Bizarre and Far Out 2
Thompson draws upon concepts from the Vedic tradition to consider the research program of Ian Stevenson, the well-known University of Virginia psychiatrist who studied past-life regressions. In particular, Stevenson examined physical features and emotional experiences described by very young children. He claimed that much of his fieldwork appeared difficult to explain exclusively in terms of biological heredity and environment conditioning. In response to Stevenson’s reports, Thompson looks at the perennial adage, “subtle energies produce gross effects through intelligence,” and proposes that concepts such as these can offer a framework for appreciating an array of preternatural reports considered both in Stevenson’s research, as well as in traditional accounts.
TRANSCRIPT: Bizarre and Far Out 2. San Diego - September, 1992 / (023)
I am now going to turn to out-of-body experiences in India. Now this is going to throw a whole new perspective on out-of-body experiences. So what do you suppose happens in India when someone has an out-of-body experience. Can anyone guess?
He says the Yamadutas take him to Yamaraja. Now what would you think such a thing might imply?
Ah! Cultural conditioning. It is a hallucination. Well, this is what happens in India. Let’s see, I’ll give you a case history. This is a man named Durga Jatav. “We interviewed Durga Jatav, a man of approximately 50 years old, in November 1979 and again 3 months later. About 30 years before he had been ill for several weeks, suffering from what had been diagnosed as typhoid. When his body became cold for a couple of hours his family thought he had died. He revived however and later he told his family that he had been taken to another place by ten people. He had tried to escape but they had then cut off his legs at the knees to prevent his escape. He was taken to a place where there were tables and chairs and forty or fifty people sitting. He recognised no one. They looked at his papers, saw that his name was not on their list, and said, ‘Why have you brought him here! Take him back!’
“To this Durga had replied, ‘How can I go back! I don't have feet!’ He was then shown several pairs of legs. He recognised his own and they were somehow reattached. He was then sent back with the instructions not to stretch his knees so that they could mend. Durga’s older sister, whom we interviewed, corroborated his account of his apparent death and revival. Durga’s sister and a neighbour noticed a few days after he revived that marks had appeared on his knees. There had previously been no such marks there. These folds are deep fissures on the skin on the front of Durga’s knees and were still visible in 1979. There was no bleeding or pain in the knees other than the discomfort engendered by Durga’s following the instructions to keep his knees in a fixed position. X-ray photographs that we had taken in 1981 showed no abnormality beneath the surface of the skin.”
So here we have got a case where a person is sick with typhoid, a very serious disease, he seems to die, his body gets cold, and he revives. He tells that ten people had taken him to where they had looked at his papers and then said he was the wrong man, take him back. But this thing happened with cutting off his legs and putting them back on.
He recognised them, he looked through several pair. And mind you, this definitely happened out of the body right, because his body was laying on the bed. I mean obviously his body was not undergoing this. But then the grooves appear in his knees. So there are many cases like this. These were collected by Ian Stevenson. He has about 16 cases like this from India; he says this is quite common.
I’ll give you one more example. Let’s see, this was a man named Mangal Singh. In about 1978 or so he had this experience: “ ‘I was laying down in a cot when two people came, lifted me up, and took me along. I heard a hissing sound but I couldn't see anything. Then I came to a gate. There was grass and the ground seemed to be sloping. A man was there and he reprimanded the men who had brought me, “Why have you brought the wrong person? Why have you not brought the man you were sent for?” ‘ The two men who had brought Mangal ran away. ‘The senior man said, “You go back!” I saw two pots of boiling water although there was no fire or firewood and no fireplace. Then the man pushed me with his hand and said, “You had better hurry up and go back.” When he touched me I suddenly became aware of how hot his hand was. Then I realised why the pots were burning. The heat was coming from his hands. Suddenly I regained consciousness and had a severe burning sensation in my left arm.’ ” So it's stated that the area developed the appearance of a boil. “Mangal showed it to a doctor who applied some ointment. The area healed within three days but left a residual mark on the left arm which we examined.” So in this case the person who told him to go back burned him in the out-of-body experience, and when he got back he had the burn on his body.
