Old Wine in New Skins Part 1: Timed Cultural Interventions & Jacques Vallee’s Paraspiritual Control System

Psi phenomena are problematic precisely because they involve events in the real world and thus become candidates for a physical explanation, yet at the same time they are critically bound up with certain states of mind. Thus they cross the dividing line between objectivity and subjectivity which normal mental phenomena do not.

–John Beloff

One can study UFO reports and abduction tales for decades and remain more or less convinced these are physical beings from other worlds who must possess something like Arthur Clarke’s advanced technology that is indistinguishable, to us, from magic.

But what kind of magic? Of the ritual…or of the stage?

As Jacques Vallee and John Keel long ago pointed out,[1] retaining an “ET spaceship” framework as a UFO-report investigator requires one to ignore much relevant information from witnesses that enters high strangeness: instances of telepathic messages, psychokinesis, apparitions, and coincidences that verge on synchronicity.

In other words, the sort of “magic” materialist science denies exists.

If you embark on a comparative historical research course into fairy and djinn stories, poltergeist accounts, ceremonial magic, mediumship, NDEs, OBEs, shamanism, and world mythology, the UFO material tends to either assume a wider context of shared meanings or shrink in its unique significance…You might realize you’ve been fixated on one narrow band in a spectrum of very similarly-structured experiences involving altered modes of consciousness that are as old as humanity itself.

After such a study course, at least for me, the belief in technological ETs succumbed to attrition in the face of this historical evidence. In other words, the hardware proponents lost the argument. I became interested in exploring the raw phenomenal experiences (as far as that’s possible) of otherworldly encounters. What prior to that was a side-interest (the occult/folklore in general) to an interest (ufology) has become my central focus. The two are intertwined in astonishing ways.

Foxsisters

Curious Timings?
In 1848, the Fox family are plagued by a poltergeist in their house in Hydesville, New York. By using raps on the wall or clapping, sisters Margaretta, 15, and Katie, 12, learn to communicate with the “spirit” in a manner that mimics the dot-dash of the telegraph in a primitive way.

After causing a sensation throughout upstate New York, the two children are separated but the poltergeist activity follows both girls. The news spreads, and within four years, hundreds of thousands of people worldwide are attempting seances with the same results. Some persons attending séances claim the rappings occur at their own homes upon their return; sometimes a person even merely reading about them or deciding to attend a séance spontaneously causes the activity to arise in their surroundings.[2]

The Shaker winds

But even before the (in)famous Fox sisters’ experiences, the Shaker communities from New York to Kentucky experience an explosion of interactions with the spirit world. The “Era of Manifestations” that begins in 1837 doesn’t directly involve poltergeist-like rappings, but trance-states (lasting sometimes up to 9 hours) in which Shakers’ founder Mother Ann Lee, “angels,” “ladies in white,” spirits of the dead, and unclassifiable entities visit congregants, mostly young people, in visions. These episodes show all the signs of what would come to be called out-of-body experiences and “astral travel.” Glossolalia, epileptoid fits, spontaneous unconscious preaching, and hallucinated music are exhibited during these attacks; during many trips, “movements” are learned then mimicked by bystanders then taught as divine motions that would become incorporated into the Shakers’ ritual dances.[3] Often, the entranced claim to visit rooms in which conferences are held with the passed-on Shaker leaders and congregants, who admonish the experiencer to repent further and reform themselves; in one of these accounts, 14-year old Ann Goff witnesses “indescribable” chairs and a huge book upon a table as the Shaker elders, dressed in white robes with crowns, exhort her to pass on a message to the community to curb their worldly behaviors.

Messages from beyond that demand human behavioral change and redemption—which are so prevalent in “ET entity”-inspired communications regarding our treatment of the ecosphere—have always been a part of trance communications.

By 1841, the affected Shakers’ trances include the spirits of Indigenous peoples, “antediluvian giants,” and ineffable apparitions. By the next year so many outsiders are attending the spectacles that the community leaders cease having open meetings.[4]

By 1860 Spiritualism has exploded into a fragmented but huge quasi-religion of many brands that mostly exclude Christianity. Those with genuine talent at mediumship become “psychic superstars” over the next five decades: Andrew Jackson Davis, Stainton Moses, Daniel Dunglas Home, Leonora Piper, Gladys Osborne Leonard, and Eusapia Palladino. While most of the “controls” used by the American mediums are the famous dead like George Washington or Beethoven, others are claimed to be spirit-guides, angels, or even extraterrestrials, who explain the workings of the physical and aetheric universes.

AndrewJackDavis

Two years after the Shaker experiences and four years before the events in Hydesville, Andrew Jackson Davis engages spontaneous trance using Mesmeric techniques. Considered “slow” as a child, by 1845 Davis is successfully diagnosing medical problems, just as several of Franz Mesmer’s subjects were earlier able to do.[5] In a trance vision Davis signs a document offered by “an old Quaker man,” then Galen and Swedenborg appear and teach him. After having a vision of “Galen’s staff” (which we can surmise was a caduceus) he diagnoses people while magnetized. At 19, he dictates The Divine Revelation.[6] This same type of “edificatory” channeling occurred in many dozens of subjects under Mesmeric trance in France, Belgium, Switzerland, and especially Germany, from 1810-1850.[7] Documented, veridical displays of clairvoyance and telepathy were regularly demonstrated by Mesmerized persons as well.[8]

