Please note that I have capitalized Skepticism. I am referring here not to healthy skepticism, which any reasonable person must apply to dubious claims, whether of the paranormal or elsewise, but to the sort practiced by the Skeptical Inquirer, various magicians, Richard Dawkins and others who have made Skepticism their one true religion. Pseudoskeptics, in other words. These Skeptics use sometimes very sloppy science to bludgeon experiencers into submission, have been caught in out-and-out suppression of genuine inquiry, and when all else fails fall back on tropes without evidence to counter claims of the paranormal. For them, no evidence—no matter how good—can ever stand up to their “it must be faked/hallucination/lies” counterargument. All, of course, expressed in the most pompous and mocking tones.

Dishonest Skepticism does not achieve its most desired goal: the extermination of all belief in the extraordinary. In fact, it encourages people to disregard what these Skeptics are saying because it’s so easy for most people to see through that kind of dishonesty. Worse, it encourages people to disregard skeptics and experts of all sorts. It’s not a very long leap from disregarding a dishonest Skeptic to questioning the veracity of immunologists during a pandemic.

Yes, reasonable people will still use their brains in those matters, but the doubt begun with dishonest Skepticism grows in the dark and spreads like a cancer. People who are credulous, who have had the experience of their own eyes mocked or disregarded without sincere investigation, are more likely to believe well-told lies. Once they’ve bought any of the lies, it’s easier to sell them the next lie. Very soon, the fact-based, science-backed words of the genuine expert can be dismissed as “that’s just his opinion.” (Something I’ve actually heard hoax believers say about the COVID precautions urged by Dr. Fauci.)

Maybe the spirit of one’s dead mother didn’t appear beside the bed to say she was happy and not to worry, maybe it was just a comforting dream. Maybe those weird lights in the sky were just a misidentification of something natural, although they did perform in very unnatural ways. Maybe that immensely tall hairy manlike creature didn’t stand in front of you ten feet away before loping off into the woods and disappearing. Maybe that was just…well, very hard to rationalize that away without falling to the fake/lie/hallucination trope—but you get my drift. The thing is, a healthy skepticism would say, “I don’t know what it was you saw. It may be exactly as you say, or it may have had a rational explanation, but I don’t have one right now.” A Skeptic, on the other hand, would not rest until the experiencer was mocked into submission, hiding away in the dark corners of the internet where the Religion of the Lie can take root and spread.

Do I expect the Skeptics to rethink things and shut up? Of course not. This is their religion, after all. True believers never reconsider their positions. They know the Ultimate Truth and will go down in flames to defend it. Just like those who believe lizard people have taken over the government and are eating babies in the basement of the Capitol building. Unfortunately, these two extreme fringes of discourse threaten to take the rest of us down in flames with them.

Belief has always been experiential in nature. I suppose, healthy skepticism is non-experiential in nature. Skepticism, on the other hand, the unhealthy variety, strikes me as a bone-deep existential terror that the Skeptic may not know the answer to all things and that there may be more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in their philosophy.

Because I have an abiding love for folklore and all things odd, because I create art out of the liminal aspects of the world in which we live, I can’t very well be in the business of passing judgment on stories of the strange. Folklore is a living, breathing thing, a constant new creation from the imaginations and the deep psyche. So if someone tells me a story of a personal encounter with fairies, or about the ghost they saw, or the strange lights in the sky, I treasure these stories as a peek into the spontaneous eruption of spirit and imagination in the world. As long as human beings roam the earth, new beliefs and tales of the marvelous will erupt from the aether. This is the wellspring of creativity, the fundamental food of imagination.

By necessity, this food is always going to come at us from the fringes of society. It will never be found in the dead heart of academia because by its very nature it is the antithesis of academia. Academia is about cataloguing and studying that which is; folklore and the folk imagination is about creating new from old and old from new, and it is a rich source of spiritual replenishment. Academia has many important functions and I demand that it stay rigorous because we need the rigorous walking hand in hand with the fanciful. Both functions make society cohere.

I don’t buy into everything with one hundred percent credulity. Healthy skepticism is a necessary function of living in both complex societies and less complex. I grow impatient, however, with those who have taken up skepticism as a replacement for religious belief. Their skepticism is as sweeping and dogmatic as ever any organized religion. Theirs is an unhealthy skepticism. The marginal, the liminal, the odd, and the fanciful enrich the world. The more skeptics try to suppress it, the more creative ways the underworld finds to rise to the surface. One of the best analyses of the liminal I have ever seen is The Trickster and the Paranormal by George Hansen. Mr. Hansen uses exhaustive detail and thorough analysis to show why it will never be possible the suppress this underworld.