Well now this is relevant to UFO cases because there are cases where people are abducted onto UFOs and they will say that, “Well, I was taken on board the UFO, and I was cut in a certain way.” And then it turns out they have a scar on their body which corresponds to the experience that they had on board the UFO. So this is often taken as evidence that they really were physically taken on board the UFO because the scar is there to demonstrate that. But here we have out-of-body experiences in which different kinds of scars are produced, but evidently the person’s body didn't go anywhere. He just had this experience.
So the basic conception behind all of this then is that you have something on the subtle platform which can generate gross effects. In the case of the UFOs there is every indication that these are some kind of a manifestation produced from a subtle platform. Various lines of evidence would tie together to indicate that. For example, they’re seen to appear abruptly. Typically when they leave a place, very often they just vanish, they just blink out as it were. The beings associated with them do the same kind of thing. They appear and they disappear. It’s as though they were practically visions or images that were generated, instead of physically real things. When they fly they don’t produce sonic booms, for example, even though they greatly exceed the speed of sound.
This engineer who told me about a sighting he had on a military base, namely the China Lake Naval Ordnance Testing Range in California, he was observing a military plane coming in for a landing. This UFO was flying along beneath it and he said in the blink of an eye it flipped up to the wing of the plane and travelled about 300 feet in just a flash, like that, and then continued along. So it was as though it was a nonphysical thing. And yet at the same time you have these physical effects including, just like that metal sample; then there are the stories of the dead bodies, which are pretty much gross physical; all the wreckage found at Roswell, which is another whole discussion which I mentioned last time; ground traces in some cases, for example, the Valensole case that I mentioned last time. The dent in the earth looked as though many tons of pressure would be required to produce it, and a temperature of about 600 degrees C was indicated. And this was investigated by French scientists, who are quite reputable, and they admitted some phenomenon, they wouldn't say what they thought it might be, but some unusual phenomenon must have done that, whatever it may have been.
So you have grossly physical effects. So this corroborates basically the Vedic conception, where we find that subtle energies produce gross material effects; and in fact that’s our basic understanding of the creation of grossly embodied living beings. The gross bodies were produced from subtle bodies by deliberate transformation, by beings on the demigod level; and this in fact has happened not just once but many many different times. One example, where clearly this had to happen, although it's not explained exactly where it happened in the sequence of events, would be the case of Maharaja Iksvaku and the dynasty that he founded, because his grandfather was the sun-god Vivasvan. So certainly the sun-god has a body quite different from earthly bodies. So his son was Vaivasvata Manu and his son was Iksvaku, but he lived on the earth as a human being. But not exactly like a human being like ourselves because he was in Treta Yuga, according to the Bhagavad-Gita purport, and lived for a very long period of time and had various mystic powers. But then generation by generation you have kings descending from him; and of course one thing to realise is most of the descendants in these royal dynasties did not become kings, because only the eldest son could become king. And all the other children had to do other things, and they in turn would have children. So whole countries are populated by their descendants. For example, from Maharaja Yayati the Yavanas are all descended, which should include us, most of us.
So the point then is these are all descended from the sun-god. So at some point, presumably going from Vivasvan to Yayati, you have the generation of gross material form from subtle material form. And in fact what you would find is that at the stage where that takes place, the beings have the power to produce and eliminate material forms practically at will. That's shown by the example of this Kardama Muni and so forth.
So I’ve got one more example here. So what I wanted to do was give some examples from literature of Krsna consciousness similar to what I’ve been giving in the UFO cases. So Satyaraja has that book about Narottama dasa Thakura and Shyamananda and Srinivasa Acarya. So in all three of these cases you have similar phenomena. In these cases though instead of going from subtle energy to gross energy we would understand you’re going from transcendental energy through subtle to gross energy, based on the kind of examples that are occurring. In one case, Narottama dasa Thakura would regularly meditate on his transcendental lila as a gopi serving Krsna. And it’s explained that in his action as a gopi, in his meditation, he will be boiling milk for Radha and Krsna and the milk would sometimes boil over. So he would sometimes burn his hands when he was trying to grab the pot and adjust it so that the milk wouldn't boil over. But when he came back from his meditation his hands were burnt.
