Tami Simon: You’re listening to Insights at the Edge. Today my guest is psychic and author Jack Rourke. Jack is a skilled and compassionate professional, offering his abilities as a psychic to individuals, businesses, and law enforcement. He specializes in the use of clairvoyance, and has the ability to feel and hear extrasensory information. He is a gifted seer with an understanding of the human condition, who possesses a genuine desire to serve.
With Sounds True, Jack has written a new book called The Rational Psychic: A Skeptic’s Guide to Extraordinary Perception, where he presents a detailed, thoughtful, and often surprising examination of seemingly supernatural and psychic events, relying on decades of firsthand experiences and scholarly investigation. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Jack and I spoke about how science can better verify psychic abilities. We talked about how a rational psychic views something like spirit guides, and finally, we talked about what a heart-based motivation might be for cultivating psychic abilities. Here’s my conversation with Jack Rourke.
Jack, in your work you make a distinction between what you call “paranormal experiences” and “psychic phenomenon.” I think usually people group this whole thing into one big soup of “all that woo-woo,” but you’re actually, as the “Rational Psychic,” helping us separate and really look at things using a rational lens. So let’s begin by looking at these two categories and why you’ve chosen to categorize unusual experiences in this way—two different categories.
Jack Rourke: There’s a couple of reasons that I chose to break the perception up into two categories. The first reason is principally because psychic perception is the ability to perceive information without using the five physical senses, information that is objectably verifiable. So without an ability to directly verify information, how do we know it’s real?
You know? It keeps us in check. It keeps us honest. More importantly, it keeps us in touch with ourselves, because what we could be perceiving could be projections, could be our own judgments, our own evaluations, our own emotional foibles and mental pains, or what have you, that we’re perceiving as phenomena outside of us. So it kind of has a two-pronged thing. One is that it’s helpful for us; it enables us to know ourselves better. And two is that it keeps us stable, and three, it actually keeps us honest.
Then with “paranormal perception,” I coined that term because typically things like ghosts or energies, entities—anything that takes a belief system—those things are normally conceptualizations of emotional experiences, the influence the environment has on our body. Worst case scenario, they can be ways to manipulate others, manipulate situations and passively assert control over circumstances. So I felt like it was important for someone to come forward and communicate more specifically exactly what these kinds of perceptions are.
TS: OK. I want to take this a little deeper. So basically what you’re saying is psychic phenomena can be verified by a third party?
JR: It should be.
Well, there’s a number of ways. One is, if we’ve never met before and I was able to communicate something personal about your life, [something] specific that perhaps—I was sitting with a client once. She actually happened to be a psychic. I didn’t know this, a practicing psychic. I began to give her some details about her life, some circumstances and things like that. And then I actually stopped and was communicating something to do with her lower back. The way my mind was perceiving this—what I described to her, I said, “help me understand this, let me just tell you what I’m getting because it doesn’t make sense but I have to spit it out as I’m getting it.”
I said, “The way I’m seeing this is as if a cat would jump across you back and use it as a springboard. I know that doesn’t make sense, but then it rakes your back.” I said, “I’m getting like—do you have a cat?—I’m getting these kinds of cuts and scratches on your lower back.” And I said, “Hold on a second.” I took my pad and I drew this pattern, and her face went white and she lifted up her blouse, and she had had a series of surgeries on her lower back that had left these random, hatch marks of scars. So that is something that I couldn’t possibly know.
Something more recent was at the end of the winter of 2011, I was filming a TV show in Haverstraw, New York. I didn’t know this at the time but Haverstraw was famous because it was where most of the bricks were made in North America, until right after the second, first World War. I had been doing a meditation in the morning before I went to the set and at the end of my meditation, I asked to see any information that was relevant to that day’s filming.
It was a sort of a haunted house type TV show, and I was meant to go there and talk about whatever was going bump in the night there. So I began to see these bodies, piled up under the ground. I thought, “Oh my God, this is ridiculous.” I can’t go to a haunted house set, or a house that’s supposed to be haunted and say on camera that there’s bodies buried in the ground. To me that seemed too hokey, too spooky.
TS: The TV producers would love it.
JR: Oh sure, but I’m thinking, this is not rational, this is ridiculous. Long story short, as it turned out, when they did some research—I did talk about it on camera—when they did some research they came back and had an old New York Times article in 1906. The owner of that home used to be the mayor of that town, and he was doing a business with the owner of the brick manufacturer. And he was getting kickbacks. He let the guy dig closer and closer and closer to the residences, and eventually he caused a landslide, and a whole street collapsed and was consumed by the earth.
It was very cold, there were fires because the gas lines broke, and the clay when it kind of rolled over the earth and swallowed these houses, it turned to cement. There was sand, and water from the fire hoses, and 19 people were never recovered. So these bodies were buried in the ground and I was able to perceive it. It was verified by a 1906 New York Times article.
So these are the kinds of things, and sometimes they’re not really that dramatic—that was a one-in-a-million-type situation, but most times it’s more subtle. But when we require information be verified that way, I think that there’s some aspect of our mind, or some aspect that’s greater than what we are, that works with us and conspires to communicate in a way that conceivably is much more fantastic that just normal dialogue.
