Psychology and Parapsychology, Politics and Place

In some recent posts, I’ve discussed personality types and other psychological factors that distinguish one person from another.

Fox and Hedgehog, Apollo and Dionysus

Horror and Typology

The Paranormal and Psychology

This subject is an interest of mine that goes back many years and my interest in psychology in general goes back even further.  I’ve always sought explanations for human experience and psychology is one of the best fields to look for helpful data and theory.  Psychology is also a good place to find connections between other fields: narratology and folklore studies, paranormal, religion, politics, etc.  I really became fascinated with psychology through Jungian typology and traits theory which connects to tons of fascinating research spanning the past century (and much from the last half century is cross-cultural research using large sample sizes).  Correlations and meta-analysis of varied research has offered clearer insight into many elusive factors of the human psyche and socio-cultural behavior. 

Psychology became even more interesting for me when I read George P. Hansen’s The Trickster and the Paranormal in which the author discusses experience and hermeneutics at the edge of mainstream science.  Along with discussing the trickster archetype, he details the relevance of Hartmann’s boundary types.  Upon further research, I learned that research on boundary types correlates with other research on personality types and traits, and of course Jung’s theory of personality types connects with his theory on archetypes.  Even further research has helped me to understand how central psychology is to the UFO field and paranormal in general.  Basically, this was an area that promised many further connections.

I’ve been recently focused on the connections between genre fiction (especially SF and Horror), philosophy (especially Pessimism), religion (especially Gnosticism) and the paranormal (especially UFO experiences).  There isn’t any grand reason my mind is focused on all of these subjects (besides general curiosity in all things weird and countercultural), but it does all fit together (more or less, in my mind that is).  To be specific, my friend has been reading a lot of Thomas Ligotti and other horror writers.  This has caused me to read more horror (and dark weird) fiction and discuss it with my friend… which has led me to read Ligotti’s philosophizing and the blog writing by related people (Quentin S. Crisp and Matt Cardin).  Because of Gnosticism and other reasons, Philip K. Dick and William S. Burroughs have been on my mind and the latter happened to be a favorite writer of Ligotti. 

 As you see, one thing leads to another and I at times can get obsessive in following certain leads.  My brain was being swamped by connections and so I wrote a post about it.

Just Some Related Ideas and Writers

I had initially noted in earlier posts some similarities and differences between William S. Burroughs and Philip K. Dick and between them and Thomas Ligotti.

PKD, ACIM, and Burroughs

Burroughs, PKD, and Ligotti

My interest in such things is very personal in many ways, but I think the socio-political angle is at least as interesting.  Psychological understanding is probably needed in poltical discussions more than anywhere simply for the reason that politics seems to attract many people who lack subtle understanding (if any at all) of the human mind and behavior.  I wrote about this in a post a while back.

Morality, Politics, and Psychology

In looking into psychological research in context of “abnormal” experiences, I came across one particularly interesting piece of data (which I believe can be found somewhere in one of the numerous links in my post The Paranormal and Psychology).  Someone mentioned that UFO experiences are more common along the coasts of the US than in the midwest.  I haven’t seen this data, but I have seen data that shows liberals are more concentrated on the coasts and in highly populated areas (i.e., urban areas) and that shows conservatives are more concentrated in the interior and in lowly populated areas (i.e., rural areas).  So, it would be logical that UFO experience would correlate with liberal politics.  Research has shown that liberals and conservatives tend to have different personalities.  One of the major factors is that liberals tend to have more “openness to experience” (a particular trait that has been well researched).  This Openness also correlates to MBTI’s (Jungian typology’s) Intuition function and Hartmann’s thin boundary types (amongst other correlations). 

Anyways, it’s not simply a matter of different ideological persuasions, but psychological tendencies that we often are born with (and which tend to remain stable throughout our lives).  Liberal types aren’t simply open to believing in the weird.  They’re actually open to experiencing them.  A liberal believes in the paranormal because they’ve experienced it, and the conservative disbelieves because they’re experiences don’t include the paranormal.  However, even if a conservative did have a paranormal experience, they’d be more likely to try to explain it away or make it conform to their cultural expectations (such as fitting it into the doctrine of the religion they belong to).  Because of psychological and other factors, I truly doubt that people hold their viewpoints for primarily rational reasons, but I have no doubt that humans are very talented at rationalizing.  Another thought I had was that people’s beliefs aren’t exactly disconnected from reality.  It’s just they’re limited to one perspective on reality.  The conservative and the liberal each explains in a perfectly valid way the data of their experience.  The problem is that it only applies to their own narrow experience, but from an evolutionary point of view this may be no problem at all.  Both views are helpful or maybe even necessary for the stability of society.  Either side is wrong in claiming their beliefs are absolutely true.  Nonetheless, the conservative belief about human behavior applies to conservative humans and ditto for liberal beliefs. 

