178. What Does Science Have to Say About Synchronicity? New Research. Surprising Results.


One researcher’s creative experiment reveals a surprising link between synchronicity, spirituality and the paranormal.

Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Robert Perry, author of, Signs: A New Approach to Coincidence, Synchronicity, Guidance, Life Purpose, and God’s Plan. During the interview Perry explains his research:

Robert Perry: CMPE which stands for a Conjunction of Meaningfully Parallel Events. It’s basically an extreme form of synchronicity. Most of our paranormal events that we’re studying now, they’re inner experiences with hopefully a veridical component but in the end they seem to say something about our abilities or our ultimate nature being perhaps immaterial. But with CMPEs their statement seems to be more about something other than us that seems to giving us messages.

Alex Tsakiris: I’m just not quite sure that we can make that last leap because there’s this whole idea of time and that maybe time is not linear. But also in terms of you and I being co-creators of our reality. So we get back to this idea of what’s reality and how is reality being created and experienced and again, what’s our relationship to time?

Robert Perry: We shouldn’t act like anything is substantive yet however I think that there is a contemporary bias, even among those of us who are into the paranormal; a bias against sort of agents that are beyond the human. Maybe, if we take NDEs seriously for instance, it looks like that experience involves a certain amount of initiative from the Other Side. Maybe something coming to the human level from the Other Side is part of how life works.

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Alex Tsakiris: Today we welcome back to Skeptiko Robert Perry. Robert’s here to talk about his book, Signs: A New Approach to Coincidence, Synchronicity, Guidance, Life Purpose, and God’s Plan. He’s also here to tell us about a pilot study he’s done about this work along with Dr. Bruce Greyson that is suggestive that he really is onto something here. So Robert, thank you for joining me. Welcome back.

Robert Perry: Oh, it’s a great pleasure and I’m very honored to be here. I love the show and listen every week.

Alex Tsakiris: Super. And I really appreciate you’ve made some great contributions on the forum and on the comment section of the website. I always look forward to reading your posts. It’s great to have you back on. So I have to say, this book you’ve written, it’s amazing. It’s kind of startling when you get into it because you claim to have uncovered a rather remarkable new paranormal phenomenon that you’ve coined, “CMPE.” So there’s a lot here to wrap our arms around. Why don’t you start by telling us what you think you’ve uncovered here?

Robert Perry: Okay. Basically, a CMPE stands for a Conjunction of Meaningfully Parallel Events. I call it “a sign” for short because I use that word in a very nonstandard way. Hardly anybody else calls it those. CMPE seems to be the handle of choice. It’s basically an extreme form of synchronicity. Now, synchronicity tends to be an extremely subjective thing. There’s almost no rules for what constitutes a synchronicity, but the pattern that we typically associate with synchronicity is two events coming together and sharing some striking similarity.

The classic case is Carl Jung’s scarab story where a patient is telling him about a dream in which she’s given a gold scarab. As she does, a gold scarab beetle is tapping at the window of Jung’s office. So there you have two events, foretelling the dream, the appearance of the scarab, and they both share one striking parallel which is a golden scarab.

Alex Tsakiris: Right. And more on the day-to-day synchronicities that we’re all familiar with, you’re going to take it way beyond that.

Robert Perry: Right. It’s a much more extreme version of that basic pattern. You still have two events that just happen to come together in time. They aren’t brought together intentionally because of their similarity. And with this phenomenon there are rules about how close together in time they need to be. These two events are still strikingly similar but rather than one parallel between them like the golden scarab, they actually share a long list of parallels that are objective and any observer can see. On average, I find they share about eight or nine parallels.

Alex Tsakiris: Examples. Go ahead, give us a couple.

Robert Perry: Well, I’ll give you one. They’re kind of long in the telling because of all the similarities between the events but one example is last August I was finishing the draft of the paper on our pilot study that you mentioned on CMPEs. The paper reports on us taking a paranormal experience, synchronicity, that’s extremely difficult to study because of how subjective it is and finding a way to objectively measure it so that we can then do an initial scientific study on it.

