Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Exegesis: The P Word

Modern discourse has produced a Bizarro lexicon, in which words that once had meaning either take on new meanings that have little to do with their original intent, or in fact have no real meaning at all.

I think most of you know what I'm talking about here. And nowhere is this more apparent in what book publishers call the New Age market, a catch-all phrase which itself has been bleached of its original meaning. It can refer to anything from self-help gurus to alternative history to Spiritualism to the more speculative corners of conspiracy theory (think Icke, David).

So whereas my original exposure to the New Age subculture (which I discussed recently) had more to do with the occult, in only a few short years it'd come to represent people who were trying to construct a movement with no real historical roots of any significance, with no doctrines or scripture, basically with nothing but a lexicon of terms that they had stripped of any meaning at all. Words like 'spirit', 'energy', 'consciousness', 'shaman', 'metaphysics', 'light', 'evolution'.

I'd visit these meetings and see predominantly bored middle-aged to elderly women (and maybe a smattering of their even more bored husbands) toss these words back and forth as if they were passcodes, as if the words themselves had some magical power to bring them somewhere, though where exactly was never made clear.

One of these get-togethers was at the big, bad, scary Lucis Trust, the subject of countless pant-pisser conspiracy theories. It was so cripplingly dull-- literally filled with stereotypical spinsters in tennis shoes, half-listening (a couple were actually knitting beforehand) to two of the dullest speakers in human history-- that I fled during the coffee break. It was an educational experience in that it taught me how inherently ridiculous and face-punchingly ignorant a good 99% of the Snakehandler conspiracy stuff out there is.

But the culprit here isn't the victims of the New Age scam-- these people are usually good-hearted, well-meaning seekers-- it's the vapid commercial culture that produces imitation religion, from the Lucis Trust to the Megachurch. It's no mystery that neopaganism became so alluring to so many New Agers, however the problem is that the same rot quickly set in. The consumer culture fungus.

Paganism in the ancient world was primarily based in fertility, in about doing whatever it took to appease the gods to ensure a bountiful harvest. That was literally a matter of life and death. With the rise of organized agriculture and surplus economies came the Mystery cults and the philosophical religions, in which humanity put its mind to more abstract questions. I don't know how compelling fertility can be in the Monsanto era, but I'd obviously be the last guy to question the enduring power of those ancient archetypes.

All of this brings me to the P word, maybe skipping over some steps in between because this is a blog and not Time Magazine, and breaking rules is my way of staying fresh. So Jung bla bla, Synchronicity bla bla, symbolism bla bla-- you know the drill. But the P word; what is the P word, you may ask?

It's yet another word that consumer culture has stripped of meaning, a word that describes waters I've swum in my entire life but still remains radioactive to me since hucksters often use it when they want the rubes to think they're saying something when in fact they're saying nothing at all.

You know, "Paranormal."

"Paranormal" used to mean something; in Operation Trojan Horse and Messengers of Deception, the Keel/Vallee description of "paranormal" has a definite and specific meaning and a definite and specific source. Both authors argue that UFOs are an "ultraterrestrial" phenomenon that has been with us a very long time, and uses a telepathy-based technology so advanced as to be essentially magic to interact with humanity, using a series of disguises and deceptions for reasons we can only guess at.

I speculated on such a phenomenon long before I read either book, back when Jeremy Vaeni had me on his podcast back in 2008. He didn't seem to like the idea much but after hearing a presentation on abduction phenomena at my first Esalen trip I got the feeling that it was a kind of psychic theater that was being implanted in the mind by some kind of electronic means.

Of course, a lot of theorists have speculated that this was all MK Ultra and the like, conveniently ignoring the fact that abduction phenomena goes back millennia. And despite what the CIA and DARPA might want you to believe, there's still no compelling evidence that they have anything like what Serge Monast was convinced was already ready to be rolled out with the mythical Project Blue Beam some 15 or so years ago. But I digress...

Paranormal simply means "beside what is normal." That can mean a whole host of things, and include pretty much everything we talk about on this blog. It can mean psi, the occult, the netherworld, ghosts and related phenomena, hallucinogens and shamanic experience- basically anything outside the 9-t0-5 grind.

