Thursday, December 22, 2011

Twin descriptions of the so-called "etheric body"

This will not exactly be front-page news to various mystics out there, but I thought it was interesting nonetheless. The first, from "Near-Death Experiences: The Rest Of The Story," by P.M.H. Atwater, from the chapter "Visible / Invisible energy fields":

"Near-death experiencers are able to perceive energy fields that exist as 'layered sheaths or coverings that circle our visible body in much the same fashion as onion skins layer around in an onion's core. Each layer is finer and more subtle than the previous. They extend out from the body about a foot or so, perhaps a number of yards--depending on a person's mood or health.'"

The second, from Whitley Strieber's "The Key":

"A part of the electromagnetic field that fills the nervous system rests a few centimeters above the skin, outside of the body. This field is an organ just like the heart or the brain. It is in quantum superposition, the electrons effectively everywhere in the universe and nowhere specific. It may be imprinted from information from anywhere and any time. With it, you may see other worlds, you may see the past and future, you may see into the lives of those around you."

Supposedly, this is the "aura" that is perceived by various psychics and intuitives. We have to take their word for it--we do not yet have instruments to measure it.

I've kept the notion of "auras" in my mental gray basket. I've never seen an "aura" as it's strictly defined, but I have seen something... and I suspect that this is what psychics claim to be seeing.

The best way to describe what I've seen (and in one case, photographed) is an *absence* of aura. I noticed something strange about a friend who, at the time, was near death (though I didn't know it); "something" seemed missing whenever I looked at him. Physically, he was there; but there was something mechanical and blank about his face. I spent some time studying his face and trying to put my finger on what I was seeing (or not seeing), but I never could. Weeks later, he died suddenly of a heart attack.

A few months before his death, I photographed my father standing with several others. In the photo, everyone else is staring into the camera, smiling, in sharp focus. My father, on the other hand, is staring away, and his face is a blur. Now, it's quite possible that my father moved his head at the moment of the shutter click. But the photo doesn't "feel" that way. It seemed that a significant part of him was already gone.

The subject of auras is almost too New Agey for me... but this is perhaps due to the surfeit of people who claim to see them. And it almost makes me embarrassed to admit that, well, maybe, I've seen something like this myself.

After all, if we accept the possibility that there there is a non-physical component to the physical self, we have to allow for the possibility that it can be perceived--in some manner.

My hunch is that the best way to document and prove the existence of the human "electromagnetic field" is with digital photography, as the process becomes more refined and ubiquitous. The camera does a better job of seeing what actually is there, rather than what we think or expect to see.... particularly in a one-off snapshot with no foresight or premeditation. Strict materialists will dismiss such anomalous photos as examples of operator error or equipment malfunction, but I like to think that they have the potential of documenting phenomena what we cannot see, or choose to ignore.

Monday, December 19, 2011

"I Believe Despite"

In my undergrad Bible college, we had a well-known Bible scholar who penned a defense of Christianity (and the inerrancy of the Bible) entitled "I Believe Because" (still obtainable on It was his class textbook. I had this particular professor, and although I no longer belong to this church or subscribe to this belief system, this professor had a lifelong impact on me, personally, as well as thousands of others.

Anyway, it was the custom back then for the local fraternities, once a year, to do a lighthearted lampoon on the school and its teachers. One year, a fake class schedule was circulated by persons unknown, made to appear completely genuine, but filled with wicked satires of the professors and their classes. And on the fake schedule, this particular Bible professor was scheduled to conduct an entry-level Bible class called "I Believe Despite."

I thought it was hilarious then, and I still do.... because it highlights the problem--and peril--of belief, particularly with regard to systems of belief. It cuts both ways.

It is impossible to believe nothing. It is impossible to navigate the physical world without beliefs of some sort. Belief is a fundamental pillar of our consensus reality. But wise people recognize their beliefs and acknowledge the limitations of them. They constantly examine and cross-examine their beliefs. Belief should be a tool, not a weapon.

It is for this reason that many "believers" (I among them) mourn the passing of a writer that I came to acknowledge as the greatest of my generation: Christopher Hitchens. I disagreed with him on a few things; among them, his dislike of brandy, the existence of a supreme being, as well as an afterlife. But these are minor quibbles in the greater scheme of things. His admonitions critiquing unreasoned religious belief should be required reading of every believer of organized systems of belief. It is said that his only devotion was to the truth, as he perceived it. Ultimately, time will prove whether Hitchens was right about Diety and the afterlife. I am as comfortable in my belief as he was (and possibly still is) in his, although--@almightygod on Twitter had to concede that, after a 30-minute after-death discussion with Hitchens, He was personally persuaded that He did not exist. I don't know. However, if there is an afterlife--or not--what I'd really like to know is why Hitchens disliked brandy. I'd like to hope that, before Hitchens poofed Him out of existence, almightygod asked him this.

