About Psychic Matters Podcasts
Ann Théato, International Psychic Medium and Spiritual Tutor, investigates psychic development, mediumship techniques, and paranormal science, so that you can come to understand your own innate psychic ability and expand your knowledge, whilst learning to develop a curious mind.
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This Week’s Episode
“My local pub in London, just 100 yards down the road, hosts a psychic night four times a year, and we got talking about alternative spiritual spaces that might be arising because of a decline in organised religion”– Dr Josh Bullock
EXPLORING PSYCHIC NIGHTS IN ENGLISH PUBS
- Why pub psychic events can be meaningful and moving
- What are the motivations of attendees at pub psychic nights
- The benefits of academic research
- Why it can take several years to research a project
- How both a sceptic and a believer approach a research project
- Why turbulent worldly events create a need for spiritual answers
- The role of skilled psychics in managing emotions
- Possible reasons for the decline in organised religion
- The interdisciplinary nature of a research product
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Episode 103 Resources
Here are some resources referred to in Episode 103 which you may find helpful.
CLICK HERE TO ACCESS SURVEY (open to general public including those who identify as Spiritualists but not those who are professional psychics/mediums)
The Twitter page for the research project is @PubPsychic.
Dr Caroline Starkey is on Twitter @caro_starkey and her profile on the University of Leeds website is here:
Dr Josh Bullock is on Twitter @JoshBullock and his profile on Kingston University’s website is here:
Psychic Matters – YouTube
Thanks for listening.
Why not share it now?
Or ask a question over on Psychic Matters! Podcast Facebook page
VO: Psychic Matters with Ann Théato. The top ranked spirituality podcast.
Josh: My local pub in London, just a hundred yards down the road, you know, hosts a psychic night every I guess four times a year.
So, there’s a big yellow sign outside the pub saying Psychic Night Here, and we got talking about, alternative spiritual spaces that might be arising because of a decline in organized religion.
Caroline: I’ve spent more than 10 years researching alternative minority religions in Britain and but as soon as you mention psychic, psychic nights, the paranormal, the interest, amongst academics, but also just amongst, you know, random people that we know is, is phenomenal.
Josh: Over the past five years, there’s been a 350 percent increase in people searching for “Psychic Events Near Me.” So this signifies that there’s a growing trend, that people are looking for these events, but we’re not sure where COVID plays into this.
Usually, during periods of great turbulence, like wars, or pandemics, which lead to loss of life and grief, these are the types of periods where people are searching for answers, so we’re also interested in how COVID might have changed people’s I guess, not necessarily religious beliefs, but what they’re doing to seek answers in the aftermath of something so turbulent.
As sociologists, we deal with trends, right? So, we know we’re moving towards a more secular Britain. Every year or every generation are going to become at least more non-religious than the past. We know this because non religion is stickier than religion at the moment. Some surveys report it to be over half of the British population to be non-religious now, and therefore you’d think we’ve become more kind of rational, more scientific.
And perhaps we have in some sense, but that doesn’t answer those key questions that have always been around: what happens when we die; is there an afterlife? Those kind of questions remain and people seek and want answers to those because it’s comforting. Science might provide answers, but it doesn’t make you feel, I guess, important or valued or that there is something afterwards.
Ann: Before we get into this episode, I’d like to invite you to join this community to hear more interviews that will help you to understand the psychic mind, mediumship communication, paranormal science, and how it all works. All I want you to do is click on the subscribe button. I love your support. It’s incredible to see all of your comments and I’m just getting started. I can’t wait to go on this journey with you. Thank you for subscribing. It means the world to me.
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Ann: Hello, hello! My name is Ann Théato and welcome to episode 103 of the Psychic Matters Podcast!
And it’s time for another update from the Psychic Matters Studio. This week, I’ll keep it brief because I am currently in Ireland caring for my mother, who is, unfortunately, in the final stages of her illness. My focus is of course on her at this time and on supporting my family and her friends, which does mean that I’m unable to produce new episodes or promote the podcast in the way I normally would do. So, I’m sure you can understand, it’s been very difficult creating today’s episode for you, with the little time available to me, but you know me, I never let you down, and podcasts always arrive on time.
I however, would truly love your help – and I have one request – if you enjoy the podcast, please subscribe to my new YouTube channel simply called Psychic Matters and leave a little comment there under one of my videos or if you find it easier, write a written review for the podcast on Apple podcasts or Podchaser. Your reviews and comments and each click on the subscribe button, help boost visibility and it helps to reach more people worldwide, which allows me to share wisdom and guidance with a broader audience of people in need
Ann: In today’s episode, we have two distinguished academics who are delving into the enigmatic world of psychic events in UK pubs. These academics are leading a ground-breaking research project entitled Weekday Worldviews: The Patrons, Promise and Payoff of Psychic Nights in England. It’s a comprehensive study that aims to understand the burgeoning phenomena of psychic events and how they relate to worldviews and psychological wellbeing. My guests today are Dr. Josh Bullock from Kingston University, who brings an open minded, somewhat sceptical perspective, I understand, and Dr. Caroline Starkey from the University of Leeds, who is a firm believer in the psychic realm and frequently attends psychic events. Dr. Bullock and Dr. Starkey, welcome to Psychic Matters.
