Be nice to as many people as you possibly can. Lord knows, we all need it...
- The mind isn't locked in the brain, but extends far beyond it.
- There's no such thing as free will...but we're better off believing in it anyway.
- A rational nation ruled by science would be a terrible idea.
- On the flipside: religious extremists Daesh have been erasing Syria's rich cultural history, to the point of crushing mummies with bulldozers. We can only hope the Old Gods are displeased...
- Prehistoric tattoos were made with volcanic glass tools. Also: White walkers.
- Vatican unveils ancient frescoes that could show that women held power in the early Church.
- As the Earth's temperature continues to rise at an alarming rate, Britain faces the threat of catastrophic flooding.
- Over 100 years after the most powerful explosion in documented history, researchers are still trying to figure out exactly what happened at Tunguska.
- NASA lies about Jupiter probe, media swallows it.
- This planet with 3 suns shouldn't even exist.
- Ghostbusters, and why we like to laugh at things that go bump in the night.
- Fatality forces Tesla to confront the limits of their cars' 'autopilot' option.
- 'Vatileaks' pair convicted of leaking official documents about Vatican corruption.
- Wandering the labyrinth: monsters and magic.
- Kiefer Sutherland to resurrect his character in the Flatliners remake?
- Rat heart cells power robotic sting-ray
- This is your brain on silence.
Quote of the Day:
The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy; instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it...Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
A reminder: if you would like to be in the draw for a cool prize this month, offer some support as a 'Friend of the Grail' (e.g. by chipping in a few dollars a month to help keep our heads above water)...
- Scientists are teaching robots how to hunt prey. Because that's exactly what we need to do after previously doing this.
- DARPA goes full Tron with its grand battle of the hack bots. Never go full Tron.
- 'Hyperloop' connecting Helsinki and Stockholm turns a 300-mile round trip into a 28 minute ride.
- When artificial intelligence goes wrong, we won't be able to ask it why.
- Getting to know the machine elves: long-term immersion in the DMT realm through controlled intravenous injection.
- Some of the very best alien conspiracy theories.
- Who is this man who seems to die in every terrorist attack?
- Fortcast - a transmission of the strange.
- The great sulphur pyramids of Alberta dwarf the pyramids of Egypt.
- If we return Nazi-looted art, the same should go for empire-looted treasures.
- Why is there a seed vault in the Arctic Circle?
- How the American Pledge of Allegiance went from PR gimmick to patriotic vow.
- Scientist claims he's discovered a magnetic 'sixth sense' in humans.
- Image of the Day: The galaxy at the end of the ocean.
Quote of the Day:
One day the AIs are going to look back on us the same way we look at fossil skeletons on the plains of Africa. An upright ape living in dust with crude language and tools, all set for extinction
Nathan (Ex Machina)
I will never get tired of space probe images. Four centuries after Galileo gazed through his crude telescope and saw Jupiter being circled by a number of its own moons (thus dealing a serious blow to the Ptolemaic, Earth-centric view of the cosmos), NASA's Juno probe captured the higher-fidelity view above of the Galilean satellites orbiting the giant planet as it approached its own orbit.
During it’s final approach to Jupiter, NASA’s Juno spacecraft captured this unique time-lapse movie of the Galilean satellites in motion about the planet. The images were taken 5 days prior to arrival and end when the spacecraft was 3 million miles distant. The innermost moon is volcanic Io; next in line is the ice-crusted ocean world Europa, followed by massive Ganymede, and finally, heavily cratered Callisto.
Imagine the look on Galileo's face if you could go back and show him that video...
Here and now:
- Possible remains of the Buddha found in China.
- Rock art on Danish island of Bornholm older than previously thought.
- Shaman woman's grave from 10,000 BC discovered in Galilee.
- Stone Age text links Australia to Europe: initial evidence for worldwide travel by an ancient Stone Age civilization.
- "Leaders of otherplanets are worried" - Confused EU President talks about extraterrestrials.
- Listen to the LHC’s weird, whale-like sounds.
- German 'Stonehenge' opens to the public.
- Scientists say Serpent Mound as old as Aristotle.
- What alien abductees’ stories tell us about humanity.
- Possible discovery of ancient mother and baby with elongated heads in Bolivia.
