News Briefs 13-03-2017

It's only paranoia if their not out to get you...

Quote of the Day:

Every fact of science was once damned. Every invention was considered impossible. Every discovery was a nervous shock to some orthodoxy. Every artistic innovation was denounced as fraud and folly. The entire web of culture and ‘progress,’ everything on earth that is man-made and not given to us by nature, is the concrete manifestation of some man’s refusal to bow to Authority.

Robert Anton Wilson

Scientists Discuss Their Research into Mind Beyond Body and the Survival of Consciousness After Death

2017 marks fifty years since Dr. Ian Stevenson founded the Division of Perceptual Studies (DOPS) at the University of Virginia - the oldest university-based research group in the world devoted exclusively to "the investigation of phenomena that challenge current physicalist brain/mind orthodoxy", including research into the possibility post-mortem survival of consciousness."

To mark the occasion, four of the staff -Jim Tucker, Bruce Greyson, Kim Penberth,. and Edward F. Kelly - gave presentations on their research (discussing, respectively: children who remember past live; near-death experiences; the mind-body relationship; and the Division's research and challenge to the physicalist paradigm) recently at the University of Virginia's 'Medical Center Hour', and I've embedded video of the event above. It's an excellent introduction to these topics, and the exciting research being done by DOPS.

(Note: I discussed DOPS a little and talked to Dr Bruce Greyson about near-death experiences in Stop Worrying, There Probably is an Afterlife, so check that out too if you're interested in the topic of survival of consciousness.)

News Briefs 11-03-2017

"Opposites are complementary."

Quote of the Day:

“We depend on our words... Our task is to communicate experience and ideas to others..”

Niels Bohr

Gazelle Amber Valentine of Jucifer interviewed about Spirits of Place

Gazelle Amber Valentine of Jucifer Live by Hillarie Jason

Gazelle Amber Valentine is one half of sludge / doom / death metal two piece Jucifer, formed in Georgia, USA in 1993. For more than seventeen years Gazelle and her bandmate (and husband), drummer Edgar Livengood, have adopted a nomadic lifestyle. The pair live, tour, rehearse, and sometimes even record in their Winnebago, towing the literal wall of amplification Valentine utilises on stage in a trailer behind them. The duo describe this life as an endless tour, and they can easily find themselves playing live shows in twenty or more countries in a single year.

Jucifer's music can be (and usually is) harsh, aggressive, and loud, but its subject matter and lyrical content are not necessarily what people might expect. 2008's L'Autrichienne was a concept album based around the French Revolution accompanied by extensive historical notes, while 2013's За Волгой для нас земли нет ("There is no land beyond The Volga") dealt with the Soviet Union and WWII. Equally though, there is a strong sense of Americana embedded in much of Jucifer's music and lyrics; dark folk sounds and sensibilities; finger-picked banjo and violin strings, and dissonant, melancholic melodies. Nowhere is this side of their work more apparent than in Gazelle's solo album Devil's Tower I, released in 2013.

All of this - the nomadic life, the artistry, the power and intelligence of her writing - made Gazelle Amber Valentine someone I was very keen to approach as a contributor to Spirits of Place. Her essay, entitled "I Have Trod Such Haunted Land", ended up being the first in the book and remains one of my favourites. Even though her internet connection can be intermittent as she and Edgar continue their never ending tour, Gazelle was kind enough to answer a few questions for me about the book and her contribution to it.


John Reppion: You and Edgar have lived a nomadic life for seventeen years now, how much of an influence do you think that lifestyle has on you creatively?

Gazelle Amber Valentine: The main thing I believe our nomadic existence has affected is our capacity to see all places with equal passion and simultaneously, equal dispassion. Delineation between 'home' and 'away' and between 'us' and 'them' becomes forever blurred in context of such a life. In every capital, one sees all the lovely decorations of propaganda and state fantasy, so impressive yet unable to conceal rote greed, violence and inequity. In every dwelling one imagines life and family; death and suffering and redemption. For natural empaths like us, the universality and futility of humans is enhanced almost unbearably. So although we always felt deeply about our art, I think it becomes wiser as we go farther on this path.

Other than that, our way of life has made us even less respectful of conformity and pandering than we were to begin with--- which wasn't very, haha. The immediacy of survival requires enshrinement of integrity, and of the bonds with your life partner. No room for falseness.

JR: Home for you is obviously the van, but are there places you feel anchored, or connected to no matter where you are?

GAV: Yeah, we both feel that certain places live inside of us wherever we are. For me some of these still exist and are physical, others are stories or memories, and still others are dreams which feel like memory.


JR: Have you encountered different cultural attitudes to place when travelling? I assume people are always asking you about the nomadic life and that opens up all kinds of discussions. Is there any particular country or city where you've felt that their sense of place, and relationship with it, was very different to your own?

GAV: I've felt that place affects people's customs and very subtle mannerisms in that people living in large countries (US, Canada, Russia, Australia) share more commonality along those lines than they do with people living in countries having comparatively small land mass. Although one can find xenophobia and competitiveness anywhere, there is a certain subconscious isolationism that's possible when 'foreigners' remain far away. For this reason and many other, perhaps unnameable, nuances which seem attributable to nation size, I've felt for example that Russians are more similar to Americans than are English folks --- despite origins of the US and despite most Russians having likely had more contact with people from the UK.

