Festival 23- Convergence of Disco
A brand new outdoor festival celebrating Discordian counter-culture
Taking place on the weekend of July 23 at a secret South Yorkshire location
Artists confirmed so far include Jimmy Cauty, John Higgs, Knifeworld, Super Weird Substance, Richard Norris, Cosmic Trigger cabaret
Already compared by DJ Greg Wilson to the legendary 1967 'Gathering of the Tribes,' Festival 23 is not just a music festival. Neither is it an arts, literature, theatre, film or poetry festival. It's none of these things and it's all of them. It is everything that you imagine it to be. Inspired by the exhortations of the late, great Ken Campbell, organisers Notwork 23 are setting out not to make money or to lose money, but to do something heroic!
Festival 23 is a celebration and exploration of contemporary counter-culture, inspired by generations of radical artists and writers, from William Burroughs to Alan Moore, Alan Watts to Robert Anton Wilson. The focus for these energies is Discordianism; a joke disguised as a religion, or a religion disguised as a joke, most famously popularised by Bob Shea & Robert Anton Wilson's Illuminatus! -the ultimate cult novel series- itself adapted into an infamous nine-hour play in 1976 by maverick theatre director, actor, writer and genius Ken Campbell.
As a member of the KLF, Jimmy Cauty re-introduced Discordian ideas to a new generation in the late eighties and early nineties. We're overjoyed that he'll be bringing his acclaimed art installation, The Aftermath Dislocation Principle (ADP), to Festival 23.
In 2014, Ken Campbell's daughter Daisy Campbell brought Robert Anton Wilson's Illuminatus sequel Cosmic Trigger to the stage, acting as a powerful catalyst for the current Discordian revival. Daisy will be leading Cosmic Trigger's cast and crew, including poet Salena Godden, in a cosmic cabaret that will take over Festival 23's main stage on the Sunday night.
Writer John Higgs has also brought Discordian-related ideas to a wider audience with his books The KLF: Chaos, Magic And The Band Who Burned A Million Pounds, and Stranger Than We Can Imagine: Making Sense Of The 21st Century. At Festival 23 John will be delivering a new talk entitled Ziggy Blackstar and the Art of Becoming.
Headline musical acts include psychedelic/progressive rock titans Knifeworld, a full live set from Super Weird Substance (featuring legendary DJ Greg Wilson and Ruthless Rap Assassins/ Black Grape member Kermit, who will also both be performing separately), Richard Norris (The Grid, Circle Sky, Beyond the Wizard's Sleeve, Time and Space Machine, Psychic TV), Pete Woosh (DIY), AOS3 and Cowtown. Also confirmed so far are Barringtone, Bloom, Giblet, Horton Jupiter and Map 71.
Plus: films, rituals, esoteric workshops, poetry, theatre, art installations and more, including Puppet Alan Watts- part of the Future Zen Variety Show- and the Milk the Cow podcast crew, who will be producing an exclusive radio podcast onsite.
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/539494706224186/
If you're likely to die at some point in the next century, I highly recommend this interesting TEDx talk by undertakers Claire and Ru Callender, who are calling out the 'corporate' funeral industry and suggesting we reinvent the way we send off our dearly departed (and ourselves when it gets to that point).
Claire and Ru Callender are self taught, award winning ceremonial undertakers and sextons who set up The Green Funeral Company in 2000. Their stripped back, naturalistic approach is informed by their own experiences of bereavement and the unsatisfactory funerals that followed, and their practice has unusual and diverse influences including the natural death movement, rave culture, Quakerism, hospices, punk, and crop circles.
They aim to create rituals that are practical, satisfying and unique but feel profound and genuine, and their intentions can be summed up in three words: Honesty, appropriateness and participation.
They have strong feelings about the funeral industry, particularly embalming, current cremation practice and design, family disempowerment, corporate takeovers, assembly line rituals, faux Victorian aesthetics, inappropriate religious services and exploitative and unnecessary prepayment schemes.
