© 2018 Oracle of the Phoenix.: Visionary Encounters with the Radical Phoenix Lights

Jul 19, 2018

Apophenia, Pareidolia or Participation Mystique?

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Edited: Oct 9, 2018

 

Introduction

In the Summer 2018 JEEP Journal I talked about the Phoenix Lights UFO sighting, my role in its initial discovery,in its promotion in the media, and then I revealed a new discovery of terra-formed images in the landscape beneath the sighting area ten years later while writing a book about the event. What I didn’t provide was backstory on my own psychospiritual experiences as they relate to this “revelation” and how my project might fall within a kind of pathology that conventionally-minded researchers or critics might ascribe to both image recognition issues (Pareidolia) as well as my “connect-the-dots” narrative (Apophenia). In addition, the blurring of identity between subject and object denotes a “primitive state of identity in mutual unconsciousness” called Participation Mystique by the ARAS (The Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism).

 

Pareidolia?

Ever since I produced my book, I've been met with a critique around the terra-formed images shown near the UFO sighting. Many have said that my experience/vision (see www.oracleofthephoenix.com) was/is symptomatic of Pareidolia (seeing faces in clouds or Jesus’ face in a potato chip for instance). Usually this diagnosis came from a skeptical person, likely in the academic field who shied away from anything that might give credence to areas of pseudoscience or magical thinking that undermines what many consider to be - a strict physicalism or reductionist viewpoint. I’ve gone beyond that judgement to probe more of a scientific explanation around the concept of cognitive dissonance:

 

Perception itself is a match-mismatch process (Martindale, 1981). If there is a close match between perceptions and internal structures, both remain intact. Dissonance, however, brings about arousal, attention, thought and action aimed at removing the mismatch and replacing it by a better match. Internal schemes are either changed so they fit perceptual reality or perceptions are changed to match the schema. Thus, incongruent experiences may be assimilated through unconscious distortions that force them to conform to existing mythic structures, making them capable of accommodating the new input. In essence, when new information is not consistent with existing mythic structures, perceptions may be distorted in the service of maintaining consistency with the mythology – or the mythology may accommodate itself toward greater harmony with the experience.

-Myth and Development

 

What this says to me that being told that these images are terra-formed in a mountain – would automatically bring cognitive dissonance into the equation when seeking validation of their appearance from observers. I believe a scientific experiment could be constructed to test the ability to perceive the images in one group told about their actual context and another group told that it was an artwork created to test right brain recognition abilities. A control group would be told nothing – just report on what they see.

 

I've tried to approach this head-on by seeking out authorities in this area of mystical perception, including neurologists and psychiatrists who have done research papers. One professional who did provide feedback was the recently deceased, J. Marvin Spiegelman, author and former director of studies of Jungian Analysts of Southern California who said “Your book finally arrived, thank you, and I have read it cover to cover. I am impressed with your devotion and commitment to both depth and detail in your project and I believe you have found your myth, in Jung's sense". Does it bother me that he characterizes my book as myth? Not in the least - intellectually, especially when associating my work with his teacher Carl Jung who produced his own mythological treatise his "Red Book". Emotionally, however, it left me feeling out in the cold in regards to my “revelations” being able to make any difference in the world. I was left with focusing on making sense of my own experiences to help heal my own challenges dealing with the mysteries I’ve been exposed to and what they may mean.

 

Apophenia?

In the fall of 2006, I decided to go on a vision quest to the Teotihuacan pyramids near Mexico City. My friend Dennis and I went to celebrate my 50th birthday and he decided to go because he had spent many years accumulating significant wealth, had sold his business and was trying to find a spiritualty that could work to balance out his life. We decided to join a group led by an apprentice of Don Miguel Ruiz who was well-known for his Toltec inspired novel – The Four Agreements. I was at the stage of my life where I was also trying to develop more of my spiritualty as I was exploring Kabbalah.

 

The Avenue of the Gods was multi-leveled with a Toltec guide taking us through a journey of the four elements of most all spiritual disciplines, Fire, Air, Water, Earth. There were initiations we took through each of these stages and visited the structures associated with those elementals. We were introduced to Quetzalcoatl who many have interpreted as a Mesoamerican version of the Phoenix mythology found elsewhere. The feathered serpent appeared in Mayan myths with associations to the planet Venus – the morning star, alluding to Christ-like similarities. Quetzalcoatl was supposed to show up as the Mayan 5th Sun gave way to a new 6th Sun scheduled to happen at the end of the Mayan calendar which was supposed to occur at the end of 2012.

