By Jean / Lead Investigator / ECG Paranormal Research Group

Do we need a separation of church and investigation in the field? (Image credit: Chris Sloan/Flickr)

Do we need a separation of church and investigation in the field? (Image credit: Chris Sloan/Flickr)

Imagine yourself in this scenario: You are investigating claims of paranormal activity at a private home. The owner of the house has described an increasing pattern of activity over the last five months. He is having nightmares, has seen a shadow figure darting through his halls, and believes he heard growling coming from his closet on two separate occasions. He has called on you to investigate.

Do you say a prayer before you enter? Do you offer a blessing when you leave? Do you call in a medium or psychic? And when you go to present your findings, after a careful review of the evidence, which words do you choose to use? Do you call the location, “Haunted.” Or use the term, “Demon?”

It’s a question that comes up a lot for me. Primarily because I am not Christian. Or Catholic. Or Pagan. And while I have no idea how many paranormal investigators would consider themselves members of the tribe, I am Jewish.

Which means… I wasn’t raised in a system that believed in demons. I certainly never felt the need to offer up a spontaneous and heartfelt prayer ­in order to protect myself. And I tend to be quite pragmatic, practicing a predicate theology, when it comes to matters of faith.

Perhaps because I am in a religious minority, I am more aware than others just how much religious language actually seeps its way into our investigations. And this conflict of language, this dichotomy of systems, raised an interesting question for me.

Investigators work hard to establish a baseline of what is normal in their investigations. This baseline works to quantify what is para-normal. For example, we can’t know if there’s a cold spot without establishing what is warm.

And yet, while most of us are careful not to contaminate their investigations with temperature readings, outside noise, or squeaky shoes – do we apply the same stringent standards when it comes to the words we use? Are we stripping ourselves of preconceived notions and biases – establishing a baseline for ourselves – before we enter an investigation?

Whether demons exist or not, I don’t know. But I know that when we walk into an investigation, and offer up a prayer, we are creating a baseline which places our investigation in a religious framework. In the same way that defining an action as demonic, or evil, places that experience into a specific theological understanding.

I can’t help but wonder if these assumptions, these placements into theological systems, are actually limiting our understanding of the paranormal experience, instead of enhancing our techniques and methodologies overall?

On that note, I don’t believe there is anything wrong with having a religious belief system. Even if it’s different than my own! And should anyone ask me, I will tell you – all while swearing to the heavens (blee neder) – that the client and their needs always come first in an investigation.

But as I love interesting conversations, and having interesting conversations with intelligent people, I thought I would throw the question out to you! So what do you think? Do we need a separation of church and investigation in the field? How do you maneuver between faith and the scientific method in your group? Leave your comment below to let us know!