Wings of Illusion offers a unique and disquieting perspective on paranormal belief, including religious belief. Schumaker points out that reality-defying beliefs represent one of the few truly universal elements of human culture. Even during the present period, when many traditional beliefs are being weakened, very few people live without some form of paranormal belief. The object of this study is to trace the psychological origins of the paranormal and to consider the implications of the prevalence of paranormal belief for the future development of humanity.
The author's conception of the paranormal differs substantially from the way in which this term has been used by previous authors. The book is not an attempt to document the existence of forces beyond those of nature; on the contrary, it regards belief in such forces as illusory. Given the illusory character of such beliefs, the author seeks to pose and answer the question: Why are paranormal beliefs so common, what functions do they serve, and what "price" do we pay for such beliefs? In discussing this issue, Schumaker is able to cast new light upon a range of psychological issues that would appear to have nothing to do directly with notions of the paranormal, such as suggestibility and various kinds of "mental disorders." He also analyzes the implications of his interpretation for current forms of Western therapy. The broad-ranging concerns of this book, and the challenging nature of the thesis it develops, should bring it to the attention of a wide audience. Professionals in psychology, the study of religion, anthropology, and sociology will find this work of importance to them. But it should also interest everyone concerned with seeking to understand the human condition in an age of crisis.