Cedar Creek Institute "The question for man most momentous of all is ... whether or no his personality involves any element which can survive bodily death. In this direction have always lain the gravest fears, the farthest-reaching hopes, which could either oppress or stimulate mortal minds" -   F. W. H. Myers, 1903

Westphal Neuroimaging Lab

Program Summary

Jim & Ed Polhemus 09


Psychophysiological Studies of ASCs and Psi (8/09)  


Program Summary: Psychophysiological Studies of ASCs and Psi (8/09)


            CCI has recently completed construction of a state-of-the-art EEG research facility under the direction of Dr. Edward F. Kelly, an experimental psychologist, and Dr. W. J. Ross Dunseath, an electrical engineer. The facility occupies approximately 1250 SF of office and lab space in our brand-new concrete-and-steel building, and includes an electromagnetically and acoustically shielded experimental chamber, a high-quality commercial EEG data-acquisition system, and extensive software resources for display, editing, signal-processing, and statistical analysis and modeling of multichannel physiological data (see General Description of the Neuroimaging Facility). With these new resources in hand we are resuming, at a higher level of intensity, a multifaceted program of research on altered states of consciousness and psi phenomena that was originally conceived and partially implemented during the years 1973-1983 through the Department of Electrical Engineering at Duke University (see A Psychobiological Framework for Psi Research). The program will focus primarily on intensive longitudinal studies with individuals who have been carefully selected for possession of various extra-ordinary psychological skills, and these individuals will function as full-fledged members of our research team. Five categories of such persons are currently of special interest, and we invite your help in finding them:


1. Advanced Meditators. Currently available evidence strongly suggests that deep meditative states are both physiologically distinctive and conducive to unusually strong performance on various kinds of psi tasks (see Kelly & Kelly et al., 2007, Chapter 8; Kelly & Locke, 1981a/2009). Although a number of research groups are now studying the physiology of advanced meditators, and a few are studying their capacity for controlled psi performance, to our knowledge our laboratory is unique in attempting to pursue both of these threads experimentally in the same individuals. There are several large groups in the Charlottesville area, representing a variety of meditative practices and traditions, all of which we plan to contact in the near future. Another potential source of highly advanced meditators is the sizeable cohort of Tibetan Buddhist monks, hand-picked by the Dalai Lama, who are being taught modern neuroscience by our colleague and Advisory Board member David Presti from U.C. Berkeley. Esalen Institute and associated Bay-Area meditation groups will provide still another possible source. The central goals of our research with such individuals will be to deepen our understanding of the meditative states themselves, including both their phenomenology and their physiological accompaniments, and to explore their connections with psi phenomena, both spontaneous and experimental.


2. OBE Subjects. The literature of psychical research contains at least 30 cases of persons who voluntarily “projected” to a pre-determined remote location, observed persons, objects and events in that location as if from a specific spatial position, and were in turn witnessed at that location, in the form of a recognizable apparition occupying the corresponding spatial position, by one or more persons present there (Hart & collaborators, 1956)). It is of great practical and theoretical importance to study cases of this sort in depth, both to characterize the OBE states themselves physiologically and phenomenologically in greater detail and to document more rigorously the occurrence of psi-type events using appropriate target and detector systems. The small amount of work previously carried out along these lines strongly suggests that such research will be successful (see Kelly & Kelly et al., 2007, pp. 401-403), and the most urgent requirement by far is again to find suitable individuals. Computer-based and by-mail survey research ongoing at DOPS has already identified a small number of individuals meriting further investigation, a monitoring system currently being put in place at Esalen will provide another good source of prospects, and still another is The Monroe Institute (TMI), located just south of Charlottesville, which has a central historical focus on OBEs and techniques for inducing them. Other potential OBE subjects occasionally contact us themselves after visiting our websites, and we are currently in correspondence with several of these.


3. Trance Mediums. Some of the best evidence ever produced for psi phenomena generally, and for post-mortem survival in particular, came through a small number of intensively studied deep-trance mediums of the late 19th and early-to-mid-20th centuries, persons such as Mrs. Piper, Mrs. Leonard, “Mrs. Willett” (Mrs. Coombe-Tennant), and Eileen Garrett (Gauld, 1982). In all cases the flow of psi information was strongly coupled to the presence of drastically altered states of consciousness, of generally similar type, about which practically nothing is presently known but which are certainly accessible to deeper investigation using modern psychophysiological research techniques. Deep-trance mediumship has largely been supplanted in the modern era by highly publicized forms of conscious or light-trance “channeling”, procedures which to our knowledge have produced relatively little in the way of evidence or understanding. The remedy for this, we believe, will be to discover, and to study in depth, new deep-trance mediums. Based in part on the enormous anthropological literature dealing with trance and possession trance in preliterate societies (Kelly and Locke, 1981a/2009; Locke & Kelly, 1985), we feel confident that such persons still exist, and that they share some sort of biologically-based susceptibility to trance that should be accessible to study under both laboratory and field conditions. One way to search for them will be through various spiritistic and mediumship-training institutions in the US and UK, but there is also a thriving culture of spiritism and trance mediumship, much like that of the late 19th-century US and UK, in various parts of Latin America including in particular Puerto Rico and Brazil where both we ourselves and our colleagues at Esalen’s Center for Theory and Research already have excellent connections.


