Monday, January 18, 2021

UFOs and the Psychic Universe


Edgar Mitchell, the American astronaut who flew to the moon and back, was also a great explorer of inner space.    Dr. Mitchell was also interested  in the UFO phenomenon, which since 2017 has finally been acknowledged after decades of cover-up in mainstream publications like the New York Times.  


Mitchell’s research, which culminated in the publication of Beyond UFOs, is explicit about combining ufology and parapsychology under the unifying banner of consciousness studies. Bringing them together is natural enough for one simple reason; the literature of UFOs and alien encounter is shot through with paranormal reports: telepathy, levitation, dematerialization, supernormal healing, and so on.  Unexplained aerial phenomena are a part of, and connect with, religious history. 


Mitchell’s model opens to an expanded research program.  The editors of Beyond UFOs (Hernandez, Klimo, Schild) have tapped into a huge, sprawling, and often hidden resource of information that the government and scientific culture have been shy about confronting. It does seem that the cover up of the incredibly complex UFO phenomenon is ending. 


Beyond UFOs is the first volume in a series dealing with the expanded anomaly database. It should be mentioned that early researchers were aware of the paranormal dimension of ufology.  I would single out Kenneth Ring and Raymond Fowler as having studied cases of people who had near-death experiences and close encounters with alien intelligence.  Some near-death experiences open people up to having contact with angels, aliens, and related agents of transcendence. One widespread claim is that the purpose behind the apparent alien visitations is to boost, guide, and accelerate human evolution.


Human technologies have resulted in the pollution and over-heating of the planet, and set into motion forces that threaten life and civilization everywhere.  A radical change of human values, attitudes and lifestyles seem increasingly necessary if we hope to avert unprecedented catastrophe.


Rey Hernandez has invited me to assist in sorting out the papers that will be used in subsequent volumes of this series.  The volumes  will be about presenting the extraordinary data of contemporary experiencers and the ongoing effort to explain them. 


There is a common sense world that we all inhabit and need to honor and respect.  But people everywhere are having experiences that shatter our assumptions about that commonsense world.  Although in one sense we all inhabit the same world, it’s also true to say we don’t because we all experience the world differently.  Sometimes the difference is so extreme as to suggest either that some people are crazy or that most of us are blithely unaware of what is happening.   I think it was William Blake who said that where some people just see the sunrise, he, Blake, was seeing the sons of God leaping for joy!


But here’s the big point.  As our minds change so does our world.  The world that we experience is both filtered and underlined by our beliefs, memories, and feelings at any given moment.   Learning something new, acquiring a new concept, realizing a new possibility can alter our lives and our relationship to other people. I’m saying all this in light of the eighty-five or so papers I’ve been reading and trying to sort out  for the new volumes intended for publication.


I want then to mention several points that for me represent new ways of looking at the world.  e remarkable accounts of high strangeness.


More people are having anomalous experiences than we might suspect, everyday folks as well people expert in academic and scientific experiences.


People are having many and various experiences, as if once the psychic door opens, traffic with the extraordinary increases exponentially.


Perhaps one of the most striking ideas is that people can consciously and deliberately induce these extraordinary experiences. I keep finding accounts of people who call upon the highly strange beings—and they come!  I discussed this idea in my book on miracles (Smile of the Universe).  The big idea to probe more carefully is that we humans can, if we choose to, strike up meaningful dialogue with beings and forms of intelligence that common sense and science think is impossible. Our lives have experimental potentials that we can scarcely begin to imagine.








Thursday, January 14, 2021

Donald Trump as 'Antichrist ' Cartoon

A crucial part of Donald Trump’s faithful base are folks of the Evangelical creed.  No matter how morally suspect he may appear, they support him because he supports their peculiar brand of Christianity. What is that brand? To tell the truth, it’s a little scary. There’s a vivid preoccupation with the return of Christ and the end of the world—a firm and righteous sense of an impending climax of history. 


Novels and movies and preachers are into it, and of course, politics.  According to the evangelical endtime scenario, true believers expect to be raptured away to Heaven while a triumphant Christ sends Antichrist and his minions packing.  Meanwhile the old Earth and all its unbelieving inhabitants will be burnt to a crisp.   To my mind, this sounds like a great script for a horror movie. Trump’s evangelical supporters, like Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo, are devotees of a cruel, undemocratic deity.  


Curious bedfellows, Trump and the Evangelicals.  A strange rapport.  Trump presents himself as supporting religious freedom, which includes being pro-Israel in a big way and opposing women’s reproductive rights in an equally big way.  Evangelicals adore Trump because of his packing the judicial system with conservative judges.  But what does conservative mean here?


I doubt the majority of Americans are inclined to conserve the values of stone age theocracy.  The great Evangelical hope is to establish “biblical justice” in the United States, a country whose concept of justice is rooted in the European Enlightenment, also known as democracy.  In short,  the rule of the people, not the rule of anybody’s particular God.


The evangelical spirit is wrapped in the expectation of a big showdown.  History must climax in a convulsive apocalypse, literally, “uncovering,” an idea with a grip on the collective imagination for millennia. This great climax is always pictured in combative terms. There has to be a final battle between the perfectly good and the abominably bad—between the all-luminous Christ and the pure evil Antichrist.


This terrifying fantasy of things to come has obstacles. For the great climax to occur, the Jewish people must fully repossess their ancient homeland; bad news, of course, for the Palestinians who live there.  Palestinians aren’t in God’s plan for Evangelical dominion. And neither are Jews.


I keep asking myself, do people really believe this stuff?  In the end, the outcome for Jews is not good.  All the Jews that don’t convert, and of course, all the Palestinians, indeed, the entire non-evangelical world—all are doomed to perish in the grandiose final battle imagined by believers. What a cruel, unsociable faith!


Religious believers in this horrific endtime idea are key to Trump’s fanatical base, a man whose character is a swamp of gross irreligiosity. It’s hard to imagine a more narcissistic fiction in the history of the religious imagination-- the horrible hope and homicidal implications of evangelical eschatology.


Thoughtful evangelicals might reflect on the following.  Central to endtime prophecy is the figure of an Antichrist.  Evangelical breakthrough expects a cosmic showdown. The idea of a final conflict has a long tangled history in mythology, politics, and psychopathy, as I discovered researching my book, The Millennium Myth: Love and Death and the End of Time.