TS: Now, I’ve talked to a lot of different people over the years who have had different psychic gifts, and many of them have had experiences similar to what you’re describing in terms of working with a client or having a vision that was then verified by something in history. But they’ve also been wrong quite a lot.
TS: And many of their experiences haven’t been verified by a third party of any kind, yet they take them as true because they were right on so many different occasions.
TS: And [if] everything I think is a factual psychic observation, so how do you sort all of this out?
JR: Well, truth be told, you have to operate that way. You have to operate with a level of trust because when you open your mind for such perception, you can’t be a critic. You can’t self-judge. You have to open and trust and just communicate the information. So I’m wrong all the time. You can be wrong. Some of the best people are wrong.
TS: Doesn’t that make you lose your confidence?
JR: You know, I sometimes say to people, you’re only as good as your last reading. So that keeps you on your toes. It can erode your confidence to some degree. You’re right. But it also keeps you honest because one of the things that I’ve noticed—and other colleagues of mine have noticed as well, I was certain—[with] people who do this work, is there’s a sense of omnipotence that can develop. At the end of the day, being psychic is not what’s most important in life. It’s not why we’re here. It’s not the greater purpose of mankind.
So by remaining humble, sort of grounded, and accepting that yes, we can make mistakes—we don’t keep ourselves from spiritually evolving, you know? But stepping back for just a second to address your question more directly, there is a gray area with information. Sometimes there’s a lapse of time before something can be validated. Sometimes you won’t get that validation, because someone might not come back to you and take the time to communicate that to you. There’s plenty of times where a client will sit and say, “oh he’s crazy,” or something like and then I find out, I meet them three years later and they say, “Oh my God, you know a year after the reading, remember you said this?” And I’ll say, “No.” And they’ll say “You told me this and do you believe that this, this, and this came true?”
Why didn’t you call me? That would have been nice to know! Well, actually I really don’t care [either way], but it illustrates the point that we don’t always know and you have to operate on the assumption that it’s true. I think that most importantly requiring a certain level of validation is a way to keep yourself honest and to know that what you’re doing is legitimate.
TS: OK, but now you’re the “Rational Psychic,” so I’m going to ask you all kinds of questions that I might not just ask somebody who hasn’t spent a couple decades really trying to understand psychic phenomenon. Most of the people I talk to, they say, “I see these things and I report on what I see, and I don’t really understand it but it seems to help people.”
TS: But now, you’ve gone on a quest to really understand what’s going on with these things. So, just sticking for a moment with this question about what’s happening when a psychic is wrong—maybe a psychic has a 70 percent batting average or 90 percent. Do you have any idea of your own level of accuracy as a percentage?
JR: You know I had someone—I’ll avoid giving you a number because that will be a statistic out there that I’ll have to adhere to—but I had some one give me a very impressive number once, in his opinion. It was unsolicited, and I was flattered by it, but then there’s other people who say you have this number, and really the number really doesn’t matter in my opinion. Really at the end of the day.
TS: It matters to me, I have to say as the person out here. It’s one of the things I’m dying to find out is that gosh darn number!
JR: Sure. It’s the quality of service is what’s really important. So there’s an important thing to understand is that when a psychic works, every time a psychic goes into service, no matter who they are—I don’t care if you’re the most famous or the granny down the street who reads for her friends—it’s an experiment and there’s a variety of conditions that can influence that experiment.
Some of them, we know what they are. Some of them we don’t. Some of the things we do know [about are] the emotional connection, the disposition, the compatibility between the two people who are creating the experiment—so although I am the seer, if there’s something disagreeable between us, that can influence the reading. If you’re reticent or fearful, not that you’re interfering with my perception per se, but that reticence and fear can pull me back into the here and now because of a concern for you, or a concern about being wrong, or concern about taking care of you. These things all become distractions.
There’s also things that are called, sometimes they’re called detractors or attractors. I’ll give you an example. Psychic ability, by and large, works primarily around something called “need relevance.” And that is, do you need that information? Does it feel relevant so your mind is attracted to it? At the height of the Cold War, there was a psychic spy program here in the United States, one in the Soviet Union, one in Great Britain, one in China. The Soviets understood that one of the ways you could keep psychic spies from eavesdropping or remotely viewing classified meetings was to put statues, erotic statues or pornography around the meeting area, because most of the readers were men. And their consciousness would be attracted to the nude figures. And so that was one of the only things …
TS: If I ever have a secret meeting …
JR: There you go.
TS: It’s going to be covered with…
JR: Pornography! [Laughs] But because their mind was attracted to these images or emotionally there was a compulsion to see what this was, and so because other than that, there’s no real way to shield the activity of consciousness. There are stories about—I have a colleague who actually worked on one of these programs—and the NSA spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in looking for a mole after a remote viewer had almost verbatim read a classified document in a sealed safe. So it’s pretty interesting.
So as a psychic, if you’re working with a client and let’s say that you had a bad morning or bad day or there’s something going on with you, that acts as an attractor and can actually pull your focus away from that reservoir of information that would normally be accessed in service of your client. So you have your emotional disposition, your mentally clarity, any kind of environmental distractions—there’s just any number of things. And then there’s how you interpret the information.
