News Briefs 05-03-2014

The world's richest 15 people are collectively worth more than $700billion. That means they could pretty much give away $100 to every person on Earth if they wanted to and still remain billionaires…

Quote of the Day:

Trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth.

Alan Watts

Scientific Research Suggests We Unconsciously React to Events Up to 10 Seconds Before They Happen

Crystal Ball

Can your brain detect events before they even occur? That was the stunning conclusion of a 2012 meta-analysis of experiments from seven independent laboratories over the last 35 years, which found that the human body "can apparently detect randomly delivered
stimuli occurring 1-10 seconds in the future" (Mossbridge, Tressoldi, & Utts, 2012). In the studies, physiological readings were taken as participants were subjected to unpredictable events designed to activate the sympathetic nervous system (for example, showing provocative imagery) as well as 'neutral events' that did not activate the nervous system. These readings showed that the nervous system aligned with the nature of the event (activated/not activated) - and what's more, the magnitude of the pre-event response corresponded with the magnitude of the post-event response.

In a more recent paper, researchers have critically analysed these findings, considering possible mundane explanations for the results and also the implications of the results if they truly do point to a paradigm-shaking discovery:

The key observation in these studies is that human physiology appears to be able to distinguish between unpredictable dichotomous future stimuli, such as emotional vs. neutral images or sound vs. silence. This phenomenon has been called presentiment (as in "feeling the future"). In this paper we call it predictive anticipatory activity or PAA. The phenomenon is "predictive" because it can distinguish between upcoming stimuli; it is "anticipatory" because the physiological changes occur before a future event; and it is an "activity" because it involves changes in the cardiopulmonary, skin, and/or nervous systems.

They found that "neither questionable research practices (bias) nor physiological artifacts seem to be able to explain PAA", and that "the evidence indicates that there is a temporal mirroring between pre- and post-event physiological events, so that the nature of the post-event physiological response is correlated with the characteristics of the PAA for that event."

The authors of the paper also point out fascinating aspects of the research, such as the fact that "PAA is an unconscious phenomenon" that "appears to resemble precognition (consciously knowing something is going to happen before it does), but PAA specifically refers to unconscious physiological reactions as opposed to conscious premonitions". The implication is that "there must be a necessity for PAA to remain non-conscious most of the time", given that "if some part of our nervous system can obtain information about events seconds in the future, wouldn’t we have evolved to make this information conscious?"

There is also an ingenious, speculative discussion of how such a phenomenon might be possible:

A metaphor may help to provide an intuitive feel for this effect - watching a river move past a stick. The metaphor works as follows: Imagine that the direction of the water’s current is the conscious experience of the flow of time (temporal flow), and imagine that an intrusion in the flow (the stick) is an emotional, arousing, or otherwise important event. The largest disturbance in the water made by the intrusion is downstream (in the "forward" time direction), which is analogous to our conscious reaction to experiencing the important event. But if one examines the flow of water near the stick, one will also see a small perturbation upstream, anticipating the intrusion in the water downstream due to the back pressure. Similar to PAA, this upstream perturbation is a hint of things to come. It is not normally part of our conscious awareness and, as with disturbances in a flow of water, the majority of the effect of an intrusion is downstream of the intrusion.

Stick in the Water Metaphor for Presentiment

Nevertheless, as we always note here at the Grail, this is science at the edge so caveat lector. The authors of the recent paper too, urge caution until more extensive research is undertaken. "Until there is a gold standard experiment that is replicated across laboratories using exactly the same experimental procedure, physiological measures, and statistical analyses,", they note, "there remains the possibility that multiple analyses could influence the body of evidence supporting PAA". They recommend that all researchers investigating the topic register their experiments in advance "at any of several registries designed for experiments examining exceptional experiences".

I look forward to seeing the results of these future investigations. Or do I already know what the result is going to be?

Link: "Predicting the unpredictable: Critical analysis and practical implications of predictive anticipatory activity"

(via @SPR1882/Dean Radin)

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News Briefs 03-03-2014

Invent your own mythology or be slave to another man’s.