So what about the figure of the Antichrist?  In the final conflict, an actual man who is the Antichrist will appear in the fray of world affairs. A highly histrionic fellow, his evil genius is to create an image of the Christ, with the aim of using and exploiting credulous believers for his own private purposes, which are relentlessly selfish.  


Speculations on the nature of the Antichrist legend vary, and have been described in fascinating detail by historians, see Norman Cohn’s Pursuit of the Millennium.  The Antichrist persona feeds on the paranoia that lies nervously coiled just below our surface mental life. The core feature of the Antichrist is malign deceptiveness.  Two elements come into play, the first is indifference to truth itself, any kind of truth, factual, rational or spiritual. The second is to rely on falsification as a weapon to attack and demean the opponent; the Antichrist never gives up, never concedes, never admits failure. 


Who does that remind you of? A perfect illustration of Trumpian perversity is calling Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert, an “idiot.”   Dr. Fauci and his wife and family have received death threats and have to be protected by the secret service when they go out for a walk.  The perversity of threatening the head healer of the nation with death is a mystery to me. 


Actually, it is just the kind of nastiness that our mythical Antichrist would revel in.  But when we look closely we find something more subtle than brute murder.  One can try to destroy a person with lies, a form of subtle murder we might expect Antichrist to specialize in, suitable to a born sneak and a shameless coward.


Saint Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians provides the first written portrait of the Antichrist stemming from the Christian tradition—an imaginal construct that continues to haunt the collective imagination.  A roster of candidates in history have at various times been declared the Antichrist, beginning with the Roman emperor, Nero.   Paul begins by warning the church in Thessalonica, “Never let anyone deceive you in any way” (2:3).  Con artists are a constant in the dealings of humankind.  Paul’s advice is good.  It speaks to Evangelicals today.  


And so does this. When the final confrontation is launched, it will be in plain view. “There will be a great revolt,” writes Paul, and describes our super bad guy as “the wicked One, the lost One, the Enemy, who raises himself above every so-called god or object of worship to enthrone himself in God’s sanctuary and flaunts the claim that he is God.” 


Now we’re in familiar territory. The Antichrist is an egomaniac, a malevolent narcissist with a knack for producing “all kinds of counterfeit miracles and signs and wonders, and every wicked deception aimed at those who are on the way to destruction because they would not accept the love of the truth and so be saved.” 


This can have strange effects.  When folks prefer lies to love, something strange can happen, according to St. Paul. “God sends on them a power that deludes people so that they believe what is false.” (Thess. 2). Who does that remind you of?


I don’t believe in the paranoid Antichrist fantasy.  But the likeness to Donald Trump’s character is spot on.  Antichrist is a great liar and so is Donald Trump, as the New York Times, the Washington Post and many other fact-checking agencies have documented in fulsome detail.  Antichrist , like Trump, is exclusively about himself.  The only possible bond with Antichrist is the bond of total submission based on fear (i.e., Republicans fawning on tyrannical Trump.)


Besides the key similarity of deceptiveness, the Antichrist is anti all the Christian virtues. These are simple and easily understood.  For example, love, mercy, kindness, compassion, humility; empathy for the suffering (humans and all animals); sympathy for the poor, for the homeless and the refugee; for children; for the sick; for the stranger; for the ill of mind and soul; for women and people of all colors and all ways of loving; and for the air and water and land of our miraculous planet.


 Now, could anyone in their wildest imaginings associate the name of Donald Trump with these common human qualities? His actions that knowingly blighted the lives of so many children are odious enough to warrant taking him for an American Antichrist.  


Evangelicals need to see Trump the way he actually is—an Antichrist cartoon.  The man is a proven pathological liar.  In all ways, the antithesis of Christian or any virtues. But Trump is great in one thing.   Did ever a man walk on this earth with a more fanatically driven need to imagine that every burp and fart that emanates from him is the most memorable event in the history of the world?








Thursday, December 31, 2020

Musical Genius & Mind Over Brain

Kudos for 60 Minutes reporting the story of Matthew Whitaker, complete with a demonstration of his musical genius, and of his congenial personality.  Matthew arrived in the world with only a 50/50 chance of survival. He weighed not much more than a pound. His visual apparatus was damaged to the point of leaving him blind.  A rough beginning.


But Matthew had two things going for him, wise and loving parents and a spectacular musical genius.  He was also lucky to have had an especially good music teacher who recognized the rarity of his gift. Matthew immediately knew music, and once he got used to his mastery of basics, he took off on his own, improvising, inventing, and reinventing with all the energy and range of jazz.  He’s been playing professionally since he was eleven years old.


How to explain this?  Where did the sudden, superlative gift of music come from? 


Not surprising that some scientists might be curious about Matthew.  Charles Limb, a neuroscientist and himself a musician, persuaded Matthew to let his team do MRI scans of his brain while he listened to and made music.  They were looking for any notable changes in the brain correlated with Matthew while in his unique musical modality.  The results say something about creativity but also something about the power of mind over matter.


First, Dr. Limb and his team sought to see the prodigy’s brain in action while listening to people engage in everyday talk.  Nothing extraordinary was observed going on in his brain. His visual cortex showed no activity, consistent with Matthew being blind.  Now they wanted to observe his brain while he was in his element, making or listening to music, so they switched to a soundtrack featuring one of his favorite bands. 


A large panel showing activity in different parts of the brain suddenly lit up all over.

Dr. Limb states that Matthew’s “entire brain is stimulated by music.”  This says something about excellence in any sphere, which tends to be an all-encompassing enterprise.  In a phrase, one has to be all in. Dr.  Limb has something else to say about what Matthew does when rapt in and by music: "His visual cortex is activated throughout. It seems like his brain is taking that part of the tissue that's not being stimulated by sight and using it or maybe helping him to perceive music with it."


Clearly, the musician appropriates the part of his brain that usually works for vision.  Now that’s a neat trick!  One qualification: Limb writes as if the “brain” does all this, but in fact it is Matthew’s mind, his love of music, his  brilliance as a musician that changes the normal function of the brain, first by activating and using his whole brain and also by taking over a part of the brain normally associated with sight.  Genius has a biochemical signature but is rooted in and driven by the whole person, especially the whole gamut of one’s mental life.


