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The Art of Magical Thinking



Will magical thinking help us to better understand the UFO and paranormal phenomenon?


  • Total voters
    19

Burnt State

Paranormal Adept
Logical modes of thinking stand directly opposite all aspects of the paranormal. If you've been on this forum at all you know that skeptical thought despises irrationality and openly mocks those who believe in ideas that have no concrete foundation to support them. However in a study exploring irrational thought in Scientific American it was found that people who had their lucky rabbit foot nearby scored higher in proficiency tests than when it was gone. There appears to be something else at work than just believing in the kool aid and that the aliens are inside the comet, ready to take one's spirit on a magic carpet ride as it departs from the eunuched body post suicde.

Why "Magical Thinking" Works for Some People: Scientific American

For me there's a sliding scale. Some irrational belief systems are not safe. But when you look to the world of the artist there appears to be insights gained that practicality just can't produce. Having spent time with mad people I have experienced both terrifying ways of seeing the world as well as some of the most flexible and inspiring ways of thinking imaginable. Sometimes madness is not just refreshing it's also quite perceptive in ways straight thinking and sane people will never get near. It's a very complicated sliding scale.

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I wonder where everyone else stands on this. Do you find any value in magical and irrational thinking or do you think anyone with random thoughts should just be medicated even if they are not in harm or harming others? I'm interested in looking at examples where irrational thought offers us new and beneficial insights.

I often think that much of the UFO phenomenon seems to be more tied to magical thinking, especially when the occupants show up on the scene. Consequently, I think that if we are to get anywhere with understanding synchronistic, UFO and paranormal experiences we may need to be looking through a kaleidoscopic lens instead of the lens of practical science. What say you?

“Be silent and listen: have you recognized your madness and do you admit it? Have you noticed that all your foundations are completely mired in madness? Do you not want to recognize your madness and welcome it in a friendly manner? You wanted to accept everything. So accept madness too. Let the light of your madness shine, and it will suddenly dawn on you. Madness is not to be despised and not to be feared, but instead you should give it life...If you want to find paths, you should also not spurn madness, since it makes up such a great part of your nature...Be glad that you can recognize it, for you will thus avoid becoming its victim. Madness is a special form of the spirit and clings to all teachings and philosophies, but even more to daily life, since life itself is full of craziness and at bottom utterly illogical. Man strives toward reason only so that he can make rules for himself. Life itself has no rules. That is its mystery and its unknown law. What you call knowledge is an attempt to impose something comprehensible on life.”

― C.G. Jung, The Red Book

P.S. sorry about the poll grammar but it posted before I could edit it: will irrational thinking help us to better understand paranormal and UFO phenomenon?
 
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smcder

Guest
Having spent time with mad people I have experienced both terrifying ways of seeing the world as well as some of the most flexible and inspiring ways of thinking imaginable. Sometimes madness is not just refreshing it's also quite perceptive in ways straight thinking and sane people will never get near. It's a very complicated sliding scale.

What do you mean by mad people?
 

Burnt State

Paranormal Adept
Ok, I'm using "mad" in that anti-psychiatry mode, where those people that the system labelled as "mad" had to be incarcerated, and whom later adopted the word as a means of positive self-identity as a reaction to sanism.
 
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smcder

Guest
Ok, I'm using "mad" in that anti-psychiatry mode, where those people that the system labelled as "mad" had to be incarcerated, and whom later adopted the world as a means of positive self-identity as a reaction to sanism.

In that case - you are spending time with a mad person now . . . ;-)

I have a magnificent passage from Kay Redfield Jamison's "bible" of manic-depressive illness that fits what you say above beautifully, now to find the book, then to find the passage and type it in . . .
 
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smcder

Guest
It's the statement of an individual diagnosed with a manic depressive disorder - that, on balance, they would rather live with the illness than without it and why . . .
 
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smcder

Guest
Found the book and the book mark . . .

