"Euclidean geometry is the geometry of plain surfaces and three-dimensional space, but non-Euclidean geometry is the geometry of curved surfaces, hence it is indeed an appropriate term for this kind of ping-pong."
- Rupert Sheldrake in a note to author, Guido Mina di Sospiro
We live in a world of spin, above us the spinning, ever watchful orbits of satellites, our minds filled with the twists and turns of media spin doctors, and our lives lived in the spinning maze of global commerce, there is no escaping it. Yet the question, really, is not one of escape, but how to join the game without losing, or if a loss is inevitable, then at least how to enjoy the playing in itself.
In the complexity of the world, there are lessons to be learned through turning to something simple for guidance. I’ve been tending fires, allowing mental habits trained up in the spinning contemporary world to burn away with the wood I’ve carefully gathered and cut. In thinking on this, I’ve been drawing from Guido Mina di Sospiro's wonderful new book The Metaphysics of Ping Pong for inspiration.
There is something very unique about this work which brings the reader on a journey through a playful, personal and deep relationship with the everyday, under the auspices of Mina di Sospiro's quest to discover the intimate secrets contained in the fine art of ping pong, and in the process the fine art of spin. Along the way is woven an intricate image of how subtle influences attend even the most ... Read More »
Way back in September, Greg posted news of a Kickstarter for SHADOW, a dream recording app & online community. The app's creator, Hunter Lee Soik, assembled an impressive team of dream experts to help shape SHADOW -- Kelly Bulkeley, Deirdre Barrett, Scott Sparrow, and the oneiroboss Ryan Hurd himself, to name a few. I'd planned to interview Hunter recently, but a near-miss with a car saw my phone get run over. Then my mac decided to go to the great apple tree in the sky. Thankfully, Hunter was unfazed by this conspiratorial Pauli Effect and kindly took time from his extremely busy schedule to answer a few questions via email (one for each hour of sleep you should all be getting).
As I type this, there are only forty
winks hours to go until the Kickstarter ends. The pledge goal has been reached (which is fantastic news for the SHADOW team, congratulations!), and this is your last chance to snag some terrific swag and gain early access to SHADOW before it's officially released next year. In the meantime, give your spinning top a whirl and enjoy the interview.
RMG: In a nutshell, what is SHADOW and how did it come about?
HLS: SHADOW is a mobile alarm clock that helps users remember and record their dreams in a global dream database. The idea came about when I finally started dreaming again after a dozen years of hard work and little sleep. I wanted to remember what I was experiencing in my sleeping life, but I couldn't find an app that melded a social dream journal with the kind of sophisticated design aesthetic I was looking for. So I learned as much as I could about sleep and dreams, approached some dream researchers with the idea, and SHADOW was born.
RMG: How does the app actually work?
HLS: You set the alarm like any other alarm clock, but when it wakes you up it uses a series of escalating sounds that helps preserve your dreams. Traditional alarm clocks destroy dreams by transitioning you out of sleep too quickly. Once you're awake, SHADOW prompts you to record your dreams via voice or text (you can speak directly into the app or type what you remember). Then, with your permission, we pull
...probably the most comprehensive single volume to look at the use of mind-altering drugs, or entheogens, for ritual and shamanistic purposes throughout humanity's long story, while casting withering sidelong glances at our own times - as Paul Devereux points out, our modern mainstream culture is eccentric in its refusal to integrate the profound experiences offered by these natural substances into its own spiritual life.
Do Psychedelics Allow Interspecies Communication?
by Paul Devereux
Societies of the past have used the psychedelic experience to strengthen, renew and heal the spiritual underpinning of their social structures. The ever-deepening social unease that Western civilisation seems to be caught in is the real source of our 'drug problem': natural hallucinogens are not the problems in themselves, it is the context in which they are used that matters. If there were orderly and healthy structures and mechanisms for their use and the cultural absorption of the powerful experiences – and knowledge – we could separate these from the culture of crime that surrounds them now. In short, the problems are not in the psychoactive substances themselves, but in a society, which on the one hand wants to prohibit, mind-expansion altogether and on the other chooses to use mind-expanding substances in a literally mindless, hedonistic fashion.
