Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation
I am glad to present an interview with Dr. Marilyn Schlitz, who I believe I first met in a Parapsychological Association Convention. Marilyn, who has a PhD in anthropology, has held various positions at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, among them President, Chief Executive Officer, and Director of Research. She is also a Senior Scientist at the California Pacific Medical Center and the founder and CEO of Worldwide Enterprises, “established to create and distribute multi-media education programs on worldview appreciation, health and healing, death awareness, and contemplative practices.” See her website here.
Marilyn is the recipient of several awards, among them: Professional of the Year in Science, Executive Professionals and Entrepreneurs of the Year (2014); Gutsy Gals Film Writers Award (2014); Bronze Medal, Telly Award for Best Documentary (2014); and Silver Medal, Telly Award for Best Spirituality and Religion Documentary (2014).
In parapsychology Marilyn is well known for several contributions over the years. One that comes to mind when I think about her is a well-known ESP study with artists: Schlitz, M. & C. Honorton. (1992). A ganzfeld ESP study within an artistically gifted population. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research 86, 83-98. But there have been many other contributions, such as: Wiseman, R. & M. Schlitz, (1997). Experimenter effects and the remote detection of staring. Journal of Parapsychology, 61,197-207; and Schlitz, M., Wiseman, R., Watt, C. & Radin, D. (2006). Of two minds: Skeptic-proponent collaboration within parapsychology. British Journal of Psychology, 97, 313-322. See the bibliography below for many other examples.
How did you get interested in parapsychology?
I was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan during the 1960’s and 70’s. This was a time and place of great social and political unrest. I was restless and wished I could change things. But as a teenager, there was not much to be done. When I entered Wayne State University, I discovered two books that profoundly impacted my life and my career. The first was The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn. This now classic book showed me that we live in a paradigm and that paradigms shift. This gave me hope and a sense of purpose. In particular, Kuhn’s focus on science led me to think this would be an arena in which I might make a difference. The second book was Psychic Exploration by Edgar Mitchell and John White. Coming on the heels of Kuhn’s ideas, I felt that parapsychology was just the place in which to help foster a paradigm shift. From this book, and the many that I read after, I was impressed that a group of serious minded scientists and scholars were approaching psi with rigor and discernment, even if mainstream scientists considered it heresy. I wanted to be part of the revolution that could change our paradigm from strict materialism to one that pointed to our fundamental interconnectedness and vast human potentials. Decades later, I can say it’s been a fascinating and remarkable ride.
What are your main interests in the field and how have you contributed to its development?
I began my laboratory research in the area of free response psi testing. I conducted an early replication of Targ and Puthoff’s remote viewing protocol. This was done as a student of Robert Morris at the University of California, Irvine. Moving to the Institute for Parapsychology, now the Rhine Research Center, I expanded this research over long distances and produced the strongest statistical evidence for remote viewing under controlled conditions in the literature. My work with the ganzfeld method led to a now classic study of psi among artists at the Juilliard School of the Performing Arts. This was done in collaboration with Chuck Honorton and was the last study to be reported out of the Psychophysical Research Laboratory. It has been replicated in several other laboratories.
Beginning in the early 1980’s, I was drawn to studies of healing. They offered a practical application for what are often abstract studies. In particular, I worked for a decade with William Braud at the Mind Science Foundation to develop an experimental protocol for studying healing intention under randomized, controlled conditions. Now known as DMILS (Distant Mental Interactions with Living Systems), the protocol monitors physiological outcomes in response to healing intentions from another person in a distant room and with no sensory communication. The results of our studies showed significant differences in the intention periods as compared to the control trials. This experimental protocol has now been replicated in many laboratories across the world, subjected to critical evaluations and meta-analyses, and provides one of the most reliable data sets in the field of psi research. I established a laboratory at the Institute of Noetic Sciences that allowed this work to continue, now under the direction of Dean Radin.
