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?


  1. Another remarkable post- thank you. But tonight I especially liked your self editing- 'bla bla'. Awesome! We all really need to practice that trick from time to ttime- it wiill come in handy for me as a great way to shorten my next term paper! Would you elaborate a bit on your method of 'running the symbols'?

  2. Just what we do, Thrace. Anything that stands out, grabs your attention. The what, when, who and where- if anything corresponds in an interesting way.

  3. Just Look at these "FOOLS" they say a picture is worth a thousand words...

    THIS WAS THE FRONT PAGE OF THE BALTIMORE CITY PAPER LAST MONTH! This is about a mile from the house I just moved from. I lived in Rosedale for 22 years (AGES 10-32) http://citypaper.com/news/dennis-haney-the-wizard-of-rosedale-1.1255857

    "To Haney, this is a service, making good on a debt to the magicians that taught him, a continuation of the local magic fraternity that nurtured his own career. “Baltimore has a deep historic value when it comes to magic,” Haney says. “The big guys, the Houdinis, the Copperfields. The original was Alexander Herrmann [better known as Herrmann the Great]. When Herrmann retired, he passed his wand over to [Harry] Kellar. When Kellar retired, he passed it to [Howard] Thurston, and he did it right here in Baltimore at Ford’s Theater, and we had a secret [magic] society, the Society of Osiris. Only seven members were allowed. That was in the ’30s, but it still exists.” When asked if he’s a member, Haney quickly changes the subject."


    It's as simple as casting a spell to make all the people dance around their MAY poles.

  4. Hey Chris, if you get bored, come clime this ladder with me and we can discuss BIOLOGICAL UFO's...

    '(VIDEO) Biological UFOs, Extraterrestrial Extremophiles. Life in Space. Evidence From NASA'

    I like the air up here... and not the movie with Kevin Bacon, but I guess that was ok for it's time also. <--- the kind of jokes I am reduced to making some days...

  5. Just the best piece of writing I have read in a long time... wow. Gives me hope, in fact. True oddness of experience that lies outside the norm seems too often impossible to share, and yet it is the very strangeness of it that holds us captive... and makes us want to find others who understand at some level what we cannot express.

    So grateful for your posts... amazingly powerful especially lately, for me.

  6. Dear Christopher,
    Woohoo! A great post. It's great too that you have put into words the annoyance I (and others, I'm sure) feel--thirty years worth and counting for me! I think the issue is that "paranormal" is a big word for a huge--though vaguely defined--field of human experience, each seemingly separate subset of which has its own team of obsessive debunkers and trivialisers. I suppose another word will yet be latched onto for the same subject, and that too will be spoiled, and on the wheel will spin. In the late phases of a term's life, I reckon mocking its users (whichever side of the fence they are on) is the only way to go. I still like the word "Fortean" :) Keep up the great posts!

  7. Reading your work is paranormal, allowing me to share, experience, and more.

  8. Hullo Mr. Knowles! i'm turning 50 in May, boy do i know what you mean. But, these things go in cycles. The beauty of the internet lies in better access to serious thought on the topic and the profusion of experiencers' first hand narratives.

    Do you know the concept of 'category error'? It's what's behind the saying 'you can't compare apples to oranges'. Take the idea of judging a chocolate cake recipe. You can look at the written recipe for grammatical correctness. You can read it through and judge how easy the directions are to follow. Or, my personal favorite, you can make a cake according to the recipe, eat it with your friends, and then decide if you want to make it again. These are all different categories - it makes no sense to bust a delicious cake for an ungrammatical contraction.

    Another way of looking at this: would you say that a mouse who has torn up Shakespeare's Collected Works into her nest has spent her life surrounded by Shakespeare? Well, one could. So could a person who loves the words of the bard and reads them regularly. But no one would say the mouse and person have had the same experience.

    I believe that you are looking at your own personal mystical/spiritual/paranormal experiences from an unproductive angle or category - the chances you will be able to 'prove that it really in truly happened' are slim and beside the point. You know as well as i do that skeptics will always find an 'out', they will call hallucination if nothing else. Looking for a videotape someone made of the incident, testimony of others, reference in a newspaper article...

    these will only be of use to you if they trigger an internal trust of your own perception. Am i right? Trusting your own self is a very different matter, but you already do trust yourself more than you think. re: memory. Do you habitually keep your address, picture of your spouse and 'code word' between you, names of your children in your wallet? No? Thank your memory for keeping track of those things for you.

    keep an eye out for ways you can trust your memory every day for a month, and see if your valuation of this part of yourself changes.
    Ken Wilber has an interesting and very very dense article on these issues here:

    Best of luck! and thank you for such interesting articles....how you write so much is completely beyond me, steph

  9. Make a blog to speak with like minds and this is the only human contact I get on said blog... http://img7.imagebanana.com/img/rj4n3s1b/20120222_110117.jpg

    Wondering what it's worth anymore. All the suffering some of us go through. And also people wonder why some people turn on their own species.

  10. To the Quark observance,we all respect the Sun of an occulted nature. Do you not have your own blogs? Dennis

  11. the counterpoint thats not being said here is how much power symbols, and words especially, retain even after losing all meaning. mantras illustrate this exquisitely, although im not sure of the mechanism at work there. what ive noticed most the past couple years is how many "cliche" old-timey sayings have big wisdom, but appear meaningless and are almost totally devoid of any use beyond filler or noise in daily dialogues. yet i can still pull knowledge and insight from them simply by looking for it in mindless banter thats often off topic, and used inappropriately. might just be masonic encryption viraly emerging in my subconscious.

    maybe the p-word still holds some hidden truths, and cna be taken back from the conspiritainers. but if you know anything about disease studies its all about incubation and transmission, as usual timing is everything.

    one example i only got about a month ago, perhaps im just slow.

    why'd the chicken cross the road?
    to get to the other side.

