Two Encyclopedias

Rodger I. Anderson. Psychics, Sensitives and Somnambules: A Biographical Dictionary with Bibliographies. McFarland, 2006.

J. Gordon Melton. The Encyclopedia of Religious Phenomena. Visible Ink, 2008.

These two scholarly encyclopaedias give a valuable insight into the many complexities surrounding ‘contemporary visions and beliefs’. While large portions of Melton's work do lie outside our own frames of interest, in that they deal with traditional shrines and relics, there are many entries which fall well within the field of anomalous personal experiences and the kind of beliefs which surround them. These include the discussion of Marian apparitions, weeping. moving, and bleeding statues, new age and other new religious movements, and the role of charismatic individuals in general.

This latter is emphasises in the lives of more than 300 psychics briefly surveyed by Anderson. Anderson notes the central problem in this field, the existence of masses of personal testimony reporting all sorts of extraordinary experiences which seem impossible to explain in conventional terms, but on the other the almost complete lack of the sort of evidence which could convince the mainstream scientific community. He notes that this evidence is always weaker than that co-ordinated set of evidence and theory on which mainstream world views are constructed. The claims of charismatic individuals as to their experiences and powers, and of others as to the experiences they have had in their presence can never be assessed in terms outside of personal faith.

Whether the individual concerned is a psychic or a religious virtuoso or the founder of some belief system, the claims surrounding them will often appear to be truly anomalous to those within or sympathetic to the belief system, but as self evident frauds or delusions to those from without. Attempts to come to any kind of general consensus usually fail.  | PR |


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