The unofficial motto for the city of Portland is "keep Portland weird"– a unique weirdness was hilariously captured in the show Portlandia. The argument of this piece is that Portland is a microcosm of the macrocosmic whole. In other words, existence itself is weird, very weird.
I’ve explored notions of the weird and high strangeness in multiple pieces on this site. For example this one on the Ghostbusters reboot as an updated understanding of the astral plane in the early 21st century. Here on the epistemological posture of ontological flooding as well as its relationship to trauma. In each of those pieces there’s a leitmotif of normalizing what seems otherwise strange, weird, or mystical—allowing it remain strange and weird and mystical but seeing those are very regular features of reality.
In this piece I want to explore more fully the philosophical implications of normalizing the paranormal. Or what we might call the ontological implications of ontological flooding. To do that I want to summarize and weave together a number of different thinkers all pointing to different facets of much the same movement.
A very good example is Erik Davis’ new book exploring what he calls weird naturalism. Basically the weird as a consequence of the natural order. Einstein called quantum mechanics “spooky action at a distance”, which Albert meant as a put down, but was perhaps far more insightful than he ever realized (or intended).
Mark Fisher wrote movingly and hauntingly of the eerie nature of life. The godfather himself Lovecraft is back in vogue as he pointed to the horror and pure terrorizing incomprehensibility of the universe. This Lovecraftian revival has spawned a whole slew of studies of the philosophy of horror and even, a la Eugene Thacker, of the horror of philosophy itself.
Whitley Streiter and Jeffrey Kripal co-wrote a book called Super Natural, the thesis of which is that what we tend to think of as supernatural experiences—mystical encounters, psi phenomena, synchronicities, visitations from the dead, etc.—are in actuality very natural. They are super-natural, that is to say they are super intensified versions of the natural but they are within the bounds of the normal.
Eric Wargo has shown through extensively well-documented and properly practiced scientific methods that future events create conditions in the present which create the conditions for their own future fulfillment, aka time loops. In other words, the future influences the present, the technical term for which is retrocausation.
One of the key implications of Wargo's research is that precognition is a real phenomena, though perhaps not in the way most people imagine. Wargo shows brilliantly how in precognitive dreams people do not predict future events but rather they remember a future experience they are going to have—in particular they remember the emotional response they are going to have upon finding out some news in the future. A classic version of which would be all the stories of people claiming to have dreams that predicted the September 11th terrorist attacks. According to Wargo they didn’t have dreams that predicted the event, rather they had dreams where they “remembered the future”, specifically they remembered the future moment of learning the news of the 9/11 attacks. It is only after the event occurs—and the time loop is completed—that the dream then retroactively makes sense.*
Dean Radin’s research for over three decades has established conclusively that psi phenomena are real. In a very similar vein to Kripal & Streiber, Radin wrote a book called Supernormal showing that classic Indian siddhis (mystical powers) like telepathy and clairvoyance have been repeatedly verified from a scientific point of view. His most recent book Real Magic makes the exact same case this time in relationship to the Western magical tradition.
Mainstream scientists ignore that bounty of evidence not for any scientific reasons of course but because the implications of that evidence rock their materialist worldview to the core. But the main point here is that Radin argues that such capacities are super-normal. That is they are rare (super) but nevertheless within the range of normality. They are intensified forms of normality to be sure but nevertheless very much normal.
The paranormal is simply normal. Again it maybe an intensified form of “normal” but it is normal, if by normal we mean again something essentially akin to natural/the real.
The CIA spent millions to train remote viewers to act as psychic spies. You think that’s weird? Well what about the fact that it actually worked? Turns out remote viewing is entirely feasible and well documented among humans (possibly also among other animal species). Did you know that Harriet Tubman used remote viewing in order to find safe passageways through to the North when being chased by slavers? Well she did though you probably never learned that in your high school social studies class on the Underground Railroad.
I could go on and on like this for a very long time. But hopefully that’s sufficient to make the point. The point being all of this evidence runs directly counter to the philosophies of materialism and scientism that dominate our world. It doesn’t run counter to science per se—if by science you mean the scientific method of investigation. That process is itself should actually be at root a very agnostic one. But it absolutely blows a (w)hole under the water line of reductive materialist philosophy.
Skeptics and atheist materialist types like to talk a big game of being “open minded” and “following the evidence wherever it leads”. In practice however we see that's an incredibly hypocritical statement. The evidence, when actually looked at with an open yet critical mind, is massively on the side of sychronicities, the weird, high strangeness, and the like. The evidence firmly establishes those phenomena are woven into the fabric of reality itself. They are not the whole of reality certainly but the whole of reality can not be adequately articulated without them either. They are a crucial and integral aspect of the natural order. They are super-natural, super-normal.
