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Does belief in the paranormal require experiencing it?

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  • Does belief in the paranormal require experiencing it?

    I was thinking about this because I try to be agnostic and rational, but I just wonder if Psi and supernatural experience is so elusive that anyone convinced of their existence must have had some contact with such phenomenon.

    For myself, I've had enough weird events happen that I keep my mind open to the possibilities. But had those events not happened I don't know if I'd even bother to consider such things.

  • #2
    Does belief in the paranormal require experiencing it?
    No. When I began to believe in paranormal phenomena, it was based on the evidence for afterlife and ESP not because of any of my own experiences most of which occurred much later.

    The biggest obstacle to belief is not lack of scientific evidence, or the lack of paranormal experiences, it is the skeptical misdirection that obscures the evidence.
    Last edited by anonymous; August 24th, 2013, 12:03 AM.

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    • #3
      I agree with Anonymous but at the same time I am more tempted to answer with a Yes, imo.
      My super skeptical barriers started to lower exactly after several out of ordinary experiences happened to me and people close to me.

      It's also true that before those experiences I hadn't studied enough material to make up my mind. There's a lot of convincing evidence that can satisfy the purely intellectual curiosity but a direct experience will definitely make you look at these phenomena under another light.

      When I talk to other people that is interested in psi phenomena, but have never had any direct experience, they usually sound very curious but also remark that they have never seen anything out of ordinary, as if the phenomena was out of their "reality".

      It's like talking about some remote exotic place, looking at pictures and reading reports of other people but not having been there, physically, to experience the place.

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      • #4
        No, the paranormal is within us all at the level of consciousness. Some people find nothing remarkable in such awareness, while allowing it to arbitrate everything they see and do. I suspect reality is far more complex than anything we can imagine, and the paranormal provides a hint at that richness, but is not necessary for accepting that complexity.

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        • #5
          I don't know.

          I was going to say that having a curiosity and a wish to find out more about such things might be driven by having had some particular experiences which arouse one's interest. But I suspect that we all have psychic experiences, we just respond differently.

          To make an analogy, we've all looked up at the sky and seen the moon and the stars. But how many then go and read books on astronomy or go on to take a degree in astronomy? That may be a good example. I'm sure that there are many people who consider that studying such topics is futile and an enormous waste of time.

          Or another example, we all have dreams. but how many people consider them a useful part of their life rather than ignoring them?

          Though popular culture may play a part, such things as music or sport or movies and many other things are thrust in front of our senses, these can influence what we consider to be important. But in the end, I don't have any answers. People are different, they get excited and driven by different things.

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          • #6
            This depends on the personality of the subject. There are people who would believe a paranormal phenomenon only if they would see it, other people just read serious literature on the subject to begin to develop certain beliefs about paranormal phenomena, which is my case, others would believe in this only if they make successful scientific experiments themselves, and others believe in some paranormal phenomena because these are part of their culture but they do not usually reflect on their beliefs.

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            • #7
              I guess there must be an infinite number of different genetic and environmental contributing factors to 'who we are', and 'how we think', 'what we believe' etc., and the mix is probably different for everybody.

              Therefore there is no doubt personal experience is a contributory factor to beliefs, but to what ends? In later life, I think many people probably just reconcile their experiences with their pre-existing beliefs.

              We always fear what we don't understand, I think that probably leaves us with a predicament as to how to live in the world... and we all have to decide for ourselves how to deal with that.

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              • #8
                It does depend to some extent on a person's open mindedness if they have never had any experiences. But I would tend to agree that if you haven't experienced a particular thing it does stretch credulity and you have the right to demand some kind of evidence. Otherwise you would just be gullible.

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                • #9
                  Some paranormal phenomena stretch the limits of credulity, while still recurring frequently enough to suggest an element of truth. Black dogs are one such example. The phenomenon of a calf-sized black hound with saucer-like luminous eyes, which either disappears in an explosive way when touched, or just as frequently, accompanies a lone traveller to protect them, would seem to be at the very limits of folklore trope. Yet BDs are seen in modern times by people who have never heard of them, and have been seen continuously in the UK and elsewhere for many generations.