 But Davis’s trance led to more: his dictated speeches produce a huge 1847 book, The Principles of Nature. At one point he speaks of the inhabitants of the planets in our solar system, singling out Saturn as the home of advanced beings.[9] He also apparently prophesies the coming Spiritualist tsunami of 1848 onward:

Davis paved the way from modern American spiritualism in four ways. He accustomed a wide public to the idea that a clairvoyant somnabule might engage not just in medical diagnosis and traveling clairvoyance, but in the transmission of social, religious, and cosmological teachings; he propounded neo-Swedenborgian doctrines about the future state and the spirit spheres and about the features and inhabitants of the planets; he propagated the view that some new and stirring revelation was about to rock mankind; and he implied that this revelation would involve a bursting of the barriers that separate our world from the spiritual one.(emphasis added)[10]

As Alan Gauld notes, the claims were very similar to those of Emanuel Swedenborg (1758). Swedenborg, Davis, John Newbrough (in OASPHE, 1882), and Helene Smith (1897) were the only well-known mediums who spoke at length about physical or spiritual beings from other worlds during the Spiritualist period.

KardecSpirits

In France, education reformer Hippolyte Ravail becomes fascinated with mediumship. He establishes general rules for distinguishing true clairvoyance from impostures, draws up a list of literally a thousand questions, puts them to his best mediums, and publishes a book of the answers in 1857 under the pseudonym Allan Kardec, founding the religion that will eventually be called Spiritism.

In 1905, author Sara Weiss publishes the “scientific romance” (as science fiction was then known) Journeys to the Planet Mars, or, Our mission to Ento (Mars): being a record of visits made to Ento (Mars) by Sara Weiss, Psychic, under the guidance of a spirit band, for the purpose of conveying to the Entoans a knowledge of the continuity of life. Despite its genre association with science fiction, Weiss is a medium and claims the book is one of genuine contact. It is a channeled work, complete with phonetic dictionary of Entoan.

By 1890, with the onslaught of ET-inspired messages that would come 60 years hence, much more should have been said about visitors from other planets by the many mediums or channelers of the Spiritualist period–one would think!

Arnold

Then…
Exactly 99 years after the Hydesville events, 1947: UFOs begin to show up in our skies (and backyards and seas). Investigator Meade Layne claims in 1952 that these are interdimensional ships and their “aetherial pilots” can be contacted through trance mediums.[11] From 1948 onwards, dozens of individuals like George Adamski and George van Tassel claim friendship with “Space Brothers,” whose advice to humanity differs little from Kardec’s spirit-channeled philosophies of 1857-1868…Shorn of the preposterous Theosophical history lessons Guy and Edna Ballard provide, virtually the same advice is present in their I AM cult, which begins in 1930 when Guy encounters “Venusians” in the presence of the “immortal ascended master” Count St. Germain on Mount Shasta, California.

A Paraspiritual Control System?

Culturally, the Spiritualist phenomenon of 1848 may be considered the right cure at the right time. It was the first modern split-off from all religions towards a direct-experience approach to the divine. The spirits of the other side would teach humanity, even if the truths they offered were old wine in new skins.

When Spiritualism broke upon the world, Darwin had yet a decade to publish his evolutionary theory, but the impact of mechanistic science was everywhere felt in America, the UK, and Europe. Machines were inspiring wonder and contempt alike. Helped by the new mass media, beliefs in a clockwork universe needing no creator deity were gaining adherents in the academies and inundating popular consciousness, undermining the religious faith of millions. The geological work of James Hutton and Charles Lyell suggested the earth was much older than the 6,000 years the Bible taught, further eroding Judeo-Christian faith. Electricity became a dominating metaphor for life, for vigor, for magic like mesmerism—and we would harness it for health and longevity.

Then, just at the long tipping point in mass consciousness towards despair over a de-enchanted universe, along came inspiring messages from one’s departed relatives in seances, psychokinetic magic in table tilting and ectoplasm, prophesies and promises. A great emotional need for certainty and meaning in the continuity of spiritual life was filled by the Fox sisters’ fame and the widespread folk adoption of seances.

So, what parallel happened socially and culturally in the decade just before the UFO craze began? Well, as many have pointed out, it might have had something to do with the terror and despair over 20 million deaths in a World War whose final punctuation marks were the bombing of two cities with a superweapon that could turn human beings into dissipated energy in a split-second. By 1947, the US Navy had tested the survivors of those two cities and discovered the lingering damage that the Bomb infected in those exposed to it, and by 1950 the US was engaged in a game of mine’s-bigger-than-yours with the Soviets over these evil weapons.

A part of humanity definitely wanted new saviors—preferably of a non-human, more evolved kind.

This was just what was needed in the popular imagination, especially the fact that the Space Brothers and many of the reported individually-encountered ufonauts preached against nuclear weapons…

But curiously, by the mid-1990s, UFOs were no longer putting on dramatic close encounters of the first, second, and third kind “performances” as they had since 1947. No more reported up-close (-500 feet) sightings of structured craft, no more buzzing cars and stopped engines, no more observed sky-to-ground landings and weird pilots zapping and burning witnesses with beams of light, etc.

Night-time bedroom abductions largely seemed to become the method of intervention.

