Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Betty Hill case, re-pondered

I stumbled upon an online post by a UFO debunker, who posted a number of documents in effort to rebut on the Betty Hill story.  I think that the documents are very interesting... They are an exchange of letters between Dr. Benjamin Simon and famous debunker Phil Klass, written around the time of the initial broadcast of "The UFO Incident" in 1975, with Dr. Simon agreeing with Klass--there was no actual abduction on September 19, 1961.

Initially I was surprised: *The* famous Betty and Barney Hill hypnotist, agreeing with Klass?  But as I read through them, I thought, "Not a surprise."  The Betty Hill story was quite radical for the time, and, if it's "true," it still is. It would take a number of logical leaps for a credentialed medical professional to accept it at face value. But did Dr. Simon actually debunk it?  Not quite. While he implies that there is probably a repressed psychological origin for the experience, he does concede that it was an experience of some sort--but certainly not a "real" abduction by "aliens."

The letters are actually an interesting window into Betty Hill's evolution from frightened abductee to New Age evangelist, as she traveled the circuit with her story, collecting money whilst surrounding herself with APRO investigators, astrologers, and other weird people.

None of this should surprise anyone. I remember reading about Betty Hill's erratic behavior at the time in "Fate" magazine. I'm not sure that her behavior rises to the level of illness, but Klass and Dr. Simon certainly leave the impression that Betty was an unreliable informant.  And no one can blame Dr. Simon for not wanting to be part of this sort of circus. Reading between the lines as I am wont to do, a lot of money was made by many on the Betty and Barney Hill story, and Dr. Simon did not share in the windfall.  Sour grapes maybe?  Probably not, but still possible.

But the correspondence left me with a number of questions. What about Betty Hill's implied mental instability, for example? Does it taint her original 1960s testimony?  Was she in fact mentally ill, and if so, does this invalidate her story?  Or was she, as Dr. Simon implies, embellishing her experience for attention and money?  What about the "two experiences with UFOs" that Dr. Simon had?  Dr. Simon was a UFO experiencer--was he "abducted" himself? And what about medical ethics--I know that this was pre-HIPAA, but was Dr. Simon a medical doctor?  If so, was he authorized to discuss Betty's hypnotic treatment?

So I'm left with questions. And I don't know if I want to do the necessary work to find answers. I doubt that it's possible to pin down the truth of *anything* involving UFOs, particularly in the Betty Hill case.  Additionally, fraud seems to be endemic in the paranormal field, and cases commonly accepted as legitimate have actually been successfully debunked (example: ITC, or "Spiricom").  Despite all, however, I still see the Betty Hill case as being (probably) legitimate. In my opinion, Dr. Simon was simply unable to conceive of any experience of a nonphysical nature that was not hallucination or fraud.  And Betty may have had some incipient flakiness that was pathologically affected by her experience. I have a small connection to the Betty Hill story that hints of a reality outside of the consensus; a story, maybe, for another time.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Messages Of Hope: The Metaphysical Memoir Of A Most Unexpected Medium

There's an old Vulcan proverb that says something like, "Only Nixon could go to China."  Those were my first thoughts on starting "Messages Of Hope."  Unlike other "How I Became A Medium" confessionals, the author of "Messages," Suzanne Giesemann, comes to the field with substantial establishment cred; per her website, she "is a retired U.S. Navy Commander. She served as a commanding officer, as special assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations, and as Aide to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on 9/11". She witnessed the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon. She "has a Master’s Degree in National Security Affairs. In addition to her command tour and duties as aide to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, she served tours in naval intelligence, taught political science at the U.S. Naval Academy, and was a plans and policy officer for the U.S. Southern Command."  To my knowledge, no one else in the public mediumship arena is better grounded in the mainstream of establishment America than Ms. Giesemann; so when she recounted her long path away from that mainstream into the esoteric world of communicating with the afterlife, I paid attention.

As she explains in the beginning:

Those who’d been dealing with the spirit world far longer than I had were forever talking about their guides as if they knew them. The former Navy officer in me always wanted to ask, Where’s the evidence?

Which is exactly the point. Somehow, as I've read confessionals from other mediums (including the well-know "psychic lawyer"), I've never been totally able to suspend my disbelief--not because I wanted to believe but wasn't persuaded, nor because I didn't believe but wasn't convinced otherwise--but because I know that it's very easy to make this stuff up. It's too easy to cherry-pick a cold reading and self-report a "successful" session when all the medium has done is bring through everyone's grandmother with the usual "heaven is nice" message.  In this case, the medium is the message. How do I know that the medium is telling the truth?  How do I know that the medium is not delusional?

Ms. Giesemann understands the credibility factor and front-loads her account with evidential material throughout; and while it's certainly possible that she's "making it all up," I'm inclined to think that she's not.

