The Metachorea, Chapter 1: Don’t Confuse me with the Facts!

PREFACE:

    DON’T CONFUSE ME WITH THE FACTS…

By the second decade of the 21st century it is clear that the “great conversation” of philosophy has exhausted all possible pretenses to explaining an “ultimate reality” and, via its general turn to critiquing institutional powers, has almost entirely penned itself off from policing the empirical sciences.[1]

One reason for this situation is due to a centuries-old belief: Science is not supposed to deal with morality and ethics. Morality was the one province left to philosophy,[2] but by now this defense has been virtually swept away by the secular humanism that informs the Enlightenment’s political program. Technocracy’s utilitarian foundations have for the most part trumped moral concerns; ethics, whether pragmatic or deontological, only impede the march of science in its goal to relieve the plights of humanity.

The ancient forms of holistic philosophy such as the Stoics’s, in which epistemology, ontology, and ethics were inseparable, are forever gone. With the exception of German “meta-narrativists” such as Kant, Hegel, and Spengler, the classical Stoic trio of disciplines lived on until the late 19th century, when epistemology and ontology were farmed out to the hard sciences of physics, biology, chemistry, and neurology. Ethics was in effect left to individual conscience and the rationalizations of religious mores.

While “hard” science appealed to certainty for its cosmic visions, its methods were eventually applied to government policy and public mental health regimes via the soft humanistic sciences of psychology, economics, sociology, and anthropology. The freedom of a sovereign conscience came to apply not only to belief as defined by the Abrahamic religions, but eventually to beliefs in general on the nature of reality; this was the creeping nihilism inherent in supposedly “value-free” sciences which Nietzsche, amongst others, railed against as both dangers and as opportunities for a type of conscious evolution.

Today this free-for-all has resulted in multiplying the cosmologies and beliefs to which a person could potentially subscribe. Despite the sciences’ pretentions to a singular reality of which scientists are the sole arbiter, we have been in an ontological bacchanalia for some time now.

If we are awake and open, we must attempt to process a confusing mélange of conflicting explanations for where we have come from and even what we are. Those who are absolutely certain of any truth—and hold a universality to their beliefs—are looked upon as suspect, unhinged, even fascist.

So what has this situation to do with “anomalous” experiences and the human imagination?

It turns out, everything. From the standpoint we will explore, anomalous experiences like ghost sightings, psychokinesis (PK), or seeing an Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) are akin to the creative acts of the human mind; both human ingenuity and anomalous experiences are equally mysterious in their origin.[3] Both have been plagues on humankind, for very different reasons.

 

I’LL SEE IT WHEN I BELIEVE IT

With a fair amount of certainty one can predict a given person’s explanation for an Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) encounter based only upon their opinion of what reality consists—whether they profess a belief in absolute idealism or materialist monism, for instance.

For example, if one believes the real world is ideal (whether it be thoughts in the mind of God, the veil of maya, a realm of Platonic Forms beyond our imperfect copies, or a holographic projection from a higher dimension) then there is a good possibility that they will come to believe the UAP and their “pilot entities” are made of the same insubstantial “mind stuff” as we and everything else in the universe—incorporeal thought-forms—but perhaps more powerful with regard to their controlling these illusions in the UAP percipient’s mind. If the universe is not physical, the UAP entities furthermore can be contacted directly on this mental-ideal plane. Distance and time are no obstacles if space-time is illusory and malleable continuum of Idea. This particular belief underlies many forms of occult practice, and historically is the bridge between modern UAP and the realm of ceremonial magic.[4]

A monist physicalist (materialist) on the other hand erects insurmountable barriers for UAP being either extraterrestrial or interdimensional or ideal, as we’ll explore shortly. A Darwinian physicalist would counter the explanation that UAP are manned by “hidden Terran race/cryptoterrestrial” by explaining that an unknown species of beings cannot have survived on this planet without human knowledge of them, if not depositing some kind of paleobiological proof of their existence. Their physicalist framework would render claims of evolved abilities to possess invisibility camouflage (as some cryptoterrestrialist theorists have suggested) and psychic powers in advanced, unknown homo sapiens occultum as unprovable nonsense.

A fundamentalist steeped in the Abrahamic religions will see the world as the product of a single act of creation whose physical laws are secondary to a moral informing of the cosmos. Angelic and demonic forces may exist in this worldview, but are necessary to their core beliefs only by which sect we are discussing. For instance, a Southern Baptist or Muslim Salafist may shrug off UAP as demons, or the activity of Ifritic djinn, respectively—which, as we’ll see in Book Two, basically amount to the same type of being.

Within the materialist/religionist dichotomy we have binary oppositions of belief amongst social groups. They have completely different methods of knowing of what truth consists, and how it is constructed. Sub-species of both belief-systems could be extended indefinitely. A Hindu may view UAP as the return of ancient vimana craft used by Krishna and Rama; an Azande will cognize them as evil witch lanterns; a Mormon might believe they are the signs of spiritually advanced angelic beings like the Angel Moroni who appeared to founder Joseph Smith…

The upshot is that these all are conditioned responses via a priori beliefs inherent in their religions’ cosmologies. The scientistic stance is no different in this regard: in their case, an a priori dismissal of Others’ existence as impossible.

The rational study of UAP remains an outlying pursuit in our society and is largely immune to policing of its method. Its pretense to scientific tractability is illusory. “Ufology” has nothing with which to grasp its target but anecdotes, patterns within the anecdotes, and deductive reasoning.

Today’s dismal state of UAP/encounter study is due to the psychological and philosophical factors noted above. The specific belief-system of the investigator determines categorization and the phenomenon’s essence. The groundbreaking work in UAP study, if it can even be called such, has already been done, and done long ago.[5] We now accrete myth upon myth; the parameters for the debate have supposedly been set. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but in UAP study, every opinion is practically unfalsifiable.

It would seem at this point to be a hopeless pursuit, but it is not. Just like mainstream science’s explanations for UAP, this tract will not be so much an explanation as a detailed description of a process that occurs to individuals and groups who encounter—or rather enfold within—such anomalies, its parallels with psychophysical paranormal events, and how Imagination irrupts all norms.

THE END(S) OF PHYSICS

The particle/wave complementarity of energy shown by quantum physics has given us an uneasy contentment with many phenomena that seem logically divergent. The untestable ideas of string theory yield the same unease in both its proponents and dissenters. The limits of the directly observable, long ago transgressed in quantum experiments, have driven physicists yet further to conjectures with no falsifiability criterion to test them.

The anomalies we will examine present disparate interpretations that structurally mirror our seemingly dead-ending physics. The divergence of interpretation stems from the highly strange circumstances of the paranormal events themselves. Ambiguity is their very nature, into which Imagination cannot but be projected.

With this essay I hope to steer a course using neurological and psychological findings about the brain, some axioms regarding that elusive activity known as human creativity, and deductions about anomalous perceptions, and tie them together.

 

UPENDING THE DEBUNKERS’ TOOLKIT

In science, there are several types of evidence that may support a hypothesis but, theoretically, “truth” is a label to be avoided. As per philosopher Karl Popper’s criteria, there should be no positive statements asserting a general truth, but tentative ideas that have observable and predictable consequences that can then be falsified by an experiment—therefore, if a theory’s entailed test(s) is falsified, then the theory should be reexamined, if not scrapped.

When we’re considering evidence for concepts such as other dimensions or “otherworldly” beings, most scientists demand evidence that amounts to a type of irrefutable proof of their existence.

But as is historically demonstrated, apparitions almost always appear spontaneously, and therefore the conditions to study them are unrepeatable in the sense that an experiment can be replicated.[6] The Spiritualists’ experiments of the 19th and 20thcenturies, witnessed by some of the greatest scientists of the period, by and large failed scientific tests; only a small fraction of the paranormal phenomena were left unexplainable. The same percentage (10-15%) holds for “unknowns” in UAP reports and their reported pilot entities.

The burden then becomes foisted upon an anomaly experiencer to prove a positive—the physical existence of what they witnessed or are asserting they witnessed.

To assert grounds for their non-existence is easy enough for the debunker; they only have to state that the laws of physics as we understand them do not allow the existence of beings from distant worlds to appear here because space-time travel-lengths from distant stars are too great, or that the physical energies for “transdimensional beings” to fold/warp into our space involved are too intense—and their intrusions would easily be noticed by scientific/military instrumentation deployed throughout society at large.[7]

But these scientists are replying to specific (perhaps grossly misguided) hypotheses as to what was witnessed in the first place by the percipient and/or made it into the investigator’s report. That the Others are physical extraterrestrial or transdimensional entities are 1) human conclusions made after the fact of experience, or 2) admissions by the (usually) more anthropomorphic-looking beings. Skeptics suspend judgment about such ideas. Debunkers are another story.

The entities may very well be from another star system, but the chances of that are very slim, as we shall see. For the debunker, whose mind is already made up, a snap judgment is inevitable: the percipient has given us lies, hallucinations, mistaken memory.[8]

The “normal” and the “paranormal” are useless terms when one considers that the norm is a matter of a frame of reference relative to a body of knowledge in historical time. In other words, the paranormal is a part of the natural world from a larger standpoint we simply may not yet understand. To take just one example of a debunker’s irony, here’s a real corker from Michael Shermer, editor-in-chief of Skeptic magazine: “It is at the horizon where the known meets the unknown that we are tempted to inject paranormal and supernatural forces to explain hitherto unsolved mysteries, but we must resist the temptation because such efforts can never succeed, not even in principle.”[9]

To what principle is he referring? It must be the axiom that the paranormal doesn’t exist because it simply can’t. This statement itself does not pass scientific muster. It’s a sterling example of rhetorically assuming total knowledge of what it intends to prove non-existent—that the paranormal does not exist, therefore cannot be investigated, simply because…it does not exist. It is circular. It rests on metaphysical assumptions about the ultimate nature of reality, that reality has no non-measurable aspects that may be responsible for the paranormal. Yet debunkers like Shermer are supposedly committed to eliminating metaphysics from any scientific discussion. The irony of his statement is completely lost on him.

It can’t be denied that debunkers neither prove or disprove any claim they make against the strange experiences anomaly witnesses report. Although many ufologists are masters at deploying logical fallacies in trying to prove extraterrestrials’ presence here on earth, there is no shortage of sloppy thinking in the debunker community either, in particular the use of the straw man, complex question, bandwagon, begging the question, ad hominem, “no true Scotsman,” subjectivist, and appeal-to-authority fallacies.

 

ET NULL HYPOTHESIS + 1

Astronomers Woodruff Sullivan and Adam Frank have tabulated figures using the first three parts of Drake’s equation and new information from the Kepler telescope, which has discovered 300 exoplanets. It turns out that nearly every star probably has at least one planet. In all likelihood billions of stars have planets in the “Goldilocks” zone where water and an atmosphere can form. According to their calculations there is a 1 in 10 billion chance that a civilization did not evolve in this habitable zone of some star. With the age of the universe, the chance that one that is at least as technologically advanced as ours developed at one time is 100%. Now multiply that by the estivated number of stars with planets in the habitable zone: 25%.

               The likelihood that advanced extraterrestrials exist, or existed in the past, is near 100%. If they exist at the level now, or have a say 100,000 year head start, it is very possible they could develop means of traversing vast interstellar distances. To say they have to pass through our exact technological phases to reach such a level is anthropocentric. Accident has played a huge part in scientific progress. Cognitive differences in their early evolutionary development could have led some of these extraterrestrials to possessing imaginative capacities far beyond ours; perhaps they could view designs for machines in 3-D solely in their minds, like Leonardo da Vinci was reputed to do. Perhaps they could see the finite and detrimental courses certain technologies would take (such as the use of fossils fuels). Perhaps after discovering mathematics, or a cognitive analogue to it, they could create in their minds many thousands of models for the composition and deign of spacecraft before even raising a finger to actually build them.

