A Manifesto for Psychic Liberation

Jeffrey Mishlove, PhD
President, Intuition Network

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At its July 19, 2003, meeting, the board of directors of the non-profit Intuition Network resolved to undertake a new mission - that of initiating a social movement for the liberation of human, psychic potential from the triple restraints of ignorance, prejudice and fear.

The word "psychic" is derived from the Greek work psychikos meaning "of the psyche - or soul." The reference is to aspects of human nature that are not readily explainable in terms of conventional, material science. The focus of this movement will be to shed the light of reason upon those situations where ignorance, fear and prejudice regarding human psychic functioning exist - particularly in the domains of education, science and religion. By confronting ignorance, fear and prejudice regarding psychic abilities, we hope to help create a world in which people feel encouraged to cultivate and apply their inner, intuitive abilities.

For millennia, the nature and powers of the human psyche have been investigated by mystics, philosophers, artists, poets and scientists. Our call for psychic liberation proposes that we study, honor and celebrate this knowledge, and the wisdom derived from it. This knowledge is widespread. Yet, it remains on the fringes of our culture. Now the time has come to infuse the mainstream institutions of our culture with a deeper, more authentic understanding and appreciation of the faculties of the psyche.

In particular, it is important to infuse the field of psychology with an understanding psychic ability. The very name "psychology," implies a discipline of knowledge dedicated to studying the psyche or soul. However, for nearly a century since the death of William James, America's first and greatest psychologist, the field has been dominated by behaviorist and positivist schools of thought that - in an effort to achieve scientific credibility - studiously avoided questions regarding the existence and nature of the psyche. In the past decade, this situation has changed. Consciousness is now on the agenda. Consciousness researchers, however, often claim that they cannot deal with claims of the paranormal until after they have made progress in understanding "normal consciousness." Our belief is that true understanding of normal consciousness necessitates that researchers and theorists begin to honestly endeavor to account for the empirical data of parapsychology - the science that studies extrasensory perception, psychokinesis (or mind over matter) and the possibility of human survival beyond bodily death.  (Parapsychologists refer to these phenomena together as psi.)

The abilities of the human psyche are natural - even though they may be labeled "supernatural" or "paranormal." While science has yet to explain these talents fully, there is no reason to assume that they are contrary to science. After all, neither science nor philosophy has yet to explain the obvious fact of normal human consciousness - and many other phenomena as well. Yet we do not fear or generally deny normal human consciousness. Similarly, we need neither fear nor to attempt to deny psychic abilities.

These "gifts of the spirit" are not necessarily evil. To the contrary, they are associated with healing and with reverence for life and for the earth. Nor is it necessarily the case that proponents of psychic awareness represent a rising tide of superstition and dangerous, irrational behavior. These twin fears promoted by the religious right and the scientific left both embody, at their best, useful and needed concerns for pitfalls that can exist on the path toward psychic awareness. Useful as they may be, however, these fears are a disservice when they are extended to include all (or even most) purported manifestations of parapsychological abilities.

Those who would maintain that a psychic liberation movement must be predicated upon either credulity, mischief or evil are missing the point. It is a movement asserting that human civilization must abandon such outdated, inaccurate social labels and begin to appreciate what is known in philosophy, science and our many ethno-historical traditions about the human psyche and its powers.

The Need for a Psychic Liberation Movement

Only a few hundred years ago, supposed practitioners of the psychic arts were often condemned to death. In response to such obvious abuses by the religious and legal authorities, the scientific establishment asserted the primacy of rational and empirical investigation over theology, and tended to maintain that claims concerning psychic abilities were based upon irrational superstition. Even today, many well-educated professionals tend to regard all claims of psychic abilities with deep suspicion. Rather than seriously investigate such claims, too many are content to assume that they are based upon either fraud or delusion. This is the credo of the modern debunker.

We now live in a world aptly described by the great Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Gustav Jung, in his 1933 book, Modern Man in Search of a Soul. People are hungry for self-knowledge and for knowledge about the nature of their inner experience. They are hungry to learn about the powers of the human mind and about their own potentialities. Yet it seems as if a subtle conspiracy exists to suppress this knowledge and the awakening of awareness that it portends. Jungian psychology (rarely taught in mainstream educational institutions) has done much to rectify this situation. Yet, for the most part, discussions of the human psyche are limited to orthodoxies of various religious establishments. The scientific and educational communities also have little of intelligence to say about this matter.

