More About the Paranormal

More About the Paranormal

Posted on Jul 31st, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer Marmalade
A response of mine from a thread I started based on my New Age blog series: 

HI Andrew,

no matter what otherworldly things i have experienced i can safely say they they were upper left quadrant happenings. in saying this i mean that these experiences of mine happened in my interior space. no angels physically manifested in any way in these 3 dimensions. no one walked thru my walls, no one defied the laws of physics etc. now whether it’s 3 kids in portugal having visions, or someone being abducted in downtown manhatten, i contend now that all these experiences are interior and have no right quadrant existence.

Have you been following the discussion going on in one of Julian’s blogs (here)?  The relationship of internal and external has been brought up.  I mentioned paranormal research there and the difficulties of the field.  Specificially, I discussed Hansen’s view and linked to some detailed reviews of his books.

but nowhere have i come across objective, verifiable, repeatable accounts of any type in any of these phenomenal cases.

Hansen speaks to these issues.  Objectivity, verifiability, and repeatability aren’t easily applied to the paranormal, but researchers have attempted to do so.  Some are satisfied with the evidence and some aren’t.  I talked about the research angle in Julian’s blog comments, but you’re experience was outside of a research situation.  How are lived experiences proven?  Well, very little of even our “normal” subjective experience is provable.  As for the paranormal, it all depends on what kind of evidence you consider acceptable.

People have seen lights and when they investigated discovered crop circles.  Crop circles are just more complex forms of fairly circles that have been observed for centuries in corollation with fairy lights.  My brother visited with friends a place where orbs (ie fairy lights) were known to be common.  They saw the orbs and the orbs approached the car and hovered around it.  Even scientists have observed orbs, but no one agrees on what explains them.

Pilots have seen ufos and they were observed simultaneously on radar.  There are a fair number of radar cases.  Why is there not more evidence?  For one, I’ve heard that pilots are discouraged from reporting ufos.  Also, some evidence gets destroyed because people fear ridicule.  Vallee started out as an astronomer but later became a ufo researcher because he personally observed astronomers he worked with destroying video evidence (here is an interview with him where he speaks about this).

Rupert Sheldrake was describing a dialogue he had with Richard Dawkins.

Dawkins: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

Sheldrake: “This depends on what you regard as extraordinary”, I replied. “Most people say they have experienced telepathy, especially in connection with telephone calls. In that sense, telepathy is ordinary. The claim that most people are deluded about their own experience is extraordinary. Where is the extraordinary evidence for that?”

(Sheldrake describes how he tried to bring up his own rearch about telepathy, but Dawkins refused to discuss it.)

but a ufo landing on the white house lawn and broadcast to the world would probably cure me of my skepticism. i feel the same way about religion. please all you theists, part the red sea today and have the decency to bring cnn along for verification

Well, that is some pretty extreme skepticism.  If being “shown billions of light beings singing the most amazing song onto god” doesn’t convince you, then I doubt anything could.  Plus, I’d consider your statements to be based on a less-than-useful view of the paranormal.  You seem to be responding to a literalist interpretation of paranormal which isn’t the view I hold (nor that which Harpur holds).  It would take some explanation to describe what I mean by literalist, but here is an interesting discussion about Harpur from the Lightmind forum:

Jim wrote:
Kela has mentioned Patrick Harpur here a couple of times in the past, and Susan and Heru mentioned him just recently. Harpur, like Carl Jung, Richard Tarnas, James Hillman, Arnold Mindell, et al, understands the psyche. Many people don’t. 

Here is Harpur from his book Daimonic Reality:

    St. Paul mentions an ecstatic experience in which he was “caught up even to the third heaven”, but, as he says, “whether in the body, I know not, or whether out of the body, I know not; God knoweth.” And this is the dilemma confronting many otherworld journeyers. 

    It is, I think, too easy to dismiss the conviction of many of them that they were physically lifted into another realm, such as an alien spacecraft. This, after all, is what it felt like; and it is a conviction shared by all members of traditional cultures – although, as we shall see, with an important difference in viewpoint. Thus, although I do not share the conviction, I want to stress that it is ancient and respectable and, I think, nearer to the truth of the matter than not to believe in any kind of otherworld journey at all. However, using the model of daimonic reality … it is possible to make otherworld journeys intelligible, without recourse to a belief in an actual, physical experience.

Here is Ken Wilber from One Taste:

    When people have a memory or an experience of being “abducted,” I don’t doubt the experience seems absolutely real to them (most would pass a lie detector test). And it is real, as an experience, as phenomenology, but not as ontology, not as an objective reality. So there’s the phenomenology (or the experience itself), and there is how you interpret the experience. And for that interpretation – as will all interpretation – you need to draw on the total web of available evidence, which is exactly what the believers in these experiences are not doing. 

    Do any UFO experiences represent higher realities? It’s theoretically possible that some of these experiences are stemming from the psychic or subtle levels of consciousness, and that, precisely because these people do not grow and evolve into these levels, they experience them as an ‘other.’ Instead of their own higher and deeper luminous nature, they project it outwardly as an alien form. Even if that is the case, these people are still in the grips of a dissociative pathology. … The giveaway, as usual, is the narcissism.

    What do people really want when they think of UFOs? What are they yearning for at the thought of something extraterrestrial? Why, they want something bigger than themselves. They want to know that, in the entire, wild, extraordinary Kosmos, there is something other than their meager egos.

What Harpur honors, Wilber tends to pathologize.

It seems to me that the rational, Freudian-flavored pathologizing approach that Wilber takes here doesn’t honor the way the psyche or soul actually works, plays, unfolds, grows, flows, meanders, soars, swims, lives, breathes, and develops.

When Wilber asks what people really want when they think of UFOs, he is talking about what the “meager ego” wants, but he neglects to note that the experiences in question (i.e., UFO abduction experiences) don’t stem from the ego but from the deeper psyche (there is no other place they can stem from, unless they are just willful fantasies, e.g., as if someone were to fantasize about winning the lottery, and reports of UFO abduction experiences indicate that they are not mere fantasies). So it’s not a matter of what the “meager ego” wants but of what the deeper psyche wants.

Speaking about the appearance of symbols of wholeness in the psyche, such as UFOs and mandalas, Jung says, “they do not invariably indicate a subliminal readiness on the part of the patient to realize that wholeness more consciously, at a later stage; often they mean no more than a temporary compensation of chaotic confusion.”

This is not something that someone who elevates pre” to “trans” would say.

Trungpa says:

    …anything that happens in our state of mind, including emotions, is manure. Whatever comes up is a workable situation… 

    …we begin to realize that all kinds of chaotic situations that might occur in life are opportune situations. They are workable situations that we mustn’t reject, and mustn’t regard as purely a regression or going back to confusion at all. Instead, we must develop some kind of respect for those situations that happen in our state of mind.

This is why it simply isn’t skillful or useful to pathologize intrapsychic phenomena, such as UFO abduction experiences or those who have and interpret them. Such experiences are “workable situations that we mustn’t reject, and mustn’t regard as purely a regression or going back to confusion,” or as “dissociative pathology” and “narcissism.” “Instead, we must develop some kind of respect for those situations that happen in our state of mind.” Which is what Harpur, Jung, Hillman, Mindell, Tarnas, et al do. The issue here isn’t what is right or wrong or “politically correct” or incorrect. The issue is, what is most useful? What is most likely to benefit the individual who has and interprets the experience? If someone has a UFO abduction experience and they interpret it to mean that “they were physically lifted into another realm, such as an alien spacecraft,” as Harpur puts it, that’s the manure we have to work with. Calling it shit isn’t going to help anyone, is it? Saying that such people are in the grips of a dissociative pathology and are narcissistic isn’t going to help anyone, is it? There is psychic energy and psychic potential to work with here. Dismissing it by pathologizing it is like throwing manure away instead of working it into the garden and then tending and nurturing the garden and waiting to see what grows. Suzuki Roshi speaks of a similar process in terms of “mind weeds.” He says, “We must have the actual experience of how our weeds change into nourishment.” Or of how our lead changes into gold.

Jung and Trungpa compare the process of intrapsychic transmutation to alchemy. Trungpa says this is “like the alchemical practice of changing lead into gold.”

Mindell says:

    And what is this gold? The alchemist’s beginning goals will be like yours or mine: freedom from trouble, hope for nirvana, enlightenment, love, immortality or spontaneity. But what you actually receive may be something you were not even aware of missing, something so precious and vital that you might even forget your original goals.
Jim wrote:
Exactly, that’s my point: It’s not wrong to psychopathologize, but it’s kind of like calling something shit. When we call something shit, we naturally think in terms of flushing it away, whereas when we call the same thing manure, we acknowledge that we are dealing with something that, used skillfully, can fertilize and enrich the soil of the soul. To try to flush away aspects of the psyche that we don’t like doesn’t work, and as Harpur and Jung agree, when the daimonic is repressed, it often returns in the form of the demonic.

but surely if supernaturalism exists, it’s on unemployment insurance at this time unless these angelic beings are just being really subtle and sneaky for some reason!

You really should read Hansen’s book if you’re genuinely interested in this.  He writes about how the Trickster archetype plays out with paranormal experience.

Blessings,
Marmalade

Access_public Access: Public What do you think? Print Post this!views (267)

Some Thoughts on Parapsychology

Some Thoughts on Parapsychology

Posted on Jul 30th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer Marmalade
This is a response to Julian in his blog The Transformative Power of Development: A Three-Part Distinction.

if the ganzfield experiment is the leading edge we are still very far from any kind of satisfying evidence for psi, right?

As I see it, parapsychology research in general brings up more questions than answers.  Still, the questions it brings up are quite intriguing.  I must admit that I don’t feel confident in my understanding of any of this.  I’ve never been involved in any kind of scientific research, I’ve never studied scientific methodology, and I’m entirely clueless about statistical analysis.  Basically, I really don’t know what to make of much of it, but I am curious. 

I’m sure that much of the criticisms are valid, but I appreciate the context that Hansen provides in his book.  Hansen thinks that the paranormal by its very nature can’t be scientifically proven and will always be marginal, and he is critical of scientists such as Dean Radin.  He isn’t saying that research can’t or shouldn’t be done, but rather it will never be accepted by mainstream sceintists.  The budget for paranormal research and the numbers of profesionals involved is miniscule, and its amazing that any research at all is done.  Paranormal research could only make any headway (whether in proving or disproving) if it actually had some funding which Hansen says will never happen. 

So, Hansen’s criticism simultaneously points out the limits of the paranormal and the limits of mainstream science.  To answer your question, yes, the limited evidence of paranormal research is disatsfying.  But the limits of science in general are disatisfying to someone who wishes to find conclusive meaning about life.

There are reasons why paranormal research is still important.  Relative to other scientific fields, very little research has been done on the paranormal, and very little of it done on a largescale.  So, its not fair to judge a field that is still in its infancy.  Even though there isn’t any scientific consensus about the paranormal, much has been learned from the research.  Parapsychology reearchers have refined their methodologies over time.  Its hard to control for something which has many unknown factors.  They have to be more careful about their controls (partly because of potential deceipt and self-deception) than is necessary for most scientists.  So, the refinements of methodology are helpful for all researchers in all fields.  There is a history of inadequate methodology in parapsychology research, but to its credit these inadequacies are continuously being resolved.  Its a slow process, though, since there is very little funding or institutionalized support.  In some ways, research has shown more about what the paranormal isn’t than what it is.

One of the subjects I find the most interesting (in Hansen’s book) is the sociology of scientific knowledge (SSK).  Scientists in this field study other scientists.  Two interesting aspects are the problems with the replication of scientific experiments and experimenter effect (the corollary to the placebo effect which complicates the situation further).  The research into the experimenter effect was pioneered by Rosenthal (who so happened to have some interest in parapsychology) who demonstrated that the bias of a researcher alters the results.  He also studied teachers and how their expectations influence the success or failure of students.  Interestingly, he also helped to develop the use of meta-analysis… maybe because of the problems he discovered with individual experiments.  Experimenter effect can be controlled by double-blinds, and yet according to this paper double-blinds aren’t as commonly used as one would hope.  Parapsychologists take double-blinds more seriously because of the increased complexity of experimenter effects.  The problem with studying the paranormal is that it by definition challenges the very basis of the scientific paradigm, and that is why Hansen is so pessimistic about the future of parapsychology research.

 BTW Hansen is especially critical of skpetics especially on the debunking end of the scale.  In his book, he focuses on the enmeshed relationship between parapsychologists and skeptics, and brings up some important insights.  His analysis of Martin Gardner is very detailed.  At his site he has several online articles about skeptics:  

CSICOP and the Skeptics: An Overview
Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 86, No. 1, January 1992, pp. 19-63.


The Elusive Agenda: Dissuading as Debunking in Ray Hyman’s The Elusive Quarry
Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 85, No. 2, April 1991, pp. 193-203.


Review of Quantum Leaps in the Wrong Direction by Charles M. Wynn and Arthur W. Wiggins
. Journal of Parapsychology, Vol. 66, No. 3, September 2002, Pp. 321-324.


Review of The Encyclopedia of the Paranomal edited by Gordon Stein.
  Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 90, Nos. 3-4,  July-October, 2000,  pp. 181-189.
In case you’re interested, here is Hansen’s Website, and some Book Reviews: here, here, here (starting on p. 60), and here.

now even if we do decide to go along with the possibility that as radin says ” people sometimes get small amounts of specific information from a distance without the use of the ordinary senses. Psi effects do occur in the ganzfeld” – then the question becomes what do we think that means?

Good question.  The meaning is where the rubber hits the road for us simply trying to make sense of it all.  Whether its true or not, why should we care?  And if true, what is its practical value?  I don’t know what sense we can make of it.  The possibility of it being true brings doubt to our normal sense of reality and the standard procedures of science.  It very well might mean an entire paradigm shift within our society.  But what do we think it means?  I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me I think it means the world is a strange place.  :)

what do you think this “evidence” would mean viz the above blogpost were it verifiable beyond doubt?    

