The Law of Psychic Phenomena contains some remarkable stories about individuals who have demonstrated unusual mental abilities. Some additional sources of stories about and information on individuals who have demonstrated amazing powers of the mind are provided in this post.
Extraordinary People by Darold A. Treffert, M.D., a psychiatrist with institutional experience who has specialized in the area of Savant Syndrome, details some of the stories of remarkable genius that often occurs. The Savant Syndrome, considered an extremely rare condition, occurs often enough to have been studied by medical practitioners and researchers.
The popular movie Rain man starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise illustrates some of the capabilities and problems associated with the Savant Syndrome. Kim Peek, who had FG syndrome and not autism, was the inspiration for the movie Rain Man and the subject of many investigations. He was the subject of 60 Minutes, The Learning Channel, CNN, and many other news services.
There is a best-selling, autobiographical book called Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet that chronicles the life of an autistic with the Savant Syndrome. Daniel is unique in his ability to communicate to others what it was like to grow up as an autistic and how he experiences life. It is a fascinating look inside the mind of an autistic and savant.
There are certain definite mental feats that manifest themselves in someone with Savant Syndrome. The savant usually exhibits striking flashes of genius in a specific area and is able to perform mental feats that dazzle even the highly educated. The areas where such feats are found are the following: music, calculating ability, calendar dates, and memory. Daniel Tammet possessed the last three to varying degrees.
The world is well aware of musical prodigies like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, whose genius began to manifest at an early age and was composing by age 5, but how many know about “Blind Tom” Wiggins. “Blind Tom” was a black slave who as a boy traveled on a piano concert tour that included the White House, and astounded the listeners with his performances. He is reported to have had a musical repertoire of several thousand pieces, but a limited vocabulary made it difficult for him to communicate with others. Blind Tom obviously could not read music and had to play a piece from memory. He was often able to hear a composition once and play it back note for note without error. He not only displayed a musical ability that placed him among the top rank of his day; he demonstrated an incredible memory in the process as well.
There is the remarkable story of Leslie Lemke recounted in Extraordinary People. Born prematurely in 1952 and soon rendered sightless by surgical removable of his eyes due to childhood glaucoma, he overcame all odds with the help of a loving foster mother, May Lemke. Like Blind Tom, Leslie was soon to demonstrate a remarkable musical ability by playing a piece on the piano from memory. He could transpose songs sung in a foreign language to the piano, and he could sing them back in the native language as he heard them. Leslie appeared on That’s Incredible!, the Donahue television show, and was the subject of the television movie The Woman Who Willed a Miracle.
Daniel Tammet describes some remarkable calculating abilities of his own, but what is unusual is the way he sees numbers. To him, numbers appear as colors, and he used this sense to accomplish one of his feats, which was the memorization and recitation of 22,000 digits of pi to set a UK record. Instead of seeing a long string of numbers as most of us would in remembering a sequence, he saw a line of changing colors that allowed him to recognize the numbers.
His descriptions of how he perceives might be a form of synesthesia where sounds take on color and color induces some other sense. It is a neurological condition where one sense perception can activate another. The condition has also been induced through drug use and is reported in deep meditative or trance states. In Daniel’s case, in his remembering, he is seeing numbers, but his seeing is different from others. Instead of distinct shapes or glyphs, he is seeing colors.
The memory access that many of the savants have is truly extraordinary. Whether it is music, language, dates, names of cities, contents of books or something else, they are often able to demonstrate perfect recall of an incredible amount of data. In Born on a Blue Day, Daniel Tammet describes Kim Peek’s ability to recall all the content of thousands of books. Most of us can barely remember what we read in the paper yesterday.
Not all people with the amazing abilities described are autistic savants. Some geniuses like Mozart in music and John von Neumann in mathematics possessed the abilities described. Von Neumann exhibited the prodigious memory and lightening calculating abilities of the savants, but he also had remarkable logical mind that elevated him to pre-eminence among mathematicians during the last century. In addition to his groundbreaking contributions in several areas of mathematics and physics, he is considered the father of the modern computer. Von Neumann was said to have a nearly perfect memory, could converse rapidly any one of five languages and could multiply large numbers of a half dozen or more digits in his head. By his contemporaries, he was considered to be in a class by himself.
Now if you are feeling a bit inadequate at this point, remember that these are examples of a few unique individuals who possess abilities that are still considered quite rare. The main point here is that the conscious mind in each of these examples exhibits capabilities that most of us do not believe we possess. However, under hypnosis similar feats, especially about memory and the power of logical deduction, have been demonstrated by ordinary people. So perhaps these individuals have these abilities because for some genetic or physiological reason they have the ability to access the subconscious more easily than the rest of us. For them, data or information they need that was previously encountered is just there; information relating to books previously read or music heard long ago is instantly accessible. For others, it may be necessary to resort to hypnosis to recover data that slipped into the subconscious, forgotten. Hypnosis has been used for this purpose during criminal investigations.
Now I am not going to tell you that meditation and working with dreams will give you a perfect memory or tell you that you will suddenly become a calculating wizard, but I believe you can become more proficient at accessing information stored in your subconscious mind. And through dreams, you will begin to see the results of the tremendous powers of logical deduction and problem solving possessed by the subconscious mind. In another post, I will cite some of the many examples of major discoveries or breakthroughs due to dreams.
If you are not familiar with the story of Edgar Cayce, I suggest you read There Is a River by Thomas Sugrue. This remarkable story illustrates the tremendous potential of the subconscious mind that was tapped by Edgar Cayce through a self-induced trance. While in trance, he said that others could do what he did through their dreams, if they were willing to pay the price. Many consider him the greatest psychic of the 20th century—and he was one of the best documented. Yet, he said we all possessed that latent ability, which can be accessed through our dreams.