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This book is about foretelling the future, the occult, magic, telepathy, mind over matter, miracles, power of prayer, UFOs, Bigfoot, clairvoyance, angels, demons, psychokinesis, and spirits of the dead.  These all interact with the physical world.  This book explains why they are problematical for science.
     These topics provoke ambivalent feelings.  They hold a strange place in our culture.
     Some examples --
  • Fortune-telling is often associated with carnivals, gypsies, and fraud.  Yet many saints have had the gifts of prophecy and of knowing hearts.  Do fraud and sainthood have something in common?
  • Why did the teacher of the U.S. government’s psychic spies become interested in sightings of the Blessed Virgin Mary?
  • The terms “magic” and “conjuring” have two meanings—use of occult powers, and the performance of tricks.  The same words are used for both.  Why?
  • The supernatural features in the world’s greatest literature.  All major religions have stories of miracles.  Over half of the U.S. adult population has had paranormal experiences.  Despite all this, there are no university departments of parapsychology.  In fact as I write, I can identify only two laboratories in the U.S. devoted to parapsychology that employ two or more full-time scientists who publish in peer-reviewed scientific journals.  Why so little research?
  • Mediums of dubious reputation have been reported to levitate, but so have religious mystics.  What is the connection?
  • Innumerable movies have been made about extraterrestrial aliens, some grossing hundreds of millions of dollars.  Yet the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), the largest U.S. organization focused on UFO research, was still headquartered in the home of its founder, 30 years after it began.  Why?
  • The elite media give the paranormal little serious coverage.  The tabloids often put it on the front page.  Why?
  • In universities one can study literature of the supernatural.  Academic psychologists and sociologists willingly investigate belief in the paranormal.  However, to attempt direct encounter with the supernatural, or to try eliciting paranormal phenomena in order to observe them directly, brings opposition and hostility.  In this scientific age, why isn’t such rational inquiry welcomed?
  • Why did so many of the U.S. government’s psychic spies become interested in UFOs?
  • Funding for scientific investigation of the paranormal has come almost entirely from wealthy individuals.  Virtually no large philanthropic organizations or government bureaucracies have provided substantial, long-term support for the research.  The only exceptions are the intelligence agencies—the only section of government formally allowed to use deception.  Why does the money come from these sources?
  • Today some liberal Christian Protestant denominations downplay miracles, seeing them as embarrassments, relics from a primitive, superstitious past.  Likewise, they view prayer as having only psychological benefits for those who pray, but nothing more.  What caused this dramatic shift in beliefs? 
  • Conservatives still see miracles and answers to prayer as God’s intervention in the world.  Are these beliefs intellectually backward, superstitious, delusional, and maladapted to the modern world?  The conservative denominations are flourishing while the liberal churches decline.  Why?

     The above points are known to anyone with a moderate familiarity with the paranormal.  The questions prove that there is something very odd about it, and similar queries could be generated endlessly.  The controversies have swirled for hundreds, even thousands, of years, and they show no sign of being resolved any time soon. 
     Many of the above questions seem totally unrelated, or at best, only vaguely so.  What do the funding sources for psi research have in common with liberal churches downplaying miracles?  What is the connection between the MUFON headquarters and mysticism?  Why discuss tabloids’ front pages along with controversies within religion?  These questions seem to be a random hodgepodge, unsuited for any single book or reasonable discussion.  It appears preposterous to lump them together.  They are out of place, and I will show that this is indeed the nature of the phenomena.  They do not fit in our logical world.
     The topics of this book resist simple categorization, and there is no way to give a succinct, comprehensive overview.  I suspect that virtually all readers will find that substantial portions of the book cover material unfamiliar to them.  As such, this introduction will only touch on a few ideas that will give some orientation.  Many of the names, terms, and ideas in this introduction are mentioned only briefly and for the benefit of those already knowledgeable in specialized areas.  I will fully explain them in later chapters.
     In times past, the word “supernatural” designated the phenomena of interest here.  That term hints at something ominous, dangerous, and unsettling.  More recently the word “paranormal” came into vogue.  It suggests that the phenomena are more mundane, odd perhaps, but not worrisome for most people.  In the last two decades, a few scientists have begun referring to them as “anomalous,” indicating that they are merely minor curiosities, without threat or of much immediate import.  The new labeling makes the topic slightly more acceptable in academe, and the term “anomalous” is not incorrect, because the phenomena do not fit within mainstream scientific theories.  However, such labeling divorces the phenomena of today from their historical predecessors, and previous knowledge about them is disregarded.  In earlier cultures, the supernatural was known to be dangerous and was surrounded by taboos.  Today’s scientists have no comprehension why, and with their naive terminology, they become vulnerable to the phenomena.
