I received a B. A. in English from Emory University in 1977, a Masters in Library Science from the University of Maryland, College Park, in 1985, and a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Southern Illinois at Carbondale in 2002. I have worked at the American Society for Psychical Research in New York City and at the Rhine Research Center in Durham, North Carolina. I am presently affiliated with the latter. My chief research interests are the history of parapsychology, anthropology of religion, and reincarnation. I am developing a course, Signs of Reincarnation, to be taught online through The Alvarado Zingrone Institute for Research and Education (www.theazire.org) beginning in May, 2014.
What this Site is About
This site is dedicated to bringing together anthropology and parapsychology, especially on problems relating to the nature of the human being, interaction with a spirit world, and reincarnation. Both disciplines are concerned with these problems but their approaches are very different. Anthropologists document the beliefs and practices of peoples other than themselves without asking if there is any underlying truth to them, whereas parapsychologists are interested in evidence of human capacities transcending those furnished by the physical body and the question of whether some aspect of the human being might survive bodily death and subsequently reincarnate.
Academic parapsychology today is largely a laboratory-based discipline studying extra-sensory perception and psychokinesis, but it includes field investigations also. The non-experimental, fieldwork-based branch of parapsychology, known as psychical research, is closer in both approach and interests to anthropology, and it is psychical research with which we are mainly concerned here.
In part, this site is about my own work. It describes my course and makes my publications available for reading and download. However, it also supplies resources for the study of reincarnation and related issues in anthropology and parapsychology. There is a blog, On Reincarnation, in which I review books and research articles related to reincarnation beliefs, cases and theory. There are also discussion forums, whose concerns will be determined by the participants. It is my hope that this site will serve not only to disseminate information about serious survival and reincarnation research but will help to bridge the divide between anthropological and parapsychological approaches on matters of mutual interest.
In Defense of Animism
Animism is a set of beliefs about spirits and human interaction with them. It is the characteristic world-view of tribal societies and is doubtless very old. It is also, to a large degree, empirically based, derived from observation and experience, and in that sense is as much science as religion. Belief in survival is universal in animistic societies and cross-cultural studies using the Human Relations Area Files have shown that about half of them have reincarnation beliefs. Many times, knowledge of reincarnation is said to be derived from events such as dreams of pregnant women in which a spirit proclaims its intention to be reborn, birthmarks on newborn babies that suggest the death wounds of an ancestor, a child's behaviors reminiscent of an ancestor, even claims to recall events in the life of an ancestor.
As it happens, events of this kind have been reported not only in contemporary tribal societies but throughout history and in all parts of the world, including Europe and the United States. They are of great interest to psychical research and are what led psychiatrist Ian Stevenson to begin his field investigations of past-life memory claims in the 1960s. If they are what they seem to be, these signs present a strong challenge to the materialistic picture of the human being as no more than a biological machine. They suggest an interactional dualist relationship between mind and body that would permit the mind to survive the body's demise, continue on after death, and take possession of a new body at a later time. If this is so, then the animistic views of tribal societies, long derided as mistaken by Western science, may turn out to be correct after all–and is another reason that parapsychology and anthropology would do well to get to know one another better.