Quote of the Day:

God is not merely a possibility, not merely a conclusion, but the starting point for any understanding at all.

John Frame

The Art of Dying: Beatles Guitarist George Harrison 'Lit Up the Room' When He Died

George Harrison

In my book Stop Worrying! There Probably is an Afterlife, I devoted an entire chapter to the fascinating topic of 'end-of-life experiences' (ELEs), which incorporate a number of phenomena that occur in the final days and hours of someone's life. These include experiences of the dying such as deathbed visions, but also a number of perplexing cases that involve quite healthy people close to or caring for the dying person. One such ELE is the 'dying light', where those caring for the dying have described seeing a bright light surrounding the person as they pass away, exuding what they relate as “a raw feeling of love”.

Surprisingly, reports of the 'dying light' are not rare. As I pointed out in Stop Worrying..., neuropsychiatrist Peter Fenwick was amazed to find in a survey of palliative carers that one in every three reported accounts of “a radiant light that envelops the dying person, and may spread throughout the room and involve the carer”. In a similar Dutch study, the numbers were even more staggering: more than half of all carers reported observations of this light!

After my book was published, I came across another, high-profile example of the 'dying light'. Olivia Harrison, wife of former Beatles guitarist George Harrison, gave this account of his passing for the Martin Scorcese-directed documentary about his life, George Harrison: Living in the Material World (0:26 mark):

There was a profound experience that happened when he left his body. It was visible. Let’s just say, you wouldn’t need to light the room, if you were trying to film it. He just…lit the room.

Olivia Harrison's testimony sounds very similar to Peter Fenwick's description, “a radiant light that envelops the dying person, and may spread throughout the room", and seems befitting of the passing of a man who was very interested in mysticism, consciousness, and being personally prepared for our own death. As Harrison himself put it on one of the songs on his 1970 solo album All Things Must Pass, "nothing in this life that I've been trying, could equal or surpass the art of dying".

You can read more reports of the 'dying light', and other fascinating end-of-life experiences, in Stop Worrying! There Probably is an Afterlife (available in Paperback and Kindle eBook editions).

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Pulling The Cosmic Trigger - The Kazimier, Liverpool, UK, 23 February 2014

The story so far... Guided by a chain of synchronicity, much of which revolving around the number 23, Daisy Eris Campbell, daughter of Ken Campbell (who staged the 10-hour production of The Illuminatus! Trilogy in Liverpool in the 1970’s) and Prunella Gee (who played, among others, The Goddess Eris in that production - Daisy was conceived backstage) is on a mission to adapt Robert Anton Wilson’s autobiography Cosmic Trigger: Final Secret Of The Illuminati for the stage. Aided by Wilson aficionado John Higgs (of this parish) and many others, she raises the funds to secure the rights to the book, finds a gang of actors and artists ready to face the challenge, and writes the script. Now, with yet more synchronicity haunting her path, she takes her gang to Liverpool to ask an assembly of Wilson fans the Big Question - ‘shall we pull the Cosmic Trigger here, in this most symbolic of cities?’

(If you want more details, here’s John and Daisy presenting the tale as of last year in London.)

Now read on...


There is a bust of Carl Gustav Jung on Liverpool’s Mathew Street, just down the road from the site of the Cavern Club, where The Beatles first played. It’s there because in 1927 Jung had an exceptionally vivid dream about Liverpool, a city which at the time he had never visited - a dream which changed his life. He recounts the dream in his autobiography ‘Memories, Dreams, Reflections’, on page 223, thus:

I was in Liverpool.

With a number of Swiss - say half a dozen - I walked through the dark streets.

The various quarters of the city were arranged radially around the square. In the centre was a round pool, and in the middle of it, a small island. While everything around was obscured by rain, fog, smoke and dimly lit darkness, the little island blazed with sunlight. On it stood a single tree, a magnolia, in a sea of reddish blossoms.

