Monday, January 31, 2011

A skeptical turn, before I do January's spreadsheet

As a "Sethian" on the one hand, and a skeptic on the other, I am enjoying "The Sacred Promise" but also running into obstacles to agreeing with its full message. The section on healing is suffuse with conventional religious allusions, occasionally dipping into New Ageism.  If individual healing were as simple as calling out to Spirit, we would have no need for physicians. I know of many very religiously devout people who pray earnestly for healing, but receive none. This one material fact is a barrier to many to embracing religion--as well as to New Age thought.  (Although I do believe that outside forces often aid in healing; just as I believe that our greater self aids. Just not on request.)  In other words, phenomena does not lead to belief (or that word I dislike, "faith"). "Belief" is a dangerous weapon in the wrong hands, and I prefer a system of thought that I do not have to believe.

(I'm not suggesting that Dr. Schwartz is advocating belief, but belief is the first cousin of religion.)

Just this quibble.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Thoughts on Nick Redfern ("Collins Elite") Paratopia

I've been intrigued with the Collins Elite story ever since I first heard it. Although I don't think that UFOs are demonic (I'm not sure that even demons are demonic), the idea that *any* faction of the American government would seriously study the UFO phenomenon, and then leak the info out, is significant. And if you strip away the Christian fundamentalist distortion from the group's research, you are left with several interesting observations...

First: Redfern suggests that the group concluded that abductions are real events, or are perceived as real by the experiencer, but that they are "holographic" in nature. This is not too different from the observation by some researchers that the abduction experience, though real, is fundamentally non-physical; analogous to a lucid dream or an out-of-body experience. This would explain the paradox faced by many students of the abduction phenomenon that there is little or no physical evidence of abduction, despite the detailed narratives presented by the abductees, who always insist that the abduction was a physical event.

This is NOT the same as saying that the abduction experience is hallucinatory or a confabulation, which is the mainstream scientific view... although science presently does not recognize any state of consciousness outside the narrow band used by adult humans during the waking state.

Second, there's the conclusion by some that Earth is essentially a Matrix-like environment that is being farmed, impersonally and mechanically, by the Greys for the purpose of harvesting human "souls." In fact, Nick Redfern uses the analogy of "grazing cattle" to describe this faction's viewpoint.

While people of all ideological stripes would likely find this notion repellant, I think that it's a valid--though heavily distorted--construction. It appears, more or less with the same bovine terminology, in OOBE adventurer Robert Monroe's 1985 book "Far Journeys." In Chapter 12, Monroe indulges in a lengthy allegory depicting Earth as a "Garden" that is seeded and tended by "Someone," laboratory-type beings who cultivate--and frequently harvest--earthly life forms for the ultimate goal of obtaining "Loosh" (reminiscent of the Dune series "spice"). Humans are depicted as unaware cattle, awaiting slaughter. There is much to his allegory, and I won't try to summarize it (but it has a surprise and positive ending, and I encourage everyone to check it out), but Monroe's allegory is essentially the Creation myth, updated for the twentieth century.

Just as we can adapt the Creation myth with contemporary language--"In the beginning, Someone designed and manufactured the physical world"; or, "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe"--so we can appreciate genuine experiencers of the UFO phenomenon as presenting information of value--however distorted by lenses of ideology, fear, hope, and belief.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A possible model for paranormal research

I am partway through Gary Schwartz's "The Sacred Promise," and it dawned on me that his method of research might be a good model to work from, generally, for other paranormal endeavors. I doubt that it will convince the skeptics or the scientific mainstream, but it would certainly establish credibility with the paranormal audience (which is, by association, a marginal group that will never gain mainstream acceptance).

Basically, Dr. Schwartz holds a doctorate in a discipline that has purview over the phenomenon he is researching (psychology), and he seems to be following accepted protocols for experimentation. Imposing such a discipline on UFOlogy might be difficult, but it should weed out some of the glaring errors that have occurred.

For anyone who is wondering, my academic background is an essential requirement for anyone whose career path includes dishwashing, hamburger flipping, and dorm guarding (all of which I have done): I have an MA in English Lit.... which qualifies me to write about the paranormal, even when, usually, I have little of substance to say.

I dropped out of academia in the '80s for several reasons... First, it was common knowledge then that your chances of getting tenure as a Lit major were slim-to-none; second, I didn't like competing. Academia can be very cut-throat. I attended graduate school at the beginning of America's infatuation with corporate capitalism, and I found myself competing against (and losing to) better-positioned students, economically and socially. It wasn't for me.  If I had majored in something else and gained status and acclaim in society, I doubt that I'd be blogging about the paranormal. Looking back, it's obvious that something in me didn't want this, or maybe this has been the life path all along. My interest has always been in the margins, culturally and intellectually. Although the paranormal is indeed a very marginal field, I associate with it because it's my conviction that today's margins are tomorrow's mainstream. And if I had to choose where to be, I couldn't think of many better places to be than where I am now.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A blog entry to celebrate the finding of my Kroger gift card...

