Wyrdsmiths: Learning psychokinesis

There is no doubt at all that psychokinesis is not an easy skill to learn as an individual – the strains on sanity are usually too great. However, the British psychologist Kenneth Batcheldor and engineer Colin Brookes-Smith, back in the late 1960s and early ’70s, developed a methodology for educating psychokinesis as a group-skill, to provide phenomena for their research on the physical operating-mechanisms of psychokinesis. The key parts of their methodology – in other words, their magical-technology – was published in the Journal of the [British] Society for Psychical Research, Vol.47, No.756 (June 1973), pp.69-89; the notes below are adapted from Batcheldor’s ‘List of Rules for Sitters’, in pp.11-12 of Colin-Brookes-Smith’s Manual of Advanced Psychokinetic Procedures (1970). The term ‘sitters’ relates to the use of a card-table wired with strain-gauges and motion-detectors as the feedback component and ‘output’ part of the technology; the members of the group would be seated around the table, whilst instrumentation was used to provide objective records of any phenomena. As will be seen, the key focus of the technology was on management of the psychological issues – particularly the management of ‘witness inhibition’ and ‘ownership resistance’.

  • At least three but not more than six sitters
  • Only those capable of friendly co-operation
  • No extreme sceptics seeking convincing evidence
  • No inflexible Spiritualists or scientists
  • Both sexes, no age limit
  • Agree to meet once a week at the same place and time
  • Use a comfortable living room with familiar surroundings
  • Sit in any preferred order
  • Use the dimmest possible light tolerable without discomfort (unless extremely confident of success in stronger light)
  • Use total darkness for advanced phenomena (unless unusually confident of success in dim light)
  • Hands on table – not necessarily touching each other
  • Never change conditions even slightly, unless this is essential to relieve tension or increase expectancy
  • Avoid arguments – sense and resolve even covert disadgreements about procedure
  • Avoid immobility of posture – move freely, behave naturally
  • Don’t worry about accidentally imparting movement to the table
  • Be relaxed – engage in light-hearted talk, jokes and laughter
  • Smoke initially or during breaks if you wish
  • Avoid long silences and boredom
  • Be patient, just wait calmly and cheerfully without irritation
  • Don’t comment on the time, weather or topical news
  • Don’t become too interested in any particular conversation
  • Don’t say or think anything that implies doubt
  • Don’t do anything that implies or arouses doubt
  • Don’t perform tests or impose controls in half-hearted belief
  • Don’t try to ‘will’ the phenomena
  • Cultivate an attitude of serene confidence
  • Avoid all thoughts of any particular experiment ‘failing’
  • Avoid both long-term scepticism and ‘instant’ doubt
  • Don’t explain away every little happening
  • Don’t express (surprise or) astonishment at any PK display
  • Don’t concentrate your gaze – even in the dark – where PK is imminent
  • Don’t focus your thoughts analytically on specific phenomena
  • Encourage a generalised idea or image of the experimental task
  • Don’t apply critical analysis during or after a PK display
  • Keep your mind in ‘neutral’ – be an uncritical observer
  • ‘Pigeon-hole’ your observations for future consideration
  • Let the spokesman give all the commands
  • Use wording unambiguous in its intention
  • Use a tone of voice implying unquestioned obedience
  • Don’t comment on or distract atention from specific commands
  • Start with what seems easy and plausible
  • Grade the tasks commanded
  • Maintain plausibility throughout the experiments
  • Practise each step sufficiently – but don’t let it become tedious
  • Don’t hurry the steps – wait for each response
  • Go back one step if no response is forthcoming
  • Don’t repeatedly call for something not forthcoming
  • Revive interest and excitement by some free uncommanded action
  • Call ‘STOP’ if free activity ignores commands, then regain obedience
  • Briefly express approval for sucessfuly performed tasks
  • Don’t consult ‘the table’ on procedure or theories
  • Don’t ask for spiritistic messages
  • Avoid being led astray by the offer of prizes

[The above table is copyright ©1970 Kenneth Batcheldor.]

The above ‘Rules For Sitters’ were designed for use in experimental (laboratory) induction of PK, but give a good idea of the general conditions under PK can be applied. There are some very close parallels with my (Tom Graves’) own work on dowsing – the only major differences being that my dowsing induction rules were designed for individuals rather than groups, and that PK is more susceptible to doubt even than map-dowsing. But given suitable training conditions and techniques it should be possible to train people to use PK (rather than induce it solely for lab experiments, which runs counter to ‘necessity’). There are no real reason why this should not be possible – the difficulties (see the article in The Unexplained 106) are practical, not theoretical. In some experiments Batcheldor and Brookes-Smith even combined PK with a bizarre form of dowsing, apparently with significant success: they used a little spring-mortar to fire a tennis ball over a high partition, to land on a random square in a marked-out grid, and then ‘asked’ the table, through PK-induced movements, to identify which square the ball had landed in.

Note the psychology used to manage the inevitable oscillation between doubt and belief – essential, the same concept of ‘manipulating beliefs as tools’ as described in SSOTBME – and also the ingenious avoidance of ‘ownership resistance’ by personalising the table (much as per pendulum dowsing) and by stating that the results are always a group effort, so that “everyone else causes it, not me”. Brookes-Smith commented that, in this kind of practical research, experience tends to reinforce belief – in other words, to weaken ‘witness inhibition’. Although the problems of (self-)discipline would be much more difficult to manage, it might be interesting to try the same basic techniques with school-children, whose ‘world-definitions’ are likely to be more fluid than those of adults.

Although it’s not mentioned in the List of Rules above, Batcheldor often used another ingenious trick to weaken ‘witness inhibition’ – plain ordinary cheating! Before the session, a pack of cards was dealt out, face-down: it was the job of the person who picked out the Joker card to give the table a shove every now and then, to give the sense that paranormal activity was happening. For the research purposes, this was actually entirely permissible, because the instrumentation was designed to identify when this (literally!) manual type of intervention occurred. Brookes-Smith commented that quite often, a typical instrumentation trace would show the Joker giving the table a shove upwards; the Joker would stop pushing; the table would stop for a moment, and then move upward again, without manual intervention, before returning to ‘normal’ on command.

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