Jack Hunter - Parapsychology and the Ecological Self

Published by View Parapsychological Association's profile Parapsychological Association on Saturday, April 10, 2021

Dr. Jack Hunter is an anthropologist exploring the borderlands of consciousness, religion, ecology and the paranormal. He founded the journal Paranthropology. His doctoral research with the University of Bristol examined the experiences of spirit mediums and their influence on the development of self-concepts and models of consciousness, and is an effort towards a non-reductive anthropology of the paranormal.

Deep Ecologists have long argued that the ecological crisis is simultaneously a psychological and spiritual crisis, and that if we want to change our environmentally destructive behaviors, we will need to re-conceptualize our relationship to the world in which we live. They have argued that there is an urgent need in the Western world to develop a new sense of self that sees the environment as an extension - or part - of the person – an ‘ecological self’ (Naess, 1995). Similarly, anthropologists have noted broad distinctions between what might be called ‘individual’ and ‘dividual’ models of the self in different cultural contexts, which are broadly (though not exclusively) normalized in Western and Non-Western societies respectively (Markus & Kitayama, 1991). The Western Individual self is conceived as bounded by the physical body, distinct from the rest of the environment, and as a relatively stable and consistent stream of consciousness. Dividual models, by contrast, see the self as consisting of multiple interconnected parts (an ecology), which is dynamic and may include elements that exist beyond the confines of our physical bodies (spirits, other persons, or features of the natural world). Parapsychologists – from Frederic Myers (cf. Hunter, 2020) at the dawn of the discipline to Christine Simmonds-Moore (2019) today – have also argued that altered and liminal states of consciousness appear to be psi conducive. It has also been noted that all manner of paranormal and extraordinary experiences seem to have the capacity to shake up our ordinary sense of self, often leading to an increased sense of connection to nature (Hunter, 2019). This paper will argue that parapsychologists might have been investigating the ecological self all along, and that psi phenomena might represent the connecting principles that make these dividual forms of selfhood possible. Understood from this perspective, parapsychology may have an important role to play in addressing the ecological crisis.


Hunter, J. (2019, ed.). Greening the paranormal. Exploring the ecology of extraordinary experience. London, UK: August Night Press.

Hunter, J. (2020). Gothic psychology, The ecological unconscious and the re-enchantment of nature. Gothic Nature Journal. https://gothicnaturejournal.com/gothic-psychology-the-ecological-unconscious/

Naess, A. (1995). Self-realization: An ecological approach to being in the world. In G. Sessions (Ed.), Deep ecology for the twenty-first century. Boston: Shambhala (pp. 225-239).

Markus, H.R., Kitayama, S. (1991). Culture and the self: Implcations for cognition, emotion and motivation. Psychological Review, 98(2), 224-253.

Simmonds-Moore, C. A. (2019). Liminal spaces and liminal minds: Boundary thinness and participatory eco-consciousness. In Hunter, J. (Ed.), Greening the paranormal: Exploring the ecology of extraordinary experience (pp. 109-126). August Night Press.

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