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…

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.

Aliens, UFOs and Abnormal Psychology.

Dismissing myself as crazy has been my convenient go-to, a default triggered when my strange experiences and their apparent implications become too overwhelming. When this surreal aspect of my life comes to face the giggle factor, meets the laughter curtain and exceeds my boggle threshold, the barrier beyond which I am no longer able to suspend disbelief, I endure a sort of nausea of the mind so intense that I, for a time, submit to it. Declaring myself crazy by no means makes me feel better — to the contrary, I always feel worse — but condemning myself in this fashion requires less energy than continuing my efforts to actually understand my experiences. The issue is that once I get beyond the emotional devastation of labeling myself crazy and subject this self-diagnosis to analysis I ultimately come to realize it really doesn’t constitute a diagnosis at all. “Crazy” is just a buzzword, dismissive in spirit and entirely devoid of true explanation.

So early on, back in high school, I found myself trying to identify a more specific self-diagnosis by reading through books on psychology, even an Abnormal Psychology college textbook I got from a friend. I didn’t know whether to be relieved or terrified when I found that no single condition I read about seemed to cover the crazy shit that I had been experiencing. No umbrella terms appeared to be available. When I began seeing a psychologist shortly thereafter, and one that I had quickly developed a respect for, I explained how I had tried diagnosing myself and failed, as no disorder seemed to encompass it all. In my memory, he retorted, stating that I was wrong, and when I pressed him he fumbled and mentioned schizophrenia. The fact that he immediately seemed to backpedal when he saw my reaction only made my terror increase. The moment hung with me and I fell back on it when the weirdness weighed me down. At one point I remember finding a page on the net that described traits of the schizophrenic and the schizoid personality that seemed to fit me perfectly.  I scotch taped it to my bedroom door.

In 2002, when I came back to him after an intense cluster of experiences and casually acknowledged in our session that I was fully aware that I was schizophrenic, he immediately asked me, with a skeptical look on his face, who it was that had given me that diagnosis. When I stated that it had been him, he was emphatic that this could not have been the case. After explaining to me that the term schizophrenia was essentially a dumping ground for what may turn out to be various disorders, he took on this proposed diagnosis directly.

“If you’re a schizophrenic,” he told me, “you’re certainly a highly-functioning one.”

I found the notion that I, a twenty-something living at home yet again and working fast food, could be described as “highly functioning” by any measure to be ludicrous, but he was, after all, the goddamned professional. Though he predicted that I had particular abnormalities in certain regions of my brain and called my experiences “perceptual anomalies,” he never gave me a diagnosis.

For a time, specifically after reading Dr. Marlene Steinberg’s book, The Stranger in the Mirror: Dissociation — The Hidden Epidemic, I also explored the notion that I might suffer from a dissociative disorder, perhaps even Dissociative Identity Disorder. Without doubt I experience what has been labeled dissociative symptoms. In addition, my memories and experiences may in part be due to some alternate personality or “alter” and there appears to be evidence of its beginnings in my childhood. My initial rush of memories and the flashbacks that followed might represent a previously compartmentalized sector of my mind, one belonging to this alter, colliding with my conscious personality and merging. My experience with the ideomotor response in my use of the Ouija board, in my spontaneous artwork and writing, as well as during the hypnosis session, all may have represented the alter gaining slow and localized control over my body. The entity I encountered during my “astral projections” might be one manifestation of an alternate personality or alter as well — perhaps after sharing previously isolated memories the separate aspects of mind we have governed over blended further, giving rise to shared lucid dreams I took to be “astral projections.” Maybe the incidents between June and August of 1995, climaxing in the incident at the java juicer, represented transient periods where the alter took control of my body entirely.  