It was as though the tree stood in the sunlight and was, at the same time, the source of light...This dream represented my situation at the time. I can still see the greyish-yellow raincoats, glistening with the wetness of the rain.

Everything was extremely unpleasant, black and opaque - just as I felt then. But I had had a vision of unearthly beauty, and that was why I was able to live at all.

Liverpool is the ‘pool of life'.

The ‘liver', according to an old view, is the seat of life - that which "makes to live".

The bust was placed by the alleged site where Jung’s dream was focussed, and it has become a place of reverence for Jung aficionados. As of Sunday 23rd February 2014 of the Common Era, that bust has a pair of rainbow-coloured knickers on his head. 

 Here’s why.

The gathering at the Kazimer Club to preview and publicise Daisy Campbell’s adaptation of Cosmic Trigger was something I simply had to attend. Robert Anton Wilson’s work was more than a formative influence on me - it’s one of the main reasons I survived to adulthood and became what I am today. I’d been fortunate enough to be in the audience for the previous London-based gathering regarding the project and had been blown away: both by Daisy’s enthusiasm and commitment to not only doing this project but doing it right and, to judge by the brief scene which had previewed that night (a meeting at the Playboy offices between Wilson, Alan Watts and his wife, and William S. Burroughs), the skill and verve with which which she and her crew were pulling it off. The involvement of our very own John Higgs, whose works on Leary and the KLF are also helping the revival of Wilson’s ideas along, sealed the deal. The fact that the event would also feature exclusive video material from Alan Moore talking about his love of Wilson’s work was very tasty icing indeed.

And... I had this idea.

One of Daisy’s major symbols for her own journey in and out of Chapel Perilous is a pair of rainbow knickers that she wore on her head when briefly enjoying the care of a mental health facility, a result of being pulled too fast along the stream of synchronicity begun before she was even born. Her intention was to hold a street ritual to call on those powers in the service of bringing the Cosmic Trigger project to full flower, and place those same knickers on the bust of Jung. 

I had an inkling that there was another significant power in regard to harnessing the power of synchronicity who could be called upon: a creation of Alan Moore, a son of Liverpool, a master of the Caper (a key phrase Ken Campbell used to describe his work)... John Constantine. I thought that maybe, with Daisy’s permission, a quick word with The Laughing Magician would not be out of place.

...but more on that later.

I arrived about an hour early for the gig, and decided to have a wander around the nearby streets - it’s been years since I’ve been to Liverpool and it’s always good to get a city thoroughly back under your feet after a long absence. As I wandered, this is what I saw drawn on the wall opposite the Kazimer:

(The guy's headgear even resembles Ken Campbell's habitual pork pie hat!)

Literally round the corner from there was this:

A good start!

The Kazimer event itself - a pretty full house - consisted of John and Daisy each talking about their involvement in Wilson’s work, Liverpool and what, for want of a better term, one might call The 23 Current. Both were entertaining, funny and profound (which, if you’ve seen the videos linked above of the previous event, is no shock). The three Alan Moore video excerpts had The Greatest Living Englishman in fine form, talking about his affinity with Wilson’s point of view in regards to the essential silliness of conspiracy theories as compared to the actual reality of how conspiracies happen, and a fascinating retelling of his first conscious act of magic after declaring himself a magician on his 40th birthday. In this (psilocybin-aided) act, Moore had a vision of the greatest dead mages of history - the likes of John Dee, Aleister Crowley, Austin Osman Spare and such - as well as shadowy figures who appeared to have animal heads. In the middle of this gathering, who Moore took to be the ranks of the Illuminated, sat Robert Anton Wilson - who at the time was very much alive. This vision influenced his later work (and perspectives on time) greatly, and it was a pleasure to hear that tale from his own lips. There was also a guest appearance from The Goddess Eris Herself (played with tremendous verve by Claudia Egypt) in a scratch retelling of the story of The Apple Of Discord.

After an interval, Daisy introduced a scene from the show in its first live performance - typically of her audacity and drive, it was the most technically difficult scene in the play, and performed by a cast of whom half had been found locally specifically for the evening and who had barely a day to rehearse.