You can read more about Claire and Ru's thoughts in this Vice magazine interview from last year.
The good folk at the Institute for Noetic Sciences (IONS) has posted the lovely short video above in honour of the passing of their founder, Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell. As they explain in "In Memoriam: Edgar Mitchell, ScD, PhD", Edgar Mitchell's view of the heavens on the journey home from the Moon delivered an epiphany, inspiring him to create IONS as a research centre that could deliver "a new story of who we are and what we are capable of becoming".
From the video:
I had completed my major task for going to the Moon, and was on my way home, and was observing the heavens and the Earth from this distance...
As we were rotating I saw the Earth, the Sun, the Moon, and a 360 degree panorama of the heavens. The magnificence of all of this - what this triggered, in the ancient Sanskrit, is called samadhi. It means that you see things with your senses the way they are, but you experience them viscerally and internally as a unity and a one-ness, accompanied by ecstasy.
All matter in our universe is created in star systems. And so the matter in my body, and the matter in the spacecraft, and the matter in my partner's bodies, was the product of stars.
We are star-dust, and we're all one in that sense.
The Cult of Mary: How Supernatural Apparitions and Miracle Healings Led to Veneration of the Mother of JesusPosted by Greg at 00:01, 22 Nov 2015
The cover story for the latest edition of National Geographic. "How the Virgin Mary Became the World's Most Powerful Woman", looks at the rise of the 'cult' of the Virgin Mary, specifically through the lens of the miraculous/supernatural/Fortean apparitions of - and 'healings' by - the mother of Jesus throughout history. Award-winning journalist Maureen Orth looks at how the iconic religious figure has permeated Western culture (as well as Islamic culture to some extent as well), and how alleged miracles in her name provide sustenance to her on-going mythos:
Mary is everywhere: Marigolds are named for her. Hail Mary passes save football games. The image in Mexico of Our Lady of Guadalupe is one of the most reproduced female likenesses ever. Mary draws millions each year to shrines such as Fátima, in Portugal, and Knock, in Ireland, sustaining religious tourism estimated to be worth billions of dollars a year and providing thousands of jobs. She inspired the creation of many great works of art and architecture (Michelangelo’s “Pietà,” Notre Dame Cathedral), as well as poetry, liturgy, and music (Monteverdi’s Vespers for the Blessed Virgin). And she is the spiritual confidante of billions of people, no matter how isolated or forgotten.
Praying for the Virgin Mary's and being devoted to her are a global phenomenon. The notion of Mary as intercessor with Jesus begins with the miracle of the wine at the wedding at Cana, when, according to the Gospel of John, she tells him, “They have no wine,” thus prompting his first miracle. It was in A.D. 431, at the Third Ecumenical Council, in Ephesus, that she was officially named Theotokos, Bearer of God. Since then no other woman has been as exalted as Mary. As a universal symbol of maternal love, as well as of suffering and sacrifice, Mary is often the touchstone of our longing for meaning, a more accessible link to the supernatural than formal church teachings. Her mantle offers both security and protection. Pope Francis, when once asked what Mary meant to him, answered, “She is my mamá.”
Her reported appearances, visions experienced often by very poor children living in remote or conflict-wracked areas, have intensified her mystery and aura. And when the children can’t be shaken from their stories—especially if the accounts are accompanied by inexplicable “signs” such as spinning suns or gushing springs—her wonder grows
Apparitions of the Virgin Mary have been reported throughout post-New Testament history, but in the last 450 years alone there have been more than 2000 reported sightings (see the map below for a graphic representation - the National Geographic story has a larger version for ease of viewing).
The Catholic Church however is very careful in officially recognising such events, with only sixteen of those being sanctioned as true miracles. Their pain-staking process of investigation covers many aspects of each sighting, though "the 'authenticity' and mental stability of the seer are prime, and anyone suspected of trying to gain fame or riches from contact with the Virgin Mary is ignored or condemned". Furthermore, "the Vatican would never approve an alleged apparition whose message contradicted church teachings, and the faithful aren’t required to believe in apparitions."
