The 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
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.
By . ([dead link] Archived copy: ) [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?”
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.