We see dead people. In our news at least. NDEs, hauntings and people crossing over...this is the section.

Charting the course of Gordon White's Star.Ships - A PreHistory of the Spirits.

The first thing you need to know about Gordon White's Star.Ships: A PreHistory of the Spirits is that you don't have to identify as a Practitioner to find this an extremely valuable resource for understanding not just the world around us, in all its vast strangeness just waiting to be appreciated, but have a sense of humanity's epic journey across time and the stories its told itself along the way.

The second thing you need to know is that if you're looking for just an in-depth discussion of the book, go directly to the end of this post, where you'll find my 90+min talk with its author.

What I'll be attempting in this piece is more than just a synopsis of the book - I'll also situate it amongst both other recent texts and against the current mainstream worldview, to tell you just why you should be reading it.

Scarlet Imprint is a publisher intent on supporting practicing magicians, so it's perfectly natural that this is how they've pitched Star.Ships to their occult audience:

A defining text of the new magical renaissance, Star.Ships addresses the question of who we are now by tracing where we come from, and by drawing out the stories and the spirits that have journeyed and evolved with us. The goal is, as Gordon writes, the restoration of context.

To this end, White applies his globally-recognised data and demographics skills to realise a groundbreaking work of truly interdisciplinary research. Utilising mythological, linguistic and astronomical data to reconstruct palaeolithic magical beliefs, he maps them to the human journey out of Africa; explores which aspects of these beliefs and practices have survived into the Western tradition; and what the implications (and applications) of those survivals may be for us.

Written for a magically literate and operative audience, Star.Ships displays the flair, wit and engagement with evidence that adherents of his runesoup blog have come to expect from Gordon. He deftly handles vast time scales and cosmologies to build his case; avoids the pitfalls of alternative historians with a refreshing absence of dogma or wishful thinking; and, in a masterful deployment of the latest research, simultaneously questions outworn dominant narratives and is not afraid to champion the work of independent researchers and entertain forbidden discourses. It is exactly what chaos magic should be.

Göbekli Tepe, the Pyramids and Sphinx, Nabta Playa, Gunung Padang, Easter Island and Sundaland are some of the points spangled across a work of truly cosmic scope. Star.Ships beckons those who are willing to engage in the adventure to follow the great river of history that flows into and out of an ocean of stars. Minds will be blown.

Nothing in that description is incorrect, and I don't mean to come off here as critical of it; except in the more traditional (vs common) usage of the word. Because, to me, this is an important book deserving of a much wider audience that extends beyond occult circles. Star.Ships to my mind is an ambitious work that succeeds in helping to build something extremely important to - and largely missing from - our contemporary condition: a global narrative of humanity that stretches back thousands upon thousands of years, that breaks down the individual civilisational mythologies of Earth's nation states and helps see us all as one people that splintered and regrouped, repeatedly cross-bred and adapted, and told each other stories under the Moon and the Stars for a hundred thousand years ... Read More »

TEDx Talk: Dreams and Visions of the Dying

The Deceased in the Afterlife Realm

A couple of years back I posted a fantastic TEDx talk on 'end-of-life experiences' - the strange phenomena that the dying experience in the weeks and months before their passing. I devoted an entire chapter of my book Stop Worrying! There Probably is an Afterlife to this much-neglected but fascinating topic, and continue to research the phenomena for the next update to Stop Worrying....

Another more recent, but equally good talk, is by Dr. Christopher W. Kerr, Chief Medical Officer at The Center for Hospice and Palliative Care, where he has worked since 1999. Dr. Kerr's research interests have evolved...

...towards the human experience of illness as witnessed from the bedside, specifically patients’ dreams and visions at the end of life. Although medically ignored, these near universal experiences often provide comfort and meaning as well as insight into the life led and the death anticipated.

You can learn more about the details of Dr. Kerr's research by reading any one of the recent journal papers he has been involved with, and also in this New York Times article from last month. But the TEDx talk below offers an excellent - and personal - primer, giving an insight into both the research, and the human aspect of listening to the dying about what they experience:

To learn more about the oh-so-interesting topic of end-of-life experiences, grab a copy of Stop Worrying! There Probably is an Afterlife (available in eBook and paperback formats).

You might also like:

Conduits to the Afterlife - Watch a Wonderful Short Documentary About Spirit Communication Devices

Is it possible to communicate with the spirit world? That has been the question which has driven the invention of a number of 'spirit technologies', from the Planchette to the Ouija Board. In the glory days of Spiritualism, they became almost household items, and though not so much in vogue in modern times, they retain their otherworldly, liminal reputation.