The issue is that this degree of dissociation is typically associated with intense physical and psychological trauma. On the surface, at least, this presents itself to me as an utterly insane proposition. As I imagine is the case with anyone, I have my share of complaints and grievances with respect to how I grew up. My mother favored my sisters over me and I had endless power-struggles with her over the course of my childhood. It hurt and enraged me, and I continue in my attempts to deal with those issues. Even so, I recognize that I was one lucky little asshole. My parents never physically abused us kids. I was certainly never sexually abused. Our harshest punishments as children, which I faced often enough, involved either staring at a corner for a length of time measured by my mother’s oven timer or being under “room arrest,” confined to my bedroom until further notice. Without doubt this nonviolent discipline is what made the abuse I witnessed at Jimmy’s house all the more traumatizing — and indeed, that was all certainly traumatizing from the position of a witness as well, but that it might provide the fuel for alien encounters seemed far more ludicrous to me than the thought that, well, I might have legitimately had alien encounters.

It isn’t just trauma and mental disorders that can allegedly produce these alien encounters, however. People have linked alien abduction experiences with various drugs such as Salvia Divinorum, Ketamine, and psilocybin, but most often DMT. All are classified as psychedelics, I believe, aside from ketamine, which is a dissociative, but unless you’re willing to concede that each of these chemicals constitute different rabbit holes leading to the same parallel universe, all are psychedelic in the true sense of the term, which is to say that they are “mind-revealing.” In other words, these drugs draw back the egoic curtain and let you take a peek beyond the veil of mundane consciousness, bringing you can deal more directly with the more subliminal aspects of the mind — just as psychosis can.

Some believe sleep paralysis alone can produce the abduction experience, which I find ridiculous for several reasons. Even among the popularized abduction cases one can see that bedrooms are not the only place encounters occur and that often enough the people involved are not asleep at the time of the event. They might be fishing or driving, for instance, and be among others who are taken along with them. In addition, I have had sleep paralysis myself and the earliest such experience is the succubus experience mentioned early in the book. Even at the time of the experience I did not interpret it as an alien breaking into my dark room, crawling atop my bed, straddling my immobilized body and proceeding to dry-hump rape me. Instead, I assumed it was a disembodied entity doing something analogous or — more likely, I supposed — this was all a hallucinatory experience brought on by one-part sleep deprivation and one-part prescription medication.

So I have explored the Psychological Hypothesis (PH), which alleges that while it may require activation through trauma, drugs, mental disorders or the peculiar circumstance in which your mind wakes up before your body does, the abduction experience is purely a product of human psychology. There is no external intelligence at work here, only my own. It’s all in my head. A related school of thought I explored posits what I’ll call the Psi Hypothesis (PsiH), and it attempts to compensate for the failure of the PH to account for physical evidence by bringing parapsychology into the fold — specifically, the psi capabilities of the human mind.

My train of thought ultimately ran along this track: if one finds the PH absurd and instead accepts abductions as nuts-and-bolts physical experiences, these physical experiences require you to accept the existence of paranormal phenomena. It is simply a given. After all, a cursory glance at abduction reports should make it clear that telepathy and moving through walls, for instance, is by no means rare in abduction events. To the contrary, paranormal phenomena is pretty fucking standard — and not just during these events, either, but in the wake of them. There is the matter of the “paranormal afterglow” that manifests in my life during these experiences, and while some investigators fail to mention them, personal reports from abductees reveal that I am by no means alone. Others also experience spontaneous telepathic experiences, poltergeist activity, vivid dreams that seem like awakening in a parallel reality, odd coincidences and other strange events.

As this paranormal afterglow runs the full spectrum of psi, stretches on indiscriminately into the gamut of the strange, it seems natural to wonder if the aliens themselves, rather than extraterrestrials, might just be another manifestation. In other words, it could very well still be that the phenomenon is purely psychological at the roots, that it is governed by compartmentalized aspects of my mind that influence me subliminally, that this is truly my conspiracy against myself. Maybe it also branched out into physicality utilizing psi abilities, however: powers which for whatever convenient reason I cannot wield consciously.
This would by necessity be a form of poltergeist. In this view, the phenomenon of poltergeists is explained as a living individual who is experiencing recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis; the psychokinetic activity is the result of subconscious and involuntary acting-out of the focus individual.

