Sunday, March 29, 2020

Why Read During the Pandemic?

To avoid going stir-crazy or feeling lonely or trapped, people are trying to occupy their minds by reading books.  Yes, people are reading more; all kinds of services popping up about books to read.  I wonder, with all the information, ads, pitches, distractions deluging us, whether reading is a skill we may be losing. Surfing the internet isn’t a recipe for learning the art of deep reading.  But maybe the enforced solitude will get us back into reading.

Reading anything deeply and thoughtfully takes time.  You need a space free from distractions. But glued to our smart phones, we’re constantly being distracted. Distraction and seduction is the aim.  We have created a technological vampire that feeds on our souls—i.e., our attention, our consciousness.  But there is some good news--there is life after online existence.

A book in your hands is a way into a world, a world that invites imagination,  challenges mind and can touch the heart.  But the book needs you to bring it to life;  reading is not a passive experience.  You have to imagine and co-create the experience.  Reading is a way to exercise the imagination.

And reading is a retreat from the normality of everyday mental life.  It can take us on journeys out of our familiar selves. Reading can be an altered state of consciousness—a ‘drug’ that is free, totally available, mind-expanding, and non-addictive.  (But if it is, so much the better.)

For the benefits of reading, full attention is essential. Reading demands a certain amount of mind-control, and it’s a form of meditation.  As far as loneliness, I can’t imagine feeling lonely if I have the company of some good books.  Think of all the extraordinary people and stories we can meet through the medium of the book. Loneliness just means we have to wake up our imaginations. Now that we’re stuck inside, stopped in our damn tracks, we might have time to listen to ideas and stories and who knows what, stuff we never dreamed of, all waiting to be told in a book we might read.

“Sitting still, he travels very far,” writes the author of the Katha Upanishad.  And truly we can travel very far on the wings of words.  I remember the first time I read Homer’s Odyssey in translation, and later when I learned to read it in Greek.  The dactylic hexameter was like rowing a boat through the waves and I was clairvoyantly with Odysseus and his men during their adventures.  Reading is a way of visiting other worlds and inhabiting other personalities. No matter how alone or confined you feel, a book can be a door your mind can step through, a road to new discoveries about yourself and the world outside yourself.

There’s an expression “mind-reader” that refers to a person who can ‘read’ your mind, that is, by telepathy. The expression is perfect for describing what a book is.  When you read a book, your are indeed ‘reading’ the author’s mind.   To know the mind of Shakespeare is to read the words that came from his pen and his poetic mind.

It’s quite amazing.  How by reading we make intimate contact with the minds of all manner of men and women right across history. For example, you can read the words preserved from the trial of Joan of Arc, how she replied to the terrorists about to burn her at the stake. There is all of history and all of arts and sciences to read about; reading is a way of getting out of ourselves into larger worlds and wider mental perspectives.

The novel coronavirus has thrown us into a kind of enforced contemplative life. 
My suggestion—make the best of it—it’s the only way to stop the virus.  In the meantime, go contemplative.  Wallow in the bliss of non-doing.  Make it your duty to be magnificently idle.  For a while let ecstasy instead of productivity be your aim. Stare out the window open-mouthed and wait for a miracle to appear dancing in the sky. And if none of that helps with the angst, read a book.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Coronavirus and Near-Death Experience

Is the world having a near-death experience? The Coronavirus is forcing us to be creative in unexpected ways. Yesterday I got in my mail a photo of a proud-looking bowl of what looked like pasta primavera. The veggies were numinous with olive oil, the pasta happily ensconced in the veggies. My friend had sent me ocular proof that he had discovered his Inner Cook.  All the restaurants were closed, thanks to the pandemic, so he discovered the pleasure of mustering a good meal for himself.

What has united the minds of almost everybody is the sudden palpable presence of a possible killer in our midst.  Any one of us could be carrying this and passing it on to others, adding to the viral invasion.  Suddenly, it’s literally correct to say, we are all in a real sense quite possibly near death.   

Now it’s a fact that when individuals have close brushes with death they often have profound experiences. The near-death experience (NDE) is a great challenge to science. People report that they see and feel extraordinary things, and are transformed by the experience.  They have out of body flights, encounter a mystical light, meet deceased loved ones, watch their whole life flash before them, and often emerge with new psychic powers.  All this has been repeatedly been proven by scientific studies of NDEs. 

Even thinking anxiously about the proximity of death sometimes ignites similar explosions of creative consciousness.  Meanwhile yogis and mystics through meditation, solitude, and ascetic practices attempt to achieve states of mind that are like being near death.  But why should being near death do such transformative things to our minds?

One thing seems clear.  Being near death pulls our consciousness away from all the things we normally fixate on.  It breaks up our routine habits and perceptions. It forces our whole mind in a new direction, away from the outer toward the inner world.  In the space we create by turning away, we see the crack in the cosmic egg, and a door comes ajar where light can now pour in.

Something like that is happening to people everywhere, we’re being told to distance ourselves from others, which is a kind of little death.  As a result, we’re forced back into ourselves.  Ripped from the normal rhythm of our lives, we’re given a chance, a breather from our daily routines, to see new things and to see old things in new ways. 