Now let’s just go to ordinary stigmata, okay. Here’s this classic case: A Catholic nun is meditating on the crucification of Jesus Christ. She is meditating on the nails driven into his hands and feet and her hands begin to bleed, and her feet also, in just the right places. And not only that, guess what, this one I really liked! I don't know if this is true, but this is what I read. This one nun, the wound that would begin bleeding on her hands was square. The Roman nails were square not round like our nails.; somebody noted this point. But never mind that – let’s just leave that aside. The point is that when she meditated that wound would form and bleed. Now let's explain that in terms of the nervous system. Ok, there is the brain; nerve cells are firing; somehow in the brain an image of the crucifixion is being registered in terms of a pattern of nerve impulses; nerve impulses go streaming down the nerves. They go streaming down nerves to the arm, but what is there at the hand level for the nerves to act on that would cause that wound? [unclear] There are cells, but there are nerve endings that go to the muscles, there are nerve endings that go to sense perception units like pacinian corpuscles and other little gadgets that sense pain--those are afferent nerves--the impulses go to the brain. Going to the hand the nerves, well, you can dilate the little muscles in the blood vessels of the skin, that's true, that explains blushing. When you blush you dilate the blood vessels, and more blood flows, and it turns red. But we’ve got to have the thing breaking open and bleeding in a localised area. How does it do it?
Well, not only is it an extreme form of blushing but its localised, (unclear), localized! How does it work? I don’t think the scientists have an explanation of how that works . . . in terms of the mind, if you look at it as the brain. On the other hand, if mind is some kind of energy that can operate by transforming the ether and so forth, then it could do that. So I’m giving one broad, Vedic explanation for this whole category of phenomena.
Now I deliberately started with Narottama das Thakura because that's an easy one. All he did was come back with burn marks. Ah, psychosomatic! Let's go to the next case--this is Srinivasa Thakura. So Srinivasa is meditating also. “As Srinivasa served the Lord in this way in his meditation, (he was sitting there meditating) he could not keep his composure and looking at the Lord’s magnificent form he began to exhibit ecstatic symptoms. This pleased Lord Caitanya, who then took the same garland of flowers that Srinivasa had given him and placed it around Srinivasa’s neck.”
Now it’s said the Srinivasa gave Lord Caitanya a garland of flowers, that means in his meditation. He was meditating on giving Lord Caitanya a garland of flowers; so in his meditation Lord Caitanya took off the garland and put it on his neck. “After the Lord made this loving gesture Srinivasa’s meditation broke, but the garland was still adorning his own chest. Its fragrance was unlike anything he had ever experienced.” So now this is getting a little more psychosomatic. We have psychosomatic garlands. The scientist, of course, has an easy explanation for this one: “It never happened!”
So, the one is believable because, after all, you believe such things, right? The other one is not believable, so that did not happen. But notice the correlation between that and these other phenomena that we’ve been talking about.
Now the final case here was Shyamananda, who was known as Dukhi Krsna dasa, and he had experiences, fairly complex. A brief run down of the story is that he was sweeping the area of Radha and Krsna’s rasa lila in Vrndavana. And he found this ankle bracelet or something of Radharani, or so he thought it was, and he hid that. So then this old lady came to ask for it. She said, “My daughter lost that here, did you happen to see it – you sweep here everyday!” And he was a bit suspicious that this wasn't an ordinary old lady, so he interrogated her to see if she really had such a daughter and, you know, see if she really came there and so on. Finally the lady revealed herself as Lalita, one of the principal gopis, and was extremely beautiful. And Dukhi Krsna dasa gave the bangle, or whatever it was, and she marked his head with this tilaka, which apparently became permanent. That then created a serious problem with his guru who said, “Well, what is this? You are getting a new kind of tilaka? You have taken a new name, (namely, Shyamananda – she gave him that name) and I didn't do this!! This is guru aparadha.” So he got into real trouble!
