Variable in Appearance

...But in Sofia something else

By Dessislava Dimova
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Excerpts from Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain, Sheila Ostrander, Lynn Schroeder, Psychic,. New York: Bantam Books 1971 (1981).  pp. 279-285.
 
… But in Sofia something else was happening in the mid- sixties. The farsighted Bulgarian government had decided that clairvoyance and precognition were ripe and vital fields of scientific inquiry. The government founded the Institute of Suggestology and Parapsychology, which, among other accomplishments, gave shelter to Vanga and shielded her from the more exorbitant demands made on her energies. She became, in 1966, a state-employed psychic. Today, in addition to her small government salary, she's been given two secretaries and a panel to interview applicants. In addition, to study Vanga scientifically there is a government-supported, fully equipped and staffed parapsychology lab in Petrich, a branch of the large Sofia Institute.
“How did this come about?” we asked Dr. Lozanov when we met him at the Institute of Suggestology and Parapsychology in Sofia.

Forty-three-year-old Lozanov, with a halo of graying, curly hair, sharply arched eyebrows, and warm dark eyes edged with smile lines, radiates a good-humored, deep concern for people. He is a compact, lithe man of medium height. Although he is a master hypnotist, he does not have the compelling glance of the stereotypical hypnotist. His eyes, instead of piercing into you, draw you toward him. Georgi Lozanov laughs often and long - an ongoing laughter that seems to have escaped from the joke at hand into some realm of free-floating delight. Perhaps Lozanov has found some of the delight gurus are reputed to enjoy during his twenty-five-year study of the higher philosophical forms of Yoga.
Lozanov has combined stringent self-development through Yoga with rigorous scientific training—an extraordinary combination which has given him deep insight and rapport with the phenomenal minds of psychics.

Dr. Lozanov smiled at our question about Bulgarian interest in the paranormal. "You must remember this IS a very ancient country," he said. "It is the land of Orpheus.”

Orpheus, known to us as the god of music and poetry, is reputed to have actually lived in the land that is now Bulgaria. According to legend, Orpheus was a great prophet, teacher, and musician and when he sang and played the lyre, the birds flew to him, the fish left water and sprang to him, the wind and the sea became still, rivers flowed upward toward him, the trees and the very stones followed after Orpheus. And when he was set upon, his body torn to bits and scattered to the four winds, the severed head of Orpheus, borne on a river, sang on.

We’ve had a long tradition of occult culture in Bulgaria, “Lozanov continued. "Many people here have psychic experiences - perhaps it's the atmosphere," he smiled, "but it’s not so unusual. This accounts in part for the openness, the willingness to look into parapsychology.
"How did the government become interested in psi?" we asked.

"I did work on precognition for twenty years," Lozanov said. "I researched about sixty-five paragnosts [psychics] in Bulgaria. I knew there would be a time in Bulgaria when scientists could go into this study.

"I worked with Vanga Dimitrova for about ten years. There were many difficulties and those were tough years. Basically, I had to prove she was really clairvoyant. About three years ago there was a commission on Vanga. I welcome commissions," he smiled.

Well-aware that acres of statistics can be argued away or ignored, test results and testimonials denied, logical arguments defeated, Lozanov decided to let the commission members judge for themselves and make up their own minds through firsthand experience and evidence. "I took the entire commission, one by one, to Vanga," said Lozanov.
“We were in luck that day. Vanga was in top form. She proved very clairvoyant.” Afterwards some commission members came to Lozanov and said, "We must experiment. We must look into this.”
“Our support is from the highest levels of government,” said Lozanov, “the highest. The government has given us excellent conditions for our work. We never have to worry about money here. We can go ahead on any project, in any area of the paranormal. Vanga is the first clairvoyant in the world to be put on the state payroll and our government has created good conditions for researching precognition.” Lozanov said this with considerable pride – pride in Bulgaria and her remarkable people to whom Lozanov is extraordinary dedicated.