The locations of apparitions and healings, such as Lourdes and Medjugorje, have become famous the world over.
Here's a video made by National Geographic to accompany their story, "Five things to know about Marian apparitions":
One aspect unfortunately not covered in the story is the Fortean interpretation - are these apparitions actually Christian/Islamic, or are they something else, simply being interpreted through that lens? Jacques Vallee covered some of these thoughts in his book Passport to Magonia, in which he discusses VM apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, and another at Knock in Ireland, and how some elements also match those found in sightings of other strange phenomena, such as UFOs and 'fairy folk', throughout history. (I also specifically covered the similarity in 'sounds' heard during these sightings in my article "Her Sweet Murmur: Exploring the aural phenomenology of border experiences".) From spinning disks to falls of 'angel hair', there are some distinctly strange aspects to a number of 'Virgin Mary' apparitions.
An interesting article nonetheless, although one can only wonder how much criticism it might receive from scientific quarters given recent concerns that Rupert Murdoch's acquisition of National Geographic, and the subsequent cuts to staff within the organisation, might lead to a less scientific approach from the iconic science magazine.
In our present culture, growing old is viewed as an hourglass tragically running out of sand. For an old Danish mariner it means becoming "full of days," and hence the opposite.
This Must Be the Place is a touching reflection about how a life well lived can only result in a good death.
Have YOU found your place yet?
I was born and raised a Catholic. As a Mexican, there's nothing exceptional about that; but there was a time in my life when I was really committed to my Catholicism. I went to Mass (gladly!), took Communion, despaired when I had 'unclean thoughts' --which was pretty much *all* the time-- walked dozens of miles to see pope John II at San Juan de los Lagos --I was so tired I slept through most of the Eucharist-- and even went with a group made of fellow high-school students to a few 'evangelization journeys' at some of the poorest communities in Mexico.
And, for a little while, I seriously considered the possibility of taking the vows to become a priest.
Eventually I became evermore disenchanted with the church --even though to this day I still hold a special fascination for Jesus, thanks to J.J. Benítez's "Caballo de Troya" novels-- until a day came when I realized in my heart I no longer felt as a Catholic; to the point that nowadays I can barely stand being inside a church during one of the usual social events my family drags me to.
As a renegade Catholic, you keep telling yourself that you 'smartened up', and finally opened your eyes about the many things in the religious dogma which doesn't make any kind of sense; you also tell yourself that if someone decides to remain in the church, is because they haven't yet looked hard enough to those logical fallacies, thus suffering some sort of cognitive dissonance. Some people even have a complete 180° and become rabid anti-religious atheists; there's no greater zealot than the late convert...
Which is why it was so interesting for me to listen to Stephen Colbert, one of the smartest Television figures in the world today, discuss with Fr. Thomas Rosica on the video above how much he loves his Catholic faith, and how for him there doesn't seem to be any conflict between it and his intellect. The conversation was recorded on April 1st, for the Salt and Light media organization.
"Logic itself will not lead me to god... but my love of the world and my gratitude toward it will."
In a way it's interesting to think how there seems to be an interesting rapport --see what I did there?-- between Faith and Humor: Both require a fair amount of intelligence --you cannot make a good joke if you don't understand WHAT things are funny-- and yet at the same time both have to be able to transcend rationality --you cannot 'overthink' a joke; it has to be a visceral reaction in order to be funny.
A strange thing to consider, especially in a time in which Religion and Humor have become something of a mortal combination. While Stephen mentions during the interview how he was glad he was not on the air when the Charlie Hebdo news broke --because he wouldn't have been able to respond-- later in the interview he might have inadvertently hit the nail on why the satire of Charlie Hebdo provoked such a caustic reaction, by discussing how according to C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters, 'flippancy' is the only type of humor which doesn't bring joy, and thus moves you away from God.