The essence of the near-death experience is that a person’s attention is torn away from one’s external world and driven inward.  Being suddenly driven inward often results in making contact with realities normally inaccessible. Veteran explorers of consciousness understand this, and by methods of mind control and radical forms of social distancing explore our spiritual potential.  How the transaction plays out is always a unique story that has to be lived through by each person.  Most of us aren’t shamans or yogis. Often it’s some accident like illness that stirs the inner depths and sets us on a path toward spiritual expansion.

Well, it seems as if nature has forced our hand so that we are all suddenly halted in our tracks.  Was it a pure accident or is it a contrivance of some enigmatic Mind at Large to stop the world?  To halt economics, our petty wars and hatreds, to stop our own bodies from moving about and freely interacting with other bodies?

Is something trying to force us to think, meditate, create, and come together as a species?  Are we being given a chance to discover the “Inner Cook” that we had neglected for so long?

The challenge is not only how to survive the pandemic but how to retain the spirit of cooperation after the present plague is part of history.  Perhaps we’ve been given a chance to muster the creative genius of the species to come out a better kind of humanity.


Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Spiritualism, Women, and Progressive Politics

Americans today don’t associate progressive politics with spiritualism. Progressive thinking was linked to the rise of science, and machines not spirits became the highway to Utopia. Karl Marx insisted religion and spirituality were “opiates” of the people.  They were no cure for the pain inflicted by capitalism.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Self-Love or Self-Transcendence?

The other day I was having a philosophical conversation about love with a friend.  She made a remark, a quote from something she read, the gist of which was that we have to learn to love ourselves. I completely understood and appreciated her point about loving ourselves.   So many people are unhappy with themselves, feel ignored, forgotten, have been psychically wounded; they  beat up on themselves, hold themselves in contempt.  These people can’t love, are afraid to love, and don’t know how to be loved.  So, for sure, we need to make friends with ourselves, and in a sense “love” ourselves.  It does, however, seem a bit strange to use that verb and seriously talk about “loving” oneself. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Dangers of Life After Death

One of the dangers of life after death is that you may be reincarnated on Earth, which may be the worst possible thing that could happen in the 21st century. Odds are you’ll be born into the impoverished majority, exposed and defenseless on a planet being ravaged by heat and fire.

What to do in the afterworld to prevent such a calamity?   Just imagine arriving in the next world—you look around, and realize things are a bit weird.  You reach in your pocket for your Smartphone; it should be possible to Google your way around.  But no! You have no pocket and you have no Smartphone.

Without some kind of guide book, or map, one could get lost in the afterworld.  So are there any guide books to the afterlife?  Well, sort of.  You could try Dante’s tour book of the afterworld.  You could descend into Homer’s Hades and eavesdrop on Achilles rail against the misery of the afterlife. Traditional religions can’t resist touting the moral necessity of the most fiendish punishments. If that’s all there is, it might be rational to pray for extinction.

On the other hand, I believe in the possibility of the afterworld being fun after all, and maybe even quite ecstatic.  Still, there is the problem that we’re completely unprepared for the trip.

There is one afterlife guidebook  that C. G. Jung liked, The Tibetan Book of the Dead.  I recommend it to anybody interested in the psychology of the next world. According to Tibetan teaching, at the time of death one encounters a great light, just as in many near-death experiences a being of light is encountered. But this bright beginning may be misleading, and things are likely to go downhill after that first seductive blast. 

The most important practical message from the Tibetan Book of the Dead: we must recognize that all the demons and angels we see in the next world are projections of our own mental life.  The light that lures us on and casts a spell upon us, and all the dark and fearful monsters, are our projections. To see this is a big step toward freedom.

The teaching applies to the experience of the living also--we project the contents of our psyches on people and the world around us.  The idea is that the more practiced we are in recognizing how we are painting the world with the colors of our own psyche, the more likely we’ll see how we’re painting the next world when we get there.

The afterlife may be inherently destabilizing, except perhaps for the enlightened and saintly elites who have mastered their inner forces and know how to manipulate their postmortem worlds, like artists who do riffs on melodies and visual motifs. 

For most of us, the afterlife might simply turn out to be more  miserable that life. There’s another way we can imagine the dangers of the afterlife.  In the liberation of consciousness at death, the subconscious memories of our lives may flood and send us through hells of recrimination, brooding, and obsessing on what might have been--and that could be a long purgatory.

On the bright side, purgatory could one day end and the disembodied mind might then figure out ways to have some fun in heaven.  One possibility would be to figure out how to make love with bodiless souls.  True, we might acquire astral bodies in the next world.  This could be challenging. I can imagine some poor souls going crazy with frustration because ‘love’ at the higher frequencies is impossible for them.  

I think life after death may be very boring for some people. And for people who die in the 21st century, many will suffer because they won’t have their Smartphones, their computers, or their sex organs.  I think I know what happens next, at least if the Tibetan Book of the Dead is right.  The bored, restless and maladjusted in the next world become peeping toms and janes; they spy on living folk making love to each other, they get turned on, and that's how they get sucked back into the world via reincarnation.

Anyway, I think we should reckon on some of the dangers before we get too worked up over the prospect of the next world.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Coping With Our Mortality

People have devised different ways to cope with their mortality.  Consider three ways it’s been done in the past. There is a fourth way, however, and it's the only way that we can rely on, if we hope to know the truth.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Nine Faces of Consciousness

Practically, immediately, and even theoretically, I am my consciousness.  I am conscious; therefore I am.  Descartes took consciousness as irreducible, the starting-point of the human adventure, a sovereign reality. The prevailing view today is that consciousness evolved from complex brain processes, and is an emergent property of nature, a derivative, subtle and elusive, of matter and physical energy. 

