Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Jester in Black: The Secret Space Program and the UFO Cover-Up

For as long as there has been modern UFOlogy, there has been the contention that the governing body, the military or intelligence communities know what the UFO issue is all about. Secreted away in top-secret bunkers, or within hollowed out mountains are remnants of saucer debris and alien technology - and some would even go so far as to say there's aliens working hand-in-hand with human counterparts.

I should start by saying this isn't a discussion on whether there is or is not a deliberate cover-up of the UFO phenomena by the governing bodies of the world, but a discussion on how the theme of a cover-up effects the critical rationale of the public and researchers as it applies to the phenomenon. This essay is also not an attack on anyone personally, but rather an examination of stances and actions taken by UFOlogical personas and their tandem effects. 

To delve into this area of the subject with any depth at all, will lead you through many layers of intrigue and even some paranoid ramblings. The path seems benign and plausible enough as an idea from the start: that the government, in it's bid to hold onto power and maintain societal order has silenced UFO witnesses, covered up sightings and crash events, and has all the hard evidence skirted safely away from the public. Seems a completely rational thought, considering some of the reactions by government agencies - right down to some of the largely blacked out documents obtained by FOIA.

This quickly evolved into secret treaties with aliens by the shadowy government in which the aliens were free to abduct and molest humans in exchange for technology. This gave way to the Dulce myth where the treaty seemed to fall through, with aliens and commandos slugging it out in the underground base. Not so much as a shred of proof on the reality of this sort of thing at all.

A level of absurdity is reached from a plausible idea or notion and into that which is completely irrational.

In recent years, Rich Dolan has suggested a "breakaway civilization" - whereby those in the know have enough secrecy, enough black budget money, enough time and autonomy that they have gained a level of knowledge, technology and awareness of reality that they have broken away and now exist as a super-secret society that have all the cool toys - never sharing them with the rest of the world.

Seems plausible enough, if you subscribe to Dolan's anatomy of the UFO cover-up. There's a foundation of belief here that has to be accepted as real before the breakaway society will fit into your overall view. One big one being that flesh and blood aliens have technology that we somehow, now possess and have understanding of.

Think about that one for just a moment. I am constantly in awe of how pedestrian some proponents in UFOlogy assume the 'alien' to be. We say the word quite commonplace these days - alien has lost it's mystique to a degree. Consider a culture that has developed completely independent of the Earth. Nothing of our knowledge has touched this culture and none of Earth's influence would be present. None of Earth's evolutionary effects, nor biology. Nothing. This is the pretense we have to start from.

Here ya go kiddo. Let's make it happen. Oh, and hurry up.
A good comparative scenario for the reverse engineering of alien technology, would be giving a child of 3 years an iPhone and telling them to figure out how it works. Then instructing them to make their own. Imagine that with many multitudes of complexity, extrapolated from there.

There is a separation of rational thought here. That's only a single example, and there are many instances of irrational thoughts accepted as some version of fact in the paranormal. On it's own that's not a good thing, but it's made worse when other contentions are offered that build upon these as a base. Pretty soon what was proffered as a scenario or suspicion becomes established fact for many as the story expands into more layers of complexity. For instance, Dolan's piece referenced here makes mention of 'military abductees' as a connection to the breakaway society. 'MILABs' or military abductions were by in large a product of the hypnotic regression craze of the late 80's early 90's. Hypnotic regression is widely dismissed as a memory recovery tool by the psychiatric field, and is well known for creating and hardening false memory.

The article on the breakaway society also mentions MJ-12, a myth of the UFO field who's very existence hinged upon the faked documents of 1984. While it's not mentioned in support of the 'breakaway' idea, it's included in the discussion, presented in a manner that makes it credible - when there's nothing credible about it.

But like the early days of the supposed government cover-up of UFOs, Dolan's breakaway society has birthed it's own level of absurdity: the far flung claims of Andrew Basiago, and Corey Goode, to name only two. Claims of induction at childhood into top secret projects that include teleportation to Mars for extended stays, time travel, and attendance via time travel to pivotal historic events such as the Gettysburg address.

This of course without a shred of evidence to support it. Not even anyone to say for example, "yes, they were gone and we didn't know where they were for a year". Because, time travel.

In a recent post on Facebook, Dolan voices his dismay with these sort of whistle blowers and their inclusion in the 2017 MUFON Symposium, of which he is a speaker as well. While Dolan's piece is in my opinion just an attempt to draw a line of demarcation between himself and the less than credible folks he'll share a stage and probably a panel discussion with - here's what is missing from the discussion:

  • Dolan, with his Secret Space Program and Breakaway Civilization programs and lectures, effectively drew these people to the forefront. He is distancing himself from something that he has in part, helped to create. I am not suggesting he is actively aiding these people, but they are building narratives upon the ideas he has been promoting.

  • At no point after voicing his non-support of his fellow presenters does he say he is effectively withdrawing from the speaking engagement - which should be the natural response if he is so in opposition to them that he would write this lengthy piece detailing his feelings about the event and the other presenters.

This is similar to his Roswell Slides post where he seemed compelled to explain why he was going to speak at an event that already involved questionable personalities and highly dubious 'evidence'. Richard claimed he didn't agree to participate until a long discussion with Don Schmitt (who he claimed to know better than the others involved). This seems odd in that Schmitt was publicly exposed years ago regarding the truthfulness of his background and research - and even his former research partner Kevin Randle called him a "pathological liar". This association seems antithetical to everything Dolan represents within the UFO field.

I should point out that I don't believe Richard purposefully concocts the ideas of a Secret Space Program, or the Breakaway Civilization just to put out content. While I think the notions are greatly overstated, I'm sure he sees reason to speak about them.

Within this situation is a repetitive path seen in many aspects of the paranormal: the genesis of any idea, theory, or supposition will be extrapolated to a level of highly strained credibility (absurdity) fairly quickly - no matter how well-reasoned and plausible the original concept was. There is also a 'down the rabbit hole' effect, where rational, otherwise intelligent and well-reasoned researchers will find themselves engaged in irrational research, ideas and paranoia - then often finding themselves in questionable company. This goes down the tandem path of what we've discussed before - in that some seemingly intelligent researchers fall apart and descend into all matter of madness upon entering certain aspects of the paranormal.

