Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Interview with Lynne Hume, Co-author of The Varieties of Magical Experience

Why is the publication of The Varieties of Magical Experience: Indigenous, Medieval and Modern Magic important at this moment in history?

The contemporary world is much more open to discussion about spiritual experiences as people question the previous rigid dogmatic approach taken by some religious bodies. As well, in these exciting times, there is more interest in the interface between science and spirituality. This book takes magical experiences seriously, using an anthropological and historical approach to the topic, pointing out that these experiences are indeed part of what it is to be human. 

What drew you to the topic of The Varieties of Magical Experience ? How does the topic relate to you personally?

Both of us have been interested in the topic for many years. For me personally, my interest began in my teenage years and it has never diminished. During the last 30 years I have passionately pursued what some might describe as "anomalous" experiences: listening to and reading about others’ experiential accounts, and comparing them with my own. In fact, it has become the focus of my personal and academic life.

What did you learn in the course of your research; what discovery surprised you the most?

My research only served to reinforce in me the position that there is so much more than the mundane physical world. What surprises me is that there are still people who think that our physical world is all that exists. 

What challenges did you face in your research or writing?

Structuring the book to fit in all the information in a coherent form was somewhat of a challenge.

What do you want readers to learn from your book?

I would like to see readers expand their interest in any or all of the topics we have discussed—to learn, discuss, critique, and to be open without being gullible. 

If your book inspired one change in the world, what would you want it to be? 

Tolerance and open discussion.

Where might others focus their energies in following on your work in this area?

I think it would be useful to follow connections between science and spirituality, particularly quantum physics.

What are you working on now?

I have just completed a book that looks at dress and religion, how people express their beliefs through the body and how they "dress" their bodies (including the nude body) to articulate those beliefs. It is in production now: The Religious Life of Dress, which should be available early 2014.

Lynne Hume is an Anthropologist and Associate Professor in Studies in Religion at The University of Queensland, Australia. She has researched and published on Australian indigenous culture, contemporary Paganism, new religious movements, altered states of consciousness, and anthropology. Her other book publications are: Portals: Opening Doorways to Other Realities through the Senses (2007); Ancestral Power: The Dreaming, Consciousness and Aboriginal Australians (2002); Witchcraft and Paganism in Australia (1997); Popular Spiritualities: The Politics of Contemporary Enchantment (with Kathleen McPhillips) (2006). She has also published work in numerous academic journals and encyclopedias.

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