2019: Volume 19

Abstracts from Australian Journal of Parapsychology


Volume 19(1), pp. 5-43

“Meme-Spirited”: II. Illustrating the VAPUS Model for Ghost Narratives


Abstract: We continue our integrative review of nearly 20 years of sociocultural research and popular trends on ghosts, haunted houses, and poltergeists (collectively termed “ghostly episodes”) that commenced in Part I (Hill, O’Keeffe, Laythe, Dagnall, Drinkwater, Ventola, & Houran, 2018). That analysis characterized the powerful brand personality of ghost narratives in terms of their Versatility, Adaptability, Participatory nature, Universality, and Scalability. This VAPUS model emphasizes that these narratives serve as cultural memes which, in part, reflect interpersonal or group dynamics. We illustrate these themes via three analyses that explore the role of the media, the use of technology to legitimatize amateur organizations, and the resulting conflict between popularized ghost-hunting groups, skeptic organizations, and parapsychology. Optimistically, we expect the VAPUS model can guide the development of new means or methods that aim to delineate and even bridge some of the competing social forces that shape or sustain these narratives in the popular culture and thereby constructively advance research in this domain.


Volume 19(1), pp. 45-75

Coincidence in Fiction and Literature


Abstract: A coincidence, which we can define as ‘a notable co-occurrence of events’, is fairly common in everyday life, though interpretations as to why coincidences occur, or what they mean, most certainly differ. There are a number of books on coincidences and a number of theories as well as to what they might or might not mean, from mathematical probability to Jungian synchronicity. However, less has been written about the use of coincidence in fiction and literature—and ‘literature’ in this essay refers to literary fiction, to be distinguished by its artistic or aesthetic merit from popular fiction, though the two may overlap. There have been very different attitudes to coincidence over time, and one can trace its evolution in literature from the fatalism of Ancient Greece to the ‘providential tradition’ of the Victorian era, where the good are rewarded with positive coincidences and outcomes as visible signs of God’s providence, defined in the Concise Oxford Dictionary as ‘the protective care of God or Nature.’ This approach is largely dispensed with in the secularism of the 20th century, though the use of coincidences by authors is certainly not dispensed with, and here particular mention should be made of Boris Pasternak and his purposeful and wide-ranging employment of coincidences in Doctor Zhivago. A further shift takes place in the later decades of the 20th century, with the advent of postmodernism and its penchant for ambiguity, including when it comes to the understanding and interpretation of coincidences.


Volume 19(1), pp. 77-104

In a False Paradise of Fools, the Dancin’ Jester Rules! A Grounded Theory Study Depicting Metaphysical Transformations as Informed by Scholarly Reported Spirit Accounts


Abstract: While many believe that consciousness is extinguished at the time of death, evidence has been collected to question this materialistic position. Calls have also been made for research to further examine possibilities concerning what the spirits have to communicate about the afterlife. This study thus aims to critically examine and represent spirit accounts about metaphysical transformations as reported within the scholarly literature. Supporting this investigation, this research has applied the grounded theory development technique to 25 scholarly texts obtained from a Google Scholar search enquiry. Findings inform a conceptual model of spiritual transformation in which themes of spiritual dissonance, contract, transform, review and realm are proposed to be perpetually connected. Core to this model is the theme of spiritual growth.


Volume 19(2), pp. 121-142

Spiritual Synchronicity and Place: I. A Psychoanalytic Perspective


Abstract: This article is split into two parts over two consecutive issues of this journal to show a new dimension of the work of Slavoj Žižek, Gibbs Williams, and Jacques Lacan. Their work finds congruency to better understand Jung’s spiritual philosophy of synchronicity (meaningful coincidence). We achieve this enhanced understanding by adding to our earlier work on place and psychoanalysis. We show that synchronicity is a form of self-transcendence, and stress the importance of place and Heidegger’s analysis of temporality to comprehend why synchronicity occurs. This article is a significant contribution to the literature for theoretical and practical reasons. Our work will be vital for psychotherapists who encounter synchronicities in practice, as well as philosophers who wish to explain this mystifying phenomenon. Our investigation finds that synchronicities occur outside our causally determined symbolic reality and this sheds light on why Jung described this phenomenon as acausal (cf. cause and causality from Lacan). We argue that the ‘event’ of synchronicity can occur when humans undergo significant psychological change or restructure, providing a deepened and extended understanding of their place in the world. We believe this is one reason to explain why Jung, a psychoanalyst, was very knowledgeable about synchronicity as he helped deliver psychological change for the analysands who visited him. We add to this by showing its relationship to our philosophy of place.


Volume 19(2), pp. 143-179

Exploring Gaslighting Effects via the VAPUS Model for Ghost Narratives


Abstract: The VAPUS model (Hill et al., 2018, 2019) characterizes the powerful “brand personality” of ghost narratives in terms of their Versatility, Adaptability, Participatory Nature, Universality, and Scalability. This suggests that these narratives act as cultural memes that partly reflect interpersonal or group dynamics. We use these themes in a review and conceptual synthesis of key literature to address the phenomenon of “gaslighting,” which denotes the determined efforts of an influencer to alter the perceptions of a targeted individual. Modelling ghost narratives as psychosocial constructions implies malleability via attitudinal and normative influences. Accordingly, we specify and discuss two apparent manifestations of this narrative plasticity, i.e., “positive (reinforcing) gaslighting” (i.e., confirmation biases) or “negative (rejecting) gaslighting” (i.e., second-guessing or self-doubt). These ideas clarify some Trickster-type effects and imply that all ghost narratives likely involve gaslighting to an extent.


Volume 19(2), pp. 181-211

The Relationship between Paranormal Belief and Psychopathology with Special Focus on Magical Ideation, Psychosis, and Schizotypy


Abstract: We sought an answer to the question, Are paranormal claimants more likely or less likely to manifest psychopathology than those who make no such claims? Reviews of previous research, and a re-analysis of old data, indicate there is no burgeoning need to pathologize paranormal believers, even if measures suggest a tendency for characteristic symptoms. While psychopathology (probably prodromal) may still be suggested under specific circumstances, the blunt term ‘psychosis’ may be misapplied in cases where a non-clinical condition known as ‘spiritual emergency’ is evident. Likewise, schizotypy in some paranormal believers may be a condition needing attention, but the so-called ‘happy schizotype’ seems somewhat of an exception. Study designs are proposed that might help better understand the happy schizotype and spiritual emergency.