The Entity Letters: A Sociologist on the Trail of a Supernatural Mystery (英語) ペーパーバック – 2018/4/9
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A Host of Phenomena that Boggle the Mind
The Entity Letters describes a years-long sociological investigation of a sitter group that witnessed table movements, table levitations, poltergeist phenomena, earthquake effects, and other startling physical events. The group was known as the Society for Research on Rapport and Telekinesis (SORRAT), founded in 1961 by John G. Neihardt, the famous poet and author of the best-selling book Black Elk Speaks. SORRAT hoped to replicate Spiritualist phenomena to increase scientific understanding of psychokinesis (mind over matter). After meeting weekly for a few months, the group heard rapping sounds, seemingly from Black Elk and other spirits. The phenomena grew to include ostensibly spirit-written messages found within a sealed container called a mini-lab specially designed to preclude the possibility of fraud. Eventually, the "spirits" began communicating by mail with dozens of S0RRAT members, describing life after death, the nature of time, and spiritual development. The Entity Letters explores the idea that these kinds of experiences shaped ancient religions.
"James McClenon has written a courageous book which reflects his scientific curiosity, openness, and commitment to a 'high-risk' research topic. The kind of field study the author has described in detail is of great importance because it touches the core of paranormal macro-phenomena in the Western world. And it covers all the accompanying emotions, such as astonishment, doubt, skepticism, but also the excitement of having extraordinary experiences and getting in touch with something unexplainable. An important book." -- Gerhard Mayer, Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health, Freiburg, Germany
"James McClenon presents a fascinating personal narrative of his search for paranormal phenomena. The SORRAT case is a perfect vehicle for demonstrating the value of openminded curiosity, combining physical science, psychology, sociology, and anthropology. This is truly a 'supernatural mystery' bedeviled by the 'trickster.' A classic." -- Charles F. Emmons, sociologist at Gettysburg College, Pennsylvania
James McClenon, Ph. D., a sociology professor and licensed clinical social worker, has written three books: Deviant Science: The Case of Parapsychology (University of Pennsylvania Press), Wondrous Events: Foundations of Religious Belief (University of Pennsylvania Press) and Wondrous Healing: Shamanism, Human Evolution, and the Origin of Religion (Northern Illinois University Press).
The SORRAT group of Cape Girardeau, MO (and later Rolla, MO) was one of the more successful groups investigating Spiritualist phenomena and Parapsychology in the country for its time. We held almost weekly “experiments” and many were very successful. We used the term experiments (versus séances) to emphasize that we were attempting to apply scientific methods to a field that somewhat resists scientific inquiry.
Here are a few of my thoughts about The Entity Letters. I very much enjoyed Dr. McClenon’s accounts of his meetings and conversations with the principal players, including Dr. Tom Richards and his wife Elaine, Dr. Ed Cox, Dr. Peter Phillips, et alia, as his descriptions and impressions closely mirrored my own. Regarding the allegations of cheating in the book, many of our meetings were held at Tom and Elaine’s home, but we all took turns at hosting. During my years in Cape Girardeau, the group met in upwards of a dozen homes and apartments around SE Missouri. So the idea that anyone was installing tapping devices in the walls and floors (or wires from the ceiling) seems absurd to those of us who were there. Also, doubters were always welcome to the group, and many did come to several experiments (and hosted some) before leaving. I am not aware of any who left thinking that the table movements, raps, entity messages, etcetera, were anything but genuine, or that we were anything less than sincere.
Finally, the subtitle of The Entity Letters is “A Sociologist on the Trail of a Supernatural Mystery”. When he gets to his summary and conclusions, the sociologist in Dr. McClenon comes out, and I found those insights interesting and worthwhile.
In conclusion, The Entity Letters is an important contribution to the field, and a faithful account of the history and activities of the SORRAT group of which I was a member. I can unequivocally recommend The Entity Letters to anyone interested in the subject. Vernon Mottert.