Sunday, December 30, 2012

Praṇā

I had an unusual dream this morning with a clearly enunciated Sanskrit word.  Since linguistics is a hobby of sorts, this is not unusual, but I thought it was interesting.  It involved a sort of vehicle made of clay; it was the size of a small automobile.  Inside was another clay vessel shaped like a clay flower pot.  I knew that I could get inside this vehicle and cause it to levitate and travel by use of "praṇā."  When I looked this word up later, I saw that it can be roughly translated as "life force."  I think that the contemporary understanding of "praṇā" may itself be a corruption of some more ancient meaning, but the Judeo-Christian equivalent may be the "breath" that God breathed into Adam to bring him to life. The ancient Egyptian equivalent of this is ka. Probably the reason that I'm even dreaming of this is because of my Seth readings... Seth is very emphatic that we are alive, and continue to live, due to a "force" that originates from outside our framework (dimension), where are "entity" resides... we continue to exist, moment-to-moment, by virtue of this force (which I don't think he names).  Since this singular concept is easily recognized in at least three ancient sources, it apparently originates from an even more ancient source.

I have a hunch that the most ancient religions (specifically, Hinduism and Taoism) are a good source of "alternative" scientific knowledge because they are, in fact, based on a science from a civilization that predates our recorded history.  I personally have been very fascinated with ancient Hindu writings because they are strangely contemporary in a way that's hard to articulate.  Perhaps I will dream of some more Sanskrit words, maybe even a sentence or two.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Currently reading "Never Letting Go" by Mark Anthony

I grabbed the Kindle version of this book on sale recently.  When the book came out, Mr. Anthony gave the obligatory interviews on the paranormal circuit, most notably on "Coast," where he was first booked by George Noory, who thought he was the actor.

Now, officially, I'm skeptical of all public mediums. I think that there should be a steep threshold of proof for any person claiming to speak to one's dead relatives. After all, we expect this of living communications, don't we? I also think that we are in an age analogous to the turn of the last century, when Spiritualism was rife with fraud, and serious researchers had to dig through a lot of chaff to find a few grains of wheat.

Still, with all this, I think that Mr. Anthony's book is worth the read. I can't vouch for his accuracy as a medium, but he's a good writer, and he demonstrates a keen empathy for the people who he "reads." I also have no doubt that he is a good lawyer, someone who I would want on my side. He is a good listener with insight into the pitfalls of physical life. Would a successful lawyer give up a promising practice just to sell a few books and endure George Noory's bad lawyer jokes? A question worth pondering.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Joe McMoneagle

I usually don't look at this blog's stats, but today I glanced at them and noticed that most readers were going to only two posts: one that I wrote a while back on the so-called "Psychic Twins," and another one on Joe McMoneagle.

While McMoneagle's book "The Ultimate Time Machine" is distinguished from other prediction books not necessarily by being mostly correct, but by being mostly not wrong, McMoneagle did make some uncannily accurate near-term predictions. However, I have stumbled upon an interesting piece of McMoneagle stuff on scribd.com: "Looking Into Higher Dimensions." In this study, McMoneagle remote-views several targets, including a couple of sub-atomic particles. Researcher Ronald Bryan (admittedly biased in favor of McMoneagle) is a physicist who thinks that McMoneagle's viewings were accurate.

What I thought was interesting was that this session (and indeed all remote viewing sessions) is an illustration in what Seth called the use of the "inner senses." According to Seth, our physical senses are camouflage instruments that can observe only camouflage data. In other words, they can't perceive the "true nature" of any event or object. All of our scientific instruments are likewise composed of camouflage matter and cannot measure anything that is not part of the camouflage reality. According to Seth, this will, over time, cause our measurements to become less coherent, as the instruments become more sophisticated. (This might explain the trouble that physicists are having in explaining the phenomenon of "dark matter.")

So what should we do? Use our "inner senses." How? Seth never really explains how. But I think remote viewing may be one way to do this. A number of remote viewers have made some surprisingly accurate observations, but no one has bothered to raise the fundamental question of how it is possible to "observe" *anything* without using our physical senses. If, in fact, we can perceive reality (both material and non-material) with something other than our physical senses, what is the sense that is doing the perceiving?