Josh: Thank you. Great to be here.
Caroline: Thank you for having us.
Ann: Oh, it’s such a pleasure. I was absolutely fascinated by the survey that you’ve put together and I wondered if you could both perhaps share a brief overview of this pioneering research project and maybe tell us what inspired you to explore these relationships between worldviews and science and psychic events.
Josh: Yeah, would you like to start Caroline, because I know you’ve been going to pub psychic events for some time now, so it might be a …
Caroline: I have. I’m in my 40s now, but the first time I, went to see a psychic, my mum took me when I was about 19 years old, and I was absolutely fascinated. And there’s a bit of a gap in between where, I, I might have paid attention to. certain things I’ve always been interested in, in like alternative religious practices, and that’s certainly what I study in, in my research, alternative religious practices in Britain in particular. And, um, uh, one day I have some mates of mine invited me to a psychic night in a pub, really local to me. and I went along for a bit of a laugh, really, it was a chance to spend a bit of time with my friends. I have two children, not that much social time. So, I said, oh, this is great. It sounds really interesting. It’s local to me. Let’s go along for a bit of a laugh. and when I got there, it, it was fascinating because it was fun to be with my friends, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t a laugh. It was really meaningful and moving and really a powerful occasion for people to come to what I saw as a collectively share grief, collectively share what it is that they felt about being alive and what they felt about, you know, themselves, you know, it was really, really powerful, very moving, lots of emotions. And the psychic that I saw was very skilled in kind of managing those emotions and managing the group. And I came out of that and thought, this is incredible. I did some research following that thinking, well, surely people have started to study this. And actually, there is very little, and yet you can find, put into Google or Facebook or whatever, and you can find a pub psychic night all across, all across the country, on most nights of the week. And I was just really flabbergasted that this has grown in particularly since COVID. and, yeah, really, really fascinated with what was happening, what it meant, and in the research that I’ve seen, which is quite limited, they hadn’t really focused on pubs in particular, maybe a bit about hotels, a bit about, you know, personal psychic readings or spiritualist churches, but very little about this kind of, more democratized version of psychic practices. So that’s what led to the project. So, Josh and I knew each other before and the principal investigator of the project is Adam Powell from the University of Durham. And we were looking for an opportunity to work together on kind of contemporary spiritual practices. And therefore, we birthed the project.
Ann: Amazing. Absolutely amazing. And Josh, do you want to add to that?
Josh: Yeah. Yeah. So, I come from it from a slightly different perspective. I have attended, pub psychic events, but not for a very long time. I went as a kind of teenager. but what I was doing around five years ago was traveling around Europe and speaking to young non-religious, people about where they find a sense of connection and through these conversations, a lot of them talked about having paranormal experiences or supernatural, magical experiences, despite them being non-religious. So, I kind of stumbled upon, the world of the paranormal through those, interviews. And, like Caroline says, my local pub in London, just a hundred yards down the road, you know, hosts a psychic night every I guess four times a year. So there’s a big yellow sign outside the pub saying Psychic Night here. Next one is the 1st of December. and we got talking about, kind of alternative spiritual kind of spaces that might be arising because of a decline in organized religion. And hence, put our heads together from different kind of backgrounds. And the project was born.
Ann: Hmm, interesting. And so, you say the project was born as if it was very easy. I’m sure it wasn’t that easy. Uh, where, uh, who did you take it to, to get funding, uh, et cetera?
Caroline: So, we first, we actually were very lucky and very supportive. We actually didn’t get funding the first time we applied. So, the funders of the project now are the Templeton Religions Trust. via the International Research Network for Science and Belief in Society, which is based at the University of Birmingham. and we didn’t actually get funding the first time around, but they provided us with tons of support and feedback, and we adjusted the project, and then were really successful in funding. And actually, we didn’t apply anywhere else. And the funny thing is, is that, you know, I’ve, I’ve spent, more than 10 years researching, alternative minority religions in Britain, and I’ve had some success, don’t get me wrong, but the, as soon as you mentioned psychic, psychic nights, the paranormal, the interest, amongst academics, but also just amongst, you know, random people that we know is, is phenomenal. So we know that we’ve kind of hit on something here that’s fascinating. We’re really lucky with our funders who also thought the same thing too. And I guess the, the interest that we’ve got in, in thinking about world views and thinking about, well-being has come from our kind of interest is this about belief? What do people believe? How does institutional religion play a part in that? Are people, Catholic as well as going to public psychic nights? Or are they non-religious? Or what does that really mean? and well-being is because we were really, this isn’t just, this is entertaining, of course it is entertaining for people and enjoyable, but actually it’s, in the people that we spoke to informally, whilst putting the project together, it is much more meaningful to people than just I’m going down the pub with my mates for a drink and the psychic happens to be on. Actually, where we’ve seen is that people follow psychics around. Certainly, there’s a number of psychics operating in my local area. who, really booked up 20 odd quid a ticket and are booked up for months in advance and people follow them around. This is more than just going down your local and, and checking it out. So that’s kind of how those ideas play together.
