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.
* * *
As for my own variety of crazy, I’ve always felt a kinship with Philip K. Dick. Below is what he what he wrote in justifying himself. Some people feel compelled to speak truth, no matter what. If that truth sounds crazy, maybe that is because we live in a society gone mad. Under such unhappy circumstances, there can be great comfort in feeling validated by someone speaking truth. So, maybe be kind toward the craziness and truths of other people. Here is what PKD has to say:
“What I have done may be good, it may be bad. But the reality that I discern is the true reality; thus I am basically analytical, not creative; my writing is simply a creative way of handling analysis. I am a fictionalizing philosopher, not a novelist; my novel and story-writing ability is employed as a means to formulate my perception. The core of my writing is not art, but truth. Thus what I tell is the truth, yet I can do nothing to alleviate it, either by deed or exploration. Yet this seems somehow to help a certain kind of sensitive and troubled person, for whom I speak. I think I understand the common ingredient in those whom my writing helps; they cannot or will not blunt their own intimations about the irrational, mysterious nature of reality, & for them my corpus of writing is one long ratiocination regarding this inexplicable reality, an investigation & presentation, analysis & response & personal history. My audience will always be limited to these people.”
(In Pursuit of Valis, p.161)
I found some interesting links:
Nicole – I’m glad you linked those. This gives me the opportunity to bring up some more details.
The first two links are from CSICOP which is an organization I had specifically in mind while writing this blog. They’re the most well known debunking organization. This blog is a partial continuation of my previous blog: Integral, the Paleolithic, and the Liminal. In that blog, I mentioned George P. Hansen and I linked to his article about CSICOP. He uses this organization as one of his major examples in his book The Trickster and the Paranormal.
There are two basic points he makes.
First, CSICOP does no academic research and doesn’t publish an academic journal where research is peer-reviewed. They focus on case studies which are easy targets of debunking. However, most paranormal research doesn’t rely on case studies for the very reason that deception is a problem. The reason that CSICOP only does case studies is that earlier in its history it did do some research that supported what they were trying to debunk, and that was the last time they did real research. They actually try to dissuade academic scientists from doing research on paranormal, and they have a fair amount of influence. So, in this sense, they are discouraging science.
Second, the people who are the head of CSICOP aren’t scientistst and the scientists who support the organization aren’t paranormal researchers. It has no connection to academia except through individual support of some scientists. It isn’t a research institute. Simply put, its only purpose is to debunk by taking on easy targets and ridicule those who actually do serious research.
The other link is ASSAP which is an organization I’m not familiar with. I’ll look into it more later.
I’m still reading the book by Hansen and so I’m still weighing the evidence. He looks at all sides with a particular emphasis on deception. He says that he has been involved in paranormal for a long time. I’m not overly familiar with the field, and this is the first book I’ve read by him. He seems to have a wide grasp of not only the research, but he also seems to know a lot about the different people involved and he has an interesting take on various theories that are applicable to the paranormal field.
I’m not direclty interested in the paranormal field in terms of research, but this book has made me more interested in it. The reason I bought the book is because he discusses the trickster archetype and its relationship to culture.
this is really good to know. one of the things i liked about the articles i linked from them was that they came across as kinder somehow…
i haven’t been super interested in the paranormal either, but am intrigued by what you are saying… relationship with trickster archetype makes a lot of sense.
I skimmed through the first article by Benjamin Radford about the haunted house investigation. The guy presented himself as a neutral observer who is open to the possibility of ghosts, but doing a quick search of him on the net and he seemed to fit the profile of a debunker. By this, I mean that all his investigations that I could find seemed focused on disproving.
One thing that came to mind is that their is a difference between his being open to the possibility in a vague theoretical way vs what he actually expects to find. A major discovery of paranormal research is how researchers influence their research even when they’re are double-blinds and randomness to protect against influence. There is a theory that some debunkers can psychically have a negative influence on that which they investigate.
In paranormal research, this creates a problem because some researchers are consistently successful in finding evidence for the paranormal and some researchers have the opposite effect. I was just reading about this in Hansen’s book. He used an example of two researchers that had these opposite influences. They did research together in order to test this and the evidence did show they seemed to be influencing their research even though there was no way to explain it except through psychic influence.