The trouble is that nobody has a clue to how consciousness ‘emerged’ from slightly electrified wet brain meat.  Nobody understands quantum mechanics, it is said, and in like manner, nobody seems to understand consciousness.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Dionysos, Miracles and Madwomen

In the search for miraculous phenomena we should visit the ancient cult of the Greek god Dionysos.  Nietzsche’s first book was about this god and the birth of tragedy. The very wild nature mysticism of Dionysos appealed to the young Nietzsche, no doubt bored by the pieties of his religious upbringing.
The cult of Dionysos was in fact a prolonged “Me Too Movement”; for the chief clientele, the god’s devoted base , were women. The new Dionysiac religion was a dance cult that attracted women disposed to cut loose from their ordinary reality, confined, tedious, and oppressed as it was. The sound of the flute was a call to uncoil and express themselves freely. And the ladies rocked!  All the pent up resentment triggered the nocturnal mountain dances that became increasingly frenzied.     

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Mind Over Matter and Life After Death

The ultimate triumph of mind over matter would be to survive bodily death. The argument, roughly put: the greater the power of mind over physical reality, the greater the plausibility of survival.  In contrast, if our mental states are just byproducts of physical causes, they aren’t likely to survive physical death.  But if our minds cannot be reduced to, or explained by, physical states, surviving death becomes more credible.  Mind may be married to body; but divorce need not mean the death of mind. Sometimes divorce is not just the end but a new and even more exciting beginning.  

There are all kinds of mind-body interactions (MBIs) in which some aspect of our mental life appears to act upon—and in some sense transcend—physical reality.  To make the case in detail is a long story. For the moment a rough sketch will have to do.  

Roughly, we can classify MBIs as normal, abnormal, and supernormal, ranging from the familiar to the rare and extraordinary.  Ordinary walking is a good familiar place to begin.  We use our legs and arms to carry out our intentions in daily life.  Using our body intentionally is already a sign of the power of mind over matter. 

Beyond daily work and chores,  there is dancing, art, sport and sometimes daring or heroic action where we use our bodies in increasingly expressive and possibly dangerous ways.  For example, Tibetan monks said to run vast distances at incredible speeds and of Buddhist and Catholic levitators and bilocators.  Along with these are out-of-body experiences, which some see as a proof of the mind’s  independence of the body, and even as a preview of life after death.    

Or take the family of so-called poltergeists that seem to perform all manner of tricks on familiar physics. These are spiced by the mystery of not knowing the nature of the intelligence behind the anomalies, whether from the mind of a disturbed adolescent or from spirits having some fun with, or venting some spleen on, the living.  

There is the “direct voice” phenomenon, articulate communications heard but not seen. The auditory spectrum of queer phenomena is wide: raps, bangs, thuds, knocks, footsteps, voices, moans, laughter, all reported in hauntings; also, on a higher plane, transcendental music, sometimes heard as part of near-death or other ecstatic types of experience. 

Each sense seems to have its supernormal analogue.  Annekatrin Puhle’s study, Light Changes (2013) describes a variety of unexplained, transformative light experiences. Also, in all faiths, we find accounts of preternatural odors of sancity; Joseph of Copertino’s case is well documented (see my Wings of Ecstasy). Breathing in this special class of supernormal fragrances was said to be therapeutic.  Among Catholic mystics like the 20th century Austrian stigmatist, Theresa Neumann, the taste of the communion wafer was conducive to ecstasy and at the same time served all her nutritional needs for decades of her very public life. 

Perhaps the most practically important MBIs, whether in religious faith or medical settings, involve bodily healing.  The so-called “placebo” effect is so commonplace, we can forget how puzzling, how sometimes baffling, its ability to create a wide range of healing effects. Documentation of seemingly miraculous healings must be added to our list.  The French physician Alexis Carrel, starting out as a skeptic in his Voyage to Lourdes, describes witnessing a young woman on the brink of death, brought back to life, physically transformed before his eyes, after she is bathed in the spring water that Bernadette Soubirous dug up out of the rocky terrain.  

Sometimes the MBI is damaging: Related to this is the phenomenon of false pregnancy: women who produce and exhibit the physical symptoms of pregnancy—without actually being pregnant—what does this tell us?  Another sad psychic phenomenon comes under the rubric of “maternal impressions,” cases of women who while pregnant witness a traumatic sight such as a child with a missing limb and who then give birth to an infant with a similar missing limb. This happens despite there being no nerve connections between mother and fetus. 

With some evolved saints, yogis, and mediums, we confront a more surprising group of MBIs, for example, materialization: reports of mediums that materialize hands you can grasp, faces or full bodies of people known to be deceased that may physically embrace you and be photographed.  (See the cases of Eusapia Palladino, Martha Beraud (aka Eva C.), and D.D. Home for this.) Even in historical times, we find reports of food unnaturally appearing and apparently “multiplied.” 

Extreme MBIs occur in the context of religious symbolism. It seems that in some  reported cases the Eucharistic host has been seen to jump from the priest’s hand onto the tongue of impatient communicants. Respect for matters of fact, no matter how strange, requires that I include on my list of metaphysical outlaws statues and paintings that weep and bleed. These phenomena are ongoing, but I’ll just mention A. R. Bandini’s The Miracle at Syracuse, an account of a statue of the Madonna that wept ample, real tears for four days, beginning on August 29, 1953, an event witnessed by scientists and thousands of eyewitnesses that was headlined around the world.