However, accepting each as a valid viewpoint would be criticized as pluralism by many conservatives (in particular moral conservatives).  Does this mean that a liberal has a better chance of understanding the conservative position than the other way around?  Maybe… depending on what we’re focusing on.  This could be explained that we aren’t just dealing with types here, but also social development such as understood by spiral dynamics.  Liberal as a personality trait wouldn’t be helpful in understanding conservativism, but liberal pluralism as a stage of development could potentially give someone greater perspective to understand previous stages of development (which is where the majority of the population is still at).  I’m less interested in the latter for this post.  I just wanted to point it out because this a complex subject with many factors and I’d rather not make simplistic judgments.

It is important to point out that these distinctions aren’t absolute.  The average person isn’t at the extreme opposite ends, and our pscyological attitude can change depending on situation.  Even so, most people tend to spend most of their time in one mindset or another.  Furthermore, people tend to seek out others similar to them and careers that are conducive to their thinking style.  A liberal-leaning person living in a rural area is more likely to move to an urban area and so this is how genetics become concentrated.  Liberals will tend to marry liberals and tend to have liberal kids, and the same for conservatives.  This wasn’t possible in the past because people didn’t move as much, but modern society has created a situation where human genetics may be diverging into two type of people.  This reminds me of a species of rodent (or something like that) that I saw on a nature show once.  There were two genetically distinct variations of males.  One set of males mated for life with a female, but the females weren’t so loyal in their affections.  The other set of males would have sex with any female and the females of this species were willing (when their spouses were otherwise distracted).  The children of the loyal males grew up to be loyal and the opposite for the other type.  I’ve always suspected this might be the case for human males as well, but even if not the general principle might apply to humans in other ways.

It can’t be denied that humans do like trying to divide eachother up into categories.  I was reading an article titled “Burrough-sian Gnosticism In His Own Words” by Sven Davisson which can be found in the journal The Gnostic.  I was already familiar with Burrough’s ideas along these lines.  He considered himself a Manichaean and it was from this that he founded his own typology of people: the Johnsons and the Shits.  The Johnson Family was a designation that came from turn-of-the-century hobo culture.  A Johnson was someone who was a basically good and trustworthy person, someone who would help when such was needed but otherwise would mind his own business.  On the other hand (from the article): “A shit  is one who is obsessively sure of his own position at the cost of all other vantages.”  Upon reading that, I immediate thought that it sounded like an extreme version of a hedgehog type of person (who knows one big thing)… which is approximately an MBTI type with Sensation function (most notably represented by Kiersey’s SJ temperament), a thick boundary type, someone low on the trait ‘openness to experience’.  I was also reminded of a quote (by someone other than Burroughs) about a missionary (to paraphrase): “You could always tell the people she helped by the hunted look on their faces.”  My guess is that Burroughs was making an extreme distinction that could otherwise be stated with more psychological subtlety.  Taking as an extreme, it’s hard to disagree with Burroughs about the Shits of the world, but I’m sure he was intelligent enough to realize that not everyone exists at the extremes.

I also think the distinction between hedgehogs and foxes relates to the attitudes of universalism and pluralism.  I was thinking about  this latter category because of my reading another article in the journal The Gnostic.  The article is “Magic and Gnosticism” by  Will Parker.  I won’t say much about it right now as I haven’t finished the article yet, but I’ll point out that I’m thinking about his ideas in terms of George P. Hansen’s discussion of Max Weber’s theory of the process of increasing rationalization in Western society.  I plan on blogging more about this where I’ll also bring in how certain personality types are most likely to gain positions of power in certain types of organizations.