Yes, we all know about the excesses that beliefs of any kind are prone to, the persecutions that arise from the bonfires of unquestioning faith. That is not what I’m supporting here, what I’m cherishing, because that is not about the spirit. That is dogma—and I do judge dogma. If academia is the antithesis of the creative upwellings of the psyche, dogma is the antithesis of the spiritual. The silly stuff, the stuff that stretches credulity is as necessary to the health of any society as skepticism; it is the breath inside the lungs of culture. The danger comes from the other side of society’s fringe, the extremes of belief, the codifying of the spirit, the hardening of the arteries of fancy.

Judge not lest ye be judged. Judgment, sorting out the good from the chaff is healthy; judgment, the trumpeting of one belief system over another, is a form of societal death. I open my arms to extreme possibility, not to the extremes of judgment.

Random quote of the day:

“Even when believers earnestly explain how things are and disbelievers earnestly listen, disbelievers go away unchanged because facts are the least of their differences. It’s perception that separates them. That’s how it is, and that’s how it has always been. Those who must see to believe don’t believe enough to see. And those who believe enough to see won’t stop believing, no matter what they see.”

—Christine Wicker, Lily Dale: The Town That Talks to the Dead

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Key and Peele, Celine Dion, or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“It’s a most distressing affliction to have a sentimental heart and a skeptical mind.”

—Naguib Mahfouz, Sugar Street (tr. William Maynard Hutchins and Angele Botros Samaan)

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Laurel and Hardy, Ariana Grande, or the Salvation Army Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist.”

—Jean-Paul Sartre, The Words

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Orville and Wilbur, Katy Perry, or the Avengers. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“If Skeptic’s table of contents reflects the world, we are buried up to our necks in charlatans, pseudoscientists, scam artists, and the self-deluded. I cannot otherwise explain why being skeptical, without any additional positive contribution, is considered somehow admirable.”

—Deepak Chopra, “Gadflies Without a Sting: The Downside of Skepticism,” The Huffington Post, October 10, 2006

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Lucy and Ethel, Justin Bieber, or the Kardashian Klan. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.


There’s a fascinating book that I would half-recommend: Running With the Fairies: Towards a Transpersonal Anthropology of Religion by Dennis Gaffin. The first half of the book worked quite well for me, but I didn’t think the latter half of personal testimonies from people who believe they are reincarnated fairies or actual fairies in human bodies quite jelled. I support people believing whatever they like—and it harm none—but I had a problem with their adamant insistence that there is no such thing as a dark side to the fairies. All is sweetness and light in their Universe. Which flies in the face of millennia of human folklore and experience which sees the fairies as a tricksy lot, often inimical to humanity. The believers in this book put that down to superstition and ignorance, but I’m not so certain. People in past centuries may have been superstitious and ignorant, but in general were no more clever or no more stupid then we are. And they had a much vaster experience of the dark side of nature than most of us do these days. It’s easier to discount that chthonic world when you have electric lights and indoor plumbing. If there are such things as fairies, there may indeed be good ones, but I suspect most are at best ambivalent towards humans, and some may actually be malevolent.

But anyway, Dennis Gaffin. He’s an academic (a Professor of Anthropology at the State University of New York College at Buffalo) who has done something quite rare: a serious study of contemporary Irish fairy belief. Academics are big on doing serious studies of the folk traditions of Buddhists or South Seas Islanders or Native Americans, et al., but there’s a prejudice against turning that same eye towards Western folk beliefs. It’s an inherently racist stand, I think, that Those People and their Quaint Beliefs are okay to study, but somehow Western belief structures must be dismissed as silly trash. It’s as if the people who are doing the studies have decided that First Worlders are “too good” to have such ideas, that they must be ruthlessly derided and suppressed by Western academia so we can preserve our collective First World reputation.

So Professor Gaffin runs an academic risk here. True, he’s an anthropologist who’s gone native, so to speak, and now perceives fairies his own self. Which further risks his academic reputation, I suppose, but his point of view straddling both worlds is fascinating to me. I feel a kinship to him.
Have I ever seen a fairy? No. Nor heard none, neither. Do I believe in fairies? That’s a thorny question. I believe in another world that cozies up to this one and sometimes leaks through. I suspect that Whatever takes many forms and some people—otherwise rational and solid citizens—see It as fairies. Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, devas, dakinis, djinn, angels, name your poison. It’s all part of the same bag: That Which Leaks Through.

It’s okay. I know you think I’m crazy. When I say I don’t care, I don’t mean it in a snotty or rebellious way. I mean that I made a conscious decision some time ago to share the things of the spirit as they come to me, in case someone else is having similar experiences and wondering if they’re nuts. I can’t answer the question of sanity, but I do know that I am a rational person who occasionally has trans-rational experiences.