I also enjoyed how Stephen shares my concept of a Jesus who was laughing all the time.
if Jesus didn't laugh [at Peter falling on the water like Wile E Coyote] then I'm in trouble, because that's the God I worship
Well, I worship a 'God' --however you choose to define 'It'-- who put someone like Stephen Colbert in the same space rock I happen to inhabit at the moment.
New Gods and Monsters - A New Book From Ian 'Cat' Vincent and Daily Grail Publishing To Be Released in 2016Posted by Greg at 14:07, 14 Sep 2015
I'm excited to announce that in 2016 we will be publishing a new book from Ian 'Cat' Vincent on the development of new, strange, myths and religions in the modern world. Darklore readers will no doubt be familiar with Cat's fascinating explorations of the modern Slenderman mythos and 'hyper-real religions' in our recent releases - but now we'll be getting a full-length book treatment from Cat - titled New Gods and Monsters - that will surely blow all of our minds.
Here's a précis of New Gods and Monsters:
“To a new world of gods and monsters!’
-Dr. Pretorius, in The Bride Of Frankenstein
Despite the predictions (and hopes) of some, the early 21st Century of the Common Era is not a time of less religion than before - 85% of the planet’s population profess to hold some religious belief. But... some of those beliefs are a long way from orthodoxy.
As a result of the rise in popular culture in the last century and the increasing speed and density of communications media to carry it, the modern world has a plethora of stories - avowed fictions among them - about religion, myth and magic to chose from. Increasingly, peoples’ beliefs are directly affected by these stories. Some believers take metaphorical comfort and confirmation of their own orthodox beliefs from them, some incorporate part of pop culture into their belief system... and some even take these fictional tales and treat them as the basis of their own new religions.
New Gods And Monsters is the story of these stories - how they began, how they became popular, the influence they can have on us and what they imply for a future seemingly ridden with religious strife.
Super excited about this, can't wait to get it into your hands next year! For a taster of the themes that Cat will be riffing on in New Gods and Monsters, see the embedded talk below on "Science Fiction's Gifts to Paganism" and the 'Sample Articles' page at the Darklore website for his essays on Slenderman and hyper-real religions.
Last week I received a last-minute invitation to join Gene and Chris on The Paracast on Thursday. It was the beginning of a chain of SNAFUs on my part, in which I found myself out of home and unable to return at the appointed hour of our Skype seesion, and couldn't even warn Gene because my phone ran out of battery and megabytes on my data plan --fortunately Gene was kind enough to re-schedule to later in the evening. Chris on his part also suffered problems of his own and couldn't join us (it turned out his good friend, Zuni elder Clifford Mahooty, had a sudden health problem and Chris went to his aid. It seems Clifford is doing much better now and is out of danger, but I'm sure many Grailers will still want to send out his prayers and good wishes to him).
So in the end it was me, Gene and Curt Collins of Blue Blurry Lines who filled in as guest co-host. Despite the initial mishaps --and the occasional technical problem on my end-- it was a delightful conversation which took on a rather weird spin: We started up with the usual UFOlogical subjects --including "the topic that shall not be named", which is how Gene refers to the Roswell slides brouhaha of May 5th-- but then for some reason I can't fully explain --and bear in mind I came to the interview *completely* unprepared, worried only about getting back home on time-- I shifted the chat into deeper and fringier waters, when I mentioned the apparent similarities between near-death experiences (NDEs) and what is commonly referred to as 'alien abductions' --I guess sometimes it pays to 'play it by ear'!
We talked about many other things, in that episode --which you can listen to by clicking here-- but then on the next Friday, Gene sent my a second e-mail asking if I would be interested in writing a little editorial for the Paracast Newsletter, 900-1000 words long, expanding on these overlappings between NDEs and alien encounters.
