The Book of Mysteries: Trickster and the Paranormal

IMG_1778.jpgThe bedside book-well

Do you ever do this?

For years it seems I have put off reading a very good book, one that is oft-quoted and one I suspected would hold the key to some of my questions about life, about existence, about the outer reaches of consciousness.

Why did I do this? Who knows? Maybe I just found more interesting books to read—books that apply the concept but, of course, never explore the full richness of the original idea.

But, also, I think there is a perverse part of me that saves some really good reads for when the bedside book-well runs dry. As if that book-well could actually dry up!

 

The Trickster and the Paranormal

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Take George Hansen’s The Trickster and the Paranormal as an example. This is one of those books I kept putting off, leaving it untouched in my ebook library for that rainy day when I had read everything there was and needed something really good to capture my interest.

I am not sure how it fell from that exalted rainy-day bookshelf, but tumble it did into my digital book-well.

It is not an easy read as it is full of concepts from sociology and anthropology. But Hansen does give you a roadmap through the book that avoids the “weightier” concepts and brings you to the gist of the book. It is a fascinating read.

 

The Gist of the Book:

The paranormal (ghosts, ghouls, poltergeists, UFO, ESP, even Sasquatch) are all related to liminal states where boundaries are blurred, where the world as we know it is being de-constructed, where our realities are being challenged, or where major social systems (personal or societal) are in flux. He calls these “the betwixt and between,” where something is no longer this but not yet that.

The author’s premise is that the paranormal is more likely to happen when we are in a liminal state. He goes on to give examples, one of which is the UFO flap begun when Kenneth Arnold spotted nine strange disks/saucers flying in front of his small aircraft.

That was June 24, 1947. Think back to what the world was like. We had just entered the nuclear age. For those of us born into the Cold War, it is hard to imagine the zeitgeist shaft that must have taken place for those who witnessed the nuclear devastation that ended the war with Japan. This was quickly followed by the detonation of an even more destructive force—the H-bomb. Overnight, it seemed, the world could be wiped out. 100% assured destruction. No longer the hope that a bomb might hit somewhere else, these new bombs were so far reaching a very few would hit everyone.

The world was in a liminal state as humanity was being initiated into a very precarious world, indeed.

Then two weeks later on July 8, 1947 Roswell happened. Another paradigm shift—another betwixt and between state where we grappled with a new worldview, a shift in our place in the universe.

RoswellDailyRecordJuly8,1947.jpgBy . ([1][dead link] Archived copy: [2]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Trying to knit it together:

This all takes me to my afternoon pastime–knitting while listening to podcasts, mostly weird ones. My two favorites could be said to be on opposite ends of the spectrum.

Where Did the Road Go? is about “exploring the paranormal, alternative science, lost history, supernatural, occult, and the hidden forces that affect our world.”

Sasquatch Chronicles is about flesh-and-blood Bigfoot, leaving Psychic Sasquatch to the “flute-players.”

The host of Where Did the Road Go?, Seriah Azkath, talks about paranormal encounters and often cites The Trickster and the Paranormal when discussing the reaches of consciousness.

The host of Sasquatch Chronicles, Wes Germer, along with his brother Woody, had an encounter with hairy monsters in the woods. Not your friendly forest giants, for Wes Germer these are dangerous primates.

These podcasters come to their subject with very different worldviews, but each in his own way experiencing that liminal state betwixt and between two worldviews.

 

Is Sasquatch a flesh-and-blood animal or a psychic spiritual being?

Here is what I am wondering: let’s say that there are undiscovered hairy hominids in the woods—something you would probably believe could be true after hearing the 300 or so encounter stories presented on Sasquatch Chronicles. These encounters are all described as “life changing” in that the observer’s worldview was thrown into flux. Until the new worldview is assimilated, the person is betwixt and between beliefs, in other words in a liminal state.

So what if this “life changing” liminal state then opens some people to the paranormal, creating a space for the Psychic Sasquatch to enter one’s reality?

Is Sasquatch a flesh-and-blood animal or a psychic spiritual being? Perhaps the answer to that is a simple “yes” because it can be both depending on which mode of perception one uses, a right-brain marginal liminal one, or a left-brain linear logical one.

