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Spring Conference 2023
What is it that moves us from the ordinary, everyday understanding of the world to an apprehension and understanding of the paranormal? And what is it that moves us to an apprehension and understanding of the spiritual?
Christopher is a Priest of the Congregation of the Oratory, and a hospital chaplain who is very good at death beds in the early hours. He has first degrees from the Universities of Louvain in Belgium and London, in Theology and Philosophy, and a Doctoral research at the University of Cambridge in Philosophical Theology, particularly mystical theology and contemplative prayer.
Deep Ecologists have long argued that the ecological crisis is simultaneously a psychological and spiritual crisis, and that if we want to change our environmentally destructive behaviors, we will need to re-conceptualise our relationship to the world in which we live. They have argued that there is an urgent need in the Western world to develop a new sense of self that sees the environment as an extension - or part - of the person – an ‘ecological self’ (Naess, 1995).
Similarly, anthropologists have noted broad distinctions between what might be called ‘individual’ and ‘dividual’ models of the self indifferent cultural contexts, which are broadly (though not exclusively) normalised in Western and Non-Western societies respectively (Markus & Kitayama, 1991). The Western Individual self is conceived as bounded by the physical body, distinct from the rest of the environment, and as a relatively stable and consistent stream of consciousness.
Dividual models, by contrast, see the self as consisting of multiple interconnected parts (an ecology), which is dynamic and may include elements that exist beyond the confines of our physical bodies (spirits, other persons, or features of the natural world).
Parapsychologists – from Frederic Myers (cf. Hunter, 2020) at the dawn of the discipline to Christine Simmonds-Moore (2019) today – have also argued that altered and liminal states of consciousness appear to be psi conducive. It has also been noted that all manner of paranormal and extraordinary experiences seem to have the capacity to shake up our ordinary sense of self, often leading to an increased sense of connection to nature (Hunter, 2019).
This paper will argue that parapsychologists might have been investigating the ecological self all along, and that psi phenomena might represent the connecting principles that make these dividual forms of selfhood possible. Understood from this perspective, parapsychology may have an important role to play in addressing the ecological crisis.
Jack Hunter, PhD, 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.
Over the past two centuries, a Christian approach to understanding the human spirit/soul has challenged the traditional dualistic approach, where the physical body dies and the immaterial 'soul' or 'spirit' passes into the afterlife awaiting reunification with an incorruptible body. The modern argument that the Hebrews were inherently monistic in their understanding of body and soul has risen to the fore of some modern theological understandings, but is it as strong a case as it is made out to be?
We undertake a contextual exploration of the link between what constitutes being human and the evolving understanding of the afterlife according to the biblical writers.
Matt Arnold is the Editor of The Christian Parapsychologist Journal. His website GhostsGhoulsAndGod.co.uk is a one-stop resource for Christians wanting to get a theological understanding of the unseen realm. He also regularly writes articles about the paranormal and the Bible for Christian publications and appears in a variety of podcasts discussing these issues. His first book Ghosts, Ghouls and the Afterlife in the Bible is to be published this year.