Other People’s Craziness

In a Facebook group dedicated to Julian Jaynes, I was talking to a lady who is an academic and a poet. She happened to mention that she is also a ‘Manbo’, something like a vodou practitioner. She made the admission that she sees and hears spirits, but she qualified it by saying that her rational mind knew it wasn’t real. I found that qualification odd, as if she were worried about maintaining her respectability. She made clear that these experiences weren’t make-believe, as they felt real to her, as real as anything else, and yet one side of her personality couldn’t quite take them as real. So, two different realities existed inside her and she seemed split between them.

None of this is particularly strange in a group like that. Many voice-hearers, for obvious reasons, are attracted to Jaynes’ view on voice-hearing. Jaynes took such experiences seriously and, to a large degree, took the experiences on their own terms. Jaynes offered a rational or rationalizing narrative for why it is ‘normal’ to hear voices. The desire to be normal is powerful social force. Having a theory helps someone like this lady to compartmentalize the two aspects of her being and not feel overwhelmed. If she didn’t qualify her experience, she would be considered crazy by many others and maybe in her own mind. Her academic career might even be threatened. So, the demand of conformity is serious with real consequences.

That isn’t what interested me, though. Our conversation happened in a post about the experience of falling under a trance while driving, such that one ends up where one was going without remember how one got there. It’s a common experience and a key example Jaynes uses about how the human mind functions. I mentioned that many people have experiences of alien contact and UFO abduction while driving, often alone at night on some dark stretch of road. And I added that, according to Jacques Vallee and John Keel, many of these experiences match the descriptions of fairy abductions in folklore and the accounts of shamanic initiations. Her response surprised me, in her being critical.

Vallee also had two sides, on the one hand an analytical type who worked as an astronomer and a computer scientist and on the other a disreputable UFO researcher. He came at the UFO field from a scientific approach, but like Jaynes he felt compelled to take people at their word in accepting that their experience was real to them. He even came to believe there was something to these experiences. It started with a time he was working in an observatory and, after recording anomalous data of something in the sky that wasn’t supposed to be there, the director of the observatory erased the tapes out of fear that if it got out to the press it would draw negative attention to the institution. That is what originally piqued his curiosity and started him down the road of UFO research. But he also came across many cases where entire groups of people, including military, saw the same UFOs in the sky and their movements accorded with no known technology or physics.

That forced him to consider the possibility that people were seeing something that was on some level real, whatever it was. He went so far as to speculate about consciousness being much stranger than science could presently explain, that there really is more to the universe or at an angle to our universe. In this line of thought, he spoke of the phenomena as, “partly associated with a form of non-human consciousness that manipulates space and time.” Sure, to most people, that is crazy talk, though no more crazy than interacting with the spirit world. But the lady I was speaking with immediately dismissed this as going too far. Her anomalous experiences were fine, as long as she pretended that they were pretend or something, thus proving she wasn’t bat-shit loony. Someone else’s anomalous experience, however, was not to be taken seriously. It’s the common perception that only other people’s religion is mythology.

That amused me to no end. And I said that it amused me. She then blocked me. That amused me as well. I’m feeling amused. I was more willing to take her experiences as being valid in a way she was unwilling to do for others. It’s not that I had any skin in the game, as I’ve never talked to spirits nor been abducted by aliens. But I give people the benefit of the doubt that there experiences are real to them. I’m a radical skeptic and extreme agnostic. I take the world as it comes and sometimes the world is strange. No need to rationalize it. And if that strangeness is proof of insanity and disrepute, there are worse fates.

28 thoughts on “Other People’s Craziness

  1. First, this a solid piece of writing conveying tone, thoughtfulness, and curiosity and character. As to crazy and “crazy” I think Montaigne wrote back in the 16th century that people are so crazy that not being crazy would just amount to another type of insanity.