My studies on experimenter effects began during my time at Wayne State, when I noticed that the experimenters performed better than our subjects in some preliminary research. This interest was further developed years later in my collaborations with parapsychology skeptic, Richard Wiseman. Together we conducted three formal studies over ten years and the summary of these studies showed a psi effect in my data but not in Richard’s. This provocative work also established the feasibility of building collaborations between skeptics and psi proponents, which I think are important for the future of the field.
I also have a long standing interest in the discourse of the skeptic/proponent debate, including work done when I held the Thomas Welton Stanford Fellowship for Psychical Research at Stanford University. As an anthropologist, I am drawn to the cultural aspects of the debate and how truth is constructed in the context of controversial science. Most recently, I have conducted a meta-experiment with an international team of scientists to study experimenter expectancies using a precognition protocol developed by Daryl Bem. This work is currently underway.
Today I am focusing on questions of death and the afterlife. I have created a feature length documentary in partnership with Deepak Chopra entitled, Death Makes Life Possible, a companion book and a learning program. We invite people in this work to consider their own worldview about death, what happens after, and why this is important for how they live their lives. The research from parapsychology, together with people’s noetic experiences and different cultural and religious worldviews, provides a rich tapestry of human experience. The goal is to help transform the fear of death into an inspiration for living and dying well.
Why do you think that parapsychology is important?
Psi experiences have been profound for many people and have stimulated transformations in people’s worldviews and belief systems. Parapsychology offers a way of legitimating these experiences and giving people a framework for understanding anomalous occurrences. In this way, it is a bridge between noetic insights and objective knowing. It is also a field that invites discovery and out of the box thinking. Some of the data from the controlled research forces us to question our assumptions and expand our methods of knowing and being in the world. It is also a nexus for multi-disciplinary pursuits that are often not possible in other areas of study where people become very specialized. From a cultural perspective, psi research is a rich laboratory in which to study beliefs, expectations, and the politics that govern truth construction.
In your view, what are the main problems in parapsychology today as a scientific field?
It is a tough field for many reasons. Funding, credibility, challenges in replication, and the small number of researchers make progress painfully slow. Parapsychology is situated in an odd place, focusing on topics outside the mainstream scientific community while raising questions that many in the general population no long question. Researchers often find themselves betwixt and between. The interesting thing is that psi researchers have been in the vanguard for years, making discoveries in areas such as hypnosis, altered states of consciousness, research methods, long before the time has come to have these ideas integrated into the prevailing paradigm. This may be happening again today, with quantum physics and studies of entanglement offering a theoretical framework to account for psi phenomena. If this happens and psi results can be replicated by mainstream scientists, parapsychology may find itself within the mainstream scientific camp. For some who are used to living on the edge of the mainstream, this may not be a place of comfort. Time will tell.
(Mainly About Parapsychology and Related Topics)
Schlitz, M. (in press). Death Makes Life Possible. Revolutionary Insights on Living, Dying and the Continuation of Consciousness. Boulder, CO: Sounds True. For more information click here.
Peterson, K., Schlitz, M., Vieten, C. (2013). Worldview Explorations, Facilitator Guide and Workbook. Petaluma: Institute of Noetic Sciences.
Schlitz, M., C. Vieten, & T. Amorok. (2007) Living Deeply, The Art and Science of Transformation. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger (also published in Spanish and German).
Schlitz, M., T. Amorok. with M. Micozzi, Editors. (2005). Consciousness & Healing: Integral Approaches to Mind Body Medicine. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier: Churchill Livingstone.
Schlitz, M. & Zingrone, N.L. (Eds.). (1997). Research in Parapsychology. Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press.
Schlitz, M. (1987). Reflections on Medina Lake: 1912-1987. San Antonio: Quadrangle Press.
Schlitz, M. (2009). Exploring the Akashic Field: Bridging Subjective and Objective Ways of Knowing. In E. Laszlo, The Akashic Experience: Science and the Cosmic Memory Field. Rochester, VT. Inner Traditions Bear.
Schlitz, M. (2007). Prayer and Healing: Assessing the Evidence. In I. Serlin (Ed.), Whole Person Healthcare. Westport, CT: Praeger.
