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Death-Related Experiences
Record Type: Review   ID: 31

Parapsychology and Thanatology: Proceedings of an International Conference Held in Boston, Massachusetts November 6-7, 1993

Coly, Lisette, & McMahon, Joanne D.S.

 The titles of Parapsychology Foundation conferences often presage changes in the approaches to the field. This may be a good example of a trend in looking not just at the question of survival of death, as in the past, but of coming at the entire subject of death from different angles and at the same time relating them to the findings to parapsychology. It also hints of what I hope is a growing tendency to actively connect the anomalies of parapsychology with standard disciplines. Thanatology is a good choice, because it is a burgeoning field itself. The papers given at this conference can be classed in three groups: those that attempt a new look at the survival problem, even if, in some cases, it is only by way of criticizing accustomed approaches. In this category are John Palmer’s "Toward a General Theory of the Paranormal," which is based on the premise that survival research is stalemated partly because of insufficient theoretical development. Next in this group is Michael Grosso’s "Revising Survival Research: Proposals for a New Paradigm." Grosso also recognizes the systematic, and suggests "five procedures or proposals that would perhaps extend and develop current approaches to survival" (p. 71) and that "might help to alter our view of the evidence...for or against the survival hypothesis" (p. 72). Third, Robert Almeder expresses "Misgivings on Survival Research." The last paper is Stephen Braude’s "Dissociation and Survival: Reappraisal of the Evidence," with special reference to the Sharada case. His general argument is that in interpreting survival evidence researchers are naive about the psychology of altered states and dissociation. The second category of papers concentrate on the human aspect of the question: Does the human personality survive death? They (commendably, to my mind) emphasize that if a human being would devote themselves to self-realization, they would achieve a sense of immortality this side of the grave. The two papers are William G. Roll’s "Psyche and Survival," in which he argues that a larger consciousness of which we are a part survives, and this has been experienced by near-death experiencers. The other paper is "Mortality and Self-Realization" by Eugene Taylor, in which he emphasizes that what is important about—in effect, exceptional human experiences—is personality transformation, not gathering data that convinces no one and accomplishes nothing. The third class of papers consists of two empirical studies: Madelaine M. Lawrence describes her study of "Paranormal Experiences of Previously Unconscious Patients" and Justine E. Owens’ "Paranormal Reports From a Study of Near-Death Experience and a Case of an Unusual Near-Death Vision." The discussions following individual papers and sessions are very stimulating. Hoyt Edge, as Chair, is adept at keeping the discussion on key issues.
Publisher Information:New York: Parapsychology Foundation, 1995. 261p. Chap. bibl; Index: 256-261
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