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Transcript of Spooky Spirituality
Mark PlaterHE Academy: Teaching Spirituality14th January, 2010
1. Why dont HE courses include mysterious /paranormal phenomena?2. Is this a subject of interest to students, or just a fascination for fringe lunatics?3. Is growing popular interest a counter-reaction to the taboo which educationalists have placed on the subject?4. If such material were studied in the classroom, what pedagogical approach should be taken?
In religions: miracles, angels, demons, prophecies, stigmata, answers to prayer, mystical experiences...Paranormal, supernatural, mysterious...E.g...ESP & psychokinesis: telepathy, channeling, remote viewing, sixth sense, curses...Divination: ouija, dowsing, automatic writing...Prophecy: Nostradamus, Fatima, dreams...Weird experiences: angel encounters, UFOs, monsters, strange coincidences, out-of-body experiences, crop circles, apparitions... Etc.
In religions: DaVinci code, Knights Templar, Mystery religions, Castrators...In civic society: Masons, Smugglers, Klu Klux Klan..Historical: Assassins, Stone Henge, Pyramids...Contemporary: UFO cover-up, 9/11 and the CIA, Moon-landing myth...
Para-psychology in USA & UKLiberal Arts (USA): developing critical thinking skills through study of paranormal phenomenaKoestler (UK): Introduction to Parapsychology short course (online, and non-assessed)Psychological anomalies research: Goldsmiths College London; University of Northampton; Liverpool Hope University ; Richard WisemanConsciousness studies: CTP Research Unit, Liverpool; Mind-Matter Unification Project, Cambridge University
David Hay (Nottingham, 2002): experiences outside of normal scientific explanations?Linda Woodhead (Kendal, 2006): interest in New Age activitiesInformal poll of Theology students (BG, 2009): interest in study of paranormal...
75% claim have, been aware of, or influenced by a presence or power, whether they call it God or not, which is different from their everyday selves.(C.f. Gallop, 1987: 48%)-Pattern of events : 55% (of sample)-Awareness of Gods presence : 38% -Presence in nature : 29% -Contact with dead : 25%-Awareness of an evil presence : 25%
Theology at the Fringes =4th out of 20 options
61% graded 1
28% graded 2
11% graded 3
BISHOP GROSSETESTE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE
In the table below please rate each proposed module on your level of interest:
1=This sounds really interesting. Iwould choose this if it were an option.
2=This might be interesting. I might choose it if it were an option.
3= This doesnt sound very interesting. I wouldnt choose it if it were an option.
Brief outline of content
An introduction to Christian theology
The course of Christian History
An overview of Christian history
Faith & Society
Exploration of the impact of religious faith on society
The worlds religions
Introduction to six major world religions
Philosophy & Religion
Introduction to philosophers and religious philosophy
Introduction to Scripture
An introduction to the Bible and its interpretation
Exploration of political & social theology
Theology & Film
Exploring theological themes in contemporary film
Religion & Evolution
Theological approaches to the science of beginnings
Theology at the Fringes
Exploration of paranormal phenomena & strange religious cults
Exploring different approaches to ethical issues
In-depth exploration of the Catholic and Protestant reformations
In-depth look at contemporary philosophical thinkers & issues
Feminist theological perspectives on Christian teaching
Exploration of secular and religious expressions of spirituality
Contemporary religious education
Issues related to the teaching of RE in British schools
Law and Grace
In-depth exploration of these concepts in Christian theology
Exploring dialogue and conflict between the worlds religions
In-depth exploration of ethical issues in the biological sciences
Secularization & Fundamentalism
Exploration of the growth in religious fundamentalism
NOTES & COMMENTS:
1. A total of 18 responses were received: 11 from Yr1, 5 from Yr2, and 2 from Yr3.
2. Those marked with * indicate that scores ranged from 1 to 3 (at least 2 of each score).
3. Only 2 modules scored over 2.0, and none scored over 2.5, indicating that none of the modules sounded uninteresting to students.
4. As expected from students studying Education with Theology, the strongest interest is in aspects of religion which relate to contemporary life and the world of education.
5. Theology at the Fringes also scores remarkably highly (=4th).
5 Responses:New Age enthusiasts (Shirley MacLaine, David icke, Michael Bentine)Orthodox science (CSICOP & Skeptical Enquirer)Churches (esp fundamentalists: global satanic conspiracy)Social sciences (interpretations & profiles)Journalistic critiques (Jim Schnabel: Round in Circles; Dark White)
Identifies 3 contemporary educational responses:Churches: clearer Christian teaching required... Books, courses, sermons warn of dangers...Scientists (CSICOP): better science education required... Critical thinking skills modules offered + warnings about pseudo-science...James Lett (1991): irresponsible mass media is largely to blame... Programmes developed to FiLCH-proof anthropology students...Fox: Exploration of spirituality... Should include BOTH phenomenological study AND critical thinking...
Learning OutcomesSubject specific outcomes
On successful completion of the unit students will be able to:demonstrate knowledge and understanding of a wide historical range of paranormal and sensationalist religious phenomena, and ways in which mainstream religion has responded to them;demonstrate critical understanding of theological and alternative accounts for the existence and attraction of such phenomena to various different communities; analyse theories, accounts and sources and communicate personal perspectives on such phenomena using appropriate language.
Outline of the syllabusThe module explores selected accounts of psychic and paranormal activity in the UK and elsewhere, considering popular, scientific and theological explanations for these phenomena. Historical mainstream and alternative religious teachings about angels, spirits, miracles, mystical experiences etc are explored, and a study is made of established mystery cults and sects, and the conspiracy theories which have often surrounded them.
Multi-disciplinary: What is the truth? How explain this? Scientific & historical questions- quality of evidence, reliability of sources, etc.Social science questions- What is actually happening? What different explanations exist?Theological- fit with established concepts of God, truth, evil, etc.Metacognition/ethical- Why study this? Effect on us?
Why avoid the paranormal in HE studies?
Radin, D (1997) The Conscious Universe, NY: Harper Collins. My original interest in psi was probably fired by the hundreds of science-fiction stories, myths, and folk tales I read as a child... Many years later, I was struck by the peculiar fact that through two decades of my formal education, the topic of spychic phenomena was uniformly ignored. It wasnt the case that psi was mentioned and dismissed, but rather in my experience the topic was never even mentioned. It almost seemed as though there were unstated agreements among teachers that certain topics were taboo, and that was that. (p301, Postscript).*CTP (Consciousness & Transpersonal) Research Unit: base for research into nature & origins of consciousness & transpersonal psychology in general...Prof Richard Wiseman: Psych Division of Uni of Hertfordshire- including luck, deception, humour...*Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP).Jim Schnabel, 1993, Round in Circles: Physicists, Poltergeists, Pranksters and the Secret History of the Cropwatchers, exploring crop circles etc., and 1994, Dark White: Aliens, Abductions and the UFO Obsession, dealing with claimed UFO abductions; both London: Hamilton.*James Lett (1991) A Field Guide to Critical Thinking, in Frazier, K (ed.) The Hundredth Monkey and Other Paradigms of the Paranormal, NY: Prometheus.FiLCHeRS (must conform to the rules of falsifiability: Falsifiability; Logic; Comprehensiveness; Honesty; Replicability; Sufficiency).**