Schlitz, M. & Radin, D. (2006). Distant Healing: Assessing the Evidence. In Integrative Medicine. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Press.
Schlitz, M. & Harman, W. (2004). The Implications of Alternative and Complementary Medicine for Science and the Scientific Process. In M. Schlitz, T. Amorok, with M. Micozzi, (Eds.), Consciousness & Healing: Integral Approaches to Mind Body Medicine. London: Churchill Livingstone.
Schlitz, M. & N. Lewis. (2002). Distant Healing: The Power of Prayer and Intention. In Breast Cancer: Beyond Convention. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Schlitz, M. & W. Harman. (2001). The implications of complementary and alternative medicine for science and the scientific process. In D. Lorimer (Ed.), Thinking Beyond the Brain: A Wider Science of Consciousness. Floris Books: London.
Schlitz, M. & Targ, E. (2000). Parapsychological experiences. In E. Cardeña, S.J. Lynn, and S. Krippner (Eds.), Varieties of Anomalous Experience. Washington D.C.: American Psychological Association.
Taylor, E. & Schlitz, M. (1998). Meditation. In N. Allison, (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Body Mind Disciplines. New York: Rosen Publishing Group.
Schlitz, M. & May, E. (1998). Parapsychology: Fact or fiction? Replicable evidence for unusual consciousness effects. In S.R. Hameroff, A.W. Kaszniak, & A.C. Scott (Eds.), Toward a Science of Consciousness II (pp. 691-700). Cambridge: The MIT Press.
Moerman, D., Jonas, W., Bush, P., Edwards, R., Herxheimer, A., Kleijnen, J., Roberts, A., Schlitz, M., Solfvin, J., van der Geest, S., & Watkins, A. (1997). Placebo effects and research in alternative and conventional medicine. In Proceedings of the Alternative Medicine Research Methodology Conference. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins.
Schlitz, M. (1994). Women, power, and the paranormal: A cultural critique. In L. Coly and R. White (Eds.), Women in Parapsychology (pp. 157-174). New York: Parapsychology Foundation.
Schlitz, M. (1992). Psychic unity: The meeting ground of anthropology and parapsychology. In B. Shapin and L. Coly (Ed.), Psychology, Depth Psychology, and Spontaneous Psi Research. New York: Parapsychology Foundation.
Schlitz, M. (1985). The phenomenology of replication. In B. Shapin and L. Coly (Ed.), The Repeatability Problem in Parapsychology (pp. 73-97). New York: Parapsychology Foundation Press.
Hansen, G., Schlitz, M., & Tart, C. (1984). Bibliography: Remote viewing research, 1973-1982. In R. Targ and K. Harary (Eds.), The Mind Race (pp. 265-269). New York: Villard Press.
Schlitz, M. & Gruber, E. (1984). Transcontinental remote viewing: A rejudging. In K. R. Rao (Ed.), Basic Experiments in Parapsychology (pp. 237-42). Jefferson, NC: McFarland.
Schlitz, M., & E. Gruber, E. (1984). Transcontinental remote viewing. In K. R. Rao (Ed.), Basic Experiments in Parapsychology (pp. 225-236). Jefferson, NC: McFarland.
Schlitz, M. (2014). Transpersonal Healing: Assessing the Evidence from Laboratory and Clinical Trials. International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 33, 97-101.
Schlitz, M., Hopf, H.W., Eskenazi, L., Vieten, C., Radin, D. (2012). Distant Healing of Surgical Wounds: An Exploratory Study. EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Healing, 8, 223-230.
Radin, D., Stone, J., Levine, E., Eskandarnejad, S., Schlitz, M., Kozak, L., Mandel, D., & Hayssen, G. (2008). Compassionate intention as a therapeutic intervention by partners of cancer patients: Effects of distant intention on the patients’ autonomic nervous system. Explore, 4, 235-43.
Vieten, C., Amorok, T., & Schlitz, M. (2006). From I to We: The Study of Spiritual Transformation. Zygon, 41, 915-931.