Beyond that observation, I've found that my personal attitude towards place seems replicated in different ways almost everywhere. Most countries, cities and neighborhoods have some kind of reverence for their history, albeit always threatened by forces of modernization and gentrification. If I were to make a worldwide guess, I'd assume that in every place, indigenous communities are most in touch with the importance of connecting to place and to its past. Colonists in every region only profit by obscuring historical connections (at least ones that predate their own) while indigenous peoples maintain their own families, nations and traditions by constant awareness of such links. Regardless of location and manner or conception of ownership, whenever people care about place it seems based on an idea of belonging. This is universal, and applies even when current inhabitants don't historically belong.

JR: What's your take on the Spirits Of Place core premise about stories being physically embedded in a place or landscape?

GAV: I said something in my piece about the fact that my personality combines skepticism and gullibility in a satisfactory ratio. This plays into my feelings about genus loci. On some (curmudgeonly) level the concept seems unscientific. Conversely, there is science that supports the possibility for kinetic transmittance of thought and its ability to accrue and manifest physically. Namely, that thought is electric and that electricity travels and accumulates.

Anecdotally, I've had very strong experiences of such spiritual residue. Combine that with my successful rationalization based on scientific possibility, and you find me definitely believing that spirits inhabit places. Even if I didn't think it could be posited with logic, I'd have to say I feel that this happens.


Spirits of Place is available in digital, paperback, and limited edition, signed hardcover from

Jucifer can be found online at and on Twitter @_JUCIFER_

News Briefs 09-03-2017

Worrying again about being on time somewhere is no fun --but neither is starvation…

Quote of the Day:

"Remain true to yourself, but move ever upward toward greater consciousness and greater love! At the summit you will find yourselves united with all those who, from every direction, have made the same ascent. For everything that rises must converge."

~Teilhard de Chardin

Surviving Death: A New Book on Afterlife Research from Leslie Kean

The Deceased in the Afterlife Realm

Leslie Kean, who made bestseller lists worldwide with her book UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record, has now turned her attention to another 'weird science' area deserving of more genuine enquiry: the evidence for the survival of consciousness after death. Like the previous release, the new book (released this week) - Surviving Death: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for an Afterlife - takes somewhat of an anthological approach, with a number of chapters provided by those intimately involved in the field. Here's the blurb:

“While exploring the evidence for an afterlife, I witnessed some unbelievable things that are not supposed to be possible in our material world. Yet they were unavoidably and undeniably real. Despite my initial doubt, I came to realize that there are still aspects of Nature which are neither understood or accepted, even though their reality has profound implications for understanding the true breadth of the human psyche and its possible continuity after death.”

So begins Leslie Kean’s impeccably researched, page-turning investigation, revealing stunning and wide-ranging evidence suggesting that consciousness survives death. In her groundbreaking second book, she continues her examination of unexplained phenomena that began with her provocative New York Times bestseller UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record. Kean explores the most compelling case studies of young children reporting verifiable details from past lives, contemporary mediums who seem to defy the boundaries of the brain and of the physical world, apparitions providing information about their lives on earth, and people who die and then come back to report journeys into another dimension. Based on facts and scientific studies, Surviving Death includes fascinating chapters by medical doctors, psychiatrists, and PhDs from four coun- tries. As a seasoned journalist whose work transcends belief systems and ideology, Kean enriches the narrative by including her own unexpected, confounding experiences encountered while she probed the question concerning all of us: Do we survive death?

Now, while I definitely recommend my own book as well for great background in this area (ahem, Stop Worrying, There Probably is an Afterlife), this sounds like an excellent one to add to your collection if you're interested in the controversial, yet fascinating topic of the survival of consciousness after death.


News Briefs 08-03-2017

Ride the wave...

Quote of the Day:

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

Litany Against Fear (from 'Dune')

The Hunt for 'Planet Nine' Explained

Mystery planet

In recent years new astronomical observations have led researchers to suggest that there may be another large planet in our Solar System, on a very elongated, elliptical orbit compared to the rest of the planets. Since nicknamed 'Planet Nine' (Planet X perhaps being too heavy with Zecharia Sitchin baggage for 'respectable' astronomers?), the mystery object is believed to currently be in the general direction of the constellation of Taurus (as viewed from Earth).

If you'd like to understand the discovery, and now search for, the mysterious Planet Nine, check out the video below by Mike 'Pluto Killer' Brown of Caltech, which is a part of a free online astronomy course "The Science of the Solar System", offered by Coursera. Brown gives the historical background to the search for distant planets, then describes how astronomers (including him) came to believe there was another large planet to be found, and how they are going to try and find it. A very interesting, concise explainer of the Planet Nine story, I definitely recommend checking it out:

Related stories:

News Briefs 07-03-2017


Quote of the Day:

We're all like detectives in life. There's something at the end of the trail that we're all looking for.

David Lynch