The Manuscript – Strange Factories
(For the first installment in this series covering the FoolishPeople’s ritual performance craft see - Entering the Theatre of Manifestation – Unveiling the FoolishPeople)
“There was a time when I found the concept of possession alien, exotic and dangerous. We Westerners have come to see possession a something akin to what we find in movies likeThe Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, The Serpent and the Rainbow and many other movies that feed the fear of the unknown taking possession of us. But these movies speak solely about the possession and obsession that might happen by the intrusion of hostile spirits upon ones being.”
- from The Mystery of Possession, Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold
Possession is an odd phenomena. Portrayed in the media as rare and uncertain, observed more carefully the basic elements of possession can be used to understand the underlying nature of our conscious experience. We are possessed by our self identity, a phantom, so easily unmoored, an accretion of habitual responses and memory that we cling to with such intensity we often miss the benefits of taking on another type of personal agency. Especially when we begin to realize that possession does not end with the body, or with the self, but exists within a web work of wider relationships and environmental memories.
FoolishPeople make a game of possession, they play with it, and fool’s play is a serious games to engage in. Whatever the internal driver we want to assign for possession, the state seen symptomatically involves changes in action and self perception radically altering how we interact with and experience the world around us. To invoke these changes willfully, to court the disassociation and potential permanence of alternate personalities and memory sets, is a very potent artistic tool.
History is a narrative, whose plot is often guided by the mistakes of well meaning scholars repeating errors and misrepresentations that have crept into the academic discourse. This usually happens due to the vast amount of information available, and the necessity to triage resources while pursuing tangential investigations of a specific topic. A good example of this is the legacy of Giordano Bruno, who has been labeled a “proto-scientist,” his legacy and martyrdom becoming a rhetorical device lauded by popular figures, like the physicist Michio Kaku, to highlight a sacrifice for humanistic science and free thought.
This image of Bruno has developed out of the strange and stilted public debate on the supposed conflict between religion and science, and the Catholic church’s ignoble position of having been the ruling worldly power during a long period of transition from ancient culture to our contemporary world. The lessons of the 20th century show us that had secular powers been in control, we still cannot be assured the persecutions, bloodshed and atavistic thinking could have been averted. The truth is beyond category, religious or secular, (those debating should read some of Bruno’s works!,) and this particular debate between those who take it upon themselves to represent the world’s faith traditions and those representing empirical science has done little to aid in humanity’s spiritual or empirical development.
“Obeah is notoriously difficult to define for those searching for a coherent system by this name. Obeah is, like witchcraft, a sorcerous art exercised by the one who possesses the ‘obi’ – or power. The Obeahman or woman inherits a particular power that aids effectively in enhancing the potency of their spellcraft, duppy-catching and sorcery.”
- From Obeah: A Sorcerous Ossuary, by Nicholaj De Mattos Frisvold
It was Santa Muerte who lead me to Obeah, or rather lead me more deeply into the question of Obeah after I had touched on it earlier while researching the cultural influence of mail-order occultist L.W. de Laurence. In searching out the popular streams, occult ephemera, and urban materia magica that attend to La Nina Bonita’s contemporary public emergence I encountered a deeper understanding of Obeah, an Afro-Latin spirituality that shares with Her a similar confusion in terms of practice and public persona.
These are ghost spiritualities, names spoken in hushed tones, complicated by fear, adoration, respect, and care. To find and understand their devotions is not possible through texts and dispossessed investigation, one must seek their very heart, and in doing so accept the price of seeing beyond the social boundaries that hold us safely in our comfortably commodified identities.
“Might we contrive one of those opportune falsehoods … so as by one noble lie to persuade if possible the rulers themselves, but failing that the rest of the city.”
- Plato in The Republic
“If you read it, you will be infected. If you are infected you will be InFicted. If you are InFicted, you will get UnFucted. “
- Joseph Matheny
Those who entered the digital world in the late 80’s and early 90’s were introduced to a nearly unfathomable host of possibilities for media and creativity. DVD’s offered the potential for integrative experiences that tracked user preferences and allowed for multiple story formats which changed with each viewing based on previous use, virtual reality models held the possibility for turning these experiences fully immersive, cell phones and wireless technology promised an unthought of openness to it all, and the internet allowed everyone to dream of a fully connected, creative global conversation that synchronized each aspect into a beautifully coordinated whole. Looking back on those dreams in light of growing concerns over surveillance, advertising, neuromarketing and the like one might wonder what happened to turn the dream into a lousy cold war sitcom.
It was a recent note from my friend Joseph Matheny that shuffled the dust around in my memory and made me realize that my current experience with technology isn’t quite as conducive to creativity as promised. Matheny is about to begin a series of classes for University of California – Santa Barbara (Click Here for More Information) that will cover the basics of multimedia and transmedia production, and I was glad to hear that his insights were going to be available to creatives coming into the field at a serious level. Hopefully it will bring some focus back to what these tools were intended for originally in the minds of their creators.
