Retropsychokinesis (RPK) refers to the possibility of someone
in the present affecting an event that occurred in the past.
The study of possible RPK events grew out of the studies on
psychokinesis (mind over matter) conducted by J. B. Rhine at
Duke University. Rhine explored the possibility that human
subjects could affect the roll of dice or the toss of coins. Rhine’s
experiments raised a variety of methodological issues involving
assumptions about, for example, the behavior of a pair of dice
tossed numerous times under ‘‘normal’’ conditions and what
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Retropsychokinesis
might constitute paranormal alteration of those conditions.
They also raised questions about the nature of probability.
More recently, Helmut Schmidt conducted similar experiments
using an electronic random number generator, which
ensured the randomness of the events being altered. The use
of the random number generator greatly increased the sophistication
of the experiments, and while laying to rest some of the
questions concerning the Rhine experiments, it raised others,
especially about the nature of time.
In the case of the random number generator, a series of
numbers were generated and recorded, and the experiment
was actually run at a later time. Subjects were then asked to
force the choice which the random generation had already selected.
After a series of experiments, and a variety of philosophical
discussions about the nature of reality, causation, and
the contemporary state of quantum theory, Schmidt concluded
that his subjects seemed to be able to influence selected events
in the past.
In the later 1990s, Matthew R. Watkins and Peter Moore of
Cambridge University launched the RetroPsychoKinesis Project
with the idea of continuing the work that Schmidt, now retired,
had initiated. It is their understanding that the existence
of the Internet has created a new possibility for testing
Schmidt’s assertions that developed out of his two decades of
work. It is Watkins’ belief that the use of the Internet can overcome
a host of problems previously inherent in laboratorybased
research and can eliminate many of the charges brought
against parapsychology by the skeptics.
The use of the computer will allow a large number of subjects
to be tested and untalented ones to be screened out. By
having the computer handle the numbers, the opportunity for
fraud will largely disappear. A major problem will, however, be
the distinguishing of RPK from precognition, the most obvious
alternative explanation for any positive results once fraud is
eliminated. It is yet to be seen if the project can produce any
positive results and deal satisfactorily with the multitudinous
methodological problems. Those wishing to participate in the
experiments may contact the project at its Internet site at http
Schmidt, Helmut. ‘‘A PK Test with Electronic Equipment.’’
Journal of Parapsychology 34 (1970) 175–81.
———. ‘‘PK Tests with a High Speed Random Number
Generator.’’ Journal of Parapsychology 37 (1973) 105–18.
———. ‘‘Precognition of a Quantum Process.’’ Journal of
Parapsychology 33 (1969) 99–108.