It's always a strange feeling when delays keep an article from being written for years, more so when those years stretch past the material life of the subject of the article itself. When Colin Wilson's book Supernatural was republished by Watkins Publishing in 2011 I received a review copy, and intended to use the book as a center point in writing a piece that focused on the possibilities of a wider vision for studying anomalous experiences. Now, the same article becomes something more like a memorandum, as Colin Wilson passed away on December 5th, 2013 after a long struggle with illness.
Wilson's work has in some way, as you will see repeated in so many memorials for him, inspired nearly every popular writer on the subject of anomalous experience that has grown up since the 1960's. His books The Outsider (1956) and The Occult: A History are two works which, when encountered by the young and curious, provide an initial spark of recognition that those subtle intimations of something more aren't just dreamy indulgence, but the seeds for a vast and expansive quest. More than anything, Wilson's work has been a potent and approachable catalyst to spur seekers of the Mysteries into a deeper engagement with the wide unknown.
In my own life it was The Outsider that catalyzed years of being absorbed in historical esoterica and contemplative works into something contemporary and real. It broke down any naive, youthful barriers between the "mysticism" of the past and what was possible in the seemingly "material" present. Later, when I discovered his book The Occult: A History in a small used book store in Chicago, it had the effect of grounding me again, and showing me the human side of the mytho-poeticially inhuman Magi and Adepti that I'd grown so fond of. At the time I was very interested in the work of Austin Osman Spare, and Wilson's recounting of an anecdote regarding Spare's attempt to conjure roses, only to be covered in sewage, was a teaching story I'll never forget.
When I received Supernatural to review, I was once again given an impetus to reevaluate my understanding of certain assumptions I'd developed in my research. Immersed in the science of psychical research, especially in the contemporary milieu where researchers have had to be so deadly careful in what they say due to the frothing rhetoric of the curmudgeonly skeptical sub-culture, one can get the false sense that small statistical anomalies are the only evidence we have that there is more to existence than a crippling lattice work of rough materia. For Wilson, there were no barriers between the realms of "the outsider," "the occult," and "the supernatural." All of these areas touch on what has come to be called "phenomenological existentialism," and represent areas of liminality where the seething, unseen forces of existence breach the mundane facade of the supposed materiality of the world, giving brief glimpses of the deeper Mystery.
Supernatural contains chapters on time travel, witchcraft, Spiritualism, ritual magic, vampires, werewolves, psychical research and innumerable other areas that usually remain cordoned off by the tightly guarded borders of sub-cultural specialties, or are dismissed outright without any further consideration. Yet, in Wilson's hands subjects which seem so easy to dismiss become questions that are not easily answered, and with a storyteller's firm grasp of anecdotal evidence we are invited to re-weave the threads of wonder which have been cut too quickly by the myopic vision of material progress.
With all of this, and with a bibliography of books that goes well beyond 40 individual works, one might think that it is his prolific output that makes him worthy of remembrance. However, I have found that more than anything he wrote, it was the ambient presence of the man himself that provides the true core of inspiration. For those who knew him, his generosity, curiosity and openness remains the subject that spurs the most reflection, and it is this quality of the man himself, reflected in his works, that truly catalyzes those who encounter them to go further in their own individual quests.
This is the invitation from the outsider, and this is what should be remembered and embraced by those of us still walking this waking world in his absence more than anything that he wrote. Research and writing are born to be put to the flames, and only the presence of a truly open heart remains when all is said and done, and an open heart is all that really matters in the end for any of us looking into the Mystery. This is something that the skeptical sub-culture so often misses when it stares at the chewing gum traces left on the bottom of the seats in this phenomenological theatre we call reality. They want to know what flavor is left in the soda soaked popcorn on the floor, rather than holding the hand of the Other, the Lover, and smiling at the fact that we are all invoking the Mystery of life together whatever the reality is behind anomalous experience.
Since this piece was originally posted on Reality Sandwich, I've been in contact with a number of people who were inspired by Wilson. When one inspiration passes on, they are not replaced with another, but are rather reflected in a myriad of inspired individuals who carry their own unique vision forward into the future.