     I will use the terms paranormal and supernatural interchangeably.  Dictionaries are clear that the two words refer to the same phenomena.  I will sometimes use the terms together, although that is redundant.  But I wish to emphasize the paranormal’s frequent association with religion.
     The primary data of this book concern side effects of using psychic abilities and engaging supernatural phenomena.  Those effects can be discovered by analyzing the social milieu around the phenomena.  Of particular interest are the repercussions to groups and institutions, including families, academe, governments, science, religion, and industry.  There is a pattern, and generally the phenomena either provoke or accompany some kind of destructuring—a concept discussed at length in this book.  For instance, the phenomena do not flourish within stable institutions, and endless examples illustrate this.  Fortunately, two theoretical perspectives are already developed that connect the supernatural to ideas about social order and structure.  The first is Victor Turner’s work on liminality and anti-structure.  The second is Max Weber’s theory of rationalization.  Both have profound implications for understanding psychic phenomena.
     Some of the theoretical models presented here are formulated quite abstractly, and they address psi in relation to the concepts of category, classification, representation, and reflexivity.  These are issues important in semiotics, French structuralism, and literary theory, but I am not aware of any prior significant attempt to integrate parapsychology with these topics.  The matters concern fundamental limits of logic, rationality, and science.  Parapsychology’s critics have long decried psi as irrational and have made an important contribution in doing so.  The critics are partly right; psi is irrational, but it is also real.
     The central theme developed in this book is that psi, the paranormal, and the supernatural are fundamentally linked to destructuring, change, transition, disorder, marginality, the ephemeral, fluidity, ambiguity, and blurring of boundaries.  In contrast, the phenomena are repressed or excluded with order, structure, routine, stasis, regularity, precision, rigidity, and clear demarcation.  I hesitate to offer this very general statement because, by itself, it will almost certainly be misinterpreted; much of the book is devoted to explaining it.  I will present some brief examples here.
     When entire cultures undergo profound change, there is often an upsurge of interest in the paranormal.  During the breakup of the former U.S.S.R. there was an explosion of paranormal activity throughout eastern Europe.  Healers and psychics featured prominently in the media.  This should not have been a surprise because anthropologists have shown that the supernatural has figured in thousands of cultural revitalization movements.
     Numerous mystics have displayed extraordinary paranormal powers, but many of them were outsiders, marginal characters whose lives were exceedingly odd.  St. Francis of Assisi performed many miracles, but he was mistrusted by church authorities and caused them many headaches.
     Groups that attempt to use paranormal abilities, such as those in modern-day witchcraft and spiritualism, typically have a transitory, ephemeral existence.  The few that manage some measure of institutionalizing (with buildings and paid staff) become marginalized, and often are accused of fraud and deception.  Likewise psychical research organizations have always had a tenuous existence, and parapsychology has never been truly integrated into the academic establishment.
     Magicians (performers of magic tricks) have played central roles in paranormal controversies, not only recently, but for hundreds of years.  Magicians on both sides of the dispute have faked psychic phenomena, thereby contributing to the ambiguity surrounding them.
     Skeptics understand that frauds and hoaxes plague the paranormal, but parapsychologists naively consider them only a minor problem.  Parapsychologists have amassed overwhelming evidence for the reality of psi; skeptics ignore it and even deny that such evidence exists.
     Many aspects of the paranormal (e.g., ghosts, UFO abductions, Bigfoot) have temporarily captured intense popular interest, but that has never been translated into financially viable, stable institutions that directly elicit or engage the phenomena.  Instead the researchers use their own funds and are given no support from institutions.
     In contrast, science has uninhibitedly ventured into virtually all other areas once considered taboo.  The study of sexuality, in all its forms, is established in universities and medical schools.  Sizeable industries and well-funded research labs are organized around cloning, artificial insemination, and genetic manipulation, despite ethical qualms.  The lowly ghost researcher receives only sneers.
     Many religions display an ambivalent, wary attitude toward supernatural phenomena.  The 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church shows this clearly.  It acknowledges that “God can reveal the future to his prophets or to other saints,” but in the very next paragraph it states that “interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums . . . contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.”  The following paragraph says “All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers . . . even if this were for the sake of restoring health—are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion.”  Catholicism is not alone in these views, and many other diverse religious and spiritual traditions also acknowledge the existence of such phenomena but warn against seeking that power.
