Dr. Charles T. Tart on June 10th, 2009

For some years now there’s been a stooped, gloomy looking old woman walking past my house once a day. She’s always dressed the same in a way that’s odd by most standards, and she never speaks to anyone.

Without having any real reason, I slowly developed an “instinctive” dislike of her. I say “instinctive” because there was no real conscious reason for it. This feeling puzzled me, as I like to know how and why my mind works.

Lately when I’ve seen her I’ve thought about how hysterical people in the old days – people certainly not like me! – would scapegoat old women, call them witches, persecute them, even kill them when times were bad. I thought that if things ever got really bad here, the neighbors (hopefully not me!) would attack this funny old lady.

Today she stopped as she was walking by, smiled, and asked me how my daughter Cindy was doing!

The instant she smiled and spoke, obviously knowing and caring about my daughter, my whole perception of her was transformed. She was just an old lady, probably tired from walking up the hill, with a funny sense of fashion, but certainly not ugly or an old witch!

It amazes me how quickly a perception can change. For the better, thank goodness!

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19 Responses to “The Old Witch and my Projections”

  1. Sandy says:

    Dr Tart,

    It is interesting that your blog today mentioned witches. Another graduate student has called me a witch. A guy that I honestly don’t get along with. I try to be an adult and go about my business without having much to do with him, but occasionally have had some very heated discussions. The last time that this happened, his computer turned itself off and a burnt out florescent light over my head decided to come back to life. Silly coincidental stuff. Computers do what computers do. And florescent lights often go on and off. Everyone knows that. But he called me a witch. I just assumed he meant the “b” word, since English is not his first language. Even so, the word witch really upset me. I thought it was a very mean thing to say.

    Today I mentioned this incident to someone with a strong background in anthropology. He explained that the man who called me a witch, being from west Africa, wouldn’t have seen that word in the same light that I do. He might not like me, but he is actually showing me some respect in an odd way.

    I have to admit that there were no more arguments after that thing with the computer and light. He gives me my space. I still don’t like being called a witch. It speaks to me of times when women were not given the sorts of freedoms in the world that I enjoy. But I’m not gong to take it to heart so much. I’m willing to cautiously re-think my perception of that word this time around.

    Sandy

  2. @Sandy:

    >I still don’t like being called a witch. It speaks to me of times when women were not given the sorts of freedoms in the world that I enjoy. But I’m not gong to take it to heart so much. I’m willing to cautiously re-think my perception of that word this time around.< It's good to be sensitive to the implications of words and the strong feelings, often negative, that can lie behind them. Discretion in who you talk to about unusual experiences is very important in getting along in this crazy world. And just to make things worse, many if not most people do not talk about their unusual experiences because they think they must be crazy or evil to have them, it's not "normal." So they don't hear others talk about similar things, which reinforces the belief that "normal" people don't have unusual experiences. A truly vicious circle....

  3. Sandy says:

    Dr Tart,

    It is a vicious circle. The one person who I do talk to face to face about my experiences is my counselor. He keeps telling me that I’m exceptionally perceptive and that my experiences are normal human experiences. But even he admits that I should be careful regarding whom I discuss them with. Which of course begs the question, “If these experiences are normal and healthy expressions of the human condition, why is it a bad idea to admit to them in polite company?” It seems to me that the very fact that my counselor has advised me to be cautious suggests a pathology to my condition. His response has been that I’m a healthy person in a sick environment.

    Sometimes I buy into that explanation, but not always. It seems to me that if I have to hide how I experience the world, I must be bad or sick or something that isn’t good. So either I’m crazy, or the world has gone bonkers. Given that I’ve been talking to a dead scientist about my research lately, I would hazard a guess that I’m the one who is nuts. I’ll probably end up being one of those scientists who shuffle around the lab, talking to themselves and giving all the lab equipment annoying pet names.

    Sandy

  4. @Sandy:

    >His response has been that I’m a healthy person in a sick environment.< The world is pretty crazy. We all have fears and worries, and often when we can't solve them directly we look for somebody to blame. Who to blame? Anybody who is different is pretty handy for that, unfortunately. The dour looking old lady who dressed funny - surely she's the cause of my troubles? Totally irrational, yet, sadly, I think I was being a pretty "normal" person in developing those kinds of feelings... ;-(

  5. Tor says:

    Sandy, I recently had a trip to Asia, where I spent most of my time in Thailand. If you had these kinds of experiences there, no one would care. I actually met a Thai-Chinese medium who, amongst other things, channels many of the archetypal gods (which are quite similar across cultures). He said that he doesn’t normally allow westerners to join in on his sessions because we can’t handle it. We go into uber skeptic mode. But for Thai people these kinds of phenomena are entirely normal. They are part of the Buddhist-Thai culture.

    So I don’t think there is anything wrong with you. You are just in a subculture hostile to such things. I say subculture since, although most people in the west probably can feel a bit uncomfortable about such things you experience, I do think it’s only in the scientific and fundamental religious subgroups you will find hostility.

    We don’t have the same tradition for investigating the mind in the western culture as some other cultures in the world. Buddhists, Taoists and many other traditions do. To them “strange” mental phenomena are normal.