                  One example occurred about fifteen years ago when a lone female was travelling home from her boyfriend's house late at night, along a country lane. She was halted by such a beast blocking her way. Another motorist arrived from the opposite direction, and seeing her car skewed and stationary in the road, asked her if anything was wrong. She asked him whether he could see what was blocking her way. He looked at it, shouted some terrified expletives and sped off as fast as he could. No rational explanation covers the phenomenon, except the creature may be some kind of zooform beast occupying the borderland between realities. There are many such strange typologies, often with excellent credentials. Sometimes rationality alone is insufficient to explain the stranger manifestations of a dyspeptic nature.

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                  • #10
                    I think for me if I saw one of those black dogs it would make me far more willing to consider the possibility of there being more to this reality than the material.

                    Right now I remain agnostic, but my own experiences aren't at the level where they completely defy rational explanations. They are weird stuff like perfect coincidences ("synchronicity") and some possibly paranormal things.

                    It's gotten me to read more of the evidence, so perhaps at some point that will sway me one way or another.

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                    • #11
                      Some people are so die-hard, and fundamentally, skeptical that they would rather gouge their eyes out and voluntarily creep in to an isolation room at the nearest mental institution, rather than accept whatever paranormal event they saw as part of the reality. It would be such a cognitive dissonance in their brain that you would almost hear the fuses pop in their head. It would be interesting to watch though.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Bucky View Post
                        I agree with Anonymous but at the same time I am more tempted to answer with a Yes, imo.
                        My super skeptical barriers started to lower exactly after several out of ordinary experiences happened to me and people close to me.

                        It's also true that before those experiences I hadn't studied enough material to make up my mind. There's a lot of convincing evidence that can satisfy the purely intellectual curiosity but a direct experience will definitely make you look at these phenomena under another light.

                        When I talk to other people that is interested in psi phenomena, but have never had any direct experience, they usually sound very curious but also remark that they have never seen anything out of ordinary, as if the phenomena was out of their "reality".

                        It's like talking about some remote exotic place, looking at pictures and reading reports of other people but not having been there, physically, to experience the place.
                        In my case, it wasn't personal experience or evidence on parapsychology. I had personal experiences, some of which were quite strong, but ignored them all. What caused me to change my mind was that my wife forced me to pay attention to my personal experiences. This is different from saying that those experiences were enough on their own. They weren't. I needed to have someone give me a reason to pay attention to the data I already had. The reason is that until then, I was unwilling to consider the data seriously because I was so strongly prejudiced against it, thanks to teachers, peers, and the media.

                        AP

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                        • #13
                          If we're looking at the question empirically there are members of this forum who have said they believe in the paranormal but never have experienced it.

                          I think there are all sorts of things any one of us accept that we have only learned about and have never experienced.

                          But really, I don't think we always know what is going to convince us of something in advance - whether its a key study, a tale of an anecdote, or a personal experience. Hopefully we'll apply a skeptic approach to evaluate our beliefs once we recognise we have them!

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Arouet View Post
                            Hopefully we'll apply a skeptic approach to evaluate our beliefs once we recognise we have them!
                            Absolutely. That's how i arrived at my current viewpoint.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by paqart View Post
                              In my case, it wasn't personal experience or evidence on parapsychology. I had personal experiences, some of which were quite strong, but ignored them all. What caused me to change my mind was that my wife forced me to pay attention to my personal experiences. This is different from saying that those experiences were enough on their own. They weren't. I needed to have someone give me a reason to pay attention to the data I already had. The reason is that until then, I was unwilling to consider the data seriously because I was so strongly prejudiced against it, thanks to teachers, peers, and the media.
                              Good point. There are cases in which it is prejudice and others in which the experiencer doesn't even have the "keys" to interpret the phenomena. In either case it is usually through some book or person that we finally realize what is going on... unless there's huge resistance.

                              I have a good friend who is terribly resistant to any of this because of Catholic indoctrination, he looses all of his rational thinking in a microsecond if we get near these topics

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