JR: You know? Few people understand because we use so many spiritual metaphors to explain psychic ability, but the reality is whether you want to spiritually conceptualize it or not, before we get to that spiritual source, we’re accessing that through our own subconscious. So, once you enter in and you go into that depth of your own mind, anything in there that is your own unhealed issue, or trauma, or things that you’re secretly attracted to or desire, all those things can come to bear. They also can be projected outward, which also can be confusing, but that deals more with paranormal perception.
Once you access the subconscious or arguably, the “super unconscious” where everything exists as information, there is some part of your mind that has to grab a hold or receive it, and then process it, and then communicate that to your conscious awareness so then you can speak it to your client. So some people might, arguably, conceptualize this as a spirit guide. This is what communicates to me. This is what protects me. This is the gatekeeper that guards my personalized, my individual consciousness from all that is.
So when that information enters, your mind then quickly evaluates it and says, is this relevant to me or not? Now, the interesting thing about psychics, is I think one of the things that makes us, predisposes us to be able to communicate information about [other] people is that there’s either a conditioning or some deeply held concern or belief that what matters to you, matters to me. And there’s a whole conditioning process that goes into that.
So that allows you to perceive information that’s relevant to other people. However, because there’s no context, that information will not make sense to me. So my primary process won’t always understand what that information is, and if it’s too traumatic, based on my history, my individuality, it could alter that information to make it more palatable. So when I either communicate that to you, it will come out as a symbol, or something that’s interpreted incorrectly, or it might not make it into my awareness at all, because the mechanisms of my mind will hinder it to protect me.
The interesting thing is that when you’re also, maybe tapping in, or telepathically connecting to information that is coming and going in your subconscious, conceivably, the same mechanism in me that distorts information to make it palatable or not to my mind, is also operating in you. So sometimes, speculating, I could be creating a symbol from a symbol.
JR: And the information could get lost. But when there’s a clear channel, and there’s a harmonious, compatible relationship and all the stars are aligned, sometimes magical things can happen.
TS: Yes, I mean listening to you talk about the complexity of the way the human processing system works, it seems miraculous that any psychic could be as accurate as some seem to be.
JR: You know, the process is far more complex, I think, than people normally understand. And also it’s my way too, that perhaps I’m making it more complex than it need be, but I’ve always been that person. You know, it didn’t make sense to me when I was younger, when I was looking to explain my experiences and what I was going through. When I looked for answers, I was hearing paranormal metaphors to explain my paranormal questions. That, to me, just didn’t make sense. I wanted nuts and bolts.
TS: Yes, which brings us, really, to the core of the conversation that I want to have with you, which is, how do you understand your psychic abilities? How do you understand what’s going on rationally, from a perspective of neuroscience, from the perspective of extreme human capacities that are maybe outside of what we normally understand humans are capable of?
JR: Well, the term “rational” is interesting because it lends itself to rationalizing or being logical and grounded.
TS: I meant the latter.
JR: Yes, yes, I know, but it’s interesting when I think about it, because there’s an aspect of rational that actually distorts what we do. Meaning sometimes, as a psychic, I’m sitting with you and I’m picking up information that seems strange to me. So I want to make it rational. I want to make it make sense. So I add information or twist it or turn it so it fits what I think is rational, but it’s only irrational because I don’t have the context. The appropriate context for that information is in your mind. So, if I twist it and give it to you, then it becomes wrong.
A quick example is as I was mentioning earlier, I was doing a reading for someone and she was in her fifties and I was seeing her as a little girl, and her brother, and I identified his career and I knew I was in the right place. I saw her running and laughing, like squealing, like only little girls can. They were having a ball. I saw her brother chasing her with a plastic alligator. And he was making it bite her hair. And when I communicated that to her, she started cackling. She was laughing so hard she was crying. And she said, “Oh, but that’s wrong.”
And I went, “What?” And she said, “No it was a real alligator.” So I said “Oh. Well, that’s interesting.” I was right, but I was wrong at the same time. And then I realized, when I’m under stress—whether it’s financial or emotional or what have you—I often dream of alligators and they’ll eat me. Or [I’m] swimming in waters where there’s dangerous alligators. So my mind perceived the alligator and turned it into something that would be threatening to me. So I know I didn’t answer your question, but it kind of back-handedly answers your other question. But [as for] how we make things rational ...
TS: Well, how you understand at this point in your life, your psychic abilities.
JR: Yes. I understand it as something—I make a point in The Rational Psychic to say that all human beings are extrasensory but not all human beings are psychic, and I make the distinction. Often times those terms are used interchangeably, and arguably they can be, but just to kind of differentiate. The way I understand a psychic ability in a rational way is to say that all of us have an aspect of our brain that scans the environment outside the bounds of linear time, and that’s our amygdala. The amygdala defines emotions, our emotional experiences emotionally, help catalog our memory according to emotion.
TS: This is a small part of the brain.
