What Parapsychology Reveals About the Powers of Intention: A Talk by Mitch Horowitz

August 3, 2023
IONS Communications Team

Can we alter reality through the power of our minds?

Materialism says no, but science says yes. Mitch Horowitz, historian of alternative spirituality and a popular voice for esoteric ideas, joined us for a mind-blowing ConnectIONS Live. He shared how countless scientific studies provide strong evidence for how we can affect reality through the mind and extrasensory perception (ESP). 

In today’s article, you’ll get a recap of the ConnectIONS Live with Mitch. You’ll learn about the powers of intention, and the results from some fascinating ESP studies and how they can benefit you. Let’s dive in!

Watch our ConnectIONS Live on YouTube

ConnectIONS Live is our weekly webinar series where we invite guest speakers on different topics. This one with Mitch Horowitz is among the 5 most popular ones from the past season, the other ones being:

You can watch our most popular videos on the IONS YouTube channel! 

The Powers of Intention: What Research Reveals

Around 7 minutes in, Mitch shares about a classical ESP (ExtraSensory Perception) experiment where participants are asked to guess the right card. This experiment has been performed at universities in the United States and Europe. It was pioneered by Joseph and Louisa Rhine at Duke University in the 1930s. 

Over the years, and through thousands of experiments, it became evident that some people were consistently violating the law of average. This means they consistently hit above-chance rates for guessing the right card. 

Eight minutes in, Mitch argues that even if parapsychological research had stopped as early as the 1940s, we would still have strong evidence for psi phenomena. Already in the 1940s, the Rhine database contained millions of trials demonstrating anomalous transfer of information in lab settings. This research is conducted under rigorous scientific conditions, and the experiments have been replicated and validated over and over. The conclusion is that the psyche seems to have an extraphysical capacity.

So the evidence exists. It has just been silenced by the mainstream scientific community since it – inconveniently – defies materialism.

At the 16-minute mark, he mentions how Rhine was a strict scientist who usually didn’t extrapolate on the results to make interpretations beyond the data. But he once did a remarkable extrapolation in the afterword to one of his books. Rhine shared how he and his collaborators had noticed that the atmosphere in the lab was crucial for the results of ESP experiments. If there was a sense of enthusiasm, hopeful expectation, and belief there would be results, they would also get the results they hoped for. 

The opposite was also true: if there were disagreeableness, fatigue, or skepticism, the research results showed no signs of ESP! The same held true if the researchers left the room and went out for a coffee or if they talked to outsiders who may have questioned the validity of the experiments.

These findings were endorsed by no less than Carl Jung, who shared this remarkable observation in his work on synchronicity. He mentions how Rhine noticed that “high spirits created the atmosphere under which there was any results at all”. 

This humble observation was also notable because it was made before the placebo effect was discovered. The placebo effect hinges on hopeful expectancy. 

Placebo Surgery

Around the 22-minute mark, Mitch shares about a famous placebo surgery study for knee arthritis in Houston in the 1980s. The patients in the control group were put under, and an incision was made so that they couldn’t tell whether they had received the actual medical procedure. The results were striking: placebo surgery was shown to create therapeutic effects as good as those from the real surgery! In fact, the people who received the placebo treatment did better than the ones who had surgery since their recovery time was shorter. The pain relief was similar in both groups.

The results made surgeons question whether the benefits of the real surgery came from the patient believing it helped them heal rather than the actual biological alterations.  

The conclusion? Expectations seem to heavily influence results. Once again, the power of intention reveals itself. 

At the 33-minute mark, Mitch shares more about the placebo effect, which is a type of mind-matter interaction. He tells us about a Harvard University study on the phenomenon. One group received a migraine drug with detailed information about its benefits, and the other group received the same group but with no explanation of its benefits. The results? The first group, which knew about the expected positive effects, had better results. 

The Childish Yet Powerful Practice of Emile Coué

So if we just have to believe for something to happen – such as our knee healing from arthritis without surgery – why isn’t every person on Earth fully healed? 

The answer is: fear. When we are in a state of fear, anxiety, or depression, it can be challenging to fully believe in good things happening. As Mitch mentions around 25 minutes in: Mother Nature is playing us a cruel joke, since in the times we’d need to believe the most, it’s also the hardest.

He goes on to talk about the French psychologist and pharmacist Émile Coué. Coué was active in the early 20th century, and was famous for his mantra: “Day by day, in every day, I’m getting better and better”. Skeptics made fun of him for believing that such a simple, childish phrase could have health benefits.

He recommended repeating it as a slight whisper 20 times just before falling asleep, and 20 times just after waking up. This is because your rational defenses are down late at night and during early mornings – you are in the so-called hypnagogic state. That makes it easier to reprogram the subconscious mind at these times of the day.

And Coué was ahead of his time! He made these recommendations based on instinct, not numbers. Research hadn’t discovered the hypnagogic state and its benefits for reprogramming yet. 

How to Leverage the Hypnagogic State for Intention-Setting…

Mitch explains (about 30 minutes in) that the hypnagogic state is the reason early morning hours are the hardest when suffering from e.g. anxiety, stress, or grief. Since the rational mind is inactive, we are unable to see it from a nuanced perspective. “A Gremlin appears as a dragon”, as he states it. 

As we have seen, the hypnagogic state can be hurtful or helpful depending on our state of mind and intentions. We can use these two daily opportunities to visualize, pray, and set goals. 

…And Telepathy!

Thirty-eight minutes in, we’re told about the famous Ganzfeld experiments. Researchers theorized that we would see a spike in ESP if the subject was in hypnagogia. An experiment involved two people: a sender and a receiver. The receiver was placed in an isolated room and subjected to sensory deprivation (blindfolded and music preventing them from hearing outside noise). They were brought into a comfortable, meditative state to increase receptivity.

The sender was outside of the room. They were looking at one image at a time, focusing their full attention on it. The receiver got to choose between four different images and was instructed to tell which image was being conveyed. 

The results showed an incredible 46-48% hit rate! This is to be compared to chance (25%). Since the research participants weren’t selected based on possessing particular ESP skills, it seems like ESP exists in a broad spectrum of the population and that the hypnagogic state facilitates it.

Precognition and the Non-Linear Nature of Time

The last research findings covered in the webinar are the precognition experiments performed by Daryl Bem in 2011 (around 50 minutes in). The results were shared in the publication “Feeling the Future”. Two of his most remarkable experiments suggest that future study of a word list had cognitive benefits in the present! Participants were given a list of words to memorize. They then completed a test. 

After the test, some of the subjects were given the list with words again. Those who studied the list twice – before and after the test – had a statistically significant spike in the results compared to those who only studied before the test. There seems to be a cognitive retro-causal effect, suggesting a non-linear nature of time.

This is good news for anyone who failed a test recently. Just open your textbooks and study again, and magic may happen.

At the end of the webinar, Mitch answers questions from the viewers on topics like the Law of Assumption, what parapsychology needs to move forward, and the everyday benefits of extrasensory capacities. 


There’s an overwhelming consensus within scientific research: the human psyche seems to have extraphysical capacities. The famous quote sums it up: “I didn’t say it was possible, I only said it was true.” 

Parapsychology had come very far already in the 1940s, and after a downturn, the research is once again alive. Hopefully, these times we’re in will be remembered as the “Age of Parapsychology”! 

Because as Mitch stated in the webinar, parapsychology is important for more than its sensational value. There are significant personal benefits from connecting with extrasensory perception. When we feel like we are part of something bigger, we know deep down that we are never alone – and that’s the remedy against today’s increasingly isolated world.

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