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.
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
Why did so many of the U.S. government’s psychic spies become interested
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.
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
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
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
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
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.”1
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.