For a clearer picture of how this might work we might first turn to a series of parapsychological experiments that have been conducted since 1972. These experiments sought to demonstrate that the display of psi phenomena often attributed to deceased individuals could manifest without them, and so such phenomena were not necessarily evidence for life after death. In the beginning, which in this case was 1972, there was Philip Aylesford, the child of eight members of the Toronto Society for Psychical Research. He was a fictional character they developed with an elaborate backstory regarding his birth, life, and eventual death. They collectively meditated on him before attempting to communicate with him in the style of a Spiritualist seance. Participants reported not only communications but manifestations — they not only saw and heard things, in other words, but poltergeist phenomena also manifested. Other groups conducted similar experiments, reporting that they had successfully created and then conjured Lilith, a World War II French Canadian spy, Sebastian, an alchemist from medieval times and finally Axel, who was from the future.

As expected, results of these experiments were disputed — as were the tales regarding the more extreme manifestation of what has typically been called the tulpa in Western culture and which is also variously known as an egregore or a thought-form. It is often conceived as an imaginary entity that achieves, through ritual intent of its creator, a physical manifestation — according to some, an intentional and advanced rendition of your typical poltergeist.

Though the notion is reasonably dispersed across the collective consciousness at this point, methinks, the only alleged personal account I have come across is the one told by Alexandra David-Neel. In her journey through Tibet, she became interested in tulpas. Having elected to make one herself, she decided on a friendly, pudgy monk, and was eventually able to visualize him as a hallucination in her visual field. Over time the hallucination gained clarity, and eventually she found it indistinguishable from a living, breathing, physical being.

The frightening aspect of her little experiment soon became apparent, however, when the monk began appearing when she hadn’t conjured it, and then began behaving in ways it had not been programmed by her to behave. The monk also seemed to be losing weight and had taken on a distinctly malicious appearance. Nothing was as shocking, however, as when an individual she knew, who knew nothing of her practices, began questioning her about the stranger that had been meandering about in her tent. She reports that it took half a year, but she was eventually able to abolish the creature through other Tibetan techniques.

Though in both of these cases the entities were intentionally generated, in both cases they reportedly also exceed their programming and seemed to take on a life of their own, independent of the conscious aspect of the mind: essentially, a spiritual form of artificial intelligence. It also fits the profile of a dissociative identity state, an alternate personality. They are essentially intentionally-generated alters that can manifest physically.

An interesting aspect of the Philip experiment was that none of the eight involved were gifted psychically. Nonetheless, they were apparently capable of creating and programming a spiritual entity that could communicate in a way that was consistent with that personality and, most important and amazing of all, producing psychokinetic effects. David-Neel seemed to be at least moderately gifted psychically and have some degree of discipline as well; despite being a lone individual, she was able to produce a creature that could be seen by her and others. The entity was also able to become independent of its creators, functioning autonomously. Naturally, this might lead one to wonder what kind of effects a large group of psychically-gifted individuals might be capable of producing.

All the people I know that have had experiences similar to mine seem to have no knowledge of the UFO or abduction phenomenon beyond the superficial reports that the media regurgitates every now and then. Despite this, correlations between our narratives are plentiful right down to unanticipated details. From the way one friend described the shadows of the beings from outside her tent during a formative experience while camping as a child to the way another friend described the manner in which one of the creatures in his encounter ran, there are correlations even in the details littering our experience that I cannot in good conscience deny. This extends to many of those of whom I have read and read about in blogs, articles and books and seen through interviews and documentaries. Could the answer really be that our collective unconscious is conspiring against us, utilizing telepathy to share a narrative and RSPK to bring that narrative to life?

Despite finding the concepts of both the PH and PsiH fascinating, I have, in the end, always choked in my attempts to swallow. Those who have posited that poltergeist activity is the unconscious product of an individual note the similarities in individuals around which the alleged recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis (RSPK) manifests. In cases of alien abduction, on the other hand, it is clear that these experiences are shared by people from all walks of life, people all across the spectrum — racial, religious, cultural, class, education — as well as people of wildly different constitutions who react to these shared experiences in very individual ways. This sounds less like a psychological disorder — with or without psi effects — and more like an actual, nuts-and-bolts experience.

Polishing Ajna.