The catalyst to her mediumship journey is the tragic death of her stepdaughter. From there, she seeks out credible mediums in an attempt to contact her. After these initial successful contacts, she befriends several credible mediums and ultimately decides to enroll in Arthur Findlay College, a "boot camp for mediums" (though the curriculum goes well beyond basic training).

What Ms. Giesemann reveals in her subsequent sessions and experiences is consistent with accounts by other contemporary mediums, but I had an epiphany of sorts about halfway through the book:  There really is no such thing as a medium, per se. A "medium" is no more talented, "psychic," or "attuned" than the average person. A medium is simply a conduit... I suspect that all the heavy lifting is done by the "other side."  It is the "other side" that brings the survival personality to the medium, translates and focuses the message, coordinates the participants, and lends energy to the session. The medium simply listens, and repeats. A medium is simply someone who has learned to distinguish this information from the usual background mental noise that runs through our brain.

(Though this is probably an oversimplification.  Seth frequently discusses the psychological gymnastics required by the different layers of consciousness to allow this sort of "unofficial" information to get through.  Basically, the human ego instinctively filters out a wide range of information of this sort, and the human brain simply does not register it. The human ego must briefly "step aside" and allow information filtered through other layers of the personality to surface and be recognized. Seth argues that this aspect of the human ego developed as a survival mechanism, as the human race chose to focus exclusively on physical data.)

So her accounts of her sessions are quite interesting and evidential... And I was able to enjoy reading them without the niggling doubts that almost always accompany other mediumship books (i.e., "How do I know you're not just making this stuff up?")

But there's more to the book... Here are a couple of parts that I thought were unusual and interesting, not so much because of what they are, but because of the skeptical "prove-it-to-me" approach that Ms. Giesemann adopts.

For example, she experiments with "channeling": her normal consciousness steps aside, and her body seems to fall under the control of other consciousnesses (specifically, "Sally" and a Russian-accented "Boris"):

I heard the spirit woman tell us to call her Sally and that we could refer to the male spirit as Boris. I struggled to hold the link as my rational mind rebelled. Was some part of me making this up? The names seemed silly to me. Sally explained that they knew I would have a hard time believing anything they told me. She was right. My disbelief would only have increased if they had called themselves something more alien. 

“Names to us mean nothing,” she explained. “We in the spirit world recognize each other by our personal vibration. It is you humans who need to put a label on everything, and so we give you these names as a convenience.”

Boris and Sally appear regularly during the sessions for several months, giving information that is indistinguishable from the bulk of channeled messages: universally affirmative, generally uplifting, vague, and similar what you might find in an average self-help book.  After several months, Sally and Boris disappear and are replaced by "Sanaya," a personality that seems both a synthesis and evolution of Boris and Sally. Her messages are more fully developed and seem to originate from an actual consciousness rather than a caricature.

It would be easy to dismiss these entities as aspects of Ms. Giesemann's subconscious (and they may be), but I think that there is another mechanism at work. The bulk of channeled or "spirit" information, or hypnotically obtained personalities from "past lives," generally resists any attempts of verification. (See, for example, "The Siren Call Of Hungry Ghosts."). Past-life personalities spin elaborate histories of names, dates, and events that turn out to be completely bogus; elevated spirits solemnly predict future events that fall flat; and channeled personal advice, when followed, often leads to disaster. All this information seems to originate from fully-formed, independent consciousnesses that speak with authority. Where is the information coming from?  I don't think that we know. But I don't think that it comes "just" from the subconscious. As I've argued, we don't even know what consciousness is, much less what anything that is "not consciousness" is. The human consciousness is merely the small tip of a larger, more elaborate gestalt that exists (as Seth says) in "many dimensions."  We barely understand our own consciousness; we know nothing of these other aspects of the larger personality.

So, channeled spirit communications *may* be a) undifferentiated aspects of the experiencer's greater personality that manifest as ego-like communicants, b) mischievous discarnate personalities, c) "splinter" consciousnesses that have broken off from the larger personality and seek expression through the ego, d) actual independent conscious entities that desire to communicate, with varying degrees of veracity, e) independent gestalts of consciousness that appear independent, but aren't, and are drawn to the channeler based on the channeler's expressed wishes and interests, f) aspects of the channeler's "higher" consciousness or "entity" that are communicating verbally.... none, or at different times, any of the above. We really don't know.  But I think the whole experience is interesting, because it gives us a glimpse of the higher "powers" (if you will) or capabilities of human consciousness that we have not explored--yet.

In any case, "Messages" is more proof that the phenomenon, whatever it is, is real.