Josh: Yeah, and it’s been over a period of years. I think if we probably looked at our WhatsApp conversations, it might have been three years ago that we said, let’s try to, you know, get some funding on this. So, when we’re nearly three years, probably down the line, this is where the project’s starting. So, these things do take a lot of time to, to put into motion, but yeah, we’re here now, which is good.
Ann: I mean, that’s fantastic. And thank you for laying that out as to how it came to be and how you got the funding, et cetera. Something that I was wondering was who, I know you’ve come up with some questions yourselves, and that’s how you began with your wondering and your curiosity for yourselves, but how did you finalize and create those final questions for this survey? And how did you decide which of those questions would give you the best information to analyse at the end of the survey?
Josh: Yeah, it’s a really good question. And actually, the survey won’t cover everything. So, we will be looking to interview people to get some more nuanced kind of discussions, a bit more depth. We’re particularly interested in finding out about people’s demographics. So that’s the kind of starting point. We want to know who is attending this, what kind of religious background they had, and what religion, if any, they kind of participate or believe in now. We want to know if they’re young, if they’re old. We want to know about gender. We want to know about social class as well. So that’s the kind of starting point. Moving on from that, we’re really interested in what people believe. So, we have a scale called the Paranormal Belief Scale, which is about 26 questions, asking things, ranging from, do you believe in the Yeti or the Loch Ness monster to, belief in, affinities around numbers or paranormal experiences or even God. So, we’re interested in what people believe. we’re also interested about how people think and feel about existential questions. So how they feel about death. and their general sense of wellbeing and, and how this changes before they go to a psychic event and how it changes afterwards. So, we’re particularly interested in, uh, finding out what experiences people are having at these events if it’s leading to anything meaningful in their lives or if it’s changing their perceptions or making them happier, less anxious is the kind of idea of the survey.
Ann: And your Paranormal Belief Scale that you mentioned there, is that something you created between the two of you?
Josh: No, unfortunately not. I wish we did. but it’s, it’s a, it’s a validated scale. So, it’s been used before in other studies. so, we’re borrowing it for ours.
Ann: I see. Thank you. And then, so, the listeners of this podcast, obviously, I’m sure their ears are pricking up. What is this survey? That’s very interesting. So, can you tell us who it’s open to, because it’s not open to you if you are a psychic or a medium, is it?
Josh: No, and the reason for that is because we’re particularly interested in the kind of patrons of these events So the the kind of bums on seats, the people who go to these events, are our key audience We’re less interested in the psychics per se. There has been research on this previously but what there hasn’t been is research from the people who go to these events, and that’s where we kind of fill the niche. so, you have to be over the age of 18, you have to live in England and Wales, or the UK, and you have to have been to an event, in the last 18 months, because we want it to be kind of fresh in the memory, rather than, 10 years or 20 years ago. but yeah, really good question. That’s who we’re, who we’re hoping to target for the survey.
Ann: Yes, of course. And those people that are listening to this podcast, if you don’t live in the UK and you are a psychic, don’t worry, the results will be published and made available for you to see. When will the results be out and how will people be able to read your discoveries and your analysis?
Josh: Yeah, gosh, that’s a good question. Well, we have a website called www.weekdayworldviews.com and we hope to publish some findings as we go along. But as with academic research, it can take a long time for it actually to reach print. So, we’re aiming to finish the kind of research in the summer of 2024, but it might be even the summer of 2025, when things start trickling out, it can be a long time for things like peer review, for editing. but we will be publishing findings when we have them on our website. So it’s a good place to keep an eye on.
Ann: thank you. That’s great. And that’s really good to know. And to hear. When you do publish the findings, what are you going to do with them? What will they be used for?
Caroline: so of course that we’re academics, we’re going to publish this in academic journals. We’re also holding or wanting to host an international academic conference online, in June June 2024 and also to give a variety of conference papers. And for us, this is a relatively small project. And I know that all of us are very keen on taking this forward to, other projects and continuing this kind of trajectory of research into very localized, experiences of people trying to access the psychic realms and spirit realms. So for us, this is something that we’re hoping will run and run because we’ve got a small, a relatively small coherent project with some very specific questions, but we both know that this is going to, Lead us down certain paths for future research. Yeah, we’re both very keen on it.