There is another aspect of this situation that deserves mention. The idea that Richard Dolan mentions in his 'On Corey, Andrew and the Whistleblowers' piece, that he doesn't want a war with anyone in the field. That's certainly admirable, but I think this goes much deeper than an avoidance of conflict. This seems to be hedging a bet, much as was done with the Roswell Slides - on not coming down too hard on the outlandish personalities so that if they become the flavor of the year, or how the 'field' ultimately turns (it's a possibility no matter how repugnant we may find that) - he is not on the outs. In my opinion this is a tactic to remain neutral to the discussion and still be asked to speak and attend events. That Dolan will not take a definitive stand in opposition to presenters with serious credibility issues is a testament to the clique mentality that exists in the convention and organization circuit. Bring the real world into the Dungeons & Dragons of UFOlogy and you will quickly find yourself cut out of speaking engagements.

James Clarkson, former Washington State Director for MUFON (who rightly quit in disgust) has spoken in this Radio Misterioso interview to this effect as well: that calling out poor research and organizational practices often garners you the ire of people in power within UFO circles. Then, you're wrongly accused and berated for attacking someone - when personality has nothing to do with the matter, it's about the actions and research

The 'insider' is as ambiguous as the phenomenon.
In addition, in his '...Whistleblowers' piece, Dolan warns: "Everything is based on trust. Believing such stories without genuine evidence takes us down a dangerous road within an already treacherous field that is constantly in the crosshairs of a skeptical establishment."

He also says that "If something is falsifiable, it doesn’t mean it’s false. It means you have the ability to test it, to investigate it, to determine whether it is true or false."

When Dolan has related whatever information he has gleaned from an 'insider' he cannot name - he is asking you to take the same dangerous road -  to believe based on nothing but trust. There is no way to qualify any of his alleged 'inside' sources, or their words.

The UFO cover-up is one of the most fascinating angles of the UFO problem. On one hand, the public seems to believe those researchers who portray a conspiracy that is formidably complex, huge in scale and depth, and protected by personnel who will stop at nothing to keep the secret.

And yet many of those same researchers talk of leaked information from trusted 'inside' sources, government documents obtained through FOIA, and clandestine arranged meetings with former  top-secret scientists, military, and intelligence.

When the scenario is looked at rationally, there are some rather glaring points to be made:

  • That the public places trust in the researcher that he is truthful about his 'contacts'. This seems counter to the idea of really being critical (or suspicious) of what one is told, is true (this is the foundation of the UFO cover-up).
  • That if said 'contacts' do exist, they are telling the researcher the truth. There is no reason to ever believe an 'insider' if indeed the conspiracy is as far reaching and complex as is claimed.
  • It's not often mentioned that the blacked-out documents squeezed out of the government via FOIA are not deliberately made to appear sanitized. If the cover-up is indeed as complex as claimed, this would be a distinct possibility.
  • It's widely claimed the powers that be have no issue making people 'disappear' or even resorting to assassination to silence individuals attempting to end the cover-up. This seems not to apply to the researchers who claim inside contacts, or claim to be an insider themselves (including the time traveling, Mars explorers.) None to my knowledge have ever been arrested for making critical intelligence information, public. 

There are plenty more contradictions, but in the interest of brevity (it's too late), I'll leave that for future discussion.

Where we end up is intriguing as we have 2 separate items: the very strange and complex UFO phenomenon, and the widely held belief of a conspiracy to cover their existence. Both have a provocative commonality: evidence for either is steeped in ambiguity.

And that lays us in the valley of the Trickster: the margin between real and fake. Between truth and lie. Between information and disinformation. But what is truly fascinating is that the effects of irrationality, ambiguity, charisma, and the trajectory from plausible to absurd - not only applies to the UFO phenomenon itself, but even bleeds into topics that involve it more indirectly.

The MUFON Symposium has now come and gone. I began writing this essay before the event, and finished it today, July 28th, 2017. There is still an air of contention over the event, and I expect that kind of feeling to grow. Richard Dolan has apparently taken a video series gig with GAIA entitled 'False Flags'. GAIA are the same folks who brought you...the Nazca alien mummy fiasco.

One thing, if nothing else is certain at this point: the UFO field succeeds regularly in ensuring that the phenomenon retains it's position of marginality. 🔻

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Artist and the Other

One of the more interesting results of Project CORE came in the answer to the question: "Are you a creative person?"

Out of over 200 responses, 175 (87%) Yes to 11 (5%) No. Just from my own interactions with folks having paranormal events over the years, I feel safe saying that a lot of creative people are having these experiences. This brings up a number of interesting talking points. Do artists perceive these events because they have great visualization abilities? Does the phenomena select them because they are best equipped to convey the experience to others? These are at best mental exercises and largely unproductive towards addressing the question. We can't know the 'mind' of the phenomena (if there is one) and certainly can't ascribe meaning or intent to it.

Let's look at the role of artist in society first. In ancient times there was no formal training in the arts, and training in any sort of artisan profession was based upon technical excellence. Slavery had much to do with the artists (which they were not called at the time) - they were ultimately manual laborers. Society at that point paid little to no attention to artistic expression. No one, not even the artist himself, thought the artist's personal feelings or mindset were of any serious interest whatsoever. The artist was a craftsman, or a skilled worker. They were considered someone whose work develops from inner ideas and thoughts coupled with personal effort

Medieval art could be a strange place too.
In the Medieval age, the artist was largely anonymous. It wouldn't be improper to call them 'artists' but they were still considered a craftsman (here's the important divide) and therefore socially removed from 'gentlemen'. In Medieval Europe, they were still considered proper, decent members of society. They were trained in guilds and still were required to operate at a high skill, and high quality level. Work was signed but the mark of the artist was considered lesser or unimportant than the guild mark, which was held in higher regard because it showed the quality of the art by the training. The name of the person who executed the work was of much less concern.

The Renaissance is the age of the artist. Ask someone to name an artist and you'll likely get a name from this time period. There is a crucially new idea: the great artist is also, and necessarily, a great individual. This period to me seems to give rise to the lenient attitude towards the artist. For instance, they were often excused their paint smeared clothes or shabby appearance in the court if they knew the speaking rules and had something of relevant importance to say. Artists were anxious to show that they were educated - remember this class came out of laborers and tradesmen. The artist wanted to be considered more in the company of the philosopher or poet - people who didn't get their hands dirty. This age also brought to rise the art critic - as today, the artist brings to his work certain principles only known to well informed people - or insiders (while the artist was and still is considered an outsider). The mythical illusions, or symbolic hidden messages in art would have been lost on the uneducated. Art during this period was patronized by the rich. If you were well to do, you possessed great works of art, and often art was a symbol of how well off you were. Art dictated class status. This is an amazing and lofty upgrade for what was considered in the beginning, just a skilled craftsman.

