Since my last post got linked at Facebook, some readers over there (none over here, evidently) are asking for the back-story. I don’t really think it’s that important, because I think it’s all there in my letter to Chris. The danger of adding more information is that people will get lost in the details and start arguing over the finer points of Netiquette and suchlike. I really want to stress that this isn’t about putting CK under the microscope and judging his behavior. That isn’t going to help anything unless it happens in a larger context of understanding and compassion.
My motives for posting the letter were threefold (my conscious motives, I can’t talk about my unconscious ones, that would be just crazy!): 1) to confront CK with what I see as unreasonable behavior in the hope of giving him a helpful pointer or two. 2) To let others who may have been, or felt like they were, subjected to a similar kind of treatment, know that it’s OK to speak up and say “No” to it. 3) To work through, in my usual public and slightly painful fashion, my own issues around power, status, influence, right and wrong communication methods, and the like.
What this has definitely helped me see is that there is a very good reason I don’t have the sort of following Christopher Knowles does, which is that I feel the need, for whatever reason, to connect to people as individuals and to see everyone as equally important. This approach becomes less and less viable the larger one’s audience becomes (at least when it’s an interactive audience, as both Chris and I encourage). Disregard for the finer points of discussion and eventually for other people’s points of view (and feelings) becomes increasingly necessary, or at least justifiable, the larger the crew being “managed.”
I now think, based on what I’ve learned from this last experience, that this is a wholly unavoidable pitfall of creating groups to lead, and that there’s probably no way around it, which only leaves the question of how deep the pit grows before you fall in, and whether you make it out or not. Any implied criticisms of Chris Knowles, therefore, should be seen as criticisms of the fundamental machinery of social grouping and of the accepted forms of leadership, which I think are not only corrupting, but corrupt from their very inception onward. The reason for this is that they are, perhaps invariably, compensatory, being sourced in early patterns of trauma and driven by an infantile (and wholly unavoidable) need to feel powerful, and to be seen that way in the eyes of others.
Now that’s all spelled out, here’s the requested “back-story.”
Ever since I first talked with Chris Knowles for Stormy Weather in 2009 (see episodes 27 & 27.5, here, for downloads, go here), he’s been my favorite alternate perceptions guy. Affinity is a strange thing. I didn’t follow his work, probably for the same reason (I assume) he didn’t follow mine, because it wasn’t central to my research; but I regularly cast an eye at what he was doing and looked forward to dialoguing with him again.
It seemed as if he felt the same way. After our talk he said it was probably his favorite interview; a few months ago, he invited me onto his Mystery Hour podcast. I said I’d be glad to but didn’t hear about it again.
A few weeks ago, before launching the Crucial Fictions site, I emailed Chris, along with a bunch of other people, inviting him to look at the “Prisoner of Infinity” material so we could discuss it together, as part of the audio series currently underway. He said he wouldn’t be able to, for personal reasons.
I let him know when the site was up, and also pointed out that the link at his blog (to “Vagabond Blues,” my old, old blog) was way out of date and asked if he could update the link, to this current blog. I’d made the same request a couple of months before, but then, as now, I didn’t receive any response from him and the old link remained up.
Meanwhile, over at Facebook: during the previous few months, I’d been hearing stories about Chris’s dismissive treatment of his followers, and been curious enough to observe it up close. (I mostly avoid posting at FB but have an account there, since sometimes it’s the only way to contact people.) One of the first things I saw was that Chris had instituted a rule after the Boston bombing incident that anyone who posted about it being a “false flag” operation would be “defriended.” A friend of mine (Keith Z) questioned this decree, and/or made a comment that didn’t meet Chris’s approval, and was promptly defriended. Chris had also posted that the whole notion of “psy-ops” was the invention of the (“right wing”) author Michael A. Hoffman, and he seemed to turn his nose up at conspiracy lore in general. More recently, my attention was drawn to someone being rebuked by Chris for talking about satanic ritual abuse, and for saying a friend of theirs had experienced it. Chris’s response was that “people who make these claims are usually delusional fantasists who have no evidence of this alleged abuse.” The person left the group soon after.
Hearing these stories gave me a feeling of foreboding, since my own writing was delving, at least peripherally, in just such forbidden waters.
Then the day before yesterday, my wife emailed me a link to the latest post at Chris’s blog, here, which I read with growing interest. Chris was posting about UFOs again, and in relation to dystopian sci-fi futures, a dead match with the “Prisoner of Infinity” material. Excited, I made a comment at his blog, thinking to kill two birds with one stone: attract some Secret Sun readers to the Crucial Fictions site, and lay the groundwork for a future dialogue with Chris. Fools rush in. . .
