Dr. Jack Hunter has coined the term ontological flooding (from which we get the subtitle to our site). Hunter works in the area of Paranthropology, which like it’s cousin Parapsychology is to mainstream psychology, is an anthropological investigation in anomalous experiences, high strangeness, and mystical intensities within and across human cultures.
Here’s Hunter in a podcast interview describing ontological flooding.
“The example that I use to explain ontological flooding a lot of the time is with spirit mediumship, where you have all of these competing explanations, which think that they’ve sorted it all out. Like I said before, social protest theories that say that spirit mediumship is all about social protest. Then you’ve got biological, medical theories that say that spirit mediumship is just a biological aberration, as some kind of an illness or a disease. There’s the psychodynamic theories, all sorts of different theories, but at the end of the day, none of them is a completely satisfying explanation in themselves.
Actually, when you start to piece them altogether, we see that we’re dealing with something that is way more complex than any of those individual explanatory frameworks has been able to accommodate. So, ontological flooding is really saying...we need to take into account all of these various perspectives at the same time, to get the best or the nearest to reality perspective that we can get.”
So ontological flooding is, on the one hand, to think complexly (or in an integrative fashion) in relationship to reality. It’s to not see various explanations as competing but each offering a partial thread to be woven into a larger tapestry.
Ontological flooding is also about breaking down ontological bracketing. In bracketing a social scientist, anthropologist, or researcher must bracket out the question of whether the object of study is “true or not” and simply seek to analyze, describe, conceptualize, and map the object. An example of ontological bracketing would be an anthropologist working with a culture that has an animistic worldview. The anthropologist brackets out the question of whether animism is a genuinely valid worldview (or ontology) but simply seeks to describe what “this culture believes to be true.” Theoretically the intent behind bracketing is to create neutrality in the researcher. In practice it creates a pseudo-skeptical veneer over what is in essence a belief that the Western materialist secular agnostic/atheistic framework is the correct one and all others exist as somehow deficient or primitive in relation to that so-called enlightened, rationalist perspective.
Rather than bracket out the question of whether animism is real or not—which is the heart of the issue—ontological flooding would have us become immersed in the practices of such a culture and interact with its full ontology. Meaning we would interact and commune with all potential entities, beings, energies, intensities, and realities within that culture or reality picture to see if animism in practice actually co-creates the reality it claims it does.
Or as Hunter says more succinctly (in that same interview):
So, that’s what an ontology is, it’s the sum of all of things that exist within a particular framework.
Notice that it’s the sum total of all things that exist within a particular framework. Not the sum total of beliefs which we then bracket out the crucial question of whether or not they are really real or true in any meaningful sense. But instead the practices, the states, the realities, the beings within a framework.
Ontological flooding is opening ourselves up to those realities, especially if the particular framework in question is outside the bounds of the Western materialist secular ontology.
Do keep in mind that ontological flooding is not cultural relativism. Cultural relativism—as a specific philosophical, political, and social stance—is based in an ontological bracket. A Western (read: usually white) scholar will speak about an indigenous culture that “believes” XYZ or “holds views” about ABC but the question underneath that—namely are those beliefs ontologically deep and valid—is sidestepped altogether. Indigenous cultures do not simply have “beliefs” about animism (for example). They actually experience the animated nature of plants, rocks, trees, and animals. There are beliefs and interpretations built upon those experiences sure but those beliefs are beliefs based in ontological experience.
In other words, Western cultural relativism subtly hides its ideological pretensions and arrogance against non-Western ontologies precisely through the officially “tolerant” and “progressive” ontological bracket.
In other other words, when we open ourselves to ontological flooding we may well find that certain ontologies and frameworks are more generative, spaciousness, beautiful, alluring, mysterious, right, true, and good than others.
The subtitle for this site is Experiments in Ontological Flooding. The site is a series of experiments in ontological flooding in precisely both of Hunter’s senses.
Sense #1: Ontological Flooding as complexly thinking. That is, uniting and integrating together multiple threads on a single topic. Looking at the political, the social, the occult, the philosophical, and the aesthetic approaches to an arising phenomena.
Sense #2: To open oneself (as much as possible) to the realities within an framework, which depending on the ontological framework could include anomalous experiences and entities, psi phenomena, conspiratorial groups and actions.
What uncanny and anomalous experiences mean is actually often the real question not whether or not they “really” exist. Those types of experience don’t exist within a secular atheist Western ontology because that ontology exists very intentionally and purposefully to screen anomalous realities out in order to prove its (scientific materialist) validity.
But within other ontologies those realities very clearly do exist. They literally “stand out” (ex-ist). What these realities mean (hermeneutics), how to relate to them and they to us (ethics), how they relate to one another existentially (metaphysics), how is beauty defined within that ontology (aesthetics) all of those come back alive once an ontology is opened up.
Or to quote Alice things become “curioser and curioser” not less so through an ontological flood.
To wit, earlier in that same interview Dr. Hunter is asked by the about the godfather of anomalous research Charles Fort and his approach to strange experience and the uncanny. Hunter describes Fort’s approach which is:
“One of the things that I’ve taken most from Charles Fort is his idea of intermediatism, which is his kind of philosophical perspective on the nature of reality. I suppose you could call it his ontology really. He says that everything kind of exists on a spectrum, kind of like on a sliding scale between realness, on the one hand, and unrealness, on the other. So, everything that exists in the world exists somewhere on this spectrum, which basically means that anything that exists, it’s not 100% real and it’s not 100% unreal as well.”
This notion of a spectrum of realness and unrealness is a profound one. There'll be much more to say about it in following posts but it’s enough for now to say that we might think of intermediatism as a philosophical form of discernment, i.e.. the ability rightly and helpfully to navigate and orient within an ontology.
Bringing in the concept of discernment moves us into a next layer of exploration: ontological flooding and intermediatism in relationship to trauma. In a subsequent post I'll explore how trauma is its own intermediatist reality and how trauma specifically needs to be added to the overall ontological flooding frame in order to ensure proper regulation and boundaries within an ontological flood.