Interview-Alternate Perceptions Magazine, January 2017
An Interview with:
Dr. Jon Klimo
by: Brent Raynes
Bio: Jon Klimo, Ph.D. is widely considered to be the world's leading authority on the subject of channeling and author of the definitive work, Channeling: Investigations on Receiving Information from Paranormal Sources, as well as co-author of Suicide: What Really Happens in the Afterlife, and Handbook to the Afterlife, and many articles. He has been continuously teaching and guiding research in doctoral programs for the past 40 years, including eight years at Rutgers University, and recently completed his 16th year as core faculty and full professor in the clinical program at the American School of Professional Psychology, Argosy University, San Francisco Bay Area campus. Dr. Klimo has chaired over 220 doctoral dissertations, and served as reader on 150 more, primarily in mainstream psychology and clinical psychology. Approximately 40 of these dissertations have been in the areas of parapsychology (e.g., precognition, psychokinesis, and near-death experience), consciousness studies, creativity, and ufology. He has done research, teaching, public presentations, and publishing in the areas of parapsychology, complementary and alternative medicine, consciousness studies, new paradigm thought and "new science," ufology/extraterrestriology, metaphysics, the perennial philosophy, and the transpersonal domain. He has also done over 120 conference presentations and has appeared on approximately 150 different radio and television programs, including four appearances on the national Coast to Coast. Now retired, he is working on completing four book projects for publication.
Brent Raynes: Dr. Klimo, you're a retired professor of psychology who has led a very distinguished, academic career. However, unlike most in your profession you've extensively researched and investigated for many years claims dealing with controversial aspects like precognition, psychokinesis (PK), electronic voice phenomenon (EVP), instrumental transcommunication (ITC), channeling and mediumship, near death experiences, paraphysics, radionics, and even apparent interdimensional and extraterrestrial contact encounters – all areas largely dismissed by mainstream science as mere pseudoscience.
How was it that you became involved so deeply in such provocative studies and what do you say to those who want to place the skeptical stamp of pseudoscience on all of these different areas just mentioned?
Jon Klimo: My deep interest in the unusual topics you have associated me with in your first question extends back as far as I can remember, beginning with the classical situation so many of us can trace back to as little children, standing alone beneath a clear night sky and looking up at the stars and feeling full of awe and wonder. That feeling has never left me to this day. It's a response that comes not just from my thinking head but from my feeling heart as well. I get an aching feeling in my heart when confronted with that vastness filled with the still unknown. I think that's the secret of my relationship with all the various topics you are bringing up in your first question, and that relationship is founded on more than 70 years now of my not knowing, of not having ever let myself settle into the kinds of answers and certainties that traditional education and cultural conditioning expect us to learn and adhere to without question. Most of us look at the night sky and experience it like it's a mirror reflecting back to us from the darkness and stars the correct and expected answers with very little uncommitted possibilities of response. From very early on in life, most of us have been taught by mainstream science and academia, and by the ubiquitous constancy of our surrounding consensus reality, what to expect, what is real, what is possible, even what is allowable, if we know what's good for us. In contrast, I have spent my entire life allowing myself to have a relationship with the night sky, with the unknown, with a firmament of possibilities, that does not conform to the right answers others have learned to settle into, expect, and had expected of them. I have refused to let my mind, heart, and imagination become pressed flat against the two-dimensional mirror of how to respond to the world according to the expectational sets, cognitive infrastructures, and assimilatory schemas the mirror reflects back to us, as if the external world we experience is our own internal world. It's true of me too: what I see tends to be somewhat different from what others are seeing. I look at the world and it will not hold still for me. It will not cooperate according to the confining dictates of my and others' learning and conditioning.