As one of the early pioneers in multimedia, his alternate reality game Ong’s Hat has become a reminder of what is possible with today’s technology, and a kick in the ass to today’s creatives that are allowing this potential to be misused, abused and denigrated by marketers and media corporations. Matheny’s vision of transmedia production doesn’t end with a shiny bit of intellectual property, it ends with reformatting the mytho-poetic infrastructure of consensus reality.
An experiment in digital tractology with inspiration from Deonna Kelli Sayed, author of Paranormal Obsession: America’s Fascination with Ghosts & Hauntings, Spooks & Spirits(Llewellyn, September 2011) and So You Want to Hunt Ghosts: A Down-To-Earth Guide (Llewellyn, October 2012).
Sayed’s article Why Ghost Hunter’s are Culturally Cool brings a sharp focus on community storytelling, cultural responsibility and collective memory to the field of paranormal investigation. This digital tract attempts to condense some of these ideas into a cohesive vision through the use of digital bibliomancy, cut-up technique and collage.
Note: Use of the ‘Pause’ button on the slide show is recommended for maximum comprehension and readability.
Shannon Taggart and Liminal Analytics: Applied Research Collaborative recently hosted George Hansen, author of the seminal Trickster and the Paranormal, for a series of talks at the Observatory in Brooklyn, NY. For those who were unable to attend in person, the talks are now available on Youtube!
A History of Parapsychology and Psychical Research
Whatever Happened to Parapsychology?
George Hansen was professionally employed in parapsychology laboratories for eight years—three at the Rhine Research Center in Durham, North Carolina, and five at Psychophysical Research Laboratories in Princeton, New Jersey. His experiments included remote viewing, card guessing, ganzfeld, electronic random number generators, séance phenomena, and ghosts. His papers in scientific journals cover mathematical statistics, fraud and deception, the skeptics movement, conjurors in parapsychology, and exposés of hoaxes. He has been active in a number of psychic, UFO, and New Age organizations, and he helped found a skeptics group. He is a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.
(For the second installment of this series please see: Entering the Theatre of Manifestation – The Art of Possession)
It’s a fool’s quest to go seeking strange angels and emergent archetypes in the muddled minds of the contemporary world. What more to seek to manifest them, confront them, engage with them in the hopes of giving some sense of trans-spiritual renewal to the blighted urbanism and abandoned traditions of today. So it is that the FoolishPeople step forward to take a task that few would be willing to see through, they have sought entry into the Theatre of Manifestation, and the gifts that they return with are pregnant with the possibilities of art and magic.
It is my pleasure to announce an ongoing project documenting these FoolishPeople and their living legacy, to share their tale of travel from avant-garde theatre, if one must fall into transient terminology, to manifesting Strange Factories, a cinematic spell that takes their tradition of magic and ritual into the digital age. With Theatre of Manifestation Unveiled we are invited to join them on a jocund journey, a rare opportunity for exploring a contemporary artistic tradition that remains well tried in the mysteries.
“What Flowers Indicate:
I have always noticed that wherever you find flowers, no matter whether in a garret or in a palace, it is a pretty sure sign that there is an inner refinement of which the world is not cognizant. I have seen flowers cultivated and cherished by some of the lowest and poorest of our people. Where these emblems of purity are found, you may rest assured that they represent a hope, and speak of a goodness of heart not to be found where they are absent.”
- from My Prayer Book – Happiness in Goodness: Reflections, Counsels, Prayers and Devotions by Rev. F.E. Lasance (Benzinger Brothers, INc. Printers to the Holy Apostolic See, 1944)
Tracking the flowering of the Santa Muerte tradition is a fascinating way to study the development of an “official” religion from the seeds of folk practice. In the United States alarmist media has spurred the interest of popular kitsch, and the images of La Madre Poderosa that have become part of the commercial aspect of Her cultus are an interesting way to engage in the changes that occur when a tradition begins to develop enough efficacy in the social domain to elicit commodification.
There is a slow shift in our cultural worldview surrounding the nature of consciousness. It’s a shift that is occurring in incremental stages, its main bulk still writhing below the surface of frothing rhetoric and opinionated debate, but Newsweek’s cover story this week marks an important change in the public discussion . Dr. Eben Alexander, an academic neurosurgeon, with 25 years of experience, including teaching at Harvard Medical School, has had an NDE.
In his upcoming book, Proof of Heaven: A Neuroscientist’s Journey into the Afterlife, Alexander describes in detail his Near Death Experience, which is detailed in brief through the Newsweek article, Heaven Is Real: A Doctor’s Experience With the Afterlife. His experience, as he understands it, radically altered the static assumptions that he had developed throughout his career in academic science.
F = 1/T
Original air-date: June 18, 1964. This recording is from the KVOS Channel 12 Films, Center for Pacific Northwest Studies, Western Washington University, Bellingham WA 98225-9123.