And is one more “real” then the other? (See, for instance, Gary Lachman’s The Secret Teachers of the Western World.) Our modern civilization values the left-brain linear logical model over the right-brain more encompassing paranormal model. But does that make it more “real?”

 

References:

Hansen, George. (2001). The Trickster and the Paranormal. Xlibris Corporation

Lachman, Gary (2015). The Secret Teachers of the Western World. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/ Penguin.

On UFOs

Sometimes you can just be too stubborn. Sometimes you just need to give it up and switch to something different.

Take UFOs for instance—both kinds of UFOs, actually.

First there is the unidentified flying craft kind, (well actually the theories about them):

Walton(reconstitution).png                                                            Photo: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

 

And then there are the unfinished objects of the handi-craft kind:

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I started this particular ufo—unfinished object—five years ago but took it off my loom to do something for a friend.

It languished in a dusty corner until last week when I saw it there, dusted it off and strung it back up. I mean, when you invest in something, be it a pet theory or a craft project, you gotta see it through, right?

It seemed to be going fine for a while; everything was stringing up nicely. It all fit. And then I took it off the loom to really examine it. Suddenly it was not so perfect. In fact, it did not line up at all. (Check out the misshapen straps on the right side.)

What to do? Well when something does not work, be it a theory or a project, you try to fix it. Crack out a bead (or hypothesis) here and crack one out there. Re-string the line of beads—or your reasoning—and try to secure it all. Tie off the string. Then you find that, well, restringing it back together created other problems.

So you patch, patch, patch, only to find another crack, another hole, another line of beads (or reasoning) that needs to be re-strung, re-visited.

Finally it hits you: sometimes you just gotta give it up and go onto something new, be it theory or project.

The theory that UFOs are made of nuts and bolts is cracked and full of holes. The observations just do not fit the theory anymore. Time to give up on the Nuts and Bolts theory and look for something else. For instance, the UFO experience is real to those who report them, so what does that say about human consciousness? And how is the phenomenon interacting with us as a species? I mean: What is the meaning of it, anyway?

Oh, the beading project? Dumped—donated to the garden fairies who, I hope, are swinging handily on it.

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Book of Mysteries: More Strangeness in the Woods

 

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By Frank Vincentz (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons (Modified)

 

I suppose it is a sign of getting older—ruminating over past events and wondering about what really happened as opposed to what you want to believe happened. And this one is strange. Indeed, it rivals High Strangeness in the Hudson Valley

First, let me explain, I am a total novice in the woods and I realize that. Born in the suburbs, I have pretty much stayed in the suburbs except for jaunts here and there on well-marked trails. Never overnight. Always with others, except this one time.

We were with a group of women, maybe 20-25. It was an “encampment” led by a Native American elder and a college professor. We were in a National Park, somewhere in upper New Mexico or lower Colorado. (I wish I could remember exactly where.)

Although somewhat hampered by pain in her legs, the professor decided to walk a short 2-3 mile loop up a mountain and back down again. This was in keeping with her abilities. She had done this sort of thing many times.

When it came time for her to meet up with the group again, she did not emerge from the woods. An hour passed, maybe a bit more, so I decided to walk the loop from where she should have re-joined us.

It was a fairly steep climb up the trail, but no harder than the hikes my sister and I had taken. Every 100 feet or so, I would turn to be sure I saw the trail marker going back the way I came. If there might be confusion or the markers were hard to see, I did stone piles pointing the direction. Remember, I am barely more than a novice in the woods and knowing that may have saved me that day.

After maybe half an hour, I crested a steep part of the trail and that is when things got weird. Really weird. I heard nothing—no insects, no scurrying animals, nothing. But more than that, I could not focus my eyes—or my brain for that matter.

The top of the ridge was flat with only a few spindly trees and shrubs to mark out a circle of, well…. I can only say it was light. With a glare that hurt my eyes. It “twinkled” like sun through leaves swaying in a breeze. But there was no breeze.

I looked back and could see my last stone marker and, even closer, the trail marker leading me back down.

