Monday, April 18, 2016

Paranormal phenomena and the academic scholar

During my 40+ years of investigation and study of UFO and paranormal phenomena I have talked to many kinds of witnesses, with a wide variety in profession and education. One of the most regular comments after an interview has been - don´t mention my name. That so many witnesses to UFO and paranormal phenomena prefer anonymity is a problem in research as the credibility factor is reduced, especially when witnesses only wish to talk to one investigator. I have been in this situation many times and lamented it. But witness integrity is very important. There is a social stigma in mentioning experiences and encounters that mainstream science regard as impossible or mythic. I well remember the words of a Swedish woman who went public with her UFO close encounter: "If I had known the public reaction to our observation I would never have talked to the media."

This is probably the prime reason why so few academic scholars go public when encountering unusual phenomena. To mention telepathy or intuition may be acceptable in academic circles but if you recount materializations, levitations, UFO close encounters or observations of little people, fairies (leprechauns) you are usually in for trouble. This is probably why active scientists and academic scholars loathe to disclose their personal experiences. It could also be the end of their academic career or work if the organized skeptics enter a campaign against this "irrational pseudoscientist" who has entered the domain of Forbidden Science. "Science is the pursuit of the unknown", wrote biologist and Fortean researcher Ivan T. Sanderson. Or at least it should be!

An interesting effort that may somewhat remedy this situation is a website called the PK-Collection by Marcus Heymann. It is a collection of documented reports and statements from well-known scientists and academics who have publicly told of their observation of phenomena like materialization and levitation. Marcus Heymann gives this interesting explanation for his project:
"I brought this collection into life, because once I was even an involuntary witness of a floating object. A table had risen, remained in the air and fell slowly to the floor again, as if it was held by invisible hands. You can probably imagine that such an experience is not pleasant. One believes to have went mad and is afraid. Fortunately, there were other observers present with the same horrified look. That helped to reassure me, because I have never heard of sudden-onset group insanity. For the particularly clever of you, no, it was not a magic show!... So I went on a search for other witnesses of these types experiences, that’s called psychokinetic phenomena (pk phenomena). It seemed that there are many but only a few had the courage to describe what they witnessed using their real name. Most people use a synonym. For me, it´s interesting, to get a confirmation from someone who had an academic background and was (is) willing to use their real name. That´s why I went looking for academics who had seen something like this. I was amazed when I discovered that well-known scientists and Nobel Prize laureates had witnessed such events and written about it. That was the beginning of the collection."

Maybe we are now witnessing a more open attitude to paranormal phenomena among leading scientists? American science journalist John Horgan in his book Rational Mysticism (2003) noted the increased academic interest in the interface between science, mysticism and religion. Hogan use the term "rational mysticism". In his article in Scientific American, July 2012 with the provocative title Brilliant Scientists Are Open-Minded about Paranormal Stuff, So Why Are Not You? he concludes: "... the discovery of telepathy or telekinesis would blow centuries of accumulated scientific dogma sky high. What could be more thrilling!" Another scientist who challenges the materialist and reductionist worldview is Dr. Jeffrey J. Kripal, professor of religious studies at Rice University, Houston, Texas.

From an esoteric viewpoint one of the most audacious theories regarding 19th century paranormal phenomena formulated by an academic scholar is the Hidden Hand Theory presented by Theosophical scholar Dr. Joscelyn Godwin, Colgate University, New York. In a four part series of articles, The Hidden Hand, 1990-1991 in the academic journal Theosophical History, Godwin presents impressive documentation indicating that a secret society created the first wave of very physical materialization phenomena in the United States: "The suggestion is that the Hydesville phenomena were not a spontaneous manifestation, but something provoked by living persons, acting with no lesser intent than that of changing the worldview of Western civilisation." (Theosophical History, vol. 3:2, April 1990, p. 38.) Joscelyn Godwin is very much aware of the problem of presenting such a theory as an academic scholar. In a position statement he states: " "My own mind is open to the possibility of events for which materialistic science, and the historical scholarship modeled on it, has no place; consequently, I do not automatically dismiss the idea of immaterial influences, such as were suggested byt many writers on the Hydesville incident... I would suggest that there was another Hierohistorical event in the early 1870s; another move to affect public opinion, mainly by working from within the Spiritualist movement." (Theosophical History, vol. 3:3, July 1990, p. 72-73).