    Tor

  6. anonymous says:

    Hi Sandy,

    There are lots of things we don’t go blabing about to strangers. Financial matters, sexual practices are two. These can be positive situations for the individual but it is still not always socially appropriate to discuss them with strangers. Discussing them in public can generate inconsiderate responses because there are many people who are insecure and inconsiderate. I don’t think psychic experiences are different from other other types of private matters. The fact that many people are ignorant, inconsiderate, or unsympathetic is not something that is your fault but is something, psychic or not, everyone has to live with.

    • anonymous says:

      If you want to find a place where you can talk with people who have positive or sympathetic attitude towards psychic experiences try a Spiritualist chruch or a New Age gift/book store that offers classes.

  7. Sandy says:

    @ Tor, Anonymous, and Dr Tart,

    I appreciate the support, but sometimes I’m just as guilty of being prejudiced and afraid of psi phenomenon as the rest of my sub-culture. So how can I blame others, when I’m truly terrified that there may be a remote possibility that I could be psychic?

    Last summer after receiving instructions from a psychic on how to protect myself with light, I discovered that I could make rocks glow with the light if I tried. At first, it seemed like a fun game, but I thought that it was just my imagination. Rocks don’t really change just because you imagine they are glowing. That would be silly. To prove how silly it was, I thought I would test it in the lab. As it tuned out, I had access to a neat toy that week, a spectral analyzer. It is the sort of device often used in remote sensing from satellites, but this one is mainly used for field analysis of rocks.

    I first recorded the spectra of a rock that wasn’t glowing. Then I did the thing to make it glow. I didn’t change the rock, move the rock or touch it in any way; I just made it glow. The spectra shown by the machine changed in response. My reaction was as scientific as I could manage at that point in time. I threw up. Then I deleted the spectra that I had recorded and pretended the whole business was just a silly mistake. I convinced myself that I must have done something wrong when using the machine.

    Now from a scientific perspective, that test wasn’t very conclusive anyway. To do it properly I would have needed someone else to operate the machine who wouldn’t have known if I were making specific rocks glow or not. And there really isn’t any way to know if something was truly affecting the rock, or if it was actually the machine being influenced by the experimenter in some way. So I shouldn’t have gotten so upset. But I did.

    Since that time I’ve been thinking about scientific ways of investigating a natural world where the effects of consciousness and psi may be evident. But I still don’t know if I will be able to react scientifically and follow the data or if I’ll just panic and get sick again.

    Sandy

    • anonymous says:

      Hi Sandy,

      What wavelengths changed in the spectra?

      Thanks

      • Sandy says:

        Anonymous,

        It was a while back, so I don’t have the most exact info on the details of the spectra changes. The first thing that I remember occurring was an overall increase in the intensity of the spectra. That doesn’t actually indicate a change in composition, it suggests an increase in concentration of a detected mineral/substance. (Composition is interpreted based on the overall shape of the spectra and the specific wavelengths of absorption features.) The changes that I noticed subsequent to the overall increase in intensity were within the SWIR (Short Wave Infrared) part of the electromagnetic spectrum. I didn’t keep any records of the exact positions of the features.

        Sandy

  8. anonymous says:

    Hi Sandy,

    If it will make you feel better to know that there was someone who had bigger problems than you, you might like to read this:

    http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/200.....di_14.html

  9. Tor says:

    Sandy, having read about research carried out on the skills of qigong practitioners, I have to say that what you describe sounds familiar. Changes come about in dead matter (changing radioactive half life etc) as well as living systems when some of these skilled practitioners do their thing (often referred to as projecting qi). Now, in my understanding of this philosophy, qi is what everything else emerges from. It is similar to the scientific term energy, but it encompasses much more than energy does. It is said that everything has qi, or is qi in some form. If you gain the ability to see qi, then you should also be able to see how the pattern of qi is different in different living systems, but also in what we think of as “dead” matter. I’ve seen this myself around a living person, but unfortunately the ability was unstable and went away.

    Now, from a physics perspective I don’t think you should feel seeing such things need be delusional. There are so much going on in physics that, although I’d be careful equating the phenomena, would think may relate in some way. One such phenomena that comes to mind is quantum fluctuations in the vacuum, where so called virtual particles pop into existence for a very short time and then disappear again. These fluctuations have been shown to be real (as not just a theoretical useful concept) through the Casimir effect.

    Now, stop and think about what this means.. Empty space seems to be actively creative in some sense. It by it self creates new entities that didn’t exist before, energy and information foams in the nothingness. This foam permeates everything. Can it be patterned? Can our minds interact with it? If so, you could, since this foam effects how much of the physical world operates, in effect change the behaviour of these physical systems.

    So you see Sandy, if you accept that you posses some kind of active real consciousness that is not solely the product of dead non-aware matter, then affecting the world around you in the ways that you perceive isn’t that far off from what we know of the world today. It takes just a tiny amount of speculation and common sense to see how to connect these different concepts. And the experimental evidence for psi is there to push in that direction. In fact, I would say that you just see a bigger slice of reality (a reality that has been partly described in physics) than most do.