Feeling safer, I ventured a few steps into the clearing and found myself disoriented. Was it the odd movements of light and shadow? I checked the sun and thought I’d have to go back soon—the last thing I wanted was get caught on the trail after dark. The sun seemed to be lowering toward the horizon much faster than I had expected.

I took a few more steps. Things seemed to fuzz in and out. Distortions. I tried to take a “reading” of the area, using all my senses. No sound, air crisp, no breeze, no warmth to the sun. But to my left where I thought the sun was going down,I saw that the small trees and scrub brush looked distorted as in a funhouse mirror. All the strangeness seemed to emanate from that one area, maybe 5 or 6 feet off the ground.

My eyes? Was the odd light affecting my vision?

And what was that odd rhythmic clacking I now heard? No, a tinkling clacking. Hypnotic. I wanted to look around for the source but I just could not focus on any one spot. I remembered having heard something similar on a trail once before, but it was dried seedpods blowing in the breeze. This was different. To this day I think the sound may have been in my head. It was too distant and yet right there inside me. And definitely hypnotic.

Maybe at the other side of the clearing, I reasoned, things would focus again.

I took two more steps—that was when not only nervous caution, but my common sense kicked in. I had no business being in the woods alone, let alone “braving” something I did not know. I turned to leave.

I saw a path in front of me and I made a beeline for it. I held onto the tree with the trail marker until my eyes focused and I saw my stone pile just ahead, reassuring me this was the way I came.

The eeriness followed me down the trail. Several times I looked back over my shoulder to find the same disorienting light behind me, the same eerie quiet, but at least the clacking in my head had stopped.

I would have run, but I had the good sense to know if I slipped on the loose stones beneath my feet I would fall and be in really serious trouble. (Well, maybe not a complete novice, but still….)

I reached the bluff overlooking the spot where the rest of the group was waiting. I waved my arms, someone spotted me, and the group waved back. Only then did the unease leave me. Only then did the sun look normal in the sky above me.

So what happened up there? Well, at the time I thought it was a trick of light and shadow as the sun was going down. But it was its normal self in the sky when I reached the lower bluff. Yet it had seemed as if the sun was blinding me from behind the funhouse distortion that caused my eerie disorientation. The noise? Heightened awareness, I decided. I was scaring myself silly because I knew I had no business so far out in a strange woods by myself.

So, the other day I was knitting and listening to an interview with David Paulides—you know—the guy with the Missing 411 books about all the strange disappearances in the national parks. In his most recent book, he has a story from a woman who IS an expert in the woods, who has the knowledge and skill to be in the woods alone. One evening she was in her deer blind and saw what can best be described as a scene from The Predator, the scene where the predator is perceived as a distortion in the surrounding.

That was what I saw to my left, where I tried to reason that the sun was filtering through the trees causing the funhouse mirror effect. (No, I do not think the predator was after me.) My experience was different, however, in that the entire top of that ridge was also a bit out of focus—not just one spot, and I heard the clacking sound where her experience remained totally quiet.

David Paulides talked about his own odd experience in the woods. He was with a seasoned hunter when everything went dead quiet—unnaturally quiet. (And, of course, I knew how eerie—scary eerie—that can be.) The two men sat on opposite sides of a tree, presumably with their backs against the tree. Apparently they saw nothing. It reminded me of how I grabbed onto the tree before my vision focused again. Was the tree some sort of anchor?

Now people have many different theories about the Missing 411 people. There is no sign of animal predation—no blood, no torn clothing, no destruction of backpacks, tents, or other equipment, so thoughts naturally (or maybe super-naturally) go to things like Bigfoot abductions, UFO abductions, time portals. Indeed, often the person has shed their clothes (and shoes—even I, the novice, would NEVER do that) and left everything neatly folded or maybe inside-out on a rock.

There are cases in cities, so Bigfoot seems to have an alibi—he was in the woods.

And people do get lost in the woods, but not like the cases he reports, not without leaving a scent for dogs to follow or other evidence that makes sense.