So there's the start of something interesting: as artists gain status in the society's elite - it seemed to force people to be more educated in history, philosophy and symbolism to be able to interpret the work. Artists of this time wanted to make art that searched such lofty heights as the meaning of existence itself.

The artist as revolution.
In following times the artist would become an instrument of social change, trying to make changes through direct attack of a person, leader, or social institutions. The 'revolutionary' artist realizes work that tries to induce radical change through visuals (this still goes on today). Long before the realization that art could influence social change, it was deceptively demur - showing us benign pastoral and portrait images. These would later become known as 'chocolate box' paintings (because they looked like something that would please the eye and adorn your box of sweets). The true power and influence of art lay in wait. 

The Bohemian artist seems to be the stereotypical 'artist' facade everyone seems to know: no regular job, no normal hours, loose living and partying. Many are attracted to the art lifestyle, especially self-styled 'rebels' and poseurs of every kind. The lifestyle is non-conformist in the extreme. There have been several aspects of the artist that seem to go across the board:

  • Powerful drive to tear down society, societal norms and break taboos.
  • Drugs, alcohol, sex, suicide and early death 
  • Self destruction. The artist must suffer. (This, I know intimately. Of course it's not a must, I believe this just comes with the price of a non-conventional lifestyle. Living an anti-structural life.)
As a side note these three attributes could be overlaid on to the paranormal fields in different ways. The powerful drive to tear down societal norms? Certainly the UFO disclosure would accomplish that. So too would the proving of life after death. Self destruction? Often some of the most public paranormal researchers or personalities are on a path to financial or personal ruin but refuse to abandon the subject(s) as a form of income, personal pursuit, or notoriety (Gene Steinberg of The Paracast is one example). They don't willfully ignore the downward slide and the obvious solutions - they seem completely unaware (or have an aversion) of them as an option.

The modern artist can be in any space we've discussed here. The graphics designer, illustrator, fine artist, gallery idol...take your pick. You'll find that 'creative artists' also include musicians, and writers and that they claim nearly the same lifestyles, desire to break conformity and partake in taboos that visual artists do.

But you'll also find that all creatives have one thing in common: they externalize the internal.  This goes back to the start: "inner ideas and thoughts coupled with personal effort". The personal effort is one of creation. Matching the vision in the head to the object in the hand. Bringing the thought to manifested form.

Some of our earliest cultural texts allude to the same idea: In the beginning was the word, and the word became flesh. The idea is made real, through the creative process.

Dr. Jeffrey Kripal has postulated in his book Authors of the Impossible: The Paranormal and the Sacred that the mystical experience is involved in a kind of 'hidden structure of reality' that is paradoxical to our normal way of thinking or being. Through perception, there is the mental or the material. You have a mental image of the picture on the wall, but there's also the material aspect of it existing in consensus reality. The creative person brings the mental into material. Internal to external.

It's an interesting direction but I'm not sure it can be qualified. What we do know is that many of the things that surround a paranormal event, also surround the creative artist:

  • the anti-structural lifestyle
  • chaos, stress and suffering
  • the breaking of or engaging in, societal taboos
  • deception and illusion
  • deconstruction and liminal periods

This isn't a complete list, but there's some tandem ideas here too. Artists and their work are also agents of change. It could be argued that if form and content are inseparable, then the changes in artistic form and style signal changes in society (Look at Matisse, Picasso, Monet and the periods in which they precede.) 

Artists also have a tendency to be at times, very anti-social. Almost hermit like in some cases when deeply involved in the project. Vast amounts of time, energy and emotion go into these works - focus of intent is mandatory. That same focus can tend to drive people away. 

Dr. Jeffrey Kripal at TEDx
Dr. Kripal, in a TEDx presentation that he delivered in 2013 has a slide that reads: “The paranormal is a story waking up to it’s author.” It stands to reason that if these experiences equate to symbol and sign, narrative and story, one would expect creative persons - writers, artists, musicians, etc., to have exceptional access to these perceptions and experiences. And the Project CORE data seems to indicate that they do.

So in the end we've got creative people making up a fairly notable portion of experiencers of the paranormal, and those creatives live in the very attributes that surround paranormal events. Artists are and always have been outsiders, and because they are outsiders they are considered marginal and their experiences easily dismissed. But because of their ability to externalize the internal, they have the innate ability to excite and overwhelm others with the force of the artist's feelings through their work.

Is the paranormal a manifested response to a weird, chaotic, creative co-process? It might seem to go both ways. Some experiencers report that they didn't feel at all creative until a brush with the paranormal - and that contact resulted in a burst of the creative impulse. Like the artist, the paranormal seems to suggest things - ideas, abstract concepts, radical thoughts.

This is not to say that all experiencers of paranormal events must be creatives. However there's a lot we don't know from past events, because these types of questions and observations weren't asked (especially in the UFO field). We know that for instance, the 'Allagash abduction' individuals were all artists. (the case is fraught with issues for me due to the use of hypnosis in recalling the event, but is worth mentioning here) But as another example, what about Parker and Hickson of the Pascagoula incident? What about the Mothman witnesses? What about the Bentwaters/Woodbridge participants?

A lie that tells the truth.
Pablo Picasso once said "Art is a lie that tells the truth."  Lewis Hyde quoted this line in his book "Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth & Art" where he laid out his contention that some artists are able to embody the trickster that exists in many cultures over history. The many myths of the trickster figure paradoxically show that cultures need space for agents whose sole purpose is to expose and cause disarray to the very thing(s) that the cultures are based upon. In other words, to fly in the face of established truth. To thumb their noses to academic and scientific fact.

Agents of chaos. Of disruption. Harbingers of liminality. Sounds familiar, yes?

What could possibly stand in more direct opposition to the methodology of science and academe than the paranormal? The paranormal event is experience. It is (like art) subjective and elusive. It stands in stark contrast in and defiance of, the strict doctrine of science. And it suggests things. Ideas and concepts. It influences personal outlook and can originate religious ideology.

Stop asking why. It's not a productive question.

None of what I've written above is an answer to anything. It's just another odd consistency of the paranormal experience that leads one on other avenues of inquiry that need to be examined. We cannot give in to the easy answers and say "well, creative types just make it all up". It doesn't fit and leaves more burning questions out of the discussion.