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12 thoughts on “Psychology and Parapsychology, Politics and Place

  1. Very interesting post – will return to read it and more of your blog in more detail shortly. You might be interested in my memoir ‘ Wisps from the dazzling darkness – a sceptic’s take on paranormal experiences’ which I am serialising on my site ‘Writing from the Twelfth House’. Anne W

  2. Hello Anne W — A post like this one is mostly just me organizing my own thoughts, but I’m glad if someone else gets something out of it. I looked at some of your writing blog, but I’ll have to read more later. The main thing I noticed is your page is very well organized. My blogging is a bit more chaotic, but with posts like this I try to bring a bit of order to the madness.

    I read the blurb to your ‘Wisps from the dazzling darkness’. It does look interesting. The description of your experiences seems to fit mine. What does a person do with odd experiences if they’re not willing or able to ignore and forget them? I suspect that such experiences are fairly common, but most people just don’t talk about them.

    That is part of my thinking behind posts such as this one. I’ve felt a strong desire to come to terms with it in recent years. My interest in spirituality drew me to integral theory through the writings of Ken Wilber. Integralism is the attempt to connect and loosely systematize the broad range of human experience and activities within the larger world. I’ve been somewhat active in the online integral community the past couple of years.

    There was often a split between two types of people. Integral theory is very intellectual and so attracted people who lean towards materialistic atheism, but Integral theory is also very spiritual and so attracts people interested in the non-rational. These two types just couldn’t meet eye to eye. There was two particular people who always disagreed. Both were smart and both understood integral theory to a great extent. It became apparent to me that they were simply two different personalities and that the differences went way beyond the divergent ways they rationalized their beliefs and understandings.

    I had been reading George P. Hansen at the time and came across Hartmann’s boundary types. Looking into the research, helped me understand this conflict. It wasn’t merely a difference of belief, but even more a difference of experience. People tend to believe what they experience and disbelieve what they don’t. The way people rationalized their experiences was secondary.

    By the way, have you heard of the astrologer Gerry Goddard. He died a while back. The odd thing was he died immediately upon finishing his book about the ideas he spent his life thnking about. His book has been put on his website for free. The reason I thought of him is because he also wrote about integral theory. He actually combined the ideas of integral theory with astrology. Here is the website if you’re interested:

    http://www.islandastrology.net/

  3. Hi Benjamin

    I feel as though Ive fallen head-first into a really well-stocked brain by discovering you and your site! Ken Wilber, Richard Tarnas, Thomas Moore, Jung and co, Mists of Avalon, etc etc etc all very familiar. Agree Jude the Obscure suicide-provoking!! Glad ‘Wisps’ has struck a chord with you – the Conclusion attempts to place questions about what those experiences may mean, why we have them, etc in a rational framework so the memoir has a wider context to it. No time to write more at present but will be returning to your site -hope you will return to mine. Will also check out the Goddard link for which thanks. Would you like to trade links? Anne

  4. Hello again Anne

    Welcome to my over-stocked brain. It’s a bit messy. I would’ve cleaned it up if I knew I was going to have company. lol

    I see you visited my ‘About’ page. Oh yes, Jude the Obscure isn’t conducive to happy thoughts. I last read it about 15 yrs ago and still haunts me.

    I’ll be visiting your site some more. I do have ‘real’ work I theoretically should be doing, but I’m always game for distraction. And as you mentioned in your blog, the internet can be a bit addictive.

    Yes, I’d be glad to trade links. I’ve never traded links before. This is a new experience for me. I did add one blog to my blogroll a while back, but I can’t remember how I went about it now. I don’t really mess around with WordPress much besides the simple act of writing posts.

    • Hi Benjamin

      I have now sorted my irritating Link block problem ( don’t ask!!) and would like to add your blog to my Home Page list. I am thinking of a simple category eg ‘Writers I Like’ to sit just above the ‘Writing’ category which has ‘portal’ links opening up a variety of options for fellow writers. Would you like to be listed in Writers I Like – and if so can you write one short sentence of description for your writing which I can include as a tag line? It might be an idea to email me to info@anne-whitaker.com as a means of continuing our conversation about this. I will then tell you how to put up a Link – it’s easy! Anne

    • Hello joulail

      I’m glad you liked it.
      It’s a favorite topic of mine.

      I just visited your blog.
      I like the kitties. 🙂

      Have a lovely day.

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