Alternate Perceptions Magazine, September 2022
Encounters with the Unknown
Playgrounds of the Trickster
by: Brent Raynes
Cover of recently published book “Phenomenon: What if our reality is a Dream?” published in France. Raynes was invited by one of the main authors, Laurent Kasprowicz of France, to contribute some material for the book on the trickster and the paranormal. The book is written entirely in French. Perhaps later an English version will be done. Meanwhile however, the article below will provide an English version of what I wrote on the trickster archetype.
The role of the archetypal trickster is something my good friend and colleague Dr. Gregory Little, a Tennessee psychologist and author of a good number of books that have delved deeply into this shadowy, complex and confusing realm, books such as The Archetype Experience, People of the Web, and Grand Illusions. It’s something we have talked about many times over the years since we first became acquainted back in 1985. Time and again, Greg would explain to me how from the Native American perspective, when one attempts to contact the spirit realm, or perhaps even unintentionally comes into contact, “you'll usually encounter trickster forces first.” Versed as he is in Jungian psychology and Native American spirituality, Greg once expressed to me his thoughts on the matter as follows: “The trickster forces are there to essentially test you, to see how balanced you are, to see how serious you are, to see if your inquiry into the spiritual world is full of good motives or negative motives. The tricksters are designed to delude people, to mislead them. There’s no doubt that a lot of people get unbalanced in the UFO field. Their involvement leads to just tremendous life problems and deterioration. John Keel said that again and again in all of his books. If you can get by the tricksters – even in Native American lore – if you can see through them, then you can get to the next level of the spiritual world. There are more levels, of course, and with each level comes deepening truth.”
Greg delved into the trickster in his and Andrew Collins’ just released book Origins of the Gods. He detailed how the late Swiss psychologist Carl Jung looked at this subject. He wrote: “Jung was especially keen on Native American tales of the trickster and the connection to the paranormal. He related that ‘all mythical figures correspond to inner psychic experiences…it is not surprising to find certain phenomena in the field of parapsychology which remind us of the trickster.’ According to Jung, the trickster played malicious tricks on humans, had the ability to change shapes, and often took the form of animals. Most importantly, Jung asserted that interactions with the trickster played a central role in all paranormal phenomena. Interacting purposively with the trickster also was, according to Jung, the primary activity underlying the practice of shamanism. To Native Americans, the trickster was a spiritual entity that could impart deep knowledge or create chaos. Shamans had to carefully navigate between the two distinctively different possible outcomes when dealing with tricksters.”
My wife Joan is part Cherokee and we have participated over the years in a variety of Native ceremonies and rituals. In a private conversation that I had with a revered medicine man named Bobby Lake-Thom, the author of Native Healer, Spirits of the Earth, and Call of the Great Spirit, I was telling him of some of my experiences. I had one that truly puzzled me where I perceived a Native American blanket of unknown origin that appeared in my bedroom on two separate occasions, several weeks apart, but later each time would be gone without a trace. In fact, the last time I saw the blanket it disappeared right before my very eyes!
What Bobby told me reminded me of Greg’s observations on the trickster. “Either you had some kind of mischievous spirit that you picked up some place that was like playing games with you, kind of to test you out and see how your intuitive powers are, or even as a trickster form it might have come in to try and teach you how to develop your intuitive powers. That or you could have been projecting this mentally, seeing another form of reality that exists.”
It is crucial that when confronting a possible trickster element that one try and be discerning. When trying to understand what is experienced in some sort of perceived anomalous presence or interaction, be it an angel, ghost, ET, fairy, or some other appearance of an infinite variety of archetypal forms, one must be careful not to rush headlong into arriving at premature conclusions. Such an experience may trigger sudden and profound inner emotional and psychical states and changes. Keel wrote how the experiencer may undergo a “higher IQ” as well as “heightened perceptions in all areas,” including “ESP abilities.” However, he warned that this can be followed by a gradual deterioration of personality over time, with obsessive-compulsive traits, creating high divorce rates, and how many become a kind of religious fanatic that some in the field have called “space age messiahs.”
“The UFO encounter can trigger neurosomatic mutations from peace-bliss-serenity to anxiety-trauma-psychotic breakdown,” noted researcher-author Robert Anton Wilson, who weighed in on this matter. “Some contactees have actually become faith-healers, indicating a strong neurosomatic turn on in the positive direction, and others have required psychiatric care, indicating the other extreme.” Wilson proposed that the highest stage or level of such an experience was what he called the Contentless Vision, which he felt was comparable to the White Light of the Void of Tibetan Buddhism, the Head in Cabala… “the ‘ineffable,’ beyond time, space, matter, and all concepts.”