Strange phenomena are reported about the bodies of holy men and women. We have stories of their luminous haloes, otherworldly fragrances, and of levitation, bilocation, dematerialization, and materialization.  We should of course mention MBIs associated with the corpses of the super-holy.   It seems that the bodies of dead yogis and saints refuse to behave like conventional corpses.  Often for months, even years, they just look asleep, physically incorrupt, and remain so for decades and even centuries. Reportedly, these holy corpses frozen in time, may exude oils, retain flexibility, and behave in other undead ways.   

In some Buddhist traditions, saints’ bodies after death have been observed to become vanishingly small, to emit colored lights, and then for a climax, to completely vanish.  And finally on death-related MBIs, in reincarnation cases there is evidence that the body of the reincarnated person carries over marks of wounds incurred in a previous life, thus making visible the continuity of two different embodied life experiences. 

Many examples prove that mind can directly influence matter, for good or ill, for example, placebo and nocebo effects, which repeatedly prove how belief, imagination, and expectation can help or harm health.  Statistically, placebos (imaginative fictions) are about as effective as chemical anti-depressants. My belief that I will get well is sometimes the critical variable what makes me well. Thoughts can affect distant events, in other minds and other places; the facts of paranormality suggest that we inhabit an extended mental mind. 

So what can we conclude about mind over matter and life after death? From experience we know of the many ways that our minds affect physical reality.  First off, thoughts, desires, emotions shape our own bodies and lives, for good or for ill.  That’s a big step and already speaks to the reality of our agency--our affinity for mind-body transcendence. In spite of genetics and external material circumstances, we retain the ability to transform our own lives. 

And as a bonus I hesitantly add: In light of the sprawling mass of diverse and increasingly remarkable evidence, the culmination of mind over matter would clearly be the triumph of consciousness over bodily death.  That would be the ultimate proof of power of the human spirit, a secret, as Heraclitus said, that nature loves to hide. But what nature loves to hide we need to make manifest.  The more we understand our extraordinary potentials, the more likely we may learn to tap into them. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

A Psychic Photographer on Trial

Consciousness unbound is an idea I’ve been fomenting, step by step, trying to unfold the story of the outer limits of consciousness.  So now a story about a curious phenomenon—psychic photography, also called thoughtography—direct mental influence on photographic film.

There are thoughtographic mediums, people with a rare talent, to be sure.  One gifted thoughtographer was Ted Serios, studied by the psychoanalyst Jule Eisenbud. The World of Ted Serios is a remarkable book by Eisenbud. The evidence for the reality of the phenomenon is compelling. In this post, I want to go back to the first psychic photographer, William Mumler, a strangely talented psychic, who ran afoul of the state and was persecuted by ignoramuses. But in this story, the attempted persecution was nipped in the bud.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

The Teleportation of Mrs Guppy

Traffic is a growing problem all over the planet, so here is story about a rare form of human transportation.  If it could be mechanized and mass produced, it would mean the transcendence of traffic jams  The form of transportation described here is teleportation; it fuses the apport (matter through matter) with levitation (matter unshackled from gravity).  Instances of such transportation are admittedly rare, less common than levitations and instantaneous healings. 
            Time, place and cultural environment are crucial to the occurrence of rare phenomena; the conditions have to be just right; and must persist for some time. Extraordinary things might occur in spiritualist circles, for example, as they did in London in the late 19th century.&nbrsp;

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

The Happiness Trap

When I was a boy and found some nice presents under the tree on Christmas morning, I was happy.  There they were, beautifully wrapped, and waiting for me. Santa Claus came as I hoped he would, so I had a rush of happiness.  But suppose nothing turned up under the tree?  The way I experienced happiness was actually a trap. The absence, or eventual loss, of the thing that made me happy could make me unhappy.
When the doctor pronounces me in good health, I feel happy; should he inform me of some problem, I feel unhappy at once.   I’m happy if somebody treats me with respect and generosity; regard me with scorn or indifference, unhappiness is likely to follow.   Affirm my being, I am happy; negate it, watch how disgruntled I get.  And so it goes.  Happiness is a see-saw. Something I discovered early on--happiness depended on something external to myself. 

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Another Way of Looking at Life After Death

Being curious animals, we like to speculate on what happens after we die.  There are several ways people try to answer this intriguing question.    

Some educated people (and that is a lot of people) nix the question, won’t talk about it.  Annihilation at death is a foregone conclusion. In contrast, some educated and a lot of uneducated people belong to faith traditions that firm up their belief in an afterlife.    

Then there’s a tiny minority of individuals that try to use rational methods to determine whether our consciousness goes on after death.  The method here is to collect stories that lead one to infer that somebody’s mind survived bodily death—tales of reincarnation, mediumship, apparitions, near-death experiences, and so forth.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Living By Miracle

 William Blake once wrote: “As to Myself, about whom you are so kindly interested, I live by Miracle.” In the book on miracles I’m finishing I quote the above passage from Blake, and I go on to ask the question: How does one “live by miracle”?  Is there, perhaps, an affective, a cognitive, an existential style that opens the way to sparking the improbable, the impossible breakthroughs in life we call miracles? What indeed would it mean concretely to live by miracle? Perhaps we could put it like this. Are there attitudes, behaviors, values that perhaps are conducive to the occurrence of miracles? 