Our study happened to work better than we expected and we were in fact able to show that something measurable is going on. So within seconds of writing the last line of that draft, I pick up Steve Volk’s book, Fringe-ology, which I thought was a great book, and I began a new chapter that I hadn’t looked ahead to. This chapter was on the work of Dr. Andrew Newberg, who is famous for his research into the brain states associated with spiritual experiences like meditation.

In that chapter, Volk tells the story of Newberg’s first experiments and Volk says, “The activity of meditation has always been supremely difficult to study. The experience of meditation is purely subjective, happening only in the practitioner’s mind.”

But Newberg thought he may have figured out a way to study it scientifically with no faith-based assumptions and he did it by measuring what’s going on in the brain of someone who’s in a meditative state. The results were everything he wanted. They showed a measurable and logical correlation between the experience of the meditator and what is going on in his brain.

So I just felt that that was extremely similar to what I’d just written, so I wrote a list of parallels. I can read them to you, if you like.

Alex Tsakiris: Sure. Go ahead.

Robert Perry: Okay. So in both events, my paper and the chapter in Fringe-ology:

1. There is some paranormal or spiritual experience. In one case synchronicity; in the other meditative experience. That’s been around for ages.

2. It’s extremely or supremely “difficult to study” and that phrase is in both things because of how subjective it is.

3. A researcher comes up with a way to study it scientifically without faith-based assumptions.

4. He conducts the first test ever done.

5. Prominent in this test is someone named Robert. In Newberg’s test it was the subject that was named Robert.

6. Being the first test, the researcher is not sure it will work but the results are either better than expected, in our case, or “all he could reasonably have wanted,” in the other case.

7. The results in some sense validate the experience, at least showing that something physical and measurable is going on.

8. In both cases this is said to ultimately to have bearing on the question of God’s existence.

Alex Tsakiris: Wait, because I don’t want to get too nit-picky on those but I think I or a number of people could look at it and say, “Well, a couple of those, there’s some more ordinary prosaic kind of explanations for why those things might be coincidental,” right? Not that that’s necessarily a bad example but we could get into the fact that the fields are kind of related; the book was there. There’s all these things, so is there another example you could maybe give us?

Robert Perry: Well, one example is one I began the book with, which is CMPE, which I call the “Bucket Brigade.” What’s happening there is the Course in Miracles organization that I work for, we’re processing the issue of whether to basically take a departure in a new direction and somebody comes up with this image of everybody in the organization forming a bucket brigade, where everyone’s working together. You’re passing buckets of water along to put the fire out. Rather than each of us doing our separate thing in our separate space, we’re all joined together in this really intense common endeavor.

Alex Tsakiris: And this suggestion is meant to be relevant to figuring out the organizational direction that you should go, right?

Robert Perry: That’s exactly right. Yeah. We were considering a departure in this direction. So what happened was that at that moment, we hear the sound of water. We were in a downstairs area in the house. We rushed into the other room and there’s literally water pouring through the ceiling in a straight line. It turns out later we found that a washing machine repairman was upstairs and he turned the wrong knob and there’s water that came through an unfinished ceiling.

And so everybody’s pulling into action, the people in the meeting we were having, people who were working in the office upstairs, and the only thing to do was to–actually right next to where the water was falling was a stack of plastic buckets. And so we had to essentially arrange these buckets in a straight line to catch the water until it could be turned off. Everybody was joined together in this; we were mopping it up and getting towels and everything. And of course it was an intense experience.

It wasn’t until we all were done with it, got back into the next room, took a breath, and we thought, ‘Hey, that was kind of weird. We just formed a line of water-filled buckets in response to an emergency in which everyone’s pulling together in the organization, not in their separate spaces.’ It was exactly what we’d just been talking about in the meeting, but in this case we had to actually carry out the exact thing we’d been talking about possibly doing.

