When I recently posted news about a mummified monk, a reader sent me a link on Twitter pointing out another fascinating, related news story. In this case, a CT scan of a statue of Buddha which showed the remains of a 12th century Chinese monk were sealed within it:
In Amersfoort's main hospital, Meander Medical Centre, the nearly thousand year old mummy has been recently examined with a CT scan and an endoscope. Several hospital employees helped with this unique project in their free time. A gastrointestinal and liver doctor took samples of yet unidentified material and examined the thoracic and abdominal cavities.
The hospital: "He made a spectacular discovery: at the place where once had been organs, he found, among all kinds of rotten material, paper scraps that were printed with ancient Chinese characters."
Click on through for the full story, including a wonderful image that makes it look like the Buddha is giving birth...
(hat tip: @gaborcsigas)
If there's one thing better than Forteana, it's alliterative Forteana! So check out this mummified meditating Mongolian monk mystery posted at BBC News:
A mummified monk found preserved in Mongolia last week has been baffling and astounding those who uncovered him. Senior Buddhists say the monk, found sitting in the lotus position, is in a deep meditative trance and not dead.
Forensic examinations are under way on the remains, found wrapped in cattle skins in north-central Mongolia.
Scientists have yet to determine how the monk is so well-preserved, though some think Mongolia's cold weather could be the reason. But Dr Barry Kerzin, a physician to Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, told the Siberian Times that the monk was in a rare state of meditation called "tukdam".
"If the meditator can continue to stay in this meditative state, he can become a Buddha," Dr Kerzin said.
The mummified/meditating monk was found after a man stole him and tried to sell him on the black market. The cadaver/near-Buddha is now being held securely at Mongolia's National Centre of Forensic Expertise.
At the railway station in India's northern city of Kanpur, a monkey was seriously electrocuted after stepping on a live wire. The incident would have surely ended on a gruesome fate for the little primate, if it wasn't for one of his furry friends, who came to the rescue:
It is incidents like these which throw a monkey wrench (pardon the pun) on the whole 'selfish gene' notion promoted by neo-Darwinists like Dawkins and the like, who keep insisting that Evolution is spurred by violent competition; when in fact scientists like the late Lynn Margulis have proposed much more accurate evolutionary models founded on the concept of Symbiogenesis.
So next time you see someone in need of help, be a good ape and lend him or her a hand... or a tail.
[UPDATE: Conner Habib has chimed in to point out that the monkey's heroism may have more to do with Mutualism (Cooperation) than Symbiogenesis --even though the latter is a scientific theory, and the other isn't. A fair point, yet the idea of mentioning Margulis was only to underscore how there are better ways to explain Nature than the 'dog-eat-dog' world proposed by Neo-Darwinists.
In (take a breath before reading this out loud) DMT and the Soul of Prophecy: A New Science of Spiritual Revelation in the Hebrew Bible (Amazon US), Strassman looks at the striking similarities between the visions of Hebrew prophets - including Ezekiel, Moses, Adam, and Daniel - and the experiences reported by the volunteers of his DMT studies. Strassman proposes a new model of consciousness and visionary experiences -- theoneurology, in which the Divine can communicate with us through DMT. Strassman's model is a counterpoint to neurotheology, and will no doubt rock the boat of neuroscience.
It promises to be a fascinating read, and a sample chapter available here certainly whets the appetite. If Mitch Schultz (who made a terrific film based on Dr Strassman's book) is considering a sequel, I reckon DMT 2: Hebrew Boogaloo would be a good title.
Good googly moogly! Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, TED's favorite heretic scientist, was on the JRE podcast last Tuesday. He discussed with Joe everything from morphic resonance --which might be responsible for the passing of fears and talents from parents to their children-- experiments showing telepathic abilities in humans and animals, to the possibility of perceiving future events a few seconds beforehand.
Of course this being the Joe Rogan Experience, psychedelic substances and the visionary experiences they elicit were one of the main subjects, and Sheldrake was certainly up for the task --nothing less should be expected from someone whose first DMT experience was shared with Terence McKenna ;)
But also Sheldrake shared his life journey from being an atheist & a hardcore materialist in his early years --the sort of profile you were supposed to have if you cared about Science-- to realizing there had to be something more than genes in order to explain the complexity exhibited by all life forms; how he later started to practice transcendental meditation & yoga, dabbled with acid for a while, and later traveled to India where he joined an ashram run by a Catholic priest, where he re-embraced the Anglican faith in which he was raised by his family; it was Anglicanism which suited better his ideas of a spiritual life on a collective level, and trying to improve the lives of your community, instead of "seeking out your own personal enlightenment" the way his Hindu colleagues kept advising him. One gets the sense it is out of this yearning that he decided to become a public figure and write books in order to start a much-needed discussion about seeking a way out of the Materialism adopted by Science in the last 2 centuries --even when his books being considered suitable for a bonfire in the eyes of his most strident critics.
