This title was first published in 2000: A manifestation of mass hysteria, a compensation for physical or emotional deprivation, or an alternative to religion? What is the function of the paranormal in society? This question and its many possible answers are the subject of this scholarly study of our enduring fascination with experiences for which science provides no ready explanations. From the ancient cultures of Mesopotamia and Egypt to the present day, Eric Carlton surveys the development of ideas and research associated with the paranormal, culminating as it does today in the recognized academic status accorded to parapsychology. With a critical yet open mind, Carlton explores issues associated with the study of the paranormal, such as witchcraft beliefs, near-death experiences and the UFO phenomenon. Case studies are employed to illustrate and illuminate certain examples and theories. This thought-provoking book concludes that the paranormal and our study of it provides a multi-faceted vehicle for humanity's quest to find meaning in life.
Contents: Introduction; meanings and methods; The development of ideas about the paranormal; The paranormal as a form of social compensation; Excursus: the ’false history’ problem; The paranormal as an aetiological device; Excursus: astrology and the determinants of fortune; The paranormal as mental aberration: near death and out-of-body experiences; Excursus: the reincarnation issue; The paranormal as ethereal hope: the question of survival; Excursus: ambiguity and the psychic; The paranormal and mass hysteria; Excursus: the ’Vailala’ madness in Papua; The paranormal as esoteric cult and media craze: the UFO phenomenon; Excursus: the ’solar temple cult’; The paranormal as a religious surrogate; Excursus: credibility or credulity: a comparative study of beliefs about the paranormal among students in Higher Education; The paranormal as an intellectual pursuit; Excursus: the phenomena of hauntings and apparitions; Postscript: the paranormal and the quest for meaning; Bibliography; Index.