     In short, the paranormal and supernatural are ambiguous and marginal in virtually all ways: socially, intellectually, academically, religiously, scientifically, and conceptually.  They don’t fit in the rational world.
     Some may see no pattern to the above examples; they do appear chaotic.  But there is a pattern, and it has enormous implications.  The theories of anti-structure and rationalization, which will be described later, provide remarkable insight.
     One of the implications of the pattern is that there are subtle but pervasive pressures that conspire to keep the paranormal marginalized and scientific investigation at a minimum.  This does not require a consciously organized human conspiracy.  It is a direct property of the phenomena.  Psi interacts with our physical world, with our thoughts, and with our social institutions.  Even contemplating certain ideas has consequences.  The phenomena are not to be tamed by mere logic and rationality, and attempts to do so are doomed to failure.  These notions are undoubtedly anathema to my scientific colleagues in parapsychology.  To their chagrin, I will demonstrate that deception and the irrational are keys to understanding psi.
     To give some additional orientation, it may help to briefly mention some people whose work I’ve drawn upon.  Psychiatrist Ernest Hartmann is known for his research on mental boundaries.  I found many commonalities between his concept of thin boundaries and the Greek trickster Hermes, whose personality has been admirably described by Jean Bolen, a psychiatrist with a Jungian orientation.
     In anthropology, Michael Winkelman studied statuses of magico-religious practitioners in conjunction with societal complexity.  He demonstrated that as cultures become more complex, there is a decline in status of those who directly engage the supernatural.  Sociologist James McClenon surveyed scientists’ opinions of psychic phenomena, and he found the lowest level of belief among the highest status scientists.  Anthropologist Anthony F. C. Wallace analyzed cultural revitalization movements and demonstrated a clear relationship between societal destructuring and the supernatural.
     In the UFO field, John Keel and Jacques Vallee showed the extraordinary prevalence of mythological motifs in that phenomenon, as well as the equally pervasive deception.
     In literature, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., chairman of Harvard’s Afro-American studies department, developed a theory of literary criticism based on the trickster.  African Americans have long been marginalized, and they have an astute perception of what that entails.
     Most of the people mentioned above have been active in the last two decades.  But there was important earlier work.  In fact, the first two decades of the twentieth century were a watershed for theories of the supernatural.  Leading figures included: Arnold van Gennep, Emile Durkheim, Marcel Mauss, Max Weber, Lucien Levy-Bruhl, Sigmund Freud, and Rudolf Otto.  Linguist Ferdinand de Saussure was also significant.  These men’s insights on the supernatural have been largely forgotten.
     An enormous number of people have influenced my thinking, but three were particularly important: William Braud, Barbara Babcock, and Edmund Leach.  Parapsychologist William Braud integrated an enormous range of findings with his model of lability and inertia in psi processes.  Barbara Babcock is the most significant interpreter of the trickster figure.  She was a student of Victor Turner and extended his work by recognizing the importance of liminality, anti-structure, and reflexivity for the trickster.  Her work is frequently cited by women and minority scholars, but the brilliance of her trickster analysis is largely lost on white male academics.  British anthropologist Edmund Leach explained and developed structuralism for English-language audiences.  He extended the work of Claude Levi-Strauss, but he has not yet received the credit he deserves.
     William Braud’s lability and inertia model states that labile processes are more susceptible to psychic influence than are ones that are more inert.  By lability, Braud referred to systems and processes that are easily varied, more fluid than rigid, more fluctuating than steady, more random than ordered.  His theory encompasses a wide range of research.  As an example, Braud had people try to use PK to influence a flickering candle and an electrically powered lamp.  The subjects were in one room and the light sources were monitored electronically in another.  A much stronger PK influence was detected on the candle (the labile system) than the lamp.  Another example, explained within Braud’s model, is the effect of novelty.  Laboratory-based parapsychology studies have found that novelty (a break with previous patterns) facilitates ESP.  Research on altered states of consciousness also fits Braud’s model.  The cognitive content of many altered states (e.g., dreams) is more fluid, unstable, and quickly varying than in our waking state.  Those altered states enhance ESP.
     Victor Turner studied the role of ritual in indigenous societies, particularly rites of passage.  Those rites signaled periods of transition, as between childhood and adulthood.  They were dangerous periods during which previous statuses and relationships were suspended.  The “structure” of society was eliminated temporarily, and those periods are labeled liminal or anti-structural.  In liminal times supernatural powers manifested.  The properties of liminality were not restricted to rites of passage.  Turner had a much more encompassing view; persons could be liminal, some even permanently such as monks and mystics.
