Talkin' 'bout my revelation...

Wed, 19 Jan 1994 22:05:14 -0500

of the paranormal. Sigh. This leaves me in the unfortunate position of
arguing on its behalf. Now people will not leave me alone with their Elvis
sightings and miracle diets...
I take it that a lot of what is produced in the field of
parapsychology is B.S., just as much of what is written by "PoMo" writers
often is, too. Nonetheless, I (and the AAAS) seem to feel that there is
something to this cultural construction called "the paranormal" that is
worthwhile of "scientific" investigation, just as there is in the cultural
constructions called "postmodernity," "body modification," and "politics."
But it seems to me that there was some interest by anthropologists
in this topic. If I remember correctly, there was a big symposium on
"Anthropology and the Paranormal" in 1974. But I guess times have changed.
Uri Geller's chauffeur ratted on him. CSICOP came in and started harassing
people working in the field. The National Enquirer hit megamillion
circulation. It was hard to tell people that you were working in the
"paranormal" and not get a chuckle...
The only anthropologist I have seen in print writing extensively
about the topic is James Wynn Wescott. Anyone know his whereabouts? For
that matter, anybody know where I can find Arthur Harkins, who co-wrote
"Cultures Beyond the Earth" with him in 1975, and is noted in "The Tomorrow
Makers" for wanting to marry a robot? (Those mid-70s. What an era.
Unbridled signification.)
It seems to me that one of the sticking points for Western science
in dealing with the "paranormal" is that it treats it as "extraordinary,"
"supernatural," or "mystical." I note that in other cultures (such as the
Maya) certain things that in our society are thought to be "paranormal"
(the precognitive value of dreams) are accepted as matters-of-fact. Of
course, it took a bloody biologist (Lyall Watson) to notice that perhaps in
societies where the paranormal was not treated as "paranormal," (e.g. out
of the ordinary), perhaps it might be a more frequent occurence.
On that nasty point of the empirical facticity of ESP: what can I
tell you? People have gone over J.B. Rhine's data from the 1930s and said
there's nothing conclusive there. Maybe. But I have looked at Robert Jahn's
data from Princeton, and am singularly impressed. His protocols are
flawless, his results carefully controlled. As I see it, the *possible*
existence of ESP is not subject to question. Physicists have invoked all
kinds of objections, ranging from the inverse square law, et al., but its
existence (as I see it) requires nothing more than that there may be things
about the brain which we do not know about. This I consider a
non-controversial position, not requiring the existence of any non-material
components to the mind.
As to its *actual* existence: a mountain of anecdotal data, perhaps
heaps of unanalyzed ethnographic data from anthropologists about its
occurence in other societies, and a tiny smear of 'scientific' data,
narrowly defined in the positivist sense.
Utilizing it as a concept, I advance it as a possible source for
the acquisition of knowledge through "revelation." I find this preferable
to positing the existence of 'revealers'. As far as I know, there have been
no successful anthropological interviews of spirits, gods, or lwas.
BTW, is there anybody here from the AAA Section for the
Anthropology of Consciousness? You're probably the only ones willing to
deal with this stuff seriously (could be why I joined your section...)
BTW, do people around here dislike the SAC too?
Seeker1 [@Nervm.Nerdc.Ufl.Edu] (real info available on request)
Anthropologist, Cybernaut, PoMoDemite, Noetician, Situationiste, et al.
University of Florida, Gainesville, Cosmic Nexus of the Universal Matrix
"'Tis an ill wind that blows no minds!" --Malaclypse the Younger