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Record Type: Review   ID: 251

An Introduction to Parapsychology (2nd. ed.)

Irwin, H.J.

 This textbook is not only the result of the author’s extensive research and broad as well as deep familiarity with the extensive literature of parapsychology and related fields, but it is an outgrowth of his "experiences in teaching parapsychology at the University of New England [Australia] during the past fifteen years" (p. v). Irwin’s book differs from many in that it gives equal attention to experimental, field, case, and survey approaches, with the emphasis on experience, although he also uses objective measurements of phenomenology wherever possible. After an Introduction in which he sets forth his approach to parapsychology. He distinguishes "between parapsychological experiences" that appear to occur and the "underlying paranormal processes" (p. 2) he views as "mere hypotheses for scientific investigation. All ESP experiences thus are parapsychological, but we require proof that any of them could be paranormal" (p. 2). He devotes the Introduction to a discussion of terminology and the major issues of parapsychological research, with special attention to phenomenology. The Introduction and each chapter ends with a list of "key terms and Concepts" and "Study Questions." These are interesting enough for parapsychologists themselves to try answering, not only "students." Chapter 1 provides a history of the fields. The others are entitled 3. The Phenomenology of Extrasensory Perception"; 4. Experimental Research on Extrasensory Perception; 5. Extrasensory Perception and Time; 6. Psychokinesis; 7. Special Topics in PK Research; 8. Theories of Psi; 9. The Survival Hypothesis; 10. Poltergeist Experiences; 11. Near-Death Experiences; 12. Out-of-Body Experiences; 13. Apparitional Experiences; 14. Reincarnation Experiences; 15. Belief in the Paranormal; 16. Matters of Relevance [clinical practice and practical applications]; and 17. Evaluation of Parapsychology as a Scientific Enterprise. Irwin has obviously thought long and in depth about all the questions and positions he describes in this book. One cannot read it without catching some of the spirit of inquiry that informs it. Whereas some textbooks try to set forth an established position for parapsychology, it is as if Irwin takes the reader inside a very perceptive, intelligent mind as it is actively pondering and thinking about parapsychological experience. All readers, it seems to me, would learn new things about the phenomenology and the approaches to the subject matter they did not know when they began. This is not a rehash—it’s a living, growing, retracting, expanding slippery area of inquiry that Irwin does not so much pin down as he extracts to the fullest what in essence it has been, is, and can become. Many textbooks, regardless of the subject matter, are leaden. Irwin gives us quicksilver. The lengthy Reference List covers many of the major documents on the psychology as well as the parapsychology of psychic experience.
Publisher Information:Jefferson, NC: McFarland., 1994. 393p. Bibl: 329-369; 2 figs; 17 illus; Key terms & concepts; Name Index: 371-377; Subject Index: 378-383; 1 table
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