     Because of Turner’s writings, the issue of status frequently arises in this book.  Statuses define relationships and designate positions in a social structure; they specify required behaviors, expectations, and roles for ourselves and others.  Statuses govern a major portion of our lives.  The issue of marginality is an issue of status.  Periods of liminality and anti-structure are times when statuses are abandoned.
     Braud discussed physical systems and individual psyches; Turner addressed social processes.  But their ideas were parallel.  Both focused on transition, flux, destructuring, and uncertainty, rather than order, structure, stasis, and stability.
     Max Weber, the eminent sociologist, wrote about social order, and his work complements Victor Turner’s on social transitions.  Weber’s concept of rationalization has had a substantial impact on sociology and is a core idea in that discipline.  Weber pointed out that for several thousand years, there has been a slow, progressive implementation of rational thought and organization of society.  Order was first enforced by tribal chiefs with power centered in their persons; later authority was transformed by feudal arrangements where power was more diffuse and distributed.  Today bureaucracies hold power that is impersonal and codified by laws, rules, and regulations.  Regulations are interpreted and enforced by people who hold a certain office or status in society; power is independent of the actual person.  In the last several hundred years the trend to rationalization has accelerated.  Weber’s phrase “the iron cage of modernity” emphasizes the order, structure, and routinization of everyday modern life.
     Charisma is a central concept in Weber’s theory of authority.  It is an unusual personal power.  In fact pure charisma involves supernatural power, a point Weber made explicit. He saw that rationalization entailed “disenchantment” and specifically stated that it required the elimination of magic from the world.  For rationalization, charisma had to be channeled and attenuated.  Weber’s concept of pure charisma is virtually identical to Turner’s liminality and anti-structure, and both Weber and Turner used St. Francis of Assisi as an exemplar of the pure forms of charisma and anti-structure, respectively.
     Academe is a primary force for rationalization, and it is there that we find the greatest incomprehension of, and antagonism to, the paranormal.  Many academics who have written on Weber’s concept of charisma seem vaguely puzzled by it, and virtually all have ignored its relation to supernatural phenomena.  An amusing, though appalling, example of their incomprehension is that Weber wrote of telepathy as accompanying pure charismatic power; yet I know of no sociologists writing on the paranormal who have ever mentioned this.
     Weber slightly misunderstood magic and rationalization.  As I will explain, magic is never really eliminated from the world.  Rather it is shunted to the margins of society; it is repressed from the conscious awareness of cultural elites, and for them it is relegated to fiction.
     The concept of rationalization can also be applied to literary theory because magic is directly tied to meaning.  In most rational discourse, and especially in science, the problem of meaning is banished from consciousness.  It is assumed that, in principle, there can be a clear, unambiguous connection between a word and its referent, between a signifier and signified.  However literary theorists understand that meaning is still problematic.  In fact, there are even a few vague allusions in deconstructionist writings that suggest that a satisfactory theory of literature may require a theory of telepathy.
     The problem of meaning is central to deconstructionism and other strands of postmodernism.  Those movements challenge the notions of rationality and objective reality.  The resulting reaction of the establishment is instructive.  The furious denunciations of postmodernism in academe by status-conscious, high-verbal, aging white males are exceeded in intensity only by their frantic utterings of rationalistic incantations to ward off the paranormal.  Those amusing endeavors provide some of the most important clues to the nature of psi.  Both deconstructionism and psi subvert the rational, and there are similar, important consequences to both.
     Much of the writing on deconstructionism is opaque, but that is no accident.  Some concepts cannot be fully expressed in language.  Gerald Vizenor, an American Indian scholar, and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., an African American, have drawn upon deconstructionist ideas in conjunction with the trickster to address problems of ambiguity and interpretation.

Why the Trickster?

     Many may wonder what the trickster has to do with any of this.  After all, in our society, the trickster figure is simply an odd literary device, a vehicle for amusing and silly stories.  It seems preposterous to use him to explain abstruse scientific facts.
     But in many less-rationalized societies, trickster tales are not merely literary creations; the tales are sacred; they are descriptions of the world.  They bring together many things we consider unconnected, that even appear incoherent and irrational.
