Autumn Alumni Lecture
Dr Jack Hunter
Deep Weird: High Strangeness, Boggle Thresholds and Damned Data in Academic Research on Extraordinary Experience
Friday 3rd Sep (18.30 - 20.00 GMT) 2021
This presentation is about the stranger reaches of extraordinary experience research, and examines why some of the most unusual experiential reports come to be neglected in the scholarly discourse, even within this relatively fringe field of inquiry. Some of the reasons are methodological in nature, while others are rooted in deeper cultural and personal attitudes to anomalous data.
The academic aversion to the most unusual forms of extraordinary experience has resulted in a gulf between the kinds of experiences discussed in the scholarly literature - which often fall into distinctive types and categories (OBE, NDE, voice hearing, encounters with light, religious experience, and so on) - and the writings of popular paranormal researchers, who have more frequently been able to discuss a broader range of experiential accounts (from UFO encounters to Bigfoot and fairy sightings). Notwithstanding this divide, however, there are significant themes that run through the established academic literature on religious and extraordinary experience and the canon of popular paranormal research, some of which are explored. These similarities suggest that even the most unusual experiences, which are often ignored by academics, contain elements that connect them to other forms of extraordinary experience that are more broadly accepted.
This presentation concludes by suggesting that a sense of ‘high strangeness’ might well be a core underlying feature of extraordinary experience more generally, and that instead of being neglected the ‘deep weird’ should be granted greater and renewed scholarly attention.
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Dr. Jack Hunter is an anthropologist exploring the borderlands of consciousness, religion, ecology and the paranormal. He is an Honorary Research Fellow with the Alister Hardy Religious Experience Research Centre, and a tutor with the Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, where he teaches on the MA in Ecology and Spirituality and the MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology. He is a Research Fellow with the Parapsychology Foundation. In 2010 he founded Paranthropology: Journal of Anthropological Approaches to the Paranormal. He is the author of Spirits, Gods and Magic (2020) and Manifesting Spirits (2020), and is the editor of Greening the Paranormal (2019), Damned Facts (2016) and Talking with the Spirits (2014).