Reappraising Methodological Issues: The Efficacy of Allied Traditions.
By Stephanie Lynne Thorburn.
This article comprises a Chapter excerpt from the Kindle text, 'Consciousness, Human Enigma & Parapsychology' by author Stephanie Lynne Thorburn. The work has been extended and updated into a larger volume, due for release later this year. The new text will be titled, 'Consciousness: An Intuitive Union with Noetic Sciences'.
The field of Parapsychology would appear to have encountered an apparent philosophical crisis of confidence, both in respect to its status in the public domain and in relation to the scientific, academic community. A series of consistent issues related to the conveyance of key epistemological aspects of Parapsychology display an apparent disregard for the potential individuality and development of the discipline, as an independent sphere of theory and practice for students and Parapsychologists alike. This conceptually disappointing outcome is at least in some substantial part, an inevitable response to the embracing of somewhat uniform methodological ideals shared equally by the contemporary natural and social sciences. Through examination of controversial methodological issues and the exploration of allied disciplines, this paper advocates plurality in the establishment of a more influential and cosmopolitan future for Parapsychology.
Key concepts : Parapsychology, pedagogy, methodology, holistic therapies, epistemology, marginalisation, status.
In my forthcoming paper on Parapsychological pedagogic issues, I have presented a series of comparative Sociological models in regard to the allied areas of Reiki, shamanic healing, meditation and hypnosis. Reflexive issues in connection to this paper relate firstly, to whether these traditions might be universally accepted as legitimate allies for conceptual analysis and conceptual/ ontological integration. Further, I am aware of my own subjective selection and interpretation of the predominant studies currently available in the field of Parapsychology. Researcher and theorist interpretation are integral to the development of coherent discourses and critiques, amounting to what I believe is termed as 'scholarship' or the conveyance of a distinct perspective in the academic domain, rather than simply reappraisal of existing facets to a debate, (see Billig, 1988). I certainly support the maintenance of scientific rigour to ensure methodologically sound validity, reliability and replicability in Parapsychological studies. However, at a more qualitative level of analysis, I am attempting to represent a reasonably concise Sociological theory of comparative esoteric traditions and emerging occupations such as hypnosis and Reiki in relation to the lessons that can be learnt from their distinctive professional ethos.
Parapsychology and Allied Spheres.
There are some quite stark points of contrast between Parapsychology and a range of alternative traditions in relation to their respective social, ontological status and milieu. As a whole, the uncompromising cultural identity exhibited by increasingly popular 'new age' modalities such as Usui Shiki Ryoho Reiki and Ama Deus shamanic healing are authentic and at total variance with the well researched and rational, yet frequently sceptical face of Parapsychology presented by the most prevalent UK theorists such as Wiseman, Blackmore and French (1). These theorists' research papers are often paramount when articulating conventional Parapsychological discourses within the public domain. Further, the phenomenon of the middle classes embracing "body, mind and spirit' healing, or the fundamentally esoteric aspects of such modalities as Reiki, would seem to be in direct contrast to both public and academic cynicism inhibiting the actualisation of parapsychology as a discipline. It is via closer comparison of the ontological and epistemological 'defence mechanisms' utilised by such esoteric practices as Reiki and shamanic healing, that I feel we may circumvent the limitations offered within existing discourses that seek to explain subjective paranormal phenomena and experiences.
Existing explanations of empathetic phenomenon, NDE's, OBE's have touched on feminist issues such as the acceptance or rejection of the gendered binaries of nature/ nurture and intuition as categories of explanation for Parapsychological experiences. The employment of abnormal psychological frames of reference is common practice in sceptical Parapsychological discourse, (i.e. dissociative tendencies , fantasy proneness, Footnote 2.) Further, the "scientific method' is often used to form reductive neurobiological theories that are popular categories for explanation and dismissal of the complexity attributable to subjective Parapsychological phenomena. Whilst it is not within the remit of this paper to assess the validity or substance of these studies, which I believe are often formulated on selective sound empirical evidence- I would however make the observation that a number of these strategies have simply served to further marginalise the discipline of Parapsychology. I would also make the subsequent assertion that the field of parapsychology would be far freer to explore a range of complementary perspectives, if its theorists would be more accommodating towards the incorporation of the heart, soul and epistemological lessons of more holistic spheres. These holistic spheres include Reiki and hypnosis, and both of these domains have much to offer in respects to their pedagogic base as legitimate subjects for more fully dimensional analysis in themselves.
The lessons potentially learned from the plurality these alternative disciplines offer, and their at least partial abandonment of western scientific methodological goals, has proven efficacious and liberating in the foundation of these alternative disciplines. It would seem that the most powerful component in the success of esoteric modalities when integrating into mainstream culture is their initial engagement with the purchase of cultural confidence and public resonance. Subsequently, practices such as Reiki have been able to establish successful professional, occupational acclaim. Doubtless alternative therapies and skills such as hypnotherapy now also wield a high degree of cultural capital for practitioners.
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