Alex Tsakiris: Great. So that’s a very concrete example. They both are concrete examples that will give people an idea of what you’re talking about. So maybe take just a minute and tell us about the methodology that you used for trying to understand this because that’s what you break down in the book and in your paper. That’s what makes this a little bit different, as you alluded to in your first example. You’re really trying to nail this down scientifically in a way that we can study it and try and understand it, right? So tell us a little bit about your methodology for understanding it.

Robert Perry: Right. Well, it is as you’re alluding; it’s a fairly rule-based phenomenon and I’ve worked out the rules. I’m still working out the rules but to the extent that I have, I’ve done it over 35 years and recording hundreds, going on 1,000 examples of it. The rules as I understand them are that you need those two events. You need the list of parallels. The parallels then will come together to tell a coherent story. It won’t be a scattered list. And that coherent story will always be aimed at a relevant situation in your life.

That situation will almost always be contained in one or both of the two events. So one of the events might be fictional. It might be like you mentioned, a movie that you watched, but the other event will usually involve a situation that you’re wrestling with. There may be some question involved; you may have made a decision about that you’re still uncertain about. It will be current. So what happens is the parallels come together to tell a coherent story and that story tends to frame that situation in a certain way and communicate a certain perspective on it.

So that’s one source of the meaning behind the CMPE. The other source is a little bit different and it’s not always operative but in many CMPEs one of the events literally involves that situation as well in your life. The other event merely mirrors it but involves a whole other situation that’s not relevant for you. Like I said, it may be a fictional situation.

Now interestingly enough, the fictional or the nonrelevant situation will usually tend to contain the answers to the questions in the real-life situation that concerns you. So you may be wondering what to do in your situation. In that other situation, what to do has already been done and it’s all resolved. So I call that the “symbolic situation.” The symbolic situation then offers commentary on the uncertainties and the unresolved aspects of the literal situation.

So what you do is you put together those two sources of meaning. The way the parallels frame the situation, which we call the “subject situation,” and then the way the symbolic situation frames that same situation. When you put those together you get a pretty clear message about your situation and it’s a message that different interpreters who know the rules will read in the same way. That’s something I’ve tested and experienced over and over. You can get two independent interpreters coming up with basically the same message.

Alex Tsakiris: And that’s what makes you feel that there’s some realness to it. So you’re coming along here saying, “Okay, if you pay attention you’ll notice that these things happen in our lives.” And then you throw this out there and people read it and hear about it and go, “Wow. I never really quite noticed it but yeah, there are these parallel events that have a lot of coincidences that seem to be dramatic or driven towards a problem and there’s some realness to it.” Okay, so that’s really cool that you’ve identified this phenomena and you’ve developed a methodology for trying to study it. I guess that would get to this study that you’ve done, this pilot study. How will you close the loop and really nail down that this is really happening?

Robert Perry: Yes, good question. Well, for me, I’ve seen this happen on more or less a weekly basis for 30 years now, so I don’t have my own doubts about it. I’ve also worked with these events in the lives of quite a few other people that I know for a long time, as well. So from personal experience I know what happens and it’s not just people that are close to me. I’ve read about these things in the lives of strangers.

I had an instance a couple of months ago where an NDE researcher who’s actually been on your show, she had one. We corresponded about it. She found the meaning surprising but really appropriate. So I’ve seen it happen so many times in so many lives, I don’t have doubts about it. But obviously that’s not good enough for somebody who’s not me.

So we did this pilot study, as you mentioned, in which we got 17 participants. The whole point was to see if it was happening in the lives of people out there. That was the entire goal of the study. So we taught them how to notice these events and they recorded anything that seemed like it might be, for a period of four months, and sent them in to me.