The Bulgarians are to be congratulated for having the wisdom and courage to embark on so important and valuable a field of study as this probe into the veiled realms of human existence. Many of the lives of Bulgaria's eight million citizens have been touched by the prophecies of Vanga, whether they know her or not, and it is urgent to understand more of this phenomenon. Perhaps if the Parapsychology Institute's study of prophecy leads to a break-through, Bulgaria will one day be credited with bringing one of the greatest understandings of all time to the world.
"It would be very daring to say definitely, ‘she is precognitive’, “ Lozanov cautioned. "We must avoid early statements. The feeling here is, if precognition exists in a person, then we're not afraid of what that may imply philosophically. If precognition exists, well find explanations. In my personal opinion, not as director of the Institute, Vanga is a paragnost; she can predict the future, but not 100 percent."

In general, Communist scientists feel that paranormal happenings probably occur according to specific laws, which can be discovered and worked out. The Communist definition of "materialism" includes the laws of scientific occurrences, and hence, if psychic events follow laws of behaviour, they can be considered as "material."

Besides case histories, how else were they studying precognition?

Lozanov’s reply was not surprising. It conformed to the major thrust of research into the paranormal throughout the Communist world: an effort to understand the basic energy behind the paranormal   and the relation of this energy to the human body.
He continued, "It’s not possible to study all these paranormal aspects of humans without bringing in many areas of science. That's why I believe a group of many different specialists is the best method of ESP research," said Lozanov. "Our Institute has a staff of thirty scientists, all from different specialties, who work together to study Vanga and psi in general.

“The pure scientist who works on ESP often doesn't understand the psychotherapeutic aspects. It's possible some of the more complex aspects of the human psyche and the laws of suggestion might escape his notice. Everything about a human being is not quite so simple as some of these pure scientists would like it to be. On the other hand, the psychologist or psychotherapist alone may not be able a to elucidate technical problems in physics or electrophysiology. When all work together, as we do here in the Institute, we can prevent some mistakes and avoid taking many wrong turns. Of course, if a researcher ever stopped making mistakes completely, there'd be no development at all!" He interrupted his vivid, brisk staccato explanation, with a laugh.

The Bulgarians believe firmly in a unified, interdisciplinary approach to psi. After all, the human being is not a machine chopped up into separate, insulated parts.
Perhaps because of its millennia of civilization, perhaps because of the long centuries of oppression, perhaps because of the harmonious atmosphere of the land, Bulgaria’s small population seems to have more psychics per capita than most other places. It has telepathists, clairvoyants, prophets, healers; psychic power is virtually a national resource.

“Our occult culture goes back to ancient times,” Lozanov reiterated.  “From the Renaissance, we’ve had mystic religious societies. The most powerful of these was similar to the Albigensians in France who were stamped out by the Inquisition. But here they survived and flourished. Understanding and acceptance of the psychic element in life has filtered through our culture. Many people in our country do have psychic experiences on many different levels. We have a good ‘climate for it. You’ve no doubt felt this on the Black Sea coast here. There is a very spiritual ambience, a quality of harmoniousness there.
 
    

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Dessislava Dimova is a wirter and curator based in Brussels. Recently curated projects include
Objects moving minds in space (conversations series), viennafair, 2015, Politics without Poetics (artist talks), NICC, Brussels, 2014-2015, Ryan McGuinley, MUSIZ, Sofia, 2014, The Dark Side of the Night, Anniversary program of the Night of the Museums, Plovdiv, 2014.

Dimova's novel The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was published in Bulgarian in 2009 (Razvitie, Sofia). She is the author of The Match of the Last Century (co-written with Pierre Bismuth), a radio play, The Transmitter Show (Performa: New York, 2013) and The Silence of the Cosmos (Night of the Museums: Plovdiv, 2014).

Dimova is a founding member of the Art Affairs and Documents Foundation, Sofia and founding editor of blistermagazine.com