JR: Yes, in the mid-brain, and what it also does is when we were [more] primitive beings, it helped with our flight-or-fight response. It helped to sense and move. Ever tried to grab a snake and it seems to turn [snaps] and look at us before we could have chance? Some aspect of it, arguably, knows there’s a threat looming before it’s even conscious, so it moves.
We have that capability. And if you’ve ever turned your head or blinked because something was about to hit your eye, even before you were conscious of something hitting your eye—that’s an aspect of our “lizard self,” as it were. So what I look at is potentially, as the human brain matured and we became thinking creatures rather than feeling and reacting creatures, we began to deny that feeling aspect of ourselves and rely on decision-making.
But all the while, the perceptive capability of the less-evolved brain is still functioning. What I suggest is that psychic ability is an adaptation of the flight-or-fight response. Meaning we have this part of our brain that is always scanning for pain and pleasure outside the illusion of reality that is created by our brain. The brain orients our awareness in time and space, but yet this more primitive aspect of our brain can step outside of that. And for a person who has been conditioned a certain way, they can perceive information that way and also interpret it in a meaningful way.
I see that as a very rational kind of explanation for how it is that we can possibly do what we do. The other thing I looked at is, I talked about somatic responses in therapy. I forget who maybe the originator of this idea was, but Freud became well known for introducing this idea. He noticed in a therapeutic setting that he would begin to feel in his own body the anxieties or the tensions or the wounds that his client was holding. He would use these as tools to then address it in his client.
I think a proper psychic relationship with a client isn’t dissimilar to a therapeutic relationship. There’s an assumed level of expertise and a responsibility on behalf of the seer. And there’s an emotional vulnerability in all these things. So in that same situation, I thought, “Have I ever noticed a somatic response in myself?” And the argument is “Yes, yes I have.”
The difference between someone like myself and maybe a trained clinician, is that they’re using that right away as a way of tuning into someone else to adjust their focus from a good dialogue about some fight or conflict, to “Oh I feel this tension. Tell me about that.” And in that, there could have been a stored memory, a visceral memory in the body, or clue to the anxiety or something. With a psychic, these somatic experiences actually can be interpreted.
Not long ago I had a client on the East coast of the United States, and she was working with me under pseudonym—I didn’t know her name. She was kind of headstrong; she had some bad experiences in the past with psychics. She just wanted to know what was up, what was up with me. Like I had to prove myself before she was going to open up and ask me what her real questions were.
So I scanned her, and I started feeling some pain in my lower back and then that translated visually. I’m seeing that her blood was black and kind of cloudy. Obviously she doesn’t have black blood but I said, “Let me say this,” and I described what I was seeing. I said, “This tells me you’re having issues with your kidneys.” She began to cry and she said, “Yes, I had my kidney removed, I had it replaced and it’s failing. Am I going to live?” That was her question.
These kinds of profound life or death questions come up, but more to your point is that how we can rationally explain some of these experiences perhaps is that we’re all human beings, and we’re all interconnected. It’s just that how is it that some of us have been conditioned to be able to have this level of sensitivity?
TS: Yes, so I mean—God. You know, I have to be honest with you Jack. I have so many questions right now, but I’m just gonna keep going here. You talked about remote viewing previously, the ability for somebody to see into a room hundreds, thousands of miles away. So in a situation like that, are you saying that somebody whose amygdala is somehow finely tuned in this way—a capacity that we all have, but some people have been trained to do it—it’s this capacity that allows them to see what’s happening in that room. How do you explain something like remote viewing?
JR: Well, I don’t know if I’m well-versed enough to explain some of the techniques, how one is trained to be a remote viewer, because I think elements of that program are still classified. I know there are people that actually give workshops and train people and there’s specific ...
TS: I’m just using that as an example.
JR: Sure, sure, sure.
TS: I’m just using that as an example, and I’m not particularly attached to it or anything.
JR: Sure. Sure. I don’t know exactly how that would be relevant because I don’t know how they are trained, but I can say that I look at that function, that biological function, because it tells me that there is something physical that we can point to and measure that shows us that our bodies are capable of more than what we normally accept as real.
There has been laboratory research done. For instance, there was—I forget the university, but to give you an example of what kind of research has been done—you take an individual and you sit them in a chair. You hook them up to a machine that measures their skin conductance, and how much you sweat affects how conductive it is— bioelectric conductance. So the sweat response is completely autonomic. You can’t control it. You can’t make yourself sweat. So by measuring that, that tells the researchers that there’s no trick here, there’s something going on, a response is triggered that the person can’t control. Right?
So they put these people in chairs with a little monitor and there’s random images and they are timed, and some of the images are benign, calm, nature scenes: kittens licking themselves, [or] trees. And then other images would be displayed that were either pornographic or violent scenes of carnage, or ugly screaming faces—things that would create an emotional response.What they found was that the sweat response—that the brain, the body reacts seconds before we even view this material. So that made the researcher scratch his head.
TS: I’m scratching my head.
JR: Yes. It’s been replicated several times at different universities, and don’t quote me, but the odds-against chance [is] in the hundreds of thousands to one that this is real, but yet it is. So what it shows is that there’s an aspect of our mind that is aware of threatening things before it enters conscious awareness. So I looked at that, and I said, “Well, that’s interesting.”
