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Evolution of the Paranormal
Sixty years ago, back in the days of Ozzie & Harriet, the paranormal didn’t play much of a role in popular culture. Typically, it was relegated to obscure magazines and journals or to TV shows like Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone (1959 to 1964) or to sci-fi movies like The Village of the Damned (1960). You didn’t talk about this paranormal stuff in public.
When we met in 1981, we were both avid readers of the Seth books by Jane Roberts, which began with Seth Speaks, published in 1972. Seth was a non-physical entity channeled by Roberts and recorded by her husband, Rob. Neither of us knew anyone who read these kinds of books or even had an interest in the subject matter. Our interest in and search for such phenomena became our common denominator.
Fast forward to the current century.
In October 2017, Chapman University conducted a survey of “American fears” that included a battery of items on paranormal beliefs. These ranged from a belief in Bigfoot to psychic powers and haunted houses, ancient civilizations like Atlantis, to visits by aliens. The results show just how dramatically beliefs about the paranormal have changed: 55 percent believe that advanced civilizations like Atlantis existed; 52 percent believe places can be haunted by spirits; more than a third believe aliens visited Earth in the ancient past; more than a quarter believe aliens have visited the planet in modern times; and a quarter believe objects can be moved with the mind. The study concluded that 75 percent of Americans believe in some facet of the paranormal.
What’s astonishing about this statistic is how it compares to a study conducted by Baylor University twelve years earlier, which concluded that just 15 percent of Americans believed in the paranormal. This begs the question: what accounts for the increase? How were the studies conducted? Did the phrasing of the questions account for some of the differences in the statistics? Even when taking such qualifiers into account, the Chapman study shows a dramatic increase in interest in the paranormal.
Ironically, this boost in curiosity about such mysterious matters might be related to technology—specifically, social media. Numerous websites, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram interest groups that focus on psychic phenomena have had a tremendous impact. It also could be the result of a proliferation of movies and TV shows about different facets of the paranormal. Then there are books, workshops, and seminars, an entire cottage industry that has grown up in the last twenty years and revolves around the human curiosity about and need for expanded awareness.
Scientists on the cutting edge believe the old paradigm—that our perception is limited to the five senses—is changing. But ordinary people have experienced paranormal phenomena for centuries and their stories tell us that a paradigm shift has been underway for years. Only now is it reaching a tipping point.