About 10 minutes later, England scored again, and the game finished 5-1. The score was 4-1 for those 10 minutes or so, and it seemed logical to conclude that I had somehow caught a glimpse of a moment during that period. (Just to get the scoreline into perspective for those who aren’t familiar with the world of soccer, it was the first time in 45 years that any team had scored 5 goals against Germany.)
In 2013, I accepted an invitation to be a keynote speaker at a psychology conference in Brighton, UK, about 200 miles from my home city. Two days before the conference, my wife’s father – whose name was Ian Smith – died after a short illness. I was upset by his death and considered cancelling, but I didn’t want to let the conference organisers down. I began my talk with a dedication to my father-in-law, saying “I’d like to give this talk in memory of my father-in-law, Ian Smith, who died two days ago.”
Right at that moment, there was a sudden “boom” noise through the sound system, like a peel of thunder. I was speaking towards the end of the day, and up till that point, the sound system had worked perfectly, without any such noises. The audience laughed nervously, and I continued jokingly, “I don’t think Ian believed in life after death, but maybe he’s found out that there is something after all. Maybe he’s here with us!” At that moment, there two further loud “booms”, one after the next. Now the audience was spooked and there were some audible shrieks and shudders.
It could have been a coincidence, of course. But afterwards I spoke to the sound engineer and asked him what had caused the boom noises. “No idea!” he said. “Everything was working fine. That was freaky!” At that particular moment, it really did feel my father-in-law was somehow making his presence felt.
The Spotlight Of Awareness
There could be simple explanations for these experiences. A skeptic would probably say that they were a coincidence, and that out of all of the millions of events that occur in our lives, there are bound to be a few extremely improbable events that appear to be miraculous and inexplicable. But I don’t think this is the case. I’m not sure how these experiences can be explained – perhaps they can’t be explained at all.
And in a way, that is the important point. Such anomalous experiences illustrate that our knowledge of the world is far from complete and that there are aspects of reality that we cannot understand, and perhaps never will. In my view, some people are all too ready to explain away such experiences, in an effort to maintain their common-sense view of reality.
This is a highly irrational approach. It makes no sense to assume that we have a reliable or complete awareness of reality. Our awareness must be limited, just as the awareness of any living being – such as an insect or sheep – is limited. Consider our awareness of reality compared to an insect’s, for instance. We are aware of many phenomena and concepts that an insect is probably not aware of – for instance, the concepts of time, death, and of our own existence as subjective, self-conscious beings. We probably have a more intense awareness of reality than most other animals.
Nevertheless, it is extremely unlikely that our awareness is complete – or even close to complete. To believe otherwise is a form of anthropocentrism, tantamount to seeing human beings as the endpoint of the evolutionary process.
It is probable that, at some point in the future, other living beings will come into existence who have a more intense awareness than us, just as we have more intense awareness than insects or sheep. These hypothetical beings may be more intensely aware of the world around them than human beings. They will probably be aware of forces, energies, or laws that are beyond our present level of awareness.