Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Visiting Scholar, Rhine Research Center
I first met David Luke in a convention of the Parapsychological Association and have been interested in his work ever since. David, who has a PhD in Psychology, is currently Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Greenwich. He teaches various courses, among them Psychology of Exceptional Human Experience. David was President of the Parapsychological Association between 2009 and 2011. In 2011 the University of Greenwich granted him an Early Career Research Excellence Award.
One of David’s pages states: “Dr Luke’s broad research interests occur at the intersection between altered states of consciousness and anomalous psychological phenomena. Specifically, this includes the individual differences and social psychology of beliefs about luck, magic and the paranormal. Experimental and field parapsychology from a multidisciplinary perspective, particularly where it intersects with psychology, anthropology, archaeology, ethnobotany and psychopharmacology, the psychology and neuroscience of exceptional human experience, altered states of consciousness and transpersonal psychology.”
Perhaps David’s most recent publication is his anthology about mediumship, edited jointly with Jack Hunter, Talking with the Spirits, which I discussed in a previous blog.
How did you get interested in parapsychology?
It was a combination of a few factors. As a truanting schoolboy I would loiter in second-hand book shops and give myself a more self-directed education, reading anything left field in science I could get my hands on. A whole stack of copies of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research appeared on the shelf one day for 10 pence each and I bought the lot. Somewhat perplexed by the dense language I was nevertheless utterly fascinated with the subject matter.
Shortly after I joined the Society before heading off to university. My interest in altered states of consciousness went back even further and grew right from the moment I could spin round until I went dizzy. I experimented widely with all sorts of altered states and gradually realized I had a deep calling for them beyond mere hedonism. I decided to study psychology at university to make sense of my extraordinary experiences in these states, but finished my degree feeling somewhat disappointed with the sheer limitation of the answers that emerged from mainstream science. I travelled across Mexico for 18 months, discovered shamanism, explored plant entheogens, and finally figured that a doctorate in parapsychology was the closest branch of academia to where I would find my answers. I returned to study and this was certainly a very good start.
What are your main interests in the field and how have you contributed to its development?
My main interests are in altered states of consciousness and exceptional experiences such as psi, especially those experiences occurring during meditation, dreams and following the ingestion of psychedelic substances. I’m also interested in cross-cultural approaches to the subject matter and what we can learn from indigenous cultures about altered states and parapsychological phenomena, as shamans and the like have been utilizing techniques for inducing exceptional experiences for millennia, we suppose. My main contributions have been in developing a simple and seemingly robust methodology for testing for unconscious precognition under controlled conditions and in exploring and expanding upon what we know about the possible neurochemistry of parapsychological phenomena, by researching psychedelics. I’ve also conducted some of the largest scale dream ESP studies.
Why do you think that parapsychology is important?
Parapsychology is important because it explores the far ends of the spectrum of human experience in an open minded and scientific manner, expanding our knowledge of the limits of human capability – helping us make sense of what it is to be human and our relationship to our environment. Furthermore, parapsychology makes a crucial contribution to our understanding of consciousness and the nature of the universe, and indeed reality itself, whatever that may be.
In your view, what are the main problems in parapsychology today as a scientific field?
The biggest problems today, as previously, are with the acceptance of the field by mainstream academia as a whole. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with parapsychology as a science but it has been kept somewhat of a taboo subject by a few vociferous self-appointed gatekeepers of science, although such views are based primarily on prejudice and fear not reasoned analysis and inspection of the research being produced by parapsychologists. Nevertheless, especially within UK academia, parapsychology continues to grow as a discipline, albeit slowly.
Can you mention some of your current projects?
I’m currently furthering my research on psychedelics and psi, but combining two taboo research areas makes for difficult, slow and desperately underfunded research. I’m also continuing my research into dream precognition and conducting field research investigations with shamans, as well as supervising four PhD students who are researching twin telepathy, the sense of being stared at, exceptional experiences in psychotherapy and intuition.
Hunter, J. & Luke, D. (2014) (Eds.). Talking with the spirits: Ethnographies from between the worlds. Brisbane, Australia: Daily Grail Publishing.
Adams, C., Luke, D., Waldstein, A., Sessa, B., & King, D. (Eds.). (2013). Breaking convention: Essays on psychedelic consciousness. London: Strange Attractor Press.
