Edited by Jack Hunter & David Luke, 'Talking With the Spirits: Ethnographies From Between the Worlds' is a cross-cultural survey of contemporary spirit mediumship. The diverse contributions to this volume cover a wide-range of ethnographic contexts, from Spiritualist séances in the United Kingdom to self-mortification rituals in Singapore and Taiwan, from psychedelic spirit incorporation in the Amazonian rainforest, to psychic readings in online social spaces, and more. By taking a broad perspective the book highlights both the variety of culturally specific manifestations of spirit communication, and key cross-cultural features suggestive of underlying core-processes and experiences. Rather than attempting to reduce or dismiss such experiences, the authors featured in this collection take the experiences of their informants seriously and explore their effects at personal, social and cultural levels.
- Erika Bourguignon, PhD, Professor emerita, Department of Anthropology, The Ohio State University
‘What happens when a largely tabooed method (comparativism) hones in on a completely tabooed subject (spirits)? This. Astonishing possibilities, insights, and new directions follow in the wake of these essays, which demonstrate again and again both careful ethnographic description and a most remarkable open-mindedness with respect to the phenomena themselves. What some are calling the "ontological turn" in the humanities just got a bit sharper.’
- Jeffrey J. Kripal, PhD, author of Authors of The Impossible: The Paranormal and The Sacred.
‘Talking with the Spirits is a unique collection of essays respectfully and in great depth examining - using a myriad of investigative approaches and perspectives - the variety of mediumistic phenomena that occur all over the world. It will serve as an important resource for researchers as well as anyone interested in the diversity of mediumistic experiences, traditions, and practices.’
- Julie Beischel, PhD, Director of Research, The Windbridge Institute for Applied Research in Human Potential.
‘Talking with the Spirits is a unique anthology of papers that presents a wide range of “ethnographies of the ostensibly paranormal,” especially mediumship. Editors Hunter and Luke have done us a great service in reminding the anthropology of consciousness of its roots in the cross-cultural study of the paranormal. The volume is also a significant contribution to interdisciplinary transpersonal studies.’
- Charles D. Laughlin, PhD, author of Communing With the Gods: Consciousness, Culture and the Dreaming Brain
‘This is an important collection of essays, which makes a significant contribution to a growing body of research and literature challenging existing scientific paradigms by reiterating the universality of spirit mediumship in human experience. The individual contributions offer fascinating insights into knowledge traditions that have accepted the challenge of exploring the range of phenomena mediumship gives access to. More importantly for the academy, this book highlights the extent to which one particular knowledge tradition, namely western scientific materialism, together with the particular disciplines influenced by that attitude, has substantially failed in this task. Fiona Bowie's opening contribution is a careful but blunt articulation of why this failure matters, and why it needs to be addressed. When the scientific community ceases to explore in favour of policing a historically-conditioned political boundary between acceptable and unacceptable knowledge, it risks finding itself in the service of those who prefer to cramp intellectual endeavour rather than face a possible diminution in their authoritative status, or other personal fears. A good scientist accepts that knowledge, especially her or his own, is provisional; by contrast, a poor scientist is content to remain a theologian of the old religion. The contributors to this book are good scientists.’
- David Gordon Wilson, PhD, author of Redefining Shamanisms: Spiritualist Mediums and Other Traditional Shamans as Apprenticeship Outcomes.