But these conjectures tell us nothing about them appearing here. Here is a syllogistic breakdown of the way things stand with regard to Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) being extraterrestrial:

1. Standard ET hypothesis (ETH):
-Statistically, extraterrestrial life, perhaps technologically evolved many ten of thousands of years before us, must exist somewhere in our galaxy.
-Human-possible means of interstellar flight that approach/exceed light speed or that warp space have already been discovered by these extraterrestrials. Therefore,
-The ET civilizations that discovered it long ago could come here with ease, given the time-frame.
————
2. Conservative adjunct to ETH:
-Currently-known means of interstellar space flight make travel from elsewhere to earth nearly impossible for even one, let alone hundreds, of different alien races.
-There are hundreds of differing UAP forms and entities (“races”) reported; therefore
-Conventional means of interstellar flight are not used, or they are not here.
***Rejoinder: Unknown but human-possible means may be used for their interstellar transport, as in the first set of syllogisms; or multiple generations pass on the vehicle as it traverses space; or the beings are in suspended animation during flight; or grown artificially during flight; or they are very long-lived; or they are a form of artificial intelligences (drones).
Or…
These UAP and their pilot beings are not extraterrestrial but manifestations of something endogenous to earth.
———
3. Consensus ETH Qualification:
-5-10% of reported UAP and their entities are extraterrestrials.
-Different people have very rarely reported the exact same UAP and/or entity (prior to the “greys” seeming to dominate UAP lore 1980-present); there have been hundreds of types of “ships” and creatures reported, almost unique to each percipient, up to the present day.
-Statistically, to the best of our knowledge, it is probable that only one race would be able to perfect the technology capable as we currently envision it of making the journey, as in 2.1; therefore
Only one, or even none, of the UAP craft/entities are extraterrestrial.

***Rejoinder: We could conjecture that the single race that has made the journey here possess means to camouflage itself in a myriad of different forms, thus accounting for the hundreds of types and confusing humanity as to their purposes.

So the existence of UAP as extraterrestrial craft is suspect due to the numbers of different ships/beings that have been reported, and the vanishingly low odds of so many different “races” achieving the physical means to get here. And this even ignores the question of why they would be interested in our planet.

Still, the chance that an unknown intelligent force has interacted with the human race is very great, due simply to the astronomical numbers of reported events of “high strangeness,” revelations, contacts, epiphanies with otherworldly beings noted throughout history—all the way to the present age of UAP and aliens.

ANOMALIES AS NORMS

Another of science’s defining features is the strict classification of phenomena, a practice that stretches as far back (at least) to Aristotle. This Greek thinker also gave us the concept of the excluded middle, the axiom that any proposition must either be true or false. All existent beings either fall into one conceptual set or another. Their traits may overlap, but this results in the creation of a third set of predications. Thus could classification be extended indefinitely.

Together, classification and the excluded middle in practice allow no room for the existence for penumbral entities or experiences—that is, possibilities—where one must admit, almost everything in reality actually belongs. Plato’s “unveiling what is beyond nature,” wedded with Socrates’s technique of elenchus(suspension of any fixed beliefs in order to interrogate a phenomena) and Aristotle’s logic of classification bequeathed us the system that lives at the heart of science. This primal technology, this thinking method (or even a thinking ritual) has now changed the world, and especially how humanity regards its relation to religious experiences.

Regardless of the trappings, the structure of the anomalous phenomena still stands: an ethereal encounter begets the begats. The experiencers of Otherworldly beings and states have changed the world in ways that are socially primordial and more long-lasting than that of the modern science, its technology, and the epistemological stances associated with it.

When one examines human history, we should note that encounters with intelligent-seeming beings that seem evolved higher (or lower) than humanity, or are “from elsewhere” is a rule and not an exception. We may even venture to say that such encounters with Others are statistically ordinary occurrences over epochs, but extraordinary events in a sub-epochal sense—the span of a single week, for instance.

Another way of saying this is that spectacular anomalous events may occur unpredictably within the relatively short timespan of a decade or two, with clusters of events (or even none at all), but occur with a statistical consistency over long periods, such as two centuries—and by spectacular, I mean those events that have been recorded due to the presence of many credible witnesses, or devastating effects upon a small group of witnesses.[10] The Jansenist convulsionnaires movement (which we shall examine), the “Miracle of the Sun” at Fatima, Portugal in 1917 and the appearance of triangular UAP over the Hudson Valley in 1981-83 would be examples of mass anomalous experiences. In the 20th century, for instance, there were major worldwide waves of UAP encounters: 1947 (majority in USA), 1952, 1954 (majority in France/Italy), 1958, 1965-69, 1973-74, 1976-78 (majority in South America, UK, USA, and USSR), 1981, 1986-91.[11]

Every person who has lived has probably either 1) experienced an anomalous being directly; 2) known someone who has encountered one directly; or 3) has heard of someone by a maximum of two degrees of separation that has had an extraordinary encounter.[12]

The most important aspect of extraordinary encounters is that they almost always change that percipient’s outlook on life. The intense quality of their conviction affects people close to them; their family or friends may be converted by the sheer charisma of the transformed’s personality into not only belief in the experience, but belief in that force which ostensibly caused it as well. Obviously, such primary encounters are how religions begin: Pharaoh Amenhotep IV’s revelation of the Aten; Moses’s burning bush; the apostles encounter with the resurrected Jesus; Paul’s encounter with the resurrected Jesus; Gabriel’s appearance to Muhammad; Joseph Smith and the Angel Moroni, etc. Numinous encounters are also how the revelation of prophecy is forged: think of Ezekiel and Enoch and Elijah and John of Patmos. The communion of Saints Hildegard and Bernadette and Lucia with the “white lady” (AKA the Blessed Virgin Mary) has given way to alien contactees Betty Andreasson and Truman Betherum and Howard Menger encountering angelic-appearing beings. Each of these people had a meeting with some force that changed them—and through a subculture-to-cultural stealth, affected a not insignificant portion of our civilization.

Inside any socially stable group, individuals may be subject to an array of anomalous events but there are always limited vocabularies to describe and tame them. These anomalies transform the society, for good or ill—causing a spiritual solace in the experiencer(s), or causing a reactive force that comes to some powerful individuals or groups in vanquishing the irruption when it threatens the communal order (if we chose the late 17th century, for instance, by means of official exorcism or trials and murder of the “witch”).

It’s a simple fact that any arbitrarily chosen time-period/geographical area will possess its corresponding set of Otherworldly beings and associated phenomena. Their influences upon those populations’ thinking and, consequently, their histories are immense and unavoidable.

The bunk that arch-skeptics consistently retail is that a steady-state norm always exists from which there can be no deviation. If such a state of nature existed, all questions as to the universe’s structure and origin would be in principle knowable and probably satisfactorily answered by now. Scientific history is full of surprises that overturned everything known; it is how knowledge changes.

Arch-debunkers seem not to possess the reflective capacity to see the mechanisms by which the norms of accepted and acceptable scientific knowledge, for instance, have changed radically over the past century.[13] They are many times altered by noting and collecting anomalies in normal scientific practice, as Thomas Kuhn pointed out.[14] The norm is changing today at an almost alarming accelerating rate, and the scientific groundwork for postulating a falsifiable theory for anomalous experiences is being laid further each day. With this work, I hope to establish the skeleton and arrow pointing to such a theory.

 

THE EXPLANATORY IMPULSE

So how are such unusual experiences classified today? We know the judgments of the psychological turn (that psychoses or “hysteria” are responsible), and the “mistaken cognitive impression/hallucination” that neuroscience would offer us. These explanations are default frames of reference, and require no thought at all—and are especially poverty-stricken with regard to the content of the percipient’s “hallucination.”

The phenomenology of hallucinations is a crucial aspect pertinent to all mental experience and is amenable to analytic interpretation (Jung was one such pioneer) but on the whole neuroscientists minimize or ignore the significance of the imagery and messages that are present in “deviant” brain activity. Thus every day, inadequate explanations are wheeled out to explain strange experiences, as well as their extrapolation backwards in history to account for the otherworldly encounters of the past.

This is not to say that there aren’t valid psychological, sociological, and historical reasons explaining why people without a directexperience of an Other would come to believe these supernatural occurrences happened. A series of fortuitous strokes led an obscure Palestinian Jewish cult to ascend into the world’s most populous religion. A staunch Christian would likely disagree with that statement, or say that it was foreordained because it is the one true religion, with Paul of Tarsus being the historical lynchpin.

But there is a structure here that bears emphasizing: The important dynamic regarding a born-again Christian’s personal conversion-revelation is that Jesus’s resurrection aligns the “reborn’s” experience with that of Saint Paul’s. It places the percipient directly in the center of an/the originating divine experience. What to the born-again person is a divine tautology—“the grace by which Paul was saved is the same grace by which I was saved”—is echoed in the debunker’s tautology “temporal lobe malfunctions cause ‘religious-experience hallucinations’ that can only be caused by a temporal lobe malfunction.” The phenomenology of this supernatural grace or affect-soaked hallucination fail to account for the structural change to the percipient’s mental state and physical disposition afterward. For the rest of us, who try to dispassionately view the transformation of an individual’s life after an Otherworldly encounter—especially seeing that these persons have come into possession of personal qualities or talents hitherto minimal or non-existent—we are full of questions meant to break the circular logic.


THE DOUBLY-DAMNED

Mature “epistemological autocracies” such as our materialist worldview are ideologies that marginalize or attempt to erase human experiences that do not fit their framework. Charles Fort called anomalous experiences “the damned”—the events that are ignored, suppressed, or explained away by both secular and religious orthodoxies.

But it’s only fitting that they be damned to irrelevance, we say from our peculiar Darwinist way of thinking—for were there any reality to their existence, they would have gained scientific purchase and be recognized realities by now.[15]

There appear to be at least two reasons why this is so:

One: We simply do not adequately understand consciousness or the relation of consciousness to its substrate, the brain, to offer an explanation for them. But, science assures us, in the future we will. This is called promissory materialism—the idea that all the physicalist answers will one day be found for all mental phenomena. The greatest problem with this form of scientism is that its conclusions about an objective world presuppose a presence—an experiencing thing—that it cannot bring itself to acknowledge. At best, the dominant form of neuroscience can try to persuade us that this subjective realm of experience is only another kind of object, a chemical machine called the brain whose secrets and tricks we are slowly uncovering. All we lack is more powerful technologies to make the discovery complete. Some of the best thinkers have concluded that consciousness is only an illusion constructed by the brain in order to assist the propagation of genetic material.

This conflict between the non-objectivity of behavioral observations and the inability of science to bridge the mind-brain gap seems bereft of a solution. Neuroscientists can propose yet further physiological investigations. Philosophers can offer up an endless stream of thought experiments, but there is no final resolution to the problem of subjectivity trying to objectify itself. This notion of neural correlates of conscious mental states is at the heart of a number of neuroscientific misconceptions ranging from assessments of consciousness, to the claims that morality can be ascertained scientifically. The feeling of security given by the reductionist approach is in fact illusory—a feeling of security analogous to the fundamentalist religionist’s.

Two: Even if the mind/brain system were completely explained, a scientific model for anomalies would still be problematic under our epistemic autocracy because such phenomena are, by definition (mostly) single witness-dependent, subjective, and often singularly-occurring phenomena. As noted at the beginning of this chapter, these reports are incommensurable with our scientific method of hard data, replicable experimentation, and peer-reviewed study, so they would still be eliminated from consideration.

From the point of view of the religious fundamentalist, the anomalies’ ambiguous nature contradicts the idea that God has a specific order to existence. People today still claim to encounter angels and demons, for instance, and while these episodes may pose problems for the ecclesiastical authorities, they do not for the common believer. The belief is solid because it has historical provenance thousands of years old. Still, most mainstream Christian and Muslim sects chose to minimize people’s accounts of encountering them.

