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-This is the best vantage point for you to be in, by virtue of how it presents.
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 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. 🔻

Friday, April 28, 2017

The UFO/Paranormal Coup

The line in the sand may likely fall in the middle
These days it's not hard to see it on social media outlets or hear it on podcasts and radio: the need to 'reform' UFOlogy, or the paranormal subject. While it's certainly an admirable idea across the board, and I certainly understand the drive to make it happen, there's one problem: it won't work. And I'm not denigrating anyone who's trying - years ago Jeremy and I tried to force the hand of the UFO community to examine itself while trying to make a totally new UFO field - one not based upon old, tired data but experimental thinking. Needless to say it never gelled, and while we made a modest impact in regard to the Hopkins/Jacobs/Regression Hypnosis problem, proponents of that garbage are still lecturing and appearing as guests on internet/radio programs.

George Hansen, speaking to Jeremy at a conference in New Jersey many years ago now was the first to make the point that we were blissfully unaware of at the time: that trying to reform or enact widespread change in regard to the paranormal isn't going to work, when the very thing you're trying to study exists within a context of anti-structure and marginality. It exists ensconced in the things one wants to change.

By examining the surrounding tenets of paranormal events (as we've been discussing on this blog) we see that the structured, repeatable, stable and routine (and others) are pernicious to the paranormal. We can't pretend we know why the paranormal is so steeped in chaos and change, and encompassed in marginal elements - we can only note that it is. Recognition of these patterns and documenting them is half the battle. Accepting and integrating them is the other.

Efforts at scientific data gathering are always to be encouraged - but scientific rationale of the data collected will see most of that information discarded because it doesn't align with modern day scientific scrutiny. Scientific data gathering doesn't currently allow for questions that would focus upon the anti-structural elements (among others) and I'm sure that there wouldn't be much use for questions or methodologies that immediately marginalize the thing you're trying to study. The entire premise may find itself well off the target it's trying to hit - because there's no sights on the gun.

On-site scientific data collection and analysis is also costly. As mentioned on this blog, the funding just isn't available, because the public at large doesn't support serious inquiry into these topics. In fact, the populace sides against this type of study - evident by the operating budgets of CSICOP vs MUFON, and their subscribers/readers. The interest is there, but the money doesn't follow. When a case involving a ranch that had significant strange activity was discovered - it was privately funded and all scientifically collected data that came from it has never been released to the public.

Michael Huntington in his paper, "A NEW UFOLOGY: A Critical Examination of the Current State of Ufology and Ideas for Reform" states:

"The UFO Culture needs to be less biased towards ETH, less New Age, less Cult-like, less money-oriented, less commercially-oriented, less celebrity oriented, and less biased against skeptical viewpoints and Mainstream Science/Academia. There needs to be better delineation of Ufology from the paranormal realm (Ancient Aliens, Bigfoot, Spiritualism, etc.) that now cross-pollinates and influences the UFO field."

This is a tall order, and one that's impossible for the UFO field to adhere to. First, to remove the cultish, wish-fulfillment, celebrity oriented mess that it is now means that entire structure has to be torn down. And that's not going to happen anytime soon. This in the end is what the public at large wants. Pouring over scientific data isn't fun. It's also not entertaining. It's hard work that requires thought, dedication and critical thinking. I only need point out Project CORE, a 2-year long preliminary study of those people who report paranormal events. CORE was anticipated for well over a year, involved 3 full-time working research scientists, myself and Jeremy Vaeni and over 200 participants - and was complete with a synopsis of results and full commentaries - it was largely ignored. It's initial year in public view after publication garnered page views of a little over 20. 

I believe it was so under viewed because it didn't make wild speculations or conclusions and was labeled as a first step. It also didn't ask questions that were predisposed to get us positive paranormal results (like the F.R.E.E. survey currently does. For instance, we didn't ask things like "Can you describe what group of ETs have you observed?"). The CORE survey questions were specifically formulated in tandem with working scientists to make the questions as balanced as possible, and afterwards those results were cross referenced probably more than most paranormal surveys ever have been. CORE answered the community call for science to get involved in this area - but in the end, the public simply wasn't interested. But even that, in the end, is something learned.

The preliminary look...
CORE is certainly not the first to experience the crickets - this as it turns out is not uncommon. It's part and parcel to how the field(s) work. Scientific or academic work is ignored, and sensational nonsense is elevated for all eyes to see. (Compare Project CORE's visibility to the Roswell Slides, the Haiti UFO Footage or the Linda Howe touted Drone fiasco.) Now while it may sound like I'm bitter about this (well ok, I am to a point) I recognize that this should in no way dissuade me from CORE Phase II. This is simply the way the field responds to this kind of work. It's no one's fault, and you have to expect that going in. Those that actually want to see attempts at scientific / academic work, specifically in UFOlogy are a minority in the grand scheme.

As far as 'less celebrity oriented'? Well, try and speak that to the droves of people who voraciously support UFO celebs. I respect Michael and his drive in this subject very much - but if one is going to call for the removal of celebrity and sensationalism in the UFO field, one should stop supporting that very thing by going to conferences - unless one is reaching for that same brass ring. (Although Mike is a travel writer, and that is ultimately content for him.)

The celebs and their devoted fans are another interesting wrinkle in the subject. Many fans will ardently defend their hero no matter how far afield they fly from their initial trajectory. It's part of the loss of critical thought so often seen in paranormal fields. Celebrities often fill a void for fans: they are the public mouthpiece that validates their own preconceived notions. This provides a shortcut to pseudo-confirmation for those who don't want to do direct study and experimentation of the phenomenon. They put all their marbles in one bag and defend it not always due to being enamored with the celebrity, but because the celebrity represents their beliefs. 

The one and only issue
As Dr, Tyler Kokjohn  wrote in Paratopia Magazine : 

"...the consumers of books, articles and videos play a unique and crucial role as the ultimate evaluators of quality. Your decisions will determine the evidentiary standards and research conduct that will prevail in this field."

Another quote from Huntington's paper reads:

"There needs to be better delineation of Ufology from the paranormal realm (Ancient Aliens, Bigfoot, Spiritualism, etc.) that now cross-pollinates and influences the UFO field." 

This is a good example of the self-defeating nature of 'reform' I mentioned earlier. Many reform proponents want to draw a line between 'paranormal' and 'UFO', when that line is exceedingly blurred by the study of UFOs in the first place. The crossover phenomena is something that I think many see these days. While it's not an end to explain anything, it's a thread that needs to be explored and studied. Even Jacques Vallee (a reclusive UFO  'celebrity') who's studied the phenomenon longer than most of us alive today, has largely dismissed the notion of an isolated UFO study, and has spoken about and studied crossover type phenomena. Segregation and isolation of the UFO subject from other areas of paranormal events would be a mistake, just as much as isolation from the study of consciousness and perception would be, Such things are obviously intertwined with the UFO sighting and encounters with assumed occupants. 

When it comes to collecting trace evidence of a paranormal event - sure, I'm all about sterile. non-contaminating, scientifically based collection and analysis. But this brings us to the question: when it comes to UFOs - how does one separate the strange, bizarre and confounding enigma from say, the top secret military / secret commercial project? The perception twisting alien visitation, from mental aberration? There is currently, no way to effectively establish the line that does need to be drawn. Could it be possible to implement a set of questions relating to anti-structure and marginality - making note of liminal situations, places and people to perhaps give a better picture to the phenomena vs mundane question? It might. But that would require UFOlogy to abandon long standing constructs - which it shows no sign of doing. When I've mentioned some questions that might do the trick to researchers, most often I hear "What's that got to do with anything?"

You're not going to get MUFON to see these surrounding consistencies or formulate cross  pollination questions - they've been putting people into investigator positions based on an open book test for years. If reform is the target, a start a serious test that isn't open book and is administered and graded by tough academic standards would be a good place.

Huntington's reform works for some aspects of the UFO research problem - don't misunderstand me, I value his attempt. But he's far from the first to suggest such a thing, and surely won't be the last. The notion has been going around for decades. And, like all the others who tried (myself included) it just won't happen. At least not in the broad sense desired. 

It's not about reforming UFOlogy (or the paranormal studies) - it's about accepting all the self-negating, and marginal aspects that come with it. It's about expecting hoaxes and recognizing them for what they are - but it's also about accepting that they often come in the same bag as the enigma we want to study (when is the last time you saw a hoaxer interviewed as much as a witness?). We need to see that many of the UFO celebs are people who couldn't get arrested in any other field - and see that in itself as an interesting consistency that needs to be studied. There are many interesting facets that deserve study - but they aren't going to provide a brass ring. My own opinion is that researchers need to stop pursuing an 'end' or resolution of the problem. To do so means you already have an 'end' in mind. Huntington is absolutely right when he says a more neutral stance is needed - but if one were truly neutral, it's likely that one wouldn't be in this to start with. 

In the end, reform talk is good for morale, and even some aspects of practical study - but the phenomena we're all trying to study routinely blurs the boundaries of acceptance, fact, legitimacy and absurdity. Reform must account for that - but many reform parameters are counter to it. It's not that the subject is a losing battle or not worth the effort - it's about re-focusing on what happens and to whom - rather than what we think or believe that it is. Observe, Everything. Reform...you.


Michael Huntington concludes his final paragraph with "Yes, Ufology is at a crossroad in it’s long history."

It's not at a crossroad, it is the crossroad. Crossroads represent a location between worlds. On that, I couldn't agree more. 🔻








Note: Michael Huntington's well-written paper on reform was apparently plagiarized and put up for sale by someone else just as I finished this post. I think the issue has been resolved. Ufology rolls on.

My thanks to Michael for writing the paper in the first place, and as soon as he has it posted publicly I'll link it here. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

There is Indeed, Something About You

Folks have written me asking about the literary Trickster themes and how they play into, or pertain to the phenomenon.

Wikipedia says of literary Tricksters: "In mythology, and in the study of folklore and religion, a Trickster is a character in a story (god, goddess, spirit, man, woman, or anthropomorphisation), which exhibits a great degree of intellect or secret knowledge, and uses it to play tricks or otherwise disobey normal rules and conventional behaviour." Lewis Hyde describes the Trickster as 'boundary crossers'. We on this blog know what that means, and how it fits into the subject here. Tricksters disobey, violate social and natural order. More often than not, the Trickster figure will have loose gender boundaries or form variability that is slippery and indefinable. 

All of this certainly fits the Trickster archetype seen in people with connections to the paranormal. In Native American studies, we see that the clown, or Trickster is considered essential to any contact with the sacred. When sacred medicines like peyote, or the more than 200 known psilocybin mushroom varieties for example are used - the experiences are reported as 'carnival-like' or heavily laden with 'clownish' personalities. Stewardship of the sacred epiphanies are guarded by jesters. The Trickster seems to be holding the key to many of mankind's greatest questions - of course this suspicion may as well be a ruse.

I think it's a safe bet, that like our previous discussions about rituals - these themes in literature developed out of recognizing patterns in unique, often liminal life experiences or changes, and later in consistencies found in anthropological studies.

In the course of writing this blog I have personally seen a rise in the number of synchronous events. It's not unusual for me to have this happen when I'm re-engaged in the subject on some new undertaking. Not only have I wanted to write this blog for years, but I'm also finding that writing  in it flows out of me like nothing I've ever tried to do. It's also a catalyst for birthing new ideas - I'm finding that as I write and ponder, new connections present themselves in unexpected ways.

I'm not sure how many readers will know of the passing of guitar pioneer and virtuoso Allan Holdsworth on April 15th. Holdsworth was a incredibly gifted player whos influence transcended musical genres. Eddie Van Halen idolized Holdsworth, and players like the late blues/rock great Gary Moore and Journey guitarist Neal Schon called Holdsworth one of the most advanced guitar players of his time. 

Hearing the news I wanted to listen to some Holdsworth as I had been prone to do over the years, but found myself searching around for something I'd maybe not heard before. I was surprised to see that he'd played with the UK based band Level 42 in 1991 on the album Guaranteed.  Holdsworth wasn't a replacement for Level 42's guitarist, but had played with the band during some London residency gigs and was tapped to play solos on some of the Guaranteed tracks.

He wasn't a full member of the band, but he played on the record and his photos were included on the album art inserts. Guitarist Jakko Jakszyk was on the cover in the guitar slot. Holdsworth's involvement would be considered extremely liminal, as yet another guitarist would be tapped for the tour in support of the record. The guitarist slot seemed to be in a serious transitional phase.

Odd, I thought. So I search Google for Level 42 to perhaps listen to some of Holdsworth's solos on the tracks. A search returns a song at the top of the list: "Something About You". And even though Holdsworth didn't play on this album or track, I gave the video a click.



...and the Trickster smiled.

As I watched the video, I was struck by the content. The opening shot is a hallway. A liminal area between rooms in a building - where we see a blurry figure clad in a loud suit with a bowler hat and white gloves jovially bouncing around.

The tunnel and train: symbols of liminality
The next shot is the transitional: out of a tunnel, The scene is taking place on a train. A moving liminality, between outside and inside, between departure from one place and arrival to another.

Mark King, bassist extraordinaire and lead singer of Level 42 plays a dual central character - and the video opens with him asking another passenger for a cigarette - only to be refused. He seems tense. The opening word of the song is sung aloud in the train compartment with the other occupants (other band members).

"How..."

This seems to draw surprise from the others in the compartment. But it's the only word he sings out loud in the measure. How, is indeed the question of all questions.

As the song progresses King examines each of the other passengers - as he looks sardonically at his initial target, the first vignette begins...

An Artist (creative type) argues and fights with his female companion as he hangs abstract works. A mirror is seen pass by the camera view, as the two continue to bicker. Above them both, unseen, is the man in the loud suit, making jester like moves. He is above them, symbolic for a higher point of view, or overseer - a place of greater perception.

As the female is framed with a dismissive smile we see the strange man in the mirror. Mirrors of course have place in a magical significance as'otherworldly' or just out of reach. Note that the female is shaking her head and gives an eye roll at the ridiculousness of rage exhibited by the artist - who is always in close proximity to the man in the loud suit no one seems to actually see.
Trickster in the mirror

I think you already know who the odd figure is. The Trickster. He takes pleasure and dances as the artist rages on in irrational anger, and the scene ends back in the train car - just as we enter yet another tunnel...

At the moment of threshold into the darkness, an unknown force blows papers and messes up hair - the Trickster (now in disguise as, or perhaps even in possession of Mark King) finds mild amusement in the irritation of the others in the car. Native American lore refers to spirits that are said to 'ride on the cold wind, searching for paradise and the Trickster can hear what they're saying'. It certainly seems as if King is hearing something as he narrows his eyes and sights his next target: the Rebel (a marginal, anti-structural personality).

The scene opens on yet another threshold - an arched entry into a circle driveway. The Rebel pulls up in his fast car as he opens the door. As the female steps halfway in but he doesn't let her enter by moving the car. He beckons her in and pulls the same provoking, illogical move. Frustrated, she slams the car door and shouts "Go on!", waving him away. He pulls out, seeming to take pleasure in her anger. He stops halfway out the circle - he looks back as she suddenly smiles, she gets in and they pull away.

Trickster in the threshold
What could be the cause of this irrational behavior that leads to conflict? The proximity to the Trickster, who we see standing in the threshold. As the man gained distance from him, he comes to his senses. The Trickster waves them goodbye, smug with the minor discord he's sown.

As we come back to the train car - King, once again as the Trickster eyes his next target. The man pulls out...musical notations. The Musician (another creative personality).

The quick vignette opens on a large room with an small orchestra exiting their places and music stands. A black and white checkered floor - a spiritual symbol representing duality - not good nor evil. Ancient mystics also used the checkerboard pattern for opening portals of energy. The similarity  or reference to our Trickster's suit is obvious. The musician walks to the female and immediately the conflict begins - the Trickster is watching again from above, not on the floor but not on the ceiling -  a balcony area. The liminal location providing the best vantage point. He laughs as the woman bolts away in anger

As the couple leave the proximity from the Trickster behind, their contention melts away - nearly as they exit the threshold. The Trickster, seeing the two reconcile - is not amused. He realizes he can be restrained or confined, or that his influence is limited. Back on the train the Trickster as Mark has an outburst, and is restrained to his seat by the other passengers as the operative word pours from his mouth:

"...confusion."

Confusion is a central aspect to Trickster theory.

By this point as I'm watching this video unfold, my mouth is gaping at how this went from Holdsworth's death to a complete Trickster bath in two easy steps.

The Trickster laughs bathed in bright white light. He's right in your face.

We come out of the tunnel yet again, this time into light. In one of the best vocals of the 1980's Mark sings the chorus. The Trickster Mark smiles as if he's still got the game well in hand.

And he does of course.

We flash to the rebel and his lady, standing in a rape field (connected with crop circle formations - a phenomenon rich with Trickster-like aspects - you can almost picture one in the background behind the couple) at night, illuminated by the headlights of his flashy sportscar.

Trickster taking 'stage'
The Trickster takes the center stage...and one should know by now what's coming.

As he approaches the car in somewhat of a rage, in a perfect representation of contact with the anomalous - the car goes dead. The Trickster flips his walking stick with a smile.

As the Artist and his lady ascend the stairs of the studio or gallery, they are surprised by a gust of air out of nowhere and a shocked and scared look comes over them. At the same time the musician ascends a staircase in what seems to be a lighthouse (classically haunted structures, that features heavily with liminality/anti-structure) and simultaneously the couples are thrown into a high strangeness, fear inducing manifestation of some kind. We don't really see what they see - we see the Trickster figure in moments of anger - but if you think about it, we don't see the couples and the Trickster in the same frame. The Trickster enraged and present in front of all 3 personalities, screams "Nooooooooooo!".

Encounter at the field
Did the couples see a ghost, a UFO, or a strange angry man in a loud suit? We are left to guess. I find it compelling that the couple at the field are seen in the car with bright light illuminating them from above/front (UFO),

Back on the train, Trickster Mark lets out what looks like a maniacal laugh of triumph. As the train slows we arrive at the destination. Disembark. The Trickster in both forms (Mark King and the loud suit man) walks by us as we pass the female by - and realize that she is the same woman who's seen with all 3 personality types featured. Fade to black.

It's highly compelling that the couples encountered the strange manifestations of Trickster phenomena in perfect settings: the rape field at night, a rural area often associated with paranormal encounters with UFOs (and the reaction of the car going dead is a common one in such events). In the other two instances, on stairs or stairwells - a liminal place between floors. As we know from a past George Hansen interview, a place where more paranormal or ghost phenomenon is reported - or - that in some cases random number generators have shown odd readings indicating that something is off, or different about certain stairwells that have reports of ghost phenomena.

So, what to make of this? I'm struck by the amount of levels of chance and coincidence that have to occur for me to see this video, when all I was looking for was some music from a recently passed virtuoso. I'll point out here that the genesis of the series of events leading to the Trickster heavy visuals was a reaction to hearing of a death.

This video is also not just a typical Trickster story. While in literature and folk tales the Trickster does have powers of one sort or another, this video seems to connect to what we know about the Trickster and the paranormal - that paranormal events are in tandem with discord and conflict.

Blurring distinction
Note that the Trickster character in the video wears lipstick and eye makeup, and has a sort of androgynous quality even as the male sex seems to be dominant here. As we know, the Trickster is a shape-shifter, and blurs the distinction of male/female.

The video Trickster also resembles the main character in "The Entertainer" a film that stars Laurence Olivier as a failing third-rate music-hall stage performer who tries to keep his career going even as the music-hall tradition fades into history and his personal life falls apart. It's a film where Olivier's character is in a stage of chaos, discord, and over the top liminality. Was it deliberate to make the Level 42 character resemble the tragic Entertainer?  We may never know. 

I've written Mark King and asked him about the making of the video, and am currently seeking out director Stuart Orme to ask the same questions. Will I hear back from either? I don't know. This one may leave us wondering. 


Olivier's "The Entertainer"
But I cannot deny the weird set of events that led me to this video from a 1980's video that I probably flipped by hundreds of times (I was more a heavy metal guy than UK pop) on MTV. And yet here I am, writing a lengthy post (sorry) about the Trickster and a music video. I asked Seriah Askath of 'Where Did the Road Go' in a late night discussion - "am I really going to write a article on a Level 42 video??" thinking how absurd it seemed, but that the overwhelming thematic and synchronicity made it impossible for me to ignore. 

I'm beyond sure this is far from the only media that has a strange Trickster figure force. But I'm lead to wonder how much of the production examined here was deliberate - and how much was pure creative consciousness-flow from the writer/director? Did odd things happen on the set? During production? 

I'd so love to know more. But like many other aspects of this stuff it may remain a mystery. Either way, I hope readers find this interesting (as I wondered myself how many would) and worthy of reflection on the Trickster archetype in media. 🔻

My thanks to Seriah Askath for his guidance on the significance of mirrors in occultism.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Between the Lies: The Hoax and the Paranormal

Hoaxes run consistently through every paranormal interest. As technology advances, some of the fakes become increasingly complex, while others baffle as to how anyone could take them seriously in the first place.

It's often thought that these hoaxes are done for monetary gain. But when you look at the small sample of the population truly interested enough to get enough involved with any piece of 'evidence', you find that there's no real financial windfall to be had. For around 27 years I contributed to UFO research by way of visual data examination (as digital imaging has been my full-time profession my entire career). Over that time I probably looked at thousands of submitted photos and videos, and found very few to be compelling enough to remain 'unknown'. Just by virtue of being the guy who for years got visual data sent to him, I've found a lot of hoaxes and have spoken first-hand with many perpetrators of them. 

There is no key.
The interaction between myself and them was not always (in the end) terse and laden with conflict. More often than you'd think, I found people more than pleased to be released from the controversy of presenting their 'proof' to the public as legitimate. You would of course get the standard hoaxer who would curse at you and cease all communication with "I don't care what you think!" But I recall a significant amount of fakers that when caught replied with "I don't know what to say. I'm sorry to have wasted your time."

These people you could actually talk to and try to get in their heads a little about motivation. More often than you'd imagine the answer was for example, "I don't have a good reason other than I felt compelled to do it one day."  

I find it highly interesting that many hoaxers say they have no excuse for their trickery other than they 'felt compelled' to do it. Just as suddenly as they entered the field(s), these hoaxers left the momentary marginal spotlight and did not return to the UFO or paranormal fields again. It's been my experience that there are few aptly titled serial hoaxers in the UFO field, and most of the hoaxes are from one-off random people.

The 'feeling of compulsion' was noted across many fakers over years, who couldn't possibly know each other. This has also been noted in the crop circle controversy - people felt compelled to go make a crop formation, and sometimes in the process of doing just that, would witness light phenomena around them in the field.

The perfect place to hide: within the lie. Who would believe a hoaxer saying he saw phenomena as he was faking? It's between a lie, and the truth.

The internet has greatly exacerbated the hoax issue, giving world exposure from the hoaxer to the digital artist simply putting out composite video for his portfolio (never meaning for it to be taken seriously in the first place)

But let's look at what effect hoaxes have on people in the field: the discovery of a hoax, and the aftermath of the presentation that the data is demonstrably fake.

The Billy Meier case is a wonderful example, rich with fakery and trickster thematics. Anyone who's known me over the years remembers my close to 2 year involvement in demonstrating what kind of hokum this case is. The operative question is - should I have gone on that long with it?

Of course not.

(Note: while I write this blog now, in many instances I write from experience - I'm not ashamed to admit that I was as embroiled in these trickster effects as anyone in the past - until I realized that this part and parcel to the phenomena. In other words, once you know what to look out for - you can avoid certain obstacles, and almost predict timelines of action and outcomes.)

I found myself quickly at odds with Meier case believers - even long before my public examples of deception within the case. I gave a presentation in the late 90's to a conference in Washington D.C. and during the lecture mentioned that until we 'shelf things like the Billy Meier case, not much is going to be taken seriously by the public at large, much less anyone working in any branch of science'. 

After the lecture, I had a contentious encounter in the hotel with a gentleman who held a PhD in physics. 

"The only part of your presentation I take issue with is your statement about the Billy Meier case. I've done a lot of looking into that and I'd say you're completely wrong there." he said with a furrowed brow. 

"Well I've spent a lot of time on it too. And if you think those photos and films represent anything other than models and simple forced perspective you're dead wrong."  I replied. 

One of our mutual friends said something like "Bob has a doctorate in physics he's a..." I interrupted to say it was nice to meet him (as I shook his hand), but it didn't change my statement of the case or the evidence. I also went a step further "The difference between your stance and mine on this case is I can conclusively demonstrate and prove mine." (Knowing full well that he couldn't.)

"Bob", tended to get a bit intense as he railed my 'ignorance' and 'fear of the truth' and added "I don't know much about the photos, but the written information of prophecy is solid!" 

He didn't know much about the photos? Could this be serious? This is how Meier entered the field's eye - his clear, daylight photos of alleged UFOs. How could someone so obsessed with Meier's prophetic writings (which are also nonsense btw), be blissfully unaware of the volume of alleged UFO photos an film? 

This is yet another example of the complete loss of critical thought by accomplished scientists upon entering into the field(s) of the paranormal variety. We've spoken about this effect before here. 

Photographed Model. Was it real or Meieresque?
In later years I would get into discussions with accomplished meteorological scientist Dr. James Deardorff (another supporter of the Meier case) that were equally as absurd. I would eventually join a Yahoo group devoted to the Meier case, where I would present all matter of photographic demonstrations showing the photos to be faked. I was challenged that if they were simply models on a string, that I should be able to duplicate that easily. So I did. (Left)

The photo was a small model suspended on a string from my deck. Many of the members found the image of the model in the file section of the group and posted asking "when/where did Billy take this photo?" I then reminded them that this was the duplication that was asked for and posted days before. Several (and some prominent) members of the group left, and wrote me privately to say they couldn't believe how fooled they had been.

There are still people from all walks of life and profession that solidly believe the Meier case is the best evidence of UFO contact ever. By many more, it is considered the longest enduring hoax in UFOlogy. 

I use this case because it's such a great example of the repeated disconnect from critical thought exhibited when clearly faked (some laughably so) photos are presented as legitimate. 

But was my obsession with showing obviously faked photos to be...obviously faked photos, logical? No it wasn't. Taunting, duplication challenges, and sometimes even physical threats from believers only have so much effect - after awhile it just doesn't phase you. The depth and length of my involvement was irrational considering the painfully obvious fabrication of the case and it's 'evidence'.


You become so involved that you completely lose sight of the fact: no one with any critical faculties believes the case anyway. You are killing a mouse with a howitzer. It's overkill in the extreme.

Later with the epiphanies I would learn from George Hansen, I would recognize these patterns of irrational obsession with disproving hoaxes and hoaxers, and accept that such things are to be expected in the paranormal field.

But my experience of becoming overly-driven to expose that which everyone knows is already laid bare isn't unique. The relatively recent Roswell Slides and the Roswell Slides Research Group is another good example. When the photos of the 'alien' broke on the internet, it was clear that this was a museum exhibit, and not any alien scurried away in a top-secret lab somewhere. The slide showed a placard with blurred writing on it, that after being de-blurred by a member of the Roswell Slides Research Group, read: 'MUMMIFIED BODY OF TWO YEAR OLD BOY"

The group, of which I was a late coming member (I was first outside the group to verify the de-blur results, and after doing so was made a member) then published results. There was fierce push back from the proponents of the slides (of which Jaime Maussan seemed to be the main presenter), and the group went so far as to put up a website and endlessly argue the point with opponents on the opposing side.

I have to stress one thing: all this was over a slide of an alien, from a source that was dead. Could anything be more absurd from the very start - even before the Roswell Slides Research Group was formed? It was nice to have the placard de-blurred, but was it necessary to dismiss the slide? Of course not. The entire fiasco was absurd on it's face, right from the start. You were never going to prove an alien from a photo/slide. I deemed the slides 'anti-evidence' because that's exactly what they were.


Forgetting Maussan was the presenter, that Don Schmitt was also closely involved in the slides? His own former research partner Kevin Randle said of him in a "To Whom It May Concern Letter" on September 10, 1995:

"The search for the nurses proves that he (Schmitt) will lie about anything. He will lie to anyone… He has revealed himself as a pathological liar… I will have nothing more to do with him."


This seemed not to dissuade supporters. Schmitt had been back lecturing and writing books for some time after his background was exposed. Such short term memory loss in the field is another hallmark we'll address in a future post. 

Some members of the Roswell Slides Research Group to present day are still posting about Maussan's proliferation of long since dismissed fake videos and cases. It went on months after the slides had faded away, and there was plenty of talk on how nonsensical, ridiculous arguments and excuses from proponents of the slides should be addressed. 

The long-touted slides were still-born of course, and in my opinion the efforts put into responses past the de-blurred placard bordered on the absurd. Nonetheless, initial facts had no effect in dissolving attention from the circus.

These types of situations and actions are not unusual for the paranormal field(s). They happen over, and over again as a pattern you can almost follow as a script. You will see unusual obsession with some people responding to every little comment made (pro or con) on different cases that begins to border on the surreal. It's beyond the standard back and forth debate. And this doesn't exist on only one side of the argument - but with both the hoaxer and the debunker. I think that if you recall many debatable cases (or even the un-debatable ones) you'll see this schism of illogical, obsessive actions on both sides of the issue being discussed.

The phenomena operates in the pool of chaos and liminal periods, and when cases are effectively debunked and yet still believed as true by many - like it or not, it exists in a state between real, and fake. That 'limbo' period exists longer in the paranormal fields than any other interest. It often can exist there for decades (as the Meier case has, being one of the longest standing fakes on the face of the UFO subject).

I'm sure at one time or another we've all seen the cognitive dissonance that is so pervasive among those steeped in the paranormal. Often the particular focus is so aggressively defended from the start (an interesting wrinkle on it's own), that opposing parties are incapable of admitting that either they've been fooled on one side - or that the effort to disprove the obviously false was far and away overboard on the other. The paranormal seems to maneuver itself to force these kinds of self-introspection(s) on participants. 

It's easy once again to put this down to random psychological effects in people - but one cannot assume that all these repeated absurdities are happening as a result of deliberate and calculated logical thought. On both sides of the debate there exists a thin film of illogical obsession that often expends years of effort and aggravation, while the phenomena continues unabated. 🔻

Friday, March 31, 2017

Binary Opposition: The Walking Grounds of the Paranormal

I've mentioned binary opposition before in some interviews, but rarely have I tried to explain this very interesting concept that offers some acumen to the paranormal - and shows the relationship of transition to paranormal phenomena. 

In early cultures, mankind breaks down things into opposites. Some of the major ones were:

LIFE - DEATH
HEAVEN - EARTH
MALE - FEMALE
HUMAN - BEAST

The spirit Mercurius
These opposites are recognized and discussed in many books and teachings on anthropology - but trickster. Jung wrote about this in his study of the spirit Mercurius (of medieval alchemy) when he said "Mercurius consists of all conceivable opposites" and that "he is both material, and spiritual". He also mentioned that while Mercurius was akin to the godhead, he was also found in sewers.
they are also very much related to the

But here's the lynchpin to the concept: there is a betwixt and between to the binary opposition.  This state has many of the same properties to it, as do rituals, liminal periods  and transitional states (mentioned on this blog in depth on a prior post). And in that between state of binary opposition, we find compelling items of interest.
"between"

Binary opposition presents some surprising insights. If we look at the binary oppositions I've mentioned, we can note some interesting aspects. Let's look at that list again...

LIFE - Ghosts - Spirits - Reincarnation - Mediumship - NDEs - DEATH

All of these blur blur the distinction between life, and death. Ghosts, spirits, reincarnation, mediums, NDEs - of course are all referred to as paranormal. In today's society, there is alive and dead. No in-between. But, the paranormal directly challenges that notion.

How about the next one?

HEAVEN - Angels - Extraterrestrials - UFOs - EARTH

Angels, ETs and UFOs...all fly between the earth, and the heavens. They are also considered of the supernatural, or at times even spiritual beings.

MALE - Shaman - FEMALE

Now this is a really interesting one. The shaman, (again mentioned before here on the blog) often had gender confusion and were considered to have supernatural powers by the rest of the tribe. Often referred to as 'two-spirit', they encompassed both male and female genders and were sometimes homosexuals. "Medium" could also be included here, as there is a significant component of homosexuality in the medium community, this seems especially so in the U.K. male mediums. George Hansen also noted that in his experience, a disproportionate number of professional magicians were also gay (Many on-stage magicians have reported real paranormal and psi events during performances - more on that in a future post). In general, people not involved in the typical dyadic male/female relationship, tend to be more anti-structural or liminal. For instance, single and divorced people, report more psychic experiences than do married persons. 

HUMAN - Bigfoot/Sasquatch/Yeti - BEAST

The Sasquatch - between man and beast
A number of North American Native American tribes recognized that Sasquatch wasn't just some rare or otherwise unknown animal - but seemed to have a supernatural or spiritual quality. It was considered a bad thing to see a Bigfoot - and if you saw one, you had to be ritually cleansed so as not to infect  or contaminate the rest of the tribe. We've spoken about that before here as well. There are other 'paranormally' categorized beings that could be put into that liminal state between Human and Beast: Vampire and Werewolf - and just because such beings are generally accepted as fictional, doesn't mean people haven't experienced them or some strange manifestation of them.

In closing, we see binary opposition is rife in the most base-level aspects of the UFO field. How many times have we heard the notion that a witness did experience a sighting and had a legitimate photo or some other 'evidence' - only later going on to hoax future evidence, clouding his/her original account. To my eye, the Bentwaters/Woodbridge case is a good example of this. For years the witnesses gave an account that didn't seem to change. Then on the 30th anniversary of the case, one of the witnesses came out with a ridiculous binary code message allegedly inserted into his mind via his experience of touching the 'craft'. Of course many found the revelation dubious and highly suspect - especially when the witness was asked why he didn't come forward with this information until now, and he claimed that he didn't think the binary code was important. This places the entire case for many, squarely into the binary opposition middle points:

REAL - FAKE
TRUTH - LIE

You can find many, many examples of this type of thing in the UFO field's archives. Bentwaters/Woodbridge is not unique in that sense. In many cases, the truth of the matter is hazy, and ill-defined (depending on who you talk to). This of course leads to many differing points of view and ultimately to conflict.

The blurred line between what is real and what is not; between what is truth and what is a lie, is the stomping grounds of the trickster. We often refer to the UFO field and the 'muddying of the waters', and many don't realize that this is not the specific problem, but part of the nature of the phenomena 🔻

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Chonicles of Liminia: The Threshold, The Ritual & The Trickster

Of course it's not Narnia, but it's a reasonable parody considering the Wardrobe's threshold sends the children in the story to the mythical land of adventure. And, threshold crossings have been recognized as a liminal place where things can tend to get weird. 

Life has a funny way of being routine, and for many of us certain customs have become just part of normal existence - we don't even think about them or their origins. Where did these things we think of as customs or traditions, originate - and why? And where do these customs tend to be placed? 

There's a reason for the term "Rites of Passage". Ritual is present in every day life as we pass through life's changes, but we don't always recognize them as such. 

The Retiree's Talisman
Take for instance the retirement from a long held job. A man has worked 50 years at a firm and for his retirement, he gets a gold watch and probably some sort of retirement office party with food and drink. This, like many traditional transition events. is a ritualistic practice when really examined. 

Why a gold watch? Gold has long been associated with white light religions and positive magickal practices. The watch, or clock is a symbol of time, and the passage of present into the past. Retirement comes at the autumn of one's life, and let me frank - how many times have you heard of Mr. John retiring only to pass away a year later? The party is the affirmation of life - eating, drinking, and socializing. The gold watch is the talisman given as the individual is entering into the transition to a different life. The threshold. A talisman against what? Perhaps the specter of death. Perhaps to protect against the effects of the rapid passage of time due to a life of leisure - again a reference to the approach of the Reaper and the limits of life. Either way you cut it, throughout time retirees from every vocation from accounting to viking have been given talismanic objects as they cross the boundary into a new life. It is recognized subliminally as a rite of passage.

A wedding ceremony is an acknowledged ritual - and noted liminal threshold - which is marked by all matter of talismans and incantations as the couple embark on a life together, distinctly separate from the one they've been living prior. It is a significant change of one's life, and hence is marked by one of the largest and most focused upon ritualistic practices in life. 

The Baby Shower is an interesting one, It's widely considered to be a 'party' to give the expectant Mother gifts for the baby. But it's more than that - and it's filled with ritual all around the world in different cultures. This is the passage or transition of the woman, into the Mother. In Tibet, parents celebrate the baby’s arrival, rather than having a party prior to birth. The celebration is called a pang-sai, which means "cleansing of the baby." The Tibetans believe newborn babies come to the world alongside fowls, and a ceremony should be held to wipe them out so that these babies would be able to grow healthily and mothers recover soon. When a baby is born, two banners will be placed on the roof eaves, hanging from the edge: one to ward off evil to protect the child and one to attract good fortune.

In America for many years, during the festivities the Mother to be would sit under a decorated umbrella - this derived from Victorian customs where the gifts were brought in a parasol. The term "shower" is believed to be 'showing the expectant mother with gifts' - but the overtone of a rain theme brings to mind the hope of a blessing by God via water from the sky (rain shower). Rain or shine many cultures recognize and ritualize the transition of woman to Mother and the passage of the baby into life. Rain is also cleansing (refer to pang-si).

Even something as benign as a Birthday cake and candles is laden with ritual meaning. The person is transitioning from say, the age 22 to 23. The day of the transition they are not 22, but not yet 23 (the liminal state). 23 candles are placed on the cake. Everyone sings Happy Birthday and they blow the candles out. So whats so ritualistic about that?

The candles are said to represent the 'light of life', The ancient Greeks first brought cakes adorned with candles to the temple of Artemis. In many cultures, smoke is said to 'carry prayers into the heavens' - and what do we do when we blow out the candles? Make a wish. That wish is often that one makes it through another year alive and in good health.

Lastly, there seems to be a thread that runs through some of these: death. And death is filled with yet more rituals, not only for the dead, but for the living. My wife's father passed towards the end of last year. We spent time with him (I should say his body) after he passed away at the hospital one morning. We then spent 2 days at a Funeral facility and cemetery. After we left the burial site, we all went to Lisa's sister's house for food and drink with lots of people who came to say goodbye to her Dad. We think of this as a sort of 'wake' celebration, and a way to thank the people who came to celebrate the life of the deceased. But of course, it's more. You have spent a lot of time with the dead (and this is true of many cultures). But, we are the living. Being in the presence of the dead is something to be washed away after the body is laid to rest, burned or left behind. The wake meal or celebration with any food or drink is an affirmation of life. You are alive, and the departed is not. You are moving forward, and the dead stay where they are. 

Such rituals as the wake meal, the baby shower, the wedding, etc - are all lines of demarcation that separate periods of liminality from routine life. The wedding ceremony is a line, drawn between the now committed couple and their former singular life. The wake food ends the commune with the dead, and draws the line as if to say to death "You shall not pass".

The liminal period has been marked by ritual throughout history. In many cases these acts trace to ancient cultures who probably recognized the threshold of change as a potentially 'dangerous' time, Did these cultures see that these liminal periods accompany the manifestation of paranormal phenomena? There really can be no other reason: a responsive reaction to the phenomena (whatever it might have been) than to enact rituals to effectively separate themselves from it.

"You shall not pass": Laying down the line.
Remember, the phenomena is enveloped in conflict, irrational behavior, upheaval, and chaos. No culture would flourish if such conditions were allow to swell from the inside (look at UFOlogy - ha!). Go back to ancient tribal peoples - there were 'forbidden places' and/or actions. Should you commit these actions or mistakenly tread in the forbidden place (often where the dead are disposed of), you would either be banished from the tribe or you have to go through a ritual to..,be cleansed. There's that line in the sand again:

You shall not pass.

It exists within the structure of indigenous cultures as well - the shaman does not live with the rest of the tribe. Considered to 'walk with the dead and the living', the shaman is not part of the community - they are effectively outsiders. To even visit the shaman in some cultures involved a cleansing ritual of some kind upon your return.

These events and actions marked by ritual lines of separation of the liminal period are seen as a way to remove the 'infection' of the otherworldly, the cold hand of death, the appearance of the inherently fearful. But, they also mark the anti-structural event, and transition it back into routine.

Once these modern day rituals are done, they facilitate the return of routine. The married couple start life together, the baby grows up, the wake participants go home and move on. But for instance, should one fixate acutely on the deceased, and spend hours of time at the cemetery to the detriment of life? This is ignoring the ritual's purpose, and is a gateway to anti-structure - often a recipe for strange intrusions.

To avoid the otherworldly, one only heed the wizard's line following "You shall not pass":

Fly, You Fools.🔻