A Berkeleian Model of Psi

Peter B. Lloyd

(Poster paper presented at the international conference, Toward a Science of Consciousness, 10th-15th April 2000.)

1. Berkeleian model

Radical empiricism

Conscious experience is constitutive of existence. This entails the metaphysical theory known variously as 'mental monism' and 'subjective idealism'. It is summed up by Berkeley's motto that esse is either percipere or percipi: to be is to perceive or be perceived.


Terms that denote mental things are referential by virtue of private ostensive definition. Terms that denote physical things are analytically defined and have no referential content. Ultimately, the concept of a physical substance that exists independently of any consciousness is incoherent. Ultimately, the physical universe cannot be said to exist; only the conscious mental world is real. (Berkeley's semantic argument.)


The real universe consists of a set experientiae. A 'mind' is a subset of that universal set, closed under operations of access. There are two general categories of minds: Each mind constructs around itself a notional three-dimensional space containing physical objects. Because conscious experiences of the finite minds are co-ordinated by the metamind, the notional physical worlds of all the finite minds are consistent.


The metamind is a like a virtual-reality computer. It contains a mental model of an imagined physical world. It renders that model in the finite minds, by generating experientiae in them, in the form of conscious imagery of 'external' perceptions.
Postulate of economy: the metamind computes no more than is necessary for creating the mental experiences of the finite minds.
Question: Does the metamind model every elementary particle of the physical world?
Answer: No. Most of the fine detail of the physical world has never been observed by any conscious being, nor will it ever be so observed. Also, most of the universe is too far away to be observed. By the postulate of economy, those unobserved parts are not modelled in the metamind. Their notional physical facts are undefined.
Corollary: unobserved events of the past are 'open', in the same sense that the future is 'open'.

A particular instance of this principle is well known in quantum physics: the trajectory of an unobserved particle (such as a photon passing through two slits) is indeterminate: there is no fact of the matter.

Metamental architecture

Hypothesis: the internal architecture of the metamind is object-oriented, like a virtual-reality computer.

The objects that you engage with in the manifest world are modelled by 'modules' in the metamind. The desk, the chair, the poster, whatever. Each module is a like a rudimentary mind: a slice of the metamind's consciousness, encapsulated by informatic rules.

A module has some 'memory' of its past. And it has 'methods'. When it receives a message of a certain kind, it responds by executing the appropriate method.

The metamind is like an army of mental automata. In some forms of Judaeo-Christian mysticism, the metamind was apprehended as 'God', and the modules as 'angels' - terms that are now laden with many extraneous connotations.


What happens when you look at this poster?

Standard physical model: Light is reflected off its surface and sent in all directions. When you point your eyes in this direction, some of the light enters your eyes. That triggers off neural activity in the visual cortex of your brain, which somehow induces conscious visual experiences. The flow of causation, and hence of information, is in one direction only. The poster is unaffected by your looking at it.

Berkeleian model: There is no poster. Instead there is a module in the metamind that models a notional poster. By the postulate of economy, it does nothing unless somebody is perceiving the poster. When you look at the poster, your mind gives a message to the poster module: "What do you look like?" The poster module replies by rendering a visual image of the poster in your conscious mind.

Question: How does the visual image get back to your mind? Answer: Your initial message must contain a return link, or mental vector. Corollary: Whenever you perceive something 'externally', that thing knows you are perceiving it, and it has a vector back to your mind.

Analogy: It is like e-mail. If you send an e-mail to someone, your message contains a 'reply-to' address. Without a reply-to address, you couldn't get a reply. Likewise, when you perceive something in the Berkeleian world, there is a return vector. Without the return vector, how could the relevant module of the metamind send you any imagery?

2 Psi phenomena


Telecognition: perceiving remote or hidden objects without any physical channel. (Traditionally referred to as 'clairvoyance'; designated 'remote viewing' by SRI; known as 'anomalous cognition' elsewhere.)

Anecdotal evidence has accumulated for centuries. Scientific evidence has been gathered throughout the past hundred years. For quarter of a century, the US Government funded a secret research project to establish the existence of telecognition and harness it for intelligence purposes.

Professor Jessica Utts was commissioned to review the project:

Using the standards applied to any other area of science, it is concluded that psychic functioning has been well established. The statistical results of the studies examined are far beyond what is expected by chance. Arguments that these results could be due to methodological flaws in the experiments are soundly refuted. Effects of similar magnitude to those found in government-sponsored research at SRI and SAIC have been replicated at a number of laboratories across the world. Such consistency cannot be readily explained by claims of flaws or fraud.
(An Assessment of the Evidence for Psychic Functioning, 1995.)
The task now is to establish theoretical models for telecognition.