At first I agreed (since I still felt in debt with Gene for behaving so unprofessionally the day before) not knowing whether I would be able to add anything beyond what I had already mentioned on the interview. Then I had the insight of asking Mike Clelland for help; Mike has been looking into the direct contact experience with a very 'out-of-left-field' approach which would be completely unheard of in uptight organizations like MUFON --that's why I enjoy reading his Hidden Experience blog so much, and also look forward to his upcoming book about owls and alien encounters.
Mike quickly replied back and pointed to a Hidden Experience audio conversation he recorded with Dr. Suzanne Gordon in 2013, which dealt with exactly this kind of criss-crossing correlations, between the type of liminal experiences that are often regarded as independent of each other by traditional investigation --if an NDE subject were to fill a questionnaire prepared by a UFO organization, the results might conclude him to be a an alien abductee, and viceversa. Mike also adviced me to look into the work of NDE researcher Dr. Kenneth Ring, who was among the first to observe these correlations with an open mind --others who were unafraid to look into these overlappings were the late Dr. John Mack, and of course Terence McKenna, the 'Bard' of the psychedelic movement.
With all this I began to expand upon my notes more and more, and then after my mind was 'fully pregnant' with potential I set myself to the task, and did not stop until the 'small' 900-1000 word-long editorial grew into a 4650-word behemoth, which I titled "Charon's Silvery Boat: Overlappings Between Near Death Experiences and UFO/Alien Encounters."
Here's a sample of what I wrote, treating both types of experiences as if they were different manifestations of the same phenomenon:
- The experience transcends national, ethnic, religious or social boundaries. Unlike what Stephen Hawking would have us believe, UFOs are not just seen by crazies and weirdos, and alien abductions are not an exclusively American anomaly --even though the database is currently skewed in favor of that nationality, presumably because that's where it has raised the most attention. Likewise NDEs are reported by people from many different religious backgrounds, including those who had a completely atheistic worldview.
- Despite certain variability, the experience possess a prototypical 'core'. Even though no NDE or UFO/alien encounter is 100% alike --in fact, these type of experiences seem to be deeply personal, and thus hard to convey to a third party -- there's an emerging narrative easy to identify in both NDEs and alien abductions. This uniformity, researchers say, is what makes them hard to dismiss as mere hallucinations --although skeptics would claim the uniformity is the result of either hoaxes or delusions caused by modern cultural 'contamination'; even though these experiences have been reported across different cultures for hundreds, if not thousands of years.
- The experience manifests independently of the subject's volition. With the NDEs there's either a grave illness or a life-threatening accident that brings the individual to the brink of physical death, in a set of circumstances outside of its control. The lack of choice is also shared by alien abductees, who are said to be taken by non-human entities without their consent (the old Contactees of the 50's and 60's might be perceived as an exception to this, and maybe we could say the same if someone experiences an NDE after deliberately attempting suicide).
- The subject experiences a detachment of his physical body (OBE). This sense that the experiencer's consciousness dissociates itself from the regular vantage point of the body, and allows it to observe the surrounding environment from a different POV --i.e. from above the hospital room-- is probably universal in the NDE literature. Although OBEs are rather common in the modern alien abduction/encounter narrative, we cannot claim it's a stereotypical aspect of the experience --in fact, the 'physicality' of abductions is a much contended point in the field; then again, obsessing with 'trace evidence' has not yielded the expected rewards of respectability traditional UFOlogy has sought in the last 60 years…
The rest of it you can get access to by simply subscribing to the Paracast newsletter, free of charge. Once I fulfilled my deadline, Gene invited to continue the discussion we'd started last Thursday, and to discuss my editorial with him and Chris --who could now re-join us once the issue with Clifford had been solved-- on the 'After the Paracast' supplement podcast, which is part of their Paracast+ membership. The monthly or annual subscription fee grants you access to both the 'After the Paracst' catalog, as well as an ad-free version of their regular show --the annual subscription also gets you an e-book version of Chris O'Brien's 'Stalking the Tricksters' [Amazon US & UK]
You will notice the text acquired a 'scholarly' tone that is quite uncharacteristic of my typical writing. Again, this is not something I had originally anticipated, yet evolved 'organically' as I started to work into what I wanted to convey --which, it must be stressed out, is NOT terribly ground-breaking, since I'm only expanding on what other people had already noticed. If anything, I may have been the first guest in The Paracast to talk about NDEs --something in which I DON'T consider myself to be any kind of authority, or particularly versed in-- and discuss how this and other type of mystical experiences hint at our remaining ignorance with regards to hard problem of human consciousness; which I personally believe to be a crucial part of what we inadequately refer to as 'the Paranormal.'
