News Briefs 21-11-2016

Truth in advertising...

Thanks @JohnReppion.

Quote of the Day:

Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.

'1984' (George Orwell)

Near-Death Experiences and the Origin of Afterlife Beliefs

For those that enjoyed my essay on near-death experiences throughout history (expanded upon in my book Stop Worrying, There Probably is an Afterlife), the talk above, "Near-Death Experience and the Origin of Afterlife Beliefs", delivered by Gregory Shushan at the 2016 IANDS conference, will likely be of interest.

Whatever their source (biological, psychological, and/or metaphysical), NDEs are unquestionably part of human experience. While they share similar themes wherever they occur, no two descriptions are exactly alike. As with any experience, NDEs are filtered through our layers of culture, language, and individuality. The interpretation of the phenomenon as indicative of survival after bodily death, however, appears to be universal. Accounts from around the world and throughout history show that NDEs regularly impact beliefs about the afterlife, despite cross-cultural differences. This presentation addresses their role in the formation of afterlife beliefs; the relationship between NDEs and cultural expectations; and the varying modes of interpretation and assimilation of these experiences in different societies. The argument that NDEs are a driving force behind religious beliefs aligns well with the conference’s focus on the transformative aspects of NDEs, and how they are integrated into people’s lives.

News Briefs 18-11-2016

“If you want to change the way people respond to you, change the way you respond to people.”

Quote of the Day:

“The universe is an intelligence test.”

Timothy Leary

News Briefs 17-11-2016

Textbooks, improved...

Quote of the Day:

We have the technological power, the engineering skills to save our planet, to cure disease, to feed the hungry, to end war; But we lack the intellectual vision, the ability to change our minds. We must decondition ourselves from 10,000 years of bad behavior. And, it’s not easy.

Terence McKenna

Graham Hancock and Randall Carlson on the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast

Our good friend Graham Hancock appeared once again on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast yesterday, joined by 'renegade scholar' Randall Carlson for a three and a half hour discussion on ancient cataclysms and lost civilisations. I still haven't got through the whole thing (3.5 hours!), but what I've listened to so far has been a fun and enlightening discussion touching on many of the issues raised in Graham's most recent book, Magicians of the Gods (available from Amazon US and Amazon UK).

News Briefs 16-11-2016

Post-fact...

Quote of the Day:

Culture replaces authentic feeling with words. As an example of this, imagine an infant lying in its cradle, and the window is open, and into the room comes something, marvelous, mysterious, glittering, shedding light of many colors, movement, sound, a transformative hierophany of integrated perception and the child is enthralled and then the mother comes into the room and she says to the child, “that’s a bird, baby, that’s a bird,” instantly the complex wave of the angel peacock iridescent trans-formative mystery is collapsed, into the word. All mystery is gone, the child learns this is a bird, this is a bird, and by the time we’re five or six years old all the mystery of reality has been carefully tiled over with words. This is a bird, this is a house, this is the sky, and we seal ourselves in within a linguistic shell of dis-empowered perception.

Terence McKenna

Gary Lachman Discusses His New Book "Beyond the Robot: The Life and Work of Colin Wilson"

Gary Lachman is one of my favourite writers on the history and philosophies of esotericism (and we're lucky enough to have him contribute here at the Grail periodically on his personal blog). So I really enjoyed sitting down and watching this recent talk Gary gave at Watkins Books in London about his latest book Beyond the Robot: The Life and Work of Colin Wilson. It's got a lovely 'up-close' personal feel to it, as if I was sitting on a folding chair in the front row listening to Gary chat about things.

Gary Lachman, Wilson's friend and biographer, discusses his new book, Beyond the Robot: The Life and Work of Colin Wilson, and take the audience on a tour of Wilson's central ideas.

2016 marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of the existential classic The Outsider, the book that in 1956 threw its twenty-four year old author, Colin Wilson, into fame and achieved worldwide success. Between then and his death in 2013, Wilson wrote an enormous number of books exploring the edgier areas of human psychology - such as his groundbreaking history The Occult (1971) - with gripping analyses of sexuality, criminality, consciousness, the paranormal, and mystical experience, as well as novels like Ritual in the Dark, The Mind Parasites, and The Space Vampires.

You can grab a copy of Beyond the Robot: The Life and Work of Colin Wilson via Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Related: An Excerpt from Beyond the Robot: The Life and Work of Colin Wilson

News Briefs 15-11-2016

GOAT...

Quote of the Day:

The problem is not to find the answer, it is to face the answer.

Terence McKenna

Speculations on the Physics of Alien Spaceship Propulsion

Shell Spaceship in Arrival

When I saw the new 'alien first contact' movie Arrival last week, one particular element that made me smile was seeing the alien spaceship leaving Earth basically by dissolving into a cloud or mist. Readers with Fortean tastes will likely be familiar with tales of UFOs disappearing into clouds. For example:

On many occasions UFOs are reported to become gradually engulfed in a vapor cloud. One such case can be found in James McCampbell's "Effects of UFOs upon people": A highway patrolman saw a strange object sitting on the ground in the San Joaquin Valley of California. It was early morning on a wintry day. Suddenly, the object became surrounded by a mist. Then a brilliant glow appeared as the object rose off the ground.

And another:

A doctor saw two large disk-shaped objects merge into one, and the single object sent a beam of light in his direction. It vanished with a sort of explosion, leaving a cloud that dissapated slowly.

This 'dissolving into mist' factor - along with other elements from UFO sightings - have been discussed at length by some UFO researchers as possible clues to they way in which they travel (although doing so does tend to make the perhaps erroneous leap from 'UFO' to 'spaceship'). However, there seems little consensus, with explanations for the link ranging from the effects of plasma propulsion, to reduced atmospheric pressure surrounding the UFO.

So I was interested today to read polymath Stephen Wolfram's length discussion of his contribution to the science in Arrival. Wolfram covers a lot of ground, but at one point he does appear to discuss his idea for how the aliens might achieve interstellar travel (an idea which he came up with overnight, surprising even himself):

Maybe the spacecraft has its strange rattleback-like shape because it spins as it travels, generating gravitational waves in spacetime in the process... The gravitational waves would lead to a perturbation in the structure of spacetime, [and] the spacecraft somehow “swims” through spacetime, propelled by the effects of these gravitational waves. Around the skin of the spacecraft, there’s “gravitational turbulence” in the structure of spacetime, with power-law correlations like the turbulence one sees around objects moving in fluids. (Or maybe the spacecraft just “boils spacetime” around it…)

So there you go UFO researchers, there's another possibility to add to your list of propulsion theories!

There's much more of interest in Wolfram's blog post, I recommend it for anyone interested in high-concept scientific thinking about the alien contact scenario. And one particular passage stood out to me, not so much because of the 'alien' concepts discussed, but a very human one. These days, it often seems to be the case that 'speculation' is a no-no in scientific thinking - "stick to the facts". But Wolfram points out how liberating it felt for him to explore how 'the impossible' might be achieved:

It’s fun for an “actual scientist” like me to come up with stuff like this. It’s kind of liberating. Especially since every one of these science fiction-y pieces of dialogue can lead one into a long, serious, physics discussion.

I think there has to be room for plenty of speculation in science - it's just a case of communicating clearly to others that you are doing so, rather than suggesting something as a certainty.

Link: Quick, How Might the Alien Spacecraft Work?

Further reading: Your Choice of Starships (at Centauri Dreams)