An ‘Other-Valued Reality’: Some Thoughts on Synchronicity

Synchronicity is a word coined by the renowned Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Carl Gustav Jung, for the phenomenon of a uniquely meaningful coincidence. It is, in short, when the outer-world quite remarkably mirrors the inner-world of the individual. Jung defined synchronicity as a “psychically conditioned relativity of space and time.” He also described it as an ‘acausal connecting principal’ which is an event with no apparent – or, at least, something unknown to contemporary physics – form of ‘transmission’ that makes any logical, or causal – through cause and effect – explanation almost impossible.

Often in these experiences the mind seems to have a far more direct and active relationship with the outer-world – a world we too often assume is subject to the law of accident, entropy and a uni-directional flow of time. In this article it is not so much my intention to use just so many examples of personal and other’s reports of synchronicities, but simply to unpack a series of reflections on the implications of undergoing a synchronistic experience.

The experience of synchronicity ranges, like any such experience, from something merely curious to something far more numinous and potentially life-changing. It is also, naturally, something too slippery and mercurial for the logical, rational and time-linear mind to grasp. Indeed, it has, in many instances, a profoundly symbolic nature which seems geared towards intuition rather than rationality. 

Now, the English existentialist philosopher, Colin Wilson, remarked that synchronicity may be one of the most important powers of the human mind. Reflecting upon his own experiences, Wilson noted that they tended to happen more frequently when he was feeling “cheerful and purposive” in which, he says, “convenient synchronicities begin to occur and inconveniences that might happen somehow don’t happen.” More importantly, Wilson observed that it was “as if my high inner-pressure somehow influences the world around me.”

Wilson’s phenomenological insights into the synchronicity experience helps us us in our quest to understand the essential ‘cause’ of the synchronicity – an important key, as it were, to untangling the ‘acausal’ mystery behind Jung’s ‘connecting principal’.

In a recent interview for the YouTube channel, Rebel Wisdom, the author and esoteric scholar, Gary Lachman, made the important link between intentionality – or will – and its ability to ‘nudge’ reality into its desired form. In other words, the ability to perform – in accordance with one’s will – magic. Lachman goes on to say that magic is essentially causing synchronicities to happen. Another scholar of the occult, Jeffrey K. Kripal, a Professor of Religious Thought at Rice University, has also called synchronicity “essentially a shiny new word for what we would have earlier called magic.”

So, it seems as if a crucial part of the synchronicity is indelibly a function of the mind, and that, in some magical way, this can cause meaningful events to unfold in one’s life. According to Wilson these magical events tend to cluster when the mind, the psyche, is functioning at optimum performance. We may venture to say, then, that synchronicity is the magic of a highly-charged mind, and when the vital energies are working in tandem with the individual’s will.

However, another aspect of the synchronicity we have not so far mentioned is what I have decided to call its ‘moment of interjection’. That is, it tends to ‘shock’ us by its seeming non-conformity with our usual everyday sense of time and space, while also inter-jecting itself in unexpected and unpremeditated moments. In other words, the synchronicity experience seems to be the result of another mind, as it were, that acts – sometimes ‘plays’, in a trickster-like fashion – both outside and inside one’s mind in a manner simultaneously ‘within’ time and outside of it; free from the laws of both the linear mind and the world ‘outside’ of linear causality.

We might here, then, say that Wilson’s state of healthy-mindedness provided some essential source of vital energy for this ‘other mind’ – or force – which inter-jects within our lives with curious ‘symbols’ which infer a meaning that somehow lies outside of the frame of ordinary causation. Instead the synchronistic moment acts as a ‘real life’ signifier of a deeper substrate of reality which is in direct contrast to how we normally experience it in our everyday consciousness.

Now, if we were to place the synchronicity phenomena into an evolutionary context, then one could say that evolution – or the gleaning of any new knowledge – tends to occur in moments of inter-jection, as it were, and these inter-jections into our existence are often the hall marks of both humour and the synchronicity experiences. This may at first seem like a leap too far if synchronicity is treated as a curious, and admittedly difficult phenomena, but nevertheless as fundamentally trivial. Of course, a synchronicity can be quite easily shrugged off with the pressing needs of everyday life demanding more of our attention. They can also be seen as ‘mere coincidence’ or simply a ‘minor mystery’ that affords little existential content.

However, this is all a matter of degree rather than kind, for if synchronicities come in thick and fast, then the observer will be forced to ask him/herself a number of questions, not only about him/herself, but also about the nature of reality. (And then, just to be safe that he or she isn’t going mad, to then ask questions about him/herself!)

This is where, I think, a phenomenological and psychological approach becomes an important tool for analysing the relationship between the mind – most crucially – and the world ‘out there’. Note that Wilson also commented essentially on the experience of luck and the distinct lack of accident-proneness he experienced when he was in a “purposive” state of mind. Indeed, Jung also importantly said in his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1961), that the synchronicity experience may force us to notice the “other-valued reality” that lies outside the “phenomenal world . . . and we must face the fact that our world, with its time, space and causality, relates to another order of things lying behind or beneath it.”

What seems to be of most important is just how we can find this crucial correlation between ‘purposive consciousness’ and this “other-valued reality”. Once this is found one ought to be able to find not only the key to psychological health, but also an orientation in life that coheres to a profoundly powerful evolutionary drive that somehow exists
“behind or beneath” reality.   

Another important clue can be found in the work of the psychiatrist Stanislav Grof M.D., who has explored the realms of non-ordinary states of consciousness in his book The Cosmic Game (1990). Grof observed that synchronistic phenomena tended to increase in people’s lives “when they become involved in a project inspired from the transpersonal realms of the psyche.” He continues with the important detail that “remarkable synchronicities tend to occur and make their work surprisingly easy.” In other words, their work is somehow in accordance with Jung’s ‘other-valued reality’ which, it seems, is also the domain of Grof’s transpersonal self.

The author, Anthony Peake, in his excellent book The Daemon (2008), calls this other self the Daemon, which he describes as “the part of us that knows that we have lived this life before”, and that in moments of deja-vu, for example, is when the Daemon recognises significant moments in our lives. The ordinary-self Peake calls the Eidolon, which experiences our life in a linear fashion for, of course, this life will always seem as a surprise, a completely new experience, except in cases of deja-vu phenomena, that is. Peake also says that this other-self, the Daemon, “finds its home in the non-dominant hemisphere [of the brain] and from there acts as an ‘all knowing’ passenger.”

The Daemon is a fascinating book full of accounts of deja-vu and near-death experiences, however, in our discussion it might be said that the synchronicity is the Daemon’s tool – or method – for indicating an evolutionary turn, as it were, in the ascending spiral of self-actualisation, that is in moments when we begin to actualise these realms of the transpersonal psyche into this world of physical matter and linear time. We are, as it were, fulfilling a type of evolutionary destiny.

Rather, it seems, like a convergence of two worlds in which the laws of the other are sympathetic to a world which is becoming in a process. The purpose of existence, then, may be to converge, to unify, two ‘values’ which lie in curious cross-sections of time – and once these evolutionary ‘values’ are acted upon from ‘our side’ then two realities converge in a satisfying ‘click’ which unfolds in our lives as a synchronicity experience.

Although using the ‘convergence of worlds’ metaphor implies two or more worlds, in reality it seems more likely to function along what Jung and the physicist, Wolfgang Pauli, came to understand as the unus mundas – or ‘one world – under which two principals unfold: mind and matter.

However, it is at this point important to remember that the actualisation of wholeness – as in Jung’s individuation, or Abraham Maslow’s self-actualisation – is effectively the unification of psychological factors within the individual in order for them to work most efficiently together. And that these are precisely the components of the whole individual that work towards what the Italian psychologist, Roberto Assagioli, called ‘psycho-synthesis’.

Indeed this attempt to activate the bridge between one’s purpose in accordance with what Grof calls the ‘transpersonal self’ is the goal of Psychosynthesis therapy. The psychotherapist and author of The Way of Psychosynthesis (2017), Petra Guggisberg Nocelli says that “to promote transpersonal synthesis, Psychosynthesis indicates methods to awaken the energies of the higher unconscious” in order to “facilitate contact with its contents”. To do this the therapy includes: “the use of anagogic symbols . . . evocation of superior qualities and techniques for the development and use of intuition.”

We may now see Wilson’s comments about purposiveness as the driving force for increasing synchronicities in the context of Nocelli’s awakening of “the energies of the higher unconscious” mind, or Peake’s Daemon, which seems to awaken – or increasingly integrates – with our ‘lived reality’ once we begin making an effort to fully achieve some dimension of our potential. And, as Peake underlined, ifthe Daemon finds its temporary residence in the non-dominant right hemisphere of the brain, then it makes sense that this creative part of our selves is both buoyed by symbols and efforts to explicate, in some creative and developmental form, some of its contents. It is, rather, as if it has been heard for the first time – and the most effective way to encourage this participation is to ensure that the linear mind learns to accept its existence, and particularly, of a mode of ‘other values’, which is essentially less passive.

One of my own observations has come both through personal experience and through reading many books on the UFO and abduction phenomenon while writing my first book, Evolutionary Metaphors (2019). Throughout my research I noticed that it was commonly mentioned that people involved with this subject – including Wilson himself – were often beset with unusual and sometimes transformative synchronicities. Indeed, one of the most interesting examples is Raymond E Fowler who wrote an investigation into an abduction case called The Andreasson Affair in 1979, and then, following that book was inundated with an uncanny number of synchronicities afterwards. He records some of these in his 2004 book SynchroFile.

Now it seems to me that these may have had less to do with the UFO phenomena itself – at least directly – but with the fact that interest in such liminal and evolutionary ideas in themselves were acting as anagogic symbols and awakening layers of their higher conscious mind!

Of course, it would be absurd to deliberately set out to write books on UFOs in order to actualise unconscious forces latent within the psyche, and it is, furthermore, likely to fail more often than succeed. However, in some typically Alice in Wonderland topsy-turvy and upside-down way, considering creativity itself may aid us in peeling away some of the absurdities and mysteries of both consciousness itself and the anomalies we face in such experiences, whether mystical or in moments of synchronicity.

The curious idea is this: by looking into liminal and anomalous phenomenon we may be finding, in synchronistic moments, the very cause for these strange events we have been looking for; or, in a twist of irony, they may be the evolutionary by-product of that very search for the ‘deep reality’ in the first place.

Or, more importantly, both!

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Evolutionary Metaphors: UFOs, New Existentialism and The Future Paradigm (6th Books)

You can pre-order Evolutionary Metaphors here:

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Evolutionary-Metaphors-Existentialism-Future-Paradigm/dp/1789040876/ctoc

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I have also done a two-part interview with the excellent Greg Mofitt over at Legalise Freedom, which you can view here on YouTube:

Part 1
Part 2

Thank you for following this blog. There is more to come!

(Contact: dmoore629@gmail.com)

An Essay on Gary Lachman’s Lost Knowledge of the Imagination (2017)

(The book is available to buy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lost-Knowledge-Imagination-Gary-Lachman/dp/1782504451)

In Lost Knowledge of the Imagination, Gary Lachman has crystalised his essential philosophical ideas. A short book, at 139 pages, it is nevertheless a highly concentrated and no less comprehensive survey, and like his earlier books it serves a dual purpose. Firstly, it serves as a general overview of various philosophers, authors, psychologists, occultists and mystics, many of whom have been unduly neglected, or have come to represent systems of ‘rejected knowledge’. In each case, Lachman elucidates and clarifies these unique systems of knowledge and their respective originators, allowing both to speak for themselves. Secondly, by placing these various systems and ideas side-by-side, Lachman shows that they are not as unrelated as one might think, and taken collectively they are seen to have a remarkable inner-consistency, and have also been adhered to by some of mankind’s greatest thinkers and artists. It is for this reason that an open-minded reader will perceive a vision of the world that is unduly ignored, but is nevertheless profound and enriching.