Even in mainstream research, there is what is called ethnomethodology which studies culture. It has been used to study scientific culture, and it has shown how easy it is for researchers to influence their research. Objectivity is a very difficult ideal to achieve, and ethnomethodology even questions the assumptions of objectivity.
Its interesting that paranormal research was one of the first fields to use randomeness and statistical analysis in order to protect against influence. Paranormal researchers understand deception and influence better than most scientific researchers. Of course, this learning came about because of past mistakes of earlier researchers.
It was because of how easy deception can occur with exceptional case studies that the researcher Rhine institued using large groups of normal people as test subjects. Rhine’s methods have been standard protocol ever since. Its because of the difficulty of control that case studies such as haunted house investigations haven’t been focused on in paranormal research for the past half century. An article about a haunted house attracts attention in the popular media (which essentially is what CSICOP functions as), but no general conclusions can be based on such investigations.
The second link was an article by Joe Nickell. He is a lead investigator of CSICOP who isn’t a scientist, and was influenced by James Randi who also isn’t a scientist. Nickell is definitely a traditional debunker. Everything I said about Radford applies to him. He debunks specific cases such as in the linked article. I did a quick search on Radford and Nickell. I couldn’t tell if either had ever investigated paranormal research or simply limited themselves to case studies.
Something Radford said jumped out at me: “I am less interested in mysteries than explanations; mysteries are dime a dozen, and it is explanations that are valuable.” He admits that mysteries are prevalent and oddly he concludes that mysteries are uninteresting because there are so many of them. Jeez! I’d say its quite interesting that mysteries are dime a dozen. Doesn’t he find it amazing that explanations are so rare? I’m all for explanations, but how much jaded cynicism does it take to lose one’s wonder and curiosity in the face of ineffable mystery? Without mysteries, there would be no new explanations.
I wasn’t intending to discuss CSICOP and debunkers in this blog, but that is fine. In writing this blog, I was inspired more by my personal experience.
– I’ve had many synchronicities such as where I’ve heard a word on the radio at the same time I was reading that word.
– Working downtown, I notice patterns in crowd behavior and I always wonder what is the cause.
– The other day I had an experience where I was pouring a can of pop into a cup and somehow the liquid spilled 6 inches away from the cup, and I couldn’t figure out the reason as the can looked normal.
These are all completely mundane experiences and that is partly what interests me. Such minor events happen to us all of the time, but we rarely know the reason. They aren’t important as in the sense that they have no great effect on our everyday lives, but they’re the type of thing that catches my attention. I’m always thinking about the world and I’m always noticing patterns.
I’ve also had more dramatic weird experiences. But in this blog I was thinking more about these more minor events that are easy to not notice or dismiss if noticed. Most people don’t give much credence to coincidences. Most people don’t care about the reason behind the behavior of crowds. Most people don’t think about a spilled can of pop beyond being annoyed by it.
Yet, these are all things that signify the limits of our personal knowledge of the world. Even if you were a genius that memorized all of human knowledge, you’d still know very little about the world. Our ‘knowledge’ will look as naive and simplistic to future generations as the ‘knowledge’ of past generations looks to us.
Our knowledge is an island in a sea of mystery. As Radford said, mysteries are so common as to be deemed insignificant. And yet every moment of existence is an utter mystery. What I find amazing is that despite all of the explanations we come up with we can’t seem to banish mystery from our rational world. And it most often pops up in small ways… God in the gutter.
God in the gutter. There are so many mysteries, small and big. Rationality and objectivity are limited and illusion to a certain extent. It’s true that if we survive for more centuries, what we “know” will look pitiful.
I’m happy to discuss personal experiences. and speaking of personal experience, you will be glad to know that I spent time yesterday staring at the water. it felt so good.
Hey Nicole! I was just now checking out the third link. ASSAP looks promising. Its not a debunking site, but neither does it seem to be a believers’ site. The director of ASSAP was referred to as a Fortean researcher.
