Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Ramblings on Open Minds and Liars

"All right, have it your way -- you heard a seal bark!"

I’m puzzled by people who are so cocky about having a complete knowledge of Reality that they are first to raise their hands and clamor to “debunk” a UFO sighting or even a strong premonition or clairvoyant or other “extrasensory” experience. For years, since the early experiments of Dr. Rhine at Duke University and long before, it has been obvious to any informed, reasonable person that ESP and clairvoyance and precognition and poltergeists are part of reality – and yet those prideful hand-wavers have always claimed that whatever doesn’t fit into one of the little compartments in their smooth-worn desks cannot have happened. For such people the latest “science” is always the last word about Reality. They remind me of a very intelligent schoolmate of mine who, half a century ago, was fond of proving to me, with quotations from experts, that no spacecraft would ever be able to escape Earth’s orbit. He sounded like the sound and sensible mind, and I like the wild visionary . . . for awhile.

Believe it or not, I am quite skeptical myself, and very sensitive to chicanery, but I would never think that with my limited sensory apparatus functioning in one tiny nook in the universe I am qualified to judge that every earnest person who reports certain kinds of “inexplicable” experiences is either lying or deluded.

Why do I have a mentality that has always said that I know hardly anything about the universe and its great depths? When something “odd” is reported – something that does not fit into the current “scientific” description of possibilities – I do not assume it is a sign that the person who reports it is dishonest or hallucinating, but rather that it may be an exciting indication that science has not caught up with Reality. If something happens which clearly contradicts the conventional wisdom, it opens a new gate of discovery. I have therefore been, since my early teens, an excited collector of “strange” phenomena which seem to contradict conventional assumptions. In that way I and others like me have worked toward throwing light on aspects of reality which have been mistakenly overlooked or rejected. You cannot allow a system to stand which says that, “Every penguin is black and white”, when an occasional blue and yellow penguin waddles by. I, for one, cheer for the blue and yellow penguin, while the “debunkers” will go to any extreme to ignore its existence and assert that those who saw it had to be hallucinating.

One problem in the whole picture is that there are people who seem to have almost no critical capacity and who are so credulous that they will accept even the most nonsensical notions. They are as eager to believe as the debunkers are not to believe. Based on reason and common sense as well as intuition, I have rejected a number of accounts. Within 10 pages after picking up a book by one Ram Dass (Richard Alpert), I concluded, “This man is lying” and put the book down. I’ve rejected, mostly on internal evidence, many tales of the “paranormal” and “spirit worlds”.

Yes, I can feel when my leg is being pulled, but I first give the benefit of the doubt to the narrator. Sometimes my willingness to listen has been misguided. The Englishwoman I was close to for several years when I lived in her country was fond of talking about her days at a girls’ school in Paris. She told me colorful tales of her life at the school and the impish tricks she played on other schoolgirls. Her sister then revealed to me that Jill had never been to a girls’ school, much less a school in Paris. If I hadn’t been an American fresh from "out there" I would have realized sooner that a woman born and raised in Manchester wouldn’t normally speak exactly like the queen of England, and that owning duplicates of the royal corgis was an affectation. That was an example of a poseur trying to create an artificial image, and it hurt no one but herself, but there are far worse consequences of prevarication in the political world, as when presidents like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, and George W. Bush lie in order to push their country into wars. It pays to be reasonably skeptical and to have well-tuned antennae for insincerity and wide eyed gullibility.

I’m beginning to wander into a misplaced essay on falsehood, and so I’ll return to repeat my main point – that those who feel that skepticism is always a safe position are usually wrong, and that an open mind concerning unexplained phenomena serves the cause of truth.


  1. Hello Fleming

    Great post! I've experienced a few strange things, and even so i still doubt if it was real and wonder if i should trust my own eyes? but when others in your presence see the same thing at the same time then its harder to doubt what you saw. for example...a few weeks ago my husband and me were have conversation sitting down in our front room, daughter was in the other room (very close by)on the computer. It was late night dark outside and the lights were on inside. I saw a shadow like a huge bird flew over and i looked at Richard he looked at me and we both saw it. Marcy said i saw it too. everyone was sitting. no action or movement and it was dark outside. what cause the shadow go by? wierd.

