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Rhea A. White
Founder/Director, Exceptional Human Experience Network
Editor, Exceptional Human Experience; EHE News
I majored in English at Penn State because it was not very difficult. What I wanted was to play championship golf. My junior year in college I had a near-death experience associated with an automobile accident that changed my life. I devoted my life to trying to understand "where" I was when I found myself seemingly above the earth bathed in a sense of unity and singing peace and incredible aliveness, enveloped in felt meaning while my body lay unconscious on the hood of my car. I thought I had died--and it was wonderful. I was "told" that "nothing that ever lived could possibly die." I felt the "everlasting arms" behind me to the ends of the universe. Then I awakened out on the hood of my car, unable to move, and in great pain.
After recovering from 11 fractures, I began to read voraciously in the literature of mysticism, religion, psychology, psychiatry, philosophy, and literary criticism. I wanted to understand what I had experienced in those few moments and where I could have been and who could have "spoken" to me, and why it was so incredibly meaningful. In the course of my reading, I stumbled on Rhine's work at Duke University. Although I had been accepted at two liberal theology seminaries, instead I joined Rhine at Duke because I felt science was the way to find out answers in our day. After four years with Rhine as a research fellow, I went to New York as Research and Editorial Associate at the American Society for Psychical Research under the direction of Gardner Murphy.
After another four years I decided to find an independent means of making my living so I could be as heretical as I dared, so I obtained a Master's in Library Science from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. I began work as a reference librarian at a busy public library on Long Island (where I was to spend 29 years) and began to compile reference works about parapsychology.
I founded the Parapsychology Source of Information Center and began to publish an abstracting and indexing service, Parapsychology Abstracts International. I also became editor of one of the major parapsychology journals, the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, a position I still hold. In 1984 I was elected president of the international society of professional parapsychologists, the Parapsychological Association. In 1965 while in graduate library school I won the Hans Peter Luhn Award, New York Chapter of the American Society for Information Science, for an essay on the information needs of psychology. In 1992 the Parapsychological Association honored me with its Outstanding Lifetime Research Award.
In 1990, after nearly 40 years, I realized I wasn't going to live forever on this earth, and if I wanted to understand my near-death experience (at least now I knew what to call it), science was not going to show me, at least not the behaviorist type of science that was privileged by academic parapsychology. In 1990 I decided to go back and study the basic data of parapsychology--the experiences people report. But I soon realized that they could not be viewed properly without considering them along with all the other sorts of nonordinary and anomalous experiences people have. In a vision I saw the need to study all of them as a single class of experience, which I called "exceptional human experience." I have been pursuing this aim ever since.
Although work activities consume most of my waking hours, I share many spontaneous moments of delight and amusement with my four cats: Scamper, Strider, Grayem, and Dashell. I also enjoy walking by the nearby river; listening to music; reading fantasy, especially Tolkien and McCaffrey; gardening; and weekly get-togethers with my friends. In recent years I have devoted many pleasurable moments relating to specific species of insects and amphibians in addition to a lifelong interest in birds and plants. These include jumping spiders, Daddy Longlegs, tree frogs, and chameleons. I enjoy comedies and am a long-term New York Knicks fan, and along with millions of others, I am an admirer of Michael Jordan and an avid fan of Tiger Woods. (I believe his fascination lies in what someone whose name I cannot recall said about him in the newspaper: "He is making history with every step he takes.")
For further sources of information see Contemporary Authors, Vol. 77-80, 1979; Who's Who of American Women (17th ed., 1990). Also S. Krippner, "Rhea A. White: Parapsychology's Bibliographer" (Journal of Parapsychology, 1992, 56, 258) and M. Ullman's foreword to Exceptional Human Experience: Background Papers. (EHE Network, 1994, pp. i-ii; also published as EHE 11).
Job description: Makes decisions re Network; edits publications; writes brochures; maintains academic contacts; monitors related fields for relevant theories, data, methods, experiences; writes papers for refereed journals and invited chapters for books; maintains PsiLine Database System; handles correspondence and e-mail requests; telephone calls; monitors new books and journal articles; responds to information requests; responds to interviewers' questions; networks with experiencers and researchers.
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