The creative personalities seem to report more paranormal events and experiences. The artist deceives the eye through perspective, shadow and form where there is only a flat canvas. The artist is a magician. They create the picture, but the origin is the internal - externalized. It touches us inside. Deeply, and profoundly. But the artist is a marginal outsider. 

Such interesting similarities can't be ignored. This again is abstract concept - not an answer. We have to take this bit and keep it in mind moving forward. Larger surveys and professional / academic studies may prove out the creative connection to the paranormal experience - but my guess is there will always be an ambiguous connection to the artist - who like the paranormal, refuses to be nailed down. 🔻

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Performance Investigators: a Paranormal Element?

One thing there seems to be no shortage of in the paranormal: investigators. It might even be safe to say there are currently more amateur investigators in the paranormal than there are researchers working on cures for cancer. Yet the pursuit of answers in the paranormal are largely considered marginal and without value by those outside these fields, especially to those ladies and gentlemen involved with the many branches of science. Yes, we have some scientists these days becoming involved in the serious study of the enigma(s) but they are outnumbered greatly by amateur investigators. Of that rather large amateur category, serious and conscientious researchers are outnumbered by what I've recently come to call 'performance investigators' (PI) .

These performance investigators offer very little in the way of, well...even moderately substantiated raw data, but are considered by many in the paranormal fields to be of high regard. This speaks a little to the charisma factor discussed in the previous post, as the performance investigators are more about the action of being seen performing investigations than gaining or presenting results.

Think about that for a second. To be seen in the act of data collection or investigation is the main point for a PI. You'll see the them posting a lot of photos of themselves "in the field" on social media of every kind - but ask yourself how many times you've seen any real results? One particular figure in the UFO community has plenty of photos posted on Facebook with them collecting on-site material samples of all kinds - but that same figure has never once posted any kind of analysis result of those samples. It's all about being seen in the act.

Ghost hunters are rich with this sort of thing and the performance attribute is quite over the top. It's tough work apparently, to be seen bathed in that green night vision haze - to the point that one fairly public ghost hunter says she develops makeup for women that makes them look good through night vision cameras (if that doesn't tell you it's all about being seen, I'm not sure what will). It seems that many in that genre feel the need to have a well-filtered head shot, and post regularly about their paranormal exploits, as well as every conflict entanglement they encounter (which are often many - we've discussed this before here). Then you'll see the many posts threatening to quit the paranormal field because they 'simply can't take the drama anymore'. These posts are cryptically written to garner sympathetic 'are you ok?' posts from fans, begging them to stay. They of course had no intention of leaving anyway - it's all part of the facade that keeps follower entertained.

Most are not even remotely versed in parapsychological history, or any matter of investigative techniques such as (double blind location tests) and rely on results from fraudulent or faulty 'tools' such as ghost boxes, K2 meters and phone apps to name only a few.  The entire paranormal field (of which I include the UFO field as well) have long had their own ideologies based on very little - and those largely baseless notions have been built upon to the point where it becomes accepted fact. But the PI's have their own subculture of belief that is structured around them. They are the direct line of action with the phenomena they are allegedly investigating. But 'investigating' isn't really the right term when you see posts like: "the spirits at the (insert location here) were so responsive tonight and we're so happy to have re-connected with them again!". This is not investigation. Not when you're speaking of the phenomenon like it's an old college buddy. 

It's theater. 

Who said you have to ghost hunt in the dark?
Not only are they building a narrative that they connected with a paranormal entity, but they're building a brand - their brand. Not surprisingly, followers flock in droves to these PI, because they build (knowingly or unknowingly) a belief-based community support system for many. There are also PI that build a large following, not due to their 'investigations' or any footage or audio they may garner - but due to their physical appearance alone.

There I said it. Due to their physical appearance alone. We have male oriented ghost hunting groups with promotional photos that look more like a pro wrestling or Affliction clothing ad, and female ghost hunting groups or teams that look like the members are bucking more for a modeling contract than paranormal evidence. This is not to say attractive men and women can't be interested in the paranormal, or even that they can't present themselves however they want - but these groups and teams are often the most vocal in complaints that 'no one takes them seriously', or publicly pout when no one wants to hear about their new version of quantum theory which explains the paranormal (which often has nothing to do with theory and little to do with the accepted terminologies of science). 

How serious can you be taken if most of what you post on Facebook involves more about you and your public persona and less about the study you claim to 'live for'?  I think we'd all love to see one piece of interesting or compelling evidence, rather than another cross armed 'badass' ground perspective photo of you in low light, or another bikini body or boudoir shot from a 'serious investigator'. Yes, these folks have even taken to signing autographs at conventions. It's self-made celebrity at it's best.

Don't question, just circle the wagons
This kind of thing is relegated to show business. It's marketing and promotion. And sadly, it's gained a lot of ground in the paranormal community. These PI have a lot of sway over public opinion these days, because they appear to be doing investigations. They've achieved a low-level, cult celebrity status - and for that reason many attribute legitimacy to their 'evidence' where there is none. The false 'facts' are hardened and defended, if for no other reason than the PI says it is so. Any reasonable challenge to the status quo in that department is met with 'we don't care what you believe, go away!'. The wagons are circled, and the PI's heap praise on their fans for defending them against the evil folks who would question their 'results' or call out their nonsensical ideologies.

Now I'm sure you're asking 'whats this have to do with trickster theory and the paranormal?'

Because the 'performance investigators' are textbook examples of the marginal people attracted to the paranormal fields. They deem themselves 'professionals', but any educated professional in a field of serious inquiry would find the PI public persona and their 'research', an affront to anything meaningful or worthy of further examination. It's not only the content they produce, it's the face that the PI put on the field of research: an exceedingly marginal one. Through relentless self promotion, PI are often the most visible in our paranormal communities, and therefore present the most accessible target for fundamentalist skeptics to make examples of. The skeptical community will more often than not gravitate to the low hanging fruit for their easy dismissal of the paranormal 'myth'.

The commerce of the performance investigator
With the ease of use and accessibility of live streaming, and audio podcasts, PI have essentially started their own television channels with all the cult of personality you could want. Watch the show, live chat with the PI, and buy the shirt/mug/hat on your way out. One of the attractive parts of the show is that unlike Ghost Hunters or Ghost Adventures - you can actually interact with your favorite PI and get a response in most cases. They're accessible.