Basically, I don’t think that most of what you said is directly related to whether or not the paranormal exists, but you seem to think its directly related.  Even if the evidence was irrefutable, it wouldn’t change the basic facts of growth and development, suffering and death.  Also, there is no reason to assume that parnormal research would support idealistic metaphysics. 

Its true that the paranormal can be interpreted in terms of the pre-rational, but it also can be interpreted in terms of the trans-ratioal.  The trans-rational isn’t a clear category.  In some ways, its beyond both rationality and pre-rationality.  Its beyond in terms of development, but its also beyond in that it can temporarily suspend these previous modes.  Yet, in other ways, it might be thought of as that which bridges the gap between the pre-rational and the rational as it transcends and includes both.  However we look at it, I think it brings to question some fundamental divisions that rationality helped to create… such as internal and external.  These divisions are still real to some degree, but the trans-rational complexifies the relationship between them.

I’m still figuring out how this all fits together.  Hansen doesn’t speak about integral theory, and integral theory doesn’t speak much about parapsychology research.  I’m trying to connect ideas here, but I don’t know how successful my attempt is.  I genuinely have no clear conclusions at this point.  I’m hoping that further discussion of enactivism will help me to integrate my thoughts.

Access_public Access: Public 6 Comments Print Post this!views (262)  

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 2 hours later

Nicole said

you make some really excellent points…

roaming around on the net I found this priceless Q and A: http://www.iprfinc.com/

Question of the Month

Q:    I’ve heard of “wormholes” and interdimensional portals in cemeteries that spirits can travel through to get from one cemetery to another. Is this true?

A:        Unfortunately, there is no true way as of yet to scientifically prove or disprove this theory. Theoretically folding time and space is possible, which is the subject we are up against here. It does seem plausible, but highly unlikely, however. The reason that I say that it is highly unlikely is because certain scientists have stated that there are infinite numbers of dimensions. If interdimensional travel were to take place, a certain segment of these dimensions that would connect one place to the other would have to be under ideal conditions to be able to fall into a synchronistic rhythm for any length of time. Theoretically, if this event were to actually happen, even if the dimensions were only one degree “in phase” (synchronized) with each of the others, it would make a minute allowance for particulate electromagnetic matter, such as ghosts, to move through the “gate.” This, coupled with the thought that a ghost maintains their persona, memories, etc. would then almost completely rule out the thought of interdimensional travel by a ghost. I say this because if a ghost is indeed a person – minus their physically manifested body – then they would have to have understood and performed interdimensional travel while they were alive in order for them to have the ability to do so after they have died. 

Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 9 hours later

Marmalade said

Nicole, let us not share that with Julian.  He’d really go bonkers over ghosts travelling through wormholes.  ;)

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 13 hours later

Nicole said

You won’t be surprised to know I had Julian in mind posting that! :)

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"

about 18 hours later

1Vector3 said

This is a no-no, but I have some comments/opinions/viewpoints before completing my reading of the entire blog – and I did not read Julian’s blog, either….. Will remedy these boooo-booooos as soooooon as I can.

My usual disclaimer: The sentences below are not presented as truth or facts, just my best opinions at this time. I seek not to correct or to disagree, but to stimulate clarity and discussion.

The scientific method itself deals with certain ontological objects (Beings, existents) in a certain reality. Paranormal stuff is from a different reality. Like Flatlander [remember the old metaphor of 2-d Beings/world] science can never “prove” the existence of a third dimension, it’s just an epistemologically nonesensical endeavor, when seen from that metaphor.

Not only is the reality different, but the epistemology is different. (Newtonian) science requires a certain subject-object relationship, and that relationship is not the one operating in paranormal phenomena. Thus, no possibility of meaningful interface, let alone “proof.”

[ I ignore here the complexity that the paranormal level of consciousness or epistemological functioning can include the normal in itself, but not vice-versa. ]

What the research CAN do is pile up enough anomalies (as per Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, and BTW I regard no one as educated if they have not read it) that mainstream science can no longer sweep these anomalies under the rug, and must acknowledge its own limits of explanation (actually, of scope of application.)

I forget what Ken Wilber says about this matter, but I think he disagrees with me, but not for any reasons you might guess. Somewhere in Integral Spirituality where he talks about the “Two-Truths Doctrine” and rejects it but I can’t recall why.

Also another point, mainstream science itself, the kind of research you refer to, is still Newtonian in paradigm. Now, how scientific is THAT? A bit behind the times, I would say. Thus, not at all the most comprehensively up-to-date scientific paradigm for assessing anything, especially the paranormal.

As I understand it, when viewed from the quantum-physical paradigm, the paranormal is simply normal, expressions of what is normal on the quantum level, which itself causes enough anomalies on the macro level that it eventually had to be dealt with and accepted.

In No Boundary Ken Wilber does a totally fabulous job of summarizing the implications of quantum physics, including its relationship to and implications for ordinary science, and repeating all that here would take up too much space, but it’s on pages 35-41 of the paperback. The book itself is a paradigm shifter I recommend to anyone who wants to expand their awareness. It’s not even woo-woo, it’s just common sense !!!

I am not qualified to judge, but I have heard that many if not most of the purported “New Age” reports of the implications of quantum physics for our daily lives, for our ordinary thinking, range from inferior to inaccurate, but KW’s report of the implications seems less sloppy, and less axe-to-grind, to my uneducated mind.

OK, thank you for indulging me, and I will go read up. I like being on Notifications of your blogs, oh magnificent orange-and-white Cat-Being from Another Dimension. You are definitely PARA (beyond) normal !!!! LOL !!!!

Blessings, OM Bastet

Marmalade : Gaia Child

1 day later

Marmalade said

Hey OM,

Sorry I didn’t respond right away.  I’ve been busy trying to respond to lots of discussions on Gaia.

Don’t worry about having not read the blog entirely.  Your comments fit in just fine.

Guess what?  I’ve never read Kuhn.  Ha!  :)  I’m uneducated.  Yay! 

I like the idea of piling up the anomalies.  That is my basic viewpoint.  Parapsychology hasn’t “proven” anything, but it has provided some anomalies.  Eventually, if enough anomalies pile up, it will create a critical mass forcing a paradigm shift.  As I see it, parapsychology research is still in its infancy despite it being more than a century old.

About the Newtonian paradigm of mainstream science, I think that is very true.  The Newtonian paradigm has practical usefulness for research in most fields.  Since there isn’t much connection between most fields and post-Newtonian paradigms, my guess is that most research scientists don’t consider theoretical complexities of quantum physics.  Even paranormal research have mostly ignored theoretical issues and I doubt that many paranormal researchers are educated in quantum physics.  All of science has a whole lot of catching up to do.

I suspect that if convincing evidence of the paranormal is ever found, it will probably be in the field of physics.  Basically, mainstream scientists will only be convinced by evidence by mainstream science, and yet parapsychology isn’t considered mainstream and so its evidence isn’t acceptable.

I was thinking about Dawkins telling Radin that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”.  Radin pointed out that it depends on what one considers extraordinary, but there is a further problem with Dawkin’s statement.  Parapsychology gets very little funding and so is unable to do the largescale research that is necessary to produce “extraordinary” evidence, but its mainstream scientists such as Dawkins who argue that parapsychology doesn’t deserve funding because it doesn’t produce “extraordinary” evidence.  So, Dawkins’ statement is disingenuous because he really doesn’t want parapsychology to produce extraordinary evidence. 

It reminds me of CSICOP, the skeptical organization by various mainstream scientists (incuding Dawkins).  The problem with CSICOP is that it isn’t headed by scientists and the scientists who support it have no professional experience with parapsychology research.  CSICOP has no peer-reviewed journal and doesn’t support research even in disproving the paranormal.  Hansen says that CSICOP did do some research early on, but it ended up proving what they were trying to disprove and so they never did research again.  Worse still, they use their influence (via mainstream scientists) to keep parapsychologists from getting funding.

I am curious about the possible connection between parapsychology and quantum physics.  Lynne McTaggart speaks about the connection in her books, but as she isn’t a scientist I don’t know how biased her presentation might be. 

I’ve heard that there is nothing paranormal because its a false label.  If the paranormal exists, then its normal.  I agree with that as far as that goes… I really don’t care what one calls it.  Anyways, normality is kind of a relative concept.  I’m sure quantum physics seemed a bit paranormal to Newtonian scientists.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

1 day later

Nicole said

LOL! It’s all so terribly funny isn’t it?

your point about quantum physics is very important. i too think the key will be there, so when everyone else has “caught up” we will see a lot more…

Normality and Rationality

I was thinking about two issues of how people respond to that which is conventionally thought of being outside of the “normal”.

   —

The first issue I’ve thought about many times before as it comes up in the literature of UFOs and the paranormal.  I was skimming through some books by the likes of John Keel, Patrick Harpur and Keith Thompson.  These books confirmed the data I’d seen for myself in public polls.  Simply put, the vast majority of people believe in or have experienced something that seemed to defy a rationalistic, materialistic worldview.  Most people have had at least one strange experience in their life.  Many people have had multiple strange experiences in their life.  However, skeptics and debunkers (whether atheists, scientists, media reporters, or government officials) treat the paranormal as if it were abnormal.  Furthermore, it is treated as if belief or simply acceptance of it might be dangerous for society.

I was thinking about an interview between Dawkins and Radin.  Dawkins told Radin that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”.  Radin pointed out that it depends on what one considers extraordinary.  Dawkins was trying to dismiss from the start experiences that were common to most people.  There is a further problem with Dawkin’s statement.  Parapsychology gets very little funding and so is unable to do the largescale research that is necessary to produce “extraordinary” evidence, but its mainstream scientists such as Dawkins who argue that parapsychology doesn’t deserve funding because it doesn’t produce “extraordinary” evidence.  So, Dawkins’ statement is disingenuous because he really doesn’t want parapsychology to produce extraordinary evidence.  Still, a surprising amount of parapychology research has been done considering the factors of ridicule and limited funding.  Radin even offered to discuss the actual evidence and Dawkins refused.  So, Dawkins represents the rational scientist who precludes certain evidence by coming to a conclusion before even looking at the evidence (if they ever look at the evidence).

It reminds me of CSICOP, the skeptical organization by various mainstream scientists (incuding Dawkins).  The problem with CSICOP is that it isn’t headed by scientists and the scientists who support it have no professional experience with parapsychology research.  CSICOP has no peer-reviewed journal and doesn’t support research even in disproving the paranormal.  Hansen says that CSICOP did do some research early on, but it ended up proving what they were trying to disprove and so they never did research again.  Worse still, they use their influence (via mainstream scientists) to keep parapsychologists from getting funding.

Another example would be the military.  The Air Force had some programs to collect data on UFOs, but the public side of these programs was to debunk.  The main issue wasn’t necessarily to discover whether such things existed or not.  The Air Force had plenty of data to know that there indeed were unidentified objects “flying” in unexplainable ways.  Their own pilots were constantly reporting these things.  The reason debunking was necessary is because of a need to control.  If UFOs were either enemy experimental craft, aliens, or strange paranormal phenomena, the Air Force doesn’t like anything to exist in their airspace that they don’t control.  And if they can’t control the objects, they must control the information about them.  They must put up an image of always being in absolute control. 

George P. Hansen, in his book The Trickster and the Paranormal, goes into great detail about this need for authority figures to control and how the paranormal seems inherently contrary to such control.  Hansen goes into immense detail about the problems parapychology researchers have had trying to study something that can’t be confined to the boundaries of research.  Another interesting point he brings up is the issue of personality types.  According to Ernest Hartmann, thin boundary types are more likely to experience the paranormal and more likely to be open and accepting about such experiences, and thick boundary types are the complete opposite.  Most people are somewhere in the middle as I was pointing out how most people have had paranormal experiences at some point in their life.  An extremely thick boundaried person is a minority, but very interesting is the fact that they’re more likely to be hired for positions of authority in hierarchical organizations (government, military, education, corporations, etc.).  So, authority figures don’t end up representing the actual experience of most people.  Someone like Dawkins is being honest in that he has never experienced the paranormal (or at least has always managed to explain it away), and so it makes no sense to his worldview.  The other problem with thick boundaried people is that they have a harder time imagining the experience of someone than someone different than them.  So, not only do most authority figures not represent the experience of most people neither do they understand.

However, why do most people remain silent about their experiences?  There is the possibility that most people take other people’s silence as demonstrating that their experience is uncommon.  Everyone is afraid of being the first one to bring the subject up because that would mean risking ridicule.  However, I believe it was Patrick Harpur who offered another possibility.  Paranormal experiences aren’t even easy to explain to ourselves.  Like spiritual experiences in general, the paranormal commands a sense of awe and even reverence.  People feel something important happened that shouldn’t be taken lightly.  So, maybe people don’t talk about them because trying to explain them would seem pointless and unecessary.  But many people when asked without fear of ricicule are willing to admit to their experiences, and that is why we know from polls that such experiences are so common.

   —

The second issue is about how people talk about things that are outside the “norm”.  This is mostly an issue of Western civilization, but increasingly it probably applies to other cultures as well.  When talking about the non-rational people feel a need to make sense of it rationally.  I’ve thought about this less than the first issue and so I have less to say about it.  I became aware of it listening to an interview on NPR.  The person being interviewed was an expert on behavior that is so far outside the norm as to be called “evil”.  He was discussing it in rational terms of psychology and historical events, but its a subject that touches upon the metaphysical and the just plain inexplicable. 

It’s hard for most people to wrap their minds around what makes other “normal” people do horrible things such as Nazi medical doctors.  And it’s even hard to come to terms with mass murderers who are usually motivated by mental illnesses few of us ever have to experience.  At least, a Nazi doctor was following orders.  Simple self-preservation can explain following orders no matter how grotesque.  But this expert pointed out that the people who did the actual killing of Jews were often given the choice of whether to participate or not. 

