The Study of Paranormal Phenomena

Discussion post I submitted for my Atlantic University TP5020 Course – November 13, 2019

The question of whether paranormal phenomena are best examined through transpersonal psychology or a field like parapsychology depends on the objective of the seeker, as Daniels suggests.  He uses the phenomena of near-death experiences (NDE’s) as an example and says, “To a parapsychologist, these experiences are studies as a potential source of scientific evidence for post-mortem survival of the personality.  The question that parapsychological research wishes to answer is ‘does the near-death experience provide convincing evidence that the human personality survives bodily death?'” (2005, p. 57).

Transpersonal psychologists, on the other hand, are much more concerned as to whether paranormal phenomena like NDE’s have a transformative impact on the individual.  Daniels continues, “the transpersonal psychologist is interested in the extent to which the person may be led to take a wider or deeper, less personal and more transcendent view of life” (2005, p. 57-58).

The challenge for any discipline which “seriously” considers paranormal phenomena is a fear of the “woo-woo” label.  As Charles Tart notes, “modern society tends to be very strongly influenced, if not dominated by, an ontology that we might call scientific materialism.” (2004, p. 70).  And authors Rock, Storm, Irwin, and Beischel point out that skeptics view those who believe in paranormal phenomena as “illogical, irrational, credulous, and even downright foolish…to be characterized by common inherent flaws in their everyday thought processes” (2015, p. 410).

My belief is that the truth is a pesky thing and it won’t be held down forever, despite over a century of attempts by scientific materialists to do so.  NDE’s, psychic phenomena, telepathy, etc., are happening on a regular basis, people are opening up more and more and using such phenomena to enhance their lives, and science itself is using study after study to prove their existence.  

I agree with Daniels that the study of the phenomena is best situated in the field of parapsychology.  I’m personally less interested in proving their existence, however.  I don’t need proof; I’ve experienced and seen others transformed by it.  I understand others do as I once did.  For me, it’s the transformative and healing power of paranormal phenomena where the greatest potential exists, and that’s best left to the field of transpersonal psychology.

So, as the authors we reviewed this week suggest, a combined effort between parapsychology and transpersonal psychology is the best approach to examining paranormal phenomena, which I wholeheartedly endorse.  As Tart puts it, which is also cited by Daniels, “we need ample interaction between transpersonal psychology and parapsychology, and out of this will arise solid knowledge of a much greater reality available to humans. We will get a parapsychology that is rigorous but much more meaningful and a transpersonal psychology that is meaningful but has a base of more rigorous and scientifically-based findings, making it more effective and discriminative” (2004, p. 89).  


Daniels, M. (2005), Shadow, self, spirit: essays in transpersonal psychology, Imprint Academic: Exeter, UK

Friedman, H. & Hartelius, G. (2015). The Wiley Blackwell handbook of transpersonal psychology. John Wiley & Sons Ltd: West Sussex, UK.

Tart, C. (2004), “On the scientific foundations of transpersonal psychology: contributions from parapsychology,” The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 36(1), p. 66-90