A Skeptic's Handbook of Parapsychology

By Paul Kurtz | Go to book overview
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wasted time, had to be abandoned. So I returned to where I started.

I do not intend to waste any more time over the hoaxes and fictional reports put out by parapsychologists. The Churches' Fellowship is one of the leading Christian occult organizations in England today and has an impressive list of bishops and distinguished clerics supporting it. It is abundantly clear that before publishing these tales those responsible made no attempt whatever to obtain any kind or sort of corroboration. The revival of occultism under the name of psychical research has been accompanied by nearly all the follies that were so striking a feature in medieval times and, masquerading as science, has succeeded in attracting the attention of many who have little idea of what lies below the surface. Most of Europe appears to be infected, and it is, in my view, one of the signs of the disintegration of Western culture. Horoscopes appear in most newspapers every day, and the state of the public mind in England at least can be measured by a statement made to me by a well-known worker in the BBC. He told me that today, if a man was shown falling off a chair and the viewers were told that he was in a trance, they would be thrilled. In Germany, a society has been formed to try to combat the growing superstitious attitudes that are so common in the population, but throughout Europe charms and amulets are on open sale, and, as far as I can see, leaders of European and American parapsychology do little or nothing to show their disapproval. In my view such silence on their part is almost tantamount to approval, but it has nearly always been a feature of the parapsychological scene.

In the issue of the American Psychologist for May 1969, already mentioned, R. A. McConnell, in an admirable summary of some difficult questions, asks why psychologists are not interested in ESP. Has it ever struck him that their lack of interest is because they do not want to be associated with the parapsychologists whose reputation for the pursuit of truth is not of the highest and who are linked with a crowd of dubious and half-baked seekers after marvels. Were it to rid itself of these people instead of suffering them and appointing them to positions of prestige and authority, it might have a great future. But I doubt if the purge will come in my time.

In my view parapsychologists have a grave responsibility in these matters. Modern mass means of communication pick up these tales of the occult world, and the general public is led to believe that the paranormal can be observed almost anywhere at any time. Children in England are holding ouija board séances, believing that they can get in touch with the spirits, and on several occasions the results have not been happy. An attitude of skepticism is deplored and the public is led to believe that anybody who throws doubts on the alleged discoveries of the parapsychologists is sunk in a morass of outdated materialism. Little do they know what lies beneath the surface of the new occultism and the new witchcraft. Anyway, I have finished with it.

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