Altered States in ‘08.

I. Body.
4/11/08

It’s April eleventh, and I’m on the toilet taking a dump and reading Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle when I notice that I’m getting incredibly tired all of a sudden. I wanted to type out the rest of my notebook writings this week, the shit I’ve been writing about everything, and the bit of shit from last week I never got the chance to type out, but the coffee is simply not kicking in for some reason. As I’m reading, I’m finding my eyes are closing and I’m getting that falling feeling, like I’m falling or wobbling out of my skin. I’m not just tired, no, I’m inexplicably exhausted, ready to zonk out, so I just finish my chapter and climb into bed. And, poof, I’m out like a light.

Sometime later, I wake up, immobilized. I can’t see anything, all is just a black, formless void, and I can only hear and feel things faintly, but it’s clear I’m being moved. It feels like I’m being pulled across some fabric of some kind, like polyester, and I can hear that high-pitched screeching as my body’s pulled across the fabric or whatever it is. I feel so numb and passive, though, so fucking relaxed that struggling to open my eyes and see what the fuck is really going on never even crosses my mind. In retrospect, that bothers me, and it bothers me even more that it only bothers me in retrospect and didn’t bother me at the time.

When I wake up, things aren’t right, and I immediately know this is the case. I’m awake, but I’m not in my body, not really, not in the physical sense. I still can’t say if this kind of experience is a dream or some parallel reality or another plane of existence, but the fact of the matter is that I’m wide awake in this place and it’s not our traditional waking world. Perhaps this is just a lucid dream. Regardless, I wake to find myself in some version of the room I used to live in when I was at my parent’s house. It’s dark and there’s a bed, a sofa chair, but the room seems tinier than my room was when I lived with my parents and far more cluttered. I get up, fully aware that this isn’t real, or at least what we traditionally regard as real, and I look around the room.

I stand up and look in the mirror, which I have developed a certain fondness for doing when this sort of thing happens, this astral projection or whatever this is. My reflected image seems distorted in places, and I don’t know if it’s due to smudges on the mirror or it’s just my vision, but overall, I certainly look like me. Getting real close to the glass, I start searching for the scratch on my nose that I know I just got at work last night, but I cannot find it, and I’m curious and amused. The longer and closer I look the more I notice that my eyes look a hell of a lot shinier, a lot darker, and the glare off of them is so great I can hardly see my pupils or iris. I reach for my cigarettes because I really want to smoke one, and I put one in my mouth, holding off on lighting it. I’m thinking about going out the door of my room, maybe roaming around, checking the place out, maybe going downstairs, but I’m still drawn back to the mirror, finding myself transfixed on the reflection of my own image. Suddenly, it looks as if my chest isn’t my chest anymore, but my back. It looks like my head’s on backward. And then I wake up.

I don’t remember anything exactly after waking up, but I remember walking down my parent’s stairs, and my mother is talking to someone, some guy I know, who has just come in from outside. It suddenly comes to my attention that mom was somehow observing throughout the whole parallel reality or dream experience I just had. That was my inexplicable and sudden assumption at first, anyway. When I hear her talk to the other guy, it seems that he observed it all, too, and they were quite interested in it all. She started describing the dream, and the guy’s agreeing with her, with every word she uses to describe it. She starts talking about some riverbank, though, and he nods, and that’s when I shake my head at both of them. “No,” I say to them, “mine was different,” because I remembered, of course, no riverbank.

Just then I look out the door the guy had just come in from, which looks no different from my parent’s door in reality, and I see a face, a body on the ground outside the door, just on the edge of what appears to be a river beyond the door. I feel an instant sense of alarm, yelling, “BODY,” as I run down the remaining steps and cross the dining room and run out the door.

When I get outside, however, there is no river’s edge – no riverbank, that is. Just a lush, green lawn, but the body is still there. It’s a young, blond-haired body, eyes closed, just lying there with his legs together, arms at his sides, comfortable and not looking dead at all. Just lying motionless in the sun upon the lush green grass of what seems to be a beautiful summer day. I’m not good at judging age, but he’s maybe nine or ten years old, I’d say, if forced to guess. I just look at him, curious and confused.

And then I wake up again, but I’m inside my head, trying to find a way out, trying to wake up in the right place this time, and suddenly I wake up in my bed. I run to my computer desk and try to write it all down, try to remember as much as I can because I feel this is incredibly important. My eyes, as I write, they’re all out of focus; it’s as if I can only clearly see out of one, and the other’s all fucked up. My teeth feel as if they’ve been clenching. Am I having seizures during these experiences? I’m not sure. I can’t be sure about anything.

I look at the clock, and it reads 10:34 in the morning. It was ten-something when I went to bed, which means the whole experience, it shouldn’t have taken longer than half an hour, and probably considerably less. My experience seems like it might have fit into those time constraints if it was exactly ten when I went to bed, but I would have had to have started “dreaming” or whatever as soon as my head hit the pillow. That seems incredibly unlikely.

And I think about the kid in the dream, and my mind goes back to the kid I saw on December 15, 2001, and the weird experiences that followed that encounter, and how that child I saw way back when seemed to be maybe four, and how the kid I just saw in the dream or whatever, he seemed to be maybe ten, and I just shake my head, because that doesn’t help this make sense.

II. Altogether Numb With Psychospiritual Novocain.
6/1/08

It’s the Wednesday before last. It’s raining outside, and I spent the drive home trying to relax, doing my little mental ritual that makes me feel more protected and secure, all the while hoping to high hell I won’t go tires-on-a-Slip-N’-Slide and hydroplane. And that my spare won’t go flat. That a deer won’t run out in front of me. That I won’t veer into oncoming traffic. I try to make the relaxation come on more easily by putting on some pleasantly distracting music, but the only songs playing on the radio bring back angry, frightening and depressing memories, most of them from high school, slightly before or shortly thereafter. I finally settle on listening to Guns N’ Roses November Rain, which is a peculiar choice, considering the song’s themes. You know. Rainy weather, death.

Having survived the trip home, I pull into what has become my usual parking space in the lot outside my apartment. I open the door, smell the exhaust from my car, put out my cigarette in the ashtray overloaded with tangled butts and clumps of soot. Outside, the rain beats down on me. I’m leaning in the open door, reaching in for my book bag, when something weird happens.

My consciousness suddenly shifts. Like a head rush, but more than a head rush. More breadth and width than a head rush. Just for a brief second, just for a blink, it’s suddenly as if I’m looking, feeling, hearing, smelling it all from outside myself, behind myself, above myself but through myself. It’s not just the perspective that’s changed, either, but my sense of self. It’s as if my everyday ego is just some costume I put on, some role I play, and this is a deeper aspect of me waking up after a snooze and just peeking through the curtain. And this hiding, now-peeking-out me seems so much more awake and alive. I feel like I am somebody I am, but I’m not the me I fooled myself into believing I was.

I look around and realize that I’m leaning inside a vehicle, reaching for a book bag. That I have a job and go to college and live alone and have somehow managed to survive enough to get here. And I am awash with perplexity and disbelief. I realize a lot must have transpired in order to get here and I am skeptical with respect to the notion that I really am. This can’t really be the case, can it? How did I get here? How did I make it this far? This is inconceivable, considering where I was last time I peeked out from behind the curtain. It’s exciting, I notice — the freedom I have — but the world is also frightening. I find it amazing that this world even exists, really. That the circumstances are the way they are.

It’s as if I’ve just really woken up out of this dream-like zombie state I’d been in since who knew when. And everything I — the me I think I am — takes for granted, it’s all so unbelievable.

This sudden shift in consciousness lasts a second, as I said, a mere second, and I shift back. I go on about my usual routine like it never happened, but inside my apartment, I’m contemplating. It’s so weird how we live the majority of our lives thinking we’re awake when in a moment we realize just how asleep we’ve really been. We’re altogether numb with psychospiritual Novocain, really.

III. The Blurs Strike Again.
6/16/08

It was Sunday, somewhere between four-thirty and five-thirty in the evening, I was at work, and I had just come back inside after having taken out the trash. It didn’t hit me until I looked at the face of Pops Girl in the drive-thru that something was wrong. Although I was looking dead at her I couldn’t see her entire face. I looked at Gus, at others, and it was the same thing. Looking at her eyes, I couldn’t see the bottom half of their faces; their mouths, their chin, were just gone from my field of vision. It affected part of the side of their face, too; focusing on one eye, I couldn’t see the other. I tried to act natural. Tried to keep calm. As I walked passed people, I noticed that in the upper-to-middle right-hand corner of my field of vision there was this purple blob, kind of like the blob you get when you stare at a light for a really long time, only this was remaining stationary, pulsating. And it didn’t remain a purple blob for long, either; soon it became what I’ve come to call a ”distortion worm.” In the same place in the upper-to-middle right-hand corner of my field of vision, it was this wavy line that looked a lot like a slithering snake, only it was stationary and pulsating, and though it was transparent, it distorted everything it obstructed and began to shimmer in these sparkling rainbow colors.