Or, to quote some Masonic ritual, "My mind is now clear." Which has to be memorized verbatim. So when a Mason says that he is studying, he is probably committing the ritual to memory.

But it's taught me that my memory is not bad. Plus, I keep notes: I've kept a dream journal since it became to fad to keep dream journals (mid-70s), helpfully annotated with what I was reading and thinking at the time. It's been a long, strange trip. A significant portion of my dreams have concerned UFOs. That by itself would not be notable, except that during my early teens, I had more than a couple of UFO sightings. My mother also had sightings, including a very vivid one the day that I was due to arrive home over the weekend from college. That weekend, I recorded one of my more vivid UFO dreams.

A close relative had a classic abduction experience not far from where I lived; reportedly (I never verified the story, so it's likely corrupted) she was driving home at night up a very steep hill when she blacked out; she awakened at the wheel of her car, which was safely parked, and lights were ascending from it into the sky.

This is the bare bones summary of my connection to the UFO enigma (there's more, but it's earlier and stranger), which I present as a prelude to a hypotheses concerning the abduction writings of Budd Hopkins and David Jacobs.

When I picked up "Missing Time" in '85 or so (and "Communion" not long after), I could not predict the reaction that it would trigger in me, and in countless others who were associated with the UFO enigma. For the first time, a writer had apparently connected the dots of what had been an inscrutable mystery.  Hopkins filled a vacuum, and subsequent writers served to corroborate his initial findings--without critically analyzing them.

I suspect that much of the negative fallout subsequent to his discreditation in recent years is due to experiencers who still believe that Jacobs and Hopkins had The Answer, and still do. But it also causes me to wonder why the initial abduction research resonated with such a core audience.

It's probable that the larger population--those who have no connection to the UFO enigma--read through the abduction books and thought, "This is complete crap." The Phil Klasses, the Phil Donohues (and any other Phils who were early debunkers) were as convinced of the nonsensical worth of the abduction books, as the experiencers who were religiously devoted to them.

I've gone back over those early dreams, re-read my notes, thought about the books that I was reading, and I now wonder if it's possible that I constructed an elaborate inner narrative based on these books, as well as television shows and magazine articles on UFOs, and that narrative was strong enough to trigger the visible phenomenon by some mechanism yet unknown... and if this same process was happening to others. Or, is it possible that there was an underlying physical phenomenon, and that Jacobs and Hopkins got part of the story right in the beginning, enough to trigger an unconscious response, but they bungled subsequent research by not following generally accepted guidelines and research protocols?

I think that this is where science can do the best work--clearly identifying what part of the phenomenon is physically real and measurable, and then attempting to discover the cause of (or at least classifying) the associated high strangeness and psychological impact of the phenomenon.

As for Gene Steinberg (who I've tended to like), I can't really fathom his reaction. He apparently considers Hopkins a close friend; and while I stopped buying the product he was selling a while back, Hopkins does come across as genial and reasonable on the air. But I have learned a big lesson in politics: defend (or oppose) the idea first, not the person.  Or, to paraphrase (yet again) Bill Clinton, if your enemies cannot attack your ideas, they will attack you personally. The data appears (at least to me) to strongly suggest that the methodology used by Hopkins and Jacobs was fundamentally flawed. Ironically, if they had followed more rigorous protocols, and approached the abduction research more scientifically, I think that they could have easily defended their work; the data would be there, vetted, double-checked.  Their conclusions might still have been wrong, but their work, defendable. Carol Rainey seems to have done the rigorous research that Hopkins didn't do, and so I doubt that he will be able to effectively respond to her critique. And while it's apparent that she does not like her ex-husband, her analysis was of Hopkins' work--not of his person.

Monday, January 24, 2011

(Probably) pointless speculation about hybrids and the nature of scientific inquiry

I think that the article by Dr. Kokjohn is a good followup to Ms. Rainey's devastating critique and a useful antidote to the pablum that's generally offered up as metaphysical thought.

Bill Chalker's story (told in 'The Hair Of The Alien') sounded intriguing, although the hair in question was in fact human, and the story rests largely on the perceived credibility of one experiencer.  But I think that hybridizing the human race with an alien species would be difficult, even for an alien.