And he had to convince his guru that this really happened. And his guru didn't believe a word of it, you know, “Telling me these ridiculous stories; this is some dream that you had and we don’t accept this.” So finally he made this arrangement, well to make a long story short, the arrangement was made that, I guess, the names of the Lord or something would be written on his chest. If that could be washed away then that would prove that he was saying something false; and if it couldn't be washed away that would be proof that it was true. So he went into meditation and met this Lalita in his meditation this time and she said, “Ok, you can make this proposal.” And then sure enough, they weren't washed away; and finally his guru became convinced that this was genuine and so forth. That's cutting the story very much short. But anyway, the point is there, you have activities apparently on this gross physical platform and on a spiritual platform involving the same personalities. So you have things switching back and forth from an apparent gross manifestation to a subtle or spiritual manifestation.
So in any case, the thing that I’m proposing in all of this is that you have a whole class of phenomena in which you can see common themes run through them. It's a similar pattern of events that run through these different phenomena. This is true of the Vedic examples of various kinds such as the ones I was just mentioning, and also production of the animal forms by the demons in Krsna’s pastimes, production of aerial flying palaces, and so many different things. And then in the case of the UFO phenomena you have, on the one hand, apparently very strong gross effects. In other words, physical machines appear that sometimes leave wreckage . . .
. . . which completely puzzles an IBM scientist, assuming that he’s giving honest testimony, and I have no reason to think that he’s making it up. So there’re these physical effects, or wreckage littered across the field at Roswell, or whatever the case may be. But then at the same time there are these subtle energy effects involving out-of-body experiences and so on and so forth. I’ll mention one last story. I mentioned that Indian-style out-of-body experience where the fellow was burned by the man in the experience; and then when he came back to consciousness he had an actual burn on his arm that was treated by a physician. There is a UFO case like that in which a woman was abducted onto a UFO somewhere in New Mexico and underwent horrific experiences, and this ostensibly was completely physical. But in the course of the experiences, this big boss man came and said, “She was not supposed to have been taken. You must take her back.” And then he touched her head with his hand and her head was burned because his hand was extremely hot. Then finally after more horrendous experiences she was finally taken back.
I don't know about that. She got a severe vaginal infection as a result of other things that were done to her . . . people have often asked, “What is the meaning of all this? Why are these things happening in this way?” and so forth; and you can say that for all of it, including out-of-body experiences where somebody meets some glowing being and knowledge is transferred to them and they come back and they can't remember any of it. The UFO cases always seem elusive, you know, like they fly around over Mexico City and everybody video tapes it, but then they’re gone. So why didn't they, you know, land on the White House lawn and hold a press conference and explain . . . you know, explain everything? Things seems to work in that way, one can basically say, on these subtle energy platforms. The experiences seem to take place in this way; it seems to be a basic feature. After all, look in the case of Krsna’s pastimes, you know, why in the world take these ridiculous animal forms and go fight with Krsna? That in itself is strange. Of course, different interpretations of the meaning of those forms will be there, but you can also ask that, you know, why didn't they just, you know, sneak in there at night and knife Him or something, or you know, something more prosaic like that. Or there are so many ways of killing somebody--not that you have to run into the village as a bull with a cloud hovering over his tail and cause everyone, to have miscarriages in all the pregnant ladies and so forth.
But then again another whole point to make is just because we do things in a particular way in the context of our culture and our abilities and powers, if you had completely different abilities and powers in a different cultural background, you might do things quite differently; and that has to be considered. I mean, to somebody else, automobiles may seem like a very strange thing. In other words, why do that? You know, pollute all your air, travel for hours to work at the risk of life and limb when people used to live, you know, right next to where they worked; You know, why do such things? So what we do also can be pretty strange.