In a world increasingly orientated towards the outer at the expense of the inner, Lachman sees the value of esotericism precisely for its emphasis on this inner world of meaning, purpose and, in short, our sense of values. The occult and esoteric has become, in a sense, the culture’s repressed unconscious, which occasionally bursts forth in fin-de-siecle counter-cultures, as it did with the 1960s ‘occult revival’ and again in the 1990s, with its obsession with shamanic hallucinogens and tribal rave culture. Indeed, Lachman writes about these subjects – sometimes obscure and arcane – in a style that is accessible, intelligent and level-headed; traits often sadly lacking in the genre. There is, in his increasing oeuvre, a manifest degree of discernment and – where deserved – sympathy that is strengthened by what his fellow historian of the occult, Mitch Horowitz, called a ‘gentle but assertive purpose’.

Now, if one were to classify the true philosopher as someone concerned with ‘truth, beauty and justice’, then this new book is Lachman’s pursuit of the importance and essential dynamism at the heart of beauty, with its immense role in the revival of a culture that has placed it dangerously low on its hierarchy of values. One could say that Caretakers of the Cosmos (2013) was a call for a creative actualisation of these values, and more importantly putting them into practice, ‘doing the good that you know’. And, his forthcoming book, Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump (2018) looks to be a direct address on the state of world justice; an attempt to understand the streams and convergences of magical and esoteric streams in recent times and their role in a world of ‘post-truth’, and . . . well, post-everything hysteria.

Nothing in Lachman’s oeuvre is unrelated; it is all part of a deeper realisation that was already present in his earlier work. Each work is essentially informed by this vision and recognition of the importance of esoteric knowledge, particularly its psychological dimensions and its acknowledgement of an ultimately meaningful cosmos. Indeed, one of his central influences is the late encyclopedic writer and optimistic ‘new existentialist’, Colin Wilson, on whom Lachman has written the definitive biography, Beyond the Robot: The Life and Work of Colin Wilson (2016). Lachman, in the spirit of Wilson, is also addressing the essentially pessimistic premise on which contemporary culture has dangerously rooted itself. And with a world bereft of the very values found in this ‘rejected’ knowledge, we are left with a fragmentary and deconstructed world of matter without any larger meaningful context. Humanity also increasingly sees itself as a part of this context-free void, therefore denying the very value of meaning (merely subjective), and therefore diminishing its own stature in a materialistic cosmology that rejects, ultimately, all values. Again, driving both philosophers is a recognition that we live in world of deteriorating values, with an ‘anything goes’ attitude that effectively strips us of any real motive for freedom – or even an inspiring concept of freedom itself. The question is now: freedom for what? Lachman, in surveying many systems that recognise that freedom is something earned, and is moreover, is an urgent reminder of the value of being, offers a new orientation that includes both value and purpose. One gets from reading both writers, Wilson and Lachman, a sense that this is a crucial and important corrective for our postmodern age – an active recognition and renewal of our ability for discernment in a world dislocating itself from any centre.

Postmodernism and post-structuralism, caught in the trap of ‘object-relations’, cannot wrench itself out of its own swirling, linguistic orbit, in which, for philosophers like Jacques Lacan, we merely ‘ex-ist’ rather than exist. The philosopher Richard Tarnas, The Passion of the Western Mind (1991), described the outcome of these philosophical developments, which in turn led to a general belief that the ‘nature of truth and reality, in science no less than in philosophy, religion, or art’ became ‘radically ambiguous’ – or radically subjectivised. He continues by saying that man, unable to ‘transcend the manifold predispositions of his or her subjectivity’ becomes trapped in a ‘fusion of horizons’, which leads to a form of nihilistic solipsism – or, in other strains, it becomes too unbounded, leading to a paradoxically flattening form of relativism. This loss of centre, as it were, results in an atmosphere that permeates our culture – affecting the arts and their previous attempts to reflect values beyond themselves – in which our individual and existential sovereignty is so abstracted that it is often reduced to algorithmic, or even algebraic, formulations in much of postmodernism and – chillingly – in the world of social media and even, more dangerously, politics.

The great esoteric scholar, Manly P. Hall called this our problem of ‘orientation disorientation’ – we have lost our way, so to speak. And not only in ourselves, for this clearly reflects in our culture, flattening it to a husk of hyper-politicisation and is reflected in our crisis of identity. Timeless, objective, reliable value systems have been replaced with a liquid, amorphous mass uprooted from any healthy, cosmological and psychological reality; our choice, effectively, is to face our arbitrary existence in a universe indifferent to the strivings of our very being, or merely improvise with the equivalent of flimsy props in a theatre of unreality.

           We are, as Lachman argues, fundamentally adrift from the origin of meaning itself. And it is this loss of origin that led to the forgetfulness of the imagination’s essential role in grasping both meaning and reality – both culturally and individually. Indeed, is it any wonder why we have lost our ability to discern our values? Freedom, in this relativistic atmosphere, becomes an ironic freedom – and irony, moreover, becomes the only cosmological constant that informs the world of contemporary art. An atmosphere of self-referential pointlessness permeates our culture, and the only way to temporarily satiate its bitter flavor is through often stark and ill-contrasting brutality; visceral ‘shocks’ aimed solely at our baser, more automatic instincts.

Addressing this universal crisis of meaning, Lachman’s book stands in the tradition of classics like Maurice Nicoll’s Living Time (1952) and E.F. Schumacher’s A Guide for the Perplexed (1977). These two genre-defying books proposed radically new cosmologies, incorporating in their brilliant synthesis both the unification of rationality and intuition, in an attempt to resolve the modern psyche’s widening chasm between meaning and matter. Lachman’s book, alongside these, place their emphasis on the verticality of meaning, that is, their evolutionary and convergent purposes towards higher degrees of spiritual and psychological integration. It is in direct contrast to the pervasive atmosphere of value relativism and materialistic reductionism, and instead offers a logical alternative to the manifestly problematic arrangement of our priorities.

In approaching the difficult subject of the imagination, plagued as it is by its very evanescence and vague character, Lachman nevertheless proceeds with great authority, firmness of purpose, and with many insights that transmutes knowledge of the imagination into something palpably and urgently real. He shows us that the imagination is not a mere ‘flight of fancy’, but has its own epistemology, its own disciplines and masterful practitioners.

The Lost Knowledge of the Imagination explores various thinker’s, artist’s and poet’s excursions into this important other ‘half’ of our existence – precisely the half that needs to be integrated in a world fraught with increasing polarization and dis-integration. And importantly, he unearths the knowledge they bought back with them. The imaginative source, that ‘intuitive glue’ which binds together our view of the cosmos, is called upon as a means to repair the rift between two worlds that were once complimentary; it is a call, moreover, towards an active phenomenological understanding of the true origin of meaning. Being one of the true practitioners and teachers of the imagination, the poet Samuel Coleridge is an important figure in Lachman’s book. For this poet, who contemplated the ‘objects of Nature’, was able to entwine two worlds, both inner and outer, into a state which allowed him visions of the eternal dynamism between meaning, consciousness and matter. Colerdige, in his own words, entered a new world redolent with ‘symbolic language . . . that already and forever exists’ – a world, in short, where the knowledge of the imagination reigns supreme – presaging, for the poet, a ‘dim Awakening of a forgotten or hidden Truth of my inner Nature’, which Coleridge referred to as both the Creator and, importantly in light of this essay, ‘the Evolver!’.

*

Lachman, much like Wilson, sees our future evolution as being a result of cooperation between two fundamental modes of perception, and each with its own unique and complimentary type of knowledge. And while imagination ‘can be used for fantasy, illusion, make-believe, and escapism’ its most more important role is, Lachman argues, ‘to make contact with the strange world in which we live’ presenting us with the ‘possible, potential realities that it is our job to actualise.’ The imagination becomes our means, if consciously and effectively employed, to search out the possible direction of our own inner and outer evolution; it offers, in its visionary glimpses, a foretaste of our future; metaphors, in this side of the mind, become malleable essences which can be transmuted into the very thing that they once merely referred to, and vice-versa. However, as Lachman makes clear, we can still evolve the realm of quantity, but only so much as this is not at the expense of quality; that is, to broaden our focus on the outer-world at expense of the inner worlds of meaning, that motive force behind the evolution of consciousness, and the glue that binds the two worlds together. This understanding of evolution precedes Darwin, and instead refers to an inner-evolution, a more self-willed development as a product of the vision that propels the will into the future.

The crucial message at the heart of Lachman’s work is how this type of knowledge, and this modality of being, is effectively incorporated into how we perceive ourselves and the world around us. It is, as we shall see, a matter for the evolution of our perspective, and, as a result, how this transfers to our cultural cosmology and cosmogony. Fundamentally, it is the anti-entropic life-force that orders and complexifies apparently dead matter into higher, more autonomous forms. In the first chapter, ‘A Different Kind of Knowing’, Lachman discusses and outlines the various historical and cultural developments which have shaped the mental evolution of humanity, and particularly their emergent zeitgeists which reflected these different orientations, priorities and cosmologies. Of course, with the ascendancy of the Enlightenment in the 17th century, the older type of knowledge was radically replaced by the scientific spirit. This was not an isolated and sudden leap, but the product of man’s new and more urgent concerns. Philosophers, these most ‘impersonal men’, had already presaged the type of detachment necessary for the scientific spirit, and for many the creation myths of Homer and the great dramatists and poets, were losing their ‘charge’. Instead, the scientific spirit emerged in many of the early philosopher’s attempts to find the element which constitutes the world – usually reduced to, for example, simple elements such as air, water, fire, spirit, etc. We began, according to Lachman, to ‘abstract’ our knowledge, to extract it from its larger context, in a spirit of mastery and domination over the laws of the natural world. It was a far more active mind than what went before it, but it sowed the seeds of a new development that was equally fraught with its own problems.

The major problem as Lachman sees it, is precisely this trade-off in which, although producing an enormous technological upsurge that benefits mankind tremendously, nevertheless leaves us with a culture prone to forget that the abstracted world is just that, an extracted aspect of a world usually ‘thick, luxuriant, rich’. As a result, he continues, we begin to see the world ‘we encounter and love and struggle with as a kind of subjective illusion, housed without our individual island consciousness’. This is the potentially fatal consequence of a mind too one-sided and dominated by its own capacity to remove itself from the world of direct, integral and intuitive experience. And yet, for this type of thinking the imaginative world of qualities is perceived as dramatically unsubstantial and vague, this is precisely because it cannot present itself as an object, and it is a priori rejected due to its non-quantifiable essence. Instead, this type of mind attends to a different resolution of reality, which, according to Lachman, ‘does not operate with fixed, exact definitions and unchanging, sequential orders or algorithms, but with patterns, relationships, sympathies, analogies, intuitions, insights and a synoptic grasp of experience – that is, it takes it in ‘at a glance”.

Indeed, another teacher of the imagination, Stan Gooch, called this ‘the knowledge that is not science’ in his book The Paranormal (1978). He goes on to cite fairy stories and their common concern with the ‘breaking of the spell’, which he sees as the objective mind’s ‘intrusion’ into a world that obeys radically different laws of the subjective realities. This, he believes, was the problem when two realities cancel each other out, that is, if they are not carefully equilibrated, in their place and working in a dynamic sort of way. In the visionary state, as in the fairy stories, the vision vanishes leaving no trace and is over taken by the linear, abstract logic that ‘cannot compute’ this baffling, vague and wide-angle of meaningful analogies and connections. Indeed, this is essentially the bane of such research into parapsychology, with such experiences as synchronicities and other phenomenon unamenable to easy repeatability due to their subjective nature. A bridge, as we shall see, that Germany’s greatest literary figure, Goethe, attempted to construct between his scientific works and his more visionary and poetical achievements. For him, as for Gooch, Lachman, Wilson and many others, these two types of knowing ought not contradict each other, or cancel each other out, in fact, they are fundamental to seeing the whole picture, so to speak.

