Paranormal Phenomena: Facing the Unknown

by Thomas Zinser, Ed.D.

Paranormal phenomena such as communication with spirits, telepathy, or out-of-body travel contradict what our empirical science says is true. I concluded in the last essay that these contradictions—and they all add up to a big contradiction—are at the core of the denial of the paranormal. If these phenomena are real, if there are other dimensions of reality and being, then the materialist framework collapses. I argued that the denial of the paranormal is a defense triggered by the anxiety and fear of this collapse.

This defense is most obvious in people like the Amazing Randi. (James Randi is the world-renowned debunker of paranormal phenomena.) These are not skeptics. These are people who have already decided before you ever talk to them that paranormal realities don’t exist. When I see Amazing Randi on TV, I have to ask myself: what would happen to his world were he to have a direct and undeniable experience of the paranormal?

I believe it would shatter his world and put him in shock—psychological shock. After some time to reflect, I think we would hear that he has either rationalized it away or denied to himself that it ever happened, or he would tell us he has experienced a conversionHow one responds to this shock depends on the person, the circumstances, and the phenomena involved.

Amazing Randi is the extreme. It is total denial; a complete shut off of other dimensions of reality. I don’t know what percentage of people in our Western culture hold this extreme position. It could be substantial. In our day-to-day world, though, I suspect most people take the “maybe” position. They fudge on it. “Maybe there is something to it. Maybe there is an afterlife. Maybe ghosts are real.”

Within the strict materialist framework, however, there is no fudging allowed. At this level, those in the maybe position join Amazing Randi. When push comes to shove, they too are in the same all-or-none position as Randi. Either these other dimensions exist and we need to account for them, or they don’t and it’s all nonsense. Depending on your answer, it leads to two very different worlds.

I wouldn’t argue with someone like James Randi. It’s like talking to someone who shuts his eyes and crams his fingers in his ears. He has way too much at stake. Whether it’s his public persona, psychological identity, commercial interests, or ego needs, I don’t know. If he acknowledges the paranormal realities, though, there will be upheaval for him at all levels.

I believe the fear of this revolutionary upheaval underlies the denial of the paranormal in our culture, both at the individual and collective levels.

If you do find yourself in discussion with someone who categorically denies the paranormal realities, ask yourself whether the person can hypothetically take the position of ‘what if it were true.’ Can the person intellectually step outside their box? Can he genuinely assume the possibility that these other dimensions are real and then discuss the logical implications? If not, there won’t really be a discussion.

It’s important to know that just by talking about your experience or paranormal phenomena in general, you force the strict materialist (at least unconsciously) into a paradoxical position where the only way out, in the end, is a revolutionary shift in consciousness. In the meantime, denial is a stop-gap measure.

If you are challenged by the materialist to offer proof, remember, they are demanding that you prove it within their framework and basic assumptions. In that case, they cannot be a fair judge of your experience, its validity, and its possible implications for your life. They cannot be a fair judge of paranormal realities in general. This is also true at the collective level where social pressure and institutions enforce the denial and keep the subject of paranormal phenomena taboo.

The point I would make is this: for those who know or believe they possess certain psychic abilities, are in contact with other beings or dimensions, or are aware of subtle energies, etc., it is important to know that your experience is valid. Even though you may lack the framework to fully explain or understand your experience, it takes nothing away from its validity.

Photo: Courtesy of Rob

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