Whitley Strieber has suggested many times a probability that I accept, and one that's generally overlooked by mainstream UFOlogy: that a true extraterrestrial sentient species would not only be radically different from us biologically but also consciously; much of the world that we accept as "real" is largely a consensus construct, and a true alien race might perceive and construct reality in ways so different from us that it might be extremely difficult for them to interact with us on a substantial basis. Most exobiologists are focussed on possible genetic incompatibility, which might be profound, but I believe (and I think that science will eventually prove) that "reality" is, to a certain extent, a conscious construct; and the quality and nature of the reality that we perceive is determined not only by the physical limitations of the brain, but also by the limitations of the consciousness that inhabits it. Even time, which we accept as an absolute, might be experienced in radically different ways by an alien species. We simply do not know, or even know enough to speculate.

What we can assume is that the chances that an alien biological race might be able to share the same space with us would be prohibited by one simple fact: microbes and bacteria, which are abundant on our planet and bodies (and presumably on alien worlds), might be extremely dangerous to an alien body (and vice versa). Our species co-evolved many millennia with these germs and in fact could not thrive in their absence; so alien engineering would have to find a workaround for these billions of fellow travelers, or safeguards against them which would not damage the host organism.

I don't think that Jacobs and Hopkins thought these issues out in a true scientific manner, which is why their work never really passed muster with those outside UFOlogy.

This doesn't make hybridization impossible, but probably so difficult as to be useless to an alien race. There's probably many reasons that dumb animals are confined to planets, and perhaps reasons why we still continue to be.

Nonetheless, I will always argue, in the true spirit of scientific inquiry, that we can't rule anything out absolutely. To say that we do not yet know is not to say that something is impossible. I am always open to consider a good, plausible theory that can explain the vast unknown, even if the theory is ultimately proven to be crap. Science has failed in this arena by failing to entertain "alternative" theories of being, and like most rigid orthodoxies, tends to suppress views that are heretical. For me, this is the reason I am still attracted to paranormal study, despite its pitfalls. So perhaps the true metaphysician should keep a foot both in the scientific as well as the speculative world, and ever be careful not to fall onto either side.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Due dilligence: read the Carol Rainey article

Basically, the article can be summed up as both incendiary and shocking; I can see why Gene Steinberg attacked it.

If Budd Hopkins were to tell his side of the story, my hunch is that he will have nothing to defend himself with. Ms. Rainey argues that Hopkins worked with little oversight, no protocols to automatically fact-check, and he universally rejected (or ignored) critical input from other researchers. So there is nothing that he will be able to pull or furnish, either from the case files or from verifications presented at the time, to support his research, other than his unswerving belief that he was correct.

I thought that the article was an interesting refresher and backstory to cases that I followed, with varying degrees of interest, at the time. I bought "Witnessed" when it was first published; and I remember that the case was soundly attacked, not by debunkers, but by other paranormal investigators. One researcher "outed" Linda Cortille by publishing her real name, much to Hopkins' anger. The book was published when the Internet was still nascent, so it wasn't possible to fact-check the book, but I spent some time trying to identify some of the pseudonymned key characters. After a year or so, I forgot about the case.

I remember the Jim Mortellaro story very vividly, because the case was given wide exposure on the paranormal radio shows. If I'm not mistaken, he appeared on the Jeff Rense show, and I remember that he gave the most harrowing and detailed abduction encounter story that I've ever heard, before or since. He struck me as being completely authentic and truthful. That Ms. Rainey is able to easily and effectively discredit his story is significant: because while most of "us" can spot the phonies very easily, Mr. Mortellaro seemed to be real deal (to me, anyway). Was this because he had the sociopath's gift of being utterly convincing while recounting untruths, or was it simply that I had stopped applying the most basic level of filters or skepticism to abduction accounts? (I say it's the latter.)

Most UFO or abduction researchers that I've heard often defend their research by using the circular argument of, "I know that this case is true because the witness sounds absolutely credible to me." In fact, I would wager that some of the most significant cases in UFO literature depend solely on how truthful the witness seemed to appear, with no supporting documentation. The Mortellaro case shows the significant danger of such an approach.

Can't think of a title that is both innocuous and descriptive...

Upon receipt of the Paracast newsletter last night, I composed a blog entry, which I did not post--and I'm glad that I didn't, since others have responded more effectively to him than I could have. Plus, I have downloaded the "tabloid" mentioned by Gene Steinberg but haven't read it yet, and I haven't read the UFO Magazine article yet. So not only am I a slacker par excellence, but I am a non-informed slacker. (I actually spent one of my few free afternoons today looking for my Kroger gift card that I got for Christmas and have apparently lost.) But I will indeed read those articles, since they seem to have incited an unusually pointed rejoinder by the generally general Gene Steinberg.  In the mean time, if I can weigh in a couple of points that I think I am informed enough to address, I would like to.