Gary Lachman, whose recent book Caretakers of the Cosmos: Living Responsibly in an Unfinished World captures the deeper sense of humane engagement found in the esoteric quest, was a good friend of Wilson's, and in sharing the memorial piece with him I was reminded that Lachman's own work has also opened the doors of inspiration for so many others. In a post on Facebook remembering Wilson, Lachman points out that:
"He wanted us to see through what he called "the fallacy of insignificance," the belief that we are pointless, unimportant accidents in a purposeless universe, as most of the intellectuals who dismissed his work humbly accepted. He knew better and so did everyone who read his books. He lamented the loss of the hero but he was a hero to us all. I know he certainly was one to me. If anything I've written has any value at all, it is because it is informed with the brilliant ideas that came from his encyclopedic mind. To get an education you needn't go to Oxford, Cambridge or an Ivy League school. You only have to read The Outsider, or The Occult, or Mysteries, or any of the many remarkable books on philosophy, literature, psychology, criminology, the occult, parapsychology and the rest and follow his leads. If you do I assure you you will get an education you can't obtain at any of those schools or elsewhere. I know, because I have."
Martin 'Youth' Glover, the bassist for Killing Joke and an accomplished producer and artist, is another creative who has been inspired by Wilson's writing, and in his own way carries his fearless sense of exploration through musical, mystical and artistic explorations of the outer reaches of human experience. Having interviewed and spent time with Glover, I know that he has followed Wilson's philosophy of the 'fallacy of insignificance' and seeks to inspire the same sense of engagement with the full spectrum of human potential through his work and living example.
Ronnie Pontiac, a one time protege of Manly P. Hall and active participant in the Riot Grrrl scene, shared with me that he too was inspired by Wilson's writing during his youth. Pontiac's current work with Newtopia Magazine has been exploring the vast realm of American Metaphysical Religion, and again we see another luminary sparked by Wilson who is introducing others to areas of exploration that can inspire and open the deepest levels of human experience.
Frank DeMarco, founder of Hologram Books, has posted the final chapter of a work in progress from Colin Wilson's son Damon. The chapter looks at the nearly unfathomable fact of life itself and ends with this remarkable, and rare, statement:
Whoever you are. Whatever you’ve done. Whatever you may become.
I, and my Dad, love you.
- Damon Wilson. November 2013
DeMarco has a long relationship with the Monroe Institute, whose founder Robert Monroe was integral in bringing public awareness to the out of body experience. It was also DeMarco, working as an editor for Hampton Roads Publishers, that helped Russel Targ present his Studies in Consciousness series, which collected some of the best psychical research, both past and present, into a cohesive collection.
I'm sorry that in writing this, Wilson will never have the opportunity to read and reflect on how many diverse individuals have been touched by the deeper resonance of his work, and how it continues to spread his sense of unwavering curiosity and insight through so many unique avenues. Yet I am hopeful that now, in writing this, someone out there might gain some access to this deeper resonance and honor him by accepting the invitation from the outsider, and begin growing within it to become another light guiding us towards our enlightened potential. We live in darkness, and the more lights that are lit, the sooner we can return to that secret garden which awaits us at the end of the quest.
In Memorandum - Colin Wilson - 26 June 1931 – 5 December 2013
In the modern age, the debate over the possibility that our consciousness might survive the physical death of our body is often reduced to a false dichotomy of science vs religion. As such, scientists sadly often ignore and ridicule reports of strange phenomena from those who have approached, and in some cases gone beyond, the threshold of death, even though such experiences have a profound effect upon those who undergo them. Do these phenomena offer evidence that we might live on in some way past the demise of our physical selves? Here’s a list of five areas, taken from the book Stop Worrying! There Probably is an Afterlife (Kindle/Paperback), which suggest that it might just be so:
1. Veridical NDEs
The near-death experience first shot into the limelight in the 1970s after the publication of Raymond Moody’s best-selling book Life After Life, to the extent that nearly everyone today knows what an ‘NDE’ is. But while many people took the near-death experience itself as proof of a life beyond death, orthodox science has judged (rightly or wrongly) the heavenly visions of the NDE to be simply hallucinations brought on by the various physical and psychological burdens put on the brain by its imminent demise.