I was watching a documentary recently about the part of WWII involving Russia and Germany.  These were two totalitarian superpowers who were willing to go to any length for victory.  All morality and social order was gone.  The actions taken on enemy soldiers and just innocent civilians was at least as horrifying as any of the Nazi death camps.  It was all out thuggery and brutality.  It didn’t surprise me that the people involved were so-called “normal” people.  During what is called the partisan war, there was a lot of torture and random killings and most of it was not done because of any orders given.  They were typically just local people doing horrible things to other local people, often to those they were friends and neighbors with before the war.  One guy who terrorized a particular town used to be the teacher for that town and before the war he showed no signs of being vicious.  That is disturbing but other wars have shown that repeatedly that your neighbors may one day turn on you and do horrible things beyond imagination.  This potential is within every person.  Even psychological research shows how easily people turn to brutality.  What is called “civilization” is a thin veneer. 

What is surprising is that the people interviewed who were involved in the atrocities from WWII were mostly unrepentant and said they’d do it all over again.  These people were now old, possibly grandparents and great grandparents now.  But given another opportunity they’d gladly torture their neighbors all over again.  “War is war” seemed to be the rationalization.  Nothing else mattered but kill or be killed.  These were just “normal” people.  It’s hard for Americans in particular to understand this attitude.  Unlike Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany, America idealizes morality and civil rights even though we don’t always live up to those ideals.  Of course our soldiers have done horrible things as well, but we tend to look down on this type of behavior.  The US soldiers involved in the recent torture incidents are mostly repentant when interviewed.  They act as confused by their own behavior as the rest of us.  They explain it as following orders.  We all can understand that and we sadly nod our heads.  But guerilla warfare is a different entity, something more close to the behavior of serial killers.  Americans haven’t personally experience guerilla warfare since the Civil War.  The atrocities of war are what happen elsewhere… well, until 9/11 that is.

Anways, the callers from the NPR interview were mostly Americans I suppose.  And so maybe my observation applies more to Americans.  The majority of callers seemed only indirectly interested in the “evil” behavior itself.  Instead, they took issue with how “evil” was defined.  Everyone had their own definition.  It seemed extremely important that we get our definitions precisely correct and that everyone should come to a rational agreement about how we discusst it.  The process of discussing was almost more important than the subject.  Maybe it’s because these behaviors are so challenging to our normal understanding.  It’s almost as if the right definition could be found then it wold all somehow make sense, somehow seem less threatening.  We moderns define ideas and terms in the way that Christian theologians in the past categorized sins and demons.  If things are in their proper place, at least there is a sense of there being an order to the world.  It doesn’t stop the “evil”, but it turns it into an object that can be safely studied.

Cold War Era: Paranoia and Oppression

This post started out with my thinking about the paranoia and oppressiveness of the 1950s.  However, I realized that the 1950s was merely a clear example of the entire Cold War era.  Some would say the Cold War is still going on, but just with a new name.  For certain, the Cold War spans almost the entire living memory of our culture.  The people who clearly remember the US before WWII are getting very old and becoming smaller in number.  And only now is a new generation growing up with no memory at all of the threat of communism.  Maybe terrorism will obsess our collective psyche for the next half century or so as communism had done before it. 

With the new or seemingly new threat of terrorism, it’s easy for many (the Boomers in particular) to fondly remember the peace and prosperity of the post-war period of history.  But let us not get too soft and fuzzy in our memories.  There is a dark past that I hope isn’t forgotten for fear of repeating it.  Much of our present international troubles are directly rooted in the meddling activities our country did in the last century.  We shouldn’t be surprised that the chickens have come home to roost.  The problems of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran are nothing new and our country is far from innocent.

Mid-1940s to early 1990s — “The Cold War began in the mid-1940s and lasted into the early 1990s.”  This general period involves some of the greatest and worst events of American history.  The late 1950s to early 1960s represented the high point of American idealistic optimism, but I’ll instead focus on the negative here because the media, for all of its seeming negativity, too often overlooks the dark underbelly of politics.  This, of course, might have something to do with the government becoming ever more adept at controlling the media through propaganda. 

Most of the Cold War was patriotic rallying and international posturing rather than overt fighting and hence the name, but still there was plenty of international conflicts including covert operations (para-military training, assassination attempts, overthrowing of governments, financial support of dictatorships, etc.).  The stakes were as real as the World Wars but just with more subtle methods.  As this was the beginning of ideological warfare it was also the beginning of the endless war and the military-industrial complex that certain people early on had predicted and warned about.  An interesting aspect was the ending of colonization as the preferred method of relating to “Third World” countries, but obviously that didn’t mean the “First World” countries were no longer interested in continuing their control and manipulation by other means.  From the Wikipedia article on the Cold War:

Nationalist movements in some countries and regions, notably Guatemala, Iran, the Philippines, and Indochina were often allied with communist groups—or at least were perceived in the West to be allied with communists.[79] In this context, the US and the Soviet Union increasingly competed for influence by proxy in the Third World as decolonization gained momentum in the 1950s and early 1960s;[134] additionally, the Soviets saw continuing losses by imperial powers as presaging the eventual victory of their ideology.[135] The US government utilized the CIA in order to remove a string of unfriendly Third World governments and to support allied ones.[79] The US used the CIA to overthrow governments suspected by Washington of turning pro-Soviet, including Iran’s first democratically elected government under Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq in 1953 (see 1953 Iranian coup d’état) and Guatemala’s democratically elected president Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán in 1954 (see 1954 Guatemalan coup d’état).[104]Between 1954 and 1961, the US sent economic aid and military advisors to stem the collapse of South Vietnam’s pro-Western regime.[20]

Because of new advances in technology, this was an era that brought to a new level the power and ability of the information gathering agencies and secret (and semi-secret) enforcement agencies.  It was around this time that many of the alphabet agencies in the US were created and gained immense power.  These agencies, however, had predecessors before them.  In the past century, there has been a complex ever-changing puzzle of committees and organizations under a variety of names.

Also during this time, the US and the Soviet Union began wide experimentation: atom bombs, neutrino bombs, hydrogen bombs, radiation, radar, sonar, microwaves, bio-chemicals, genetics, psychological manipulation, social control methods, brainwashing, psychedelics, ESP, telekinesis, influence of various kinds of energy waves on humans and technology, etc.  In order to try to gain an edge, the world powers were willing to try anything at least once both on citizens of other countries and sometimes their own unsuspecting citizens.  Still unknown to most people, the government parapsychology research went on for decades in both countries and possibly is still going on.  For example, the Stargate Project was a 20 million dollar US intelligence program which at its peak had 14 labs that researched remote viewing(including clairvoyance and out-of-body experiences).  This project involved the Army and the CIA and was in operation from the 1970s to 1995 when it either closed down or changed names as is commonly the habit for programs that get too much public attention.  The Stargate Project was related to the projects Sun Streak, Grill Flame, Center Lane by DIA(Defense Intelligence Agency that, according to the Wikipediaarticle, “coordinates the activities of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force intelligence components”) and INSCOM, and SCANATE by CIA. 

There was intense secrecy surrounding such government activities.  We only know about them now because President Clinton was interested in UFOs and the John F. Kennedy assassination which even he couldn’t get information about and so in 1995 he signed the Executive Order 12958 which declassified many documents and promised to declassify further documents later (but in 2003 President Bush essentially replaced this order by amending it and so the government has returned to it’s stance of secrecy).  This order forced the government to admit to much that it had denied in the past.  This included the various research programs, but maybe more intriguing was the government’s lengthy interest in UFOs which publicly served the purpose of debunking and disinformation. 

The world’s governments all became majorly interested in the foo fighters first observed in 1944 by military pilots during WWII and the ghost rockets first observed in 1946, but it was only after the war that the national governments realized that these weren’t experimental craft of the enemy and so that it is how they became labeled as Unidentified Flying Objects.  The Air Force reports on the Roswel UFO incident didn’t come out until the mid-1990s which was about a half century after the event.  There were several investigations into UFOs that lasted almost 3 decades, but of course any recent concerted efforts of government investigation would still be classified.  The known investigations include: US Air Force’s 1947-48 Project Sign including the 1948 Estimate of the Situation document, US Air Force’s 1949-51 Project Grudge including the 1949 Grudge report, CIA commissioned 1952 Robertson Panel, US Air Force’s 1952 Project Blue Book including the US Air Force commissioned 1954 Project Blue Book Special Report No. 14, and the US Air Force’s 1968 Condon Committee (formally known as Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects).  Besides the Air Force reports from the 1990s, there have been other official responses to UFO sightings such as Federal Aviation Adminstration reaction to the 2006 O’Hare International Airport UFO sighting and the official reaction of the Coast Guard and various space agencies to the 2007 Kodiak Island UFO sighting.  Some people speculate that the NASA commissioned 1961 Brookings Report implies a motive for the government’s secrecy about UFOs, but the government is secretive by nature and probably doesn’t need specific reasons.  Classifying information as secret was common practice during the Cold War even for uninteresting and harmless documents.

Directly in line with this culture of secrecy, there was an intense paranoia that too often emerged as projection of fear and hatred onto fellow citizens.  The enemy had many guises: fascists, commies, liberals, aliens, or even your neighbor; and these enemies often blended together for the “enemy” was an amorphous force of constant threat.  The movies were filled with the good guys endlessly fighting off various enemies and monsters, but it was also the beginning of film noir which was highly critical of American idealism.  This was a time of the rising power of conservatism after Roosevelt’s New Deal liberalism and it was a time of the US ascending as a greater world power than it ever had before.  More importantly, this was a time of complete social upheaval.  Veterans coming back after WWII were scarred and rootless looking to settle down to the comforting fantasies of the nuclear family portrayed on tv.  America as it once was had disintegrated and the women had gotten a taste of liberation during the war.  The Baby Boomers born into this new world were a polarizing ideological force of great numbers that would grow up to start more wars than any generation before.  

Strangely or not, all of this ideology and idealism coincided with materialism.  There was the romanticism of the Enlightenment project of modern progress embodied in industrialism combined with the promise of the new technological age.  Despite conservativism coming to power and despite the collective dreams of traditional values, this was a new world.  Capitalism had become a power to compete with democracy itself and some would say capitalism won.  This certainly wasn’t the libertarian-leaning conservativism of the early history of the US.  In it’s place, neoconservatism was starting to take root.  World War II was over and the bad times seemed in the past.  Even as the middle class grew to increased power, the elites of the military-industrial complex grew to even greater power than probably the whole middle class combined.  But people weren’t worried, bread and circus as they say.  People had jobs, had homes, and the entertainment industry was booming.  Life had become practically one big advertisement for the greatness of being an American… unless you were a minority or a sexual deviant such as a homosexual, but those people don’t count.  In the 1950s and 1960s, progress almost looked like it would be endless and few people noticed the negative consequences.  My dad remembers that a smokestack belching out noxious gases was a symbol of productivity and he has fond memories of seeing them as a child.  Things were happening.  Every time you turned around, there was something new.  Technology was advancing in bounds.  The scientist was the savior of mankind.  There were rocket ships and skyscrapers, and on a more personal level there were microwaves and tvs.  The early versions of the internet was being developed.  No doubt, science was kicking ass and taking names. 

This was also a time when imagery gained power over the written word which had ruled for the last couple of millennia.  Two images in particular captured our collective sense of identity:  the mushroom cloud and the planet earth as seen from space.  Another catchy symbol was the Doomsday Clock.

There is an interesting Wikipedia article about the Culture during the Cold War.  And here is a lovely summary of a nuclear war scenario in the article Massive retaliation:

A massive retaliation doctrine, as with any nuclear strategy based on the principle of mutually assured destruction and as an extension the second-strike capability needed to form a retaliatory attack, encourages the opponent to perform a massive counterforce first strike. This, if successful, would cripple the defending state’s retaliatory capacity and render a massive retaliation strategy useless.

Also, if both sides of a conflict adopt the same stance of massive response, it may result in unlimited escalation (a “nuclear spasm”), each believing that the other will back down after the first round of retaliation. Both problems are not unique to massive retaliation, but to nuclear deterrence as a whole.

Some other lovely Wikipedia articles:

Truman Doctrine

Eisenhower Doctrine

Kennedy Doctrine

Johnson Doctrine

Nixon Doctrine

Reagan Doctrine

Rollback

Containment

Domino Theory

Democratic peace theory

Peace through strength

Nuclear Peace

Mutual assured destruction (MAD)

Fail-deadly

Dead Hand (nuclear war)

Balance of terror

Deterrence theory

Madman theory

World War III

   —

That was just introductory comments about the larger context.  The rest that follows is about the specifics of this era, loosely in chronological order.  I’m mostly focusing on documented information, but all of this leads to questions of motives.  I’m not interested in discussing conspiracy theories for this blog.  Where I do discuss conspiracies, I’ll limit myself to those that have been well documented and/or admitted to by the government.  This is all actual historical events although some of it didn’t show up in the news media of the time and when it did show up the public only got partial information.  Now that the Cold War is over, much more info is available for inquiring minds.

