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Index of Summer Essays

#3: Between Liminal + Subliminal

Ladder Truck Red Lights - photo  2005 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Stairway to the Sky



no definition, but from the Latin, limen-, threshold.

Present but not obvious; lying below the threshold of awareness, unconscious, inner, innermost, latent, repressed, suppressed, underlying, hidden, subconscious

Movie Review

Suspect Zero**** is seriously spooky. A serial killer-killer tracks them down in his head with psy ops training from the CIA, as an FBI agent tracks him down, while attempting to sublimate his own psychic abilities.

Eerie visuals, intriguing story with deep psych plot. Noir as hell. The story is strong and direct in a darkly disjointed way that will be off-putting to many not attuned to the truly weird aspects of our own minds' workings.

The movie amazed me, not just with the bizarre subject matter and treatment, but with its deep, intelligent script, acting (Ben Kingsley) and lusciously murky, well composed, on-target cinematography. Also because the movie's central concept is factual, if controversial.

Apparently, some people can, under the right circumstances, view people and places and events, miles away in discontinuous space, and time. It's called remote viewing (RV), and the U.S. Government funded millions of dollars into research and use of it for more than twenty years (may still). Like the best of Science Fiction, the facts this movie is based on, may actually be true, making it even spookier.

If you liked Memento or Lars von Trier's Element of Crime, this will be a natural.

Suspect Zero's use of drawings and paintings is integral to the twisting plot, and the art is good, if bleak. Also phenomenal, is the director's Special Features commentary, where he tells his story — the same one we're seeing on the screen, but with all the nuances, physics, psychic and psychological understandings woven into this strange, dark flick.

more J R movie reviews

Facinated, I took notes as director E. Elias Merhige spoke, enjoying his depth of knowledge about the phenomenological underpinnings of the story, and how remote viewing is accomplished. What follows are my notes, thickened with my own understandings, reorganized to inform the context of art, artists and arting.

That RV can be a crime-fighting technique may be obvious from the movie and Special Features. In my initial glee, I thought it less apparent that it might also be applicable to artists in search of vivid reality to perceive and communicate — to go deeper into life and its truths.

Floor Scratch - photograph  2005 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Etched Floor of the Door Into Perception

More research

Something else Merhige mentioned in his commentary was that we should “check out Bob Monroe of the Monroe Institute” and the director's other movie, Begotten.

(See Amazon for more information.

I net researched Robert Allan Monroe and The Monroe Institute in Faber, Virginia and linked off to all these, which are, in their own way, important in this journey.

Hook Magazine's story, Cosmic Degrees — Out of Body at the Monroe Institute

Amazon's page on Mind Trek: Exploring Consciousness, Time, and Space Through Remote Viewing by Joe McMoneagle *** (At $10.36, I ordered it from Amazon, although ...

Captain of My Ship, Master of My Soul: Living With Guidance, also on Amazon - $14.93 ... may actually be a better introduction to this stuff for art purposes. Kinda wish I'd read the blurbs on this page more carefully before I ordered.

Amazon's page on Limitless Mind: A Guide to Remote Viewing and Transformation of Consciousness

Hemi Sync® Tapes and CDs - Monroe Institute CD Products for curing almost anything

The sum of my research was discouraging enough initially to make me want to quit this essay altogether. Uh-oh, I thought, another New Age fru-fru, wild goose chase. And I'm still not convinced it's not, but there's something in all this that has resonance and reality, though it might take awhile to figure which is which.

There I was flying along thinking I had come up with an original concept, only to find, when I did a little research there's already a whole industry based on it. Oof!

After absorbing my disgust with the commercialization of technology supposedly extrapolated from RV tech, I wondered whether I could write about that place between liminal and subliminal without getting all new age goofy.

Twisting Gold Down Garland Road - Copyright 2005 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.


I find myself both looking up to and looking down on The Monroe Institute. I have a finely-tuned ironic appreciation for their acronym (TMI) and find their founder's quote, “The greatest illusion is that mankind has limitations” inspiring.

Which reminds me of Teilard de Chardin, who in 1938 wrote that he believed we are evolving toward angels. It is hardly new that humans are expanding our abilities, our capabilities.

As usual the truth lies (!) somewhere between.

Teilard de Chardin books or on QuestIA

The next movie — chosen at random before I knew what either flick was about — put my setback in better perspective.

White Noise**** goes way past spooky. It's disturbing. Well done in clear, sharp cinematography, rich, real colors (except the EVP scenes, which, like remote viewing, tend to be in grainy black & white). Another supposedly verifiable, beyond phenomenon.

This time it's EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon), what you sometimes get when you leave a radio on between stations, or take a tape recorder into a haunted house and ask questions of the silence, then take it home and play it back with computer audio enhancers.

That's what Michael Keaton gets obsessive compulsive about in this movie after his wife dies, and what a pair of investigators do in the inevitable Special Feature. I remain skeptical of the phenomenon, but the movie was a grabber, and a repeated shaker. I felt shaken.



  1. An occurrence, a circumstance, or a fact that is perceptible by the senses.
  2. pl. phenomenons. a. An unusual, significant, or unaccountable fact or occurrence; a marvel...
  3. Philosophy. a. That which appears real to the mind, regardless of whether its underlying existence is proved or its nature understood.
  4. In Kantian philosophy, the appearance of an object to the mind as opposed to its existence in and of itself, independent of the mind.
  5. Physics. An observable event.

I liked the movie, enjoyed being scared and appreciated the not-quite distinct, evil imagery, but I'm no believer in EVP, which reads to me as pure bunkum. Penn & Teller, in a brief flip-through last night, agreed big-time. Sometimes I depend upon movies and TV shows to show me the way. Sometimes I have to think for myself.