    • It was a quick piece I jotted off. I noticed it needed some slight editing. I was hoping I didn’t express mean-spiritedness, as that would be easy to do, too easy.

      I was genuinely surprised by her response in my wrongly assuming that anyone crazy enough to take Jaynes seriously might be open to other forms of crazy. But some people become attached to very specific forms of crazy that feels special to them, the right kind of crazy that somehow allows them to function in our particular kind of crazy society. My own attitude is more of a free-for-all insanity, an equal opportunity epistemic non-closure. Curiosity always seems like the best approach. There is something profoundly sad when a person shuts themselves off to the unknown and unfamiliar. I’ve never felt a need to justify curiosity, and it doesn’t have to with a need for agreement.

      I do have my limits. Some crazy just boggles the mind. But even then, as long as it harms no one else, I have no issue with it. I’ve had conversations with schizophrenics in full-blown episodes and still could make sense of some of what they were saying. A logic of sorts can be found, if you know what to look for. Otherwise, another’s madness is simply what we don’t understand in the way we intimately know our own madness. Most of us naturally prefer those who share our delusions as it simplifies our lives. I understand that.

      Maybe I need to stick to groups dedicated to the likes of Philip K. Dick, Robert Anton Wilson, and Terrance McKenna. Among fans of such people, one doesn’t have to worry about intolerance of craziness. The world is just plain crazy. Why not embrace it?

      • “Crazy” tends to rise to its own level. Crazy isn’t comfortable with others who “deviate” from the group. Which of course is crazy;-)

        I’d guess the Jaynes group(s) are eager to be taken seriously by certain establishment types so they’re probably nervous about divergent views.

        “A logic of sorts can be found, if you know what to look for.”

        I once saw a neighborhood “lunatic” get into an argument with a shop owner. the shop sold Chinese language videos. After the owner stormed off the “crazy” man looked at a movie poster with Chinese actors on it and he drew his hand across his throat to say I’ll kill you.

        Contextually it was logical and though symbolic and one strep away from the actual person what was meant was a symbolic form of communication and was perfectly “sane.”

        the guy was still crazy but then again I’ve met plenty of “respectable” upstanding citizens who were elephant turn crazy.

        • “I’d guess the Jaynes group(s) are eager to be taken seriously by certain establishment types so they’re probably nervous about divergent views.”

          I’m almost certain that is what is going on. Jaynesian studies is struggling to be taken as a serious academic field. But few academics would take it seriously. According to mainstream thought, it is crazy through and through. It’s barely above UFO studies. Still, that slightest of relative respectability means all the world of difference.

          It’s funny that a thinker who so brilliantly analyzed the power of authority, authorization, and authoritarianism in how the ego rationalizes itself would draw followers who use Jaynes’ writings to rationalize away what is inconvenient. Funny and predictable.

        • The treatment of linguistic relativity is the opposite situation.

          It was once respectable and then fell out of favor, but now it is regaining its former position within allowable academic research. Presently, it’s many rungs above Jaynesian studies as a legitimate field within mainstream institutions of academic and scientific inquiry. So, linguistic relativity is a competitor and what is worse is it’s a competitor that is winning, whereas Jaynesian studies remains lost in the hinterlands.

          On the rare occasions a Jaynesian scholar has acknowledged it in passing (only twice as far as I can tell), it is not treated as a worthy topic. The greatest Jaynesian scholar is Brian J. McVeigh who in a throwaway comment dismissed it according to a standard mainstream judgment which indicated he had never actually studied it for himself. The act of parroting mainstream thought is the attempt to align Jaynesian studies with what is deemed respectable.