Coming to a town near you-- the apocalypse

I found this article discussing the current television fad of apocalyptic-themed shows, and I thought that I would mention it. I don't watch TV, so I'm not familiar with any of the shows. The article examines the so-called end-of-the-world "preppers."

Since apocalyptic ideation is such a fixture of the paranormal set, I think that it's interesting that these ideas are moving toward the mainstream, and I wonder what it means. All mainstream beliefs start out on the edge; some radical beliefs disappear, while others are incorporated in the mainstream and become the new normal. Such is happening to the apocalypse. While I don't really "know" what all this means, I have a few ideas.

Almost all apocalyptic scenarios can be traced back to fundamentalist religious beliefs.  While science and humanism have produced a few end-of-the-world doosies, virtually all apocalyptic predictions have their origin in contemporary readings of ancient religious texts. These texts are questionable in origin, questionably translated, and woefully misunderstood by those most likely to promote them--those lacking education and a solid foundation in ancient languages. Anyone who heard George Noory's recent "Coast" interview with Dr. Ken Hanson saw this in action. The first hour of the interview was squandered by Noory's meandering questions about the "mess" in the Middle East. Noory kept pressing Hanson to agree that there was no hope for a peaceful solution and tried to pin him down on the when and how Israel and Iran would go to war. He then changed tack in the second hour by trying to steer Hanson into a contemporary interpretation of the prophesies in "Revelation" while Hanson--and most scholars--believe that the text is not a prediction of the end of the world, but a prediction of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70--which is quite remarkable in itself.

Apocalyptic fears may be part of a "design" to influence human behavior by "someone" or some thing--with a goal, perhaps, of averting real future disasters. Those who have predicted "the end" over the past century have been all wrong. But I still think that it's interesting that new predictions are continually being made, despite the failure rate. A materialist might see this as a preemptive evolutionary response to emerging conditions. A mystic (which is how I would describe myself) would see this as evidence of a grand design in human affairs.

If the world does end soon, I probably won't be here to see it. Nor, likely, will many of my readers. Climate change, which I believe to be a "real" potential disaster, should start affecting the planet in significant ways by the year 2030. I *might* still be here then, but I might not. Fortunately, a new generation will be in charge then: one that is very tech-savvy, one not stupid enough to be brainwashed by the petroleum industry, and one that doesn't watch television.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Interesting article concerning poor students and college

I stumbled upon an unusually insightful piece of journalism in the New York Times today that's remarkable on two levels: it offers a sympathetic and non-mocking assessment of the experiences of students who don't happen to be children of CEOs and executives, and it explores the widening economic divide between rich and poor that both Republicans and Democrats have promised, over multiple elections, to address. And it mirrors my personal experience many years ago as a child of a working class parent from a rural community who ventured into the hostile territory of post-secondary education--with two critical differences. When I went, almost forty years ago, college was more affordable... And the income divide between rich and poor was not as extreme.

The first college where I landed was Middle Tennessee State University.  I've written about this experience before; no need to rehash it, except to mention that my experience mirrored that of the students profiled in the Times article: a complete lack of preparation for confronting the bureaucratic incompetence of a large, state-run institution: important letters not sent; erroneous and conflicting directives from various functionaries and staffers; abysmal communication (or rather, perfect miscommunication) of essential information; and a blanket indifference by key school staffers to the needs of students. I attended MTSU twice: first, for my freshman year, and later, as a graduate student. My experience was the same, both times, then. Not sure how the school is now. From what I hear, the mantel of incompetence is now carried by a Nashville-based state university that I won't name, since I've never attended it.

Children of middle and upper class parents are prepared. The parents know the ropes and can guide their children and challenge the bureaucracy on their behalf. Children without this guidance are left to confront the beast alone.  Many drop out and abandon college, as I almost did.

I pressed on, however, for a couple of reasons. As a teen in a rural community in a Southern state, there were few viable economic alternatives. There was simply nowhere else to go. But the main reason I continued was because I could. Back then, you could pay for college with money earned from part time jobs, which is what I did. You can't do that now.