 

The group went through meditations on the top of the pyramids culminating on the Pyramid of the Sun where the guide used a technique to cause the group to fall down into an unconscious state. I chalked this up to some kind of hypnotic suggestion given by someone they had vested authority into. I went along with the “charade” by laying down and faking my unconscious state but my friend Dennis felt he had a legitimate mind-altering experience where he felt in contact with angelic-like beings. Others had similar experiences – I felt nothing. I did have some other strange experiences during our time at other spots. At the Butterfly Palace, I walked across the courtyard and felt myself suddenly weightless and able to bounce from one area of the walkway to another – it was quite extraordinary but it seemed to me isolated to my consciousness only.

 

Our trip to Teo ended and we returned home to our mundane lives where I had decided to delve deeper in Kabbalah – especially the areas dealing with the Shekinah – the feminine aspect of God, who according to tradition, had been exiled until the end-times when our earth would be filled with her presence.

 

This notion of the sacred presence brought me back to a peak experience I had in Israel, 20 years earlier in 1977. I felt I was lacking a true sense of home at the young age of 20. I was touring with members of my kibbutz when we went to the Dead Sea where we “swam” but actually floated in the muck they call a sea but was so filled with salt that nothing could live in it. Afterwards we went to an oasis nearby with fresh water springs called Ein Gedi (recently found out that in Hebrew it means the”seeing springs”) where we cleaned-up and refreshed ourselves from just having floated in death. Some of the Dead Sea Scrolls had been found in this area as well as an ancient temple. As I was standing in the entrance area, I was overcome by a feeling of oneness and wholeness I had never felt before (non-drug induced). I had visions of visiting with families in homes where no one questioned their belonginess. Everything felt perfect, right – without consideration of past or future but just a very huge beautiful present – though I thought I must be in the future. I felt myself moving up in consciousness where I believed I would merge with others but at the expense of my own self or ego and then was brought down, back into my normative state, though the feelings had so impressed themselves upon me that I had continued to take them with me into the springs where we could drink the fresh water as it cascaded into the pools. This same feeling of having arrived to my inner spiritual home – I took back with me to Los Angeles where I soon entered a metaphysical “mystery school” where I was initiated into a small group of seekers at the Annie Besant Lodge in the Hollywood Hills.

 

I had been drawn into this group by girlfriend who believed I needed to let go of my Jewish conditioning which she equated with victimhood. I went through the program to please her but ended up embracing many of the teachings, which years later, I found had correlated with Jewish Kabbalah. I had many similar experiences of altered states while going through these studies including some experiences with telekinesis and out-of-body experiences. Telepathy was also proved to me by attending lessons in my dream state with my teacher which we followed up with in our waking states. A large part of the program was to also resurrect the feminine sides of ourselves which we normally repressed and projected onto willing partners. If we were to achieve a sense of inner wholeness we needed to reclaim both sides of our being.

 

Returning to the period just after our trip to Teotihuacan in 2006, I began writing what I thought was a book on Kabbalah bringing in all kinds of sacred geometry concepts that had been bubbling up inside me and had been teaching in a class I initiated at a Unity Church in my neighborhood. Why I took the leap to teaching a class with little subject matter experience still alludes me but it did force me to take an even deeper dive into the material. Along with that, I began to revisit my Ein Gedi peak experience from 20 years earlier. It seems like my unusual experiences followed a ten-year pattern. Ein Gedi in 1977, the death of a close childhood friend of AIDs in 1987 (which led my wife and I to become volunteers for AIDS Project Los Angeles (which forced me to deal with my repressed inner feminine), the Phoenix Lights sighting in 1997, writing Oracle of the Phoenix in 2007 and publishing these articles in 2017/2018 along with serious investigation into the psychological and neurological aspects of my journey.

 

Just before I encountered the images in the mountains, I was visited by another vision or psychological break, depending on how one views it. As I was writing the book that had morphed into a Kabbalistic study of the UFO encounter, I decided to revisit Ein Gedi and what had happened to me there in 1977. I went online and came across information about the temple excavated on the site which at the time of my visit was not open to tourists until after renewed excavations in 1996. The whole interior of the synagogue and the pillars were covered with white plaster and painted decorations and a new, colored mosaic floor was laid. The central hall contained a mosaic carpet decorated with a pattern of four-petalled flowers; in the center is a circle with four birds and on the corners of the outer, square frame are pairs of peacocks.

 

 

The floor included inscriptions. One inscription also includes a warning and a curse:

Warnings to those who commit sins causing dissension in the community, passing malicious information to the gentiles, or revealing the secrets of the town.

