Mysteries, Miracles & Parapsychology
November 10, 2012
By Robert Schoch
Parapsychology is full of anecdotal accounts of strange occurrences, which cause many people to simply shake their heads in disbelief.1 The phenomena of parapsychology grade into the mysteries and miracles that are the boon and bane of much religion. After all, to use a Christian example (and in no way am I making a statement about Christianity per se), not only can Jesus and the saints perform miracles, but so can Satan and his cohorts!
When it comes to the question of whether or not parapsychological phenomena are real, for many people the stakes are high, as the answer has the potential to confirm or deny their worldview. Some are incredulous when it comes to telepathy, even though it has been statistically demonstrated time and again in laboratory settings, whereas the credulity of others stretches much, much further.
In popular culture often the reality, or not, of the paranormal (viewed popularly as “miracles”) is seen as confirming, or refuting, one of the fundamental tenets of many religions, namely life after death. As the late parapsychologist and University of Virginia (Charlottesville) psychiatrist Dr. Ian Stevenson (1918 – 2007) wrote,
Some persons can segregate beliefs about different aspects of non-material existences and events. This would be particularly likely to be true of persons who have made a special study of psychical phenomena…. However, I think that members of the general public do not usually make such a distinction. For most of them, a belief in life after death almost entails a belief in miracles, such as the phenomena described in the Bible, and also a belief in what we call paranormal cognition. Conversely, members of the general public who do not believe in life after death are also likely to be skeptical about all kinds of paranormal phenomena, the recognition of which would imply for them a soul that would survive bodily death.2
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