Lachman draws upon a large variety sources, ranging from the British philosopher, Owen Barfield, the ‘first and last Inkling’ and friend with none other than C.S. Lewis, to Goethe, the poet and William Blake scholar, Kathleen Raine, along with the French‑American historian Jacques Barzun and author Ernst Jünger among many others. Between them, Lachman shows, they shared either direct access to, or sympathetic understanding of, the subjective mind and its essential role in our individual as well as the collective psychological balance. Indeed, in the third chapter ‘The Knower and the Known’ Lachman describes an interesting early case of psychometry, in which Germany’s greatest literary figure, Goethe, is involved in a type of ‘psychic archeology’ along with an exploration into the archetypal ‘primal plant’, the ‘Urpflanze’. Lachman describes Goethe’s meaning of what he called the ‘inner necessity and truth’ in which the German author understood the imagination to harbor its own type of truth, and not, as Lachman says, ‘merely a loosening of reason and a setting free of uncontrolled fantasy. . . but a cognitive power that obeyed its own rules and disciplines’. When these ‘rules and disciplines’ are applied, the external world opens up its inner content, a whole new dimension which is laden with implicitness and knowledge beyond the reach of linear rationality. It is an intuitive knowledge, capable to effectively bypass the limits of ordinary time and space, providing a glimpse into Plato’s world of Forms, the very origin from which all corporeal forms are reflections.

This active vision into the underlying structures of reality, through what Jung called ‘active imagination’ and Goethe, before him, called ‘active seeing’, was also discovered by another German, the philosopher Edmund Husserl who established the school of phenomenology. He described this type of active perception as the underlying force behind perception, which he called ‘intentionality’, and explored its implications through the discipline of phenomenology, an attempt to understand the mechanisms of consciousness. In doing so, we would find the ‘keepers of the key to the ultimate sources of being’, which would in turn reveal the ‘hidden achievements of the transcendental ego’ , that fundamental part of us that shapes our perceptions, providing, if you will the categorical ‘grid’ through which we grasp and understand the world. To elucidate the difficult language of phenomenology, Lachman refers to the work of Paul Ricouer’s analysis, in which he summarises the mechanism of ‘intentionality’ as that which ‘culminates in seeing’ – it is a recognition that perception is double-sided; seer and seen or, as hinted at in the title of Lachman’s title for the chapter, ‘the knower and the known’. Indeed, it is this part of our selves which provides the ‘intentional glue’ which Gestalts meaning, and that which provides what Jünger called ‘the master key’ to a vast and holistic consciousness.

Access to this ‘introcosom’, as the psychologist Julian Jaynes called it, is one of the true tools of Lachman’s cosmic caretaker, for its emergent presence in the past – in those Goldilocks moments of precisely the perfect balance – resulted in a bursting forth of creative and evolutionary visions of man, recharging the vision of man and his role in the cosmos. In this surcease of the conflict between the two minds, there is a unification between analytical consciousness and visionary consciousness, in which both complement each other and provide what Wilson called a ‘background of values’ in which society, individuals and culture are reinvigorated with an evolutionary purpose. There is, of course, with this sort of vision a great responsibility which, upon initial reflection, seems more daunting than it does liberating; that is, we may be ultimately discouraged by the sheer enormity of the task. . .

Lost Knowledge of the Imagination acknowledges this difficulty, but concludes that with the right balance of mind, this task may not appear so daunting after all, and that the responsibility is enormously reciprocated. Along the way, Lachman provides an enormous range of approaches to the problem, some of them recognised by the greatest minds in history, such as Albert Einstein and Bernard Shaw, for example. In the final chapter, Lachman quotes from Einstein’s Cosmic Religion: ‘Imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to our evolution’. Again, it is an understatement to say that the job of evolution is an easy one, but, curiously enough, when it is recognised with the aid of the right mind, the process becomes self-evidently worthwhile. If, as Einstein says, the imagination embraces the world, it is in the position to perceive wholes, even, perhaps, ultimate evolutionary potentialities.

Lachman’s book is as much a survey of the knowledge of the imagination as it is an overview of the essential archetypal forces from which the human story unfolds. It is fundamentally a book about the evolutionary impetus; an attempt to ‘unveil the secrets of the transcendental ego’. As for Goethe, who saw the ‘revelation’ of evolutionary knowledge ‘emerging at the point where the inner world of man meets external reality’, it is this ‘synthesis of world and mind’ that produces the ultimate dynamism which will propel us up the spiral, in direct contrast to the nihilistic value relativism that draws us into a tighter whorl towards self-negation. Currently this schism of meanings is being played on the battlefield of politics, and whether Left or Right, in which – rather like the two hemispheres of the mind, as explored in Iain McGilchrist’s masterwork, The Master and his Emissary (2009) – the increasing polarisation causes a spectacle depressingly divided. We can see, at present, that we are in a world that Lachman describes as being in ‘a state of flux, with old boundaries breaking down without new contours being established’. It is our imperative, Lachman urgently reminds us, to reconnect with the origin of meaning, and to recognise as well as intuitively recalibrate our values towards a more vital recognition of the evolutionary imperative. He offers a way forward in which the tensions are creative rather than corrosive, providing a philosophy which elevates the imagination as the key ingredient in repairing the rifts and disconnections within our present situation. The imagination, for Lachman and the authors, philosophers, poets, artists and occultists that he explores, may provide exactly the ‘master key’ to this necessary ballast in our turbulent times.

To conclude, we may turn to the story of Goethe’s increasing familiarity with the architecture of Strasbourg Cathedral, in which, he claimed, he was able to acquire information in an apparently miraculous flash of insight. Indeed, Goethe found himself in possession of the knowledge that one of the towers was not how it was originally intended. In using this case, Lachman presents us with a crucial understanding of something even more extravagant than Strasbourg’s Cathedral’s Romanesque architecture. Now, Goethe was able to see the original intention behind the finished architecture as it stood there before him – as well as, we might recall, his claim to be able to perceive the ‘primal plant’, that ur-plant from which all other plants (plural) emerge. In doing so, is it not unreasonable to extend this vision further, and perhaps suggest that this sort of visionary consciousness may be the key to the evolutionary plan itself? That is, this may be what provides us that crucial insight into our own potentialities that are latent in our very being, the ‘primal mankind’, as it were. Indeed, if this visionary quality was directed at the foundations of our culture, society and own psyche, we might too be able to see our way through to the evolutionary directive, that very substratum from which the impulse of life flows into material becoming. And in doing so, we may bypass these confusions of the intellect too abstracted from the primal reality from which it has extracted itself, and instead survey the landscape of the inner-world. Furthermore, by turning this imagination towards the outer-world, we may create a more meaning-filled sense of being, in concordance with the evolutionary intentionality present in nature itself.

In reading Lost Knowledge of the Imagination one can acquire a foretaste of precisely the kind of revelatory consciousness that Lachman describes, and, like all great books, it will benefit re-readings for years to come, for its implications are implicit and many. I have, in this essay, only scratched the surface, even if that, of this tightly argued and equally wide-reaching book. It is a book of learning and remembering; it is, in a sense, a call for what Gurdjieff and Ouspensky called ‘self-remembering’. Indeed, revelation – that remembrance of lost knowledge – is what happens when the two-minds cooperate, each side creatively comprehending the other and its role. Instead, there is a perceptible synthesis manifest in states of inspiration or peak experiences in which two streams of knowledge converge – a sort of gnosis, a true understanding, is reached, and challenges that once seemed insurmountable seem almost trivial. Lachman has here provided a glimpse into the architectural plans of what the poet Martha Heyneman called a ‘breathing cathedral’, and with each actualization of those plans we contribute towards the repair work of the cosmos, integrating each piece into the human mind again.

 

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A New Existentialist Perspective: An Essay on Anthony Peake’s Opening the Doors of Perception (2016)

(You can buy the book here: https://www.anthonypeake.com/product/opening-the-doors-of-perception/)

                Anthony Peake is at the forefront of a controversial science that aims to unify consciousness with the literally mind-bending and time-defying processes of the subatomic world.  His work shares some similarities with the work of Lynne McTaggart, particularly her excellent book The Field (2001).  Indeed, Peake’s Opening the Doors of Perception (2016) and McTaggart’s The Field bring consciousness back into prominence; that is, consciousness as being a fundamental component of reality, and an enormously important participant in the world around us, even extending so far as the macrocosmic scale of the structures of the cosmos itself.  Much like the apparent entropy of background radiation, there is also the anti-entropic, ordering principle of consciousness – a higher formulation, if you will.

Peake asks the question of why matter, aggregated in the form of a body, suddenly generates something that can self-reflect.  Of course, consciousness has the ability to ask this very question, being as it is, by definition, self-aware.  But what is more significant for Peake are those moments in which consciousness suddenly launches itself out of time and can, from its new vantage point, look backwards and forwards in time.  This profound state of ‘timelessness’ takes place under unusual neurological and neurobiochemical states which, in a variety of different ways, remind us of the experiences of many of the great mystics such as Blake, Boehme, Swedenborg (even the science fiction author, Philip K. Dick) – and yet, and most importantly, these can also be experienced by ordinary people undergoing an extraordinary altered state of consciousness.

Moreover, people undergoing temporal lobe seizures, aura migraine or as a result of autism or Alzheimer’s disease, are more likely than us ‘neurotypicals’ (neurologically typical) to experience these radical new perspectives of time, the world around them and of themselves.  And this results, sadly, to a general misunderstanding, a sense of alienation in the one who experiences it firsthand; so, in as much as Peake’s work studies and attempts to understand these unusual states, he is also presenting a reassuring paradigm in which to understand their mysteries. Furthermore, Peake contends that these alternative modes of being are not to be treated as mere hallucinations or an imaginative concoction of a non-typical brain – they are, in a very real sense, a glimpse beyond the world of appearances into the underlying reality that constitutes the structure of the cosmos.  Indeed these individuals are seeing and experiencing an objective reality beyond what he refers to as the ‘reducing valve’ of ordinary consciousness.

The ‘reducing valve’ was term that Aldous Huxley used throughout his famous book The Doors of Perception (1954) to explain the normally constricted consciousness of our everyday experience.  And in the famous words of William Blake, if these “doors of perception were cleansed” (in other words, if the ‘reducing valve’ is removed), “everything would appear to man as it is, infinite”.

Opening the Doors of Perception is Anthony Peake’s own response to, and an updated celebration of Huxley’s seminal book; but instead of continuing with the hallucinogenic experiences of mescalin, Peake undertakes a more scientific approach of understanding brain physiology and its relationship to consciousness – particularly inter-hemispheric communication, and what he calls “neuroatypical ‘illnesses’” along the “Huxleyian spectrum”.  The Huxleyian spectrum is a means to gauge just how wide open the doors have become, and indeed how much the ‘reducing valve’ has been switched off.

Peake aims and, as I argue below, successfully achieves an enormously stimulating synthesis by re-evaluating “the model of perception suggested by Huxley and to view it through the lens of our modern science, and, more importantly, to evaluate the evidence taking into account how the web, virtual reality and holographics have changed forever the way we appreciate the external world” (7).  Now Opening the Doors of Perception is not simply an up-dated version of Huxley’s book, but is also an evolution of Peake’s previous books, namely Is There Life After Death? (2006) and The Daemon (2008) which first laid down his unique ‘Daemon-Eidolon hypothesis’, in which argues convincingly that “human consciousness is split into two independent foci of self-aware consciousnesses” which he the calls the Daemon and the Eidolon.

To place this hypothesis into perspective it is worth returning to his earlier book, The Daemon, which prefigures his later work in Opening the Doors of Perception admirably:

“I disagree with [Henry] Bergson and Huxley in their belief that the reducing valve allows direct access to the ‘outside world’ as it really is.  I argue that the ‘Doors’ open up to allow access to the everyday awareness of the Daemon.  Put simply, the Eidolon perceives the world as the Daemon does and the Daemon perceives the actual nature of ‘reality’ – a very sophisticated, internally-generated illusion – a recording of a life that was once lived, a recording generated by a process similar to holography” (58)

The Eidolon, then, is you – the normal ‘I’ who experiences our lives from position of ordinary linear time.  However the Daemon is also ‘you’, but, a much higher you that lives outside of time – the Daemon, in short, has already lived your life (maybe even thousands of times!).  When the doors of perception are cleansed, whether through hallucinogenic drugs or a temporal lobe seizure, Peake argues that what we really perceive is ‘reality’ as the Daemon sees it; that is, from a sort of timeless perspective that can offer us glimpses – by means of precognitions, déjà-vu, hallucinations or voices – of the future.  This viewpoint is simply a ‘timeless state’; it is also what Huxley called ‘Mind at Large’, a perspective that allows us insights into the structures and more importantly implicit meanings in nature and the universe.