  2. Thank you, Kathy. Your and your family's experience is exactly the kind of thing that I'm now writing a new blog entry about. I appreciate your contribution.

  3. Fleming,
    Yes, your post is a great piece on the definition of an open mind. An open mind is not defined by merely believing and accepting anything and everything that comes in the front door of our awareness. It also does not mean rejecting things outright based on one's arrogance that there is only one method to discern truth. An open mind is truly that, open. Open to discernment against our inner nature, our compass.

    Scientists tend to be quite "certain" in attitude of what they "know", but still manage to speak in the vague language of probabilities rather than absolutes. Few scientific studies ever draw firm conclusions. The true scientist continues to nurture the curious mind that first led him/her into science in the first place.

    Assumptions and presumptions will always hold back the open mind from soaring to heights unknown. As children we all have a heart and mind open enough to dream to the stars. Conditioning over time slowly chokes that off for some people, closing off hearts and minds, their choice to cultivate the narrow world of the black and white and limit their imagination and their Spirit.

    Great writing, as always, Fleming. Thank you for this thought provoking post.

  4. you are very welcome. Let me know your new blog so i can read it when you open it ok? sounds good. :)

  5. I'm not a sceptic because it is a "safe position". I am a sceptic because I'm ready to argue whenever I think that someone may have been deluded. However I would always respect someone's subjective experience. It's the interpretation that demands at least initial scepticism.

    In England the phenomenon of "crop circles" inspired all sorts of theories and innumerable well-illustrated books, until a set of hoaxers (perhaps we must call them artists) confessed. They did it with wire and string and planks, and they have proved it. This has not stopped some enthusiasts from continuing to believe other theories involving aliens, auras, spiritual forces of various types.

    I'm happy to let the inexplicable remain inexplicable until the facts are demonstrated. I am perfectly happy to not know what happens after death, not know whether mediums/channelers are really messenger of disembodied spirits of the dead, not be able to explain UFOs.

  6. Yves, I agree with everything you say in your comment except for the last two sentences. It's interesting that you are happy not to know various things which fill me with restless curiosity. I've often been accused of impatience; maybe that exlains the difference in our attitudes. Different people, different feelings.

    There are many things we can't explain or know, but I can't share the feeling of being happy not to know them. I have to try to find out. As you say, the inexplicable has to remain inexplicable "until the facts are demonstrated," but some people are driven to join in trying to discover and demonstrate those facts.

  7. I enjoyed your posts about UFOs without quite knowing how to respond. I think that my main problem with the subject of aliens in general is that UFOs, like fairy folk and angels cannot be 'pinned down' or categorically defined by any single 'expert' or even group of so-called experts. The human need to define and thereby control his/her environment is what I see most often in reports about 'UFOs', whether those reports are positive or negative in nature. The writer who seeks to 'disprove' a sighting is guilty of the same offence as the one who tries to assert a definitive knowledge of the identity and culture of these 'aliens'.

    I find it as absurd as two 'experts' on Bean Sidhe arguing as to whether or not a banshee possesses a single nostril or two! Of course, as soon as I write a sentence that links 'angels' with 'aliens' and 'fairy folk', I will be subject to the ire of all those who support the existence of one of these 'categories' but not the others. The UFO people may be outraged, declaring that: 'Aliens are the subject of SCIENTIFIC study, but fairy folk are nothing more than creatures of old myths.' Not to mention the spiritual and religious individuals who will resent the inclusion of 'angels' with any creatures that may not be operating as agents of or under the direct orders of God!

    It is fascinating to speculate about 'extra-terrestrials'. After all, there are texts of tales thousands of years old that describe 'flying chariots'. What is a 'flying chariot' but an 'UFO'? My own doubt lies in the categorisation of these 'visitors' as 'extra-terrestrial'. Who is to know definitively what entities share this planet and this sphere with us, unperceived and/or unknown for the most part to our species? Even cats are aware of entities that we cannot see with our eyes or perceive with our senses. Are we to assume that these entities are nothing more than imaginary simply because our senses have no awareness of them?