Apparently, we harbor within us the power to remold the very structure and function of our brains!  A scientific literature illustrates the power of our minds, rightly deployed, to remold our brains and bodies and therefore the world around us.  See, for example, a spirited book by J. Schwartz and S. Begley that deals with Matthew’s specialty—mind reshaping brain function.  It is called The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force.  The title contains two big ideas outside the mainstream, first that our minds can exert physical force, and second that our brains are more plastic and malleable to mental influence than formerly assumed.


Now if we can mold our brains like a sculptor molds a statue from some clay, we must also be able to mold our lives creatively and for the better.  That is an idea worth pondering and befriending.  The trick is to crack open the vaults of our potential so it spills into our actual lives. It doesn’t have to be as dramatic as Matthew Whitaker’s fabulous musical capers, but all sorts of possibilities for breakthrough and epiphany remain for us who are just plodding on the path toward enlightmentment.



Monday, December 28, 2020

A Curious Christmas Encounter

Some nights ago—I guess it was the night before Christmas Eve—I had a strange experience.  I call it strange because I can’t explain it.  I have the annoying habit of knowing when I don’t understand something.  On the other hand, it was a totally private and very brief experience; but I can’t quite get it out of my mind. It was around midnight, and I had just finished some minor chore.  So I was in a state of relaxed vacancy.


I suddenly had the impulse to step out on my porch and look up into the late night sky. The impulse was spontaneous, an uprush from who knows where—and I don’t know why.  But I stepped out into the cold night air and was immediately transfixed by what I saw directly above me through a gap in the overhanging foliage of my neighbor’s tree: a tiny dot of light (as large as a distant star) moving in a straight line at a moderate speed very high in the sky.


My attention was riveted on what I was seeing with the question: what is it?  It was not a plane, not a star—was it perhaps some kind of satellite?  Following its trajectory, it suddenly jumped from its path, I should say, vanished and reappears instantly in another part of the sky.  I had to step off the porch into the backyard where I could more clearly see the light again moving along smooth and straight, and then  again it instantly shot from its path onto another point in the sky and resumed its leisurely passage.  I watched this quantum-hopping of the light several times until I was convinced it was no illusion.  If it was a satellite, how could it hop around space that way?  If anyone can explain what it was that I saw, I’d be grateful.


There was also the coincidence of having an uncharacteristic impulse on a cold midnight to step out my house to look up into the sky.  And lo! at that very moment I observe what at first glance seemed impossible.  Perhaps I can construe my little sky epiphany as a sign--but a sign of what? 


Are there unknown powers that dance in the sky that like to play with us? I can think of two other weird encounters that support this idea of playful powers.  One is a UFO that danced in the sky to the music of John Coltrane for me and two other witnesses  in Greenwich Village.  The other is a tropical plant that flowered on a freezing cold Christmas Eve that healed a lovers’ quarrel.  I tell these two stories in my book, Soulmaking, and they resonate with what I saw the other day.  Each oddity or mystery that I encounter adds a little to a pattern of signs that keeps growing.  But what are they all pointing to?  That’s the question.    


Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Has the Universe Smiled at You?

In our age of techno-wizardry, belief in miracles has fallen out of fashion.  We talk freely of the miracles of science and (why not?) to describe an amazing play in football or the heavenly fragrance of your lover. But the idea of a miracle as something beyond mainstream science is mostly rejected by today’s educated society.


Miracles are verboten in rational, consumer-driven, materialist societies. The Protestant Reformation that made capitalism into a religion declared the age of miracles was caput.  Miracles were for Biblical times; modern times celebrate the work ethic and the magic of money.


 So there are forces determined to remove miracles from existence; in effect, to disenchant the world, and of course to repress facts at odds with the materialist worldview.  But behind this iron curtain of willed ignorance, some researchers carry on, undeterred.


Scanning the spectrum of extraordinary phenomena I’ve researched, I’m struck by one big idea.  I see a picture emerging of a possible new human, perhaps the next step in our evolution. The picture has three levels that point toward a more advanced version of our future selves.   

First of all, we see signs of major physical change. A little active imagination might help here.  Imagine, for example, all the annoying obstacles we  have to endure traveling from one place to another.  Many documented miracles I’ve studied involve supernormal modes of transportation: levitation, bilocation, apports, teleportation. We can also anticipate resistance from the transportation industries.  The tobacco industry did their best to conceal the cancerous truth about their product; the bottom line was more important than life itself.  Our new human will not be welcome everywhere.


We are not all going to evolve at the same rate, so the next quantum leap of human evolution is bound to stir up resistance.   Biologically, much fascinating evidence allows us to imagine ourselves evolving toward perfect health; our predatory health-industry moguls won’t like that. Or, imagine yourself as a perfectly content inediac, a person capable of living and flourishing without food, drink, or elimination; once again, a challenge to the food industries.  Inediacs are nourished by sacred perceptions in all the senses.  I can imagine future industries that specialize in producing subtle forms of psychophysical nourishment. There might be less torture and exploitation of fellow creatures of the natural world.


The data tells us that evolved persons often emit exquisite fragrances, this time a challenge to the perfume industries.  Step aside Yves Saint Laurent!  In future, we will rely more on our own creative spirit to fashion our own aesthetic atmospheres, and therefore be less at the mercy of outer climate and capitalist manipulation.


Now ponder this gem.  The data allow us to imagine that we become invulnerable to pain and fire—like those kids in the Book of Daniel who blew the mind of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. In light of these prospects, we are slated to become more audacious and risk-friendly. Over all, the facts imply that we possess  super-hero potentials. The truth is we can never predict when or what circumstances will jolt us into discovering powers we never dreamed we had.


Drawing on the empirical treasure-trove, we can clearly picture ourselves evolving in physical and biological ways.  This in turn will change our perception and our conception of reality. It will also transform our ability to negotiate physical reality, and in ways we can only call magical.   People who prefer that nature were more controllable and predictable might get nervous about this.


Miraculous phenomena suggest another big idea: the continuity of consciousness after death.  Evidence for personal survival occurs in various forms.  Physical miracles heighten the credibility of the survival hypothesis.  If indeed, there is something in our inner life that can defy gravity; drive matter through matter; materialize food, blood and tears; cause milk and people to disappear; and  heal diseased bodies, our minds would seem causally powerful enough to survive bodily death.  The new consciousness will be fearless in the face of death, as were Socrates, Joan of Arc, and Giordano Bruno.