Then I began to compare some theories on how people are conditioned to be psychic. And, you know, many people like to pretend that psychics have fallen out of the sky, or slid down a rainbow, or are ordained by God to bless us all with all their wisdom. The reality is that that’s not true.
By and large, a lot of extrasensory, or excuse me, extra-sensitive people have been raised in very stressful or traumatic environments, and that long-term neglect, abuse, and stress can put the amygdala on red alert. So they’re hypersensitive. They’re always scanning, looking. And in homes where children are raised where perhaps they weren’t allowed to blossom and individuate in a healthy way and maybe the parents’ needs come first or for whatever reason, the children are taught that they need to pick up and fend for themselves because there’s no one there for them.
They become acutely sensitive and really aware of anything going on around them—the emotional changes in their mother, in their father, in their relationships, and so if they’re punished, say there’s conflict in the home, these sensitive children oftentimes become the sounding board, the whipping post, the black sheep of the family; they react. They’re like the pressure relief valve in the home. They are reacting to the stress that no one else will speak about and they get punished. Or they’re punished for things that are completely beyond their control.
This kind of conditioning first, obviously, makes the child extra-sensitive, then they are taught that things that are none of their business are theirs to be concerned about, fix or be wary [of]. So they’re instilled with this sense that what is yours is relevant to me, and relevant to my survival. So the combination of these two things—of course I’ve over-simplifying—leads to a personality that is not only extra-sensitive but can perceive information, sometimes to a person to identify as psychic. Then when they begin psychic training, they then begin to externalize their wounds, and they stop there. They are satisfied that they are psychic because it justifies how they feel and the way they see the world but what they are actually perceiving, feeling and experiencing is just their own ...
TS: Explain what you mean by that, externalize their wounds.
JR: OK. In your subconscious [are] all the things that maybe you’ve forgotten or things that were traumatic that are buried within you. When you begin psychic development, the first order of business is to go inside. Let’s use this metaphor: the closet, the wardrobe from The Chronicles of Narnia. You know, you go inside, you open that wardrobe, and there’s that dress that you haven’t worn since you were three. Hanging there is a poster that depicts how your father came home drunk and frightened you. There was the time that something else happened. There’s this memory and that thing. All these things that we consciously don’t recognize, but yet these things still have the ability to reach out and touch us through our feelings—but yet the rational mind, the logical mind, can’t see what that is.
When these feelings arise, these experiences arise, coupled with sometimes environmental influences, people need a way to explain why it is they feel the way they do. And because these sensations are coming from a source that they can’t readily identify, they lean toward or fall on a mystical metaphor. Then to give themselves a sense of control over their life when these things are arguably a little bit destabilizing—causing some uncertainty—we imagine that, “I perceive these things because I’m unique. There’s something special about me.”
I assuage these feelings and then I’m able to assume a kind of control, and then I gain some kind of prestige, and before you know it, I have this new persona that erupts. It becomes like a Frankenstein. You can become trapped in it. I think I stepped away from your original question, but going into that wardrobe again, as you begin to deal with those things, those issues from your past, these things that don’t have words, they don’t have memories, they’re just feelings, they can be projected outward.
Often times you’ll hear someone say, “I don’t like that person. Their energy is like this.” And maybe that person is disagreeable, but sometimes you dislike someone and you don’t know why. And we’ll say, “There’s gotta be something about them, I’ve got to figure out what it is about them because I know.” The harder question is, maybe I dislike this person because they’re triggering this memory deep inside me. I’m using them as a mirror and that can be a tool. That relationship, that experience, can be a tool or a means to heal something within ourselves.
So one of the things that I’m looking at with The Rational Psychic is to kind of give people an idea that sometimes what they perceive, if it’s not readily verifiable, that artifact could be used as a means to know and understand ourselves better. And then, from that, we can be better people.
TS: OK. I want to travel back just a little bit here to what I think was a really important point you were making, which is that people who have psychic “gifts” that in your observation, that many of those people had difficult childhoods and it was because they were on some kind of hyper alert.
TS: Was there something like that in your own background?
JR: You know, it’s interesting that you ask that, because how I first became—I call this “conditioning theory”—how I first became aware of this was I actually, was working on a murder case and this person who came to me said I was referred by this big-name person. I went, “Oh, that’s very flattering.” I didn’t know this person knew who I was, a very famous person. So I knew this other well-known person and I noticed his email in a kind of bulk email thing.
I said, “Oh, I’ll just send him an email and say that was awfully kind of you.” So this person engaged me and he said, “How the heck did you get my email?” And he said, “Call me.” So we had a conversation, and he’s a really friendly, great person, and one of the first things he asked me was, “Do you have an a f-ed up childhood?” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Well, I’ve noticed...” and he shared that his father was an alcoholic and he said “Every psychic I know has this crazy childhood.” I said that I hadn’t really thought about it, I certainly wasn’t very willing—I can be very guarded, and I have absolutely have had my troubles in childhood.