I like how Charles Fort went about things. Like many debunkers, he wasn’t a scientist and so some of the same criticisms could be made against him. The difference is that he was more open-minded in considering all possibilities and he was more fair in his willingness to question everything equally. Fort was no defender of scientific materialism. His viewpoint seemed to be that the world is too weird for any single explanation whether scientific or otherwise. He had an imagination similar to Philip K. Dick but without the naive credulousness. PKD wanted to believe in something. Fort wanted to disbelieve everything.
There are several interesting writers that followed in the footsteps of Fort.
Jacques Vallee is the most prominent ufo investigator, but he was different from Fort in that he had a background in the hard sciences. It was because Vallee saw firsthand astronomers destroying data of ufo sightings that led him to investigate it for himself. Vallee was an innocent young scientist who was shocked that scientists aren’t always objective. 🙂 Vallee was the first investigator to make a connection between ufo experiences and folklore.
John Keel (of Mothman fame) was more similar to Fort than Vallee was. Keel was a journalist like Fort. Vallee was more specific in his interest with ufos, but Fort and Keel had more wide-ranging interests. Also, Vallee seemed to be a more balanced fellow. He took a decade or so break from ufo research because it didn’t feel like it was going anywhere. OTOH Fort and Keel dedicated their whole lives to endless investigation. However, even though Fort was obsessed with his work like Keel, Fort never went off the deep end. Keel had a mental breakdown at one point.
What is interesting about the Forteans is that they’re equally willing to consider the debunkers and the believers. Debunkers often write articles for the magazine Fortean Times. For instance, one of the CSICOP investigators you linked to has an article on the Fortean Times website. Forteans are a special kind of debunker because they want debunk everything… and then see what is left standing. They’re something like the negative theologians of the paranormal. They’d rather say what isn’t than what is.
The problem with the Forteans is the problem with all debunkers. They tend to focus on specific case studies rather than on scientific research. Case studies are important though because some things simply can’t be reproduced in a lab.
this is really great. gotta run, but if you have time, please look at my blogs and share your thoughts… hugs… will respond properly later
The awakening happens differently for each of us — but the end result is that we realize that heaven isn’t a place but rather a state of mind. The journey is all that matters because in this never ending evolving consciousness we never reach the end of our journey. check my recent blogs about consciousness. I posted a great video that covers the reasons why we have free will.
Quote from the Movie Contact:
You’re an interesting species. An interesting mix. You’re capable of such beautiful dreams, and such horrible nightmares. You feel so lost, so cut off, so alone, only you’re not. See, in all our searching, the only thing we’ve found that makes the emptiness bearable, is each other.
Welcome to my blog NightPhoenix!
I tend to view heaven as a state of mind, but of course not state of mind in the normal sense of mind. I noticed you blogged about A Course In MIracles. That is a book that was a major influence of my thinking when I read it in highschool, and it still influences me. As for life as journey, I don’t normally think of life that way but I am a present-oriented kind of person. I couldn’t figure out which of your blogs is about freewill. Would you mind linking to the specific video?
Contact is a pretty good movie, but I haven’t watched it a second time. I don’t remember that quote. I’ll probably watch it again one of these days. I saw that you blogged about What Dreams May Come. I love that movie and have watched it many times. Some of the scenes are utterly beautiful.
The other blog of yours that stood out to me was the one about the Johari Window. That model is relevant to this discussion here. Part of what I’m focusing on is the Unkown quadrant, the unknown unknowns, unknown by everyone.
please note: you’ll have to watch the entire video to grasp the information contained in it. But it does cover free will…
I just finished watching that video. It reminds me of What the Bleep Do We Know!? It also reminds me of Lynne McTaggart. I’ve read some of her books and I found them fairly insightful, and very good summaries of some of the strange research that scientists do. She is looking at paranormal research like Hansen is doing in his book, but she takes a more New Age perspective with considering how we can learn to direct our intentions towards the good.
She brings up strong evidence for the power of the mind to influence the world, but she also comes up with strong evidence for the power of the mind to influence others’ minds even unbeknownst to those being influenced (Hansen also discusses this). So, freewill still seems unclear to me. Who or what is influencing whom? All the research shows is correlations. Based upon that we can theorize various types of influence.
However, it gets complicated very quickly. Psi research has shown evidence for the possibility that influence can work in the reverse. Research suggest that we might be able to influence events and people in the past. That is a pretty cool trick, but it also means people in the future may be influencing us right now. Freaky!