One area that has the potential to change that opinion, however, is research into what are termed ‘veridical NDEs’. This is where, during the ‘out-of-body experience’ stage of the NDE, the experiencer sees things – and later reports back on them – that they should not have been able to perceive. There are many anecdotes of veridical NDEs, such as the case of ‘Dentures Man’, which was mentioned in the respected journal The Lancet. In this case from 1979, a 44-year-old man (‘Mr. B’) was brought into the emergency department at Canisius Hospital in the Netherlands by ambulance, after being discovered comatose, hypothermic and without a pulse in a cold, damp meadow in the middle of the night. Hospital staff, including the senior nurse (‘T.G.’), were beginning resuscitation on the patient when T.G. noticed that Mr. B was wearing dentures, so removed them and placed them on the ‘crash cart’ so that he could put a ventilation mask on the unconscious man. After Mr. B was successfully ‘brought back’, he was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit, and so T.G. did not see the man again until a week later while doing rounds distributing medication. T.G. was astonished when, as he walked into the room, the patient he had brought back to life suddenly exclaimed ‘‘Oh, that nurse knows where my dentures are!’’. Seeing the look of surprise on T.G.’s face, Mr. B explained himself: since coming back to consciousness, Mr. B. had been looking for his dentures. ‘‘You were there when I was brought into hospital and you took my dentures out of my mouth and put them onto that cart,” he said. “It had all these bottles on it and there was this sliding drawer underneath and there you put my teeth”. T.G. was confused by this, as he remembered that he had done this when the patient was unconscious and undergoing CPR to bring him back to life:
When I asked further, it appeared the man had seen himself lying in bed, that he had perceived from above how nurses and doctors had been busy with CPR. He was also able to describe correctly and in detail the small room in which he had been resuscitated as well as the appearance of those present like myself. At the time that he observed the situation he had been very much afraid that we would stop CPR and that he would die. And it is true that we had been very negative about the patient’s prognosis due to his very poor medical condition when admitted. The patient tells me that he desperately and unsuccessfully tried to make it clear to us that he was still alive and that we should continue CPR. He is deeply impressed by his experience and says he is no longer afraid of death. Four weeks later he left hospital as a healthy man.
How did Mr. B ‘see’ the resuscitation room, and in particular the head nurse’s face, when his brain was apparently shut down? While this account alone is puzzling, it is just one of a long list of ‘veridical NDE’ reports through the years. Another patient, Al Sullivan, was undergoing emergency heart surgery when
-15F last Wednesday -- now that's what I call a six-cat night!
- Mystery of the first stars deepens.
- The planet that shouldn't exist.
- Saturn's hexagonal storm.
- 'Spooky action' builds a wormhole between 'entangled' quantum particles.
- Shrinking Arctic sea ice means scorching US summers.
- Reality bites as climate change adds fuel to bushfires.
- Spider webs spring out and grab airborne prey thanks to electrostatic glue.
- There's a reason they call them 'crazy ants'.
- Mosquitoes can smell your ankles.
- Some species get stronger and less likely to die with age, while others are not affected by age at all.
- Vast freshwater reserves discovered under ocean floor.
- Short-cut to hydrogen and maybe graphene.
- Why gold?
- Collisions between gold nuclei and deuterons create superhot subatomic soup known as quark-gluon plasma.
- Feeling defeated, entrapped is linked to anxiety, depression. Duh!
- Gene expression changes with meditation.
- Brain stimulation may induce the human will to persevere.
- Probiotic therapy alleviates autism-like behaviors in mice.
- Biologists substantially degrade Alzheimer's plaques by sending a fused protein across the blood-brain barrier.
- The reindeer whisperers.
- Financial astrologers believe the position of the planets can make a share price plummet. Why do many traders trust them?
- Nuclear material is stolen or lost two to four dozen times a year every year.
- Exposed: USDA's secret war on wildlife.
- FBI’s search for ‘Mo,’ suspect in bomb threats, highlights use of malware for surveillance.