Then we ran them through a 10-point scale that scores them to see if they qualify. We did find actually 16 genuine CMPEs through the study, which for me is a lot. Well, it’s an initial study. It’s a pilot study; it’s not going to establish the phenomenon for anybody who has any kind of skepticism. But at least it’s a promising initial study suggestive of this being a genuine event that happens all over.

Alex Tsakiris: And how would you measure statistically the odds against chance of these events occurring? How do you nail that part down?

Robert Perry: You know, I wish there was a way to do that. I don’t personally believe there is a way to really measure the probabilities involved. I think it’s too complicated. I think the strength of it comes in reading the lists of parallels and taking it as a whole, thinking is it reasonable to suspect that two events that with this parallel, could come together purely by chance?

The other thing to me that really helps put out of consideration the skeptical alternative here is that these things, in my experience, are never one-off. In particular, CMPE will always be part of a series. Other CMPEs will speak to the same situation and will say consistent things. In fact, similar CMPEs will often occur on the exact same date in different years, which is something I discovered and continues to blow me away when it happens. So different ones are intimately inter-related and therefore you have to explain away not just one. You have to explain away the whole series. At some point I think a reasonable person stands there and says, “This just can’t be chance.”

Alex Tsakiris: Right.  We should add because maybe we glossed over that but the methodology that you applied in this study, for example, is pretty rigorous. I mean, there’s some definite rules that you mentioned that they have to follow and they have to be inside of a certain timeframe and they have to follow other characteristics. I think you said you have an independent judge or evaluator who can say whether they meet that criteria. Anyone who reads the book, Signs, or reads the study will see that it is quite objective in terms of how that’s measured. Is that accurate?

Robert Perry: Yeah, that’s really one of the key things about the phenomenon. I used to see patterns in all kinds of events and think there were coincidences around every corner and as I went forward I became personally quite skeptical about most synchronicities. I think personally that most of them are of us connecting dots that aren’t connected. That’s just my personal opinion.

What I’ve found is this phenomenon proved itself to me as real at the time and showed that it had quite specific characteristics. So that’s how I built the model and built the 10-point scale for measuring them, trying to capture those specific characteristics. Without them, if they aren’t there, you can tell this is not a real CMPE. So yes, very rigorous, which is quite different than the mindset we normally have on synchronicity. But the advantage, of course, is you can have some confidence that something real is going on here and we aren’t just connecting dots in a fanciful way.

Alex Tsakiris: Okay. But you just hit on maybe the key phrase that I want to launch into. It’s that “something real is going on here.” Of course, real is the ultimate subjective term in terms of reality and I guess that gets us into how should we understand this phenomena? You and I in the email exchange before this were both referencing Daryl Bem’s work, of course. It gets at this issue of time and what is really our relationship with time. As I was reading through the science thing I kept thinking, ‘This is precognition in some way,’ so again it gets to this time thing. We might be experiencing time linearly but the reality of time may not be as linear as we think. So what are your thoughts on that?

Robert Perry: Actually, I had a parapsychologist suggest something similar to me, that this was precognition. I think that can work for some of the examples; I think it’s very strange for some of them, as well. In a lot of the examples you have different people doing things at a distance. Somebody might send me an email, in which case who’s having the precognition? There are a lot of examples where I think that doesn’t work that well.

What I want to say about trying to explain this, and it obviously cries out for an explanation, is that in our attempt to explain it I think there’s two things that we should keep in mind. 1) We shouldn’t just cherry-pick certain elements of it and try to explain those and ignore the rest, and then 2) we shouldn’t come to it with the constraints of a particular worldview and say that only explanations within that worldview are okay here.

I think we should look at the phenomenon as a whole and see what the phenomenon itself suggests in terms of best explanations. And when I look at it as a whole, what I see is it looks like events are being somehow pulled together in highly orchestrated ways and in ways that appear to be structured as communications.

These things always highlight some situation in your life that you’re dealing with and then they provide a perspective on it. A perspective that very often is targeted—or seems to be targeted—at the very things that you’re wrestling with. So these things look like they are communications. They’re structured as that. So in my mind, an explanation would have to ideally honor that basic design of the phenomenon itself.