Anomalous experiences cannot be transmitted to others—except by a sympathetic recognition by persons to whom a similar event has occurred, or the faith and belief-induction of those close to them.[16] As a culture we in the “West” have tended to throw Charles Fort’s “damned” experiences all together in an inchoate mass. Fringe incidents begets fringe community: a near-death experiencer gravitates into a support group with other survivors, learns of the afterlife’s “ascended masters,” then the UAP-entity connection to these ascended masters, then crystal power, and is embraced by the New Age set and may end up converted to belief in a nefarious, Reptilian-led New World Order—all because their original NDE experience has found no home in our materialist-dominant culture.

Inevitably an experiencer is compelled to retreat from defending the pragmatic value of their anomalous experience—the positive changes that occurred to them as a result—to arguing whether it even happened in objective reality. The positive changes in the experiencer’s personality are irrelevant to the debunker, as we noted; they fall back on the “God-sensing center” of the brain’s neurological edifices, or the “spiritual-neuron bundles” responsible for conversion experiences (usually a temporal lobe malfunction) and consequent beliefs that arise from the malfunction.

The tenuous research on the brain’s “God center” point to merely correlative relations between neural stimulation and a reported experience; there cannot be a causative God-sensing center in the human brain in the way that, say, the pituitary gland causes the secretion of hormones.

This use of language is known as a category error and is, ironically, often deployed by the debunkers against religious believers. How can God be sensed by a part of the brain, when God/a larger spiritual world does not exist for the scientist? To be clearer: the debunker looks upon the anomaly percipient’s experience as an avowal of belief, not a statement of fact. “The pituitary gland secretes hormones” can be empirically demonstrated through measuring instruments, but that proposition depends upon the consensus meaning of “pituitary,” “gland,” “secretes,” and “hormones.”

There are observable referents to each of the words. The statement “I sense the presence of a loving God” also depends upon the meaning/reference of each part of the proposition—but that which is signified by the object “God” has sense, but no referent that can be measured. Most people experience the “oceanic feeling” of Oneness or interconnectedness at least once, and in innumerable ways. It is often used as a substitute for God. That it should have a neural correlate does not negate the meaning of the experience to the subject, to say nothing of the time factor: that the subjective experience may be the cause of the neural change. We will explore the arrow of causation in this essay.

The crux of the matter is this: what happens when percipients are compelled to use the epistemological methods used by the dominant scientistic regime to explain their unique experiences? They must turn to physical evidence, of course, to sate the physicalist demands.

Perhaps 5-10% of the time the UAP (and even fairy, djinn, or cryptid animal encounters) produce inexplicable physical traces such as landing marks, burns, sickness in the percipient, stigmata, scars, spontaneous healings, etc. From the most generous frame of reference, these traces are exactly the result of what is described—physical evidence that some kind of high-intensity energy interacted with the percipient. But they always turn out ambiguous from a scientific analysis.[17]

Just as the effects of quantifiable objects (such as electromagnetic fields in a coil) may produce theories as to how they work, we can trace the effects of paranormal events back to their probable causes. This is what I intend to do in this essay.

We will eventually see that the suspension of a single explanatory reference frames regarding “Otherly” beings lets us entertain the idea that there is a family resemblance between what experiencers of UAP entities, fairies, djinn, and Other beings claim, and take all such accounts on multiple levels. This is a fruitful approach used by journalist John Keel and ufologist Dr. Jacques Vallee—in particular, Vallee’s idea that, regardless of their physically real/unreal status, these Others’s methods and effects mirror that of spy operations (psy-ops). Working from psychologically observable effects to possible causes seems both the most conservative and the richest stance to pursue.

Although varied in form, the spectrum of entities embody similar content/meaning/ends in their human interactions. No amount of conditioning will produce such phantasmal spectacles with predictable success. UAP and related phenomena appear to appear randomly (which, as I said, is what makes them impossible to study), and as long as most scientific organizations refuse to admit their existence there will be a poverty of potentially relevant information surrounding any unusual experience: an analysis of local geomagnetic disturbances, a change in the percipient’s brain chemistry, and, perhaps most implausibly, persons elsewhere in the world who are undergoing another kind of anomalous manifestation at the same time, or even groups of people actively trying to access another realm through occult ritual or meditation.

Such correlations are impossible to achieve; if we could somehow cross-section the world or take a snapshot of everything occurring everywhere in the globe, would we find some correlative supernatural events are transpiring elsewhere during a UAP or apparitional entity encounter?[18] And can we find functional relations between them?

The question is this: Statistically, on any given day or hour, how often do high strange anomalous events occur? And how are we to classify them?

These are impossible statistics to accumulate, but they would seem to be imperative to an understanding of UAPs and their attendant phenomena. Should such a database be established, it could find correlations that yield analyzable material. If scientists don’t even try to establish regularity to the phenomena, we can never get anywhere. Regularity establishes the basis of classification and testing. Researchers like Aime Michel, Vallee, and Keel have attempted analysis of UAP sightings by frequency and location, yielding at least some patterns related to electromagnetic earth disturbances; Keel and Vallee both strongly suggest a relationship between the percipients’ life history, psychological state, and the conditions under which the sightings occurred are the most important aspect of the phenomena. Albert Budden has further discovered deep parallels between electro-hypersensitive persons and UAP activity and personalities prone to “abductions.” I agree with this psychological/health angle, and will follow this lead as basic.

 

A CONCESSION TO THE EPISTEMIC AUTOCRACY: ANECDOTES, DAMNED ANECDOTES!

Cognitive scientists and psychologists claim to have rid themselves from Cartesian dualism and Skinnerian behaviorism, but these ideas have lived a skulking shadow-life in the psychology lab regardless. The structure of neuroscientific practice involves the experimenter’s believing the verbal accounts of a test subject’s experiences that the experimenter correlates with their objective/physical measuring devices. This yields publicly available data for inspection by expert and amateur alike.

What is needed is the third way, the mediation.

To be clear: To prove anomalous beings and phenomena don’t exist is impossible. To prove an anomalous experience changed a person’s outlook on life—including their habits, diet, and even their lifelong maladies, etc.—is proven beyond doubt, in hundreds of cases going back centuries.

Many people take this statement to mean some kind of positive assertion that “ETs” therefore must exist, but we shouldn’t assert this; we should deal with the facts, the possible, and the probable. We first need to bracket the experiences phenomenologically without regard to their physical cause, accept them in the form they are presented, and work backwards.

So all we have left is anecdotes. And from anecdotes we shall have to proceed, using logic and categorization to make sense of them. Anecdotes constituted the greater portion of human knowledge for the past 10,000 years—stories of battles, peoples’ folkways, spirit encounters, fairytales, and gossip. It was only by means of the data-organization techniques generated over the past 5 centuries that patterns could be gleaned from the raw data these stories presented. In our age of corporatized, physicalist science, these folktales of encounters are considered curiosities at best, an irritating form of non-scientific knowledge at worst. Almost always the word “anecdotal” is derogatorily cast upon UAP, NDE and psi studies. They are viewed as collections of mistaken impressions loosely gathered together. Mostly this criticism comes from our popular science boosters and professional debunkers, and not necessarily credentialed scientists themselves. Many of the actual scientists know better; they know that anecdotes are where science can begin, for all collections of anomalies that end in paradigm shifts start off as anecdotes encountered during experimentation or observation. Moreover, radical critics of scientific methodologies hold that the line between experimental conditions and anecdote is artificial; all the preparation (choosing the experiment’s participants, designing the experiment’s conditions, weeding out confounding factors) are just made in order to produce a series of anecdotes (the experimental runs) arranged and stereotyped in a strict way to reveal a certain result. The only difference between a collection of anecdotes and a scientific experiment is that a hypothesis motivates the experiment, a guess at the empirical effects of the hypothesis is made ahead of time, and a result is obtained. Studies function as little more than anecdotes that are used to back the claims of newer studies. The special status of these anecdotes—and why we are prohibited from calling them such—is that their transparency of methods and design supposedly render them replicable by other scientists.

So ahead we’ll go. In Part Two we will examine the rise of the “grey alien” and its “purpose” through witnesses’ experiences and the popular culture. Part Three will approach current theories of neuroscience with regard to quantum phenomena and especially their non-local aspects, leading to the conjectured existence of a field I call the metachoria, in which humanity has co-created from an “imaginal realm” very real experiences and energies that we are just on the edge of understanding. It’s necessary for to delve a bit deeply into some interpretations of quantum experiments and theory and their relation to the brain’s structure in producing—or rather filtering—conscious experience. After that, we will examine the many phenomena associated with dissociative identity disorder, hypnotism, seemingly impossible feats of psychophysical magic, and the holographic universe/implicate order hypotheses. The four of these combined will provide a foundation for the examination of Albert Budden’s theory of electro-hypersensitivity in certain individuals, and the anomalous experiences that can result.

 


[1] Possible exceptions are stringent evaluation of the models used in the cognitive sciences, neurology, and psychology by thinkers such as John Searle, Thomas Nagel, Hubert Dreyfus, David Chalmers, Colin McGinn, Roger Penrose, and Emily and Edward Kelly. On the more radical side, we have the philosophers of science Paul Feyerabend and Thomas Kuhn—which still are institutional critiques.

[2] Evidenced by such thinkers as G.E. Moore, Karl Popper, John Rawls, Robert Nozick, Martha Nussbaum, and Alasdair MacIntyre.

[3] This study will dispense with the terms UFO, flying saucer, and extraterrestrials. In their place I will substitute the “Others” because I don’t think it is useful to draw a hard distinction between the “craft,” the “entities,” their “origin realms,” “technology,” and their effects on percipients. The aberrant experiences should be considered as wholes, both on individual and collective bases. The supposition that these anomalous “presentations” may likely involve a form of “holography” or especially altered states of consciousness in the observer, noted by many investigators, has led me from this group of terms in favor of a singular one. The Others is a term meant to encompass the fact that something unknown and intelligent is interacting with human (and animal) minds. The specific form taken by the “entities” or their “craft” is less important than the fact that an interaction is taking place. As many researchers have noted, a study of folklore and history shows that the Others seem to alter their appearance based upon cultural constraints. This would mean they have an intimate knowledge of our minds, either by “study” or a form of “mind-hacking”—or that they are generated in part by us. But they have interacted with purpose nonetheless. I believe the previous generations of terms used to describe them are something we must condition ourselves to go beyond if any further progress is to be made. One may think this is an even worse nomenclature to use, but it elides the bewildering varieties of beings in favor of, hopefully, a philosophical engagement with something that could turn out to be the most significant in human history.

[4] One variation of this confluence began with Dr. Meade Layne’s “Etherian” hypothesis that was developed through trance medium Mark Probert’s communications with “space intelligences” between 1946-53. See The Coming of the Guardians: An Interpretation of the Flying Saucers as Given from the Other Side of Life, Inner Circle Press, 2009 (originally published 1958). In 1904 & 1918, poet and occultist Aleister Crowley supposedly accomplished “interdimensional” communications and evocations of extraterrestrial beings, one which became his “Holy Guardian Angel.” Crowley’s devotees John W. Parsons and L. Ron Hubbard performed Crowley’s “Babalon Working” ritual in 1946 to “rend the veil” between our realm of Malkuth (in Kabbalistic terms) and that of the Abyss, or Qlippoth (the shattered remains of material unused in Yahweh’s creation); some claim that, through their incompetency, the duo was unable to close this portal, resulting in the entire UAP “demonic invasion.” If nothing else, the coincidence of the dates 1946-1947, when UAP first appeared in vast numbers, and Crowley’s visual descriptions of the beings he contacted are interesting anecdotes.

