The sense of being stared at is only one aspect of Dr Sheldrake’s research but it’s the area most obviously relevant to the archetypal image of an occultist. If you really can occasionally ‘feel’ yourself being looked at, as his work appears to suggest, this could reveal something of the long suspected human “telepathic” abilities of ancient legend.
Sheldrake argues our minds actually connect with objects as they percieve them:
“The sense of being stared at works because our minds reach out to touch what we’re looking at and sometimes we can feel that, or animals can feel it, so we can effect what we’re looking at, simply by looking at it. So, there’s something coming out of our eyes, as well as going in.”
Furthermore this might even be a skill you can learn to enhance. Experiments conducted into the phenomena have been altered to include instant feedback for the person being stared at. Over time and with training, it appears people are better able to know if someone is focusing upon them.
When asked about this Sheldrake’s response spoke to the initially surprising connection (which is also emerging online) between the worlds of MMA and the occult community:
“I haven’t tried training programmes myself, my main focus is on finding out whether it happens and how it happens, but the people who are the most experienced in training it are in the martial arts. And, a lot of martial arts techniques involve training people to become more sensitive to when someone’s staring at them from behind [...] I think the best way to learn it would be through the martial arts. Because that’s where people have the most experience in teaching it.”
His ideas are not what you would call “orthodox science” but he is frequently published in peer-reviewed papers and enjoys a certain level of patronage from the UK’s mainstream scientific community. Even so he is not shy of biting the hand that occasionally funds him. Regarding his work on the sense of being stared at he acknowledges “scientists have ignored this, but on the other hand most people have experienced it, so it’s something science ought to have looked at. Unless science is some narrow dogmatic limited system, for some scientists it is!” .
When I interviewed Sheldrake about his work we discussed one explicitly ‘occult’ aspect of it in detail:
“All over the world it’s widely believed that if you look at someone with envy you can harm the person you’re looking at, that’s what’s called ‘the evil eye’. [...although...] it’s going further than what I’m saying, I’m saying people can tell when they’re being looked at, the gaze has a power to effect somebody. Whether you can effect them negatively by envy, that I don’t know. But that’s what a lot of people, all over the world believe”.
If this phenomena, studied by Sheldrake, holds weight it would likely carry an impact upon people who find themselves ‘in the public eye’ as well.
However the ideas he advocates go even further than this in terms of their implications for people who have an interest in magick and occultism. This is most apparent in his masterpiece “A New Science Of Life” where the theory of ‘morphic resonance’ is outlined. In a nutshell the idea is that biological forms which hold a similar shape can resonate and connect with each other across both time and space. So, for example, a spider’s instinctive ability to spin a web comes not just from its genetics but also the success of previous spiders who have done the same thing in the past. It is the physical patterns of the spider that are, in a sense, tuning into the memory of previous arachnids and their successes or failures.
Furthermore, the more like something your biological form is the greater you will resonate with it and the more closely those patterns are reproduced in the future the more of a link there will be to the past. This is his way of accounting for memory. You are resonating most closely with your own self in the past and so you effectively tune in to your own memories via this process.
The reason this is relevant to those who indulge in ritual and, for want of a better word, “magick” is that it supports their belief that replicating the pattern of a previously successful occultist might in fact endow you with some of their proven ability. It is the pattern itself which, in this theory, becomes important and so the closer you can recreate the precise movements of a successful ritual the more likely you will be to tune into the abilities of your predecessors.
Obviously there is significant debate surrounding Sheldrake’s ideas but as an articulate and educated man he puts up a robust defence of them. Whether or not you agree with him there’s no doubt he’s towering figure in the world of any self respecting Disinfonaught.
Nick Margerrison (my twitter)
 All quotes taken from a series of interviews I did with him, available as a free download here.
 Sheldrake elaborates on these thoughts in his excellent interview with Matt Staggs regarding “The Science Delusion” on The DisinfoCast here.