Paranormal Phenomenology | Jason Reza Jorjani
Jason Reza Jorjani
In his book UFOs: Myths, Conspiracies, and Realities, Dr. John Alexander uses the term “phenomenology” to refer to paranormal manifestations in general. Two phenomenologists, G.W.F. Hegel and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, wrote fairly extensively on the paranormal. Moreover, their having done so is not at all incidental to the basic character of the phenomenological method. The latter involves a bracketing of specific theoretical knowledge and a suspension of commitment to potentially conflicting frameworks for the acquisition of such knowledge. This is done not only with a view to understanding the cultural-historical construction of such frameworks, but with the aim of delineating basic structures of our experience, perception, and understanding that are more fundamental and stable than any particular scientific theories or their broader paradigmatic structures. Consequently, Colonel Alexander’s use of the term “phenomenology” is apt. This adoption of the discourse of “phenomenology” should
be generalized within the field of exploratory scientific research on the paranormal, but in a way that explicitly acknowledges, appropriates, and furthers the insights of thinkers such as Hegel and Merleau-Ponty.
To this end, I intend to examine the most significant point of contention between Hegel and Merleau-Ponty on the question of the implications of paranormal phenomena for the enterprise of scientific exploration in general. Hegel views psychic phenomena and uncanny abilities as a holdover from pre-rational, and predominately unconscious, human cognitive functioning.
Nevertheless, pretending that such paranormal phenomena are merely hallucinations or delusions is unscientific and, in Hegel’s view, the progressive and phased evolution of human understanding toward the perfection of Science qua “Absolute Knowing” with its attendant utopian sociopolitical implications, cannot come about until and unless there is a scientific recognition and contextualization of these increasingly anomalous phenomena.
By contrast, Merleau-Ponty looks at scientific research against the backdrop of an inherently irrational life-world that is “wild” in nature before being tamed by any culturally and historically conditioned system of belief and practice. Paranormal phenomena, or what Merleau-Ponty calls “bastard and untameable experiences”, can never be objectively comprehended by scientific theorization. Consequently, Science does not afford us a mirror of objectively existent structures in Nature and the form of subjectivity characteristic of the theoretical observer of the cosmos is itself a god-like archetypal projection, similar to the totems of less sophisticated tribal societies but infinitely more powerful in its world-conquering and world-forming capacity.
Bio: Jason Reza Jorjani, PhD is an Iranian-American and native New Yorker of Persian and northern European descent. After receiving his BA and MA at New York University, he completed his doctorate in Philosophy at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He is a full member of the Society for Scientific Exploration and an associate member of the Parapsychological Association (PA). His first book, Prometheus and Atlas won the 2016 PA Book Award. He also works within the leadership circle of the Iranian Renaissance, an organization dedicated to bringing about a cultural revolution in Greater Iran on the basis of the pre-Islamic Persian heritage.
Recorded at the Society for Scientific Exploration conference at Yale University, 2017
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Published on December 18, 2018