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  On Being Stoned

    Charles T. Tart, Ph. D.

        Chapter 10.    Ostensible Paranormal Phenomena (ESP)

PHENOMENA PURPORTING to be paranormal in nature—i.e., involving the transmission of information (extrasensory perception, ESP) or power (psychokinesis, PK) across space or time when known physical carriers would not be operative—were often reported in pilot interviews with marijuana users, so a number of questions were devoted to this in the main study. A questionnaire study can only deal with ostensible paranormal phenomena, i.e., with phenomena that the experiencers themselves judge to be paranormal. Whether such phenomena would appear to be genuinely paranormal in terms of laboratory standards is unknown; judging by previous studies of self-reported ESP instances (Anonymous, 1958; Green, 1960, 1966; Gurney, Myers, & Podmore, 1886; Membership Committee, American Society for Psychical Research, 1967; Prasad and Stevenson, 1968; Sidgwick et al., 1894), some of the ostensible ESP would be discounted by a scientific investigator and some would turn out to be well evidenced and worthy of investigation. Thus the figures given below for paranormal phenomena are probably too high in terms of actual paranormal phenomena, [1] but do reflect the incidence of ostensible paranormal phenomena in our 150 marijuana users. It is, of course, the experiencer's own judgment of the paranormality of an experience that may radically alter his belief system, not the judgment of a hypothetically expert scientist. Thus ostensible paranormal phenomena are an important aspect of marijuana intoxication.
    First, it should be noted that most of the users (76 percent) believe in the reality of ESP; their responses to the question, "I believe in the existence of extrasensory perception (ESP), i.e., that people can sometimes acquire knowledge about things happening at a distance in space or time, or about other people's thoughts, when there is no possibility of this knowledge having been acquired through the known senses (sight, hearing, etc.)" are tabulated in Table 10-1.


TABLE 10-1

Believe strongly46%
Believe somewhat30%
Haven't made up my mind15%
Disbelieve somewhat6%
Disbelieve strongly3%
No response1%




    A specific question dealing with marijuana experiences was "I feel so aware of what people are thinking that it must be telepathy, mind reading, rather than just being more sensitive to the subtle cues in the behavior." This was a fairly frequent occurrence (30%, 22%, 31%, 12%, 4%), usually occurring at moderately high levels of intoxication (6%, 11%, 21%, 19%, 5%). Heavy Total users of marijuana report it more frequently than Moderate Total users (p <.05) or Light Total users (p <.05), with the Light and Moderate Total users peaking sharply at Rarely/Sometimes and not differing significantly from each other. Users of Psychedelics need to be somewhat less intoxicated to feel they experience telepathy (p <.05).
    A related phenomenon, dealt with fully in Chapter 12, is "I empathize tremendously with others; If eel what they feel; I have a tremendous intuitive understanding of what they're feeling," a very common phenomenon, which occurs at Moderate levels.



    The experience of precognition is a rare phenomenon: "I can foretell the future by some kind of precognition, more than just predicting logically from present events" (64%, 19%, 11%, 1%, 1%); and while most (71%) of the users did not rate the minimal intoxication level for this, those who did gave it a quite high rating (3%, 3%, 7%, 11%, 3%). Heavy Total users report precognition more frequently than Moderate Total users (p <.01) or Light Total users (p <.05). Similarly, Daily users report precognition more frequently than Weekly users (p <.05) or Occasional users (p <.01), with a suggestion (p <.10) that Weekly users also experience it more often than Occasional users.


