BLACK LIGHT: PERSPECTIVES ON MYSTERIOUS PHENOMENA (#3)

Chapter 2

BELIEF IS THE ENEMY

A seemingly impossible-to-breach barrier awaits any serious explorer of mysterious phenomena:  belief systems.

   It is difficult indeed to underestimate the sheer, practically overwhelming, power of belief for it is made of emotion.  Those who investigate ghosts, poltergeist activity, channeling, and the spectrum of psychic phenomena, all too often ignore or ridicule the field of UFO studies—and vice versa.  This functions like a class-system, with each investigator specializing in a particular area and mainly considering himself superior to those working elsewhere.

   Example: UFO-hunters sneering at ghost-hunters.  Each find it very hard to accept that all anomalous events are connected.  Ignoring any single piece of the paranormal puzzle cuts one off from vital information.  This is what Charles Fort hinted when he wrote that a circle can be measured by starting anywhere, as well as when he noted the underlying oneness in all confusions (which may as well be an alternate—if clumsy—title for this book).

   Let’s face it: Fort (the last of whose 4 books was published in 1932) was way ahead of his time.

   Such belief-tainted subjectivity is non-productive and can be as ugly as racism or sexism.  No serious investigator should so behave.  Anyone having a problem with this simply hasn’t taken a long look at the voluminous data.  Worse, this notion—fact—of connectedness (despite its quantum reality) only amplifies the disturbing effect of the phenomena.   But there is another, far more potent factor against belief:  the seemingly endless aspects of the paranormal adjust their manifestations according to human belief systems; hence the genuine danger.

   Suppose I am an investigator, as well as a devout Catholic.  I am called to investigate a “haunting” in a nearby home, where I discover elements of hostile intent in the “ghost.”  My religious beliefs more than likely will lead me to conclude that the uninvited is “evil.”  Similarly, if I believe extraterrestrials (“Grays” for instance) are responsible for UFOs, I will suppress and/or ignore data pointing elsewhere.  This enormous problem has tainted the field of paranormal investigation since its beginning.  Please understand this is not an attack on the value of religious faith, though such faith ought to be left out of serious research.

   Though True Believers hate hearing as much, there are a considerable number of absurd factors resident in many UFO reports.  So absurd, the accounts evoke a dream-like, strangely poetic air.  Then we have encounters that scream in terror, traumatize witnesses, and cause ruin.

   As noted by the late Jim Keith (author of Black Helicopters Over America, Casebook on the Men in Black and many others), one’s chronic emotional state seems to dictate the tone and texture of any UFO/paranormal experience.  This suggests, at least to some extent, that we project both conscious and subconscious content onto anomalous events.  There is, however, an external trigger, though what follows is colored by the individual’s cultural matrix and/or beliefs.

   I make no great claim to be authoritative on media treatment of the paranormal, but I do pay attention.  Even a cursory glance at recent (mid-2012) cinema and TV tells anyone who cares that the only subject as exploited as sex and death is the paranormal.  How many more movies might be produced regarding the apparently—and unnecessarily—auspicious Mayan calender?

   Even at this late date, there will be more.  Count on it.

   Or, if you’re in the business, bank on it.

   If I didn’t know better, and sometimes I’m sure I don’t, I’d say the American people are very gullible.  On the other hand, what are we to do?  Boycotting movies won’t change anything and, frankly, strikes me as hysterical and censorious.  There is a lack of discretion, and this bothers me.  Granted, few of us have time even to consider our options regarding entertainment.  I admit to enjoying—very much—a little visual junk-food, especially Mystery Science Theater 3000, but I understand the difference between that and genuine nourishment.  No, this does not make me superior to anyone; simply better informed.  I expect more from my entertainment, knowing as well that occasionally there’s nothing as satisfying as a bag of Fritos.  This makes my next observation all the more difficult.

   Cinematic special-effects have advanced to a degree of nearly unparalleled realism.  Or illusion; your call.  We have, on TV, CSI, Person of Interest, and their seemingly endless imitators.  James Cameron’s Avatar raised the stakes yet higher.  The prevalence of ever-evolving computer wizardry is clearly visible in science fiction, horror, fantasy and mainstream media.

   But visuals are visuals—nothing more.  The underlying structure (story-telling) has not advanced at the same manic pace.  Similarly, human ethics and morality have failed to keep up with scientific and military progress.

   For what it’s worth, I present two strong examples.  Both are American-produced films:  Paranormal Activity (2009), and The Fourth Kind (2010).  Please realize that I understand the perils of comparing films to books, but these are thoughtful, intelligently-crafted works.  I am aware that The Fourth Kind misrepresented itself as based on “true” events, and fail to see why its makers thought this necessary.  Perhaps they were forced.  Though I have viewed, and been disappointed by, the Paranormal Activity sequels, this does not rob the original of its raw power.  As a writer of (fictional) horror, I know that such work will fail if not invested with emotional/psychological realism.  Both PA and TFK manage this admirably.  My opinion, of course.

   Here is film-making composed of thankfully minimal effects; i.e. CGI and its ilk, and focusing on the human aspects.  And what aspects!

   Say what you will about these films, they more than likely scared and engaged your mind—no small accomplishment.  This proves it is possible to produce material for mass consumption that is intelligent and entertaining, so long as the creators actually give a damn.

   So how does one separate wheat from chaff in the wide, wild field of paranormal literature?

   My reason for even the briefest mention of cinema is this: it is safe to say that most people’s awareness of UFO/paranormal matters derive from movies and TV—a mixed bag indeed.  Sadly, most of this material seriously misrepresents the extant data for mere thrills and exploitation.  In short, “dumbing down” the stuff in order to render it—like baby food—palatable.  We deserve better.

   The list of serious investigators/authors is short.  Some have passed on into either illumination or nothingness, but their work remains.  Stepping out on a shaky limb, I recommend the articles and books by Charles Fort, Aime Michel, Colin Wilson, John A. Keel, Jacques Vallee, Jim Keith, Jenny Randles, Kenneth Ring, Stan Gordon, Colm A. Kelleher, Ph.D., and Andrew Colvin (perhaps not well-known to many readers).

   Again, these are my subjective choices, but one would have to look deep to detect any taint of agenda and belief in this group.  They have done the mostly unpaid, extremely hard work of travel, research, interviewing and actually giving a damn about witnesses.  Each has suffered various troubles for so doing, much of which we’ll probably never know.  Today’s “security”-obsessed environment is actively hostile and/or indifferent to such research.

   It is difficult, though essential, to keep one’s emotions out of such highly-charged matters.  Thought, colored by emotion, can never be clear thinking.  In Chapter 3 I will detail a personal account to illuminate this.

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