Now to the third tier of the portrait I’m trying sketch.  Again, based on the kind of data that I cover in my book on miracles (Smile of the Universe), the new human we may imagine will be psychologically different from us. Highly developed paranormal powers are linked to ecstatic, mystical states of consciousness.  But no less important for our map of future humanity, the mystical state is known for its sense of union, rapport, love, empathy, joy and compassion.  This would be the socially all-important third tier.  To the degree that we imagine the mystical state displacing our usual ego-bound outlook, we might be optimistic about the future.  


Each of us, even in our everyday mental life with all its struggles, is adjacent to, and connected with, the ultimate wellspring of our enlightened consciousness.  Being so close, why not cross over? What’s holding us back?  Something is obstructing us—perhaps a worldview that works more like a barrier than an open road.  


Tracking down tales of the miraculous, I keep wondering how they happen.  Any hints that might help us tune into these mysterious powers? Two things I can say, and the first is that miracle recipients seem in the main to be unpredictable. It seems to me more like a lottery than some higher plan.  Anybody is liable to be blasted open by some miraculous encounter. On the other hand, there are people that miracles like to hang around, like mediums, shamans, artists, mystics, sleepwalkers, meditators,  mountain-climbers, the mentally ill, and so on.


A few things I’ve noticed about miracle-prone people. They spend more time than most paying attention to their inner states--moods, dreams, feelings, images and ideas. But they are also activists of consciousness--confident, trusting, hopeful.  These in turn enable you to be spontaneous, another miracle-conducive marker.  Being guarded and obsessively skeptical inhibit responsiveness to any signal of transcendence trying to get through. One last key variable.  Aiming, desiring, focusing on goals do make a difference. The example comes to mind of Joseph of Copertino, always aspiring with ecstatic love to reach toward heaven, and from time to time taking to the air in flights of levitation.  Imagine that!





Thursday, November 26, 2020

A Note on Gratitude: An Underrated Virtue

Gratitude is the least ostentatious of virtues.  If courage is your virtue, it will more likely be noticed and celebrated.  If you excel in the virtues of sport, you may become a national hero. If you prove yourself a lover against all odds, many will adore you. Some virtues make for good copy.  Others, like gratitude, are more discreet, and much less likely to be noticed or celebrated.


What does it mean when we give thanks? When we show, feel, or express gratitude?  For one thing, it’s to acknowledge there is something outside and beyond our selves. Something we’re indebted to that helped us become what we are. And it’s done with affection and admiration. Gratitude underscores our interconnectedness and interdependence, and seems to me, a great democratic virtue.  It’s our choice to receive the gifts of people, animals, and nature—with gratitude or with brusque self-centeredness.


To be grateful is to be gracious.  It is to affirm the other’s otherness and authenticity. To do that, we have to cut through clich├ęs and assumptions and encounter the other in the spirit of openness.  So we could say that the spirit of thanksgiving is pervasive in experience.  Gratitude speaks to the essence of our social reality; it’s what makes us sociable beings.


But not just toward other people.  We need to be sociable toward the whole of the natural word in which all our lives are nested.  Unfortunately, we as a species have been anything but sociable toward Gaia, our mother planet, its land, air and water. Technological humanity is the horrifying opposite of grateful or sociable toward nature.  For modern techno-capitalist society, nature is treated like a gigantic factory whose resources we exploit, consume, and destroy in order to slake the insatiable needs of consumerism and economic profiteering. 


This ruthless unsociability toward nature has resulted in polluting and overheating the planet, which threatens to destabilize the very basis of world civilization. It’s about time to wake up to a curious fact—nature is paying us back for our lack of gratitude and sociability toward Earth.  So happy thanksgiving to all, and to the gnarled cherry tree outside my bedroom window and to the groundhog that lives under my backyard shed.



Thursday, November 19, 2020

Mind and Marijuana

By next year recreational marijuana is slated to be legalized in the state of Virginia where I now live.  Judging by the elections, America is trending toward openness to the virtues of the weed.  I recently bought a small book on the health benefits of marijuana I found on a shelf in my local supermarket. It got me thinking about the first time I experienced the full effects of cannabis. In this I was somewhat of a late bloomer.


Vlad swore it was my duty as a graduate student of philosophy to smoke marijuana.  It would have an impact on my philosophy, he insisted.  I was open to his ideas, and in no time there were five of us passing joints around.  I was a psychedelic virgin that fall night, and as the joints passed through my hands I puffed on them, inhaling with gusto. After a while, I grew pleasantly buoyant in spirit. At least nine expertly-packed joints  were deployed in our effort to deconstruct established reality.


Somebody said, “Let’s head out!” Suddenly, we’re inside an elevator, descending to the ground floor. I’m feeling nothing impressive about my experience.  The effort to blow my mind didn’t amount to much. I was surprised by disappointment.  But then . . .


We got out of the elevator and stepped through the front door on to Broadway. As soon as we started walking uptown, I began to feel disoriented.  A kind of confusion, to begin with.  I noticed that everything around me seemed alive and everything was moving and vibrating—I wasn’t sure where I was or even quite who I was.  The movie house across the street appeared like a gothic tower that seemed to rise into a boundless black sky.  A uniformed police officer eyed me and I thought he was Genghis Khan! Automobiles looked like wild horses on a romp.  People all seemed to tower above me, some of them like ghouls, others like angels.  I gazed with astonishment at other people who looked mysterious and bizarre. I was too surprised by  the intensity of my perceptions to reflect on the fact that it was the weed that was working some kind of enchantment on me.


So I consulted with one of my comrades.  I tried to convey to Vlad the jittery sense of my reality. He acted as if he didn’t hear me, and stepped away, then blurted out to the others: “Has anybody seen Mike?  They all looked around, ignoring me, and solemnly responded: “Not me!”  “Where’d he go?” Everyone looked around, feigning concern.  It dawned on me they were just playing with my head.  But for an instant, when I heard their words, it felt as if I had to fight off an implacable power thrusting me into the void.  But I battled that sensation down, reminding myself that I still existed!


We continued our trek toward 116th Street, across the street from the entrance to Columbia University where somebody announced we’d stop to eat.  By that time I was getting accustomed to the exaggerated presence of everything and everyone, and the storm of menacing sensations began to feel less threatening.   After trudging along another block or two, Vlad appeared beside me, smiling, and said, “Let’s get something to eat—and drink. It’ll help you come down.”


