Renaud Evrard - Ecology: Parapsychology’s Next Challenge QA

Published by View Parapsychological Association's profile Parapsychological Association on Saturday, April 10, 2021

Renaud Evrard is Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Lorraine (Nancy). He is the co-founder of the Center for Information, Research and Counseling on Exceptional Experiences. He is the author/editor of several books on the clinical, historical, anthropological, and sociological approaches of exceptional experiences. He is the current President of the Parapsychological Association and Chair of this symposium.

A recent collective book edited by anthropologist Jack Hunter, Greening the Paranormal (2019), developed some links between ecology and parapsychology. The field of ecology – defined as the study of the relationship between living organisms and their physical environment – is a relatively new area of scientific research. A major concept in ecology is the notion of ecosystems, which are all about relationships, a connection of everything through networks of reciprocal exchange.

The most obvious intersection between ecology and parapsychology is a commonly reported aftereffect of several different types of exceptional experiences (psychedelics, near-death or abduction experiences, etc.), that is the experiencer comes away from their encounter with an enhanced sense of connection to the environment and the world around them (Ring & Elsasser-Valarino, 2006; Forstmann & Sagioglou, 2017). The study of this rising “ecological consciousness” shows another promising aspect of these experiences.

Another intersection is the “naturalist” approach in psi research, what French metapsychics called the “ecology of the psi subject” (Méheust, 1999). Studying psi in its natural environment, particularly when it is recurrent, is best done in a way similar to a biological naturalist. Braude (2014) praised this proposed model of “psychic naturalism” for a better understanding of the nature of psychic functioning than controlled parapsychological laboratory experiments. Sheldrake (1999) used a lot of naturalist observations to develop ecologically valid experimental psi research with animals and humans.

Links between ecology and parapsychology were already made by several authors, with approaches like Long’s “extrasensory ecology” (1977), Warwick’s “transpersonal ecology” (1990), Devereux’s “re-visioning” of the Earth (1996), Schroll’s “transpersonal ecosophy” (2016, 2018). We should also not forget that “vitalism” was a major topic for some older parapsychologists (Driesch, 1933; Geley, 1919). They saw a kind of spiritual “vital force” behind some complex psi phenomena like ectoplasms (Normandin & Wolfe, 2013). The ethological observation of ‘social animals’ also inspired several parapsychologists, which favored a holistic view of mind, with telepathy as the missing link to understand zoopsychism, polyzoism and polypsychism (Mackenzie, 1923; Warcollier, 1946; Chauvin, 1985). They highlighted at each level – from cells to crowds – a “coalition for existence” in opposition to the Darwinian “struggle for existence.”

More recently, the Global Consciousness Project was developed as a holistic experimental approach to psi, a unique 20-year scientific collaboration of researchers recording the effects of mass consciousness in response to major global events (Nelson, 2019). This suggests a large perspective similar to Teilhard de Chardin’s noosphere and Lovelock’s Gaïa hypotheses. Should we finally consider psi in its terrestrial ecosystem?

But, as suggested by Hunter (2019, p. 3), we should not examine parallels between ecology and parapsychology just for the sake of exploring interesting intersections, “but for the essential task of contributing towards a much broader – necessary – change of perspective concerning our relationship to the living planet.” One way to discuss that is to analyze how “ontological assumptions underlying the rejection of the so-called paranormal by mainstream materialist science and culture are precisely the same as those that underlie the ecological crisis and our society’s fractured relationship with the Earth” (Hunter, idem).

This is precisely what has been done by retired professor of philosophy Bertrand Méheust (b. 1947), a major French author in both areas of ufology and parapsychology, who has also published essays in political ecology since 2009. Méheust overtly establishes complex links between ecology, politics and anomalistics. All of his work over the past decade describes common properties of social groups welcoming charisms (including Jesus’ so-called miracles), and especially their orientation toward a natural and cosmic solidarity. These groups usually face an ecocidal organization of denial, which successfully manages to avoid overheating which would tip the system. Méheust relies on his expert knowledge on last century’s institutional rejection of psychical research, especially the French metapsychics and its qualitative and “ecological” approach of psi experiences. However, he also applied to political ecology anomalistic theories, such as those on elusiveness and on the Trickster archetype. He suggested that one function of exceptional experiences is to “generate religions” that reorganize the links between man and its environment.

While humanity’s greatest challenge is the current ecological crisis, parapsychology may contribute to the expected changes of behavior by changing the way we think about our place in the cosmos.

REFERENCES

Braude, S. (2014). Crimes of reason: On mind, nature, and the paranormal. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.

Chauvin, R. (1985). La biologie de l’esprit. Monaco: Editions du Rocher.

Devereux, P. (1996). Re-visioning the Earth: A guide to opening the healing channels between mind and nature. New York: Atria Books.

Driesch, H. (1933). Psychical research: The science of the super-normal. London: G. Bell & Sons.

Forstmann, M., Sagiolgou, C. (2017). Lifetime experience with (classic) psychedelics predicts pro-environmental behavior through an increase in nature relatedness. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 31(8), 975-988.

Geley, G. (1919/1921). From the unconscious to the conscious. New York & London: Harper & Brothers.

Hunter, J. (2019, ed.). Greening the paranormal. Exploring the ecology of extraordinary experience. London, UK: August Night Press.

Long, J.K. (1977). Extrasensory ecology: Parapsychology and Anthropology. London: Scarecrow Books.
Mackenzie, W. (1923). Metapsichica moderna: Fenomeni Medianici e problemi del subcosciente. Rome, Italia: Libreria di Scienze e Lettere.

Méheust, B. (1999). Somnambulisme et médiumnité (2 vol.). Paris, France: Les empêcheurs de penser en rond.

Nelson, R. (2019). Connected: The emergence of global consciousness. ICRL Press.

Normandin, S., Wolfe, C.T. (2013, eds.). Vitalism and the scientific image in Post-Enlightment life science, 1800-2010. New York, NY, USA : Springer.

Ring, K., Elsasser-Valarino, E. (2006). Lessons from the light: What we can learn from near-death experiences. Needham, USA: Moment Point Press.

Schroll, M.A. (2016). Transpersonal ecosophy, vol. 1: Reflections on sacred site dream research, the mind/body problem, parapsychology, spiritual emergency/emergence, transpersonal psychology, the anthropology of consciousness, and more. Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochant, U.K.: Psychoid Books.

Schroll, M.A. (2018). Ecology, cosmos, and consciousness: Myths, comicbook lore, dreams and inquiries into various other radical transpersonal ecosophical states. Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochant, U.K.: Psychoid Books.

Sheldrake, R. (1999). Dogs that know when their owners are coming home & other unexplained powers of animals. Canada: Three Rivers Press.

Warcollier, R. (1946). Polyzoisme et Polypsychisme. La Métapsychique, 1940-1946 (pp. 2-72). Paris, PUF.

Warwick, F. (1990). Toward a transpersonal ecology: Developing new foundations for environmentalism. St Mabyn: Resurgence Books.
 

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