Harnessing the "Paranormal Community" by Loyd Auerbach is an article the current issue of Edge Science, the on-line magazine published by The Society for Scientific Exploration. In the article, Auerbach asks people who are knowledgeable about parapsychology to read internet forums on paranormal phenomena and post information on parapsychology. Auerbach explains that most people have a very poor understanding of what is known about paranormal phenomena because they get most of their information from television programs that are not reliable sources of information. Auerbach hopes that a better awareness of parapsychology in the paranormal community will result in more useful data being reported and greater support for parapsychology.
I think Loyd Auberach is correct. I have been reading and posting to the reddit paranormal subreddits and occasionally to the Above Top Secret paranormal forum. I have seen many people who don't know where to go for reliable information and who have been misinformed by the television shows. My main interest on these forums is to help people cope with psychic experiences , and help people who have ghosts in their homes to help those spirits to complete their transition to the spirit world. But I have also been posting information on parapsychology, such as Evidence for the Afterlife, Proof of ESP, how materialist pseudo-skeptics spread misleading information, and after it was posted recently, Dean Radin's list of Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles on Psi.
But, there are two sides to this divide between parapsychologists and the paranormal community. It is a good idea to educate ordinary people about what parapsychologists are doing. But parapsychologists should also recognize that ordinary people have played a genuine role in this field and it is equally important for parapsychologists to gain a better understanding of what ordinary people are doing. Ghost hunter TV shows mislead ordinary people about paranormal phenomena but they also mislead parapsychologists about what ordinary people know about paranormal phenomena. Botanists recognize the value of knowledge about the uses of plants gained through first hand experience by shamans. Parapsychologist should not dismiss the value of the knowledge ordinary people may have about paranormal phenomena.
Some ghost hunters are just teenagers with EVP recorders out for a lark, but others are psychic or involve psychics and do serious work. Parapsychologists might benefit from identifying the more serious investigators among the ghost hunters and opening a dialog with them, not just to teach them about parapsychology, but to learn from them about the phenomena they study.
I have had many paranormal experiences at Spiritualist churches taking classes in medumship and spiritual healing, and observing mediumship demonstrations that occur during the Sunday service. It is not just the experiences of doing mediumship but also the teaching methods, and stages of development that should be of interest to parapsychologists. Parapsychologists should learn about these aspects of psychic phenomena which ordinary people are involved in. They could do this by attending Spiritualist services, which welcome anyone regardless of their beliefs, or even by taking classes. Parapsychologists may learn as much from trying to develop their own psychic abilities as they can by studying the psychic abilities of other people. Anyone who has undertaken any large project will know that when you get involved in the details of doing something, when you get your hands dirty, you find out things you never imagined when you were only thinking about the subject in an abstract sense. Also, the most qualified person to identify conditions that are conducive to psychic perception is someone who is psychic, particularly if they developed their abilities through a systematic learning process. If parapsychologists want to obtain positive results, personal knowledge of what it is like to develop and use psychic abilities would be valuable.
Furthermore, there are many psychics to be found at Spiritualist church services. They represent a potential pool of subjects who have developed psychic abilities and might be willing to participate in parapsychological experiments if they were personally familiar with the investigator. A lot of high quality evidence on mediumship could be collected (using appropriate blind protocols) if someone earned the trust and cooperation of an advanced class in mediumship at a Spiritualist church. Those students and the spirits of the relatives of their classmates have years of experience communicating. They are trained mediums and trained spirits who are all practiced at communicating with each other. As Richard Hodgson discovered many years ago when he studied Mrs. Piper, spirits improve their ability to communicate through mediums with practice. However, I am not aware of any studies on mediumship that tried to take advantage of this phenomenon.
There are many independent Spiritualist churches as well as those that belong to these organizations:
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