- Scientists warn of 'global climate emergency' over shifting jet stream.
- Massive 'lava lamp' blobs deep inside Earth have scientists puzzled.
- Single-celled organisms forced to play life-or-death Pac-Man.
- Stanley Kubrick's daughter has some choice words for moon landing truthers.
- A fifth force: fact or fiction?
Quote of the Day:
Time and space are modes by which we think and not conditions in which we live.
In my late twenties I sat - for the very first time - through a Catholic Mass. As a rather non-social person who, when put into a group situation, often finds myself studying the behaviour of those around me 'from afar', I was surprised when - despite not being an active participant in the ritual - elements of the Mass seemed to have intriguing effects on my consciousness. Alternating passages swapping from droning vocals to the ringing of a bell felt like they were breaking the door to my mind down, one strike of the bell at a time.
Having already studied the consciousness changing rituals of 'magick' in previous years, I did afterwards chuckle to myself that the Catholic Mass seemed to be an occult ritual of the highest order. But it also did make clear to me how malleable our mind can be when subjected to ritual elements, and I have had a growing interest in this topic since.
So it gives me great pleasure to announce that Daily Grail Publishing has just released a new book on this very topic: The Power of Ritual, by Robbie Davis-Floyd and Charles Laughlin (available now from both Amazon US and Amazon UK). The beautiful cover was once again put together by our good friend Mark Foster, of Artifice Design.
Here's the blurb:
This book is about ritual itself - what it is, how it works to influence human belief and behavior, what makes it powerful, what makes it dangerous, and most of all, what makes it useful to contemporary humans. The authors draw often on their own personal experiences with ritual to illuminate its potential for generating and perpetuating group belief and individual transformation, making the book an engaging read. Professors teaching about ritual will find this to be a useful resource, while students and scholars seeking to study ritual will find much to interest them, as will all those interested in designing and performing rituals, and understanding the rituals they choose to participate in or perform.
If you're at all interested in the human mind, and especially its relationship with ritual and belief systems, then I highly recommend that you add this one to your bookshelf.
I've just posted an excerpt from the Preface of the book in which co-author Robbie Davis-Floyd describes the origins of her own interest (and expertise) in ritual, from her anthropological studies - which at one point even led to her indoctrination in a cult - through to personally finding ways to work through the tragic passing of her daughter Peyton in an automobile accident at 20. It's an amazingly raw and honest piece of writing, which I hope you'll take time to read.
In recent decades usage of the psychedelic substance N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) has grown considerably, and its intriguing effects have even been the subject of a study by Dr. Rick Strassman. In his book DMT: The Spirit Molecule, Strassman recounted many of the strange 'entity encounters' experienced by participants in his scientific trial, but noted that it was difficult for the experiences to be studied in depth due to the speed of the 'trip' (sometimes described as being 'shot out of a cannon' into a parallel universe before being quickly pulled back into reality).
Strassman's interest in the topic has not waned over the years, and in a new paper - co-authored with Andrew Gallimore - he has suggested a new method of delivering DMT that might sustain the experience for a longer period - effectively immersing study participants in the DMT realm, in much the same way that the application of general anaesthesia keeps medical patients immersed in unconsciousness.
"[DMT] users consistently report the complete replacement of normal subjective experience with a novel 'alternate universe,' often densely populated with a variety of strange objects and other highly complex visual content, including what appear to be sentient 'beings'," Strassman and Gallimore note. "The phenomenology of the DMT state is of great interest to psychology and calls for rigorous academic enquiry":
The extremely short duration of DMT effects—less than 20 minutes—militates against single dose administration as the ideal model for such enquiry. Using pharmacokinetic modelling and DMT blood sampling data, we demonstrate that the unique pharmacological characteristics of DMT, which also include a rapid onset and lack of acute tolerance to its subjective effects, make it amenable to administration by target-controlled intravenous infusion. This is a technology developed to maintain a stable brain concentration of anaesthetic drugs during surgery. Simulations of our model demonstrate that this approach will allow research subjects to be induced into a stable and prolonged DMT experience, making it possible to carefully observe its psychological contents, and provide more extensive accounts for subsequent analyses.