Jonas and Elizabeth come over between eight and nine in the evening. I had woken up from my post-third-shift slumber a few hours before, drank some coffee, relaxed, taken a shit and a shower and waited while trying not to think, think, think.

Elizabeth was wearing all black save for her tie-dye hippie socks. It had been awhile since I had seen Jonas, and his hair had grown and taken on a look that reminded me of the traditional style of the eighties. Kind of like Luke in Star Wars: A New Hope. I met them at the side entrance to my building and Elizabeth led the way up three flights of stairs and along the short stroll to the door to my one-bedroom apartment, where we all sat down in the front room in front of my laptop monitor. I had set up the papasan by the computer for myself, as I knew it would be the most comfortable thing for me to sit on during the experience.

Jonas has some initial difficulties cutting one of the tabs in two, finally succeeding by use of the X-Acto knife I typically use to clean out my bowl. Using their tweezers, he then places a whole tab on her tongue, one of the halves on his own.

This was happening. I felt wary. Did I want to do this? Me, I always said I’d never do this. Then he picks up the other half with the tweezers and extends it towards me.

Shit. This is the moment of truth.

I’m nervous, not entirely ready, and in my hesitation he accidentally drops it. Though this would be unfortunate in the event it could not be found, I was thankful for the moment of reflection it permitted me. We look around for it on the carpet between us all as I try and build up some courage. Eventually one of them finds that it had fallen into my shoe. With the tweezers, he plucks it from my sole and places it on my open sketch pad. With diminishing reluctance I go for the tweezers but Elizabeth says it would probably be easier to just lick it off my sketch pad. It seems a weird way to go and that typically works for me, so I do it. I feel mildly apprehensive after doing so, but curiosity of what may be to come quickly takes dominance.

We smoke a bowl, a cigarette each, and I try to keep it under my tongue, eventually realizing that it is gone. That I must have swallowed it. They tell me not to worry.

As I did not take notes during the experience, I cannot be sure of the exact sequence of all events, though particular events in and of themselves are certainly vivid. It began while we were watching Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.

If I were to do this, I had decided some time ago, I had to watch Cosmos, most of all episode 13, “Unafraid of the Dark,” which was particularly visually stunning in its depiction of supernovas. Elizabeth also insisted we watch episode 5, “Hiding in the Light,” mainly due to the portion regarding soundwaves. It was still on Netflix, thankfully, and so we watched “Hiding in the Light” first.

At some point as we were watching it I suddenly feel as if certain parts of my brain light up, blasting me into this heightened awareness. My vision was crisp. I felt this intensity in my body. I felt a sense of euphoria with a side of anxiety.

As time went on I experienced periods of sudden, incredible and sturdy focus — which would be strange enough if it did not seem as if I could focus on several points simultaneously. Psychological absorption was at an all-time high. Fantasy seemed more like a parallel world I had equal access to alongside sensory reality; shifting between them was akin to changing channels or switching stations. In time I came to be very, very absorbed in what we were watching on my laptop.For other, brief periods — at least once, to be sure — I became tangled in a web of divergent attention and high-speed thoughts, achieving a height of frustrating confusion before wriggling myself out of it and coming back into focus.

To my left I could see my bedroom door, opened just a crack, and the light bleeding through kept catching my attention, fucking with me. I finally had to get up and open the door. Then I kept thinking I was seeing the lights and shadows from the bathroom, accessible through my bedroom, move as if something was there. At one point, I thought I saw something small and white run from the bathroom into the darkness at the other side of my room. None of it frightened me for more than a second, after which I realized it was just my imagination and laughed at myself in response.

When I was talking with Elizabeth and Jonas sometimes I would catch the laptop monitor out of the corner of my eye, convinced for a moment that something was playing on it, like a movie or something, but there was merely a motionless visual on the screen. It kept fucking with me in a fashion similar to crack in bedroom doorway.

In our conversation before taking the acid, they told me I should eat first and if I needed to poop, I should do it beforehand, because it was rather disconcerting under the influence of this chemical. They also told me that pissing was kind of strange, but I knew I would be unable to avoid that one — in general, I tend to take in a lot of fluid: water, coffee, iced tea, booze. This equals pissing like a race horse.