Psychology originally meant the study of the psyche, by definition. However, it seems as if the field has been dominated by schools of thought that tend to deny or trivialize the human psyche. Philosopher Alan Watts captured this eloquently in the title of his classic 1966 book, The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are.

Parapsychology was recognized in 1969, by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, as a legitimate scientific field. Originally known as "psychical research" the discipline has been active for over 120 years. A considerable body of research literature exists. Nevertheless, educational offerings in this discipline are appallingly few and far between.

The good news is that there is a vast library of literature in parapsychology, metaphysics, consciousness studies, transpersonal psychology and the world's mystical traditions that speaks directly to the yearning of millions for a cognitive framework within which they can begin to interpret and understand their own inner experiences.

The bad news is that this wealth of knowledge and wisdom is rarely discussed within our mainstream social institutions. These fields of knowledge are generally regarded as undeserving of attention by educational, scientific, business and religious authorities. As a result, ignorance is widespread - fostering prejudices of many kinds. Furthermore, individuals with psychic talents, or in theological terms, "gifts of the spirit," are too often treated with disrespect, fear and even social contempt. This results in an incredible waste of human talent, that if carefully cultivated and encouraged, could be of great benefit to all of society.

The time has come when it must be no more acceptable to prejudicially or contemptuously dismiss a person for claiming to have experienced some psychic event than it is to similarly treat a person due to the color of their skin, their religion, their sex or their sexual orientation.

Why Now?

In resolving to take a stand in favor of a psychic liberation movement, the board of the Intuition Network, considered the major social reform movements of the two centuries.

  • The nineteenth century Abolitionist movement helped to pave the way for the end of slavery in the United States.
  • In the 1880s, societies for Psychical Research were founded in the United States, Britain and numerous countries - determined to explore, using the methods of science, the ostensible powers of the human soul proclaimed by spiritualists, theosophists and mystics. This rigorous exploration of consciousness predated the founding of the psychoanalytic movement of the early twentieth century.
  • The Suffragette movement of the nineteenth century eventually (in 1920) achieved voting rights for females.
  • In 1924, the French surrealists proclaimed a revolution of the mind "turning back on itself, determined to break apart its fetters."  Art and theatre have not been the same since.  And this very document is inspired by their manifesto.
  • In the 1960s, the Civil Rights movement made enormous strides in behalf of racial and ethnic minorities - erasing over a century of prejudice and discrimination.
  • Subsequently, the women's rights movement was re-energized to support equality for women in education and the workplace.
  • The fields of humanistic and transpersonal psychology made great gains in expanding our understanding of human consciousness since the 1960s.
  • Most recently, the Gay Rights movement has achieved significant gains from corporations and from the court system concerning recognition of same sex unions.

It is our view that all of these movements were necessary and sufficient precursors for a psychic liberation movement. The suppression of minorities and of women is related to the suppression of the intuitive and so-called "paranormal" functions of the psyche. The Gay Rights movement is particularly significant for psychic liberation as it exemplifies the principle, as expressed in our rainbow yinyang symbol, that the human soul itself is androgynous. While this principle is well-understood in depth psychology, for centuries it has aroused public opposition and fear. Now, we believe that society stands ready to embark a new opening up of the very depths of our being.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Sigmund Freud introduced a particularly influential notion about the subconscious mind. It exists, he maintained in his classic work, Civilization and Its Discontents, because we humans do not wish to face certain aspects of our own nature that are inconsistent with social norms. Therefore, we suppress and repress those facets of ourselves. Typically, therefore, the Freudian unconscious is filled with expressions of our sexual and aggressive urges. Later theorists, such as Carl Jung and Roberto Assiogioli, noted that this suppression and repression also extended to paranormal and spiritual (or transpersonal) aspects of our being.

