CD -- Psychology

Special Report: Works Dealing with the Paranormal

This special report focuses on recent titles dealing with the paranormal, all of which share a common problem: there is no consensus regarding the definition of esoterics, or paranormal sciences. A sampling of lexicons with esoterics in the title reveals a 20% overlap of content. The rest is a divergent patchwork of phenomena, beliefs, cults, etc. The last few years have seen research in esoterics from a historical/critical and theoretical point of view. Th e periodical Aries: Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism (2001– ) offers an international forum for the academic study of esoterics.

Lexikon der Esoterik: von Astrologie bis Zen [Lexicon of Esoterics: From Astrology to Zen]. Werner Bogun and Norbert Straet. Corrected new ed. Niedernhausen/ Ts: Falken-Verlag, 1999. 304 p. ill. 20 cm. (Falken-Taschenbuch, 60430). ISBN 3-635-60430-5: EUR 9.95 [03-1-220]

This lexicon of over 700 brief articles was conceived for a popular audience, and is not always reliable. It lacks references and name and subject indexes. Nevertheless, it is of some use for quick reference. [eb/mrh]

Lexikon der Esoterik [Lexicon of Esoterics]. Julia Iwersen. Düsseldorf; Zürich: Artemis & Winkler, 2001. 279 p. 22 cm. ISBN 3-538-07119-5: EUR 26 [03-1-221]

This is the most ambitious among this group of lexicons, in that its purported scope reflects the interests of Iwersen: cultural studies and the history of religion. But her definition of esoterics is so general that it could also serve for anything unorthodox or unusual. (Among the questionable inclusions are entries for Martin Heidegger and homeopathy.) Moreover, the tone of the work is somewhat apologetic, which compromises its intellectual aspirations. [eb/mrh]

Lexikon der Esoterik [Lexicon of Esoterics]. Helmut Werner. Authorized special ed. München: Orbis-Verlag, 1999. 756 p. ill. 21 cm. ISBN 3-572-01015-2: (out of print) [03-1-222]

First published in 1991, and appearing in various new editions and reprints since then, this lexicon covers German and foreign esoterics from the last 10 years. Conceived as a serious rather than a popular work, there are nevertheless no sources given for the very broad coverage, and no subject or name indexes. The work is suited only for quick and superficial information. [eb/mrh]

Lexikon der Sekten, Sondergruppen und Weltanschauungen: Fakten, Hintergründe, Klärungen [Lexicon of Sects, Special Groups, and World Views: Facts, Background, Clarifications]. Hans Gasper, Joachim Müller, and Friederike Valentin. 7th rev. ed. Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder, 2001. viii 1,256 cols. 21 cm. (Herder-Spektrum, 5528). ISBN 3-451-05528-7: EUR 19.90 [03-1-223]

This is the most respectable of this collection of lexicons, in concept as well as content. First published in 1990 and frequently reprinted, it has become an indispensable work. (A completely revised edition should appear in the fall of 2004, without “Sects” in the title.) In general, the 800 articles deal dispassionately with New Age topics. Sources, suggestions for further reading, and detailed indexes contribute to the scholarly quality of this work. [eb/mrh]

Kleines Lexikon der Parawissenschaften [Concise Lexicon of Paranormal Sciences]. Ed. Gerald L. Eberlein. München: Beck, 1995. 186 p. 18 cm. (Beck’sche Reihe, 1119). ISBN 3-406-39219-9: (out of print) [03-1-224]

Thirty short entries treat a selection of disciplines that are receiving significant attention in German-speaking areas today: alchemy, astrology, homeopathy, New Age, occultism, parapsychology, and UFO studies. The volume can be recommended as a good introduction to these and similar topics. The 20 authors know their subjects and treat them dispassionately. [eb/mrh]

Parawissenschaften unter der Lupe [Paranormal Sciences Up Close]. Ed. Irmgard Oepen and Amardeo Sarma. 2d expanded ed. Münster: Lit-Verlag, 1998. 193 p. ill. 24 cm. (Schriftenreihe der Gesellschaft zur Wissenschaftlichen Untersuchung von Parawissenschaften (GWUP), 1). ISBN 3-8258-2357-1: EUR 17.90 [03-1-225]

The editors of this collection are Directors of the Gesellschaft zur Wissenschaftlichen Untersuchung von Parawissenschaften (GWUP) [Society for the Scientific Study of Paranormal Sciences], and this collection comprises reprints of articles that appeared in the Society’s journal, Skeptiker [Skeptics]. Articles are grouped as follows: Medicine and Psychology; Miracle Healers, Miracle Workers, Clairvoyants, and Sects; Earth Rays and Dowsers; New Age; Astrology; UFO’s; and Creationism. The basic problem with this anthology is its clearly expressed bias against the paranormal sciences. It thus reflects more the prejudices of a distinct group of authors rather than an impartial treatment of the subject. [eb/mrh]

Lexikon der Parawissenschaften: Astrologie, Esoterik, Okkultismus, Paramedizin, Parapsychologie kritisch betrachtet [Lexicon of Paranormal Sciences: Astrology, Esoterics, Occultism, Paramedicine, and Parapsychology, Critically Examined]. Ed. Irmgard Oepen. Münster: Lit-Verlag, [1999]. 357 p. 16 cm. (Schriftenreihe der Gesellschaft zur Wissenschaftlichen Untersuchung von Parawissenschaften (GWUP), 3). ISBN 3-8258-4277-0: EUR 15.90 [03-1-226]

This lexicon consists of 423 articles, and is similar in its themes and prejudices to the previous one (see RREA 9:143). A former founder of the Gesellschaft zur Wissenschaftlichen Untersuchung von Parawissenschaften [Society for the Scientific Study of Paranormal Sciences] and editor of Skeptiker, Edgar Wunder, reviewed the work very critically in Zeitschrift für Anomalistik, vol. 2 (2002), p. 178–182. He decried the lack of careful analysis, detailed definitions, and balanced information, finding instead an uncritical perpetuation of stereotypes, and even indoctrination based on feigned expertise. [eb/mrh]

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Last update: March 6, 2006 [BG]
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