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The Sense of Being Stared at: And Other Aspects of the Extended Mind
by Rupert Sheldrake
Hutchinson, £17.99, ISBN 0091794633
This is a book about human and animal experience. It is about animals who know an earthquake is imminent, about dogs who know their owner is coming home, about creatures that know a predator is close, about people who obtain sudden knowledge about a partner’s distant accident. And people who sense they are being stared at.
It is not about the paranormal. These experiences are extra-sensory only for those who think in terms of only five senses: for Sheldrake there are six or seven at least, and there is no need to cross over into the supernatural to find them. The obstacle to research into human experience of any kind is, of course, its subjective character. There is no hard evidence for science to get its teeth into. Sheldrake offers us a sampling from his huge casefiles, and his stories are certainly impressive. But are they anything more than coincidence or delusion? Can we really build a science on anthropologists’ anecdotes about African witch-doctors, or hunters’ experience with their quarry, or animals’ restiveness before an earthquake? Even if they are backed by folklore and tradition spanning the globe and going back centuries?
Sheldrake says yes, we can. Some of these experiences – such as the sense of being stared at – are susceptible to experiment. Some 14,000 trials have been conducted, giving odds against chance of the order of 1020. And a theoretical infrastructure can be constructed, as Sheldrake demonstrates with his suggestion of the extended mind.
These effects promise breakthrough insights into the interactions between people, between animals, and between people and animals. This is a fascinating and thought-provoking book.