Vlad was right.  The beer and hamburger brought me back to my own physical reality, and calmed the feverish flight of my imagination. This enabled me to pay attention to the effects on my perception, and what “getting high” was all about.  Everything appeared more animated, more real than my everyday perceptions, and certainly more interesting.  Marijuana temporarily showed me what animism felt like, the primitive belief that even rocks and bodies of water are alive and conscious.


Marijuana can make almost anything interesting, from eating a juicy pear to reading Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. Cannabis amplifies consciousness.  There are degrees and modes of consciousness.  S. Grof once defined LSD as a “non-specific” amplifier of consciousness. Cannabis is similar, a psychic magnifying glass.  Apart from its well-documented physical health benefits, it can open the gates of experience, and shed light on matters high or humble.  


Soon after, still a student in New York, I learned that my uncle Tony was dying in a hospital in Manhattan. He was my godfather. I decided to visit him, but wanted to do it in an altered state, so I smoked some weed.  I arrived at the hospital and met my aunt Nancy.  We stood around the bed where my uncle lay; he seemed barely conscious, but I approached and tried to get his attention.  A faint sign of recognition.


Then something happened. I looked into my uncle’s eyes and for a moment we seemed locked in gazing at each other, and I sensed we were somehow together in a place where it was almost out of time and where it felt all good. The communication was subtle but not one I was prepared to share with anybody. “He’s not doing too well,” said my aunt Nancy.  “But maybe he is better off,” I thought to myself. I had the distinct impression of glimpsing something he was experiencing.  Since then I’ve been exploring the mysteries of the mind—and in my book, Smile of the Universe, the miracles of the mind. And beautiful Mary Jane has been a faithful companion.











Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Losing Our Sense of the Transcendent


Nobody nowadays doubts the importance of education.  Without it, making a decent living may be impossible.  Apart from the acquisition of specialized skills, the chances for gainful employment are drastically curtailed. However, we also need skills for becoming complete human beings.  We’re not just instruments of the political and economic states


We may be full of specialized skills but deficient in human skills. The more technology dominates the culture, the idea of spiritual knowledge starts to look quaint.  What we seem to be losing is the ability to connect with a greater reality. Our sense of the transcendent is eroding.


People throughout history have tried to communicate with the greater reality—my minimalist way of referring to transcendent experience.  The greater reality has been named, understood and courted as somehow both beyond and within us.  It was not gray theory but part of daily life, and access was framed in terms of religious concepts, language and beliefs.


With the rise of modern materialist science , the idea of a greater reality was dropped on the trash-heap of history.  Talk with the spirits was chalked off as incredible.  The sense of presencd once available to all people, rich and poor, powerful and down-trodden, was decertified and invalidated.  The idea of a greater reality and greater human capacities was ousted from the palace of science and condemned as meaningless.


The good news is that psychology—not just physics—has also evolved.   Consciousness studies, paranormal phenomena and mystical experience all point to dimensions of experience beyond physical science.    


It seems a type of crime against humanity to try to destroy an entire dimension of human experience. It’s one thing to exploit and brutalize native peoples by means of material technology. But to rob humanity of its spiritual dreams, its icons of the greater reality, is to rob the human soul.


But the soul of the people will not be robbed.  Men and women have devise ways to explore the greater reality—by solitude, meditation, fasting, chanting, breathing exercises, psychedelics, vision-questing, group-dancing, sand-painting, and so on.  The human spirit is highly creative, impatient to move on and go deeper into the outer reaches of nature.  


But in today’s world, we’re distracted by the hypnotic glitter of the technosphere; our expansive consciousness is easily riveted, easily absorbed in a kind of shallow digital ecstasy. Entering into dialogue with higher dimensions of reality becomes a gray abstraction swallowed up in seas of information.


The neglected skill involves a special psychological maneuver.  Skills are enablers.  My skill on a bicycle enables me to do things I cannot do walking or running, or even driving my car.  The skill in question enables us to explore transcendent reality.


To get a handle on this curious capacity, it might help to see it in terms of mind-brain theory.  We have brains, and unless we are brainless, we know we have minds. What’s the relationship between these two entities?  There are two possibilities: production (brain produces mind) or transmission (brain transmits mind).  There’s a huge difference The productive view is materialism.  The transmissive view is consistent with an enormous array of human experiences that would be impossible if materialism were true.  I choose to keep the experiences and dump materialism.


So let’s assume that our brains reveal, detect, filter, and constrain our consciousness; they do not create it.  One of the main jobs of our brain is to enable us to survive in the natural world and in the world that we create called civilization.  We’re wrapped up in our bodies, our jobs or lack thereof, our homes (if we have homes), our money, our neighbors, government, climate, war, hunger, racism, psychopathy, poetry—in short, the world.


Our normal consciousness is occupied.  The external environment and its survival needs, passions, and challenges magnetize our minds.  Meanwhile, the greater reality is at all times open, poised for encounter; but our conscious life is usually caught up in the struggles of mundane existence.


But not entirely.  Normally we spend one third of our lives out of this world, carrying on in a quite different world of sleep and dreams. It does seem that in our nightly visits to the sleep-and-dream world that we find ourselves tottering on the edge of the greater reality.  In dream space our consciousness is totally withdrawn from physical reality.  But there are things we can do in dream space that we cannot do in physical space, such as peer into the future, levitate, create fantastic landscapes, and much more.


You might be born with a talent for entering into dream space. Or you might acquire a skill at becoming lucid in dreams or learning how to dialogue with our dreams.  If you talk to your dream self it may talk back. If you pose a question you may get an answer. We need to hone the skill for exploring soul space.  We need to lower the threshold of resistance and not be cowed by boundaries.


We are unskilled in the fine art of doing nothing, but doing nothing is part of the lost skill I keep harping on.  There are traditions of spiritual enlightenment that revolve around the virtues of the void, a strange paradox.  Joseph of Copertino, whose lightness of spirit rendered him immune to gravity, stated very forcefully that his chief aim in life was to  become nulla (nothing). To become nothing is to empty the mind of any and all points of possible distraction. That in effect makes consciousness available to the greater reality and its creative whims. The basic skill is about orienting oneself toward extraordinary breakthrough.