Maybe I should just shut up about it this time, I told myself. If I ignore it, the blurs will probably eventually go away, and trying to explain this to people who don’t understand and won’t give so much as half a shit won’t do me any good anyway. I went in the back, though, to start cleaning the top of the shake machine when Moe, over by the fryers, asks me if I’m okay, and I had to confess I didn’t know. I tried to explain to him what was happening, how it starts with the purple blob, transforms into a distortion worm and then it slowly grows across the center of my line of sight until I have nothing but the most minute amount of peripheral vision to go on. Two other guys in the kitchen, Louie and Ronnie, take interest in what I’m saying. Louie steps in and offers that it might be something in my eye, maybe a hair, or maybe a cataract or perhaps my eyesight has been going bad, but I shake my head, tell him I don’t see how any of the above could be true. For one thing, this isn’t the first time this has happened to me. It happened first on September 30, 2002, and it happened on three more occasions after that. But it hasn’t happened to me in five years. Not since my last day at the first store I worked at, as a matter of fact. So it just doesn’t seem like this would be a cataract or my eyesight going bad. And the idea of something being stuck in my eye seems just as unlikely. It’s not my eye, it’s my field of vision — I can cover either eye and it’s still happening. It’s happening in my head, in my brain; the problem can’t be located in my eyes.

Back when this had begun happening the first time, it was shortly after I had met Angela Briss. Eventually, she and I would sit down over some coffee and she’d tell me some interesting, weird things that had occurred to her over the course of her life rather consistently — shit that sounded quite familiar. Among her experience was something she called “the blurs,” which was, it seemed, exactly what had been happening to me.

The last time I had an attack of the blurs was, as I said, my last day at the first McDonalds I worked at, which also happened to be the last day I had ever seen her. Just a few days ago, I finally found Angela online and tried to contact her, though I hadn’t heard back from her. I don’t see how that could be anything more than coincidence, but I think it’s worth noting. Another thing worth noting is that when I described this particular experience to my parents sometime later, it turns out my ”blur attacks” sounded exactly like what my mother saw during the extremely serious migraines she used to have when I was really young. The distortion worm would start at one end of her field of vision and slowly work its way across her field of vision, sparkling and pulsating until it reached the other side, at which time her migraine would just be over. The difference in my case is that the blurs don’t always go that far, but sometimes they go farther — either way, a headache never accompanies them, though I do feel a “pressure” in my head and my state of consciousness is drastically warped.

It’s also true that I’ve been freaking out a lot lately, however, and that I hadn’t gotten any sleep the night before. Aside from that, I’d been contemplating whether the ailments I’ve been suffering as of late might have been of a psychosomatic nature. One issue was the sharp ache in my right foot, which made it extremely painful to walk on — incredibly for one day, and then increasingly less for two to three days afterward. Then, after that had dissipated, I felt this lump in my ear and one morning I awoke with the entire side of my face throbbing with this profound ache that subsided in a day or two. Perhaps these ailments, as well as the blurs, were all psychosomatic reactions to stress, which for various reasons have been high lately. For one thing, they all occurred on the right side of my body. For another, I’m almost sure the blurs have to be psychosomatic because when I can manage to relax they suddenly subside.

As I was cleaning the shake machine, the blurs got a bit worse, with the distortion worm crawling a little further across my field of vision and another blob forming on the lower half of the right side of my visual field, pulsating. My vision got all surreal as if everything was in a sort of haze and at a distance, but it slowly seemed to calm, and after I went out for a cigarette it seemed to subside entirely.

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Of Spinning Wheels and Skipping Records.

Though it has been plain to me and has, in fact, plagued me for a good, long while, I only recently came to learn there have been various terms for it in psychology: fate neurosis, destiny neurosis, and most recently, it seems, repetition compulsion. In essence, this is an individual’s unconscious impulse to repeat their history over and over again, in many cases while remaining exceptionally blind to the fact.

It appears to me as if there are at least three steps to repetition compulsion. The origin of the skipping record is typically perceived as a “seed story” or circumstance one faced while in childhood and as a consequence tends to deal with the relationship one had with one’s caretakers. One may have been neglected or abandoned, physically or sexually abused, or perhaps suffered under the reign of an authoritative parent. Another dawning situation, as it is with one dear friend of mine, may be a home life that breeds parentification — a process in which the child is forced to take on the role of the parent due to the actual parent’s general incompetence when it comes to parenting. There are potentially endless scenarios for such a seed story.

Whatever the circumstances, there comes a time when the child is no longer technically a child and so she wastes no time getting the bloody fuck out of dodge. Consciously determined, she then attempts to make her own life, but the subliminal aspects of her being, addicted to that familiar story, immediately get the shakes and they quickly intervene. Though she isn’t aware of it, she then finds herself unconsciously gravitating towards people and finding herself in circumstances that have an uncanny affinity with the people and circumstances she had just managed to escape. Like a shadow, the weight of her history appears fundamentally inescapable: the past, it seems, is forever present.

After successfully anchoring herself in the familiar, the phenomenon of transference takes hold, prompting her to exhibit conditioned reactions in her new context and inevitably, through projective identification, generates the desired reactions from the other person or people in question. In this way, the feedback loop creates and maintains the familiar circumstance.

Repetition compulsion can also come in one of two forms, the most direct being what we could call the Remake. If we can conceive of the original story as a sort of movie, every subsequent regurgitation would constitute a remake. I say this because the distinguishing feature of a remake is that it honors the source material, plagiarizing where it can get away with it and striving to pay homage where it must yield to the call for modernization.

The easiest personal example I can offer is Sandra, who was a longtime friend before I finally had to sever the close tie. Part of the reason was her overall lack of empathy and compassion, particularly with me, despite the fact that I exercised such empathy and compassion with her. The second reason, related and more to my point here, is that she was unable to see the Groundhog Day nature of circumstances, particularly when it came to men. She used to come into my room in the house I shared with her and her brother, lay on my bed and spill her soul to me, raw and unfiltered. This in and of itself is not unusual, as even total strangers tend to do this with me. I don’t mind. But over the course of countless failed relationships, I was hearing damn near the same exact story. No matter what part of the story she happened to be in at the timeI could tell her not only how she had gotten there but where it was going.

It should have been for her like it was expressed in that Nine Inch Nails song, “Everyday Is Exactly the Same”:

“I believe I can see the future
because I repeat the same routine.”

But she never saw it. I have often critiqued her for being unable to see beyond her own head to understand others; the truth of the matter was that she seemed utterly incapable of seeing so much as herself. Her deafness towards her own skipping record life soundtrack was heartbreaking and endlessly frustrating.

By no means is this phenomenon limited to her, of course. I certainly see it in my own life — but for me, that was and remains the difference: I see it. If nothing else, strive to gain some degree of self-awareness, for fuck’s sake.

Another way in which repetition compulsion can play out is in the form of Role Reversal. Whereas in the remake the person always plays the ego, the role they played in the seed story, here the person plays the role of their shadow, seeking out or forcing another into their previous position.

In many cases this can lead down a rather dark path: while you seek out the same general circumstances inherent in your core story, you now abandon your dawning role as the victim and put on the costume and mask of the victimizer. The song “Prison Sex” off of Tool’s album, Undertow, encapsulates the essential nature of this, perfectly summarizing the underlying aim with the line: “Do unto others what has been done to you.”

There may be various underlying motivations for repetition compulsion. Seeking out the familiar, no matter how painful, provides a greater sense of psychological security than the health and safety that may be possible, even probable, given a different pattern, simply because familiarity offers predictability, and therefore the illusion of control — and that’s certainly part of it. Also, as has been said in the case of recurring dreams and flashbacks, it may be an attempt on behalf of the unconscious to discharge emotions or desensitize one to the stimulus through relentless redundancy. Conversely, it may be an unconscious attempt to master the circumstance, to find a solution, to achieve resolution.

This sounds an awful lot like the Hindu take on reincarnation, which is to say we keep repeating the same damned cycle, our story, until we ultimately extinguish our desires. Buddhism offers a different take on the matter: one can take charge and work towards escaping the cycle now, within this lifetime, within this most recent adaptation of our recurring story. It involves transcending the ego and, as a consequence, the circumstances it compulsively perpetuates through mindfulness — through witnessing rather than engaging with the mind.

There may be additional measures one could take to escape the chains of their existential echoes, however: creative outlets. Just as our seed story can manifest in our objective circumstances it can also manifest in our music, play, writing, art, as well as in dreams and hallucinations, making us more mindful through the reflection such creativity offers. Carl Jung’s Active Imagination technique could potentially accelerate the process, too.

Thought-Talk Monologue Voice-Over.

Some might say
that you never existed
in the first place,

but your reality was cemented
in me through the nature
of our conversations.

Just as they use
verbal communication
atop nonverbals,

you use subjective still-frames
and mental motion pictures
complemented

by a thought-talk
monologue
voice-over.

Imagination
is your telepathic
nonverbal.

You’re the best voice
that’s ever been
in my head.

Evil 23, Deathbunnies and Other Synchronicities.

Analytical psychologist Carl Jung was the first to introduce synchronicity as a concept, variously defining it between the 1920s and 1950s as an “acausal connecting principle,” “acausal parallelism,” and perhaps most popularly as “meaningful coincidence.” It serves as the unifying force behind most, if not all, of what is considered paranormal, parapsychological or psi phenomena, which is to say the effectively hidden connections that allegedly weave together all that is.

During high school I got my first whiff of what synchronicity was, though it was not until I spoke with my friend Channing that I learned of the word or how the particular manifestation that I had been experiencing at the time had plagued others in frighteningly similar ways. It began when I had written in the editorial of the online magazine a few friends and I had begun publishing at the time. In the editorial I had made the passing comment, more or less just another bitter and sarcastic comment of mine, on how I expected to be dead by age 23.

