The Paradigm Symposium, a four-day journey into the realm aliens and the paranormal, descended upon the Woman’s Club of Minneapolis this last weekend, and while the themes of the event were truth and bridging the gap between the fringe worlds of Ufology and paranormal studies with mainstream society, the theme just as easily may have been “everything you know is a lie” and “the world is out to get you.”
From “black budgets” and “breakaway civilizations” to modern shamans and spirits, the Paradigm Symposium was a headfirst dive into the sort of topics that the modern History Channel would absolutely love to make programming about. The event was attended by individuals who have made frequent appearances on History’s Ancient Aliens series, such as Richard Dolan and Graham Hancock, as well Ghost Hunters International’s Barry Fitzgerald. All in all, roughly a dozen individuals, self-proclaimed experts in their fields, were on hand to give presentations and attend panels on all manner of subjects, but in the end it all boiled down to the idea that they were the keepers of a secret truth that they had unraveled a grand theme and that if you would only buy their book and listen to what they had to say, you, too, could be in on the secret.
While the Paradigm Symposium’s stated purpose was to bridge the gap between the fringe and the mainstream culture, the presenters would often vacillate between an open desire to engage with the general public and be taken seriously and a total contempt for a society which they perceive to be willfully ignorant of the secret hand that guides the world and keeps them down. The entire concept of openness seemed contradictory in the face of what seemed to be going on, which was an insular community reaffirming all of their own notions without being critical of one another’s ideas at all.
The cause of bridging the gap was also not terribly well served by the constant use of weasel words to constantly avoid being pinned down to a claim. You will never in your life see so many people use words like “maybe” and “possibly” with so much confidence as you would if you attended an event like this.
Who would attend such a conference? People from all age groups and seemingly all walks of life. There was no pinpointing a group, no obvious basement dwellers or tinfoil types, but instead a variety of individuals who may well have been attending any other event. At a glance at the prices, one would assume that this niche event would be completely cost-prohibitive. A four day pass for the event ran $250, and a VIP pass (which entitled you to a VIP banquet) was $340. Even a day pass would run an individual $85. Yet the event was seemingly well attended, and the VIP passes were completely sold out. Whoever these people were, they were certainly willing to pony up some serious dough to be a part of this event.
There is arguably nothing wrong with harboring paranormal beliefs. There is nothing wrong with gathering together to discuss the possibilities of life after death, alien visitations, conspiracies, and all other manner of esoterica. The problem comes when these beliefs begin to affect your relationship to the rest of the world around you. It’s one thing to entertain the concept that aliens have visited earth, and an entirely different thing to try to scare a certain type of person into believing that they are here right now and they can control your mind and oh God we’re doomed. It is absolutely terrifying to wonder whether these people actually believe these things or if they are wolves who are preying on the money of gullible sheep who are absolutely desperate to believe that the world is something more than it is, and they are somehow special snowflakes in the midst of an ill-informed rabble.