Magic, Psychokinesis (PK)

    The converse of extrasensory perception, a sense of paranormally affecting the world, was investigated with "I can perform magical operations that will affect objects or people while stoned," and appears to be a very rare effect (83%, 6%, 6%, 1%, 0%). The few users rating level of intoxication indicated this as a high-level effect (1%, 1%, 3%, 5%, 3%). Daily users reported it occurring more frequently than Weekly users (p <.05) or Occasional users (p <.01). The users were also asked to describe examples of this; of the twelve who wrote descriptive comments, five users gave comments which were not readily understandable, suggesting a communications gap. One user expressed clearly a semantic problem inherent in the question: "I believe that magic is just 'doing' on a higher level of awareness. It is 'magic' to the spectator who does not expect or understand it. I have to be very stoned in order to be able to concentrate and flow at the same time to a sufficient degree to perform magic. 'Magic' tricks can be very funny and very beautiful, also astonishing. Maybe dangerous, too."
    Two other users indicated that their experiences depended on how you defined magic; one described chanting mantras (Govinda, 1960) with others as a magical way of affecting them; another, "using subliminal suggestion in a soft voice across the room."
    Of the phenomena reported that resemble those reported in the parapsychological literature: (1) two were of increased telepathic rapport ("playing guitar with a friend so well it seems magic," and "I can be 100 percent accurate about stating peoples' signs (sun), I can predict peoples' movements, social groupings"); (2) two involved being able to paranormally affect another user's level of intoxication ("I can get other people higher by more than ordinary communication—can feel as if I exude a force that draws their consciousness to me and higher, more than gaze and conversation alone," and "I can bring people 'up' if I want to—people who are close to me emotionally"); and (3) one involved a sensing of the prana force described in Chapter 11 ("Sometimes while stoned we play a game in which one person will hold his hand near another person's body. This will cause the person to feel a tingling, or other feeling in this area. Sometimes the affected person may have his eyes closed").
Note.—For guide to interpreting the "How Stoned" graph,
see note on Figure 6-1.

    The frequencies of occurrence of these three paranormal phenomena are shown in Figure 10-1. Telepathy is reported more frequently than precognition (p <.0005) or magical operations (p <<.0005), and in turn, precognition is more frequent than magical operations (p <.001). There is a parallel to laboratory work with the paranormal, where contemporary time ESP (telepathy, clairvoyance) studies are most often significant, precognition studies are not significant as often, and psychokinesis (usually "willing" dice faces to come up in a certain pattern) is a rare bird (Rao, 1966). The levels of intoxication for the three phenomena do not differ significantly, although the test is not very adequate due to the small number of users rating the precognition and magical operation items.


Out-of-the-Body Experiences

    A phenomenon rare in the pilot data, but of particular interest to me because of some intriguing laboratory findings (Tart, 1967, 1968), is the so-called "out-of-the-body" experience (OOBE) "Have you ever had the experience of being 'located' outside your physical body, i.e., of you being at a different location in space than the one you knew your body was at? Dreams aren't included here, or situations where you just lose consciousness of your body. This is where you consciously feel located at a different place and know at the time that you are conscious but at a different location. Has this happened to you?" The last sentence ended in several modifiers, "at all?" "while stoned?" "happened before started smoking grass," and "happened after started smoking grass." The users were also asked to describe any such experiences. Fifty-three percent of the users indicated they had never had such an experience, 23 percent (34 users) that they had had it once, and 21 percent (32 users) that they had had multiple experiences; 3 percent did not answer.
    Because OOBEs are not familiar to the general scientific reader, half a dozen examples will be given from the comments of 57 users who added some explanatory note to their positive response. This will illustrate the range of phenomena connected with OOBEs, a range similar to that reported generally for spontaneous occurrences of this phenomenon (Crookall, 1961, 1964a, 1964b; Green, 1968).
    A rather classical example was reported by a 29-year-old electronics technician:
It occurred one noon hour where I work. I was meditating when I perceived that I was looking down on myself, then looking at the roof of the buildings. The ground passed under as if I was flying, it became a blur then blue and then land again. I then found myself in a Lapp hut with an old shaman who was an old woman. She was brewing a tea of bird twigs and mumbling. The return was instantaneous. Someone at work shook my shoulder and I was back. At the time I did not know she was a Lapp. This came out after I described the kit and costume to my wife who is Scandinavian. We later researched it in several picture books on the Lapp culture.