    To me, it all goes back to one of the basic questions: What is real and what is imaginary? No matter how much documentation any one can amass in these areas of study, I cannot believe that it would represent the sum total of all possible knowledge. Look at all the 'advances' of science and medicine. Every few years, there is some new 'miracle' discovery and yet a decade later, it may be demonstrated to represent nothing more than a dangerous theory bringing nothing more than death or destruction in its wake. New 'drugs' and new 'courses of treatment' as often must be discarded ultimately as admitted as sound ten or twenty years later.

    For some one to deny the existence of anything that he/she cannot see or prove is not that different from the person who claims never to have had a dream simply because he/she has no memory of one.

  8. I am sorry I did not add this to my previous comment. Reading Kathy's description of her experience, I have to say that it sounds much like the experiences that many people reportedly have had of jinn. A traditional Muslim might recognise that 'shadow' instantly as that of a jinn. Some one else might perceive it as the shadow of an UFO... Is it not a matter of definitions and perception?

  9. I enjoyed this post as well.

    I am often frustrated with people who relate stories of poltergeists that they saw on their own with no other witnesses. I have friends who immediately give these claims credence and launch into equally fantastic tales of their own.

    As if these experiences are common and matter of fact.

    On the other hand I have no doubt that we are not alone in this universe, just looking at the probabilities, of other forms of life developing somewhere in this universe, and perhaps even here on earth.

    There are people in this world who have developed belief systems around spirits, UFOs, or conspiracy theories and define themselves around tales of their encounters with such things.

    Without compelling stories, they lose that definition, and thus, their identity.

    Having listened to so-called experts in these areas speak, I have found a lot of self congratulation and exaggeration of capabilities to bolster their status in these groups.

    It is one thing to leave open the possibility of such things and quite another to build a career or ones identity around them.

    I cannot say if I am happy, sad or evoke any emotion at all around my inability to understand all that I have experienced that I cannot explain.

    There are those situations where you catch some a glymps of something, enough to know something was there, but you are unable to clearly make it out and it is gone before you can register it.

    Is your mind playing tricks on you?

    If others saw it, did any of you see enough of it for long enough period of time to register what it was?

    So many questions arise from these things. Often they can be explained, other times you cannot re-create the scene well enough to prove anything.

    I find it difficult to believe people who speak with great confidence on such matters.

    This does not mean that I dismiss the possibility, just that I have yet to see anything myself, nor have I heard a compelling depiction of such event to remove all doubt.

  10. Charles Bergeman,I welcome you and thank you for sending your first comment to this blog. I hope you will offer more comments as thoughtful as the one you posted here. I look forward to reading your blogs very soon.

    I've appreciated all the comments on this page and hope to respond specifically to some of the things Serenity and Freyashawk wrote.

  11. Reading this post and its predecessor and comments attached thereto, I suddenly recall my disgraceful behaviour in a developing country when I made a false insurance claim for a motor accident, in order to protect another person, or rather my foolishness in lending the car I had been kindly allotted to another person.

    In describing the accident on the claim form, I saw it with such clarity that I pretty much believed it afterwards, and could have been cross-examined about it.

    Unknown to me, the young lady I was protecting had been seen driving the car in that small ex-colonial town, where everyone knows everyone else's business, and that information had arrived by the grapevine before my claim form. The clerk knew therefore that I was lying. He also knew the family of the young lady. But he treated me politely and said nothing.

    It is so easy to construct false memories, and to construct confusing sensory inputs so that they make more sense. I guess this is how fiction gets constructed too, Fleming?

  12. Yves, thanks for the frank and interesting story. It happens that I was already mentally writing a post about lying when I received your comment, and so my next PEGASUS entry is going to be in part a response to your comment.

  13. skepticism is the core value of scientific epistemology.

    Sadly, the skeptics are not often the most fully educated ones in the epistem themselves; just appointed through narrow funnels of "respectable" academia!

    I watch, every year, HUGE amounts of money being granted to the most NARROWMINDED adn STUPID scientists in North America. The secret of their success: "narrowmindedness", "bullshitting", "salesmanship", "media relations", "back-stabbing"