I can’t link to the blog comment because it’s been deleted. It was a friendly comment about how we both seemed to have returned to similar subject matter at exactly the same time, and it included a link to the Crucial Fictions site and a quote from one of the chapters, about Strieber, trauma, daimonic inner agencies, and the body. Here’s a screen shot for the record:
An hour or two later, I received an email from Chris. He apologized for not replying to my last email, and then wrote this sentence:
“I’m really not comfortable with the imagery on the title page. Let me know when you take it down and I’ll see about linking.”
The words gave me a jolt. The friendly tone which opened the email (he called me “Jase”) was instantly replaced by one of cool command. More stunned than angry, I noticed that I had immediately come down with a headache: a somatic reaction. The sentence, casually delivered, contained an unmistakable edge of accusation. It implied that the image at the site was somehow in poor taste, and even an infraction of some kind. It took it as a given that I would fix this error. The use of the word “when” instead of “if” did not seem like it was inadvertent.
Yet I hadn’t asked Chris to link to the Crucial Fictions site, only to update the blog link at his own blog. . .
I sent a reply clarifying this point, with a comment about how the image wasn’t meant to make him comfortable. Oddly, there was some confusion as to whether my email went through (I couldn’t find it in my sent folder), so I emailed him again to ask if it had. I didn’t receive any response from him, and the following day I sent another email, challenging him on (what I saw as) his unreasonable behavior.
He responded with a couple of words of dismissal. Shortly after that, I noticed he’d deleted my comment at his blog.
In Chris’s last post, he wrote this passage:
“The problem is that too many people plant their flags in one plot or the other (or the other), and zealously lob grenades at their neighbors rather than focusing all of their aggression where it belongs; the defenders of the corrupt establishment. . . . But for me, that’s not only a waste of energy, it’s also extremely short-sighted and self-limiting.”
The words seemed ironic to me now, now that Chris Knowles had lobbed a grenade of his own making into my inbox, without warning and for reasons unclear to me. Did he see me, because of an image which offended him, as a defender of a corrupt establishment? (I presume his discomfort over the image was for “moral” reasons and not aesthetic ones.) If so, he must be seeing demons in his soup.
There’s another passage in the post that caught my eye, since it intersects directly with “Prisoner of Infinity”:
“In between all of this I was invited by Jeff Kripal to lecture about Jack Kirby at the Esalen CTR, where I discovered that despite all the frothing nonsense you hear from little fascist weasels, Esalen itself is about as sinister as (and in fact was eerily similar to) an episode of Portlandia.”
So based on the fact that he had a good time at Esalen and everyone was nice to him, was Chris Knowles really suggesting that anyone who pointed out the (fairly well-documented) ties between Esalen and, for example, SRI (and therefore military intelligence) was a nonsense-frothing fascist weasel? That would include me then. I knew that Knowles had recently proposed the creation of a “Level Above Facebook” space, to be called the “Reality-Based High Weirdness Community.” Apparently, being OK-ed for this space required renouncing all non-Reality-based Weirdnesses such as satanic ritual abuse or psy-ops. I would also guess, tentatively anyway, that questioning Chris Knowles’ ability to know when he’s having smoke blown up his ass is also going to be a No-No in that New Reality Zone.
But this is all by-the-by, and not really any of my concern.
The bottom line of this melodrama is that I fell into an unconscious trap, laid not by Chris Knowles but by the forces of our combined unconsciouses, and that I wound up feeling abused and distressed over what he (and probably others) no doubt sees as a triviality, but which for me is a deeply entrenched childhood wound: being bullied by a male figure I respect and having my offering dismissed and then erased from the record. My own (five years older) brother wanted to do exactly that: to make me disappear before I could steal his thunder. These things tend to repeat in our lives because we reenact the trauma unconsciously, as a way to try and re-experience it and thereby resolve it. Which, ironically enough, is what crucialfictions.com is all about.
So while all this might seem like a storm in a teacup and much to-do about nothing, for me it has at times felt like a bona fide life and death struggle. And since like always attracts like, I have no doubt, no doubt at all, that’s how things are for Christopher Knowles right now.
And of course all this has real world consequences, because the work I’m doing with Crucial Fictions is vital and a lot of people can benefit from it. In fact they already have, including people who follow, or followed, CK’s work—I would say “religiously,” except that it’s probably the ex-communicated and/or the apostates who are going to benefit the most from it. But the point is, between us, with our ancestral trauma and the unexpected explosion of those patterns coming into premature(?) contact, we’ve more or less burned to the ground whatever bridge might have been constructed.
Or maybe, in a strange and unforeseeable way, this is that bridge?