Caroline: So yeah, I’m hoping that they will lead us to some more continuing research projects, and we’re really open. So, if people want us to come and talk about the research that we’ve done, we’ll be really, really open to that. Both of us enjoy that kind of stuff. In November of last year, we ran a national Being Human festival cafe, in Leeds where everybody was invited, in Leeds’ oldest pub, and we’re talking about kind of paranormal experiences and we trialled this belief scale so we really kind of like that, it’s not just academic research kept away behind a paywall for academics. You know, we actually do want very much to share, um, this research as widely as we possibly can. So, we’re totally open to any of those ideas.
Josh: Yeah, research which is locked away in universities is not good research, right? So, it’s about opening up these conversations with the kind of general public, other organisations and institutions. So, we see this almost as like starting the conversation. it’s certainly not the end point. It should lead to more research and it doesn’t have to be us. It might be other people who take the helm and do other research projects afterwards.
Ann: Yeah, I think that’s lovely. I love the fact that it’s living research and that it will continue and it, and it will inspire and it may go in any direction after you, complete your first stage of it. Yeah. Fascinating.
Caroline: We’ve been really blown away. with the level of interest, we’ve had from people. And I laugh jokingly, you know, I spent, like I said, I’ve spent 10 years, um, researching Buddhism in Britain and, and had some interest, but not a right lot. And, and this, you know, everybody who’s kind of finding out about the project is kind of stopping us saying, oh wow, I heard your project. You know, even people who really haven’t paid any attention to research we’ve done in the past, have been really, oh, I know a psychic or, um, or my sister-in-law reads tarot, or, and this is absolutely fascinating. I I thought I was really rational but I think I might believe in ghosts and I know we’re having all these conversations with, with, with academics and people who are fascinated, um, people who work across the university. I’ve had, we’ve definitely had more attention for this project than probably anything we’ve done in the past, which goes to show how important it is or how relevant it is to people.
Ann: Yeah, really relevant and really vitally important. I’m just thrilled that you’re doing this research. It’s, it’s fabulous. And, Josh, you spoke there about the research being made available on a sort of rolling basis or being made available as it comes in sort of thing. And I wondered if you can share any preliminary insights or interesting observations you’ve made so far.
Josh: Well, we don’t have much yet. The survey is still kind of live and we haven’t had chance to, to analyse the data just yet. Caroline has been going to some events already and might be able to share some findings or particularly to do with maybe class and gender observations.
Caroline: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been having some really interesting conversations with people who I know, other people as well who are going to these events about whether or not this is a kind of working-class type experience of spirituality. And I’m not 100 percent convinced that it is. I’d want to spend a bit more time unpicking what we mean by working class. and I thought initially, when we started off this project, this was also a particularly northern phenomenon. You know, I live just outside Leeds, um, and it seems to happen a lot outside Leeds. Um, I haven’t always lived in Leeds and it’s not so common where I originally come from, which is in Cambridgeshire. I didn’t see it very often in pubs, but you’ve noticed it in London. It is all over the place. And so, we’re kind of having some of our stereotypes and our assumptions really challenged by the project. One of the things that we are finding is that although of course there are some men involved, both as psychics and as patrons of psychics, it is majority women. And, and this is particularly of interest to me. I’ve studied, uh, religion and gender in the past. And so, I’m kind of interested in the, the nexus, the kind of connections between like class, locality, gender, and how that kind of all plays out in, in this particular phenomena. And, and we definitely think there’s something there about, about those kind of three things, class, gender, and locality.
Ann: Yeah, that’s really interesting. How are you going to make sure that you reach the upper end of the class scale? If I can put it that way.
Josh: . That’s a great question. Hopefully we will through our survey. One of the things we’re keen to do is find out about social class. And social class is notoriously difficult to understand and measure. But we’re interested in people’s social capital, cultural capital and economic capital. So, who they know, how much they earn. And who, um, I guess what they do in their spare time, their leisurely activities. So, through that, we should be able to get a sense of social class. It might be more difficult in the events that we attend, right? Because a lot of the ones that, at least that I’m seeing, are in, working men’s clubs, labour clubs, pubs. And at least where I live, so I live in London, southwest London, and the pubs that These events, go or are happening are probably like the best kind of pubs. They are like the working-class traditional pubs. They’re not your gastro, um, foodie pubs. They’re your pubs with a dartboard, pubs with a pool table, a landlord, a pub dog. You know, all the things you, you, um, you might think of in a traditional working class pub. Um, so it will be difficult to measure, but hopefully we’ll get some of it through the survey.
