It may be useful to recall the attention of parapsychologists to the interpretation of parapsychological phenomena that was adopted by the vedic tradition and yoga.
Vedanta and yogic philosophy, tradition and experience can be regarded perhaps as the deepest in the world. According to their deep insight, siddhis, that is, the supernormal powers, spontaneously arise as soon as the normal relations of the ego with the non-ego, that is, of illusory objects with illusory subjects are suspended. This condition of identity or return to the Being, the One (sat, ekatva, advaita: truth, oneness, non-duality) that is obviously the true self (atman), the universal Being of all existence (bhava, jaga) is re-established. It is similar to the unity of being that we experience in deep sleep (susupti) which is the same for all existence. Obviously the so-called powers are, in this perspective, no powers at all, but on the contrary a true, real renunciation of all possessiveness on the part of the personal self.
It is indeed the profound experience also of the great artists - as is particularly recalled by the Indian aesthetics of Abhinavagupta and other theoreticians like the contemporary Ananda Coomaraswami- only because genuine art is always a song that arises by plunging into the unitary Being of the Self of all appearances and forms. The same is true of the intuition of the scientific genius as well as of the great actions of heroes and saints that are accomplished in obedience and puja before the unitary Being of all existence.
It is fundamentally the experience of a supreme and sincere love, which one arrives at through bhakti or supreme expression of kama (desire) as explained by the tantric tradition. It is feeling oneself no longer separated from other people and things.
In the Bhagavad Gita it says, The liberated one sees himself in all beings and all beings in the Self - he sees, unified by yoga, all the same everywhere'.*1 Properly, he no longer sees only the things and creatures, he is them. Being is One, the appearances are endless, but they are one because they are manifestations of the endless Being. It is thus that all barriers to communication between creatures disappear, and separation no longer exists because, beyond the illusory distances of space and time, in the universal Self, or Being (Paramatman), there is only the Presence, the universal cosmic and super cosmic Consciousness, that is the divine existence of all, only as Being, not as perceived object.
Between me and a rose there is a difference but not diversity: we are both expressions of the same harmonious identity. In fact, duality, distinction (bheda, abheda), multiplicity are only thoughts. If we realise the one Being, without thinking, by a living experience from inside, all separation and duality vanishes; we become aware only of the many appearances of the One. It is in this experience of love, when it is made possible, that joy (ananda) arises.
Yoga and Vedanta interpret the world of our daily experience as playful illusion (maya lila). As the multifarious colours of our visual experience are only a play of refractions of the sunlight, so we experience the manifold organs, structures, tissues and cells of our body as only one body of unitary life from inside. There is no interior identity without exterior multiplicity, no exterior multiplicity without interior unity; because the multiplicity is One, and the One is the multiplicity itself. For Vedanta the world is only an immense fantasy of the pure Self (atman, paramatman) that is also essentially the Buddhist shoonya or cosmic emptiness. Though it is a fundamental unity, it appears to our minds as an extremely logical world of multiple structures.
As a consequence of Being, and not only knowing or thinking, the perception of the world is no longer an objective form of seeing but a true clairvoyance, because it is no longer a mere perceiving of things from outside, but a Being of the things themselves from inside. I do not just see the girl or the tree, but I realise their Being itself, because it is essentially the same Divine Being that I am. A lyrical expression of this supreme vision is revealed in the verses of Manisha Panchaka of Shankara:*2
'This living Light that pervades every waking, dreaming and deep sleep state, that Divine Presence from Brahma down to the smallest ant, which substantiates all beings, That I am and am not the perceived object. Who truly does know it, whether a chandala or a brahmin, surely he is a guru. I am Brahman. And all this universal Being is from His womb arising...'
All is self-generating Being (swayambhu) in the joyous play of the universal Identity.
It is implicit in this conception of Being as non-dual, that space and time are merely projections or refractions, where no true duality is possible. So that in the pure ecstasy (samadhi) there is no intuition of any distant reality, but the ecstatic Being is the immediate reality of all perceived things, near or far.
Adequately integrated with the intuition of the inner consciousness that goes beyond all experience of the physical existence of the world, this conception could be considered as identical with the views of modern science: all is ultimately energy and transformation of energy. One must add that this energy does not need, in the first instance, waves to communicate with itself. If the particular selves (jivas) need waves for their normal communication, because of their separateness, as soon as they realise the illusion of the separateness, they return into the womb of the unique presence; to the paramatman, the universal brahman-atman.