Shortly thereafter the number began to appear everywhere. I grabbed a bottle of cooking oil at work and the number was magic-markered on the white cap on top. One of the manager’s children approached me later in the day and had the number on his shirt. I’d look at the clock and see that it would be 5:23. The next time I’d look, it’d be 7:23. I’d get an order at a restaurant and my call number would be twenty-three.

Only after this began happening did I learn through Channing that others have had the same experiences with this number. In his 1977 book Cosmic Trigger, Robert Anton Wilson writes of the experience where, it would seem, all this shit with the number 23 started:

“In the early ‘60s in Tangier, Burroughs knew a certain Captain Clark who ran a ferry from Tangier to Spain. One day, Clark said to Burroughs that he’d been running the ferry 23 years without accident. That very day, the ferry sank, killing Clark and everybody aboard… In the evening, Burroughs was thinking about this when he turned on the radio. The first newscast told about the crash of an Eastern Airlines plane in New York-Miami route. The pilot was another Captain Clark and the flight was listed as a flight 23.”

Burroughs went on to keep a list of strange coincidences, discovering along the journey that 23 ended up in quite a bit of them. When Robert Anton Wilson heard about this, he began documenting such coincidences as well. The 23 synchronicity was also eventually incorporated into the Principia Discordia, a book that inspired Discordianism, an intentionally-disorganized pseudo-religion borne from the minds of certain members of the drug culture in the sixties. They worshipped Eris, the goddess of Chaos, who is associated with the number five and, by extension, 23.

Though I initially treated it as a joke, over time it’s humorous aura evaporated and it began evolving into a far more sober curiosity and concern. Though many insisted I had been unconsciously hunting for the number — that I was unconsciously seeking it out, remembering when I saw it and forgetting when I did not — my experiences often suggested to me that it was this vile double-digit that was doing the stalking. There were times when the synchronicities got so high and so fucking ridiculous that this explanation seemed quite difficult for me to swallow in all seriousness.

I revisited this synchronicity with numbers yet again roughy a decade later, when I finally began attending college, and it was at that point that it became quite apparent to me that the number 23 itself did not bear any cosmic synchronistic property. After reading up on Douglas Adams, who once attested in his books that the meaning to life was 42, I began seeing that number everywhere as well. And after reading up on the Eastern mala, which traditionally has 108 beads, and watching the television show LOST, which deals with synchronicities involving all the aforementioned numbers and then some, I began seeing the number 108 everywhere as well.

And there was, of course, the fact that this phenomenon proved to extend beyond numbers. This I came to realize shortly after 23 started haunting me. I began to notice that despite the fact that I would talk to different people who did not talk or even know of one another, they would nonetheless bring up the same subjects with me, suggest the same things, make the same observations, pose the same questions, indicate the same ideas, reference the same sources. In rebellion against any semblance of rationality it often seemed as though some force behind existence was pointing towards or away from a particular direction through use of countless tiny fingers: call them omens, warnings, signs.

Sometimes I’d be innocently thinking of someone I haven’t thought of or seen in a very long time and within the day I’d bump into them or they’d call me or otherwise reach out to me. On other occasions, I might think of someone — a girl — not so innocently. Though it had, like that evil 23, first began as a joke, I noticed more and more often that when I had a particularly powerful sexual fantasy about a girl while masturbating that she would contact me or cross my path within a day or two — even if I had not seen that girl in months or years. Though relatively rarely, in a few instances the girl in question confessed to having had a dream of me, often sexual in nature.
For a long while, I thought that telepathy stood as a sufficient explanation across the board with respect to my whack-off voodoo, and in many cases I think this still stands as a worthy explanation. In other cases it just didn’t seem to fit the bill. During college I had milked the man-meats to the thought of a girl I had not seen in a good while and the next day, as I was sitting at a table, she had walked by me on campus — but I was fairly certain she had not seen me, and so it seems unlikely that she had sought me out. I had a hard time chalking that up to mere telepathy. Nor would telepathy account for my synchronicity involving numbers.

Other instances were even more difficult to define specifically. One morning in the Spring of 1999, before my first move to the college town in May, I woke up and recalled a few details from a dream. This was what I often refer to as a “busy dream,” as it was long, drawn out, and involved many characters and a lot of activity. All I could remember specifically, however, was a scene in which I was driving my car into the parking lot of the library of a nearby town I visited nearly every day. In the midst of pulling in, I spotted Felicia, a girl I hadn’t seen since the end of high school two years ago. Her and I rarely spoke, she was not a part of my circle of friends, and to be honest, I never thought much about her. For some reason I tried hiding my cigarette from her as I drove passed, anxious for some reason about her seeing me smoking.

Since the dream fragment didn’t really seem to be anything important, I paid it little mind. I woke up and went about my usual, unemployed daily activities: I hit a few restaurants in the aforementioned town, drank some coffee, smoked cigarettes and wrote. As I circled the town square, not thinking of the dream at all, I saw the library and, on a whim, decided to pull in and do some research on dreams, which I had been researching at the time. As I was pulling into the parking lot, my stereo blasted my dubbed version of Sad But True off Metallica’s self-titled “black” album. After walking into the library, I found my eyes directed at the front desk, where I saw a familiar blond haired girl. I suddenly made the connection with the dream and thought it funny that the girl looked an awful lot like Felicia. As I walked closer to her, I realized that it didn’t just look like her, it was her. Mind blown, I approached her, breathed deep, swallowed, and tapped her on the shoulder. She looked at me. It was indeed Felicia. I greeted her and she asked how I was. A casual conversation ensured, but I could sense that she was put off by my approach and strange attitude, so I cut it short and went about my way.

When I was alone and found my place in the library I let myself digest all of this. My dream of the library that morning might have subliminally prompted me to actually visit the place, as would the fact that I was currently researching dreams. Even so, how in the hell would I, at any level, know that Felicia, a girl I never knew well and had not seen in two years, would actually be there?

Upon finally returning to my car and starting it up, the song that had been playing when I pulled in continued: Sad But True. It struck me that this song was about the dark side, our inner anti-ego, which resided and presided over the unconscious, dissociated aspects of our minds — essentially about what Jung called our Shadow. Might my shadow the puppet-master behind the curtain, busily pulling these synchronistic strings? Subsequent episodes of weirdness not limited to synchronicity have provided further suggestion that this is the case.

Another mystifying sequence of experiences involved what I have come to call the deathbunnies. On July 17, 1999, after I had moved into the apartment with Sandra that May, I was driving my car and, for some unknown reason, reflecting on an incident that had occurred one evening the year before, in the summer of 1998. Channing and I had been hanging out and he had just driven us back to my parent’s house, where I lived at the time, and we spent some time getting deeply involved in conversation while meandering about the front yard.

We had been gawking at a picture in a CD he had bought that depicted a woman clad in black, surrounded in snow-white bunnies, and then had gone on to talk about our hopeless plans to date two girls we were interested in, who happened to be friends themselves. We considered the hopeful though remote possibility that down the road at the house of the girl I liked they might be talking about us in a similar fashion when something peculiar happened. This rabbit jumped between us — though to our eyes the speed and height at which it jumped, it’s abnormally long legs and relatively small body, assured us this was no ordinary rabbit. In addition, it both appeared out of nowhere and vanished in just the same way, and in the aftermath we just stood there, spooked, amazed and incredibly curious.

After we began speaking again, confirming to ourselves what had just happened, we engaged in speculation. Channing pointed out the previously unacknowledged associations we both had between bunnies and women, at least on that particular evening. Not only had the strange rabbit appeared just as we had been talking about women, after all, but there was that CD image we had been collectively entranced by.

Later that evening (or morning, as the case likely was), after he had left, I decided to drive to Dairy Mart in a nearby town to get a cappuccino. Right after pulling out of my driveway, I decided I wasn’t up to driving there after all, however, so I quickly pulled down a nearby dirt road that led to Hades Hollow park. I figured I’d drive around the block, listen to some music and smoke some cigarettes. Halfway down the road, I saw something dart out of the darkness and under the wheels of my car, feeling the hearing that horrible noise as I rolled over it. This disturbed me greatly, for save for finding a bird stuck in the grill of my first car some years back, I had never killed an animal with my car, or at all, for that matter. The thought of having killed an animal, or perhaps having merely hurt it and leaving it there to suffer, struck such guilt in me that I had to stop the car, turn around, go back and look at it to make sure it was dead, to ease my conscience. There was no mistaking the corpse for what it was once it was illuminated by my headlights. However normal in physiology, it was undoubtedly a bunny.

Though I cannot be certain at all why I was reflecting upon that experience that day in July, in the midst of doing so a baby bunny ran across the road right in front of my car. I was sure I had missed it, but was unable to ignore the strange coincidence, giving what I had been thinking about. Further down the road, perhaps some fifteen minutes later, it happened again, and this time the thing had just been sitting in the middle of the road. This was also dodged near death, however. I failed to note my destination when taking notes about this instance, though I did note something daunting on my drive home. In two different locations on the same road — the same locations that I had seen the two rabbits, for all I know — there were rabbit carcasses, each being pecked at by three crows.

Within a day or two, I walked into the apartment to find a lit fish tank on a table in the living room. Confused, I approached it, only to find a baby bunny inside. Soon I learned that Sandra had run over it’s mother while driving her cousin, Terra, and they were doing their best to nurse it back to health. Upon checking the tank when I awoke on July 20th, I found it dead.

