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Interview with the founder of the Institute of Metaphysics

Have you ever considered a career in the paranormal? It takes a very special type of person.

DEMONOLOGY: A STUDY IN EVIL, A SERIES MADE POSSIBLE BY DELIVER US FROM EVIL

Have you ever considered a career in the paranormal? It takes a very special type of person, but for those who are able to conquer the cryptic keys of the universe’s largest mysteries, there might just be a gig for you. Take Sergeant Ralph Sarchie for example. The NYPD’s in-house demonologist, and subject of director Scott Derrickson’s paranormal thriller, Deliver Us From Evil, he’s made a career out of exorcising demons and de-spooking hauntings.

Where can one receive a degree in demonology? The Institute of Metaphysics offers degrees programs in cryptozoology, ufology, and paranormal science and has numerous online courses in subjects from ancient studies to temporal sciences. I spoke with Dr. William A. Lester, founder and director of the Institute of Metaphysics, about the institute and his demonology doctoral program.

VICE: Why start the Institution of Metaphysics?

Dr. William A. Lester:When I was a boy in the early 70s, these topics were very popular. In 1975 there was a documentary that came out called The Mysterious Monsters.  I sat there for two hours totally memorized. It started there. Both my parents are teachers, so they encouraged me to read up on my interests.  I made it my business to learn about cryptozoology, ufology, and paranormal science, and I started realizing, wait a minute, UFO’s are not just swamp gas, and maybe there is more to ghosts than just sleep paralysis or indigestion.

Prior to founding the Institute in 2001, I had a career in mainstream academia. I used that experience to create the institute, and I decided I was going to bring in subjects that my colleges would be uninterested, unwilling, or afraid to study, examine, or offer to the public. Coming from academia I can tell you that privately there is a great deal of interest, but publically theses subjects are too taboo.

Do you think that your academic background gives you cred in the mainstream world?

Yes, it does. I have an undergraduate degree in education and English, and my masters in history and philosophy. People from the outside, when they find out about my background, say, “clearly he is not a crack pot.” They assume I couldn’t be involved in education for so many years and be one of those guys with tinfoil on their heads.

How about the students that you accept into the institution, what are looking for during the application process?

Our students are not people living in their parent’s basements and looking for Martian’s through binoculars. One of the things I pride the institute on is that you are going to do actual work. There are plenty of outlets out there that you can pay to print out any kind of diploma you want. When accepting students, I do look at their prior academic background. I have students with backgrounds in biology, chemistry, and computer sciences. As well, I have students who are former and existing members of the armed forces. Those kinds of skills and vocations lend themselves to paranormal studies, and enhance the credibility of the institute.

Your most popular program is the demonology doctoral degree, how long does it take for someone to complete it?

18-24 months. I would be really apprehensive of someone who completed it in a shorter period of time. There is a lot of outside material, and of course the dissertation.

I bet you can’t just read the Sparknotes on those materials. What is one of the most compelling dissertation proposals that you’ve received?

I had someone write a dissertation on possession, in terms of it being psychological manifestation vs. being a metaphysical manifestation. It is a traditional idea that possession is simply some form of schizophrenia, and to complicate it, it is true that in the distant past people with psychological disorders were immediately diagnosed with possession. But you cannot extrapolate that historical reality forward and assume that possession can be completely explained by psychological disorder. In one dissertation, they went into detail about cases in which demonic manifestation occurred in conjunction with psychological disorders. Usually, the two don’t overlap. I don’t care how severe your schizophrenia is, it will not enable you to lower the temperature in the room by 40 degrees or give you psychokinetic powers.

On your website, you have some profound questions that humanity struggles with, like “who are we and are we” and “are we alone in the universe,” what are your answers to some of those questions?

I have some theories that make more sense than others, there are some things I know that are real, and if you don’t know it already, than I can’t force you to know it. For example, is there life after death? Yes. When your body stops working, your consciousness doesn’t die with your body. Are UFO’s real? Yes they are. These are just a few of the questions we investigate at the Institute of Metaphysics.

There is a tendency amongst the mainstream to rope all these beliefs, and questions about the universe, together but even ghosts and demons are two very different things. Demons are decidedly malevolent and decidedly evil and we have many different traditions and belief systems that try to explain why this is the case. In demonology we study what they are, why they have the disposition that they have, and how demons interact with us. For me, there is no question of whether they are real or not.

To learn more about what a demonologist does, watch the story of Sargent Ralph Sarchie in Deliver Us From Evil.