After I submitted my text document to Gene, who proceeded to prepare it for inclusion in the newsletter, I wanted to add another point to my list of implications to our culture these experiences represent: They force us NOT to jump into Conclusions. To me the folly of the first UFO organizations who started to look into the mystery of 'flying saucers', is that they did so with the preconceived premise that these unknown objects are extraterrestrial vessels of some kind, and have therefore tried to FORCE the square UFOlogical data to fit into the round hole of the ETH. Likewise, I think it would equally unwise to look into the ample NDE literature and unilaterally conclude these experiences prove the existence of 'God' and 'Heaven', according to the expectations of religious doctrine --what seems to be going on is far, FAR more complex than that.
What these experiences DO seem to hint at --I refrain to use the word 'prove' at this point-- is that our current materialistic paradigm which equates Mind solely with the biological machinery of the human brain is sorely need of an update; so too is the methodology of UFO organizations, which should let the data lead them into a conclusion, instead of the other way around.
What conclusion that could be, I cannot truly say; yet I suspect NDEs, 'abductions', psychedelic trips and other types of visionary experiences hint to a much disregarded aspect of the human condition. Perhaps looking deeper into these intersections might help us seem them --and ourselves-- on a clearer light.
- The Paracast, Aug. 23, 2015: Red Pill Junkie with Curt Collins
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- Mike Clelland's /Hidden Experience blog
- Curt Collin's Blue Blurry Lines
Throughout human history, our definition of death has varied wildly. Even in the scientific terms of Western culture in recent centuries, we have gone from looking for signs of breath, to signs of heartbeat, through to realising that a person can sometimes be 'brought back' from death more than an hour after the heart has stopped beating.
Resuscitation expert Dr Sam Parnia has noted that the problem is that our concept of death has "traditionally been very black and white" - we have tried to frame death as a certain moment, rather than what it really is: a process.
The Toraja of Indonesia, on the other hand, fully embrace death as a process - though perhaps more in a spiritual sense rather than as part of Parnia's scientific model. For them, death is a transition...and a somewhat lengthy process at that.
The Gale Encyclopedia of Religion notes that Toraja funeral rites can be broken down into four fundamental stages:
During the first, the deceased is said to be ill: Washed, dressed, and adorned, he may be nurtured for as long as a year. Then comes the first festivity, lasting from five to seven days, with sacrifices, lamentations, songs, and dances; this marks the difficult passage from life to death and ends with a provisional interment inside the house. During the following intermediary period, these festivities increase. Finally the ultimate ceremony is performed, requiring several months of preparation during which winding-sheets, cenotaphs, and, most notably, an effigy (the famous tau-tau) are employed, not without ostentation; it concludes with the burial and the installation of the deceased in the beyond.
In case you were wondering: yes, the above means that the Toraja basically continue interacting with the corpses of their loved ones for years, feeding, bathing, and dressing them. In August the Ma'nene ritual is held, during which time corpses are exhumed to be cleaned and fitted out with new clothes, and repairs are made to their coffins. As part of this ritual, before being re-interred the dead are quite literally walked around the village.
And while the Toraja continue interacting with the physical remains of their ancestors for many years, the dead also may communicate with their descendants in another way: in his book, Communing with the Gods, Charles Laughlin notes that the Toraja "sometimes experience their long dead ancestors in dreams, and these experiences are taken to be real."