Synchronicity is not always predominantly mystifying in character, however; sometimes, it can be downright annoying, as was perfectly exemplified in an experience I had in October of 2000. Though it may have no bearing on the incident that followed, I recorded in my notes that the evening previous I had listened to the “Alpha-Theta Train” program on my Mind Gear PR-2X mind machine — a device that utilizes pulsating light and sound to alter brainwaves through a phenomenon known as entrainment. After waking up, I had tried print something out on my computer and it refused to do so, which left me incredibly irritated to begin with on my way to work. As I drove, I put in a random mix tape. It turned out to be Metallica, which I was not in the mood for at all, so I ejected the tape to put in another and to hear what was on the radio in the meantime. To my dismay, the radio was playing Metallica, which only served to reinforce my annoyance. I put in another tape, hoping that it was Stone Temple Pilots, as that was the band I was in the mood to hear, but it turned out to be Godsmack. Agitated, I took out that tape to put in yet another, thinking that perhaps something better might be on the radio this time. Unfortunately, it was Godsmack. This pissed me off more than it amazed me. After parking my car to write this all down, I was listening to Oleander on cassette, which was finally getting on my nerves, mostly because I was still unable to find a tape with Stone Temple Pilots on it, so I ejected the tape — only to find Oleander playing on the radio.

Over the years it has also come to my attention that the broad-spectrum weirdness in my life often comes in waves which peak in intense clusters of experiences. These clusters can span over the course of months, weeks, and in some cases, even days. In September of 2002, I had just such a cluster of odd synchronicities.

On the first if the month I was driving home from work, for some reason thinking about the Hermit card of the Tarot deck as I made my way. Upon arriving home I was blown away to discover that my mother had bought a deck of Tarot cards that very day. The following day was even more replete with weirdness. I awoke from a dream in which I had put on a jacked made of newspapers. After exiting my room I found that my father was wearing a T-shirt with a newspaper on it. Unprompted, he also told me about film he had made of when I was a kid in which I was rolling around in newspapers lain about the floor. Later, when at work, I also noted that I had not seen a particular regular at the fast food joint in some time. Shortly thereafter, he strolled on in through the door.

Upon waking up on the third, I went downstairs to find mom and some lady talking about yellow finches. Just as they were in the midst of talking about it, a yellow finch stopped at the bird-feeder in our backyard. I then got in my car and left to go to a restaurant to write. As I was driving, a yellow bird flew in front of me quickly. I hoped that I hadn’t hit it, but upon looking behind me I saw a yellow dot in the road. At work, I find the health department had come in. I had just thought about them yesterday.

Some synchronicity would fall into the category telepathy, others more likely constituting clairvoyance, precognition or retrocognition. In other cases it seems as though the mind’s capacity to influence probability is being demonstrated — what parapsychologists refer to as micro-PK. When we typically think of psychokinesis (PK) or telekinesis, as it’s sometimes called, we often envision bent spoons and levitating objects. This is known as macro-PK, but this is not the form of PK given the most attention by parapsychologists in the laboratory. They are instead focused on what is known as micro-PK, which they define as the deliberate or unconscious ability to influence the probability of events to fall in favor of a designated target. After determining the statistical likelihood of all available outcomes of a tossed die, a flipped quarter, or the results of a random number generator, in other words, they would then instruct their subjects to attempt to sway the odds in a statistically significant fashion through intention alone. Such experiments were statistically successful in defying the odds.

For some time it has seemed to me that if what is apparently occurring in micro-PK experiments were to occur on the macro level, what you would observe would not be macro-PK, but something altogether different, suggesting it might be an entirely distinct psi ability — the ability to manufacture coincidence. If conscious intent can cause a rolled pair of dice to have a greater likelihood of coming up as a pair of sixes, might conscious intent also be able to affect the probability of events on a grander scale?

Within Mind, Through Eyes.

Within your mind,
through your eyes
they can be no less
than space

brothers and sisters,
so fucking compassionate,
at most our extraterrestrial gods,
blinded by naive hopes

that the sordid state
this civilization finds itself in
must be rare

or have been overcome
by any extrasolar intelligence

able to make contact
with us,

but you’re
fucking wrong.

You try to put yourself in their shoes
by means of mind, though never
extend heart in order to experience,

so as to see them
as they see themselves,
embody their world

from within their mind,
through their eyes.

Take a peek, swallow:
try and digest
this fucking nightmare.

Telepathy and Eye Contact.

“When eye contact between two people is initiated and maintained, an invisible energetic circuit is established between the two participants, dissolving the barriers that ordinarily separate them from each other, drawing them ever closer into a shared awareness of union.”
— Will Johnson, The Spiritual Practices of Rumi: Radical Techniques for Beholding the Divine.

“Portal sits deep within the eye.
The eye of yin’s severity
rewards understanding.”
— Mudvayne, Mercy, Severity.

In addition to my personal experiences, parapsychological research suggests that not only is eye gazing unnecessary for telepathy to occur, but distance between the subjects in question ultimately makes no difference, either. Despite this, eyes certainly hold a particular and peculiar power for me and I continue my struggle to understand why. It doesn’t help matters that aside from the alien abduction literature in general and my own experiences in particular I have only heard of experiences of “ocular telepathy” through two other sources.

Years ago, when I found Koda on the net, he had yet to write his 2004 book Instant Enlightenment: Metaphysical Fast Food, which I have since purchased. His interest in metaphysics was first sparked as a teenager in the early 1970s after experimenting with psychedelics. Since then he has explored the paranormal through conversation and tested out various techniques on his own.

His first attempt at telepathy occurred when he and a friend were alone, smoking hashish, and the technique was a rather basic one: Koda tried to focus on and “send” a letter as his friend tried to “receive” it. After visualizing a letter for about five minutes, his frustration grew and he screamed to himself mentally, at which time his friend screamed it quite verbally. They tried to repeat it several times that day and failed, but now that he had confirmed telepathy to his satisfaction he decided to see what other questions in this area he could lay to rest.

After attempting and accomplishing two other paranormal feats while alone in his bedroom that evening, as he explained it, “My ego was glowing profusely.” Upon going to the local coffee shop and telling some of his friends and classmates, however, he was met with only disbelief and ridicule. Frustrated, he was immediately set on revenge, and he stumbled upon the means some weeks later at that very coffee shop.

They often held staring contests and one girl always seemed to be better than the rest. Whenever he challenged her he would be doing fine for a short while before he cracked a grin and lost the game. He finally thought he would try thinking of a joke during their staring and telepathically “send” it to her to see if he could get her to laugh. It worked, even during the rematch she demanded. When she asked how he had done it and he told her, she confessed to using the same technique.

He then began practicing telepathy far more blatantly — and with a certain vengeance. He would begin the process using cold reading, approaching a friend, looking in their eyes and saying,”Let me see if I can read your mind.” Judging from their facial expressions he could easily determine that they thought he was full of shit, so he told them just that. They would confess it was so but maintained that it proved nothing. Then he would declare that they were now trying to think of something more specific and less obvious. Then he would tell them that they were beginning to wonder if he really could read their mind after all given his accuracy this far. At this point he began to generate fear in them, which as a consequence made them focus all the more intensely on whatever they were thinking about.

Up to this point, it was all cold reading, but it became, in this way, effective foreplay for telepathy. He slowly and systematically built up fear in them that he could read their minds and once that emotional component achieved sufficient intensity — typically when he went one step further and accused them of being terrified that he might be capable of knowing their deepest, darkest secrets — their focus became so locked on their specific, sustained thoughts that, as he put it, they essentially broadcasted their thoughts to him. He would then tell them what they were thinking, which by this point was something very specific, and they would confess that he could do it after all.

He did this daily for two weeks and got quite proficient at it before deciding he had had enough. Not only did he finally feel that he gotten even with them, he could no longer deal with the feelings of absolute terror he generated in them in the process. To make matters worse, even after making it known that he had stopped, people still avoided him for roughly two months.

It was two years before he started investigating telepathy again, this time with the intent of teaching others how to do it. In time he developed what he came to call the “Psychic Window Technique” in which two people engage in prolonged staring or mutual gazing at a short distance. According to Koda, this technique has a few effects.

In the midst of prolonged eye-gazing he would perceive strange illusions in his partner’s face: areas would often appear blurry, darker, or become more pronounced. Sometimes these distortions gave way to full-blown hallucinatory shape-shifting into the faces of strangers, animals, and even stranger things. His partner, it turned out, would see the same illusions, simultaneously and with equal intensity on his own face. He came to call this effect “visual telepathy,” and it is essentially this that first brought him to my attention. It helped explain an incident I’d had on December 15, 2001.

For some time I had been working at a particular fast food restaurant where I also often spent a considerable and embarrassing amount of my time off. A few hours before work I would come in, get my free and essentially bottomless cup of coffee, sit in my booth in the smoking section and spend my free time writing, reading, thinking and, in my idle time, people-watching. It was one of the few unofficial benefits of the job.

