The observation that ideas are not inherently radical, but that the term is a relative one that involves comparisons to social norms, is of critical importance. The value judgments that we ascribe to ideas are not innate to them but are instead reflections of our own beliefs. These beliefs and norms vary between societies and over time within society.
Whether Luhrmann’s approach is “too cognitive” depends on how cognitive is defined. There is a narrow and a broader sense in which the term is used.
Four decades ago, it would have seemed absurd to hear God characterized by American evangelical Christians in terms of personhood, with words such as audible, visible, or coffee-drinker.
demons and spiritual warfare aren’t something that snake handlers invented just yesterday, it is a major thread woven through the entire history of Christianity, and one that continues to be woven through it today.
In this second part we ask “the epistemic/ontological question”: in studying these experiences, how far should we be concerned with the ontology? Would to do so be an abandonment of the scientific materialism which underpins the discipline, and therefore a slide back into theology? Or can there be a bigger model of materialism – a “complicated materialism”, to use Ann Taves’ expression – in which these phenomena might be suitably explicable?
In October 2013, a four day international conference was held at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, on the theme of ‘Anthropology and the Paranormal’. This special two part episode explores some aspects of the sometimes fraught relationship between “paranormal” events and beliefs (Fortean phenomena, UFOs, Spiritualist phenomena and