Telepathy & telekinesis

Telepathy is the direct exchange of information or imagery between minds. Telekinesis is the direct movement of physical objects by the mind. Similarly strong evidence exists for them.

Psi is non-physical

'Psi' is the generic term for a family of apparently related phenomena, including telecognition, telepathy, and telekinesis. It is massively implausible that psi phenomena are novel kinds of physical processes.

3 Berkeleian model of psi


In the Berkeleian model of psi, there is no distance. There is no space. All finite minds, and the metamind, may be thought of as inter-penetrating - although even that metaphor imports an inappropriate connotation of spatiality. The Berkeleian universe is not 'non-local': it is 'non-spatial'. That psi phenomena are unimpeded by physical distance or barriers is therefore unproblematic.

By the fundamental axiom of radical empiricism, outside of conscious experience there is no existence. Therefore, there cannot be any transmission of signals between minds. Therefore, in the Berkeleian model of perception, messages are exchanged by direct overlap of the mind and metamental module. This overlap is driven by the semantic content of intention: it is not restricted by the notional distance of the associated physical target.

The mechanism by which you perceive nearby objects - precisely the same mechanism can be employed to perceive remote or hidden objects. You do not see with your eyes: you see by communion with the object you are looking at; and that communion is independent of how far away it is.

This is why, in telecognition, the mind perceives just as if it were in proximity to the target. For example, visual images can be seen even though there is no lens to form an optical image at the remote site.

Intentional navigation

In order for a metamental object to deliver its imagery, it uses the return vector of the request message. The notional physical distance from the object is irrelevant. Hypothesis of transitive navigability:

Typical scenario in 'remote viewing'

Client B has perceived an object Y and intends this to be the remote viewing target; he shows a photograph X to the supervisor A, and asks the supervisor to have this site targetted; the supervisor instructs the remote viewer: "View the target". The viewer's mind telepathically picks up the intention in the supervisor's mind and navigates the mental vectors to reach the target Y.


Retrokinesis is the use of telekinesis to affect unobserved events that 'occurred' in the physical past.

Experiment: An electronic random number generator produces a sequence of 1s and 0s, which are recorded onto a magnetic tape. No conscious being observes the sequence. The tape is locked in a safe overnight. The next day, a telekinetic subject projects the intention to increase the number of 1s, or the number of 0s. The results show a statistically significant effect. The same magnitude of effect is found when the telekinesis is done in real-time. (Helmut Schmidt, 1987)

Model: According the postulate of economy, the metamind does not model the recording of the random digits until the recording is observed. At that time, a mind can send messages to the metamind, intending a deviation from random chance. The fact that the recording took place in the past in physical time is irrelevant. Physical time is notional: only mental time is real. The telekinesis took place in the present, as far as real, mental time is concerned.

Metaphor: In a virtual-reality game, you are in a virtual building. A door is closed and you have never been inside. You decide to go in. The game lets you take a tool: you choose a key. When you go in, you find a treasure chest, and the key fits perfectly. Yet the treasure chest is covered with years of dust. How could your choice of the key have caused the chest to have been placed there long ago? Easy: the chest's existence and the time it lay there are purely notional. The computer created its model of the contents of the room in response to your choice of the key.

Navigation models

Informatically, there are two kinds of model for how the mind navigates its way to the target in telecognition.

Soup model: The mind scans through the world in some way, perhaps like a psychic radar. Whenever it finds an object, it applies a pattern recognition to it: does it match the characteristics of the sought object?

Spaghetti model: Objects and minds are interlinked with a tangled network of mental vectors. The telecognitive mind follows the strings of mental spaghetti back to the intended target.

The Berkeleiain theory predicts a spaghetti model.

Proposed test

The Berkeleian model is a testable hypothesis. Here is an example of a test. There are others.

Take a disused warehouse in the desert. Place distinctive objects between ten randomly chosen identical doors. Paint five of the doors blue, and five red. Take a photograph of one of the five identical red doors. Ask a remote viewer to ascertain what is behind that door. By the typical success rates of remote viewing, we would expect a few per cent of reports to be correct. According to the spaghetti model, the correct door should be hit most often; by the soup model, all the five red doors should be hit equally often; by scepticism, all ten doors should seem to be 'hit' equally often.

2000, Peter B Lloyd