For four years the free, online journal Paranthropology has provided a wonderful clearing house of academic level thought on many aspects of the paranormal, and its effect on humans (regardless of its “reality”, or otherwise). We’ve regularly linked to new releases here on TDG as they’ve become available, and it’s worth noting that a new issue, Vol. 6 No. 2 is now available.
Also available right now as well is an anthology of Paranthropology articles that you can add to your bookshelf, titled Strange Dimensions, and which will help support the free journal into the future.
Here’s a quick word from editor Jack Hunter:
[I am] very excited to announce the publication of Strange Dimensions: A Paranthropology Anthology, which celebrates 4 years of the Paranthropology Journal. It features 16 chapters (plus an introduction and a foreword by Joseph Laycock), covering everything from William Burroughs to Crop Circles to dowsing, via alien abductions, consciousness studies, mediumship and surfing.
If you have enjoyed the journal, or found it useful, over the last 5 years (that’s 20 issues!), please consider buying a copy of the anthology, as it is the very best way to support its continued existence. It is an excellent collection of some of the best articles from the last two years, over 400 pages of anomalous goodness!
The anthology has received warm praise from the likes of Jeffrey Kripal, who notes that the collection “takes us down the proverbial rabbit hole, here with the grace, nuance and sheer intelligence of a gifted team of essayists, each working in her or his own way toward new theories of history, consciousness, spirit, the imagination, the parapsychological, and the psychedelic.” According to Kripal, Strange Dimensions is “another clear sign that there is high hope in high strangeness, and that we are entering a new era of thinking about religion, about mind, about us.”
Here’s an excellent summary of the contents of the book, taken directly from Jack’s introduction:
In an effort to convey as broad a picture as possible of the remit of the Paranthropology journal, this anthology is split into four sections. Part 1 features a collection of ‘Ethnographies of the Anomalous,’ and the chapters within it see scholars going out into the field to investigate their subject matter as participant-observers. First, Darryl Caterine takes us on a tour of American paranormal gatherings to reveal striking, and quite unexpected, core themes connecting Spiritualists, UFO enthusiasts and dowsers. Next, Tanya Luhrmannn describes the sensation of hearing the voice of God during her fieldwork with contemporary Evangelicals in the U.S.A., followed by anthropologist John A. Napora’s vivid description of his own encounter with the deceased, and the ontological challenges such experiences present. Then, Emma Ford examines the experience of transcendence known as ‘stoke’ amongst Christian Surfers in Cornwall, England, before Loriliai Biernacki outlines some Indian perspectives on ‘the paranormal body.’
Part 2, ‘Making Sense of Spiritual Experience,’ looks at anomalous experiences from different theoretical perspectives. To begin, John W. Morehead and David J. Hufford discuss sleep paralysis and explore the notion of ‘core spiritual experiences,’ before Angela Voss takes an imaginal perspective on the paranormal, drawing on the writings of the Sufi mystic Muhyiddin Ibn’Arabi. Then, in their chapter ‘The Spectrum of Spectres,’ Michael Hirsch and colleagues present their sociological findings about the interpretation of ghostly experiences, followed by my own exploration of the ‘problem of spirits’ and some of the scholarly efforts to overcome it. Finally, Andrew Newberg outlines his perspective on the neurophysiological correlates of religious and spiritual experiences, and discusses the implications and future directions of this brand of neurotheological research.
Part 3 takes us a step further down the rabbit hole into realms of ‘High Strangeness,’ where James Riley introduces us to the writer William S. Burrough’s magical use of tape recorders and the cut-up technique in 1970s London. Then, William Rowlandson employs Carl Jung’s archetypal approach to the UFO phenomenon as a lens through which to interpret Crop Circles as a ‘psychoid manifestation.’ This is followed by Steven Mizrach’s summary of the field of alien abduction research as an introduction to John Keel’s ‘ultraterrestrial hypothesis,’ an alternative to UFOlogy’s dominant ‘nuts-and-bolts’ extraterrestrial model.
The final section explores ‘Consciousness, Psychedelics and Psi’ through Rafael Locke’s first-person science perspective on mediumship and psi, David Luke’s expansive review of the literature connecting ostensible psi phenomena with the psychedelic experience, and, finally, Bernardo Kastrup’s proposed model of the brain as a filter for non-local consciousness, in opposition to the standard materialist view of the brain as a generator of consciousness.
The diversity of subject matter and perspectives explored in this anthology do not present a coherent view of reality (or perhaps they do), and nor do they offer any definitive conclusions concerning the reality of the paranormal, one way or the other. What they do succeed in doing, however, is to conjure a spirit of open-minded critical thinking about a range of topics that have fascinated and perplexed countless generations of human beings since time immemorial. It is this open-minded approach that characterises Paranthropology and the kind of writing and thinking it seeks to promote and disseminate. I sincerely hope you enjoy reading this collection, and that it encourages you to delve deeper into this intriguing area of research.