Caroline: And I’d be really interested in, if we find, when we’re going on and doing this analysis of the survey, when, if we feel we’re only just getting kind of one, one demographic, one that tells us something quite interesting about who might fill in surveys, or, where we’re targeting at, but then that leads to future research projects as well. I mean, I’m really interested in what you might think about the class divide as well. are we seeing like a more middle class or, you know, upper middle-class experience, for example, in a spiritualist church than we might in a pub? Yeah. I don’t know the answer to that.
Josh: Or even private readings.
Caroline: Or even private readings. Absolutely. I don’t know the answer to that yet.
Ann: Yeah, it’s interesting. I know from my work as a psychic and a medium that my private one to one readings and the students that come to me are across a wide Yeah social class. That’s it. Grief spreads everywhere but it’s finding these people to answer your questions. That’s, that’s the key, of course.
Caroline: Absolutely. It always is when you’re kind of getting, trying to get participants and any piece of any survey, any, uh, you know, interviews are always dependent on the kind of who you’re interviewing. And we’re very, we’re very aware of that. Um, we’re very cognizant of how You know, not making broad generalist assumptions on a small subsection of, of the people who might fill in surveys, but actually thinking about this in kind of indicative terms. and I still remain very interested in the, class and spirituality type questions and how that kind of affects, and also how that kind of plays into, I think, declining mainstream religious traditions. This is what we’re trying to tease out as well, is that, is the growth, and there has been a growth. And Josh has done some work with Google Trends, trying to quantify really, how many people, has there been an increase, particularly since COVID. So we think COVID’s a bit of a watershed. moment for, you know, an increase in people interested in psychic stuff.
Josh: over the past five years, there’s been a 350 percent increase in people searching for, psychic events near me. Right. So, this could This, well, this signifies that there’s a growing trend, that people are looking for these events, but we’re not sure where COVID plays into this. Usually, uh, during periods of, um, great turbulence, like wars, or, or, um, pandemics, which lead to loss of life and, and grief. These are the types of periods where people are searching for answers. Um, so we’re also interested in how COVID might have changed people’s, I guess, not necessarily religious beliefs, but what they’re doing to kind of seek answers in the aftermath of something so turbulent.
Caroline: And even when, mainstream religion is on the decline, so certain mainstream religions, but particularly certain denominations of Christianity are on the decline in England, people still have these overarching questions about who am I, what’s going on, these kind of transcendent questions and actually probably even more so since the decline of institutional religion in the form of the Church of England, for example.
Josh: Yeah, we’ve become more non-religious as a country, right? some surveys report it to be over half of the British population to be non-religious now, and therefore you think we’ve become more kind of rational, uh, more scientific.
And perhaps we have in some sense, but that doesn’t answer those key questions that have always been around, what happens when we die, is there an afterlife? Those kind of questions remain and people seek and want answers to those because it’s comforting. science might provide answers, but it doesn’t make you feel, I guess, important or valued or that there is something afterwards.
Ann: It’s interesting, Josh, because you have a, I’m told, a slightly more sceptical point of view.
Josh: Yeah, I’d go with firm scepticism.
Ann: Yeah, great, fantastic. So that’s really good to have the contrast between the two of you. So, with that firm scepticism that you’ve got in place, firmly entrenched, um, what sort of aspects of psychic events then do you find most intriguing or challenging to reconcile with your scientific perspectives?
Josh: Well, I think, one thing we’re not looking to find out is whether, you know, the psychics are giving true messages or psychic abilities. That’s not something that we’re interested in this project. What we are interested in is how, people receive these messages, and what it means to their life. Right, because these messages or just in attendance of these events will have very real kind of repercussions for that person, you know, receiving a message, can, particularly it might be life transforming, right. So, so that is really important, at least from my perspective about what this means, from a, from a personal perspective, whether or not it’s true or not, people believe it, and therefore it has real life meaning.
Caroline: So, we’re kind of saying that you don’t need, as academics, we don’t need to believe in it in order to recognize its value. Um, and it’s not, and it’s led us to some really, really interesting questions about what actually is Belief, and what does it mean and I actually see myself as a really rational person is this kind of idea of rationality.
So, so segregated or so separated from believing in the spirit realm. I’m troubling those kind of two really, really polarized opposites, I’m not sure that they are really and I don’t think that’s how people know live their life.
Josh: But they certainly exist in harmony for a lot of people, and often, different beliefs are situational and relational, so they’ll come out at different points in people’s life. It might be to do with grief, or loss, or big life events, right?