For many decades, all of these topics were relatively taboo - for both polite discourse and for the media. In the past twenty years, however, this has dramatically changed. One might say that the media has engaged in something of a race to bring to the surface of conscious awareness all that has been suppressed and repressed for so very long. Now, it is commonplace for prime-time television programs to discuss and display an enormous variety of human behaviors and traits that were once virtually forbidden. Naturally, many people find this level of openness uncomfortably disgusting. Too many people seem eager to embarrass themselves in public. However, the impact of this media barrage has ultimately been a step in the direction of psychic liberation.

Facing Our Own Demons

Our civilization will not be ready to undertake an awakening of the psyche and its potentials until we are able to face our own subconscious demons. The relationship between the paranormal and the fear of the subconscious is exemplified in a conversation I had with the noted futurist, Arthur C. Clarke, in 1973, in Berkeley, California. I asked Mr. Clarke, who had written so eloquently about psychic functioning in his novel, Childhood's End, if he believed in ESP. The question was on my mind because Clarke had been recently quoted in Time magazine as making disparaging (and, I believe, unjustified) remarks about the intriguing research conducted at SRI International, a military-industrial think tank, with the Israeli psychic, Uri Geller. "No," Clarke responded, "I do not believe in ESP - because I do not want anyone to read my mind."

That was the crux of it! How can we accept the possibility that people around us can read our innermost thoughts - if we don't even want to know them ourselves?

Now, however, due to the easing of social suppression, we have arrived at a time in history when we can begin to embark, as a civilization, on a journey greater in scope than even the exploration of space.

Arthur C. Clarke is not unique in hoping that ESP does not exist. To his credit, he was honest about the psychological motivations for his hostile opinion. But, there are also many other reasons why people are hesitant to explore what is popularly known as the "paranormal." The Parapsychological Association's "Frequently Asked Questions" website lists a number of these fears:

  • It is associated with diabolic forces, magic and witchcraft.
  • It suggests the loss of normal ego boundaries.
  • People might be able to read your mind and know that you secretly (or unconsciously) harbor sexual and aggressive thoughts, or worse.
  • If you talk about it, people might think you're crazy.
  • If you think you experience psi, maybe you are crazy.
  • Before you were six years old, your parents provided negative reinforcement for your little demonstrations of telepathy.
  • Thinking about psi leads to a medieval superstitious mentality, which will in turn support a rising tide of dangerous, primitive thinking.
  • With ESP, you might learn things that you do not want to know about yourself or other people -- i.e., accidents that are about to happen, and things you would rather not be responsible for knowing about.
  • Psi might interfere with the normal human process of ego separation and development. Therefore, we have devised subtle strategies for cultural inhibition.
  • If you are telepathic, how will you distinguish other people's thoughts from your own? Perhaps this will lead to mental illness.
  • Many people have a self-destructive streak to their personality. What damage would result if psi were used in the service of this factor? Psychiatrist Jule Eisenbud wrote about this in his book Parapsychology and the Unconscious.
  • If psi exists, how many of my other cherished beliefs will I have to give up?
  • If psi exists, does that mean that a psychic could watch me while I am using bathroom facilities?
  • If psi exists, then perhaps I cannot wall myself off so easily from the pain and suffering in the world.

The irony is that many individuals who claim to be skeptics regarding psi, for scientific or philosophical reasons, are actually reacting out of some of the fears listed above - although they are probably not even conscious of their motivations. A psychic liberation movement must rest upon a foundation of conscious self-awareness. Only by overcoming these fears are we able to appreciate our own inner life, and that of others, for what is truly is - rather than what we fear it might be. This is actually a massive project - one that will take many decades, and perhaps centuries, to accomplish. But now, a critical mass of the population has attained a sufficient measure of self-awareness for the psychic liberation movement to begin in earnest.

The Rainbow YinYang Symbol

When the board of directors of the Intuition Network resolved to take a stand affirming that the time has come for a psychic liberation movement, they also approved a new logo for the Network that might eventually come to stand as a symbol for this movement. This logo, which we simply call the "rainbow yinyang" expresses a number of principles that we wish to see embodied in a psychic liberation movement.