One of the highlights in the conversation was when Rupert discussed his experiments involving the sense of being stared at, which was something nobody had bother to look into until he was started to run tests in the eighties. He soon discovered most people register results slightly above chance, but what surprised him was when he tried the same experiment with his young son Merlin, who was then 4 years old: Merlin got an astounding 100% accuracy. At his insistence he switched places with his dad, and when he realized you could actually get it wrong sometimes, that's when the possibility of failure crept in his awareness; afterwards Merlin would only get a 75% accuracy when tested --which is still pretty 'magical' if you ask me!
All in all, a very enjoyable conversation. Rogan has become one of the most influential persons in the Internet --he's not called 'the podfather' by his friends for nothing-- and I'm sure this was the 1st time that thousands of listeners got the chance to be introduced to the work of Sheldrake, a scientist who I believe will be remembered as a sort of modern Copernicus by later generations --though probably the skeptic community would rather he became the next Giordano Bruno...
Better known by his initials, Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar is one of the world's best-known yoga gurus. As the New York Times wrote in a 2002 profile, "Perhaps no one has done more than Mr. Iyengar to bring yoga to the West." In 2004, Time recognized his global influence, naming him one of the world's most influential living people. His 1966 book Light on Yoga contains detailed instructions on how to perform more than 200 poses, according to Yoga Journal, and remains influential. That magazine has referred to Light on Yoga as the "Bible" of yoga.
For a glimpse of Iyengar in action, see the video below, filmed in 1977 (when he would have been around 58 years of age).
There is little doubt that in centuries past the condition we now know as schizophrenia would have been diagnosed as demonic possession. But that idea is also the topic of an article in the latest issue of The Journal of Religion and Health. In the article, Dr. Kemal Irmak, of the High Council of Science, Gulhane Military Medical Academy, Ankara, Turkey, interprets the way in which diagnosed schizophrenics talk about their thoughts, feelings and surroundings being 'controlled' by other forces, in a surprising way:
The most common delusion types are as follows: “My feelings and movements are controlled by others in a certain way” and “They put thoughts in my head that are not mine.” Hallucinatory experiences are generally voices talking to the patient or among themselves. Hallucinations are a cardinal positive symptom of schizophrenia which deserves careful study in the hope it will give information about the pathophysiology of the disorder. We thought that many so-called hallucinations in schizophrenia are really illusions related to a real environmental stimulus.
One approach to this hallucination problem is to consider the possibility of a demonic world. Demons are unseen creatures that are believed to exist in all major religions and have the power to possess humans and control their body. Demonic possession can manifest with a range of bizarre behaviors which could be interpreted as a number of different psychotic disorders with delusions and hallucinations. The hallucination in schizophrenia may therefore be an illusion—a false interpretation of a real sensory image formed by demons. A local faith healer in our region helps the patients with schizophrenia. His method of treatment seems to be successful because his patients become symptom free after 3 months. Therefore, it would be useful for medical professions to work together with faith healers to define better treatment pathways for schizophrenia.
(via Improbable Research)
We've covered a few of Jason Silva's "Shots of Awe" here on the Grail over the past couple of years. But if you're going to do 'awe', then you've got to go big, and in this latest monologue Jason scales things up to star size, contemplating the light- and life-giving presence that is our Sun. So much awe in fact that you can begin to understand how you might form a religion based on it...
More Jason Silva monologues:
Brooklyn-based photographer Joey L. has photographed movie stars including Robert de Niro and Jennifer Lawrence, but perhaps his most breath-taking images are of quite a different subject: Holy Men of the world.
Starting in Northern Ethiopia, Joey has traveled the world searching for wandering monks and spiritualists. The latest installment of his Holy Men series features holy men, or sadhus, living in Varanasi, India. All of the world’s faiths have their own forms of ascetics, but the ascetics of the Hindu faith are known for sometimes extreme acts of self-denial, such as keeping a single arm aloft for months or even years.
Most of the portraits focuses on aghori, a sect known for engaging in postmortem rituals such as covering themselves in human ashes, meditating on corpses or crafting jewelry from human bones. “The Aghori have a profound connection with the dead. Death is not a fearsome concept, but a passing from the world of illusion,” says the photographer. Joey’s travel companion, filmmaker Cale Glendening, also managed to capture enough behind-the-scenes footage to turn it into a beautiful documentary film called “Beyond”. which you can see below.