In the beautifully presented short documentary "Ghosts and Gadgets: Communicating with the Spirits" (embedded above), collector Brandon Hodge discusses the motivations of those using these strange devices, and the historical period in which their invention sits:

We have to understand the periods of time that these devices sprang out of. They came at a time when the telegraph was very new, where electricity was very new, this unknown force... Those conceptions were so nascent when these devices were being first created, this idea that 'well if I can receive a message through a telegram from someone hundreds of miles away within a few minutes, can we just sort of raise those poles a little higher and maybe communicate with something beyond?'

Hodge speaks passionately and eloquently about these spirit 'telegraphs', noting that even if you take the skeptical view that their 'communication' is all down to the ideomotor effect, it's still intriguing how our brains can "autonomously and co-operatively" produce these messages. Furthermore, he says that instead of dismissing them as historical curiosities, a simple parlour trick that preyed on 19th century gullibility, we should better appreciate their importance to people at various times of crisis in modern history:

You'll notice that the popularity of these devices ebbs and flows with war. You'll see that people are reaching out...the Planchette is tapping into a zeitgeist of loss and sorrow.

If I could impart one thing to others about these devices, other than just seeing them and appreciating them, I want them to understand their place in history. To me they're not just this passive item...people throughout history put their hands on these things in the hope they could communicate with the other side...what they represent was a profound belief that was followed by millions of people that has been sort of dismissed as just kookiness - and to really get at the heart of what they were seeking and what they believe is important to recognize, and I think these devices help bring that knowledge to the public.

This wonderful 7 minute documentary is the work of film-maker Ronni Thomas, who we've featured previously via another of his excellent paranormal-related featurettes: "Transmitting Thought: A Documentary on the Famous Maimonides Dream Telepathy Experiments".

To learn more about Brandon Hodge and his collection, be sure to visit his website Mysterious Planchette.

Related links:

Give Yourself Goosebumps: Four Strange Paranormal Phenomena

With Halloween just around the corner, the popular YouTube channel Vsauce3 has posted the well-produced spooky feature above titled "Four Strange Paranormal Phenomena".

As a piece of cross-promotion with the upcoming Goosebumps movie, the video features Jack Black (and 'Slappy' the ventriloquist dummy), and discusses likely rational explanations for things like sleep paralysis and spirit mediums. Murderous ventriloquist dummies are another matter though...

Crowdfunder: Translation of Fascinating Book on Near-Death Experiences

Near Death Experience

The International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS) has put out a call for donations to enable them to translate into English and publish an important addition to the NDE research literature: a recent Dutch book by NDE researchers Titus Rivas, Anny Dirven and Rudolf Smit that details 78 cases of veridical perceptions and other verified paranormal aspects of NDEs.

This book is a scholarly treatise on the main evidence from case reports of parapsychological or paranormal phenomena connected to Near-Death Experiences and its theoretical implications. It is the end product of a joint project of Athanasia Foundation, Merkawah Foundation/Netwerk Nabij-de-doodervaring and Limen/IANDS Flanders.

The book concentrates on paranormal phenomena, in which consciousness or the mind, spirit or soul of a patient seems to transcend the physical boundaries of the brain. It contains summaries of 78 cases [the English version will contain several more, i.e. over 80 cases] in which the patient's experiences were independently verified for a researcher or author by someone else, such as a physician, surgeon, nurse, partner, relative or friend. The cases have been derived from a thorough study of the available literature, a compilation of cases by Jan Holden, and the authors' own empirical studies.

Through early contributions from various sources, IANDS have raised around half of the $17,500 estimated cost of publication, and are now seeking help from the public to get the project over the line. You can donate here.

Personally I think a better approach would have been to offer a limited edition for backers (say 200 copies at $100 each), which might have raised the funds easily (I would have bought one for that) and also offered an investment for backers. But I can't argue with the fact that this book is a very worthy project - I covered some of the 'veridical' material in my own book Stop Worrying! There Probably is an Afterlife (available in paperback and Kindle ebook editions), and it's an absolutely fascinating area. I can't wait to read the English translation - so I'm throwing in some cash.

You can find out more information about the book itself (synopsis, chapter breakdown) at the IANDS website.

Link: IANDS: Donate to Book Translation and Publication Project!

You might also like:

Child Medium? (Part Deux)


Last week I linked to a video uploaded by Jaime Primak Sullivan on her Youtube channel and Facebook account, which apparently showed her little 4-year-old daughter Charlie 'delivering' a message from Jaime's grandmother, who died last November.