[5] I am thinking here of the work of Aime Michel, who in the mid-1950s first (and unsuccessfully) submitted UAP sightings in France to statistical and “orthotenic” analysis; of Dr. Jacques Vallee, who did the same but came to embrace past folklore as continuous with UAP mythology and involved psychic factors; Trevor James’s and Brinsley le Poer Trench’s biological “sky people” hypothesis; John Keel, who introduced the world of occult manifestations into the mix by 1970; Dr. Michael Persinger, who attempted to explain experiences by means of electromagnetic interference with the brain’s temporal lobes; and, closer to today, the thorough work of Albert Budden in the 1990s, whose hypothesis we will explore in depth. Apart from Vallee, Keel, Persinger, and Budden there have been no theoreticians of UAP activity whose musings have come close to answering the full spectrum of the mystery.

[6] Many overly-curious investigators have tried to short-cut this problem by utilizing psychic mediums to contact the entities behind the UAP, as we shall see.

[7] In connection with UAP and “cryptids,” no physical evidence, such as an artificially created artifact, has ever passed analytical muster as something possibly from “elsewhere.” We are told about landing marks, drained car batteries, car paint damage, electrical surges that overload a grid, etc. Witnesses suffer burns, nausea, and even death from their encounters. These are obviously signs that something occurred. But no physical object has ever survived scrutiny as proof of an exotic “craft”. Further, I will purposely ignore the claims of dozens of witnesses to “crashed saucers” seen on-site or in secret government hangars, because these claims always lead into the wilderness of mirrors; they are always suspect to hoaxing, a witness’ misidentification of advanced black-budget military tech, or disinformation, simply because the government may want to project a certain narrative. Thus I am foregoing the use of any confirming/disconfirming statements by any government officials, studies, “inside sources,” etc., for the existence of UAP phenomena. These twisted tales have been covered ad nauseam elsewhere. The methods of science are all that is needed to make progress in understanding it. It’s unfortunate but the dis/misinformation techniques used by the government intelligence agencies have so thoroughly muddied the evidence trail regarding the existence of these things as to merit a complete disregard for a serious researcher. Studying the phenomenon and drawing conclusions from available public evidence is not only possible but can yield scientific breakthroughs, though warned against by certain experts.

[8] The latest coming-to-a-debunkers’-message-forum-near-you tool is to classify anomaly-experiencing person as a “schizotypal personality,” which holds, according to the JAMA Psychiatry July 2015 issue, that 1 in 20 people experience random veridical hallucinations at least once in their life; veridical in that they are not recognized as hallucinations as such. The APA has now devised this new classification as a spectrum disorder—a resting-state for humanity, in other words, with each individual falling somewhere within the spectrum. Some persons can even have many hallucinatory experiences while otherwise being completely sane and importantly, productive citizens. And thus, the pathologizing of everyday life, context-free of the hallucinations’ content and precipitating conditions, and in manageable quantificational form, marches on. On the other hand, their tired fallback reasoning for the impossibility of ETs and transdimensionals is deteriorating in the light of contemporary discoveries in quantum physics, nanotechnology, and “reservoir computing.” Recent findings such as the capacity to slow down photons’ velocity in superfrozen mediums, the ongoing research into space-warp or electromagnetic/radiation pulse drives, and the behavior of particles in zero-point energy conditions (absolute zero temperatures, 0 Kelvin, which obtain in open interstellar space) are challenging basic assumptions about the nature of matter and light.

[9] Scientific American article entitled, “Is It Possible to Measure Supernatural or Paranormal Phenomena?”

[10] Computer scientist and ufologist Jacques Vallee and Chris Aubeck have compiled a historical catalog of aerial anomalies, Wonders in the Sky: Unexplained Aerial Objects from Antiquity to Modern Times. The criteria in the ancient world was quite strict to officially record a “prodigy” or “portent” in the sky; most times they were related to earthly events such as the outcome of battles, plagues, coups, etc. before being written down. This criterion held from Rome to China, and was used all the way up to the late Renaissance, but their many reports come from monasteries and lone chroniclers of towns. Vallee and Aubeck were equally strict in their choices; the recorded event had to have properties that defy descriptions of meteorological or astronomical phenomena such as meteors, bolides, temperature inversions, fata morgana, etc.

[11] Reported sightings increase and decrease in number from year to year. There is always a resting state of stigma attached to “close encounters.” In all probability this is a disconnect from what is actually going on; the sightings and close encounters may still be occurring between waves, but the stigma for the witness over going public remains, threatening one’s standing in the community. That reports suddenly begin to appear in great numbers may be a function of social snowball effects: when waves occur, they become undeniable events, whatever their real cause. And many times witnesses come forward during waves with reports of events that happened several years to even decades earlier because a modicum of “social safety” has been established by the welter of percipients revealing their experiences. The stigma is (if only temporarily) loosened.

[12] Like the children’s game “telephone,” noise can overtake and distort an informational signal (the percipient’s tale) when passed through a network, but noise has been found to be quantifiable by the number of participating nodes involved in the signal’s transference. A story told through two degrees’ separation from an eyewitness would not distort the data to a limit that would render useless its information. It depends on the veracity of the nodes. Those who are biologically-related or close friends are within the scope of the first node, with less well-known acquaintances or friends of the close friends in the second, and people within the second degree friends’ connected social groups in the third node. Beyond that, the quality of the signal—the story’s strict adherence to facts—breaks down. As per Claude Shannon’s investigations into what constitutes a signal versus a non-signal (or noise), it was found that a signal degrades into noise over time due to the second law of thermodynamics; entropy can increase over time or over distance (as measured by the number of connection points through which it travels). There is a parallel to this in neuroscience: Valid psychological studies have shown how memory slightly overwrites a recalled experience almost each time it is called up. The anomalous events with which this essay is concerned would obviously have a special place in the memories of the percipients; although they are many times in some kind of altered state of consciousness, their core recollections have been found by investigators to remain stable—which either makes them suspect as real experiences (for how can a real experience not be altered in the repeated recollection) or demonstrates that they actually occurred, having been burned into the person’s mind in a special way.

[13] This is known as the Basic Limiting Principle, as outlined by philosopher C.D. Broad.

[14] Kuhn, Thomas. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, University of Chicago Press, 3rd Edition, 1996.

 

[15] Many scientists perceive that if there were something to it, teams of experts would already be on the case. They then cite Project Blue Book and the Air Force/CIA investigations as reasons to dismiss the phenomena as solved. But these projects have amply been shown to be whitewashes. An average of 20% of the thousands of sightings were still classified as unexplained in the final reports. Furthermore, the original Air Force investigation, Project Sign (1948) supposedly concluded extraterrestrial craft were the most likely explanation. This “estimate of the situation” was deep-sixed by Air Force General Hoyt Vandenburg and the report destroyed. It is facts like these that scientists need to become aware of. There are literally hundreds of examples like this—a history of prevarication and disinformation in the scientific examination of the UAP phenomenon (which is why I’ve tried to avoid mention of the government in this essay). The reasons why would fill a book. See Richard Dolan’s UFOs and the National Security State: Chronology of a Coverup, 1941-1973, Hampton Roads Publishers, 2002.

[16] The mass media cannot encompass the subtleties of experiencers’ tales either, being fueled on immediate spectacle and the utilitarian, extraverted mindset of our society. In short, anomalous experiences (and especially their aftermath) do not fit the compressive laws of mass media representation. For instance, America heard about the Heaven’s Gate tragedy in 1997 but had no inkling of the cult’s existence or beliefs. One cannot make money off anomaly witness experiences, unless you’re talking about the train of quickly-cancelled Bigfoot/UAP-chasing reality shows featuring “crack” researchers on the trail of physical evidence that never shows up—or fictions such as Twin Peaks or The X-Files, crafted from them because they always already touch a deep mythic impulse.

[17] See the works of Jacques Vallee, J. Allen Hynek, and John Keel. Perhaps in the most famous UAP evidence case, farmer Joe Simonton witnessed a silver disc landing on his property in 1961. The three black-garbed men inside the “craft”, one of them holding a bucket, gestured to him to get some water. Simonton did so and was given three wafers the men were cooking on what appeared to be a grill! They proved to be made of ordinary terrestrial grains. Simonton said they tasted of cardboard. Such a strange story would no doubt garner dismissal from 99% of the population. Yet the sight of a silver disc a few miles away by an independent witness at the same time, and Simonton’s prior and post-experience standing in the local community (“He’d never make up a tall tale, let alone a story like that”) has to this day kept the story in the realm of a “real” UAP entity encounter.

[18] If you perhaps consider conservatively that one in ten experiences makes it to an investigator and one in ten of those reaches print, the Others must be encountered at least once every day somewhere on the planet. And from reading the lot of the collected stories it would seem one might as well watch your own backyard closely instead of the skies, for many of the accounts occur on the ground close to one’s house, while camping, or on a walk and involve “vehicles” tangentially or not at all.

…in which physicalists’ protests against accepting the reality of anomalous experiences demonstrates not a world succumbing to anti-science (as they’d have you believe), but rather their own desperation at the Newtonian worldview’s obsolescence–which is steadily proceeding from within physics itself. In other words, the grounds for explaining people’s anomalous experiences expands by the day, contains elements that are “magical” yet scientifically tractable–and the arch-skeptics don’t like it. Perhaps the most common example of this reality-rupture is the UFO, which we’ll examine in depth.

Hello, Ray, do you read me? Do you read me, Ray?

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       Google’s head futurist Ray Kurzweil, like Hans Moravec and many other transhumanists, goes on and on about one day digitizing and uploading his consciousness into a computer. But it’s highly unlikely to happen in the way he imagines.

Let’s use an extreme example: Ray Kurzweil by way of Victor Frankenstein. By “one free miracle” Ray’s consciousness has been successfully uploaded to an AI. His deceased body is frozen but samples of his DNA are preserved for the eventual “perfecting” of cloning techniques. His digitized mind has conversed for a century with fellow transhumanist scientists via a speaker box. He has had a library of information integrated with his “mind,” allowing him to solve many problems—mostly about how to get the hell out of this box of electrons and into a human form again. He finds the solution. His colleagues have finally been able to grow from his 100 year-old DNA a “perfect” specimen, a biological version of Ray Kurzweil into which his consciousness will be, by a “second free miracle,” copied and downloaded from the AI.

The clone, Ray 2, reaches the age of 21. By this time Ray 2’s neural systems have grown to an optimal level to receive Ray 1’s “mind.”

But this clone has acquired an entirely different set of life experiences than Ray 1. Perhaps he enjoys living his life just this way, without an overwriting of the knowledge and experiences he has uniquely gained.

Seeing this possible outcome ahead of time, perhaps until majority he has been sheltered from life, kept in a state of induced hibernation in nutrient-rich chemicals to prepare the way for the Great Implanting.

Right here there are ethical problems, of course. Barring the tremendous neurological difficulties to be surmounted in keeping a growing body in stasis, and more importantly brain, in optimal functioning while in suspended animation, what right do these scientists and the disembodied Ray have in inflicting a rewiring/reprogramming of Ray 2’s brain? Is he not, in an existential sense, the same as Ray’s monozygotic twin brother born more than a century later, and subject to the right to choose whether he accepts his photonic “brother’s” experiences and cognitive capabilities?

To be clearer: Can Ray Kurzweil 1, since he “owns” his own DNA, give consent to have a copy of his DNA, grown to personhood at a different place and time, subjected to the downloaded experiences of his original body?