    :spoiler alert:
    cause suicide leads to the Other side. lol blew my mind

  12. Awesome stuff, Chris! You're really rocking it lately. Nothing more to add, really.

    Occultus Sol, Aeternum!

  13. I have to admit I am fascinated at the way fiction and reality interact in the field of the paranormal. Kripal writes a lot about this in his Mystics and Mutants book. If you read Matheson's Hell House, it was influenced by a lot of the theories of the supernatural at the time and, naturally, it went on to influence paranormal research.

    What I also find interesting is how different supernormal abilities are viewed today than they were in the 70's. Back then Uri Geller was seen as proof that things like ESP and Telekinesis existed. Today, it is pretty much universally believed he was a stage magician who took advantage of the ESP "craze" back then.

    Just the other day I watch the film THE MEDUSA TOUCH. Along with De Palma's CARRIE and THE FURY, it was following a strange wave of dramatic supernatural films in the wake of THE EXORCIST and THE OMEN.

    What I found interesting is its depiction of telekinesis wasn't as overt as other movies. Especially not as overt as the recent CHRONICLE which is essentially an American AKIRA.

    Instead, the main antagonist has the ability to make bad things happen. I found it odd that in the film, the event that finally convinces the villain/anti-hero's skeptical psychiatrist that he can make bad things happen is when he seems to make a jumbo jet fly into an office tower in the middle of London. Have any of the 9-11 Truthers considered psychokinesis as a cause?

    Seriously, though, the interesting part of the story is that the detective in charge of the case obtains videotape of telekinetic experiments from all around the world, and this video convinces him that the villain could conceivably make things happen by will alone.

    Today, though, no one would be convinced by such a scene since we have all become very skeptical of photographic evidence in the wake of photoshop and after-effects.

    Movies like CHRONICLE, for example, now call any visual evidence into question since you would have to actually have been there to see it with your own eyes to believe it.

  14. @chris, I don't get the deal with your email. Thought you would enjoy this one...

    '"Organic" 'Star Trek' Flow - Synchronictic Empathy???'

  15. Hey Chris,

    Just been musing on your post again and thinking about some of your comments on the various FB threads. I think this lack of specificity that you discuss with regards to the paranormal - it's a double-edged sword.

    Like you say, things can become so confused and nebulous and imprecise that the whole field ends up seeming kind of useless. I've felt that in my studies many times. But I also reckon that this kind of imprecise non-specificity is a huge draw for certain kinds of people, people who are drawn to the allure of an aura or an ambience but are uninterested in any detail that requires rigorous thought. You know what i mean? In the same way that certain folks are drawn to quantum physics not for the science but for the ill-defined artistic possibilities that such a field suggests to them.

    And that's all well and good, but for people who are trying to change consciousness, or protect culture, or hold back the tide of hollowness and filth that hurtles toward us - it's not really the sharpest weapon, if you follow me.

    Like you mention in this post, if the 'spirit world' is reduced for most people to folks running around with night-vision googles, or found-footage horror movies where folks get dragged from their beds and down stairs by malevolent spirits...it kinda loses its ability to be a pointed or scathing metaphor for anything, let alone a real exploration of the paranormal.

    It's a kind of soft-mysticism lurking beneath all this, you know? A series of money shots that reveal or imply nothing when all is said and done. I'd be the first to admit that subjectivity is ill-understood and has a powerful place in this very tall tale called Life. But I think it takes balls to seek out rationale and detail and at least semi-objective understandings. I think a lot of folks are afraid of being wrong or looking like a fool, and others simply don't care and are unwilling to put in the effort required.

    Like you mentioned with the Vallee thread on FB, there is a definite mysterious agency or agencies behind all this. It isn't all just mystic interconnected perceptual feedback.


  16. Yeah, I'm stewing over it all but I've been too busy to put it into words. Thanks for this, though- grist for my mill.

  17. What do you make of this Chris, could we all be mutating?


  18. I've taken to terming my interest in what used to be called the paranormal as a fascination with anomalous events and experiences. Anomalous has a clearer definition to me because it circumscribes my interests better. I'm not interested in ghosts and demons unless they represent something truly inexplicable and out of the ordinary, and only if they are part of what I can only call the fabric of the weird which seems to underlie percipient reality. Therefore I'm also interested in mass bird deaths, strange crimes, everyday mysteries, patterns of numbers, physics, metaphysics, linguistic patterns and anomalies and so forth. All of this is not merely paranormal or even Fortean. It's why I like your blog, because you appear to share a similarly wide ranging interest in all things.. Anomalous.

  19. "He didn't seem to like the idea much"

    --Actually I went back and listened to that episode because I'd forgotten what you're referencing. Turns out I did (and do) agree with you that the experience is "psychic" to some extent. But more in the altered state of consciousness sense than the electronic technology sense--which is not to say I dismiss a psychic technology. That very well may be and I posited it in an article for UFO Magazine back when. It makes sense to me that if you have a sentient psychic race making things, their tech is going to perform differently than ours. Perhaps it will have more of a subjective interaction component to it, which may explain why so many UFOs seem to react to witnesses.

    But I would say that we probably differ on just how nuts and bolts we think this stuff is and, in a sense, how artificial the experiences are. Having been in the presence of these beings myself I can attest that it in all ways struck me like real life and not a projection or technological mirage. If so, it is one that mimics real life in such a way as to render the hypothesis as useful as imagining that you and I are technological mirages.

    All of this is to say, psychic theater?--YES. Implanted in the mind by electronic means?--NO.

    And if you ponder it, I think you'll see that supposing such a thing is a product of our times.