Schlitz, M. (2005). The Discourse of Controversial Science: The Skeptic-Proponent Debate on Remote Staring. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 12, 101-105.
Schlitz, M., Wiseman, R., Watt, C., & Radin, D. (2006). Of two minds: Skeptic-proponent collaboration within parapsychology. British Journal of Psychology, 97, 313-322.
Radin, D. I. & Schlitz, M.J. (2005). Gut feelings, intuition, and emotions: An exploratory study. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 1, 85-91.
Schlitz, M. (2004). Intentional Healing: Exploring the Extended Reaches of Consciousness. Subtle Energies & Energy Medicine, 14(1): 1-18.
Schlitz, M., Radin, D.I., Malle, B.F., Schmidt, S., Utts, J., & Yount, G.L. (2003). Distant healing intention: Definitions and evolving guidelines for laboratory studies. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 9 (3), A31-A43.
Wiseman, R. &, Schlitz, M. (1999). Experimenter effects and the remote detection of staring: A replication. Journal of Parapsychology, 63, 232-233.
Schlitz, M. J. & Braud, W.G. (1997). Distant intentionality and healing: Assessing the evidence. Alternative Therapies, 3(6), 62-73.
Schlitz, M. & LaBerge, S. (1997). Covert observation increases skin conductance in subjects unaware of when they are being observed: A replication. Journal of Parapsychology, 61, 185-196.
Schlitz, M. (1997). Intentionality: An argument for transpersonal consciousness. World Futures, 48, 115-126.
Wiseman, R. & Schlitz, M. (1997). Experimenter effects and the remote detection of staring. Journal of Parapsychology, 61, 197-207.
Schlitz, M. (1996). Intentionality and intuition and their clinical implications: A challenge for science and medicine. Advances: The Journal of Mind-Body Health, 12(2), 58-66.
Schlitz, M. (1996). Intentionality: A program of study in five questions on intentionality, science and mind-body medicine—an Advances forum. Advances: The Journal of Mind-Body Health 12(3), 31-32.
Moerman, D., Jonas, W., Bush, P., Edwards, R., Herxheimer, A., Kleijnen, J., Roberts, A., Schlitz, M., Solfvin, J., van der Geest, S., & Watkins, A. (1996). Placebo effects and research in alternative and conventional medicine. Chinese Journal of Integrated Traditional and Western Medicine, 2(2), 141-148.
Schlitz, M. (1995). Intentionality in healing: Mapping the integration of body, mind, and spirit. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 1(5), 119-120.
Schlitz, M., & Honorton, C. (1992). A ganzfeld ESP study within an artistically gifted population. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 86, 83-98.
Braud, W. & Schlitz, M. (1991). Consciousness interactions with remote biological systems: Anomalous intentionality effects. Subtle Energies, 2(1) 1-46.
Targ, R., Braud, W., Stanford, R., Schlitz, M. & Honorton, C. (1991). Increasing psychic reliability. Journal of Parapsychology, 55, 59-83.
Braud, W., & Schlitz, M. (1989). Possible role of intuitive data sorting in electrodermal biological psychokinesis (bio-PK). Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 83, 289-302.
Braud, W., & Schlitz, M. (1989). A methodology for the objective study of transpersonal imagery. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 3, 43-63.
Schlitz, M. & Braud, W. (1985). Reiki plus natural healing: An ethnographic and experimental study. Psi Research, 4, 100-123.
Schlitz, M., & Haight, J.M. (1984). Remote viewing revisited: An intrasubject replication. Journal of Parapsychology, 48, 39-49.
Braud, W., & Schlitz, M. (1983). Psychokinetic influence on electrodermal activity. Journal of Parapsychology, 47, 95-119.
Schlitz, M., & Gruber, E. (1981). Transcontinental remote viewing: A rejudging. Journal of Parapsychology, 45, 233-237.
Schlitz, M. & Gruber, E. (1980). Transcontinental remote viewing. Journal of Parapsychology, 44, 305-317.