Super Psi vs Survival?

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Sciborg_S_Patel

#1
Do we have good reason to accept the Super Psi Hypothesis over the Survival Hypothesis, or vice-versa?

People might be interested in Braude's take on the matter:

Survival or Super-psi?

Abstract - Even the most sophisticated discussions of the evidence for survival underestimate the conceptual difficulties facing the survival hypothesis. Perhaps the major challenge is posed by the rival
"super-psi" hypothesis, which most writers fail to confront in its most plausible and potent form. Once the super
-psi hypothesis is taken seriously, two major weaknesses in discussions of survival stand out clearly. First, analyses of apparently anomalous knowledge that tend to be fatally superficial in their treatment of
subject psychodynamics. And second, analyses of apparently anomalous abilities and skills trade on an
impoverished and naive conception of the nature of human abilities.
 
#2
Do we have good reason to accept the Super Psi Hypothesis over the Survival Hypothesis, or vice-versa?

People might be interested in Braude's take on the matter:

Survival or Super-psi?

You can find individual cases where a psychic used psychic abilities rather than spirit communication to produce information about a deceased person, but overall there is a huge amount of evidence that is better explained by survival than by super-psi.

Also super-psi is not falsifiable, (ie it is ludicrous), it can explain anything, unless you accept some limits on it such as the need for an identifiable unconscious motive for the psychic to unconsciously produce some type of afterlife phenomenon.

http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/p/62014-...-afterlife.html#articles_by_subject_super_psi
There is a vast amount of evidence that is better explained by survival after death than by super-psi:

ESP is not produced by the brain. ESP is not dependent on space or time and it cannot be produced by any physical process including quantum entanglement. The existence of psi is evidence that consciousness is non-physical. If consciousness is non-physical, then super-psi loses any advantage a materialist might attribute to parsimony.
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2014/04/near-death-experiences-and-afterlife.html#facts_esp

Drop in communicators are spirits unrelated the the medium and the sitters who communicate for purposes of their own. They show that spirits have initiative, purpose, and problem solving ability:
http://sites.google.com/site/chs4o8pt/summary_of_evidence#summary_evidence_drop_ins

Cross correspondences are cases where a message is given in parts through different mediums who don't know they are being used for in that way. The parts of the message only make sense when combined and contain highly specialized knowledge known by the spirit. This shows that spirits have initiative, problem solving ability, organizational ability, and retain highly specialized knowledge they had during life.
http://sites.google.com/site/chs4o8pt/summary_of_evidence#summary_evidence_cross_correspondences

Mrs. Piper: Evidence for Survival After Death Mrs Piper's mediumship shows that the characteristics of the communication varies with the spirit not the medium or sitters. For example some spirits are good communicators others are not, some communicate names easily others don't, most spirits have difficulty communicating shortly after death, most spirits become better communicators with practice.
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2009/05/further-record-of-observations-of.html

Super-psi does not Explain the Evidence for the Afterlife Guy Lyon Playfair, William Roll, and Ian Stevenson all thought poltergeist phenomenon that did not depend on the presence of any one individual were caused by spirits.
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2009/06/survival-and-super-psi.html

When a child remembers a past life, and has a birthmark at a location of an injury in the past life, it suggests the spirit body may carry information from one life to the next. It would be absurd to believe the fetus was psychic and was fulfilling a psychological need by unconsciously creating the birth mark.

...

Shared Death Bed Visions, Shared Near-Death Experiences, and Multiple Witness Crisis Apparitions are not well explained by super-psi. You'd have to be a super-duper-psychic not just a super-psychic to induce hallucinations in other people.