This is also the view of history as given in the Esoteric Tradition and mentioned by writers such as Charles Leadbeater, Constance Wachmeister, Annie Besant, Alice Bailey and Henry T. Laurency. In his book The Astral Plane (1898) Charles Leadbeater mention a secret lodge he personally knew, The Yucatan Brotherhood: "The Chiefs of this Lodge, though they have always kept themselves and their society strictly in the background, have nevertheless done what they could from time to time to assist the progress of truth in the world.  Nearly a century ago, in despair at the rampant materialism which seemed to be stifling all spirituality in Europe and America, they determined to make an attempt to combat it by somewhat novel methods – in point of fact to offer opportunities by which any reasonable man could acquire absolute proof of that life apart from the physical body which it was the tendency of science to deny. The phenomena exhibited were not in themselves absolutely new, since in some form or other we may hear of them all through history; but their definite organization – their production as it were to order – these were features distinctly new to the modern world. The movement which they thus set on foot gradually grew into the vast fabric of modern Spiritualism, and though it would perhaps be unfair to hold the originators of the scheme directly responsible for many of the results which have followed, we must admit that they have achieved their purpose to the extent of converting vast numbers of people from a belief in nothing in particular to a firm faith in at any rate some kind of future life. This is undoubtedly a magnificent result, though there are those who think that it has been attained at too great a cost."

In esotericism this secret lodge is regarded as a subsidiary branch of the planetary hierarchy, the planetary guardians, custodians of the science of the multiverse. This is the branch or department of this global organization especially concerned with the development of science. Alice Bailey mention their work in Esoteric Psychology I: "The rise of modern spiritualism is no doubt due to the seventh subray influence, and it may also be a foreshadowing of the great seventh ray still to come. It is interesting to note chat this movement was started by a secret society which has existed in the world since the last period of seventh ray dominance in Atlantean times." (p. 166-167, clothbound ed.) 

There is an interesting Swedish connection to the Yucatan Brotherhood. Swedish esotericist Henry T. Laurency mentioned in a letter to a friend that he was aquainted with a Norwegian man who was a member of this secret lodge. This man travelled around the world in the 1920s visiting various spiritualist groups, but was not impressed by their activities. (Letter April 12, 1964). According to my understanding Henry T. Laurency worked together with, or was inspired by, a member of the planetary guardians who is referred to as Hilarion, responsible for the branch of adepts involved with concrete knowledge and scientific development. Regarding his work we find this reference by Alice Bailey: "... He (Hilarion-HB) controls and transmutes the great movements that tend to strip the veil from the unseen. His is the energy which, through his disciples, is stimulating the Psychical Research groups everywhere, and He it was Who initiated, through various pupils of His, the Spiritualistic movement." (Initiation, Human and Solar, p. 59, clothbound ed.)

Experiencing a UFO close encounter or a very concrete and physical paranormal phenomenon can be traumatic or inspiring, whether you are an academic scholar or ordinary citizen. People all over the world are changed by these experiences so the impact on our culture is deep and lasting. As a ufologist I can only sympathize with the education by astonishment agenda of the Yucatan Brotherhood. Perhaps they also use the UFO phenomenon in this way? On September 1, 1984 I interviewed Peggy Robert, who had a close encounter with a UFO that became a turning point in her life. Before this incident she was a typical ego-tripping materialist. During the interview she tried to explain her new life after the UFO encounter: "Now I knew there was something else in other dimensions, life that is different and more evolved... After this contact with the UFO I couldn´t accept Christianity as presented in the churches. Now I started an intensive period of searching." Peggy Robert later studied alternative medicine, Reflexology, Acupressure and nutrition. The rest of her life she dedicated to helping people with psychological and physical healing, working at various health resorts. 

Peggy Robert

If we imagine that members of the Yucatan Brotherhood initiated the UFO incident I guess they could say - Mission Accomplished.