Monday, November 9, 2020

Rescuing the Soul of America

In his victory speech promise to rescue the “soul” of America, Joe Biden speaks to us more like a shaman than a politician. Exactly what does he mean by the phrase “soul of the nation”?  It must refer to our shared, unifying values and beliefs.  In classical culture, the term would be sensus communis—a common, shared sense of reality.  No family, friendship, or nation can survive without it.  


Take, for example,  the idea of truth.   In any human relationship, truthfulness is the unspoken rule. If a friend keeps making up stories about me I know are false and harmful, it will undermine the friendship.   More intimate relationships like marriage are destroyed by extra-marital lies and lying.  Still, we mostly all acknowledge the difference between telling the truth and lying.


But something happened to our American sensus communis.  Trump stepped out of ‘Reality TV” onto the political stage and began lying about Barack Obama.  He hasn’t for one minute stopped lying since then.  As I write, Trump is still suffering from the psychotic delusion that he actually won the election. He’s unable to distinguish the mathematical fact of his defeat from his own fantasy of triumph.


Donald Trump, in essence, is diametrically opposed to the primary adhesive of human society, our common sense of humanity.  Trump’s relentless compulsion to distort the truth in accord with his narcissistic will to power has eaten away our normal ideas of what is right and true.  We increasingly inhabit a culture of fake news.  Could anything be more dangerous?   


Trump has done his best to poison  the common fund of values and beliefs we associate with justice, compassion, the basic oneness of the human community, and the crucial imperative to save nature and human life from catastrophic climate disruption.  


Here we come up close and personal to issues of the soul of the nation. Circumstances call for some serious soul-searching.  We need to pause and reflect on the values and ideals that really make us great: values of the heart, of science, of spirit, of creative imagination.


In all this, Trump was, is, and will remain grossly deficient.  The soul of the nation was never Trump’s concern. Biden of course will be constrained by the Republican Senate and other obstacles to progress. But Biden represents what our new Vice-President-elect, Kamala Harris, described so vividly—in a word—“Possibilities!”  Possibilities that Trump has done his best to crush.


All the issues that have been tearing us apart turn out to be issues centered around the soul.  I believe the use of this term—soul—goes to the root of the problem. It’s  not just a rhetorical flourish of Biden’s. Consider the central problem of our world: money. The problems with it are legion, beginning with the inhuman inequity of wealth virtually everywhere.  The inequity is designed to appear perfectly legal, perfectly legitimate, and perfectly enforceable.  It’s also perfectly soulless—cruel, callous, and dehumanizing.  


Biden cuts through all the BS and wants to appeal to and speak to the soul.  He wants to stir the deeper sensitivities that allow us to feel the injustice and feel the need to act to redress the injustice.  The soul has to be dead not to feel all the injustice around us, the historic abuse and repression of native Americans (most massively); blacks (most hypocritically); women, in multiply fashion (from time immemorial); people who love in different ways (who should inspire us ); children brutalized and forced to separate from their parents; families in flight from a spectrum of horrors beyond their control. We’ve been bombarded by lies designed to frighten us and destroy our compassion.


Trump voted out of office has sent people everywhere dancing for joy in the streets.   There is at least the hint of a desperately needed renaissance of human consciousness.  We are a planet battling a pandemic and plunging toward climate catastrophe that threatens to dislodge world civilization.  The picture of Trump continuing to lead us during this historic crisis was a sickening prospect.  We have been spared this, thanks to the American voter.  Instead we have a new president who in stark contrast to Trump gives every indication of being a man with a soul.







Saturday, October 31, 2020

The Real Meaning of Halloween




Happy Halloween!   What follows are a few remarks about the remnants of a mysterious holiday. What Halloween has come to mean today is remote from its very old, original meanings.   The core idea was that Halloween was a time when the boundary between the living and the souls of the dead grows thin.  The spirits of the dead are more apt to pay us a visit.   And they are more likely to respond to us if we call on them.   That’s a little more daunting than playing trick or treat.


The idea of a thinning boundary between us and the spirits needs to be reframed.  More accurate, and more interesting, is to say this: there are times when the boundary between our brain and the part of our mental life linked to souls of the dead thins. What “thins” the boundary is anything that disrupts normal brain function.    When the brain is prevented from doing its job, which is to adapt us to the environment, contact with supernormal powers becomes possible.  The necessary mental space becomes available


The near-death experience is a perfect example.  Assume it is induced by cardiac arrest, which cuts off oxygen to the brain, and should blot out consciousness.  In fact, the opposite occurs; people have memorable, transformative experiences, and come away convinced of the reality of another world.  The link between brain function and external world is disrupted.


It’s not just the near-death experience that fits the “thinning” metaphor.  There are other circumstances where the process is evident, for example, with saints and shamans, yogis and mystics.  These we might call specialists in shunting  consciousness away from the plane of life.  


Combined with the mental shift are physical changes, like fasting, breathing and posture exercises, and the sublimation of sexuality.  These are the people who tend to have supernormal and mystical experiences, the result of deliberate “thinning” of the boundaries that separate them from the greater reality.    


Another field of human experience testifies to the phenomenon.  People who suffer from autism, unable to tie their own shoelaces or use a grocery list in a supermarket, may display what Dr. Darold Treffert calls “Islands of Genius.”   In that book, he describes the mathematical, mnemonic, musical, and artistic feats of otherwise neuro-compromised individuals.  Treffert also covers cases of suddenly acquired talents after suffering brain traumas, for example, Derek Amato who cracked his head diving into a swimming pool.  After taking some months to recover, Amato discovered he could play the piano, which totally changed his life. (He had no knowledge of the instrument.)


Anything that inspires us has the effect of detaching us from the world as it is.  The Muses inspire musicians, dancers, actors, poets, painters.  The key function of the Muses is to induce ecstasy—ek-stasis—“standing outside yourself.”  The point is to be taken out of your self; outside the familiar way your brain works.   


Another method of exploring our greater consciousness: psychedelics are an age-old method of altering the brain-consciousness equation in favor of the expansion of consciousness.  And of course all this fit the model of what Halloween is supposed to do, thin the veil that separates us from the world of spirits. 


So the forgotten significance of Halloween leaves us with an impression that we are surrounded by invisible helping powers.  At any moment of our existence we might discover there’s a world beyond our brain-mediated consciousness.




Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Bullies and the War Against Difference

There is a documentary on Netflix called Bully that’s worth watching, especially at this point of American history.  We’re in the middle of a pandemic and are being forced to confront the entire history of American iniquity: crimes against native Americans, enslaved blacks, women, LGBT communities, and so on.


All of the foregoing revolve around the theme of Bully. The word bully has an obscure history and etymology, and has meant darling, gallant, protector, admirable. The sense relevant here: to bully is to intimidate, overawe, harass, gang up on, mock and make fun of. Bullies in a high school setting are petty tyrants, and more often than not, cowards. One definition of a ‘bully,’ listed by the Oxford English Dictionary: “A tyrannical coward who makes himself a terror to the weak.”


The film is about bullying in American school systems, and follows the stories of young people around the country whose lives are made miserable, especially with the internet that increases the bullying by thrusting it into the public domain. Cyberbullying has been linked to the high rate of teenage suicide in America.


Where does all this mean-spirited bully energy come from?  Bullying is common among kids everywhere, but is also a window that opens onto American history.  Former president Jimmy Carter recently referred to the US as “the most warlike nation in the history of the world.” America has been at peace for only 16 of its 242 years as a nation, he pointed out. Racking up such a history of belligerence implies quite a bit of bullying!


To begin with, before calling ourselves the land of the free we had to manage the holocaust of the native peoples that lived here for thousands of years.  Creating a new nation with its new laws and ideals called for a staggering amount of bullying.  The budding American state had to extinguish indigenous cultures, languages, and of course, millions of lives.  


We are now talking about bullying on a grand scale.  It becomes more pervasive and more devastating. The new technological society begins to bully the Earth itself.  We have so polluted and overheated the planet that climate catastrophe now threatens to bring down world civilization, along with countless forms of life. Technology is indeed marvelous, but it’s also an omnipresent bully.


The American history of slavery in building the wealth of the young nation required enormous, unrelenting , and systematic bullying.  And apart from the Emancipation Proclamation, the bullying of black people continues to be part of the American way of life.  If we factor in the reality of the racism, sexism, and pathological indifference to truth found in the highest echelons of power, we have to conclude that bullying, and all it connotes, is ingrained in the American psyche.


What fires up the bully? Two items stand out. One is difference; the second is any sign of weakness or vulnerability. These pretty much apply to the range of bully victims: women, indigenous people, dark-skinned people, foreigners, immigrants, refugees, queers, disabled people; strange, solitary, crazy, eccentric, sensitive people—to give a few examples.


Bullying, a versatile monster, has been a drag on the history of the human experiment.  It’s an obstacle to the evolution of our species.  What then is to be done? The problem of bullying is a problem with the perception of difference. Take the binary notion of black/white, implying mutual exclusivity.  It’s an abstraction in our heads that you won’t find it in the real world. 


When I look around I never see black or white people; I see a spectrum of infinite nuances, shades of dark brown, tan, pale pink, sallow, and so on.   I’ve seen ‘black’ people with lighter skin than the average white person and ‘white’ persons I’d call swarthy.   The simplistic opposition doesn’t exist in nature. 


All we need do is open our eyes, use all our senses, and notice that all people are colored!  A world in which all our senses were fully active and awake would appear extraordinary to us; its wonder, beauty, and variety would attract not frighten us into becoming bullies.


Bullying is an attempt to compensate for feeling like an isolated particle of conscious ego surrounded by an alien universe. What’s needed is an expansion of consciousness, not an expansion of power over other people.  What’s missing is a sense of the unity of life, a sense that the diversity of the world, its people, landscapes, collective wisdom.  Missing is the awareness of the one transcendent consciousness.  No one perspective is absolute; all perspectives are complementary. With a little thought and a greater consciousness, identity in difference is the liberating conclusion we come away with. 









Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Dreams, Hyperspace, and Levitation


Dreams are an important key to the mysteries of our mental life. We spend about a third of our lives sleeping and dreaming.  A third of our existence is an altered state of consciousness. We cycle back and forth between the different worlds of dream and waking. Humans are metaphysical amphibians.What’s going on here?


We underrate the dream portion of our existence. Dreams have shaped my life and taught me important things.  When I was a young philosophy teacher, I began to dream of paintings (pretty good it seemed).  I’d wake up, surprised and grateful, for what seemed like a great show. Then it occurred to me that “I” was the painter of all my dream paintings.  I had half given it up, but I started to paint again; I have never dreamed of a painting since.  Dreams taught me that I needed to keep painting, a way of staying in touch with my soul.  (If curious, check out (


Dreams kept surprising me, and threw my idea of time into disarray. Precognition, for example, when I had three accurate dreams of the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan in 1981—before the actual event.  Dreams have twice afforded me reason to believe in life after death. (Twice I’ve been attacked by obnoxious ghosts—very interesting!)  I have levitated in dreams, soared like a bird into the blue sky; I have met a great Being of Light in a dream as I lugged a boat up a mountain. I received a life-transforming lesson on music and the art of living from Hubert Laws, the great jazz flutist. In a dream he told me that all I needed was a small breath.  Then he said, “It’s there.” I blew a note on my dream-flute, and a big sound spread out like a giant wave in all directions.


The dream state is often connected with paranormal events.  Joseph of Copertino’s ecstatic levitations are a major challenge to physics.[i] How is levitation possible?  Joseph would say: Love God in heaven and fly!  According to physicist Hal Putoff, Einstein proved levitation was possible by showing that space and time are not absolutes.  Physical space can be bent, is malleable, i.e, by change of mass. But how Joseph or Saint Teresa of Avila in a state if ecstasy bend physical space and suspend gravity—in short, levitate—that remains a mystery.


The dream state may offer a clue.  We have experiences in our dreams that we can recall. We can say they occur in dream space.  For example, I have experienced flying  in my dream space. Where am I? Nowhere on Earth. Real? It felt more vividly real than anything in normal waking life.  But what about Joseph’s and St. Teresa’s  levitations?


Nobody is astonished by flying dreams. Joseph dreaming that he levitates is acceptable to established science.  But how do we explain his public, apparently physical levitations?  Suppose that people who witnessed Joseph levitate were actually viewing his dream that he was levitating.  That would be possible if we assume that when Joseph went into ecstasy his dream space and the physical space of his witnesses blend into one complex space, in which the properties of both spaces were retained. Joseph, we can say, achieved a certain inner mental state (ecstasy) that caused the transient compaction of dream space and physical space.   