A number of members --the big bossman himself included-- expressed an understandable amount of skepticism toward the video, mentioning how it could have been easily scripted; I myself conceded from the beginning how there was really no way of knowing whether little Charlie had already heard the nickname used by her dead great-granny --whom she only met a couple of times-- to call her mom Jamie. I was content to leave it at that, but yesterday my cosmic compadre Micah Hanks on his radio show The Gralien Report mentioned my previous article, and he also pointed out this other video, which is a commentary about a previous one with Charlie recorded right after a family trip to Disneyland; the important part starts at 3:25:

So here again we seem to have a little girl, using a rather peculiar phrase which was deeply characteristic of Jaime's dead grandmother --"the walls (of my house) are crying"-- as a way to express homesickness. Once more, we can't vouch for the veracity of this account --the fact that the video embedded above and the previous one I linked to last week were posted on Youtube with only a day's difference is a bit fishy, although if these are attempts to attain notoriety on the social networks, so far it hasn't succeeded.

But if what Jaime is saying is true, then it would seem to suggest her child is able to 'channel' somehow the 'spirit' of someone who was very important to her mother at the time she was the same age as she is now. Whether that 'spirit' is more metaphorical than literal, is again open to personal interpretation...

[H/T Micah Hanks, a.k.a. 'The Mouth of the South']

Talking with Tsakiris About Talking with the Spirits

Talking With the Spirits

Paranthropologist Jack Hunter recently spoke with Alex Tsakiris (of the Skeptiko podcast) about the anthology on mediumship around the world that he co-edited, along with David Luke, Talking With the Spirits* (Amazon US and UK). It's a fantastic discussion of how the paranormal can be approached by both the scientific method, and through anthropology - for instance, see the excerpt below:

Alex Tsakiris: One [question] is: Does [psychic] ability manifest itself more in some people than in others? And obviously we know it does. But particularly, what I think you bring that I had never thought of, and I think is…interesting to…grind on is: Is it more prevalent in certain cultures? Is it more prevalent in certain social situations with certain combinations of events, people, rituals, practices, all those things. I just think that’s mind blowing. That opens it up in so many different ways. Am I in the right direction, and what are your thoughts on that specifically in terms of what…directions…folks might want to go to find this phenomenon manifesting itself more frequently, more measurably, all the rest of that stuff?

Jack Hunter: That’s exactly what I’m talking about…when you look at the Anthropological literature, all the Ethnographic literature, and look at the kinds of experiences that people have reported to anthropologists in the field all over the world, you find these kinds of common characteristics. For instance, like you said, ritual is…an important process for people to go through in order to have these sorts of experiences. And I think that the parapsychological community has missed out on that. They could, for instance, use ritualized procedures in laboratory. That’s one example. Or take the laboratory out to the rituals…

You can listen to the full interview (or read the transcript, if that suits better) over at the Skeptiko website. Talking With the Spirits is available from Amazon US and Amazon UK.

* Full disclosure: Talking With the Spirits is a Daily Grail Publishing book.

'The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven' Says He Never Went

Alex Malarkey, 'The Boy Who Went to Heaven'

In recent years, memoirs by those returning from the dead with astonishing stories of an afterlife realm have appeared with regularity in bestseller lists, from neurosurgeon Eben Alexander's Proof of Heaven to child NDEr Colton Burpo's Heaven is for Real (which was also adapted for the screen). Some have been skeptical of these claims, and in one case it seems it would have been justified: Alex Malarkey, whose alleged NDE after an accident which paralysed him ten years ago at age 6 became the focus of a bestselling book by his father Kevin (The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven), has this week publicly recanted his testimony.

Please forgive the brevity, but because of my limitations I have to keep this short.

I did not die. I did not go to Heaven.

I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible.

It is only through repentance of your sins and a belief in Jesus as the Son of God, who died for your sins (even though he committed none of his own) so that you can be forgiven may you learn of Heaven outside of what is written in the Bible…not by reading a work of man. I want the whole world to know that the Bible is sufficient. Those who market these materials must be called to repent and hold the Bible as enough.

In Christ,

Alex Malarkey.

With the subject matter and the sort of nominative determinism that writes headlines automatically, this news will surely turn up on major news outlets around the world very quickly, giving somewhat of a black eye to the field of NDE memoirs.

There are of course a number of factors at play here though - the mother and father are no longer married, the father appears to receive the income from the book, Alex Malarkey has special needs after the accident. Add to that the complicating factor of his obvious Christian faith - and the sometimes suspicious relationship between Christianity and claims of near-death experiencers - and we may not know the full story behind this. Suffice to say, however, that the testimony in the book will have to be ignored by any serious researchers of NDEs.

(And serious researchers and writers on this topic will be depressed to learn that Malarkey's statement that the book is made up has made it climb within the top 400 books on Amazon's bestseller list (at the time of writing). WTF humans, you can't find a better book on the topic?!

Related:

Watch 'Beyond Our Sight', an Independently Produced Documentary on Near-Death Experiences

Can we survive death ? What is the nature of our consciousness ?
Beyond Our Sight is an excellently produced independent documentary created by Anthony Chene that talks about near-death experiences, human consciousness, and the possibility of communication with other dimensions. It features the testimony of a number of near-death experiencers, as well as our good friend Dean Radin.