Perhaps only a shock of some kind could break our society free from the patterns of thought and prejudices that lock it into this crisis. The desire for such a shock may be hidden within the widespread modern myth of extra-terrestrial intervention. In fact, we do not have to look to science fiction for a real otherworld contact: it already exists in the form of plant hallucinogens. If we see them in the context of a 'problem', it is only because they hold up a mirror in which we see our spiritual, social and mental condition reflected. And they hold that mirror up to us as one species to another just as surely as if they were from another planet. Indeed, that champion of the psychedelic state, the late Terence McKenna, argued that the ancestral spores of today’s hallucinogenic mushrooms may have originated on some other planet. (This is not as fringe an idea as it sounds, for even some 'hard scientists' – the late Francis Crick, co-discover of DNA, among them – have suggested that the germs of life may have had extra-terrestrial origins, brought to Earth by means of meteorites or comet dust.) The psilocybin family of hallucinogens, says McKenna, produces a "Logos-like phenomenon of an interior voice that seems to be almost a superhuman agency…an entity so far beyond the normal structure of the ego that if it is not an extraterrestrial it might as well be."
Other 'psychonauts' have emerged from the altered mind states enabled by plant substances with similar impressions. For instance, New York journalist Daniel Pinchbeck wrote
Ok, so I know that John Higgs has had several titles published recently (which I haven't yet read), but the occasion of his biography of Timothy Leary (which I have read), first published in 2006 on the 10th anniversary of Leary's death, coming out in paperback in the U.S., provides an excuse for me to write a belated review of it.
The title of the book refers to Leary's typically-megalomaniacal response to a question regarding Richard Nixon's alleged description of him as "the most dangerous man in America": "It's true, I have America surrounded."
In an e-mail interview with Paul Krassner, Higgs himself describes Leary as "probably the best example of the "trickster" archetype that the 20th Century produced, and his ambiguity is key to understanding him".
Higgs' insight into, and balanced treatment of, Leary's character contrasts with his his less-favourable portrayal at the hands of Robert Greenfield, so it will appeal more to those with a level of respect for the man, in spite of his flaws.
Higgs' fascinating account explains the contradictions in Leary's non-stop adventure of a life (a life of 'flat out epic grandeur', according to Winona Ryder in her foreword for the book) in terms of both the events which changed its course and Leary's response to those events - the rebuilding, with the assistance of LSD, of his 'reality tunnel'. As a behavioural psychologist at Harvard in the 50's, Leary had a better appreciation than most of his peers of how we create our own reality, but despite his adaptability, he seemed incapable of escaping the less admirable aspects of his own character.
The book opens with Leary's prison escape and largely focuses on his subsequent life as a fugitive, arguably the most interesting phase of Leary's life, whilst setting it within the context of his earlier rise to notoriety. You can tell that Higgs has a fascination with fellow Englishman Brian Barritt's not insubstantial involvement with Leary during this time.
It may be some time before Leary's legacy escapes the reality tunnels of those who 'know' him only as an unmentionable scientist who 'went too far' or as a hippy cultural icon, and his intellectual and cultural influence of the second half of the 20th century becomes more fully appreciated. Higgs' biography of Leary takes us closer to such a time. Essential reading. Buy it at Amazon US/UK).
[For best effect, scroll to the bottom, start the YouTube video to playing, turn up your speakers, and then return to the top and read straight through. Then replay the YouTube piece and watch the video.]
