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Record Type: Review   ID: 640

The Wings of Illusion: The Origin, Nature and Future of Paranormal Belief

Schumaker, John F.

 Clinical psychologist Schumaker posits the existence of a universal human phenomenon that he calls "the paranormal belief imperative." He thinks this imperative is a quirk of evolution that provides humans with the capacity to deceive themselves. He tries to understand why paranormal beliefs, which he views as illusory, are so common, what are the functions they perform, and what is the price that we pay for ourparanormal beliefs? He points out that the urge to believe the paranormal can protect us from despair, but he also thinks it underlies personality variables which foster inhumanity. "Self-transcending beliefs allow us to close our eyes and retreat into collective illusions. When we become `unselfed' and deindividuated, however, we apparently lose interest in protecting one another" (p. 107). He fears that with the technology available to us today, "our entire species may self-deceive its way into extinction" (p. 107). On a lesser scale, he hypothesizes that anorexia nervosa is "a form of defective paranormal self-deception affecting the innate suggestibility process" (pp. 112-113)! He believes that paranormal belief has a biological basis, and he blames culture for being the hypnotist that induces us to adopt "reality-defying" beliefs. He views western culture as bankrupt and the source of "second-hand paranormal beliefs" (p. 69).
Publisher Information:Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1990. 183p. Chap. bibl: 165-177; Index: 178-183
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