When I inevitably had to get up to pee, Elizabeth suggested I look at myself in the mirror. Piddling itself was a perplexing experience indeed. I felt high up, incredibly tall and skinny, and it seemed as though my dick way, way down there was pissing into a teeny-tiny toilet. After I went to the sink and washed and dried my hands, I looked up, into the mirror, focusing on my eyes. My face seemed to morph around my point of focus, though not into anything discernible. My vision brightened, everything seemed white and yellow. I was transfixed for a while, but eventually returned to the front room and sat in my comfy nest.

Over the entire course of the evening, I had only one fully-scale visual hallucination. As I was watching the bedroom door (which I had absentmindedly closed again when returning from pissing and skrying) this little transparent ball with a long, tadpole tail swam in a slow, wavelike fashion across my field of vision. It was like an oversize, slow-mo air-sperm.

Getting up, I opened the door again.

More subjective strangeness took place than sensory, hallucinatory phenomena. For instance, at times I felt that while I was inside my body I was not entirely attached to it. I often felt as if I was residing in my body in positions that I ordinarily did not. Typically I feel as though my consciousness resides inside my head, for instance, but for a period I felt as though I was hanging out in the chest area.

So we watched the two episodes of Cosmos. The segment on sound waves was astounding, though I got the feeling that it was not the “full experience” Elizabeth had experienced herself when she watched it on acid. When we got to the episode on supernovas, I must have been at or near my peak. More than just the beautiful explosions of dying stars, there was the journey through space in general that drug me in, embraced me. I even said to them, “Twelve hours of just that. Just journeying through the stars. I would love it.” In retrospect it reminded me of those dreams I had as a kid, just soaring through the stars at fantastic speed, alone in the vast, silent beauty of space.

At some point the journey ended as the camera pulled out from space into Neil deGrasse Tyson’s star-spore, dandelion-seed-shaped Spaceship of the Imagination through one of the windows — which initially looked to me like the gigantic, slanted, almond eye of your typical Gray alien. No one else seemed to make that connection. I don’t know if I felt sad to be alone or thankful for my isolated association.

After the two episodes, we watched Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, where I came to confront the Cheshire Cat, another symbol from my past. After we began coming down and had tired of conversation, we turned back to Netflix and watched the first two or three episodes of American Dad, which I had never seen before. I noticed that I was more prone to laughter, at times ridiculous laughter. While I felt in most cases the laughter was appropriate, it was far, far more amusing than it would have been had I been sober, or even stoned out of my mind on Mary Jane. I was laughing so hard there were tears in my eyes.

It was morning when we finally came entirely down. They slept on the couch in the living room and I closed my bedroom door and lay in my bed. My body was so comfortable. There was no tossing, no turning. My body was relaxed, vibrating, though my mind was still acute. They had given me half a pill of a muscle relaxer, and it finally kicked in.

When I awoke, to my disappointment, I didn’t remember any dreams, though I did recall that I had some that I would have found interesting.

Memory In Absentia.

Its evening when I finally decide to leap out of bed. After watching some videos on the net and reading an article or two, I make some coffee and finally get my ass in gear. I leave first for the grocery store just down the street before they close to buy some body wash and a bag of burritos. When I bring my stuff up the register, the old lady there greets me, scans it and tells me what I owe. In response, I slide my card and press Debit. It asks for my four-digit code.

Terror fills me. I just freeze. My mind goes blank. Try as I might, the information is — poof! — just fucking gone.

After less than a minute, I give up and press Cancel. She hears the machine make a weird noise and directs all attention to it. I nervously explain to the cashier I meant to press Credit instead and she brushes it off like its no big deal, but I feel like I’ve yet again made a total jackass out of myself. On the way to the car, on the drive towards Circle K, on the drive back home I’m constantly trying to conjure it. What are those four numbers? What are they? Where are they? By the time I make it to my apartment door, I’m fairly certain I remember, but that does little to diffuse my concern and curiosity.