    OOBEs often involve seeing one's own physical body from an outside point of view. Of the 57 who added comments 19 percent specifically mentioned this. An example, also involving the rarer activity of the physical body continuing to operate in a complex manner, was reported by a 23-year-old user:
I was riding my motorcycle home from school (with girl passenger). While I was operating all the controls (of the motorcycle), I was watching my motorcycle with the girl and me from a distance of about six to eight feet above our physical existence. I had no noticeable physical sensations such as feeling while operating the motorcycle, though I seemed to be functioning fairly well. Physical sound didn't register either. I thought I was hearing wonderful, powerful, colorful, emotional, free music. The whole experience was remarkably enjoyable.

    Accidents are often associated with OOBEs, presumably in a causative manner. A 36-year-old assistant manager reports:
Knocked unconscious in fall—saw crowd collect around own body from above, saw self lying on pavement. Perception and cognition very sharp for three days afterward.

    While a defining characteristic of an OOBE is that one perceives the self as being at a different location from the physical body while knowing simultaneously that one is not dreaming, occasionally perceptual and cognitive changes occur in addition during the OOBE that indicate another state of consciousness is operative. The next three examples further illustrate such phenomena.
    A 26-year-old teacher reports:
I sometimes view my body and the sequence of functions it follows in a particular environment from some operator's or observer's vantage above and behind my body. "The whole scene" is then more obvious to me in that I have a sense of 360 perception rather than 180-200. I am now conscious of what is actually behind me.

    A 22-year-old clerk reports:
Once on an acid trip in an apartment in San Francisco, a friend and I changed places. I was inside his head looking at my body and my face and hearing my voice when he talked. He was looking from my body into his face, and when I spoke it was with his voice.

    As a final example of OOBE phenomena, a 44-year-old psychiatrist reports a fairly frequent sort of OOBE that involves "visiting" a sort of world that is clearly unlike the known physical world:
I left my own body, went into "another dimension" (?), where I found other people, all young (I was 42) playing games of "switch the body"—an experience like taking off your clothes and playing in the nude—very freeing—seemed somewhere in outer (or another) space.

    Several background factors, which affect the reporting of OOBEs, are noted in Table 10-2, with significance levels for the obtained distributions.[2]


TABLE 10-2

X2=8.629, p<.05
    Therapy & Growth439
X2=13.099, p<.05
X2=4.927, p<.10

    Fewer males tend to report OOBEs, but of those who do, multiple experiences are more common than with females. The Therapy and Growth group tends to report both more OOBEs and more multiple OOBEs overall. Similarly, there is a suggestion that Users of Psychedelics tend to report more OOBEs and more multiple OOBEs than Non-users
    Table 10-3 presents responses to the "while stoned?" part of the question.


TABLE 10-3

Never while intoxicated27
Multiple experiences, all with marijuana intoxication5
Multiple experiences, some with marijuana, others without14
Once, with LSD6
Multiple experiences, with LSD6

    An infrequent phenomenon possibly related to OOBEs is "I have lost all consciousness of my body and the external world and just found myself floating in limitless space (not necessarily physical space)." This is dealt with fully in Chapter 11.
    Although OOBEs are well-known in parapsychological literature as occurring "spontaneously" (in the sense of cause unknown) or being caused by serious accident or illness (Crookall, 1961, 1964a, 1964b; Eastman, 1962; Green, 1966; Muldoon and Carrington, 1956), the majority (73 percent) in this sample were in conjunction with marijuana intoxication or LSD use. More than twice as many users (38) indicated that their OOBEs began after they had started using marijuana as indicated they started before (14), a highly significant (p <.001) difference if one assumes the proportion should be equal before/after on the null hypothesis that marijuana use does not foster this experience. Twice as many Meditators report that their OOBEs occurred before marijuana use as after, however, with the proportion equal for the Therapy and Growth groups and more than three to one in the opposite direction for the Ordinary Users (p <.01, overall). The younger users also report that their OOBEs occur after starting marijuana use much more frequently than before, significantly different from the older group (p <.05), but this may only reflect the fact that the younger users have not had as much time for the experience to happen to them.
    OOBEs are often interpreted as having profound religious significance by the users. An example is given in Chapter 19, Spiritual Experiences, although the user did not report this as an OOBE for the present question. Some other ostensibly paranormal phenomena, generally considered so exotic and far out that even modern parapsychologists have not dealt with them to any appreciable extent, are the sensing of energy in the body (prana, ki) and the sensing of chakra centers, dealt with in Chapter 11; the perception of auras around people, dealt with in Chapter 6; and the rare phenomenon of feeling possessed, dealt with in Chapter 17.



