Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Psi Fi


This is an excellent article. I think I've written previously about Jeff Kripal's book, Authors of the Impossible. I've thought for years that someone needed to write this book, and I was reluctantly beginning to think that I might have to do it because it didn't seem to be on the academic radar. Fortunately, Jeff beat me to it, and I'm very glad because he did a thoroughly masterful job and now I can tick this off my to-do list.

9 comments:

Roulette said...

"Art is where truth hides from politics and religion and law and history and war and lust and greed and time, anything that seeks to subvert and tarnish and exploit it. Art is a safe in which man keeps his soul."

Something the Library Angel dropped in my lap. ;)

Lawrence said...

Yes I had noticed Kripal's book, 'Authors of the Impossible'. This whole subject of the crossover and intersection between ufology/forteana and psi is so marginilised and misrepresented since it tackles in one swoop so many taboos. In fact Radin touched on this parasocial approach to ufology himself over here, referring to his article published in IONS Shift.
http://deanradin.blogspot.com/2009/01/enduring-enigma-of-ufo.html

It's worth making mention of it again.

Anybody serious about psi and its melding with contemporary culture and sociology has to read Jacques Vallee especially (given his due by Kripal), whatever his errors and mistakes (being human and investigating a field with no funding and riddled through and through with conundrums, tricksters and imponderables). In fact I would go as far as saying this is where the cutting-edge is, at the borderlands and meeting points of 'abnormal' and liminal psychology/sociology/religion/shamanism on the one hand and bizarre seemingly exotic physics and parapsychology on the other - hence why it's largely dismissed and ignored, if not almost wholly misunderstood.

Glad to see the true pioneer Bertrand Meheust get a mention in Kripal's book, Meheust is almost entirely unknown in the English language world. I would have liked to have seen John Keel get his own chapter, not to be, yet Kripal naturally acknowledges his influence in the book. John Keel wasn't always rigorous, had an impish sense of humour and would never really confess to his errors and blunders, yet he is a must-read and was one of the pioneers in recognising the centrality of psi in ufology and its trickster dimensions. Keel died recently and he should not be forgotten, his writings are seminal contributions to this unclassifiable field.

Sante said...

Over the years I've heard similar stories from so many of my serious zenstudents: How they came to zen started because of an interest in Superheroes like Xmen or movies like Star Wars. And still one of the most popular pastime activities at our monastery seem to be watching reruns of Deep Space Nine!
Ha!

Paul D. Fernhout said...

Hi Dean. Doubt you remember me from when I was at the Princeton Robotics lab that was part of the larger McDonnell funded stuff at Princeton, but here is something I just wrote that mentions you and the PEAR lab. Probably just coincidence your latest blog post seems vaguely appropriate to post it to. :-)
"An Open Letter to James Randi on Skepticism about Mainstream Science"
http://www.pdfernhout.net/to-james-randi-on-skepticism-about-mainstream-science.html

Dean Radin said...

Hi Paul, good to hear from you. It looks like your blog post addresses just about everything!

Paul D. Fernhout said...

Yes, I guess everything is connected to some degree, isn't it? :-)

I updated that essay with a bit more stuff this morning, too (and fixed some typos). I also included the sad irony of a possibly overly trustful James Randi being scammed by mainstream medicine into a heart bypass operation when something like nutritional intervention may have been more effective (like Dr. Fuhrman, MD has had success with in his practice, but which is being ignored by most mainstream doctors). Of course, he's not the only one. I wish I had know a decade or two ago what I know now about nutrition as far as talking to my father about his own heart condition and how to manage it.

It's really hard to know who to trust sometimes in this world, or when to look further even when we think we have an answer, even as we do need to trust in some things to some degree every day just to get by. As I point out in that essay, if we are willing to point our skepticism at mainstream science, it often does not fare that well.

So, I think a really thorough skeptic has to be open to the "paranormal", since, in the end, what gets defined as "normal" is essentially a social process, and so that is subject to all the problems such social processes can have. And then, on top of that, is the psychological dimension of all that, and how we as individuals, relate to what a social process is trying to tell us for whatever reasons. So, while it is true that the overly credulous may embrace the paranormal without thinking, I think a true skeptic has to accept that there may always be things beyond our current understanding.

Pikemann Urge said...

something like nutritional intervention may have been more effective

This is a good example of how skepticism and orthodoxy go hand in hand - and how they get their motivation. I can sum it up: nothing valuable can be gained without hardship, sweat and tears.

Also: you can't justify your day's work unless you are miserable and you've exhausted yourself by 5 o'clock. This is a perverted part of the Protestant work ethic.

This probably is related to the idea that "if I can't have it then neither can you" principle. The psychology of devout skepticism (as opposed to the unpolluted variety) is quite easy to identify but difficult to get past.

Skeptics do very great damage by encouraging the layman to put unwarranted trust in the medical system. Some skeptics are ruining the psi debate and even more are distracting humanity from a better way to understand health, medicine and nutrition. IMHO.

Me said...

Hi Dean--
Since you sorta brought it up in the post... Are you planning a new book?

Rational Skeptic said...

How is his book? It sounds like it could be quite wonderful. He is involved with what looks to be one of the most interesting programs I've seen at a mainstream institution.

http://kripal.rice.edu/gem.html

It is called gnosticism, esotericism and mysticism and is in the religious studies department. Man that sounds like it could be awesome! I wonder how hard Rice is to get in to? Are the programs funded? I can't find his contact info but that program sounds incredible! I wonder if it is a full doctoral program or just an MA? I wish I could contact him!

It's also good to see more people writing about Myers' work.