Alex Tsakiris: See now, Robert, you’re creeping into this more controversial aspect of this and it’s in the title of the book and it’s also in a chapter in the book and that’s this idea of life’s purpose and God’s (the G-word’s) plan. You know, whenever I bring up the issue of God, and I usually talk about God as a placeholder for this idea of some organized consciousness, some higher-level organized consciousness. I get a lot of pushback. A lot of people are resistant to that.

A lot of people feel very burned by Christianity. That’s really what it usually comes down to. Or some other religion, but it’s usually this idea that Hey, I was slammed with this Christian crap when I was a kid and it took me 20 years of therapy to overcome it. Please don’t try and shove God back down my throat. That’s the pushback I get.

I have to say there’s a little bit of that that I’ve felt here. I felt the need to pushback a little bit, too. I mean, can you really make that leap that you’re making in saying that because you see some kind of a relationship between the person that’s experiencing the coincidence and some kind of structured information message in what they’re experiencing? Can we really put God right in the middle of that?

Robert Perry: Well, I think we don’t have to. For me, there’s a phenomenon here that needs to be explained. For most of my time with it I didn’t see it as coming from God. My interest was really more practical. I was just wanting to work with it, get the benefits of it, and I kind of assumed it was coming from some wise place in my unconscious that could somehow maybe draw events together to get a message across to me. And I still think that’s a reasonable explanation.

There’s a couple of reasons why I’ve gone in the God direction personally. One is that I started to notice that different people had CMPEs about the same situation, even people who were living hundreds or thousands of miles apart. Their CMPEs would be consistent with each other and sometimes quite minutely related, as if they were coming from the same source.

So I started to think that whatever the source is, it clearly transcends the individual mind, in which case maybe we can posit a collective unconscious or something that is the source of these. I think that would be consistent with the data, as well.

Alex Tsakiris: Let me nail that down a minute. So a collective unconscious, a collective consciousness, would fit here. And then I guess the question related to that is what is God for you in that continuum if you will? If you’re falling back to the collective consciousness, then what is the relationship between your understanding of God and your understanding of this collective consciousness?

Robert Perry: Well, I don’t really personally think that the collective unconscious explanation is the thing behind this. I’m saying I think it’s a softer interpretation that I think is reasonable. I personally see it as coming from God. My idea of God is very much what people experience, for instance, in near-death experiences. So I see God as very much some kind of a being who’s maybe boundless and formless but still alive and in some sense personal. I don’t think that’s required at all to work with the phenomenon, to explore it. I think that there’s all kinds of possible explanations.

But there’s two things that I keep coming back to. 1) The phenomenon itself pushes me in the direction of something God-like. Maybe it’s something that falls short of what we would call God, but the phenomenon itself I think suggests something God-like. 2) A lot of what’s pushed me in the extreme direction I’ve gone in is the CMPEs themselves. I started to get them about 13 years ago. I started to get ones that clearly were saying they came from God, that the phenomenon itself comes from God. Because I’d built up a trust with these instances over many years, I kind of ran with it.

Alex Tsakiris: Okay, Robert, give me an example there. Nail that down for me. What do you mean you had a direct experience or message that this was coming from God?

Robert Perry: As I said, the CMPEs, when you read them according to the rules, they end up communicating certain messages. I started to get an occasional CMPE whose message was—actually they were talking about me writing the book that I eventually wrote nine years later. They kept saying, essentially emphasizing in the book, that this comes from God and they even wanted me to end the book on that note. I know it sounds like an anthropomorphizing event but that’s just how I experienced that event giving me messages. I do relate those in the book.

One of them was where I was writing to somebody a long account of my understanding of the phenomenon, the first encounter with it, and I was talking about how it’s a strange thing because it looks like, in a skeptical age it looks like here is something that seems to come from God or God’s plan or something in that direction. And it seems like it’s God speaking to us even though we aren’t listening.