 

The one whose eyes roam over the entire earth and sees what is concealed will uproot this person and his seed from under the sun and all the people will say, Amen. Selah.

 

The mosaic floor found in this research began to have a very unusual effect on me. I began to experience visions of a most unusual sort. The floor came alive with a spinning quality that began to show me historical images that seemed sourced to a vortex or portal underneath this floor. For me this was a Pareidolia experience on steroids though I didn’t see it that way at the time. Everything was animated as the floor took on images of faces of well-known figures who seemed pre-destined vis a vis energies created on a higher plane but manifesting in our normal day-to-day world. I sensed I was caught up in a multi-dimensional experience as I encountered mythical figures such as the gods of the Sumerian myths made famous by Zachariah Sitchin.

 

I printed out the image of the mosaic floor and began to turn it with more images showing such as it being represented as the center of our reality as if pyramids of consciousness were resident underneath the floor and its expression went back and forth between dimensions. I could also envision this portal moving around Israel as new narratives emerged from this source of myth and manifested experience.

 

This visionary experience lasted for three days. I was able to function in my everyday life knowing that I had to do what I could to turn off the visions and focus on my work. At the same time, I was still obsessed with making sense of this experience and was sure that others would be able to see the strangeness emanating from the floor. I had a friend make a silk screen imprint of the floor which I showed to my wife and some friends including Dennis from Teo. I sent an online photo to my cousin in L.A. who was also an animator and asked him to animate the image so we could see it spin like a mandala. No one was able to see what I was seeing or tap into the alternate realities I was experiencing. I attended a hockey game with Dennis where I shared the insights I was getting for pretty much the entire game. I saw how the birth of our existence occurred in a most disgusting manner. I knew I was seeing distorted images and that I was experiencing the realm of myth in a strange way. But I kept with the images until they eventually gave way to a heightened state without the psychic noise that had enveloped me and then the floor lost it magical powers as a portal to other planes and became just a picture - leaving me totally baffled concerning why this happened to me. What I later surmised was that this 3-day excursion into “God knows where” may have been a type of active imagination experience that drove Jung’s Red Book. If this was like that, perhaps the mosaic floor was trying to impress something important upon me. Perhaps – I was “connecting-the-dots” of my visions like putting the pieces of tile in the mosaic together to present a full picture of disparate myths and theology I eventually bound up in my narrative. Apophenia is defined as the spontaneous perception of connections and meaningfulness of unrelated phenomena. I could go along with this “diagnosis” if the material I was linking up was entirely unrelated (even the Phoenix Lights appeared as shape-shifting dots in the sky) – but after 40 years of evolution along similar themes, I can only attribute this experience to my inner daemon as Hillman describes it.

 

“Sooner or later something seems to call us onto a particular path. You may remember this “something” as a signal moment in childhood when an urge out of nowhere, a fascination, a peculiar turn of events struck like an annunciation: This is what I must do, this is what I’ve got to have. This is who I am.”

-The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling, James Hillman

 

Participation Mystique?

I’d like to end this essay with a discussion of Participation Mystique. Following is an excerpt of Mark Winborn’s article from his book “Shared Realities Participation Mystique and Beyond”.

 

“I’d like to close this section with an examination of Neumann’s concept of ‘unitary reality’ which I believe is one of the most unappreciated conceptual developments to emerge from Jung’s incorporation of participation mystique into the system of analytical psychology. Neumann indicates that a primary feeling experience of unitary reality is the sense that something is being unified, something previously split is coming together again and redeemed, or that something previously in exile or banishment is reclaimed. He also describes the experience of unitary reality as “the process whereby reality becomes transparent.”

 

Neumann proposes that there are two types of consciousness: “conscious knowledge” and “perceiving knowledge” or “extraneous knowledge.” He associates “conscious knowledge” with the ego-complex which splits experience into polarized categories, and indicates that “perceiving” or “extraneous” consciousness is knowledge that is beyond the ability of the ego-complex to process. It is through this “extraneous knowledge dimension” that Neumann hypothesizes a meaningful order and connection with our environments is discernible.

Neumann argues that when a personality is immersed in an archetypal field it means, “There is a reciprocal co-ordination between world and psyche…a co-ordination which is based on the archetypal structure which embraces both, or of which both are partial aspects…” which “leads to an emotionally toned unitary experience.” He underscores the essentially inter-dependent nature of the field of unitary reality and states that unitary fields encompass interactions between human beings, between human beings and animals, between human beings and things, and between animals and their environment.

