Abstract of talk given at Euro-PA conference, November 2003


Bernard Carr
School of Mathematical Sciences, Queen Mary, University of London

Although parapsychology has already acquired a degree of respectability among psychologists, it is still not taken seriously by most physicists and I believe the subject will not gain general acceptance so long as this situation prevails. Therefore a crucial issue is whether physics, in either its present or some future form, will ever be able to accommodate psychic phenomena. My claim is that it will but that this will require more than merely tinkering with the current paradigm of physics (i.e. more than just invoking electromagnetic waves, tachyons, wormholes, standard quantum theory etc.) Although some phenomena currently labelled "paranormal" may turn out to be explicable within the current paradigm, I believe most will not be.

Invoking a new paradigm is not too radical since since the prevailing model of physical reality has regularly undergone paradigm shifts and this has always involved moving ever further from our common-sense notion of reality. The standard dichotomy between matter and mind arose at a time when one could adopt the simplistic view that the arena of reality is 3-dimensional space. However, since then the physicist's world-view has changed profoundly and it is clear that our physical sensory systems reveal only a very limited aspect of reality. In particular, General Relativity explains gravity by proposing that the world is 4-dimensional and Kaluza-Klein theory explains electromagnetism by adding a fifth dimension; this is wrapped up so small that it cannot be observed directly but its existence neatly explains Maxwell's equations.

Modern extensions of this idea propose that the other physical interactions can be accounted for by invoking further wrapped-up dimensions. In "M-theory", for example, the total number of dimension is 11, while in the "superstring" theory it is 10. One thus has an 4-dimensional "external" space and a 6 or 7-dimensional "internal" space. In the most recent variant of this idea, proposed by Randall and Sundrum, the extra dimensions may not even be compactified and the physical Universe is regarded as 4-dimensional "brane" in a higher dimensional "bulk". This is very far removed from the naive view of reality adopted by the sort of reductionist materialists who reject psychic phenomena out of hand.

What sort of paradigm would be required to accommmodate psi? An essential feature is that it must involve consciousness, since this underlies all psychic experiences. This already places it at loggerheads with those physicists (the majority) who claim that we are close to a "Theory Of Everything", since such theories make no reference to consciousness. Another feature of the new paradigm is that it must involve some kind of higher dimensional reality structure. This is because many psychic phenomena (eg. OBEs, NDEs, apparitions) seem to involve some form of communal space, which is not the same as physical space but subtly interacts with it. The existence of telepathy also suggests that our minds are part of a communal space rather than being wholly private. This "Universal Structure", as I term it, can be regarded as a higher dimensional information space which reconciles all our different experiences of the world. It necessarily incorporates physical space but it also includes non-physical realms which can only be accessed by mind.

I propose that the higher dimensional reality structure required to accommodate psychic experiences is intimately connected with the higher dimensional space invoked by modern physics. For if our physical sensors only provide us with a 3-dimensional aspect of a Universe which in reality has many more dimensions, and if physical objects occupy only a limited part of that higher dimensional space, what else can exist in this space? Since the only non-physical entities in the Universe of which we have any experience are mental ones, and since the existence of paranormal phenomena suggests that mental entities have to exist in some sort of space, it seems natural to relate this to Kaluza-Klein space. More precisely, I identify the Universal Structure with the higher dimensional "bulk" of Randall-Sundrum theory. This has profound consequences for physics, psychology, parapsychology and philosophy.