In a recent post I bemoaned what seemed to be a general ignorance of the literature of Religious Studies and Religious Experience among parapsychologists; I suggested this originated in the emphasis on studying religion as part of sociology these days, and of studying parapsychology as a subset of psychology. I was horrified to attend a mini-conference where terms as basic (to someone like me from a religious studies background) as “gnosis” seemed unfamiliar; and in my review of Christopher Moreman’s excellent book Beyond The Threshold I praised him especially for his willingness to cross-disciplinary boundaries here, where I feel there is a great potential for research, in how these different unusual states correlate. I concluded my review —
This books importance lies in reminding and introducing psychical researchers of the huge amount of work by scholars of religion, and in particular religious experience, since William James seminal The Varieties of Religious Experience (James 1902). Given the overlap in subject matter between some of the research conducted in parapsychology units today, the work being done by religious research units such as the Alister Hardy Trust, and the worrying extent to which the discipline of Religious Studies appears neglected or even unknown by many parapsychologists, this book is both timely and important.
Well I now see that critique was far from justified – having picked up my copy of the JSPR Vol75.1, No. 902, January 2011 at last I find that ironically that review is carried alongside three papers which demonstrate exactly what strong work has been recently done in this area, and is ongoing. While I was aware of David Luke’s work on psychedelic consciousness the papers by Paul Marshall, and Gerhard Mayer & Rene Grunder came as a delightful surprise; and the irony of the review I wrote with those harsh words being published in a special edition of the JSPR being dedicated to such matters has not escaped me!
Furthermore, two of the papers come from the annual Exploring the Extraordinary conference at York which I have long wished to attend; this is run by the Anomalous Experiences Research Unit (AERU) and I actually met many of the lovely folks from there at the conference where I developed a misguided sense of lack of knowledge of the field of religious experience amongst psychical researchers. So I owe them an apology, a big thumbs up, and have revised my opinions — it seems there is a strong research in this field after all: something I knew formed part of the MSc at Coventry University (Hume & Lawrence) but which I felt was generally neglected. As so often I was wrong, and I withdraw my critical remarks. I have not so far read completed reading the papers, but they look very interesting indeed. I just felt an apology to those whose research I had accidentally overlooked was clearly in order first!
I’d also like to take this opportunity to recommend the fascinating blog by Jason Wingate, Lightning in an Oak Box. It’s a thought provoking, well written exploration of many themes related to this area, and the transpersonal. Do take a look!