So we had this interesting conversation. It was short-lived and then I went back to what I was doing. And I mentioned it to a parapsychologist I did some work with, who I was writing a study with. And he said—he was actually a department chair of psychology— “Oh that’s absolutely [true], I thought you knew that.” I said, “I hadn’t really considered it.” Then we had a dialogue about it real briefly. Then I began to do a little bit more informal research, kind of checking in my friends and colleagues, and I began to notice it more and more. Suddenly, the maladaptive behaviors I was seeing in certain people whose abilities I found suspect were beginning to make sense.
Then I really did, I evaluated my own childhood and some of the issues that I experienced when I was young and I thought, one and one in this case really equals two. It really made sense to me. I think—not to flatter myself—I can write rather eloquently, I think, on this, and I think I do do a good job of it in the book, and I don’t really use many of personal experiences in the book, but I certainly own that I was able to write that because as a “black sheep child,” or as whatever phrase you want to use, I was that child. So putting myself, time traveling a little bit, comparing what I learned or talking and working with other psychics and also dialoging with psychologists [and] trained clinicians, I was able to sort of process and really use my own experiences as a frame of reference to really own this and to say, “You know what, there really is something to this.”
TS: OK, and then you said, we have all this capacity, but people who had f-ed up childhoods are more likely to have developed it. Clearly there are plenty of people—to just keep going with it—who had f-ed up childhoods who didn’t develop psychic abilities.
JK: And there’s people who are very talented who didn’t have messed up childhoods. So there is arguably an unknown variable here. And I think that, here’s the thing: the people who had messed up childhoods, sometimes they’re burdened with this overwhelming sense of self-concern. I think that could be the ingredient, you know, there’s a “woe is me,” there’s an aspect of wanting to control, which you’ll see—fear of connecting, fear of intimacy, and those things don’t lend themselves to psychic development.
With me, I was raised with two siblings who were in wheelchairs. So I was a caregiver when I was a child. Part of my “f-ed up childhood” had nothing to do with them, it was extraneous, but at the same time, I was conditioned to be a caregiver. I felt like I earned my place in my family. I wasn’t loved. I didn’t feel loved but I felt like earned it. I earned my right to have whatever...my keep as it were.
So I had that sense that I had to be acutely attuned not only to be safe but to keep safe by taking care of those in my family who couldn’t readily take care of themselves. So in looking and talking with other people who were similar to me and also developed a genuine psychic ability, I looked and I thought, what is it about them? That’s how I kind of came upon the idea of need relevance. I was first introduced to the concept of need relevance by someone who helped develop the early protocols for the remote viewing program that then went from UCLA to SRI. He introduced me to the concept of need relevance and I thought, that’s interesting …
TS: Need relevance means what the psychic perceives is what’s necessary right for this moment to help the person, the help the client.
JR: Yes. Meaning, what I’m capable of picking up on extrasensory-wise enters in my conscious awareness because there’s a need relevance. There’s an emotional need …
TS: Is that me the client’s need?
JR: That right away is my need, that’s how I can access it. The trick as a psychic is entering into a state of compassion where your needs are vital to mine. That’s how I can access information for you. That’s barring we don’t use any other kind of metaphors, like spirit guides or you know connecting, not talking about mediumship—this is just straight psychic, or it’s just a way of accessing information.
So you know, for people who may be—what I’m suggesting possibly—is that people who didn’t develop psychic ability, their sense of safety has initiated or kept them so self-concerned and so fearful that the ingredient that they didn’t get was the need to care for others.
TS: I gotcha.
JR: Like, I have a colleague who is terribly psychic, but she’s like a loose cannon. She’s so obtuse. She has no boundaries. She’s not an individual, in a very real sense. And it’s very difficult to be around her because she’s so invasive, but terribly talented. She grew up completely enmeshed with her mother. Her mother was horribly disfigured in a fire, and left unable to do certain things because her joints were fused. She was a single mom, so from the time she was old enough, she was helping her mom dress, doing her hair, make-up, all the way until the day she died.
So this enmeshed relationship has created within her this constant need, constant awareness of other people’s needs on top of the stress and everything else. So that’s where I’m going—I think that’s the ingredient.
TS: That in order to be a talented psychic, you have to have the ability to take the position of the other and really understand what their genuine needs are—that that’s one of the ingredients.
JR: I’ll detract the term ‘talented’ from your …
JR: But just the ability to perceive verifiable information. I think that’s a viable ingredient—I think that’s what I feel is important. I think that’s what’s missing for people who have just had damaged—I don’t like the word “damaged”—for people who had difficult upbringings. I think that’s the difference. Not to say that they couldn’t be very empathetic, they could be kind people, but that ability to grab a hold of information. I think that’s the missing ingredient.
TS: You mentioned “a metaphor like spirit guides,” so do you consider spirit guides to be real, existing entities that we can tap into, or simply a metaphor for some other aspect of our capacity to access higher knowings?
JR: That’s an interesting question. I wrestle with this even still. I notice with myself, obviously there is that mechanism of our mind, the primary process that acts as a gatekeeper and interprets information for us. I feel like that could be metaphor for a spirit guide.
TS: I’m not following you exactly.