"I have often asked myself whether, given the choice, I would choose to have manic-depressive illness. If lithium were no available to me, or didn't work for me, the answer would be a simple No - and it would be an answer laced with terror. But lithium does work for me and therefore I suppose I can afford to answer the question. Strangely enough, I think I would choose to have it. It's complicated. Depression is awful beyond words or sounds or images; I would not go through an extended one again. It bleeds relationships through suspicion, lack of confidence and self-respect, the inability to enjoy life, to walk or talk or think normally, the exhaustion, the night terrors, the day terrors. There is nothing good to be said for it except that it gives you the experience of how it must be to be old, to be old and sick, to be dying; to be slow of mind, to be lacking in grace, polish and coordination; to be ugly; to have no belief in the possibilities of life, the pleasures of sex, the exquisiteness of music, or the ability to make yourself and others laugh.

I get enraged when others imply they know what it is like to be depressed because they have gone through a divorce, lost a job, or broken up with someone. Those experiences carry with them feelings. Depression, instead, is truly flat, stale and unprofitable. It is also true, absolutely so, that people cannot abide being around you when you are depressed.They might think they ought to, and they might even try, but you know and they know that you're a pain in the ass: you're irritable and paranoid and humorless and lifeless and critical and demanding and no reassurance is ever enough. You're frightened, and you're frightening, and you're "not at all like yourself but will be soon," but you know you won't.

So why would I want anything to do with this illness?"
 
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smcder

Guest
"So why would I want anything to do with this illness?

Because I honestly believe that as a result of it I have felt more things, more deeply; had more experiences, more intensely; loved more, and been more loved; laughed more often for having cried more often; appreciated more the springs, for all the winters; worn death “as close as dungarees,” appreciated it – and life – more; seen the finest and most terrible in people, and slowly learned the values of caring, loyalty, and seeing things through. I think I have seen the breadth and depth and width of my heart, and seen how frail they both are, and how ultimately unknowable they both are. Depressed, I have crawled on my hands and knees to get across a room, and have done it for month after month. But, normal or high, I have run faster, thought faster, loved faster than most I know. And I think much of this is related to my illness – the intensity it gives to things and the perspective it forces on me. I think it has made me test the limits of my mind (which, while wanting, is holding) and the limits of my upbringing, family, education and friends.


The countless hypomanias, and mania itself, all have brought into my life a different level of sensing and feeling and thinking. Even when I have been most psychotic – delusional, hallucinating, frenzied – I have been aware of finding new corners in my mind and heart. Some of those corners were incredible and beautiful and took my breath away and made me feel as though I could die right then and the images would sustain me. Some of them were grotesque and ugly and I never wanted to know they were there or see them again. But, always, there were those new corners and – when feeling my normal self – I cannot imagine becoming jaded to life, because I know of those limitless corners, with their limitless views."

So . . . count me in.
 

boomerang

Paranormal Adept
smcder, Those are very powerful words !

I'm going to take the easy way out by falling back on what I understand of the philosophy of Carl Jung and Robert Heinlein, who seem to see a kind of bottomless ocean of irrationality in the universe atop which our logical consciousness floats. Here there is no principle of cause and effect. Rational analyses and applied logical strategies are the best way to stay afloat. But the irrational, mercurial substrate from which both mind and matter emerge, has a way of seeping into every human experience. It is powerful stuff--engendering both misery and bliss. It is also the root of true creativity. Jung cites this as the reason why so many brilliantly creative minds are often emotionally labile. Having touched the raw power of the "collective unconscious", if you will, they come away both enlightened and burned. One of Heinlein's repeated themes is that the human condition is a never ending struggle to make sense of a universe which is intrinsically irrational.

At any rate, anyone with Bipolar Disorder is in intellectually good company. The correlation between bipolar disorder and creativity is well established.
 