But my fear-- and this is based in my own associations with the term-- is that the word has been appropriated by the kind of nonsensical Reality (sic) TV you see on SyFy: brainless mannequins running around in "haunted houses" with night vision goggles on, huffing and puffing for 40 minutes until they all get together and trade notes about what a waste of time it all was (well, that's how I sum it up, at least).

But my negative association with the term isn't limited to that kind of Kali Yuga entertainment- it's also used by alleged UFO researchers who can't be arsed to do anything but the most superficial casework, so they throw around fashionable buzzwords like "paranormal" or "trickster" simply because they heard someone else use them somewhere, maybe.

Or maybe because they don't want to violate their audience's normality bias, so the New Agey buzzwords become a more comforting alternative. Because if you listen carefully, they end up reducing it all to nothing-- not even hallucination. So nothing is what it all adds up to.

In the modern "paranormal" marketplace, the Beast must constantly be fed so any kind of perspective or discernment is chucked out the window; Roswell or Socorro is treated the same as some Randibois playing with their balloons. Pretty soon it's all just static and chatter, and then the game becomes the "debunker" game (just like every TV show message board eventually focuses on the "10 worst episodes" and so on), especially since none of these Art Bell wannabes are equipped to deal with anything truly paranormal in the first place.

They may have liked a couple UFO or paranormal movies in some vague fashion and decided to blog about it with their typical American sense of unearned entitlement. But they never stopped to think that their perfectly normal brains and perfectly ordinary worldviews were completely ill-suited for the paranormal in the first place.

I feel extremely protective of people who have had genuine paranormal experiences, because I realize that many of them are often traumatized by them. And the last thing they need are a bunch of douchebags making a mockery of a facet of life most people already dismiss.

So you can see why I'm suspicious of these kinds of wordgames. I've been around long enough to see the unending process of appropriation destroy the very idea of a counterculture, a process I still haven't figured out how to remedy. I saw it happen with Hardcore starting as early as 1982 and repeat endlessly ever since. I suppose a return to a true initiatic Mystery cult type of system is the only solution. Which in turn runs the risk of degrading into a run of the mill secret society, but that's life.

One of the main reasons that I don't talk about the paranormal here, however, is that what we understand to be paranormal is usually anecdotal and almost impossible to prove. Talking about the stuff we discuss here and on the FB is hard enough with the Skeptics' constantly moving goalpost. And that's when I can put it all up there, with links and everything.

Even so, one of the most interesting experiences I had in the history of this blog actually started on Facebook, when I came home to report a very strange sighting I had minutes after I (well, my dog and I) actually had it. I first described it as a "ghost" sighting, though I later read a nearly identical story in a Jenny Randles book on alien contact.

That inspired a huge thread on my FB wall which led to the post itself (where I was obviously having even more trouble with the P word than now). As I reported in that piece I'd find out the next morning after seeing this strange, white figure that there'd been a serious hit and run accident at the end of the street and the police had put up an electronic sign calling for witnesses to come forward.

Unfortunately I was never able to find out what happened to the victim, but given the overall weirdness of this area (after all, Aleister Crowley's ashes are buried nearby), seeing weird apparitions hardly rates as paranormal.

Mothman, with whom I have several documented connections

But I couldn't prove I had this sighting, which still really bothers me. Painful life experience has led me to distrust memory, so I'm always looking for compelling evidence to support my arguments (hence, sticking to deal with synchronizing established facts). So I tend to keep discussions of what some might call paranormal experiences confined to personal discussions with friends.

Strangely enough, I don't extend this bias to other people's stories-- I'll give anecdotal evidence the benefit of the doubt, especially if it rings true on a subconscious level or can be corroborated through running the symbols. The classic 50s contact/abduction stories (Jenny Randles again) are a great example of this; most of them are unprovable but resonate with me on a profoundly deep level that I can often relive them as I'm reading about them.

Which is a kind of paranormal experience in and of itself, don't you think?