But that is not allowable under the current regime of political control of science to technocratic ends. Technology and secular ideology dominates science. Science is the slave of that master. Hence any rogue science that actually shows the master is a fraud is immediately labeled unscientific. A more honest word there would be heretical which would show that scientism is a belief system, a religion, really a cult in our day. And like all cults it is not to be undermined. It will become violent if necessary to uphold it’s privileged status.
Materialism is the philosophical cover for the cult of scientism. Materialism itself could be seen however as a a subspecies of the strange—though in an unconscious and non self-aware form. Materialism is a mental philosophy that argues that mentality is not real. It’s a conscious argument that consciousness is not real or influential. There is no piece of evidence in the material world that says only material things are real. Mathematics and logic are cited by scientistic advocates all the time, even though mathematics and logic are (at least in part) constructed by human minds. Human conscious minds that then claim that consciousness isn’t real or verifiable (even though consciousness is the one doing the verification). That is a very strange approach to life.
Materialism’s “bouncer” is scientism, which involves the control of academic and media outlets to screen out information that does not accord with an atomistic materialist worldview. To repeat: There’s absolutely no evidence in nature that says that such experiences of high strangeness or synchronicity are not real. In fact, as shown, the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of such a realization. That evidence is simply screened out by the scientific establishment not because of any scientific reasons but for philosophical and political reasons.
In sum, these phenomena are real. How we understand that reality is the real rub. It's at this point that the scientistic retort will be that if we accept this data as true then we inevitably have to believe in supernatural deities or substances that cause such phenomena and that those are unproven. But philosophically (even theologically) that is simply not true. All of the thinkers named above in various ways argue for a naturalistic “supernaturalism”, i.e. that the paranormal is simply normal.
So we have two things going on: evidence (facts) and interpretation (frames). The facts (the data) are very clear these phenomena are real. The future does affect the past. Remote viewing works. Precognition and psychic capacities are intrinsic potentials to human beings.
Radin’s research has shown incidentally that psi phenomena are broadly natural to the human species. There are rare uniquely gifted talents just like musical or athletic prodigies. The research shows that these capacities can be honed though practice though most people don’t and therefore in the broad population the effects are fairly weak.
So that’s the facts level. Then there’s the interpretation part.
This is where the super-naturalist position gets very interesting. Weird naturalism (and related constructs) are critical of rank materialism of course. It also however raises a number of critical questions towards classic metaphysical, theological and idealist interpretations of high strangeness, the mystical, and the weird.
As with all experience—anomalous or otherwise—the question becomes one of interpretation, i.e. of discernment.
Alternative thinkers, pop spiritualists, New Agers, Theosophists, classic theologians, occultists, all have their metaphysics, that is their interpretive framework for understanding the experiences of the super-natural. This framework might involve the notion of higher orders or planes of reality: e.g. Plato’s Realm of the Forms, The Great Chain of Being, the higher koshas in Hinduism, the emanational planes of Kabbalah and Sufism, etc. etc. Whatever the exact form of the framework, the point is that all of these religious and spiritual systems are INTERPRETATIONS of non-ordinary phenomena.
As interpretations they may or may not have validity. They may have served a purpose at one point but have gone stale. Whatever the case, the data are not reducible to the systems of interpretation. Any interpretation may come and go while the data will stay. The interpretations attempt to frame and make sense of the data—data again here meaning the data of psi phenomena, retrocausation, and the like. All of which are described in incredible detail throughout the spiritual, mystical, and religious traditions of the world (cf, Michael Murphy’s The Future of the Body).
Now modern and postmodern philosophy have seriously undermined many of the classic metaphysical spiritual interpretive frameworks. As a result the evidence that went with them—evidence of an anomalous, high weird, eerie nature—was thrown out as the baby with metaphysical bathwater. Scientism, secularism, and ideological materialism filled that void. Scientism is a philosophical framework which—as Jack Hunter has shown—through the practice of the ontological bracket literally makes people less able to experience the weird and the anomalous. Which note is entirely different than having debunked it’s existence.
So materialist atheism sits around critiquing the metaphysical spiritualist interpretation of anomalous experience. Note my emphasis there. They critique the interpretation and somehow imagine that destroys the entire edifice when all they have done is deconstruct the interpretative layers built on top of the data. They have not deconstructed the data itself. The whole metaphysical edifice could crumble but the bedrock foundation of psi data is not going anywhere because it’s a constitutive quality of reality itself.