After all, this has happened before. Many times over the years, in fact. Not always with numbers, either, but the names of people I know damn well just up an vanish into the goddamn ether. The information always returns, though typically long after I needed it. This has always led me to questioning why that information disappears. Back when I was younger, I just ignored it, depending upon some idiot idea I cradled that if you ignore it, it will just go away. Since I have come to fight against that inclination to go ostrich and stick my head in the ground, however, it has increasingly come to plague me. Is this a symptom of anxiety, or a dissociative disorder, or does this shit happen to everyone and its just that no one talks about it?

I fear its just one more suggestion that I’m bat-shit insane.

Diagnosing the Alien Lab Monkey.

In her 1999 book The Stranger in the Mirror: Dissociation — The Hidden Epidemic, Marlene Steinberg, MD
notes that “[a]bductees have the same dissociative symptoms as the trauma survivors I see in my psychiatric practice.” From this she extrapolates that alien abduction experiences must be screen memories for sexual or physical abuse. 

Similarly, according a February 17, 2003 article in New Scientist entitled, “Memories of alien ‘abduction’ cause physical effects,” by Shaoni Bhattacharya, a Harvard University discovered that the ten abductees they studied suffered from physiological effects consistent with PTSD. 

They could be distinguished by those with “genuine” traumatic experiences by means of asking the question, “Do you wish this had never happened?” The abductees responded in the negative, asserting that despite the pain they felt that the experience was somehow beneficial to them spiritually.

I have been able to find only one study so far that examines the psychology of alleged alien abductees without the presumption that the experience is imaginary, hallucinatory, or due to false memories.

In 1983, Dr. Elizabeth Slater conducted a blind study of nine abductees (5 male, 4 female) which she published in “The Final Report on the Psychological Testing of UFO ‘Abductees.’” The nine were subject to a psychometric evaluation using psychological projection tests and the Wechler Adult Intelligence Scale for the purposes of ascertaining “similarities and differences in personality structure, as well as psychological strengths and weaknesses”. While she found them all to be diverse in character, they nonetheless shared certain underlying commonalities. Aside from an above average intelligence, they had “a certain richness of inner life that can operate favorably in terms of creativity or disadvantageously to the extent that it can be overwhelming” and a “relative weakness in the sense of identity, especially sexual identity”.  

They also have a sense of vulnerability, a heightened sensitivity in the realm of intimacy and are generally wary of involving themselves in interpersonal relationships. “Such modest elevations mean that we are not dealing with blatant paranoid symptomology,” she writes, “but rather over-sensitivity, defensiveness and fear of criticism and susceptibility to feeling pressured.”

Importantly, methinks, Slater and the other examiners were kept in the dark regarding the fact that all nine subjects recalled alien abduction experiences. After Slater was informed that these subjects were alleged alien abductees, she wrote an addendum to the report in which she states: “The first and most critical question is whether our subjects’ reported experiences could be accounted for strictly on the basis of psychopathy, i.e., mental disorder. The answer is a firm no.” She added that “while testing can do nothing to prove the veracity of the UFO abduction reports, one can conclude that the test findings are not inconsistent with the possibility that reported UFO abductions have, in fact, occurred. In other words, there is no apparent psychological explanation for their reports.”

In his article, “A Brief Review of Issues Relating to the Reality of the Abduction Phenomenon,” John Mack concludes: “It is true that abduction experiencers do show some of the symptoms associated with post-traumatic states, but these symptoms appear to be the result, not the cause, of what the experiencers have undergone.”

When we exhibit behavior such as that described by abductees of their captors — when we abduct animals from their native environment, examine them and involve them in experiments only to later return them to their native environment — we are conducting what is known as a longitudinal study or survey. In the human execution of such studies, we are often charting the natural development of individuals within a species. Sometimes we do this in order to study how individual animals change over time. Other forms of a longitudinal study can deal with studying the long-term consequences of certain changes we made in an organism. We do this by “catching” the same animals out of their native environment throughout their lives and examining them locally, in the controlled environment of our laboratories, only to “release” them again. We also subject them to remote surveillance through the tags or remote monitoring devices we have implanted in their bodies. While most of these studies have thus far been of a single generation of selected individuals, there are also intergenerational studies, and these are what resonates with the abduction phenomenon.