That leaves UFOs and portals to other dimensions for explanations. Now I am not a big fan of nuts and bolts UFOs with bio-robotic occupants, so this leaves portals. But, it is reasonable to think that portals would swallow groups as well as individuals–and the missing seem to be single individuals. Not groups, but single individuals who have gone ahead of or fallen behind their group.

Safety in numbers, that is the obvious explanation if you are dealing with a predator. But there are no signs of predation. So what if it is some sort of portal to one of the other dimensions that physicists postulate?

For a long time I have thought somehow our conscious perception is at the bottom of it all. On a very mundane level, if you change how you perceive a situation, then you change how you react to. When you react differently, others around you react to your reaction—they react differently as well because you have changed their perception of the situation. For instance, someone perceives you as hostile, but you act open and friendly. Many times that will change their perception of you and they will be more open themselves. They will give you a chance. (Indeed, I think this is The Secret to Life.)

Taking that a step further, people who claim to have paranormal experiences expect these experiences and react to their environment as if they will have them. And they do. But this does not happen as much in the presence of others who do not share in their world-view, who do not act as if the paranormal is normal.

This, to me, indicates that the world—reality— as we know it is held in place by a consensus of the sum total of our beliefs.

So back to the lone person on the trail. Without group interaction, without group consensus about how the world operates, about reality, is the lone person more susceptible to a change of consciousness, one that will alter their perceptions, one that will allow them to see into another dimensions? That, certainly, would explain why whole groups are not running into portals and disappearing.

Here is the basic question: does it come from within or without? Did I create the weirdness on the ridge or was it already there?

Our missing professor was brought out safe and sound by park rangers. Like most people missing in the woods, she was fine.

 

Book of Mysteries: Strangeness in the Hudson Valley

 

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The Hudson valley is no “stranger” to High Strangeness. Witness Whitley Strieber’s experiences with “Super Natural” beings, the Pine Bush Phenomenon, and UFO sightings all up and down the Hudson Valley, most notable those reports by Linda Zimmerman and J Allen Hynek. (Remember: I am not saying the UFOs are real, I am saying the experiences of the observers are real or to put it another way, they are real to the observer and worth studying.)

Putnam County, less than an hour up the river from Manhattan, has certainly seen its share of strangeness, if the reports are to be believed. And just east of the Hudson River in the middle of Putnam county is where I had a couple of very strange experiences that have made me wonder about consciousness, the trickster, and what may be beyond our known world.

 

The Invisible Stalker

This experience happened in the mid to late 1980s. At the time I was studying with a Native American elder, OhShinnah. As part of her teaching, she had us do exercises to harmonize with the four elements, earth, air, fire, and water. I was working on water so every time I visited near Cold Spring, NY I would go down to this wonder-filled place just below the dam of a manmade lake.

This was a truly magical spot and I always felt the encircling love of nature while there.

One of the most beautiful spots was by a stream, and there I practiced the water ceremony OhShinnah taught us. It was there I first saw (experienced) tiny sparkles in the air—what I thought might be air spirits, but later learned are identified as water spirits.

On this particular day, the sparkles danced in and out of my field of vision and somehow I started to experience the entire area as “separated,” but separated from what I am not sure. I experienced this bubble of sparkles surrounding the stream and the woods for maybe 50 feet in all direction. I sat transfixed.

Whether I started to move first or the sound of something moving through the undergrowth caught my attention and I stood, I do not remember. But I looked all around me and it was as if, off in one direction only, the background was muted out. It was fuzzy and without distinction. That, anyway, is what I experienced.

Then a wave of apprehension hit me. I had never been anxious in this place before. Indeed, it was a place where stresses always fell away from me. Deciding it was “just my imagination,” I ignored it and relaxed. It hit me harder and now I was afraid. I ducked behind a tree and stood stone still. Not a sound, all was quiet again. Come to think of it, not even a bird was singing.

Peeking out, I searched the woods for deer—they often came close when I was there, but I saw nothing. The sparkle was gone, except in the one area up a muted hill. But, as I moved again, the sound of something disturbing the brush returned.

I froze and all was quiet. I moved and it moved.

For a very long time, I stood stock still, the fear mounting. Something was playing cat and mouse with me.

