Thursday, September 13, 2012

Everything In Its Right Place

I'm of the opinion that genuine weirdness is usually an intimate affair. 

And as much as the capital 'S' Skeptics-- many of whom are in fact neurologically wired with various perceptive challenges-- yell and scream and rend their clothing,

I still think the reductive materialistic viewpoint of Reality is inferior and incomplete. But I also think it's necessary to build a consensus. Because things like Synchronicity are often so subjective, it's simply a question of being able to communicate in the fullest sense of the word; to share a common experience of day-to-day reality so we can all get along and get things done. 

 The experience we call "alien abduction" is a perfect example. It's almost impossible to prove. But contrary to the ahistorical misinformation you may hear in the media, this is by no means a recent phenomenon. It goes back forever. 

There have been multiple theories to explain it away-- sleep paralysis (which is an interesting explanation in some cases), hypnogogia (which is ludicrous), dissociative amnesia and so on-- but what interests me is how claims of extraordinary contact (of which "abduction" is only one kind) produce extraordinary results: changes in behavior, physical or mental ability, precognition, other kinds of breakthroughs

 Can these all be explained away through neuroscience? Sure, absolutely anything can be explained away if you're willing to throw out enough data and your audience has already made up its mind, as the so-called Skeptic crowd has with everything that falls- or ever will fall- outside the most reductive view of reality. 

But even fungus is often an effective antibiotic. The paranormal world is a free-for-all and has always been a haven for ripoff artists and attention hounds. As tempting as it is to blame media shills like the Amazing Randi and the Mythbusters cabal (whose misery and misanthropy always ends up carved in their faces), the fact of the matter is that it's all too easy to find fraud in the paranormal. 

Indeed, the frauds are always the most visible and the serious researchers and practitioners usually tend to shun the limelight. And then there's the astonishing contradiction of organized geekdom- that the people who tend to be the most enthusiastic audience for the Skeptics and debunkers turn around and totally immerse themselves in the paranormal, the Occult, the pseudoscientific, the mythological, and the irrational in their entertainment. 

I was recently at a comic book convention- after a few years away-- and was gobsmacked to see all of the stuff I've been writing about for the past few years-- UFOs, psi, magick, Alchemy, the Tarot, etc etc etc- out there in the open, practically punching the initiated in the face. Isn't this a gross contradiction? Isn't this the moral equivalent of racists immersing themselves in Hip Hop culture, or feasting on Mexican food and beer?

Well, here's where I come back to the original inspiration behind this blog, as well as my books. As I've written before, all of this began when I noticed that artists who immersed themselves in the Mysteries seemed to produce art that was more resonant and influential than those who did not. 

 Why did Led Zeppelin seem to resonate on such a deep level when Deep Purple, who essentially followed the same formula, did not? What about David Bowie versus Elton John or Jimi Hendrix versus Eric Clapton? Or Jack Kirby versus Steve Ditko? Or Philip K. Dick versus Ben Bova, or William Gibson versus Bruce Sterling, or Alan Moore versus Kurt Busiek? 

 Even when similar artists had larger followings, it was those who most effectively tapped into deeper currents that were the more influential. It is through art that I've had my most profound spiritual realizations. Music, film, comics, novels, painting. I recently watched the DVDs of Jay Weider's Kubrick documentaries and realized that 2001's influence on me is as powerful today as ever. More so, in fact. 

The Max Ernst exhibit at the Met left me trembling and in tears, it moved me so deeply. There are any number of albums that have the same effect. My obsession with The X-Files is so deep that I find a new mindblowing sync almost every time I rewatch an episode, to the point that I almost wonder if reality is somehow being overwritten. I have had what I believe to be genuinely paranormal experiences, but they've been so rare and sporadic as to seem like little more than glitches to me. 

But spiritual epiphanies, more often than not, are inspired by art. Art is the medium of Spirit, and always has been. Without Spirit, Art is dead and inert. It's masturbation, it's entertainment, it's a pass-time- but it's not Art. It was this same realization that's informed great art throughout human history.

The thing is that it's very difficult to communicate paranormal experience in a literal sense. It never quite lives up to what the experiencer experienced. But if you can turn around and translate that into a work of art, you're not simply describing that experience to your audience, you're allowing them to relive it. And in doing so what an individual may or may not believe becomes irrelevant, because a good artist allows them to experience the irrational or the impossible through their art. 

 So the contradiction in geek culture becomes considerably less so in this context. From the simplest novel to the most elaborate video game, the audience is given the opportunity to relive these extraordinary experiences, and the more you can embellish them with resonant symbolism and whatnot the deeper their experience is going to be. 

There's as much bad art as there are crappy UFO or ghost books, but the artist doesn't ask the audience to make a leap that may violate their worldviews. I get a huge kick seeing all of the Lovecraft worship out there, not only because I believe the man was considerably more irrational than he claimed to be but because his claims to atheism and the rest seem driven by his fear and hatred of nonwhites, whom he consistently identified with those "barbarous rites." 

 One fanboy has gone so far to claim that Lovecraft is the creator of Ancient Astronaut Theory (which in most geek quarters is restricted entirely to jokes about Giorgio Tsoukalos' hair) discounting Fort's theories and Jack London's (who was as famous as Lovecraft was obscure) story "The Red One", both of which predate Lovecraft's Old One yarns, whose malevolent demons and mystic rites bear no resemblance at all to anything you'd in Von Daniken in Sitchin. 

 But such is the power of us vs. them tribalism and such is the power of numinous writing. Lovecraft's prose is famously overwrought (or he was a shit writer, depending on your POV), but whether through nightmare or drug use (or other means), you get the strong feeling that Lovecraft was intimately familiar with the things he was writing about. Too familiar, actually. 

The fact that the original Lovecraft obsessives were all occultists of the Aleister Crowley variety is one of those great historical ironies that make geek culture so fascinating.

But maybe that's how it all works. Ideas want to reach as many people as possible, and can only do so in the proper medium. Something to think about...