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       Foreseeing this ethical thicket, let’s say Ray 1 will be compelled to have a battery of twins created, hoping one will freely accept the downloading. So let’s say one of them freely chooses to have their experiences overwritten/augmented by Ray 1’s life and thoughts. A preparation protocol is used to increase biological Ray 5’s neuronal connections to a level comparable to the mature, 30 year-old Ray 1. Perhaps a transition program is used to incrementally acclimatize Ray 5 to Ray 1’s intellect and memories, and vice versa. There may be several outcomes:

a. Ray 1’s copied consciousness will not be able to adapt to this new body due to some unforeseen medical complication. It will become a prisoner in a recalcitrant body. The period spent as zillions of ones and zeroes will have fundamentally changed Ray 1’s relation to and sense of embodiment. Ray 1’s consciousness will reject the embodiment in Ray 5, like an organ transplant is rejected. He will be screwed—a homunculus consciousness inside a physical being who may disobey his wishes. Not unlike a person with Dissociated Identity Disorder, Ray 5 will struggle with Ray 1 almost constantly. Advanced “smart drugs” may be able to chemically keep Ray 1’s (or Ray 5’s) “will” at bay, but this will hardly be a happy existence for either.

AI Ray will say, let’s try again….

b. Let’s say there is a super-advanced transition program that will acclimatize Ray 1 back into an embodied existence. Even still, this new body of Ray 5 occupies a different existence, a distinct timeline in space-time than his original 170-year old shell. Ray 5’s body has been exposed to different cosmic conditions—radiation levels, electromagnetic fields, nutrients, environmental toxins and consequent immunities, etc. Ray 5’s body is a holistic product of and at equilibrium with the interaction between his genes and the future environment, just as Ray 1’s body was 170 years ago. Ray 5’s body may, despite the preparation, reject the superimposed neuronal changes as a body rejects a transplant, as in A. This may be taken into consideration early on, and all of the clones’ lives lived in conditions as close as possible to simulating the conditions of Ray 1’s world—that of the world, generally, 170 years ago. There still may be laws as yet unknown that “fix” a person’s life conditions into a set of parameters that cannot be altered by the addition of something as complex as another person’s life experiences.

c. The downloading may be successful—at first. There may be eventual catastrophic decline or disruption to Ray 5’s cognitive or bodily functions, as in “Flowers for Algernon.” Nature always has tricks and fail-safes up her embroidered sleeves.

d. Indulging a variant of Rupert Sheldrake’s morphic resonance conjecture, Ray 5 may actually naturally develop along the lines of Ray 1 both physically and mentally, and may even remember bits of his first embodiment. There may be a sort of memory encoded in the epigenetic changes Ray 1 went through in his 70+ years of life, and these left traces that unfolded in Ray 5’s development. This would make easier the superimposition of Ray 1’s consciousness.

e. The transplant may be entirely successful. Ray 5 will now become Ray 1 again at 21 years old, and Ray 5’s experiences integrated into him. With life-extension drugs having been perfected, he could live to 200 years old, until the next uploading/downloading occurs into another new body.

Additionally, perhaps computer engineers of the future (with AI Ray’s prodigious help) will be able to “perfect” an artificial body for him modeled entirely upon the reverse-entropic biological processes inherent in living beings. It will have a blank slate of artificial neural networks equaling the complexity (and perhaps copying) that of Ray’s organic brain. In this case, the download of AI Ray’s consciousness into this biomechanical manikin would seem more plausibly effective.

Again, the same results may happen on the AI Ray’s re-embodiment end: A single unforeseen glitch in translation could ripple through the system causing a crash; the interface may not achieve a robustness that allows his control of the “nervous system” and affect the autonomic systems. Back to the electron-stream.

The only way to know if any of this is possible, according to Kurzweil, is to try.

These are all assumptions based solely on a materialist/physicalist worldview.

————–

A magnetic recording is an analog phenomena; the tape captures almost every sound vibration in the vicinity of a microphone by directly imprinting (interrupting) the steady magnetic field with a complex of wave­ signatures upon its surface. A digital recording on the other hand electronically “samples” the incoming vibrations thousands of times a second and reproduces it through a string of pulses represented as sets of ones and zeroes for each frequency or set of frequencies.

The analog recording concept theoretically applies to everything we can mentally perceive—a continuum of smooth, interdependent activity. But the scale of a phenomena or “bracketed” event matters when we describe it this way; we could call everything from the chemical elements and the larger biological forms they make up (like catalysts) analog forms, while a different conception of form exists at the subatomic level. Physicist Max Planck’s idea of a quantized change in energy from one state to another in electrons and photons implies discontinuities on this small scale, and this what is he meant by quantum—a self-­limited quantity.

But does the discontinuous “nature” or quality of this scale make subatomic events amenable to digital/binary modeling—and eventual copying—as Kurzweil and many transhumanist neuroscientists believe?

I don’t think so. Binary operations play a part in consciousness, but the larger chemical systems and organism in which they are embedded mediate the dualistic on­off processes of neuronal activity. Neurons considered from the quantum level function within a “flowing” analog environment of interdependence (and are subject to signal/noise degradation). The neuronal “fired/not fired” states cannot be viewed separate from the larger­scale systems. Every dendrite­-axon-synapse combination in the brain—trillions of them packed together—sits in a soup of chemicals and electrical impulses that defy quantization in their complexity. Our fastest and most yottabyte­heavy parallel processing computer systems still don’t come close to the complexity level of the brain. And they never will.

Transformation of the “analog phenomena” of an individual’s subjective sense of self into a digitized form seems to be the core of this kind of transhumanist project (although there are those who propose that there could be a “neutral substrate” made of purely disembodied information that can be translated and introduced into any type of form—silicon, crystals, light, liquids, even gases—and still meet a criteria of conscious and contain one’s “personality).[1] Claims that biological processes can not only be modeled as globally digital functions, but are digital phenomena are most often made with respect to neuron/synapse activity in the brain—but this is merely a specific metaphor run amok. But the use of metaphor has a history. It goes all the way back to the split between mind (soul) and body Descartes conjectured in his First Meditations; it is the idea that the biological half is purely mechanistic, like a clock.

One unspoken, perhaps unconscious core tactic of the transhumanist outlook—and even certain fields of science as a whole—is to remap the connection between a natural phenomena (origination) and a technological­-instrumental device (simulation), then reinscribe this established connection into another social domain by means of a handy metaphor.

The first phase is the simple one­ to­ one metaphor, as noted above with Descartes: biology is like, or mimics, a clockwork/machine.

As our machines have increased in complexity, and computing moved from analog to digital, allowing a thousandfold increase in power, it allowed modeling of biological systems and further, the possibility of seeing equivalence between the two.

Thus at the second phase, the metaphorical arrow of signification is double-headed and equalized: biology is no less and no more than a digital phenomenon. Thus the grounds for reversing the metaphorical signification are made possible. The ur-metaphor begins to shape the thinking of practitioners in cognitive science, neurology, and AI, then in a wide variety of disciplines—and can limit true thinking on a society­wide scale, be it from neuroscience to political science, from physics to economics, or from biology to sociology. The new “truth” begins to dominate thinking to such an extant as to obscure its origination point in the natural phenomena from whence it came. In this case, the latter has already been “enframed” into the condition Martin Heidegger called “standing reserve”—something whose tangible, unique, existence as an existent is “invisible” but is yet used as an instrument or commodity for a human, or humanity.

Here’s a specific example: a scientist or philosopher is discussing sensory systems or thought processes—the eye or the ear, and the brain’s operation—and casually reverses the arrow of signification on us the readers:

“The eye is a remarkable optical instrument.”

or

“The brain parallel­ processes a billion synaptic firings a second in its computation and algorithmic input-output.”

Such seemingly innocuous statements, made repeatedly over the course of the article or book, can gently abuse the “metaphor” until we begin to actually conceive the eye as an optical device or the brain as a computer. We then conceptualize the eye as a kind of device that evolved for the specific purpose of seeing. This is a wrong way to characterize it. “Seeing” as a phenomenon takes place within and is only a part of consciousness; consciousness includes the contents of “that which is seen.” The scientist’s narrow focus on a holistic event, as phenomenologists have attested, cannot be separated from the entire act of seeing. The “act of seeing” must be “bracketed” by the scientist as a specific type of biological activity limited solely to the mechanics of the eye for them to get away with the reversal. The boundaries of the act of seeing cannot be delimited as we commonly understand existence; we may use the term in a variety of ways, as related to visual phenomena or, as was explained by Plato, a metaphor to comprehend something abstractly. “Seeing” and “seeing-as,” as the Heidegger of Being and Time might have put it, are primordial to human being in any given situation, all situations of which defy conceptualization.

This is a difficult conceptual difference to convey, but it is vitally important. So let’s take a robotic example. An artificial device that is structurally identical to the eye will perform the function of translating photons striking an “outer appearance” and bouncing into its iris into identical patterns on an “inner screen” or representation of whatever impinges upon its outer surface—and its fidelity to those patterned photons is our standard of how well it performs its job as an eye (this “inner screen” or “theater stage” is the poor metaphor we have, by default, used for centuries). Yet we as observers of the overall isolated “seeing” system of the device have no way of fully measuring the originating phenomena at which it “looks”—the pattern of photons external to it that it is “looking at,” and the human eye’s own ability to encompass this same external area—to have a criteria of identity that is as exact and unambiguous as our scientist­writer would have us believe. Such a criteria of fidelity is entirely rough and depends, like it or not, on quantum phenomena in the eye, the optical center of the brain, and the “outer” world conceived as a bounded system subject to probability. The artificial eye we have constructed and are observing is an isolated system with reference only to capturing the patterned photons. Its fidelity and “what it makes of the scene” can in no way be known.

On a cultural level, this reversal of signification is taken as a given. It is deployed/disseminated from one discipline or profession of discourse into another and thus begins to shape the thinking of society on a wide scale.

Concepts from neuroscience find their way into politics, from business management to journalism, from biology to music, etc. None of this metaphor-making is wrong, per se; it is just that we should not literally believe any of it as real. The web of metaphors that is created is one that concretely literalizes them over time, and make their origination as metaphors a “trace” only, or effaced entirely.

It is quite possible that in time we will not be able to think outside our metaphors. Certainly it seems that scientists like Kurzweil cannot.

This is the situating matrix of transhumanist thought. It’s a short step from viewing biology as akin to “clockwork gears” to viewing it as a digital computing phenomenon. Everyone from neuroscientists to psychologists to physicists love to say Descartes’s radical dualism is dead, but it’s echoing pretty loudly in transhumanist talk of “uploading consciousness.” Bollocks!

——-

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       Talk of uploading consciousness cannot but be based in the thorny debate over what consciousness is. It is still unanswered and perhaps unanswerable. Since some of the brain’s functions can be modeled digitally, it must be digital. Transhumanist rhetoric like Kurzweil’s thus assumes that it is “naturally” a digital phenomenon.

But let’s give him that the models can mimic the conscious behavior of a sentient being. Does mimicking require consciousness? If we say yes, does it imply there is a subject of consciousness behind the behavior? Not at all. We are back to the qualia mystery and philosopher Thomas Nagel’s “what is it like to be a bat?” question.[2]

Going further, let’s strike mimic and replace it with exhibit. “Mimic,” of course, is covered as a special form under the general concept “exhibit.” But the same problem confronts us, the age-old problem of “other minds” and we’re right back to Nagel’s questions. It wouldn’t matter if the model is digitally constructed or a “neurosoup” designed by nanoassemblers programmed to build a wet human brain in a vat.

We can allow that there are operations in the brain that are roughly algorithmic in function. We can also allow that there are brain operations that are like the binary of digital pulses. And we can combine these two phenomena into a synthesized model.

Suppose an advanced AI designs and builds a neurosoup brain that bypasses our human neural architecture, but its result seems to exhibit all the behavior of a conscious being. Through a vocal interface it can carry on conversations, has a sense of humor, can write poetry and even Simpsons episodes. The AI had in its “memory” all the necessary medical knowledge of the human nervous system but discovered “shortcuts” or ways to abbreviate functions in the natural design, the product of millions of years of evolution, and went ahead with dispensing with some of the architecture because it evaluated them as redundancies. The product appears to exhibit sentience, learning capabilities, and the self-criticality necessary for us to say it might possess consciousness.

