Friday, November 7, 2008

Reading Notes on Roll’s The Poltergeist

One of the classic parapsychology books on poltergeists (or RSPK) is Roll, William G. (2004) The Poltergeist. New York: Paraview (originally published in 1972). Roll investigated personally a number of RSPK, as well as analyzed several cases provided by others. He came to propose a number of tentative conclusions about RSPK.

Field Energy?

Roll proposed that RSPK could be have the form of psi field, and that the actual distance between the central person and the moving objects matters. There was an outer limit of about 40 feet where there was not RSPK noticed, while the majority of them were within 10 feet from the central person. When he looked at the famous 1967 case of Julio the warehouse worker, he also noticed that objects were moving faster when they were away from the central person, implying the psi field seems to work as a vortex (speed being faster as it is further away from the centre). This idea is interesting, although it is based on only a few cases. However, this could be an additional argument about the importance of geography in the case of UFO wave. This idea can also be linked to some research on UFO waves conducted by Ahmad Jamaludin. He found that UFO waves are following a double circle pattern, a small one around Europe, and a wider one encompassing Earth's continental masses with the center being either in Africa or in the Indian Ocean (i.e., the circle is not in the Pacific Ocean itself, although it can touch some parts of it). It is an interesting theory, although he did not take into consideration the 1973 wave in the US Midwest, as it does not fit the pattern. If one combines uncritically Roll’s finding about poltergeists psi field and Jamaludin’s one about UFO wave, it would be tempting to say that the central person is somewhere in Northern Europe...

Personality that suppresses feelings of agression

Another idea proposed by Roll, is the common psychological features that central persons share in RSPK. He quotes a psychiatrist who observed Julio, warehouse worker as: “the most notable are the many examples of aggressive feelings and impulses which are disturbing and unacceptable to him. He prevents the direct expression of these feelings. Indeed, he not only controls the expression of aggressive impulses which at base could be sadistic and quite destructive, but he also feels it necessary to even control impulses of a more assertive, as distinct from aggressive nature. [...] There is little self-understanding in relation to these feelings and there may very likely be a sense of personal detachment from them. Since they cannot be expressed or acted upon in any direct way, they are a source of difficulty to him. The feelings themselves remain internal and diffuse.” (pp. 171-172).

I found, in a completely unrelated source, something similar about the collective unconscious, peace and war in: Senghaas-Knobloch, Eva and Birgit Volmerg. (1988). “Towards a Social Psychology of Peace.” Journal of Peace Research 25(3): 245-256. The authors propose an analysis of the nuclear arms race during the Cold War and maintain that their “findings support the thesis that suppressed subjectivity feeds a collective unconscious process of seeking compensation in the realm of national armament and security policy” (p. 245). In other words, the nuclear arms race is an outcome of an unconscious collective identity that shows pathological signs. These signs include the incomprehensibility of the arms race as the superpowers had enough bombs to destroy humanity several time over while feeling completely powerless about it. There was a profound disconnect between the feelings and the capacity to express them. Another theme they found was the over-rationalized role of people in charge of the nuclear arms race, who in a way were suppressing the rivalry if not animosity towards their enemy by being “rational”. The collective unconscious as describe by these two authors reminds me a lot of Julio’s mental state of ongoing repressed feelings of aggressivity combined with a poor awareness of his own feelings. This can be one more argument in favour of using the collective unconscious to study UFO waves as a social psi effect (rather focussing on individual psi effects).

Neutralizing the consciousness

The last key finding from Roll I want to emphasize is that RSPK tend to occur while the central person is actually busy. It is as if the unconscious processes behind the psi effect are “freed” from the control of the consciousness, i.e., when the latter cannot restraint the unconscious. It is a bit counter-intuitive as most other psi effects like telepathy tend to occur more easily when the consciousness is “neutralized” by being in an altered state of consciousness. I guess poltergeist are actually the outcome of a long unconscious build up of frustration and alienation, and where such build up could only be possible by the active action of one’s consciousness to prevent the unconscious conflict to surface. The poltergeist is therefore construed as a spill over of unconscious processes that the consciousness can no longer hold back. In such case, being busy with mundane tasks is what “neutralizes” the consciousness.

This can be an argument in favour of having some other events that keep the attention away from the real issue, in the case of a UFO wave. In the case of the Bucks County wave, the financial and economic crisis could certainly constitute an effective diversion from other problems. Similarly, the 1973 UFO wave in the US Midwest had its peak in October, which coincided with the Yom Kippur war in the Middle East. This war worried many that it could ignite a conflict between the two superpowers. Again, the diversion would be effective in such a case.

Copyright © 2008 Eric Ouellet

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