JR: OK. The primary process is that bit, that function of the mind that evaluates need relevance. Think of it this way: it’s like a valve—information (if it’s water; think of plumbing and information as water or as energy), flows through these pipes, and meets primary process. Primary process says, “Oh you feel relevant to me. You get to go to the conscious awareness.” Then it says, “You’re irrelevant. You go to the subconscious. You get buried.”
So that gatekeeping mechanism and primary process also will sometimes distort information so that it’s palatable, like with my alligator story—it makes it into a toy instead of something that would maybe scare me. Arguably, a spirit guide could be a metaphor for that function of the mind. It guards that doorway between our mind and everyone else’s, between our subconscious and the super-conscious, as it were. So that could be a metaphor. That’s one way to look at it.
Now I’ve noticed many people who say “my spirit guide” or “my guide” or “my spirit” or “spirit,” I’ve noticed personally—I do have my own person—I don’t talk about it very often.
TS: You have a spirit guide. The Rational Psychic has a spirit guide.
JR: That wasn’t the purpose of this book. [Laughs]
Yes. Yes, from time to time, there is an aspect that I engage with that I have a name for, that I feel like assists me.
TS: Look, it’s OK with me!
JR: I know.
TS: I’m just trying get clear on it. So
TS: When you say an aspect, is this an entity outside of Jack Rourke, or is this some further sensitivity that you’re just naming, whatever you name it because you want to have a conversation with yourself?
TS: The latter.
JR: No, all of what you said is true. Or not true? Here’s the thing.
TS: That’s what I think!
JR: Yes! All of it is true or not true.
TS: That’s what I think.
JR: Yes. Here’s the thing: when we create a spirit guide as an individual separate from us, what we’re doing is we’re sourcing information. We’re creating a subject/object relationship with something, someone, that mirrors conventional dialogue, which helps us process information. Because, think how difficult it is to take in information that’s part of us. There’s always the observer and the observed. So it could be far more confusing to discern this information if we don’t imagine that it’s something separate from us first. Do you follow me?
TS: Well, OK. The idea that this could—that it could be true, it could be not true, it could be both. What I hear you saying is that it’s a convenient way for us as humans to process information, to name this function.
TS: But how is it possible that this is actually an entity outside of ourselves?
JR: Well, I’ll speculate on that, but I want to say this first. Another reason that it is helpful to either imagine or identify, or arguably work with—something that we perceive as something separate from us—is it inhibits the inner skeptic. Meaning if I just say, I just accept this information is coming from outside of me, I don’t take ownership of it. I just say it to you.
JR: That free flow is sometimes exactly what you need in order to get to what can be verified. So it inhibits that skeptical part, the left-brain aspect of us. Now, arguably, if we want to pull focus out really wide, once you—you know, our brain is the instrument that localizes our awareness, and the capacity to discern information requires us to shift our focus, to shift our awareness outside of those confines made by our brain. So outside that self-created illusion of individuality, there is no separateness. So even if there is an intelligence separate from us as we are individuals, ultimately is it really separate from us at all? So by saying that maybe it’s just a part of your mind, that might sound cynical or rational, but maybe it only seems that way because we want to grab on to something else. It gets a little hairy.
TS: OK, how do you work with your spirit guide, since you confessed, I somehow pulled it out of you.
JR: You pulled it out of me. The purpose of this book was not to use any spiritual metaphors so that people could …
TS: I understand that, but we’re just having a conversation, so …
JR: That happens to be recorded and...
TS: Just so happens.
TS: Yes, a conversation in front of others, but still.
JR: It’s interesting. I will do something like this. Before I begin, I’ll center myself and kind of still my mind and still myself, and it’s a feeling-based process. I can’t even describe what it is, but it’s just a shift of awareness. When that shift happens, I can feel it, and I know that I’m open for business. Right before that happens, I’ll just say, “Hey, (and I address this person by name), the person, and it’s a name that I felt that was given to me and it’s a kind of an ironic one.
TS: You can tell me if you want to.
JR: No, I want to keep that private.
TS: OK, that’s fine.
JR: I’ll just say, “Please be present. I ask you to facilitate this communication between my client and their loved ones, blah, blah, blah, highest good, yadda yadda.” It’s funny, you know—when I work that way, my work generally flows better. It can be more precise—but then, having said that, there are times without consciously engaging that mechanism or that individual, there’s still some astonishing things that happen. But I find that I work harder when I don’t engage that—that, conceivably, individual. So maybe there is someone that we can’t see that whispers in our ears from time to time.
I don’t know. That’s something that can’t be proven, but what I can say is that we often have experiences that can’t be proven. The experience is real. What we feel is often very real. And what I endeavored to do with The Rational Psychic was to communicate to people that yes, our feelings are real, our experiences are real, but there are also ways that we can talk about these things that we needn’t be afraid, or we needn’t feel embarrassed, or we needn’t deny them. By working with these things in a rational, concrete way, we can learn to understand ourselves in a much more interesting way.
Obviously through the book, we understand a lot of different paranormal things that previously folks maybe not have been able to explain or understand, but it really is about dealing with yourself. It’s the instrument that we’re really getting. How does it work? And why does it do what it does? How can I let go of certain things and embrace other aspects of myself?
