PreCubist art and time

Psychic Birds

I saw a presentation a few years ago, at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, which included a video of an investigation that Rupert Sheldrake conducted into a fascinating phenomenon involving an African Gray parrot.

African Grays are very large parrots that are remarkable in a number of ways. They can live to be more than one hundred years old, and are fiercely loyal to their owners. If you own an African Gray, you have a moral responsibility to ensure that it will be inherited by a good owner when you die, since it will very likely outlive you, and to arrange for a long and gradual introductory period between your parrot and its prospective new owner.

African Grays are also noted for their intelligence. They can learn to “speak” with large repertoires, and can learn to associate sounds with properties such as shape, color and composition, so that for instance when asked for a “red triangle” or a “brass circle” they will accurately pick it out of a collection of objects, not confusing it with a blue triangle or a plastic circle.

However all that pales in comparison to what this particular African Gray in the presentation could do. The experiment took place in the owner’s home, which was a two story structure. The bird was upstairs by itself, with a video camera recording what it did. Downstairs, the owner and a researcher sat at a table, with another video camera recording them. The researcher was showing the owner a series of cards with pictures on them. As the owner looked at the pictures, the bird – upstairs in another part of the house mind you – would speak what was on the picture!

Later they interviewed the owner, who said that she first noticed her parrot’s psychic abilities when she would wake up in the morning remembering a dream, and the parrot would speak some fragment of the dream. So she started leaving a tape recorder running by her bedside, and discovered that the parrot talked off and on all night, narrating her dreams as she had them.

I was walking in the deep woods one day, at a retreat center in Sonoma county, when three ravens started following me. They were not so much flying as hopping from tree to tree, sometimes with a slow powerful flap of the wings for extra thrust. They were “following in front” of me the way a cat will, anticipating where I would go, and they were making the most interesting noises. A soft low caw, like a crow caw played back at very slow speed, and another sound so unlike anything you would expect from a bird that for a while I wasn’t sure it was coming from them – a sound like water flowing over rocks. Have you ever sat quietly with a close friend, and felt that you have had a deep and meaningful conversation, even though neither of you said a word? That was the experience I had with those ravens that day – hard to pin down, and yet very vivid in my memory even many years later. I learned something from those birds that day, something that I don’t have words for, that can’t be expressed in words. A connection.

There are other kinds of intelligences beside the one we big-brained apes have evolved. Ravens and African Gray parrots are among the most evolutionary recent birds. These descendants of the dinosaurs are, I’m convinced, evolving an intelligence that we mammals may find quite alien, although we have the seeds of it in us as well. It doesn’t depend on a big central nervous system processing unit, being a more distributed kind of system with trillions of cell membranes for nodes. (Do read The Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton.)

I’ve identified in myself at least three different frequencies of thought. While some people speak of “higher vibrations” as being better, for me it’s just the opposite. The fastest thoughts are the self-talk thoughts, the worrying or planning ahead thoughts, the judging and having myself being judged thoughts. The same thought comes back around every few minutes, sometimes every few moments if there is a lot of emotion behind it. Like a hamster running in a wheel in its cage.

Then there are the creative thoughts. They have a frequency of days to weeks. I will be working on something, and stumped or blocked, I will let it go. A few days (or weeks) later I’ll stumble across something that is just the answer I was looking for. Or the answer will, unbidden, just spring into clarity for me at some random moment in my day.

The longest waves of all are the thoughts that happen over years to decades. These are the thoughts that shape my life. They have no words or images or emotion. They are raven thoughts, pure connection.

John Mack was a Harvard psychiatry professor who studied and tried to help people who believed that they had been abducted by UFOs. I met him once – he was a fascinating and gentle man. “I don’t know what happened to these people,” he told me, “but I know something happened to them. I’ve worked with psychotics for much of my career. These people are not psychotic, not delusional.”

I have my own conjecture about it. If there are other civilizations out there in the universe, and it seems almost certain that there must be, and equally certain that some of these must be millions of years older than our own, where might evolution have taken them? I think that the evolutionary step after (or before or in parallel with) what we are pleased to call “intelligence” is psychic connection. Perhaps these UFO beings are what we call “psychic” to an extent far beyond anything we have experienced, in the same way that we are intelligent in a way far beyond anything a chimpanzee has experienced.

In the presence of that much psychic power it may be that our minds become disorganized, that we aren’t capable of processing what we are experiencing. That what those who have had this experience therefore remember about it is a kind of dream imagery, a representation of the experience in subconscious symbology.