It was stunning.

The scene depicts Wilson’s first LSD trip: starting with a quiet domestic scene between Wilson (played by Oliver Senton, a veteran of Ken Campbell’s The Warp adaptation and other capers) and his wife Arlen (Kate Alderton) before Wilson drops acid, it rapidly spirals out into a brief re-enactment of the scene in Illuminatus! where Joe Malik (Senton-as-Wilson-as-Malik) is initiated by Simon Moon ('Tall' Paul Robinson) into the mysteries of the 23 Enigma, and from there into an extravaganza of symbolism, initiation and terror, featuring complex staging, two songs (music by Richard Kilgour) and the spirit of Albert Hoffman (Trev Fleming) pedalling past on first a bicycle, then a tricycle. The scene ended with Wilson being soothed from his terrors by his young-but-wise daughter Luna (Katy-Anne Bellis) - which, since I know how the story ends, had me in floods of tears. 

(Picture by John Higgs)

If this is what Daisy’s vision of Cosmic Trigger will be like, it should be just as mighty as her father’s Illuminatus!, yet something apart, something of its own times, which I can only hope can bring the optimistic, multi-model perspective Wilson embodied back to a world that sorely needs it.

At the end, Daisy asked the question - should we pull the Cosmic Trigger in Liverpool, on the Discordian Holy Day of 23 November this year? The answer was a resounding YES.

After that, inevitably, was a trip to the nearest pub. And there’s very little more fun in this world than drinking with Scousers. The gathering included some old hands from Liverpool’s underground scene - including the elder statesman Peter O'Halligan, who was responsible not only for creating The Liverpool School of Language, Music, Dream and Pun on Mathew Street where Ken first staged Illuminatus!, but also the Jung bust we were about to pay homage to.

I’d had a word with Higgs, who’d had a word with Daisy... who met up with me in the pub, agreed that calling on Constantine was not just apt, but useful... and asked me to do that short ritual as the opening act before her ceremonial Placing Of The Rainbow Knickers. I agreed - with some nervousness.

(I should point out that, not unlike Alan Moore and Jamie Delano before me, I had noticed a guy who bore a striking resemblance to Constantine in the audience. Well, a bloke dressed the same, suit and shabby raincoat - he was bald, so maybe it was the variation known as Jack Carter. Never got the chance to say hi... )

The group of us who still remained - according to local reporter and friend of the 23 Current Angie Sammons, about 50 people - headed along to Mathew Street. It’s a main drag in Liverpool’s city centre and, even on a Sunday night, it was thronging with Beatles buskers and amiable groups of sozzled Scousers. Our cluster of devotees reached Jung’s bust, which had already received a rainbow scarf the month before as a prelude to the working thanks to another local powerhouse, Tommy Calderbank.

Daisy introduced me to the group, and I essayed a short ceremony, calling upon John Constantine’s synchronicity-surfing powers and his cunning (and, very specifically, not his friendship) for all assembled there, with a ceremonial offering of a shared flask of single malt and a pack of Silk Cut, Constantine’s preferred smoke. Then Daisy spoke: calling on that same current which had called Jung’s soul to the Pool Of Life to bring the Cosmic Trigger to be pulled with the fullest effect, and to manifest that same spirit of destiny which had brought her so far... but, as she put it, only “just enough!”. The knickers were placed with the assistance of a rapidly constructed human pyramid (but of course), and we all cheered.

Attracted by our revelry, a few local lads in Liverpool Football Club motley wandered over to investigate. And one of them wore this shirt... the spells kicking in clearly didn’t take long.

The premiere of Daisy Campbell’s production of Cosmic Trigger will take place in Liverpool in a 3 day event, from 21st to 23rd of November 2014 of the Common Era. And, I am willing to bet, Carl Jung’s rainbow-knickered head will smile upon all there.