- NSA gathers 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world. And wrongly says warrantless mobile-phone location tracking is legal.
- Someone's been siphoning data through a huge security hole in the internet.
Thanks to pov and RickMG.
Quote of the Day:
Gut physiology appears to have effects on what are currently presumed to be brain functions.
Professor of Biology Sarkis K. Mazmanian, here.
A summary of all the stories and news briefs posted on The Daily Grail over the past week - check 'em out if you missed any:
- Carved Tibetan Skull is a Work of Tantric Art
- News Briefs 02-12-2013 (Monday)
- The Moment a Man was Rescued after being Trapped in a Sunken Ship for Two Days
- News Briefs 03-12-2013 (Tuesday)
- New Study Finds that Mediumship May Be a Distinct Mental State
- News Briefs 04-12-2013 (Wednesday)
- Redating Egypt's Most Famous Monument, or Stupid Vandalism?
- News Briefs 05-12-2013 (Thursday)
- News Briefs 06-12-2013 (Friday)
Have a good weekend!
“Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.”
- Unprecedented new planet discovery.
- Exoplanets go blue.
- Glimpsing Saturn’s hexagon vortex.
- When black holes collide…
- Fifty-year solar staring contest pays off.
- The jade rabbit has liftoff. I repeat…
- Entanglement leads to wormholes, which leads to entanglement, which leads to wormholes, which leads to…
- Ancient DNA may reset humankind's timeline.
- Who hijacked the interwebs?
- Are you hearing voices?
- JILA develops spinning trap for electrons. Thought it said JLA…
- And so castles made of sand, fall in to the sea…
- Sports-cars, deconstructed.
- Erebor in Lego.
- This week’s evidence of the looming robot revolution… Google ‘Bot.
Quote of the Day:
“The learner always begins by finding fault, but the scholar sees the positive merit in everything.”
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Make it so:
- The tacit supernaturalism of popular science.
- The selfish meme of the selfish gene is wrong.
- The legend of Darwin's finches, unmasked.
- Krampus: Saint Nicholas' dark companion.
- The powerful mix of 9000-year-old music and alcohol.
- Stonehenge bluestones revealed as musical 'lithophones'.
- 'Thoughtography' exhibition opens.
- What a habitable planet twice the size of Earth would be like.
- The Bunyip, an example of sceptical, but speculative, cryptozoology from The Cryptozoologicon Volume I (Amazon US/UK).
- Back to the Garden: awakening to the shamanic paradigm.
- Oldest human DNA found in Spanish cave.
- Oldest signs of life on Earth.
- Rare documentary, The Power of the Witch (1971).
- A collection of Dion Fortune's rituals (as encoded in her novels) by Gareth Knight (Amazon US/UK).
- The cave carver.
- The house built for 150 quid.
- Timelapse of Earth, from the ISS (which just gets in the way, tbh).
Quote of the Day:
The search for Reality is the most dangerous of all undertakings, for it destroys the world in which you live.
Last week we posted some interesting/disturbing news about German archaeologists vandalising the Great Pyramid, while also apparently throwing doubt on the age of the famous cartouche of Pharaoh Khufu. That report, and others since, have been vague and sometimes contradictory regarding the individuals concerned - some saying they were students, others that they were aligned with certain academic institutions. As such, many questions have remained about the entire affair.
However posters at the Hall of Ma'at messageboard have been discussing aspects of it since October, and through their information and by following the links they've posted as well as recent news stories on the case, we can assemble a bit more of a picture of what happened. The two 'amateur archaeologists' are Dominique Görlitz and Stefan Erdmann, who (along with film-maker Frank Höfer) appear to have been granted official permission to access the Great Pyramid on the 17th of April, between the hours 6pm-8pm.
The pair seem not to have been officially affiliated with any institution; rather they are 'hidden history' enthusiasts who believe the Great Pyramid is much older than is currently believed. Both seem to be interested in numerous aspects of 'hidden history', from ancient aliens to secret societies, and - worryingly - perhaps some right-wing ideas.