Indeed, implicitness is enormously important when we begin to discuss meaningfulness and its relational quality later on.

This is what makes Opening the Doors of Perception such a profound book, and a treasure trove of insights for anyone interested in the nature of consciousness, and particularly – in my own case – as someone who approaches it as a text pertaining directly to the important insights of Colin Wilson’s philosophy, the new existentialism.

The new existentialism is a philosophy that emerged primarily from the philosophical discipline phenomenology created by Edmund Husserl, in short Wilson argues for a ‘positive existentialism’ that recognises that consciousness has a far greater range than we are lead to believe, indeed it has an intentional, that is an active rather than passive aspect that is underestimated, even totally disregarded by the ‘old existentialists’ such as Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, etc.  Wilson argues that, in an increasing world of materialist-reductionism, and its attack on religious values, there nevertheless remains a very real and significant area of inquiry: the nature of consciousness itself, the very ability that allows us to comprehend these problems at all.

Wilson argues in Introduction to the New Existentialism (1966) that “Everyday consciousness is a liar, and most people have insights to this effect at least once a week”.  He continues by stating that the really important question is:“how to give such insights a philosophical status and how to investigate them” (152).

This is effectively what Anthony Peake succeeds in doing with Opening the Doors of Perception, for he places our consciousness into two different streams – that of the Eidolonic consciousness and that of the Daemonic.  The Eidolonic-mode is in some sense this lying and ordinary consciousness: it offers us only a slither of reality; whereas the Daemon is allowed a full-spectrum view out into time.  Wilson’s Faculty X experience is precisely a glimpse of this Daemonic consciousness, for it is “the glimpse of other times and places”.  In some sense, the peak experience is closer to the Daemonic than the Eidolonic, being as it is stuck in ‘real time’ with all the trivialities of existence.  Significantly Peake makes an extraordinary connection between these experiences of meaningfulness and the Daemon through the work of Michael Persinger:

“Persinger suggests a similar spectrum to myself with regards to religious and mystical experiences.  He is convinced that such experiences are created by the temporal lobes.  The sense of self in relation to time and space is located in the amygdaloid and hippocampal complexes.  These structures are, in turn, areas that generate anxieties and fears.  The amygdale also focuses on pleasure and pain.  Collectively these parts of the brain also facilitate intense feelings of significance, or meaningfulness” (34).

The important word here, I am certain, is the word ‘collectively’.  Indeed, I am here reminded of an event that happened to J.G. Bennett which he recorded in his biography, Witness (1962), for Bennett was apparently able to consciously control the processes created by the temporal lobes.

After intense and strenuous exercise at G.I. Gurdjieff’s Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man at Fontainebleau, Bennett experienced something profoundly unique.  He had been feeling exhausted due to diarrhoea and a general sickness – he even considered whether or not he was going to die – but after the forced exercise he was suddenly “filled with the influx of an immense power.  My body seemed to have turned into light” (93).  He was so delighted by this new power that he carried on digging, indeed becoming more self-aware as his body seemed so full of energy that he could not feel the usual strain and exhaustion.  Excited by this Bennett decided to take look around, and the words:

“”in the mind’s eye” took on new meaning as I “saw” the eternal pattern of each thing I looked at: the trees, the plants, the water flowing in the canal and even the spade, and, lastly, my own body.  I recognized the changing relationship between “myself” and “my pattern” . . . Time and Eternity were the conditions of our experience” (93).

But most significantly, in terms of the amygdaloid and hippocampal complexes, he recalled a lecture by P.D. Ouspensky in which he said that it is easy enough for a man to be angry at will, but nevertheless it is very difficult to become astonished at will.  In his new and heightened state of consciousness Bennett decided to put this to the test, and said to himself “I will be astonished”, he continues:

“Instantly, I was overwhelmed with amazement, not only at my own state, but at everything that I looked at or thought of.  Each tree was so uniquely itself that I felt that I could walk in the forest for ever and never cease from wonderment.  Then the thought of “fear” came to me.  At once I was shaking with terror.  Unnamed horrors were menacing me on every side.  I thought of “joy”, and I felt pervaded with such fine shades of tenderness and compassion that I saw that I had not the remotest idea of the depth and range of love” (95)

This suggests that in some way Bennett had gained access to a ‘higher self’ – perhaps his Daemon? –  that could somehow elicit changes within the temporal lobes directly – but changes which are usually very difficult combinational process, such as the case of being ‘astonished at will’ seems to suggest.

It appears that in some way, the Eidolonic consciousness is a passive ‘first lifer’, so to speak, and that only in glimpses is it granted the freedoms which are usually bestowed solely to the Daemon.  Peake argues that each ‘mode’ of consciousness is in fact divided between both the dominant and non-dominant hemispheres of the brain; that is, roughly speaking, the Eidolon lives in our left hemisphere and the Daemon in the right.  Peake also suggests there can be times when there is a “bicamerality of consciousness, which may mirror or even override the hemispheres model” (233), that is, they can communicate to one another via the corpus callosum (the bridge of nerve fibres between the two hemispheres).  This communication, if it is effectively democratised, enables the Eidolon and the Daemon to work together harmoniously, and more importantly, in a controlled manner.

In Frankenstein’s Castle (1980), a book about the powers of the right brain, Colin Wilson says that the “fundamental human urge is not for happiness, but for control.  A man who has spent his life in a state of misery may be glad enough for a few scraps of happiness; but the moment he becomes a little accustomed to happiness, he is seized with a desire to grasp its underlying principle, so that he can turn it on  and off as he pleases” (48).  He continues: “insight is not enough.  The two halves [of the brain] need to combine their functions.  When this happens, the result is far greater than either could achieve individually” (48).  Opening the Doors of Perception offers us one of the most penetrating examples of the powers of the right brain at present, particularly with the amazing abilities of autistic savants who are able to remember and draw entire cities after a mere 30 minutes in a helicopter (in the case of Stephen Wiltshire), or even people who can remember their entire lives in extraordinary detail.  What is necessary is the understanding that this is a potentiality within every brain and each one of us, and yet for us neurotypicals it is indeed more difficult – and often very rare – to access these rich sources of information and insight.

Fortunately we can gain access to these states, and in a uniquely controlled way, but it is a matter of self-discipline and certain phenomenological exercises.  But before we discuss these it is worth taking a look at some of the hints that Anthony Peake provides us with.

In discussing hallucinogenics Peake refers to the work of the German-American psychologist Heinrich Klüver who noticed that there is a common recurrence of geometric forms in hallucinations – whether as a result of ingesting a hallucinogen or suffering from epilepsy, migraine or through hypnagogic imagery.  These ‘form constants’ can take the form of cobwebs, tunnels, spirals, lattices, etc, and are very often represented in the psychedelic artworks of the ancient shamanic cultures through to the 1960s and recent times (more recently popularised by the work of Alex Grey).  This brings us back to the example of J.G. Bennett when he said that he could see ‘in the mind’s eye’ that everything he looked at had an “eternal pattern”.  Peake suggests that Klüver’s Form Constants could be a glimpse into the holographic and fundamentally mathematical basis of reality.  This could be what Bennett saw in his vision; the interconnectedness of everything to everything else, until he was almost blinded by William James’s “sudden vision of increasing ranges of distant facts”.  Perhaps this is best represented by geometry, as Peake suggests by comparing it to the Mandelbrot set, or what Oliver Sacks called the ‘geometrization to infinity’.

Indeed, Peake suggests that the migraine sufferer may “short-circuit Aldous Huxley’s reducing valve and in doing so facilitate a perceptual viewpoint similar to that of Mind at Large” (41).  Colin Wilson also made this connection when he was studying an interesting individual called Brad Absetz, for in Access to Inner Worlds (1983) he describes some of the artworks of Absetz which exhibit an insight – by his other-self, perhaps located in the right hemisphere – with extraordinary paintings of highly geometrical flowers and so on, which seem to suggest a more holistic rather than ‘granulated’ – piecemeal – view of reality.  Wilson later on in the same book discusses the notion of an ‘inner library’ that is full of memories, insights and a vast accumulation of the whole of our lives, and when we experience this flash it is as if this library was suddenly lit up for us to see.  In these experiences we realise that we are not separate, trapped in time and personality, but instead apart of something much larger, vital and evolutionary.  Wilson continues:

“. . . this library inside of us is not merely a repository of separate memories.  What is so exciting is that these memories can blend together and connect into something much bigger.  The tarry smell of the sun-warmed fence is connected with the smell of grass, and an odd cold sensation that seems to be a memory of water, which in turn brings back the cold of a winter day and the sogginess of melting snow . . . And at this point, it becomes difficult to pinpoint the sensations because they seem to be spreading outwards, so that every one evokes half a dozen others, and so on in geometric progression.  There is a dazzling sensation of hovering above your own life, seeing it as a whole, like some enormous landscape.  And as we glimpse these ‘distant horizons’, we also become aware that this  is what memory is for.  Not fragmentary piecemeal perceptions, but a total grasp.  And not only my own life, but, by some process of deduction, of other lives, of all life” (122-123)

The philosopher and professor of philosophy at San Francisco State University, Jeremy Needleman, in his book What is God? (2011) expressed a very similar notion, for he too realised that all great insights, “all visions of man and universe, all magic that called me away from my little egoism and dreams – it was the power of some force that could bring together oppositions and conflicts into a greater whole, a mysterious incomprehensible event prosaically labelled “the coincidence of opposites”” (170).  Could it be that this force that both Wilson and Needleman refer to, either indirectly or directly, a glimpse of the Daemonic consciousness of the right hemisphere?  The coincidence of opposites is certainly very evocative of the unification of both hemispheres; working most effectively in a balanced fashion and lending a certain connectedness – of reality, of vivid implicit meaningfulness – to our vision of ourselves and the world around us.

This is perhaps why the works of genius themselves seem to resonate through our cultures, constantly changing it and becoming more relevant as time goes on; there is the sense that a vision is ever unfolding, a multi-dimensional and geometrical event that transcends time and space.  Indeed, the very word genius is related to the Daimonic, for Socrates had his own guardian spirit, his own genius or inspiration.  In Prometheus and Atlas (2016) Jason Reza Jorjani argues that aesthetic ideas themselves, when in touch with genius or the inspirational spirit, transcend the ordinarily rational mind (the left brain) and these “aesthetic ideas are capable of indefinitely expanding, and hence redefining rational concepts that they spawn, and that attempt, unsuccessfully yet generatively, to clearly grasp . . . that which engendered them” it is, in an enlightening analogy, the “material supplied to it by Nature in order to surpass Nature by generating ideas that lie beyond the bounds of experience” (118).  These geometrical visions, the Klüver’s Form Constants, the paintings of Brad Absetz and the ‘eternal pattern’ as seen by Bennett all seem to be referring to the same thing; these intuitions of something beyond the time-bound appearances that are presented to us in our Eidolonic state.  The Daemonic, when it bleeds into our ordinary everyday consciousness leaves us with ideas that “lie beyond the bounds of experiences” and therefore, as the mystics constantly remind us, beyond the capacity of ordinary language to convey.

Only highly aesthetic forms of expression, music, poetry, painting, and geometries, can remind us that these realities beyond the ordinary world, and beyond our ‘reducing valve’ are incredibly rich – and this realm of incredible richness of experience is only, in reality, a very slight step away – even a matter of centimetres – if we are to consider the enormous possibilities Anthony Peake presents us in his books.

The final lines of Opening the Doors of Perception boldly state this, and Peake shares his vision of an exploration of inner space:

“We will break out of the confines of our present consensual reality and in doing so will begin the first few tentative steps in creating a new science to explain the wonders of the Pleroma [Mind at Large or the Ultimate Reality]” (241)

And this statement was similarly stated by Colin Wilson in The New Existentialism, for the ‘new existentialist’ “accepts man’s experience of his inner freedom as basic and irreducible” and ‘the new existentialism” concentrates the full battery of phenomenological analysis upon the everyday sense of contingency . . . it uncovers the complexities and safety devices in which freedom dissipates itself”.

