Some time back, in preparation for a new debunking TV show, the writer Richard Dawkins had a discussion with an invited guest, the scientist Rupert Sheldrake.
Sheldrake had sent beforehand a number of research papers showing that psychic events, or extra-sensory perception, were a normal part of everyday life and a standard, if unexplained, faculty of the mamallian brain. In fact animals rely on this ability daily, and as they don’t know enough to dismiss it out of hand they act on it with full confidence. This explains why a cat is suddenly very hard to find before a carefully disguised visit to the vet, and why dogs pace up and down in front of the door from the moment the owner decides to return home, and also show distress when disaster befalls an owner, regardless of the distance involved in either case.
Anyway, the sticking point came when Dawkins admitted he’d dismissed the idea without bothering to read the carefully assembled research, which caused a heated argument between the two men. “What I don’t like about you is you’re prepared to believe anything!”, Dawkins exclaimed, then falling back on the deliberately confusing canard, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” But Sheldrake was having none of it, and neatly snipped Dawkins’ linguistic mobius strip by explaining that because psychic events were part of practically every person’s experience they were not extraordinary, but ordinary. Since Dawkins’ assertion required that everyone was deluded – an outlandish claim indeed – where was his extraordinary evidence?
Sheldrake declined to appear on the show since (contrary to earlier assurances from a producer’s assistant) his scientific research was strictly disallowed – a prerequisite for any fanatically biased production. But psychic events are indeed a part of everyday life, and a good example is a dream I had three nights ago.
In the dream, I was fiddling with our central heating unit which was emitting blue flames when my daughter – who in real life was away at the time, and with whom I had not spoken for a week – asked me if someone was in the shower upstairs. We don’t have a shower upstairs, but somehow did in the dream. Of course not, I reassured her, as it was just the two of us in the house. She became anxious, and agitated: “but dad, the door is shut, and the shower’s on full.”
I went upstairs and that was indeed the case. Opening the door I first noticed the shower glass, and reaching towards it was startled by a fuzzy black silhouette of a man flitting eerily from the right side of the room to the left. Protective paternal instinct hurled me at the black shape with a blood curdling yell. Having shouted out loud, I woke myself up with a start, with the eery noise of my half paralysed voice lingering in my ears, and a disturbing feeling which took a while to shake off.
Last night my daughter came around and since the dream was the most exciting thing that had happened while she’d been away – apart from my friend’s incredible art show – I began to relate it in detail. But as I did so a change came over her face. She told me to stop talking; I was scaring her.
Apparently three days prior she’d been watching a particularly frightening American Horror TV programme ..in which the villain was a menacing shadow in the shower. I’ve never heard of it – but then I don’t own a TV.
And my friend Patrick Gibb’s art show at the Mall Galleries near Trafalgar Square did very well indeed! But your finer fibres may have already sensed that.