“Normal is an illusion. What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.”
– Charles Addams.
Anthropology has always excited me. I’m not weird, we all have our passions, some of you enjoy Korean Pop groups, and I’m here for you. I’m not judging. What I’ve always liked about anthropology is its ability to describe life in philosophical paradigms, which make the normal seem abnormal.
For example, when I began anthropology at university level in 2007, I was young, idealistic, and had a complete world-view. Through my studies, I learned that this is impossible. What I thought were universal truths turned out to be culturally constructed scenarios. I came to realise how many valid realities exist, notwithstanding my own view of those realities.
Coming at the paranormal from an anthropological perspective seems plausible to me in a way pre-2007 Jaycee would have deemed ridiculous. Anyone reading this must either be interested in the paranormal, anthropological theory or both. However, if you are new to either topic here is how they are described.
Paranormal: “Not scientifically explainable.” This is an updated word from the 20th century used to replace supernatural: “Of or relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe in relation to God.” Scientists now study paranormal events and anomalies by applying its own archetypes. They believe the study of paranormal is valid because there are too many accounts from humans to disregard it.
Now, let’s talk regarding the current state of paranthropology. According to the ‘Journal of Anthropological Approaches to the Paranormal,’ their own discipline is threatened in the new world of alternative facts. Yes, Trump has invaded everywhere, even the world of anthropology. So let me explain.
The general populous tends towards skepticism when anthropologists present the realities of others as something outside of our understanding of it. For example, with shamanism, we are quick in the ‘Western’ world to dismiss this as a form of forced psychosis or a psychological phenomenon. However, these are our terms and archetypes which inform our assessment of any given situation.
So in the world of alternative facts, everything is up for debate. nothing is concrete. Therefore the already tenuous disciplines within a philosophical vein, attempting to contribute to humankind’s cultural advancement rather than purely technological (Schroll, 2017), seem unfit to exist in the modern world.
If we return to the context of the shaman and their people, their reality is different to our own. Not only does their practices work, it is effective. Human beings create our shared realities through thinking. If we stop for a moment to consider, trillions of dollars/ euros/pounds are exchanged worldwide on an annual basis. Ye that monetary value only exists because of a shared belief.
So why not allow the belief in shamanism? It’s due to the Eurocentric view within our education systems that we are the complete reality. We’ve reached the end of history, and our sciences offer us the comforting notion that every unusual event can be explained away by them.
“Nevertheless, Euro- American science has scoffed at accounts of primordial anthropology as idyllic dreams of a Golden Age, believing shamans were psychotic or at best charlatans.”4[i]
Within anthropology, our most important tool is storytelling. By doing so peer through the keyhole at the realities of others, whether that be the stock market in New York City, or the shaman in a very small community in Africa. Rather than dismissing the truths of others, we present them in a way a ‘European / western’ audience might understand.
Make no mistake though, anthropology is aware to a fault of its influence on these stories. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Bourdieu and his notion of habitus.[ii] Yet we continue to try and do better, by simply allowing the stories of our participants to be presented as rawly as possible while continuing to question what consciousness means for humans.
“Consciousness could, then, be located both within the body and outside of the body simultaneously…Quantum models of consciousness are gradually proliferating in the field of consciousness studies, and are beginning to receive a degree of serious thought amongst philosophers, psychologists and physicists”[iii]
We still have a long way to go in our understanding of paranormal phenomena, however, the first step is to stop dismissing outright. The second step is to give up our arrogant notions of complete paradigms. Step three? Well, we’re working on it. Stay tuned.
Anthropology: “The science of human beings.”
Paranormal: “Events or phenomena outside the bounds of scientific explanation.”
Paranthropology: “Anthropological Approaches to the Paranormal.”
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- Dr Radin, Dean. “Real Magic. Ancient Wisdom, Modern Science, and a Guide to the Secret Power of the Universe.”
- “Paranthropology: Journal of Anthological Approaches to the Paranormal.” Vol 8. No 1. (March 2017).
- Bourdieu, P., & Nice, R. (1977). Outline of a Theory of Practice (Vol. 16). Cambridge university press Cambridge.
[i] Schroll, Mark A. 2018 “Revisiting Cultural Evolution and Technological Evolution in Consciousness Studies.” The Journal of page 4
[ii] Bourdieu, P., & Nice, R. (1977). Outline of a Theory of Practice (Vol. 16). Cambridge university press Cambridge.
[iv] Hurst, Tanya. 2018. “Catalysts that Initiate Embodied Knowing: Reflections on Individuation, synchronicity, and Ritual Space. Page 57
Did you like this? I have a whole category on anthropology if you want to check it out here is a link. Enjoy!