In living rooms, basements, offices and bedrooms the world over; on desktops, laptops, PC’s and Mac’s; people across the globe are drawing battle lines, making plans for a veritable war, a war whose casualties will be words and ideas and traditions. Sides must be chosen, alliances must be formed and enemies must be scouted, for we are on the eve of a revolution of thought.
In reality, this is a silent war that’s been waging for decades, between believers and doubters, between sceptics and followers, between those who choose to shout from their roof top “they are here, and I believe!” and those who respond with gruff sarcasm “and I believe I’ll wait for proof.”
This conflict between those of hard faith and those of hard fact is actually an ancient tradition; whole hierarchical systems of authority have been built on the idea that those who think they know what’s what, want to be sure those who might think otherwise are silent on the subject. This is an old problem, one for which the pendulum of favour swings far in the direction of either side. The issue rarely matters: religion, politics, science, art…no matter the subject, as long as there is a public discourse on the topic, there will be a delineation of sides, and more often than not, those sides will be entirely unbalanced.
In the 6th century BCE, our greatest scholars knew, as sure as they knew their own names, that the Earth was a flat disk, floating on a great sea at the center of the universe. It was the truth, it was undoubtedly certain and indisputable; until the sceptical voice of dissent began to criticise the so-called facts. They began to analyse and evaluate what was known, comparing the facts to other known facts, and low and behold, they found some incredible discrepancies.
As we all know, by the 3rd century BCE, and with the establishment of Hellenistic Astronomy, the questions became too much for the antiquated facts to bear, and our collective understanding shifted in favour of the Spherical Earth concept. Whole reputations were smashed, belief systems toppled, faith in deistic traditions was shaken, but, and this is the important part, the truth was found.
The battle between truth and convenient assumption is an ongoing theatre of logical manoeuvres, and it revolves around public debate of the issues faced by any one era of social development. The importance of that debate has never been so severe as today, and as was outlined by American Politician Al Gore in his book The Assault on Reason, the public conversation is currently in jeopardy of being lost to the one sided, biased and entirely ill-equipped monologue of television, and by proxy, the big money businesses that support television programming.
There are few sectors of modern society that are freely debated and examined by the public at large, for the most part, popular views on the topics with which we, as the people, are concerned, are force fed to us by news anchors and correspondents. Rarely are we given opportunity to respond, to criticise, or even to agree with the status quo, as manufactured by network news; but one subject is now, as it has been for the last three decades at least, a shining example of the public conversation at it’s most diverse.
That subject is the paranormal, and all that fits under that broadly defined term.
It has long been fascinating to me, the amount of information, educated opinion and free flowing conversation that takes place under the auspices of paranormal research. In no other arena of academia, spirituality and entertainment has there been such an outpouring of social connection between people in all walks of life, in all economic circumstances and at nearly all levels of formal education. To some, the community representing paranormal interests is unorganised, unfocused and unmotivated, but to others, it is a vast sea of debate, exploration, investigation and, ultimately, one of the largest unstructured information sharing projects the world has ever known.
Though the paranormal community discussion has its share of problems too; as with any social debate, the various camps of belief involved have their zealots, their fundamentalists, their moderates, their academics, their thrill seekers and their dogmatists, each struggling in their own way to be heard, to be validated and in some cases to be praised. Each has their own points to make, and each believes their position to be more or less justified than the next.
In the subculture of paranormal research, which is an enormous venue to be sure, we are faced with a changing of the guard, if you will. What was once the refuge of quackery and hocus-pocus, is quickly becoming a stage for sceptical inquiry, for rational discussion and a transparency in research like never seen before. Every splintered genre of paranormality is represented in growing numbers by pioneering scholars and passionate researchers, and while there remains a grandfathered theology to much of what is being discussed, no stone is being left unturned in this steady march toward the truth.
In amongst this vast public conversation, fuelled by the internet, powered by curiosity and funded by enthusiasm, there is a social revolution brewing. Much like the decidedly one dimensional thinking of the ruling social class of the 6th through 3rd centuries BCE, some old notions about what is real and what is truth are about to be tipped on their head. It may not come as a brain splitting epiphany, and it may not be completely obvious to the masses at first, but this revolution of thinking is underway, and there are three concepts which give it speed; critical examination, passionate exploration and unquenchable curiosity.
Of course, this is not a road paved with gold and shouldered with roses; there are barriers and detours ahead. Those of us with an eye toward the future can see where our path may diverge from that of our less committed brethren. We can see where old thinking and ignorant perspectives are going to get in the way, and some of those barriers will come from places least expected. Authority arguments based on intangible and incredible sources, uncritical collection of data, inter-political posturing, and worst of all, a propensity to throw common sense out the window.
At the end of the day, when all the ghost hunting gear is put away, all the UFO reports have been filed and the Bigfoot photos have been scanned, each and every one of us is human; we are prone to pangs of ego, influenced by greed, affected by ridicule and ultimately, are in imminent danger of complete and total failure. There are great things ahead for those who are willing to endure and to participate in the debate with honesty and integrity. For those who are looking to exploit the vast mysteries in this particular debate to selfish and unscrupulous ends, I’m sorry to say, you will be left in the cold by those of us with enough sense to see past your flim-flam show, and to move beyond it in search of the truth.
This need not be a campfire song cliché, we needn’t hold hands and commune in order to reap the benefits of this transformation…all we need do is open our eyes and keep doing what we’ve been doing. The discussion will get louder, more voices will be heard, and in the end, we will all be richer for the experience.