Anthony Peake’s Opening the Doors of Perception constantly reminds us — through exploring the fascinating processes of hallucinations, to the scientific explorations of quantum physics, consciousness studies and the enlightening worlds of temporal lobe epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, near-death experiences and so on — that the reality behind the contingent world of temporal forms, there is a rich and scintillating infinity, of, in short, the evolutionary potentiality of man.

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Bibliography:

Bennett, J.G. (2007) Witness. Santa Fe, Bennett Books

Jorjani, R.J. (2016) Prometheus and Atlas. London, Arktos

Needleman, J. (2011) What is God?. New York, Tarcher Penguin

Peake, A. (2008) Daemon. London, Arcturus

Peake, A. (2016) Opening the Doors of Perception. London, Watkins

Wilson, C. (1966) Introduction to the New Existentialism. Boston, Houghton Mifflin Company

Wilson, C. (1980) Frankenstein’s Castle. Bath, Ashgrove Press

Wilson, C. (1983) Access to Inner Worlds. London, Rider.

A Personal Reflection – Rainbow in the Storms of Life: The Outsider and the Building of the Being

This will be a simple sketch of some ideas that, I believe, lend themselves well to Wilson’s new existentialism.  They are, in a sense, my own approach to Wilson’s work; that which I have taken from his work and have helped to shape my own insights.  For, in a sudden insight, I realised just how important it is to develop a more disciplined consciousness; curiously it is in relatively unremarkable moments that the mind can suddenly jolt you into a semblance of self-consciousness, a new type of remembering.

In my instance, I was walking the grounds of Newstead Abbey on a visit with my family, and I felt oddly tired all day, for as I walked past the satyr statues in the front gardens, thinking of Lord Byron, I suddenly realised that I was not taking it in.  That is, my knowledge of Byron and Shelley’s lives and their works, is at best, skeletal and limited – I only know, like my knowledge of the history of China, for example, key events, names and a few dates – but, in the other sense, it is about not fully embracing my own being, for if Byron has been long gone, but his work remains, the ghost of his being is still with us, and I can become aware of Byron’s existence by increasing my knowledge and sense of what he was about.  (It is interesting to note that Byron was too much embodied – he was particularly prone to an overindulgence of the senses!) And even though I was in these beautiful gardens, Japanese, French and Spanish, I was reminded of Wilson’s ‘Faculty X’ experience which I was, at the time, nowhere near to invoking – my mind, as I looked out, was too tired, and even though I knew that these were obviously tremendously stimulating and rich environments, full of natural and historical significance, my mind only reflected a dull sense of being, as if I was basically a ghost in the present.  It is certainly a frustrating experience, and I believe everybody has felt like at some point in their life.

In moments like these, and especially being aware – to some degree – of the mechanisms of consciousness, and yet, still feeling like a victim of low energies is enough to encourage you to take up a more disciplined and active approach to your own consciousness.  Superconsciousness (2009), Wilson’s last book, is a reminder of this, and an excellent summary of his life’s work.  At that time, amusingly walking between two female lead satyr statues erected by Lord Byron, I began to think: “Here I am, in this rare opportunity, and I can’t be fully present!”.  Obviously, I was also aware of my own distraction, my tendency to intellectualise in moments when I should be doing the contrary – causing a temporary surcease in what Steve Taylor calls ‘thought-chatter’, and to simply be in the moment, allowing as it were, the objective rather than the subjective world to come more into presence.  It was then that I really grasped the importance of superconsciousness, for it is more important than anything else; that it is, right at the centre of being and being in being.  In some strange way, those lead satyrs were more there than I was, and if I could be, I could too be in existence rather than being oddly distant, without the force of energy to settle my mind into a greater degree of receptivity.

Ouspensky really emphasised this fact in The Psychology of Mankind’s Possible Evolution when he said that man, when he apparently emerges from the subjective world of dreams, in fact only has one added dimension – that is, he is conscious but also simultaneously asleep.  In other words, man remains asleep, and much of his mind is still awash with subjectivities which sway either way like a boat on a rough sea.  Ordinary consciousness is basically a minor ballast added to this boat, adding at least a small degree of active self-control, but nowhere near enough.  A yet higher degree of consciousness is an increase of ballast, which again adds another dimension of self-control which stabilises the mind in the rush of distracting subjectivities which tends to pull us out of life and the ‘now’.  These are the states that we need to ‘build’, and which nature, unfortunately, has not necessarily endowed us with.  Gurdjieff always emphasised this fact that the mind can, after a certain point, only consciously evolve; we cannot sit back on our laurels, drifting through life like a ghost on a misty lake (although we can, but it would be immensely unsatisfying!).

One of Wilson’s best attributes, I believe, is that he was ready to share his own experiences, which is the mark of a genuine existentialist.  He often remarks on his own panic attack situations, most notably in Mysteries (1978) and Access to Inner Worlds (1983), and I believe he too, like myself, had a tendency to ‘over think’.  This is perhaps  whyI am so indebted to his work, for before reading him, I always felt oddly frustrated with a lot of other writers – that they seemed to mask themselves, and were oddly clouded by subjectivities.  I could certainly see it in the work of Emil Cioran, for example, whose work is emphatically a series of subjective outbursts.  Wilson, I thought, could ‘step back’ from himself, and this is what The Outsider (1956) is a result of being able to do; he stepped back from the passively accepted pessimism of his time, and was not, as is so easy in our culture, to be pulled under by the current of negativity and the over-emphasis of personality and its trivialities.  It is a bold statement, I know, but a lot of modern culture seems to me like bad conscience!  Perhaps that’s why Wilson felt so annoyed when people could relate to Samuel Beckett’s work, because, he instinctively felt that this was only because people tended to accept unquestioningly that the mind is a passive observer of reality.  Again, this is the ghost in the mist, who has simply stopped rowing his boat because he doesn’t believe there are further shores of being.  It is rather like terminal boredom.

Curiously Cioran was a huge admirer of Beckett, and even remarked that his favourite word was ‘lessness’.  A good character portrait can be found in Ilinca Zarifopol-Johnston’s Searching for Cioran (2009), where one can see that Cioran was a relatively pleasant individual (aside from being in Romania’s Iron Guard), but had somehow inverted Nietzsche’s ‘will to life’ to a ‘will to negation’ – I am convinced he felt a sort of thrill out of what he called ‘slandering the universe’; it was as if his energies were so depleted he turned into some sort of Gollum.

In one of my favourite chapters in The Essential Colin Wilson (a series of extracts chosen by Wilson from his own work, which I highly recommend), called The Ladder of Selves, Wilson puts his finger on our over-tendency to narrow down our consciousness.  He notes that one of mankind’s greatest attributes is his ability to concentrate the mind, but its major disadvantage is that, as he notes, “when I concentrate on something, I ignore everything else”, he continues, “I lock myself in a kind of prison”.  As a writer, and a very productive one, Wilson realised that in his obsessive routine of work, that he was probably finding it difficult to unwind his mind.  He did so, he mentions, by settling down in the evening with a bottle of wine and his vinyl collection.  Wilson shares this interesting phenomenological anecdote, and says that in his moments of anxiety his consciousness becomes narrowed to this minor ‘I’, and this is at the expense of the:

“… universe that exists outside us until it becomes a distant memory.  Even when the task is finished, we often forget to re-establish contact and open the windows.  The inner watchspring can get so overwound that we become permanently blind and deaf”.

Again, he continues:

“The tendency is dangerous because our mental health depends on the ‘meaning’ that comes from the world around us.  Meaning is something that walks in through the senses on a spring morning, or when you arrive at the seaside and hear the cry of the seagulls.  All obsession cuts us off from meaning.  My panic attacks began when I had overwound the watchspring and lost the trick of unwinding it.  I was like a man slowly suffocating to death, and, what is more, suffering because I was gripping my own windpipe” [my italics]

As I walked through the Newstead gardens, I had also become a victim to this, to a lesser degree.  I was distant, and I knew it, and as I fought it I then in turn wasted energy.  Following this, I became frustrated, and then thought of the importance of superconsciousness.  It seemed, as I threw a coin into a well, to make a wish, that this is what it was for; for what is life if we are not living it in presence, passively drifting on our laurels.  It is ironic, I thought, that we should wish at all, for that is too one of the great follies of human existence.  That ghost in the mist is wishing to be, but cannot come into full being – he is diffuse, as gaseous as the mist itself.  Reality for him, is as imprecise as himself.  His ‘I’s’ are all over the place, floating, undisciplined and profoundly difficult to collect into any form of disciplined concentration.  But this is precisely what he must do, and it is a part of building his being into something more solid, so to speak.  It is, like one of my favourite metaphors of Wilson’s, this ability to apply an intense heat to our fractured being in order to develop a sort of hardened crystal of a soul which perfectly reflects and refracts objective existence, like still water reflects the sky.

It seems to me that that is what matter is for, for the mind, on its own, would be unimaginably diffuse.  To imbue matter with freedom is perhaps the closest to answer to the mystery of human existence that we can currently formulate – and it has the benefit of having an evolutionary directive.  I have always been struck, too, by the idea of a tulpa, which is a Tibetan word for a ‘thought form’.  It is an exotic idea, and is an exciting one for its notion that we can animate a thought, somehow harden it into physical existence, and somehow bestow it with an independent consciousness.  But, that all being well, it is perhaps more of a metaphor for ourselves.  And this is why Wilson’s writings on the occult and esoteric are so refreshing, for he does not have a tendency of drifting off into abstraction, merely celebrating the exotic for the mere sake of it.  The author Michael Waldberg in his book Gurdjieff: An Approach to his Ideas (1981) highlights this irony when he says that we

“… complain about our destiny, our ignorance and our weaknesses, although we will never form any objective image of either ourselves or of reality.  We advance our own dullness as an excuse for ignoring the divine, not realising that it is we ourselves who are responsible for this dullness, and that the more we renounce our essential privilege of consciousness, the more our dullness grows” (p. 40)

Wilson, like Gurdjieff, emphasised this need to have a solid sense of self, a fully realised and objective self-image.  He was also fond of quoting Nietzsche’s: “A great man? I always see only the actor of his own ideal”.  The tulpa may well be ‘realised’ into existence, but so are we ourselves.  Too often our own self-image is too vague, and our ‘dullness’, as Waldberg refers to, is this impreciseness, this vagueness of essence.  All the outsiders, to some degree, realised some immense aspect of themselves, particularly T.E. Lawrence, who knew too well, that he was plagued by a ‘thought-riddled nature’, which was both his genius and his downfall.  Wilson managed to diagnose these essential characteristics in his outsiders in his first book, and this is precisely why he is so important.  It is as I have mentioned in my previous Blog, Some Reflections on The Personality Surgeon, that we have to somehow know what our best and worst asset is: do we have a tendency to over emoting, intellectualising or placing our physical body and its pleasures before everything else?  Now, this is a fairly crude reduction, but I think it is a beginning; from observing ourselves, and our phenomenological and intentional habits – our more robotic aspects – we can begin to ‘shock’ them out of their usual theft of our important energies.  Wilson always knew the value of a crisis to shock the mind out of its normal habituation, what he called ‘the robot’ which can usurp important moments in our lives.  The tumultuous unconscious mind, with its multiple ‘I’s’ and subjective currents often pulls our higher ‘I’ into its undisciplined triviality, its identifications with the personal.  And yet, at other instances, we climb the ladder of selves, and solidify our being, producing a ballast in our hull of being.  Wilson expresses our identity as being passed around like a Rugby ball, or as if we live on a “horizontal plane”, while there is also “different levels like a ladder”, that is, the vertical plane of being.  He uses William James’s insight as an example, whereby

“… the musician might play his instrument with a certain technical virtuosity for years and then one day enter so thoroughly into the spirit of the music that it is as if the music is playing him; he reaches a kind of effortless perfection.  A higher more efficient ‘I’ takes over.”