        • Below is relevant to the issue of respectability politics and respectability academics. Self-censorship was the way of success in the past as a way to gain a foothold in the mainstream, i.e., to be allowed a public forum on radio and television. But that is changing as the media technology changes. The new social reality will be those who speak the greatest level of truth or at least present themselves that way. If the respectable people refuse to take this new direction, that will leave it to be dominated by the extremists who do speak freely. When authority figures constantly compromise themselves in saying only what is respectable, they will lose respect of an increasing proportion of the population. Truth is now a free-for-all and, at least for the time being, maybe that is a good thing.

          https://theotherlifenow.com/respectability-is-not-worth-it-reply-to-slatestarcodex/

          “Here’s Scott’s post in a nutshell. There are some reasons to think intellectual and cultural progress comes through low-status, unrespectable types militantly pushing some topics against the patient caution of respectable opinion leaders (e.g. militant queers forcing recognition of homosexuality and gay rights, against those who sought to do it discreetly). But then there are some reasons to think progress is thwarted by the unwashed militants (e.g. scientists say that Alex Jones pushing the line that “they’re turning the frogs gay!” harms real progress on the kernel of truth in this claim). He ends the post asking: Which is the right strategy? Push something from a low-status angle to create social permission for the more respectable rungs to go with it, or exercise discreet respectable patience ala the Pinkers and Haidts of the world?

          “The crucially missing fact in Scott’s setup of the problem is the ongoing and seemingly irreversible fragmentation of respect or prestige hierarchies. Scott refers to respectability as if it is one pyramid around which everyone’s respect is organized. But it’s not anymore, like, at all — and I think this is the source of his admitted confounding. Alex Jones is close to the top of one respectability hierarchy — for his tribe. The Pinkers and Haidts are at the top of theirs, no doubt, but now their tribe is only one of many, and to be frank it’s not exactly composed of the movers and shakers of the world. Once upon a time there was this notion that the appeal of becoming an establishment intellectual is to win the ear of those in power, but now that politics is so endogenous to technocapital, the only exclusive audience you win by achieving institutional respectability seems to be ‘people who still buy books off the shelves of brick-and-mortar bookstores, and take their cues from traditional authorities such as the NYT’ or whatever). In other words, it’s conceivable to me that the tribe-audience you win from playing the patient/respectable gambit increasingly selects for precisely those who are not moving and shaking things.

          “In the epoch of mass broadcast media, the official institutional hierarchy could accurately be referred to as respectability itself, as Scott does, because this was the only respect that mattered: it was the only respect that could win you access to the public, and of course the public’s respect tended to follow semi-automatically. The problem today is that the sum total of social respect allocated to Alex Jones is probably greater than that allocated to someone like Pinker, but to the degree that educated weirdo bloggers are socialized as prestige-tribe members, this feels sad and yucky and our esprit de corps kicks in and we continue to insist Alex Jones is obviously the opposite of respectable. But he is clearly, widely respected, by many, and it is now we who have a hard time updating our schemas, especially when our own status and influence are contingent on our type of people remaining the presumed definers of social reality.

          “We can even see this within Scott’s post. For example, Scott says that Alex Jones has harmed the cause of endocrine health, but his only empirical support for that is “scientists say so, non-scientifically.” Does anyone really think physiological scientists have good intuitions about the empirical dynamics of cultural change and public opinion? I doubt it, but they have many good reasons to dislike Jones; to be disgusted that such a vulgar conspiracy theorist is trafficking in one of their precious, hard-earned insights; and to feel competitively threatened, even. I mean, there is not a long distance at all between Jones-style populist insanity and, say, public contempt for academic science and the faction of politicians keen to strangle academic research funding; not to mention that the Joneses of the world really are chipping away at the perceived credibility of scientific communication, etc.