But they're accessible because they want your attention, and your support (financial and numbers to sustain their popularity). Your 'likes' and 'follows', and your 5 star reviews. Of course one of the main drives to the PI teams is the promise of a network television program of their own. Seeing that they aren't getting any attention from the network scouts, they'll tout associations with online networks and pay-for-investigate locations as some kind of major opportunity they've landed. Others will say they are 'on location filming' for whatever video they plan to release to YouTube or sell as a DVD. It's all a way to sound important, always relevant and in demand. 

Yes, without a doubt there is a multitude of human behavior issues at play here. No one is going to debate that - but it starts with the marginal figures that end up in these positions in the paranormal - those who can't seem to get arrested in any other field. You see these traits over, and over in the paranormal, and these people often end up in a position of influence or authority - despite the fact that they have not made any significant contribution to the understanding of the subject. They are also often lacking in any standing of academe. 

No. Just no.
This doesn't happen in medical science, biology, cosmology, aeronautics, astrophysics...etc. It happens all the time in the paranormal. And I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to see Neil deGrasse Tyson or Lawrence Krauss striking their best muscle tee poses.

But here's the rub: because the PI are marginal figures, it should not be discounted that they may obtain more interesting data or experience more paranormal activity (even though they may grossly overstate what they do get).

PI have an interesting set of common traits that might facilitate them potentially getting more paranormal activity:
  • are almost exclusively, very marginal figures.
  • often do not have full time employment, but supplement their paranormal income with part time self employment side jobs (i.e. - cosmetic sales/parties, online affiliate sales programs etc) which results in an inordinate amount of free time for self promotion. There exists an inherently anti-structural lifestyle for many.
  • buy into and often promote instrumentation that blurs the line of evidence into ambiguous (at best) and contentious data: Ghost boxes, Frank's box, 'communication' via K2 meter or any other device or app that provides what are considered false positives.
  • are frequently steeped in conflict (not an exclusive PI trait as we know).
  • are often not particularly well-educated.
  • try frequently to portray themselves in an academic light, but are often transparently not what they are trying to present. There is a public persona that rarely matches the reality.
These are commonalities anyone can note, but it doesn't mean they all apply to all instances of PI. But we know what seems to surround paranormal activity - and that it is prone to self-negation. It would be easy to dismiss out of hand, any 'evidence' brought forth by a PI. Under serious discussion of topics and issues known about in standard parapsychological circles for decades - the PI would likely not be able to participate. They are simply not approaching the study from that direction - the majority of them approach the topic from a very surface level perspective and no deeper: the ghost / EVP phenomena is the dead, the UFO issue is extraterrestrials, etc.

PI are often not familiar with even common terms for qualifying their results or tools. At right is part of a discussion I had asking if a particular ghost hunting app has ever had a double blind test of it's reliability. I was met with extreme hostility, not only from the app's creator and his apparent wife, but by those who were his obvious fans. I've obliterated the names here to avoid conflict (thats not what this blog is for) but have identified the players in the discussion. I have the entire discussion which is an astounding read - but this excerpt illustrates the point well. A question about a double blind trial being run on an app that claims to collect paranormal evidence (at the very least) is met with "You're asking kind of a stupid question". It's glaringly apparent that the app creator (the claimed king of paranormal apps) doesn't even understand the term, or the question. Any question beyond praise of his app by his fans is considered an insult or an attack. 

By the end of this 'discussion' the app creator's wife said it best: "There is no due diligence here"  in response to me saying that all I was asking for was some moderate due diligence on qualifying the application's results. It was very clear that neither the app creator or his wife had any idea what the very basic terms meant, because they made themselves look pretty foolish while trying to chastise me for even asking. Her last words are "The fact that you are asking about double-blind studies is enough to know idgaf (I don't give a f**k)"

That point, was crystal clear.

The entire discussion is not unique, and over the years (this example is from 2015) I've encountered more of this same type of discussion from the paranormal community PI contingency. It's an irrational argument from the very start - even if you are polite. 

You don't find this in other studies like you do the paranormal. Clearly, the above example of marginal people, not even remotely familiar with basic terminology of investigation (and critical discussion) are seated in positions of authority - and some are making the tools by which others depend upon to garner their results. It becomes a mess quickly, and those unfamiliar will pick up the tool, or pretense as factual or worthy of consideration.

I believe is that we can more or less categorize the end-results of certain people, and their effects on the public perception of the paranormal. Performance investigators could be called 'mudders'. With high profile appearances, they inject a lot of junk data. They dump a lot of mud into the water - many misconceptions, assumptions, and ideology building. But they also might have a predisposition to get real interesting experiences. Through their actions they taint the field(s) and assure it's continued marginal status. Through relentless self-promotion, they command a willing audience. The idea that all these things also line up with people who can't seem to get arrested in any other field? It's far too much to ascribe to chance.

All of this said, I am not naming names, or pointing fingers. That is not the point here - calling people to task is fine if you think you're going to change something. Many would argue with me on this point: there is no changing the way the field(s) work or who commands audiences in them. My intent here is not to enact change in anything that the field is - but to identify the consistencies of the effects and attributes of the field(s), what they do and how we can avoid issues the study of the paranormal subject presents. 

Look closer, you will.
The performance investigator - seemingly more prolific in the ghost research field than the UFO field - is only a symptom of something bigger. That bigger 'something' is still undefined, yet we can see the connective tissues all around it. Think of it like an explosion where there's all matter of damage and burn marks, but the ground zero point is devoid of anything. Or a better analogy is Obi-Wan's missing planet from Star Wars as he searched for the clone army creators on Kamino. All the gravity and stars were pulled to a point where a planet should be. But there wasn't one to be seen on the hologram map.

It was there, but hidden from the Jedi. The same could be said for the paranormal - we can see the pull, the effect, and the aftermath - but in the middle we see only thin air. When we become transfixed on the pull, the effect, the aftermath - we lose sight of the target.  This is where I think a good chunk of the paranormal public's focus resides.

We have so much more yet to discover - but the first steps are identifying the surrounding elements - some of them detrimental to any serious study - and learning how to work within them, around them and most importantly learning to expect them. Everything we have discussed on this blog is a symptom, and undercurrent. Possibly even the phenomenon itself is a symptom of something much larger, and far more complex.