We find we cannot reverse engineer the brain it built; we can’t comprehend the complex order of operations it performs, which appear different than the human brain.

 

 

 

 


[2] Nagel, Thomas, “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?,” from Mortal Questions, Cambridge University Press, 1991.

The Epistemological Autocracy

With us the disguise must be complete. The familiar identity of things has to be pulverized in order to destroy the finite associations with which our society increasingly enshrouds every aspect of our environment.

                                                                                                      —Mark Rothko

The Primary Imagination I hold to be the living power and prime agent of all human perception, and is a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM. The secondary imagination I consider as an echo of the former, co-existing with the conscious will, yet still as identical with the primary in the kind of its agency, and differing only in degree, and in the mode of its operation. It dissolves, diffuses, dissipates, in order to re-create or where this process is rendered impossible, yet still, at all events, it struggles to idealize and to unify. It is essentially vital, even as all objects (as objects) are essentially fixed and dead.”

–Samuel Taylor Coleridge

 

Pareidolia: a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant. Common examples include seeing images of animals or faces in clouds, the man in the moon or the duck rabbit, and hearing hidden messages on records played in reverse. The word comes from the Greek para- (“beside”, “with”, or “alongside”, in this context meaning something faulty or wrong, as in paraphasia, disordered speech) and eidōlon (“image”; the diminutive of eidos – “image”, “form”, “shape”). Pareidolia is a type of apophenia.

 

Apophenia: the experience of seeing meaningful patterns or connections in random or meaningless data, the “unmotivated seeing of connections” accompanied by a “specific experience of an abnormal meaningfulness”, but it has come to represent the human tendency to seek patterns in random nature in general, as with gambling, paranormal phenomena, religion, and even attempts at scientific observation.

Consider the enormous variety of stories that have been told throughout history about the world’s creation, a lost “Paradise”, the purpose of the stars, or the division between sky, earth, and sea.

Judging from the surviving written accounts of the most ancient of these tales, the manner in which early humanity experienced the world, from the dawn of symbolic thinking until the Bronze Age, was quite different than we do today. According to some paleoanthropologists and linguists, ancient creation/explanation myths not only recorded a peoples’ history but transmitted religious and astronomical information to initiates through codes embedded in the narratives syntactically, metaphorically, or through imagery. They were polysemic, that is, the rhythmic patterning of phonemes with which the stories were composed also functioned as mnemonic devices to facilitate memorization of the oft-complicated narratives. These codes also functioned as symbol-systems that could transmit information in a different manner than the linear, propositional capacities of speech—a “twilight language” was embedded inside the text connected with religious ritual that opened the initiated to altered states of consciousness.

The best studies of this are Orality and Literacy by Walter J. Ong; Hamlet’s Mill by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha Von Dechend, and two works by William Irwin Thompson: The Time Falling Bodies take to Light and Coming into Being. The authors of the latter three books admit that, while historically sound, their own writings are works of projective imagination. In this, they freely admit that a scholar cannot but involve an imaginative aspect to their supposedly “objective” work when they are dealing with the study of human prehistory.

In the case of Hamlet’s Mill, the authors’ method was rigorous, yet they admitted the speculative nature of their conclusion that the wide range of myths they studied showed signs of encoded astronomical knowledge of the equinoctial precession. The caste of “expert” critics mostly damned the book by pointing out that, in a few of the authors’ examples, “recent findings” in scholarly archaeo-linguistic interpretation must surely render their thesis invalid.

I would say the dust-up only demonstrates that “firm knowledge” is an ever-contingent state of affairs in the discipline of archeology. Santayana and von Dechend did their best, and their thesis still stands, simply because the book contains such an expansive cross-cultural range of myths, spanning the world. They were not wrong in all of their interpretations, just some of them—and their evidence is enough to establish that a deep background existed for ancient myths related to astronomy. Further, the authors admit that they cannot absolutely surmount the possibility that their own work is a case of apophenia—a condition the experts are prone to also but loathe to admit.

These methods probably originated from the experimentations of the earliest shamans. While the shamans drummed, spoke in tongues, and invoked the invisible worlds and deities they encountered there, their successor poet-bards wove together the visible world with invisible phenomena to create fields of infinite imaginary richness in their stories that was meant to activate the same faculty in their audience.

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Now consider a vehicle for truth in our age: the fact(s), taken singularly or as a web of interconnected propositions.

Imagine watching a Siamese cat on the mat in the sunlight before you.

The cat sat on the mat, you think: that’s a fact. And what could be a more succinct transmission of the scene’s meaning?

At bottom, it is only a spare, descriptive statement—to which you could, however, bring a galaxy of subjective associations.

These subjective associations, and the “well” from which they spontaneously emerge, many times unwilled by the conscious mind, is part of what this essay will be about. It will also address the assault under which subjectivity itself—and privacy—have come in our current epistemological autocracy.

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In using the propositional-descriptive mode described just above, we perform a specific act between our minds and phenomena. Beginning with the ancient Greek philosophers, the idea of truth—for which they used the term a-letheia (un-forgetting, un-covering)—evolved into the more concrete conception that truth exists as a correspondence between the world and the primordial elements of a spoken or written proposition, or that a locus of propositions could act as mediation in which truth solely resided.

This idea has, of course, continued to this day, and appears to be the only mode of discourse the sciences recognize as real: the empirical facts undergirding theory can only be encompassed by using the propositional mode, whether in spoken language or the abstract propositions of mathematics.

Our society gives a comfortably settled place to the powers of art and poetry to reveal the so-called human condition—but very few people seem to take these forms seriously as vehicles to convey truth anymore. I do, and I hope this essay can enlighten about what may be at stake.

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The human mind uses Coleridge’s Primary Imagination by way of his secondary imagination to produce culture from what one might call the “apophenic canvas” of sensory experience. When Imagination “paints upon” this apophenic canvas, humans are first and foremost storytellers, that is, context or meaning-creators, and since we in the Greco-Abrahamic West conceive history as a linear succession of discrete events, this implies an origination point for the narratives. Each story or artifact must have originated in the mind of a particular person or a group of people at a certain time, and occurred spontaneously that first time.

When these stories integrate a stable social order, they also require advocates of them to either disarm or interdict further “mutations” or competitors from threatening their primacy and replication. The elders, or expert caste, guarded against violations or prevented the “subjective fancies” of individual initiates from altering them and threatening the social order. Interpretation is tightly circumscribed; it is the social role of the priest class to be the guardians of interpretation.

The role/function of priest and our contemporary scientist are socially identical in this respect (and even, unfortunately, our public officials and the official media with their narratives of “what really happened”).

Social cohesion comes at the expense of free exercise of Imagination. Upon entering the rites of initiation into an order, one relinquishes the right to alter scripture and its interpretation. In a sense, one pledges to renounce one’s Imagination, or at least renounce public displays of its products, as one’s identity is subsumed into that of the group. If I can anthropomorphize a bit, Imagination sacrifices itself for the good of the group (and, paradoxically, in certain myths, it tells its own story of this sacrifice for the larger good).

These authorities police their society’s ontology (what “really exists”) by way of its epistemology (the method by which something is known).

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Whether we are speaking of an oral/written creation story, a piece of jewelry depicting a deity, a work of sacred architecture, or a sculpture of a hero, etc., the stories from which these artifacts are depictions underwent a process of social inculcation to have been embodied in the material form that survived down the ages.

The number of ancient artifacts destroyed, lost, or forgotten dwarfs those that we still possess.

We might conjecture that the “mutations” of what did survive did not reproduce within their host cultures; major alterations of the stories or artifacts were proscribed, and subsequently these mutations could not reproduce (unless we are talking about a “vessel” meant to preserve both mutations and new material, such as the frame-story of 1001 Nights, which allows for infinite length).

Obviously any society needs stability in order to successfully function and reproduce its forms over time. I am not criticizing the necessity for expertise or the need for a caste of elders to pass along knowledge, but we have to always realize that Imagination was at work in the original creation of an artifact, and continues its work almost ceaselessly over time; small changes made repeatedly over time will alter the form and content of a cultural artifact in a major way.

When people from distinct geographical areas and linguistic forms came together for the first time, they probably attempted to translate each other’s beliefs and culture into their own terms. This gave rise to heterogeneity of expressions. Thus, where we perceive unity and pure expression in some ancient artifact was once two separate forms. Mutations themselves may often have occurred between separate cultures.

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So the human mind is restlessly creative. It will naturally alter, it will remix, it will mash-up, it will fabricate. Its “rational faculty” will exploit the visions that its apophenic filter compulsively presents, made of the things granted by one’s culture.

Very often, these new visions clash with the dominant, “official” view of reality. A social order that vigorously seeks (and very often accomplishes) the erasure of ideas or practices that do not fit within its ontology we might call an epistemological autocracy.

An epistemological autocracy seeks to channel all apophenic interpretations and eliminate all competing interpretations. It attempts to literalize into its own terms—freezing in time—the significance of all phenomena, holds fast to its singular explanations, and brooks no interpretive disagreements with its pictures.

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Despite its avowals of “free inquiry” and “freedom of belief,” our technological-capitalist society is, of course, in no way an exception to this autocratic tendency. In fact, our society’s present drift into autocracy extends several orders of magnitude beyond any other that has ever existed, because of the massive scale of our submission to mediations. From the apophenic/quantum flux presented to the mind come structured impressions that are ordered during the process of learning language. These impressions are represented and stored as memories; language can produce intentionality and the means of recording and transmitting both knowledge and personal experiences. These we have to learn, and are the first level of material mediation between people.

I’m going to avoid the usual terms of perennial debate about the split between mind and “reality,” between representation and experience, between phenomenon and the noumenon. Philosophers have wrestled for millennia with the “thing in itself” which may exist beyond the mind’s abilities to accurately represent it. I will only say that the biological process of a mind producing “sense-data” from its surroundings qua physical brain-states cannot be separated from the contents produced subjectively during those brain-states, a phenomenon equivalent to what the Taoist yin-yang symbol visually represents: an irreducible interdependency between any physical measurements taken of the brain and the concurrent thoughts within the person. We cannot know anything certain about that which is “given” as raw sensory input for the mind’s apophenic processes to mill into either given “literal” or “metaphoric” or “hallucinated” or “real” categories.

The “creative” mind, which can by definition temporarily evade the strictures of the autocracy by engaging Imagination, makes use of a cognitive matrix in which the categories of the “literal” and “metaphoric” are blurred.

Beyond this level things get tricky, for at the next level we have cultural representations of these natural representations of experience. The ancient artifacts listed above could be examples; the entire world-view of a culture can be embodied in a single work of art (think of the immediate recognition we may have of a Yoruban mask or a high Renaissance painting or an Abstract Expressionist piece). These artifacts reified the values of the cultures in which they were produced and had significance in a lived, everyday context of ritual or remembrance. They are mediations to any viewer, rich with (sometimes multiple) meaning(s). The plastic arts embody systems of signification between themselves, and with the culture surrounding them.

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Along with the Marc Rothko quote above, the two definitions of pareidolia and apophenia point towards what I perceive as a deep problem: that, through the web of mediations, the “finite associations” our technocratic-capitalist society has inculcated in us towards reality has become a dubious one, at best, for the personally transformative experiences with which Imagination is meant to give meaning to our lives and heal us.

It has achieved this state of dominance through three “cartels” which I will outline below. For differing motives, these cartels attempt to invalidate the significance of a person’s private, numinous experiences—negating the validity of the revelation Imaginative truth can give and that has been fundamental to the human psyche since the archaic age.