          “Scott’s own personal story is a lovely anecdote suggesting Jones is more likely helping the cause, even if our normative status assignments are very confused in 2019. As Scott explains, he learned about the scientific finding while doing his pre-med, he then ignored it, and only came back to it because of all the buzz. Scott is essentially citing Jones as an influence on his thought and cultural activity, but it’s just unthinkable for us to put it that way. For my part, I never even heard about the issue until the goofy hysterical talking points circulated. With that, I assumed it was a grain of truth surrounded by mostly bullshit. But now Scott’s endorsement of the basic idea increases my confidence a lot, and I will tell people that, and maybe none of this would be happening if it weren’t for… Alex Jones. So let’s face it, even though we are smart and sophisticated people our intellectual progress and cultural activity is now being shaped by Jones as much as by Pinker. I believe many respectable people — including many esteemed scientists — find this too insane and horrifying and threatening to admit, let alone grapple with, but I don’t think that should convince us otherwise.

          “This is the crisis we are living through. I used to think the crisis was “fake news by lunatic fringe conspiracy theorists,” but now I think it’s equally “self-serving reality-denial in the professional class becoming legible as such by the masses, now choosing liars that suit them better.” The more the respectable institution-dwellers maneuver to retain their premium of credibility through anything other than whatever real edge on the truth they might possess, they become their own Infowars for the Educated. It’s hard to read the NYT today and not get a strong sense this is already irreversibly underway.

          “So what to do? It’s really simple, I think. So simple it’s practically unthinkable to those whose social capital depends on sophistication: Say whatever you believe to be true, in uncalculating fashion, in whatever language you really think and speak with, to everyone who will listen. First of all, it’s a simple heuristic with the advantage of being an ancient ethical precept. But more interestingly, today, it’s increasingly clear that this defines the lines along which reality is fragmenting. We have inherited a culture based on a compromise with truth (modify your personal optimal expression of truth to make it palatable for a mass audience, and we’ll let you on TV, basically.) That’s all crashing down now, and everyone is fleeing to whoever seems best to them. If you’re just saying everything true you possibly can, in good conscience, you’re not only being a good person but you’re going to be one of the most attractive intellectual source-options for all people similar to you (even if you’re insane or rough around the edges, simply because almost all other people are up to their necks in social compromises and they speak like ~10% of the truths they could).”

          • I’m not sure what I think about this. I don’
            t think the gist is wrong (and I don’t think this is a wrong/right binary issue) but i’m not sure it’s a recent issue. It’s as old as dirt but what strikes me as key is your distinction between those who speak honestly and those who give the appearance of honesty.

            “Truth is now a free-for-all and, at least for the time being, maybe that is a good thing.”

            That’s true and yet Plato Inc. was pitching a fit over the same issue.

            “There are some reasons to think intellectual and cultural progress comes through low-status, unrespectable types militantly pushing some topics against the patient caution of respectable opinion leaders…”

            There is a lot of truth in that. Exceptions exist but as a general rule of capitalism and Feudalism it may be built into the system – unintentionally and producing antagonism from the “powers that be” against the urge for change that it has sparked.

            In a sense we are discussing the system of a virus. It jumps from x to y and mutates containing some truth or mostly the truth but also picking up along the way a spectrum of truths and lies.

            I think its fascinating and crucially important that as you highlight Alex Jones has more cultural currency than Pinker.

            That connects to the comment about the ongoing collapse of hierarchies and I would add their push back in various iterations of reactionary action.

            The internet has opened a flood gate of data and information. Technically one need no longer attend Harvard etc though such factories offer more connections (to the rest of the establishment) but the data has been released causing a level of upheaval analogous to Guttenberg.

            It is ironic then that the explosion of data has created a ghettoization of data.

            I’ll revisit this as my response is provisional and there’s a lot of data (sic!) here to chew on.

          • It is equivalent to the era of the movable type printing press. Suddenly, knowledge was available to anyone who could read. And when it came to the revolutionary era, people didn’t even need to be literate, as even the working class could pay to hear professors lecture, as Thomas Paine did in London. And when Paine became a published writer himself, his words were often read aloud in public places for others to hear. The internet has opened up the floodgates. But can make some good info get even more lost and buried.

        • This is why I’d probably be a failure as an academic. I can do a reasonable impersonation of a normal person, enough to hold down a job as a parking ramp cashier. But that is a low standard. My ability at acting respectable is severely limited.