Liminal people, places, and things. Anti-structural lives, situations and places. Societal taboos and the process of creativity, narrative and story. Charisma. Hoaxes, frauds and lies. Chaos, upheaval and disarray. A host of other things yet to be discussed here (including the numinous). These are all associated with the paranormal and involvement with it. To make forward momentum in study of the paranormal (sometimes by direct interactions), one has to be cognizant that these traits are inescapably intertwined

They are not reactions or responses to the paranormal - they are a part of it's face. 🔻

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Dungeons, Dragons and the Real World

If you're around the paranormal field(s) long enough, eventually you see patterns. Patterns in people, in cases and their investigations, and patterns in who is attracted as a supporter of whatever 'evidence' is presented. In tandem with the main focus of this post is an effect that I've been interested in for a long time now: that some investigators and witnesses are playing a real life role-playing game of some kind. You can even see this kind of role-playing between two or more investigators. 

Like many of the traits we discuss here, this type of role-play seems unique to the paranormal fields and their participants - you simply don't find this in other areas of investigation or inquiry.

I've called it the 'adult version of Dungeons & Dragons' in years past, because I watched several occasions of paranormal train wrecks where clearly sensible and otherwise sane people accepted extremely flimsy case data or research which allowed them to proceed further into what could only be called fantasy. 

But were they conscious of the action? Hard to say. However when real world consequences intrude into their case - this seems to be the way they 'snap out' of the game. Swept up in belief and willing to accept things that otherwise they would not? Perhaps.

George Hansen would later point out to me that the paranormal, and 'Dungeons & Dragons' (D&D) both give access to otherworldly creatures and mythological themes. That immediately made me focus on the 'dungeon master' - the one in the driver's seat and often the most charismatic storyteller or personality in the group. Charisma is another common trait and seems entwined (in my mind) with the role-play aspect seen with many paranormal 'investigators'. You'll be able to identify some minor charismatic UFO or paranormal personalities right away: they're the more 'colorful" folks who are prone to 'posing' in selfie or group photos. They often present themselves as intellectuals or have a tendency to quote lofty prose. But, you'll find these personalities have very little to offer of substance, and tend to parrot or regurgitate other's work more than originate their own.

Actual UFO case researchers that have been involved in high profile events and maintain the public's attention over an extended time are also charismatic personalities. You'll often see reviews of a paranormal researcher's lecture saying "He/she is a very charismatic speaker..." Charisma is very interesting from the standpoint of our discussions here on the blog. It's definition reads:

noun: charisma; plural noun: charismata
  1. 1.
    compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others.

    "she enchanted guests with her charisma"

    synonyms:charmpresencepersonality, force of personality, strength of character;
  2. 2.
    a divinely conferred power or talent.

Max Weber, an enormously influential individual in the realms of sociology, wrote in his 1913 book 'Economy and Society' saying that charisma: "applied to a certain quality of an individual personality by virtue of which he is considered extraordinary and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities. These are such as are not accessible to the ordinary person, but are regarded as of divine origin or as exemplary.”

In the UFO subject, speakers are often referred to or billed as "authorities" or an "authority on UFOs". There are 3 types of authority in society 1) Legal/Rational authority, 2) Traditional authority (which through rationalization eventually becomes legal authority) and 3) Charismatic authority. 

The charismatic authority is known to be transient, and erupts at periods of change or desperation for change. (Sound familiar readers??) As long as charismatic leaders deliver to the satisfaction of the target base they maintain their stature. The minute they don't the position of authority is taken away from them. Charismatic authority seems quite fragile in this way.

We know that in UFOlogy, those who produce content and deliver it with charisma are the most successful and patronized. They are featured on podcasts, television, radio and print media. But what happens when they cease giving the audience what it wants? They fall out of favor (along with their theories or ideologies), and are often completely forgotten. However, new material isn't always needed and if charismatic enough, one can ride the same story or thread for many years (Stanton Friedman is a good example).

The UFO figureheads are well aware of this and the dynamic exists all over the field, but for our example, let's look at the 'abduction' research area.

The David Jacobs research subject known as "Emma Woods" remarked that Jacobs became upset that he'd spent so much time with her, because she was a part of his next book - when they suddenly fell out over the rather disturbing tactic of hypnotically suggesting the idea to her that she had multiple personality disorder (now known as Dissociative Indentity Disorder). The reason for this tactic? Allegedly to shield himself from her hybrid aggressors who he believed had threatened and were after him - because of some anonymous instant messages on the internet. Jacobs was shaken out of the role-play position when Emma said she was going to publicly speak about their falling out. At that point he was seriously concerned about his credibility and how he'd be viewed for his actions in the case - because he would no longer be dungeon master of the game and conduct the narrative. If you choose to you can read all about the Woods case here.

Carol Rainey, former wife of noted researcher Budd Hopkins has stated that Hopkins was 'always looking for the next big story', and would ignore certain telling facts about any given case to make the story line work. But when claims of attempted murder and abduction (by humans) entered into the  'Linda Cortile' case - Hopkins and others in support of the case refused to report the event to law enforcement authorities. If the supposed landmark case was true and to be believed as Hopkins contended, then the logical step upon hearing about the abduction and attempted murder of the woman you're researching should be to contact law enforcement. Clearly, Hopkins didn't really put stock into the event as real - but rather as something else, unworthy of reporting to the Police.

In both instances, the role-play was broken when the real world consequences intruded into play. 

Carol also remarked in a recent email to me that "Although Budd and Dave Jacobs held the same views on the UFO/abduction phenomenon, practiced their work in much the same way, shared certain abductees back and forth, and were best friends, Budd always wielded more influence in the field than Dave, in my opinion, because he had the charisma and his friend did not."

Ms. Rainey further added that, "Budd's charisma often came out of being quick-witted and humorous - both of which are attractive traits in a leader."

I would argue that Hopkins and Jacobs were both charismatic figures in abduction research (with Hopkins having more than Jacobs, hence his bigger influence as a leader in the field) and that in their attempt to deliver as charismatic leaders - both succumbed to the D&D factor - co-creating and role-playing to continue to deliver to their community and keep their position of authority.

Hansen states in 'The Trickster and the Paranormal' that "Charisma is also intimately linked with communitas and with mysticism" and that "Pure charisma, like liminality, is directly linked with the supernatural."

"Communitias" for those unfamiliar with the word, means "an unstructured community in which people are equal" and "Communitas is characteristic of people experiencing liminality together." - a more perfect definition the paranormal 'fields' would be tough to find.

I should note that this is not limited to the abduction research area. It exists in many different facets of the UFO and paranormal interests.