Thoughts on a couple of old podcasts

Finally got around to listening to a "Coast" interview with August Goforth. I have to confess that I was not persuaded by his story, although, if you read his reviews on, there are quite a few who are convinced that he is what what he says he is--a medium of profound ability who is able to conduct dialogs with his deceased partner. Not to say that such things can't happen--just that I haven't come across an account that I am convinced by. Primarily, the accounts by these various channels appear similar on the surface (lots of discussion about "levels" and "vibration" and whatnot), but they seem to contradict each other in fundament ways. And some accounts are flat-out absurd.

It's my contention that we should require a high burden of proof from individuals claiming to channel deceased or otherwise elevated beings.

Also of note, I listened to the Dreamland interview between Whitley Strieber and Dr. John Mack from 1999. I have a book or two from the late Dr. Mack; I thought they were okay, but I remember thinking that he was overly credulous in accepting the "experiencer" accounts at face value. But his '99 interview strikes me as remarkably prescient and advanced, even for today. He saw little distinction between the "grays" and the various earth spirits seem by indigenous people throughout history. He questioned the prevailing "abduction" narrative. Others have made these associations, but Dr. Mack somehow made it click into place for me. If, indeed, our planet is facing an existential crisis, it would make sense for these beings to become more obtrusive.

But as Strieber recounted his experiences, a light went off--and I thought of Jim Sparks. I realized that Sparks had essentially pirated Whitley Strieber's 90's-era abduction narrative for his book, "The Keepers." There were quite a few very specific similarities. (To his credit, Strieber was skeptical of Sparks's claims, although Linda Moulton Howe, not surprisingly, believed him.) His website is essentially unchanged from several years ago, after the Paracast outed him, and for a fee of $75 an hour, Mr. Sparks will be glad to talk to you about your abduction experiences. (Possibly you can get a more competitive rate from others if you shop around.)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Methane plumes and global warming; mainstream press articles

Two mainstream press articles recently caught my eye; both appeared within a day of the other, and both detail the growing release of methane from the ocean floor in the Arctic region above Russia as well as the permafrost in Alaska.  This methane release is a major pillar in Whitley Strieber global superstorm scenario.

An accelerated release of methane is predicted in Whitley Stieber's global "superstorm" model.  Strieber obtained this model from someone he dubbed the "Master of the Key."

I'm not sure if the "Master" was an objectified physical being, and I would not automatically assume that this entity's information is completely "true." However, it corresponds with similar warnings found in other sources that I, personally, consider legitimate. And as I've written earlier, I've had a lifetime of dreams that describe a future crisis not unlike the superstorm scenario.

Although the "Master" does not specifically mention methane release as a component of the impending superstorm, Strieber, to his credit, identified this danger early, and so the appearance of reports in the mainstream press is somewhat ominous.

The "New York Times" article in particular is worth reading for a number of reasons. While the NYT is regarded as an authoritative source of news by most unthinking people (because, frequently, it is), it actually functions more effectively as a mouthpiece for the political and cultural mainstream and the elites that direct it. The Times article contains the requisite amount of "balancing" and equivocation that is associated with its reportage of non-mainstream topics. The tone of the report leaves the reader with the distinct impression that it's too early to determine if methane release is a significant danger to the planet--which contradicts the barely-concealed panicked undertones of the scientists who are quoted. The impression that I get is that scientists are clearly alarmed by the methane release and seem to be truly afraid to speculate too much on its implications.

Both reports detail roughly how much methane is being released, inviting the readers to make their own deductions from the data. The "Independent" cites one measurement of Arctic atmospheric methane of 1.9ppm, up from the pre-industrial measure of .7 parts per million, while pointing out that methane is "70 times" more effective at trapping terrestrial heat than carbon dioxide.

Of course, the pseudo-scientist in me says that it would be a mistake to project current trends onto an unknown future. I well remember Carl Sagan's warnings that a nuclear war would create a "nuclear winter" on the planet--which was enough, apparently, to cause the United States and the Soviet Union to resume arms reduction negotiations (as if the obliteration of millions of people was not a sufficient motivation).   While Sagan's warnings had a salutary effect, other scientists later argued that Sagan had overstated his concern, and that the data did not support his conclusion. Science can only measure what is, and make tentative predictions of what might happen, based on the available data. Science cannot predict the unpredictable. While the current trends argue that global warning is accelerating, allowing us to make reasonable assumptions of what will happen if the trends continue, the main engine of global warming--the sun--has entered an unpredictable phase, and it is possible that a decrease of radiation from the sun may compensate for any increase in greenhouse gasses. Indeed, radiation from other sources, presently unknown, may also drive the climate. Scientists know this, and say this. The stupid person concludes, "See? Because you can't say for sure what's happening, I can ignore everything you say, consume resources at an accelerating rate, and vote for politicians who pander to to my particular brand of ignorance." The wise person, on the other hand, considers himself forewarned.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Not a paranormalist, never was one, never will be one

...despite the fact that I spend a lot of time consuming "paranormal" media and information, and opining on the same.