First of all... One of the very few memorable quotes about UFOlogy made on Coast To Coast was given by hearsay from a guest that I remember as being credible. I can't remember who he was (I don't think it was Richard Dolan), but he was recounting a conversation that he (or some he knew) had had with Bill and Hillary Clinton. He was visiting the Clintons socially at one of the vacation places that Presidents go to, when he abruptly asked the Clintons what they knew about UFOs.  There was a chilled silence, and then, later, Hillary reportedly told the individual, "I would appreciate it if you never mention UFOs around us again." And then, a day later, the individual was riding horses with Bill when they stopped, and Clinton remarked, off-hand, "You know, the subject of UFOs is like a tar baby. Once you hit it, you get sucked in and it's impossible to extract yourself." This is a rough paraphrase, but I have always remembered it because not only did it sound like something both Clintons would say, it was nonetheless "true," even if they indeed never said it. And if true, it's likely the closest we will ever get to anything resembling "disclosure." But I interpret the statement as warning UFO investigators that the UFO phenomenon is not benign, and if you delve too far into it, you will likely encounter negative consequences, personally and professionally. It is for this reason that I stopped reading Hopkins and Jacobs a while back; their work, while appearing scientific and analytical on the surface, was leading their audience down a very dark path, and I sensed that they been seduced by the deceptive nature of the phenomenon and had lost objectivity. I personally spent the better part of a decade convinced that our world was being gripped by an alien force that ultimately wanted our extermination. If you seriously believe this, it becomes hard to live any kind of life.  If in fact David Jacobs got pulled into the UFO morass too far, it's no surprise that he became a bit untethered from the real world and behaved the way he did on the Emma Woods tapes.

I would like to know if the Clinton account is real or not; but even if it's fabrication, the point was well-made--by whoever.

Second, and most importantly, as dark as the writings by Hopkins and Jacobs are, it doesn't matter if their research is solid and their conclusions are correct: it is what it is. But what if they aren't?  What if? Wouldn't we need to know? This is a point more important than defending Hopkins and Jacobs, or of discrediting Emma Woods. Either their research and conclusions are valid, or their methodology flawed and their conclusions faulty. What the Emma Woods story did, for me, is for the first time raise significant questions about "mainstream" UFO abduction research. Leave out, for now, questions of Ms. Woods' credibility or veracity. In fact, leave Emma Woods out entirely. You are still left with the core question: Can hypnosis as practiced by non-medical professionals, without safeguards, consistent protocols, or basic standards, be relied upon to establish the activities and motives of those (assuming that they are a "they") behind the Human Abduction Phenomenon?  For me, personally, there is sufficient doubt about this core premise that still guides the abduction mainstream that I no longer want to listen to their researchers.

A truism that I've heard several times recently is that science is one of the few endeavors where you get points for being wrong. If we want to approach the UFO question scientifically (and everyone says that we do), then if Hopkins and Jacobs are wrong, this is actually a good thing. At the very least, the standard abduction hypothesis is unproven; at most (and quite likely), it is wrong. Only until we are willing to rigorously examine the Human Abduction Syndrome phenomenon dispassionately, objectively, and scientifically, willingly discarding what is wrong, will we stand any chance of understanding it, and avoid being pulled onto the tar baby.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Further thoughts on "The Sacred Promise"

I am at chapter... Not sure. Remember, I am Kindling via the iPhone app with my contacts out so I can read it. But I think that I'm half-way through Part II.  Perhaps if I bought a real Kindle, I might know where I'm at, but I am holding out for iPad 2. (Still the Kindle app is easier to read for a half-blind person like me than a regular book.)

For the record, I think that Dr. Scwartz is correct--that personality survives physical death and can still effect changes in the material world. Why?  Because I've personally had this demonstrated to me in a way that eliminates doubt. And I think that what Dr. Scwartz is trying to prove is probably the most important issue of our era. A wholesale scientific acknowledgement of this would likely transform our current institutions and shift the balance of power, as it were, away from the current controlling religious and political organizations, and toward the individual. And the "individual" would be transformed into something more significant that the current hyper-individualist.  (This shift is actually predicted in a number of metaphysical texts for this era, which is neither here nor there, but it reinforces my own personal belief.)

Still, the leap that must occur, from lone individual believers like me, to a broader cultural and scientific acknowledgement, is quite broad. I don't think we are there just yet, but we may be getting there.

Part of the problem is that we are still relying on mediums. Reams of mediumistic records were collected and published in the 19th century, but they failed to transform society then, and I don't know if they would succeed now... Because when all is said and done, you're still trying to prove the difficult (consciousness survival) with another hard-to-swallow method, personal mediumship, which is prone to human error, inaccuracy, and fraud. At best, you are left with evidence strong enough to convince the sitter and a few sympathetic observers, but the evidence can be easily debunked; not necessarily successfully debunked, but debunked sufficiently to reassure the materialist skeptical mainstream.