TS: Just a couple more questions, Jack.
TS: I know that the rational part of you loves when things are verified.
TS: Third-party verification. So do you have any ideas, dreams of how science could actually do a better job verifying psychic abilities? What kinds of tests or experiments you’d like to see?
JR: Wow, that’s really interesting. I believe that in the future, and I’m talking maybe 100-200 or more years, if we live that long, I feel like there will be—as technology begins to mirror human biology more and more and more, and intelligence is transferred to machines, I think that we’re going to come to understand the physical body as just an apparatus, because I feel like down the road we’re going to be able to duplicate many of the things that we now think that we could never do.
Not to sounds blasphemous, but I think when we get to that point, more people are going to be willing to concede that there has to be more. There has to be more. And I don’t know like for, say that we can create some machine that can measure ghosts, or that can interpret information like consciousness, or help us perceive information in the environment—I mean conceivably, look, 100 years ago, if someone said there’s things that exist in the infrared, or the ultraviolet spectrum, you would say, “No way, you’re crazy.” But now we know.
If we could see as a spider does, we would know that the world is far different than how we see it. You’re probably aware of this, but spider silk refracts sunlight and it refracts ultraviolet light. And so when insects see in the ultraviolet, when they see that refracted light given off by a spider web, they believe that they’re actually moving into an open space because that’s how they navigate. They navigate through shadows and light and dark and ultraviolet light by monitoring the light.
So they see this bright spot and they think they’re going to fly into an open space, and that’s how they get trapped. In the same way, insects and bees, because they can see in the ultraviolet, where we might look at a flower and see that it only has two colors, they see four. It’s beautiful because the way these colors are arranged, actually directs them into the flower like a landing strip.
So arguably, because of the limitation on our own senses, there’s far more going on. Maybe there are people standing right here that we can’t see. Perhaps one day, just like how we’ve developed technologies that can see into the infrared, or the ultraviolet, we’ll have something developed that can see into a spectrum of light that we don’t even know exists yet. Maybe that’s possible. I mean, we can only speculate.
TS: OK. And just one final question, Jack. You talked about how in your own emergence of psychic abilities, that a difficult childhood was part of it. What would you recommend for somebody who so far hasn’t had much access to psychic perception but is interested in having that open in them? What would you recommend?
JR: Wow. My first question would be why? What do you want to know?
TS: I want more information so I have more power, more capacities to accomplish stuff.
JR: Yes, that’s the wrong answer.
TS: I’m offering that because I presume that is probably the most likely response to that.
JR: It is. People think that it’s going to offer then some kind of unique skill or ability.
TS: To get a leg up on the situation.
JR: Yes exactly, and the truth of the matter is that with development comes responsibility. There’s a level of emotional distress that can come along with it, because as you begin to challenge what your brain creates for you as a reality, you have to completely re-evaluate everything you think you know: all your belief systems, all the certainties. And with that—you know, our reality is created by how we define things emotionally, and as we change, and as our perception changes, our feelings change, emotionally how we connect with things is also altered, and you can become really de-stabilized. That’s something that people don’t talk about and don’t understand. But in laboratories, in controlled settings, where people are instituting development, it’s seen time and time again that people become unraveled. So it’s a very precarious thing that people are asking for.
TS: What is the right answer to the question then?
JR: Service. Service. Because when people say, “Oh you have an amazing gift, you’re so fortunate to have that gift,” that always kind of rubs me the wrong way inside. And sometimes I’ll smile and say “Thank you,” but if I’m in some place where I feel comfortable revealing more of myself, I’ll say, “You know, it’s really not a gift. It’s only a gift when you give it away to someone else.” And so, service. The truth is, is that it takes a tremendous amount of compassion to be able to access that need relevance for someone else.
But compassion can be developed without being psychic. Sometimes that compassion leads to sort of a more empathetic or even extrasensory ability. It doesn’t make you a better person, it doesn’t make you more powerful, it doesn’t make you smarter, it doesn’t make you sharper, funnier, wittier.
In Eastern tradition, where many of [us] get our information about psychic ability and metaphysics, it was always advised to people on the path of enlightenment to ignore the paranormal voices, to ignore the visions and things, because they are things that are attracted to the ego. They’re shiny objects that we want to grasp and hold on to, and then our point of focus becomes about, “What can I do? Who am I? Look at this, look what can I see.” And we stop developing as human beings.
So really, if someone who maybe didn’t have this come naturally and they found their way to it to develop it in order to better understand themselves, or to serve others, there really isn’tit’s really not necessary.
TS:Well, I love that idea that service, of being able to be of benefit to others as a primary motivation of whatever one’s next step is.
JR: Sure, sure.
TS: Beautiful. I’ve been talking with Jack Rourke, he’s the author of a new book from Sounds True, The Rational Psychic: A Skeptic’s Guide to Extraordinary Perception. Thank you. Thanks for bringing your heart, and your rational mind and your huge openness and heart of service to what you’re doing. Thank you.
JR: Thank you.
TS: SoundsTrue.com. Many voices. One journey. Thanks for being with us.