Parapsychological phenomena are in this context only the consequences of overcoming the illusion of separation and multiplicity between creatures and things. It is necessary to realise the universal Self, or non-ego, by experiencing oneself and reality not as an object of thought, but simply as Being. It was called subconscious by western psychologists, but it is not indeed something that is on this side of consciousness; it is the universal super-conscious presence that is both sub- and super mind (Aurobindo) and also mind as well as simply all-pervading presence or oneness.
From such a universal vision of the world as in yoga and Vedanta, certain consequences could arise.
The first, as it is told in the sacred books, is the real possibility of telepathy and clairvoyance in all possible extensions. If I could go back to Being itself, and become what I essentially am, which is Being, it is clear that Being is everywhere and forever. I will be no more myself, but the Being itself. Man or animal or vegetable existence, all is in itself Being; and it is essentially the same everywhere, so that telepathy and clairvoyance can happen to men, animals and vegetables as a consequence of the omnipresence of all. But just as happens to the artist, who contemplates reality as dynamic and self-creating forms, things normally appear to the clairvoyant as though illuminated and engendered from inside. It is indeed this vision of universal Being as Identity that reveals itself in the great works, and also constitutes the liberating power of art.
Another consequence is that some flashes of clairvoyance or telepathy or also physical powers can arise in every creature, because all creatures are fundamentally one with the Being. The more one forgets oneself by merging into the Being and dissolving the illusion of egoism, the more psychic powers (siddhis) arise.
But traditional Hindu philosophy rigorously insists on the danger of these siddhis since they may lead to the morbid search for prominence and personal power (ego is not totally extinguished, even in the greatest saint). To seek siddhis and to cherish them is a sign of egoism. One can become easily proud of them, and consequently either lose these 'powers' or one can alternate between moments of foolish egoism and genuine moments of forgetting of oneself. The same danger exists for everyone, even for the guru or the scholar. Such a searching for occult powers is looked upon with disfavour for the most part by spiritual teachers in India, because it belongs to inferior planes and usually pushes the seeker on a path leading him very far from the divine.
Another consequence is that what are normally considered as psychic phenomena and emerge as marvellous or strange happenings in the ordinary thread of life, are in themselves perhaps no more clairvoyant than the great vision of genius in philosophy or in art. For example a musical revelation like that of the Wagnerian Nibelungenring could be considered, perhaps, as clairvoyant as the greatest prophecies of history; and a number of great novels could also be acknowledged as true works of clairvoyant insight. Such stories outline life at some period of history and tell us what could happen in the future. They never tell the exact date or place of the future happening; they forecast only the possibilities of the Divine Being in the play of the world.
Another consequence is that these powers are not powers of man, but only of the Being; that is, of brahman-atman, or God. They are the dissolution of the personal existence, as in art and love. All the egoism and pride of artists and mediums is only a human obstacle to their creativity.
According to one of the greatest clairvoyants of today, Gustavo Adolfo Rol of Turin, 'everything has its sour. He does not trust spiritualism which tells us of un-embodied souls. He realises the Presence is everywhere, 'in a stone, a leaf, and also in apparently lifeless things'.*3 As Apa B. Pant declared, the true yogi "pours his 'self into everything, a stone, a tree, an old man, a young child, a dead body, a bird, a cloud, even into a sound, a whisper, into rain, floods, disease, joy - everything is thus, not apart from himself, in tension or conflict with himself, but is his own self."*4
So, the true yogi is no more himself, but the universal Being in all beings. He could give his own body as food to all creatures, as is told of some incarnations of Buddha, and experience by this feeling, the supreme joy (ananda).
As for the psychic phenomena, they are in themselves only direct manifestations of that Being which appears beyond ordinary limitations. A good medium is, in this sense, only an instrument of Being. These supernormal powers are not considered by yogic philosophy to be miraculous interferences with the laws of nature but rather as expressions of nature at a more subtle level. Our lack of understanding of them is only due to the limitations of our little egos, with their superstitious concepts of the limited nature.
This means that para-psychological research is not irrelevant but perhaps a true search for revelations of the Divine Being. It will be necessary for science to make contact with the deeper insight of the Orient, which furnishes explanations of these phenomena, since consideration from the usual materialistic point of view could never reveal their true nature. They are signs of the Unity or Oneness of Being, revelations for all of us of the divine Truth of existence.
*1. Bhagavad Gita, VI
*2. Shankara, 'Manisha Panchaka', author's translation.
*3. Gente, Milano, Dec. 5, 1977.
*4. Pant A.B., 'The Mind of Man', lecture at Florence, Italy printed in Surya Namaskara, Sangam Books of Orient, Longman, Bombay.