I think that the die-hard materialist will only be convinced by material proof, and I think that, as technology advances, we can get this.

Unfortunately, the best evidence that has been offered to date of this type, the so-called Spiricom program, was most probably fraudulent... which brought a lot of discredit on the survival "movement." And the next best evidence of this sort, EVP, is intriguing and (to me) convincing, but it can also be easily debunked.

But I do think that a shift is coming. After all, if you accept the premise--as I do--that consciousness survives physical death, then proof of some sort is inevitable.

After all, science now accepts that black holes are "real," because they indeed are, but black holes existed first only in theory, and before they were theorized, they were inconceivable.

Invariably, science progresses through various stages over decades and centuries to where what is in fact "real" becomes provable.

I think that proof of survival will be embraced by the materialistic mainstream when the proof is obtained by material means, and my hunch is that this will be done, somehow, via the rapidly accelerating development of artificial intelligence. As our machines become more intelligent, refined, and "smarter," they (and we) will begin to cross over into, and observe, areas where "consciousness" currently resides. Whitley Strieber has mentioned this, and I think he's right.

The materialistic denial of consciousness survival is rooted, I believe, in a fundamental error--that consciousness is somehow a byproduct of the physical brain. But I think this is incorrect, and many cutting-edge thinkers now realize this. If consciousness doesn't reside in the brain, where does it? That's the 64000 dollar question. When we find--and scientifically acknowledge--the place where consciousness resides, we will realize that consciousness is in fact independent of physicality, and transcends it. This is, I am beginning to believe, the next technological and societal leap, which we can achieve, if we will.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dreams of UFOs

Like many who are associated with the UFO experience, I have had my share of the usual UFO dreams. The merit of these dreams can be debated. The proponents of the typical abduction hypothesis (Hopkins, Jacobs, etc.) argue that dream encounters of UFOs are actually repressed abduction memories. I used to hold this belief. Even now, with the research of the "mainstream" abduction researchers very much in question, I'm not quite ready to discard this possibility, for one simple reason: While we now can be sure what the abduction experience probably isn't (a forced hybrid program conducted by ETs in mechanical craft), we are no closer to knowing what the experience *is*.

I suspect that some, if not most, of my UFO-related dreams might contain some cultural contamination. Years before Budd Hopkins published "Missing Time," I was having abduction nightmares... but I suspect that these *might* have been inspired by the television broadcast of a dramatization of the Betty and Barney Hill case in 1976. Several years ago, I actually did some research on this, and I might still have the results. During a long stretch of unemployment, I visited the Nashville public library and searched the microfiche for UFO-related news stories from 1976. I don't remember finding any, but I did find something that I had forgotten: That the television movie "The UFO Incident" about the Betty and Barney Hill case was broadcast in 1975 (according to Wikipedia) or 1976 (according to my memory). And I wondered... did the movie inspire the dreams? Or did the movie trigger repressed memories of experiences?

Alas, I have few conscious memories of UFO-related encounters upon which to weave an abduction narrative, so I can't argue that my UFO dreams are repressed abduction memories. At the same time, I can't say that they are simple nightmares inspired by scary abduction stories. The dreams are too strange, and as a careful dream journalist, I have learned to recognize dreams that are significant and meaningful. And the UFO dreams fall into the "significant" category.

So, with these caveats, I present a couple of what I consider interesting UFO-related dreams.

From 1987:

This morning, around 3:30 a.m., I dreamed that I was outside at night. A storm was coming. I was near an old cabin. The scene was surreal. I saw vivid and eerie-looking faces popping up around me, staring at me. I was then apparently under a car. I crawled out and felt presences around me. I moaned to wake up, and I was left with the impression that I was the subject of an experiment. The experiment involved minute adjustments in how we perceive reality. I continued to feel the presence while awake and stayed awake for 30 minutes.

I consider this noteworthy (aside from the fact that UFOs aren't even mentioned) in that I felt a palpable "presence" in the bedroom after waking up. The material-based psychologist would argue that this is a normal consequence of a hypnagogic state, but I would beg to differ. I have felt "presences" many times in my life, sometimes while wide awake, and I consider such experiences meaningful. But most importantly, the dream argues something that I still believe (and has been echoed by Whitley Strieber), that the close-encounter experience is closely involved with a gradual evolution in consciousness, specifically in how we perceive "reality."

The second dream comes from 1993, after I had been exposed to contemporary abduction research:

I dreamed that I was outside, looking up into an overcast daytime sky. I saw a bell-shaped UFO at tree-top level, bobbing back and forth. I became very frightened at the UFO and tried to say something to make it go away; finally I physically called out "Jesus Christ" and woke myself up.