In another interesting section, "Sally" and "Boris" are asked about angels. Prior to this, Ms. Giesemann has a number of interesting synchronicities involving angels that seem designed to convince her that angels are real. Like me, she is a professed agnostic on the subject. "Angel" is code for "religion"; and the subject that has been heavily influenced by decades of superstition and misconception. So what are angels?  "Boris" explains:

Of the so-called archangels, this would refer in our reference to a being of sorts, yet with no form—an energy of a much higher order, an energy of pure consciousness that can be in many places at the same time, able to impress thoughts upon those in need of assistance. This energy is very real and available to all of you at all times, and as experienced throughout the ages, these different frequencies of consciousness have differing roles. There are those who help with the sickness, those who help with the grieving, who help with the location of missing objects: differing roles just as you have different roles on your earth plane.

So, the supplicant calls upon a higher power or force for help, and help is rendered. Throughout history, this has been a universal human impulse. In different eras, these forces have been called nature gods, associated with and guardians of physical locations; in other eras, they were named gods (Zeus, Athena) who were patron tokens of cities, nations, and races. Later they were called intercessory or patron saints. Like Ms. Giesemann, I'd rather not call them "angels," but I'm convinced not only by personal experience and the extensive anecdotal evidence that they are real.

So, overall, as a skeptical journey into the heart of mediumship, "Messages Of Hope" succeeds; and as an exploration into the varieties of human consciousness, there's much food for thought.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Hope for Hillary?

I haven't surveyed the current psychic climate for thoughts on the current Presidential election, but I ran across the following ... "Michael" believes that Donald Trump's resurgence is payoff to a karmic debt to Hillary from a prior lifetime. I see this as a tacit endorsement of Hillary by the Michael entity. (Not sure how this will square with God, who, as many will quickly tell you, is a Republican.) Sound reasonable?  Makes more sense than anything else that's been said about the Donald so far.

Monday, December 7, 2015

'Tis the season for a Seth quote...

Seth, the great expounder on all things material and non-material, arguably touched on every facet of the mid-twentieth century American experience (and even foresaw the trends of the present century).  So it's unsurprising that he had a few remarks concerning Christmas.

Jane Roberts was apparently quite non-religious, bordering on (if not outright) agnostic. It's useful to keep this in mind when reading Seth's discussions of God, Christianity, the Bible, and religion in general. Seth's nuanced and multifaceted religious observations did not come from Jane Roberts--they came from somewhere else. While I can certainly relate to Jane's experience, I choose to listen to Seth... For no other reason than he was in a better position to know.  So, from book five of "The Early Sessions," in view of the season, I present the following:

There were a few remarks that I intended to make concerning the Christmas season, and perhaps I shall make them now. 
If it seems to you that there is a great gap existing within Christianity, between ideals expressed, and actions, then let me tell you that conditions would indeed be far worse if these ideals had not initially been expressed, and if they were not yearly reaffirmed.
As you both suppose, enough constructive psychic energy is generated during the holiday season to recharge psychic batteries, so to speak, for quite some time. Were it not for this your whole race would be in much more serious a predicament. 
One of the reasons, Joseph, for your own lack of festive spirit in the past has been the result of your realization that this gap between idealism and action is great. You could not therefore enter into what you felt to be the hypocrisy of the season. All the more since you have no particular conviction, anymore than Ruburt has, concerning the historic existence of a Christ.
To some extent I have explored some of this, but it will do you well to join wholeheartedly into the very necessary spirit of the time, for it is constructive and most beneficial. And in so doing you help yourself and others.
This feeling that Christmas represented hypocrisy has been one of the main reasons for your own low spirits during the season, for it represented a rather deep disillusionment with the culture in which you were nurtured.
(Jane’s eyes now opened, and for the rest of the delivery they opened and shut often.)
The legend of Christ is of great psychic import however, and is intrinsically true. This does not mean it is based in historical fact. In many ways it is more true than historic fact, for man himself created that which had not been provided. The creation nevertheless happened in quite real terms, and is part of mankind’s inner recognition of the pyramid gestalts of which I have spoken. 
This was as close as man could come in his imagination to that which is, and this is all right. The basic idea behind Christmas is definitely important, whether or not the intellect is able to see its significance.

As an coda: As probably everyone knows by now, Art Bell has returned to... the airwaves?  Or to the Internet waves?  In any case, it's been ten years since he has had any significant public presence.  I'm just now catching up with his "inaugural show" with Graham Hancock. While I think that some of Graham Hancock's ideas are interesting, I've never been able to completely listen to any of his interviews--because he always sidetracks himself into a general rant about world conditions. That's where he's at now at my current listen. So I may not finish it. No offense, and no reflection. (It's the seductively listenable guests that I distrust; they're the sociopaths.) But if you have a yen to listen to paranormal radio, listen to Art Bell, not to that other guy.