On the day in question a guy I had briefly worked with at another fast food job saw me, took a seat at the opposite end of my booth and we engaged in a short conversation. He was there with some guy, perhaps a brother, who had a young kid with him. After we concluded our conversation, he got up and left. I went back to my writing, lost in my own personal trance, having assumed that was the end of it. I could not have been more mistaken. As I have previously written:

“I was jolted… by the sound of something hitting the far end of my booth. Startled and curious, I looked up to find a dome of blond hair poking out from just beyond the end of the table. It was the upper hemisphere of a toddler’s head. One hand of his was grabbing a hold of the end of the table; in the other, he held his cup with the sippy-top. He was looking dead at me, and instead of meeting his eyes I just sort of laughed under my breath, turned my head back down, placed the pen to the page and continued my writing. My eyes didn’t even reach my notebook before I heard it again. Looking back up, I immediately locked eyes with the kid and found myself imprisoned there. The gateways to my mind were being held hostage.

My peripheral vision was suddenly enshrouded in this dark, blurry overcast. While the eyes at the end of the tunnel shared the shadowy opaqueness, it was also possessed with a hyper-vivid quality. This sense of pressure built in my head, as if energy from his eyes were literally pushing into my mind, as if breaking and entering the mind and scanning and downloading personal files. A virtual form of search and seizure or, in this case, a telepathic analogue.

After a moment, he seemed satisfied and strangely amused, looking at me in a creepy way, as if he knew a “dark secret,” as I had later phrased it, that somehow connected him and I. The edges of his lips then curled slowly upward to an unnatural height, almost as if this surreal Cheshire Cat grin belonged somewhere in the twilight betwixt reality and cartoon.

Soon he walked away slowly with who I presume to be my ex-coworker’s friend holding his hand, but my line of sight was still ensnared by his eyes. He held me in his ocular tractor beam until he was out of my line of sight, at which time I felt him release my mind from his psychic grip.

Sinking down into the booth, I was cold and trembling, heart pumping wildly beneath gooseflesh. My eyes felt a strange, widened sort of pain, and it felt as if I could still feel the residual feeling of him being inside my head. I tried to look intensely out into nowhere, to “stare” the feeling out of me as if I were trying to flush out the psychic lines or something.”

According to Koda, this mutuality of experience does not end with visual illusions and hallucinations of the face, either, but extends to emotional states and physical sensations. One can even play a game, he suggests, in which one takes on the role of the blind receiver as the other intentionally generates and attempts to communicate a specific emotion or sensation.

This brings us to the 1998 book, Dancing Naked in the Mind Field, by Kary Mullis, a biochemist who won the Nobel Prize for his invention of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in 1983. Despite his accomplishments and credentials he is, to put it mildly, a controversial figure and an interesting character with even more interesting personal anecdotes to relate. In a chapter entitled, “Intervention on the Astral Plane,” he recounts his experience with a woman he introduces as Katherine O’Keefe who had astounding abilities — though I will focus on a single instance he cited which occurred on the day he met her “in the flesh,” in December of 1978. They met first at a Bakery and she then followed him home:

“We talked briefly about nothing much in kitchen and then made love before I knew anything more than her name. She looked deep into my eyes and did something to me with her mind that was ecstatic. It seemed to me as if a little tentacle had reached into my mid-brain and tickled my hypothalamus” (p 93).

In 2002, while I still worked at the fast food restaurant previously mentioned, I had met Angela, a beautiful girl that had some strange experiences of her own. When we worked nights together she used to get up real close to my face and stare at me in the eyes, which I always enjoyed. At one point, while staring at me in that way, she did something akin to what Mullis described. I received this intense, joyous, almost orgasmic high that reached a fever pitch, overwhelming me and causing my field of perception to ripple like the surface of a disturbed body of water.

I had experienced such perceptual distortions before, to be certain, though the emotional component had never before achieved such intensity. One of the first occasions this happened, I was attending a dance with my girlfriend at the time at her school. In passing, as I was walking behind her through a crowded room, I happened to lock eyes with a random girl and the same thing occurred: a rising high with rippling vision. And she had done it at some distance, too.

Koda also writes about telepathically transmitting and receiving emotionally-charged imagery. Having read it for the first time in the process of writing this, it made me think of two experiences of mine.

The first happened during high school sometime after the flashbacks. I was in English class and we were all in our seats working on our papers independently and the teacher was walking up and down the isles, observing us as we worked. Occasionally she would stop and talk to a student in whispered tones. She walked up to my desk, leaned down to talk to me and as I looked up I happened to look her directly in the eyes. It was as if I was sucked into the vortex of her pupils. Inside, I saw things rotting, dripping with a venomous, sewage-like substance, absolutely grotesque, ill and deprived of life. And in an instant I broke the link, looking away from her, totally confused as to what had just happened.

Years later, the same sort of thing happened to me with a kid on April 8, 2002 as I was in a booth at work talking with a Tess, a co-worker and passing romantic interest:

“As her and I spoke, I found myself a bit distracted when this family of four came in. There was a curly-haired brunette lady who I presumed to be the mother; a tall, dark-haired man who’s face I never saw, and two kids. There was a younger one who had blond hair and blue eyes and looked rather frail-looking. His head was kind of big, too. The other was older with dark hair. The mother sat down in the booth behind my friend – booth number five – with the frail boy between her and the wall. Across from her and back-to-back with my friend was the tall man. Across from the blond haired kid and tall man sat the dark-haired boy.

It was the blond that first caught my attention. He was a cute little kid with bright blue eyes, but something about him made me uneasy. Though I was quick to attribute it to paranoia, for a few moments I watched him closely just to be sure. As I was scrutinizing, both kids stood up at once, leaned towards one another from across their table and placed themselves forehead to forehead, like playful bucks locked in a duel, staring dead into one another’s eyes. The mother lightly backhanded the blond kid and told them both to stop.

My attention slipped back to Tess, who was still talking. I had absolutely no fucking clue what the hell she had been saying, and even what she was saying at present seemed to be empty words lost in a jumble. I was getting really, really uncomfortable, and I had no idea why. It all seemed very odd. Somehow, something just didn’t feel right.

Then I looked back up over her shoulder. The dark-haired kid seemed to sense my eyes on him, and he suddenly turned around and looked dead at me and have me a Cheshire Cat grin. When I meet his eyes his pupils grow large, darker-than-dark, and it suddenly it feels as if I’m violently dragged forward and right into them. It’s like we’re in this foggy bubble where we’re only eyes and mind, and only him and I exist, and the rest of the world grows blurred and distorted. It was definitely visual — he looked magnified, abstract and surreal, and I could still see that Cheshire grin, wide and cartoon-like. It certainly wasn’t limited to image, though. It was as if our eye contact had merged us mentally, fused us. I felt as though I was in his mind, or that he was in mine, or that we now shared a mind.

I looked away. It took me a few seconds or so of staring at the table in front of me to realize just what the hell had happened. I knew I wasn’t sleeping, so I couldn’t be dreaming. I wasn’t on drugs. Tess was still talking, but when she looked up at me she did a double-take and then stopped dead in her tracks. I imagine the look on my face must have been about as fucked up as I was feeling. She studied me another moment before asking what was wrong.

Looking at her, staring deep into her eyes, I found that nothing happened. If this was in my head, I wondered, wouldn’t looking into her eyes do the same thing? I looked back at the kid, thinking this might have been something I’d imagined — half hoping, as a matter of fact, that it had truly been something that I’d imagined. Then it all happened again. He goes into my head, grinning again, almost as if he’s a fucking cartoon. If I focused at all, I feared I might be locked there forever; that I might be trapped there and the rest of reality might fade away.

He looks away. While I’m sitting there pale as a ghost and freaking out, he’s sitting there amused. It’s almost as if he thought it was funny that he could do this. He leaned over the table again and whispered to the blond haired kid. Then he turns back to me and does it again, grinning that wide and freaky Cheshire cat grin, eyes as big and black as universes.”

Koda ultimately experienced something far more extreme than me in this respect, however. In the summer of 1984 he writes how he was practicing the technique with a friend of his in a coffee shop when, for roughly six seconds, they both suddenly saw the same detailed scene from the same perspective:

“I was looking directly at a very pretty blond girl about nineteen-years-old. She was perhaps six feet away, facing slightly toward my left as she sat in front of an old-fashion chest of drawers topped with a large, ornate mirror. Her dress was bright yellow, laced up the front and had a white, ruffled collar. She was brushing her long blond hair with very slow strokes, looking rather absent minded, as if she were daydreaming about some hoped-for future. To the left of the dresser was the closed bedroom door. Without knowing why, I was certain there was a hallway on the other side of the door. I knew that toward the right the hall lead to the back door and the barn area, while on the left the hall opened into the living room. On the other side of the hall from the bedroom was the kitchen. I knew where all the pots and pans and lanterns were hung, that the road came in from west in front of the house and most of the fields were in that direction. I knew everything about the place as quickly as my mind could scan the area, including the ‘fact’ that I was in a farmhouse in Southern California in the late 1800s” (p 18).

In rare instances, he says, even thoughts can be communicated — as exemplified to some degree in his initial experience with his friend on hashish and his subsequent mind-reading of his friends and classmates. It also brings us back to Mullis. In a chapter of the aforementioned book entitled, “My Evening With Harry,” Mullis recounts an experience he had in 1978 in San Francisco.