The problems that discussed in the Times article, like many real-world economic and sociological problems that bedevil us today, have been allowed to fester, unnoticed, under the oversight of many Republican and Democratic politicians. Many enlightened observers have decided that our present political parties are incapable of addressing the essential problems of our society. Some vent their frustration of this by joining fringe political groups. The mainstream institutions have responded to this alienation by marketing candidates, like Barack Obama or [fill in the blank Tea Partier], as "alternatives" to the failures of the past. I predict that any real solution will have to emerge not only outside from the mainstream, but also from outside any of our current institutions.  If, in fact, our society is approaching systemic failure, it is unlikely that any cure can come from anything within it.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Seth-- the ultimate postmodern?

While perusing the Wikipedia article on postmodernism, it struck me--postmodernism encapsulates the essential tenets of Sethian philosophy. I recommend any Seth fan read the entry. "Reality is not mirrored in human understanding of it, but is rather constructed as the mind tries to understand its own personal reality"? Check. "Postmodernism is therefore skeptical of explanations that claim to be valid for all groups, cultures, traditions, or races, and instead focuses on the relative truths of each person"? Check. "Postmodernism postulates that many, if not all, apparent realities are only social constructs and are therefore subject to change"? Check that, too. Which raises some questions.  Did the mainstreaming of postmodernism in the 1960s influence Jane Roberts' philosophy and thereby serve as an unconscious source for the Seth material? Was Seth, timeless being that he was, in fact an adherent of the intellectual fad of the late 20th Century? Will future generations, with presumably even more modern paradigms, look down on the Seth writings and mutter, "How quaint?" Somehow, I think that Seth would be amused at my speculations and would not hesitate to set me straight. However, we cannot escape the inescapable: even beings no longer focused in physical reality must communicate in a way that is immediately understood by the contemporary culture. And ideally, they should, like Seth, be on the cutting edge if they have any ambition of obtaining street cred.

(My father, by the way, was a stubborn modernist who often railed against the relativism of the young'ins. The so-called generation gap of the '60s was actually a clash between two philosophical world views.")

I've stumbled upon a number of writings channeled at the turn of the last century-- all now in public domain and now largely forgotten-- that provide semi- interesting reading. The problem that I find with them is that while they may have been cutting edge in their day, they sound old- fashioned now. I have a hard time suspending my disbelief in them. Why would any elevated being bother to communicate such uninteresting ideas? Among the dozens that I have collected, however, I have found one set of writings that strike me as original and-- Sethian.

The writings are known as, simply, "Claude's Book" and "Claude's Second Book." They purport to be the channeled writings of an airman who was killed in World War One. There's almost no information about them in any source that I've checked, but I think they may be, in fact, what they claim to be. For any interested, I'll be glad to post them. I'd be interested in any feedback or additional information about the material.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Robert Monroe recordings

Anyone who has studied the nature of consciousness has probably crossed paths with the writings of Robert Monroe. I read his seminal work, Adventures Out Of The Body, in 1976, and it had a profound impact on me. It was the first-- and probably only-- work that I've read that treats the out-of-body experience in a completely secular, non-dogmatic way.

He went on to found the Monroe Institute. I wrote the institute in the mid-80s, curious about their programs, but never got a response. In any case, I doubt that I could have afforded their programs back then. Audio recordings replicating the Hemi-Sync process are now obtainable, but they are also pricey.  But whereas I lacked the money in the '80s to join the program, I now lack the time.

The Monroe Institute has posted some recordings of actual Hemi-Sync sessions. I've just listened to "Explorer Series #4 Multidimensional Aspects of the Self," which is a recording of a Monroe Institute student as she is guided through various astral levels. Soon into the recording, a being takes control of the student's vocal cords, and the student begins to channel various messages.

I noticed a number of peculiarities about this apparent channeling. First, this being seems to have some initial difficulty operating the voice mechanism of the student, but quickly masters the process and in a matter of minutes begins to speak with a slight Queen's English accent--a phenomenon that I seem to remember exhibited by Spiritualist trance mediums. Second, the being espouses a New Age philosophy that, while probably correct, is not exactly revelatory: that we are more than our time-space focused ego, that we are instead "limitless" and powerful entities, and if we only realized our power, we could achieve much. But then comes the warning: earth changes, specifically, an "axis shift," are just around the corner. The speaker in the control room (Monroe?) asks the being when this is to occur, and the response is, "Very, very, very soon." This "shift" is vaguely described, but it is strongly hinted that this will require the transition of living humans to the astral level; i.e., a massive die- off of some sort.