          I may not hear disembodied voices, see spirits, or ever been abducted by aliens/fairies. Nonetheless, I’m crazy enough by mainstream standards just because I’m willing to entertain those who have such experiences and treat them not only as respectable and their experiences as legitimate but as humans of equal value.

          That puts me beyond the pale.

          • It’s uncomfortable beyond the pale but almost always more interesting.

            I once had to endure a lecture by a strict Freudian about “insanity” and I made the point that if someone were crazy they wouldn’t have another distinct point of reference by which they would mark the spectrum.

            Needless to say my comment was ignored.

            I find artists useful in this issue as they in many cases make the point your making – they are willing to entertain alternate points of view.

            I think you will find Foucault a revelation if complex and very on point in this issue and related issues.

    • It has occurred to me that maybe I’m a bit too unique even for the Jaynesian crowd. This past year, I’ve begun to notice how narrow thinking can be among many of the people I met in that FB group.

      Recently, I was noting the connection between Jaynesian thought and linguistic relativity, something that apparently no one else has ever pointed out… not Jaynes himself, not any Jaynesian scholar, nor any blogger… as far as I can tell (I even did a site search at the discussion forum at the official Jaynes website). Many Jaynesian scholars are struggling as is to maintain their respectability. They don’t dare reach out to another alternative theory, even one like linguistic relativity that is gaining more respectability. Solidarity among the crazy rarely happens. It’s every crazy for themselves.

      Jaynes himself seems to have been a rather open-minded fellow. But since he offered a rationalizing narrative, his ideas have attracted many people looking to rationalize away the crazy, rather than explore it as Jaynes did. Maybe that was the fate of Jaynes also being an academic and having to do what he could to make his crazy theory as tolerable as possible to his peers. I would have loved to see what Jaynes could have written if he had let his freak flag fly. Sadly, he ended his life feeling frustrated and gave up writing, never to finish the second book that he planned. It ain’t easy being that far out on the edge.

        • Linguistic relativity is just another name for what is often referred to as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. The stronger version is called linguistic determinism. It simply means that language influences thought, perception, and behavior. I’ve written about it before, but I guess it’s been a while since I put out a post on the topic.

          I don’t know much about his last years. He remained an academic until he retired. But he never wrote anything else, at least not any books. I don’t think anything dramatic happened. It’s just that he got frustrated always trying to explain himself to people who couldn’t or wouldn’t understand. And so he gave up on trying.

          He never lived to see the influence he had on so many people, including some major thinkers.

          • we may have discussed it and it’s possible if not likely I’m being foggy and not remembering the discussion. I’ll read the post and return to the topic.

          • I recall your comments on the Piraha and it was fascinating then and now.

            I’m struck by the depth of the shallowness of the dominant public “discourse” in which it’s as if we’re listening to conversations about math and no one discusses geometry and calculus – as if they don’t exist.

            All establishment discourse about politics and culture is catastrophically atrophied and antagonistic towards complexity while insisting it is the essence of both.

          • “I’m struck by the depth of the shallowness of the dominant public “discourse”…”

            That is what this post is about. And it is why I have trouble dealing even with the members of a Jaynes group.

            I can’t stick to a single thing that is respectable. Everything is connected in my mind. Jaynes to Vallee, voice-hearing to mnemonics, psychology to diet, parasites to culture, psychedelics to language, etc. My style of thinking is the antithesis of academic and scientific sectarianism. Ideological partisans, as with political partisans, annoy me and I annoy them.

            I find Jaynesian thought fascinating. But unlike a respectability-seeking Jaynesian scholar like Brian J. McVeigh, I couldn’t dedicate my whole life and existence to defending it as an ideological worldview and academic enclave. Such a person is incomprehensible to me. I appreciate the tough academic work done by singleminded academics. It’s just my mind doesn’t work that way. I couldn’t contain my curiosity and questioning, even if I tried.

