Dec 052010

John R. DeLorez

I am always baffled by “Researchers of the Paranormal” when they mock those with personal experience of the very subject that the researcher professes to be studying, personal experience acquired as a result of an individual’s possession of any number of forms and degrees of psychic abilities.  For the paranormal researcher to discount or make light of the use of Psychics and/or Mediums indicates a lack of knowledge of the subject matter being investigated.

My guess is that by doing so they are attempting to create the perception that they are approaching the subject from a real world “scientific” point of view, and therefore should be accorded the appropriate level of respect customary for one who is involved in “scientific research”.  It has always had just the opposite effect on me, leading me to wonder just how qualified the researcher is, and do they even understand what it is that they are attempting to do research on?

To do “serious” research one is expected to use the scientific method. By definition, when using the scientific method, one is not supposed to allow oneself to be influenced by preconceived biases, in this case, a bias against data collected through the human psychic.  The research is, ideally, to be based upon a starting theoretical model that is modified over time as data is collected and analyzed.  The parts of the model that can be verified, or at least not discredited, are kept in the model.  The parts of the model that are demonstrated to not be accurate are discarded or modified.

To develop the initial model and then to be able to do data analysis requires at least some knowledge of the field being investigated.  For example, I would not expect to find a Mechanical Engineer doing research in the field of Molecular Biology.  The individual might have an excellent education and be a very good Mechanical Engineer, but their ability to develop models, devise experiment protocols and then do data collection and analysis in the area of Molecular Biology, would not be consistent with their education or life experience.

It has been my observation that most of those who I have come in contact with who are interested in Paranormal Research are sincere, enthusiastic individuals with, at best, some background in either the popular culture’s fascination with meters, recorders and other Paranormal Research Equipment, or some background or belief in Psychic phenomena.   It is rare that I find anyone who has much of a background in the physical sciences.

As far as I can tell with only limited knowledge of their organizations and methods, of the various Paranormal groups that I am at least somewhat familiar with today, including the ones with the most popular shows on TV, none of them have, or at least do not state that they have, a working model to start with or use in their investigations, have no experimental protocols, and focus their entire efforts on the setting up of people and equipment for the collection of data.  The data analysis seems to consist of no more than reviewing the tapes/recordings afterwards to see if any anomalies show up, and then they stop at the point where they recognize that they “got something”.

I have no wish to discourage anyone from joining any of these groups.  I do understand the interest many people have in participating in events that might allow them to have a personal experience with a paranormal event, therefore gaining some assurance that there is “Life After Death”.  Many of the organizations I have looked at in my research have a common mission statement that recognizes this as their specific main function, “To find proof that there is life after death”.  At the same time, to let my sarcastic side out for the moment, the requirements for being a qualified Paranormal Investigator today seem to revolve around not much more than having a catchy name and logo for the group, and it helps if everyone has matching tee-shirts and or jackets with the logo printed on them.

But to be fair about it though, where can the sincere individual find a means of obtaining a solid background education in this discipline?  Although there are many individuals who I respect in this field from whom one could learn much within the specific area of their expertise, I am not aware of any school or group that has a program that could provide the basics in the all of the following areas: (1) basic scientific methods, (2) basic material world science/physics, (3) a beginning model for the non-physical portion of the universe that is supposed to be the area of origin of Paranormal phenomena, and (4) the development in the individual of any of the many forms of psychic abilities such as Clairvoyance, Clairaudience, Clairsentience, Empathic Abilities, Medium, Trance Medium, Psychometry, etc., any or all of which would be useful in Paranormal Research.  To understand why this split exists between the study of the non-physical realm (paranormal) and the working with this same realm (psychics) some history would be helpful.

When using phrases like Researchers of the Paranormal, Paranormal Investigator or Parapsychologist (or Ghost Hunter or Ghost Buster) it should be clearly understood that the root source for all of these phrases, “Parapsychology” has two very different meanings in Western Culture.  Professional Psychologists and Therapists have one definition for the word, and popular culture, thanks mainly to the entertainment industry, has a very different understanding of what the word suggests.  I believe that the divergence in meaning between these two areas came about to a large extent as a result of something as basic as how one obtains funding for their research.  Is the researcher working within classical academia where they must “publish or perish”, or within the entertainment industry, where one must both entertain, and if possible, thrill their audience, if one is to be able to obtain funding from the sale of books and/or from having their own TV show?

University Psychology Departments in the 1950’s recognized that an unexplored area existed within their field which they could no longer ignore.  Although still not willing to officially investigate any phenomena that fell outside of preset fixed boundaries that discounted any suggestion of the possibility of life in any form other than physical, or of an intelligence that resided somewhere other than the human brain, still, colleges and universities began adding courses in Parapsychology to their curriculums.  By the late 1970’s, for a short period of time, there were even a number of US Universities that were offering degrees in Parapsychology.