Well, wait, like most others, I'm sitting here knowing the right answers I have been taught and have also internalized. So, according to Western psychology, I can "reality test" as well as the best of them, displaying what, according to most people, are my "correct" understandings about the "real world." I can pass the test of showing I know the right answers about the true nature of things, the same right answers my fellow human beings carry within them as well. (In just one small example: the proven "truth" that nothing possessing physical mass can reach or exceed the speed of light, and that this speed must dictate the upper limit of all travel in our physical universe.). Therefore, I avoid "getting in trouble" with the authorities who oversee the right answers to what is real, possible, and expected. In this sense, I can "pass" for being an acceptable and law-abiding member of today's educated global society. And this is in spite of the fact that, besides all those test-passing right-answers I carry within me, at the same time I carry within me, what feels like a much deeper, wiser, and richer reservoir of uncommitted response possibilities, a more profound responsibility with respect to the world beyond what most others know it as, and that is because I refuse to know reality only in the stultifying, law-abiding terms of a "normal" thinking and feeling person. In this refusal, I can shift at will between responding from the place of the expected right answers to things, on the one hand, and the place of the unexpected, the unscripted, the unforeseen, the unsettled, (what Freud called) the uncanny, the otherworldly, on the other hand. The deep reservoir within me that constitutes my ability to look into the mirror that the world presents me and see the protean, living, ever unsettling and unsettled mind and heart that is within me reflecting back to me. Because I have within me the objective correlative of what I seek beyond me, I find myself able to experience a world of larger truths for myself that just do not hold still or stay limited and so I'm filled with awe and wonder like a little child. And I hold this position by choice.
I choose to have "dual citizenship." On the one hand, I am a citizen of the world held still by the correct focal length of mainstream science and academia as the backbone of our consensus reality, and, on the other hand, I am a citizen of a much vaster reality and I am law-abiding with regard to it in the sense that the law of such a vaster reality requires us to give ourselves over to the native wellsprings and reservoirs of our own innate, birthright imagination, intuition, inspiration, and true transcendental native genius and to trust to that, not the public correct answers to 'the test.' From the frame of reference of many, or even most, others, this can sound like choosing to be unmoored and to set myself adrift in unknown and even life-threatening seas, rather than to choose to stay at home on solid land surrounded by more level-headed others. To still others, I can sound like someone choosing ignorance, even choosing to lose my earthbound mind. It's like the old saying, "Be open-minded, but not so open-minded that your brains fall out." In truth, there have been times earlier in my life when I have allowed my brains to fall out, or go all over the place in my attempts to take in, understand, and encompass. Looking back on things, however, it was a small price to pay, and to this day I continue to be able to successfully maintain and function with my so-called dual citizenship and thereby continue to function, even flourish, including serving for 40 years as a professor in different institutions' doctoral programs, guiding the dissertation research of others and empowering them to take their well-earned place on the shared solid ground of learning and demanding careers. In doing so, I've been careful not to woo others out to sea as I have done in the past, letting myself be wooed out into a larger reality. However, my first allegiance is to that larger reality and all the uncertain experiential realms it can lead us into when we take our respective leaves from the gravity-bound, right-minded, law-abiding position from which, standing under the starry night sky, it becomes so difficult to return to that old natural ability to respond according to one's own awe and wonder.
Let me try to address your first question in a couple more ways that are perhaps a little more understandable and less poetic and crazy-sounding than what I've said so far. I have always been a daydreamer as far back as I can remember, a kind of Peter Pan who didn't really want to grow up and go to school, but I did the right things and went through the right kinds of schooling for a long time, hence paving the way for this extended metaphor I am calling holding "dual citizenship." By the time I was 12 or 13, I was finding the world of science fiction literature and throughout my adolescence it fed my large imagination and curiosity, my awe and wonder. Among the hundreds of books I read during that period were two thick hardcover anthologies. One was titled "Away and Beyond" and the other was "Far and Away." I used to try to figure out which of the two titles was my favorite. They both equally evoked the same awe and wonder in me. Even today, repeating these titles over in my mind tends to send me back to those early days, starstruck and left to my own dreaming devices out under the night sky. Back then and right now, perhaps even more true than saying that I had and still have a feeling of awe and wonder about that vast, unknown, beckoning overarching larger reality that transcended all the worldly I was all too quickly being taught and filled with, would be to say that I've always felt deeply homesick for that larger, albeit largely unknown, reality. But where is the home that I am sick for, that I find myself so achingly, deeply missing? It can't be the worldly home I have been born and raised in, the home address, the biological parents and siblings, the all too familiar earthly consensus reality. Yes, I have known feelings of homesickness in the way that others do when the home they are sick for is the grounded, public daily lived world we all know through that half of our dual citizenship we have held since birth. But I'm talking about feeling deeply homesick for another kind of home, another kind of reality, a world not of this world. Missing that vaster world makes my heart ache. It may remain still largely unknown, but that does not take away from my desire to know it truly.