The following three ontologies are three possible ways of viewing the world. I am speaking of:

  1. A. The scientific worldview in its strict physicalist mode; that is, the contention that all that exists is only measurable matter on finer and finer scales, and in no need of higher principles or “first cause” or “holistic” or vitalist conception to explain them, and that only what can be directly observed or quantifiable through material instrumentation and replicable conditions is real;
  2. B. Religious thought that constricts the meaning of scripture/language to a single interpretation, invalidates the spontaneous content that may constitute a person’s spiritual experiences, and maintains the metaphysical assumption that all human beings’ beliefs and actions possess the capacity to “save” or “damn” them relative to their adherence to that particular interpretation; and
  3. C. The mass media’s direct and indirect reduction of the spectrum of human activities to a limited function of materialist signifiers (people as “economic agents”, “political actors,” “cultural producers”, “content providers,” celebrity, natural catastrophes). The mass media’s delivery of information curtails the function of language to communicating a parade of political and economic and scientific “facts,” along with rumor, hearsay, hoax, government disinformation.

So I’m speaking merely of dogmatism?

Yes. But not quite.

Each stance, the religious and scientific-materialist, has ascended in human history and continues to shape our experiences. But on the whole we now customarily separate the two as if they could not have originated from the same field within the human psyche.

This division is illusory, and its continuing enforcement a hallmark of what I called the epistemological autocracy: that they are not equally valid products of the same faculty of Imagination.

In America we have reaped severe social consequences from a peculiar schism between the scientific worldview and that of religion. Under the Enlightenment and our “republican experiment” in democracy, scientific-materialist autocracy arose in direct conflict with the Lutheran Christian ontology of individual, inalienable conscience that originally spawned it. In reaction, Americans have show prodigious examples of communal religious autocracies, of varying sizes, that have sprang up in reaction to science’s encroachment upon “the work of God.”

Many religious or spiritual people feel estranged under modernity and its consequent; with all its creature comforts, the fruits of science compete with the succor offered by “salvation” whose source lies entirely beyond this material life.

Many materialist-atheists are equally uncomfortable with what they see as archaic superstitions of religion lingering on well past their expiration date in our society.

This psychic schism is not endemic solely to America; it is now felt all across the world, in all peoples who confront their “inevitable,” electronically enmeshed future in the form of mass-media and communication technologies that cannot but entirely transform their conceptions of Nature, space, and time. These technologies have a profound effect on cultures everywhere they are introduced.

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In our society, things are few and far between that foster a living relationship with transforming the Primary Imagination into its secondary manifestations—because its activity has been pathologized as deviance. Physicalist science, mass media, and fundamentalist religion are integrated together like a machine whose purpose is to interdict or channel our use of the primary Imagination and its products, and that their autocracies are in fact the driving force of human civilizations.

By Primary Imagination we are not speaking of the personal faculty of recalling memories, or remixing the elements of one’s life and projecting them in new combinations upon some inner screen—that is part of the secondary imagination of which Coleridge speaks in the epigraph above.

C.G. Jung’s concept of the collective unconscious is similar to Primary Imagination: a flux from which the mind produces and filters experiences that can be taken neither literally nor metaphorically, but as basic to sense-mediation itself. The seemingly opposed categories “literal” and “metaphorical/figurative” clash over a numinous mystery that our cause-and-effect-bound minds are condemned to play catch-up using logic, and thus rationalize in the autocracies’ terms of engagement.

Jung’s collective unconscious was populated with archetypes akin to living myths that structured the arcs of our lives. In contrast, Jung’s personal unconscious contained repressed emotional images from one’s life, with a cast of family members and friends and even celebrities or the famous we would encounter in dreams, for instance.

According to Jung, the collective unconscious could use these familiar people as symbols, but most of the time, in a numinous dream or Imaginative leap, one would encounter unknown figures like kings, wise old men, horrific killers or monsters, etc. The extremely vivid “aura” of these dream-figures often causes the experiencer to question their existence as mere figments of the mind; they seem to be as real as the people they know in their waking life—but their presences are invested with great emotional power that is in some way transformative on the person’s views of life.

Coleridge’s Primary Imagination is timeless, spaceless, infinite, just as Jung often characterized the collective unconscious. It is for both of them the “field” in which reality itself appears—and which, secondarily, through our individual minds, produces our stories, artifacts, religions, and technologies.

This may sound like an odd, alternative definition of God—but indeed the Primary Imagination is where, I believe, the conditions for creativity and the sensing Higher Power and nature exists. One can deify Imagination, or make it the supreme force worthy of veneration, as some Romantics did, but this veneration is always a means and never an end in itself. To use it is to “worship” it—to create. To worship it is to worship an empty vessel, for Imagination is a formal property of human existence. It would be like worshipping the fingernail, or the thumb; it has no content in itself. It can never be grasped to be turned into an object of worship, and cannot be essentialized. Nor is it a technology. Its vehicles are technologies—language, music, painting, etc. It creates the technologies in the first place.

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Very little in our techno-utopia fosters a living relationship with Secondary Imagination. I believe many of us are in danger of losing contact with it, with the noise of our ever plugged-in, information-overloaded daily existence.

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/09/the-american-diet-34-gigabytes-a-day/

Physicalist science, mass media, and fundamentalist religion are integrated together akin to a machine that interdicts a relationship with the Primary Imagination.

The ontology of our technological society is supported by the narrative of scientific and social progress that supposedly brought into being this world of human-made marvels around us. I therefore believe our problem resides at the ontological level, and our ontology is a manifestation of the epistemology by which we’ve arrived at our catastrophist presentiments. And backwards: our ontology narrowly limits what we perceive as “legitimate” ways of knowing that something is real.

This diagnosis is admittedly harsh, reactionary and Romanticist—all three, jack—but didn’t we somehow already cover this territory, loudly and violently, in “The Matrix”? Perhaps so; but maybe “The Matrix” (and contemporary attempts at myth like it) is a representation of the situation the Imagination has found itself in when confronted with a specific, digitally-mediated autocracy.

There is an impulse within us to be freed of all strictures—but what our “autocrats” have learned is that this impulse towards inner freedom can be canalized in particular ways.

The autocracy has evolved to a point where it describes all phenomena, channels all experience: One cannot turn away from any one of them without describing what has been turned away from, without using the other autocracy’s terms.

Perhaps the primary problem is that our minds over the past century have been relentlessly mediated into viewing reality through cloudier facets of the jewel of human Imagination…Yet another way to say it: that scientific-materialist vocabularies have attained supremacy over the natural multiplicity of noetic human tongues—and are further in the process of proscribing those “traditional” languages to heresy, to pathology, to irrelevance, to extinction.

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If you find this preliminary thesis dull, already endlessly rehearsed by others, or muddled, then opt out now—the latest cat videos on Youtube are waiting, after all.

2:

I cannot say that truth is stranger than fiction, because I have never had acquaintance with either.

-Charles Fort

Epistemic autocracies in religion and politics have existed as long as there has been a world-order for the “Elites” to police. The obvious religious form is any Inquisition against the heretics. There is no difference in the political. Politically, millions perished in the paranoid struggles over orthodoxy and efficiency in Soviet and Chinese Communism. Millions were killed as well in the struggles of capitalists, bankers, and their governmental puppets to dominate, for personal profit, countries and regions.

Scientific inquisitions have existed too, of course. Ever since the Enlightenment, the Newtonian/Cartesian idea of “soulless mechanism” in matter has come to underwrite methods of social control. The new humanism of the Renaissance and Enlightenment arose over the past five centuries with its conceptions of “sovereign conscience” and supposed freedom of inquiry. The mechanistic model deployed in physics, medicine and engineering have had spectacular success in any conceivable number of ways. Gradually the mechanist scheme also informed the modeling used in the “soft sciences” like psychology, economics, and sociology, despite the relation between cause and effect being nebulous in these disciplines. The social sciences’ modeling of transpersonal forces led directly to our contemporary political science that uses psychological technique and sociological analysis in its arsenal of management techniques to control both what, and more importantly, how people are supposed to think.

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Burgeoning epistemological autocracies always become closed ideologies that marginalize or erase human experiences that do not fit their framework. Philosopher-journalist Charles Fort called these anomalous experiences “the damned”—the events that are ignored, suppressed, or explained away by both secular and religious orthodoxies. Thus, in our present scientific milieu, are classified encounters with ghosts, fairies, UFOs, Jesus, Mary, jinn, angels, events of ESP, telekinesis, near-death experiences, etc.

It would be charitable to say these nagging phenomena have only been marginalized as anomalies—that is, awaiting some theoretician to incorporate them into a neat explanatory framework—but they have only been roundly ignored or explained away without definitive closure. They will not go away, as Fort once said: they march on, as they always have, from the deep past and into the future.

But it’s only fitting that they be damned, we say from our peculiar Darwinist way of thinking—for were there any truth to them, they would have gained scientific purchase and flourished unimpeded as recognized realities by now—surely.

There must be a reason they are damned, and it appears to be this: A scientific model of the mind in which they might be definitively explained hasn’t come close to emerging under our epistemic autocracy—and won’t, because such phenomena are by definition single witness-dependent, subjective phenomena. They are incommensurable with our scientific method of hard data, replicable experimentation, and peer-reviewed study, so they are to be eliminated from consideration.

A single witness-dependent, subjective phenomenon cannot be successfully translated into mass-media representation without minimizing the personal, individual significance of the experience in which they were born. In all their strangeness, they cannot be reproduced or transmitted successfully—except by a sympathetic recognition by other people to whom something similar has occurred. The mass media cannot compass idiosyncratic experience, a mass popularity fueled by and on spectacle, by action, by outer-directed, extraverted mindsets. In short, anomalous experiences do not fit the compressive laws of mass media representation. One cannot make money off them (unless you’re talking about the current train of quickly-cancelled-for-revelations-of-selective-editing Bigfoot/UFO reality shows featuring “crack” researchers on the trail of physical evidence).

From the point of view of the religious fundamentalist, their ambiguous nature contradicts the idea that God has a specific order.

Cognitive scientists and psychologists claim to have divested themselves from Cartesian dualism but there it is: the inner, subjective experience that defies logic and causality versus an objective measuring system, publicly available data for inspection by expert and amateur alike.

What is needed is the third way, the mediation.

Epistemic autocracy’s legitimacy rests on there being no other possible conception than the scientific as an explanation for them, however.

As a culture we have tended to throw Fort’s “damned” experiences all together in an inchoate mass. Fringe incidents begets fringe community: a near-death experiencer gravitates into a support group with others, learns of the afterlife’s “ascended masters,” then the UFO connection to the masters, then crystal power, and is embraced by the New Age set and ends up converted to belief in a nefarious New World Order—simply because their original experience found no home in our materialist culture.

What happens we are compelled to retreat from defending the pragmatic value of one’s anomalous experience to arguing over whether it even existed? What happens when we are forced to depend upon the same epistemological methods used by the dominant regime to explain our unique experiences?

Militant atheism and materialism has become very popular over the past decade, headed by biologists Richard Dawkins and E.O. Wilson, critic Christopher Hitchens, philosopher Daniel Dennett, Stephen Hawking, who have all publicly criticized organized religion as pernicious superstition to be rid of. Some of them have gone so far as to cast as delusional the beliefs in a soul, Near-Death Experiences (NDEs), Out-of-body Experiences (OBEs), UFOs, etc.

Always ready to trot out the neurophysiological explanation, these avatars of dogmatic skepticism always seem to conveniently ignore the particular content of any experience these people have had, which, more often than not, have astoundingly inexplicable aspects about them if they would care to examine closer. ( example) and put down to outright lies.

These individuals are the latest spokespeople for scientific skepticism and avatars of the “accepted wisdom” that New Age syncretism and spirituality is simply the end-result of the 1960s vision-questers and to be laughed off as unserious offshoots of the postmodern consumer culture.

