Science has progressed so much over the last few decades. The discovery of atomic energy has put unprecedented power at man's fingertips to be used either creatively or destructively, depending on his state of mind. Moon landings have been made and man is already thinking about exploring other planets.
In exchange, however, for all the wonderful new inventions and discoveries which this scientific era has heralded in, our ancient beliefs and customs have been crushed. We no longer accept what the saints and sages have said without scientific proof. Thus, in India too, the field of parapsychology is rapidly expanding.
Nowadays everyone is talking about the 'supernatural'. Much mention is also made of it in many ancient scriptures and stories of all religions. It is not uncommon to hear about or even experience psychic phenomena. Around the world you can visit yogis and mystics who clairvoyantly know what is happening thousands of miles away at any given time. Some are able to read the thoughts of others, to see into the past or future, or to materialise and vanish things, including their own bodies, at will.
Previously scientists never believed in such phenomena. They saw them as tricks, a marketable commodity, a way of influencing and hypnotising people. Yet their doubts were not entirely baseless, for along with the great or holy men possessing such powers, there were also many selfish small-timers who exhibited minor powers publicly, creating suspicion and doubt in the minds of the people.
Now scientists are trying to discover how psychic phenomena occur. They are carrying out experiments, collecting and compiling proofs which in many cases are substantiating and proving the existence of these psychic phenomena. A branch of science, known as parapsychology, has now accepted the validity of many supernatural powers and manifestations.
In order to understand supernatural powers in their true perspective, it is necessary to study them. Actually many such powers are found not only in man but in birds, animals and small insects as well. These powers are called extrasensory perception or internal knowledge because the information is conveyed without any gross medium. These powers even exist in our daily affairs, but we are usually unaware of them. For instance, perhaps you are attending a meeting and someone keeps staring at the back of your head. You can feel him looking at you even though you can't actually see him. Many times we dream about people and events which later manifest, often exactly as we dreamed them.
We find that animals, birds and insects are able to intuit the future. If some natural calamity or a change in weather is about to take place, they know about it sufficiently in advance to reach safety. It is very common to see ants en-mass changing their abode before the rains. If you put a pigeon in a cage which is covered on all sides and carry it to a new place, it will fly straight home after being freed, without a compass or any other apparatus.
So we see extrasensory perception (ESP) even in animals, birds and insects who have this ancient science carved into them as a part of their natural heredity. They never had to go to any school or college. Hen sparrows make such beautiful nests, from what school did they receive their training? What about beavers, small animals which live in water? They can build the finest dams which astonish even great engineers. Who taught them how, where did they get such knowledge? Bees roam around hunting for flowers. When they find a good spot they return to the hive and inform all the other bees. Then without wasting a second they all fly out to the designated spot and gather pollen. Yet if a person wants to find a particular place which is unknown to him, he will need a road map and many instructions. Even after the way has been pointed out to him and then explained in great detail, he will still get lost.
Man has forgotten how to utilise his extrasensory perceptions, but he still has them, just as the birds, insects and animals which are closer to nature. This internal knowledge or ESP has existed right from the very beginning, and man still has an enormous store of it within him which mostly lies dormant. He only has to tune in with it. However, in the last twenty years or so man has become more aware of his hidden potential and has begun to develop his extrasensory perceptions in order to be able to tap his own marvellous resources.
It is not easy to tune in to this great power which has lain dormant for so long. We no longer know how to go about it or where to look. Many people get a glimpse of it; often subtle perceptions are received and transmitted by our mind, but we are unable to register them consciously and so we remain unaware of them. It is like trying to listen to a program at the radio station. All sound waves are received, united and transmitted at one place board, but you can't hear the program being broadcast from there.
Man has always been seeking new sources of energy outside himself. Yet infinite power is waiting to be discovered and tapped within his mind. By gaining control over his undeveloped psychic faculties, what can he not achieve in this world? All things which seem impossible will become possible.
Scientists experimenting in parapsychology are mainly concentrating on two fields, ESP and psychic energy. One of the main areas of investigation into ESP is telepathy - direct, mind to mind thought transmission. The telepathic person knows the thoughts of another without being told. With the same power he can send and receive thoughts from thousands of miles away.
Radio waves can be sent through satellites from one corner of the world to another, they can travel far away from the earth, but they cannot reach a submarine deep under the sea. If a submarine wants to send a message, it has to come up. The Russians used this as a basis for experimentation. Because rabbits have very sharp perceptions, they put a mother rabbit on a submarine, but kept her litter ashore. When they started to torture her babies, the mother rabbit immediately became very troubled. Certain waves were produced in her heart and brain which showed that she was receiving messages. They timed this and found that these waves appeared in the mother rabbit at exactly the same time as her children were being tortured.
Some time ago when space ships were first being launched, the Russians sent telepathic messages to the astronauts and some received them. During these experiments it was found that telepathy could only be received by certain people, but it is possible to develop this capacity.
Dr J. B. Rhine of Duke University, USA made some interesting experiments in ESP. First he took five cards and marked each one differently with a star, triangle, moon, wheel and a cross. One person picked a card and another tried to guess which card it was. Normally if you go on changing and reshuffling the cards, twenty percent of the answers will be correct and eighty percent will be wrong. However, a regular high percentage of correct answers indicates some influence of extrasensory perception whereby the person is able to intuit what is on the card. Dr Rhine carried out this experiment with many people and in some he found a higher capacity for ESP than in others.
Dr Rhine also carried out experiments on psychokinesis in which mental energy is focused upon objects. These can be altered, brought to the practitioner, transferred from place to place, or caused to disappear and reappear without any physical intervention.
Usually when dice are thrown, there is one chance in six that the number indicated beforehand will come up. Dr Rhine found that if someone concentrates every time he throws the dice, thinking, 'Now number three will come, now number three will come', it does come, not once in six times but more often. This means that his energy impresses the side with the number he has chosen, thus he is able to throw whatever number he thinks.
Nelya Mikhailova, a Russian lady, demonstrated psychokinesis by concentrating on a compass which was placed in front of her and changing the direction of the needle. She also moved a matchbox and other things towards her by mental power alone.
Uri Geller from Israel is well known for his ability to alter the shapes of heavy steel instruments, swords, etc. by his power of concentration. Millions of people watching his demonstrations on TV saw him bend knives and spoons without ever touching them.
Satya Sai Baba of India is famous all over the world for manifesting objects through the power of his mind.
Scientists have found that few people possess these powers, but they can be developed through training. Yogic scriptures which are thousands of years old make many references to them. Yogic techniques were actually created to develop and open the chakras (psychic centres) so that yogis could utilise their psychic energy & extrasensory perceptions. Generally, however, Indian yogis do not exhibit their powers as this hinders spiritual development.
The concept of pranic emanations or force-fields is very old and widely accepted in India. In all devotional pictures you will find this force-field surrounding the gods and goddesses. Now Kirlian photography has shown that these emanations surround all living things. Even non-living things are surrounded by a field though it is a static one. When people were photographed in different states it was found that the emanations around an active, healthy person are very long. The emanations around an unhealthy person are receded. The emanations of a person who is unconscious or in samadhi appear to be separate from the body. This is interesting to note because according to yoga it is possible for the subtle body to leave the gross body and take up another form.
So many powers are waiting to be explored and developed within us. Scientists have just begun to explore this vast field of parapsychology, which has been well known to the yogis, sages and seers of India for thousands of years. Perhaps with the help of modern scientific research our ancient yogic culture will be accredited, revived and more commonly utilised.