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Record Type: Review   ID: 172

Women and Parapsychology: Proceedings of an International Conference Held in Dublin, Ireland September 21-22, 1991

Coly, Lisette, & White, Rhea A. (Eds.).

 Although the title of this Parapsychology Foundation conference suggests it is about the contributions individual women have made to parapsychology, in fact it is about the contribution women as women have or could make to parapsychology. Beyond that, it is about the contribution that what in our culture are considered to be "feminine qualities" or the "feminine principle," which is present in males as well as females, could make to parapsychology. In addition to delivering a paper, the participants also gave "position papers" aimed at ways in which a feminist approach could be incorporated in psi research. Rhea White started things with "The Relevance to Parapsychology of a Feminist Approach to Science," a review of methods being used in other disciplines. Jessica Utts dealt with "Social, Institutional, and Cultural Influences of Gender in Science" as a whole. Beverly Rubik emphasized the potential relevance of the feminine archetype to psi research. Susan Blackmore presented an empirical paper dealing with the question of whether women are more likely to believe in the paranormal than men. Nancy Zingrone’s paper showed how two theorists about mediumship developed ideas about mediums that were in effect defenses against the threat represented by the potential psychic power they possessed. Mediums were viewed, as were most 19th-century women, as inherently inferior to males. This conference was held in honor of the Foundation’s 40th anniversary and it was held in Dublin, which was the birthplace of Eileen Garrett, the Foundation’s founder, Joanne D.S. McMahon presented an interesting biography of Garrett, showing how she was a pioneering woman in several respects. Marilyn Schlitz, in "Women, Power, and the Paranormal: A Cultural Critique," examines "ways in which the concepts of gender and ‘womanhood’ are constructed and negotiated through everyday beliefs and practices related to the paranormal" (p. 157). In "Behind the Veil," Anjum Khilji shows how Muslim culture accords women high status when it comes to mystical and psychic powers. Ruth-Inge Heinze studied the life-patterns of some women involved in parapsychology, primarily as psychics or mediums, in various cultures. In the position papers, Khilji reviews the prominent role women have currently in the mystical life in Muslim countries. Heinze points out how women can add another dimension to psi research in the West. Zingrone presents the preliminary results of an unfinished but revealing survey of women in mainline parapsychology on the extent to which they think they have suffered gender bias and the form(s) it took. Beverly Rubik criticizes the one-sidedness of conventional science because it has not called on the feminine archetype. As the same situation prevails in parapsychology, she calls on men as well as women to right the balance to their mutual advantage and that of the field; Marilyn Schlitz suggests that although lip service is paid to "feminine" values in parapsychology, both males and females often "fail to incorporate them in their practice" (p. 230). She proposes that "by adopting a ‘female’ approach we may give birth to a new parapsychology—one that is fresh and alive in its quest to understand, rather than control, the world in which we are a part" (p. 232). Blackmore attempts to answer the question: Why are there so few women skeptics? and suggests that we need more of them. Utts cautions women parapsychologists against labeling themselves as victims and being treated accordingly. But, she notes, on the other hand, we are in the best position to identify inequities that our male colleagues may not even be aware exist" (p. 239). White calls for "double vision" in parapsychology, or the view that those in a field "are less powerful by that very fact possess the potential for a more complete view of reality" (p. 243). They see not only what the dominant members see—but what the less powerful members see, thus they possess double vision. Applied to parapsychology, women parapsychologists are well aware of the dictates of the scientific method, but they also see important aspects of psi that the one-sided objective view misses. As the moderator I can attest that the discussions following the papers and the sessions of this conference were animated and lengthy. I usually had to close a session even though heads were still raised to speak. This is not usually the case, and I think it testifies to the importance of the conference topic and the relevance of the papers.
Publisher Information:New York: Parapsychology Foundation, 1994. 290p. Chap. bibl; Index: 276-289; 2 tables
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