4. Hypnotic Virtuosos. The early history of psychical research was deeply intertwined with that of hypnotism, so much so that for a long time “higher” (psi) phenomena such as transposition of senses, community of sensation, clairvoyance, and so on were themselves regarded as defining attributes of deep hypnotic states. The time is now auspicious to revisit these connections. In the first place, even studies with relatively unselected subjects have continued to demonstrate an association between psi performance and hypnosis (Schecter, 1984; Stanford & Stein, 1994). Meanwhile, contrary to the views of modern social-influence theorists such as Barber, Sarbin, and Spanos, recent neuroimaging and phenomenological studies have begun to confirm the traditional view that hypnosis does sometimes involve profoundly altered states of consciousness (Cardeña, 2005; Kihlstrom, 2003). At the same time, we now know that the capacity to enter into such drastically altered hypnotic states is rare in the general population – perhaps on the order of 1% or fewer of randomly sampled adults. These are precisely the kinds of persons who need to be studied in depth, and we have begun to search for them using standard hypnotic-susceptibility instruments. The central goals of our work with such individuals will be to study the phenomenology and physiology of the hypnotic states themselves, and to explore their association with psi using appropriate testing methods. Whereas most laboratory studies of hypnosis to date have concentrated on traditional forced-choice card-guessing and the like, we believe it will prove far more effective to employ testing methods that take advantage of properties intrinsic to the targeted states. For example, crystal-gazing or “scrying”, which involves the involuntary projection of vivid and autonomous visual imagery, is known to be greatly facilitated in the fantasy-prone type of high hypnotizables, and this lends itself to efficient psi testing using free-response methods. Experiments of this sort would also provide an excellent vehicle for investigation of physiological correlates of the imagery itself, an opportunity that has so far been lacking in mainstream imagery research (Kelly & Locke, 1981b).


5. Psi Subjects. In addition to studies of the above sorts, in which the initial focus is on psychophysiological analysis of unusual states of consciousness, and psi testing plays mostly a secondary or confirmatory role, we will also constantly be on the lookout for persons capable of high-level performance on controlled psi tasks (ESP and PK tasks) of various kinds. In any such persons we discover, the central goal of our collaborative research will be not merely to document the psi performance, but to identify physiological conditions conducive to success. Identification of such correlates is highly desirable scientifically, and for a number of important reasons: For example, in correlating psi effects with measurable subject properties of any other kind we already “normalize” the paranormal to some degree, and in the context of present-day science anchoring psi to biological correlates is a top strategic priority. Such correlations can also immediately provide a degree of statistical control over psi itself, because one could then go through a long series of trials picking out those in which physiological conditions conducive to success are present, with the expectation that the trials thus selected will display a higher success rate than the series as a whole. Furthermore, if the physiological conditions conducive to success prove to be of a sort that we can stabilize or induce, for example using biofeedback or meditation procedures, the path could lie open to experimental control and to correspondingly increased potential for practical applications. Other potential benefits include tracing flows of psi-related information through individual brains, resolution of sometimes vexing ambiguities as to the source of psi effects (most notoriously, as between those participants nominally identified as “subjects” and “experimenters”), and discriminating among rival theoretical models of psi. Both Esalen and TMI are potentially good sources of subjects for these studies, and we occasionally learn about others both through our website and through personal connections with other researchers. We also plan to add more on-line self-testing resources including a variety of computer-driven psi tasks to our website, which will enable us to screen larger numbers of potential subjects both local and remote.


            The cost of creating the new research facility has been borne by CCI itself, which is running the laboratory in conjunction with its sister organization, DOPS. We are now seeking operating support for this new program component at a level of at least $300,000 per year, to be specifically targeted to the applications outlined above.  Roughly 80% of this amount will go to support of additional research personnel including visiting colleagues, post-doctoral fellows and pre-doctoral students, and computer-programming and engineering helpers as needed. Additional funds will be needed primarily to support travel, lodging, and per diem, either for distant subjects (in case of studies more efficiently performed in the laboratory) or for the investigators (in case of studies best performed in the field). We want to provide for a minimum of at least 20 such occasions per year, at an expected average cost of approximately $2000 per occasion in travel, lodging, per diem, and (occasionally) stipends for especially promising subjects. The balance will consist of routine operating supplies such as EEG and electronics supplies, costs for special services such as anatomical MRIs for selected subjects, and communication and publication costs. For further details please contact Ed Kelly c/o DOPS, 210 Tenth Street NE, Charlottesville VA 22902, Phone: (434)924-2281, Email: ek8b@virginia.edu







Cardeña, E. (2005). The phenomenology of deep hypnosis: Quiescent and physically active. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 53, 37-59.


Gauld, A. (1982). Mediumship and Survival. London: Heinemann.


Hart, H. & collaborators (1956). Six theories about apparitions. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 50, 153-239.


Kelly, E. F., Kelly, E. W., Crabtree, A., Gauld, A., Grosso, M., & Greyson, B. (2007). Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century, Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield.


Kelly, E. F. & Locke, R. G. (1981a). Altered States of Consciousness and Psi: An Historical Survey and Research Prospectus (Parapsychological  Monographs No. 18), New York: Parapsychology Foundation. (Re-issued, with a new preface, 2009).


Kelly, E. F. & Locke, R. G. (1981b). A note on scrying. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 75, 221-227.


Kelly, E. F. (1983). A psychobiological framework for psi research: sources, progress, and prospects. Proceedings: Symposium on Applications of Anomalous Phenomena. Leesburg VA: Kaman Tempo, 365-405 (Available in slightly modified form as a .pdf, 2008).


Kihlstrom, J. (2003). The fox, the hedgehog, and hypnosis. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 51, 166-189.


Locke, R. G. & Kelly, E. F. (1985). A preliminary model for the cross-cultural analysis of altered states of consciousness. Ethos, 18, 3-55.



Schechter, E. I. (1984). Hypnotic induction vs. control conditions: Illustrating an approach to the evaluation of replicability in parapsychological data. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 78, 1-27.


Stanford, R. G., & Stein, A. G. (1994). A meta-analysis of ESP studies contrasting hypnosis and a comparison condition. Journal of Parapsychology, 58, 235-269.









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