Right after that I ended up watching a TV program. I used to be into The X Files, so it was an episode of The X Files, in which I caught the very tail-end of the show which concluded on an uncannily similar note. One of the main characters has been experiencing amazing events over the course of the show and she ends up feeling like God is speaking and no one’s listening.

So it was things like that that started to push me in a direction that I actually hadn’t gone in quite yet, and when I did do what they said and made that the ending of the book, I had as a confirmation of that, one of the most spectacular CMPEs I’ve ever had. There were about 30 parallels which I made the Epilogue of the book eventually. So they’ve actually helped take me there even though I’m adamant that you don’t need to start there or even end there to work with the phenomenon and think something’s happening.

Alex Tsakiris: Tell us how that’s informed your understanding of God on a personal basis. What do you take away big-picture-wise in terms of what this means about God and how God is involved in your life?

Robert Perry: That’s an interesting question. I’m not sure I’ve been asked that before. The background is I do really take these seriously as the most authoritative influence in my own personal decision-making. They don’t happen on command; they don’t happen every day. But when they do happen I take them very seriously and to a large degree I live my life by them. They have proven themselves very trustworthy. That’s why I’m living in England now. I had CMPEs telling me to move here with my family.

So as a result of their influence, I basically feel like there is something which is usually quite anonymous but there’s something that is advising me, that wants me to move in positive directions that end up being healthy and good for me and those around me. Whatever this is, it is concerned about small situations in my life. I was told that after 25 years to go back and see the dentist.

And large ones—my spiritual development, my work, my close relationships. Whatever this is seems really concerned about every aspect of my life and really intent on giving me clarity and vision for those different areas in my life. So a lot of my own tangible sense of God comes from the feeling that there’s just something looking out for me and wanting to impart to me the clarity and the wisdom and sometimes even the foresight that can help me along my way. I end up actually feeling very cared-for.

Alex Tsakiris: So where do you go from here, Robert? Where do you go with the research, with the results of the pilot study? And where would you like to see the research into the phenomenon go?

Robert Perry: Yeah, I really want to see this go somewhere. The CMPEs themselves, they think this is going to be some kind of field of inquiry one day, along the lines of near-death experience studies. I think we’re quite a long ways off from that, to be honest, but they have a very long-range point of view so I’m not going to be surprised if that happens. I think that the next step is just to keep studying it. We’ve got to get a funded study.

We can construct it carefully using what we learned from the first study, have very tight controls, deal with questions like independence which is one of the big bug-a-boos here. Were the events really independent? And just do it more carefully, more independent scores and observers and just slowly I think try to push it out there. My experience is that this is such a different sort of phenomenon than we’re currently studying and different than how we think of synchronicity that I think people have a hard time just getting it to click into place in their brains.

Alex Tsakiris: And along those lines, do you have any thoughts on why certain people are experiencing CMPEs and others are not? Or anything like that?

Robert Perry: That’s obviously a really important question and it’s clear to me that different people—my wife and I call them “sign magnets.” Different people are real sign magnets. For some reason, I don’t know why, I get a great deal of them, more than other people I know. I don’t know why that is. I’m not a psychic person. I’m not a person given to spiritual experiences. I’m a really classic left-brained guy. But some get more and some seem to never get them.

The woman in our study, one woman out of 17 people who got virtually a third of all the recorded examples that we have. She’s an near-death experiencer. I somehow connect it with that. But she and I are very different kinds of people. She’s totally right-brained and I’m totally left-brained. So I’m not really sure what attracts them to some and not others.