Stephen Greer is a very charismatic personality in the field, promising contact and disclosure that changes our lives from spiritual awakening to alternate and unlimited power sources. Remember that "Charismatic leaders promise change in the future for the society and also change people's attitudes and values; in this way, charismatic authority is revolutionary in a way that traditional and legal-rational authority are not." Greer doesn't deliver on disclosure of course, nor on an alien body, nor alien contact, but history shows he'll present another proposed trajectory toward amazing discovery and garner donations from his willing supporters. While Greer has not delivered on his 'promises' as a leader has caused many to abandon him, what's really interesting about charismatic leaders is not just the leaders themselves, but the devotion of their followers who at times fall into disciple-like roles. Ask yourself, could there be D&D type attributes going on here - especially in Greer's 'contact' outings to vector in supposed craft? Easy answer. 

Richard Dolan is a good example of a UFO researcher, historian and conspiracy theorist with plenty of charisma. He's also an author of some great UFO literature, UFOs and the National Security State is required reading for anyone interested in alleged government involvement in the UFO issue. He contends there is a massive government cover-up of the UFO phenomena, and 'delivers' to his audience by way of official documents and well-researched historical UFO accounts, mixed with tales of 'inside contacts' that allegedly feed him tidbits of information. The 'inside contact' names are not revealed publicly, so one must take him at his word not only that the contacts are not misleading him, but that they exist at all. With his charisma and delivery, his followers seem to have no doubts. Dolan does deliver, because he doesn't promise anything. He writes a good book and delivers fine lectures on the subject. If there's someone waiting in the wings to pick up where ever Friedman leaves off, it's Richard Dolan (That's no small task, btw). But his public forays into more political discussions and highly questionable events like the Roswell Slides debacle seem to have cost him some loyal followers in UFO circles. The majority of his audience seem quite devout and with that, Richard can seemingly do no wrong. The role-play attributes may exist here either between Dolan and his alleged 'insiders', Dolan and his audience, or both. 

Steve Bassett is another interesting example. The charismatic leader of Paradigm Research Group (although I don't think any of us have seen any actual 'research' into the phenomenon from PRG) who has for years promised disclosure (even giving dates) and has repeatedly failed to deliver to his followers. Stating as recently as 2016"This [UFO Disclosure] will be a reality this year and across the front pages of newspapers across the world. The most significant news story that has ever been broken” Bassett's following is probably the most steeply declined of all our examples after repeated touts of the dismantling of the truth embargo (as he calls it) has resulted in no materialization of anything even close. The role-play seems to be in full swing here, both in the follower's perception of Bassett and that of his alleged truth embargo.

I should note here that all our examples have claimed to have 'insider' contacts from whom they garner some astounding revelations. Bassett, at the 2008 X-Conference panel discussion when asked 'what evidence there is that the UFO phenomena was extraterrestrial in nature', claimed that one of his 'insiders' had told him that the center of E.T. and government contact (on a regular basis) is happening in West Virginia - and that the E.T. presence is "confirmed" and "absolutely certain". And, he could tell you more...but it wouldn't be "appropriate"

Bassett, who's supposed primary concern is the facilitation of disclosure, isn't disclosing here. I encourage you to watch the hubris of his performance at the provided link - it's a great example of a charismatic leader responding to a direct challenge of his promoted ideology.

None of our examples, who are all public champions of UFO disclosure ever see fit to expose these 'insiders', and pull on these threads that could potentially begin unraveling the cover up they so adamantly believe exists (or at least expose those who are apparently involved). No pressure is ever brought to bear for their cause. Like many others in the field, this 'insider' information only serves to titillate, and bolster the charismatic leader's presentation to his followers. It holds no more meaning than that when you really think about it. Again, when the real world intrudes with it's obvious questions, the role-play falls apart under scrutiny.

I'm sure there would be all matter of excuses as to why these folks and others who've made disclosure a big part of their public repertoire don't act upon these opportunities. Any excuse would serve not to answer, but to deepen the appearance of mystery and intrigue - thereby enhancing their charismatic status. That just seems to be how it works. And it clearly, works.

The charismatic King, when failing to deliver is reduced to pawn.
I have to stress again that failure to deliver means to be relegated back to that of ordinary person in society - especially in a communitias like UFOlogy or the paranormal. Kings are often reduced to pawns in short order. We're seeing that happen, and it's happened over and over in the paranormal field for decades on end. These are only a few examples and I'm sure you can think of others. By the way, none of my examples were meant as an attack of any kind, but it's impossible to talk about all these liminal and anti-structural areas of the paranormal and not mention examples by name for you to examine yourself. 

Is it possible to discard the charismatic figure because they seemingly want only to feed the masses by any means necessary to retain their role? Can we separate who might be providing good research by becoming aware of charismatic attributes? It seems impossible to steer public opinion away from an engaging speaker or presenter and instead have them listen to one who doesn't have that charisma. Perhaps the answer to these questions is somewhere in the middle. It truly does seem to be a supernatural trait.

The liminal state as we know is one of transition, and the pure charismatic leader is a response to the need for transition and/or change itself - in a community comprised of those experiencing liminal events. The charismatic community leader must produce results or be discarded and forgotten.

Sounds like the paranormal field to me. 🔻

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Paranormal: Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Back in the Water

By now if you've been reading this blog from the start, you ought to be able to recognize some basic trickster-type elements within paranormal accounts. More than a few people have written in about identifying these divisive, derailing aspects early on in an effort to sidestep them in their own experiences and research. Is it possible? I would say yes. But, it requires you to often step away from whatever you're studying or investigating to regain perspective - and that ain't easy.

Here's a good analogy: You want to see the pretty fish in the water. But the water is rippled, and while you can see the quick silver flashes of movement, 'going in' would offer a far better view. So you stick your head and face into the water.

There the silver flashes of movement become form, color and take on a whole other life. It's so engaging that you're pulled in. Every scale is so perfectly aligned. The eyes look at you curiously, and then quickly descend into the murky water as another comes up to your face to have a look. You are enraptured. Beautiful.

Oh yeah. You're also drowning. But it's easy. You still feel engaged. You've become so obsessed with the fishies, you've forgotten where you are. You've lost all perspective. You have two choices - come up for air, right now, or suffocate. 

Drowning in astonishment
The fish are of course, whatever paranormal phenomena you're trying to examine. They are so ill-perceived through the ripples of ambiguity the enigma is wrapped in, that you wind up going underwater (or becoming semi-obsessed with solving the mystery).  You go all in. There is the spot where this phenomena seems to want you to be. This is the best vantage point for you to be in, by virtue of how it presents.