    All ostensibly paranormal phenomena and related phenomena have been grouped by level of intoxication in Figure 10-2. The overall grouping is highly significant (p <<<.0005). Between the Fair and Strong levels, feelings of intuitive understanding of people commonly occur, and this may progress to a feeling of telepathic contact as the user moves up toward the Very Strong level. At high levels, feelings of energy in the body and the spine may occur, along with (rarely) precognition and the ability to magically affect others. Up to this point we have been dealing largely with the ostensible paranormal extension of sensing and manipulating abilities in the known world. At the highest levels, we deal with infrequent and rare phenomena no longer relating to the physical world.


FIGURE 10-2.
Just        Fairly    Strongly    Very

Type size code:
Feel possessed by a hostile force
Sense chakra centers
Perform magical operations
Feel possessed by a good force
Energy in spine

Just        Fairly    Strongly  Very



    The various background factors affect ostensible paranormal phenomena in a relatively linear fashion. They are summarized in Table 10-4. In general, more drug experience is associated with more frequent experience of practically all the paranormal phenomena covered in the present study. Meditators have more frequent experience with energetic phenomena, and the Therapy and Growth group seems to have more frequent experiences with OOBEs and some energetic phenomena.


TABLE 10-4
More Drug ExperienceMore frequent:
    Magical operations
    Auras around people
    Energy in spine
    Sense chakra centers

Less intoxicated for:
MeditationMore frequent:
    Energy in body
    Energy in spine
    Sense chakra centers
    OOBEs before using marijuana
Therapy & GrowthMore frequent:
    Multiple OOBEs
    Energy in body
    Possessed by good force
MalesMore frequent:
    Multiple OOBEs
Less frequent:
Older  Less frequent:
    OOBEs after starting to use marijuana
Less intoxicated for:
    Float in limitless space



    After allowing that general credulousness and specific drug-induced credulousness have probably raised the apparent incidence of paranormal experiences in this group of marijuana users, it is still clear that the proportion of users reporting such phenomena is much higher than in surveys of general populations, which have found a low incidence of 2 percent (Holland) and a high incidence of 22 percent (Germany) (Anonymous, 1958; Green, 1966; Membership Committee, American Society for Psychical Research, 1967; Prasad and Stevenson, 1968). Indeed, the incidence of personal experience of ostensibly paranormal phenomena is as high in the present sample as that reported for members of a society specifically interested in promoting the scientific investigation of the paranormal, the American Society for Psychical Research (Membership Committee, 1967).
    Researchers interested in finding subjects especially prone to paranormal experience would do well to consider marijuana users. Either marijuana use affects judgment such that a large number of ordinary experiences are judged to be paranormal, or there is a very high incidence of paranormal phenomena associated with marijuana use, or both.



    1. Although paranormal phenomena are not accepted as real by a large number of scientists, this is primarily a matter of belief system clash ("Since it can't occur, why should I waste my time looking at the evidence?"), or what Kuhn (1962) has called paradigm clash. The reader interested in a survey of the findings of modern parapsychology may consult the following references: Broad (1962), Heywood (1959), Johnson (1953), Murphy (1962), Rao (1966), and West (1954). While laboratory research has established the reality of some paranormal phenomena beyond doubt, the overenthusiastic and uncritical acceptance of these phenomena by the young is muddying the waters.(back)
    2. Because all users did not answer all parts of this question on OOBEs, the totals in various tables are slightly discrepant. (back)

Chapter 11

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