Caroline: But just not thinking that we know it all. I mean, I think that’s where it sits for me, is that I just don’t, I feel like I’m, I just don’t feel that I know everything, you know, or that we can see everything, we can observe everything and yeah, I think, I think of myself as a social scientist, as, as someone who, I’ve certainly not turned my back on science, not in the slightest, but I equally don’t, I guess I feel like I’m not so arrogant to think that I know everything about what’s going on in the world. it’s kind of, it’s complicated, isn’t it? And these kinds of ideas of belief or worldview, that they’re really complicated in individuals. You know, in the way we experience it, we’ve had some great conversations haven’t we about, what does it, what does it mean to believe? We think about the paranormal belief scale. We had such a fun project meeting up in Durham thinking about looking at the paranormal belief scale on our survey. We’re like, well, what does it mean to say you might believe in the abominable snowman? What does it mean to say that you might believe that your soul can leave your body? Or that you might believe in a soul at all? What does it actually mean to believe in those things? I think that’s what we’re trying to do. That’s what underpinning it all is like, what is the nature of your beliefs?
Josh: How are they lived out, right? How are they lived out in everyday life? When do they come to the forefront? When are they at the kind of, back? what events kind of tease out these beliefs? so that they are kind of visible.
Ann: It’s difficult, isn’t it? Because you, you with your scepticism, and you, Caroline, with your open mindedness, you both of you, whichever way you come at the survey, you have to have an open mind all the way along and during the analysis. That’s challenging for both of you.
Josh: Yes, I mean, it is, and it’s something that we’ve developed, I guess, as social scientists, this, this, uh, this idea of, um, positionality. So, so we recognize who we are, our kind of, potential biases, our, our backgrounds, religious, non-religious, whatever they might be. So, we’re constantly thinking about how we might impact and affect the data, even by attending these events. You know, we might be, changing the way that a psychic might operate or how people might see us. So, we’re all the way through, we’re very mindful of us as researchers on how we might. Impact the data or, or the events, right?
Caroline: Yeah. We’re really concerned with the ethics of it all. So, in no, in no time have we gone to see a psychic without telling them who we are and why we’re there. That’s really, really important to us.
And that’s seeking, that’s seeking permission, you know, even though these are public events.
Josh: Speaking to the Publican and speaking to the …
Caroline: absolutely. And seeking permission for for us being there. and I know certainly when I have had conversations with psychics, over email when I’m saying I’d like to come to observe an event. It’s like providing all the information the project exactly what it is that we’re going to be doing and that’s really, really important for us to operate ethically. Because the last thing, and this is one of the tensions I think, if you think an academic is going to be, you know, assumed to be, uh, not believing in this kind of stuff. And, you know, they seem to be kind of doing a hatchet job. You know, that’s not what we’re trying to do. What we really are trying to do is operate as ethically as we possibly can be as open. And, you know, even though you are sceptic, you are sceptical about certain things, Josh, you’re up, you’re really open minded. You are, you have been, all the research that you’ve done in the past has been, um, you’ve not allowed your own belief to kind of influence.
Josh: Of course, yeah. People. You follow the data, is what I always say. You try not to go with preconceived ideas. The research projects I was doing on looking at people’s sense of connection, I had no idea I was going to end up in the world of the kind of paranormal doing that, right? But I followed the data and that’s where, where it led. Um, so I am open minded certainly in that sense.
Ann: And of course, once you get the results, you have to be very open minded again, because they can be manipulated, I’m sure, into anything you wish. So, there must be some sort of ethic required here for when you’re analyzing those results.
Josh: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, even just looking at the, the interviews, if, if we were to do what’s known as like coding, where we would go through sentence by sentence and we would look for, we would look for themes. that’s something that we would do as a project group. We do it on our kind of spectrum of beliefs and we’d make sure that the codes are accurate and that we’re coming up with the same kind of themes and information. Therefore, if somebody else, another researcher was to do the same thing. they could follow our line of thought, right? And they should end up at the same conclusion. So, so we will need to be thinking about this. So, so our biases perhaps don’t creep in and we focus on particular aspects that we find interesting. So, so it would be something done as a, as a project team.
Caroline: So, I’m going to be doing quite a few of the interviews. Um, And, I have quite a relaxed kind of narrative type style of interviewing. But what we have to do, and we’re using a semi structured question, so we have an idea of where the questions go, the questions, the kind of questions we might ask, but we’re not so rigid to ask things in exactly the same order across all the interviews. And because we want this to be a conversation to tease out some things in addition to the survey, that actually is more human in a way. The answer in a survey isn’t particularly human, is it? But having an interview, having a conversation is human. Um, and, interviews are the, the funnest part, but equally, it won’t, we will work, as Josh says, we’re going to work as a project team, and we also have a PhD student who’s called Bethan Oak, and she’s working with us on the project as well, and so we’re all going to be working together to do this analysis, so it’s not just one person’s view that’s going to shine through, and that’s the benefit of working, collaboratively.
Ann: Yeah, that’s really great. That’s really interesting. So, I know the project’s received ethical approval from Durham, Leeds and Kingston universities, but what is ethical approval? What does that actually mean?
