News Briefs 26-11-2015

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I am grateful they still let me post here...

Quote of the Day:

"Disbelief in magic can force a poor soul into believing in government and business."

Tom Robbins

News Briefs 25-11-2015

Which is weirder - our past or our future?

Thanks Greg

Quote of the Day:

The world is still a weird place, despite my efforts to make clear and perfect sense of it.

Hunter S. Thompson

Michael Persinger Defends the 'God Helmet', says Richard Dawkins Was Affected by Alcohol When He Tried It

Richard Dawkins wears the God Helmet

Many years ago 'neurotheology' researcher Michael Persinger made news with his 'God Helmet', a head-mounted apparatus that generated weak, fluctuating magnetic fields, which was reportedly able to induce mystical experiences in those wearing it. However, a 2005 study by other researchers failed to replicate Persinger's results, and the effect was written off as being due to suggestibility rather than an actual, physical change in the brain.

The 'God Helmet' has slipped from the radar since that replication failure, but Persinger has now answered many of the criticisms/accusations about his research in a series of ten blog posts. The topics range from the set-up of the experiments, through related subjects such as his Tectonic Strain Theory and Chris French's 'Haunted Room' experiment, to even noting that Richard Dawkins was perhaps a little inebriated during his own (failed) encounter with the God Helmet:

Question: Richard Dawkins is seen drinking wine or wine mixed with soda water (a “Wine Cooler”) before his session with the God Helmet in the BBC video showing his visit to your lab. Had he been drinking before the session? Will alcohol interfere with the God Helmet effects?

Answer: Yes, he had been drinking. The scent was easily noticed. In addition, he was obliged to sit in hot lights within the chamber for almost an hour as the BBC director managed several television studio details before the experiment began. This forced us to deviate from our typical protocol where the person walks into the dimly lit chamber and we begin the experiment within a few minutes. We have found that intoxication, particularly ethanol, interferes with the experimental induction of the sensed presence.

In addition, Dawkins had a low score for temporal lobe sensitivity, as mentioned on several web pages (example). Ordinarily, there are ways we can compensate, but these conditions made it difficult. Getting a subject to relax can take time before the session begins, and on that occasion, we were already pressed for time.

For those not familiar with Persinger's God Helment experiments, the episode of Through the Wormhole embedded below gives a good, quick introduction:

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News Briefs 24-11-2015

One-man band...

Quote of the Day:

Simplistic answers can be hugely emotionally satisfying, especially when you feel you need someone to blame.

The world, however, is a very complicated place, and simplistic answers are usually wrong.

@hermes9000

The Twin Peaks Tarot

Twin Peaks Tarot

It always seems so obvious in retrospect: artist Benjamin Mackey recently was inspired by a genius idead: to create a variant on the Rider Waite Tarot Deck, based on the cult television series created by David Lynch (which itself featured all manner of occult references: the Twin Peaks Tarot.

In the embedded podcast below, Mackey is asked whether he thinks the way in which many Twin Peaks characters seem to fit so well with the cards of the Tarot was by conscious design of David Lynch, or if it's simply down to the archetypal nature of story characters:

I think there are certain characters that David Lynch was purposefully basing off Tarot archetypes. There's one scene where Major Garland Briggs, he's talking about his experiences in the White Lodge, and there's a scene where he's sitting on this stone throne and he's surrounded by this lush greenery, and the pose he's striking is almost exactly the pose that the hierophant strikes. Then there's also a scene with Blackie at One-Eyed Jack's, she's at her table and she's playing the Tarot Cards. And it's a really small thing, you don't see her doing it a lot and they don't make a lot of direct references to it...but something like that, makes me think that maybe David Lynch has more of a conscious connection to the Tarot.

(via DisInfo and @MichaelMHughes)

News Briefs 23-11-2015

It all makes sense now...

Thanks Kat.

Quote of the Day:

The apocalypse is not something which is coming. The apocalypse has arrived in major portions of the planet and it's only because we live within a bubble of incredible privilege andn social insulation that we still have the luxury of anticipating the apocalypse.

Terence McKenna

News Briefs 21-11-2015

"Our destiny is frequently met in the very paths we take to avoid it."

Quote of the Day:

“Everyone believes very easily whatever they fear or desire.”

Jean de la Fontaine

The Cult of Mary: How Supernatural Apparitions and Miracle Healings Led to Veneration of the Mother of Jesus

The Virgin Mary

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).

Virgin Mary Sightings Around the World

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.

Related stories:

News Briefs 19-11-2015

Yea I read from the Book of Fort, Chapter 11, Verse 19. In the name of Keel, Redfern, and the Red Pill...

Quote of the Day:

To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research.

Steven Wright

News Briefs 18-11-2015

Right here with the news

  • Giant 7–8-foot skeletons uncovered in Ecuador sent for scientific testing.
  • A classic formula for pi has been discovered hidden in hydrogen atoms.
  • Could entanglement be the essence of space-time geometry?
  • Skepticism on the couch.
  • Scientists have a new way to study mystical experiences induced by psilocybin mushrooms.
  • The Lambton Worm, and the 'Wicker Man' sequel that almost was.
  • Sergeant Howie is alive and well. Scottish evangelists identify Paganism as one of the "biggest threats to Western civilisation".
  • The only doctor in the world legally allowed to use LSD to treat patients.
  • The unusual couple behind encyclopaedia of psychoactive substances, Erowid.
  • New Hieronymus Bosch drawing found in private art collection.
  • Does self-love or self-hate predict conspiracy beliefs? Narcissism, self-esteem, and the endorsement of conspiracy theories.
  • 'Pastafarian' wins right to wear colander on head in driving licence photo.
  • Ancient board game found in looted China tomb.
  • NASA sees a black hole spew a corona.
  • Cave Lion cubs emerge from the Siberian permafrost.
  • Saudi Arabia's river of hail.
  • Mysterious parasite may actually be a tiny jellyfish gone awry.
  • Thou shalt not start wildfires on the day of the Lord.

Quote of the Day:

This is Life Eternal, right here. Be fulfilled, be happy, be kind, be in love, and never do anything that you can't live with forever.

Alan Moore (his first 'tweet' via @MomentOfMoore)