Bill Ellis : The Best Abilities And Theoretical Tools Essay

Bill Ellis : The Best Abilities And Theoretical Tools Essay

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When it comes to the paranormal, Bill Ellis argues that folklorists have the best abilities and theoretical tools for distinguishing the experiences observed by an individual from the interpretations provided by a culture. Emphasis is greatly stressed on the significance of analyzing language choices used by the individual because they suffer the dilemma of telling “an ungrammatical experience, an experience for which there is a limited cultural belief language.” To use the convenient language the existing culture provides is to translate the experience within existing cultural values. However, many paranormal events are comprised of “numen,” or supernormal experiences that are not yet interpreted or identifiable. Numens are often common experiences that are widespread and consistent across cultures. Therefore, they defy and threaten the artificial cultural models set up to explain them. But again, because there is limited belief language, the inability to share these paranormal experiences is debilitating and “conversely, finding or creating language provides tremendous relief.” As with the specific case of Whitley Strieber, who published a firsthand account with aliens, he suffered intense psychological stress from this language deficiency and also received hostility from critics and reviewers. Individuals who read or hear about paranormal encounters often transform the story in accordance with their own belief-languages. For example, a psychologist or debunker may explain his encounter with social psychological terms, such as “boundary-deficit personality,” or rationalize it as the consequence of sleep paralysis.
Nevertheless, the world that we live in is a vast and mysterious place. Ellis discusses how “the peculiar stabilit...


... middle of paper ...


...ly, this article’s argument tries to emphasize the folklorists’ role in illuminating the mechanisms or origins behind numen. Although, ambiguous social issues, such as gender expectations, have deflected folklorists from greater interest and study into this field, the vast amount of numen experiences should not be dismissed. Ellis assesses that “the legend process is most active where the cultural belief-language least adequately explains empirical experiences.” This is where the folklore diamond comes in to play, examining the informants’ narratives according to existing social structural forces, personal imperatives, performance dynamics, and narrative content. The folklorist has the upper hand already because they do not have to worry about if the experience is actually true or not and can, thus, focus their research on the reality of the supernormal experience.

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