Following in the footsteps of America's awesome James Randi and Britain's brilliant Derren Brown, Professor Richard Wiseman is a compelling psychologist and former conjurer who uses his knowledge of parapsychology and stage show magic to debunk popular paranormal myths.
If you are a devout believer in the paranormal, please don't scream and drop this book as if it had just burst into flames. Paranormality: Why We See What Isn't There was specifically written for you.
The most fascinating things I found in this book include:
I bought Paranormality for a psychology lesson into the idiosyncrasies of the human mind. This was certainly true on the fascinating topics of Out of Body Experiences (OBEs), cold reading, and how cult leaders appear to achieve mind control over their followers (and even convince them to kill themselves). The rest of the book was dedicated to debunking irrational beliefs in things like Ouija boards, palm reading, astrology, psychokenesis, ghosts and precognitive dreams.
Discovering Wiseman's secrets is rather like listening to a magician telling you how all his tricks are done. Yet we're not talking about magic; we're talking about our personal and very precious beliefs about the world around us. It may be painful to do so, especially if you have been locked in a certain mindset for a long time, but I do think it's our responsibility as truth-seekers to peek behind the curtain and learn what it's all about - rather than accept such "tricks" at face value. The end result is, by defintion, enlightening.
Professor Wiseman approaches this task with humility and respect. He delivers an important message at a time when people are obsessing over how the world is going to end in 2012, how to become rich with the Law of Attraction, and how to make contact with their deceased loved ones via self-proclaimed psychics. Wiseman urges us to lift the veil of deceit and stop falling for centuries-old charlatan tricks.
Yet the tone of this book is not patronizing. Wiseman delivers his psychological studies and first-hand experience of performing magic in a respectful and unbiased manner. You get the feeling he is a sensitive chap who, despite explaining how all psychics are conning you (and/or themselves), he doesn't want to ruffle any feathers. Or perhaps that's just the most effective way to get your message across. He is a psychologist after all.
Another thing that attracted me to Paranormality was for Wiseman's take on dream control - aka lucid dreaming. I'm still a bit confounded over how this topic still falls into the category of "paranormal" in so many books and websites today. Paranormal is literally defined as experiences which fall outside of scientific explanation. And yet Wiseman himself details how the first lucid dream was scientifically recorded by Keith Hearne in the 1970s. Nevertheless, if people want to talk about lucid dreaming in their book of psychological oddities, I'm not going to be the one to stop them.
The concept of dream control gets a few mentions in this book but it's fairly basic stuff designed for the totally uninitiated. Among other things, for example, Wiseman recommends you set your alarm clock to wake you up during your most likely periods of REM sleep. He also suggests that when you do become lucid, look in a mirror - "in a lucid dream your image will appear blurry" - which unfortunately is not entirely accurate for many people (unless you succumb to the power of suggestion in which case it will be now). After that, he recommends you bite your arm or lean against a wall: perfectly acceptable reality checks for cannibals and loiterers which I can certainly endorse.
So while there aren't any major new dream control revelations here, I'd like to say kudos to Richard Wiseman for drawing lucid dreaming closer to the public eye.
In its essence, Paranormality is not just a logic bomb for the New Agers and Spiritualists of this world. It's a fun page-turner with loads of interesting stories and psychological tidbits you can show off to your friends. Wiseman finishes the book with a bonus chapter called The Instant Superhero Kit, which provides several mind-bending tricks you can perform at parties. And I think that really defines the tone of this book - for it is, ultimately, aimed at mostly casual readers with a short attention span. Given Wiseman's goal - to make basic psychology and paranormal understanding as accessible as possible - this approach seems entirely justified.
Richard Wiseman is a well-recognized face in Britain and frequently quoted in the media for his insight into deception, luck and the paranormal. It's his job to popularize modern psychology findings and educate the masses on being rational. He's also a thoroughly fascinating chap with a talent for converting the mysterious into more readily digestible truths. I recommend Paranormality for anyone who wants to face some such home truths about their own reality.
If we're completely honest, lucid dreaming isn't really known for being the most social of interests. In fact, often it's a lone pursuit - just you, your dream journal and the landscape of your mind. But this technique called PAL (or Partner Assisted Lucidity) breaks down that wall and turns lucid dream exploration into a social event.
Members of our lucid dream forum have been asking how to create dream characters in lucid dreams. The most common problem is having characters who look nothing like they should. Or they seem disinterested in your company. Or they fail to show up on command altogether. So, how to combat this? It's a matter of finding creative solutions that bypass logical expectations.
To lucid dream, I recommend being able to remember at least one vivid dream per night. That will boost your self awareness in dreams (making lucidity more likely) and also means you can actually remember your lucid dreams. Which is nice. Here are four detailed tips on how to remember your dreams more frequently. And if you don't think you dream at all - trust me, you almost certainly do. It takes an extraordinarily rare sleep disorder to deprive someone of dream sleep.
It is estimated that these wise and wily Indians have been using mugwort in their healing and ritual practices for 13,000 years, where it is known as the ‘dream sage’. They use the herb to promote good dreams, which they consider an essential aspect of normal human functioning! But that’s not all...
Silene Capensis has been used for millennia by the Xhosa shaman of the river valleys in the eastern cape of South Africa, where it is known as Undela Ziimhlophe or 'white paths'. It's fragrant white flowers open only at night, when they emit a fragrant and almost hypnotising aroma. Also known as African Dream Herb or Ubulawu, Silene Capensis induces spectacularly vivid dreams - yet has never entered the mainstream and remains a fringe taste within western culture.
Experts agree that everyone is capable of having lucid dreams. Dreaming itself is a normal function of the mind. We all dream every night, even if we don't remember. And we all achieve conscious awareness while awake every single day. So what does it mean to combine these states? Why, the amazing ability to have conscious - or lucid - dreams. Sounds simple, doesn't it? So why do I keep hearing from people who say they can't achieve their first lucid dream?