When the history of the American space program is finally written, no figure will stand out quite like John Whiteside Parsons. (Richard Metzger, “John Whiteside Parsons: Anti-Christ Superstar,” April 8, 2003)
He was an unorthodox genius, a poet and rocket scientist who helped give birth to an institution that would become mankind’s window on the universe. He was also a devotee of the black arts, a sci-fi junkie and host of backyard orgies on Pasadena’s stately Millionaires’ Row. (“Life as Satanist Propelled Rocketeer,” Los Angeles Times, March 19, 2000)
He was an acolyte of Aleister Crowley, an employee of Howard Hughes, a victim of L. Ron Hubbard, and an enthusiastic phone buddy to Wernher Von Braun. He was an only child, his adulterous dad booted by his angry mom. In seeking father figures and brotherhood, he became a vital link in two mighty chains in human history: rocketry and ritual magic. His science was built on intuition, and his magic on experiment. (“The Magical Father of American Rocketry,” Reason, May 2005)
[He was] remarkably handsome, dashing and brilliant…Werner von Braun claimed it was the self-taught Parsons, not himself, who was the true father of the American space program for his contribution to the development of solid rocket fuel. (Metzger)
He was a tall handsome Californian, whose early work on highly volatile rocket-motor fuels was regarded highly enough for French scientists of a later generation to name a crater on the moon after him. Parsons introduced into early American rocketry a range of exotic solid and liquid fuels whose later forms were eventually to help drive Apollo 11 to the Moon. He helped create the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, now a major industrial complex. In early colour footage from JPL archives, he looks like a better-fed James Dean in some 1950s road movie. In the manner of many mid-century heroes such as Dean, his life was more a script than a life. (“John Whiteside Parsons,” Fortean Times, March 2000)
You would think all this scientific achievement would be enough for one person in one lifetime, but Parsons had a much loftier set of ambitions. He wanted to tear down the walls of time and space, and ... Read More »
Half-way through watching Mirage Men, a new documentary on how U.S. Intelligence agencies have deliberately sabotaged research into the UFO topic, I literally shook my head, saying to myself with a laugh "it's a hall of mirrors". By the end of the documentary, my statement had been echoed and expanded upon by one of the interviewees, Linda Moulton Howe, who described the entire story as "a fractured hall of mirrors with a quicksand floor". Howe should know: in 1983, while researching a documentary on the subject of UFOs for HBO, she was engaged by Richard 'Rick' Doty, an agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI), initially with the promise of helping her investigate an alleged UFO landing near Ellsworth Air Force Base. But Howe's meeting with Doty took an unexpected turn when the AFOSI agent suddenly produced a manila folder, saying she could take a look at it but, not remove it from the office or make notes. Within it was a document titled "Briefing Paper for the President of the United States of America on the Subject of Unidentified Aerial Vehicles", which listed a number of alleged UFO crash retrievals by the government, as well as paragraphs that became "emblazoned" on Howe's mind concerning how they had discovered that Homo sapiens was a species created by extraterrestrials through genetic manipulation of primates. Amazed by the information fed to her by the government agency at the time, in Mirage Men Howe looks back with three decades of perspective and wonders at the the amount of effort that must have gone into the deception: "they must have had meetings about 'how do we stop a persistent and dogged reporter who has already demonstrated that she's going to go after a really difficult subject?'." The question that comes to mind, and which runs throughout this entire film, is 'WHY?'.
This was not the first time that AFOSI agent Doty had willingly mislead investigators of the UFO subject, and it would not be the last. As such, he serves as the focal character in the documentary; it begins with the deception he helped orchestrate on Albuquerque businessman Paul Bennewitz, goes on to discuss the Linda Moulton Howe case, the infamous Majestic-12 documents (described in the film by another AFOSI agent, Walter Bosley, as the "perfect Perception Management Device", though Doty denies any involvement with it) and extends forward to the more recent controversy over the 'Project Serpo' hoax.
And Doty is no doubt a worthy candidate for the film to revolve around. Coming to the documentary with a fair amount of knowledge about Doty's deceptions over the years – with consequences (direct and otherwise) ranging from the wasting of UFO investigators' time through to the mental disintegration, eventual hospitalisation and death of Paul Bennewitz – I already had a dislike for the man, and was ready to truly despise him. But one of the things that catches you off guard is how harmless and genial he seems - the man is sitting before the camera, telling you how he has deceived people, and yet you feel that he seems to be a nice guy that you'd happily chat with at a neighbourhood barbeque. Though as Bill Ryan, who was initially taken in by the Serpo deception, points out, that's what makes him so effective: "Rick's great strength is he's a wonderful story-teller", says Ryan. "He's a very friendly guy [and] builds relationships easily". ... Read More »
It's easy to be a Dan Brown critic: just laugh down your nose at his overly florid descriptive phrases, complain about other great authors being ignored, and encourage readers to join with you in hating the man and his books. Nearly all such reviews, however, miss the point – Brown's work is not meant for the literati, but simply as page-turning escapism. And that is where he excels - anyone that disputes the man's ability to keep readers up late at night reading 'just one more chapter' obviously hasn't tried to write a book of that type before. It's a talent, and it is what most of Brown's readers want from his work – not to 'work' their way through the novel as some sort of endurance event, but as a sprint, either after work or while on holiday, whisking them away to exotic locations on a thrill-a-minute adventure. The other arrow in Brown's quiver is his ability to take a location with fascinating history behind it, and use it as a city-size puzzle for the reader to try and fit together as the action progresses. Between the page-turning, and the hit of satisfaction to the reader as they complete more of the puzzle, his books are casual-reader-cocaine.