He has not only ‘actualised’ himself, but he has also actualised the music itself.  The creation, like the tulpa, becomes imbued with objective reality.  This is the act of creation as well as the act of creation of the self.  This is what I mean when I say that the outsider must learn to build his being.  The entire corpus of Colin Wilson’s work could be summed up as The Outsider and the Building of Being.  For Wilson identified the man who at some unconscious level knew that he had an evolutionary imperative, but was frustrated by his lack of self-realisation of this impetus towards further complexity.  Gary Lachman’s book, The Caretakers of the Cosmos (2013), is an excellent expression of this idea, for he states that man’s real purpose is to repair the cosmos, that is, by first acknowledging that the individual is inextricably apart of this actualisation of the universe’s tendency towards more meaning.  Again, it is an evolutionary directive that emphasises the significance of consciousness being imbued in matter (unlike the Gnostic notion of matter being a fallen state, it is quite the contrary; that matter is a means to an evolving).

(It is interesting to note a phenomenological description of the problem of modern atheism at this point, for Adam Roberts in his novel The Thing Itself (2015), expresses it perfectly: “Twenty-first century atheists peer carefully at the world around them and claim to see no evidence for God, when what they’re really peering at is the architecture of their own perceptions. Spars and ribs and wire-skeletons—there’s no God there. Of course there’s not. But strip away the wire-skeleton, and think of the cosmos without space or time or cause or substance, and ask yourself: is it an inert quantity? If so, how could… how could all this?”)

It as if a vertical impulse needs to be actualised into the horizontal plane of matter.  This is an insight that is particularly indebted to  the work of Maurice Nicoll, and which I often refer to when I bring this notion of an existential ‘axis’ into use.

The leaden sculptures of mythological satyrs in Byron’s garden seemed to be more objective than I on that day.  And as I was viewing Byron’s ancestral home, I realised that this is what Wilson meant by ‘Faculty X’, the sense of other times and places.  I was ironically reminded of it when wandering through continental gardens, past solid lead mythological figures that seemed ironically more fully realised into the objective universe.  Although I was basically just hungover, and a mere coffee would have invigorated me at the time, I realised that it is towards materiality – not in the materialist-reductionist sense of ‘matter’ – that we were intended in the first place.  If existence is simply a school in being able to imbue the vast energies of consciousness into a concentrated form, like the implicit statue in a lump of rock, we can actualise ourselves by becoming a material being with self-consciousness (it as if we are some sort of transducer valve of subtler energies into more density).  It also reminds me of Howard Bloom’s theory in his book The God Problem (2011), which he calls ‘the corollary-generator theory’, which is his answer to the nature of creativity in the cosmos.  It is strangely similar to ‘relationality’ which Wilson talks about, when one’s consciousness naturally seems to infer something more, relating to something else and so on, until we experience William James’s ‘horizons of distant fact’.  But, as I would say, it seems to be two horizons intersecting – and these two, when they meet, cause a collision into matter which manifests as our own being.  When we can somehow synchronise the vertical, objective evolutionary meaning beyond time into the ordinary time-stream itself, it is as an act of cosmic creativity generating further complexities – and that is urged through man’s evolution of his own consciousness, and ‘building’ of objective being.

The vagueness of being that the ghost feels, might be solved when he takes up the oars and starts rowing towards a more solid shore of defined matter.  This teasing ambiguity of existence is precisely its urge, like some sort of singularity in the act of becoming.  Nicolas Tredell called his chapter on Wilson’s science-fiction, ‘Arrows to a Distant Shore’, which I think pretty much sums up Wilson’s intention – and intentionality – when he points out those curious moments of ‘Faculty X’, when we suddenly have flashes of meaningful insight into our evolutionary purpose.  This is the intuition behind when J.G. Bennet said “Now I see why God hides Himself from us”.

Wilson understood this, and recognising the outsider in himself, and through applied phenomenological analysis of his own impulses, panic attacks and insights he started to ‘build’ himself.  And that, I think, is his big contribution towards repairing the rift in the cosmos – by bringing mind back into matter.  But it is also to realise, as he did in the Ladder of Selves, to throw off our tendency to mental diffuseness, and in moments of ‘shock’, or realisation of ‘Faculty X’, one is released as if by a “thunderclap, like a sudden reprieve from death” and our minds are imbued with a “sense of overwhelming joy and gratitude, and the recognition that meaning is always there.  It is we who close our senses to it”.

Or in one of Byron’s famous quotes:

“Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life. The evening beam that smiles the clouds away, and tints tomorrow with prophetic ray”.

Part 3: The Tropism of Meaning

“Being completes knowledge; completed knowledge is understanding.  It is as if another dimension has been added to knowledge: when it becomes understanding, it has become holographic”

Gurdjieff: An Introduction to His Life and Ideas by John Shirley

Epistemology is the study of the limits of knowledge; it is therefore concerned with what can be known and what cannot be known.  Logical Positivism is similarly a branch of epistemology, for it too posed that that which can be truly ‘known’ can only be reached by means of logic – that is, not by intuition or metaphysical speculation i.e. religious beliefs, faith, or any other forms of ‘gnosis’ (esoteric or mystical) other than rational, discursive logic and scientific verification.  Indeed Colin Wilson felt that logical positivism was a “kind of deliberate murder of everything important in philosophy” (p. 1; On Philosophers).  For in a sense, the question of human values becomes a merely subjective question, plagued by logically insolvable paradoxes and relativisms.  The philosopher, from then on, may very well concern himself with values and meanings, and so on, but in the spirit of logical positivism, and particularly the domain of science, these are seen as unverifiable principles, which – at best – have their roots in biological survival mechanisms and ‘selfish genes’.  So the philosopher, in this instance, is basically considered as wasting his time (this is effectively why the respectable position of the philosopher has diminished in recent years).

In a strange way this sort of logic has excluded human experience from the domain of science, so where they can ‘prove’ something using scientific instruments, they nevertheless have ejected the immensely complex nature of human consciousness, and even to a degree history itself (for one cannot step back in time and ‘prove’ something; it is, in the end, the history of subjectivities – therefore the humanities tend to suffer from this reductive logical fallacy).  Wilson would have said that they had thrown the baby out with the bath water!

The questions of symbols and signifiers speaking across the “”gap” between the conscious, socialized ego and the unconscious or superconscious field” regarding the UFO and other paranormal phenomena, to a Logical Positivist, or a scientific materialist, would appear as utterly meaningless jargon, for one cannot even begin to really test this hypothesis.  Again, like the UFO phenomenon itself, it tends to fall into the unpopular domain of ‘unfalsifiable hypothesis’ – a domain in which God now resides for most atheists[1].  Ironically, the UFO phenomena seems to arrive as an ‘unfalsifiable hypothesis’, being fundamentally unrepeatable and apparently random in its appearances.  It seems, with its tendency to inconsistency and prankster-like qualities to deliberately uproot, turn inside out, our usually accepted paradigms of reality.  It has a tendency to communicate and exist within that ‘gap’ that Jeffrey Kripal talks about; both a conscious and unconscious ‘event’, it is often discussed with a recourse to metaphysics, and at the same time, there is much speculation on the type of machinery it would take to travel across space or inter-dimensionally.  There is a definite psychic quality to the phenomenon which runs alongside more materialistic speculations and manifestations, such as crop-circles, alien implants, radiation readings in and around UFO landing sites, and even gruesome cattle mutilation.  The latter, of course, are material-aspects of the phenomenon, which have been reported to occur.  And yet, one cannot easily verify these events, for they too appear to abide by a strange inner-logic, with what appears to be deliberate ambiguity and even symbolic intent.

Abraham Maslow recognised the limits of the scientific worldview, in a psychological sense, for its tendency to become a sort of “safety philosophy, a security system, a complicated way of avoiding anxiety and upsetting problems.  In the extreme instance it can be a way of avoiding life, a kind of self-cloistering”.  The philosopher E.F. Schumacher, to my mind, presents a highly consistent and satisfying view of the affair by dividing knowledge into two essential categories: Convergent and Divergent:

Convergent Knowledge can be summarised briefly by presenting a solvable problem, such as a design of a bike, which will require two wheels,  and to be man-powered and an effective mode of transportation.  Eventually, through trial and experiment, the bike emerges – that is, the solutions converge, until the answer is effectively reached: the bike itself.  The bike is stable in time because it obeys the laws of the Universe and particularly that of inanimate physical matter.

Divergent Forms of Knowledge is altogether different, for logic of the either/or or yes/no variety breaks down into difficult formulations which have a more ambiguous, and less straight-forward answer, and are moreover much more relative.  There is an element of discontinuity in divergent knowledge. Schumacher uses the examples of such questions as: “What is the best method of education?”; “Freedom versus Equality”; “How do you make people become better?”.  In short, subjects like philosophy and politics are ‘divergent’ subjects, for they are dealing with consciousness and not inanimate matter.

He summarises the two essential differences between the two approaches thus:

“Convergent problems relate to the dead aspect of the Universe, where manipulation can proceed without let or hindrance and where man can make himself ‘master and possessor’, because the subtle, higher forces, which we have labelled life, consciousness and self-awareness, are not there to complicate matters” (p. 144).  And with Divergent problems, there is a tendency towards further complexity, where we must “expect divergence, for there enters, to however a modest degree, the element of freedom and inner experience”. In other words, consciousness enters this domain of ‘knowledge’ – a consciousness, moreover, that is side-lined in most scientific disciplines, or otherwise reduced or left out of the equation.  He concludes, placing man firmly back into the problem of new existentialism, and therefore of philosophy, by saying that man’s “life can thus be seen and understood as a succession of divergent problems which are inevitably encountered and have to be coped with in some way.  They are refractory to mere logic and discursive reason and constitute, as it were, a strain-and-stretch apparatus to develop the Whole Man, and that means to develop man’s supra-logical faculties” (p. 147-148).  Furthermore, in a telling last line, he notes that all traditional cultures have treated “life as a school and have recognised, in one way or another, the essentiality of this teaching force” (p. 148).

*

I hope the above digression – or slight divergence! – has placed us in a better position to consider the UFO phenomenon, and particularly mankind’s psychological relationship to phenomenon in general.  That is, even though they are difficult to prove scientifically, they nevertheless have an existence within the cultural psyche, and can be treated as a divergent problem, so to speak.  Carl Jung recognised this when he said that precisely because “the conscious mind does not know about them and is therefore confronted with a situation from which there seems no way out, these strange contents cannot be integrated directly but seek to express themselves indirectly” (p. 7), that is, divergently, philosophically and unscientifically.  Even so, he notes that the scientist’s “interest is too easily restricted to the common, the probable, the average, for that is after all the basis of every empirical science” (p. 69) – again, to what can converge, arrive at some definite synthesis which can be repeated in a laboratory (this may be the root of the obsession in UFO literature with the possible retrieval of crashed extraterrestrial craft – it offers a satisfying material answer to a problem so wrought with intangibles as to be exhausting[2]).

If it is so, that is, the  UFO phenomenon being a higher-dimensional event impinging upon our human world, it would therefore require a higher degree of logic to understand it.  Logic, that is, which goes beyond the usual causalities of ordinary space and time as we know it.  As Schumacher pointed out, it would require ‘supra-logical faculties’ in order to make sense of a ‘supra-logical event’, whereby the unification of opposites emerges through an experience of a higher-order experience.  This is commonly referred to in mystical experiences and alchemy as coincidentia oppositorum (coincidence of opposites).  John Shirley, in the quote at the beginning of this essay, notes that when an extra-dimension of being (an evolution of conscious awareness) is added to knowledge, it becomes “holographic” understanding.  It seems to have an infinitely recursive quality, whereby understanding seems to grow upwards like a spiral, increasing what Wilson called ‘relationality’.