When it comes to belief, experience is the core of it, an emotional heart-to-heart with something beyond the narrow confines of personal ego. It’s not a received wisdom, which is why religion often fails to convince. “Belief cannot be transferred,” says Professor Gaffin, “for it is a function of experience.” These things often seem to go hand-in-hand with a closeness to nature. As we move more and more away from the natural world and more into a mechanized, urbanized environment those experiences become more rare.

Scientific education is a great thing and a fundamentally good way of looking at the world. I highly recommend it. But even scientists (well, the rational ones) will admit they don’t have all the answers. There was a time when I was about ninety percent of the way towards atheist. I called myself agnostic, but I’d come to view the Universe as fairly mechanistic. At one point, I finally said, “Okay, I don’t believe there’s anything else.” The Universe decided to call my bet. Almost as soon as I’d uttered that sentence It sent me an extraordinary experience. Followed by another and another until I capitulated, swept up in what to me was irrefutable evidence of there being something else. Generally, I’ve been a great deal happier in my “defeat” than I was in my “victorious” skepticism.

Why me? Why was I sent experiential data? I haven’t a clue. That’s the thing about the Universe. It’s a big freaking mystery with big freaking mysterious ways. We wander down half-formed pathways with thick fog on either side and every once in a while the mists lift to reveal a dazzling view of sheer cliffs and the dramatic crashing of waves far below. Then the clouds return and we proceed on the path—but once you’ve seen it, you can’t un-see that amazing sight. You’ve glimpsed the beauty and the peril lying just beyond the verge. You step carefully from that point on.


Odd beliefs cling to the face of the moon—and why not? It hangs above us in splendid glory and from the first blink of consciousness, primates must have gazed on it in wonder and fright and superstition. It’s inside of us, too, its cycles shaping the ebb and flow of our internal tides. The moon is a very powerful object, pulling and deforming the shape of the earth as it rotates around us. Why shouldn’t it also pull and deform the creatures that crawl upon the earth?

Science remains skeptical. Oh, not about the pull of the moon on earth’s tides and geography, but on the claims of its influence on human beings. ER doctors, police, mental health professionals may all come up with strong anecdotal evidence of altered behavior during full moons, but scientists—who require replicable studies to believe things and are no fun at all—find it hard to take such things seriously. Even when they do produce a study that suggests some aspects of moon lore may have a basis in fact, they are quick to point out that a single study must be viewed with a certain amount of cynicism. Sometimes even by those who produced the study.

Take for example the belief that a full moon leads to restless sleep. A study from 2013 suggests there may be some basis to this. Christian Cajochen and his colleagues at the Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Basel decided to do sleep studies on 33 volunteers and found that around the time of the full moon, the kind of brain activity associated with deep sleep decreased by 30 percent, participants took slightly longer to fall asleep than they did at other times, and slept on average twenty minutes less overall. What I find most significant is that their levels of melatonin also diminished during this period. Melatonin is the hormone that regulates sleeping and waking cycles.

However, when interviewed by National Public Radio, Cajochen was quick to downplay his own study, saying the findings might not hold up in a larger investigation. Other scientists remain adamantly and steadfastly skeptical, demanding more research before they take anything to do with moon madness seriously. Like I said, no fun at all.

A 2014 study at the Max Planck institute found no significant connection between the lunar cycle and sleep.

Research published in March of 2016 of 5,800 children between ages 9 and 11 in 12 different countries found that they slept about five minutes less on nights with a full moon.

So. The search for truth continues. So do the myths. I suspect science will never be able to completely convince those on the front lines of moon madness triage that there is no correlation. As for me, I will continue to “purify” and “charge” my crystals by the light of the full moon. You just can’t be too careful about such things.

This is an interesting overview of scientific studies on moon madness.

Random quote of the day:

“To arrive at certainty, you need to start from a skeptical posture. The best scientists are impartial, not swayed by their own beliefs.”

—The Dalai Lama, Twitter, 25 May 2011


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.


Random quote of the day:

“Skepticism has made no actual contribution to science, just as music reviews in the newspaper make no contribution to the art of composition and book reviewing falls far short of writing books. Because it rides on science’s coattails, skepticism lays claim to defeating all manner of fallacies and ignorance when it has done no such thing. Skeptics have not contributed to theories of mathematics or logic in any substantial way, and the chief victory of skepticism—to discredit religious thinking as opposed to scientific thinking—is a battle long ago won.”

—Deepak Chopra, “Gadflies Without a Sting: The Downside of Skepticism,” The Huffington Post, October 10, 2005



Disclaimer:  The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.


Next Page »