Authors Connected?

I’ve been repeatedly mentioning several authors in my recent blogs. While I’m at it, I want to bring in two other authors that I haven’t mentioned in a while. The two other authors are George P. Hansen and Patrick Harpur. I wrote about them when I was thinking about the paranormal and they influenced my ideas in my blog about the Enactivism Symposium. I was thinking about these two specifically in reference to Victoria Nelson and Eric G. Wilson.

The connection might not be obvious even for some strange person who spent their time closely reading my blog. Hansen and Harpur write about the relationship between “reality” and the paranormal. Nelson and Wilson write about the relationship between culture and religion. The connection between them revolves around the mythological and the archetypal.

There is a reason I wanted to bring in Hansen and Harpur. They both speak to what the spiritual means in terms of our actual experience and our attempt to objectively know reality. I admire the insight of Nelson and Wilson, but speaking in terms of culture can put a distance to the ideas. Wilson does resonate with my personal experience fairly well. The main limitation to his writing is that he is so focused on certain traditions… even if they’re traditions that I’m attracted to.

Harpur, maybe more than any of them, has helped me to understand what exists beyond our physical senses and rational knowledge. The concept of the imaginal is centrally important to me.  It gives a point of reference to understand where both atheists and theists can go wrong in their beliefs. The imaginal also gives a point in between story and reality, the source of mythology.

Harpur refers to Hillman’s polytheistic psyche, and Hillman would be opposed to Campbell’s Monomyth. I, however, don’t feel certain of any conflict. There is an autonomy of archetypes that can’t be unified in a simple manner, but neither are archetypes exactly like Platonic ideals. Still, archetypes are all related. I’d even argue that archetypes are primarily relational before anything else. Its this relational dimension that grounds archetypes in stories. Also, for whatever its worth, it brings to my mind the Buddhist notion of dependent co-arising.

* * *

I’m starting to confuse myself. That is fine. I’m sure it all makes sense somehow.

I think that my mind as of late is a bit split between two lines of thought.

First off, part of me wants to make some sense out of what I at times perceive as a hellish world. Horror isn’t really a genre. Its an experience that you’ve had and understand… or else not.

Secondly, I’m just fascinated by stories and myths. This relates to suffering but isn’t limited to it. We use stories to make sense of suffering it is true. Stories wouldn’t make any motivating force without suffering even if only on the level of basic conflict. If there is no antagonist, there is no story. However, I don’t think this is what attracts me to stories. Stories can make me forget suffering, make the world seem to have some kind of purpose or order… and sometimes a really good story (such as The Fountain) can offer a deeper insight.

These two aspects conflict. Stories represent enjoyment and meaning. Suffering, when experienced deeply enough, undermines any sense of order or insight that a story might offer. However, is this problematic. We’re all drawn to stories about characters (real or fictional) like Jesus, but in our suffering we feel drawn beyond the story itself.

I don’t know. Does that make sense?

* * *

There is another blog of mine that has very similar subject matter. Its about a specific archetypes that are related: Trickster, the Primal Man, the Titan/Giant, the Hero, and the Savior… also, the Divine Child and Shadow. These archetypes are especially central to the Monomyth.

Myth, Religion, and Social DevelopmentMyth, Religion, and Social Development

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

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Arsen Darnay’s Borderzone Blog

I just discovered a new blog.  It’s titled Borderzone and is written by Arsen Darnay.  From his ‘About’ page:

“Borderzone may be of interest to those whose inner sense suggests a reality open at both ends—in the heights and in the depths: angels above and agents below the enzymes, as it were. The posts are exploratory and philosophical; they point to horizons not typically reached by ships or planes.”

I wrote some responses to his posts that I’ll share below.

Henry Corbin

I only know of Henry Corbin’s ideas indirectly through the book Imagination is Reality by Roberts Avens. Have you read it? I’ve also come across these ideas in my reading of paranormal and ufo literature. Patrick Harpur’s Daimonic Reality is a good analysis of all of this.

I didn’t know that Corbin wrote about Swedenborg. I’ve never read Swedenborg either, but I’ve read that his ideas influenced New Thought Christianity which I was raised in.

I found it interesting your mention of Paracelsus. I hadn’t heard of his view that visionary experience came from the heart. I like that idea.

The Random Element in Borderline Phenomena

Well, I’m personally a fan of “useless” knowledge. To the degree that knowledge is useful it will be biased towards some specific agenda. Useful knowledge isn’t problematic per se, but if the agenda becomes too overt it can be a major limitation for further scientific research and discovery. Anyways, the Taoists warned against the dangers of usefulness and I think it’s good advice.

As for the issue of science and the paranormal, there are two authors that I’d recommend. Both have worked in the field of science and so have knowledge of it from the inside.

George P. Hansen’s The Trickster and the Paranormal covers a lot of territory. Hansen worked as a parapsychology researcher and so is very familiar with the flaws and limitations of the field (and of science in general).

Jacque Vallee has done lots of scientific work with astronomy and computers, but he has become one of the biggest names in ufo research. He became involved in the latter field because he personally witnessed an astronomer destroy data of a ufo. He is specifically known for proposing the similarity between ufo experiences and religious experiences.

Have you heard of either of them? If so, what do you think of their ideas?

The Song of the Pearl – Part II

This is something that interests me immensely. I’ve been reading Gnostic texts recently. The Song of the Pearl is one of my favorites partly for the dream-like imagery.

I think it’s important your noting Cindarella and Snow White. I mentioned Jacques Vallee in another post of yours. He wrote about the similarity between ufo experiences and fairy/folk-tales. One element is the experience of unconsciousness, forgetting and lost time. Reports of interactions with other paranormal beings (such as fairies) also involve this element. So, there is a continuity between religious experiences in the past and ufo experiences now. It’s just a matter of cultural interpretation.

I’m not sure exactly how all of that fits into the Gnostic viewpoint, but it seems significant. I’m sure Gnostics would’ve taken seriously the actual paranormal experiences people had. Some people just see their weird myths as complex theologizing, but I think that misses the original intent of gnosis itself.

Your last point makes me wonder about one possible connection. The idea of children who end up as queens and kings reminds me of another element of ufo experiences. The “aliens” (or whatever they are) often tell people that they are an elect or special somehow, that they will be saved or will help save the world. These paranormal beings are always proclaiming grand messages and singling out people to receive them.

What is the purpose? Heck if I know. The messages usually don’t have any practical value and the predictions often don’t come true.

For instance, paranormal beings (and the prophets or alien abductees who listen to them) have been predicting the end of the world for quite a while now. Whether its the early Christians waiting for the Second Coming or ufo believers waiting on a hill, it’s all the same.

Maybe the problem is that such people took the message literally instead of allegorically/spiritually as the Gnostics preferred.