     Briefly, the trickster is a character type found in mythology, folklore, and literature the world over; tricksters appear as animals, humans, and gods.  They have a number of common characteristics, and some of their most salient qualities are disruption, unrestrained sexuality, disorder, and nonconformity to the establishment.  They are typically male.  Tricksters often deceive larger and more powerful beings who would thwart them; they may be endearingly clever or disgustingly stupid—both cultural heroes and selfish buffoons.  Like much of mythology, their stories appear irrational and are difficult to decipher into logical coherence.  They have often puzzled scholars.  The stories do not follow linear sequences, and their meanings need to be decoded.  Fortunately there is a sizeable body of scholarship on the trickster, in a variety of disciplines, and keys to decoding are found in the concepts of liminality and anti-structure.
     Carl Jung’s idea of archetypes is also helpful in understanding the trickster.  The term archetype is often confusing, and there has been much debate over its definition.  For purposes of this volume, “archetype” means only a pattern that can manifest at multiple levels.  No more is implied, and nothing paranormal is necessarily required to explain it. 
     The trickster archetype is not designated by immediately observable physical features.  Rather it is a more abstract constellation of characteristics that is usually personified (i.e., identified with a person or animal).  Individuals, small groups, larger social movements, and even entire cultures can take on this configuration of attributes.  It is often sensical to speak of the trickster and his effects in personified form, though this can be jarring for those entrenched in rationalistic modes of thinking.  It is helpful to think in terms of constellations of qualities rather than presuming linear cause-and-effect relationships.  When some aspects of a constellation are found in a situation, one should be alert for the others.
     Jung’s work on archetypes is discussed in this book, but emphasis is on more recent work in anthropology, sociology, folklore, and literary theory.  Analyses from these disciplines show the common characteristics of trickster tales.  They include: disruption, loss of status, boundary crossing, deception, violation of sexual mores, and supernatural manifestations.  Not all tricksters have all characteristics, and like other archetypes, there is ambiguity.
     The ground for the trickster is found in neither anthropology, nor folklore, nor sociology, nor religious scholarship, nor psychoanalysis, nor literary criticism.  All of these are important; they all aid in explaining, but the trickster cannot be reduced to formulations in any of them.  My approach is therefore eclectic, and some may find it disconcerting that I do not stand firmly in one discipline or take just one perspective.  I sometimes joltingly skip from one to another.  Several commentators have noticed that productions of trickster characters are often something of a bricolage, a French word meaning a product made out of hodgepodge materials at hand.  This book is somewhat in that tradition, and the juxtapositions of examples may sometimes strike the reader as odd, if not bizarre.  I will draw from mythology, folklore, history, parapsychology, anthropology, psychology, Forteana, religion, and psychiatry.  Boundaries must be blurred for the trickster to be seen. 
     Some may be puzzled why I chose the trickster as a vehicle to explore psychic phenomena.  I started this book as an effort to understand why the paranormal is so frequently associated with fraud and deception.  Many trickster figures are linked with supernatural powers and with deception, so that is an obvious connection.  But as I began reading the scholarly analyses, I saw many other commonalities with the paranormal.  Most analysts recognized no more than the link with deceit, but notable exceptions were Allan Combs and Mark Holland’s book Synchronicity: Science, Myth, and the Trickster (1990) and Lutz Müller’s article “Psi and the Archetype of the Trickster” (1981).
     ESP and PK are, by definition, boundary crossing.  They surmount the barriers between mind and mind (telepathy), mind and matter (clairvoyance and PK), as well as the limitations of time (precognition), and that of life and death (spirit mediumship, ghosts, and reincarnation).  Likewise, magic tricks violate our expectations of what is and is not possible, and the relationship between psi and trickery is far deeper than most have assumed.  Psi blurs distinctions between imagination and reality, between subjective and objective, between signifier and signified, between internal and external.  The same is true in much deception.  Studies of animals show that pretense (i.e., pretending) is often required for deceit, and pretense blurs the distinction between imagination and reality.  Blurring of fantasy and reality occurs with nonrational beliefs pervasive in religion and myth as well as in good fiction.
     Paradoxes of self-reference and reflexivity also blur the subject-object distinction; in fact they subvert it.  Paradox challenges the supremacy of the rational, because in paradox logic breaks down.  Paradox and reflexivity are important for understanding the trickster and the paranormal and will be discussed at length in the theoretical sections of the book.

Opposites - Boundaries - Structures

     The concepts of structure and boundaries, destructuring and boundary crossing pervade this book.  Boundaries of all kinds are of interest: geographical, personal, social, moral, psychological, etc.  The concept is so broadly useful that it needs to be considered at an abstract level.