Para-Pseudo-Skeptics Highly skilled psychics who live with the phenomena every day and know many details of the phenomena that never get published in parapsychology journals can tell the difference between ESP and spirit communication. They are the experts on the phenomenon and know infinitely more about it that any parapsychologist.
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2014/05/para-pseudo-skeptics.html

Near-death Experiences and Afterlife Phenomena Near-death experiences are best explained as out-of-the-body consciousness because they occur when the brain is not capable of supporting lucid conscious experiences:
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2014/04/near-death-experiences-and-afterlife.html#facts_veridical
 
#3
Hi Sciborg_S_Patel,

Another great question & post! :)

I feel this is a question that lies close to peoples hearts, and perhaps needs to be discussed delicately. I really have no interest in arguing or debating this with most (any?) people, especially those who derive some comfort, security or coping with personal grief/loss. People who are invested with a particular narrative, basically, for whatever reason. I think we can see the varying degrees to which people adhere to the “survival hypothesis” and dislike any suggestion of “Super-Psi” or other related alternate explanations, both here & on the excellent Michael Prescott’s blog comments section or in Chris Carter’s books for eg.

But if I may be permitted a space to express my own thoughts, if only to help clarify for my own benefit what is in my own being meta (or sub) conceptual ideas which without outward expression remain vague & ambiguous....to forewarn though, the below is still highly vague & ambiguous too; Jim Smith astutely mentions “falsifiability” above, which is indeed an intellectually intelligent criteria to demand. It’s just that I’m not personally convinced reality itself demands such criteria, and that this may just be a relic of a rationalist, reductionist archetypal mode of thinking that predominates the western mindset :) Reality may be far stranger than we CAN imagine, and it may laugh at our small human logic based demands of what & how reality is and should behave! For me it is an assumption too far to assume reality will succumb to the models, tools or parameters of our current sciences & scientific criteria, or that Karl Popper is the most appropriate person to be laying the foundations for approaching an understanding of “ultimate reality”...

To start, I am loathe to put up references to specific examples which support my ideas – as above, this is more for my own benefit than anyone else, and I know intimately the wide variety of sources which support my speculations. All my speculations are based on a fairly thorough & complete awareness and understanding of all the various related fields out there (NDE, channelling, mediumship, reincarnation, mysticism, psychedelics, other paranormal fields etc), as well as an intense personal history of experience with a variety of unusual experiences & phenomena.

Firstly, I would dismiss the current scientific explanations of many “paranormal” and “survival” type experiences. I have found, in general, these are based on an astonishing level of ignorance & lack of understanding of the experiences themselves, and intepreted & expressed through an incredibly narrow paradigm. In a way this is akin, imo, to reducing the phenomena of football World Cup to purely newtonian physics, and then claiming things like sportsmanship, competitivity, biology, economics, tribalness etc are all illusions & delusions and that newtonian physics is the only reality. Even though, in actuality, the phenomena of football if far better explained through sportsmanship, tribalness, economics etc. The vast organisational structure of the World Cup, for example, was clearly guided & created by these influences, and newtonian physics is merely the tool these other guiding principles use at the most un-influential level (kick ball, ball moves). Newtonian physics cannot “explain” the world cup, just as neuro-biology or physics cannot “explain” paranormal phenomena on any *meaningful* level.... reality is a narrative, not an equation. And if reality IS an equation to someone, then that is their unique narrative, not neccessarily everyone elses.

To the main question about super-psi v survivalism of a soul, I think we are in a very deep & complex area where perhaps the human intellect is not able to penetrate, perhaps even by design. I think it is a symptom of human hubris to a priori assume we have the ability to truely decipher the nature of reality & interpret correctly all paranormal pheonomena with our human intellect.

For me personally, after having reviewed in depth most of the literature on purported “evidence” for survivalism as well as having experienced a variety of related experiences, not only am I not convinced in the survivalism model, I actually think that if the evidence is taken as a whole without filtering out inconvenient details, that the survivalism model is far too simplistic & naive, and is actually contradicted by the evidence itself.

The biggest flaw, or damning evidence against the survivalist model, is the vastly divergent narratives we have for the purpose & journey of our “souls”. As well as the clear evolution of this narrative through time, even if the means of gaining that “knowledge” is through similar, related or identical means, with similar related phenomena & “proof” of the veracity of the experiences. I know people would dispute this, but personally I cannot help but think this is due to an unfamiliarity with the FULL range of data, a filtering of data so only that which supports our a priori paradigm is truely accepted, and a general limitation of our abilities to think outside of our narrow human range of linear, causal thinking.