The UFO, it could be argued, has this ‘teasing’ quality, encouraging a tropism (from the Greek work for “a turning”) in man towards more meaning (rather like a plant is phototropic; it grows towards light).  In Ian Watson’s Miracle Visitors (1978), which has been a big influence on these essays, he points out that life itself is pulled towards higher complexity (in this instance, he uses ‘inaccessibilities’ (a divergent problem) in referring to the difficult mystery of the UFO phenomenon):

“For all these inaccessibilities caused a fierce suction towards ever higher patterns of organization, towards higher comprehension. So molecules become long-chain molecules, and these became replicating cells that transmitted information . . . till mind evolved, and higher mind. The universe, he realized, was an immense simulation: of itself, by itself. It was a registering of itself, a progressive observation of itself from ever higher points of view. Each higher order was inaccessible to a lower order, yet each lower order was drawn towards the higher – teased by the suction of the higher” (p. 187).

In another section of the book he expresses the limits of logic, and again suggests an evolutionary quality behind the UFO phenomenon:

“Lower-order systems cannot fully grasp the Whole of which they are the parts.  Logic forbids.  It is the natural principle.  Which is why, when the processes of the Whole do show themselves, it is as unidentified phenomena – as intrusions into your own knowledge that can be witnessed and experienced but not rationally known: neither analysed, nor identified.  Such intrusions are inestimably important.  They are the goad towards higher organization.  They are what urges the amoeba to evolve towards a higher life form.  They are what spurs mind to evolve from natural awareness, and higher consciousness from simple mind.  They are the very dynamic of the universe” (p. 102).

This is perhaps the “gap” Jeffrey Kripal refers to as being “between the conscious, socialized ego and the unconscious or superconscious field”.  The UFO phenomena could be, in a sense, the declension of ‘higher logic’ into what Watson refers to as ‘lower-order systems’ – that is, in some way, the UFO is an entry of super consciousness into ordinary consciousness. I have always been struck by the similarities between Ian Watson’s vision of the ‘UFO Consciousness’ and P.D. Ouspensky’s description of the superman. They are worth quoting at length simply for their impressive correspondences:

“An ordinary man cannot see a superman or know of his existence, just as a caterpillar cannot know of the existence of a butterfly.  This is a fact which we find extremely difficult to admit, but it is natural and psychologically inevitable.  The higher type cannot in any sense be controlled by the lower type or be the subject of observation by the lower type; but the lower type may be controlled by the higher and may be under the observation of the higher.  And from this point of view the whole of life and the whole of history can have a meaning and a purpose which we cannot comprehend”.

Ouspensky continues:

“This meaning, this purpose, is superman.  All the rest exists for the sole purpose that out of the masses of humanity crawling on the earth superman should from time to time emerge and rise, and by this very fact go away from the masses and become inaccessible and invisible to them” (1984: p.121)

Here both writers seem to be pointing towards the same thing: the emergence of a superman through the transit of mystery itself.  Mystery, of course, is simply a divergent problem, a problem that cannot be easily solved through normal logic, or a limited ‘human’ perspective, but moreover requires a developed faculty of higher perception, or a heightened sensibility which brings into effect the union of opposites.  In that state, meaning would appear both in the “whole of history”, and more importantly in terms of the new existentialism, the individual.

In existential psychological terms, complexity too has a powerful quality, for, as Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi comments in his classic book, Flow (1992), complexity “is the result of two broad psychological processes: differentiation and integration”, which sounds very much like Colin Wilson’s outsider (see The Outsider (1956)).  This development of the ‘outsider’ begins with differentiation i.e. that he feels differentiated by his overwhelming need for meaning which, it seems, is always impossibly distant, ungraspable and results in a difficult, nauseas world lacking in any real values.  This is what Wilson meant when he said “The Outsider is a man who has awakened to chaos. He may have no reason to believe that chaos is positive, the germ of life (in the Kabbala, chaos – tohu bohu – is simply a state in which order is latent; the egg is the ‘chaos’ of the bird); in spite of this, truth must be told, chaos must be faced” (p. 25; The Outsider).  Facing this chaos, this disequilibrium on its own terms, is what Csikzentmihalyi calls integration.  “Integration refers to its opposite: a union with other people, with ideas, and entities beyond the self.  A complex self is one that succeeds in combining these opposite tendencies” (p. 41).

In this sense, integration is going beyond the self, the closed-system of solipsistic values that many Outsiders suffer from, and a move towards more transcendental values – values that come from outside as well as inside, whereby the “gap” is bridged.  Now, this might be what the UFO is for, for it too is an ‘intrusion’ from outside which may trigger an integration of the closed-system of mankind’s values, especially the suffocating and meaningless values presaged by science and its obsession with convergent problems.  Whitley Strieber, whose extraordinary book dealing with his own direct experiences with the beings seemingly involved in these phenomena, states that (again, taking care with the word ‘real’):

“If this is ‘real’ then it is very important as a testament to this kind of contact.  If it is a ‘mind thing’, then the book serves notice that something extraordinary is happening to our minds. . . It has enormously expanded my consciousness.  I have gone from a level of about 10 to a level of about 6,000.  I have been opened to so many provocative possibilities.  I have discovered that this is an extraordinary, quasi-physical reality that somehow emerges out of us.  Therefore, the human mind is a bigger, more incredibly, and wonderful thing that we can have ever dreamed”.

The phenomena, whether ‘real’ in the usual sense, or as a strange sort of psychological compensatory mechanism, dreamt up by the collective unconscious to ‘haunt’ us out of our narrow view of ourselves, it nevertheless represents a symbolic leap or process.  If, that is, the evolution of human consciousness takes up the guise of an external phenomena, like Strieber suggests, then it may be some higher aspect of ourselves urging us, through a symbolic-form, to reconsider our place in the cosmos, and particularly, our own latent powers (by the phenomena exhibiting these strange powers themselves).

As the UFO emerges into our reality, a mysterious silver disc-shaped object, or a self-transforming ball of indistinguishable, and bizarrely geometric illuminated plasma, we are left, inevitably, questioning its origin.  And its origin, if John Keel is right (see Part 2), seems to be from another dimension entirely.  If it is a declension into our realm, in whatever form it might appear, could it be that its own realm is one and the same with our collective unconscious?  That is, if we are indeed ‘haunting’ ourselves, it takes up the guise of whatever is palatable to the perceiver, by being simply incomprehensible, and by injecting more mystery into our lives by ‘teasing’ us out of our ordinary rote of experience.

It may be, like John Shirley suggests, adding new dimensions to our being, and therefore evolving our understanding of ourselves – by ourselves – and thus making our understanding “holographic”.  And it is interesting to note, in closing, that the hologram itself is an enfolding of an external reference point, so in a sense, if the UFO is a phenomena of our own minds, it is an aspect of ourselves as much as we are an aspect of it.  In some sense, it might be completing the cycle of our evolution outside of time itself – winding us up the spiral of complexity, towards a holographic understanding of our multidimensional being in the universe.

All by a process of divergence and convergence, differentiation and integration . . .

***

This will be continued in Part 4 . . .

[1] Scientific materialists or atheists cannot necessarily ‘disprove’ God, because there is nowhere to begin, so therefore he remains either ‘highly unlikely’ or an unnecessary hypothesis.  However they can say that nature appears mechanical, and does not require a programmer of sorts, but even then, this too only reduces God’s position, and does not conclusively disprove his existence.

[2] That is not to discredit the notion of possible crashed UFOs, or retrieved material from these craft.  However, the phenomena does seem to be both physical and psychical – and therefore could present material ‘proofs’, like the scarab beetle in Jung’s patient’s dream emerging in tandem with the dream symbol – and thus calls into question of such origins of the physical evidence!

Part 2: Zen ‘Shocks’ from the Miracle Visitors

 

“Mad or sane, metamorphosed or merely relieved, the chances were that Akeley had actually encountered some stupendous change of perspective in his hazardous research; some change at once diminishing his danger – real or fancied – and opening dizzy new vistas of cosmic and superhuman knowledge.  My own zeal for the unknown flared up to meet his, and I felt myself touched by the contagion of the morbid barrier-breaking.  To shake off the maddening and wearying limitations of time and space and natural law – to be linked with the vast outside – to come close to the knighted and abysmal secrets of the infinite and ultimate – surely such a thing was worth the risk of one’s life, soul, and sanity!”

From – ‘Whisperer in Darkness’ by H.P. Lovecraft

 

Asking the question: What does the evolution of consciousness look like? appears, at first, to be a paradoxical question. Thought itself, and consciousness, is an abstract quality – or an ‘epiphenomena’.  At best, one imagines an electroencephalograph (EEG) reading showing the physical, neurological changes in the brain, or electromagnetic flares of activity blossoming in usually quieter regions of the various lobes.  Often we see images of someone’s brain on LSD, with two brain scans of before and after the ingestion – we get, in other words, a materialistic-mechanistic reading of the brain as a machine, simply fed with a different fuel.  But the experience is within consciousness, which an EEG can only indicate in a crude way.

Now, the UFO and the extraterrestrial does have a visual element, that is, it appears as apparently solid – it also appears to have a reference in some objective reality.  Yet at the same time, when considering much of the literature by Jacques Vallee, John Mack and Whitley Strieber, one soon realises that there is an important psychological and psychic factor to both the state of consciousness one is in both before and after the experience.  And even the entities of these strange phenomena themselves often directly allude to the importance of human consciousness and its development.  Indeed, in a novel based on the phenomena, and a result of a great deal of research, Ian Watson coined the phrase ‘UFO Consciousness’.  For him it is not merely a physical event, but a new state of mind that manifests itself as phenomena.  In this instance, evolution itself takes the guise – or is subject to a psychic projection – of an intrusion, or as an unidentifiable ‘event’ haunting the collective unconscious.

When we talk of a ‘visionary’ we do not necessarily allude to what the visionary has seen – be it a Blessed Virgin Mary, God or some inexplicable, yet transformative, event – but more to the change in the quality of their perception of reality.  It is a common phrase, in many religions, and in Near-Death Experiences, that one has ‘seen the light’.  But sometimes, when one returns from these voyages into the unknown – such as in shamanism – the individual involved has not only witnessed something profound (a vision), but now sees by it.  He sees into reality as if illuminated by a new light.  These individuals are usually known for their deeply reflective quality, as if they are not only illuminating the problem themselves, but in turn receiving a deeper impression from what it is they are reflecting on.  Indeed, such is the source and effect of their wisdom – that, when we their contemplate their work, it speaks to us more deeply, much like the visionary paintings and poetry of William Blake, for example, who is generally accepted as a ‘visionary’.  Of course, Wilson often used the example of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, which seems to be infused with a quality of life and light, a whirlpool of energy ripping throughout the sky and landscape as if that was how Van Gogh saw the universe – a great, interconnected ripple of charged vitality.  These people we call ‘enlightened’ or ‘visionaries, for their ability to relate and move the deepest parts of our nature.

I am not here suggesting that everyone who sees a UFO is by default enlightened (there’s plenty of dangerous cults based on that premise alone!).  But the experience itself can lend itself to that state of mind, or at least introduce a subtlety and quality to it which expands ones conception of reality and what is possible.  Indeed, there is a distinct element of trauma involved in a lot of witness cases, most notably Whitley Strieber’s (which we shall consider in more detail later).   However, a more down-to-earth example will help us gain a perspective on how our consciousness affects what we see, and how we see.  This particular example is about a South African prisoner:

“He said that for some years he’d been in a part of the prison where he couldn’t see out a window, couldn’t see more than 20 feet in any direction.  Everything there was either gray or dull brown, including clothing.  Day after day, month after month, there were no colours but those two.  Bright colours were so rare that after two years, if a brightly coloured thread was blown in on the wind to fall, say, onto a guard’s uniform, the sight of it struck like a thunderbolt.  A mere thread was almost overwhelming – because of its colour alone.  He said that for relatively sensitive people, prison changed one’s perspective on the outside world in many ways.  After a while, in prison, one becomes a kind of zombie to survive.  But once released, he said, the riot of colours and the sudden freedoms are startling, and the world seems overwhelming in its profusion of shapes and possibilities – you are shocked by this searing variety, shocked into waking up, into seeing things you didn’t see prior to prison” (p. 12-13; John Shirley)

This shock of newness, of an intrusion of novelty, is as if a “thunderbolt” had occurred in his everyday perception of greyness.  I have mentioned (in Part 1) that human beings – particularly most of the existentialists and scientific materialists – regard themselves as essentially trapped in human-made values, that we are in a closed-system where nothing really truly ‘new’ can enter from outside.  We are, it is often said, alone in this universe – a universe moreover actively hostile to life.  We are, pessimistically, like the South African prisoner, trapped in a universe stripped of any sense of significance left for either ourselves or the cosmos.  Any ‘intrusion’ into this closed system would, in a sense, have to come from outside. The shocks of a transcendent value, as it were, striking through the veneer of our human-all-too-human worldview.  The essence behind the appearances.

