Alternate Perceptions Magazine, May 2017
An Interview with Michael Grosso, Ph.D: Keel, the Big Picture, Death or Transcendence?
by: Brent Raynes
Michael Grosso, Ph.D., is a scholar, teacher, author, and painter, whose interests span psychical research, metaphysical art, the parapsychology of religion, and, primarily, philosophy. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy, and studied classical Greek, at Columbia University, and has taught at City University of New York, Marymount Manhattan College. He has published books on topics ranging from life after death to the mythologies of end time. He presently lives in Charlottesville, Virginia. He is the author of The Man Who Could Fly: St. Joseph of Copertino and the Mystery of Levitation.
Michael Grosso knew John Keel and spoke at his New York Fortean Society. He will be giving a talk at the Open Center in New York City on June 22, that he tells me “will be about the big questions you ask.”
Brent Raynes: You have pointed out how pioneering researchers like John Keel, in addition to Jacques Vallee (who Keel used to joke he was a "ghost writer" for), made the controversial connection between UFOs and the paranormal, noting parallels with tales of such things as fairies, elementals, angels and demons. In reading through your thought-provoking book "Experiencing the Next World Now" and visiting your blog site "consciousnessunbound.blogspot.com", it's clear to me that you've explored a great deal of similar terrain. In addition, I read in one of Keel's newsletters for the New York Fortean Society how you gave a talk there back in May of 1988. It even stated that you described some of your own UFO sightings, personal precognitive dreams, and a haunting situation.
Can you share with us the impact of Keel's work on your own studies and journey into the unexplained, and tell us some about your own experiences and what affects such may have had on the evolution of your own understanding and theories about what seems to be going on?
Michael Grosso: I might begin with the first time I ever met John Keel. I came late to where John was speaking and I was immediately struck by his presence, a little bell rang in my head, announcing that here was someone entirely unique. Eventually I discovered he was in public on the grumpy, off-putting side. But I also noticed that when we spoke on the phone—and we had some long conversations—his manner was entirely relaxed and friendly. John alerted me to the complexity of the UFO experience, especially the possible religious connection, and he also injected a healthy dose of skepticism, even contrarianism, into our talks.
Here let me describe my own UFO experience.
It was April 23, 1971, about 11 PM, a perfect clear night in Greenwich Village, New York, in my apartment on the top floor (6th) at 14 Bedford Street, with my girlfriend, listening to John Coltrane’s “The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” I go to the window and see before me a cluster of dazzling lights in the sky jigging back and forth in apparent rhythm with Coltrane. Jane comes to the window, sees same; lights do their dance for us, then shoot straight to the dome of our Lady of Pompei, about three blocks north; stays motionless, pulsing light (at us, it seemed); then, bolts away north and vanishes over the Empire State building. Jane and I then went up the roof and ran into Louie, young guy interested in Coltrane—he saw what we saw, noted its noiseless character, and a pattern in the lights, pyramidal.
Three of us saw the thing. Its trajectory in space was more cartoonish and surreal than physically credible. I would call it a close encounter of a telepathic kind. It seemed to know we were listening to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and proved it by flying to the dome of Our Lady of Pompei, where it pulsed and beamed at us, and vanished. I don’t believe it was a vehicle from outer physical space, more like a tearing open of physical space and something bleeding into our reality.
Brent Raynes: Over quite a few years now you've delved into a full spectrum of controversial subjects. Like Keel, you perceived many potential interconnected aspects of such "high-strangeness" reports as out-of-body experiences, near-death experiences, shamanism, poltergeists, apparitions, and you've even written a couple of books recently on levitation. And that's just a few prominent examples, and UFO close encounter and contact experiencers seem to have an unusually high percentage of many of these experiences. And there are many more categories of experience than what I've just mentioned, of course. The landscape is an immensely vast and enigmatic one.
Would it be possible for you to take a stab at articulating an abbreviated description of the "big picture" that you perceive as existing here?
Michael Grosso: Well, a stab it will have to be. Yes, I am interested in a wide spectrum of phenomena, in part because they seem like scattered clues suggesting some large albeit unknown dynamic—or single source. Another reason I’m curious about the spectrum of phenomena is that all my life I’ve sporadically experienced a range of events that leave me in no doubt that we inhabit a universe (multiverse?) much stranger than most of us can imagine. The percentage of dark matter and energy is analogous to the percentage of dark, unknown consciousness, in my opinion.
The essence of the big picture I would infer from the facts of my experience is the primacy of consciousness. This of course is not a fashionable view, neither for science or religion. The big picture I’m working on revolves around a taxonomy of PK, the whole ensemble of psychophysical interactions. Types of PK range from normal voluntary use of our bodies in all our activities to the abnormalities psychosomatic medicine to the supernormal realm of levitation, materialization, bilocation, projection by perfume, extraordinary healing, light phenomena, bodily incorruption, etc.
The culmination of mind over matter is mind over bodily death, and again we have a typology of survival evidence. (Here too I have some direct evidence.) In short, there is a spectrum of evidence that points collectively to the next possible step of human evolution. The evidence may also be pointing to postmortem continuity, which is at least consistent with the irreducibility of consciousness to brain process, i.e. if consciousness preexists the brain, as William James suggested once, why not postexist the brain. I’m partial to Bergson’s suggestion that the universe is a machine for the creation of gods.
Brent Raynes: Mainstream science continues to strongly resist any sort of serious examination of any purported claims or evidence of anything under the broad umbrella of the paranormal. I do seem to be reading more and more serious and science based speculations related to quantum physics that makes me hope that perhaps we're finally making some sort of genuine and conclusive sounding inroads into what has for so long been dismissed as fantasy and pseudoscience.
Do you think that maybe we're finally making some real progress here, or do we still have a painfully long, long way yet to go?
Michael Grosso: I think the ratio of the receptive to the unreceptive to supernormality is pretty much as it was since the dawn of the scientific revolution. There is always a minority at odds with the denser, more conservative mainstream. Yes, there are signs in various quarters of an awakening—the awakening to animal consciousness is also good news. But is any of it strong enough to stop the juggernaut of power-structures currently rushing us toward a triple-pronged apocalypse? I doubt it, but who am I to say what miracles might happen?
Every human psyche contains a divine spark, but unless we light a conflagration, it won’t amount to much in the form of human benefit.
Three trends are at work in the world today converging toward nuclear war, climate catastrophe, and unsustainable economic inequity. No way to stop or reverse these trends, which are interactive and accelerating: they will have to work themselves out.
In my opinion, nothing radically creative is likely to occur unless the entire system is uprooted and forced to reinvent itself. Something like the near-death experience of world civilization may be the only hope on the horizon, an idea I touch upon in The Final Choice: Death or Transcendence?
Brent Raynes: What other projects are you currently embarking upon, or preparing to pursue?
Michael Grosso: I'd like to spend more time painting, which I think of as a form of materialization. It affords me the purest of pleasures. I also want to spend more time on what is really a new branch of science, the parapsychology of religion—especially my favorite topic, the parapsychology of apocalypse.