Eye Witness Testimony

Phillipe Halsmann: “Dali Atomicus” a decent feel for what i saw

for my friend Shawn Chapman

Can we trust our own senses? Witnesses to the high strange reliably report all type of fanciful, unusual, and frankly unbelievable sights and sensations to those of us resting comfortably in consensus reality.

It’s easy to brush off their accounts, after all, how can people be expected to accurately take in a completely new sensory event, one for which they have no context or prior warning?

Yesterday I was standing in the dining room, looking over some bills, when I suddenly had an entirely novel visual impression. A gooey squirt of rusty brown shot across my visual field, from right to left and back to front, in high definition 3D. A rusty yellow tinged my right visual field, as the slatternly arabesque started to twist and degrade, shattering into a lazy firework that slowly dissolved over about 15 minutes, leaving me with a bazillion grey and black floaters.

At the same time I got a huge migraine aura (I’ve suffered from migraine with aura and ocular migraine for many decades) and was having great difficulty speaking (one of my typical symptoms). Thankfully I didn’t have any other signs of stroke, but I was concerned.

In fact, my sense was that I’d had a bleed in the back of my right eye, into the gel like gooey center. I called the optometrist, and an examination showed that is exactly what had happened. I had a vitreous detachment, just one of those things that happens as our bodies age. It should heal up just fine with no damage to my vision.

But it made me think of all the eyewitnesses to the high strange who have their testimony poohpoohed or equivocated over, with researchers citing various studies that prove our senses and memories are fallible. Which point I will not argue.

However, at the same time, it beggars belief that we could survive as creatures wandering the earth with no reliable means of input on the state of our material surroundings – the ability to discern food from poison, friend from foe, shelter from storm.

I’m not asking people to swallow all witness testimony whole – simply that we not dismiss it out of hand or pick away at it with various psychological studies, but instead investigate it as best we can. And to consider that a thousand years ago people no doubt saw the same thing I did yesterday, before anyone had developed lenses capable of confirming our vision.

One thought on “Eye Witness Testimony

  1. I had an interesting conversation about this very subject with an online acquaintance not so long ago. The context being werewolf folklore (which plays an important role in the magical system of Kenneth Grant) and whether werewolves literally exist or the literary archetype of the werewolf just happens to be a useful symbol for some psychological element of the human condition. (metamorphosis, conditions that can be seen as both curses and blessings etc)

    To this I replied that the key to “getting” occultism is to stop worrying over whether werewolves (or angels, demons, elves, extraterrestrials, vampires etc) literally exist and instead look at what effect the belief in them has on your own spiritual development. We arrived at the intermediary conclusion that the “it’s all psychology” model of occultism has its limitations but since all humans are affected by psychology (and with this the physical structure of the human brain) this psychology will be inescapable.

    Here, I pointed out that the Danish anarchist political theorist, esoteric occultist and science-fiction author Erwin Neutzsky-Wulff (think a Scandinavian Robert Anton Wilson who’s more goth than hippie and you have a good idea) views angels, demons, elves, extraterrestrials etc as just different ways the divine manifests to humans depending on their cultural background. The really curious thing is that ENW has noticed following things: The different specialised parts of the human brain correspond to the different Sephiroth on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life that describe both God’s emanations and the faculties of the human mind, with the initiation process in the Kabbalah following the Tree of Life as each step on the path requires mastering the mental faculty described by a particular Sephira; furthermore that mediaeval mystical encounters with angels, demons, elves, vampires, werewolves AND modern cryptid/UFO contact stories with uncanny accuracy follow the narrative of the initiatory path depicted by the Tree of Life.

    About all this, my acquaintance mentioned that he has always thought of it this way: The human brain is a limited tool that evolved in order to help us survive within a limited range of environments. It was never meant to help us understand absolute truth. Absolute truth does not exist for us. The idea that logic represents “The Truth” is a fallacy—it’s just a convenient perceptual tool devised by evolution to help us survive and perpetuate. There are a number of things that we can experience that the brain is not equipped to understand. There seem to be some distinct advantages to interacting with some of these things, though not everybody is interested in these advantages (or even necessarily consider them to be advantages). Or the human brain just likes to find patterns in things (because doing so gives us a strategic advantage in terms of survival).

    Regarding the similarities between the components of the human brain and the different emanations of God which Kabbalah’s path of transcendence moves through he pointed out that it would make sense that a variety of long-standing symbol systems would map out to legitimate brain functions, since it’s the brain that came up with them in the first place. Or at least, they were filtered through the brain if they came from somewhere else.

    The specific analogy that he used was that “the brain can’t perceive anything more complex than itself any more than a container can contain something larger than itself.”

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