I am more of, maybe, a mystic--who is neither religiously inclined, and who dislikes the New Age.

I've come to the conclusion that there is no benefit to endlessly compiling "paranormal" events in an effort to discover some overarching "meaning" to them--the anti-structural nature of the paranormal, described by George Hansen is, I believe, a consequence of the observer effect; the observer, by attempting to assimilate paranormal phenomena, is forced to deconstruct consensus reality. But having done so, he is left with only the unexplained--with no coordinates to measure them with.

The paranormalist has a deconstructionist mindset.... which is why so many in the paranormal field spend so much time fighting with each other. He believes that with each straw man he destroys, he is one step closer to the "truth"--only to discover that, no, he has been fooled again, and has most of the world mad at him for his efforts.

It's no coincidence that most paranormalists are drawn to conspiracy theories. I dropped by the Paracast forums the other day and was surprised to read that many members there are disappointed because Art Bell thinks that the 9/11 attacks were actually perpetrated by Al Qaida.

I just see the world in completely different terms. I'm glad that I do. While I may enjoy the challenge of studying paranormal phenomena, I do so from a safer vantage point--though any paranormalist who might want to argue the fact, is dis-invited from doing so.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A lengthy post that you don't have to read if you don't wanna...

Just got through listening to the Dreamland episode featuring Frank DeMarco. Whitley Strieber states that he intends to focus on communication with the "other world" in 2012, and this appears to be a first in the series.

Strieber argues that the West is rapidly developing the technical and philosophical capability of detecting--and communicating with--realities previously outside our physical awareness. I say "the West" because I suspect that Eastern cultures--particularly China--might already have a leg up on this process. A prominent NDE researcher, Raymond Moody, argues the same.

Our culture has been down this path before... the rise of Spiritualism coincided with rapidly developing electronic technology at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, which led to a belief that some breakthrough was near that would allow electronic communication with the dead. This breakthrough, of course, did not occur. But it's possible that such a breakthrough might be "allowed" to occur in the present era, for a number of reasons--the primary one being that humanity is currently faced with a number of existential threats.

Frank DeMarco's particular method for contacting the "dead" is simple, intriguing--but has a number of pitfalls. Essentially, what DeMarco does is engage in a form of meditation (not unlike Joe Fisher's in "Hungry Ghosts") in an attempt to start a dialog with specific deceased personalities. He then clears his mind, allows their thoughts to manifest in his interior mental dialog, and then writes them down.

Knowing what I know, I'd be scared to even attempt this.

Some of what DeMarco says rings true, and I've personally experienced it. For example, he says that non-physical "guides" assigned to people use various subtle methods and techniques for conveying information and advice. Synchronicities, unanticipated opportunities dropped into one's path, strong hunches, sudden and intrusive convictions that steer the personality into new and positive directions, are some of the techniques used by "guides" to assist their human charges. I've written a few times about my recent experiences with this; I can't explain certain events in my recent experience except as being some sort of external intervention.

So DeMarco's basic premise is plausible: that we have a retinue of non-physical helpers on "the other side" who are tasked with keeping us out of trouble, and that we can detect their influence and learn to rely on it. Such guides probably wouldn't care what humans called them--"God," "angels," or subconcious impulses--as long as the work gets done.

The rest of DeMarco's arguments are unproven and probably unprovable.

DeMarco believes that one can establish dialogs with famous deceased personalities that "resonate" with one's interests and inclinations. His website includes a number of these dialogs. I've read all sorts of books that detail channeled conversations with famous deceased personalities--Marilyn Monroe seems to be a popular choice. We have absolutely no way of knowing if these messages are geniune, and there's plenty of evidence that attempting to contact deceased personalities is unsafe.

Along this line, I did have one interesting experience when I was in grad school. I was writing a paper on the Pre-Raphaelites, and one night, I had a dream of Dante Rossetti... the dream was set in the 1960s; Rossetti was driving a car. I was in the passenger's seat. As he was driving, Rossetti was explaining something about his sister, Christina. The bit of information that "Rossetti" gave me about his sister was quite specific but I haven't substantiated it, one way or another. Many writers, researchers, scholars have had such dreams. Are they indications of contact with deceased personalities? Quite possibly. In my case, I did not initiate the contact, nor was I particularly expecting or "needing" it, which causes me to think that it might have had some reality.