Finally I grabbed my things intending to hurry out of there. The sound of movement returned and now I was choking down panic as I hurried back to the dam. A time or two, I looked back over my shoulder, but saw nothing.

It stopped following me as I neared the dam. I hurried past the dam and up the dirt road—really more a trail with two ruts—and back to the cabins. There, in a more public spot, I sat for a while, waiting for whom or whatever was stalking me to come out as there was no other trail to follow but that one. Nobody and nothing ever came.

It was years later that I heard about Bigfoot and the experiences of others, experiences like mine—as if something was throwing fear at them. The hypothesis put forth by Bigfoot researchers is that Bigfoot uses infrasound to scare away unwanted visits. Infrasound does that, creates that experience of fear.

Was it Bigfoot, or a family of them passing through the woods? I don’t know. All I know is that I experienced something that was both real and unreal to me—something I would come to experience a couple more times in my life. And that lead me on a quest to discover what it is that lies beneath experiences like these. The something, I believe, is the most basic field of all—a field of consciousness out of which we ourselves create experience. And maybe have created the image of Bigfoot to explain those experiences. If that is true, then Bigfoot is becoming very real indeed.

 

 

Photo Credit: Gnashes30 under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. The sign is along the Pikes Peak Highway.

 

NOTE: No blog post next week–away with friends having fun!

Book of Mysteries: High Strangeness

 

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The Higgs Boson Field

 

So the last couple of weeks I have been thinking more about “high strangeness” and what that all means. How does it tie together? At this moment, I think it all has to do with consciousness, maybe that is the baseline that physicists skirt around when they seek the ultimate—the undefined something that explains it all. The unity.

What is High Strangeness?

The term was coined by Dr. J. Allen Hynek in an address to the United Nations on November 27, 1978. He was speaking about the world-wide phenomenon of Flying Saucers—UFOs.

Included in High Strangeness are such events as alien abductions, cryptogeographic beings such as Bigfoot, Nessie, and all the other “monsters” throughout history. Also included is the Men in Black phenomenon  and UFOs. Lately, it has grown to include the more extreme ends of the paranormal spectrum in general.

Tied in with all these are “synchronicities,” those meaningful coincidences (Carl Jung’s definition) that give us pause and jerk us from our “mindless” routines into a more mindful state. This change of consciousness is, I think, the key to understanding the phenomenon.

Is it real?

Basically, yes, the experience is real. People are experiencing communications with “otherworldly beings,” aliens, and crypto-creatures. (Yes, there are hoaxers, but not everyone is a hoaxer.)

Are the aliens and crypto-creatures flesh and blood? I am not so sure. I think that they are of our own creation—that we have the ability to create these experiences for ourselves. But I don’t buy that they are hallucinations—I think they have more substance than that.

I think there is a field out of which we create these experiences. Call the field astral, etheric, or whatever term you like better, I think that the basis of that field is the one thing that, in my opinion, existed before the big bang—consciousness.

The Higgs Boson or God-particle

Dr. Peter Higgs, after whom the particle was named, describes it like this, “…these particles are just packages of energy of some kind of field. And the feature [that] distinguishes this kind of theory…is the existence of what we, theoretical physicists, call the vacuum, which means nowadays something different than what it used to mean. It’s just the lowest energy state that you could possibly have in which there are no particles around but there maybe something around. And that something around can be a background field of some sort, which pervades the universe.”   (Italics mine)

So here is my thought: the field that pervades the universe is consciousness, pure and simple. (Well, maybe pure, but not so simple.)

What do all humans (and other living things) have in common? Consciousness. So what if our personal consciousness interacts with this background field and out pops these “god-particles” called Higgs Boson that create our individual reality? Then we interact with whatever high strangeness our consciousness initiates.

Indeed, this High Strangness pops in and out of the Higgs field of consciousness when the individual becomes aware of it.

Is this how it works?

So, what if one individual has a strange experience, as people have had for millennia. Let’s say the experience is akin to the Fairy Folk lore—being lured or abducted into some other-worldly place. But Fairy lore is not part of this person’s experience, so s/he comes to a different belief about it—alien contact. (Like fairy lore, alien contact can be enlightening or scary.) This person, from his/her conscious perception creates a new “reality.” This person talks about it, maybe even writes a book. Other people pick it up, now focusing their personal consciousness on it. They start having the same experience and it spreads even more. (Think how the internet is speeding this process.)