     The notion of opposites is directly related to boundaries.  A boundary creates a distinction.  One entity or event is distinguished from another.  The two entities are often seen as opposites.  Together they form a structure, sometimes sharply demarcated, sometimes less so.
     “Distinction” is a central idea.  A distinction separates one thing from another.  Tricksters are associated with destructuring, boundary crossing, and blurring distinctions.
     The theme of opposites is found in a wide range of scholarship, including: the structural anthropology of Claude Levi-Strauss, deconstructionism, Jung’s work on alchemy, primitive classification schemes, and Neoplatonic thought, among others.  The “coincidence of opposites” is discussed in mystical theology.  Some Freudian theory is couched in the language of the male-female opposition.
     Many analyses suggest that tricksters are combinations of opposites.  Some are both cultural heroes and selfish buffoons.  The Spirit Mercurius was associated with gods and with sewers.  Wakdjunkaga was able to change from male to female.  Some ritual clowns and mystics eat feces, and in so doing they invert the opposites of food and excrement.
     Classification schemes in many early societies identified binary oppositions such as God-human, life-death, child-adult, food-excrement, man-woman, heaven-earth, etc.  These designated important cultural categories.  Anthropologists have shown that these distinctions, and their maintenance, were necessary for stability in society.
     Earlier peoples also understood that there was a middle ground, the betwixt and between, which was dangerous and surrounded by taboos.  Shamans sometimes served as spirit mediums contacting the other world.  They crossed the boundary between life and death (a binary opposition), and shamans were often seen as tricksters.  Priests mediated between God and man; they were required to undergo purification rituals.  Funerary rites assured that the dead moved to the next world and did not stay to haunt the living.  The life-death distinction needed to be strengthened.  Crossing from one status to the other (e.g., child to adult, living to dead) required rituals for purification and protection. 
     The middle area goes by several labels: liminality, interstitiality, transitional space, betwixt and between, anti-structure.  These are dangerous positions, situations, and statuses.  They break down categories, classifications, and boundaries.  Violation of the boundaries was taboo and brought the wrath of the gods.  There was a price to be paid.  Yet during some liminal periods, taboos were deliberately violated in order to obtain magical power.
     Our way of thinking is governed by Aristotelian logic.  It too has a binary aspect; something is either A or not-A.  In this system, the “law of the excluded middle” specifies that there is no middle ground.  The betwixt and between is excluded from thought.  Our culture is rationalized; it prefers sharp distinctions and clear boundaries.  Even our modern theory of communication is binary, and the term bit is short for binary digit.  Bit strings are nothing more than sequences of differences or distinctions (i.e., 0s and 1s). 
     The trickster is not eliminated simply by making sharp distinctions and clear categories.  There is still a realm that lies betwixt and between a signifier and signified, between a word and its referent.  Tricksters travel that liminal realm, and ambiguities in communication are their province.  In fact the term hermeneutics, the study of interpretation, is derived from Hermes, the trickster of the Greeks.  Trickster gods are messengers and communicators; they deal in information, but also in ambiguity.
     As mentioned earlier, the issue of status is encountered throughout this volume.  Status delineates difference, and thus can be conceived in terms of information.  When statuses are abandoned, there is a loss of order, a loss of information.  Theorists in many disciplines have viewed status in terms of energy or power relationships.  I focus more on information than power or energy, and I have greater concern with the consequences and limitations of information—information in a broad sense.
     This book was not written as an exercise in literary theory, anthropology, religion, sociology, or folklore.  To the extent that those disciplines ignore or deny the reality of psi, they are seriously flawed.  I owe no allegiance to them.  This book was produced to address fundamental problems of the paranormal and supernatural.  Many peculiar aspects can be understood by recourse to the trickster.  He is relevant to everything from random-number-generator (RNG) parapsychology experiments to human sacrifice, from out-of-body experiences to ritual clowns eating excrement.  Psi does not merely violate categories; rather subversion of categories is its essence.  As such, there are limits as to what can be said about it within our typical logical frameworks.
     The themes in this book include uncertainty, ambiguity, instability, the void, and the abyss.  These are neither patternless, nor without power.  Make no mistake, by using rational means this book endeavors to illuminate the irrational, and to demonstrate the severe limitations of logic and rationality.  When the supernatural and irrational are banished from consciousness, they are not destroyed, rather, they become exceedingly dangerous.

1 Catechism of the Catholic Church, Liguori, MO: Ligouri Publications, 1994.  See p. 513, paragraphs 2115–2117.