This then leads me to another related perspective I have held for many decades now: My relationship to what psychology terms "fantasy proneness," which is definitely a big part of my personality. There have been many times over the decades when I have felt I was, even been accused of being, a kind of "escape artist," dedicated to trying to run away from reality, in the sense of that reality being the only reality we have, the only reality there is, with all else being the stuff of fantasy, dreams, and falsehoods. There is definitely an existential choice to either stick to the publicly shared "right answer" about what is objectively real and true, or to be drawn toward another kind of much more personal and even lonely right answer. And, of course, holding the dual citizenship I have been talking about, can allow one to step to both drummers, to live in both worlds, at the same time. So, when I have been confronted, especially earlier in life, by others telling me that I was just trying to run away from reality, it would always occur to me that this was only half the truth. Yes, I was running away from the reality that most think of as being the only reality; but I wasn't just running away from "things" and toward no-things, toward nothing. Rather, I was, and still am, running toward something at the same time I'm running away from something else. I'm running away from one reality, but in the process running toward another reality, a far larger reality, a truer reality, filled with all the things that our current consensus reality and its dominant scientific and academic communities does not see as real or as important as what constitutes its reality, the establishment of its established truths.
Here's another perspective on what I've been saying thus far: Decades ago, Thomas Kuhn, at the time a professor at the University of Chicago, wrote an influential academic book titled "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions." It was written from his perspective and lengthy formal intellectual training in both the history and philosophy of science, particularly the history. He studied the story of earthly science as it has unfolded over the centuries and even millennia, and he noticed a pattern that was related to what he was calling "scientific revolutions." Seen from an historical perspective, at any one time he discerned that there was a dominant scientific paradigm. By paradigm he meant a particular set of rules that dictate and characterized how the reigning scientific view of the world at the time, or part of it, was understood, the way that those pursuing the science of its time were supposed to observe, gather and interpret, and construe information to support and sustain their scientific understandings.
Each such reigning scientific paradigm is like a dog that is having its day until something happens to violate the sovereignty of that particular kind of scientific understanding, and that violation inevitably leads to a revolution in that science or some part of it. During each such revolution, the old dominant paradigm is gradually replaced by rival competing new pretenders to being the new better, more accurate and inclusive paradigm to use to explain and understand things. After a period of such heterostasis, a new preferred paradigm comes to be accepted, replacing the old one. Thereafter, under the authority of this new paradigm, only the methods and interpretations congruent with this new paradigm are able to find acceptance in the scientific, academic, and professional communities. And this remains the case until the next revolution occurs, setting in motion a new round in this process.
But what was it that Kuhn found that repeatedly violated the existing paradigm and brought about the revolution that would replace it with a new, improved, more inclusive and veridical paradigm? This lay for Kuhn in the idea of what he referred to as an "anomaly." An anomaly is something that doesn't fit into the existing, accepted scheme of things. It stands out from it. It is an outlier, an outsider. It can even become a threat to the accepted status quo. But more often, anomalies are things to turn one's back on or to ridicule in order to keep it from gaining strength that could lead to a new cycle of scientific revolution. Kuhn showed through numerous historical examples how certain anomalous phenomena gain strength and are taken increasingly seriously until followers interested in, and eventually believing in the anomalies prefer them to the dominant paradigm, and the pattern repeats itself within the context of a kind of politics of knowledge, even a politics of consciousness lying at the heart of the earlier structuring and maintaining, then questioning and de-constructing, and then the revolutionary construction of the structures of new, improved scientific understandings and practices. For Kuhn, essential to this process is the nature of the anomalous because it falls outside of the dominant accepted paradigm that defines, controls, and sustains how science is conducted and practiced, and what is considered true and real. So, I would add "anomalies" and "the anomalous" to my earlier attempts to characterize my childhood and adolescence and my lifelong attraction to, homesickness for, and personal allegiance to, things anomalous with respect to the inevitably outdated, transient, local dominant schooling and conditioning, law and order.