This can be a dangerous place for investigators. It's not only a place where you become enraptured and more prone to belief rather than facts. It's the old issue of wanting it to be true, or wanting it not to be true. You can also in some cases find yourself in situations you didn't bargain for (i.e. having strange events happening to you rather than you studying someone having them. More on that in future posts)

For many, this is obsession. The obsession is to my eye a part of the nature of the phenomena upon engaging with it, or the study of it. This goes far beyond the desire to solve a mystery. Seasoned investigators will know precisely what I'm talking about (even though few will admit it - the late Dick Hall and I spoke about this at length). The obsessive nature of the study is well known and I've even written about it even in regards to those looking to debunk a case or it's promoting personalities. There's a tendency to prove or disprove far beyond doubt - and often light years past what is required for debunking. 

A good chunk of UFO investigators and 'researchers' (armchair or otherwise) are drowning. A major portion of the ghost research community have succumbed to an acute lack of oxygen (see: facts) and can now tell you not only that the ghost is real, but why the ghost is there, what they want and how they can send them on to the other side. All without determining what the 'ghost'...is. The lack not only of critical thought, but the complete abandon of genuine curiosity and the subscription to absurd beliefs is astounding in ghost circles. If you pay attention to some of the more vocal personalities in that community it's almost comedic. Of course the UFO field and it's personalities aren't really much better.

This begs the question: does the marginal personalities that the field(s) seem to attract allow for dismissal of their investigative results? No. In fact, you sometimes find that the more marginal, haphazard and disorganized a team is, the more likely they are to get phenomena to appear. Because, the phenomena is surrounded by these traits. The self-negation aspect comes into full swing here - you can't take their evidence seriously because of how chaotic their investigation method is, and how they are all predisposed to jump to paranormal conclusions. The evidence no matter how compelling on it's face, remains cloaked in ambiguity.

Can well organized and level headed teams get results as well? Sure. But we know that structure, routine and stability are antithetical to the paranormal. One might expect to see less results in such a team. They may be organized and structured, and still be put into very liminal situations to obtain interesting results. How they proceed from there may dictate their success.

Back away and separate - you'll gain perspective
How to avoid drowning (or losing the critical thinking faculty)? Make a habit of backing away somewhat frequently. And not just backing away, but moving your attention into another interest altogether. This may sound simple, but when you ask investigators to do this, they find it to be amazingly difficult.

I liken this a little bit to what we've spoken about at some length here: ritual. Detaching yourself from this pursuit is needed to 'ground' yourself once again - well outside of the proximity of where you've been in trying to study the phenomenon - ensconced in liminality and anti-structure. Get yourself back into routine. When you come back to the case study you're undertaking in a week or so - I guarantee you'll see things much clearer. But, you have to detach from it completely. Don't dwell or ponder on it - let it go.

For ghost hunting groups? After an investigation, the team should go out and eat together. Don't discuss the night's events. Make that a rule. The act of eating, drinking, even smoking are affirmations of life. You've just spent the entire night supposedly searching for the remnants of the dead. The ritual of feasting grounds you, and draws that line between the perceived dead and the living. Remember, "you shall not pass" - but I'm not talking about the dead following you home. I'm talking about the line of demarcation between the liminal, the anti-structured, and the routine needed to gain perspective and keep critical thought. You'll find the events of the night are easier to let go of after eating, talking and laughing with your friends. Conflicts that may have happened during the investigation should be far easier to blow off. If not, voice them after the food an drink are gone.  But realize, and know, that you putting yourself into the paranormal's surrounding effects by trying to study it - will result in conflict of one kind or another. Recognizing this is often the first step in resolution before it becomes an issue.

It all sounds simple doesn't it? But you'd be surprised the amount of ghost groups that conduct an investigation to disband after, go home and head directly to bed. Think of it like swimming and getting directly into bed without changing. You're laying in it. This gives you time to dwell, ponder, which leads to obsessing...and along the way you lose the critical facilities that you rely upon. Ancient people's held ritual and drew lines between them and odd phenomena for a reason. Even though we may not know what it is, or how it works, it's worth taking their lead - they enacted such things after seeing these kinds of conflicts and turmoil.

To fail to disconnect periodically from these studies is to become less critical of it. I saw some years ago, prolific writer Nick Redfern say something akin to that his writing is a job and he treats it as such. He doesn't live for the subjects he covers, and he more or less admonished those who do the dance 24/7. Perhaps this is why Nick hasn't gone off the rails as so many others in the UFO and paranormal fields do. This is not an endorsement of everything Nick writes, but rather how he conducts his research efforts. He uses structure.
Ritual is still here. It just changes form.

And this is really one of the keys to sidestepping that effect as near as I've been able to figure out. But the important thing to remember is that this isn't a psychological effect on only a subset of people. It happens to everyone from the novice to the PhD, to the skeptic (notice that some of the proposed skeptical explanations to paranormal events are almost more ridiculous and far reaching than the original claim itself is?) and on to the field researchers. You do not see this kind of obsession and loss of critical thought (or on this scale) in any other field of inquiry. I'll go out on a limb and say it again: this seems to be a unique factor/effect in the paranormal fields, and seems to be within the framework in which the paranormal operates. To relegate the effects to mind / psychology is to ignore the overwhelming amount of people affected (and the predictability of it), in addition to the other consistencies we've spoken about on this blog. Psychology is ill-equipped to handle or explain the effect.

In the end, is the detachment 'ritual' going to work 100%? I can't say that. Again, if you're looking for consistencies in the nature of paranormal effects - you're in the wrong place. I will say this: if you're honest with yourself and earnestly try to put detachment and separation lines into practice you'll note the difference in those who don't. I encourage you even to try an experiment with your group: try separation actions with half your team and let the other half do what they want. Have them investigate the same case. Note the reactions and collection of data. Who had more success? How were the results or collected data parsed out and interpreted between the two groups? I think you'll see interesting outcomes.

I should note this is only one aspect to try and sidestep. Conflicts are going to happen, trolls come out of the woodwork in he paranormal, and you'll see that ordinarily sensible people will unable to grasp basic concepts (which I encountered a great example of on a Facebook thread as I wrote this post). It's how you recognize, identify and deal with these things that ultimately keep you on the rails of progress (or the attempt at such) or derail you into chaos and petty conflict that get you nowhere in actually studying the phenomenon. At that point you're just embroiled in verbal blood sport - you're not actively doing anything you set out to do - study the paranormal.

Let me know how these things work for you should you decide to put them into practice. 🔻