“As far as I can make out, this experience alone seems to be totally positive,” he added. “Nobody seems to come out of it schizoid, paranoid fanatic, or even dogmatic. Olaf Stapledon described it as Agnostic Mysticism. It sees normal consciousness (the consensus-reality of the tribe), neurosomatic consciousness, metaprogramming consciousness, and even the Numinous Beings of archetypal consciousness as all relative – true in their own context, but not universally true. It even sees itself as relative, in the same way.”
George P. Hanson, who regularly attended John Keel’s New York Fortean Society meetings from the late 1980s to the early 1990s. authored The Trickster and the Paranormal (2001), a quintessential volume, if ever there was one, to delve deeply into the historic and global trickster phenomenon. He comprehensively pursued the wild and wily trickster across innumerable fields, be it anthropology, folklore, sociology, semiotics, ufology, the occult, parapsychology, cryptozoology, shamanism, and other frames of reference.
“Keel spoke frequently with UFO contactees who reported receiving mental messages from flying saucers,” Hanson wrote. “Much of the time they made no sense, but sometimes the messages seemed telepathic. Keel would think of a question, and immediately one of his stable of contactees would call him on the phone with the answer; at other times they seemed precognitive and predicted what would happen to him. The contactees began prophesying a large power blackout for December 15 . A number of their other predictions failed to occur, but this was persistent. The blackout didn’t happen, but on that date a bridge at Point Pleasant, West Virginia collapsed at rush hour and killed more than 30 people. Keel had known some of the victims, and the entire string of events shook him. He saw much of it as evil. It wasn’t until years later that he wrote the book [The Mothman Prophecies], and only with the prodding of an editor.”
Called the Silver Bridge, the death toll was actually 46 people. In 2015, while working on my book John A. Keel: The Man, The Myths, and The Ongoing Mysteries (2019), and tracking down various people who had known Keel, I came across a startling story that Keel had left out of The Mothman Prophecies. Now in that book Keel did share the story of a visit from an old friend named Joe Woodvine, a security officer for the Transit Authority, on that fateful night of December 15, 1967. However, he failed to mention how three years later he ran into Woodvine’s wife in a store and learned that he had died of a heart attack in July of 1965, more than two years before his visit to Keel’s apartment!
Dan Drasin, a documentary film producer who accompanied Keel several times to UFO-plagued West Virginia back in 1967, also visited Keel’s apartment that day and remembered the visitor quite well. “Big guy with a powerful handshake,” he recalled. Nothing seemed amiss about him. That is, until Keel wrote to him a few years later about running into his friend’s wife!
“I argued that I had seen him in December 1967 and that she must be mistaken,” Keel wrote in a letter to Dan, which he provided me with a copy. “She was most indignant. How could she be mistaken about a thing like that? She was with him when he died. She went through the funeral and all. She insisted it happened in July 1967.”
“It looked like Joe, had Joe’s memories, was flesh and blood,” Keel continued. “But it couldn’t possibly have been Joe. Strange, too, that he turned up on what proved to be one of the most important days in my life. You met him. All the people at Moseley’s meeting saw him.” [Keel and this Joe attended a Moseley UFO gathering at a midtown New York City hotel]. I had to leave this out of The Mothman Prophecies for obvious technical reasons. It would have been anticlimactic. But this has kept me awake many, many nights.”
I located two brothers, Tim and John Frick, paranormal researchers from Maryland. They told me that they had spent about eight hours with Keel at the September 2003 Mothman Festival held in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, picking his brain about many of his stories. Though he didn’t mention the identity of the man to them, Keel shared the same story. Afterwards John Frick asked Keel what he thought about meeting someone under such odd circumstances, to which Keel replied: “I don’t like thinking about it because it makes my head hurt.”
That would have had to have been a lot to take in for a skeptical journalist who had previously described himself as an atheist.
At the conclusion of Hansen’s book on the trickster, he left us with this sobering thought: “The supernatural is irrational, but it is also real. It holds enormous power. We ignore it at our peril. It operates not only on the individual psyche, but at a collective level, influencing entire cultures. The witchcraft persecutions and the demagoguery of charismatic leaders are only two of many dangers.” “If we fail to recognize the limits of our ‘rational’ way of thinking, we can become victims of it. Parapsychology demonstrates that our thoughts, including our unconscious thoughts, are not limited to our brains. They move of their own accord and influence the physical world.”
Now that’s a thought that could keep you awake a few nights.