Extraordinary Knowing

PSYC 405-006

Extraordinary Knowing Book Review

Elizabeth Mayer’s “Extraordinary Knowing” is a collection of studies to explore the possibility of anomalous knowing in a variety of forms. Mayer is a psychoanalyst who begins this investigation considering herself a skeptic. What I enjoyed most about the book, is that Mayer was not writing it to convince others that Extraordinary Knowing is in fact true and that everyone should believe in anomalous experiences outright. She takes the time to explore various aspects, fields, and experiments that potentially exemplify the existence and reality of “Extraordinary Knowing.”

Only with the personal experience of a professional dowser, a perfect stranger halfway across the country, locating the exact location of her daughter’s stolen harp. Mayer argued that although sometimes, seeing is believing, sometimes believing is seeing. This was the premise on which her entire book is organized. In my own opinion, this is a very intelligent approach to make. Mayer, very aware of the skeptical outlook a lot of people have toward what is considered “Extraordinary Knowing,” uses several examples and studies to attempt to shed light on a seemingly “inexplicable,” baffling phenomena. I, myself, am included in the skeptics. I have always loved movies and literature regarding anomalous phenomena, however, have never truly believed in them. What was interesting in the beginning of her book, was that Mayer found that there was such a large population of people, and more specifically, professionals in many fields, who had been too afraid of judgement and tainting their reputations to speak out about their beliefs in anomalous phenomena. Freud included, was fascinated in dream telepathy, but so as to not destroy the reputation he had built as a psychoanalyst, did not publically admit to it until later on in his career.

This concept can further be supported or portrayed in the studies of remote viewing experiment. One of the many examples in the book was where a man was able to describe a random set of coordinates, but furthermore, describe the top-secret facility on the other side of the ridge, having never before been to this location. What was most compelling about these studies, was that Mayer was able to incorporate a plethora of examples of remote viewing, not only through her own studies or studies in which she assisted, but also through the studies conducted by the CIA. I was astounded to discover that the CIA actually provided funds for further research into this field. Perhaps, it is common knowledge and I was simply unaware of it prior to reading this book, but maybe the CIA funding this type of research is another way in which professionals neglect to publically announce their believe or even hope in believing these types of phenomena. Mayer did an excellent job of addressing the skeptics and not belittling them for their beliefs, while also exploring her own and expanding on the limited knowledge available for extraordinary knowing.

Secondly, the Ganzfeld experiments were particularly interesting as they drew from two personal experiences, both participants, Mayer and Devereux, leaving with different views than the ones with which they entered the experiments. Several times throughout the book, Mayer used examples of her own experiences with these phenomena, to show her own progression with her beliefs. Even nearing the end of the book, she still displayed some skepticism in some forms of extraordinary knowing. For example: clairvoyance. Although she knew four or five different people with clairvoyant abilities, she almost labelled them with different levels of validity. However, with the Ganzfeld experiment, prior to her own participation in them, she “had no compelling hook on which to hang believing.” Comparing two skeptics’ experiences with the Ganzfeld work, was fascinating because it showed how even a one-time example could change the way they saw that phenomena: sometimes believing is seeing.

Mayer respectfully outlined her own experiences while providing analyses and some explanations for each. Her volume of examples allowed for a compelling, relatively unbiased interpretation of the data to provide a platform for which non-believers and skeptics could begin to explore their own beliefs in extraordinary knowing, and anomalous experiences/phenomena.

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