            For Blake miracle had much to do with creative imagination. “Imagination is eternity,” as he put it, that is, the ultimate reality. Words like Blake’s have a wild ring of mystery, but what do they mean?  Where can they take us? We might try to imagine what it would feel like to live, move and have our being from inside a miracle-friendly universe, a worldview that invites us to imagine things beyond what we think possible. Well,  someone might say: just become a Sufi, study the kabbalah, practice yoga, enter a monastery, become a divine decadent. 

            Understood. But for many, and for varied reasons, such options just aren’t possible.  So we have to find our own way, however stumbling and haphazard; probably unavoidable, in the 21st century, as things fall apart and the center that never was ceases to hold. 

            There is much to be said for Jung’s idea that each of us has to follow our own path to become decently evolved individuals. Scanning various accounts of the lives of miracle-makers—a motley gang, to be sure—I’ve racked up four points for my model of how to ‘live by miracle.’  In my chapter of this title, I describe the four points in some detail.

            Here let me just list them, perhaps to launch one’s thought processes.  The first that I discuss is the role of belief—which opens the mind to possibilities.  If you close your mind to something being possible, it will never happen.

            The second element to explore in the project of leading a miraculous life is introversion.  You have to practice focusing your attention inward, but if all your energies are spent on purely external concerns, you kill your ‘miracle’ potential.

            Third on the list is the need for goal-oriented thinking and the willingness to leave things in the hands of an alternate power, whether you think of that in terms of God, guardian angel, or your own subconscious self.

            And the fourth variable for lubricating the miraculous life is spontaneity.  Just letting things happen spontaneously without constant doubt, fear, hesitation, and qualification—that seems to be a critical factor for which there is much supportive data.

            I’m curious to hear your responses to this model I’ve put forth, and plan to post more on this curious subject of how, like William Blake, we can learn to “live by miracle.”   

Monday, November 4, 2019

Weapons Against Anxiety

Reports have been multiplying about the growing national epidemic of anxiety.  The  medical reports and boom times for Big Pharma attest to this creeping menace.  Anxious?  What on earth for?  Isn’t God in heaven and the U. S. the best country on earth? Well, God may be in heaven, but in fact there are very good reasons why anxiety may be on the rise.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The Rainbow Body of Tibetan Buddhism

To students of nature’s extraordinary phenomena, the rainbow body of Tibetan Buddhism is very intriguing.  We underestimate the marvels of the human body. I was blown away watching the world’s greatest gymnast, Simone Biles leap and somersault through space with a grace beyond anything I’ve ever seen. And there are stranger phenomena, all pushing against the known limits of the possible.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Why Is Happiness So Elusive?

There is talk nowadays of the science of happiness.  Science has created the atom bomb and taken us to the moon.  Why can't it make us happy?  But I wonder if that is possible.  After all, the things that make us happy are so various. Do we really know what makes us happy?  Or are we just guessing, hoping? What if we’re completely clueless about our real happiness?

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

A Woman Pioneer in Afterlife Studies

Unexplained psychic phenomena have been around since the get-go.  Ghosts and gods, angels and demons, spooks and miracles; they’ve been in our consciousness since the dawn of history.  It wasn’t until the late 19th century that a group of English scientists and scholars decided to use the methods of science to study these wild phenomena. 

They founded the Society for Psychical Research in 1882. They wanted to find out if there was evidence for postmortem continuity of consciousness—more plainly, for life after death.  I’ve written about the results of that research in Experiencing the Next World Now.  In this post, I want to recall a pioneer in afterlife studies who was a philosopher and a feminist.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Our Failed Enlightenment

The great American experiment in democracy owes a lot to the 18th century European Enlightenment. The results of the experiment are not terribly inspiring.  Progress and enlightenment were possible, Thomas Paine proclaimed.  The road to 18th century enlightenment was paved with belief in reason, material science, and secular government. All good, no doubt. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin saw by the same light. So what happened?

Friday, September 27, 2019

How to Use Our Natural Mental 'Magic'

What is psychokinesis (PK)?  It’s the ‘magical’ part of our minds. By magical I don’t mean stage magic but the power of the mind to make things happen directly.  A grandiose example from the Bible--God said, “Let there be light; and there was light.” Clearly, a very high form of word magic. The same ancient text says that we humans are made in the “image and likeness of God.” That means we too must have some of that miraculous creative energy, normally ascribed to God.   

Apparently we do, and it’s called psychokinesis.  Physicist Helmut Schmidt performed parapsychological experiments that reveal one of the secrets of true magic. In the experiments, subjects were asked to influence a panel of lights that worked on principles of quantum mechanics.  Some of Schmidt’s subjects scored very high in these tests, proving that by sheer intention they could  influence events at the quantum level of nature.  This is mind over matter with a vengeance.

But how is it done?  Schmidt concluded that psychokinesis (PK) is a goal-oriented process.  The secret is to focus on the goal, what you’re aiming for. Don’t worry about how to get there. Act as if you’re there already.  Focus on exactly what you’re aiming for.  Keeping your attention on the final outcome you’re seeking is the key to PK magic. The useful lesson: by shaping and holding the attitudes of our minds, we can alter the shape of our world.