            There is no way to have a deep and broad discussion of complexity while remaining respectable to most people within mainstream society. It can’t be done. That is why those on the fringe seeking respectability intentionally narrow down their focus. Respectability, almost by definition, is about superficiality of thought.

        • Here is another one that indirectly deals with linguistic relativity:
          https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2018/09/30/the-power-of-language-learning/

          It indicates that languages can act as worldviews, in the power they hold over the mind. That goes back to the earliest theorizing of linguistic relativity back in the early 1800s, beginning with Wilhelm von Humboldt. It was first proposed that languages were exactly that, worldview, although back then it also had racialist underpinning about ethno-nationalism.
          https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2019/01/13/there-resides-in-every-language-a-characteristic-world-view/

          “Via the latter, qua character of a speech-sound, a pervasive analogy necessarily prevails in the same language; and since a like subjectivity also affects language in the same notion, there resides in every language a characteristic world-view. As the individual sound stands between man and the object, so the entire language steps in between him and the nature that operates, both inwardly and outwardly, upon him. He surrounds himself with a world of sounds, so as to take up and process within himself the world of objects. These expressions in no way outstrip the measure of the simple truth. Man lives primarily with objects, indeed, since feeling and acting in him depend on his presentations, he actually does so exclusively, as language presents them to him. By the same act whereby he spins language out of himself, he spins himself into it, and every language draws about the people that possesses it a circle whence it is possible to exit only by stepping over at once into the circle of another one. To learn a foreign language should therefore be to acquire a new standpoint in the world-view hitherto possessed, and in fact to a certain extent is so, since every language contains the whole conceptual fabric and mode of presentation of a portion of mankind.”

          Later anthropologists, including linguistic relativists, were less friendly toward racialism, as they came to see it as a social construction of specific cultures. That was the influence in America that came from Franz Boas who taught Edward Sapir, among many other key thinkers. This line of influence does indirectly link up to Jaynes. Another student of Boas’ was Ruth Benedict who compared Japanese and American cultures. She helped develop the notion of an honor culture. The other major influence on early cultural anthropologists, including Benedict, was Jung through his book on personality types which the anthropologists took as a useful model for applying to cultures. This combination of influences was taken up by E.R. Dodds in applying Benedict’s comparison to that of the differences between the modern and ancient world, specifically that of the Greeks. It was Dodds book that Jaynes read and so without knowing it Jaynes was part of the milieu of thought that included linguistic relativity.
          https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2016/09/26/the-psychology-and-anthropology-of-consciousness

          That is all the more reason it is strange that no one else has ever traced these sets of connections in their broadest sweep. But I give credit to a few others who did show the details in substantiating specific links and how that led to the passing on of ideas across the silos of expertise. Beyond that, if you’re interested in what else I’ve written about linguistic relativity, here is the appropriate tagged posts:
          https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/tag/linguistic-relativity/

  2. I was thinking more about what bothered me so much about this situation. It wasn’t merely the hypocrisy or maybe mere lack of self-awareness or whatever. And I sense how easy it is for me to be unfair to this lady. She is only human, after all. But even as part of me was amused by typical human behavior, I felt rubbed wrong by what I perceived as her judgmental haughtiness. Even if that assessment isn’t quite right, her response simply wasn’t justified and wasn’t fair, much less kind and understanding.

    That is the whole point of belonging to a group like that, to be around like-minded people who aren’t quick to judge others for their ‘craziness’, or at least that is my purpose. Jaynes and many influenced by him (e.g., Tanya Luhrmann) are willing to treat others with respect, including those in our society who are deemed psychologically inferior such as schizophrenics. That is the exact same reason I’m attracted to the likes of Vallee. It doesn’t matter if I share someone’s experience, in order for me to respect their experience as being real and valid for them. It’s strange and sad when I meet someone like this lady who is unwilling to offer the benefit of the doubt to others that she expects others to give to her.