In what was probably an attempt to present an aura of scientific respectability about the subject, the fathers of modern parapsychology rejected the study of any area that could not be first demonstrated as valid using the “scientific method” in a laboratory setting.  By doing so, Parapsychology research in the University environment became restricted to only that which could be documented using statistical analysis.  Observational Data, no matter how ground breaking in the field, which could not be reproduced over and over again in the lab (the classic ESP Zener Card experiments) was rejected out of hand.  Field work to investigate such anomalies as hauntings were completely out of the question.  Funding for research in an academic environment is dependent upon the kind of physical results that can be produced as a result of the research, mainly in the form of statistical data reports and scholarly papers submitted for peer review.  One’s funding was likely to dry up if all you had to show for your research was some audio tapes of a onetime event where a haunting was being investigated.

A college text of that period by two professors at Duke University, titled PARAPSYCHOLOGY, FRONTIER SCIENCE OF THE MIND, A Survey of the Field, the Methods, and the Facts of ESP and PK Research, by J. B. Rhine and J. G. Pratt[1], pretty well summed up the attitude of mainstream science in the title.  The boundaries set by science at that time placed parapsychology exclusively within the realm of the “mind,” and dealt almost singularly with ESP (Extrasensory Perception, non-physical communications between individuals) and PK (Psychokinesis, the ability to move objects with the mind).  Some excerpts from this textbook follow:

“It should from the very beginning be made clear that the phenomena with which parapsychology deals are all, without exception, events of nature. In other words, the field of problems belongs entirely to natural science. As the next chapter will indicate, the observations and experiments are dealt with strictly in the established manner of scientific inquiry. Accordingly, whatever comes out of the investigations of this field belongs, just as in any other branch of science, to the body of organized knowledge known as natural law.

What, then, identifies a psychical phenomenon as parapsychical? It is an occurrence that has been shown by experimental investigation to be unexplainable wholly in terms of physical principles. It is, in fact, the manifestly nonphysical character of parapsychical phenomena that for the present constitutes their only general identifying feature and marks them off from the rest of general psychology. This does not, of course, alter the fact that the data of parapsychology are natural. As a matter of fact, our concept of what is “natural” is built up out of just such discoveries of science as they are made; accordingly it goes on growing, and will continue to do so, with each added bit of knowledge. It is now clear that, contrary to some of the limiting philosophies that currently prevail, nature extends beyond the domain of purely physical law.

The distinction of these parapsychical occurrences from physics is not, however, an absolute one. Rather, they usually involve physical events or objects, either as stimuli or as effects. But there is always some distinct point at which a completely physical interpretation is manifestly inadequate. To illustrate, the direct influence of human volition on a moving object without the use of any kind of physical energy to achieve the effect would constitute a phenomenon for parapsychological study. Or again, an individual may obtain knowledge of an event occurring beyond the range of his senses and his reasoning abilities. If there should be no transfer of physical energy from the event to the individual, no sensory function could convey the knowledge and the experience would be parapsychical.”

The last paragraph would seem to provide justification for the categorizing as Paranormal Researchers those groups that go under the modern label of “Ghost Hunters”.  A common thread for these groups is the collection of data in the form of video and/or audio recordings of images/sounds that cannot be traced to a mundane physical source.

The naysayers claim that the study of Parapsychology using the Scientific Method has never produced a result indicative of any actual phenomena, and the enthusiasts tend to ignore the collection of hard data using the Scientific Method in favor of experiential data that by its’ nature cannot be replicated, thereby invalidating it to the mainstream scientific community (a Sensitive is used to experience discarnate entities).  It is my belief that the study of Parapsychology and Paranormal Phenomena can and should be undertaken within the standards of the Scientific Method, but absolutely also requires the inclusion of those areas of experience generally labeled as psychic or spiritualist.

Using the Scientific Method to prove a theory in Parapsychology, or to demonstrate that someone has actual ability to cause Parapsychological Phenomena such as PK to occur, would require that all variables be maintained at a consistent value for each test, and that by doing so identical results can be obtained each time the test is run.  For example, placing an individual in an identical environment for each test, and using the same deck of Zener cards each time for an ESP experiment, would theoretically result in obtaining identical test scores each time, something that researchers have not been able to accomplish.  The challenge that the researcher runs up against in using the scientific method is determining what constitutes an identical environment, and then being able to replicate it.

The disadvantage placed on the researcher in doing this type of research, compared to standard physical sciences research, are the restrictions placed upon the tester’s ability to identify the variables involved.  To be able to know what the variables are to such a degree that there is a high probability of their being either controlled in order to prevent variability between tests, or where their variability can at least be monitored and recorded for each test is an absolute must.