He was sitting at his kitchen table with his friend, Harry, a fellow chemist, who he had not seen in some time. They both drank some beer and Harry smoked a joint. After explaining that he wanted to show him something, he turned to Mullis with wide eyes and asked him to stare into his eyes and do his best not to blink or react if his face happened to change. As Mullis goes on to explain:

“His face did change. It was still Harry, but varieties of Harry I had not seen. Different faces appeared out of the familiar flesh, which now wasn’t so familiar. Some of them were humans I didn’t know, some were not human at all. They were animal. They were all Harry in some way I couldn’t explain. I was seeing things in him that were him but not a part of the life we had shared. It was a little scary, but Harry was somehow underneath it smiling that confident smile” (p 86).

(p 86)

They both admitted to being inside each other’s minds (“the front room — the reception area,” Mullis explained) and then Mullis broke it off for a moment, grabbed two pens and some index cards.

“We were being scientists. We both wrote down a word and then showed each other our cards. It was the same word. Just a word, nothing cosmic, but it was the same, and we knew it would be. We did it again and again, and we knew every time it would be the same. We were watching something — always present but usually dormany — from a privileged position that we had created by putting ourselves together in some way. It was absolutely normal and yet it wasn’t” (p 87).

Recently I came upon some articles regarding eye-gazing experiments that inspired me to try researching the subject again, hoping to find something. While I found no further personal anecdotes, I did happen upon some interesting and relevant studies. In a video by The Liberators International they invited strangers to publicly engage in eye contact for one, whole, psychologically-juicy minute. After the predictable awkwardness produced at the onset, participants reported the very heights of elation. This predominantly emotional experience may have been overshadowed by some haunting hallucinatory phenomena if ocular engagement had continued for ten minutes, however, at least according to experiments conducted by Giovanni B. Caputo, a psychologist at the University of Urbino in Italy.

I was first introduced to Caputo’s work through an article regarding his studies on mirror-gazing in which he found that after perhaps no more than a minute of staring at one’s reflection subjects experienced what he called the Strange-Face-in-the-Mirror Illusion. Features would darken or become more pronounced; people would see, instead of their own faces, those of strangers, animals, or monstrous beings. In further experiments in which he explored the effects of what has been variously referred to as interpersonal, intersubjective or mutual eye-gazing, he found that the same basic manifestations emerged.

In a paper entitled, “Dissociation and hallucinations in dyads engaged through interpersonal gazing,” Caputo described an experiment in which he paired off 20 people (15 women, 5 men) and had them sit facing each other at a distance of roughly three feet in a dimly-lit room where they were instructed to gaze into one another’s eyes for ten minutes. There was also a control group of 20 placed in more or less the same conditions, though in this case they were instructed to gaze at a blank wall. Each group then completed three questionnaires relating to their experience. The initial dealt with dissociative states, the remaining two focused on their experience of the point of focus — the control group’s wall or the face of your partner. The results were astonishing:

“The participants in the eye-staring group said they’d had a compelling experience unlike anything they’d felt before. They also scored higher on all three questionnaires than the control group. On the dissociative states test, they gave the strongest ratings to items related to reduced colour intensity, sounds seeming quieter or louder than expected, becoming spaced out, and time seeming to drag on. On the strange-face questionnaire, 90 per cent of the eye-staring group agreed that they’d seen some deformed facial traits, 75 per cent said they’d seen a monster, 50 per cent said they saw aspects of their own face in their partner’s face, and 15 per cent said they’d seen a relative’s face.”

As explained elsewhere, a cocktail of neural adaptation, psychological projection and facial recognition would explain the surreal effects that can manifest during mirror-gazing; the same would appear to be true for mutual gazing. This would not, at least so obviously, explain why interpersonal gazing would constitute the more intense experience of the two — nor would it begin to explain the seemingly telepathic effects. There are, however, at least two separate studies that may offer some insight. One was conducted by psychologists from the University of Stirling involving 20 five-year-old children. It concluded that those who averted eye contact in order to consider how they would answer questions were more apt to answer correctly than those who maintained their gaze. In another study conducted at Kyoto University in Japan (the results of which were published as “When we cannot speak: Eye contact disrupts resources available to cognitive control processes during verb generation”) participants played word association games of varying complexity while looking at a variety of faces that were either staring or looking away. During eye contact, they did more poorly during the most complex questions.

In both cases, then, it was suggested that cognitive effort and eye contact interfered with one another. While neither study so much as references hypnosis, the conclusions of both appear to resonate well with hypnotist Scott Jansen’s allegation, which is that sustained eye contact generates “psychological pressure” that diminishes conscious thinking. Subliminal or unconscious thought then rushes in to compensate, heightening one’s suggestibility. In other words, eye contact could be seen as the most basic form of the most typical of induction techniques used by hypnotists both on and off the stage: what is variously known as the direct gaze, fixed gaze or fixation method of hypnotic induction. Though this can be used to refer to the subject’s fixation on nearly anything — a candle’s flame, a finger, a swinging watch — among the objects of potential focus are the hypnotist’s eyes. The issue here is that inducing hypnosis does not alone explain the seemingly telepathic effect, as there are no clearly no overt, hypnotic suggestions to follow in the midst of silent, mutual gazing — and they would prove difficult to deliver, too, perhaps, given the interference it evidently has with respect to cognition.

There may very well be nonverbal hypnotic suggestions at play here, however. Consider that eyes are essentially extensions of the brain that not only receive external signals as sense organs but can also transmit the brain’s own signals to other pairs of eyes. When you engage in eye contact with another person you pick up on the expressions on their face and, of course, the movements of their own eyes. While you can consciously perceive the eye movements known as saccades, such as when the person looks back and forth, there are various forms of subtler, involuntary movements that occur even when those eyes remain fixed on your own, and they may also communicate nonverbal information regarding their inner state. By picking up on these external, nonverbal reactions to their own minds we may instinctively decode those signals and replicate the other person’s inner state within ourselves. Hypnotic trance through silent, prolonged mutual gaze would only amplify such effects.

Those effects are certainly there, too, whatever the cause. In a 2015 study published in the journal Neuroimage, 96 volunteers were split into pairs and proceeded to engage in mutual gazing under the watchful eye of fMRIs. It was found that not only did the pairs begin blinking in unison, their brain activity synchronized in the area of the right inferior frontal gyrus. The remaining question is whether these mundane processes are enough to explain the effects of what I, perhaps lamely, have referred to for some time as ocular telepathy. To put it more plainly: if through prolonged mutual gazing you are capable of sharing or exchanging hallucinations, emotions, mental images and even thoughts with your partner, does it remain a viable hypothesis that the aforementioned normal — as opposed to paranormal — processes are the culprit?

Taken as a whole, it seems a stretch. To break it down in specific bits: being capable, in the midst of locked gaze, of reading emotional states through nonverbals and experiencing them as your own — or experiencing them as emotions from an external source, namely that of your partner — is a hypothesis that would be relatively easy for me to accept, especially given what we know regarding our inherent capacity to subliminally and automatically translate body language. When it comes to sharing hallucinations and subjective imagery, however, I am far more skeptical, and when it comes to communicating thoughts — say in the fashion of Mullis and Harry at the kitchen table exchanging those index cards — it seems absolutely absurd.

So how might one explain this?

We know that ordinary sense perception exists. Our mundane senses do not operate in isolation, however, but are in constant concert, influencing one another with the aim of delivering a seemingly seamless sensory experience to consciousness. Smell, for instance, affects taste, as anyone who has had nasal congestion can attest to. Wine tasters swirl the fluid in the glass, take a hearty whiff, and then sip, utilizing all relevant senses as they contribute to a more holistic, mindful experience of the taste.

There is sufficient data in parapsychological studies to suggest that extrasensory perception exists. While we accept the community or senses as a factor for clear reception with respect to the clarity of reception provided by any singular, ordinary sense, we are for whatever reason suddenly prone to amnesia when it comes to exploring the extra-sensorium. Here, frustration and discouragement overwhelm us when we learn that, for instance, telepathy is difficult to isolate with any certainty from other senses — or potential extrasenses — in the laboratory setting. When we do manage to fashion experiments that isolate specific psi, we are frustrated and discouraged when the effect, though exceeding chance, is relatively weak. We fail to consider the fact that in their natural environment, so-to-speak, they may complement and be similarly influenced by a community of extrasenses just as ordinary senses are.

Not only that, but we should expect these two distinct sensory systems to influence one another as well, which would certainly serve to complicate matters. Assuming this is the case, it could go some way to explain what many interpret as a failure in parapsychology, which is to say that any detectable effects are prone to being relatively weak in nature. After all, when we take average individuals and subject them to parapsychological studies with rigid controls meant to remove any evidence of sensory (if not other extrasensory) influence, we are in effect removing their given extrasense (telepathy, in this case) from its natural context and placing it in an isolated, alien environment in which it is not only virgin but necessarily abandoned by its typical support system. We should be astounded that parapsychological experiments reveal any psi influence at all.

Perhaps the coupling of mutual eye-gazing, subliminal cold-reading and telepathy could better explain the phenomena experienced as ocular telepathy. It works so well, its effects are so predictable, immediate and intense in comparison to telepathy as it is ordinarily explored, simply because it utilizes the parapsychological in tandem with the psychological and biological.

No doubt a relevant form of training might help discipline our natural ability to conjure such capacities through the Psychic Window Technique, and the literature which I have referenced in quotes in this article already provide some clues as to what training might be optimal. Consider, for instance, the conversation between Mullis and O’Keefe following the incident in which she seemed, according to him, to have tickled his hypothalamus:

“I asked her what the hell she had done to me.

She replied, ‘You’ve been playing with your mind, but you don’t know anything yet. No one has ever properly taught you.’