This dream, admittedly, is a "typical" UFO dream that's been had by many. But what makes it interesting to me is the impression that I was left with after waking up:

Upon awakening I got the impression that I have come as close as I possibly can to understanding what UFOs exactly are: I got the impression that they are some sort of monitoring and control devices in the sense that Earth is a sort of controlled artificial environment and these devises represent intrusions into the physical world by the controllers from outside it.

This is also something that I still believe, though I will admit that it would be impossible to prove this hypothesis one way or the other. Perhaps the "memories" that have been recovered via the abduction-related style of hypnosis have some basis in reality, but that reality does not involve creating hybrids for the purpose of creating a master alien race. As Whitley Strieber has speculated, perhaps our civilization is embedded in a larger, more advanced one. We, being the embedees, would never know, or have any way of knowing, that this is the case... except from occasional intrusions from those who are tasked with controlling. (Presupposing that the "who" is, in fact, a biological construct like we are.)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Further reading on Gary Schwartz's 'The Sacred Promise'

I think I've gotten past the first chapter or so (hard to tell with this Kindle app), and I think that Dr. Schwartz has written an important book; not, necessarily in what he accomplishes, but in what he attempts to accomplish: nothing less than providing scientific validation of what he calls "Spirit." I'm not sure that he will succeed, mostly because of what I've called the "paranormal paradox"; and, as a former Bible scholar who sat through countless lectures in my youth attempting to "prove" the existence of God, I personally think that the bar of proof ought to be set pretty high.... because I know the dangers of a human presupposing that he speaks on behalf of God. I know what these people can do--the damage as well as the good. And there is just a slight echo of religion in Dr. Schwartz's efforts (at least so far).

But, strangely enough, I hope he does succeed, because I know that he's right. I've seen--experienced--tangible evidence of a "Spirit." I've seen this force--personality--presence--intervene at critical moments in my life, and it's happened mostly in the last five years. I've never written about it, and I've rarely discussed it. So I think that the potential is there for Dr. Schwartz to make an important statement. But I think that this evidence will work only if it's disentangled from the centuries of religious contamination, and at least three decades of New Age nonsense. It has to start new.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Speaking of books....

There are a couple of books that I'm looking for, and I haven't been able to find anything about them online. These were books that I came across years ago.

The first was a book that I found in a local library in south Alabama in the late '80s. It was one of those usual sorts of predictions books, I think; it might also have been a New Age book. I can't remember. But near the end of the book there was a chapter listing predictions for the future. I remember that this book was published in the '60s or early '70s, and the predictions were startling: One involved an assassination attempt against the Pope, wildfires in California, and a couple of other specific predictions that would have been unpredictable at the time of the book's publication. In other words, not only were the predictions accurate, but they were specific--none of usual crap like "an earthquake somewhere in South America." I kick myself for not paying more attention to the book, but I was just scanning through it, and now I wish I had paid more attention to it.

Back then, many books were not only hard to find, but also not cheap. Nowadays, most books are "getable" (for a price) and can be easily found. Maybe I thought that I would never be able to get this book.

The other book was published in the '60s and involved an Englishman who spontaneously recalled an entire past lifetime in England during the 1600s. The book was very interesting and well-written. Was it "true"? Who knows. But I thought it was entertaining. I'd like to read it again.

If anyone knows anything about these books, I have some books I'd be willing to trade... I've got a Sylvia Browne book (unread) that I picked up for a dollar. Also have some Ruth Montgomery and Jeanne Dixon books that are looking for a good home. I'll even throw in a paperback copy of Shirley Maclaine's "Dancing In The Light" (which I think was made into a bad TV movie...)

Dr. Gary Schwartz's latest book

Despite my skepticism of medium John Edward, I've downloaded ("Kindled"?) Dr. Gary Schwartz's book 'The Sacred Promise: How Science Is Discovering Spirit's Collaboration with Us in Our Daily Lives.' John Edward wrote the forward to the book. Dr. Schwartz has also championed Allison DuBois, who I consider fraudulent. Still, I hold more disagreement with Schwartz's scientific critics (who I think are just plain wrong) than with the purported mediums that he has studied. And the book was given a thumbs-up by some okay people.

So what do you do in a field that is largely populated with charlatans (Sylvia Brown, et al.)? You do the best you can. Dr. Schwartz does have a doctorate from Harvard, which neither I nor the Amazing Randi have. So I am looking forward to reading what he has found.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Further evidence that the paranormal and politics don't mix

A primary reason that I have hesitated embracing, and why I pass over many Coast To Coast episodes, is the strange intermingling of paranormal speculation with conspiracy theories ripped from the textbook of the extreme American right. The most blatant example of this is Jeff Rense, whose website is clearly anti-Semitic (at least, the last time I checked--haven't checked in a while). Although everyone is entitled to one's on political views (on paper, at least), the paranormal field seems particularly infested with strains of right-wing thought... and I don't know why. Ghosts, aliens, poltergeists and such tend not to express political views of any particular type. Then why should paranormal investigators and shows dabble with the extreme right?

