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1.  Introduction

Puzzling aspects of the paranormal are identified.  Basic concepts are introduced including: boundaries, structure, opposites, the trickster.  The paranormal’s association with instability, transition, and marginality is described.
(14 pages)

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Part 1

2.  An Overview of Tricksters From Mythology, Folklore, and Elsewhere

Several trickster figures are briefly presented, including Hermes, Eshu-Elegba, Wakjunkaga, the Spirit Mercurius.  Commonalities are identified.  The idea of archetype is explained.
(13 pages)

3 . Ernest Hartmann’s Mental Boundaries

Ernest Hartmann, a Tufts University psychiatrist, developed a concept of  mental boundaries that has striking parallels with the analysis of the Greek trickster Hermes, presented by Jungian psychiatrist Jean Bolen.
(4  pages)
4 . Victor Turner’s Concept of Anti-structure
Anthropological concepts of rites of passage, betwixt and between, liminality, anti-structure, and binary oppositions are intimately related to the trickster.  They help explain the paranormal's marginality and its association with instability, uncertainty, and ambiguity. 
(20 pages)

Part 2

5.  Mysticism, Holy Madness, and Fools for God

The most dramatic paranormal phenomena ever reported have occurred around mystics such as St. Francis of Assisi, Nityananda of Ganeshpuri,  and Joseph of Copertino.  These were permanently liminal persons who were perceived as irrational, disruptive, or even crazy.
(11 pages)

6.  Shamanism and Its Sham

Shamans were among the first to wield supernatural power, but they also used trickery (numerous citations are provided).  Anthropologists have identified many commonalities between the trickster figure and the shaman.
(9 pages)

Part 3

7.  Michael Winkelman on Magico-religious Practitioners

Michael Winkelman, an anthropologist at Arizona State University, showed that as societies became more complex, direct attempts to control supernatural forces were discouraged.  Shamans' functions were taken by priests, healers, and mediums.  Priests had high status; mediums had low.
(5  pages)
8.  Max Weber, Charisma, and the Disenchantment of the World
Max Weber introduced ideas of rationalization, disenchantment, and charisma.  Pure charisma entails telepathy and the working of miracles.  Astoundingly, social scientists have ignored Weber's insights on the supernatural, even though he was one of the most eminent sociologists of all time.
(8 pages)   Download the Chapter (190 KB PDF)
9.  Cultural Change and the Paranormal
Anthropologist Anthony F. C. Wallace showed that innumerable cultural revitalization movements involved paranormal manifestations.  Examples are presented from early cultures as well as from our own.
(7 pages)

Part 4

10.  Prominent “Psychics”

Many prominent psychics in history (e.g., Eusapia Palladino, H.P. Blavatsky, Kreskin, Sai Baba) have been accused of deception.  Most had unusual lifestyles,  odd marital situations, and some sexual ambiguity.  They did not hold ordinary jobs.
(11 pages)

11.  Conjurors and the Paranormal

Magicians have been involved with paranormal controversies for hundreds of years.  Contrary to most people's expectations, many of the most prominent conjurors in history have endorsed the reality of psychic phenomena.  Numerous citations to first-person accounts are given.
(18 pages)

12.  CSICOP and the Debunkers

CSICOP is the most publicly visible institution commenting on the paranormal.  It is closely associated with aggressively anti-religious groups.  It exemplifies qualities of the mythical character Prometheus, a trickster of the Greeks.
(14 pages)

13.  Small Groups and the Paranormal

Psychic phenomena are associated with individuals and small groups; rarely are large organizations directly involved.  Case studies are presented.
(9 pages)

14.  Alternative Religions and Psi

Psychic abilities are valued in Spiritualism, the New Age movement, and modern-day witchcraft.  The scientific establishment and respectable churches discourage pursuit of psi abilities.  They ridicule the attempts, or declare them to be sinful.  Concepts of liminality and anti-structure explain the conflicts.
(7 pages)

15.  Institutions and the Paranormal

Bureaucracies of government, business, and academe rarely employ psychics.  Sizeable industries are devoted to the paranormal—but they portray it in fiction.  Institutions typically discourage attempts to directly engage the phenomena.
(13 pages)

16.  Anti-structure and the History of Psychical Research

Parapsychology has always been marginal.  Despite support from royalty, prime ministers, and Nobel laureates, and enormous popular interest, it has never been integrated into the bureaucracies of government, industry, or academe.
(19 pages)

17.  Unbounded Conditions

UFO flaps and Bigfoot sightings can involve groups of people that are unknown to each other.  The phenomena can erupt unexpectedly, and there are few cognitive or social mechanisms to contain them.  The events are rife with hoaxes and other trickster manifestations.
(9 pages)

18.  Government Disinformation

The Roswell case and the activities of the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations are examined.  A range of  U.S. government personnel have spread rumors that extraterrestrial aliens are visiting earth.
(28 pages)

19.  Hoaxes and the Paranormal

Hoaxes infest the paranormal, but they have surprising benefits.  Budd Hopkins' case of the 1989 UFO abduction of Linda Napolitano is examined.  The implications for ufology are explored.
(25 pages)

Part 5

20.  Reflexivity and the Trickster

Reflexivity refers to a process or operation turned back upon itself.  It is a source of paradox.. Examples are found in meditation, experimenter effects in psychological research, ethnomethodology, sociology of scientific knowledge, and mathematical logic.  The life of Martin Gardner, godfather of the skeptical movement, is reviewed.
(32 pages)
      Download section on Martin Gardner (230 KB PDF)

21.  Laboratory Research on Psi

Laboratory research is reviewed in relation to problematic theoretical issues.  Retro-active PK, the source of psi problem, psi’s negative definition, and its apparent independence of task complexity, make it extremely difficult to integrate parapsychology into the current scientific worldview.
(35 pages)

22.  Totemism and the Primitive Mind

The trickster figure was key to many primitive religions, and to the irrationality of magic and taboo.  Early 20th-century debates on totemism overlapped with controversies in religion and psychical research.  The debates were precursors to structuralism and deconstructionism.
(24 pages)

23.  Literary Criticism, Meaning, and the Trickster

Structuralism, semiotics, and deconstructionism have roots in the debates on totemism, magic, and the irrational.  Literary theories of the trickster are available that apply to interpreting random-number-generator experiments in parapsychology.
(24 pages)
Part 6

24.  The Imagination

Imagery is frequently involved with psychic experience.  The concept of the imaginal realm is examined. The religious, the sociological, and the literary imaginations are explored.  Debates on animal deception are briefly reviewed.
(18 pages)

25.  Paranoia

Paranoia frequently accompanies strong manifestations of the paranormal.  A variety of examples and perspectives are discussed.
(9 pages)

26.  Conclusions

Debates over the supernatural and paranormal have continued for millennia.  Parapsychology is engaged in something quite different than "normal science."  Its phenomena are real but not rational.
(9 pages)

Endnotes  (48 pages)

References  (53 pages)

Index  (30 pages)




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