I was excited. ‘Will you show me how to do that? What you did?’

‘You already know. You just need to practice'” (p 93).

Though Mullis reported that she did indeed teach him to practice, he gave few details, in the end only offering the reader her diagnosis of his condition. “She told me that I had abilities that I hadn’t tapped into and that I had to learn to quiet myself inside,” he wrote. “I had to learn not to think so much.” Though she never said it outright so far has Mullis himself has conveyed, it seems clear to me that she was talking about meditation — something akin to the Theravada and Tibetan Buddhist practices of samatha and vipassana, which cultivate the power of attention.

There was also a detailed practice offered by Koda, however: the aforementioned “The Psychic Window Technique.” He suggests that you and your partner sit down and face one another at a distance of perhaps two to three feet, sure to maintain “open” body language devoid of defensive barriers like crossed arms or legs in the process. Both of you then decide which mutual “side” will hold your attentions when you stare at one another: either you focus your eyes on your partner’s right eye as they focus on your left or vice versa. It is of vital importance, I think, to focus mutual attention on a mutual “side,” as it makes certain you are both focusing on the eye of the other that is focusing on you. This would also make it indistinguishable from samatha meditation.

Once the “side” is established, you both stare into one another’s eyes unwaveringly, without blinking, all the while trying to expand your field of clear perception to encapsulate the entirety of the face: then the weirdness begins…

In the Cockpit.

Zoom in close
to the face. Instantly drawn
into orbit till you stare
into the eyes. Go to the pupil
on your left, concentrate

on the endless pool of darkness
until it seems to swallow
you, blackest of the blackness
going over and around

till you’re inside
the Other’s mind, 
they’re inside yours
or you share

a transient bubble universe,
a telepathic chat-room,
a pre- or post-linguistic
game of charades

or whatever:
the target
may be conscious,
maybe not,

in either case:
you’re at the wheel,
in the cockpit. 

So: drive.

Mirror, Mirror.

Mirror, mirror upon the wall,
I’m asking you, who is the most confused of them all?
Mirror, mirror, subservient twin,
screams back at me “You! You sick flawless mime,
I want to break you!”
— Mudvayne, Shadow of a Man.

As is the case with many of the memories that came to me around 1995, I can’t be certain how old I was, but the flashback was brief and vivid enough that despite the fact that no written records of it exist from the time of recall I am confident enough in how it played out. One could always argue that it was some vivid dream and nothing more, of course, but it certainly seemed to be a real occurrence to me.

I was in the bathroom at the house we lived in from my birth until 1988, and so no older than ten, standing on a small stool we had in the bathroom so that us kids could reach the sink and see ourselves in the mirror. I don’t know if I was brushing my teeth or combing my hair or if I was about to get in or just exiting the shower. In any case, I suddenly noticed, in the process, that something was wrong, peculiar, noticeably “off” about my reflection in the mirror. Unable to put my finger on it at first, it soon became obvious that my eyes were changing. They were slowly but with increasing speed growing at once larger and more slanted. I remember watching as I simultaneously felt my mouth falling open in shock, my growing, unblinking eyes unable to avert their gaze for a mere second. Uncertain if it was my actual face or merely my reflection undergoing this localized shapeshifting, I lifted up my hand to touch one of my eyes, sliding my fingers upon its smooth, slippery, rubbery surface.

Still later in 1995, after a night of what could perhaps be best described as a meditative exploration of my apparent past-life memories, I had gazed into the mirror in the upstairs bathroom with the lights off and had a strange visual experience. My reflected face was rapidly shapeshifting into what I presumed to be the faces of my former incarnations, many of which I had not formerly recalled episodically. It seemed as if my mirror image was trying to coagulate into a singular form that embraced the qualities of all previous corporeal containers. Unlike the earlier episode there was no question that this was an illusion, and one specific to my reflection as opposed to my actual face.

Many years later I came upon those who had experienced similar distortions of their reflections in Dr. Marlene Steinberg’s book, The Stranger in the Mirror: The Hidden Epidemic. For some time that has been my only lead for an explanation of the experience — assuming it was not some vivid, sensory-enriched dream. Until recently, that is, when I came upon the “Strange-Face-in-the-Mirror Illusion,” a 2010 publication in the journal Perception, by psychologist Giovanni B. Caputo of the University of Urbino in Italy. He ran an experiment in which some fifty volunteers sat in a dimly-lit room with a 25-watt lamp placed behind them. They were instructed to stare into a mirror for ten minutes and take note of the effects. After about a minute, strange shit began to happen. Caputo writes:

“The descriptions differed greatly across individuals and included: (a) huge deformations of one’s own face (reported by 66% of the fifty participants); (b) a parent’s face with traits changed (18%), of whom 8% were still alive and 10% were deceased; (c) an unknown person (28%); (d) an archetypal face, such as that of an old woman, a child, or a portrait of an ancestor (28%); (e) an animal face such as that of a cat, pig, or lion (18%); (f) fantastical and monstrous beings (48%).”

Their emotional responses were also interesting:

“The participants reported that apparition of new faces in the mirror caused sensations of otherness when the new face appeared to be that of another, unknown person or strange `other’ looking at him/her from within or beyond the mirror. All fifty participants experienced some form of this dissociative identity effect, at least for some apparition of strange faces and often reported strong emotional responses in these instances. For example, some observers felt that the `other’ watched them with an enigmatic expression – [a] situation that they found astonishing. Some participants saw a malign expression on the ‘other’ face and became anxious. Other participants felt that the `other’ was smiling or cheerful, and experienced positive emotions in response. The apparition of deceased parents or of archetypal portraits produced feelings of silent query. Apparition of monstrous beings produced fear or disturbance. Dynamic deformations of new faces (like pulsations or shrinking, smiling or grinding) produced an overall sense of inquietude for things out of control.”

In a follow-up publication the same year (2010), “Apparitional experiences of new faces and dissociation of self-identity during mirror gazing,” Caputo added that subjects reported that while they maintained self-consciousness of their own face they felt as if “a strange person was watching them from within or beyond the mirror”. He also concluded that the degree of lighting seemed to play a role in the illusion, which is to say that the lower the illumination the less time it took for one to experience the SFMI. More interesting are the effects of mirror-gazing on subjects suffering from depression and schizophrenia, two other studies of Caputo’s which he summarized in the abstract of his March, 2014 publication, “Archetypal-imaging and mirror-gazing,” in which he gives an overview of the studies on the matter:

“Recently, empirical research found that gazing at one’s own face in the mirror for a few minutes, at a low illumination level, produces the perception of bodily dysmorphic illusions of strange-faces. Healthy observers usually describe huge distortions of their own faces, monstrous beings, prototypical faces, faces of relatives and deceased, and faces of animals. In the psychiatric population, some schizophrenics show a dramatic increase of strange-face illusions. They can also describe the perception of multiple-others that fill the mirror surface surrounding their strange-face. Schizophrenics are usually convinced that strange-face illusions are truly real and identify themselves with strange-face illusions, diversely from healthy individuals who never identify with them. On the contrary, most patients with major depression do not perceive strange-face illusions, or they perceive very faint changes of their immobile faces in the mirror, like death statues.”

Why does this illusion happen? There are some pretty reasonable hypotheses. As Kaylee Brown put it in her December, 2016 article, “Eye Gazing: Science Reveals How it Affects Our Communication”:

“Our neurons can slow down and even completely stop their response to stimulation that is constant. This happens when you stare at anything — your perception changes until you blink or something within the scene changes.”

One way to put it, then, is that steady, prolonged mirror-gazing results in sensory ambiguity, and we have known for some time that the greater the ambiguity in a perceived stimulus the more fertile it becomes for psychological projection. Our brains naturally compensate for absent data and impose structure on chaotic information based on cues in the given context associated with data already stored in memory. Well, in the case of mirror-gazing, the cues are aspects of our face that remain detectable, and so another influential force here may be our capacity for facial recognition. This leads us to seek out the patterns of a face in our projections: as your face distorts due to neural adaptation, your brain conjures up faces stored in memory that fit the available — which is to say fluctuating — data, which result in illusions of faces that are not your own.

The weakest and mildest projections manifest as pareidolia, such as when we look at a spill on a counter, a stain on the concrete or clouds in the sky and “see” figures and even scenes. This can increase to illusions, as when someone is approaching you from a distance and you’re certain it’s a friend, only to find as proximity increases that it is a total stranger. In some cases projection can even produce full-blown hallucinations, as in cases of sensory deprivation.

My experience in the darkened bathroom after my exploration of my alleged reincarnational world-line would perhaps reside on the cusp betwixt illusion and hallucination, but my memory of my reflection of a child in a bathroom of full lighting would clearly have to constitute a hallucination — not merely in the visual sphere, either, but in a tactile sense, as I distinctly remember touching my eye to ensure it was merely my reflection that was changing, only to find that it was, despite my hopes, my actual face as well. Nothing that Caputo has published to my knowledge could explain that aspect of the memory, given it was not a vivid dream — not even the experiences of schizophrenics.

I must confess: that is not the least bit comforting.

***

For more information regarding the aforementioned studies conducted by Caputo (et al.), please consult the following links (or use the titles as search queries):

Strange-Face-in-the-Mirror Illusion,” 2010.
“Apparitional experiences of new faces and dissociation of self-identity during mirror gazing,” 2010.
“Visual perception during mirror gazing at one’s own face in schizophrenia,” 2012.
Visual perception during mirror-gazing at one’s own face in patients with depression,” 2014.
Archetypal-imaging and mirror-gazing,” 2014.