All these related ideas—weird naturalism, the super-natural, the super-normal—are trying to step into the breach. They are more scientific than so-called scientific materialists (in the true sense of the word) because they take the full range of data into account. They accept the undeniable reality of psi phenomena, retrocausation, precognition, and the like. At the same time, though in reverse, the weird naturalist/super-natural types are seeking to shave off much of the burdensome metaphysical barnacles of religious ideology that over time have attached themselves to the ship of the anomalous (including through religious’ social function trying to control access to those phenomena).
The other upshot of this weird naturalist/super-naturalist position is that it doesn’t offer necessarily a final answer but leaves space for exploration and further inquiry. Psi phenomena are real (whatever real is). At least we can then say that the universe is the kind of place in which psi phenomena are possible. Most people would tend to call that a weird or magical or strange type universe.
But what are we to do with that information? Should we seek to mass produce psi phenomena? Should everyone or at least the majority of a population train in it? Ancient wisdom cultures might well argue against such a venture. Traditional descriptions of siddhis (cultivated spiritual powers like psi) typically come with huge warning labels on their power to corrupt. If psi and related phenomena are real than most assuredly so is a malevolent twisting of them. Black Magic, Sith Dark Lords, the Left Hand Path, sociopathic “enlightened” gurus cult leaders with intense spiritual transmission and charm using it to warp souls. It is all real. Very real and very haunting. Again you know it’s real because the Shadow State tried to use it (see Project MK Often).
In other words this whole terrain of the weird and the strange can be very ambivalent and ambiguous. But the super naturalist position allows us to really dive more deeply into these core questions of ethical, social, political and philosophical implications of really reckoning with reality. Materialism, as I noted in a previous piece on trauma, is a form of philosophical dissociation. Coming back to the weird, the high strange, the anomalous, even the horror, awe, and sheer eeriness of it all, brings us out of a collective dissociation and back into deeper contact with reality. That is the purpose of the ontological flood. To get wet existentially as it were. To feel the rain of the high weird. But, as I’ve also noted before, we need to immerse ourselves and be careful our ontological dives don’t take us into overwhelm or drowning. We need to learn to regulate and bring coherence—as much as possible—to the magical, imaginal realms of the high strange as it intersects with us and us with them. Recognizing it’s reality and opening to what is already occurring is the first step.
In sum, Psi Phenomena Are Real: Deal With It.
The first obvious layer of intent with that statement is to attack materialism as it’s root. Deal with the evidence. Drop the scientism, drop the ideology, embrace the weird and high strange. Also the same could be said for traditional religious prohibitions against and attempts to theologically delegitimize this realm. To these first groups, DEAL WITH IT. Face facts even while being open that we don’t totally know what it all means, we nevertheless know it is true (whatever truth entails).
But there’s a second layer to it. As in: No like really deal with it. As in deal more deeply with it than many of those superficial New Age, New Thought, pop neo-magick, whatever traditions. Really Deal with it. Drop all these supposedly pro-spiritual frameworks that basically seek to explain the strangeness and the weirdness away. Let it be wild and weird and mysterious. The ambiguous and often non-linear logic of the weird is part of it. Trying to foreclose the weirdness is another way of losing contact with (this aspect of) reality. Deal with the fact that whatever else might be the case, the weirdness is intrinsic. It’s not some ancillary quality or something we just haven’t figured out yet. It’s actually part and parcel somehow.
In a future piece I want to explore UFOs along those lines as it’s a perfect (maybe the most perfect) demonstration of all the threads covered in this piece: 1. the phenomena is real though we have no idea what it means or what’s going on with it (though of course there are various schools of thought) 2. it shows intrinsic non-linear non-human logic that is weird, strange, and mysterious 3. it’s been going on a long time and therefore is itself very natural 4. we have to deal with it and stop pretending it’s not real. Plus to interlace the earlier threads 5. UFO encounters are correlated with higher degrees of non-ordinary non-linear time (“time loss”) but also higher degrees of psi capacities.
But that for another day.
Until then, like Portland, Keep the Universe Weird.
* This could also offer an alternative explanation—at least in part—for one of the central and strangest of the 20th century’s high strange synchronicities: Jack Parsons meeting Marjorie Cameron after having “seen” (and his his mind invoked her) for the purposes of Crowley-ian sex magick. Instead of having dreamed her into being, Parsons’ ritual activity, along with L. Ron Hubbard (yes that L. Ron Hubbaard) actually helped Parsons have a memory of his future meeting of her and his emotional/attractive response in the moment.