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The war on the private and the subjective began long ago—perhaps, ironically, with the musings of that perennial whipping boy for the holists, Rene Descartes, who posited an infallible witness within the brain that held exclusive access to one’s thoughts, feelings, sensations—and that ethereal observer was separate from the physical body that was its vehicle. This move demarcated the physical as something without psyche (soul), in the ancient Greek sense of something with the potential for “spontaneous inner-generated movement.”

Thus, Descartes’s human agency was narrowly located in the unseen “I”—the being that thought itself as separate.

His peculiar conception played a huge part in the “sovereign conscience” the Enlightenment thinkers bequeathed us—an amplification of the Apollonian, rational ego of literal meanings—that located our agency solely within the logical, cause-and-effect-structure.

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Ironically, the Cartesian ego has been invalidated by some influential schools of neuroscience. The inner “I” a person ascribes to oneself is considered by them simply the emergent property of a billion separate neuronal processes, and no more. The I is not real, but an extra, expendable property of neurophysiology. It cannot be measured, therefore it should have to place in scientific discourse. Other neuroscientists believe the conscious ego is the slowest part of the human mind—it lags behind the. They believe both methodologically and substantively that a person’s “sense of self” should be eliminated entirely from any model of the brain.

The inner experience of humanity, qua individual human ego, is now suspect.

You might even say a “hit” has been contracted upon the concept of an individual sense, and with it, the active force of Imagination in Coleridge’s sense, which is to be considered just another random product of those wet, algorithmic processes, meaningless and trivial…In short, the techno-fascist agenda seems poised to destroy the human Imagination, and all the possible multiplicities it signifies—for it poses the main threat to its program.

There are many people out there critiquing the burgeoning “monoculture” of transnational capitalism and its culturally-deadening influence around the globe. But a techno-autarchic civilization like the one slouching into being around us requires our individual minds to ratify in practice its ontology and grant it this continuous legitimacy. It has taken a slowly-built consensus of faith in its methods; it has taken a singular consciousness fashioned over centuries by mass media, starting with Gutenberg’s printing press. It has specialized knowledge into the compartmentalization of societal functions; it has and continues to divide society into seemingly separate “spheres,” economic, cultural, and political; it has taken cults of expertise whose division created a situation in which the “right hand” appears ignorant of what the “left hand” is doing—except from the top, where “elite managers” supposedly reign over the scientific-political machine we’ve all legitimized.

The upshot is that the mass-media engines of our society (cable network news channels, academia, think-tanks, laboratories, lobbying and advocacy groups, “intelligence-gathering” centers) all play a part in the vast, integrated “fact-making machine” whose products surrounds us like a web—a comfortable matrix underwritten by the assumption that that things, in the human world at least, are more or less under control.

Nothing could be further from the truth, friend.

The hard & soft sciences, the media, and those walking haircuts we call politicians all create for us a comfortable galaxy of steady-state, banal realities from their neat atoms of separate “facts”—but many people instinctively don’t even buy them, because they sense its infringement against the natural, spontaneous workings of Primary Imagination that has given them their religion and folkways. The ascendancy of the technocratic mentality, to me, is the primary reason why fundamentalisms of all types have exploded in number across the globe—including scientific fundamentalism, or “scientism” as it’s called. We know that we have created a system that is outside anyone’s control.

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When the expert or politician or scientist passes judgment and creates a fact for our “consumption” they make an orphan of truth, because the deeper verities—those that enrapture us and enchant our lives—are not facts in the sense that statistics are facts. The most profound truths cannot be sound-bit, for they are not frozen pictures in time—they are as alive “out there” as we are. Private epiphanies we have give meaning to our lives, when we begin to perceive and live myths greater than any “fact.” This truth that we are each living, and how this truth manifests and resides in us, is the central thing our techno-fascist society will seek to delegitimize: the faculty of Imagination, whether in its nighttime dreaming or day-lit forms.

It does not serve our society’s techno-fascist ends for us to elaborate upon our private myths and somatic epiphanies, when we are being trained to live only by visions sanctioned by Mammon 2.0 and licensable by Disney.

Our “elite managers” in the political class purport that creativity and entrepreneurship are the greatest goods. If these qualities are allowed to flourish, we will all in turn thrive. The truth is that under epistemic and capitalist techno-fascism, all products of entrepreneurship and the visual arts alike are now simply farmed for novelty en masse by the transnational cartel—just like our mass-produced food, automobiles, computers, etc. The billionaires have full reign to shop for–and possible even take by court or force–the millionaire’s hard-earned wealth and product.

The creative types who gravitate to Hollywood, the music industry, and television are farmed for visions that conform to the acid-baths of scientific despotism. We even have our dreams designed for us nowadays in our mass-media entertainments—yes, in this illusion of “factual consumption,” we’ve become that damn lazy. Only that which can be translated into a commercial imperative survives—over and over. Witness all the sequels and comic book adaptations and “pre-branded” franchises being made. Hollywood as we’ve known it is dying, loudly, because at the crucial time when it’s in competition with Youtube, cable, and so many other media outlets it has banked upon the familiar instead of showing vision and Imagination and throwing those production billions into dozens of smaller, imaginative works that might not strictly conform to focus-group preferences (witness the stellar rise—and subsequent absorption into the maw of the machine—of Pixar). Just like a bully who gets louder and more violent as his star is eclipsed by the new and bigger bully. Instead of believing in the intimate products our minds naturally give us, our society makes of Vision a CGI bone-rattling nightmare in the cathedral of a movie theater, transformed to pummel us in violence from without. We enter the cinema now to be ritually punished with visions of a magick world whose flatness on the screen is somehow part of the meaning, reminding us of what has passed us and now out of reach: Narcissus’s mirror-lake as a flat pool glowing upon the wall, beaten in our unconscious that our human inheritance is being leached away by our ‘entertainments’.

The epistemological cartel grants no means of ratifying or receiving anything transformative that might originate from inside our own psyches, and hence the reception of any impulse of sacred Imagination from without. At best, our subjective visions are diagnosed as pathological; the sacred inside is rendered phantasmal, neurological, with its reception stripped of personal significance…Our autocrats’ goal is that there be an answer to our mysterious, private, epiphanic encounters—an “explanation” already worked out for us, whether by megachurch or laboratory. Mystery cannot be allowed. The answers should come easy…The Hollywood and video game dream-factories grant us ritual catharsis for our mythic instincts, and we are all left to our atomized glorified simian or sanctified Glorified Body to work out some relation to the sacred outside the glowing rectangle

This, of course, is all in line with the continued destruction of privacy on the internet and all our forms of electronic communication. The processing of our personal agency into a hive-mind is nearing its terminus—an omniscience by the “Masters” unknown in the history of mankind.

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We like our madness safely contained in the past, or in our artists—the Blakes and Artauds and Pounds and Van Goghs. In a society under the epistemic cartel, we have safely cordoned off the imagination into the visions and activities of the artists, who are the only one permitted to see with different eyes the mundane and banal surroundings inflicted upon us by a technological, socially over-determined and thoroughly managed society.

Everyone at times experiences hallucination or a momentary misapprehension of objects, when we spontaneously see things anew. This peculiar ability is considered a mundane property of the human mind. Psychologists after Wittgenstein call it “aspect-seeing,” a phrase coined to describe the reversals or oscillations in significance that occur when perceiving Gestalt images in a clinical context (the duck-rabbit, old/young woman, etc.).

Apophenia and pareidolia are natural human abilities, but any psychologically “healthy” answer to a pareidoliac test is necessarily shaped by the forces of socialization. Reward accrues to those who interpret “correctly” according to the consensus as laid out in the mental health manual; conversely, punishment goes to those who stubbornly insist on retaining their private associations.

When these subjective oscillations happen frequently in the everyday world, it is not so good—and even worse when a person spins narratives around them. An example of this would be, say, a conspiracy in which no one else in the world could possibly believe—if someone were to associate the sunlight’s reflections on the surfaces around them with what they happened to be thinking, and conclude that the reflections of light were speaking to them. If such a phenomena occurred in an engineer or a bus driver or a pilot, it would be considered mental sickness and lead to a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, at the least.

If a person experiencing it happened to be a poet or visual artist, it would perhaps slightly take the psychopathic sting out of the clinical label—but only slightly.

But these are just definitions courtesy the priest-cult we call clinical psychiatry.

An example of this epistemologically autocratic trend is the decisive turn from psychotherapy to pharmaceuticals in the treatment of mental illness over the past thirty years. Philosophers of science and psychology maintain that behaviorism as practiced by B.F. Skinner is dead, but of course this isn’t true at all; Skinnerian behaviorism, on the contrary, has been so spectacularly successful that it has become ubiquitous and invisible to us, its ontology lurking in the neuroscience behind the pharmaceutical paradigm: If you chemically change the molecules in the person’s brain, you change the person’s behavior; if you change the behavior, you thus change the person.

This therapy of neurochemicals now dominates, while the “talking cure” has been relegated to second place—but the various schools of psychoanalysis, for all their faults, are philosophies of meaning. They value the long view of a fully-lived life in comparison to the immediate material change in the pharmaceutical paradigm with which epistemic fascism laden us

Many people undergo tremendous reversals in their outlook on life, in which the “whole of reality” is turned “inside out”—call them epiphanies, religious conversions, spiritual experiences. The world is then seen as numinous and filled with a significant connections that infuses its entire fabric and involves a revivification of the whole. The motive force ascribed as the cause varies—Jesus, Allah, universal mind, nirvana, etc. Isolated from any religious context, a person may well fear for their sanity. These experiences are entirely subjective and beyond the quantifying reach of neuroscience (as of yet), yet friends can perceive the fruits of such experiences in the changed behavior of the individual.

For almost all of recorded history these experiences have occurred and been accepted as proofs of a higher power. We don’t normally call these conversions pathological, but the experience is becoming dangerously close to being termed such under techno-fascist regime. The subsequent monomania often associated with religious conversion is usually considered the pathological aspect, yet the contents of the beliefs as well are now under assault as deviant. Even as fundamentalists of any stripe seek to eliminate the anthropology and psychology of the spiritual conversion as the work of the Adversary.

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What do I mean by “epistemic autocracy”? Perhaps I should define it by contrasting it with what could be called “epistemic multiplicity” or “neurological diversity,” drawing lines between 1) active pareidolia, apophenia, and Imaginative vision on the one hand, restless, always active, and 2) the Autocracy’s atomistic, reductionist approach that threatens with the loss of meaningful narrative on an influx of random data on the other. Perhaps one could also draw the distinction between realms of knowledge, one called facts and the other wisdom. The former, “factual” realm’s entities are quantifiable, verifiable, and the latter’s vague—and EA is definitely an emergent property of the former, an expanding regime whose constituent parts support and undergird one another in a consensus that spans a society’s entire spectrum of activities—currently, a network operating through mass media to induce orthodox uniformity of opinion between the industrial complexes of medicine/psychology to academic to entertainment, all constellated around the certainties of the disciplines of chemistry and physics.

The Imagination itself “sees through” the single-minded, literal interpretation of reality.

The world sleeps together in the night. We retreat to these private worlds out of biological necessity but there is more genuine healing in these golden hours than any of the faux panaceas our society could ever propagandize us into believing. We dream and in the dream the Other speaks to us. In the daylit world, we are taught not to listen. We are all children before this mystery and of this mystery and the morning light’s clamor dissolves the awe. We awake to a world that orders itself back to another Other’s idea, a mad dream. There is more real knowledge in a simple fever dream than in a library of their consensus fictions. But everyone, all of us, in that somatic museum called sleep, is an artist. The disorder of hallucination is the recapture of Imagination working through.

These differing world views, coherent as each had been, are “snapshot” examples of pareidolia. We have a succession of world-views now coming under the unification of science in which each “moment” has a clear relation to the next and projects its telos into it. The former daimonic power becomes literalized through our technologies: the clock has usurped God’s domain of time, maps have conquered physical space. And thus we unconsciously become gods.