Dan Brown seems well aware of the ridiculousness of his fun thrillers occupying the stratosphere of book-selling – in the new book there seem to be parodic hat-tips to other publishing phenomena 50 Shades of Grey and The Girl Who... series. Certainly, there are plenty of other authors out there with Brown's skills (and more), and this doesn't seem to be something Brown doesn't know. They, however, weren't fortunate enough to hit upon the highly combustible mix that Brown put together with The Da Vinci Code - a combination of page-turner, puzzler, AND one 'big idea' that caught fire: that the Catholic Church covered up secrets, in particular the importance of the 'sacred feminine'. Though the success of that one book guaranteed Dan Brown massive sales of succeeding books regardless of their content, even Brown himself couldn't replicate the alchemy of The Da Vinci Code with his next book, The Lost Symbol, even though he seemed to have all the same ingredients, just with a change of big idea. To many though, it was the oversize helping of the 'big idea' in The Lost Symbol that ruined the mix, overwhelming the taste of the puzzles and making the meal difficult to digest quickly.
So with the release of his latest novel, Inferno, I was interested to see what approach Dan Brown might take to try and recapture the magic of The Da Vinci Code. I knew already that he had selected Florence as the location, and thought it an ingenious choice: the city has historical roots, both orthodox and esoteric, that stretched down as deep as the hell of one of its favourite sons, Dante Alighieri. And speaking of that famous Florentine, Brown also stated he was going to use the great Italian poet's classic of the same name as the basis for the plot of his new book. My expectations were high, and in my fun 'primer' Inside Dan Brown's Inferno, I explored the roads (and back-alleys) of Florentine history that I thought the best-selling author was likely to walk down in his own Inferno.
So how did I go in predicting the elements of Inferno? My chapter on Dante's life and literature would certainly have been helpful to readers of Brown's new novel, giving them essential background material to better understand the references made in the book (his love of Beatrice, his expulsion from Florence, the content of his Inferno, etc.). But those topics were a given really; not so much any sort of psychic skill on my part. In terms of locations in Florence I covered many that Brown placed within his adventure: the Boboli Gardens,
This article is excerpted from Darklore Volume 7, which is now available for sale from Amazon US and Amazon UK (collectors/investors: a Limited Edition hardcover is also available). The Darklore anthology series features the best writing and research on paranormal, Fortean and hidden history topics, by the most respected names in the field: Robert Schoch, Nick Redfern, Loren Coleman, Robert Bauval and Daniel Pinchbeck, to name just a few. Darklore's aim is to support quality researchers, so it makes sense to support Darklore. For more information on the series (including more free sample articles), visit the Darklore website.
From Operation Mindf**k to The White Room
The Strange Discordian Journey of the KLF
by J.M.R. Higgs
In the 1980s, pop stars made movies. Prince, Madonna and the Pet Shop Boys all went in front of the cameras. The KLF made a film as well, but they went about it in a very different manner. Theirs was never released, or even properly finished, and they made it before they had a string of hit singles rather than afterwards. It was called The White Room.
The White Room is a very different beast to Purple Rain or Desperately Seeking Susan. It’s a dialogue-free ambient road movie just under an hour in length, for a start. The band had experimented with ambient film before, shooting an experimental movie called Waiting on VHS on the Isle of Jura the previous year. The White Room, however, had been shot with a professional crew and cost around £250,000, money they had earned from a Doctor Who-themed novelty record they had released under the name The Timelords.
The film starts at a rave in the basement of a South London squat known as Transcentral. Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, the duo behind The KLF, leave the party and get into a 1968 Ford Galaxie American police car. In the back sits a solicitor, played by their own solicitor David Franks. He hands them a contract, which the pair sign without reading. Franks exits and Drummond and Cauty drive off.