    I went through a lot of musing on these things when I studied, trying to merge my understanding of physics, experience and knowledge of qigong, and the evidence for psi. I do think it isn’t that far off, but suspect it’s still only a small part of the puzzle :)

    Oh, and I just remembered that Harla Puthoff have written a small article about much the same as I have said above. It can be found here, and is well worth the read:

    http://www.earthtech.org/publi.....v2_p22.pdf

    I’ll shut up now :)

    Tor

  10. @Sandy:

    I can understand throwing up when the spectra changed. Our “official” society doesn’t just deny psi, it often implicitly demonizes it, so any natural fears we might have of it are amplified when they aren’t being repressed.
    Sometimes we don’t even know we have fears. I remember once when I was a young graduate student, I had a chance to make a little extra money – always important for a poor graduate student! – by helping a physician I knew do some psychophysiological research. It involved measuring some electrical responses and taking some blood samples from a subject. I didn’t have any concern about helping. But as I watched the subject’s blood being drawn, I fainted!
    If you had asked me if I had a fear of blood, I wouldn’t have known what you were talking about, I had no such fear. But some part of me didn’t like the sight of that blood! Just that once, I’ve had my own blood drawn for various medical things since then and nary a twitch….
    If I were still doing research instead of mostly retired, Sandy, I’d want to get you into my lab and have you make some rocks glow again! Fascinating! But I’d also be very respectful of your feelings, I’m not the type to push people.
    I’ve written about fears of psi, and the articles are on my web site. No one wants to acknowledge them, and like most fears, they can thus bet blown up way out of proportion by being denied…

    • Sandy says:

      Dr Tart,

      Thanks. I spend a lot of time discussing my fear of being different in counseling, but I’m still terrified. Actually, I think I’d be OK if it were just people I didn’t care about thinking that psi was bad, or that I was a witch. In my case it comes a little closer to home. My husband can’t accept a universe that includes psi, or a wife that uses it. I have so much respect for him as a scientist, and I love him dearly despite his faults. So I try to be very careful not to do anything “bad” in front of him. Like meditate or make rocks glow. I know he thinks I’ll jeopardize my career opportunities if people doubt that I’m a good sensible scientist. He has a point. The problem is that I don’t know any way to make myself normal. I’ve tried. I’ve begged my counselor to fix me, and he keeps telling me that I’m not broken, I’m just a little confused.

      Sandy

  11. Sandy says:

    Thanks, Tor. That helped. :-)

    • Tor says:

      I hope it did :)

      You may also feel more normal if you read about what other scientists have experienced? As an example you can read 1993 Nobel prize winner Kary B. Mullis’ autobiography, where he talks about his encounter whit his dead father (see http://nobelprize.org/nobel_pr.....tobio.html).

      And also, if you haven’t already, I think you should listen to the recent Skeptiko podcast with Dr. Yvonne Kason. She has had experiences similar to you (and have done a lot of research on similar phenomena related to NDEs, Kundalini etc).

      Tor

      • Sandy says:

        Thanks for pointing those out, Tor. I hadn’t listened to the Skeptiko podcast yet.

        Wow. Dr Kason really has had some very similar experiences to mine. I do find it a little bit sad that the people who have these experiences seem to have a tendency to keep on having them. She likened it to a door being opened that doesn’t get closed afterwards.

        When I had the NDE after my accident, I was very much changed. It resulted in the end of my first marriage and precipitated a change in career… I just wasn’t me anymore. I thought that I could just start over as a new “me”, put the weird experiences in the past and soldier on. It never occurred to me that these experiences weren’t over and done with. I’ll admit that I was a little naive considering I’ve always seen lights around people (and continued to do so, even after I stopped acknowledging other sorts of anomalous experiences). And I did have some pretty solid looking imaginary friends as a kid. (I had a childhood NDE when I was only two, so the weird stuff has been there all along, even though I’ve tried very hard to deny it.)

        It seems sad because I would hate to have to start from scratch in my life again. I like my life right now. I love my husband. I do wish he would wake up though. I’m hoping that maybe if I’m awake, he’ll wake up too. Kind of like when he gets up really early on Saturday and starts talking to me while I’m hoping to get that extra hour of sleep in the morning. (Night owls should not marry morning people.) By the time he makes coffee, I’m pretty much awake. It would be nice if he could wake up in my universe for a change. It’s way bigger, and has a lot of interesting stuff going on.

        Sandy

  12. Tom Dark says:

    Well, Dr. Tart, as Socrates put it, “if you think something is, then it is.”

    He or the translator didn’t feel the need to add “until further notice.” It seems necessary in this day of quibblesome people.

    I have a cousin who’s attempting to make a career of having had a “near-death-experience” some years back. She’s so far written a book, which turns out to be page after page of instructions on how to live, purportedly come from “the Light Beings.”

    There are six Light Beings on the planet, you see, and my cousin has determined that she is one of them. Or was it five? Some people don’t even have souls, the Light Beings tell her.

    Well, to each his own. If she thinks something is, it is… until further notice. So far I can’t get her to listen to me.

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