1942 to 1946– Japanese American Internment and the propaganda for it: Around 110,000 Japanese were imprisoned in camps, 62 percent were US citizens including those that were native born.  The architects of the Internment camps used deception and withheld critical information.  There was no evidence of espionage or sabotage from any of the detainees, and a government assessment concluded that the vast majority of the Japanese American citizens were loyal to the US.  To promote the use of internment camps propaganda was necessary.  Americans were open to such influence partly for the obvious reason of the fearful response to the Pearl Harbor attack, but also because at the time racism was very strong and there were farming conflicts involving Japanese Americans.  Also, the media of this era was very agreeable to being used for propaganda purposes.  From the Wikipedia article on the Propaganda for Japanese American internment:

As a common form of entertainment for many Americans, motion pictures portrayed a positive image of relocation to non-Japanese movie-goers. Produced by the United States War Relocation Authority, such movies as A Challenge to Democracy (1944)[4] and Japanese Relocation (1943)[5], depicted the internment camps in a positive light and showed the Japanese people as happy and content, benefiting from their new life in the internment camps. To accomplish this, these government-issued propaganda films touched on common positive themes, such as:

  • ensuring the safety of internee property
  • providing Japanese-Americans with greater opportunities, such as education, employment, internal government, and religion
  • cooperation of the internees with the local authorities and federal government
  • language comparing the relocated people to early American frontiersmen

Such motion pictures were made with film from actual Japanese American internment camps with a narrator informing the audience of what they were witnessing. As the UCLA Film and Television Archive writes:

[This] film reminds us how easily unpleasant truths can be rationalized into banality and individual liberties can be swept away. (UCLA, 2007)

As a prominent news source for many Americans in the 1940’s, the newspaper media also played an integral role in influencing national attitudes toward Japanese citizens. Many times, editorials published in these newspapers would approach relocation as a necessary inevitability characteristic in times of war. The San Francisco Chronicle on February 21, 1942 displayed just such an attitude of pro-Japanese-American internment, stating, “We have to be tough, even if civil rights do take a beating for a time” [6]. The Bakersfield Californian was among the newspapers of the time to criminalize the Japanese American population, stating, “We have had enough experiences with Japs in times of peace to emphasize the opinion that they are not to be trusted.” [2] Violent sentiment would also be characteristic of some of these editorials, as when a writer to the Corvallis Gazette Times expressed, “The loyal Jap American citizens have the law on their side, but that may not protect them. Besides, what is the law and what is the Constitution to a dead Jap. If they are smart, they will not return” [2]. Many newspapers would also publish propaganda cartoons concerning the Japanese military, which fueled a general racist attitude towards Japanese-American residents. [7]

From the Wikipedia article on Japanese American Internment:

In 1988, Congress passed and President Ronald Reagan signed legislation which apologized for the internment on behalf of the U.S. government. The legislation stated that government actions were based on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership”.[10] About $1.6 billion in reparations were later disbursed by the U.S. government to surviving internees and their heirs.[11]

A disagreeing opinion by Victor Hwang from the Asian Week (“Internment: More Than Just a Government Mistake”, February 28, 2003):

But contrary to the narrative which validates our nation’s commitment to constitutional principles over time, a more careful analysis suggests that the internment of Japanese Americans was not simply an error in judgment, but rather an accepted practice which has been frequently considered for use by our government during times of perceived crisis. In this view, the government has shown itself to be continuously willing to suspend the constitutional rights of the minority in the interests of national security, and it has learned nothing from the sacrifices and injuries done to the Japanese American community.

1945 — Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: The largest bombing in history; It’s main purpose, besides bomb testing, was to force Japan into submission by destroying heavily populated cities which killed around 220,000 civilians.  Whether or not it was necessary and effective for the intended goal, it is without a doubt the most devastating terrorist attack ever implemented (the government admitted that a major reason was psychological warfare).  If you prefer euphemisms, you could call it a countervalue.  It was the ultimate symbol of the ends justifying the means, a pragmatic ethics of brute force that undermines any claim of a moral highground… which isn’t to say any other country has the moral highground either.  My dad is fond of saying that democracy is the worst form of government except for all the other types of government.  He might be correct, that is assuming the US government is still a democracy (or ever was… considering all of the royal lineages, family relations, business connections, and old money of the majority of politicians, one could be forgiven for thinking that our government is actually a plutocracy or at least a semi-plutocracy).

1945 to 1980 — Nuclear Weapons Testing Accidents, Downwinders, and Human Subject Research:  There was a lot of nuclear and radiation testing going on and much of it was secret at the time.  Because of the secrecy, most people are unaware of how many supposed accidents there were that exposed populated areas.  Whether these were genuinely accidents or not, the government was very interested in the health results that ensued.  Fortunately, some of these people (the ones that lived and knew what happened to them) were later compensated.  Unfortunately, too many people have been negatively effected and compensation can’t solve the problem.  Considering all of this, it doesn’t seem all that strange that cancer and other related illnesses and symptoms (such as decreased sperm count and deformities) have massively increased (in humans and other animals as well) since nuclear testing began.  Throw in all the other pollutants and you’d think we as a species are collectively trying to commit suicide.  From the Wikipedia article on Downwinders:

Between 1945 and 1980, the United States, U.S.S.R, United Kingdom, France and China exploded 504 nuclear devices in atmospheric tests at thirteen primary sites yielding the explosive equivalent of 440 megatons of TNT. Of these atmospheric tests, 330 were conducted by the United States. Accounting for all types of nuclear tests, official counts show that the United States has conducted 1,054 nuclear weapons tests to date, involving at least 1,151 nuclear devices, most of which occurred at Nevada Test Site and the Pacific Proving Grounds in the Marshall Islands, with ten other tests taking place at various locations in the United States, including Alaska, Colorado, Mississippi, and New Mexico. There have been an estimated 2,000 nuclear tests conducted worldwide; the number of nuclear tests conducted by the United States alone is currently more than the sum of nuclear testing done by all other known nuclear states (USSR, Great Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea) combined. [3] [4]These nuclear tests infused vast quantities of radioactive material into the world’s atmosphere, which was widely dispersed and then deposited as global fallout. [5]

Even assuming these radiation dispersals were simply accidents involving naive scientists and over-eager politicians and military leaders, there is still plenty of evidence that intentional human experimentation occurred.  From DUCK AND COVER(UP): U.S. RADIATION TESTING ON HUMANSby Tod Ensign and Glenn Alcalay:

If you have any lingering thoughts that the government’s failure to disclose radiation experimentation on humans was driven by misguided national security concerns, throw them in the nearest nuclear waste dump. At least some officials knew what they were doing was unconscionable and were ducking the consequences and covering their tails. A recently leaked Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) document lays out in the most bare-knuckled manner the policy of coverup. It is desired that no document be released which refers to experiments with humans and might have adverse effect on public opinion or result in legal suits. Documents covering such work field should be classified `secret,’ wrote Colonel O.G. Haywood of the AEC. *1 This letter confirms a policy of complete secrecy where human radiation experiments were concerned.

The Haywood letter may help explain a recently discovered 1953 Pentagon document, declassified in 1975. The two-page order from the secretary of defense ostensibly brought U.S. guidelines for human experimentation. in line with the Nuremberg Code, making adherence to a universal standard official U.S. policy. Ironically, however, the Pentagon document was classified and thus was probably not seen by many military researchers until its declassification in 1975.2

As these and a steady stream of similar reports confirm, for decades, the U.S. government had not only used human guinea pigs in radiation experiments, but had also followed a policy of deliberate deception and cover up of its misuse of both civilians and military personnel in nuclear weapons development and radiation research. While the Department of Energy (DoE) has made some belated moves toward greater openness, there are clear indications that other federal agencies and the White House have not yet deviated from the time-honored tradition of deceit and self-serving secrecy.

From the Wikipedia article on Human Experimentation:

Numerous experiments were done on prisoners throughout the US. Many prisoners eventually filed lawsuits and these actions brought about many more investigations and suits against doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies. [1]Experiments included high-risk cancer treatments, the application of strong skin creams, new cosmetics, dioxin and high doses of LSD. Many incidents were documented in government reports, ACLU findings and various books including Acres of Skin by Allen M. Hornblum. The Stateville Penitentiary Malaria Study is one of many examples. The Plutonium Files, for which Eileen Welsome won a Pulitzer Prize, documents the early human tests of the toxicity of plutonium and uranium on people.[21]

The CIA ran an extensive toxicology and chemical/biological warfare program in cooperation with the US military. The Edgewood Arsenal and US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick in Maryland were the main headquarters for such studies. At such centres, the agency developed many toxins, incapacitants, mind-altering substances and carcinogens. Mind-control substances were studied to facilitate interrogation and toxins were used as weapons in assassination. One of the toxins that the CIA studied extensively was derived from red algae called dinoflagellate which produces the red tide.[citation needed]

The MK-ULTRA project was a CIA run human experiment program where prisoners and unwitting subjects were administered hallucinogenic drugs in attempt to develop incapacitating substances and chemical mind control agents, in an operation run by Sidney Gottlieb. Biological-weapons specialist Frank Olson‘s drink was spiked with LSD by Sidney Gottliebin November 1953. He became psychotic and chronically depressed and committed suicide by jumping from the roof of his hotel ten days later.[22]

1924 to 1972 and beyond — J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI, and COINTELPRO:  Hoover was effective at his job and there were real threats in the world that he dealt with, but history has remembered him less kindly since information about his life became open to the public.  He was a major player who helped create the groundwork for the oppressive atmosphere of the Cold War era which interestingly spanned most of his long career.  Without him, the communist and homosexual witchhunters wouldn’t have had the same power to threaten the public.  It’s also important to keep in mind that Hoover’s 50 yr reign as director of the Bureau represents a direct link between Prohibition (along with it’s corrolary War on Crime against gangsters) and the War on Drugs (along with it’s later corollary War on Terrorism).  From the Wikipedia article on Hoover:

Appointed director of the Bureau of Investigation — predecessor to the FBI — in 1924, he was instrumental in founding the FBI in 1935, where he remained director until his death in 1972. Hoover is credited with building the FBI into a large and efficient crime-fighting agency, and with instituting a number of modern innovations to police technology, such as a centralized fingerprint file and forensic laboratories. Hoover was highly regarded by much of the U.S. public, but posthumously he became an increasingly controversial figure. His many critics asserted that he exceeded the jurisdiction of the FBI.[1] He used the FBI to harass political dissenters and activists, to amass secret files on political leaders,[2] and to use illegal methods to collect evidence.[3] It is because of Hoover’s long and controversial reign that FBI directors are now limited to 10-year terms.[4]

[...]

In 1956, Hoover was becoming increasingly frustrated by Supreme Court decisions that limited the Justice Department’s ability to prosecute people for their political opinions, most notably, Communists. At this time he formalized a covert “dirty tricks” program under the name COINTELPRO.[13]This program remained in place until it was revealed to the public in 1971, and was the cause of some of the harshest criticism of Hoover and the FBI. COINTELPRO was first used to disrupt the Communist Party, and later organizations such as the Black Panther Party, Martin Luther King, Jr.‘s SCLC, the Ku Klux Klan, the neofascist American Nazi Party and others. Its methods included infiltration, burglaries, illegal wiretaps, planting forged documents and spreading false rumors about key members of target organizations.[14]Some authors have charged that COINTELPRO methods also included inciting violence and arranging murders.[15]In 1975, the activities of COINTELPRO were investigated by the “United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities” called the Church Committee after its chairman, Senator Frank Church (D-Idaho) and these activities were declared illegal and contrary to the Constitution.[16]

Hoover amassed significant power by collecting files containing large amounts of compromising and potentially embarrassing information on many powerful people, especially politicians. According to Laurence Silberman, appointed Deputy Attorney General in early 1974, FBI Director Clarence M. Kelley thought such files either did not exist or had been destroyed. After The Washington Postbroke a story in January 1975, Kelley searched and found them in his outer office. The House Judiciary Committee then demanded that Silberman testify about them. An extensive investigation of Hoover’s files by David Garrow showed that Hoover and next-in-command William Sullivan, as well as the FBI itself as an agency, were responsible.

In 1956, several years before he targeted King, Hoover had a public showdown with T.R.M. Howard, a civil rights leader from Mound Bayou, Mississippi. During a national speaking tour, Howard had criticized the FBI’s failure to thoroughly investigate the racially motivated murders of George W. Lee, Lamar Smith, and Emmett Till. Hoover not only wrote an open letter to the press singling out these statements as “irresponsible” but secretly enlisted the help of NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall in a campaign to discredit Howard.

In the 1950s, evidence of Hoover’s unwillingness to focus FBI resources on the Mafia became grist for the media and his many detractors, after famed reporter Jack Anderson exposed the immense scope of the Mafia’s organized crime network, a threat Hoover had long downplayed. Hoover’s retaliation and continual harassment of Anderson lasted into the 1970s. His moves against people who maintained contacts with subversive elements, some of whom were members of the civil rights movement, also led to accusations of trying to undermine their reputations. His alleged treatment of actress Jean Seberg and Martin Luther King, Jr. are two such examples.

Hoover personally directed the FBI investigation into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The House Select Committee on Assassinations issued a report in 1979 critical of the performance by the FBI, the Warren Commissionas well as other agencies. The report also criticized what it characterized as the FBI’s reluctance to thoroughly investigate the possibility of a conspiracy to assassinate the president.[17]

[...]

Hoover hunted down and threatened anyone who made insinuations about his sexuality.[35] He also spread destructive, unsubstantiated rumors that Adlai Stevenson was gay to damage the liberal governor’s 1952 Presidential Campaign.[35] His extensive secret files contained surveillance material on Eleanor Roosevelt‘s alleged lesbian lovers, speculated to be acquired for the purpose of blackmail.[35]

[...and if you're into conspiracies...]

Hoover was a “devoted” Freemason and was coronated an 33rd Degree Scottish Rite Freemason in the Southern Masonic Jurisdiction. “He was raised a Master Mason on November 9, 1920, in Federal LodgeNo. 1, Washington, DC, just two months before his 26thbirthday. During his 52 years with the Craft, he received innumerable medals, awards and decorations.” Eventually In 1955, he was coroneted a Thirty-third Degree Inspector General Honorary and awarded the Scottish Rite’s highest recognition, the Grand Cross of Honour in 1965 by the Southern Masonic Jurisdiction. [42]

From the Wikipedia article on the FBI:

During the 1950s and 1960s, FBI officials became increasingly concerned about the influence of civil rights leaders. In 1956, for example, Hoover took the rare step of sending an open letter denouncing Dr. T.R.M. Howard, a civil rights leader, surgeon, and wealthy entrepreneur in Mississippi who had criticized FBI inaction in solving recent murders of George W. Lee, Emmett Till, and other blacks in the South. [14]

The FBI carried out controversial domestic surveillance in an operation called COINTELPRO.[15] It aimed at investigating and disrupting dissident political organizations within the United States, including both militant and non-violent organizations, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a leading civil rights organization.[16]

In response to organized crime, on August 25, 1953, the Top Hoodlum Program was created. It asked all field offices to gather information on mobsters in their territories and to report it regularly to Washington for a centralized collection of intelligence on racketeers. [1]

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a frequent target of investigation. The FBI found no evidence of any crime, but attempted to use tapes of King involved in sexual activity for blackmail. In his 1991 memoirs, Washington Post journalist Carl Rowanasserted that the FBI had sent at least one anonymous letter to King encouraging him to commit suicide.[17]

[...]