In addition to this flaw are other areas such as paranormal experiences which directly contradict the idea of individual, linear, literal souls, where the concept of individual souls & identity is completely destroyed at the root. (hard to describe, but I’ve noticed these are slipping more & more into the mainstream consciousness.....evolution of concepts)
We also have tricksterish elements which co-incide with our cherished “proofs”. I feel to ignore the cheating & frauds of mediums is to sanitise the reality of what is actually occuring. Leonora Piper the medium being one such example....everyone seems to think she was the “real deal”, even though we know for almost certain there were at least elements of fraud in her behaviour. Such is the case with almost all mediums. I do not claim this “debunks” them, but do claim it is an interesting & perhaps meaningful co-incidence.

We can break every single area of the paranormal “proof” of survivalism down like this to look for those bits of data which contradict the mainstream paradigms, and we also find the mainstream paradigm will evolve over time with those experiences influencing them (a feedback cycle). NDEs being a perfect case in point – whilst there remain core structures to the NDE experience over 2000 years, the human take-away narrative has clearly changed, and if we are to take them at literal face-value, then the nature of reality and the purpose of our souls coming here has also changed.....odd. The reality or not of our “souls” and soul journeys should not evolve so much over time if they were literal, timeless realities. Same can go for reincarnation stories, where occassionaly there have been cases of souls allegedly occupying 2 bodies at once (for just one puzzling example of many), and the rest of the “proof” of reincarnation being identically compelling as the rest of the reincarnation cases which people believe in.

On the basis of my knowledge & experiences, I cannot help but think the concept of literal, linear individual “souls”, reincarnation, loved ones coming to get you at death, summerlands etc to be incredibly naive & simplistic. In fact, I believe it to be an narrative illusion either intentionally created (by someone or something?), or naturally just how we & reality are “hard-wired”. There is much more speculation on this, but I’ll leave that there.
 
#4
(continued)


As for “super-psi”, I’ve read a great deal about it, but don’t really understand what that’s about.

For me, “super-psi” is a word to explain what may well be something we humans are actually completely unable to comprehend, a complexity of reality far above most of our abilities to conceive of.


For example, and this is a conceptual metaphor, not a literal reality, if we look at the universe as information, and perhaps consciousness as some kind of spotlight upon that information, then all paranormal, and after-death “proofs” can be explained quite easily, and more readily able to explain ALL variety of phenomena with NO “outliers” of data remaining.

All information is available to access for everyone, at any given point. The methods and modalities of accessing that information (meditation, pscyhedelics, NDEs, mediums, reincarnation etc) model or formulate a specific & particular “outcome”, a specific type of data set.


To further the information access metaphor, our individual body-mind organisms and modalities we use (mysticism, NDEs, mediums etc) are like software which retrieves specific data in a specific format. The only limits on the data output we get is defined only by our body-mind organism and the conceptual models we use to “tap” that information.

Super-psi isn’t “PSI” in the traditional, narrow & limited sense, it is the (possible) fact that the universe is all information and it can be both accessed & manifested anywhere (for example the birth marks on a human who believes they are reincarnated), and it is only limited in it’s output by a priori concepts imposed either by culture, religion, or our own beliefs etc.

To those who would ask what "mechanisms" are behind this theory, or if it is falsifiable (or any other scientific requirements), I would say that's missing the point entirely. I'm, just speculating which model or reality would explain the full spectrum of experiences (survivalism, imo, simply doesn't, neither does materialism for eg.), and I don't assume a priori we have either the intellect, tools or "god given" right to understand or know the "reality", let alone "prove it" or fully explicate the "mechanisms" behind it.

I’ve gone on long enough & there are just too many areas which can be covered, almost endlessly.

I genuinely believe reality is far stranger than any human has so far expressed, and that it is hubris to believe we understand and have“explanations” for the most profound & puzzling aspects of creation, phenomena & human consciousness.

But each to their own :)
 
#8
I'm a bit of a noob in this topic and my opinion is more intuitive than anything. Super-psi doesn't seem to account to how people experience thing in all different ways. Also it seems that super psi would raise more questions than the simple and elegant idea that we live on after bodily death.