For most researchers though, if the testing is of a phenomenon that is tied to non-physical world events, such as a haunting, it may be not only impossible for them to identify the variables, but in mainstream science they are not even allowed to accept the possibility of the existence of such variables, much less be able to ensure that they are the maintained the same for each event.  Taking it a step further, when mainstream science refuses to even allow for the possibility that there may be non-physical variables involved, then their tests are in fact, not based on the Scientific Method, with the end result being that the tests are being rigged to always provide them with a negative answer which is the only answer that they can accept.

How is it that researchers in the academic environment cannot even speculate on the possibility of other, non-measurable variables in this field, let us take a look at another excerpt from this textbook:

“Parapsychology needs also to be distinguished from popular concepts connected with certain areas of practice or belief which are sometimes confused or associated with it. Occultism is one of these. This term designating the study of hidden arts or principles does not apply to the scientific type of approach that characterizes parapsychology. Spiritualism is another term that has been widely associated with parapsychology. Spiritualism, however, is a religion, having for its central emphasis belief in the existence of a world of discarnate personalities supposedly able to communicate with the living, mainly through mediumship. They are also believed capable of manifestations such as hauntings and poltergeist phenomena (a sort of rough?housing attributed to noisy spirits). As with all religious systems of belief, there are certain doctrines in Spiritualism based upon the assumption of capacities that have not been verified by scientific method in parapsychology. The relationship of parapsychology to areas possibly involving its principles is, in general, something like that of a pure to an applied science area. There is the important difference, however, that in no instance in parapsychology as yet has such application grown out of preceding laboratory discovery.

Certain of the terms more commonly associated with spiritualism have come into widespread popular usage; for example, the terms medium and mediumship. Strictly speaking, the term medium implies a theory of spirit survival and of communication of discarnate personalities with the living through the intermediation of persons known as mediums. This is a doctrine in the Spiritualist faith and is not a scientifically established fact in parapsychology. It is, however, correct to say that the investigation of the hypothesis of spirit survival and communication would be a parapsychological one (see Chapter 6).”

By definition, according to this textbook then, if the source of phenomena cannot be found in the manifest physical world, then variables associated with experiments involving the phenomena cannot be taken into consideration, must be assumed to not exist, and therefore cannot be included in the research.  Makes it kind of hard to do research in the area of Paranormal Phenomena, which is also defined in this textbook as phenomena that has no discernable physical source, if one is forbidden to look to the non-physical for collecting data.  Any data collected that might be related to the possibility the existence of Life after Death is regulated to the religion of Spiritualism and consequently cannot even be considered in Parapsychological Research.  If it cannot be considered in research by the academic community, then it certainly cannot be included in any curriculum that the school might develop related to Parapsychology either.

I have worked with, been exposed to, and felt driven to reconcile the seeming contradictions between the areas of non-physical phenomena and hard science all of my six plus decades.  Although I didn’t know then that I was doing paranormal research, my first project lasted for a period of ten years, running from the age of 7 to 17.  My education and means of earning an income have primarily been oriented around the hard sciences.  My avocation has been the study and personal development of an understanding of the area the textbook above labels as Spiritualism, and how it relates to the area of knowledge generally referred to as “hard science”.

During the forty years or so that I have worked with the local Southern California community of those involved in the field of Metaphysics, New Age and “Psychic” philosophies, it has become apparent to me that there is a need in this type of research for both the hard science equipment operator and the psychic sensitive if the research is going to generate the greatest amount of usable data.   The most sensitive instrument that can be used to detect paranormal phenomena is the human instrument; it is also unfortunately an instrument that can be of fluctuating reliability with results from the same individual varying from investigation to investigation (there are a number of reasons for this variation that do not compromise the value of the human instrument, but it is far too an extensive area of study to go into here).

As I stated in the opening, for the researcher to discount the use of Psychics or Mediums in the field of Paranormal Research I feel indicates a lack of knowledge of the subject matter being investigated, and will more importantly, limit the researcher’s ability to produce much in the way of new insights into science of paranormal phenomena.

Despite the official academic position regarding the reality of areas of life that are not measurable by yard stick or oscilloscope, it is my hope that those who are interested in doing research in the full field of Parapsychology, not just ESP or Hauntings, will do all they can to expand their personal range of knowledge in all of the areas of science and psychics, not just in one or the other.

[1] This text was first published in 1957 and went through a total of five printings, with the last reprint done in 1974, a respectable length of time for any college text to be in use.  If you wish to view this text, PARAPSYCHOLOGY, FRONTIER SCIENCE OF THE MIND is available in its’ entirety on-line at:

  4 Responses to “A Personal Opinion of the Present State of Popular Paranormal Research”

  1. This is a very informative and timely exploration of the subject. I’m currently working with energy clearings which is a cohisive effort of communication with the other side along with the aid of some technical equipment which may substantiate the phenomena. I do believe that there has to be an understanding and openness to working together with both science and psychic abilities combined in order to provide the greatest discoveries and service in this area of investigation.

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