Randall

J. Randall Murphy
Magical thinking is fine so long as when it becomes a more serious consideration, it's tempered with critical thinking. In the meantime magical thinking allows us the freedom to enjoy entertainment by suspending our disbelief, frees us to be creative in ways that cannot be expressed in purely scientific terms, allows us to recognize how magical thinkers view the world and where they go wrong, gives us permission to test magical thinking for ourselves to see if maybe there is something to it that science may have missed, and in general, makes the world a more colorful place to live in.

The downside is when critical thinking is discarded and replaced by magical thinking in a way that is detrimental to real life. For example, the management at the workplace of a friend of mine got into the magical thinking promoted by The Secret and started requiring everyone to follow the guidelines set out in the book as they had personally interpreted them, resulting in a lot of problems that the management subsequently blamed on the staff for not being in line with the program.
 
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smcder

Guest
At any rate, anyone with Bipolar Disorder is in intellectually good company. The correlation between bipolar disorder and creativity is well established.

Sorry it was a bit long, but worth having out there I think - it's the best description I have found of what it's like to have manic-depressive illness.
 

Burnt State

Paranormal Adept
"So why would I want anything to do with this illness?

Because I honestly believe that as a result of it I have felt more things, more deeply; had more experiences, more intensely; loved more, and been more loved; laughed more often for having cried more often; appreciated more the springs, for all the winters; worn death “as close as dungarees,” appreciated it – and life – more; seen the finest and most terrible in people, and slowly learned the values of caring, loyalty, and seeing things through. I think I have seen the breadth and depth and width of my heart, and seen how frail they both are, and how ultimately unknowable they both are. Depressed, I have crawled on my hands and knees to get across a room, and have done it for month after month. But, normal or high, I have run faster, thought faster, loved faster than most I know. And I think much of this is related to my illness – the intensity it gives to things and the perspective it forces on me. I think it has made me test the limits of my mind (which, while wanting, is holding) and the limits of my upbringing, family, education and friends.


The countless hypomanias, and mania itself, all have brought into my life a different level of sensing and feeling and thinking. Even when I have been most psychotic – delusional, hallucinating, frenzied – I have been aware of finding new corners in my mind and heart. Some of those corners were incredible and beautiful and took my breath away and made me feel as though I could die right then and the images would sustain me. Some of them were grotesque and ugly and I never wanted to know they were there or see them again. But, always, there were those new corners and – when feeling my normal self – I cannot imagine becoming jaded to life, because I know of those limitless corners, with their limitless views."

So . . . count me in.

Working in the area of anti-racism for two decades taught me an interesting truth that i carry forward which is that those who suffer oppression and challenge it, and challenge themselves to live through these spaces, inevitably end up investigating themselves on a deeper level. Oppression, if there is a benefit, allows you to connect to yourself better, to know yourself on a deeper level, or as described so poignantly above, allows for, "finding new corners in my mind and heart." If we can survive trauma, i believe, we can take a lot of potent learning out of the experience to apply to other parts of our lives.

Whenever I have a synchronistic, altered or involved experience i always feel that i'm getting in touch with things that normally hang out at the edge of reality. If it's a good feeling then it can be a pleasant investigation. However, as Boomerang described in another thread regarding a short story he never finished (wish you would) about a character who was having more and more frequent synchronistic events that was leading to the inevitable destabillization of the mind, like when you know you've lost the battle with the panic attack and things start to depart and you just have to hang on the best you can - these are scary sapces.

Limitless corners: when you think about those moments of terror, which is such an expansive corridor, you know, the moment that the alien shows up in your bedroom, or reality suddenly breaks before your eyes, when you are hallucinating or seeing demons, there's a sense of being part of another realm. When we talk about the paranormal i think that the locus is somewhere on the other side of a door you've never seen before that appears in a wall that just should not be there.

In this way i think that a lot of the paranormal is tied to magical thinking in a lot of ways, not to confirm the skeptics' version of events, that the people seeing such things are delusional and need meds, but that those whose minds allow for more flexible thinking might be more likely to witness bits and pieces of hidden realms, maybe even have visions and provide insight and reports of that which "normal" and rational places do not allow for.

btw, it's always good to talk with mad folk as it reminds you about the value of imagination.
 