Juno insertion? Sounds like the worst movie prequel ever...
- Juno space probe successfully inserted into orbit around Jupiter.
- Here's what to expect from the mission now that Juno is in orbit around the biggest planet in our solar system.
- War, on drugs - using chemicals to get in a killing mood.
- How to spot alien life: new equation could help astronomers pinpoint planets that are home to extraterrestrials.
- China builds world’s largest radio telescope to hunt for aliens.
- Consciousness: the mind messing with the mind.
- As a psychiatrist, I diagnose mental illness. Also, I help spot demonic possession.
- Digital analysis of the Dead Sea Scrolls says Noah's Ark was a pyramid.
- Mining the treasures of the Antikythera.
- Prehistoric cave contains a hidden, 6000-year-old telescope.
- Woman arrested for threatening to kill Stephen Hawking.
- A strange case of consensual murder.
- Japan's first VR porn festival shut down, because too many people wanted to come. I did not write that headline, though I wish I did.
- Could cannabis cure Alzheimer's? Drug's active ingredient 'helps remove key toxic protein from brain cells'.
- 'Badass librarians' foil Al Qaeda, save ancient manuscripts.
- The occult returns to the art world.
Quote of the Day:
From out there on the Moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.’
Edgar Mitchell (Apollo 14 astronaut)
Preface to The Power of Ritual
by Robbie Davis-Floyd
The Power of Ritual has grown out of my thirty years of research on ritual and technology in American childbirth, and in particular, out of a workshop I have often presented on “The Power of Ritual” to diverse groups around the country. Audiences for this workshop have included priests, psychotherapists, physicists, female professionals, social scientists, health care practitioners (nurses, midwives, physicians, childbirth educators), men’s movement participants and workshop leaders, business managers, New Agers, university students, drug and alcohol addicts, members (or former members) of cults, and aerospace engineers. During the course of these workshops, I have often noted a high level of confusion among people who are designing and performing rituals on a regular basis as a part of, for example, religious or spiritual retreats, psychotherapy intensives, men’s movement weekends-in-the-woods (popular in recent past decades), and self-help seminars. They tell me that they “intuit” what ritual is all about, but their sense of it is vague, unformed. They come to my workshops to find out what they themselves are actually up to! I am always delighted when such people show up in my audiences, as one of the major reasons why I started teaching these workshops was my concern about the uncritical use of ritual that has characterized the explosion of interest in the new spirituality, alternative healing, and self-help movements, to name only a few. Ritual is an extraordinarily powerful socializing tool that can be just as easily manipulated for ill as used for good. The naiveté of many contemporary ritual practitioners has worried me for a long time, and these workshops—and now this book—serve as my way of combating that naiveté. I often receive letters of thanks from such practitioners for “raising their consciousness” about precisely how ritual works, about its very real benefits, and about its equally real dangers. This information enables them to be more conscious and more responsible about the way they use the rituals they create.
My interest in ritual developed both from personal experience and from my anthropological studies of American childbirth, midwifery, and obstetrics. My childhood in Casper, Wyoming was punctuated with ritual events, many of which focused around the local rodeos that happened during the summers, and the seasonal celebrations of Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. But my deepest ritual imprinting came from growing up in the Presbyterian Church. Although I moved away from that religion in later years, the hymns we sang in church every Sunday, the vivid memory of the light streaming through the stained glass window showing Jesus’ ascension, the feeling of peace and completion that would descend over me as the minister raised his arms to give the final blessing—all these still resonate in my being and provide me with a sense of stability. In particular the words of the Doxology, which I must have sung at least 500 times during my childhood churchgoing years, still give me the goose bumps I used to get as I rose as one with the whole congregation, to sing joyously:
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost
As it was in the beginning, it is now and ever shall be
World without end, Amen, Amen
As I typed those words just now, singing as my fingers moved over the computer keys, that same uplifting feeling surged inside of me, goose bumps popped out on my arms once again, and I was right back in memory inside that beautiful church staring at the light shining through that stained glass window. Such is the power of ritual to affect our emotions, even decades after the fact.
