Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

Jack Hunter published an article about anthropology and parapsychology. The title is “‘Between Realness and Unrealness’: Anthropology, Parapsychology and the Ontology of Non-Ordinary Realities” (Diskus: The Journal of the British Association for the Study of Religions, 2015, 17, 4-20). Here is the abstract:

Jack Hunter

Jack Hunter

“This article presents an overview of the fields of transpersonal anthropology, the anthropology of consciousness and, the most recent development in this lineage, paranthropology. After outlining the contributions of these fields to the development of a new approach to the investigation of so-called non-ordinary realities Hunter highlights the need for ethnographers to participate in the transpersonal practices and experiences. With link to the work of Fiona Bowie and Edith Turner, Hunter argues that one must learn to ‘see as the Native sees’ in order to truly grasp the experiential foundations of religious and spiritual belief, and escape from the hegemonic dismissal of alternative ontologies.”

The author concluded:

“Rather than bracketing out questions of ontology for fear that they might lead to truths . . . that cannot, by their very nature, fit into the established order of Western academia’s dominant ontology, I suggest that we essentially open the flood gates of ontological possibilities. This places all ontologies on an equal footing, so that while ontological bracketing protects and reinforces the mainstream ‘consensus reality,’ what we might call ontological flooding destabilises it, and opens it up to questioning, exploration and expansion – in essence such an approach places different ontological systems on an equally questionable footing.”

“Ontological flooding does not at all mean that we have to be any less critical in our approach . . . The main difference is that we do not begin our investigation from the position of certainty that ‘our ontology’ is the only one that can really be taken seriously. Everything is equally possible, everything is equally questionable, and nothing is certain. This is just one of the positions from which the newly emerging field of paranthropology begins its explorations of the paranormal in the cross-cultural context . . .”

“What I am advocating, then, is a return to this kind of scientific wonder in the social sciences, to questioning and exploring possibilities in the study of non-ordinary realities, and for questioning the assumptions that underly the dominant approaches in the study of religion. This is an escape from the hegemonic strictures of a single ontological perspective that excludes what it does not ‘believe in,’ and is much more than a simple return to relativism. It demands a much greater openness, and an appreciation of ‘ontological realities’ rather than purely ‘social realities.’ I am not advocating that we necessarily ‘believe’ our informants, or that we naively accept their version of reality as ‘true,’ rather I am suggesting that we attempt to embrace a perspective that is equally critical of all explanatory frameworks . . .”