The latest issue of Paranthropology (1:2) has been released, and you can download it as a free PDF magazine from the Paranthropology website. The general theme for the new issue is “Paranormal Encounters in the Field”, from the “exotic locales investigated by anthropologists, and the haunted house of the ghost-hunter, to the laboratory setting of parapsychological research.” Editor Jack Hunter explains…
By now I have written and talked about my undergraduate
fieldwork experience at the Bristol Spirit Lodge, at differing levels
of detail, in various places. I want this short article, however, to
deal specifically with the most significant event, at least in my
opinion, of my fieldwork experience: the occasion when, during a
trance development session, I lost control of my left arm.
It was normal practice for the Spirit Lodge to conduct mediumship
development sittings when the regular medium was, for whatever
reason, unable to attend. During such sittings all present members were invited to meditate in the Lodge in the hope that spirits might make themselves known through any receptive vessel. The method, therefore, was simply to meditate and see what happened. At the time I considered this an opportunity to relax in a calming environment, so I closed my eyes and allowed myself to relax, breathing normally.
I wasn’t expecting anything out of the ordinary to occur, so I just sat back and enjoyed the music. Soon, though, I began to feel my pulse become more pronounced, and my head began to slump forward as though I was falling asleep, despite maintaing an awareness of my body. This was very strange, as I was conscious of the fact that I must have looked quite odd to those with their eyes open, but I was unable to do anything about it: my head slumped forward heavily of its own accord. The sensation of detachment from my body grew and I began to feel as though I was floating just behind my body, but very close to it. I could still feel my body, but was aware that some sort of shift in the location of “myself” had occurred.
At the peak of this peculiar sensation I heard the seance leader say
that she sensed a presence with me, over my shoulder, and sure
enough I sensed it too. It was at this moment I realised that my
left arm was beginning to move: slowly at first, and then increasing
in rapidity until my arm was shaking around erratically. Once again
I was self conscious of the fact that I must have looked quite
strange to the other sitters, and yet despite this I was unable to
stop my arm from doing what it was doing.
This experience (amongst others of a less intense degree) altered
my appreciation of the belief in mediumship. I realised that there
were indeed experiences that could be classed as “mediumistic”,
and that even if there was no paranormal component involved in
the development of mediumship traditions, then at least there was
a physiological basis – experiences that feel as though they are the
product of an external agent influencing the body.
Topics covered include ghostly experiences, the Castaneda controversy, and spirit possession, among other things. Head on over to the Paranthropology website and download the issue for plenty of fascinating reading.