So, let us return to the listing of the nine or 10 interrelated areas and fields of thought and endeavor you listed here in your first question, that you called "controversial aspects" to which I have devoted much of my personal and professional life. Every one of those categories you listed serves as a placeholder for me for one or more kinds of anomalies vis-à-vis our current reigning scientific establishment, anomalies that have the potential of holding the seeds of later scientific revolutions. At least that's the way I see them and why I am so drawn to studying them over all these decades. I look forward to some of them functioning in the Kuhnian manner as paving the way for our future science that will become as widely acceptable up ahead as our present-day science and its understandings and institutions are today, as the old paranormal gradually becomes the new normal.
In your first question you also ask me, "What do you say to those who want to place the skeptical stamp of pseudoscience on all of these different areas" that I am so interested in studying all my life? According to Thomas Kuhn, pseudoscience comprises the beliefs, claims, and methods of practicing science that are not consistent with or sanctioned by the current reigning scientific paradigm, which is deeply materialistic or physical reductionist, and dense with truths about what is real and possible, based upon only those approaches and findings that are allowed according to that paradigm. Anything not fitting within that paradigm, not operating within its light and under its aegis is fair game to be called "deviant science", pseudoscience, junk science, quackery, nonsense, and the like. If I choose to operate from the defining frame of reference of present-day mainstream, acceptable, establishment science and accredited academic institutions, I have little choice but to construe the motley assortment of my interest areas you mentioned (i.e., precognition, psychokinesis (PK), electronic voice phenomenon (EVP), instrumental transcommunication (ITC), channeling and mediumship, near death experiences, paraphysics, radionics, and even apparent interdimensional and extraterrestrial contact encounters) as being pursuits and understandings derived from them that need to be correctly labeled as pseudoscience and its ilk. And therefore I completely understand, and have empathy for, all of my fellow humans coming from that frame of reference. They really have no choice but to see and construe according to their conditioned, orthodox lenses and to see and construe the rest of us believing in practicing our idiosyncratic brands of attempting to understand and work with the world as uninformed, misguided, and simply fooling ourselves if we think we know what we claim to know about, because, in fact, for them, we do not and cannot know because our knowing is derived from the wrong, literally outlawed, modes of knowing that can only lead to erroneous, wrong, and untrue results.
Brent Raynes: Many who have entered these different fields or disciplines all too often establish strict boundaries. For example, parapsychologists have frequently been troubled by those alleging to possess the gift of mediumship or channeling, while Ufologists (those who study UFO experiences) often don't want to contaminate their findings with paranormal, contactee, or cryptozoological claims, while cryptozoologists are most often hostile if a UFO or paranormal connection is claimed within their ranks, and on and on it goes. You, however, do not seem to suffer from such restrictive and rigid thinking, but rather seem quite capable and comfortable with a fluidity of contemplative thought and expression that takes you across all of these various landscapes that may appear separate and distinct on the surface of things, but you appear to be looking for their commonalities, connecting as best you can the proverbial dots as you survey this vast scene.
Why your wide reaching, expansive exploration across a full spectrum of reported anomalous phenomena? What do you think or suspect may be hidden from the mainstream perspective?
Jon Klimo: You point out that even marginalized fields and subfields, such as studied by parapsychology and paraphysics, have their own internal pecking order with regard to who is considered to be deviating from the local acceptable majority-rule norms that dictate what's allowable and to be taken seriously. These subcultural enclaves comprising what the mainstream considers to be the endeavor of pseudoscience, nonetheless seem to follow similar patterns as does the current dominant paradigm's activity. Even to publish your contribution in a UFO-type magazine requires that one adhere to, to fit within, the allowable editorial, and even worldview, constraints that magazine operates within. One can still see the paradigm-creating, maintaining, and sooner or later upsetting patterns that Kuhn earlier pointed out as operating within the top-dog, dominant normative scientific community also operating within the minority outsider realm of the pseudo-sciences the activities and understandings of which I have been long drawn to, including the anomalous and non-ordinary ways of studying them.