What I get out of all of this is that we’re all connected and nobody really knows exactly what that connection is. This is why I don’t believe in freewill. I believe in influence which simply means I believe the world is complex beyond simple notions such as the ideal of freewill or even the mechanisms of science. Of course, I could simply redefine freewill as influence and still retain the word. I do believe we aren’t merely helpless at the whims of reality. We are participants even if mostly blind and ignorant in how we participate. Bumbling in the dark isn’t so bad. Many great discoveries are made that way. 🙂
I liked what the bleep do we know? especially the court of infinite possibilities & the double slit experiment. But back to free will // if this is all a program for lack of better words then it’s a very advanced program by any standards and it may be possible in such a program to allow for free will. It probably wouldn’t appear as free will to the programmer but to us it might appear as free will. sorta like those books with alternate endings depending on the choices you make in the book. Do you remember those books from childhood?
Having had many synchronistic and paranormal ESP experiences in my life, in tthe end I deduced that somehow I was connecting or more likely universal consciousness was making a connection with me, it was totally random not any effort on my part and no way could I make it happen to order, either in or out of a laboratory but I could not deny the experiences. Information was popping into my mind of occurrances that I couldn’t possibly have known about because I was too far away, there is no way to prove any of it after the event but after ignoring and disbelieving, I learned to heed these experiences.
Another way to think about it is that freewill is true just as the mechanisms of science are true. But these are only relatively true. There is predictable order and that is what science studies, and yet not all experience is controlled by this order which is where freewill has whatever influence it has. What I’m interested in is what exists in between the two and what exists beyond both. Is there a reality beyond the objective world and our subjective individuality? Both science and freewill seek to control, and so what resides outside of the reach of our methods of control? What is free even from our desire for freedom?
Yes, I remember those books from childhood.
Choose Your Own Adventure
I know its cheating, but I always would reverse back to the previous choice when I didn’t like the ending I got. I’m sure those books helped to teach me how to think in terms of non-linear connections and multiple possibilities. They even have Choose Your Own Adventure movies now. I watched one with my niece a while back.
Uh-huh… the kind of thing your describing fits into what I was thinking about. Its good that you learned to heed them. The best we can try to do is to learn from these experiences, but it isn’t always clear whether there is something to be learned. So, we pay attention and be patient. How did you go about testing this information that was popping in your head? Was any of the information helpful or insightful… or just information?
I resonate with what you said about not controlling nor being able to deny these experiences. This is how reality feels to me most of the time. We influence things and we make various relatively minor choices throughout our day, but there is a immense world beyond our sphere of control. We’re constantly being effected by the world and often by forces beyond our awareness… call it God, a guardian angel, the Daimonic, universal consciousness, or even simply the unconscious. We can bring awareness to bear upon these situations, but our consciousness ego-minds are limited.
Did you find that your experiences helped you to become more aware?
Did they help you to have more respect or wonder for that which lies beyond your awareness?
i think science is actually beginning to look at this subject with more depth, because it has too…
Larry King just did a show highlighting the new A&E series about children that posess these abilities.
here is the link, incase it should interest you…
btw, this blog entry was very well written…
For some reason my blog is popular today. 🙂
Yep, I too think that science is looking more into this. Scientists have to deal with it because the evidence is piling up too much to be ignored and the public interest keeps growing. Plus, I’m willing to bet that the new generation of scientists are more open to the paranormal.
Thanks for the link. I’ll check it out later.
Gotta go to work now. Have a wonderful evening everybody!
what a cool blog conversation! see, Ben, you should blog more often! You’re getting so popular… hugs…
Hi Marmalade, my ESP happens when someone needs my help, the first time I was 8 and my brothers friend was being swept out to sea by a strong current, there were no strong swimmers on the beach something said to me go back to the cafe above the beach there I found the islands champion swimmer who swam out and rescued the child who believe it or not could not swim but somehow managed to stay afloat !!!!
