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Philip, nephew of Occam

October 19, 2007 | Comment icon 4 comments

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In my prior article about how Occam’s Razor principle applies to the paranormal and paranormal investigation, it was explored how often people can truly make some astounding leaps of cause & effect in order to label something as being paranormal. Often the very simple answer is the right one, albeit not a paranormal conclusion. To continue along a similar line of thinking, often people so much want something to be paranormal when it isn’t they will convince themselves of the paranormal activity. As medical doctors are more and more realizing, the body will do what the mind believes. That is why a positive attitude can sometimes make all the difference in treating serious illnesses. However, applied to the paranormal, what if sometimes people want so much to believe in a ghost or spirit activity they create it themselves? Philosophers and scholars for centuries have argued that our thoughts make up the world so why not make up the paranormal as well?

This was tested in the 1970’s by a group of parapsychologist researchers based in Toronto, Canada. What has become known as “The Philip Experiment” is now a classic study into the potential of thought and it’s affect on paranormal activity.

Briefly, in 1972 Dr. A.R.G. Owen (a mathematician) lead an group of eight people from the Toronto Society for Psychical Research. None of these people were known to have any particular abilities in ESP, psychic, channeling, or other physical or mental specialties. They proceeded to create a person on paper, giving the person the name Philip Aylesford. The group created Philip’s entire life story: He lived in 17th century England, was married, had a love affair, and ultimately died by his own hand in 1654. Someone from the group even traveled to England to photograph the area it was said Philip had lived. Another group member sketched a drawing of Mr. Aylesford. The experiment began with the entire group meeting frequently to discuss the life and times of Philip as they would any interesting real person. Much time was spent in deep concentration, meditation and séances as a group about Philip.

For the first year nothing happened. Then, in 1973, Philip began to make “his” presence known. Beginning with simple taps and raps the quickly becoming yes/no answers. He even gave factual answers to known historic events of his time. Soon after Philip manifested physical abilities. He was able to shake and move a table the group used.

Dr. Owen repeated his experiment several times with different groups of people and was able apparently to create other persons including: Lilith, an 18th century French Canadian spy; Sebastian, a medieval alchemist; and very curiously Axel, a man from the future! All manifested very quickly after the experiment started and also communicated via raps and taps. Inspired by these experiments a group from Australia conducted “The Skippy Experiment” in which they created the persona of Skippy Cartman, a 14-year-old Australian girl.

From the paranormal point of view this opens many potential lines of thinking.

First, since they were using meditation and séances it is possible Dr. Owen and his groups did in fact contact some kind of spirit that was impersonating Philip (and the other personas). In this case, it’s more likely the entity was inhuman (possibly demonic) and was trying to trick them to ultimately gain a foothold in their lives.
It’s also possible that someone in the group or perhaps outside the group but aware of the experiment, was purposely making these things happen in order to trick the group. Similarly, it could also have been just coincidence with the raps and taps. The structure of the room/building they were in could have just been a noisy place.

But it’s also possible their deep collective thought and concentration did in fact create a “thought being”. That is, the groups subconscious minds collectively concentrating on this fictional person was able to somehow manifest activity to make the person real, at least to some extent.

It is this latter possibility that is most interesting to a paranormal investigator. Other studies have shown a definite link that somehow people’s thoughts can influence random events. Therefore, with this in mind and recalling Occam’s Razor, this opens a new direction of possibility for paranormal activity: What if much of paranormal activity is simply the physical manifestation of the collective hopes/wants/desires/excitement/etc. of people in the home, at the location, or on the investigation?

This would tend to support reasons why some very frequently (nearly daily in some cases) visited locations have more activity than others. It’s not just that more people are there to witness the activity but their collective thoughts are in fact making it happen (or perhaps amplifying what is already there?).

It would also explain why groups of staunch believers in ghosts, spirits and the paranormal seem to get more evidence than those who have greater skepticism and criticality of the paranormal. And it may further explain why paranormal activity might be found in a home or location that previously had no reported situations of the paranormal.

This is all a fascinating possibility with in the paranormal field. Future research and experiments may yet find greater cause & effect relationships to people’s thoughts and hopes, and perhaps fears, to paranormal activity. Someday it may be concluded that tests like The Philip Experiment are closely related to philosophic principles of simplicity like Occam’s Razor in that what we think does influence the world around us and therefore makes it even more a challenge to collect good paranormal evidence.

One day, the principles shown by these experiments may come to show Philip is indeed a close nephew of the philosophies of Occam.

Long Island Paranormal Investigators
Helping the living, the dead, and those in between!

Comments (4)

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Comment icon #1 Posted by Oen Anderson 16 years ago
I am reminded of a childrens book written a few years ago called "The Adventures of Curly Joe and Pete" by Eugene Oscar. This work of fiction has a boy dimensionally and time travel to different places and times. One of the places was the zoo in New Orleans where the animals are being moved because a huge hurricane is bearing down on the city. Two years later hurricane Katrina did in fact hit and heavily damage New Orleans. The author said when he wrote the book he originally called the hurricane Katrina after a neighbor lady, but his wife made him drop the name leaving the hurricane in his bo... [More]
Comment icon #2 Posted by MasterPo 16 years ago
Hehehe....IMHO it's doubtful the kids made Katrina happen. There are numerous examples of books foretelling near-future events by shear chance. You can say that author Tom Clancy and his readers is responsible for 9/11. In his book "Debt of Honor" it ends (****SPOILER ALERT!!!****) with terrorists crashing a passenger 747 into the Capital building killing the President and most of both houses of the legislature. But I doubt that.
Comment icon #3 Posted by GreenFriend 16 years ago
I get the feeling this experiment (and many others) where you concentrate hard enough on a fiction being they become something to wards "real". Now, I'm not saying ghosts aren't real, because I believe they are,c but have you heard of the Tulpa? I've done reading on it, both online and off. Wiki says: "A tulpa is, in Tibetan mysticism, a being or object which is created through willpower, visualization, attention and focus, concerted intentionality and ritual. In other words, it is a materialized thought that has taken physical form.[1] There are... apparitions that make public appearances. So... [More]
Comment icon #4 Posted by MasterPo 16 years ago
Interesting, though Wikipedia is not a relaiable reference source. But that's another topic. There have been experiments that show people's thoughts can influence the out come of randon events. Research continues. I don't think all or even a lot of paranormal activity is "made up" by people's own mind. But it does have possibilities that have to be considered.

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