If you enjoy the documentary, please consider making a small donation to the director with a small donation. As I always say, do your best to support independently produced content that explores the topics we are all fascinated with here on the Grail!

Is This New Scientific Evidence the 'First Hint' of Life After Death?

The Deceased in the Afterlife Realm

The near-death experience (NDE) has blazed its way back into mainstream media this week, with the long-awaited publication (in the journal Resuscitation) of the results from one of the biggest ever scientific investigations into awareness after cardiac arrest. A number of years ago, Dr. Sam Parnia, an expert in the field of resuscitation, established the AWARE project, which is now a major collaboration between doctors and researchers in the coronary units of medical centers and hospitals across the globe. In the AWARE study, patients who survive a cardiac arrest were asked if they had any memories or experiences while 'dead' - and if they had an out-of-body experience during their brush with death, whether they were able to see certain ‘hidden targets’ placed in hospital rooms that can only be seen from a vantage point near the ceiling.

The headlines have been a little over the top. "First hint of 'life after death' in biggest ever scientific study", the Telegraph announced.

Death is a depressingly inevitable consequence of life, but now scientists believe they may have found some light at the end of the tunnel. The largest ever medical study into near-death and out-of-body experiences has discovered that some awareness may continue even after the brain has shut down completely.

[S]cientists at the University of Southampton have spent four years examining more than 2,000 people who suffered cardiac arrests at 15 hospitals in the UK, US and Austria. And they found that nearly 40 per cent of people who survived described some kind of ‘awareness’ during the time when they were clinically dead before their hearts were restarted.

One man even recalled leaving his body entirely and watching his resuscitation from the corner of the room. Despite being unconscious and ‘dead’ for three minutes, the 57-year-old social worker from Southampton, recounted the actions of the nursing staff in detail and described the sound of the machines.

I'm really glad to see the AWARE study results finally published in a journal, but despite all the news headlines, there is little new information in this paper. As readers of my 2013 book Stop Worrying! There Probably is an Afterlife (available in paperback or as a Kindle ebook) would know, I covered the results of the AWARE study back then. If you haven't read the book, I've posted the relevant excerpt today here on the Grail for those seeking more information about the AWARE study, and a more detailed description of the experience of the patient who left his body.

For those with TLDR syndrome: the paper examines 2060 cardiac arrest events at participating hospitals, of which only 16% of patients survived (330). Of those 330 patients, only 140 proved eligible to be interviewed for the study. 85 out of 140 (61%) reported no perception or memories during their cardiac arrest. However, one of the interesting findings of the study was that 55 patients (39%) responded in the affirmative to the question "Do you remember anything from the time during your unconsciousness?", despite the fact that cardiac arrests are believed to shut down the brain and inhibit any of this sort of consciousness.

However, another interesting finding of the study was that 46 of those 55 "described memories incompatible with a NDE", such as "being dragged through deep water" and "seeing a golden flash of light". So even though their perception during cardiac arrest was 'anomalous', it wasn't an NDE. Only 9 patients had NDE-like perceptions, and of the entire 2060 cardiac arrests just one patient had an out-of-body experience (OBE). And sadly, it wasn't in an area with one of the shelves intended to test the reality of the OBE.

Nevertheless, the OBE patient was able to describe a number of aspects of the hospital room scene accurately - a so-called "veridical NDE". On its own, this doesn't seem much, but as I point out in my book, it adds to an ever-growing list of accounts where people who should not be able to perceive anything due to their physical condition are able to give accurate details about thing happening both in the room they are in and outside of it. Contrary to the Telegraph's "first hint", this new paper just adds to an already long list of hints.

The shorter summary of the AWARE paper?

  • If you have a cardiac arrest, the odds are really not in your favour.
  • That if you survive, there's about a 5-10% chance you might have a near-death experience.
  • That people don't just experience NDE consciousness during cardiac arrest - they also find themselves in other modes of consciousness with totally different perceptions and imagery.
  • That the AWARE study recorded what seems to be another veridical NDE account, to add to the growing number already on record.
  • These veridical NDEs appear to suggest either (a) that some people are hyper-sensitive to their surroundings during a cardiac arrest, using any sensory modes available to reconstruct the scene in their minds, or (b) that the mind is actually able to somehow perceive things from a vantage point outside of the body - in short, that consciousness is not confined to the brain.

So, when looking at all the news stories and blog posts on this topic, be aware (hah!) that (a) a lot of the headlines are hyped up, and (b) plenty of them are looking at this study in isolation, when it is perhaps more interesting when considered with other evidence already collected.

You might also like: