Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Trickster & The Skeptic

Many paranormal 'believers' have real issues with self-professed skeptics. Again, we'll get into skeptics more in-depth in months to come - but it bears mentioning here why skeptics (and their scientific method) possibly may not have the best opportunities to study paranormal phenomena. 

You may have heard about all matter of phenomena occurring in a location until a scientific team shows up, or a skeptic comes to investigate what others are experiencing. Then, suddenly, the paranormal turtle retreats into it's shell. 

Now seeing what we've already covered, can you predict what happens when the paranormal (an inherently anti-structural steeped effect) is put into a controlled context? Or a controlled and organized approach to study? Laying structure over the situation negates the anti-structure that seems to be one of the keys to phenomena - this is why for decades the scientific community has not seriously studied the paranormal - because creating scientific experiments requires organization, order, methodical accuracy and most of all repeatable results to be considered valid and worthy of publication and review. 

If you're looking for that kind of consistency in the paranormal responses at this level, you're in the wrong place.

It doesn't work seemingly, because the surrounding context, and approach isn't conducive to paranormal phenomena. The paranormal responds to disorder, change, non-routine, and other effects we'll address later. The end result is academe finds the paranormal sorely lacking in anything science's rigid and ordered approach can verify. It's been deemed 'fringe' and unworthy of serious consideration. Only in recent years have working (albeit few) scientists began looking into the phenomena with fresh approaches. 

But can the skeptic have a paranormal event? Maybe. In 2014 uber-skeptic Michael Shermer had an event that shook his skeptical mindset "to the core".

Now what I want you to do is read this article. It's not long and is easy to read and follow along. Then come back and let's look at this with a different approach other than dissecting the strange event itself.

Now that you've read it - lets examine the context, and forget the strange event, the effect and it's perceived meaning.

"The event took place on June 25, 2014. On that day I married Jennifer Graf, from Köln, Germany."

A marriage is a ritual of sorts whether or not it happens in a religious context, and that I think we can all agree on. But it's also a very liminal state to be in: one is not yet married, but is also no longer single. It is an extremely transitional period for both parties here.

Jennifer is also from another country, and I think we might be able to surmise that she's recently experienced a full blown move to the US...

"In shipping her belongings to my home before the wedding, most of the boxes were damaged and several precious heirlooms lost..."

This seems to indicate that Jennifer has undergone that liminal period of moving her home from one place to another. But this is more than a normal move - it's a cultural move too -  she's transitioning to a different culture of life in the United States as opposed to Germany.

"Three months later, after affixing the necessary signatures to our marriage license at the Beverly Hills courthouse, we returned home, and in the presence of my family said our vows and exchanged rings. Being 9,000 kilometers from family, friends and home, Jennifer was feeling amiss and lonely."

Jennifer is completely removed from what is familiar to her previous life. The anti-structural nature of this kind of life change (married life from single, and quite a major change in living geographically) cannot be understated. She is for the sake of our discussion, the perfect storm of liminality. 

It is no surprise that the event centered around her.

"She wished her grandfather were there to give her away."

This is a normal way for Jennifer to feel at this particular time. But it also is interesting to note that she (previous to the event) in a way has 'set the stage' for the impossibly strange. 

"She opened the desk drawer and pulled out her grandfather's transistor radio, out of which a romantic love song wafted. We sat in stunned silence for minutes. “My grandfather is here with us,” Jennifer said, tearfully. “I'm not alone.”

The radio that for all purposes was broken and in a state of disrepair, at the moment of marriage - and almost in response to the Bride's request - plays a love song, and it's her Grandfather's transistor.

"My daughter, Devin, who came out of her bedroom just before the ceremony began, added, “I heard the music coming from your room just as you were about to start.” (my emphasis)

I know the written medium is limited, but you should know reader, I have nothing to say here beyond giving you that "look" from over the top of my glasses.

"Later that night we fell asleep to the sound of classical music emanating from Walter's radio. Fittingly, it stopped working the next day and has remained silent ever since."

Fittingly indeed. The number of odd events here seem to defy coincidence. Are we to believe that such an absurd alignment is given to chance? Or can we not identify that the same circumstances that surround a haunting, UFO sightings, and other paranormal phenomena are also present in this event - related by a professional skeptic?

Michael then gives us this statement...

"Jennifer is as skeptical as I am when it comes to paranormal and supernatural phenomena."

Clearly this flies in the face of his earlier account: “My grandfather is here with us,” Jennifer said, tearfully. “I'm not alone.”  I find the notion that the skeptic desires to relate the experience (and I thank him for having the courage to write and present it) yet soften the edge so that it might still be palatable to his skeptical following very interesting. It shows to me, a need to fall in line with the conventional skeptic ideology of 'nothing to see here' regardless of the experience and how utterly shaken he was by it. As I said, we'll examine the skeptic further in coming months, and I think no matter what side of that argument you're on, you'll find it interesting.

Mr. Shermer closes with this:

"...if we are to take seriously the scientific credo to keep an open mind and remain agnostic when the evidence is indecisive or the riddle unsolved, we should not shut the doors of perception when they may be opened to us to marvel in the mysterious."

Unwilling to examine the edges, the skeptic ideology fails.
Michael took an enormous amount of heat from the skeptical community for this piece. It's a shame that his fans and followers who felt he'd gone off the rails didn't heed his final statement. I feel confident in saying that were he (or any other public skeptic) ever to have another strange event such as this - they would likely not discuss it for fear of the same reprisal.

And so we see the final bit of the story: the phenomena has presented to a skeptic, who in turn relates it to an audience who will only reject it.  It's a marginal story in that context, presented to a community that will find easy ways to dismiss it. 

The phenomena remains in it's elusive and transient envelope - surrounded by repetitive elements often unnoticed. It's why I believe it's imperative upon us to examine the edges.🔻

(Next: The UFO)


  1. Thanks for bringing this up, I had not seen this before. The fact that Shermer ended with that statement makes me think better of him. It is good to be skeptic of course, and I understand when CNN or other news outlets bring on scientists to share their view on phenomena that is unexplained, and the scientist urge people not to jump to conclusions, and that is a good thing. However, it really grinds my gears when they go farther and question an experiencer's observation and conclude that they were somehow mistaken or tricked. I love Bill Nye and how he promotes science to a large audience, but he unfortunately did this a way back when the Phoenix lights happened. He basically said that the girls who saw the huge dark triangle fly over their house were really just seeing something else that is "normal". Being skeptical is good, but jumping to the conclusion that something unexplained can be easily explained as something it's not is just as bad.

  2. Really enjoying this so far. Please keep them coming if you can! This approach is resonating very well with me. Also found your info on hypnotherapy pretty eye-opening. Thanks much!

  3. Thanks for sharing. One of my favorite stories and a huge moment when Shermer realizes something very real and completely unexplained did indeed happen in his presence - and with witnesses who could corroborate that event. I credit him for his willingness to crack a window open for objectivity..

    1. Indeed. Shermer does deserve credit for being brave enough to publish such an account. Especially considering his audience.

  4. Interesting but there is another question which is the "mother" of every question. What makes persons with plenty of paranormal experiences in their lives that they are ? and what makes sceptics who have never a single extraordinary experience in their lives that they are ? Why those experiences are not "shared" in the human species in a more equal, "fair" way ?

    no experience can be experienced by anyone. Every person in this planet is by the time of their birth destined to experience phenomena of a particular nature. Athletes were born athletes, traders were born traders, artists were born artists, sceptics were born sceptics. It's astrology, planetary influences. The anti-structure you are talking about does have a name, it is Neptune. Its opposite (structure) does also have a name, it is Saturn. "Experiencers" and "sceptics" are representatives of certain "powers" which running the "system" we are living in.

    1. "What makes persons with plenty of paranormal experiences in their lives that they are ? and what makes sceptics who have never a single extraordinary experience in their lives that they are ? "

      At the baseline question, I don't have the first clue really.

      I guess the popular answer to that would be that skeptics do actually have odd things happen, but blow them off or deny them (which puts an elimination out there for future weirdness - remember the 'more you give the more you get'? The repeated experiencer grabs hold and wants to understand more. Hence, more.

      I'm currently doing a small study of the fundamentalist skeptic, and the skeptical community which I'll try and get done with soon. It's interesting, but it won't be a hit piece. Skeptics (even the nasty, condescending ones) are all part of the dance. But their part in it, is as fascinating as the experiencers.

  5. It would seem that Mr. Shermer was unable to find the escape hatch.