Terhune, D. B., Luke, D. P., & Cohen Kadosh, R. (in press). The induction of synaesthesia in non-synaesthetes. In O. Deroy (Ed.), Sensory blending: New essays on synaesthesia. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Krippner, S., & Luke, D. (2014). Psychedelics and species connectedness. In R. Doblin and B. Burge (Eds.), Manifesting minds: A review of psychedelics in science, medicine, sex, and spirituality. Santa Cruz, CA: Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.
Luke, D. (2014). Psychedelic possession: The growing incorporation of incorporation in ayahuasca use. In J. Hunter and D. Luke (Eds.) Talking with the spirits: Ethnographies from between the worlds. Brisbane, Australia: Daily Grail Publishing.
Luke, D. (2013). Psychedelics, parapsychology and exceptional human experience. In C. Adams, D. Luke, A. Waldstein, B. Sessa, and D. King, (Eds.), Breaking Convention: Essays on psychedelic consciousness (pp. 220-227). London: Strange Attractor Press.
Luke, D. (2012). Altered states of consciousness, mental imagery and healing. In C. Simmonds-Moore (Ed.), Exceptional human experiences, health and mental health (pp. 64-80). Jefferson, NC: McFarland.
Luke, D. (2012). Experiential reclamation and first person parapsychology. In J. Hunter (Eds.), Paranthropology: Anthropological approaches to the paranormal (2nd anniversary anthology) (pp. 179-195). Bristol: Paranthropology.
Luke, D. (2012). Psi-verts and psychic piracy: The future of parapsychology? In D. Pinchbeck and K. Jordan (Eds.), Exploring the edge realms of consciousness: Liminal zones, psychic science, and hidden dimensions of the mind (pp. 114-128). New York: North Atlantic Books.
Luke, D. (2012). Notes on getting cactus lodged in your reducing valve: San Pedro and psychic abilities. In R. Heaven (Ed.). Cactus of mystery: The shamanic powers of the Peruvian San Pedro cactus (pp. 167-195). Rochester, VT: Park Street Press.
Luke, D. (2011). Anomalous phenomena, psi and altered consciousness. In E. Cardeña, and M. Winkelman, (Eds.), Altering consciousness: A multidisciplinary perspective, volume 2- Biological and psychological perspectives (pp. 355-374). Westport, CT: Praeger.
Luke, D. (2010). Parapsychology and the new renaissance. In D. Lorimer and O. Robinson (Eds.), A new renaissance: Transforming science, spirit and society (pp. 137-144). Edinburgh: Floris Books.
Luke, D. P., & Friedman, H. (2010). The speculated neurochemistry of psi and associated processes. In S. Krippner, and H. Friedman (Eds.), Mysterious minds: The neurobiology of psychics, mediums and other extraordinary people. (pp. 163-185). Westport, CT: Greenwood / Praeger.
Peer reviewed journal articles
Luke, D. P., & Terhune, D. B. (2013). The induction of synaesthesia with chemical agents: A systematic review. Frontiers in Psychology, 4:753, 1-12.
Luke, D. P. (2012). Psychoactive substances and paranormal phenomena: A comprehensive review. International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 31, 97-156.
Luke, D., Zychowicz, K., Richterova, O., Tjurina, I., & Polonnikova, J. (2012). A sideways look at the neurobiology of psi: Precognition and circadian rhythms. NeuroQuantology: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Neuroscience and Quantum Physics, 10 (3), 580-590.
Luke, D., Terhune, D., & Friday, R. (2012). Psychedelic synaesthesia: Evidence for a serotonergic role in synaesthesia. Seeing and Perceiving, 25, 74.
Luke, D. (2012). Parapsychology 2037: Advancing under the aegis of aligned approaches? Journal of Parapsychology, 76 (supplement), 31-32.
Luke, D. (2011). Experiential reclamation and first person parapsychology. Journal of Parapsychology, 75, 185-199.
Luke, D. (2010). Connecting, diverging and reconnecting. Putting the psi back into psychedelic research. Journal of Parapsychology, 74, 219-234.
Luke, D. (2010). Anthropology and parapsychology: Still hostile sisters in science? Time and Mind: The Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness & Culture, 3 (3), 245-266.
Luke, D. P., Roe, C., & Davison, J. (2008). Testing for forced-choice precognition using a hidden task: Two replications. Journal of Parapsychology, 72, 133-154.
Luke, D. P. (2008). Psychedelic substances and paranormal phenomena: A review of the research. Journal of Parapsychology, 72, 77-107.
Luke, D. P., Delanoy, D., & Sherwood. S. J. (2008). Psi may look like luck: Perceived luckiness and beliefs about luck in relation to precognition. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 72, 193-207.