Standardization… or not?

Another three am night, laying in bed with the brain buzzing and sketching out paragraphs and details. Tonight it’s for this blog. So it’s now sitting up in bed, typing, brain buzzing still. But there’s a cool breeze through the edge of the window. The room isn’t yet cold. I’m still awake and classes don’t start til noon. So I’m writing.

Today, I got a post on my facebook wall from a guy who I think has written me before about some kind of group that is looking to standardize methods within the field of paranormal research for groups across the nation. Upon reading my answer, I felt that I came off a little too harsh. Now, I’m not sure the OP even saw my response, as I noticed he’d hit about twenty other walls at the same time, I did want to throw the issue out to you guys.

Standardization. What of it? 

We’re talking about multiple paranormal teams putting together some set of “professional” rules for conduct, method, and technique for approaching paranormal research situations, to (I’d imagine) bring more credibility to the field and likely more progress toward becoming established as (what? A science? A reality?) at least a, we’ll say, field of credible research.

I’m putting words in mouths now, but I believe that these are implied or at least tangential issues relating to standardization of the field. I see there as many ways of approaching this, and as toward what I lecture on, we have to put it in context.

Context first:

Of where the paranormal field stands today in the public eye (because we’re seeking credibility, refinement of image, acceptance). And in the public eye recently, the paranormal was at first an oddity, something undiscussed, something that our society had done away with with the advent of science and progression in technology and medicine. Equally so, with the progression of colonialism, the “forward” progress of the West (capital W), we saw our way as the right way, our knowledge as True knowledge, and all other ways inferior to our own. Any reflection of different cultural or spiritual belief that wasn’t in keeping with “refined” or “modern” thinking was noted as sub-par. This kind of thinking echoed into and through the late nineties, where in pop culture, the supernatural began to again rear its timely head.

We all know the story. Ghost Hunters hit the television market and brought exactly what the field needed as the first step in credibility; down to earth people studying in a down to earth way what finally could be seen as a down to earth phenomena. It revolutionized public thought toward the matter. It became alright to discuss these goings ons. Hip, even. Teams sprang up across the nation. Thousands of teams who wanted the cameras and the EMF readers just like TAPS. Before long, Ghost Hunters had a monopoly on the market of budding research teams.

Equal to this fad and acceptance was the excitement on the homefront. People thought they were being haunted right and left when in fact, they weren’t. How many times did I go on a residential case and hear a homeowner say that they knew something was going on because “they watch all those shows on TV.”

As if to balance out the worry of the reality of ghosts was TAPS’ undying skepticism and method of systematic approach. Unfortunately this alienated a whole slew of different approaches to the field, many of which carry some credibility and history. The animosity toward psychics and mediums generated by misunderstanding of TAPS principles bordered on hatred. Which still strikes me as ironic.

But that’s been leveling out lately again. Right now, other shows have sprang up successfully that illustrate different approaches. The dialogue has begun on public forums and at various paranormal events and conferences across the nation. This is wonderful. We’re dealing with a realm we know very little about. To decide that we know how to investigate it and draw firm theories is presumptuous.

The Personal Level:

To say that approaching this subject with anything different than “scientifically” or “technically,” is to have the mental state of being Scientistic (assuming that we can not truly know anything that isn’t empirically valid–which essentially discounts direct experience).

This area may possibly be from a plane that isn’t completely scientifically documentable. The same way we might never be able to put God in a laboratory or weigh True Love on a scale, we might never be able to document a ghost. Indeed, much of our interaction with the other side might be inherently personal, and in so being might contain many different methods of approach. To shut down these methods with standardization would be very wrong.

But that’s on the personal level. That’s for those of us who want to experience more directly this field we’re researching, who aren’t in it to help people, who aren’t in it to prove it scientifically, who don’t care about the general acceptance of the community at large.

The Paranormal Level:

As a community of researchers looking to help people, yes, standardization may not be a bad thing. TAPS does it and it certainly seems to do more good than harm. When most cases are debunking or spreading simple awareness, then yes, there are many very effective methods that can be semi-standardized. TAPS has already done it, building their “approved” family member teams across the nation. It’s done them well and they have a solid network. If someone (like the man who wrote on my wall) was interested in doing the same thing but with different specifications than TAPS, then so be it. It’ll be a long climb, but certainly can be done if you feel it necessary. First you need to establish a very well-reputed team and then begin to network with other teams that share similar thinking.

But be wary. We just emerged from a period of narrow-sighted, narrow-minded thinking, to the exclusion of other very possibly legitimate processes (that need further study, in their own way). Whether that be psychics, mediums, the processes of astral projection, out of body experiences, or study of different planes of consciousness, or even mysticism. We don’t want to go back to that.

The World:

Now then there’s the larger community in general. The world. This comes to issues of “progress” and “advancing the field,” which means to legitimize the work. To bring realization to those on the fence and non-believers, to confirm that something is happening. In the world we live in, better or worse, like it or not, that means scientifically. If we want to “prove” something to the masses, it must be done in a laboratory. Because, unfortunately, we are a scientistic community. In which case we would need results, publishable, applicable (to steal from the opening monologue of A Beautiful Mind), and replicable results. To do this, there needs to be not standardization but four to ten years of college education. Process. Tests. Publications and repeat, verifiable testing.

And to do this, no standardization of homebrew hometown teams is going to matter one bit. A unified field of researching working claims of residential hauntings hasn’t in the last ten years and will not bring further legitimacy to this field in this scope. What this field needs is a serious and reputable scientist (or, frankly, many) to get serious about the real science of it (not the waving-an-EMF-meter-around-stuff we like to call science).

So regardless of what was on my wall, regardless of what was meant when different people discuss the issue different times, it matters in one of these three ways, be it on a personal, on a general, or on a wide scale, discussion of the issues of “standardization” need to be very explicit and very specific, if they even need to be discussed right now at all.

But that’s just what I think. Love to hear from you guys too. As always, feel free to sound off in the comments section below.

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