Foremost, it is a symbol that represents balance, harmony and beauty. It is based upon the ancient, Chinese, yinyang school of philosophy. As such, the symbol intends to express some fundamental truths concerning ultimate reality. For example, the yinyang asserts that the many dualities we experience in life - male and female, good and evil, hot and cold, dry and moist - are all part of a larger unity. The ancient Chinese philosophy also asserts that everything is in a state of flux or change.

The yinyang school of philosophy in China eventually came to influence all aspects of culture and was adopted by Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism. It also served as the basis for the I Ching, or Book of Changes, system of divination. Carl Jung, ascribes the success of this divination system to a principle he elucidated, known as synchronicity. In addition, the yinyang school of philosophy became the basis of Chinese medicine and also a wide variety of Asian martial arts traditions. It is a symbol that has become widely associated with ch'i energy - the basis of life itself.

Yinyang images, however, are not exclusively Chinese. They are widely seen throughout the modern cultures of the world, as a philosophical symbol not associated with any particular religious tradition. And, variations of the yinyang can also be found in diverse, ancient cultures where it seems to have originated independently - including Irish Celtic ruins and on Roman shields. While we tip our hats to the ancient Chinese, we do so as an expression of honor to all schools of thought that apprehend the fundamental role and power of consciousness in human affairs.

The rainbow colors are a unique contribution to the yinyang image, as modified especially for the Intuition Network logo. In western Biblical tradition, the rainbow symbolizes the covenant between god and all of humanity. The rainbow flag is also the symbol of the Gay Liberation movement. By changing from a traditional two-colored yinyang to one that includes an entire rainbow spectrum of color, the symbol is telling us to move beyond black and white thinking so that we can begin to enrich our mind with many colorful nuances.

The Making of a Social Movement

We think of the psychic liberation movement as a silent revolution, meaning that it must start from within. It begins with the decision of each individual to honor and pay attention to their own inner being, to place higher value on the quiet voice within, and to commit to taking steps that will support the inner development of all other people. Once an inner commitment has been made, there are a number of concrete steps that we would encourage.

  • Become familiar with the basic literature in such fields as the study of near-death experiences, parapsychology, transpersonal psychology, remote viewing, lucid dreaming, consciousness studies, noetic sciences, Jungian psychology, reincarnation, psychical research, shamanism, yoga, meditation, prayer, buddhism, lives of the saints, healing, subtle energies, intuition, gnosticism, tantra, sufism, taoism, chassidism, goddess traditions, dowsing, divination, cosmology, animal communication, theoretical physics as it pertains to consciousness, philosophy of mind and metaphysics.
  • Encourage the study of the above-mentioned disciplines within appropriate educational, scientific and cultural organizations with which you have contact. Take advantage of opportunities that present themselves to combat ignorance.
  • Engage in the practice of psycho-spiritual and mind-body disciplines.
  • Speak up when you learn about rude and hostile remarks being made about people engaged in research, education and practical applications of the above areas. No matter how outrageous an individual's purported experiences and claims may be, all human beings (even those suffering from paranoid or schizophrenic delusions) are entitled to be treated with common courtesy and decency. In particular, speak out when such people are being harshly pre-judged, in the absence of any honest effort at understanding.
  • Write letters and articles in response to printed comments concerning the above-mentioned disciplines of the psyche when those printed comments are based upon ignorance, fear and prejudice. Rely upon well-reasoned arguments, and good scholarship, to point out - over and over again if necessary - that those who would criticize the study of psychic abilities must be held to the normal standards of accuracy and care that pertain to every other field.  
  • Encourage appropriate organizations with which you have contact - particularly those already engaged in supportive work - to take a public stand in favor of a psychic liberation movement. Give extra time, energy and money to those organizations that are willing to make a commitment to support psychic liberation.Organize websites, and e-mail discussion lists, for the purpose of documenting the work you are doing in support of psychic liberation.
  • Gather in small groups of close knit friends and colleagues to share the work that you are doing and to encourage each other in the cultivation of your own unique gifts. Remember that, when it comes to intuitive awakening, everyone has their own special expertise. Everyone has something to offer.

The Intuition Network stands ready to be of service to you in this endeavor. We are a non-profit organization with no formal membership. We charge no dues. We are a mutual network of those committed to helping create a world in which all people are encouraged to cultivate and apply their inner, intuitive abilities.

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