EdgeScience #17

Issue 17 of the free PDF magazine EdgeScience is now available to download from the website of the Society for Scientific Exploration (SSE). In the new issue:EdgeScience 17

  • "The Science Bubble", by Henry H. Bauer.
  • "A Case of Xenoglossy Under Hypnosis", by Ohkado Masayuki and Okamoto Satoshi.
  • "Thoughts on a Shared Dream Model Reincarnation (and Life)", by Jim B. Tucker.
  • "When Dogma Trumps Evidence and the Scientific Method - Book Review by Etzel Cardeña of Will Storr's The Heretics: Adventures with the Enemies of Science.
  • "An Undiscovered Ligament", by George Kenney.

Grab a free PDF of EdgeScience 17 from the SSE website, or the print version from MagCloud. If you do grab the free PDF, please consider a small donation to help the EdgeScience team continue with this excellent publication, via the button on the webpage. There's also a link to join the SSE on that page if you want to keep up with the latest academic research into the 'edgier' areas of science.

News Briefs 28-02-2014

“You see things; and say "Why?" But I dream things that never were; and say "Why not?”

With thanks to RMG for links and special props to Kat for her expert handling of last Friday’s news! Thanks again!

Quote of the Day:

"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place."

G. Bernard Shaw

The Shape-Shifting Son of God

During the early years of Christianity, there were a lot of divergent beliefs surrounding the figure of Jesus, all semi-coexisting in harmony until emperor Constantine organized the first Council of Nicea; by then one 'canonical' story was supported by the Roman empire, while the rest were considered apocryphal & therefore heretic.

A recent translation of a 1200-year-old Coptic text, found in the ruins of the Egyptian Monastery of St. Michael, offers us a glimpse of perhaps one of the rarest beliefs shared by the ancient Coptic monks: According to the translation of Roelof Van den Broek --of Ultrecht University (Netherlands)-- Jesus had the ability to change his appearance, and even become completely invisible!

The text goes on to explain that Jesus’ ability to change his appearance necessitated identification via a kiss from Judas rather than Judas simply pointing him out to the authorities.

“Then the Jews said to Judas: How shall we arrest him [Jesus], for he does not have a single shape but his appearance changes. Sometimes he is ruddy, sometimes he is white, sometimes he is red, sometimes he is wheat colored, sometimes he is pallid like ascetics, sometimes he is a youth, sometimes an old man…”

This peculiar version of the crucifixion's tale also states how when Pilate gave Jesus a chance to flee from prison --offering his own son in his place as a way to appease the crowd-- Jesus showed him how he could easily escape anytime he wanted to, and to prove that he became incorporeal in front of the flabbergasted Roman prefect.

A shape-shifting Jesus. Wait 'til David Icke gets a hold of this!

In any case, this ancient Coptic text goes to show how Gnostic Christians were heavily influenced by the Classic Greek culture. Jesus' Mistique-like superpower is not so different of how Zeus would often turn into a swan, a bull or whatever he fancied, in order to have a little 'quality time' with some clueless mortal woman.

Link: Translation of 1,200-year-old Egyptian manuscript proposes Jesus could change his appearance and shape at will

[H/T Kat]

Have Russians Discovered Ancient 'Super-Megalithic' Architecture in Siberia?

Siberian megaliths, or mountain?

Are these images posted to a Russian blog evidence for one of the greatest megalithic constructions ever discovered, or are they just a geological quirk of nature, like the Japanese site of Yonaguni seems to be? My votes on the latter, but I look forward to further investigation:

The super megaliths were found and photographed for the first time by Georgy Sidorov on a recent expedition to the Southern Siberian mountains. The following images are from Valery Uvarov's Russian website. There are no measurements given, but from the scale depicted by the human figures, these megaliths are much larger (as much as 2 to 3 times larger) than the largest known megaliths in the world. (Example: The Pregnant Woman Stone of Baalbek, Lebanon weighs in at approximately 1,260 ton). Some of these megaliths could easily weigh upwards of 3,000 to 4,000 tons.

What do you think?

Link: Super Megaliths in Gornaya Shoria, Southern Siberia

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