Monroe himself introduces the recording. Since Monroe died in 1995, and the pole shift is described as "already happening" at the time of the recording, my guess is that 1) the recording was made in the early '90s, and 2) this pole shift is overdue.

I see this recording as an artifact of the predominant New Age weltanschauung of the late '80s.  My hunch is that the student was not channeling an elevated being, but instead, some fragment of her own personality, one that had been indoctrinated in contemporary New Age-think. In fact, I suspect that most channeled material is from the same source. Winnowing out the "real" elevated beings from the spurious ones takes some effort and is likely not to have a useful payoff.

The fact that much of recent channeled material contains almost the same warning makes me wonder what mechanism might be involved here. Is there some core truth at the heart of these warnings? Just because a lot of people predicted an earth catastrophe in the '80s--a catastrophe that seemingly did not occur then--are we safe in ignoring similar warnings by contemporary messengers? Whitley Strieber's "Master Of The Key" warns that the Northern hemisphere will be destroyed in one season due to ongoing climate change--a thesis which everyone (except Tea Partiers and Rick Perry) can easily test by looking out any given window. To what extent are such apocalyptic notions informed by misreadings of second-century topical Christian writings of unknown authority (i.e., the book of "Revelation")? And is it even possible to approach this subject as a devote secularist and Humanist, without ultimately being seduced by the dark theological undercurrent that ultimately seizes the unwary?


Sunday, December 9, 2012

The brain as a reducer

A common argument in metaphysical circles is that the human brain is not so much an observer of physical reality, as it is a screener; our brain filters out the bulk of reality--including "paranormal" events--so that consciousness is left with a tidy set of data, neatly packaged, to be accepted as "reality."  Turns out, there is mainstream scientific evidence of this process, in another mainstream publication.  Or, as Time cites Aldous Huxley:

In order to keep us focused on survival, Huxley claimed, the brain must act as a “reducing valve” on the flood of potentially overwhelming sights, sounds and sensations. What remains, Huxley wrote, is a “measly trickle of the kind of consciousness” necessary to “help us to stay alive.”
I have always believed that this process "explains" the paranormal more than any of the esoteric theories of some of the New Agers.  It's all a matter of perspective.  We don' t really expand our perception during those rare mystical experiences so much as severely restrict it 99 percent of the rest of the time.  And psychoactive chemicals do not cause us to hallucinate, but rather briefly take our blinders off to see what else is out there.

Seth argues that the human ego became highly specialized in recent centuries as an experiment; the focus became a highly restricted, narrow set of data, which we regard as Reality.  This focus, however, has caused the human "ego" to become isolated from the "greater reality" that is its source.  The greater human personality is the co- creator of this reality, but we have forgotten this.  And we further restrict our perception of reality to only those data sets that conform to our expectations, instead of co-creating this reality in cooperation with the consciousnesses of nature (hence, the meaning behind the much- mocked "you create your own reality").

The reducing and filtering feature of the brain may also explain why many people become "psychic," or display mediumistic or clairvoyant talent, following severe physical trauma or a near- death experience; or, as Joe McMoneagle has noticed, many "psychics" suffered abuse or neglect as children .  Something in the trauma causes the brain to "forget" its current role as reality- filterer, and perceptions of a larger reality are allowed to filter in . Should such a trauma be inflicted on the population on a global scale, the human race may be given a blessing in disguise, and a foot bridge to its next stage of evolution.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Vision Of Tundale

I confess to being unable to finish "Vision." While the core of the experience seems to have been an accurate account of a genuine NDE, the bulk of the story seems highly embellished with superstition and religious dogma. Maybe I should skip the depiction of Hell and see what else is there.

It did remind me of a book that I'm currently reading: "The Astral City," by Chico Xavier. Despite the book's acclaim, I'm not sure that I accept it as a valid channeled document. Still, the existence of a hellish astral level, a nether world, is universally documented in NDE accounts and Spiritualistic works, including a fair number of OOBE accounts (such as Robert Monroe's). It's very possible that memories of this realm persist in the human consciousness, and exposure to it may well explain the phenomena of negative or "distressing" NDEs.