Given that the abduction experience suggests a higher intelligence using us as we use life forms on our own planet, perhaps we should look at the effects of experimentation on them.

In her April 2, 2013 article in Scientific American, “Psychiatry Tries to Aid Traumatized Chimps in Captivity,” Kelly Servick does just that. She introduces us to Martin Brüne, a psychiatrist at the University Hospital in Bochum, Germany, who is interested in the similarities between the minds of humans and their ancestors, chimpanzees. This interest only grew when an Austrian primatologist had him study a group of retired lab chimps. After the projects of which they were originally a part, many animals are recycled, reused in other research projects — much like was depicted in the 1987 film, Project X — and are later retired to sanctuaries. Here, Brüne found the chimps to exhibit recognizable symptoms of depression, aggression, self-mutilation, anxiety and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.

Might it be that the alien encounters are real and the abduction experience is traumatic in its own right — that the sense of anxiety, alienation, paranoia, lack of trust among them make sense in this context? Could dissociation serve as a defense mechanism against the stress of repeated abductions?

Lapis Encaged.

… but photographs, illusions
and ideas are the waves
that shape the stone
of the person,

the lapis,
soul, the ego,
the inner self:
an agent of memory.

Ego is the summary,
the collective prototype,
the facial composite

of the self,
the original face
sketched, fleshed out
based on the witnessed
and molded

by each and every
one of the blind hands
provided by the available
senses, holding

jumbled, spinning,
dancing shards

(trembling fingers curl,
barring all from the quaking,
cold-sweat-encased,
otherwise open palms)

of narrowed spectra
floating
in a soup of bias,
drowning
in distorted perceptions.

Ex Caput Mortuum.

Sixteen,
slipping headfirst into the black.

Alone at last, embracing introversion,
stumbling through the jungle, to the tender lips
of the abyss within, listening
to ancient whispers, denied memories,
buried aspects of my personality:

truths of a type
that nightmares are made of.

Ink in pen, pastel, pencil, various media
in hand, fingers to keyboard,
hungry for bloodletting,
expel the poison,
work the dirt out from the sore
that I become in this prison
of ignorance,
hunt and peck
until they blister and spill my essence…

I try to bleed it dry, swallow it whole,
deep certainty that this is the only way to let go
of that which I have been entirely blinded to,

not least of which the fact
that I hold and have held
for so long, though this hole is deeper
than I could ever have guessed, could have known,
a surreal vortex that threatens
any sense of self or sanity
with ruthless, violent, unmerciful
disintegration.

Crows peck meat from bones,
ghosts torment the mind drifting free
from body, now at war with the chaos,
eyes as black as my head is dead,
flies encircles my eyes, halo of crows spinning
like satellites around my charred
and wasted mind…

Cannot believe the weight I hold.
(Arrogance.)
Cannot believe the age of soul.
(Age is not synonymous with wisdom.)
Fight against the accusation
that I am a part of this, participant
in this mess,

my freedom, my responsibility.
Belonging nowhere, gather the lost, fight
for a better home. Feel like I need
to do something, use all that I have got,
though I’m lost,
fuck,
what am I supposed to do
with all of this?

No one could
(not even sure that I completely)
believe it.

No faith in self.
No hope is scientifically
discerning anything else.

How can I know what side
is right to fight
on if I know enough to know
that I don’t know myself?

(Nimi, where are you?
My guide, my confidant…)

Need to gain
a sense of direction
to find the off-ramp,
escape my personal hell,
embrace my work,
be myself.

Where There’s Smoke…

In the dream I recall upon awakening on the late afternoon of August 1, 2015, I’m in a house or some building watching a rural setting out a large window. Trees and grass and sky obscured by smoke. Violent winds play with this smoke or thick mist in such a way that it almost seems alive, but I feel protected from it inside.

I wake up, make coffee, shower and leave for the roughly hour drive to my parents house. The three of us then do our usual: go out to eat, visit a cool bookstore. As we leave the bookstore parking lot, my father asks me the last time I had visited the old neighborhood. It had only been a few times since we moved in 1988 and it’s been years. Many years.