Pretty much most of the rest of the film is them driving.
First, they drive around London at night. Then, they drive around the Sierra Nevada region of Spain. This goes on for some time. Not much happens, although they do find a dead eagle, and at one point they stop for petrol.
Eventually the pair stop and build a camp fire, an event which occurs twice in the film. At each point, the solicitor is seen in the smoke from the fire, studying the contract – a distinctly Faustian image. The solicitor discovers something in one of the contract’s clauses, and writes ‘Liberation Loophole!’ on the contract.
Events in the film now gain more momentum. Drummond is seen throwing the contract into the air, obviously delighted. He has, by this point, changed into a pair of plus-fours and is dressed not unlike an Edwardian mountaineer. Cauty then paints the car white and they drive, past a burning bush, up into the snow-peaked mountains. When the car gets stuck in the snow they abandon it and continue up on foot. Cauty has not joined Drummond in sporting the Edwardian mountaineer look, instead wearing a more sensible white parka. Eventually they reach the summit, where they find a large white building with a radio telescope. They go in.
They find themselves in a white, smoke-filled void – the White Room. They find a pair of fake moustaches on a pedestal, and put them on. Then they find the solicitor, sitting at a white table. He shows them the clause he has found in the contract. They nod. The pair then walk away, dissolving into the smoke and vanishing into the void. The End.
It was, all in all, an odd way to spend £250,000. The story of why it was made, however, is far stranger.
The Most Influential Photocopier in History?
In the mid-1960s a photocopier was state of the art technology, and having access to one was something of a privilege. The act of using an office photocopier after hours for personal projects, without the boss knowing, was therefore a far riskier and more rebellious act than it is today. This was certainly the case for Lane Caplinger, a secretary for New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison.
In 1991 Garrison was portrayed by Kevin Costner in Oliver Stone’s movie JFK, a film based on Garrison’s book On The Trail Of The Assassins. But this was 1965, a year before he became involved in Kennedy conspiracies and two years before the Summer of Love thrust hippies, psychedelic drugs and alternative lifestyles in front of an unprepared public. Things had not yet begun to ‘get weird’, in other words, and for a respected public figure like Garrison, there was little to indicate what surprises the future had in store. He would have been quite unprepared, then, for ... Read More »
Eight fascinating topics that should be in the next Dan Brown book
Dan Brown and his publishers have released a limited amount of information about his upcoming novel Inferno, most notably that it will be set in the Italian city of Florence, and that it will involve one of the great pieces of literature, the Inferno by Dante Alighieri (the first part of his Divine Comedy). Florence is a fantastic location for a novel: Dante, Michelangelo, Galileo, da Vinci and Machiavelli all hailed from the city, and as the 'birthplace of the Renaissance' under the patronage of the Medici family, it is filled with architectural and artistic treasures. But beyond some of the obvious locations, such as the great cathedral that dominates the city sky-line, the Duomo, a little detective work can unveil some other fantastic elements that would make great topics to explore in a Brownian type novel. I've done exactly that in my ebook, Inside Dan Brown's Inferno, from which I've selected just eight topics below that I think Dan Brown will likely feature in his book – if he doesn't, you'd almost have to feel that he hasn't done his homework…
Dan Brown's novels are often seen as 'giving the bird' to the Catholic Church, and in Inferno he has the opportunity to use the middle finger of one of the greatest scientists in history. If Dan Brown's main character Robert Langdon ends up at the Galileo Museum, bordering the Arno River, he could point out a number of historical treasures, including Galileo's telescope, through which the genius Florentine discovered the moons of Jupiter and the phases of Venus, both of which offered support for the (at the time) heretical Copernican theory that the Earth revolved around the Sun. But perhaps more fitting of a Dan Brown novel are the three fingers of the great man, preserved within elegant egg-shaped glass containers, that are on display in the museum. Will Galileo point the way for Langdon to solve a puzzle?