Speaking of terms, for me parapsychology is to psychology as paraphysics is to physics, because we need an expanded kind of physics to study and understand those phenomena, processes, and experiences that have expanded out of mainstream psychology and been studied by parapsychology. Similarly, we need an expanded theoretical and applied physics, biology, and psychology in order to better understand much of the goings-on taking place beyond our planet, and especially to understand fellow beings who are not of this Earth, and therefore are not human as we understand it, and may not even be limited to existing within the constrained dimensionality and energy activities of our particular little world. So, my use of the words "expanded" and "larger" go with the process of expanding our own consciousness as we attempt to understand those as-yet-unknown, anomalous realms that draw us inexorably toward our next ever-more-imminent large-scale scientific revolution for our little planet and its people.
Part of your second question points out that I "do not seem to suffer from such restrictive and rigid thinking" as found even within the outsider boondocks of what the mainstream considers to be pseudoscience, but, rather, that I "seem quite capable and comfortable with a fluidity of contemplative thought and expression that takes [me] across all of these various landscapes", landscapes rich in anomalies that do not yet fit into our dominant mainstream scientific thinking and practice. You are absolutely right in characterizing me this way. I have devoted most of my life to two main areas of study: of creativity and consciousness. And I am the case of possessing both of these. My consciousness tends to expand and roam more freely than many others and is characterized by what my colleague psychologist Charles Tart calls proneness to altered states of consciousness (ASC's) and what the field of Transpersonal Psychology sees as the realms of various "higher" or more open states of consciousness than the norm. So, part of what characterizes the nature and scope of my own consciousness also gives me access to different (anomalous) and expanded ways of experiencing an understanding the nature of a larger reality within which we operate and within which fellow beings and consciousnesses not of this Earth operate at the same time but not in the same ways. And with regard to the second domain, of creativity, that is probably my strongest suit. I began this life very early on as a visual artist and poet and I have pursued those endeavors ever since. But I have also allowed my creativity to operate and see the larger world well beyond the usual cultural constraints of the arts and literary arts, to play within additional realms, such as the various sciences, philosophy, and the humanities. And I can tell you that one thing that mainstream, establishment, deeply conditioned science does not care for one bit, is for an outsider to bring his or her own idiosyncratic ways of seeing and being in the world, to bring his or her native God-given creativity, imagination, and intuition into the too-often overly stultifying and delimiting realms of the sciences and ways of thinking championed by the dominant academia of its day. It is like adults forbidding children to play alongside them. They have not yet sufficiently learned and internalized the rules of the dominant paradigm that controls most thinking and doing. I've often been asked, can someone be too creative? Have I ever become too creative for my own good or for the good of others? On occasion, absolutely yes. Creativity, when it is too unbridled or not harnessed to some goal-directed purposeful enterprise, can become simply an abundance of unusable productivity, can even lead to Dionysian, Icarus-soaring episodes of unipolar mania. Yes, I've been there and done that; but not so much anymore. It just isn't that coherent and useful for others, sometimes even for myself. Maybe at 74 now, I'm starting to act my age; but what does that mean? I still, so to speak, let myself out to play every day of my life. I give my consciousness, imagination, and intellect an unusually long leash, and always have. By their fruits are such non-normative activities known, and I have been known by others on many occasions to have wandered off the page, gone outside the lines in the consensus coloring books, in pursuit of hitching my wagon to some star or being my own Icarus getting too near the sun. But I'll still take my chances in these ways. It's worth it to me. So, when I feel you are wondering in your questions to me about who I am, or what kind of person I am, that I have been long drawn to do the kinds of things I have, perhaps the most simple and true answer is that I am, above all, a particularly creative human being operating with a particularly unbridled consciousness, and with a heart that is home sick for a larger reality than that which we know on this earth.
You also asked me in your second question, "Why your wide reaching, expansive exploration across a full spectrum of reported anomalous phenomena?" And my answer is that I just can't help myself; that's who I am and how I'm built. It's even, I think, how and why I was created, helped, to be on this planet at this time, like so many others like me. In a sense, many of us are by nature, and identify as, anomalies in human form, and so sometimes, we can effect a kind of small-scale psychological revolution within the paradigmatic infrastructures of our fellow human beings or even (wishfully thinking) be recognized and appreciated by not-of-this-world fellow beings even if we are not necessarily being accepted, appreciated, and understood by our own earthly fellow beings.