(via Bored Panda)
The story so far... Guided by a chain of synchronicity, much of which revolving around the number 23, Daisy Eris Campbell, daughter of Ken Campbell (who staged the 10-hour production of The Illuminatus! Trilogy in Liverpool in the 1970’s) and Prunella Gee (who played, among others, The Goddess Eris in that production - Daisy was conceived backstage) is on a mission to adapt Robert Anton Wilson’s autobiography Cosmic Trigger: Final Secret Of The Illuminati for the stage. Aided by Wilson aficionado John Higgs (of this parish) and many others, she raises the funds to secure the rights to the book, finds a gang of actors and artists ready to face the challenge, and writes the script. Now, with yet more synchronicity haunting her path, she takes her gang to Liverpool to ask an assembly of Wilson fans the Big Question - ‘shall we pull the Cosmic Trigger here, in this most symbolic of cities?’
Now read on...
There is a bust of Carl Gustav Jung on Liverpool’s Mathew Street, just down the road from the site of the Cavern Club, where The Beatles first played. It’s there because in 1927 Jung had an exceptionally vivid dream about Liverpool, a city which at the time he had never visited - a dream which changed his life. He recounts the dream in his autobiography ‘Memories, Dreams, Reflections’, on page 223, thus:
I was in Liverpool.
With a number of Swiss - say half a dozen - I walked through the dark streets.
The various quarters of the city were arranged radially around the square. In the centre was a round pool, and in the middle of it, a small island. While everything around was obscured by rain, fog, smoke and dimly lit darkness, the little island blazed with sunlight. On it stood a single tree, a magnolia, in a sea of reddish blossoms.
It was as though the tree stood in the sunlight and was, at the same time, the source of light...This dream represented my situation at the time. I can still see the greyish-yellow raincoats, glistening with the wetness of the rain.
Everything was extremely unpleasant, black and opaque - just as I felt then. But I had had a vision of unearthly beauty, and that was why I was able to live at all.
Liverpool is the ‘pool of life'.
The ‘liver', according to an old view, is the seat of life - that which "makes to live".
The bust was placed by the alleged site where Jung’s dream was focussed, and it has become a place of reverence for Jung aficionados. As of Sunday 23rd February 2014 of the Common Era, that bust has a pair of rainbow-coloured knickers on his head.
The gathering at the Kazimer Club to preview and publicise Daisy Campbell’s adaptation of Cosmic Trigger was something I simply had to attend. Robert Anton Wilson’s work was more than a formative influence on me - it’s one of the main reasons I survived to adulthood and became what I am today. I’d been fortunate enough to be in the audience for the previous London-based gathering regarding the project and had been blown away: both by Daisy’s enthusiasm and commitment to not only doing this project but doing it right and, to judge by the brief scene which had previewed that night (a meeting at the Playboy offices between Wilson, Alan Watts and his wife, and William S. Burroughs), the skill and verve with which which she and her crew were pulling it off. The involvement of our very own John Higgs, whose works on Leary and the KLF are also helping the revival of Wilson’s ideas along, sealed the deal. The fact that the event would also feature exclusive video material from Alan Moore talking about his love of Wilson’s work was very tasty icing indeed.
And... I had this idea.
One of Daisy’s major symbols for her own journey in and out of Chapel Perilous is a pair of rainbow knickers that she wore on her head when briefly enjoying the care of a mental health facility, a result of being pulled too fast along the stream of synchronicity begun before she was even born. Her intention was to hold a street ritual to call on those powers in the service of bringing the Cosmic Trigger project to full flower, and place those same knickers on the bust of Jung.
I had an inkling that there was another significant power in regard to harnessing the power of synchronicity who could be called upon: a creation of Alan Moore, a son of Liverpool, a master of the Caper (a key phrase Ken Campbell used to describe his work)... John Constantine. I thought that maybe, with Daisy’s permission, a quick word with The Laughing Magician would not be out of place.
...but more on that later.
I arrived about an hour early for the gig, and decided to have a wander around the nearby streets - it’s been years since I’ve been to Liverpool and it’s always good to get a city thoroughly back under your feet after a long absence. As I wandered, this is what I saw drawn on the wall opposite the Kazimer:
(The guy's headgear even resembles Ken Campbell's habitual pork pie hat!)
Literally round the corner from there was this:
A good start!