In Pursuit of the Elusive Beast.

Playing hide and seek
with my memories,
still. Severed
now, and shattered.

What did you do to me back
then, still further
and onward and upward, ‘till now?

Masochistic secrecy.
And much more.
Though no less.

Classified, compartmentalized
me, imposed selective,
perhaps hypnotically-induced
amnesia and infected
predictable leaks

through obsessive-compulsions,
vivid and perhaps recurring
dreams and sensory
flashbacks

with denial, cover stories
and disinformation…

Truth?
An elusive beast.
Capture is impossible.
Even so, I have a need to know,
so strive for greater understanding.

Why are you still running
from me? In the end
and on into the deepest level,
aren’t we
on the same side?

Your loss in my own.
Your victory
is a win for us both.

Seven Phases & Frog Soup for the UFO.

OF STEPS & PHASES.

I first heard of the Seven Steps to Contact when it was referenced in 5 Things That Will Happen When Aliens Arrive, a Strange Mysteries video on YouTube. It made me tilt my head like a confused dog and lift a brow, too, for despite my obsession and rather thorough research on the subject I had never heard of it, not once. When a subsequent Google search only provided a few articles about it (none of which offered additional information) I began to suspect that I had never heard of it for the simple fact that it was bullshit that someone had relatively recently pulled out of their anal cavity.

I was wrong, however. Kind of.

It is really called the Seven Phases to Contact and it was first reported in the 1967 book, Flying Saucers — Here and Now! by Frank Edwards and later discussed in Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific Study of Extraterrestrial Life, Intelligence and Civilization, a 1979 book by Robert Freitas. Allegedly it was among the subjects of a joint Army-Navy briefing regarding UFOs held in Washington DC during the summer of 1950. It was meant to provide an outline for how we might approach an extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) upon our discovery of it. By extension, it may also explain how an ETI might approach our own species. Though potentially bunk, the content of the Seven Phases is interesting nonetheless and well-worth consideration.

PHASE ONE.

We might regard the first phase as one of remote detection and surveillance. The way Edwards described it in his book, this “would take place before we knew whether the planet was inhabited” and “would consist of a cautious and careful surveillance from a distance considered safe.” From earth and our orbiting satellites we might ascertain not only the presence, age and habitability of a distant exoplanet but even detect the signature of life through spectroscopic analysis of the atmosphere. SETI may even detect radio signals from the exoplanet.

PHASE TWO.

Given the star system was a relatively nearby neighbor and/or we had warp technology or access to wormholes, we would move onto the next phase and send out covert probes that would take up orbit around the exoplanet to gather further intelligence. If there were any natural moons, we might make manned bases there as well, ensuring they could not detect our presence.

There have been consistent rumors of an extraterrestrial “black knight satellite” orbiting earth as well as some curious moon anomalies that would be consistent with the notion that we are under such surveillance ourselves.

PHASE THREE.

If intelligence procured from the former two phases provided justification we would then engage in covert contact, deploying maneuverable, manned craft in order “to check the performance characteristics of vehicles belonging to the planetary inhabitants — to test their speed, types of propulsion, and maneuverability as compared to our own.” This is not unlike what UFOs started doing in the second World War as documented in Keith Chester’s 2010 book, Strange Company, and continue to do today, which is essentially antagonizing and play-fighting with commercial and military aircraft — as if to test their capabilities.

PHASE FOUR.

Next we would direct our craft to “make near approaches to determine whether the alien beings are hostile” as well as to “check radar locations and locations of military centers” so as to assess their degree of hostility and weapon capabilities. This is akin to the behavior of UFOs post-1947, where they began invading our airspace, focusing on our military bases and buzzing — and in a few unnerving instances, interfering — with our nuclear arsenals.

PHASE FIVE.

Finally, we would land, though Edwards states that this would be limited to “brief touchdowns in isolated areas to secure specimens of plants, animals, and (if possible) specimens of the intelligent beings themselves.” Freitas explains that xenologists (those who study extraterrestrial life) refer to this as “the snatch.” Of course, it also explains what is generally known as UFO or alien abduction. Alien beings have been observed taking plants as well as animals such as dogs, elk and, last but not least, human beings.

PHASE SIX.

With respect to the next potential phase, one which we might call the “presentation” phase, Edwards explains:

If we have been successful in acquiring the information we needed by the preceding steps, we must now decide on the basis of that knowledge whether to abandon the project as too risky or otherwise undesirable — or whether to put into effect the sixth phase of the program. If we decide that the evidence seems to warrant some kind of eventual contact, direct or indirect, then phase six would consist of landings and low-level approaches where our craft and their operators could be seen — but not reached. These approaches would be made where they could be witnessed by the greatest possible number of inhabitants. If carried out successfully, this phase would demonstrate our existence and our non-hostile nature.

PHASE SEVEN.

If the intelligence gathered from the former six phases suggested it was advisable we would then make overt contact, communicating and interacting with the ETI in person.

Referred to by our briefing officers as the ‘Overt Contact’ phase. This would be the deliberate, carefully planned and executed final step in the program. Contact would not be attempted unless we had excellent reason to believe that it would not be disastrous to either of the races involved. There are some good reasons why it might never come to pass — even though results of the first six phases might have indicated that it could be physically possible.

QUESTIONS, COMMENTS, REFLECTIONS.

Though not noted by either of the authors so far as I am aware, it seems clear to me that these seven phases — aside from the fifth phase, for some reason — could be grouped into pairs: phases one and two deal with covert surveillance; phases three and four deal with assessing their potential threat (their degree of hostility plus their technological capability); phases six and seven deal with incrementally conditioning them to our presence until overt contact can be safely initiated.

Phases six and seven also operate on what we could call the frog soup scenario. If you boil up the pot of water and then throw in the amphibious, ribbiting fuck, he’s going to hop out. So what you do instead is put him in a pot of room-temperature water and slowly crank up the heat. The change will be so gradual that he’ll never know what’s happening to him.

In his book UFOs, JFK, and Elvis, Richard Belzer quotes Jim Marrs, who described the process in what, to my mind, seems to be a far less ominous fashion:

Back in the 1970s, scientists discovered what appeared to be a Stone Age tribe living in a remote area of the Philippines. For the first time, instead of just rushing in with cloths and tools and Bibles and everything and saying, ‘Here, get civilized,’ we finally showed a little bit of smarts and quarantined the whole area. Then we sent in a pool of scientists who would condition these people — actually get them used to the reality of modern human beings — so they could accept the researchers as a normal part of their lives.

For the first week or so, the researchers would simply sit within the villagers’ view, but at a distance. The next week, they would move slightly closer — not close enough to interact, but within the villagers’ notice. In a few days, perhaps they would move to a clearing. Some time after that, they might start to smile and wave, and so on. After a while the tribesmen began to get acclimatized to the scientists’ presence. And they began to realize, Okay… These people are here. And by the time the scientists finally made contact, the villagers knew their visitors were neither enemies nor a threat.

This process is known as a gradual disclosure or leaky embargo, and it is certainly one way to explain the behavior of UFOs both collectively and in individual sightings and encounters.

As a whole, UFO sightings come in waves. There will be troughs nearly void of UFO sightings or encounters that will occasionally be broken by unpredictable spurts of activity. At some indeterminate point and at varying speeds and intensities this activity will increase, leading to a cluster of sightings and encounters, the frequency and intensity of which reaches a fever pitch until the wave crashes, leaving you in a trough once again. Just when the public seems to have forgotten about the UFO phenomenon, however, the surreal tide rises yet again.

Waves are only a general characteristic of their pattern of activity, however. When they speak about UFO flaps, they typically mean that UFO waves are centered around a specific, geographical area. UFO hot spots are meant to denote geographical areas in which activity seems both concentrated and enduring, as in Gulf Breeze, Florida, or in the aftermath of the videotaped sightings in Mexico during the solar eclipse of July 11, 1991.

When cases are examined individually, one finds that there seems to be an increasing proximity between witnesses and UFOs over time — or, in the very least, an increasing awareness of their proximity. At first there were only distant sightings of daylight discs and nocturnal lights and unnervingly validating radar-visual cases. Then there were Close Encounters of the First Kind, where UFOs were close enough that witnesses could clearly see that they were manufactured machines. There are countless individual reports but most notable are the sort of slow, low-level parades and mass sightings of large craft seen by thousands of people over New York and Connecticut beginning in 1983, in Phoenix, Arizona and Sonora, Mexico on March 13, 1997 and in Stephenville, Texas on January 8th, 2008.

Reinforcement for the objective reality of UFOs came in cases of the Second Kind, where the craft in question would appear to cause blackouts, stall cars and otherwise manipulate and often enough burn earth, vegetation as well as witnesses. During Close Encounters of the Third Kind they may see and even interact with occupants.

Are the aliens — a convenient term for the intelligence behind the UFO and abduction phenomenon — slowly conditioning us, acclimating us to not only their existence but their real-time presence? If we would approach an ETI in such a way, as suggested by the alleged Seven Phases of Contact, is it not at least conceivable that an ETI would approach us in an analogous fashion? And is there not suggestion in the form of the UFO phenomenon as a whole that we are currently in the seventh phase of the process?