Josh: I guess it’s to do with the principle of really making sure that your participants who are involved in the study are being treated fairly. And they’re respected, I think, and not harmed. Those are the three kind of key principles that the research should do no harm. And at least in our research, we’re very open and telling people what we’re doing. So, there’s no, there’s nothing covert about it. There’s not like a rug being pulled at the end. You know, this is what we’re really interested in. We’re being very open, and therefore when we submit ethics through a university, together, we’re making sure that we’ve thought about, and ethics is something that is an evolving process, right? It doesn’t just finish when we’ve submitted It’s something that we’re going to consider throughout all of the events when we’re there.
It’s very fluid, but essentially, we’re making sure that, we respect our participants and our research isn’t causing any harm.
Caroline: It’s quite practical in some ways as well. So, it also makes sure that we’re following laws. So, we’re following particularly data protection laws.
Caroline: Absolutely. So, we’re making sure that our participants identities are protected or the participants are aware exactly how they’re going to be represented, and these things are really, really important because I think one of the most important things as researchers is that we don’t want to spoil people for being involved in future research. And if you have a bad experience being interviewed, or in research, then that spoils you for getting involved in future research and, we both, or all four of us in the project firmly believe that research into this area and the wider area of, religion and spirituality and contemporary society is vital and needs to be ongoing. And so, we don’t want anybody to come out of our project feeling badly treated, or they didn’t know what was happening to their information because they are sharing with us really important fundamental things about how they view the world. These stories are not just, academic stories that are just going to be collected up, but they’re really foundational to people.
Josh: I mean, I’ve conducted a hundred plus interviews across all of Europe and often it’s the case that people tell you things that they’ve not told anybody else.
Josh: Right. So, you’re dealing with very sensitive personal information. Sometimes it can be therapeutic. Sometimes it can be painful. Sometimes you leave interviews feeling, quite emotional, right? So, ethics covers all of that and above, right? We need to really make sure that we’re, we’re looking after our participants and making sure that they’re able and want to participate in future research.
Caroline: And we can represent their voices fairly.
Caroline: Not just any, not our assumptions. we have had lots of very interesting conversations about our own backgrounds and our own assumptions as a project team, but we want to make sure we’re representing our participants views fairly, even if we might personally disagree with them or have a different experience. And I think that’s at the heart of really good qualitative research.
Ann: Yeah. Fantastic answer. Thank you for sharing that. And so, the exciting thing then, of course, is when it’s complete and you’ve done your analysis and, it’s out there in the world, what do you think are the potential implications of your findings for broader understanding of spirituality or belief systems in society?
Caroline: For me, I’m really hopeful that, and it’s part, this is part of a longer trend, in the study of religion, in this kind of idea of religion that’s lived or lived religion. it’s not just religion within kind of organized and official institutions, it’s kind of understanding religion and spirituality in a contemporary way that’s kind of outside that. Well, it is, religion is always lived by people in an organization or not, but what we have is that. This research will revitalize both an interest in these kinds of spiritual, um, spiritual, religious, psychic, you know, whatever you want to call it. I think what we might want to do is come up with some better terms and phrases about what we’re calling it. And that’s what hopefully will be useful is that being clear about the terms and phrases that we’re using. I hope it might revitalize interest in that. There has been some research, particularly from psychology. There’s quite a lot of research from psychology into, into psychics, particularly around psychics, but we hope it will revitalize and, uh, shine more light on and give more attention to these kinds of grassroots types of spirituality that are growing up in places that you might not expect. You know, we’ve, I’ve definitely had raised eyebrows. You’re going to research in a pub? Are you really? Are you? Oh, lucky you! You know, and, and, and, well yeah, okay, I’m quite pleased with my job. My job is quite good, but, but it’s more than that. We know that it’s more meaningful than that. It happens to operate in a pub, but just because it’s a secular setting or whatever, like a pub, doesn’t mean that these kinds of spiritualities, can’t take place in there, because Human beings are complicated, they move through different social locations, and they shape different social locations, and those social locations shape them. And so, we’re kind of hoping that that will be looking at these, following on in a much longer trajectory of looking at religion and spirituality in slightly more unusual places.
Josh: Yeah, I mean for me as a sociologist, sociologists of religion and non-religion, a lot of the , we just get numbers. So, we just find out, you know, 53 percent of the population are now non-religious, right? But studies like this, and hopefully other studies, and ones which look at like, kind of, live religion and non-religion, really get to the heart of what those people believe, and what they practice, and how they belong, how they find connection. so, I think, you know, these big studies are very important, but at least for this, we’re kind of grassroots. We really want to find out what’s going on on the ground. and potentially build back up afterwards, or at least start these, you know, the fire of these kind of conversations about what’s going on.