The next time was when my boys were out playing, I was baking at home and had a strong urge to go to my youngest son, I stopped what I was doing, crossed the road, went along the road through a shortcut to the play park and found my son who had fallen off a six foot slide and was quite distressed. When I was nursing there were several instances where I had an urge to visit my community patients when a regular visit was not planned –
I found one had fallen and broken a limb
one was in the middle of a heart attack
one was sitting in front of a gas fire and the room was filling with gas from an unlit ceiling gas lamp, amazing the place didn’t explode when I opened the door and got her out.
one was in panic with a paraffin heater ablaze
I also had one ESP episode with our dog, driving home from work one day I thought the dog’s in trouble in the sea – my next thought was to laugh at myself thinking how foolish, dogs can swim. I arrived home to find my husband and our great dane dripping wet, the dog had apparently jumped off a groyne into deep water and panicked, my husband had to wade into the sea and fish him out.!!!! That is just a few examples of ESP
i pick up peoples thoughts sometimes, and am very sensitive to the atmosphere of places
where there have been unhappy incidents. I only mention because it’s pertinent to the subject here, most people are pretty sceptical about such things.
how cool is that! what i love about these gaia discussions, where blogged or podded or both, is that things we have become reluctant to talk about come into the light and we all benefit.
Ben, I think you’re right, that the direction is that rigid closed attitude science used to have is eroding with new generations of science and all the inroads of quantum physics etc. the universe is much full of wonder, a place where electrons tunnel and cats are in boxes neither alive nor dead…. so mystical…
Very nice blog and discussion, Ben. I appreciated how you used an examination of causality to problematize the distinctions between subjective and objective; I felt you did this in a fairly clear-eyed and balanced way, rather than jumping to untenable conclusions. “Life is strange” just about sums it up! The ordinary is shot through with strangeness, which sometimes we see when we suddenly snap to and perceive our worlds in a fresh way; and the strange lurks around so much it’s downright ordinary…
You wrote: For most of us, we only remember our child-like wonder when around children. A kid who has no adult responsibilities makes an unusual observation and the adult pauses for a moment. They walk past that place everyday… why hadn’t they noticed it?
This reminded me of a phone call I received from my six-year-old son a couple hours ago. He said, “Dad, how come there is an icecream maker in my world but we don’t really have one? How come everyone has a whole different world inside them?”
He’s seeing a wonder that we walk past so often: the rich universes we each are.
This was an interesting blog because I wrote it without much editing. It was a single flow of thought with one point leading to the next. I had no particular goal in mind other than trying to convey a certain mood, a certain way of looking at the world.
Problematize… I love that word! It amuses me.
“Ben, I appreciated how you problematized that.” Thanks! 🙂
…rather than jumping to untenable conclusions.
Yeah, I was trying to avoid conclusions whether tenable or not. But I came to the end and I figured that some kind of conclusion was required. Plus, I just felt like being funny.
“Dad, how come there is an icecream maker in my world but we don’t really have one? How come everyone has a whole different world inside them?”
Now, that is a good question. So, what was your answer. 🙂
I was recently talking to Sandra and looking at her profile I discovered that M. Alan Kazlev has a blog here on Gaia. He mentioned an article of his on Integral Praxis which is partly run by Bright Abyss from OSI. In the comments of that article, there was mention of Robert Searle’s Multi-dimensional Science which is described on Kazlev’s website. I noticed that Robert Searle has a blog here also.
I felt like writing that paragraph with those links in order to justify the time I spent the last several hours wandering around the web. 🙂
Also, I wrote it because of what was being proposed by Robert Searle. He seems to believe that exceptional case studies can lead to scientific knowledge if you have enough case studies. It seems a bit optimistic to me considering the difficulty of trying to study exceptional people. I’d love to see actual research attempted according to Searle’s methodology. If done on a large enough scale, it could provide some useful insights.
You are diverse in your friends 🙂 Cool info … I have the same doubts as you – my company has tried a similar approach by doing case studies of our very best students to see what light is shed on educating everyone… it seems counterintuitive from a scientific approach for sure but from other standpoints is intriguing.
Hey Nicole… just noticed this comment as I was preparing to log off.
How did the study work out for your company?
Did the results show any clear patterns?
it’s still ongoing… yes, there are many commonalities between highly exceptional students that enable them to self learn material very very quickly. The challenge is using what we learn from them to improve our instruction of the 95%+ of other students we have, many of whom have serious learning or attention problems…