It has all been brought home by the continuing disclosures of "alleged" shootist Jared Loughner's peculiar political views. While pundits are, for now, falling over themselves emphasizing that Loughner had no connection to any radical political groups, the New York Times today examined a couple of his beliefs ("Jared L. Loughner's Odd Behavior Caused Alarm"), which would not sound strange to any Coast To Coast listener: that the U.S. currency is worthless; that the Federal Reserve is a privately owned corporation that is stealing from the taxpayer. Unknowncountry, in fact, just recently posted an interview between Jim Marrs and Joseph Ferrell (whose ideology I question) asserting that something that really is self-evident, but not necessarily heinous: "Our Money Is NOT Real." Jerome Corsi, the Swiftboat partisan and all-round conspiracist, appeared on Coast To Coast on six separate occasions last year.

If there is anything positive that can come out of the Jared Loughner story, it will be that such peculiar beliefs will be outed, examined, and debated, as they should be. And perhaps producers of paranormal-themed programs will finally awaken to the dangers of extremism and dump politics from their lineup.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Begin my Wicca studies tomorrow

I have been looking forward to this for a while. Would it be too mystical of me to say that I am being led to do this?  My teacher is a second-generation (perhaps longer) practitioner who learned her craft as it was passed down to her. In other words, not one of these new-fangled New Agey types who learned it in a book. Think "Evelyn Paglini" (who has always impressed me).  Why am I going in this direction?  Well, I do believe that there are, for want of a better term, "forces" that are non-physical, or rather non-corporeal, but nonetheless real, conscious, and aware. Some of these forces are less than benevolent. I consider it due diligence to acknowledge the reality of these forces and protect myself from them.

On a side note, I just finished working in a Masonic degree. Freemasonry is, in my opinion, probably the best expression of a positive science of morality in the Western world. Most Americans associate "morality" with a Christian fundamentalist notion of do's and don'ts. But Freemasonry does not teach right or wrong; it instead teaches the serious student to examine his actions in the greater context of how they impact not only those immediately around him, but the society in which he lives. It's really a subtle and complex system of moral reflection that's largely lost in our culture.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I predicted this: "Journal Article On Precognition Sparks Outrage"

Slashdot must have read my mind. Days after scribbling my random thoughts about what I am calling the "paranormal paradox," Slashdot once again fails to disappoint by posting a typically snide summary ridiculing the publication of an article on precognition. Drilling down through the comments modded up to 5, I can't tell whether the Slashdotters take issue with the publication in a mainstream, scientific journal of a peer-reviewed study of precognition on the basis of a.) faulty use of statistical analysis, b.) anyone with half a brain knows this as pseudoscience, or c:) both the journal and the study's author are fools. Looking over the New York Times referenced article, reporter Benedict Carey quotes that reliable stand-in, "many experts," who argue that claims that "defy almost every law of science are by definition extraordinary and thus require extraordinary evidence" (I think that Carl Sagan said this also, but I'm not sure if he was the first).

I will not argue that the existence of precognition, nor its fuzzy relative, "ESP," defies "almost every law of science," but I'm not sure that this, in and of itself, proves that precognition is not "real." Those are really two different issues. Most of the people who are caused to stumble across this blog likely have had their own personal experiences that demonstrate the "reality" of precognition. But it's also my opinion that no matter how real these experiences are, on a personal level, irrefutable proof will be, for now, impossible. And the Slashdot article pretty much bears this out. Indeed, the fact that there is such a primal, visceral aversion, among those who claim to be the digerati, to any attempt to scientifically objectify the paranormal, pretty much supports my suspicion: there is a substantial unconscious resistance to anything that might threaten our materialistic construct of reality.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Dream of the US invasion of Panama, over a year before the event

This brief dream that I had in April, 1988, seems to be a clear prediction of "Operation Just Cause," or the American invasion of Panama for the purpose of overthrowing Manuel Noriega:

(April 24, 1988. Sunday) I dreamed that American forces were landing in Panama, officially for training exercises, but in actuality to overthrow dictator Manuel Noriega. I seemed to be viewing this while riding on some sort of hovercraft that was skimming down a swampy path.

Interestingly enough, in my notes to this dream from that day, I recognized it as a prediction of future military action:

This apparently topical dream alludes to rumors that Reagan will order an invasion of Panama, one of the trouble spots brewing in the world right now.