    That part I do not find amusing at all, even as it is predictably ‘normal’ behavior in our society by gaining respectability in punching down. This is similar to how corrupt corporatist Democrats also try to appear respectable by punching left, which in American politics is to punch down. In both cases, it makes the individual look better in mainstream opinion among the respectable class of gatekeepers by attacking alternative views, even when the mainstream itself has gone mad. It’s the appearance of ‘normalcy’ that is at stake and so the fight over who gets to define it and who gets to dole out the punishment for anyone who transgresses.

  3. One thing that I couldn’t ignore was the split this poet lady displayed between the ‘poet’ and the ‘Manbo’. She openly spoke of having two sides, even admitting that the two sides would give different responses to the same thing. But in presenting herself, only one side of herself seemed to be speaking. The other side was being alluded to without being given a voice, despite the fact that she said the spirits she saw would speak to her. I guess they don’t speak to anyone else, not even through her. It was clear that she identified only with one part of herself and disidentified with the other side, to the point of rationalizing it away as being not real. I would argue that both sides are equally real or equally unreal, equally sane or equally unsane. But egoic consciousness pretends to be monolithic and can’t tolerate competition.

    Jaynes discusses this with the breakdown of the bicameral mind based on the breakdown of the social order with its hierarchy of voices, of authority and (vocal) authorization. In the social and psychological chaos that followed, it wasn’t easy to determine whose authority was legit or most worthy. The gods, in their conflict and competition, became jealous. In the aftermath, one god was the most jealous of them all and eventually came to sole rulership over the human mind. This monotheistic god is what we now refer to as the ego. From its authority and authorization, it decrees what is real and sane, what is respectable and legitimate. And for those who do not follow its commands, the society under its rule will punish them (unemployment, homelessness, incarceration, institutionalization, pariah status, social banishment, etc).

    Another result of the aftermath was religion. There was no religion in bicameral societies because they weren’t needed. Only with the loss of voice-hearing in the population does there need to be institutional authorities to enforce social order through social control. This was the period of centuries during which multiple banishments and massacres, including the murder of children, happened in order to eliminate the residual traces of the bicameral mind. Only the proper authorities had the power of authorization to declare which experiences, including anomalous experiences, were socially acceptable and so allowable without judgment and punishment. In our post-bicameral religious society, seeing and speaking to spirits is acceptable to a large degree, as long as it is framed in proper ways and kept under control within social norms.

    That is what this poet lady was doing, in order to maintain her public respectability and her professional career. Spirits are one thing, but UFOs and aliens are something else entirely, at least in terms of mainstream consciousness. But from a Jaynesian perspective, it is all the same phenomenon taking different guises. The gradation of normalcy is how the egoic demiurge maintains its power, a psychological version of class and race consciousness.

    • She’s truly a funny creature for elevating the rational as the real, versus the unreal. But, ideas are just as Real as the objects they represent. They’re all phenomena. The status of each – mental as against material – is where the difference is and the job of reason: to sort them into their proper categories. Just like Buddha said, “when what is seen is only what is seen…” etc.

      Well, the enlightenment ripped the Western psyche in two and placed a veil in between the two realms it created. Hahaha. People like Blake, Nietzsche, Sade, are your Jesuses: trying to rip the veil and restore the natural way. Hahahahahahahahahahaaaaa

      • Maybe funny. And also typical. Ripped Western psyche indeed.

        I understand what is motivating her. She is doing what she has to do to psychologically survive in this society, while maintaining her socioeconomic position.

        I can’t entirely blame her, as the alternatives are less than desirable. I don’t have to worry about such things since I’ve never been respectable and don’t have to worry about losing much of anything.

        • Hahahahahahahahahahaaaaa. The whole menagerie of masks thing, huh?