Didn't they try to use this concept towards the end of the X-files?
 
#9
But if I may be permitted a space to express my own thoughts, if only to help clarify for my own benefit what is in my own being meta (or sub) conceptual ideas which without outward expression remain vague & ambiguous....to forewarn though, the below is still highly vague & ambiguous too; Jim Smith astutely mentions “falsifiability” above, which is indeed an intellectually intelligent criteria to demand. It’s just that I’m not personally convinced reality itself demands such criteria, and that this may just be a relic of a rationalist, reductionist archetypal mode of thinking that predominates the western mindset :) Reality may be far stranger than we CAN imagine, and it may laugh at our small human logic based demands of what & how reality is and should behave! For me it is an assumption too far to assume reality will succumb to the models, tools or parameters of our current sciences & scientific criteria, or that Karl Popper is the most appropriate person to be laying the foundations for approaching an understanding of “ultimate reality”...
I agree that reality can be more stranger than we can imagine, but the problem is that although the super-psi hypothesis can logically explain all the data, that does not imply it's true; in fact more likely a postmortem survival hypothesis is correct.

For me personally, after having reviewed in depth most of the literature on purported “evidence” for survivalism as well as having experienced a variety of related experiences, not only am I not convinced in the survivalism model, I actually think that if the evidence is taken as a whole without filtering out inconvenient details, that the survivalism model is far too simplistic & naive, and is actually contradicted by the evidence itself.
Your mistake is to equate the claim "there is a personal afterlife" with the most popular survivalist model. I think there is evidence that contradicts a popular afterlife model, very simplistic and linear model, but all the evidence point towards the existence of a personal afterlife: some OBEs, NDEs, deathbed visions, some apparitions, mediumship, and children who remember previous lives, are converging evidence about the existence of a personal afterlife.
 
#10
As for “super-psi”, I’ve read a great deal about it, but don’t really understand what that’s about.
Super-psi is defined differently by different people.
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2009/06/survival-and-super-psi.html
Hornell Hart in Survival Versus Super-psi defines super-ESP as
The use of telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition and retrocognition to obtain information from anywhere in the world and from any time.
...
Neal Grossman in Further Thoughts on Super-psi: A conversation. defines superESP as:
Non-propositional knowledge obtained through ESP.

In the article, Grossman explains that knowledge about facts, "knowledge-that", is propositional knowledge. Other types of knowledge, "knowledge-how", such as skills, are non-propositional knowledge.
My own definition of super-psi is: when a living person unconsciously uses psychic abilities to simulate afterlife phenomena.

The theory began in the era of psychical research when researchers wanted to determine if mediumship could be caused by telepathy where the medium read the mind of the sitters rather than communicated with a spirit. At around the same time psychologists began to recognize the power of the unconscious mind. And, trance mediums were found to be in a genuine altered state, they were not conscious, they were resistant to pain, etc. Sometimes mediums would bring through spirits and provide information about the identity of the spirit but investigators found that no such person had ever lived. Because of this, some researchers proposed that a medium in a trance might unconsciously dramatize a spirit even when they were bringing through veridical information about people known to have lived.

However researchers demonstrated telepathy could not explain mediumship because mediums were found to bring through information unknown to the sitters. This required the first version of super-psi to be articulated where the medium obtained information not just through telepathy but through clairvoyance and other psychic means. This was shown to be insufficient when it was found that some mediums when in trance could play a musical instrument like the spirit could, but the medium had never studied or played that instrument during normal consciousness. This required revising the definition of super-psi to include skills in addition to knowledge. So super-psi is really a series of attempts to explain the data without having to resort to belief in survival. The definition has been stretched so far that only people who are strongly attached to belief in materialism or ESP will accept it. People who believe in super-psi are usually parapsychologists or students of it who study ESP and want to glorify its powers, or for some personal reason they don't want the afterlife to exist.

Researchers also collected anecdotes of crisis apparitions, sightings of apparitions of people who were not known to be dead. Many of these apparitions were found to be of people recently dead, but some were of living people in life threatening situations. There is a book called Phantasms of the Living that discusses this phenomenon. Some researchers hypothesized that apparitions of dead people are not actually spirits but caused by some form of ESP, clairvoyance, or hallucination that is induced by a person experiencing a crisis.