What has happened is the field of of general consciousness (Is this the Higgs field?) shaped by all those who have gone before has created (an attribute of the Higgs field) an experience with matter. But because we are not all participating in the awareness it is only semi-formed. Not quite solid yet. Our perceiver, unaware of the fairy folk belief, shapes it into flying saucers and aliens. That is what s/he sees. The belief spreads, reinforcing the field and creating more experiences. As the same belief or perception is propagated, the semi-formed matter becomes more and more formed, more and more solid, more and more able to remain in the “real” world. So more and more people experience this phenomenon, as has happened with Bigfoot, flying saucers, and all the other “paranormal” phenomena.

Until one day comes when enough people see and experience it and it stays in our reality, no longer able to shrink back to the “other dimension” of the consciousness (Higgs) field.

This would explain why High Strangeness is only witnessed by some—those able to focus their consciousness, and not by others who do not share the same belief. It would also explain why some people see these things blink in and out of “reality,” and why the observer affects the physicist’s experiments.

 

Image attribution: Gonis from es under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Book of Mysteries: What is it to be human(e)?

 

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Many years ago I was fascinated by a story of gorillas disabling poacher snares intended for other wildlife. Then a few days ago I saw an article on monkey’s early “domestication” of the wolf. We certainly inherited more from our primate cousins than we realize.

Compassionate gorillas?  

A team from the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund’s Karisoke Research Center filmed a silverback gorilla pointing out a snare to two younger male blackbacks who went over to investigate, spotted the snare, and dismantled it efficiently and effectively. They went on to dismantle a second snare farther along.

This was not the first time these blackbacks had disabled a snare. Their actions were deliberate, and they did not need to think before snapping the stick that held the snare in place.

Why would mountain gorillas do such a thing? Presumably they are aware of the trap and could have avoided it.   The traps themselves are not strong enough to hold a full grown or juvenile gorilla. However, there are known instances where baby gorillas have been ensnared, causing injury and death.

What is the definition of intelligence? Thinking ahead and preventing problems? Maybe even a capacity for compassion?

 

Monkeys domesticating wolves?

Canis_anthus_-_Cécile_Bloch_7.jpg                                                                  Image by Cecile Bloch (PLOS ONE) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0), via Wikimedia Commons

 

In the grassland of Africa, monkeys have been documented in what might be termed a pre-domesticate relationship with wolves.

Each day, about noon, the wolves begin foraging for mice amongst herds of gelanda, a type of baboon. Presumably the gelanda make it easier to catch the mice since the rate of success for the wolves goes from 25% when they hunt alone to 67% when they hunt around the gelanda.

While wolves would normally consider baby monkeys dinner, they very rarely attack them. Indeed only one instance was ever noted and the other monkeys—numbering in the hundreds—drove the wolf away and would not let it return.

But what would the monkeys get from this arrangement? Grasslands are very dangerous places for monkeys. There are no trees to climb to seek protection. It is theorized the wolves might be providing protection from other predators, thus expanding the monkey’s foraging habitat.

 

Monkeys enter the Stone Age

dsc00015.jpg Image reproduced on several blog pages–unable to find original attribution

And then, just yesterday, New Scientist carried this article. Yes, macaque monkeys using stone “tools” to crack open marine life for food. Not only using tool, but looking for a different tool–one that might do the job better. (There is a YouTube for that.)

The article goes on to report chimpanzees have been using tools for 4000 years. So maybe not so new after all.

 

 

For more on the gorillas: Yirka, Bob. (2012, July 23). Gorillas filmed performing amazing feat of intellectual ability. PhysOrg. Retrieved 6/13/16 from http://phys.org/news/2012-07-gorillas-amazing-feat-intellectual-ability.html

For more on monkeys and wolves: Journal of Mammalogy, http://jmammal.oxfordjournals.org/content/96/1/129

For more on monkeys using toolsJournal of Human Evolution, DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2016.05.002