 

Neumann argues that through the excess focus on conscious knowledge we have renounced awareness of the world’s unity and continuity, as well as its aliveness and significance, which Neumann indicates is primarily experienced through feelings and intuition. Expanding on this idea, Neumann indicates, “We have lost our sense of unitary reality, our experience of identity and of the sympathy of all things, and as a result we have fallen into solitude and isolation of a dead and empty cosmic space.””

 

The notion of Participation Mystique, updated with Winborn’s “Shared Realities” adds a new dimension to my experience. What it suggests to me is that rather than a “vision” originating from higher levels of my own mind, perhaps I was tapping into a dialog between what I was seeing and how it was responding to me – as a living being – Gaia, which the Greeks thought of as the poetic nature of the earth symbolized by a pantheon of gods and goddesses.

 

When I’m forced to give a soundbite of what the takeaway from Oracle of the Phoenix should be, I’m led to the conclusion that our earth is just as much alive as we are. While our species has been fragmented, and split into warring tribal forces, the unitary desire is moot for Gaia. We could be here and now realizing that the pursuit of heaven is pointless as the world soul (Anima Mundi) seeks our recognition and care.

 

"Let us imagine the anima mundi neither above the world encircling it as a divine and remote emanation of spirit, a world of powers, archetypes, and principles transcendent to things, nor within the material world as its unifying panpsychic life-principle. Rather let us imagine the anima mundi as that particular soul-spark, the seminal image, which offers itself through each thing in its visible form. Then anima mundi indicates the animated possibilities presented by each event, as it is, its sensuous presentation as face bespeaking its interior image--in short, its availability to imagination, its presence as a psychic reality. Not only animals and plants ensouled as in the Romantic vision, but soul is given with each thing; God-given things of nature and man-made things of the street." ~James Hillman, “Anima Mundi,” Spring, 1982

 

Pareidolia, Apophenia, Participation Mystique are certainly possible ways of characterizing my experience. However, I’m afraid some things are destined to remain as mystery and operate as a myth that may or not be shared with others or become embraced as “truth”. All I can do is tell the story.

Oct 4, 2018Edited: Oct 4, 2018

Finally we look at the subject of psychosis as it relates to the creative, mystical and visionary experience that seem to drive the Oracle of the Phoenix project I've been engaged in for more than two decades. The manic state has been very active at points in my journey as detailed in the post above. The attached PDF goes into a deep dive on this topic which has been eye opening for me as I continue to integrate my experiences into my life and deal with the psychological implications.

 

.https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/057d7d_3529e5fa930648ebbdeeab2a796716cd.pdf

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He writes " Esotericism can be understood as a general label for all those traditions in Western culture that had been rejected by rationalist and scientific thinkers since the eighteenth century, the period of the Enlightenment, as well as by dominant forms of Protestant Christianity since the sixteenth century, the age of the Reformation (Hanegraaff 2012). It has often been assumed that everything that had ended up in this reservoir of “rejected knowledge” belongs to a single great spiritual tradition, imagined as a kind of traditional Western counterculture parallel to a similar tradition of Oriental esotericism. These Eastern and Western esoteric traditions are then supposed to be grounded ultimately in one and the same ancient and universal wisdom. However, such assumptions have much more to do with the personal perspectives and background agendas of modern and contemporary observers and practitioners than with the reality of how various currents, ideas, or practices nowadays labeled as “esoteric” have actually function(ed) in their own specific time and context. In other words, there is often an enormous difference between the “esotericism” of the popular imagination and the “esotericism” of the social and historical realities that are being studied under that label." I'm attaching a chapter from one of his books " Esotericism Theorized: Major Trends and Approaches to the Study of Esotericism" as well as his concluding remarks posted here as a snippet: "We have been looking at the five most important theoretical perspectives that are operative in the modern study of esotericism: religionism, sociology, the study of secrecy and concealment, discursive approaches, and historicism. 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How should one understand “Western” esotericism in view of its spread to Oriental cultures and other parts of the world, or in view of structural parallels in other cultural contexts? What happens to our understandings of “esotericism” when one crosses the boundary from religious studies to other disciplines in the humanities and the social sciences, or even such disciplines as cognitive science or evolutionary biology? And if the focus is on esoteric discourses in religion generally, then is it necessary to keep setting the field apart at all, or shouldn’t we rather allow it to dissolve into the general study of religion? Scholars have different opinions about each of these questions, and of course I have my own opinion as well (see e.g. Hanegraaff 2013b; 2015). The field referred to as “esotericism” can be constructed and understood in different ways by different scholars, according to each person’s theoretical assumptions and background agendas. 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