Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The two other channeled books by Elsa Barker...

"Last Letters From The Living Dead Man" and "War Letters From The Living Dead Man" are not as good as the first, though the second one has some intriguing passages. The "War Letters" concerns David P. Hatch's apparent observations of what would subsequently be called World War One from various battle sites. Why these later books are not as "good" as the first is unclear; but then, "Seth's" channelings gradually decreased in quality throughout the '70s. Maybe Judge Hatch had lost the objective perspective and focus of physical life. Both books are marred by lengthy stretches of proto-New Age philosophizing, particularly about the "Great White Brotherhood." I had to look the Brotherhood up... Years ago, I stumbled upon a Rosicrucian book from the '30s in my parents' bookcase, and there was a reference to the "Great White Brotherhood." My first thought was that this was some early European fascist racial allusion, so I put the book away. I'm not really attracted to the Theosophical belief system, nor do I believe that those in the afterlife are, either--though I may be wrong.

I think it's notable that the last two Barker books devolve into bland New Agey philosophizing that's not very different from the bulk of "channeled" books from assorted Ascended Masters today. There are several ways to look at this... One can argue that Barker unconsciously absorbed this set of beliefs, and her "automatic writing" recreated this--alongside possible valid communications from Judge Hatch. Or, Barker's books (along with Blavatsky's) might have been influential in the channeling revival several years ago. Or, this may have been what the good Judge Hatch actually believed--and he communicated his beliefs in the terminology of his day. Or, it may be that concepts from the level of reality that Hatch was presumably at, are essentially untranslatable--they have no correspondence to the symbols and beliefs that we hold.

The ideas that caught my attention in the "War Letters": Hatch's description of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand (as well as his assessment of his personality) was quite descriptive, insightful and historically accurate.... In the weeks leading up to the war, Hatch's astral self had to pass through a phalanx of demonic-seeming entities that had surrounded Earth.. The entities has been attracted by the atmosphere of war around the planet, and they had coalesced to push the war process forward. This sounds outlandish, but I think that there may be some truth in this... Hatch spends a lot of time deconstructing the personality of the typical German of the 1910s. Hatch makes clear whose side he's on--he described the Germans as "bullies" and observes that the German "has no sense of right and wrong in the abstract, though he is often extremely sensitive as to what is right and wrong for him in his relation to those near him, his kinsmen and fellow-citizens. But those outside the racegroup are outside his code of honor, however polished he may be." Since I did not live in Germany in the 1910s (as far as I know), I can't say if Hatch's trenchant analysis of the "average" German is accurate, but his analysis is largely consistent with that of a certain German political party that arose shortly after these words were presumably channeled. It's interesting that Ms. Barker started following the psychoanalysis method of Austrian exile Sigmund Freud subsequent to writing the "War Letters."

Hatch also discusses the concept of "national karma"--that a nation incurs negative karma when it behaves inappropriately. The brutal German invasion of Belgium was punishment for Belgium's rape of the Congo, according to Hatch. This is a concept that I absolutely believe... And it's one that I've thought a lot about since 2003, for the United States.  Accounts payable may be coming due.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Stumbled upon a good book...

that is the perfect antidote to all the crap I've been trying to read lately. It was published in 1914, and written, exactly, one hundred years ago. It's in the public domain, and thanks to the industry of Google (who embarked on a mammoth task of scanning and digitizing old, obscure books back in the mid-aughts), it's free to download from Google Books. It's called "Letters From A Living Dead Man," purportedly channeled by a minor author of the time, Elsa Barker. I can't find out much about Ms. Barker, but there's a good Wikipedia article on her, and, interestingly enough, the Wikipedians don't bother to debunk her story. (As always, when I run across "channeled," "received," or otherwise unofficially obtained information, I seek out the debunkers--to see if they can successfully deconstruct the story.)

This book impresses me on a number of levels. First, the writing and philosophy is surprisingly contemporary (allowing for the fact that I'm a bit of an old fogey). It lucidly and succinctly sets forth a number of clear metaphysical ideas, and it does a better job of it than all the New Age drivel that you have to pay good money for nowadays to assaulted by. It answers a couple of questions that have been raised (but not answered) by contemporary New Age tomes... Specifically, something that I've noticed in both "Seth Speaks" and "The Key": that certain souls are "pulled" unconsciously from the non-physical world, back to the physical, to be reborn. (I had always assumed that reincarnation was a deliberate, carefully planned choice. Apparently, it's not, in many cases, and this book explains why.) There are specific warnings against invoking spirits, and the real dangers involved. There is a wealth of detail about how the non-physical world interacts with the physical, all very interesting, and much (but not all) of it consistent with everything I've read from authoritative modern sources.

