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Dr. Christopher Laursen is a Canadian historian of religions, sciences, and the environment. He completed a PhD in history at the University of British Columbia in 2016. His current project, Mischievous Forces, looks at how twentieth-century researchers reimagined the poltergeist as a psychophysical phenomenon. His work has appeared in Jeffrey J. Kripal’s Super Religion (2016), Jack Hunter’s Damned Facts (2016), and the magazine Fortean Times.
“The Super Natural and the Self: The Dynamics of Paranormal Experiences”
In-Person Lectures in Houston and Durham, NC
Abstract: Through storytelling and an interactive comparative analysis of case studies, we will explore historical and contemporary approaches to paranormal experiences, from poltergeists to precognition. When experiences have brought distress, how have psychological approaches sought to bring relief? In cases where experiencers are curious, open, and explorative, how have anomalous life events been integrated into processes of self-actualization? Together, we will further work out how psychological and intuitive, creative practices reveal deeper meanings in our super nature.
- 19 January 2017, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.: The Jung Center, 5200 Montrose Blvd., Houston, Texas: Please click here for Jung Center event details and tickets.
- 27 January 2017, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.: Alex Tanous Library at The Rhine, 2741 Campus Walk Ave., Bldg. 500, Durham, North Carolina: This talk will be simulcast live online via The Rhine. Please click here for The Rhine event details and tickets.
“Parapsychology and the Poltergeist”
Free Online Lecture with Discussion
Part of ParaMOOC 2017: Parapsychology Research and Education
Presented by the Parapsychology Foundation and The Alvarado Zingrone Institute for Research and Education (The AZIRE)
Abstract: In the twentieth century, parapsychology opened new ways to think about the poltergeist phenomenon. Rather than being an external entity, these physical manifestations were thought to be related to the psychological dynamics of people – the focus persons. Parapsychologists call this “recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis” (RSPK). How did the idea of RSPK emerge from Victorian and Edwardian psychical research, develop in concepts of sexology, human biology, and psychoanalysis, and become established in parapsychology? How did parapsychologists model RSPK? What were the historical strengths and limitations of parapsychology in studying the poltergeist and in dealing with focus persons? And what can we learn from cases in which focus persons implemented creativity, intuition, and what historian of religions Jeffrey J. Kripal calls “experience as experiment” to better comprehend the poltergeist? How do those case studies potentially expand knowledge about the poltergeist phenomenon?
- 3 February 2017, 2 p.m. Eastern time (7 p.m. GMT): Click here for details on participating.
My latest publication is “The Poltergeist at the Intersection of the Spirit and the Material: Some Historical and Contemporary Observations” in Jeffrey J. Kripal’s edited volume Super Religion. In it, I provide background on religious ideas about the poltergeist in relation to material and affective experiences.
I also have recently published an essay,”The Transmediumizers,” co-written with the speculative fiction writer Eden S. French. It appears in Damned Facts: Fortean Essays on Religion, Folklore, and the Paranormal, edited by the anthropologist Jack Hunter, founder of the journal Paranthropology, and featuring a preface by the historian of religions Jeffrey J. Kripal. Our essay argues that we have clearly entered what the American writer Charles Fort referred to as “Intermediatism,” an era in which humans truly are able to become transhumans – beyond human.
Who Am I?
I go by Christopher, and my last name is pronounced in English as Lar’sen. I am a Canadian writer and researcher, trained as a journalist and historian. In addition to my scholarly research, I work in print, broadcast, film, and new media. I aim to bridge multimedia, scholarship, and public education in my work. I teach online and in-person courses on modern history, particularly in North America, Europe, and the world, with thematic concentrations on religion, science, and the environment. I conduct public seminars, workshops, and media work on my research.
What Do I Study?
My research focuses on how people experience and study physical and tangible phenomena that has eluded easy scientific or medical explanation. I specialize in studying experiences and phenomena that are extraordinary or unusual (often called paranormal, psychosomatic, spiritual, or mystical) that tend to transform the lives of those who experience them. These things deeply influence the cultural imagination. And they tend to be controversial. My doctoral research project examines how people reimagined the poltergeist phenomenon as a psychokinetic force – that is, people who were the focus of these spontaneous physical events were thought to somehow affect their physical environments with power of mind. My next step is to expand that study as a book-length project, Mischievous Forces.
How Can You Follow My Work?
I will list upcoming news, talks, and projects right here, or you can follow my Facebook page.