It seems that enough of the populace had come to believe in extraterrestrials visiting the Earth that since 1995 a hundredth-monkey effect had been taking place; the ETs no longer manifested geologist-biologist-like behavior, that is, space-suited beings taking soil samples and zapping witnesses with those damned “flashlights.” Such trappings were of the Space Age 1960s-70s, in line with expectations of ET space explorers…Most interesting is that once the international treaties banning the testing of nuclear weapons were instituted (by the 1990s), the aliens’ message had dropped the explicit nuke warning and they began preaching about the environmental degradation of the earth.

Again, it is a message that meets a popular need and tracks with cultural change.

There was a parallel to this change of manifestation (or even “decline effect”) within the Spiritualist movement: By the 1910-1920s, Spiritualism as a world religious movement had run its course (except in Brazil, where the Kardec Spiritist church is still popular). By the 1930s, reports of the most spectacular physical effects that can occur during séances had declined. It was as if the contacted spirits were no longer compelled to tilt tables and raise ectoplasmic spooks as they did in the 19th century; it was as if a certain number of people believing in them had reached a critical mass—so these supernatural displays were no longer necessary.[12]

Many Mesmerized persons from 1780-1850 produced astonishing, well-documented examples of “traveling clairvoyance” (remote viewing), telepathy, distant healing, and diagnosis. The same decline effect can be said for the population frequency of extraordinary individuals such as Friedrike Hauffe, brothers Adolphe and Alexi Didier, and many of the reported “somnambules” associated with Mesmerism and “phreno-mesmerism.” That is to say, the number of mesmerized individuals prone to demonstrating spectacular feats of psi declined as Spiritualism ascended, then new spirit-virtuosos appeared within a few decades using self-entrancement methods without the Mesmeric trappings.

As Spiritualism became a worldwide craze, the core ideas of Mesmerism passed from the scene by 1850, but hypnotic states continued to be explored by laypersons and the early psychologists. For the next five decades, psi feats seemed to limit themselves to individuals “in the Spirit,” those suffering extreme conversion disorders, “hysteria,” dissociation, or those under hypnotic trance, as evidenced by the research of physicians Jean-Martin Charcot, Charles Richet, psychologist William James, and philologist Frederic Myers. As noted above, the spirit-mediums of the late 19th century needed no “operator” to entrance them; they could spontaneously entrance themselves, perhaps through self-suggestion, to speak via the denizens of the Other Side. The most famous extemporaneous acts of remote viewing and telepathy in which the offered information could be verified were thoroughly checked and verified by Society for Psychical Research (SPR) members such as Richard Hodgson and Frank Podmore, both who started out as hardcore skeptics yet eventually became convinced of the human personality’s survival after death and the existence of telepathy, respectively.[13]

From 1884 to the 1920s, the SPR and its American counterpart preserved, annotated, and analyzed much anecdotal and experimental evidence for apparitions, telepathy, bilocation, and psychokinesis. By the 1920s, they had published many volumes of this evidence on mediums and psi phenomena.[14] By the time the Spiritualist craze had apparently met its need and served its purpose—providing just enough evidence of a world beyond the material—Upton Sinclair published a book on telepathy in 1930, Mental Radio. The title says it all: Technology has increasingly become the lens through which we analogize psi phenomenon and prescribes the preferred method of verifying its existence: a machine…In other words, if it doesn’t show up on the scientists’ screen, or needle, or graph, it doesn’t exist.

And thus what we think of as reality constricts a little more.

It was also in 1930 that psi effects first came under strict scientific scrutiny in the laboratory experiments of J.B. and Louisa Rhine, eventually followed in the next decades by Charles Honorton, Hans Bender, Helmut Schmidt, Charles Tart, Robert Jahn, Brenda Dunne, Russell Targ, and Hal Puthoff, who indisputably proved the existence of psi. Through tight experiments that probed dice-throwing influence (psychokinesis/PK), random number generator control (PK), autoganzfeld (telepathy), and remote viewing (“traveling clairvoyance”), they demonstrated cumulative average statistical results against chance for these phenomena by factors of hundreds of billions to one—to any reasonable person willing to examine their experiments.[15]

Case studies of extraordinarily talented mediums like D.D. Home or Leonora Piper became very rare. Where they did pop up in the 1920s onward (like “PK-boy” Rudi Schneider or “poltergeist girl” Eleonora Zugun or remote viewer extraordinaire Stefan Ossowiecki), the ratio of skeptical greyfaces ready to declare “bullshit!”  prima facie to the open-minded investigator was probably a hundred to one, so you tabulate the odds of “standard science” studying anything further in those fights.

But by 1950, say, mediums who communicated with the dead had mostly gone shut up to the cultural attic.[16] Why? Had the spirits on the other side abandoned this world? Mediums still practiced but it took the new, very “physical” flying saucer to re-fit the metaphysical messages of the seance room, and since these were ostensibly independently existing beings, anyone could potentially see and interact with a UFO. At least this is how the main narrative at first seemed.

Seance

Ships are meant to float and move upon the waters; they are animated by the living force that animates all things here, and if we wish to move them over the water we have but to focus our thoughts in that direction…Our host handles his craft skillfully, and increasing and diminishing its speed he could create, by the different degree of movement of the water, the most striking alternations of color and a musical sound, the brilliant scintillations of the sea showing how alive it was. It responded to the boat’s every movement as though they were in complete unison—as indeed they were.

-medium Anthony Borgia, Life in the World Unseen, from 1914.[17]

Change “ship” to “craft” and “water” to “atmosphere” or “space” in this declaration and it could read as part of a UFO contactee’s narrative, or even from an alien abduction account.