In March 1971, a Media, Pennsylvania FBI branch office was robbed; the thieves took secret files and distributed them to a range of newspapers including the Harvard Crimson.[38]The files detailed the FBI’s investigations into lives of ordinary citizens—including a black student group at a Pennsylvania military college and the daughter of Congressman Henry Reuss of Wisconsin.[38] The country was “jolted” by the revelations, and the actions were denounced by members of Congress including House Majority Leader Hale Boggs.[38]The phones of some members of Congress, including Boggs, had allegedly been tapped.[38]

[...]

Protecting an informant, the FBI allowed four innocent men to be convicted of murder in March 1965. Three of the men were sentenced to death (which was later reduced to life in prison). The fourth defendant was sentenced to life in prison, where he spent three decades.[50]

In July, 2007, U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertnerin Boston found the bureau helped convict the four men of the March 1965 gangland murder of Edward “Teddy” Deegan. The U.S. Government was ordered to pay $100 million in damages to the four defendants.[51]

From the Wikipedia article on COINTELPRO:

COINTELPRO (an acronym for Counter Intelligence Program) was a series of covert, and often illegal, projects conducted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) aimed at investigating and disrupting dissident political organizations within the United States. The FBI used covert operations from its inception, however formal COINTELPRO operations took place between 1956 and 1971.[2] The FBI motivation at the time was “protecting national security, preventing violence, and maintaining the existing social and political order.”

According to FBI records, 85% of COINTELPRO resources were expended on infiltrating, disrupting, marginalizing, and/or subverting groups suspected of being subversive,[3] such as communist and socialist organizations; the women’s rights movement; people suspected of building a “coalition of militant black nationalist groups” ranging from the Black Panther Party and Republic of New Afrika to “those in the non-violent civil rights movement” such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and others associated with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Congress of Racial Equality, and other civil rights groups; a broad range of organizations labelled “New Left“, including Students for a Democratic Society, the National Lawyers Guild, the Weathermen, almost all groups protesting the Vietnam War, and even individual student demonstrators with no group affiliation; and nationalist groups such as those “seeking independence for Puerto Rico.” The other 15% of COINTELPRO resources were expended to marginalize and subvert “white hate groups,” including the Ku Klux Klan and National States’ Rights Party. [4]

The directives governing COINTELPRO were issued by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who ordered FBI agents to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize” the activities of these movements and their leaders.[5][6]

[...just in case for some silly reason you thought this was all in the past...]

While COINTELPRO was officially terminated in April 1971, suspicions persist that the program’s tactics continued informally.[35][36]Critics have suggested that subsequent FBI actions indicate that post-COINTELPRO reforms in the agency did not succeed in ending the program’s tactics.[37] The Associated Pressreported in November 2008 that documents released under the FOIA reportedly show that the FBI tracked the late Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author David Halberstam for more than two decades.[38] A review by The Washington Post shows that Maryland activists were wrongly labeled as terrorists in state and federal databases by state police’s Homeland Security and Intelligence Division from 2005 to at least early 2007. [39]

“Counterterrorism” guidelines implemented during the Reagan administration have been described as undercutting these reforms, allowing a return to earlier tactics.[40] Some radical groups accuse factional opponents of being FBI informants or assume the FBI is infiltrating the movement.[41]

Several authors have accused the FBI of continuing to deploy COINTELPRO-like tactics against radical groups after the official COINTELPRO operations were ended. Several authors have suggested the American Indian Movement (AIM) has been a target of such operations.

A few authors go further and allege that the federal government intended to acquire uranium deposits on the Lakota tribe’s reservation land, and that this motivated a larger government conspiracy against AIM activists on the Pine Ridge reservation.[2][14][42][43][44]Others believe COINTELPRO continues and similar actions are being taken against activist groups.[44][45][46]

Caroline Woidatargued that with respect to Native Americans, COINTELPRO should be understood within a historical context in which “Native Americans have been viewed and have viewed the world themselves through the lens of conspiracy theory.”[47]

Other authors note that while there are conspiracy theories related to COINTELPRO, the issue of ongoing government surveillance and repression is nonetheless real.[48] [49]

The War on Terror has brought to new heights the fear-mongering and civil rights infringement.  I don’t doubt that COINTELPRO is still happening right now, but there is at least proof of similar activities happening into the 1990s.  The Earth First! activists Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney were falsely accused of carrying a bomb after a planted bomb blew up in their vehicle even though all evidence pointed away from them.  It should be noted that they were specifically travelling for the purpose of organizing a campaign of non-violent protests.  After their spending years in jail, a judge finally changed the verdict instead charging the FBI and Oakland police of deception and misinformation and Bari and Cherney were awarded 4.4 million for the infringement of their civil rights.  If I remember correctly, it was the first case ever won against the FBI and surely J. Edgar Hoover was rolling in his grave.

1938 to 1975 — House Committee on Un-American Activities (officially called House Un-American Activities Committee or HUAC for short): It was an oppressive political organization lasting decades.  Although there was a real communist threat, the fear-mongering distorted the actual reality of it and created a state of paranoia which the media played into.  Besides media censorship, it led to Hollywood blacklists which destroyed careers and led some to suicide.  Another main target of attack was the American Civil Liberties Union.  1975 to present — The House did abolish the committee, but only to transfer its powers to the House Judiciary Committee.

Late 1940s to late 1950s — McCarthyism: 1953 — Joseph McCarthy helped to create the greatest political oppression in modern US history by scaring government and military officials into submitting to his demands.  The FBI became extrmemely intrusive and threatening.  With various investigations and committees, many people had their lives destroyed and some were sent to prisons.  1953 — State Department bowed to McCarthy’s request by removing and in some cases burning books from its overseas libraries.  This fear-mongering created a snitch culture where family and friends spied on eachother.  From the Wikipedia article:

It is difficult to estimate the number of victims of McCarthyism. The number imprisoned is in the hundreds, and some ten or twelve thousand lost their jobs.[42]In many cases, simply being subpoenaed by HUAC or one of the other committees was sufficient cause to be fired.[43] Many of those who were imprisoned, lost their jobs or were questioned by committees did in fact have a past or present connection of some kind with the Communist Party. But for the vast majority, both the potential for them to do harm to the nation and the nature of their communist affiliation were tenuous.[44] Suspected homosexuality was also a common cause for being targeted by McCarthyism. The hunt for “sexual perverts”, who were presumed to be subversive by nature, resulted in thousands being harassed and denied employment.[45]

In the film industry, over 300 actors, authors and directors were denied work in the U.S. through the unofficial Hollywood blacklist. Blacklists were at work throughout the entertainment industry, in universities and schools at all levels, in the legal profession, and in many other fields. A port security program initiated by the Coast Guard shortly after the start of the Korean War required a review of every maritime worker who loaded or worked aboard any American ship, regardless of cargo or destination. As with other loyalty-security reviews of McCarthyism, the identities of any accusers and even the nature of any accusations were typically kept secret from the accused. Nearly 3,000 seamen and longshoremen lost their jobs due to this program alone.[46]

1948 — There was a mass of comic book burnings by priests, teachers and parents.  1954 to present — Dr. Fredric Wertham and The Comics Code Authority: This organization was created out of fear that children would be negatively influenced and psychologically perverted by reading comic books.  Many subjects became taboo: disrespectful portrayals of authority figures and evil winning against good; any inclusion of drugs as used by characters or in terms of plot; sexual innuendo, and depictions of “sex perversion”, “sexual abnormalities”, and “illicit sex relations” which specifically included seduction, rape, sadism, masochism, homosexuality, masturbation, and nudity; portrayals of violence, gore, cannibalism, kidnapping, and concealed weapons; the words “crime”, “horror” and “terror” in comic book titles; and the characters of vampires, werewolves, ghouls, and zombies.  The odd thing was these were all taboo even if someone wanted to publish a comic book with a morally good message such as portraying drug use negatively.  Even though this organization held no legal power to enforce its requirements, through public fear it was able to get the comic book industry to enact its own self-censorship.  A comic book had to meet these requirements to get the sticker of approval which determined sales.  1980s — comic books finally became free of censorship, but the Code in revised form continues to exist and continues to be self-imposed by some publishers.

1954 to 1956 — Wilhelm Reich and the FDA: Reich was prosecuted and imprisoned because certain government officials apparently didn’t like his researching sexuality.  1956 — Reich’s books, papers and journals were burned and his equipment destroyed by the FDA.  His fellow scientists remained silent during this government oppression of free scientific inquiry.  The term “orgone energy” was at the time censored from future publications of his work.  This is particularly sad in light of the scientific idealism and social optimism of the 1950s.  Dreams of a bright future blinded people to the darkness in their own present time.  From the Wikipedia article:

In November, Reich wrote in Conspiracy. An Emotional Chain Reaction: “I would like to plead for my right to investigate natural phenomena without having guns pointed at me. I also ask for the right to be wrong without being hanged for it … I am angry because smearing can do anything and truth can do so little to prevail, as it seems at the moment.”[57]

To speculate, it’s possible that the real reason for his prosecution wasn’t about his sexuality research.  His main interest was developing technology that could focus energy fields for various purposes.  This was an area of great interest of the government at the time.  His equipment and paperwork may not have been destroyed but simply taken to a government laboratory.  There certainly were many scientists working in various covert military programs.  The government (specifically the alphabet agencies) weren’t above destroying someone’s life or career if they weren’t cooperative, and I imagine that Reich wouldn’t have wanted his research into healing methods being used for military purposes.  Maybe the most depressing aspect of his story is that I believe his reason for coming to America was at least partly so that he could do scientific research unhindered by government control and interference.

1972Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal: Nixon was also one of the politicians who fear-mongered about Communism calling it “the threat” and he was a major player in the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).  Also, he was the first to use the phrase “war on drugs” in 1969.  The Watergate scandal was the low point in American history and the nail in the coffin of the increasingly depressing events of the period.  The Cold War which had been going on for decades was in full gear with all of its fear-mongering and oppressive atmosphere.  The Vietnam War demonstrations were getting ugly and Nixon wasn’t open to these opposing viewpoints.  The earlier assassinations of the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King, Jr. were still fresh in the public memory which just made Nixon’s criminal behavior all that more revolting.  I don’t know if he was intentionally trying to destroy democracy, but he created a secret police which is something dictatorships are well known for having.  Actually, I think Nixon was attempting to break a record by breaking every law in the book, and then after it all President Ford pardons him.  WTF!  Spies, and even common criminals for that matter, have been given the death penalty for lesser crimes.  You need to look no further for proof that there is no justice (or at least very little) in American politics.  If he hadn’t been caught and forced into resignation, who knows what he might have accomplished.  Later presidents and politicians learned from his bad example, but I suspect all that has been learned is how to be more sneaky and deceptive. 

Beginning in 1975Operation Condor:  US agencies had a long history of manipulating and interfering in the politics of Chile even to the extent of undermining democracy and supporting groups responsible for horrible atrocities (see here), but most notable was Operation Condor which included the support of the Pinochet regime.  From the Wikipedia article:

Operation Condor (Spanish: Operación Cóndor), was a campaign of political repressions involving assassination and intelligence operations officially implemented in 1975 by the governments of the Southern Cone of South America. The program aimed to eradicate socialist influence and ideas and to control active or potential opposition movements against the governments.[citation needed] Due to its clandestine nature, the precise number of deaths directly attributable to Operation Condor will likely never be known, but it is reported to have caused over sixty thousand victims[1], possibly even more.[2][3][4]

[...]

Operation Condor, which took place in the context of the Cold War, had the tacit approval of the United States. In 1968, U.S. General Robert W. Porter stated that “In order to facilitate the coordinated employment of internal security forces within and among Latin American countries, we are…endeavoring to foster inter-service and regional cooperation by assisting in the organization of integrated command and control centers; the establishment of common operating procedures; and the conduct of joint and combined training exercises.” Condor was one of the fruits of this effort. The targets were officially armed groups (such as the MIR, the Montoneros or the ERP, the Tupamaros, etc.) but in fact included all kinds of political opponents, including their families and others, as reported by the Valech Commission.[citation needed] The Argentine “Dirty War“, for example, which resulted in approximatively30,000 victims according to most estimates, targeted many trade-unionists, relatives of activists, etc.[citation needed]

[...]

Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State in the Nixon and Ford administrations, was closely involved diplomatically with the Southern Cone governments at the time and well aware of the Condor plan. According to the French newspaper L’Humanité, the first cooperation agreements were signed between the CIA and anti-Castro groups, fascist movements such as the Triple A set up in Argentina by Juan Perón and Isabel Martínez de Perón‘s “personal secretary” José López Rega, and Rodolfo Almirón (arrested in Spain in 2006).[39]

 

1979 to 1985Second Cold War, from the Wikipedia article:

 

The Cold War (1979-1985) discusses the period within the Cold War between the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 to the rise of Mikhail Gorbachev as Soviet leader in 1985.

The period is sometimes referred to as the “Second Cold War”[1] due to the rising US-Soviet tensions and a change in Western policy from détente to more confrontation against the Soviets. Many military conflicts occurred, including Soviet war in Afghanistan, the 1981 Gulf of Sidra incident and the US invasion of Grenada.

[...]

Popular anger among sectors of the Iranian population opposed to the Shah’s rule, seething and repressed for a generation, combined with the Shah’s secular reforms, eventually culminated in the 1979 Islamic Revolution, which in turn led to a hostage crisis. Much of the anger in Iran was directed at the U.S., which helped bring the Shah to power in a 1953 CIA-backed coup. In recent years, U.S. officials have expressed regret for past U.S. actions that contributed to the Iran Revolution. Madeleine Albright in 2000 expressed regret for the ’53 CIA role, stating “…it is easy to see now why so many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America in their internal affairs.”1

The fall of the Shah, a key Middle Eastern ally, was an embarrassment for the United States; and Carter’s inability to get U.S. hostages freed perhaps cost him the 1980 election. While the United States was mired in recession and the Vietnam quagmire, pro-Soviet governments were making great strides abroad, especially in the Third World. Communist Vietnam had defeated the United States, becoming a united state under a communist government. New pro-Soviet governments had also been established in Laos, Angola, Ethiopia and elsewhere. Other communist insurgencies were spreading rapidly across Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America.