The publication date for Dan Brown's Inferno is May 14, 2013, or 5.14.13. Turn that around, and you get 3.14.15, the first five digits of pi.* Add to that the fact that a cryptic clue on Dan Brown's website is comprised of the words 'Tarty Sect' and we definitely start wondering whether Pythagoras and sacred geometry are going to feature in some way: 'Tarty Sect' could be rewritten Pie Sect, a pun suggesting the Pythagorean cult, and what's more 'Tarty Sect' is an anagram of 'Tectractys' - the symbol of the Pythagoreans, a triangle made of subsequent lines of 1 point, 2 points, 3 points and 4 points.* A number of the great Renaissance minds of Florence held Pythagoras in great esteem, so there's definitely a link worth exploiting there for Dan Brown. Additionally, the number 33, often linked to the Pythagoreans, ... Read More »
This article is excerpted from Darklore Volume 6, available for sale from Amazon US and Amazon UK. The Darklore anthology series features the best writing and research on paranormal, Fortean and hidden history topics, by the most respected names in the field: Robert Schoch, Nick Redfern, Loren Coleman, Robert Bauval and Daniel Pinchbeck, to name just a few. Darklore's aim is to support quality researchers, so it makes sense to support Darklore. For more information on the series (including more free sample articles), visit the Darklore website.
The Calderstones of Liverpool
Forgotten history hidden in the parks of Great Britain
by John Reppion
After living in the district of Toxteth for ten years, my wife and I have recently moved – along with our son and cat – back into the area of Liverpool where I grew up. We now reside in deepest Beatle country. The unremarkable childhood homes of Lennon and McCartney within easy walking distance; Harrison and Starr’s each just a short bus ride away. Strawberry Field is just around the corner, and I regularly shove a pushchair up and down Penny Lane. Indeed, much of the area is practically unchanged since long, long before the days when moptops walked the earth – a good chunk of it being made up of parks, playing fields, cemeteries and other greenspaces. One of the most impressive of these parks stands next to the institution formerly known as Quarry Bank High School which Lennon attended and named his proto-Beatles skiffle group The Quarrymen after (other Quarry Bank alumni include horror novelist Clive Barker and actor Doug Bradley, most famous for playing Pinhead in the Hellraiser films which are (increasingly loosely) based on Barker’s books). After numerous mergings with other schools the institution was eventually renamed in 1985. Calderstones Community Comprehensive School took its new name from the adjacent Calderstones Park which is in turn named after the most ancient and perhaps easily overlooked monument in the city of Liverpool: The Calderstones.
Formerly a private estate, the land which makes up the park was purchased by Liverpool Corporation in 1902 for the sum of £43,000 from shipping magnate brothers Charles and David McIver. Calderstones Park was officially opened to the public three years later in 1905.1 The 94 acre (0.38 km2) space is well kept and always busy, boasting as it does a walled garden, a children’s play area, an historic Mansion House, a café, a former boating lake turned wildlife haven, a miniature ride-on railway, and even a thousand year old Oak Tree known as “the Law Oak”. It is beneath the spreading branches of this majestic tree that crime and punishment are alleged to have been discussed in the days before court buildings. Local folklore has it that, although the Law Oak (also known as the Allerton Oak) looks for all the world as though it has been struck by lightning at some point in its long life, the damage was actually done by the explosion of a gunpowder ship in the Mersey in the 1860s.2 The fact that the park and the Law Oak are more than a mile inland rarely, if ever, get in the way of the telling of the tale. Then there’s the tennis – the park is home to the annual Liverpool International Tennis Tournament in which globally renowned players such as Martina Navratilova, John McEnroe and Martina Hingis regularly participate. Buried amongst this myriad of amusements, attractions and events – set back from the pathway which leads from the park’s heavily ornamented main gates - an unassuming, semi-derelict looking conservatory. This weather-beaten structure is known as “the vestibule” and once served as the entry point to a network of greenhouses belonging to the Harthill community allotments beyond. Though the allotments are still in use, the greenhouses are long gone. Today the padlocked vestibule is home to half a dozen curiously ornamented sandstone relics ranging in size from almost 8 feet (2.4 m) to 4 feet (1.2 metres) tall, whose history was already all but forgotten when the Law Oak was still an acorn.
The Calldwaye Stones
The oldest written record of the stones dates back to 1568 where they are marked on a map relating to a boundary dispute between the districts of Wavertree and Allerton thusly: ... Read More »