A keen illustration of Schmidt’s theory are the levitations of St. Joseph of Copertino, as described in my book, The Man Who Could Fly.  Joseph, from his miserable, bed-ridden childhood to the day of his death, was inspired by one thought, one desire: and that was to be out of this world and in heaven.  And above all things, in a manner of speaking. All hope, all heart, all energy was focused on God, the Madonna, all--in Heaven.  Up there! All prayer was oriented in an upward direction.   

He liked to say to his fellow friars when he was overcome with ecstatic joy: “Andiamo compagni, su! su!” “Let’s go, comrades! Up there! Up there!” But with Joseph the metaphor triggered actual flights if physical space, and for 35 years he became the iconic flying prodigy of the 17th century, and, without intending it sailed beyond the physics of Galileo and Newton.

Psychokinesis represents a force that emanates from the Mind of nature—not from the physical dimension of reality.  When science gets the courage to confront the transcendent challenges of mind, it will launch a new epoch of human history.  With climate science telling us every day that we’re moving headlong toward global disaster, we’re going to have to rely more and more on our inner resources.  In the meantime, we have to learn what those resources are.  A little homework would help as we find ourselves trying to cope with the end of the world.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Nature is Not Straight or Conservative

The Catholic Church has recently come out with a pronouncement against the concept of being transgender.  Now, despite Pope Francis showing the LGBT community a notably rare degree of compassion and humanity, he is opposed to the idea of transgender because he thinks it philosophically defective. He perceives transgendered reality as an attempts to deconstruct nature. 

Monday, August 26, 2019

Retrieving the Soul of Psychotherapy

I recall the first paper I wrote in college for a psychology course.  I don’t know where the idea came from, but I objected to any kind of psychotherapy that tried to make people ‘normal’.  I had no idea what normal meant and I had a feeling that most people who seemed normal were really quite crazy.  I have never abandoned that admittedly hasty intuition.  My idea was that any attempt to work on improving ourselves and our lives should go all out. The goal should not be to adapt to prevailing norms but to transcend mere normality and aim for the supernormal and the extraordinary.

Monday, August 19, 2019

New Evidence for Life After Death

Most of us are struggling to survive on earth and don’t have time to think about life after death. As it happens, there is much information about this subject, and some progress in the field is notable.  Thanks to new technologies, what may lie behind the veil of bodily death is being gradually scoped out.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

An Unclassifiable Miracle

I am not bashful about confronting incomprehensible phenomena; but some phenomena especially flabbergast me.  Examples might be precognition and materialization, where the one upsets our idea of time and the other our idea of being and nothing. I’m not sure how to describe the example I want to describe in this post.  This story is extra strange, and I don’t now how to classify it. It illustrates two things.  Human beings can be unspeakably barbarous for unspeakably vile reasons. But human beings at the same time can produce phenomena that totally baffles the rational mind.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Living Without Eating

Searching for the outer limits of human potential has taken me to some strange places.  The result has led me to wonder what it really means to be a human being. There are in fact disturbing signs that human evolution is not yet complete. Enough indications point to a possibly more evolved version of our species yet to emerge.  To help me understand what the possible future human might be like, I have focused on saints, yogis, mediums, shamans and mystics, unique individuals noted for their unusual abilities.  Piecing together these various abilities, a picture is beginning to crystallize.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Fighting Back With Concentration

How could a pebble become your best friend?  I found out while listening to an interview on NPR about a recently closed state reform school in Florida.  Dozier’s School for Boys was for juvenile delinquents, and the school was notorious for beating, torturing, and even murdering its young inmates.  I was struck by something that one of the former victims of this American nightmare said on the radio.  It was central to the theme of consciousness.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Consciousness, the State, and Marijuana

The other day I found a book by Lisa Brooks called Medical Marijuana—very informative and well illustrated—of all places, in a big supermarket.  My, how things have changed!  I recalled the movie Reefer Madness, that famously grotesque travesty of the poor weed.  Since the 1930s marijuana has been maligned and demonized  in the U.S.; along with the people who smoked and sold it who were jailed, especially, of course, if poor and black. Now American supermarkets are selling books about its benefits.  And they’re huge! After eight decades of being lied to by the state concerning cannabis, the truth of its benefits is at last becoming known.  That merits at least two cheers.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Icon of the Impossible

In my view, art is a psychic phenomenon, and the artist is a medium.  Painting, for example, we can think of as a form of materialization.  I have a feeling, an image, an idea; art is how I materialize my inner reality. How I make it public. Art translates the intangible and the invisible into something we can touch and see.  To do this I need paint and canvas to materialize my idea or vision. 

But I want to ask a strange question.  What about the possibility of materializing the vision straight from the imagination? That would be something entirely different, a new type of artistic creativity.  As it turns out, it is possible to make a case for materialization.  There are mediums, saints, and yogis said to be able to perform such feats of metaphysical magic.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Mind Bending Metal

Can people really bend metal with their mind?   I’ve seen it done at scholarly gatherings and at spoon bending parties on New York’s West Side.  I’ve done it myself.  In fact, there’s a serious literature on the subject.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

A More Direct Approach to Afterlife Research

Each soul will feel and know itself to be immortal, will feel
and know that the entire universe with all its good and with all
its beauty is for it and belongs to it forever.