Margaret Thatcher became the British Prime Minister in 1979, and Ronald Reagan was inaugurated US President in 1981. Both Reagan and Thatcher denounced the Soviet Union in ideological terms that rivaled those of the worst days of the Cold War in the late 1940s,[2] with the former famously vowing to leave the “evil empire” on the “ash heap of history“. Pope John Paul II helped provide a moral focus for anti-communism; a visit to his native Poland in 1979 stimulated a religious and nationalist upsurge that galvanized opposition and may have led to his attempted assassination two years later.[3]

The “new conservatives” or “neoconservatives” rebelled against both the Nixon-era détente and the Democratic Party’s position on defense issues in the 1970s, especially after the nomination of George McGovern in 1972, saying liberal Democrats were the cause for U.S. international setbacks. Many clustered around hawkish Senator Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson, a Democrat, and pressured President Carter into a more confrontational stance. Eventually they aligned themselves with Ronald Reagan and the conservative wing of the Republicans, who promised to confront Soviet expansionism.

The Soviet Union seemed committed to the Brezhnev Doctrine, sending troops to Afghanistan at the request of its communist government. The Afghan invasion in 1979 marked the first time that the Soviet Union sent troops outside the Warsaw Pact since the inception of the Eastern counterpart of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). This prompted a swift reaction from the west: the boycotting of the 1980 Summer Olympicsin Moscow and the heavy funding for the Afghani resistance fighters. A tedious guerrilla war continued. America supplied the mujahadeenof Afghanistan with weapons, including Stinger missiles used to shoot down many Soviet aircraft.

America also supplied arms to the Nicaraguan Contras, funded by the sale of arms to Iran, which caused the Iran-Contra Affair political scandal.

[...]

Led by heightened public awareness and fears, the period 1979-1985 witnessed the production in Western countries of several films and television dramas depicting the probable effects of a nuclear war and its aftermath. These included the ground-breaking American film The Day After (1983) and the British television docudrama Threads of the same year. Combining a contemporary Western youth culture of computer games and young love with fears of an accidental nuclear holocaust was the 1983 film WarGames. The Hollywood film Red Dawn (1984) played on American fears by portraying an invasion by Soviet and Cuban forces.

Several films of the James Bond series were set against a Cold War backdrop (The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, Octopussy, and most particularly The Living Daylights set in war-torn Afghanistan with Bond vs. the KGB directly), while films such as White Nights and Rocky IV exploited contemporaneous tense Soviet-American relations.

For the next couple of decades, people mostly gave up on the naive American dream and consoled themselves with self advancement and material gain.  After the tumultuous 1960s and 1970s and the world weary politics of the 1980s, it was hard to remain truly optimistic about the world.  However, politics became even more ideological than ever.  I suppose the conservatives had their time in the sun and the public attitude was slowly shifting back to liberalism again (which fits the predictions of Strauss and Howe’s generations theory). 

Despite their having been the largest generation, the Baby Boomers never had many of their own elected as president (which certainly isn’t to imply they didn’t have many in positions of power).  George Bush, Jr. was a clear example of a Baby Boomer and now Obama is a clear example of a new generation.  So, with Bush Junior out of office and with many other Boomers finally retiring late in life, the last remnants of the political power from the Cold War era are disappearing.  From birth on, the Boomers have dominated American culture for almost the entire Cold War.  The Boomer generation didn’t start the Cold War, but they became the representatives and promoters of it.  Then, in the 1960s and 1970s, the Gen Xers were born.  And, the latchkey kids that they were, they represented the collective malaise of a decadent society.  Gen Xers aren’t ideological as the Boomers were and so maybe we can hope for a waning of the political extremism that has created so much conflict in the world for the last century or so.  I’d like to believe that America won’t return to some of the civil rights atrocities of last century, but events of the new century seem to demonstrate a federal government seeking to increase its extra-constitutional powers.

    —

There are plenty more fun facts about US history since WWII.  There is the United State’s role as world leader and the US “relations” to other countries including a variety of covert (and sometimes not so covert) CIA operations and military conflicts.  Also, there are the even more interesting details about covert operations and intelligence gathering within the US.  Especially intriguing are the US government activities related to the media, propaganda, and information control.  All of this, of course, involves conspiracy theories and the mixing of public and private interests.  For a small sampling of such issues, see these Wikipedia articles (in no particular order):

American exceptionalism

American Century

Pax Americana

Neoconservativism

Messianic democracy

American Empire

Imperial Presidency

Overseas expansion of the United States

Overseas interventions of the United States

United States military aid

United States Foreign Military Financing

United States and state terrorism

War crimes committed by the United States

Extrajudicial prisoners of the United States

Extraordinary rendition by the United States

Torture and the United States

Human Rights Record of the United States

Human rights in the United States

CIA transnational human rights actions

CIA sponsored regime change

CIA activities by region: Near East, North Africa, South and Southwest Asia

CIA activities in Iran

CIA activities in Iraq

CIA activities in Afghanistan

CIA activities in the Americas

CIA activities in Brazil

Dirty War and Operation Condor

CIA activities in Asia and the Pacific

Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (School of the Americas)

School of the Americas Watch

Foreign relations of the United States

Latin America – United States relations

Nicaragua vs. United States

CIA drug trafficking

CIA and Contras cocaine trafficking in the US

Kerry Committee report

Iran-Contra affair

Special Activities Division

Black budget

Black site

Black project

Black Operation

Covert operation

Open secret

CIA activities in the United States

Project MKULTRA

Human radiation experiments

Plausible deniability

Blowback (intelligence)

Ward Churchill 9/11 essay controversy

Psychological Operations (United States)

Information warfare

Black propaganda

White propaganda

Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare

CIA and the media

CIA influence on public opinion

Operation Mockingbird

Propaganda in the United States

Censorship in the United States

Bush administration payment of columnists

Media bias in the United States

Committee on Public Information

Public diplomacy

Office of Public Diplomacy

Smith-Mundt Act

Perception Management

Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media

Propaganda Model

United States President’s Commission on CIA activities within the United States (Rockefeller Commission)

Church Committee

Operation CHAOS

Mass surveillance

NSA warrantless surveillance controversy

Congressional response to the NSA warrantless surveillance program

NSA call database

Room 641A

Postal censorship

Warrantless searches in the United States

Project MINARET

Family Jewels (Central Intelligence Agency)

Operation Northwoods

Bay of Pigs Invasion

Cuban Project (Operation Mongoose)

Operation WASHTUB

Operation Gladio and Propaganda Due

U.S. intelligence involvement with German and Japanese war criminals after World War II

Arthur C. Lundahl and CIA interest in UFOs

Criticism of the Federal Reserve

World Finance Corporation

October surprise

October surprise conspiracy theory

Inslaw

Michael Riconosciuto

Danny Casolaro

Gary Webb

Mark Lombardi

Seymour Hersh

Deep Throat and William Mark Felt, Sr.

Psychology and Parapsychology, Politics and Place

In some recent posts, I’ve discussed personality types and other psychological factors that distinguish one person from another.

Fox and Hedgehog, Apollo and Dionysus

Horror and Typology

The Paranormal and Psychology

This subject is an interest of mine that goes back many years and my interest in psychology in general goes back even further.  I’ve always sought explanations for human experience and psychology is one of the best fields to look for helpful data and theory.  Psychology is also a good place to find connections between other fields: narratology and folklore studies, paranormal, religion, politics, etc.  I really became fascinated with psychology through Jungian typology and traits theory which connects to tons of fascinating research spanning the past century (and much from the last half century is cross-cultural research using large sample sizes).  Correlations and meta-analysis of varied research has offered clearer insight into many elusive factors of the human psyche and socio-cultural behavior. 

Psychology became even more interesting for me when I read George P. Hansen’s The Trickster and the Paranormal in which the author discusses experience and hermeneutics at the edge of mainstream science.  Along with discussing the trickster archetype, he details the relevance of Hartmann’s boundary types.  Upon further research, I learned that research on boundary types correlates with other research on personality types and traits, and of course Jung’s theory of personality types connects with his theory on archetypes.  Even further research has helped me to understand how central psychology is to the UFO field and paranormal in general.  Basically, this was an area that promised many further connections.

I’ve been recently focused on the connections between genre fiction (especially SF and Horror), philosophy (especially Pessimism), religion (especially Gnosticism) and the paranormal (especially UFO experiences).  There isn’t any grand reason my mind is focused on all of these subjects (besides general curiosity in all things weird and countercultural), but it does all fit together (more or less, in my mind that is).  To be specific, my friend has been reading a lot of Thomas Ligotti and other horror writers.  This has caused me to read more horror (and dark weird) fiction and discuss it with my friend… which has led me to read Ligotti’s philosophizing and the blog writing by related people (Quentin S. Crisp and Matt Cardin).  Because of Gnosticism and other reasons, Philip K. Dick and William S. Burroughs have been on my mind and the latter happened to be a favorite writer of Ligotti. 

 As you see, one thing leads to another and I at times can get obsessive in following certain leads.  My brain was being swamped by connections and so I wrote a post about it.

Just Some Related Ideas and Writers

I had initially noted in earlier posts some similarities and differences between William S. Burroughs and Philip K. Dick and between them and Thomas Ligotti.

PKD, ACIM, and Burroughs

Burroughs, PKD, and Ligotti

My interest in such things is very personal in many ways, but I think the socio-political angle is at least as interesting.  Psychological understanding is probably needed in poltical discussions more than anywhere simply for the reason that politics seems to attract many people who lack subtle understanding (if any at all) of the human mind and behavior.  I wrote about this in a post a while back.

Morality, Politics, and Psychology

In looking into psychological research in context of “abnormal” experiences, I came across one particularly interesting piece of data (which I believe can be found somewhere in one of the numerous links in my post The Paranormal and Psychology).  Someone mentioned that UFO experiences are more common along the coasts of the US than in the midwest.  I haven’t seen this data, but I have seen data that shows liberals are more concentrated on the coasts and in highly populated areas (i.e., urban areas) and that shows conservatives are more concentrated in the interior and in lowly populated areas (i.e., rural areas).  So, it would be logical that UFO experience would correlate with liberal politics.  Research has shown that liberals and conservatives tend to have different personalities.  One of the major factors is that liberals tend to have more “openness to experience” (a particular trait that has been well researched).  This Openness also correlates to MBTI’s (Jungian typology’s) Intuition function and Hartmann’s thin boundary types (amongst other correlations). 

Anyways, it’s not simply a matter of different ideological persuasions, but psychological tendencies that we often are born with (and which tend to remain stable throughout our lives).  Liberal types aren’t simply open to believing in the weird.  They’re actually open to experiencing them.  A liberal believes in the paranormal because they’ve experienced it, and the conservative disbelieves because they’re experiences don’t include the paranormal.  However, even if a conservative did have a paranormal experience, they’d be more likely to try to explain it away or make it conform to their cultural expectations (such as fitting it into the doctrine of the religion they belong to).  Because of psychological and other factors, I truly doubt that people hold their viewpoints for primarily rational reasons, but I have no doubt that humans are very talented at rationalizing.  Another thought I had was that people’s beliefs aren’t exactly disconnected from reality.  It’s just they’re limited to one perspective on reality.  The conservative and the liberal each explains in a perfectly valid way the data of their experience.  The problem is that it only applies to their own narrow experience, but from an evolutionary point of view this may be no problem at all.  Both views are helpful or maybe even necessary for the stability of society.  Either side is wrong in claiming their beliefs are absolutely true.  Nonetheless, the conservative belief about human behavior applies to conservative humans and ditto for liberal beliefs. 

However, accepting each as a valid viewpoint would be criticized as pluralism by many conservatives (in particular moral conservatives).  Does this mean that a liberal has a better chance of understanding the conservative position than the other way around?  Maybe… depending on what we’re focusing on.  This could be explained that we aren’t just dealing with types here, but also social development such as understood by spiral dynamics.  Liberal as a personality trait wouldn’t be helpful in understanding conservativism, but liberal pluralism as a stage of development could potentially give someone greater perspective to understand previous stages of development (which is where the majority of the population is still at).  I’m less interested in the latter for this post.  I just wanted to point it out because this a complex subject with many factors and I’d rather not make simplistic judgments.

It is important to point out that these distinctions aren’t absolute.  The average person isn’t at the extreme opposite ends, and our pscyological attitude can change depending on situation.  Even so, most people tend to spend most of their time in one mindset or another.  Furthermore, people tend to seek out others similar to them and careers that are conducive to their thinking style.  A liberal-leaning person living in a rural area is more likely to move to an urban area and so this is how genetics become concentrated.  Liberals will tend to marry liberals and tend to have liberal kids, and the same for conservatives.  This wasn’t possible in the past because people didn’t move as much, but modern society has created a situation where human genetics may be diverging into two type of people.  This reminds me of a species of rodent (or something like that) that I saw on a nature show once.  There were two genetically distinct variations of males.  One set of males mated for life with a female, but the females weren’t so loyal in their affections.  The other set of males would have sex with any female and the females of this species were willing (when their spouses were otherwise distracted).  The children of the loyal males grew up to be loyal and the opposite for the other type.  I’ve always suspected this might be the case for human males as well, but even if not the general principle might apply to humans in other ways.

It can’t be denied that humans do like trying to divide eachother up into categories.  I was reading an article titled “Burrough-sian Gnosticism In His Own Words” by Sven Davisson which can be found in the journal The Gnostic.  I was already familiar with Burrough’s ideas along these lines.  He considered himself a Manichaean and it was from this that he founded his own typology of people: the Johnsons and the Shits.  The Johnson Family was a designation that came from turn-of-the-century hobo culture.  A Johnson was someone who was a basically good and trustworthy person, someone who would help when such was needed but otherwise would mind his own business.  On the other hand (from the article): “A shit  is one who is obsessively sure of his own position at the cost of all other vantages.”  Upon reading that, I immediate thought that it sounded like an extreme version of a hedgehog type of person (who knows one big thing)… which is approximately an MBTI type with Sensation function (most notably represented by Kiersey’s SJ temperament), a thick boundary type, someone low on the trait ‘openness to experience’.  I was also reminded of a quote (by someone other than Burroughs) about a missionary (to paraphrase): “You could always tell the people she helped by the hunted look on their faces.”  My guess is that Burroughs was making an extreme distinction that could otherwise be stated with more psychological subtlety.  Taking as an extreme, it’s hard to disagree with Burroughs about the Shits of the world, but I’m sure he was intelligent enough to realize that not everyone exists at the extremes.