As Theosophy and Spiritualism fell out of favor in the Modern and Post-Modern era (not to mention the excellent debunking work by prominent skeptics like Harry Houdini), much of this psychical research has been forgotten. I think that the "channelers" of the past few years are simply picking up where the Edwardian thinkers left off... But in many respects, they are retracing the same ground, and not doing as thorough a job of it as the Edwardians did.

The question is, is modern "channeling" (when it's valid) a continuation of the same investigation into real phenomena, or is it simply a revival of pseudo-scientific and discredited Nineteenth Century ideas? I lean toward the former, but I am open to being proven wrong.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Thoughts on artificial intelligence

While browsing through Youtube's collection of Apple Siri ads, I suddenly remembered an old Microsoft commercial--back when I watched television. I haven't been able to find it, but it was from the mid-90s and it depicted a futurist Microsoft "Bob"-type avatar on a large screen computer, interacting with a woman getting ready for work, answering her questions, proffering advice and whatnot. It was an early vision of artificial intelligence. Microsoft dropped the ball on that, and although Apple has picked it up, I predict that within a few years, AI will become platform-agnostic and will drive many, if not most, wired devices. I'm reminded of the "Planet Of The Apes" story--when a plague has wiped out all our pet cats and dogs in the twenty-first century (I think), humans begin adopting primates as pets... Which leads to tragic consequences as the primates swiftly evolve "intelligence" equal to their human masters. I remember that as a child in the mid-sixties, I became obsessed with the Tin Man in "The Wizard Of Oz," to the extent that I gave my father some plastic parts and begged him to build me a "robot" like the Tin Man... And I remember my disappointment when he came home from work, empty-handed.

It really doesn't matter that Siri isn't "real" artificial intelligence--yet. Siri will create a demand for genuine AI, and it will be developed. In the mean time, I think it's friggin' remarkable that you can talk to a machine and get an intelligent response.

This singular human compulsion to create an artificial intelligence has, to my knowledge, been unexamined by the pundits and digerati. No one has really stopped to wonder why, among all the things our civilization is trying to accomplish in the Year-Of-The-Mayan-Long-Calendar-Ending, we would want to expend valuable resources to create a feature that we (well, most of us) already naturally possess: Intelligence. Offhand, I can't think of any naturally-selected human survival trait from our past that would explain this impulse. So perhaps the impetus is from our future.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

On the other side of the looking glass: Observations regarding paranormal or supernatural experiences

I've been doing my usual grazing through paranormallanea, and it dawned on me that most of us are applying the wrong filters or logical tools when evaluating experiencer accounts. For example, we often approach the material with an "open mind" and assume, implicitly, that the experiencer is telling the "truth" and that the experience being described is what he purports it to be. When we encounter a flaw in the material--which is inevitable, given the nature of the paranormal--we then leap to the opposite assumption: that the experiencer is lying and his accounts are total fabrication.

This methodology works well in analyzing physical experiences but falls very short when describing supra-normal experiences... So I thought I would mention some general guidelines that I have started mentally using as I wade more into the material:

Paranormal experiences, as a rule, are not what the appear to be on the surface. Examples are too numerous to list or summarize; but the general rule seems to be that any reality, impetus, or "meaning" behind a transcendent, supernatural, or paranormal experience is quite different from what we assume it to be--if it has one.

Experiences that fall outside of our accepted range of "normal" are untranslatable or ineffable. Example: try describing an object that has never been seen, conceived of, or invented; or, to borrow from Lewis Carroll, try to think an impossible thought. Our language is generally designed to define; lacking definitions, we fall back on imprecise analogies.

As a result, if an experiencer's account, theory, or explanation sounds compelling, unusually intriguing, or too internally consistent, he is likely perpetrating a hoax. In fact, the more detailed and compelling an account is, the more likely that it is fabricated

On the flip side, I have noticed, and I suspect, that poorly written and incoherent accounts are most likely to be "true."

This suggests why the endless compiling and analysis of paranormal accounts in search of meaningful patterns--something that I and many paranormal investigators instinctively try to do--tends to obscure, rather than reveal, any meaningful patterns. In fact, the more data collected, the more patterns recede. Or, viewed another way, researchers often notice clear patterns and "meanings" jumping out of a particular phenomenon in the beginning; but subsequent data tends to contradict those earlier patterns, until any coherence in the data dissolves and disappears.