Caroline: And I like the locality aspect. We both do, don’t we? We like the kind of locality aspect, you know, what, what’s kind of happening on the ground in like a small part of Huddersfield or whatever, you know, and because your, your location, the geographic, social, political, economic, whatever location, influences the different ways you might experience psychic phenomena, spirituality, or whatever. And we’re quite into the kind of mundane, immediate social location stuff. We live in a very globalized world, we recognize that. But that doesn’t mean that we’re all the same. And actually, I’m, we really like this kind of, seeing what’s happening in these small parts of England and, England and Wales and wherever. You know, how does that kind of shape? How does going to a particular working men’s club in, you know, a part of Batley or whatever.
Josh: It seems to be quite a British phenomenon because I’ve spoken to European colleagues and friends and I tell them about what we’re doing and they raise eyebrows and They asked me to repeat it again. So, there’s these events where psychics go and they happen in British pubs. I’m like, yes. And like, do you have these things? They’re like, no, you know, we, we don’t have anything like that. so, so it’s something that I think is, quite native to, to Britain and deserve some exploration, because it’s important, right? Sometimes you don’t need to turn for big European or global comparison, sometimes you need to start with what’s going on on your doorstep.
Ann: Yeah, that’s really fabulous. And I think probably the last thing I want to sort of say or the thing that I’ve been thinking about is the research that you’re doing in 2024, can only be a small slice of time. Can it not? It can only just capture a small part of how society was in this time when we viewed them. Um, and of course, everything’s going to evolve all the time and science can really, well, what do you think about this? Science can only really ever be a sort of hypothesis because new information continues to be discovered all the time by scientists. What do you think?
Josh: I mean, I guess that’s the thing with kind of small sociological studies is that you are getting a slice of the pie. You can never really generalize across the whole population. But what I do hope, And I’ve said I really want to kind of drill down as I hope this starts the conversation. So, these types of research projects continue and there might be room for things to do like longitudinal surveys or studies. You know, I would love to follow somebody over the period of a year or two and find out about their feelings, their emotions, their anxieties, and follow them through different spiritual practices to see how they might be making a difference to their life.
Caroline: And also, I think that there’s, there are some interesting global comparisons. I had a really interesting conversation not that long ago with an academic from the University of Liverpool who is working on mediumship and spiritual beliefs in Singapore. And we were having a great conversation about, similarities and differences. And of course, things evolve and things change, but I’m not sure that things the things will ever evolve to, mitigate the human’s very real need to think about, why are we here? What is this all about? What, what’s going to happen when we die? These are fundamental questions that science So far doesn’t answer in whatever science is so far kind of doesn’t answer in the satisfactory kind of social way.
Josh: As sociologists, we deal with trends, right? So, we know, and I’ll go out on a limb here, where we’re moving towards a more secular. Britain, every year or every generation are going to become at least more non-religious than the past. We know this because non religion is stickier than religion at the moment. So, despite getting a small slice of the pie now, the trend is that people are going to become more non-religious, but they might become more spiritual, right? Or it opens up other spaces of spirituality. Or needing to connect with other people or answer big questions. So, despite it being a 2024 kind of project, we find that, well, at least I hope that these findings, whatever they might be, will be useful for the next decade or two, you know, and beyond.
Caroline: It’s a fundamental human question, isn’t it?
Caroline: What’s going to happen to us? What happens to the people we love? What happens? I don’t think that’s ever going away. No.
Ann: Yeah, I think that’s fantastic. So, chaps, where can people find your survey if they would like to take part in it?
Josh: Well, please go to our website, which is called weekdayworldviews. com, and there will be a section called Taking Part, and the survey will be live, and it will be open until around the end of March 2024, so we’d love for you to take part. If you’d like to be interviewed as well, you can contact Caroline, you can find her details on the project website, weekdayworldviews. com. Yeah, and we’d just love to kind of find out, uh, your experiences of attending any kind of psychic event over the last 18 months
Ann: Fantastic. I will, of course, put that link to your survey and, where we might be able to pick up the results of that survey in due course on the show notes for this episode but for now, I would just want to say to both of you, thank you so very, very much for coming in and talking to us and sharing this amazing project. I mean, I personally am really excited about the results.
Josh: Great talking to you.
Ann: Bless you. Thank you.
Ann: I just want to thank doctor Josh Bullock and doctor Caroline Starkey for joining me on today’s episode if you are a listener who would love to partake in this survey you can click on the link in the show notes for this episode which you will find on my website or on youtube. Website address is www.anntheato.com and YouTube – search for Psychic Matters. Remember that this survey is open to everyone including those who identify as being a spiritualist, and excludes those who are professional working mediums or psychics. I’ll also put the link to the survey on the Psychic Matters Facebook page, so you will be able to find it there as well. It’s wonderful that we have been invited to be part of this research and please do partake if you are able.
Once again, the link is in the show notes, which always include a full transcript.
Thank you for listening this week and for your ongoing support. Written reviews and subscriptions to my new youtube channel are really welcomed at this time.
My name is Ann Théato and thank you for listening to Psychic Matters.
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