The Kazimer event itself - a pretty full house - consisted of John and Daisy each talking about their involvement in Wilson’s work, Liverpool and what, for want of a better term, one might call The 23 Current. Both were entertaining, funny and profound (which, if you’ve seen the videos linked above of the previous event, is no shock). The three Alan Moore video excerpts had The Greatest Living Englishman in fine form, talking about his affinity with Wilson’s point of view in regards to the essential silliness of conspiracy theories as compared to the actual reality of how conspiracies happen, and a fascinating retelling of his first conscious act of magic after declaring himself a magician on his 40th birthday. In this (psilocybin-aided) act, Moore had a vision of the greatest dead mages of history - the likes of John Dee, Aleister Crowley, Austin Osman Spare and such - as well as shadowy figures who appeared to have animal heads. In the middle of this gathering, who Moore took to be the ranks of the Illuminated, sat Robert Anton Wilson - who at the time was very much alive. This vision influenced his later work (and perspectives on time) greatly, and it was a pleasure to hear that tale from his own lips. There was also a guest appearance from The Goddess Eris Herself (played with tremendous verve by Claudia Egypt) in a scratch retelling of the story of The Apple Of Discord.
After an interval, Daisy introduced a scene from the show in its first live performance - typically of her audacity and drive, it was the most technically difficult scene in the play, and performed by a cast of whom half had been found locally specifically for the evening and who had barely a day to rehearse.
It was stunning.
The scene depicts Wilson’s first LSD trip: starting with a quiet domestic scene between Wilson (played by Oliver Senton, a veteran of Ken Campbell’s The Warp adaptation and other capers) and his wife Arlen (Kate Alderton) before Wilson drops acid, it rapidly spirals out into a brief re-enactment of the scene in Illuminatus! where Joe Malik (Senton-as-Wilson-as-Malik) is initiated by Simon Moon ('Tall' Paul Robinson) into the mysteries of the 23 Enigma, and from there into an extravaganza of symbolism, initiation and terror, featuring complex staging, two songs (music by Richard Kilgour) and the spirit of Albert Hoffman (Trev Fleming) pedalling past on first a bicycle, then a tricycle. The scene ended with Wilson being soothed from his terrors by his young-but-wise daughter Luna (Katy-Anne Bellis) - which, since I know how the story ends, had me in floods of tears.
(Picture by John Higgs)
If this is what Daisy’s vision of Cosmic Trigger will be like, it should be just as mighty as her father’s Illuminatus!, yet something apart, something of its own times, which I can only hope can bring the optimistic, multi-model perspective Wilson embodied back to a world that sorely needs it.
At the end, Daisy asked the question - should we pull the Cosmic Trigger in Liverpool, on the Discordian Holy Day of 23 November this year? The answer was a resounding YES.
After that, inevitably, was a trip to the nearest pub. And there’s very little more fun in this world than drinking with Scousers. The gathering included some old hands from Liverpool’s underground scene - including the elder statesman Peter O'Halligan, who was responsible not only for creating The Liverpool School of Language, Music, Dream and Pun on Mathew Street where Ken first staged Illuminatus!, but also the Jung bust we were about to pay homage to.
I’d had a word with Higgs, who’d had a word with Daisy... who met up with me in the pub, agreed that calling on Constantine was not just apt, but useful... and asked me to do that short ritual as the opening act before her ceremonial Placing Of The Rainbow Knickers. I agreed - with some nervousness.
(I should point out that, not unlike Alan Moore and Jamie Delano before me, I had noticed a guy who bore a striking resemblance to Constantine in the audience. Well, a bloke dressed the same, suit and shabby raincoat - he was bald, so maybe it was the variation known as Jack Carter. Never got the chance to say hi... )
The group of us who still remained - according to local reporter and friend of the 23 Current Angie Sammons, about 50 people - headed along to Mathew Street. It’s a main drag in Liverpool’s city centre and, even on a Sunday night, it was thronging with Beatles buskers and amiable groups of sozzled Scousers. Our cluster of devotees reached Jung’s bust, which had already received a rainbow scarf the month before as a prelude to the working thanks to another local powerhouse, Tommy Calderbank.
Daisy introduced me to the group, and I essayed a short ceremony, calling upon John Constantine’s synchronicity-surfing powers and his cunning (and, very specifically, not his friendship) for all assembled there, with a ceremonial offering of a shared flask of single malt and a pack of Silk Cut, Constantine’s preferred smoke. Then Daisy spoke: calling on that same current which had called Jung’s soul to the Pool Of Life to bring the Cosmic Trigger to be pulled with the fullest effect, and to manifest that same spirit of destiny which had brought her so far... but, as she put it, only “just enough!”. The knickers were placed with the assistance of a rapidly constructed human pyramid (but of course), and we all cheered.
Attracted by our revelry, a few local lads in Liverpool Football Club motley wandered over to investigate. And one of them wore this shirt...
...so the spells kicking in clearly didn’t take long.
The premiere of Daisy Campbell’s production of Cosmic Trigger will take place in Liverpool in a 3 day event, from 21st to 23rd of November 2014 of the Common Era. And, I am willing to bet, Carl Jung’s rainbow-knickered head will smile upon all there.