Burnt State

Paranormal Adept
I'm going to take the easy way out by falling back on what I understand of the philosophy of Carl Jung and Robert Heinlein, who seem to see a kind of bottomless ocean of irrationality in the universe atop which our logical consciousness floats.

i love that image as it feels like a very apt way to describe the demands and constraints of logical consciousness, to be in a place that floats above the bottomless ocean, where down below unseen creatures lurk and troll about, bursting through into our world every now and then, to scare the pants off of us. it seems somehow accurate as a way of understanding where paranormal phenomenon dwell, in deep places that we can go, nor expect to find anything even as we sink down deeper under the surface. of course, unless you are willing to sacrifice rationality in order to have those visions. i like to believe that the UFO comes from another planetary body and just skims along the edge of our concept of reality, but not necessarily limited to the confines of the shared consciousnesses that define this reality, but those occupants of the craft, that show up in the middle of the night appear to do so as if they had just stepped out of thin air and then went back again.
 

boomerang

Paranormal Adept
i love that image as it feels like a very apt way to describe the demands and constraints of logical consciousness, to be in a place that floats above the bottomless ocean, where down below unseen creatures lurk and troll about, bursting through into our world every now and then, to scare the pants off of us. it seems somehow accurate as a way of understanding where paranormal phenomenon dwell, in deep places that we can go, nor expect to find anything even as we sink down deeper under the surface. of course, unless you are willing to sacrifice rationality in order to have those visions. i like to believe that the UFO comes from another planetary body and just skims along the edge of our concept of reality, but not necessarily limited to the confines of the shared consciousnesses that define this reality, but those occupants of the craft, that show up in the middle of the night appear to do so as if they had just stepped out of thin air and then went back again.

We should be prepared for the possibility that rational analysis and the repeatable cause and effect mechanisms it seeks may be as much an emergent property as consciousness itself.
 

Burnt State

Paranormal Adept
We should be prepared for the possibility that rational analysis and the repeatable cause and effect mechanisms it seeks may be as much an emergent property as consciousness itself.
What i was hoping to explore in this thread were some of the alternative forms of thinking, outside of rational analysis to see, as the ocean of thought analogy suggests, that there may be other natural modes of thinking that we have chosen not to develop, ignore, medicate or subjugate because it makes the vocal majority "emotionally uncomfortable." However, i feel that there's a lot of other silent, or whispering types, that embrace other modes of thinking, and if examined without the usual dismissal from the sane and rational camps, there might be other things to be gained.

I'm sure many people are familiar with the connection between 'genius' and autism and know that there is a different thought process at work. This guy here is able to explain his approach to thinking and advanced calculation as a picture thought process, where each number is a shape and when you multiply say a five digit number up against another five digit number, those two respective shapes make a new shape, which is a new number and voila, the answer becomes spontaneous. If you explore autistic thought processes and their contributions to solving human problems, it seems that there may in fact be other ways to think that need to be part of the human modality, that need to be included and not sidelined.


I think that there are things to be gained from alternative modes of thinking, and those on the autistic spectrum that are now being communicated with instead of locked up in the attic are contributing to expanding notions of brain processes and human capacity in ways unimagined. Here's another brief article that outlines these ideas in a lean form: My Mind is a Web Browser: How People with Autism Think

Perhaps a lot of the failing of thinking in the paranormal arena is that it continually tries to approach what has been an unsolvable conundrum from rational modes of thinking only. Maybe the UFO and other paranormal phenomenon are in face irrational products, or at least belong to a realm of irrationality, and we need to find and engage in a different thought process altogether?
 

boomerang

Paranormal Adept
Tammet's abilities are almost beyond belief. Makes me wonder what's being processed in the subconscious of the non-savant of which he or her is unaware
----------------

Oops. Just got caught posting a response before reading the link. The author seems to think Tammet is a semi-savant at best. Dunno....
 
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Burnt State

Paranormal Adept
Here's something you might be interested in regarding Daniel Tammet's amazing ability: infopractical: The Boy With The Incredible Brain -- Critiqued
I read through the critique and paused every now and then on the math and got confused a little more by the world of math games. I think it is very interesting that this person who has the capacity for math has the ability to break these things down, though I don't see others rattling off pi like that. Maybe I'm not hanging out in the right bars? It was an informative read.

But, you know me, always one for pictures, I get hung up on Tammet's insistence that math and numbers are a visual landscape - his experience of the world is poetic, a synesthesia of the senses. Most artists who operate on the high end also appear to have these unique capacities because their brains work differently. And through difference new ideas come. Didn't Einstein's brain have many more connections between both hemipsphere's along his corpus callosum than most other normal brains?
 

Randall

J. Randall Murphy
I read through the critique and paused every now and then on the math and got confused a little more by the world of math games. I think it is very interesting that this person who has the capacity for math has the ability to break these things down, though I don't see others rattling off pi like that. Maybe I'm not hanging out in the right bars? It was an informative read.
I don't know how true the critique is. For all we know it's a fabrication. However if it's true, there are these math nerds who work at these skills, know the shortcuts and he mentioned some oriental guy that had pi down to 100,000 places. It's still pretty amazing, but I can see it as possible and reasonable to believe. Plus the whole idea of him visualizing the numbers popping into his head isn't all that remarkable. You can even do it yourself. Try it. Just imagine some simple multiplication problem where you visualize the numbers in your mind's eye as you perform the calculation. You will literally see the answers popping into view as "visualized numbers".
But, you know me, always one for pictures, I get hung up on Tammet's insistence that math and numbers are a visual landscape - his experience of the world is poetic, a synesthesia of the senses. Most artists who operate on the high end also appear to have these unique capacities because their brains work differently. And through difference new ideas come. Didn't Einstein's brain have many more connections between both hemipsphere's along his corpus callosum than most other normal brains?
As this type of ability ( memorizing large numbers ) relates to art, I can tell you that memorizing a lot of things in sequence isn't all that remarkable. For example, how many notes and letters are there in a 2 hour set list for a band? I don't know. I haven't counted them all, but trust me, it's a lot, and my old band guys played them all without sheet music, which means that if necessary, I could sit down and write out each note and letter of each word. Then there are people who have memorized entire plays and books and can recite them back. We tend to think of that as less remarkable because most of us are fairly good at reading, but when you break it down into individual characters, there are a lot of them ( hundreds of thousands ), and writing them down in sequence wouldn't be that hard for someone who had memorized a book, and actually the book wouldn't even have to be that big ( around 25,000 words ).

So for the math geek, it's probably not much different in his mind than memorizing a book would be for us. Still, it's not like there would be no work involved and I'm still impressed. Half the time I'm lucky if I remember where I put my keys, let alone pi to thousands of decimal places :confused:.
 
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smcder

Guest
lots of things swirling around here - what we mean by "thinking" - it's not always that we mean sitting down to rationally think something out but the word usually does carry some kind of coherence, some kind of analogy to the real world - "he thought through the tangled emotions" otherwise we use words like hallucination or visionary or distortion - . . . so I'm trying to grasp what magical thinking would be - Magick is usually pretty well ordered too - if you look at the esoteric tradition there are principles like "as above, so below" or analogical thinking, the "doctrine of signatures" in herbology - things that might not stand up to the scrutiny of science but have stood up to hundreds of years of practice . . . some traditions engage in intentional perversions/distortions of thought: "crazy wisdom" - Koan practice in Zen, engaging in evoking the opposite to make something happen - I think of these things when I think of "magical" and "Magickal" thinking . . . in my own practices I often try to get "hold" of something very specific I am working on, to "feel" it (kinesthetically, say in my "gut" - literally in my stomach) and then visualize unwrapping it, there may be sounds and sensations and visualizations and then when I come to some sense in my gut that it's been unravelled I find my thinking seems to be clearer . . .
 

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