Introduction to Classifying Phenomena
A common dilemma in the study of some forms of transcommunication is classifying phenomena examples of phenomena that are perhaps not as paranormal as others. For instance, video-loop Instrumental TransCommunication (ITC) sometimes produces convincing likenesses of human faces for which there is no known physical explanation.
At the same time, a face seen in calcium buildup on a subway wall may be paranormal, but it is tempting to ignore it as happenstance because the pattern could occur without intelligent intervention. However, ignoring a face-like pattern may be a mistake because the bounds of the etheric communicator’s capabilities are not known. Our reaction might be different if we knew that a person looking a lot like the calcium pattern had been killed on that very spot.
Six Association TransCommunication (ATransC) members responded to an email that went out asking for input in the Idea Exchange. GP noted that “We are not necessarily bound to follow the rigid, objective procedures of the natural and physical sciences … we make an assessment.”
PH reminded us of the dangers of finding patterns where there are none; a human condition known as “pareidolia.” As always to be depended on for help, MD, described how she sometimes deals with degrees of paranormality. JK agreed that some phenomena are more difficult to attribute as paranormal. CS explained that, if he can still see the image after looking away, then he thinks it is not paranormal. SS made a number of interesting points, but importantly, agreed that we were being too restrictive in how we graded phenomena.
Based on this input, I am proposing a more robust classification system for phenomena.
The community of people who study ITC has historically used a three-tier system for classifying EVP. The system has been very useful; however, the increasing popularity of live-voice forms of audio forms of ITC, also known as Electronic Voice Phenomena or EVP, requires a more robust system. While a similar problem has been encountered with visual forms of ITC, there has been no classification system for that form of the phenomena. The three-class system for rating EVP is:
Class A: Can be heard and understood over a speaker by most people
Class B: Can be heard over a speaker, but not everyone will agree as to what is said
Class C: Can only be heard with headphones and is difficult to understand
[Note that Class B or C voices may have one or two clearly understood words. Loud does not equal Class A.]
Type 1 and Type 2 Phenomena
The proposed system is based on two types (Type 1 and Type 2) (See Figure 1), each with three-subclasses. In the old system, the majority of examples (specifically EVP) are rated as Class C while a small percentage of examples are rated Class B and even fewer are rated Class A.
Figure 2 illustrates the approximate distribution of Class A, B and C examples.
As a general rule, Class C examples are very common, but are also much less evidential in that they are not easily shared (objectivity), and therefore, it is much more difficult to argue that they are paranormal. Thus it is shown in Figure 1 that, as the objectivity of examples increase, they are perceived as being more paranormal.
In the proposed system, a distinction is made between features which are always present (Type 2) and transient features (Type 1). A face seen in the decomposition pattern of a leaf is more or less always there (Type 2), as opposed to a face found in light reflected from moving water (Type 1). As a general rule, “always there” phenomena appears to be formed by opportunistically adapting naturally occurring processes to express the message (assuming one is intended). If perceived as phenomena, “always there” features would be considered Type 2.
Features found in ever-changing noise are thought to be formed by transforming that noise into the voice or face. While the resulting features are fleeting unless caught in media (photographic or audio recording), they tend to be better formed and more easily identified as anomalous. So for both audible and visible phenomena:
Type 1: Transformed physical media; not always present
Type 2: Always present; often as a persistent artifact
The Classes are as before, but described in more generic terms:
Class A: Evident without explanation
Class B: May require directions
Class C: May be vaguely experienced; mostly obscured by noise
Types Are Based on Technique
Audio ITC: The input sound used in EVP helps determine the type. There will be exceptions, but as a general rule:
Type 1 Audible: Input is noise, either ambient room noise or supplied, perhaps with a fan or a noise generator. The formation of voice is thought to be via transformation as the communicator imposes intended order on the otherwise chaotic noise.
Type 2 Audible: Input sound is live voice. This included someone talking on the radio, in the room or pre-recorded, perhaps in a foreign language. The easily heard voice is supplied, but formation of the message is seen as opportunistic selection of parts of the existing voice.
It is important to note that a Type 1 EVP can be formed in any sound, including noise or voice. As such, foreign-language voice can be transformed into new words. With that said, the practitioner can be expected to provide both input and output files for comparison. Since it is known that EVP occur in one process, two recorders recording the same input should not produce the same EVP.
Visual ITC: Features found in photographs and video frames of medium-density optical noise are considered transform features. They are transient, in that an observer does not see them at the time of recording, only upon review of the media.
By comparison, a pattern on a piece of toast that resembles a face is long lasting and visible without the need to examine a photograph. With these considerations in mind:
Type 1 Visual: input is noise, usually medium density which is not very light or very dark. Textured surfaces facilitate image formation, as do image compression techniques. Often, visibility of the resulting paranormal feature is limited by the resolution of the media.
Type 2 Visual: Naturally occurring surface characteristics which are more or less static can sometimes be arranged to form faces. Whether or not they are intentionally formed is not clear, but the availability of alternative explanations causes these features to be perceived as less paranormal.
There is a need for a system of classification for mentally sensed phenomena. This would include the various forms of mental mediumship, including automatic writing, psychometry and remote sensing. It would also include Near-Death Experiences (NDE) and Out-of-Body Experiences (OBE). The common factor is a person reporting an experience that cannot be directly shared by others.
A possible classification is:
Type 1 Mental: Spontaneous or induced experience not shared by others and able to be substantiated with objective evidence.
Type 2 Mental: Spontaneous or induced experience not shared by others and only substantiated by personal references.