So what is this all about? Spirits and aliens are the same?

Not exactly, but close. The same, but different.

Jacques Vallee’s conditioning-stimulus “scheduled reinforcement” process hypothesis provides a framework for understanding the changing face of the Otherworldly:[18] we get accustomed to one mask that appears to undermine our general orientation to reality; a numerical tipping point of humans come to believe in the phenomenon; then it changes its form, but ever reminds us of its presence—and symbolizes a further mystery we shall perhaps never explain but are goaded into coming to terms with.

Vallee points out that the UFO experiences (as much as we can be said to know them) cannot be separated from the media filters through which they pass, much like the signal-noise model of information he studied in his career as a computer scientist. Distortion of the actual phenomenon is inevitable for the human mind; these deformations are culturally shaped, and in turn feed back into society and help shape further instances of the phenomenon, whether it is conceived as entirely “physical” or “psychological” in origin. The distortion is always present, and the one definite factor certain to be in play.

The phenomenon itself is not directly observable, but its effects certainly are—specifically on cultural concepts of the “Other/Alien/ET,” by either creating “new” religious beliefs or altering existing ones. Both the phenomenon itself and the resultant forms created by the media feedback fulfil societal needs (and can also thus be manipulated by cult leaders or governmental agents).[19]

Vallee has many times pointed out the self-negating nature of UFO contactee’s claims, the always-ambiguous authenticity of landing traces, or the obvious fact that there has been a vast zoo of differing ET appearances and behaviors that are many times in conflict with one another. Parasychologist John Beloff addressed this very problem of intractability (and perhaps absurdity, as Vallee so often puts it) when analyzing the history of parapsychological research:

One truth about psi phenomena which every parapsychologist learns the hard way is that they are not just elusive, in the sense of being difficult to pin down, they are, or at any rate they seem to be, actively evasive. One well-known contemporary experimentalist (William Braude) has spoken of the “self-obscuring” aspect of psi…By the 1940s mediumistic séances were “old hat” and the new respectable and sanitized parapsychology that J.B. Rhine had introduce at Duke University was all set to take the academic world by storm. But Rhine’s new science soon ran up against the same obstacle that had beset traditional psychical research—the evasiveness of the phenomena. The “new era” which Pawlovsky thought so imminent is still pending. Time and again since then it has looked as if parapsychology was poised to sweep away all the familiar doubts and objections, overcome all prejudice and opposition and take its rightful place in the spectrum of human knowledge but so far this aspiration remains still-born… What is it that makes psi so evasive? One possible answer lies in the fact that, more perhaps than any other psychological phenomenon, psi appears to be extremely sensitive to situational factors. It is more than just a question of the subject being in the right frame of mind. The whole cultural milieu in which the subject operates might influence decisively what is or is not possible for the subject to achieve.[20](emphasis added)

Beloff’s is the tack Vallee has often taken with regard to UFO interactions and their aftermath: the matrix of cultural information (scientific, religious, social, material) plays a determining and invisible part in what is regarded as an anomalous message that transgresses the norms of that matrix. Incorporating the raw message, which to the contactee is entirely subjective or even “spiritual,” into the existing matrix is impossible without diluting/translating it—but this drawback is only possible through the current epistemology (and something we will address in the latter part of this essay). Beloff continues with a metaphor that parallels Vallee’s idea of the control system operating as a thermostat that is “seeking equilibrium” with itself by altering human behavior and conceptions of reality:

Let us, then, think of nature as one vast immune system. Paranormal phenomena, on this metaphor, correspond to infections comparable to the intrusion of viruses or bacilli into a healthy body. A new paranormal phenomenon for which there was no precedent, say table levitation or metal bending, would correspond to a powerful infection of this kind. The immune system of nature would go in to action with the result that such phenomena would thereafter be eliminated. But nature would still be helpless in the face of a new infection, and so a constant search for novelty would become the sine qua non of successful attempts to demonstrate whatever lies outside the normal course of nature or violates the laws of physics. Pursuing this metaphor, we may say that another method that would allow us to get away with the paranormal would be to introduce it in very dilute doses. In that case, the immune system of nature need never be activated just as in our own immune system very minor infections, as occurred with the vaccine, need not elicit any symptoms. This, indeed, seems to be the logic of much in current experimental parapsychology, such as attempts to bias the output of a random event generator. The drawback of that strategy, however, is the difficulty of a rousing any interest in such marginal results among those who are not professional parapsychologists.[21] (emphasis added)

The same of course applies to the subject of the ufologist: how can one gain the interest of “real scientists” to study what amounts to an entirely unpredictable apparitional event?

Tulpa

The Hermetic Take on Guides from the Other Side

As Havan Blomqvist and others have noted,[22] Theosophists always claimed to have knowledge of—or even direct contact with—the Great Mahatmas of the Himalayas and other diversely named yet similar “ascended brotherhoods” (the Yucatan, the Great White Lodge, the Ellora, etc.) that are said to intervene in human affairs at times to guide our evolution. Hermetic scholar Jocelyn Godwin discusses the “hidden hand” of these intelligences at work in the phenomena of Mesmerism, Spiritualism, and Theosophy, who also, by extension, continue to influence our culture through the UFO Space Brother.[23] This myth posits that these beings—or spirits—are said to take whatever form is needed and communicate cosmic truths via both traditional mediums and anomalous experiences (such as UFOs, synchronicities, angelic visitations). One can attempt contact with them through conventional methods such as meditation or entrancement, but as Vallee might argue the mode of contact for the technological West is now one of disruption of our materialist worldview via what appear to be technological marvels that defy physics and almost all known science—UFOs and how they alter our worldviews.