If this were to intrude too ferociously into our lives, we may resort to ‘compensatory fictions’, madness or reductive explanations which decrease its full impact of implications.  The mystic Gurdjieff called this mechanism of consciousness our buffers.  John Shirley, novelist and biographer, explains the purpose of buffers as “cushion[ing] the shock of contradiction, keeping us comfortable enough with ourselves to remain asleep, enabling us to believe we’re always in the right.  They are to some extent practical, protecting us from feeling contradictions that would otherwise drive us mad” (p. 133).  This may explain the essential absurdity of the UFO phenomena as we see it, the apparent illogical nature of their actions, and oddly stream-of-consciousness dialogues they have with abductees.  Sometimes profound, sometimes nonsensical.  Rather like an un-graspable mystical insight that cannot quite translate itself into common language.

A somewhat clumsier metaphor that I have used in the past is that the UFO seals itself off from being known by leaving nothing but confusion behind.  Rather like a puncture in a tire which is definitely there, but as the rubber expands, is not visible to the naked eye.  It almost seems to re-seal itself in mystery, and any explanation for it is left on unstable foundations – crumbling and often contradicted.  It can be witnessed, usually spontaneously, but never confined or isolated in experiment.  It has that awkward position in science of an unfalsifiable theory or hypothesis.

Interestingly the UFO appears to intentionally confound science!  For Terrence McKenna, in summarising Jacques Vallee’s central thesis behind his book The Invisible Landscape (1975), notes that the “cultural thermostat theory” presents the “flying saucer [as] an object from the collective unconscious of the human race that appears in order to break the control of any set of ideas that are gaining dominance in their explanatory power at the expense of ethics.  It is a confound that enters history again and again whenever history builds to a certain kind of boil” (p. 59).  Similarly the researcher into the ‘high weirdness’ of lake monsters, ghosts and poltergeists and other Fortean phenomena, Ted Holiday, noted in his book The Goblin Universe (1986):

“A certain sort of ghost has always undertaken this function.  At its lowest level this may involve nothing more spiritual than an evening chase across the meadows after a mystery light of a lakeside glimpse of a dragon.  At its highest, the witness may perform miracles of healing or found a new religion.  These ghosts have this specific function: they mystify, mock, foment reaction and reveal.  They act as spiritual enzymes, posing problems, acting out elaborate spoofs, offering to guide yet leading the searcher into a swamp, conducting the hunter after treasure or power to a hideous travesty of the very thing he craves.  They are beautiful or ugly, according to circumstances.  The Jews of olden time called them Satan, the Tester, because they test with spiritual acid acting through karma in order that the inner laws of creation be well-protected” [111].

Nearly every respectable UFO investigator has often suffered from a sense of defeat, concluding after years of research that they are no closer to the truth than they started.  Andrija Puharich, speaking of his experience with an extraterrestrial entity who called itself Spectra, concluded that “[t]he secret of Spectra was safe because they had leaked out just enough information to convince me of their reality, but not enough for me to ever convince any other human being” [122].  The Harvard psychologist, John Mack, identified the problem as an issue with the “Western Newtonian-Cartesian paradigm”, being as they are phenomena both physical and non-physical, simultaneously objective phenomena and mental phenomena.  There is a certain qualitas occultus attributable to the entire experience; presenting itself as one thing and then just as a semblance of sense is made, it devours itself, leaving no trace.  And like a prankster it leaves the witness being perceived to be an utter delusional fool.  There is even a sense that one ought not to discuss UFOs in polite company, and to write a book about the phenomena is akin to consigning your ever being taken seriously to the bin.

Indeed there is a frustrating dream-like quality to the whole affair.  If the UFO is a ‘reflector of human values’, a mirror to our vacillating mental world, shifting as it does from objective to subjective, often confusing the two, we are led inevitably into the domain of dream interpretation.  Of course, this was essentially Carl Jung’s approach to the subject of flying saucers.  It is interesting to note at this point that Ouspensky saw dreams as almost entirely subjective phenomena, whereby consciousness is entirely passive and a victim of an endless churning of subjectivity with its endless relativisms.  Consciousness for Ouspensky was never constantly one thing or the other – unless one was fully self-conscious (objective towards oneself) or objectively conscious (objective to the world as it is) – and most people are subject to the logic of dream even in their ordinary waking consciousness (not necessarily in the sense of hallucinations), which explains the inconsistency of man’s ego (what he called man’s multiple and conflicting ‘I’s’).  And yet, the dream world can become involved in the world of matter, that is, in what is accordingly the ‘objective world’ of things.

The famous example of Jung’s patient and the scarab beetle is a case in point, in which a:

“[…] woman patient who recited a dream she had had in which she was given a costly piece of jewellery, a golden scarab (beetle). While she was relating the dream Jung heard something tapping at the window from outside. Jung opened the window and in flew a scarbaeid beetle which he caught in his hand, its gold-green color resembling that of the golden scarab in the woman’s dream. He handed the beetle to his patient and said, “Here is your scarab.”

The woman, who was highly educated and intelligent, had been resisting dealing with her feelings and emotions. She was very adept at rationalization and intellectualizing. After the scary scarab experience she was able to get to the root of her emotional problems and to make real progress in her growth toward wholeness”.

This fascinating experience shows that the world of the dream can carry over into the world of waking experience.  It is not only symbolised in the dream, it also comes through into a real-life situation, which in turn correlates with the unconscious processes of the dreamer to facilitate a “growth towards wholeness”.  In other words an integration of the ego with that of the unconscious mind (this is effectively what the synchronicity is for).  In effect she had achieved a form of Gurdjieff’s ‘self-remembering’.  I would argue that the UFO, in its vorticiating strangeness, is turning us inside-out and outside-in through the process of purposeful mystery, rather like the intentional mental ‘shock’ of a Zen kōan.  In short it encourages us to think, as Ouspensky was once urged to do in an altered state of consciousness, to ‘in different categories’.

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Often these ‘different categories’ are to be found in mysticism or the occult.  For example, in his novel Steppenwolf, Herman Hesse makes one of his characters express the fundamental motivating force behind religious mysticism:

“It is what I call eternity.  The pious call it the kingdom of God.  I say to myself: all we who ask too much have a dimension too many could not contrive to live at all if there were not another air to breathe outside the air of this world, if there were not eternity at the back of time; and this is the kingdom of truth” [179].

Again it is yearning for a transcendent value behind the transience of matter.  It is not necessarily anti-materialist, but what Victor Frankl rallied against when he said that the “nihilism of today is reductionism. . . Contemporary nihilism no longer brandishes the word nothingness; today nihilism is camouflaged as nothing-but-ness.  Human phenomena are thus turned into mere epiphenomena” [14].  It is against this ‘nothing-but-ness’ that both the mystic and the new existentialist intuitively understand as false.  Wilson concluded that “if an important part of the purpose of these phenomena is the effect on us, then that purpose would seem to be to decondition us from our unquestioning acceptance of consensus reality” [326].  And interestingly he notes:

“[T]hat it would seem that the UFO entities have no problems with solid matter.  And it is likely that we would be the same if we had reached their level of evolution.  Our problem, when we feel trapped in matter, is that we find it very hard to believe that it can be tamed by any mental discipline.  Yet, on another level, everyday life supports this contention.  Apparently insoluble problems yield to determined effort . . . But it [matter] has immense inertia, and yields slowly and painfully, like some gigantic rusty door.  Half the battle is realising that it will yield if you push hard” [368].

We are back to the premise of the new existentialism as I introduced in Part 1.  And more interestingly, it is to do with the effort of conscious thought itself.  The UFOs and their occupants appear to have extrasensory powers and varying degrees of control over time and matter.  They are, in some sense, supermen who reside outside and above the limits that most of us find ourselves – the limits of time, personality and temporality.  And yet, as Nietzsche noted when he said that this world is slow, cumbersome and dreary, and that only in flashes of light speed consciousness – that is above space-time – can one start to see in an enlightened way.  Again there are levels of consciousness which would, in effect, take away the contradictions we see in the UFO phenomena once we reach their level.  In the state of the ‘UFO Consciousness’, or ‘UFO Reality’ as Watson and Wilson respectively called it (Patrick Harpur called it the ‘Daimonic Reality’ in a book of the same name).  I have dwelt upon this notion of ‘light speed’ in these two parts, because it seems to me a fascinating answer to the problem; and it is bought up time and time again in terms of heightened states of consciousness.  For example, Uri Geller expresses his theory of his powers thus:

“I believe that in telepathy I am passing the light speed.  I feel that telepathic waves travel at a speed of light or faster.  Every object gives off radiation which moves out into the universe.  When we pass the light barrier, we can see into the past or into the future, and we can transmute materials one into the other.  Everything is based on the light speed.  And once beyond that there is no end to what can be done” [69].

Indeed, according to John Keel, UFOs even appear to “exist at frequencies beyond visible light”.  It is worth quoting Keel at length, for it presents a satisfying answer origin of the UFO phenomena:

“[…] they can adjust their frequency and descend the electromagnetic spectrum – just as you can turn the dial of your radio and move a variable condenser up and down the scale of radio frequencies.  When a UFO’s frequency nears that of visible light, it would appear first as a purplish blog of violet.  As it moves further down the scale, it would seem to change to blue, and then to cyan (bluish green). . .

I have therefore classified that section of the color spectrum as the UFO entry field.  When the objects begin to move into our spatial and time coordinates, they gear down from higher frequencies, passing progressively from ultraviolet to violet to bluish green.  When they stabilize within our dimensions, they radiate energy on all frequencies and become a glaring white.

In the white condition the object can traverse distances visibly, but radical manoeuvres of ascent or descent require it to alter its frequencies again, and this produces new color changes.  In the majority of all landing reports, the objects were said to have turn orange (red and yellow) or red before descending.  When they settle on the ground they ‘solidify’ and glow red again.  Sometimes reportedly they turn a brilliant red and vanish.  Other times they shift through all the colors of the spectrum, turn white, and fly off into the night until they look like just another star.

Since the color red is so closely associated with the landing and takeoff process, I term the end of the color spectrum the UFO departure field’” [171].

If this is the case, there are fascinating correlations to be made between colours, time and the speed of light, and indeed our own potential modes of consciousness.  For there could be a corresponding colour indicating our lower moods, to our higher, more ‘enlightened’ moods which are akin to the what Keel calls ‘all frequencies’ – that is, of the glaring bright white light, which is of course further down the spectrum from the invisible radiations to ultraviolet and so on.

This would enable us to create a direct relationship between the manifestation and powers of the UFO and their visitors, with the levels of our own potential modes of consciousness.  For in a sense, an interest in the esoteric or the occult is a fascination with the ‘end of the spectrum’ of known knowledge, and of the higher significance which may lie ‘hidden’ beyond mere appearances.  For the occult is primarily concerned with other modes of being, and other modes of knowledge.  So it is really a matter of us evolving to the same level of the UFO, and in its own way, the phenomena is teaching us about the limitations and potential powers of our own mind.  If they have an evolutionary agenda, it could be that they communicate through symbols, as Professor Jeffrey Kripal understood when he said:

“Although paranormal phenomena certainly involve material processes, they are finally organized around signs and meanings.  To use the technical terms, they are semiotic and hermeneutical phenomena.  Which is to say that they seem to function as representations or signs to decipher and interpret, not just movements of matter to measure and quantify.

He concludes:

“paranormal phenomena are semiotic or hermeneutical phenomena in the sense that they signal, symbolize, or speak across a “gap” between the conscious, socialized ego and the unconscious or superconscious field” (p. 25).

I will attempt to address this notion in Part 3. . . 

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Recommended Reading:

Ian Watson’s Miracle Visitors (1978)

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