Uncanny impact: The paranormal implications of the missing Malaysian airliner

Jetliner

I presume that at this point we’ve all heard about the (apparently serious?) speculations by a CNN personality that a black hole or an unspecified supernatural force might be responsible for the disappearance of Malaysian Flight MH370. Weird as this is, it’s only slightly weirder than the recent and sudden decision to radically relocate the search for the missing jetliner only a few days after the Malaysian Prime Minister issued an official statement confirming that the flight had gone down into the Indian Ocean, with “all lives lost.”

With all of this in mind, and on a much more subtle level of discourse than CNN’s spontaneous foray into fringe supernaturalism, here’s writer and independent scholar of religion Joseph Laycock offering some nicely penetrating thoughts on the possible paranormal implications of Flight MH370’s singularly strange disappearance. His thesis is that anomalous events like these tend to open people up, both individually and collectively, to a sense of the truly mysterious and uncanny, which in turns invites  both a profound transformation of worldviews and the mercenary attention of individuals seeking to make a profit by claiming some sort of paranormal power or authority.

Joe begins by noting that both the Israeli psychic Uri Geller (yes, that Uri Geller) and the Malaysian bomoh (shaman) Ibrahim Mat Zin recently claimed to have been contacted by government officials with requests to help with the search for the aircraft by using their supernatural / paranormal / psychic powers. Then he says this:

When an unprecedented event like the disappearance of flight MH370 occurs, it creates a vacuum of meaning. New models of reality are created almost immediately to account for it. The anthropologist Clifford Geertz gave the classic example of a “uncanny toadstool” — an unusually large toadstool that grew unusually quickly in a Javanese village. Villagers gathered from miles around and offered various explanations of how and why it had formed. The toadstool’s uncanny-ness had to be accounted for. Disasters are essentially the uncanny toadstool writ large: They present a similar threat to our understanding of the world. They also present an opportunity to reorder our model of the world and to introduce something new.

In some circumstances, a community’s need to make sense of the world in the wake of a mystery or disaster gives rise to seers and prophets. Charisma, among other things, is the ability to make claims about the way the world is and have them “stick.” This, I propose, is why the mystery of flight MH370 is so attractive to career-minded shamans and psychics. On some level these figures must sense there is some “ontological wiggle room” surrounding these events, which they can use to enhance their authority.

MORE: “Why the Disappeared Malaysian Airliner Brings Out the Paranormal

Image courtesy of photomyheart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

About Matt Cardin

Teeming Brain founder and editor Matt Cardin is the author of DARK AWAKENINGS, DIVINATIONS OF THE DEEP, A COURSE IN DEMONIC CREATIVITY: A WRITER'S GUIDE TO THE INNER GENIUS, and the forthcoming TO ROUSE LEVIATHAN. He is also the editor of BORN TO FEAR: INTERVIEWS WITH THOMAS LIGOTTI and the academic encyclopedias MUMMIES AROUND THE WORLD and GHOSTS, SPIRITS, AND PSYCHICS: THE PARANORMAL FROM ALCHEMY TO ZOMBIES.

Posted on April 2, 2014, in Paranormal, Society & Culture and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. “””When an unprecedented event like the disappearance of flight MH370 occurs, it creates a vacuum of meaning. New models of reality are created almost immediately to account for it. The anthropologist Clifford Geertz gave the classic example of a “uncanny toadstool” — an unusually large toadstool that grew unusually quickly in a Javanese village. Villagers gathered from miles around and offered various explanations of how and why it had formed. The toadstool’s uncanny-ness had to be accounted for. Disasters are essentially the uncanny toadstool writ large: They present a similar threat to our understanding of the world. They also present an opportunity to reorder our model of the world and to introduce something new.”””

    /

    The meaning vacuum he’s talking about here is an extremely powerful perspective. I wouldn’t say so much that we create meaning, however, more that we find the correct meaning to fill in the gap . When Lovecraft suggests a negative theological construct like “I looked about the immense attic room with the sloping south wall, dimly lit by rays which the every day eye cannot see. The far corners were all shadows and the whole place took on a hazy unreality which obscured its nature and invited the imagination to symbolism and phantasm. During the interval that Tillinghast was long silent I fancied myself in some vast incredible temple of long-dead gods; some vague edifice of innumerable black stone columns reaching up from a floor of damp slabs to a cloudy height beyond the range of my vision.” — our mind reaches infinity, there really is a thing, and our mind tries to and can grasp that . from that realization there’s a descent of meaning that occurs. I wouldn’t say that we create meaning so much as we entreat meaning.

  2. ok I wouldn’t say that we entreat a correct magical number so much as we invite the creation of a random number . It’s the doorway to Chaos not a doorway to the correct answer. but it’s a random number within a range of potential variables. so when Lovecraft opens a gateway to an Other-World, there is a descent of numinous stuff but its an allowance of such stuff to descend and not something that can be predicted. Creativity is a kind of controlled or bordered amount of randomness.

  3. What I was just trying to explain about Randomness and descent of a kind of personal psychic experience is good enough reason for me to believe in things like psi but still able to discount the ability of psychics attempting their powers on external circumstances. Psi is something personal. Only subjective. Never objective.

    • I resonate with everything you just said in these three comments, Daniel. Except for the part about psi being purely subject and never objective; I’m still on the fence about that. Anyway, your observations are nicely provocative. And well aimed.

      • What I mean is that if you were to turn the lights on in the middle of a mall and sit down with a ouija board, nothing much would happen. but if you bring a ouija board into a darkened room with some friends, and they’re there to play with the ouija board, then the magic happens because the subjective alignment has been made. if you were to use a ouija board in the middle of a mall i don’t think it would work very well, and i think the science of psi , the standards that the average scientists wants psi to be proven by… those standards amount to doing ouija in the middle of a mall.

        • in the middle of a crowded noisy mall . this is how mass apocalypse in a public space like a zombie film has the tinge of camp and silliness to it . because zombies are a private thing. the idea of as richard gavin says a world rent to piece by horror, that happens but in intimate spaces.

      • ok Matt here’s a better example.

        the uncanny toadstool.

        the uncanny toadstool is real. within horror fiction it is evocative , and something numinous leaps out, but if the village got together i don’t think that numinosity would leap out to them. they wouldn’t be able to perceive the uncanniness of the toadstool out there

        but something about the private sphere of literature and private thoughts brings numinosity out in full force.

        • if everyone is seeing the uncanniness of a toadstool that is, through suspension of disbelief, then yeah i guess the village can see the uncanniness of the toadstool, but that uncanniness doesn’t lend well to critical skeptical inquiry . as soon as someone comes and ruins the uncanny party the uncanny goes away.

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