I also think the distinction between hedgehogs and foxes relates to the attitudes of universalism and pluralism.  I was thinking about  this latter category because of my reading another article in the journal The Gnostic.  The article is “Magic and Gnosticism” by  Will Parker.  I won’t say much about it right now as I haven’t finished the article yet, but I’ll point out that I’m thinking about his ideas in terms of George P. Hansen’s discussion of Max Weber’s theory of the process of increasing rationalization in Western society.  I plan on blogging more about this where I’ll also bring in how certain personality types are most likely to gain positions of power in certain types of organizations.

The Paranormal and Psychology

A hallucination may occur in a person in a state of good mental and physical health, even in the apparent absence of a transient trigger factor such as fatigue, intoxication or sensory deprivation.

It is not widely recognised that hallucinatory experiences are not merely the prerogative of the insane, or normal people in abnormal states, but that they occur spontaneously in a significant proportion of the normal population, when in good health and not undergoing particular stress or other abnormal circumstance.

The evidence for this statement has been accumulating for more than a century. Studies of hallucinatory experience in the sane go back to 1886 and the early work of the Society for Psychical Research [1][2], which suggested approximately 10% of the population had experienced at least one hallucinatory episode in the course of their life. More recent studies have validated these findings; the precise incidence found varies with the nature of the episode and the criteria of ‘hallucination’ adopted, but the basic finding is now well-supported.[3]

[...]

The main importance of hallucinations in the sane to theoretical psychology lies in their relevance to the debate between the disease model versus the dimensional model of psychosis. According to the disease model, psychotic states such as those associated with schizophrenia and manic-depression, represent symptoms of an underlying disease process, which is dichotomous in nature; i.e. a given subject either does or does not have the disease, just as a person either does or does not have a physical disease such as tuberculosis. According to the dimensional model, by contrast, the population at large is ranged along a normally distributed continuum or dimension, which has been variously labelled as psychoticism (H.J.Eysenck), schizotypy (Gordon Claridge) or psychosis-proneness.[25]

The occurrence of spontaneous hallucinatory experiences in sane persons who are enjoying good physical health at the time, and who are not drugged or in other unusual physical states of a transient nature such as extreme fatigue, would appear to provide support for the dimensional model. The alternative to this view requires one to posit some hidden or latent disease process, of which such experiences are a symptom or precursor, an explanation which would appear to beg the question.

 
 

A person diagnosed with fantasy prone personality is reported to spend a large portion of his or her time fantasizing, have vividly intense fantasies, have paranormal experiences, and have intense religious experiences.[3] His or her fantasizing may include extreme dissociation and intense sexual fantasies. People with fantasy prone personality are reported to spend over half of their time awake fantasizing or daydreaming and will often confuse or mix their fantasies with their real memories. They also report several out-of-body experiences.[3]

Research has shown that people who are diagnosed with fantasy prone personality tend to have had a large amount of exposure to fantasy during childhood. People have reported that they believed their dolls and stuffed animals were living creatures and that their parents encouraged them to indulge in their fantasies and daydreams.[3]

 
 
 
Transliminality (literally, “going beyond the threshold”) was a concept introduced by the parapsychologist Michael Thalbourne, an Australian psychologist who is based at the University of Adelaide. It is defined as a hypersensitivity to psychological material (imagery, ideation, affect, and perception) originating in (a) the unconscious, and/or (b) the external environment (Thalbourne & Maltby, 2008). High degrees of this trait have been shown by Thalbourne to be associated with increased tendency to mystical experience, greater creativity, and greater belief in the paranormal, but Thalbourne has also found evidence that transliminality may be positively correlated with psychoticism. He has published articles on transliminality in journals on parapsychology and psychology. 
 

The categorical view of psychosis is most associated with Emil Kraepelin, who created criteria for the medical diagnosis and classification of different forms of psychotic illness. Particularly, he made the distinction between dementia praecox (now called schizophrenia), manic depressive insanity and non-psychotic states. Modern diagnostic systems used in psychiatry (such as the DSM) maintain this categorical view.[1]

In contrast, psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler did not believe there was a clear separation between sanity and madness, and that psychosis was simply an extreme expression of thoughts and behaviours that could be present to varying degrees through the population.[2]

This was picked up by psychologists such as Hans Eysenck and Gordon Claridge who sought to understand this variation in unusual thought and behaviour in terms of personality theory. This was conceptualised by Eysenck as a single personality trait named psychoticism.[3]

Claridge named his concept schizotypy and by examining unusual experiences in the general population and the clustering of symptoms in diagnosed schizophrenia, Claridge’s work suggested that this personality trait was much more complex, and could break down into four factors.[4][5]

  1. Unusual experiences: The disposition to have unusual perceptual and other cognitive experiences, such as hallucinations, magical or superstitious belief and interpretation of events (see also delusions).
  2. Cognitive disorganisation: A tendency for thoughts to become derailed, disorganised or tangential (see also formal thought disorder).
  3. Introverted anhedonia: A tendency to introverted, emotionally flat and asocial behaviour, associated with a deficiency in the ability to feel pleasure from social and physical stimulation.
  4. Impulsive nonconformity: The disposition to unstable mood and behaviour particularly with regard to rules and social conventions.
 

Psychoticism is one of the three traits used by the psychologist Hans Eysenck in his P-E-N model (psychoticism, extraversion and neuroticism) model of personality.

High levels of this trait were believed by Eysenck to be linked to increased vulnerability to psychoses such as schizophrenia. He also believed that blood relatives of psychotics would show high levels of this trait, suggesting a genetic basis to the trait.

Critics of the trait have suggested that the trait is too heterogeneous to be taken as a single trait. For example, in a correlation study by Donald Johnson (reported in 1994 at the APT International Conference) Psychoticism was found to correlate with Big Five traits Conscientiousness and Agreeableness; (which in turn correlated strongly with, respectively, MBTI Judging/Perceiving, and Thinking/Feeling).[citation needed] Thus, Costa and McCrae believe that agreeableness and conscientiousness (both which represent low levels of psychoticism) need to be distinguished in personality models. Eysenck also argued that there might be a correlation between psychoticism and creativity[1] .

 

Openness to experience (Wikipedia)

Openness to experience is one of five major domains of personality discovered by psychologists.[1][2] Openness involves active imagination, aesthetic sensitivity, attentiveness to inner feelings, preference for variety, and intellectual curiosity.[3] A great deal of psychometric research has demonstrated that these qualities are statistically correlated. Thus, openness can be viewed as a global personality trait consisting of a set of specific traits, habits, and tendencies that cluster together.

Openness tends to be normally distributed with a small number of individuals scoring extremely high or low on the trait, and most people scoring near the average. People who score low on openness are considered to be closed to experience. They tend to be conventional and traditional in their outlook and behavior. They prefer familiar routines to new experiences, and generally have a narrower range of interests. They could be considered practical and down to earth.

People who are open to experience are no different in mental health from people who are closed to experience. There is no relationship between openness and neuroticism, or any other measure of psychological wellbeing. Being open and closed to experience are simply two different ways of relating to the world.

The NEO PI-R personality test measures six facets or elements of openness to experience:

  1. Fantasy – the tendency toward a vivid imagination and fantasy life.
  2. Aesthetics – the tendency to appreciate art, music, and poetry.
  3. Feelings – being receptive to inner emotional states and valuing emotional experience.
  4. Actions – the inclination to try new activities, visit new places, and try new foods.
  5. Ideas – the tendency to be intellectually curious and open to new ideas.
  6. Values – the readiness to re-examine traditional social, religious, and political values.

Openness has also been measured, along with all the other Big Five personality traits, on Goldberg’s International Personality Item Pool (IPIP). The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) measures the preference of “intuition,” which is related to openness to experience.

 

PSYCHOSOMATIC PLASTICITY: AN “EMERGENT PROPERTY” OF PERSONALITY RESEARCH?

by Michael Jawer

Proceeding from this framework of mind-body unity, let us return to the Boundaries concept propounded by Hartmann. The mind of the thin-boundary person, he suggests, is “relatively fluid,” able to make numerous connections, more flexible and even dreamlike in its processing than the thick-boundary person, whose processing is “solid and well organized” but not prone to meander or make ancillary connections.23 It is not surprising, therefore, that thin-boundary people exhibit the following characteristics1:
 
● A less solid or definite sense of their skin as a body boundary;
● an enlarged sense of merging with another person when kissing
or making love;
● sensitivity to physical and emotional pain, in oneself as well as
in others;
● openness to new experience;
● a penchant for immersing themselves in something-whether
a personal relationship, a memory, or a daydream;
● an enhanced ability to recall dreams; and
● dream content that is highly vivid and emotional.
 
The fluidity evidenced by the thin-boundary personality roughly equates to Thalbourne’s concept of “transliminality,” defined as “tendency for psychological material to cross thresholds in or out of consciousness.”24 Thalbourne has found that the following are part of the personality cluster of the highly transliminal person:
● creativity;
● a penchant for mystical or religious experience;
● absorption (a bent for immersing oneself in something, be it a
sensory experience, an intellectual task, or a reverie);
● fantasy proneness;
● an interest in dream interpretation;
● paranormal belief and experiences; and
● a heightened sensitivity to environmental stimulation.

 

Thin and Thick Boundaried Personalities

Studies show that one’s personality type plays a big role in the intensity of the dream experience and the amount of dream recall present in our waking life. The two types are described as thin boundary and thick boundary personalities. A Hartmann study shows that those who are classified as the thin boundary type tend to experience longer dreams, with a higher intensity of emotion, feeling, color, vividness, and interaction in them than did those classified as thick boundary types.  Those who are considered to be thin boundary personalities tend to have a heightened emotional sensitivity within their dream states.  The best way to describe this idea is that every type of emotion a thin boundaried person has is much more exaggerated within their dreams, which leads to the possibility of more nightmares.  They do not differentiate dreams from reality like a thick boundaried person does.

What differentiates the the two boundary types is a separation between mental process, thoughts and functions. Those with thin boundary type tend to often merge thought with feeling, have a difficulty with focusing on one thing at a time, daydream or fantasize, experience forms of synaethesia, have more fluid sense of self and tend to “merge” more with those who are close to them.
Those with thick boundaried personalities have much more separation between what is real and what is imaginary. They tend to have a distinct focus on one thing at a time, differentiate between thoughts and feelings, real and fantasy, self and others, lack strong memories from childhood, well organized and has a strong sense of self.
It is not to say that thick boundaried people do not suffer from nightmares, it is just that they seem to seperate the two worlds of dreams and thier waking life much more so.  They also tend to do the same between their emotions and thoughts.
 
 
by Ernest Hartmann, Robert Harrison, and Michael Zborowski
 
There are a number of suggestive studies indicating that people with thin boundaries may be not only creative and open, but may have a series of other interesting and so far poorly understood characteristics.  For instance, there appears to be a relationship between thin boundaries and multiple chemical sensitivities (Jawer, 2001).  There is also a correlation between thin boundaries and a belief in or tendency to experience paranormal phenomena. Factor V of the BQ – see table 3 – appears to pick up this aspect of thin boundaries and has been labeled “clairvoyance.”.  Groups of people who characterize themselves as shamans or psychics score thin on the BQ (Krippner, Wickramasekera, Wickramasekera, & Winstead, 1998).  Thalbourne and his collaborators, in their studies of persons who experience paranormal phenomena, have devised a “Transliminality scale” to measure these traits ( Lange,  Thalbourne, Houran, & Storm 2000;  Thalbourne, 1991).  Preliminary analysis suggests a high correlation (r = 068) between thin boundaries and the Transliminality Scale.
These relationships may be worth exploring further, since two very different hypotheses may explain them.  The most parsimonious view would be that all “paranormal” phenomena are imaginary, and that people with thin boundaries simply have better or looser imaginations, are more suggestible, or are more sensitive with a tendency to elaborate creatively on their sensitivities.  On the other hand, we could consider the possibility that phenomena such as telepathy, now considered paranormal could be related to transmission of information using perhaps portions of the electromagnetic spectrum which we are not usually able to detect.  Under unusual circumstances our ability to detect such information could be altered slightly, and quite possibly there might be inter-individual differences in the ability to detect information of this kind.  If so, it is possible that persons with thin boundaries who are sensitive in so many other ways, may also be sensitive to detecting such portions of the spectrum.

 

You don’t have to be crazy to believe in the paranormal but does it help?

by Chris French

Psychopathological Tendencies and Paranormal Belief/Experience 

    * Paranormal beliefs/experiences correlate with tendency towards bipolar (manic) depression

Dissociativity 

    * Dissociativity has been shown to be related to the tendency to report a wide range of paranormal and anomalous experiences

Fantasy Proneness 

    * fantasy-prone individuals spend much of their time engaged in fantasy, have particularly vivid imaginations, sometimes confuse imagination with reality, and report a very high incidence of paranormal experiences

Schizotypy 

    * Multidimensional
    * Different factors of schizotypy relate to different factors of paranormal belief/experience in complex ways (e.g., Irwin & Green, 1998-1999)
    * Unusual Experiences factor most consistently related to paranormal beliefs/experiences
    * Concerned with aberrant perceptions and beliefs
    * Sub-clinical tendencies towards hallucinations and delusions

Does Paranormal Belief/Experience = Psychopathology? No! 

    * High levels of belief/experience in general population
    * Correlations around 0.6
    * Believers scores raised but not typically to pathological levels
    * Atypical groups of believers (e.g., psychical research groups) have quite low levels of schizoptypy

A Link with Childhood Trauma? 