So while I am a skeptic, I am not a critic. I have no doubt--from vivid personal experience as well as extensive reading--that the realms that Dr. Alexander and others describe, actually exist. Unfortunately, we have no vocabulary to frame the description of such realms except in archaic and distorted religious imagery. I also believe that there is some sort of "universal law" that operates in what Seth calls our camouflage reality. But again, we lack the symbolic vocabulary to describe it. What we label as "good" and "evil" seems instead to be oversimplifications of an infinitely complex series of non-physical connections that form the perceptions of our experiences. Who the First Cause is of such a system--and who continues to drive it--is both invisible and beyond our capacity to understand. Perhaps this is Dr. Alexander's ultimate scientific heresy. Science insists that we measure and explain the objective world as it is, without reference to a "higher" source. Science has only recently begrudgingly admitted that the world that we perceive may well be camouflage, created continuously through the act of individual perception. Dr. Alexander asks the simple question, "Who, or what, creates the perceiver?"

And the Hits Just Keep on Coming

I stumbled upon another skeptical take on Dr. Eben Alexander's book on "heaven," and I wondered, yet again, what the deal is about this book.  Heaven knows (no pun) that there are plenty of bogus life-after-death accounts to pick on... plenty of hucksters, more than a handful of New Agers cruising the Ramtha circuit.  Why pick on this book?  The response from critics (I won't call them skeptics) strikes me as irrationally vitriolic.  Dr. Alexander's book has apparently triggered something, and I'm trying to figure out what it is.

Type in "life after death" at Amazon.com or any other book etailer, and you'll come up with hundreds of texts, most of them saying essentially the same thing.  Some of the books are credible and well-researched, while many of them are awful.  You will either believe them, or you won't.  Generally, the majority of the reviews are 4 and 5-star ratings from the true believers, but even the skeptics have solid, well-reasoned objections to the accounts.  I tend to listen to the skeptics, because, when all is said and done, I tend to be a skeptic myself.

Dr. Alexander's critics, on the other hand, seem to be arguing from a knee-jerk emotional part of their frontal cortex.  Argument One: "Dr. Alexander is trying to make a lot of money by duping the gullible with fantastical stories that he hallucinated."  Assuming for a moment that this characterization is correct (not sure if the critics have checked lately, but there's not a lot of money to be made nowadays in book publishing), I doubt that he is making any more than he did as a brain surgeon. Critics, are you nuts?  Do you have any idea how much money a good brain surgeon can make?  In any case, if some guy writes a book and makes money, is he necessarily evil?  Argument Two: " The 'editors at Simon & Schuster' think that Dr. Alexander, with his 'fancy degrees, his bow tie and the numerals after his name' is inherently more credible than 'those Bible Belt Christians who’ve told this story before.'"  Short rebuttal: Um, yes. I'm with Simon & Schuster on this. Dr. Alexander, with his fancy degrees, is more credible than the Bible Belters who say the same thing.  I live on the buckle of the Bible Belt--so I know. Bible Belters have zero credibility in my worldview. Presently, the yahoos around me are trying to secede from the Union, legislate creationism, ban birth control, and carry guns into restaurants--all because Jesus told them to.  Smart call, Mr. Simon & Schuster.  Argument Three: "Alexander's story is no different from historical accounts of near-death experiences; so, they're all either wrong, or are lying, or just copying each other."  If this is true, then essentially our entire body of Western historical literature is also "wrong," because historians engage in the same practice.

Again, I argue that Dr. Alexander is being attacked because he is a privileged member of the mainstream who chose to step outside the mainstream and promote an alternative viewpoint.  Were someone like Whitley Strieber to write such a book, I doubt that it would even be noticed--much less attacked on the storied pages of the "Washington Post."

I did find something interesting in the above-cited critique; the author made reference to something called “The Vision of Tundale," which she describes as a medieval account by a "man who claimed to have had a stroke and then, unconscious, to have been taken on a tour of heaven and hell."  It didn't take long for me to locate this account here, and it looks interesting.  I didn't know this account existed.  I plan to read it and hope to gain some insight into the near-death experience from it--assuming, of course, that Tundale wasn't lying and just hoping to make a quick buck off of those gullible medieval Catholics.