Stephan Schwartz's "The Secret Vaults Of Time: Psychic Archaeology And The Quest For Man's Beginnings" makes a compelling argument that deceased historical personalities can aid the living with specific research projects. (And, supposedly, Hillary Clinton channeled Eleanor Roosevelt during the dark days of Whitewater.) But this is not the same thing as your average Joe chatting up Marilyn Monroe. The basic rule of thumb seems to be that when the dead want to contact the living, they will find a way to do so; it does not usually work the other way around.

I am guessing that this basic skepticism can be applied to information otherwise "channeled" or obtained via mediumship. I do believe that non-physical beings can "channel" through the living and, in rare cases, produce useful information. And I am gradually coming around to the possibility that certain people can "see" and converse with deceased personalities. This appears to be an in-born ability that can be nurtured and developed. But I still believe that the bulk of public mediums are just engaging in "cold reading." I definitely got this impression when I listened carefully to some John Holland sessions a few years back--and Holland is cited as one of the more credible mediums. Until her meltdown on "Coast To Coast," Sylvia Browne was cited as one of the "good ones." There's substantial available criticism of John Edward and Allison DuBois, two mediums highly regarded by Dr. Gary Schwartz (whose work, generally, I regard as promising). Until the current crop of public mediums can effectively rebut the substantial criticism of their work, I will continue to be highly skeptical of any person claiming mediumship ability... This is one area where I believe that extraordinary proof is needed to substantiate some rather extraordinary claims--including the interior dialogs of DeMarco.

Postscript: A paranormal podcaster who I had been following recently devoted a show trying to differentiate his experiences from those of the Ramtha lady (J. Z. Knight) and Jane Roberts. Essentially, his defense boils down to, "Well, they were faking their channeling, but my experience was real, and besides, I wasn't channeling, and they were." Which is neither a good defense of self, nor an effective rebuttal of others. I've never read the Ramtha stuff; I regarded it as prima facie absurd, so I can't speak to her defense. I thought to same about the Jane Roberts material when I first read it in '84. I thought that "Seth Speaks" was complete and utter BS at the time; the philosophy was obtuse and vague, I thought, and the material unreadable. However, something made me read it a second time... And after years of study, I have decided that it is what it purports to be. So I cannot blame the podcaster for his negative assessment based on one reading of a book that I also disliked the first time. However, while I believe that the podcaster's experiences to be genuine, I find the philosophy that he developed from it to be just as unfathomable as he finds the Seth material. And I've tried hard to fathom it--I got the book, listened to his podcasts, but I simply can't make heads or tails of it. Does that mean he's "wrong"? No. It simply means that his philosophy doesn't resonate with me; and it's not because I'm stupid or unenlightened.

So what's going on? How can one reader think an esoteric text is the bee's knees, while another person thinks it's horsecrap? Simple--there's no universal truth--only individual truths. And individual mystical insights and revelations almost never survive the translation to written text... Nor are individual truths and revelations applicable to others. Such information is essentially untranslatable. The minute you write it down, the experience is recontextualized, taken from its native environment, and dies, even if it informs your greater reality and resonates with a few people.

So, how does one evaluate the merits and veracity of unofficially obtained information? Carefully. I am still compiling the information about "channeled" information predicting the Arab Spring. The best we can do in the paranormal field is collect the data, present it, and let it pass the equivalent of peer review by allowing all who examine it come to their own conclusions about it.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Test post with the iPhone Blogger app

I have been wanting to blog about Jeff Ritzmann's experience with "Shroud Man" but I have been finding it difficult because I haven't been able to contextualize it. His encounters do not remind me of anything that I've read in contemporary paranormal literature; instead, they seem to harken to our society's pre-history, when humans frequently encountered and interacted with all sorts of spirits, gods, demons, angels. Histories of these encounters have survived as myths, legends, and religious scripture. These encounters became increasingly scarce with the development of contemporary society (roughly, around 4,000 BCE). I actually have a hypothesis of why these beings disappeared from our reality, but at the moment, it's too half-baked and tedious to recite here, and in any case I ought to listen to Paratopia 145 before I go too far out on my rhetorical limb.

But, my gut feeling about "Shroud Man" is that he is a sort of quasi-mythical entity, a non-human being that nonetheless seems almost human. He appears in myth as a stern teacher, an avenging angel, a sort of oxymoron that speaks in parables and instructs by stern example. Who, what such an entity could be, is totally a mystery to me. I think that we have lost the experiential vocabulary to describe and understand such beings. However.... it's clear from most mythic literature that our race frequently interacted with such entities in our pre-history (pre-writing, when histories were passed down through oral tradition). The fact that such beings are now reappearing, and are again seeking to instruct recalcitrant humans is, in my opinion, very significant. And it would behoove us to learn.