This article is a good overview of claims for super-psi.
http://www.survivalafterdeath.info/articles/hart/superpsi.htm
 
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#11
Limitations need to be asserted on psi to tell the difference. When the working definition is unbounded by distance or causality, its really difficult/impossible to test and see.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#12
Sorry Kai, but I think trying to take what we know about Nature and use it as an argument against something like survival is a mistake.

Not to say survival is definitively established, but I think that's an eliminativist strategy, and eliminativism seems to be in a state of failure given the Hard Problem.

I'm not sure what you're saying in point #2.

I do think Super Psi is pretty much nonsense though for reasons Bucky gave in the other thread. Additionally, if we take the evidence Jim mentions - something I realize is a point of contention for some but was the original assumption of this thread - the amount of things Super Psi would have to explain seem to make our subconscious selves into gods...at which, as Bucky noted, one has to explain why this doesn't happen in other instances.

Admittedly Jim Carpenter's First Sight model suggests some possibility of Super Psi, but there remain a more than a few outstanding issues IMO with how Super Psi can tack on an ever increasing array of powers for a very limited purpose.
 

Ian Gordon

Ninshub
Member
#13
The problems with the survival hypothesis are very severe.

1) It contradicts pretty much everything we actually know from the rest of nature. Nature does not conserve individual beings. Does a tree conserve individual leaves at the end of a season? Does a body conserve individual cells? Does a forest in the long term conserve individual trees? Does a bee hive conserve individual bees? The answer to all these questions, and others like them, is no. Nature has no reason to do this, because it can simply generate new forms as it wishes.

In addition, we already know that the individual personality can wither away and die before actual death in cases of dementia and brain damage. There it is writ large for us all to see (it could hardly be less ambiguous, sensibly taken), but for some reason we don't want to see it.
Is it me, or is this a brain=mind view, and therefore should be taking place in the CD forum?
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#14
Is it me, or is this a brain=mind view, and therefore should be taking place in the CD forum?
Nah, Kai's arguing for a Panpsychist sort of Neutral Monism.

But yeah, the original intention of this particular thread was to assume a choice between Survival and Super-Psi, seeing as Survival vs Non-Survival is discussed in the CD thread Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness.

Though there is the original thread on the topic, so if people want to expand what's discussed in this thread I don't mind. Seems best to have at least one of these two threads reserved for the original question though.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#15
Well, I think it's fine so long as Bucky's thread then keeps to the original premise for people uninterested in this argument. :)

What I mean is you've made two claims:

1) Consciousness shows, or at least strongly suggests, the falsity of Materialism.
2) Nature contains more than that which is [or could ever be] modeled under mechanistic explanation.

The arguments I'm most familiar with accepting the above are those of Bernando, which champion Idealism, and those of Feser, which champion Hylomorphism.

Both of them believe in post-mortem survival. And they believe this follows from their respective paradigms.

This doesn't make it true of course, but my point is once you try to find a place for consciousness in the firmament, and describe the parts of nature that aren't mechanistic, you find yourself in a position where the question of survival remains plausible if not necessitated by priors depending on which paradigm/framework one adopts.

In fact i suspect it's this very opening of the door to the possibility souls (and God, and spirits) that motivates the anti-immaterialist paranoia of the materialist evangelical movement.
 
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#16
1) It contradicts pretty much everything we actually know from the rest of nature. Nature does not conserve individual beings. Does a tree conserve individual leaves at the end of a season? Does a body conserve individual cells? Does a forest in the long term conserve individual trees? Does a bee hive conserve individual bees? The answer to all these questions, and others like them, is no. Nature has no reason to do this, because it can simply generate new forms as it wishes.
Your mistake, other than prioritize your preconceptions against the evidence, is to equate "there is a personal afterlife" with "there are objects are immutable." An afterlife is compatible with the universal changes in the nature because something remains in the afterlife, but it also changes, as all in the nature.