Their trip to Egypt was apparently part of documentary-in-progress titled Das Cheops Projekt ('The Cheops Project'), for which they were seeking financial help through a crowd-funding campaign (which raised just €925 of their €46,000 target):
The research team around Dr. Dominique Goerlitz, Stefan Erdmann and filmmaker Frank Hoefer (NuoViso) is working independently and without and big sponsor in the background. Until now a part of the budget was privately financed. This contains shooting for several days in Egypt as well as examinations of the Great Pyramid and especially the King's Chamber and the relief chambers. This enabled us to take the samples of the king's cartridge. Furthermore we stay in contact with a prestigious institute for lab analysis in Germany which shall examine the samples of the cartridge. Many experts and pyramid researchers already have been interviewed or shown their interest.
With the elaborate film shootings and the expensive and the hard to get permissions to film in Egypt we could get the important samples (documented). This was privately pre-financed. More financial resources are necessary to bring the documentary to an end in short period of time. Especially the expensive lab analysis of the samples are only possible with a five digit amount of Euros.
Many of the videos associated with the project have been made private since the controversy broke, but the following trailer for Das Cheops Projekt remains accessible at the time of posting, and actually appears to feature footage of the vandalism occurring (at 1:31):
There's a couple of things worth noting about the video. Firstly, the chipping off of material in the video seems to not be on the famous cartouche of Khufu, as has been reported, but further to the right (pretty much where Dominique Görlitz is pointing in this image, with the Khufu cartouche at the far left of the picture). I'm not sure if this is the actual act which Egyptian authorities are talking about though - perhaps there were multiple areas chipped away?
Secondly, immediately before the vandalism part of the video, the two 'amateur archaeologists' are shown scaling a ladder, but this appears to be in the King's Chamber of the Great Pyramid for some reason. The Khufu cartouche can't be accessed from inside the King's Chamber, so I'm not sure what they were doing in there, unless it just worked best for the videoing (hopefully no further vandalism in that room!). But beyond that, what is more interesting is that they have a great big ladder in the Great Pyramid - this is not something you can just carry in to the GP at your own leisure, and seems to confirm the report that they were given official permission for their 'expedition' (although it's unlikely they were given permission to take material from the GP!).
So it would seem that though the pair were not aligned with the institutions that were claimed in early news reports, it is likely that they were given permission to access the monuments (and the Great Pyramid after hours). It may be that heads will roll internally for inadequate supervision of the duo during their time in the pyramid.
Regardless, if the above information is correct then I can only condemn the actions of Görlitz, Erdmann and Höfer. It is unlikely the 'samples' they took have any kind of scientific validity (from the area sampled, through to their method and the amount they chipped off), but what's far worse is that they took it upon themselves to damage one of the greatest monuments created by humans, dating back to the beginnings of written history.
I encourage research on these controversial questions, but certainly not by these methods.
- A tree of life & a Canaanite goddess in ancient Egypt.
- Armed guards return to protect
stargatesEgypt's ancient sites.
- Ancient celtic geo-wizards plotted a real Middle Earth (Amazon).
- Fantastic cartography tips from the guy who mapped Game of Thrones.
- Six of Britain's oldest trees have their roots in stories & myths.
- Into the Woods: on British forests, myth, & now by Ruth Padel.
- Feathered primates: the intelligence of crows, ravens, & magpies.
- High in the Andes, hummingbirds defy the low levels of oxygen.
- Watch a peregrine falcon chase down a pro mountain biker.
- Musical project spans 16 countries & 500-million migrating birds.
- Oneironaut Hunter Lee Soik charts new maps for lucid dreaming.
- You might recall my interview with Hunter from last month.
- Hubble space telescope finds signs of water on five alien planets.
- Kepler-90 is a distant planetary system much like our own.
- It may be easier to find alien life on Europa than we thought.
- Wormholes might be linked with spooky quantum entanglement.
Cartoon of the Day:
A new study co-authored by (among others) Dean Radin and Julie Beischel has found that electrocortical activity during mediumistic 'communication' is distinctly different than during other contemplative moments such as thinking about living or imaginary people. The research was done to explore two questions: possible correlations between the accuracy of mediums’ statements and the electrical activity in their brain; and the differences in mediums’ brain activity when they intentionally evoked four different subjective states.