          If I were in the USA, I’d probably have a cabin in Nebraska or a cottage in Arizona or both (if all of that is possible) and maintain plantations, ranches and workshops here and there. All of that would probably make me rich, but that’s not why I’d do it: it’s just what I do, and it gives me enough funds to afford more of what I do.

          I’d visit and stay in mainstream society from time to time – it still has its unique opportunities; but to someone like me, all of it “is not real”. Hahahahahahahahahahaaaaa. Touché, Mrs. Galileo Sagan Armstrong.

          • Would the philosophy that all of it “is not real” be the product you’d sell to draw crowds and become rich? And upon what basis would you make your claims of wisdom?

            Would you present yourself as being the inheritor of an ancient lineage of African shamanism? Or that you came to insight through enlightenment? Or would you also claim to speak with the spirits and so interpret these voices from the beyond?

            You have got to know what you’re selling and how it will be packaged and marketed, if you plan on being successful. You need a compelling narrative.

          • Funny guy, Ben. You guys did not listen to this long line of social commentators, cultural critics and spiritual leaders, and I’m supposed to be the savior? Man, even considering the current climate in the West, I’d be lynched literally or metaphorically – they’d accuse me of fascism.

          • Hey baby, fascism is the future! And a lynching? All the better. If so, then you would be a martyr. Your product would sell even more.

            I’ll partner with you. That way, after your death, I’ll ensure the continuation of the marketing for your brand. Should we start with a best-selling self-help book? We need to make sure that we have a quality product line set in place when you finally get offed. You will be successful like you never were in life.

            This is brilliant! And a black savior? Now we’re talking. But we need to get working on your backstory, something mysterious. We could play up your troubled childhood and maybe how your IBS was a shamanic inititation. It’s all coming together. I’m thinking something along this line and we can work up from there:

          • I’m not surprised you connect my IBS to shamanism, though in jest.

            Interestingly, when I was little and having stomach troubles, a shaman once diagnosed it as my having a snake in there.

            Now, in my native tradition, like elsewhere, the snake is a sacred animal that confers spiritual powers. But, that’s only when it rises up your humanity (envisioning the human body as a tree or staff). Similar to Moses lifting up the snake for Israel’s healing, which Jesus drew a parallel to; and like the Indian kundalini, or the San umbilini. Also, pretty similar to the caduceus I have as my profile pic. I never knew we were told that though: I was into the caduceus long before I was told about it, when the symptoms started showing up again.

          • IBS as shamanic initiation. It’s a decent backstory, if you ever need one. And every self-help guru, savior, and superhero needs a backstory. I was just going for the obvious, as it’s good to start with a kernel of truth to give it that sense of authenticity and legitimacy. It’s the secret to great marketing. As George Burns put it, “Sincerity — if you can fake that, you’ve got it made!”

            Your backstory needs to hold up under scrutiny and so your actually having IBS is perfect. And you’re already fleshing out some of the details with an actual shaman and snake power. That will be useful for branding, but we’ll need to work on making the snake imagery more original and catchy than a standard caduceus. Definitely, we’ll have to go with the snake symbolism of some sort.

            After we get your book on the best-seller list, we’ll need to get an interview and endorsement from Oprah. Do you think you could build the shamanic initiation into book-length material? If possible, work in a spiritual journey as part of your search for healing, maybe even a period of poverty or homelessness to lend a gritty quality to your backstory and make you more approachable to the average Joe. Read Dan Millman, Eckhart Tolle, etc if you need inspiration. Be sure to stick close to the standard narrative so that it will feel somewhat familiar already.

            We have a good start here. Your career in America looks promising. You’ll be famous in no time at all. Americans are hungering for spirituality. And I think you have what it takes to be a spiritual rockstar. By the way, how is your stage presence? If need be, we could hire a coach to work on your act. I’m thinking of a cross between Tony Robbins and Louis Farrakhan with some mystical woo thrown in. Do you think you could pull that off?

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