Brent Raynes: In your exhaustive search for answers, what has really stood out for you as the most compelling, if not persuasive evidence that you're on the correct path, irregardless of what the mainstream may say?
Jon Klimo: I would say that the most persuasive evidence I have found that I'm on the correct path in my exhaustive search for answers has to do with what is right-feeling to me as well as right-thinking. I am strongly intuitive and I feel I am kept on my path by my own intuition, as well as by my own curiosity and fantasy-proneness orienting me toward a larger reality, and I am kept on my path by a kind of faith very much tied to the earlier mentioned sense of awe and wonder out under the starry night sky. I also possess what the great philosopher and psychologist William James called in his book, The Will to Believe. It is probably the strongest single motive force operating within me. And I would also add that good old-fashioned wishful thinking keeps me on my path. I have been referring here to what you are calling "persuasive evidence," but I tend to find it lying and taking place within me. It's not external to me out there in an objective world of experienced facts and evidence, although I will admit that some of it does come back to me from outside, keeping me on my path. When I see others who see things much the way I do and believe many of the things I do, it makes me feel less alone and that helps. It helps reinforce me on my path. If I could find no one either historically or in the present day who seems to affirm and corroborate my own path in some essential way or ways, I would feel very lonely and would doubt myself a lot more than I already do (and I really do doubt myself on many fronts). But there are others with whom I identify and greatly respect, who make me feel less alone, and that helps. But it is still, nonetheless, a lonely business to be me, to be the kind of person that I am, doing and believing what I do, because there just aren't that many like me around (though this could be said by a great many people about themselves as well). There was a book written almost a century ago by Carl Jung (who has always been a kind of godfather for me) and Michael Kerenyi titled something like, "Essays on Science of Mythological Fundamentalism." Somewhere in it they write, "Woe unto him who has within that for which there is no external referent [or correlative]" So many times throughout my life I've felt that kind of lonely, self doubting woe.
Brent Raynes: You're also on the Chair of the Dr. Edgar Mitchell Foundation for Research into Extraterrestrial Encounters, assisting with establishing proper guidelines and protocols into what their Experiencer Research Project has called Phase 4 Interviews, wherein qualitative, detailed information is going to be sought in phone interviews with experiencers who have participated in FREE's survey program and who appear to be quite promising for further inquiry.
What drew you to the FREE organization and what things do you hope that you can help to achieve?
Jon Klimo: I'm feeling kind of out of steam at this point, facing this fourth question and having pretty much spent myself for now on the prior three. It would be easy just to ask for a "rain check" and return to this fourth question another time. It also strikes me as another quality and kind of question compared to the prior three but I find somewhat less interesting for me. What I could say for right now is that FREE is terribly close to my own interests and proclivities. For example, back in 1959 (or 1958) I wrote my High School English-class senior research thesis on "Project Blue Book" back when it was about the only thing around that was trying to look seriously at the nature of "flying saucers." That was 57 years ago now, so that's how long I've been drawn to studying and trying to figure out this particular anomalous domain. Then, around four years ago, FREE co-founder Rey Hernandez and I found each other (though I can't remember the circumstances at the moment) shortly after he and two others (one of whom is Australian Mary Rodwell) co-founded FREE. After we initially talked, he said something to the effect that it sounded like FREE and I were meant for each other. I've been retired now for three years following 40 years of graduate-level teaching and guiding research at a number of different institutions, so I have had my eye out for something that would appeal to me and to which I could bring my experience, expertise, and interests (actually, my passions). So it felt like a good fit. Specifically, with regard to FREE, during my 40-year academic career I had been involved with hundreds of doctoral dissertations, the majority of which used qualitative research methodologies, very often phenomenological-type, and Rey and I quickly realized that a qualitative research type approach, in addition to a more-traditional quantitative approach, would be called for to investigate people's experience with "extraterrestrial encounters." Frankly, I didn't want to miss this boat. It would've felt really bad to me if an organization such as FREE sounded like at the time was being created and gotten underway without me. Besides my research involvement for a few years now with FREE, the other main organization and activity I am involved with (and have been since the early 1990s) is called the United States Psychotronics Association (USPA), which you are welcome to Google for information. If you do this, I think you'll readily see that the USPA and I are also very much made for each other. I am now in my second year of serving as President of this organization.