I'm still caught on the long horns of dilemma with RV, which I'd like to try or at least get into the vicinity of, but I'm nervous to recommend. This essay seems to have made a radical left veer from the three that preceded. I would not have planned it this way, but don't mind following the thread now I've set it in pixels.

Back to RV

If, as Merhige notes, remote viewing “is a doorway into perception,” mightn't it be interesting if we could adapt some of its less grisly aspects for our own, selfish, creative purposes?

If it is true that we only use 10% of our brains, as Dallas actor Owen Wilson just told Jay Leno on the Tonight Show on the little TV in the far corner of my office as I write this, perhaps it is possible that some of that other 90% works in the places between liminal and subliminal.

That's the glimmer I got when I first realized some of the potential of productive RV-like trances. When I was all excited about its potential before I knew of TMI's dabbling in Stereo-Sink pseudo tech.

In Suspect Zero it was noted in both the movie and the commentary, that obsessive-compulsives make better RVers, perhaps because they — we — can hew the line more easily once we find the opening under the threshold.

Artists are intuitive and more open than most to new ideas and possibilities, especially when those techniques aren't all that new and may actually be possible. Consider this a potential art form assistant.

The MAC parking lot in the rain

Inner Journeys

Perhaps we should change the name from Remote Viewing to Inner Viewing. IV, a direct line into our minds. Not for tracking down serial killers or peeking in on how America's enemies are working against us.

But for getting in closer contact with our own mysterious selves and those realities around us that we have not yet adequately perceived or represented — realities we have neither considered nor put into our art, that can seriously enrich us and our art.

Those inner and outer truths are evanescent, slippery to grab hold of with the physical senses. But they are open to us, even willing to enter our grasp, if we quiet our throbbing brains and gentle our hears long enough to reach out for them with our minds.

Or reach in.

mind = brain + heart

It might help to explain how our minds work. Quoting Suspect Zero's director again:

“In normal human perceptions, the brain doesn't see the whole object. We don't see those things. The brain puts those together. What we see are patterns of light and dark and different wave lengths of color. Shades and edges are the sorts of things that get reported by our senses ...

Remote viewing is way beyond intuitive. We remember pieces. The mind reassembles those initial sensations ...

What we call perception is a lot more layered and more detailed, deeper than anyone has yet realized or quantified, let along qualified. Both the perceiver and the creators have a lot more going on than most people yet realize.”

In the 70s, we learned that to ensure success and smooth sailing during an LSD trip, we needed to pay special attention to Set and Setting.

Meditator - photograph  2005 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.


Set is mind set. How you feel.

Gentle your mind before you go off on any journey.

Anger or a self-destructive mood is not helpful to mind or other journeys. Let them go before you take the first step.

That IV is not chemical-based is an important first step.

Setting is where you are.

Get comfortable. Use the same place to launch your probes each time, so those become (if they are not already) familiar places. Gentle or repetitive music, even trance, may help tune in. A comfortable chair is essential, but you don't want to fall asleep.

Have simple drawing tools readily at hand. A nice, comfortable pencil, some paper.

As an artist, your hand is already an easy extension of your mind. Remember that the inspiration is coming from somewhere different and unaccustomed, either inside you or out in the universe. Do not attempt to control anything, only be an efficient conduit. Ignore your judgments. Let flow whatever comes.

Don't worry if nothing happens at first or on the first attempt — or first few attempts.


How To Remote View

More from the director

Quiet the mind and expand awareness.

Start with the bare, basic, fundamental notions, of structure. Is it land or water?

Our first notions come as just a quick flash. Describe them out loud and draw (pencil to paper) the initial fragments that come — even if they don't make any sense, because frequently those are the most reliable.

Write down words. Be descriptive. Feelings, sounds, smell, taste, feel. Draw them.

Perceive the sensory elements — the smells, taste, texture, sounds, color, shadings, interplays of light. Then shape. Things get more complex. You start adding up complex notions.

Give up the feeling you have to be right. You must be willing to be wrong.

You also have to give up the strong human desire to name the object. It is unlikely that you will be able to name objects.

Blue Man in Dark Trees - Photograph  2003 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Blue Figure in Dark Trees

More info comes in in fragments — eventually the analytic, left part of our brain that does the conclusions, goes to work assembling all those perceived pieces.”


Okay, Merhige reminds us, “the CIA's not interested in the daffodil on the hillside.” Which may be true. However, artists need the flowers. Need all the details we can dredge up.

While the CIA and other operatives may need to discover “What's the bigger picture. What's happening here?” Artists need and can best use the details — the texture, the light and shadows. Like music, colors bring us back to life.

More from the director

“In noetic science, we have to ignore mental noise …


Of, relating to, originating in, or apprehended by the intellect.

We can't ever read someone's mind in the Hollywood sense. But we can can pick up on feelings and emotions. We value our ways of knowing things …

Remote viewing is an ability we all have. It's a widely distributed ability that's not limited by spatial geography. We have to wake people up to take chances to explore …

Between liminal and subliminal is the best “place” to remote view from …

The session can be activated by a sound.”

In the movie, that sound was high pitched, an atonal whistling, accompanied by obsessive motions. When fully engaged, Kingley's hands shook intensely, almost out of control.

In the movie, his character is quoted as having physically and verbally contacted other remote viewers, most of whom experienced no ongoing difficulties. Those engaged with serial killers, however, were all quite mad.

It might be safer, easier and more practical to use the space between liminal and subliminal to go into your own head, visit your own realities and make images from those.

Bon voyage.


J R’s Summer Art Essays      index