The Sixth Sense: Do Extra-Sensory Abilities Really Exist?

What is ESP?

ESP or extrasensory perception sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but if you have ever had a relatively accurate premonition of a future event or dreamed something that later came to pass, you have experienced what is referred to as ESP by believers, and it’s much more common than you probably think.

There is no doubt, therefore, that what believers define as ESP does indeed actually exist; the debate around ESP is instead a debate on what ESP actually is: a truly extrasensory perception (a “sixth sense”) that cannot be explained by science as we know it (and is instead explained by parapsychology), or a random occurrence that can in fact be explained by conventional science.

But, before launching into the debate, it’s best to define what is covered by the umbrella term of ESP (first coined in 1934 by Duke University professor J.B. Rhine); generally, extrasensory perception is thought to include the following hypothetical abilities:

  • Telepathy (thought reading)
  • Clairvoyance (seeing events currently happening elsewhere)
  • Precognition (seeing future events)
  • Retrocognition (seeing past events)
  • Mediumship (communicating with and channeling the spirits of the dead)
  • Psychometry (the ability to gather information just by touching an object)

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The Science on Out-of-Body Experiences

In “Awakening Mind” we always try to give you a balanced view, both from the spiritual and scientific perspective. Out-of-body experience is one of the most intriguing among “paranormal” phenomena, and it is also one of the most studied by the scientific community. The reason being its close association with near death experience (NDE). With new modern brain cooling and freezing techniques doctors are able to recover people who have been clinically dead for almost an hour. Many of these people report having an out-of-body experience when they were under. This article presents an explanation of OBE from the neuroscience perspective.     

People who describe having an “out-of-body” experience (OBE), usually say they left their body and found themselves floating above and looking down upon their human self. Often they attribute this experience to paranormal forces.

However there has been work in this area by neuroscientists recently who have found that an out-of-body experience can be triggered by stimulating a certain area of the brain called the angular gyrus with a mild electric current. One woman involved in this experiment was zapped in this region of the brain and the result was that she felt she was actually hanging down from the ceiling, looking at her body.  When another woman was similarly stimulated she experienced an uncanny sense that somebody was standing behind her with the intent of interfering with what she was doing.

At the time these two women were under evaluation for epilepsy surgery on their brains and the surgeons had implanted dozens of electrodes to pinpoint the exact brain tissue that was causing the seizures. They also needed to accurately identify nearby areas involved in hearing, language or other important functions that needed to be avoided during surgery. As the surgeons activated each electrode to stimulate a different area of brain tissue, the patient verbalized her experience.

The neurologist involved in these procedures, observed and reported that both women had normal psychiatric histories and were shocked by the bizarre outcome of the brain stimulation.

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Lucid Dreaming – Separating Truth from Nonsense

After attending Gateways of The Mind 2013, a large international conference on lucid dreaming I began pondering some questions. I noticed that the event seemed to expound mostly on personal beliefs and not science so I’ve started asking whether we should accept ideas without evidence? Should we just go along with the popular beliefs just because everyone else seems to believe them?

Spirituality and Mysticism

It soon become clear that the conference was not going to focus on science or anything else involving rational thought. The presentations revolved around more spiritual themes such as:

  • Shamanic Dreaming
  • Lucid Dreaming
  • Tibetan Buddhism
  • Out of Body Experiences
  • Qigong based Lucid Dream Practices

I don’t want to sound narrow minded because I truly am interested in how lucid dreaming is used traditionally in other cultures. I do have an open mind about possible discoveries that may be found in the deepest parts of the human mind. However I do think that a certain amount of skepticism is in order and I try to keep a realistic perspective knowing that these ideas were born in very different historical cultures very different than our own.

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How to Awaken Your Lazy Mind?

As humans we try to operate in our comfort zone. We follow the same habits and patterns that are familiar to us. New events like when we meet new people or are looking for another job are really just the same old thing according to our mind. We seek the same kinds of people and our approach to finding a job is a repeat of other job searches. Everything we do is habitual.

Through habit a neural response pattern develops in our brains. This is the result of repeating many times over, the very same process. A mental neuronal pathway is formed and is triggered automatically when we’re faced with the same stimulus. This is the reason we do a lot of things without actually thinking, like a reflex. Knobs are grabbed with the right hand and we press the brake pedal when a stop sign is in view.

Our brain gets lazy doing the same things over and over again using the same brain cells, while all our other brain cells lie dormant. They aren’t called upon to do anything so they aren’t stimulated and they basically just disconnect. The result of this is we are not by any means realizing our full intellectual potential and creativity. It takes an effort to develop creativity and to realize full potential of our brain, if we always take the same path, the path of least resistance in everything we do, our brain will go into mental decline and will be unable to face future challenges.

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Our Elusive Mind – View of the Mind

Our mind? Its specific location, construction, and workings remain points of conjecture. Even its purpose is not fully known. I imagine that it is like a multi-faceted optical illusion. Depending on your particular viewpoint at any moment it can seem to be like this, or that, or even something entirely different. Many confuse mind and brain. This video from the National Institute of Mental Health talks about brain basics including neurons and neural circuits, neurotransmitters and brain regions, yet all these neuroscience artifacts do not explains the phenomenon of human mind.

Your mind can be your friend, confidant, harshest critic, instructor, a liar, even a merry prankster in your life. With all this in its bag of tricks there is one more all-important attribute to keep in mind. It is a control freak. In this set of three articles examining the mind we will look at a list of the functions of the mind, examine the various views of the mind through the lens of four disciplines, and summarize ways of defining the mind.

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Our Elusive Mind – Regaining Control

I know you! Your reading this article tells me that you are a cut above the average person. You are curious, don’t mind having to think, and have a grasp on the importance of ideas. I admire these qualities in a person.

In part 1 of this three part series on the human mind, I summarized that the mind could be likened to a slippery slope. A mound of guck that appears innocent enough, but in reality sucks you in. The further you go in trying to grasp it, the more elusive it becomes.

Part 2 is one of those good news, bad news stories. The good news is that there is still much to learn about our mind. The bad news: there are few ”break through” thoughts about the workings of the mind. My intent in this article is to dig a little deeper and to personalize with you how we have lost our minds, the results of this, and how we can regain control of it.

It is somewhere in infancy that we first become aware that there is an internal self, separate from and independent of our understanding of our external self. Now I don’t have any memory of this, nor is there any empirical data to support it, but I am convinced that as infants we develop and play a game that gives us great pleasure. If I were to name it, the game might be called “Parent, come here!” It is a response to one of the developmental limitations of infancy. As infants our lives can become very boring, so we find things to do. You and I can’t tell our care givers what we want or need, but we can send a message.

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Our Elusive Mind – The Art of Metamorphosis

This is the third and final piece of “Elusive Mind” posts discussing the human mind. In part 2 I concluded with an important question: how does a person change their mind?  Realizing that there is more that needs to be said about how you can alter or change your mind, I decided to take another run at the subject. A kind of epilogue if you will. The resulting question is this: How can you affect the changing of your mind?


In order to lay the proper foundation for my view I need for you to step back in time with me. Back to a time when the question of the day went something like this: “Why is my mind so weak that I can’t seem to do the right things with my body?” or its equivalent, the mind/body dilemma (dualism). This is an all important question for many of us. A question that infers that we are aware of our reactions and behaviors that many times those behaviors and reactions are at odds with our preferences.

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