Although Reagan was President at the time of the dream, it was actually his successor (George H. W. Bush) who ordered the invasion.

The major argument against precognition here is the fact that there were indeed rumors that Reagan would invade Panama for the purpose of ousting Noriega. Wikipedia suggests that Reagan refused to invade out of fear that it would hurt George Bush's election chances in '89. With a concision that dreams can be quite capable of, the dream suggests that the invasion would be politically motivated (although, to his credit, Bush Sr. did not accuse Noriega of harboring weapons of mass destruction).

Precognitive dream predicting merger of East and West Germany

I am busy reformatting my dream journal (which I've placed on Google Docs after a computer crash a few years ago wiped out a years' worth). I don't really study my dreams all that much. I write them down and forget about them. Later, I go back, look them over, and see if anything jumps out at me. Frequently, I will notice a number of precognitive elements in my dreams. I don't think that I'm unique, and I'm no longer surprised by this. Anyway, this dream from September of 1988 jumped out at me:

I dreamed that I was moving to West Germany. I was in a particular office, converting my money into Deutschmarks. I was organizing my bills and scraping up every coin, since I knew that American coins would be worthless in Germany. When I got it all together I think I had about $2,000 to convert. I decided to get a new MasterCard in German currency while leaving Visa American. I was talking to someone who was not being as scrupulous with his money as I was being with mine. I was aware that American currency was devalued against German currency, but I didn't care because, as I told the man, the American economy was going downhill and the dollar would be further devalued against the Mark, meaning I would not lose what I was investing now. I saw coming prosperity for Germany. I later checked my money and saw it filed neatly in my wallet.

The dream made no sense to me at the time. However, if you substitute the word "American" with "East German," as I did two years later, the meaning becomes clear. Here is what I noted in July of 1990:

It is obvious to me now that this dream is a prediction of the merging of East Germany with West Germany; the economic union occurred just a few days ago. Replacing the dream's reference of "America" with "East Germany" clarifies the meaning. A few weeks ago, there was a hurried effort to convert East German Marks into West German ones. East German savings accounts were frozen and converted, but the cap was at 2000 Marks, as predicted by this dream.

What is the significance of this dream? Well, granted, this is not a clear, irrefutable prediction. However, giving this dream the benefit of doubt by assuming that it's a prediction of the East-West German merger, it's quite remarkable, since the political forces that led to this reunion did not begin to manifest until a year later. So it would have been difficult for me to pull this prediction out of thin air. And of course, classic science says that such prognostication is impossible. The only explanation that has really impressed me has been Seth's, with his argument that "mass events" are planned and placed in the "future" by the collective intent of the participants. Or, as I heard in one dream, "Every effect creates its own cause."

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The paradox of the paranormal, and the new normal

Anyone who has dabbled in the field of the paranormal for any time runs head-on into what I call the "paranormal paradox": that paranormal phenomena are undoubtedly real, but proof will always be elusive. Or, any proof that you try to gather to establish the objective reality of paranormal phenomena that you witness will ultimately fail the objective tests of others.

In essence, the paranormal is real, but you will never be allowed to prove it (or allowed to undeniably prove it).

I believe that there's a simple reason for this. Robert Monroe, one of my prime inspirations and a giant in the paranormal field who sought to apply objective, rational analysis to the experience of OOBEs, posited in Far Journeys that:

the conditions of entering physical life as a human are relatively strict. It is as if a detailed agreement is entered into. First, the energy form must agree that time-space truly does exist. Without this agreement, it is impossible to have primary human consciousness. The energy form must agree that there is a time, such as the 1980s or any other time frame by earth reckoning. It must be agreed also that there truly is a planet earth designed and created in the form that it is. It must further agree that consciousness expressed as a human has certain characteristics and limitations.

This "contract of human experience" is alluded to in many other esoteric writings, and I believe that it is valid. We are born under contract to believe unquestioningly in the inviolability of physical existence and physical laws; it is unconscious but also absolute. The aversion toward any phenomena that seeks to undermine this perceived physicality is so profound that most of us "tune out" paranormal phenomena; when our filters fail and the paranormal manifests, we have several responses: we debunk it; we explain it away; or we ignore it. To embrace the paranormal seems to violate some unconscious taboo that threatens the nature of our physical existence.

I believe, however, that such laws are not immutable. Some writers (Michael Newton, Jane Roberts, and others) believe that the coming century will see a loosening of the strict physical contract. Humans born in this century will be born under a looser contract, and what now is viewed as paranormal may become the new normal. There's a lot of anecdotal evidence that this is already happening. Rather than entering into any sort of hokey "new age," I think simply that we are entering a new normal. And I welcome it.