                                    Richard Bucke, M.D., Cosmic Consciousness

A More Direct Approach to Afterlife Research

In our age of science, it’s tempting to ask: Is there a life after death?  What was once religious belief, an aspect of mythology, may now be reframed as a scientific question that appeals to evidence and allows you to draw conclusions. 
            Psychical research, launched by Henry Sidgwick and Frederic Myers in 1882, focuses on proof based on inference to the best explanation. In one case, somebody sees the apparition of a known dead person; the apparition describes where he hid his last written will and testament. No living person knows where the document  was hidden. Interested parties go to the unknown place as described by the apparition; the last will is found there and is validated by the courts.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Should Science Care About Life After Death?

I am puzzled by the seeming lack of interest in one of the great mysteries.  I have also noticed an active revulsion on the part of friends I have known toward even thinking about it.  I once performed an experiment with two colleagues.  I tried to place a copy of the best book I knew on mediumship by the British psychologist, Alan Gauld, into their hands, in hopes of them reading it.  I failed on both counts.  Each of my colleagues literally recoiled from the sight of Gauld’s book, and each of them invented the most baroque reason for not being free to turn a page at least for a year!

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Forgive Or Not To Forgive?

Few of us go through life without having been injured, wounded, sometimes devastated by the actions of individuals or institutions.  We’re creatures of memory and carry our injuries with us, which can be quietly nagging or secretly poisonous.   Seemingly invisible or forgotten, we have to deal with them, one way or another.  I have an unoriginal suggestion. One way is through conscious acts of forgiveness.  

Forgiveness can change one’s whole outlook on life, as in the story of Louis Zamperini, an American soldier who returned to Japan and embraced with forgiveness three of the men who tortured him in the Second World War.  It was only after this that his nightmares from the war ceased.  It was the beginning of something new; he became a teacher, a healer, and a force for good.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Rigid Disbelief: An Obstacle to Healing

The psychologist, William McDougall, recounts the case of a client who came to him after a year of struggling with his affliction. A young man got his left hand violently caught in a hay-rake, and emerged from the accident with his forearm reduced to a state of paralysis and anesthesia.  Several doctors, including one that left scars from a failed electrical treatment, treated him without success; another offer was to simplify matters by amputating the apparently useless limb.
According to McDougall, the young man was absolutely convinced he could not be healed. No one had helped him so far; so he thought of himself as a hopeless case.  The man needed to be disabused of the false belief he had embraced.  “It was only through a course of education, persuasion, and suggestion (waking and hypnotic) and encouragement continued over some weeks that the cure was effected. The essential step was to shake and undermine his fixed belief in the permanent nature of the paralysis.” (See his Outline of Abnormal Psychology.)

Friday, May 31, 2019

Awakening Our Better Angels

Our normal consciousness conceals a world of possible states, each with it uses and unknown functions: I mean stuff we call creative, paranormal, and mystical. I believe all these are pointing toward our potential future—we don’t have to look far to see we’re a long way from getting there.  
Potential, however, does not necessarily imply probable.  Dante had to make his way through Hell and Purgatory before the first glimpse of Heaven was possible.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Bullying Our Way to Heaven and Empire

I was out for a Sunday stroll on the outdoor mall.  I noticed up ahead two young men trying to hand out some leaflets.  The two had evangelically bland, scrubbed faces and attire to match.  I could see that no one was accepting the leaflets; others went out of their way to avoid the two men completely.

I walked right up to them and the tall guy held out a leaflet.  I accepted it, nodded, said, “Thank you,” and moved on.  I opened the leaflet. The first page was covered with one sentence from a letter of St. Paul’s to the Hebrews (9:27).  In all caps it said: “A man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.  The word die was in red italics and judgment in italics.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Awakening Psychokinesis

Awakening Psychokinesis

Psychokinesis is the the power of our intangible thoughts to produce tangible effects.
It is direct action of mind on matter—on our own bodies, and sometimes, on external bodies.  But that’s magic! you might say.  Correct, as discussed in Dean Radin’s book, Real Magic, an excellent primer on the science of magic.  Consider the greatest magician of all time--God.  We read in the Book of Genesis: “And God said, ‘Let there be light!’ And there was light.”  Now that’s PK!  Psychokinesis--which means mind-moving, mind-transforming.

If I had one phrase to distill what I’ve learned from my research, it would be this: PK is the spark of divine creativity in us all.  For indeed as the poet said we are “made in the image and likeness of God.”  We’re not just carbon-based physical organisms; but minds, a source of consciousness with powers that boggle known science.   

PK, moreover, is not rare.  There is normal PK, evident all day as we direct the movements of our bodies, restraining and shaping them in various ways; there is abnormal PK in the form of ulcers, high blood pressure, and other psychosomatic diseases; and finally supernormal PK—effects like levitation, shapeshifting, bilocation, weather control, materialization, dematerialization, instantaneous healings, placebo, nocebo, stigmata, odor of sanctity, and much more.  There is a mountain of facts that supports the idea that we humans own a spark of supernormal capacity—a spark that can sometimes ignite a fire.

So, with some hesitation, . we might ask: How can we ignite the fire of our potential soul power? Which is what I mean by the technical term psychokinesis.  According to physicist Helmut Schmidt, PK is a goal-oriented process.  Suppose in a test you’re trying to influence the fall of dice, say, to get sevens.  You don’t concentrate on how to make it happen. Instead, you keep your attention on the goal, the end-state, the thing itself—in this case, to roll sevens.  Don’t calculate, worry or strain.   The ‘method’ is to fix attention on the goal; hold it there firmly; visualize what you want to actually happen. The image of the goal becomes the lodestar of your consciousness.