But now as I reread the words of the Doxology, my critical faculties come into play: that song, which purports to be so timeless and so universal, does not encompass certain facts that I accept as reality. Things are not as they were in the beginning—in fact, change is the one constant of both human and universal experience. Our world is not “without end” —one day, billions of years from now, the Earth will be swallowed up in flames when its sun turns into a red giant. And there are no females and no “female principle” in that song, only a father, a son, and an androgynous spirit which is the closest the Presbyterianism of my youth could get to acknowledging that males are not the only gender. So I can’t even find myself in its words—they do not charter my existence, like a good myth should. As an experiment, I sing the song once more and note that in spite of my intellectual objections, the goosebumps and uplifting sensation return. As we shall see throughout this book, rituals primarily affect our emotions—through triggering a powerful emotional response, ritual can get people to believe or at least resonate deeply with ideologies that they might intellectually reject.
In my early years as an anthropology student during the 1970s, I studied shamanism and ritual healing in Mexico, and worked for a time with two Mexican shamans, one traditional and one thoroughly cosmopolitan. Those experiences, which involved both anthropological observation and personal participation in rituals of various sorts, taught me a great deal about ritual’s flexibility as I saw it stretch to encompass the contrasting realities of the pre- and postmodern worlds. I watched with amazement as the people participating in the rituals that the traditional shaman had been performing for decades suddenly began to include American New Agers seeking connection with the earth and with traditional cultures—in Don Lucio, the traditional shaman I worked with, I guess these seekers found at least a facsimile of Castaneda’s Don Juan. And I was equally fascinated by the postmodern shaman, Edgardo Vasquez Gomez. A wealthy upper class Mexican gentleman, he had studied traditional shamanic techniques all over Mexico, and was eclectically combining them with a European esoteric spiritual system based on the works of Gurdjieff, which invited individuals to “wake up” to a greater awareness of everyday life. His use of ritual to stimulate this kind of awareness in his followers was masterful; watching him manipulate people’s states of consciousness was a lesson to me in the intentional use of ritual to achieve instrumental (practical) ends. (Both Don Lucio and Edgardo are now deceased.)
Perhaps my deepest engagements with ritual came during my participation, in later years, with a New Age healing group that evolved, over time, into a cult. I got involved in part because I wanted to do an anthropological study of that group. I watched and participated and took notes as their at-first tenuous belief system crystallized into an intensely tight and cohesive worldview. For the first two years, I didn’t believe a word of it—it was just a story, albeit a fascinating one, and my anthropological detachment remained intact. But the ritual process, as we will demonstrate in this book, can be overwhelming. Embarrassing as it is to admit, against my will I eventually got fully converted to that worldview. The moment of conversion was a devastating experience (described ... Read More »
Go commando? Boxers? Nah, I wear briefs. OH! I still got it!
- Ye olde Byggefoote ov the Tenth Century.
- Some folks see numbers as colors, others taste music, now there's sign-language synaesthesia.
- Contagious hiccups in Massachusetts.
- Fingers crossed that global warming is easily reversed like the Antarctic ozone hole which is rapidly growing smaller.
- Fred Flintstone's home discovered in glorious Mother Russia.
- Evidence builds in the case of the Chinese beating Christopher Columbus to America.
- Jaded city moths aren't attracted to bright lights.
- Plants can gamble. Y'feel lucky, punk?
- Adherents of reductionist materialism do their very best to explain near-death experiences. If only they'd deign to read Pim Van Lommel, Sam Parnia, or Greg Taylor.
- New gadget can facilitate human-firefly communication.
- Tabby's Star might be in the process of being sealed away in a Dyson Sphere. What about spotting stars that've already vanished from sight?
- The afterlife is eco-friendly, recycling souls throughout different cultures.
Thanks to Hayley Stevens, Rich Reynolds, and viewers like you.
"The fool who persists in his folly will become wise."
- William Blake
Named after the king of the gods, Jupiter is living up to its name. NASA's Hubble space telescope has captured images showing the planet crowned by auroras. Using Hubble's ultraviolet capabilities, the space agency's science boffins were able to film the auroras and snap some very pretty pics.
It's exciting times for our big neighbour, with NASA's Juno spacecraft set to orbit around Jupiter tonight, after a five year voyage. The main event will be a 35-minute engine burn at 11:18pm EDT. You can watch the mission live via NASA TV.
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