This post is about ethical paranormal investigations, and it may sound a little pessimistic to some, but I like to call things as I see them. While I may use particular examples in my writing here, my comments are really to be taken much more broadly than a snarf or two about one area specifically.
One of the topics that really gets my goat ready to start ramming is how people treat paranormal, extrasensory, and spiritual experiences, well okay, that and about 75% of the shows on the History Channel. In a good night, I would cite how creative and expressive people can become about their experiences and “research”. On a not so good day, I wonder what kind of wonderful drug people take to really begin to believe what they are saying and then I also wonder why I can’t join that wonderful world where every occurrence means something in a great grand design of which only certain highly intuitive paranormal investigators and people can sense….and yes, that was quite sarcastic.
Now, don’t think I am a hater or someone who has never been open enough to have personal experiences. I have my own wild stories I cannot explain by modern science and thought. But I have also learned better not to have my imagination run away with me. The proliferation of paranormal television shows has not helped the cause of the paranormal becoming a legitimate science because so few of the shows really focus on the objective search and actual science behind what they do. While this is not always the fault of the investigators themselves, the portrayal of current or running theory as fact is really inexcusable for any broadcast. Speculation and half-truth have taken the place of the real search for truth. Is it that we have run out of facts to present on television in interesting ways?
Perhaps I am old fashioned, old school, or maybe just becoming cranky with the world, but I like to think we should all hold ourselves accountable for what we say and believe. One of my favorite urban paranormal legends is that Ouija boards are dangerous things that allow demons to possess you. If you say you would not believe the same thing of a “Life” game board or “Sorry”, then you should not believe this about Ouija boards. Ouija boards are mass-produced pieces of pressboard with plastic planchettes…..not terribly mystical. The practice and art of channeling (or mediumship, or even necromancy if you are speaking with the dead), is what one does when one tries to use a Ouija board. It is an art and skill that takes practice and devotion and a certain sense of discernment and objectivity. While I will not say these arts are not without their risks, those risks certainly do not come shrink wrapped in plastic at Walmart (that is a whole different type of evil). But where is the logic in believing a piece of plywood contains more paranormal powers and efficacy than we do, favored beings in Creation, those created in the image of our Creator? Where is the ethics in spreading blind fear instead of education?
Perhaps it is even my simple opinion, that we have not come through the Dark Ages, the burning times, eons of learning the hard way, to ignore the fact that we are called to think for ourselves and acquire knowledge through observation. Unlike all other beings in Creation, we were born with the ability to rationalize, the Creator-given task to discern. Discernment and knowledge from observation are not the same as book knowledge. It does not come simply from reading or study. It comes from life and learning to try to see and hear things the way they are, instead of simply what we think we see or hear. Sometimes this process is aided by intuition, a flash of understanding, or experience of the process behind the thing we are looking at. With Ghost Hunting, paranormal hunters, nay-sayers, and researchers looking to tout this or that special piece of equipment or theory, but we have to really think more about what it is these hunters are investigating. Are they searching for the truth, or searching for ratings and product endorsements? We have to think about why they are using the equipment they are using. We need to understand the implications behind the ideas, for instance, why is that electromagnetic equipment can catch paranormal phenomena, what does this say about the phenomena that are occurring? Some investigators and producers are better than others. But should only some people feel they need to have integrity? Why should only some people be concerned with the truth and ethical representations?
Each of us should have the integrity and self-respect to discern the truth for ourselves. It is one thing to consider the hypothesis of another and quite a separate thing to accept that hypothesis whole cloth without a second thought. Once we begin down a path of understanding, whether it be history, spirituality, or paranormal investigation, we become obligated to piece apart hypothesis from fact, to follow lines of logic, and know where we or others are making leaps that are not direct. For instance, Zach Bagans on his paranormal investigation show Ghost Adventures claims that ghosts are composed of electromagnetic energy. If at least for the moment, we consider his presumption as expert testimony and make our own logical leap, we could, at face value, speculate that ghosts could then be used as a source of alternative power, if we could find a way to tap into them. I can assume that most readers will find this last statement rather silly. Using machines to capture ghost energy like we use the turbine for wind energy and panel for solar energy, but the logic is correct. If the end reasoning is not correct then it is the original premise that was not correct in the beginning, because lines of logical thought are precise in their methodology, at least when they are applied fully. Paranormal investigators may be seeing some kind of electromagnetic interference or spikes on their equipment, but do we have proof that it is the ghosts that are directly causing the spikes or field changes? It is entirely possible and logical that ghosts are composed of some other kind of energy, perhaps one we cannot, as of yet, detect or detect well, which causes an indirect fluctuation in the electromagnetic fields when they interact. The reason for the anomalous behavior could any one of a hundred reasons, all of which we are obligated to investigate until we can prove something. Sometimes Ochams razor is too simple, sometimes there is more going on than we have the ability to directly observe.
Logic is not a gift given only to those of modern science. From the times of Agrippa to the present, logic has been essential to any exploration into the paranormal and occult. The Classical occultists from who we derive much of concepts and paradigms were first known as Natural Scientists and only modernly termed Occultists. We Westerners, have only three hundred years where the science of the unknown has been separated from the science of the immediately provable. To honor those who have gone before us in these fields we should honor their efforts and strides by making efforts and strides in these natural sciences of our own. If we fail to further our own understandings, we fail to provide a more firm foundation for our future to build from and we will forget how we are connected to the past and the tradition of esoteric and paranormal studies from Western Europe.