Maybe instead of relating different experiences at this point we could take different questions about the ideas. Yeah?
Okay, well, the basic conclusion: I have given some brief overview of some lines of evidence and there’re many other examples illustrating the same basic points. These indicate the production of gross forms of matter starting from a subtle level by intelligent beings. That would be the basic theme behind all of these examples that I’m giving. This is a basic theme in Vedic literature and in Vedic literature it’s explained how these things work in terms of subtle energies and so forth. By the way, before I forget, let me read this verse in the Eleventh Canto which is interesting in connection with what I’ve been talking about here. It is said here:
“The yogi who completely absorbs his mind in Me (Krsna’s speaking) and who then makes use of the wind that follows the mind to absorb the material body in Me, obtains through the potency of meditation on Me, the mystic perfection by which his body immediately follows his mind wherever it goes.” (SB 11.15.21)
Now think about that for a moment. So there’s a wind that follows the mind--hmm, something to do with the air element--so by manipulating that wind, if you know how to do it, you can make the body travel to wherever your mind goes. That means in practice, if I could do this according to what Krsna is saying, in my mind I could go to Vrindavana right now--shhp, my body would follow just like that, shhp, and I’d be there. And l’d be gone from here. That would be pretty amazing. But according to Krsna that's one of the mystic powers that can be developed, and these are explained. So the basic idea is that in the Vedic literature these processes, by which subtle energy can produce gross energy in complex forms by the power of higher intelligence, are described. In Vedic literature there are many examples in which this happens and we see that in these different examples, such as the one’s of Shyamananda and Srinivas Acharya and so on, plus in the Krsna Book and throughout the Bhagavatam.
Now that's Vedic literature, and someone could say, “Well this is mythology; these are stories of a religion.” But in the empirical domain of things that people observe, we also see phenomena of this kind. At one end of the spectrum you see mild phenomena, like the stigmata or what may have happened with this lady’s burn. And people will say, “Just mind over matter,” but if you really think about it, you can't really explain it in terms of the brain, the nervous system, the hormones. It really doesn't work. Then there are more extreme phenomena. It's one thing for the burn to heal up and maybe it did have something to do with their ceremony. Then there are more extreme cases, say, where the guy’s hip bone totally reconstructs. Many other examples, of the varicose veins of that carpenter, you know, thirty years of incurable varicose veins and his leg look just look like a bunch of . . . just a mess. And then it’s ok, it’s put back together again. So many examples are there of this kind of thing. So that's more extreme.
Then with these UFO phenomena you have a whole gamut of experiences that people report in which the subtle and the gross seem to practically interchange. Is it a gross experience or a subtle experience? It's hard to tell. Wounds or scars are produced which make you think it might be a gross experience, but then out-of-body experiences can generate similar wounds and scars. But at the same time then you have really gross physical phenomena like the UFO itself, it's a very gross physical thing it would appear. At least they can leave very gross physical marks and so forth. People photograph them with their Sony camcorders over, you know, Mexico City and so on.
So the basic point then is that these phenomena seem, empirically, to corroborate the basic Vedic picture. They’re are similar kinds of phenomena; they seem to work in similar ways. So if you take the Vedic picture as a hypothesis, as I mentioned before, then this empirical data backs up that hypothesis or it corroborates that hypothesis. On the other hand, none of this empirical data makes sense at all in terms of the scientific picture. And in fact within orthodox science these things aren't accepted at all. However, there are individual scientists who do accept these things like, this Marcel Vogel, for example. And many other scientists have studied the UFOs and so forth. Of course as soon as you do that, then that labels you as a person who would give credence to such kooky stuff. So this is the way the social processes work. But we do have a body of empirical data which corroborates the Vedic picture quite extensively.
By the way it fits that much better than it fits the extraterrestrial hypothesis for UFOs. That's the idea, you know, that they’re flying from another planet and they’re completely gross and physical and they just have a high technology. But these subtle-energy-type things corroborate the more Vedic picture of what is going on.