To do so, the researchers collected psychometric and brain electrophysiology data from "six individuals who had previously reported accurate information about deceased individuals under double-blind conditions" (ie. mediums - or more accurately, mediums previously accredited by Julie Beischel's Windbridge Institute). Each experimental participant performed two tasks with eyes closed. In the first task, the medium was given the first name of a deceased person and asked 25 questions, after which they were asked to silently perceive information relevant to the question for 20 seconds and then respond. These responses were then scored for accuracy by individuals who knew the deceased persons. Researchers found that of the four mediums whose accuracy could be evaluated, three scored significantly above chance (p < 0.03). One of the mediums also showed a highly significant correlation between accuracy and brain activity in frontal theta.
In the second task, participants were asked to experience four mental states for 1 min each, a process that was repeated three times: (1) thinking about a known living person, (2) listening to a biography, (3) thinking about an imaginary person, and (4) interacting mentally with a known deceased person. Interestingly, statistically significant differences in electrocortical activity among the four mental states were found in all six participants, leading the researchers to conclude that the differences in electrocortical activity "suggest that the impression of communicating with the deceased may be a distinct mental state distinct from ordinary thinking or imagination".
Here's the conclusion of the paper, in the authors' words:
To conclude, we believe the results for Medium 1, correlating accuracy with electrocortical activity, qualify as a robust finding. The results regarding differences in gamma power bands between different mental states remains puzzling as the gamma difference we observed seems to arise, at least in part, from eye or muscular activity. The characterization of the exact nature of this difference in the gamma frequency band, and assessing whether any of this activity originates from the brain, calls for additional research. Taken together, the study’s findings suggest that the experience of communicating with the deceased may be a distinct mental state that is not consistent with brain activity during ordinary thinking or imagination.
For more information on scientific research into mediumship, check out my recent book Stop Worrying! There Probably is an Afterlife and also Julie Beischel's memoir on her work, Among Mediums: A Scientist's Quest for Answers.
Help keep The Daily Grail running into 2014 by buying one of our books or chipping in with a voluntary subscription. Not kidding when I say our future depends on your support...
- To Heaven and Back: CNN features tales of near-death experiencers.
- Also on that story: Is there an afterlife? Near-death survivors believe they saw the other side.
- But hey, I wrote a whole book about all that and more: Stop Worrying! There Probably is an Afterlife (Kindle eBook / Paperback).
- Video of the moment a man was found alive within a sunken tugboat, after more than two days trapped in a pitch-black 'air bubble'.
- Mysterious ice circle forms in North Dakota river.
- The world's oldest javelins: Stone spears from 280,000 years ago provide clue as to how humanity evolved.
- Did the 17th-century painter Vermeer use an optical trick to create his photo-realistic scenes?
- Did an Australian build a flying machine after a 'UFO vision' in 1868?
- The curious case of the exploding pig farms. What's your Pig Bang Theory?
- UFO mystery as bizarre flying saucer shape is captured in the sky above a wind farm.
- Why commercial drone delivery services, such as that touted by Amazon, won't fly any time soon.
- Human memory, boss level.
- On the flipside: the man whose mind exploded.
- Face of 'Angel of 9/11' spotted in twisted girder.
- This Mekong River Monster footage is pretty weird.
- Though you won't find the Mekong River Monster on this handy map of the Lake Monsters of America.
- Norfolk police warn of alarming clown epidemic. Just wait till they get wind of what's about to happen on the Santa front...
- Secret labyrinth of tunnels under Rome mapped.
- The after-death writings of Mark Twain.
- Revenant, a new peer-reviewed e-journal "dedicated to academic and creative explorations of the Supernatural, the Uncanny and the Weird", is now taking submissions.
- The Grand Canyon, filled with fog.
- Image(s) of the Day: This 300-year-old carved Tibetan skull is a Tantric work of art.
Thanks Kat and Cat.
Quote of the Day:
Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
Ralph Waldo Emerson