This isn't going to be popular or make me any friends. I realize this. I should be telling everyone to go out and buy the latest electrical thingamabob that they saw on Ghost Adventures last week that speaks in 5 languages and can style hair. But I can't. I mean, I will sell it to them, but not with joy in my heart.
You see, despite the arguments for a more "scientific" approach to ghost hunting or paranormal research or investigating, the truth is that the equipment seen on television is really mostly useless for what people really want in an investigation. Nothing will be considered "proof" nor will it be publishable in a scientific setting. And that's really ok, because despite what we say, most people investigate for their own personal edification. I know, I know, we do it to help others, sure, but we also do it because we very very much want to experience something that either confirms what we already believe or convinces us that we should consider the paranormal possible.
I recently asked people if an atheist could be a paranormal investigator. It was kind of a loaded question, because of course anyone CAN be an investigator (or enthusiast or whatever word best defines what we do). I was curious as to how people would respond. The responses varied, as you can well imagine, but the overriding response from those of faith was that "No, an atheist would never believe anything that they saw or felt was paranormal in origin because in order to believe in an afterlife you have to believe in God". There is a real, a very real disconnect in that thought.
First, the assumption is that the survival of personality after bodily death is simply an act of a divine purpose. I do not believe that that is necessarily true. I think when we speak of "scientific" evidence we are speaking of physics and forensics as we understand them today (and yes, quantum physics and all those other brainiac studies that are beyond me). The determination of what created that personality does not have to be in the question for that particular question to be answered (or asked, for that matter).
Second, the belief that all atheists are dogmatic and defensively atheistic. I don't know that this is fair and more than the assumption that all people of faith are incapable of scientific inquiry. People are every shade of every shade and very difficult to pin into one category.
What does all of this have to do with ghost hunting and books? well, I suppose in a very round about way, it lead me back to what I believed in the first place, that our personal experiences are only so much of the puzzle. They are the fun stuff, the exciting stuff, but the real investigating is in the experiences of others, the studies that others have done and the history of this interest. Philosophy as well as physics.
I have had a bookstore about the Paranormal for 5 years now and I can tell you that the titles about the study of parapsychology and history of psychical studies gather dust on my shelves, while the "The Devil Tried to Eat My Face" books fly off the shelves.
Well, "Fly off" may be an over statement.
Still, I'd like to have a conversation a discourse with people who are true students of this subject. Hopefully in 2013, I can use this blog to start a dialogue. I am student myself. I want to learn. To quote Fox Mulder, "I want to believe." But more than that, I want to know.