Contact with Other intelligences was once an accepted part of the natural order of social life via shamanistic practices, before various totalistic systems such as cults, religions, science, and social pressures reframed and marginalized those worldviews and techniques. Now contact is mediated through several layers. One cannot call upon aliens (Steven Greer’s claims notwithstanding) in the way séances once called upon the passed-on.

Betty Andreasson-Luca’s depictions of her experiences

By 1995, alien abductions had overwhelmingly become the media focus of the contact experience; abduction-related books outnumbered in both publishing and sale numbers all other aspects of the UFO phenomena.[24] Seeming genetic experiments upon percipients replaced “space exploration hardware” as the dominant narrative of these books.

In many abductions, the person undergoes a bedroom visitation by greys or other beings and is taken through the house walls into a circular room; many times, an ET-like craft is not even seen, but only inferred by means of previous experiences, or the accounts of other experiencers.

The Others’ scientist-like activities tracked with advances in reproductive technology (see essay on alien transhumanism), yet the frequency of this particularly medical manifestation has apparently dwindled in public reports over the past decade.[25] Contact has become entirely a matter of myths that use our technological metaphors of “upgraded DNA” and psychic “downloads” of information—what was once called spiritual evolution and “reading the Akashic record” in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

After studying the history of paranormal events, many investigators have noted that the persons who experience alien abductions unequivocally also experience poltergeist-like elements. In poltergeist events:

–there is usually a single focus person.

–the experiences often follow this individual around from location to location.

–a sense of a conscious, often malicious presence in a room is experienced prior to “main event” (it may produce bangings, flying objects, etc.)

–apparitions may be seen that are generally human-like in form.

–physical marks are left on the body and environment, i.e, presences that pinch, prick, or scratch the individuals. Fingerprints, “claw marks,” and scrape marks are sometimes seen in dust, furniture, clothes, or bed dressings, during the poltergeist attack.

–electrical interference occurs; lights, televisions, or radios will turn themselves on/off, lightbulbs burst, flicker, or strobe.

–levitation of objects (and, rarely, even persons) occurs.

–balls of light, often blue, are seen; blue flashes and “cold breezes” accompany some mediums’ trance states, such as Stella Cranshaw’s, that were accompanied by poltergeist-like physical effects, studied by the SPR in 1923-26.[26]

–hazes, often blue in color, are seen.
–objects may disappear (sometimes from locked or hidden places) and reappear in the open or in incongruous places (teleportation).
–objects, most often stones, seem to materialize or pass through solid objects such as walls. Often they are found to be warm or hot to the touch.

–“teleported” or “apported” objects (such as stones, cups, plates, etc.) are seen to make all sorts of impossible maneuvers mid-flight as they fall, such as zig-zags, parabolas, leaf-like motions, corkscrewing, hovering in mid-air—much in the manner many UFOs are observed to move in the sky.

–buzzing, crackling, or bell-like sounds may be heard; sometimes incomprehensible speech, groans, or screams.

–rarely, and perhaps circumstantially, animals have been found mutilated in surgically precise manners during poltergeist manifestations, suggesting a tentative connection to the link between UAP activity and animal, especially bovine, mutilations.

These poltergeist-specific phenomena parallel only some of the superficial features of abductions and UFO sightings…Nevertheless, these parallels are clear.

There is usually no “story” to a poltergeist infestation (a contrary view by sociologist Eric Ouellet can be found here).[27] Abductions, on the other hand, involve a distinctive narrative that over time can acquire a deep meaning to both experiencer and their auditor(s) alike.

The important point is that both poltergeists and abductions involve escalations of the paranormal activity. In the poltergeist the intensification occurs in a short period of time, months at the most, while for the abductee it occurs over years, decades, or a lifetime. The latter seems to wane with the experiencer’s age.

Following Alan Gauld’s and A.D. Cornell’s criteria of comparison,[28] hauntings may contain some or even all of the poltergeist elements listed above, but they are location-specific, not person-centered.

Seeing apparitions is rather rare in poltergeist episodes, so there are general boundaries between hauntings and poltergeists. Yet alien abductions also unequivocally contain apparitional/haunting-like elements. In both:

–the entities/apparitions appear either suddenly or gradually “materialize” into sensible form from a “haze” or light; often the percipient feels “their” presence before sensibly interacting with the Others.

 — buzzing, crackling, bell-like, or humming/vibrating sounds may be heard at the outset of an abduction (this has occurred in a small minority of apparition appearances); conversely, a total dampening of sound often precedes or accompanies the apparition/alien.

–a sense of unreality precedes and accompanies the apparition; in abductions or UFO entity sightings, this depersonalization or derealization has been noted in many dozens of cases.

–a change in ambient temperature is very often noted.

–paralysis of the percipient is sometimes experienced in apparitional sightings, especially crisis apparitions wherein the “hallucinated” person has just died or is near death; in abductions, the experiencer almost universally finds themselves paralyzed while in bed.

–apparitions appear fully clothed, and sometimes with accompanying accessories (canes, sticks, bags, even horses, etc.); Otherworldly beings are almost always clothed and carry devices (“boxes,” “guns,” “wands,” etc.).

