Believe what you wish but know what you believe
About Etheric Studies
This is a Frontier Subject
The scattered population of people involved in the practice and/or study of trans-etheric survival and associated phenomena has not matured into a cohesive community supporting academic institutions and well-funded research facilities. There are no accredited institutions awarding masters or doctorate-level degrees in the study of trans-etheric influences. Instead, funding for such research is, for the most part, limited to questions about the sanity of those who believe these phenomena may be real.
After assuming leadership of the AA-EVP in 2000, my wife Lisa and I attempted to establish and maintain cooperative contact with similar organizations around the world. This included the many hauntings investigation groups and other groups more interested in general trans-etheric phenomena. We have had some success, but early on, it became evident that this frontier subject lacks the necessary culture of cooperation found in more established fields of interest. In short, there is no cultural norm to guide recognition of subject matter expertise or respect for the authority of established models.
Hoping to find support for our study, we turned to the more established organizations representing the parapsychological community such as the British Society for Psychical Research (SPR), The Institute for Noetic Sciences (IONS), Parapsychological Association (PA), Society for Scientific Exploration (SSE) and Academy of Spirituality and Consciousness Studies (ASCS). All of these are important organizations that provide a valuable service to the people studying psi phenomena and human potential. However, with a few important exceptions, we have learned that there is a sort of academic-layperson partition separating the academically trained community from the lay community. By academic standards, the ATransC is a layperson's organization, and except for the ASCS, these organizations had no interest in collaboration.
This partition has virtually stopped organized, informed research into transcommunication. For instance, full membership in the PA requires a doctorate and recommendation of a fellow doctorate. Access to "the literature" is mostly via access to university library system, something that is simply not available to citizen scientists. Perhaps most important, this partition effectively isolates those who are trained as researchers from those who understanding the subject and are able to produce the phenomena. Too often, the result is academics who have relatively little understanding of the phenomena they study, pronouncing about them under the cloak of academic authority. Meanwhile, the subject matter specialists are ignored.
Popular wisdom has it that the field of parapsychology includes survival research, but in practical terms, parapsychology is concerned with human potentials such as psi functioning, and mind functioning such as near-death experiences and reincarnation. From our observations as people deeply involved with the study of transcommunication, we have found very little in these organizations that supports our work. With a few important exceptions, none of the full members of these organizations have indicated a willingness to collaborate with us.
In practice, the field of parapsychology is concerned with how the mind creates the experience of near-death or out-of-body experiences and is not concerned with whether or not these "psychogenic" experiences might be explained by actual experiences in the etheric. Thus, we see that the parapsychological study of survival is more properly seen as the study of psychosis.
Taming the Frontier
Recognizing that a strong paranoralist community needs more of an identity than "just a bunch of people interested in the paranormal," Lisa and I began a number of initiatives intended to help develop a vocabulary and point of view that represent who we really are. The ATransC Idea Exchange proved useful because it permitted us to initiate discussions and solicit input from a large number of members.
On the question of who we are, and after many ideas were tried and set aside, Etheric Studies was a term identified as at least close to what we did. The term avoids confusion with similar names used in a more proprietary way such as parapsychology.
At the same time, "paranormalist" has emerged as a useful name for all of us who are interested in things paranormal. And here, "paranormal" is used in the sense intended in transcommunication, survival and psi studies.
Establishment of an early wiki on the Etheric Studies website was an important ATransC initiative intended to promote cooperation among people interested in the study of paranormal phenomena. We felt that it should be started in neutral territory so that members of the larger community who might be deeply vested in their own organizations, or who naturally resisted "joining," would feel comfortable cooperating in the Initiative. The wiki did not attract editors and after a couple of years, the effort was abandoned.
A second wiki on the ATransC website called The Collective was begun shortly after the Association changed names to ATransC. It is still in use and waiting for participation by other, activist-minded paranormalists.
The Idea Exchange had not been used for some time, which was one of the reasons the ATransC moved away from a membership model. As a world-class board, it remains an excellent tool for community building. It has been opened to the public as a trial and awaits participation.
Just about every aspect of the community one thinks of as paranormal has been contracting or at best, stagnating. In the end, this paranoormalist community is the people. The institutions exist as the people need and use them, but fade away when people lose interest.
One person needs another person of like-mind to talk with in order to share ideas and learn new ones. From the very act of sharing ideas often comes enlightenment ... for everyone involved, but mostly for the one doing the sharing. Being able to talk about one's ideas helps to order them in the mind, which brings the necessary focus to see what makes sense and what needs work.
The Idea Exchange for sure, and speaking with other board owners, most other boards have become virtual ghost towns. Perhaps social media has taken the place of people's need to interact with others, but posts in these services are "here today and forgotten tomorrow" making them useless for the exchange of ideas. In effect, would be seekers have been distracted from potential teachers by the glitter of easy sharing and usually meaningless "likes."
As the ability to exchange ideas has faded, so too has the ability to solicit cooperation amongst paranormalists. The success of the skeptical movement in Wikipedia has largely been the result of the inability of people wanting to learn more about things paranormal to balance the articles. Wikipedia is a democracy in which the majority rules, and so, the skeptical editors can be balanced by equally assertive open minded editors.
The willingness of paranormalists to assert themselves by publicly expressing opinions, asking questions and volunteering to help others is fundamental to a healthy community. It may also be essential for the continued freedom we all have today to study what we wish. Without such involvement, there are no guarantees that we will have that freedom tomorrow. For sure, the skeptics would have us all kowtowing to the status quo.
A community begins with one person. It is up to you to be that person.
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