This may be useful in shaping the course of everyday life.  The important thing is having our aims clearly and steadily before our consciousness.   But this is hard to do, especially for us in our hyper-active techno-culture defined by endless distractions.  If you really want to perform a ‘miracle,’ all of you has to be present.    

Often, ironically, the ‘miracles’ in our lives occur when we least expect them.  Sometimes you can aim too hard; like trying too hard to remember something—stop trying, give up, and then it comes back.  Sometimes we have to give up before something we’re aiming for can happen.  Total concentration is required, but being too anxious about success will get in the way. The big idea is that we can shape the course of our journey.  It’s either that or we get blown hither and yon, slaves of chance and fate, fodder for the dark forces.

I have defined PK in such a way as to show it represents a spectrum from normal to abnormal and supernormal.  The supernormal and ‘miraculous’ potentials are rooted in our normal everyday minds.  As human beings we’re capable of doing far more than we might normally suppose.  We find evidence for this all the time.  It would be useful to learn how to activate that potential.  In fact, thanks to the explorer instinct of our species, many ways have been discovered.  The physicist Helmut Schmidt, along with mystics, shamans, and magicians from all traditions provide various hints and rules.  It’s up to us to make use of them.

Monday, May 6, 2019

The Need for a Science of Spirituality

Ever since the rise of modern science in 17th century Europe, science and spirituality have been estranged.  This has been worse than unfortunate because science and spirituality are major parts of human experience, and it won’t do to have them perennially at odds with each other.  So one of the mega thought-memes of modern history has been trying to harmonize these two dimensions of experience that so powerfully influence our lives.  The challenge is how to integrate them and do justice to the best they have to offer while being wary of the worst as well.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Transcendent Diet

by Michael Grosso:

Diet in ancient Greek refers to one’s way of life. What you eat,  how you exercise, the kind of society you keep, etc. Diet assumes you’re capable of self-discipline.  Looking for an art form you can practice?  Look no further than the raw material handed to you called daily life. Your ‘diet’ is the art you practice to shape your day to day existence.  Could there be any higher art form?

A good diet should cover both mind and body. Now one problem we all know about is obesity—but there are two kinds of ‘obesity’. Some folks are not literally fat, but their minds might be ‘overweight’.  They might need to lighten up mentally. Their ‘obesity’ lies in the medley of thoughts and emotions that drive their minds. This kind of obesity is easy to conceal; that of the body is quickly exposed, even to the casual observer.  

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

An American PK Super-Star

by Michael Grosso:

One of the odd facts about our scientific world are the periodic intrusions of events completely at odds with familiar reality.  We don’t expect alien light-beings to materialize in our living rooms or ghosts to physically attack us in haunted houses, but they do, and that’s not all.  

Take, for example, the case of a man who apparently had super psychokinetic powers, but was of fairly low moral stature, and in fact may have been a murderer. Fortunately, Dr. Jeffrey Mishlove, who wrote the story of Ted Owens, treats his subject with the nuanced approach that it demands. Mishlove knew Owens (d. 1987) for years and had access to the data based on interviews, reportage, and media coverage. The PK Man is not a book for people with a fundamentalist cast of mind; one has to be mentally agile to cover this terrain.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

A Terrifying Case of Precognition

by Michael Grosso:

One thing I keep learning about our mysterious minds—in every category of a phenomenon—say, a mystical experience, a reported alien contact, or the effects of psychokinesis—there are endless variations.  Nothing is mechanical, or exactly predictable about mental life.  No matter how time-tested a rule, it will always be broken.

Precognition subverts our commonsense idea of time and our intuitive sense of cause and effect.  Since when does the effect come before the cause?   Precognition—also called foreknowledge and prophecy—is to know of specific events that have yet to occur.  That may sound impossible, but plenty of evidence says it’s a real effect.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Our Worst Enemy Can Be Ourselves

by Michael Grosso:

I think that anybody given to self-observation will notice that sometimes our worst enemy is ourselves.  They say we have guardian angels; I think we also have inner saboteurs.  There is, I believe, a war going on in us all the time.  But the enemy is not Satan but rather our rogue thoughts.
So I perk up at stories that show how people wreak havoc on themselves with their own beliefs. 

Walter Cannon has described the phenomenon of voodoo death.  A perfectly healthy man learns that some sorcerer has pointed the bone at him, with the intent of a spell to kill him.  The victim is terrified and feels defenseless. He lies down, his whole vital apparatus crashes, and he dies.  Voodoo death illustrates the violence we can inflict on ourselves--all by virtue of what we believe and what we expect.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Experiment With a Ouija Board

by Michael Grosso:

Since the beginning people have performed experiments, made conscious efforts to pierce the veil that hides the invisible world. All cultures have devised methods of interrogating the Transcendent.  The forms of yoga come to mind, prayer and meditation, ascetic disciplines like fasting and breath-control, the native American vision quest, the classical mystery rites of Eleusis and Dionysos, and so  on and so forth.  Human tradition is replete with methods of inducing experiences of other worlds.[i]

Since the quest of Gilgamesh to discover the plant of immortality, it has insinuated itself into what seems like a game, playing with a Ouija board.  This is a device for stirring up the unconscious and talking with spirits, (best to avoid if mentally unbalanced).  The first time I tried it, the experience was quite interesting and made a memorable impression.

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