–apparitions, whether of the living or those near death, may appear imbedded within hallucinatory scenes that are veridical, that is, they are later verified as the actual surroundings of the “sender” at the time of the percipient’s experience; similarly, abduction experiencers report holographic or televisual scenes that float as if being emitted from “disembodied screens,” or are immersive, augmented-reality-like programs. (Sometimes these screens’ appearance precedes the abduction, and in some reports incongruous beings or people, like figures of Jesus or a similar protective deity, have been reported to show up in the midst of an abduction).

–a message is often transmitted from the apparition, aurally or telepathically.

–conversations with apparitions can either be aural or telepathic, but mostly the latter.

–many times, UFOs or apparitions are seen by only a few persons present in a group setting of potential percipients; in UFO sightings (and even abductions), sometimes only the abductee(s) in the group see(s) the UFO (and may subsequently undergo an abduction experience). There are many cases of apparitions that appear to one or two people within a group of more potential percipients.

With their massive study Phantasms of the Living (1886), SPR investigators Edmund Gurney andFrederic Myers came to speculate that apparitions (especially of the crisis-type that occur within 24 hours of the “ghost’s” death) were the result of a telepathic transmission from the “crisis agent” to the friend/acquaintance percipient (and even multiple percipients).

Mathematician and physicist G.N.M Tyrrell further developed a hypothesis that involved the conception of an idea-pattern[29] that is projected from the agent that may affect one or more targeted persons in a “drama.”[30]

Tyrrell’s idea of the apparitional drama is based upon studies of hallucination and a crucial distinction he makes between the sense-data that is perceived by the brain and the physical objects that may cause the sense-data; in his scheme, physical objects may or may not produce sense-data, despite their being within one’s sensory field.

Tyrrell’s conception is meant to be a general philosophical basis for the astonishing examples of hallucination of which the human mind is capable, as Oliver Sacks describes in his book on the subject. For Tyrrell, our subjective experiences are simply the sense-data that appear in the mind, regardless of whether they are physically caused by objects in the outer world or not. On his definition, dreams, hypnagogic imagery, daydreams, and hallucinations are all sub-groupings of possible sense-data. These seemingly disparate states may or may not help the successful management of meeting life’s needs; that focused “center” that primarily assists in self-preservation we call the ego is, for Tyrrell (and Myers) at once more akin to a stream with multiple subconscious ideas and affects active within it at all times.

An apparition for Tyrrell is not physical but a construction of sense-data co-created by sender (agent) and the percipient(s). It may behave in every way like a physical object, interact with the environment, even be touched, but is not physically present. Any interaction between the apparition and its environment that may leave a physical trace Tyrrell tentatively puts down to possible psychokinesis on the part of the percipient.

During events in which the apparition appears solid, elements of the percipient’s environment mustbe hallucinated as well—in this case, it is called a “negative hallucination” and plays a crucial part in the perceived “ghost” (this accounts for how an apparition can block out the space/objects behind it to conform to the percipient’s three-dimensional space).

Tyrrell’s idea was further developed by parapsychologist Celia Green into the concept of a metachoric hallucination,[31] in which the percipient’s mind might generate the whole of one’s surroundings—sense-data that “overwrite” the direct perception of the environment, attitudes, and even actions while perceiving the apparition. This peculiar state can make the sense-data amenable to drastic alteration by a force other than the percipient’s conscious ego. According to Green, it is conceivable the percipient is simply still lying down, still in a chair, or even standing, mildly entranced, while unconsciously producing the entire experience. Essentially, it is as if one suddenly enters a waking dream state…

The force that shapes these alterations, which may be conjectured to also be the force behind UFOs, apparitions, images of the passed-on, otherworldly beings, has not yet been specified—for our present stage of science lacks a developed vocabulary of “topological” concepts to bridge and map the mental, physical, and third space in which such events may be said to occur (which has been given countless names over the centuries, from the realm of Forms to Myers’s “metetherial field” to the Imaginal world).

Apparition experiences may seem random, although 90% of the time the apparition’s identity is not unknown to the witness (and the connection to a crisis for the “sender” has been noted). Poltergeist victims may seem random as well, but psychological explanations have been put forward regarding unconscious and overwhelming psychological stress on the victims, especially for pubescent children and teenagers, as the source of the psychokinetic events in as many as half of the solid cases.

In both cases, for the witnesses/victims, neither willpower nor choice is apparently involved. What, if anything, may be conjectured to connect the two manifestations?

There is a class of person that bridge the two manifestations: the physical medium. Discounting the many hundreds of frauds that have been uncovered by investigators, there remain four compelling individuals whose careers attest to the concept of “controllable PK”: Daniel Dunglas Home (1833-1886), Indridi Indridason (1883-1912), Rudi Schneider (1908-1957), and Nina Kulagina (1926-1990).

Home’s performances were witnessed by thousands of persons, including eminent scientists and heads of state across Europe. He was never caught in fraud and his phenomena never seriously debunked. Indridason unfortunately died at 28 after six years of strenuous and spiritually taxing physical mediumship. His seances were witnessed by a few hundred persons, the core of these being a small investigative society specially set up to study him.[32] Both Home and Indridason produced spectacular light manifestations; poltergeist-like rappings, poundings, flying objects; full and partial bodily materializations of “spirits” who interacted with the present séance sitters; wind gusts in closed rooms, some lasting as long as 20 seconds; physical contact by invisible hands; and, most spectacularly, full bodily levitation (in both cases their bodies rose above six feet into the air before witnesses)…Home and Indridason claimed the “possessing” spirits were wholly responsible for the observed phenomena, using the men’s physical “energies” to produce the psychokinetic displays. Physical and mental exhaustion resulted after these long seances in which they produced a spectrum of the activities.

