on the canvas, so that the painter becomes hypnotized by his own work and paints almost as though he were in a trance" (Gilot & Lake, 1964, pp. 116-117).
Clearly different socioeconomic and cultural circumstances foster and reward different personality attributes in artists (Abuhamdeh, & Csikszentmihalyi, 2004), but at least at present in Western societies, as compared with nonartists, people identifying themselves as artists have been found to generally exhibit a number of attributes that make them more likely to experience psi phenomena: they do not have rigid boundaries as to what is subjective and objective, inner and outer, ordinary and other states of consciousness; they tend to be nonconformist; they may focus on their own "inner" experience to find sources for their creativity; and they are more likely to experience or generate states of consciousness associated with psi phenomena. The reliance of some artists on their experience above Cardenang else is well captured by that introspectionist par excellence Marcel Proust when he wrote that art is "notre vraie vie, la realite telle que nous l'avons sentie et qui differe tellement de ce que nous croyons" [our true life, reality as we have experienced it and that differs so much from what we believe] (Proust, 1912-1927/1954, p. 881). The fact that artists have overall performed well in controlled psi studies hints that their experienced realities may not be merely flights of fancy.
The authors wish to thank the visual artists Denita Benyshek, Mex and Allyson Grey, Lyn de la Motte, Jose Eliezer Mikosz, and Jacquelene Drinkall for their testimonials, as well as those artists who shared their accounts and wish to remain anonymous; Ann Skea for allowing us to use her transcript of a talk by Ted Hughes; and Vanessa Teixeira de Oliveira for help in tracing the quotation by Eisenstein.
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ETZEL CARDENA, Center for Research on Consciousness and Anomalous Psychology (CERCAP)
P.O. Box 213 SE-221 00
ANA E. IRIBAS, Facultad de Bellas Artes
Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain.
SOPHIE REIJMAN, Institute of Education and Child Studies
University of Leiden, The Netherlands
The degree to which debunking is pursued as if it were an urgent crusade, at whatever cost to the wealth of insight into human nature that might come from attending to the record humankind has left, and without regard for the probative standards scholarship as well as science should answer to, may well be the most remarkable feature of the modern period in intellectual history.
openness to experience, trust in self ... a very pure, strong intentionality, an absolute being in the moment ... absolute, focused intention, I felt like a force of some kind thrown out of me ... full body knowing--where I am like seized or possess a knowing that I feel very, very strongly in my entire body.
I ignored the messages when I was younger and then what was warned about came true--the dog being hit by a car or nay son falling out of a tree being good examples [...]. When I became more welcoming, the messages became more frequent.
use the knowings as important warnings to change my decision, plan, action, whatever. Because if I don't, I or someone else will be hurt--physically injured. So, a lot of the knowing is simply practical.... [N]ow when I get a warning about something, I honor that message by acting on it ... I honor the knowing and then what I was forewarned about doesn't happen.
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