Alex Tsakiris: It’s interesting just to kind of speculate about the NDE that you mentioned opening people up psychically. I’d be interested in people who experience precognitive dreams or other kinds of paranormal experiences, what their relationship is or frequency of having these sign experiences. There’s all sorts of interesting questions. It certainly is refreshing that you’re approaching this from both a personal, spiritual aspect which I think is very brave on your part, and at the same time pursuing it on a parallel path that asks these questions scientifically. I think there’s some great, great work to be done there, too. It’s just really great and I hope people dig into it. I’m sure this will generate a lot more CMPEs from people. I think it’s the kind of thing that once you hear about it, you see them much more than you would than before when you didn’t know about it. I’m sure you have plenty of stories of that, right?

Robert Perry: True. And they are very easy to overlook because some are obvious but for some you have to have a kind of pattern state of mind where you’re looking for not a single striking thing but for a whole pattern. Those can blow by very easily.

Alex Tsakiris: Great. Well, the book again is Signs. We’ll have a link to it up here on the website. Robert, it’s been great having you on. Thanks for joining us.

Robert Perry: Oh, thank you so much for having me.

After the Interview


Alex Tsakiris: I liked the Foreword to the book because I felt the same way. At first there’s this kind of desire to push against it and go Ah, no, no, no, but then the more you dig into it, I think it’s rather remarkable that you’ve identified this little paranormal phenomena that I’m sure other people have seen but no one’s really nailed down in the way that you have.

Robert Perry: Most of our paranormal events that we’re studying now, they’re inner experiences with hopefully a veridical component but in the end they seem to say something about our abilities or our ultimate nature being perhaps immaterial. But with CMPEs their statement seems to be more about something other than us that seems to be, you know, giving us messages.

Alex Tsakiris: Right. And it’s interesting what you just said about the empirical aspect of it. Let’s explore that a little bit further and maybe I’ll roll this back into the show. Tell us how you think there’s a little bit of a difference there in how we experience this as opposed to like an out-of-body experience.

Robert Perry: Well, with an out-of-body experience that is an internal experience that at best has some veridical component to it. You see something out of the body that you couldn’t have seen if you were in the body. But fundamentally it’s a subjective, interior experience. With CMPEs, one of the things that makes them so different from other things that we’re studying in terms of the paranormal, is these are objective, physical events.

Alex Tsakiris: Just to nail that down a little bit. So when you’re in the water brigade, you’re in the water brigade with 10 other people or however many there are, and they can all say, “Yes, that really happened.” When you have the experience of being inside The Simpsons episode of the Krusty the Clown episode, then millions of people can watch the Krusty the Clown episode and say, “Yeah, that really happened.” And they could have videotaped you out at the park and said the same thing happened. So there is this difference there, isn’t there?

Robert Perry: Right. And a lot of the events of CMPEs I’ve found, through going back and checking, are recorded. They’re emails; they’re a television show. They’re things that don’t rely on people’s reporting. So here we have objective, often recorded, physical events that we have to explain how they came together while being so unbelievably similar.

So in the end, the import of the phenomenon is a bit different than with something like an out-of-body experience or an NDE or a past-life memory, where those things are suggestive of unusual human abilities or suggestive of perhaps our ultimate nature as humans. Maybe we’re immaterial and can survive death. This phenomenon instead is suggestive, it seems to me, of something other than us. Something that seems to be sending us messages, whether that be God or something else like a collective unconscious or who knows? Aliens, whatever.

Alex Tsakiris: I’m just not quite sure that we can make that last leap because there’s this whole idea, one of time that we talked about, and precognition. But also just in terms of being you and I and whoever being co-creators of our reality. So we get back to this idea of what’s reality and how is reality being created and experienced and again, what’s our relationship to time? Are we in the future creating our reality of the past? But I do get your point.

Robert Perry: We shouldn’t act like anything is substantive yet however I think that there is a contemporary bias even among those of us who are into the paranormal; a bias against sort of agents that are beyond the human. Maybe, if we take NDEs seriously for instance, it looks like that experience involves a certain amount of initiative from the Other Side. Maybe something coming to the human level from the Other Side is part of how life works.