Schneider was examined and tested by under some of the strictest controls imaginable (total physical restraint in many cases) and still he produced PK effects around him.[33] In several instances, infrared beams were used to detect any attempt at his releasing himself from the restraints and moving objects in the lab. The beams were broken while he was still trussed up and at the same time his control announced the projection of PK energy to move the target object.

At the more extreme ends of pseudoskepticism, debunkers put forth mass hallucination by the witnesses as an explanation, or some kind of “group hypnosis” on the mediums’ part. Such waving away the problem is almost as supernatural an explanation as purported spirit manifestation.

If we grant that people with these talents exist, can exhibit and, to a degree, control psychokinetic manifestations (whether by subconscious energies or “spirits”), what is the likelihood that certain persons exist (and always have existed) who can create, say, lightforms that are actually a type of thought-form? What if these psychic forms can exhibit an independence of their creators?

At the more extreme ends of debunking, mass hallucination by the witnesses was put forth as an explanation, as well as some kind of group hypnosis on the mediums’ part. Such waving away the problem is almost as supernatural an explanation as purported spirit manifestation.

Anne Whitley

Anne Strieber had been helping her husband Whitley read through the thousands of letters he’d received after the publication of his bestseller Communion in 1987. They found that many people were mentioning encountering “aliens” during Near Death Experiences, or images of their passed-on loved ones during abductions. Anne said, “this is about the dead”—giving her husband a founding revelation as to the meaning of his strange experiences.[34] Eventually Strieber remembered seeing a childhood friend who had passed on during his first recalled abduction experience in 1986, and, although he never has considered himself a medium, has had extended interactions with the passed-on and “ghost-like persons”[35] for 40 years.

From then onward he looked at the Visitors (as he has always called them) as some sort of communication conduit to our evolution—again, what has become a common idea in the experiencer and channeling communities.[36]

In Part 2 of this essay, we will examine how technology has now become an dominant metaphor for the transmission of messages and humanity itself.

—————————-

[1] See Vallee’s Passport to Magonia and other works, and Keel’s Operation Trojan Horse.

[2] For even one of these reports to be taken as the truth, we have to conjecture that a very strong form of mental suggestion was at work at the least. Fair enough. But if multiple good witnesses were present at such a display, what are we to make of the physical manifestations?

[3] This “vocabulary of divine movement” is, strangely enough, echoed in the series The OA, in which the protagonists’ magic motions are learned during near-death experiences.

[4] See The Shaker Experience in America by Stephen J. Stein, Yale University Press, 1992, pgs. 165-200.

[5] Gauld, Alan. A History of Hypnotism, Cambridge University Press, 1995, 41-49, 53-57, 62-64, 79, 103, 107, 143-44, 165, 252-53.

[6] See Brown, Slater. The Heyday of Spiritualism, Pocket Books, 1972, pgs. 84-110.

[7] Gauld, pgs. 141-155.

[8]Ibid, pgs. 85-86, 103, 137-38, 146-9, 151-53, 182, 234-39.  

[9] Saturnine spirits or “gods” figure as the focus of many religions, like the Nommo, teachers of the Dogon of Mali. In their case, the Dogon claimed the Nommo are now in “hibernation” in a vehicle or moon around Saturn but originally came from Sirius.

[10] Gauld, 1995, pg. 191.

[11] UFO researchers who believe that physical ET craft are visiting earth are mostly astronomers, engineers, physicists, etc.—those who adhere to the materialist mindset. They predictably scoffed at Layne’s explanation for the ET interlopers. Most of our religious and physicalist-oriented society ridiculed both camps of ET believers. A hierarchy of the damned (as Charles Fort might have put it) came into being regarding the origin of UFOs, and in the 1950s, the lowest in the food chain was the quasi-Theosophist channeler of ET wisdom.

[12] This has a parallel in general psi studies, called the decline effect, which occurs to individuals who may initially score high against chance in tests, then eventually revert back to the average. The decline in spectacular séance phenomena, at least as recorded by parapsychological associations, seems to be a collective manifestation of this same statistical effect, and plays into Vallee’s idea of an intermittent schedule reinforcement.

[13] Excluding today’s popular spirit channels such as John Edwards (who never submit to SPR-like experimental strictures), where are such persons who, were they test subjects, would by all accounts easily challenge the physicalist paradigm? One could make the case that Edgar Cayce, Stefan Ossowiecki, Uri Gellar, Ted Owens, Ingo Swann, Hella Hamid, Joseph McMoneagle, or the talented SRI remote viewers have been our contemporary equivalents, but none except Cayce (and sometimes Gellar) required a trance. Most achieved their psi-conducive states either consciously, that is willfully, or through self-suggested mild trance. In the 1970s-1990s the US military and intelligence agencies secretly entered the psi research field via the Stanford Research Institute/NASA/CIA remote viewing programs and the DIA’s Project Stargate (of which McMoneagle was the central psychic). This originated partly in reaction to similar Soviet programs at the time—a clandestine “psychic arms race,” as SRI coordinator Russell Targ put it. I’d submit these projects are still ongoing, and thus the most talented individuals have been sought and vacuumed up (perhaps even on a worldwide scale) by these secret programs for the intelligence/military agencies’ exclusive use, probably for significant remuneration as “contractors.”