We drive passed my grandmother’s old apartment complex. The deli that I saw getting robbed right before we moved, its name had changed. The small library at the end of the street had moved. We pulled down our old road, I saw our old house, my old bedroom window. We followed the road down passed the other apartments grandma lived in and them continued the way I used to walk to school. I remember getting lost for the first time ever walking this way to school. Then he turns and we head towards the park.

As we drive into the park, it seems vaguely familiar. As soon as we get out and I see the large building, the dance hall, suddenly it all clicks. My mother starts talking about some really long slide, how my sisters and I used to slide down it on wax paper when we were kids to go faster, and then I remember the hill it was built into. The hill from the memory I had of hopping on my bicycle when I was young, peddling down here as if I were being summoned and waiting up on that hill nearby the top of the slide for somebody, something. Looking up through the tops of the trees, into the sky, pent up, anxious.

Memories: true or false?

We walk towards the edge, where it used to drop off into a beach that eased into Lake Erie. We get to the ledge, watch the sun setting, and realize that the waters have swallowed the beach. Consumed the sands entirely. Fittingly eerie. I worry about the world my little niece will be inheriting; everything countless generations before her have done and continue to do. I hope those who mock climate change are right, but I’m nearly certain they are not.

EMF Alarms As False Wake-Up Calls.

“And this is not my face. And this is not my life. And there is not a single thing here I can recognize. This is all a dream. And none of you are real.”
— “Head Down,” Nine Inch Nails.

Though I don’t remember awakening specifically, I am sure what prompted my consciousness was a noise. A kind of beeping noise that shot up in pitch and then died over and over. My ears lead the hunt through the darkness that drapes over my locale. I follow it to a room, enter, and hear it coming from a closet with an open door. It should not be open. Someone has been in here. That was my first, frightening thought. Walking towards it, I watch as the LEDs of the EMF-meter on the shelf rise in number and tone.

There is a certain feeling, a creeping terror with the thought of walking into your one-bedroom apartment, your solitary abode, or, even worse, waking up in it during the middle of the night to find that things are not as you left them, that there are clear signs of someone else’s presence while you were away. That was the sudden fear I felt as I walked slowly into the dark room, towards the open closet. I see the line of LED lights on the tiny machine high on the shelf, see one, more, all of them light up and then go down again in time with the rise and fall in pitch of the beeping. I tried to formulate some rational explanation as to how the door could be open and that thing could have been turned on when no one but me should be stepping foot into this apartment without my knowledge and consent.

Then memory is just gone.

I wake up again at some point because it was cold. Why is it so fucking cold? Suddenly I remembered I had been hot before bed and had turned the fan on the wall to the air conditioning setting. As for the former closet experience, it did not strike me until after I had actually awakened and sat down for my first cigarette. It was then that I recalled the incident and realized immediately that it had not happened in the ordinary sense. It was also here that I first recognized that it had indeed an EMF-meter in the closet, one of a design clearly hijacked from the television show, Supernatural. I have no such device, however, nor do I have the specific closet I had seen it in. In retrospect, the EMF-meter seemed to grow more active as I approached it, lighting up and squealing — was the overarching message supposed to be that I was the ghost it was detecting?

Furthermore, what is with the false awakenings lately? I think the most it frighting thing that has struck me about the most recent wave of false awakenings is that despite my degree of wakefulness I seem trapped within a set of memories specific to the setting and which are at odds with my actual experience. It’s like memories came with the reality that were consistent with it, tailor-made for it, as if I had previous experiences, a whole elaborate history in the context of that space. Outside of the false awakening but having remembered it, I have at best vague recollections of this body of knowledge, this context of memory.

If these are not memories of previous experiences in these “spaces” then they are false memories unconsciously whipped up on the spot, and that is amazing, too. This also means to me that one’s sense of memory and reality is apparently even less reliable than I had previously accepted. Indeed, if I can be so easily fooled in false awakenings, why the fuck would it be any different with respect to my more consistent “true” awakenings?