We are delighted to share this Interview with Dr. Luís Portela, author of the newly released The Science of Spirit: Parapsychology, Enlightenment and Evolution. Luís Portela is chairman of the Bial Foundation, a non-profit institution supporting human-centered research, particularly in areas that are poorly explored but susceptible to in-depth scientific analysis. The Bial Foundation has been a generous supporter of IONS for over two decades. We are deeply grateful for their support. Bial is also one of the very few foundations that is a significant supporter of parapsychological research.
I had the opportunity to ask Dr. Portela a few questions about his inspiration for exploring the scientific evolution of parapsychology research. Dr. Portela shares that the 20th century brought a massive increase in technological development, which allowed a more in-depth study of the material. However, parapsychological phenomena that highlight the immaterial and violate the standard view of space and time have gone relatively unstudied. Dr. Portela reviews seminal parapsychology research areas, making the case that science is obliged to continue research in this area to support humanity’s spiritual enlightenment.
“It seems that in the 21st century, science may contribute to the spiritual enlightenment of humanity, creating conditions for human beings to live with greater spiritual comfort, so that humans may live in an environment of increased harmony, developing their capacities for respecting and loving themselves and each other in its most diverse forms; also developing their respect and love for the universal whole of which they are a part.”
Dr. Portela’s book describes the connection between parapsychology research and noble qualities like unconditional and universal love. He also maps out the scientific exploration of our ability to access information beyond the five physical senses as a pathway to develop these noble qualities within ourselves.
We immensely value the partnership with the Bial Foundation in illuminating how to make the essentially ineffable experiences of awe, creativity, intuition, and healing accessible and applicable.
Helané Wahbeh: What inspired you to write your book?
Luís Portela: Since I was 13 or 14 years old, I have wanted to contribute to the spiritual enlightenment of humanity. That is why I decided to pursue medicine and start a research career in psychophysiology, considering the possibility of conducting scientific research in parapsychology afterwards. My father’s death at the age of 50, when I was 21, caused some changes in my life. I started working at the family company – BIAL – and at the age of 27 I became its Chairman and CEO, leaving behind my clinical and academic career.
But, the aim to contribute to the spiritual enlightenment remained and, thus, in 1994, together with the Council of Rectors of the Portuguese Universities, we created the BIAL Foundation and started a Grants Programme for Scientific Research in the areas of Psychophysiology and Parapsychology. The Foundation has so far supported 775 projects, involving more than 1,600 researchers from 28 countries.
Although following a manager’s career path, I have always kept an eye on the research carried on those areas, reading and discussing with some friends, but without any direct involvement. Now that I am retiring from my professional activity, I felt the need to share some knowledge and ideas, always with the aim of making some contribution to the spiritual enlightenment of humanity.
Helané Wahbeh: You mention throughout the book about the power of our thoughts and our assuming responsibility for them. For example, “understanding how from our thoughts we can introduce improvements in ourselves and how those improvements might have an impact on the world” on pg. 24. Can you share more about that?
Luís Portela: I think that each one of us has the possibility and the responsibility to control his thoughts, creating habits of thinking in a positive and constructive way, placing his own thoughts at the service of his highest interests. And the one who can control his thoughts can also control his words and attitudes. In this way, self-improvement can be developed towards the best version of ourselves.
Of course, it is not always easy to follow this path, either because of our own weaknesses or due to the interference of others. But, when we insist with patience and determination, we will experience moments of great joy and satisfaction, whenever we realize that we have overcome a difficulty and exceeded ourselves, feeling that we became a better and more complete person. But we will also experience moments of great joy whenever we realize that our positive influence has contributed to solving the problems of others.
When we realize that as a result of our positive thoughts and our constructive attitudes we are, in fact, being useful to ourselves and to others – family, friends and even strangers – we feel an extreme inner happiness, which it far surpasses the mere intensification of the senses.
Helané Wahbeh: At IONS, we propose the notion that everyone has the capacity to access information and energy not limited by our conventional notions of time and space. But that the way we access this is unique to each of us, what we call the Noetic SignatureTM. You mention something similar on page 47: “It is currently accepted that parapsychological abilities are normally distributed in the general population, existing to a greater or lesser degree in all individuals, although manifest themselves more evidently in some people and only under certain circumstances.” Can you share more about your experience of this?
Luís Portela: I believe that everybody has some sensitivity beyond the five physical senses. Some people have a sixth sense more developed in one or another aspect and others still do not. But we are all able to understand the universal reality, beyond the materiality of things. And it is currently proven that people with less extrasensory sensitivity may develop it, and some institutions offer training programs for that purpose.
As we develop our sensitivity, we realize that in spirituality, unlike electricity or magnetism, similar poles attract, and opposite poles repel each other. Thus, when we maintain positive thoughts, we reconnect to what is positive and, at the same time, we move away from what is negative. On the contrary, when we emit negative thoughts, we attract negative energy and repel positive energy.
By using our free-will, we can learn to permanently maintain positive thoughts and constructive attitudes, tuning in to those who do the same and, above all, earning the right to tune in to ever higher levels of universal energy.
This is a path available to everyone, but each one of us needs to do his own. Perhaps it is a path to be done by everyone, and each of us must decide when to do it.
Helané Wahbeh: You discuss cultivating qualities like responsibility, transparency, harmony, and unconditional love to support ourselves individually and collectively. One method you take about for supporting world peace “is that everyone knows how to maintain their desire for peace twenty-four hours a day, through thoughts, words and deeds, beginning with inner peace.” Can you share more about your experience and practice of this?
Luís Portela: It seems to me that most people want a world of peace, harmony and love. Some more deeply than others, but the vast majority would like to live in a world where peace prevails. And, I think that we understand the impact on this of the positions of the governors of great world powers or of the leaders of great religions. We also value the positions of the governors of our countries and regions, of the military and religious leaders and of several “others.”
Respecting these positions, I think it will be more important to realize that if we want peace around us, the best way to achieve this starts in ourselves, by making our own contribution, learning to live peacefully with ourselves and with all those around us. The best way to contribute to a world of peace being ourselves a particle of peace, sowing peace in our attitudes and inspiring others with our good example.
Many people aspire to build a better world, becoming demanding with those around them. For me, building a better world starts in ourselves. We must be demanding with ourselves and, with tolerance, try to inspire those around us to raise their own levels of demand. Trusting that self-improvement is a path to integrity, happiness and fulfillment.
Helané Wahbeh: What role do you think science plays in supporting us individually and collectively?
Luís Portela: I think that science made a huge progress in the 20th century, allowing human beings a better knowledge about the material world. However, spirituality was left behind, it was not studied to the same depth, generating some imbalance. Humanity overestimated materiality and underestimated spiritual reality, giving less importance to great universal values, assuming an egocentric, selfish and unbalanced position – in social, environmental, economic and financial terms – which needs to be corrected urgently.
In my opinion, it is up to science to study, rigorously and independently, all the phenomenology described since ancient times and currently framed in the field of parapsychology, enlightening humanity of what is true and what is false, finding explanations based on scientific evidence for everything that has been considered a miracle, a mystery or taboo. It seems to me that science is the best means for human beings to achieve a better understanding of themselves and fulfill their developmental potential, both individually and collectively.
Helané Wahbeh: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our members?
Luís Portela: I admire the work done by IONS and, as Chairman of the BIAL Foundation, I am pleased with the financial support we have provided for the accomplishment of several scientific research projects by IONS members over the past 22 years. I think that both institutions seek to contribute to the spiritual enlightenment that I covered in this interview and it is the essence of my book The Science of Spirit. I send fraternal greetings to all IONS members.