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Sagan

from Chris Wayan's 1996/5/3 journal

THAT DAY

I turn on the radio while I paint. Carl Sagan's being interviewed. He suddenly starts ranting about mystics like me. Mysticism and even an interest in parapsychology and fringe science are symptoms of people intolerant of ambiguity, hungry for easy answers. "They're proto-fascists ripe for any demagogue who comes by..."

Oh, come on, Carl! "Proto-fascists"? It was Big Science and our Captains of Industry who worked with the Nazis--the bohemians and freethinkers fled or were gassed. And... "intolerance of ambiguity?" Like, say, your dismissing all evidence of ESP out of hand? Sagan says scientific skepticism is democratic and mysticism isn't, yet when those of us who've actually HAD psychic experiences bring up this data that won't fit his current models of reality, he flames us as fools and liars. Data collection, skepticism, theorizing... those are for qualified scientists, not us Great Unwashed.

Though it's not the illogic of his arguments that riles me, but his tone. I always found his books a little uninviting, and felt a little guilty for that. He was spreading needed knowledge, a solid popularizer... why didn't I like him? Now, hearing him live and unedited, I know exactly why--he's a smart, well-meaning evangelist who likes stoning heretics and witches like me.

THAT NIGHT Angular pewter ewer or teapot flies around a blue vase. Dream sketch by Wayan. Click to enlarge.

I "wake" in my parents' living room. Morning light is streaming in. I recall dreaming about a couple of witch's spells, one of them about Carl Sagan. But my recall's vague, and I'm distracted by a breeze blowing a fist-sized piece of crumpled paper over and around a blue ceramic teapot or pudgy vase, on the rug near the piano. The paper orbits the blue pot in a sort of dance. Looks willful, even playful, not just an eddy in the air.

I get the odd feeling I can predict it, just before each move. At least I feel no surprise--it always seems the only natural direction. Am I predicting it, or maybe influencing it telekinetically?

I look closer. That's not paper. Metal! A pewter or silver teapot, moving so lightly I rejected my eyes and mentally assumed it was paper not metal.

Telekinesis! I'm unsure who's doing it--but I THINK it's my own unconscious. That'd explain why I can predict it but not direct it.

But if it's someone else levitating the silverware, I want to meet that witch! A playful dancer with a sense of fun.

NOTES NEXT MORNING

TEN DAYS LATER

Unexpectedly, my mom writes me. "I never use the pewter set. I'm planning to sell it." I'm astonished. It's been in the family for generations. She adds "Unless you want it. Do you?"

I have to reply "No, I have no strong attachment to it..." And that's true. It's angular, plain, even ugly--never meant much to me. Until last week!

So why'd I dream about it then? I felt so insulted when Sagan labeled all of us who've had psychic experiences as liars, crazies or fools. I think my dreams looked for something trivial but distinctive from the future, just so I'd prove him wrong. I don't often catch such echoes of events days or weeks ahead like this for the simple reason that too much happens in the days between. But a literally once-in-a-lifetime event must have been tempting to my precognitive radar... that's hard for Sagan or his fan club to dismiss with "millions of people dream this, or do this, every day, so of course coincidences happen."

Note that my dream picked a well-documented object I didn't care about and never think of. Now, the pop view of ESP is that it usually arises from deep emotional bonds--the classic case is "you wake in the night knowing a loved one died." And scientific skeptics see ESP as wishful thinking--a delusion, but still an emotion-based phenomenon! Beneath the superficial disagreement, the one thing EVERYONE assumes is that ESP, real or delusional, is fundamentally fueled by feelings. But the only emotion here, the only wish, was for a nice clean un-charged example of ESP... that could cause emotion.

The emotion of uneasy annoyance.

In Carl Sagan.



LISTS AND LINKS: science - social attitudes toward ESP - telekinesis in dreams - play - mistakes - weird dream humor - vessels - heirlooms - symbols & icons - an even purer sample of unemotional, un-wishful-thinking ESP: The Rhamphorhynchus Question - predictive dreams - ESP in general - digital dream art

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