Physicist Bernard Carr has developed a theory of hyperspace that integrates mind and matter and accounts for our higher mental life, mystical and paranormal.[ii] What  got me thinking was Carr’s notion that two distinct dimensions of space and their distinct properties could be compacted into one new dimension, in which the properties of each are retained. Joseph thus behaves as if in a dream before the waking eyes of astonished spectators.  The explanation I’m suggesting implies the possibility of the welding together of dream space and waking physical space


There are, in fact,  states of mind in which we seem simultaneously awake and dreaming: lucid dreaming, hypnagogia, and somnambulism.  The internal boundary between waking and dream space is by no means absolute.  I can be awake watching a movie after dinner and slide in an instant into seeing dream images or blanking out.


The philosophers C. D. Broad and H.H.Price have suggested that our dream life continues below the threshold of awareness during our waking hours.  If so, not only do we periodically slip in and out of our waking and dreaming worlds in cycles during sleep, but we may also find ourselves in both worlds at the same time. The moment we dip below the threshold of ordinary wakefulness, the scene can radically change.


If in fact, as Broad, Price, and Carr suggest, our conscious mental life occupies a space in some sense adjacent to dream space, we are asking how we might breach the barrier and induce compaction of the two spaces, which would allow levitation to manifest in physical space.


Ecstasy or possession displace the everyday personality.  It seems that in this state of mind—where normal consciousness is swept aside—the possessed person begins to talk in languages never learned, and the ecstatic rises dreamlike into the air unhinged from gravity.  The drastic change of consciousness releases the transcendent influx—be it levitation, xenoglossy, or whatever.   


Our normal personalities are the enemies of our higher selves.  But friendship is possible.  Starting a conversation with our dream self might bear fruit. Take from science and religion what we can; then find our own path to ecstasy and creative self-oblivion.

[i] See my The Man Who Could Fly and Wings of Ecstasy.

[ii] See Bernard Carr’s Hyperspatial models of matter and mind, Ch. 7 in Beyond Physicalism: Toward Reconciliation of  Science and Spirituality.  Eds. Kelly, F. E. Crabtree, A., Marshall, P.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Imagining a Renovated Humanity

Every now and then I experience something most people (including myself) think is impossible.  When the impossible lays a hand on you, it can force open your mind,    your belief-system, your imagination. It happens to me sporadically and unpredictably. A few examples.


I once met a lady who told me she had a knack for slipping out of her body and traveling about.  I invited her to prove it by leaving her body and coming to visit me some time. She laughed. She’d never been to my house, I should add. One morning about a week later, I woke up and found my music-stand moved from its usual place to the middle of the living room.  There was no one in my apartment but me, so I assumed I unconsciously moved it myself.


But later in the day I got a phone call from the out-of-body lady.  “How do you like the new furniture arrangement?” she asked.  “What are you talking about?” She then explained that last night she slid out of her body, thought of me with the intention of a visit.  She then found herself looking at me sitting at my kitchen table, reading. (Correct; I was there, nose in a book.) She tried to catch my attention but the invisible, intangible lady made no impression on me. This miffed her and she looked around my apartment, noticed my music-stand and somehow managed to move it into the living room—where I found it in the morning. Mystery solved; bigger mystery of how she did it—unsolved.  


I could go on with my experiences, including the day I conducted an experiment in which four female students by an effortless light-touch levitated a two-hundred pound ex-marine as far as they could reach up with their hands. A class full of students and another teacher witnessed this. One more slap in my philosophical face. These and more weirdness drove me to scope out the world of magic, miracle, and the supernormal.   


At first I focused on levitation, and wrote two books about the most famous frequent flyer (Joseph of Copertino).  A wider terrain of research into extraordinary human experiences opened up for me.  The more I looked the more I was astonished by the range of human potential.  In a sketch of the big picture, I wrote Smile of the Universe: Miracles in an Age of Disbelief.


Based on my experience and research an intuition gradually formed in my mind. There are laws of physics and chemistry that constrain us; but there are other laws about our expansion and transcendence. Piecing together an image of the possible human, an extraordinary being emerges.


Let’s call our new human, Newperson (NP).  Physically, Newperson won’t move around space the way we do.  Transportation will not depend on fossil fuels, a step toward the restoration of the nature that we have despoiled.  NP will levitate, bilocate, apport (pass through solid matter), and teleport.  Materialization and dematerialization of matter will be possible. NP’s body may be elongated, emanate strange fragrances, be impervious to pain, invulnerable to fire.


The evolved human being we are constructing from data will differ from us biologically.  Food lovers may recoil, but our future human may be inediac: able to live quite well without eating, drinking, or eliminating (the latter will save forests).  Inedia would imply a new attitude toward the natural world, less intrusive and exploitative,  more intimate and cooperative.   So, another step toward “rewilding” the nature we have plundered and poisoned. We will be free to relate to all forms of life in ways more subtle, profound, and useful to the planet.  Many established customs and institutions will wither away when our new species begins to emerge.


More drastic changes await us, as our slumbering super-potentials edge their way into actuality.   In the welter of healing miracles we have evidence that points to extraordinary health; so we are free to imagine that NP will enjoy the kind of health that makes a truly flourishing life possible.


One more point concerning our biological evolution.  If we follow the trend of research on what happens to consciousness after bodily death, we are released into a wider environment of experience.  Once the new consciousness of immortality is  established as universal fact, it’s hard to predict how it will affect our behavior and worldview. Since most of us cower before life in fear of death, I believe the new consciousness will launch a new era of fearless audacity.  


This leads to the third tier of transformative data. We mentioned extrasensory expansion, our enhanced empathic connections with other sentient beings, and freedom from the limits imposed by space and time. But the key to our psychological expansion is the mystical experience. It will occur when our sense of the unity of being begins to unfold. A new love consciousness will lead to dismantling many of the institutions we are ready to die for today—e.g., like the right to unbounded gun ownership.


The data I have collected point to a model of renovated humanity.  But when, how, or if ever the New Person emerges on our bedeviled planet is another question. Forming a picture of what is possible may at least keep hope alive.  How to use that hope to induce the necessary transformation is another question.

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