In addition, we already know that the individual personality can wither away and die before actual death in cases of dementia and brain damage. There it is writ large for us all to see (it could hardly be less ambiguous, sensibly taken), but for some reason we don't want to see it.
I've noticed that the argument that personality can not survive death because the personality during biological life is undermined by alcohol, disease, etc., is totally superfluous, because when someone dies, the manifestations of her / his personality usually disappear, the individual does not speak, or move, etc., so apparently her / his personality has been destroyed. However, we can find cases of apparitions, mediumship and children who remember previous lives where the personality of the deceased reappears, so that biological death is not the destruction of personality.

2) The nature of the "evidence" for survival is all arrived at via the complex interferences of living human brains. None of this stuff has demonstrable agency outside of what humans are already capable of achieving.
A witness who perceives an apparition of a deceased person is not dependent on "complex interferences of living human brains." Now you say that there is a living human brain, the brain of witness, but you ask for an impossibility: "that the living research an afterlife without interference of the living" when the research of the living is already a interference. Well, there is one possibility, that we all kill us but of course it's crazy... And then there are "drop-in" communications as samples of the agency of the deceased, but anyway, I no longer discussing this.
 
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#17
If it were possible to have the mind that we have now, but without a brain, then we would have that mind without a brain, because the less overhead and biological risk to the organism the better.
This argument is flawed because in my opinion, if we have brains, is to experience a world of obstacles and resistance that is the material realm, as in the spiritual realm there is no resistance to our will. But I know that response will not convince you, but at least it answers the question of why we are embodied.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#18
When you mention amalgamation it makes me think of panpychist accounts where bits of "proto-consciousness" build up and make "true consciousness".

I accept this as a possibility, but I can't help but see this as a flawed story. As I've mentioned before, why can't any particle to which we've ascribed a little bit of proto-consciousness actually have full consciousness? What exactly separates proto-consciousness from full-blown consciousness? Additionally, are the bits of proto-experience all the same, or does each quale require its own bits?

Another issue I have with this accretive account is it seems to be largely inspired by reductionism's (seeming) success in the physical sciences...yet one of the major reasons for thinking of consciousness as distinct from matter/energy was the very irreducibility of individuated qualia*. To assume reducibility of qualia to proto-consciousness bits seems like folly to me unless there's a better reason for it than the one given above. [I'm honestly asking here, b/c AFAIK the primary argument for Panpsychism is reductionism being the heart of Materialism.]

All that said, I think it's distinctly possible that your account of the afterlife is the correct one. But my previous point was to note that once you accept consciousness is immaterial, and that Nature transcends mechanistic explanation, you have to acknowledge descriptions of reality for which post-morterm personality survival is - at minimum - possible/plausible.

As a side note, Nancy Cartwright actually thinks Aristotleanism is the best way to describe Nature - since she eschews laws of nature** - but she also believes that all men are mortal. So post-morterm survival is still a point of contention even among those who don't buy into the current fad of mechanistic closure in scientific circles.

I also suspect Bernando and Morhroff, despite both being Idealists who believe the survival evidence is strong, would also have different conceptions on what the afterlife is like and how it should dictate our actions.

*See MavPhil's A Sense/Reference Objection to the Irreducibility of Phenomenally Conscious States

**See No God, No Laws. (Skeptiko Thread here)
 
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#19
The point though is that there is NOTHING (complex) in nature that behaves this way.
ALL in nature involves change and permanence, like the afterlife.

No, that's not the point. The point is that the properties of "mind" are demonstrably destructible by disease / brain damage / tumor / chemical imbalance / dementia etc. Obviously if they are destructible even under these conditions, then it makes no logical sense to say that they can survive death.
The point is, why appeal to the insane, demented, etc., if we already have the dead as evidence that the properties of the mind stop appearing with death? That is, the argument is superfluous. But the psychic evidence changes everything in my opinion.

Well of course they are an interference of a living brain. That's the problem. And on the theme of the thread, the issue of "psi," if indeed there is psi, doesn't resolve this.
And you have not addressed the points of "drop-in" communications as sample of agency of the deceased.
 
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