Professor Dean Radin, Chief Scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS), is one of the world's best-known parapsychologists. He has now been active in the field for about forty years. Radin has long urged his readers to subvert the dominant paradigm, that is, materialism. With what one wonders? Real Magic provide an answer. Have you ever heard the expression “be careful what you wish for” - according to Radin this is sound advice because psi, hence magic too, are very real and consciousness is fundamental to reality.
If humanity has any chance of maturing beyond its barely controlled adolescence, we're going to need a much better understanding of what consciousness is, and what it-and by association all of us-are really capable of.
The evidence, summarized in his previous popular books The Conscious Universe, Entangled Minds, and Supernormal, suggests that telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition etc. are real. Radin thinks the evidence is in, and although we might disagree about how to interpret it parapsychology does not remain controversial due to a lack of evidence: “The simple truth is that people believe what they want to believe.”
In the Western world psi is associated with entertainment, mentalists that pretend to read thoughts, dubious seers that spout vague statements, and horror movies. Psi is also regarded as heretical, that is, one should not dabble with it. Psi is associated with witchcraft and as sceptics like to highlight due to belief in witchcraft people still suffer grave consequences if they are believed to be witches. Psychics in the Western world are more likely to “just” be regarded as fraudulent or deluded.
Nevertheless, as Radin points out, truth be told, reality might be strange too. The stories about Daniel Dunglas Home, St. Joseph of Copertino, and Ted Owens suggests that at least some people are capable of a lot more than just correctly guessing which ESP card a computer will display. The US government certainly regarded psi as real and long supported a classified program, now best-known as Star Gate. People were employed to use their psi ability to spy on the Soviet Union during the cold war.
Radin outlines the results of some of his own studies, one involving testing an idea that underlies voodoo (!), others involve blessed chocolate and tea. The reader also gets to know a bit about what the data gathered through the website Got Psi? shows. Radin clearly outlines the experimental procedures for laymen and explains what the results mean.
Still many will remain unconvinced, perhaps they cannot even be persuaded by any data. Why is that? It has to do with worldviews, yet it has become increasingly clear that our thoughts really do matter. In addition, both physicists and philosophers have come to regard consciousness as fundamental to reality. Nevertheless, this is not enough for sceptics to calm down and Radin shares a few experiences about the effects the taboo of psi has had. Parapsychology and psi are however not as controversial everywhere.
Radin has accepted that psi is a real phenomenon and has turned to esotericism in search of clues about how to best proceed with the research. Parapsychologists usually shy away from associating psi with magic, partly because other scientists tend to regard belief in magic as some kind of popular delusion. Radin is however not afraid and his overview is well-written.
Besides being about parapsychology, controversy, and esotericism Real Magic also to a large extent deals with philosophy of mind and Radin attempts to explain what kind of reality we are really living in. Although, the possible negative effects of psi being real are not adequately discussed by Radin. However, perhaps fortunately:
… for magic to work reliably under conscious control requires both steadfast practice and natural talent. Practice can be managed with persistence. Talent - you either have it or you don't.
Regardless of whether you have it or not, to many reading Real Magic will be an enjoyable and thought-provoking experience. Be careful what you wish for you might get it.