[14] For anyone inclined with an open mind to read through this voluminous case-study research and analysis, it is pretty clear that the strict materialist model of reality must be bullshit.

[15] Carter, Chris. Science and Psychic Phenomena: The Fall of the House of Skeptics, Inner Traditions, 2012, pgs. 63-65, 70-71, 76-77, 82-104.

[16] Seances were old hat and wouldn’t make good television. Is this transformation to invisibility just an artifact of how radically media changed forms? An “information glut,” although of a slower pace, existed before the internet threw everything at us at once; thousands of magazines competed for attention, mass market paperbacks made home libraries cheaper, and television flooded the living room with visions of what life was supposed to be like. Invisible though were its electromagnetic means, radio and TV mass media were compelled by market forces to focus on the tangibles of the world: war, politics, economics, scandals, social movements, etc.  Combined with the unspoken embargo on promoting religious views, the media offered no outlet to the “alternative altars” of countercultural spirituality that nevertheless existed (and flourished in some places).

[17] Anthony Borgia, Life in the World Unseen, Corgi Books/Transworld Publications, 1970

[18] Vallee, Jacques. Dimensions: A Casebook of Alien Contact, Anomalist Books, 2008, pgs. 271-281; The Invisible College, Anomalist Books, 2014, pgs. 194-206.

[19] See Vallee’s Messengers of Deception: UFO Contacts and Cults.

[20] Beloff, John. Parapsychology: A Concise History, pgs. 231-32.

[21] Ibid, pg. 233.

[22] https://ufoarchives.blogspot.com/2019/02/the-esoteric-intervention-theory-updated.html

[23] https://ufoarchives.blogspot.com/2016/04/paranormal-phenomena-and-academic.html

[24] The Gods Have Landed, State University of New York Press, 1995, James R. Lewis, ed.; from the essay “Religious Dimensions of the UFO Abductee Experience” by John Witmore, pg. 66.

[25] Although there continue to be self-published abduction memoirs, by the millennium the mainstream publishing industry had moved on. Another reason for this may be that since roughly the year 2000, abduction experiencers have shunned reporting the experiences to scientists or psychologists or therapists and turned instead to the communities of other experiencers on the internet.

[26] See Wilson, Colin. Poltergeist! A Study in Destructive Haunting, Putnam, 1982, pgs. 278-79, and the case of Icelandic mediumIndridi Indridason.

[27] That is, unless some “deceased person” is found to be associated with the site or attached to the focus person, or a crime against the focus person is revealed by subsequent/concurrent therapeutic procedures with the focus. One theory holds that a discharge of repressed psychic energy through therapeutic abreaction often causes the poltergeist activity to cease. But it does cease, unlike those abduction experiencers who report the events continuing for years or even decades.

[28] Gauld, Alan and Cornell, A.D. Poltergeists, White Crow Books, 2018, pgs. 176-180, 188-89, 202-207, 283-84.

[29] Tyrrell, G.N.M. Apparitions, Collier Books, 1963, pgs. 110-114.

[30] Tyrrell, (1963) pgs. 102-127, 131-34.

[31] Green, Celia, and McCreery, Charles, Apparitions, Hamilton Press, 1975; Green and McCreery, Lucid Dreaming, Routledge, 1994; UFOs: The Final Answer? Ufology for the 21St Century, Barclay, David and therese Marie, eds., Blandford Press, 1993, pgs. 130-153.

[32] See Haraldsson, Erlendur and Gissurarsson, Loftur R. Indridi Indridason: The Icelandic Physical Medium, White Crow Books, 2015, for a full account of Indridi’s short but astounding career.

[33] Schneider

[34] Strieber, Whitley and Kripal, Jeffrey J. The Super Natural: A New Vision of the Unexplained, Jeremy P. Tarcher, Penguin, 2016, pgs. 37, 53, 82.

[35] See Strieber’s book The Key, in which, while on a book tour in 1998, he had a late-night visit from an anonymous man who communicated to him revelations, not unlike a spirit-guide or Carl Jung’s daemon Philemon.

[36] We might examine the overlap between poltergeist/hauntings and fairy/djinn encounters (the evidence for which there is plenty), but that would involve a monumental cross-cultural comparison. All we can say is that the maturation of scientific classification systems from the 18th to 20th centuries allowed for distinctions to be made between apparitions, hauntings, fairy/djinn encounters, and the poltergeist. And for the past 70 years we have had UFOs and “alien beings” to add to the unexplained. The folk division between the fairy-daemon and the dead was always indistinct, from antiquity to the beginning of the 20th century. (See the works of Katherine Briggs, Thomas Keightley, Reverend Robert Kirk, and W.Y. Evans-Wentz). Fairies’ status as the “dead awaiting salvation” (one fairy in an encounter tale openly admits such) caused the Protestant elite no small manner of discomfort, because it paralleled the Catholic belief in a purgatorial existence between life and heaven or hell. The middle ground between binarities must be excluded, in religion as well as science. Let’s just say that what always distinguished human ghosts from the Good People was the fairies’ interests in partying and dancing, staying aloof from humans who disrespected them, and kidnapping people to marry or—especially—have sex with them to hybridize a new kind of being, one perhaps closer to full corporeality.

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