    * Both fantasy proneness and tendency to dissociate are associated with reports of childhood trauma
    * Defence mechanism?
    * Paranormal belief also correlates with reports of childhood trauma

 

Dissociations of the Night: Individual Differences in Sleep-Related Experiences and Their Relation to Dissociation and Schizotypy

by David Watson

I examined the associations among sleep-related experiences (e.g., hypnagogic hallucinations, nightmares, waking dreams, lucid dreams), dissociation, schizotypy and the Big Five personality traits in two large student samples. Confirmatory factor analyses indicated that (a) dissociation and schizotypy are strongly correlated―yet distinguishable― constructs and (b) the differentiation between them can be enhanced by eliminating detachment/depersonalization items from the dissociation scales. A general measure of sleep experiences was substantially correlated with both schizotypy and dissociation (especially the latter) and more weakly related to the Big Five. In contrast, an index of lucid dreaming was weakly related to all of these other scales. These results suggest that measures of dissociation, schizotypy and sleep-related experiences all define a common domain characterized by unusual cognitions and perceptions.

 

by Shelley L. Rattet and Krisanne Bursik
 
Do individuals who endorse paranormal beliefs differ from those reporting actual precognitive experiences? This study examined the personality correlates of these variables in a sample of college students, 61% of whom described some type of precognitive experience. Extraversion and intuition were associated with precognitive experience, but not with paranormal belief; dissociative tendencies were related to paranormal belief, but not precognitive experience. The importance of conceptualizing and assessing paranormal belief and precognitive experience as separate constructs is discussed.
 
 
by J.E. Kennedy
 
Paranormal beliefs and experiences are associated with certain personality factors, including absorption, fantasy proneness, and the Myers-Briggs intuition and feeling personality dimensions. Skepticism appears to be associated with materialistic, rational, pragmatic personality types. Attitude toward psi may also be influenced by motivations to have control and efficacy, to have a sense of meaning and purpose in life, to be connected with others, to have transcendent experiences, to have self-worth, to feel superior to others, and to be healed. The efforts to obtain reliable control of psi in experimental parapsychology have not been successful. Given the lack of control and lack of practical application of psi, it is not surprising that those who are by disposition materialistic and pragmatic find the evidence for psi to be unconvincing. When psi experiences have been examined without a bias for control, the primary effect has been found to be enhanced meaning in life and spirituality, similar to mystical experiences. Tensions among those with mystical, authoritarian, and scientific dispositions have been common in the history of paranormal and religious beliefs. Scientific research can do much to create better understanding among people with different dispositions. Understanding the motivations related to paranormal beliefs is a prerequisite for addressing questions about when and if psi actually occurs.

 

by Joe Nickell
 
Despite John Mack’s denial, the results of my study of his best thirteen cases show high fantasy proneness among his selected subjects. Whether or not the same results would be obtained with his additional subjects remains to be seen. Nevertheless, my study does support the earlier opinions of Baker and Bartholomew and Basterfield that alleged alien abductees tend to be fantasy-prone personalities. Certainly, that is the evidence for the very best cases selected by a major advocate.
 
 
 
by Per Andersen

While most of the studies of the psychopathology of UFO witnesses have demonstrated no pathological patterns in general, many of the studies nevertheless have discovered some specific personal traits for various groups of witnesses.

It has been difficult in most studies uniquely to characterize these personality traits of UFO witnesses and to describe them in a simple way. To that it should be added, that traits described in different studies vary a great deal from each other.

In a [U.S.] Fund for UFO Research-sponsored experiment, 9 witnesses were tested for psychopathology (MMPI) and their personalities were described by Dr. Elizabeth Slater. All nine had reported UFO abductions. The most significant aspect of the experiment was, however, that Dr. Slater did not know what the 9 persons had in common (if anything) (Bloecher 1985).

Dr. Slater did in fact find some similarities between the nine subjects, although these were played down by the sponsors. She described the subjects as a very distinctive, unusual and interesting group. They did not represent an ordinary cross- section of the population from the standpoint of conventionality in lifestyle. Several of the subjects could be labelled downright “eccentric” or “odd”. They had high intellectual abilities and richly evocative and charged inner worlds — highly inventive, creative and original.

What then about “ordinary” UFO witnesses that have not been abducted or in regular contact with space beings, but have experienced what I would label low strangeness sightings of UFO phenomena? For these groups of witnesses also some special personality traits have been identified in various studies.

Over [a period of] 17 years, Dr. Leo Sprinkle [University of Wyoming] tested 225 persons reporting mixed UFO experiences ranging from a light in the sky to being abducted. A study of these 225 witnesses showed that they had profiles with certain unique characteristics. Witnesses exhibited a high level of psychic energy, a tendency to question authority or being subject to situational pressure or conflicts, and to be self-sufficient and resourceful. Other characteristic were: above-average intelligence, assertiveness and a tendency to be experimenting thinkers (Parnell 1988).

Another major study of 264 persons did not find any significant differences between witnesses of various types of sightings (Ring 1990). However, the research showed that UFO witnesses reported more sensitivity to non-ordinary realities and having a higher tendency towards dissociation. It also documented that UFO witnesses and people with near-death experiences had very similar personality traits. There also seems to be a significant relationship between having UFO sightings and the personal belief system of the witnesses. This has been documented by T.A. Zimmer who found relationships between sightings and belief in occultism and science fiction (Zimmer 1984, 1985) as well as Spanos et al from the University of Ottawa. They found that witnesses to low-strangeness sightings had a tendency to esoteric beliefs and belief in UFOs (Spanos 1993).

 

by Martin Kottmeyer
 
It seems logical at this point to ask if the psychology of nightmares can throw any light on what is happening in alien abduction experiences. While not all the puzzles of nightmares have been solved, psychology has recently made significant strides in understanding why some people develop them and others do not. In building a profile of nightmare sufferers Ernest Hartmann developed a conceptual model termed boundary theory which expands on a set of propositions about boundaries in the mind formulated by a handful of earlier psychoanalytic theorists. It is from Hartmann’s study “The Nightmare” that we will develop the blueprint of our argument. (8)
 
Boundary theory begins with the axiom that as the mind matures, it categorises experiences. It walls off certain sets to be distinct from other sets. Boundaries become set up between what is self and what is non-self, between sleep and waking experiences, between fantasy and reality, passion and reason, ego and id, masculine and feminine, and a large host of other experiential categories. This drive to categorise is subject to natural variation. The determinants of the strength of that drive appear to be biochemical and genetic and probably have no environmental component such as trauma. When the drive is weak the boundaries between categories are thinner, more permeable or more fluid. When the boundaries become abnormally thin one sees psychopathologies like schizophrenia. Hartmann discovered individuals who suffer from nightmares have thin boundaries. >From this central mental characteristic one can derive a large constellation of traits that set these people apart from the general population.
From earliest childhood, people with thin boundaries are perceived as “different”. They are regarded as more sensitive than their peers. Thin character armour causes them to be more fragile and easily hurt. They are easily empathic, but dive into relationships too deeply too quickly. Recipients of their affection will regard them as uncomfortably close and clinging and they are thus frequently rejected. Experience with their vulnerability teaches them to be wary of entering into relationships with others. Adolescence tends to be stormy and difficult. Adult relationships — whether sexual, marital or friendships — also tend to be unsettled and variable. A slight tendency to paranoia is common.
 
One-third will have contemplated or attempted suicide. Experimentation with drugs tends to yield bad trips and is quickly abandoned. They are usually alert to lights, sounds and sensations. They tend to have fluid sexual identities. Bisexuals are over-represented in the nightmare sufferers’ population and it is rare to find manly men or womanly women in it. Macho pigs apparently do not have nightmares. They are not rule followers. Either they reject society or society rejects them. They are rebels and outsiders. There is a striking tendency for these people to find their way into fields involving artistic self-expression; musicians, poets, writers, art teachers, etc. Some develop their empathic tendencies and become therapists. Ordinary BLUE or white collar jobs are rare.
Hartmann believes the predominance of artists results from the fact that thin boundaries allow them to experience the world more directly and painfully than others. The ability to experience their inner life in a very direct fashion contributes to the authenticity of their creations. They become lost in daydreaming quite easily and even experience daymares — a phenomenon people with thick boundaries won’t even realise exists. This trait of imaginative absorption should also make nightmare sufferers good hypnotic subjects. (9)
Boundary deficits also contribute to fluid memories and a fluid time sense.
 
To be considered a candidate for the hypothesis that one is a victim of alien abduction a person must present certain symptoms. Among the factors which are looked for are conscious memories of an abduction, revealing nightmares, missing time, forgotten scars, or dramatic reactions to seemingly trivial stimuli like distant nocturnal lights. The last four factors act as screening devices to yield a population of boundary deficit individuals. This is blatant in the case of people whose candidacy is based on nightmares of aliens. It is subtler in the other symptoms.
People who have thin boundaries in their time sense virtually by definition will experience episodes of missing time. People with fluid memories could easily lose track of the event that led to the creation of a scar. People with weak ego-id boundaries and a sense of powerlessness probably would over- react to distant inexplicable lights as symbols of power. These candidates, in turn, are subject to further screening by their performance under hypnosis. The thicker the boundary, the less likely it is that a convincing narrative will emerge or be accepted as emotionally valid. We would predict the final population of abduction claimants would be biased in favour of a high proportion of boundary-deficit personalities.
 
The evidence that abductees have boundary-deficit personalities is, if not definitive, reasonably convincing. The points of correspondence between abductees and nightmare sufferers are several and consistent.
Ufology regards the Slater psychological study of nine abductees as an experimentum crucis for the view that abductees are victims of real extraterrestrial intrusions. It affirmed not only the normality of abductees, but offered a hint of traumatisation in the finding that abductees showed a tendency to display distrust and interpersonal caution. It is time to remind everyone, however, of what Slater’s full results were reported to be. Slater found abductees had rich inner lives; a relatively weak sense of identity, particularly a weak sexual identity; vulnerability; and an alertness characteristic of both perceptual sophistication and interpersonal caution. (10)
All four of these traits are characteristic of boundary-deficit minds. Clearly the abduction-reality hypothesis is, in this instance, unparsimonious. It fails to explain the presence of rich inner lives, weak identities and vulnerability. (I reject Slater’s post hoc attempt to account for the weak sexual identity via childhood trauma induced by involuntary surgical penetrations as undocumented, and just plain weird.) It should not be over- looked that Slater volunteered the opinion that her test subjects did not represent an ordinary cross-section of the population. She found some were “downright eccentric or odd” and that the group as a whole was “very distinctive, unusual, and interesting”. (11)
This nicely parallels Hartmann’s observation that boundary- deficit personalities are perceived as “different” from “normal” people. Slater’s study does indeed seem to be an experimentum crucis, but the conclusion it points toward is perfectly opposite from what ufologists have been assuming.
The boundary-deficit hypothesis evidently can also be invoked to explain the unusual proportion of artist-type individuals that I discovered in testing Rimmer’s hypothesis. Roughly one-third of abductees showed evidence of artistic self-expression in their backgrounds in my sample population, as you may recall. Hartmann’s study would also lead us to expect an unusual number of psychotherapists among abductees. In a recent paper, Budd Hopkins reported that in a population of 180 probable abductees he found many mental health professionals: two psychiatrists, three PhD psychologists and an unstated number of psychotherapists with Master’s degrees. (12)
 
by Neil Douglas-Klotz
 
Recent studies in cognitive psychology suggest that Western psychology still struggles for the language to describe the difference between a “psychotic” and a “spiritual” state in a nuanced way (for instance in the new anthology on psychosis and spirituality edited by Isabel Clarke, 2000). For instance, Claridge (2000) and others have sought to define a new personality type called “schizotypy” which is neutral with respect to illness or pre-disposing to illness and yet describes a person prone to “skinlessness” (or weakened cognitive inhibition), enhanced access to internal and external events, the reduced ability to limit the contents of consciousness and “transliminaliy.” In this view, the difference between non-pathological “psychoticism” and actual “psychosis” depends on history, circumstances and genetic pre-disposition.
 
Clarke herself (2000) proposes a “discontinuity” theory, which states that polarization of psychotic states and spiritual ones is a false dichotomy. She combines work by Kelly (the “personal construct theory”) as well as Teasdale and Barnard (“interacting cognitive subsystems,”1993) to suggest, among other things, that a “transliminal experience” means operating beyond a construct system and that, from an informational processing model point of view, a transliminal experience is created by a breakdown between the implicational and propositional subsystems of the mind. According to Clarke, the advantage of mystics of all traditions, many of which also include a very practical ability to this model is that it brings psychosis into the realm of universal human experience.
 
In both of these models, however, the attempt to describe a spiritual or mystical state in terms of modern psychology suffers from the need to begin with the Western language of pathology. In other words, does the mere presence of transliminality, reduced ability to limit the contents of consciousness, and the other definitions offered really describe the diverse experiences of the great mystics of all traditions, many of which also include a very practical ability to handle interpersonal relationships and accomplishment in the world?
 
Recent studies in cognitive psychology suggest that Western psychology still struggles for the language to describe the difference between a “psychotic” and a “spiritual” state in a nuanced way (for instance in the new anthology on psychosis and spirituality edited by Isabel Clarke, 2000). For instance, Claridge (2000) and others have sought to define a new personality type called “schizotypy” which is neutral with respect to illness or pre-disposing to illness and yet describes a person prone to “skinlessness” (or weakened cognitive inhibition), enhanced access to internal and external events, the reduced ability to limit the contents of consciousness and “transliminaliy.” In this view, the difference between non-pathological “psychoticism” and actual “psychosis” depends on history, circumstances and genetic pre-disposition.
 
Clarke herself (2000) proposes a “discontinuity” theory, which states that polarization of psychotic states and spiritual ones is a false dichotomy. She combines work by Kelly (the “personal construct theory”) as well as Teasdale and Barnard (“interacting cognitive subsystems,”1993) to suggest, among other things, that a “transliminal experience” means operating beyond a construct system and that, from an informational processing model point of view, a transliminal experience is created by a breakdown between the implicational and propositional subsystems of the mind. According to Clarke, the advantage of handle interpersonal relationships and accomplishment in the world?
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 222 other followers