Interesting: Last month The Chronicle of Higher Education published an article by Tom Bartlett, their senior science editor, titled “Spoiled Science.” It’s about the way Cornell University’s renowned Food and Brand Lab has taken a credibility hit in the wake of revelations about multiple statistical anomalies that have been discovered in papers co-authored by its director, Brian Wansink, who is also a celebrity scholar due to appearance on the likes of 60 Minutes and Rachael Ray. The heart of the article’s import is laid out in this paragraph:
The slow-motion credibility crisis in social science has taken the shine off a slew of once-brilliant reputations and thrown years of research into doubt. It’s also led to an undercurrent of anxiety among scientists who fear that their labs and their publication records might come under attack from a feisty cadre of freelance critics. The specifics of these skirmishes can seem technical at times, with talk of p-values and sample sizes, but they go straight to the heart of how new knowledge is created and disseminated, and whether some of what we call science really deserves that label.
In the middle of the piece, Bartlett sudden mentions Daryl Bem’s famous precognition research from a few years ago, and subjects it to a brief but withering moment of scorn:
This isn’t the first time Cornell has had to cope with a blow to its research reputation. In 2011, Daryl Bem, an emeritus professor of psychology, published a paper in which he showed, or seemed to show, that subjects could anticipate pornographic images before they appeared on a computer screen. If true, Bem’s finding would upend what we understand about the nature of time and causation. It would be a big deal. That paper, “Feeling the Future,” was widely ridiculed and failed to replicate, though Bem himself has stood by his results.
Yesterday Bem responded with a letter to the Chronicle titled “In Defense of Research on Precognition,” in which he sets the record straight. He begins by pointing out that his paper was published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, which has a rejection rate of 80 percent, and where the paper was approved by four referees and two editors before publication.
He then points out that Barlett’s claim about the experiment’s failure to replicate is patently false: “In 2015, three colleagues and I published a follow-up meta-analysis of 90 such experiments conducted by 33 laboratories in 14 countries. The results strongly support my original findings. In particular, the independent replications are robust and highly significant statistically.”
Finally, he shares this salient fact:
Bartlett further asserts that this research was widely ridiculed and constituted a blow to Cornell’s research reputation. But it was Cornell’s own public-affairs office that was proactively instrumental in setting up interviews with the press and other media following the publication of the original article. New Scientist, Discover, Wired, New York Magazine, and Cornell’s own in-house publications all described the research findings seriously and without ridicule.
Me, I’m just fascinated to see mentions of such matters cropping up repeatedly in a place like The Chronicle of Higher Education, whose publication of essays by Jeffrey Kripal on the paranormal I discussed at some length a few years ago. (And of course I’d be lying if I denied that I simply enjoyed reading Bem’s refutation of Bartlett’s belittling.)
I would be interested to hear how many Teeming Brain readers find aspects of their own beliefs and experiences described by this extremely interesting article at Pacific Standard, and/or how many of you have observed the trend it identifies playing out in the lives of people you know. That trend, by the way, is “a fundamental shift in how we approach the paranormal,” as both science and traditional Judeo-Christian religiosity fail to fulfill deep human longings, resulting in the rise and increasing prevalence in America (and elsewhere) of a paranormal-themed religious syncretism that amounts to “a new religious worldview.”
[E]verywhere you look in the United States today, the supernatural is more culturally important, more acceptable, and just. . . more than it’s ever been before. Paranormal-themed media of all types have surged, in fiction obviously, but also in non-fiction too, where the past few years have brought us everything from The Most Terrifying Places in America to Psychic Tia to The Monster Project. Then there are the Bigfoot hunts, the ghost hunting tool reviews, the UFO spotting iPhone apps — we can’t get enough of this stuff.
This should come as no surprise. Despite our reputation as a science-minded superpower, America has always had a predilection for the unseen. It has ebbed and flowed with us for as long as this nation has existed, in the form of the 18th-century pilgrim mystics, the domesticated poltergeists that knocked on command in the 19th, and even in the academically inclined parapsychologists of the 20th. Whether you believe in these ideas or not is almost immaterial: the paranormal is an inescapable ingredient in the American identity that has shaped and been shaped by our society for centuries.
Perhaps that makes it all the more meaningful that today’s supernatural surge is not just another cycle of the same old thing, but a fundamental shift in how we approach the paranormal. It’s democratic, laden with jargon, and endlessly customizable — in short, it’s the DIY American techno-religion of the 21st century.
. . . [According to Tok Thompson, a folklorist at the University of Southern California,] “Even though it’s done great things for the iPads, I don’t think science has done very well at answering the big questions like, What happens when I die? In fact, science has absolutely nothing to say about that right now, and people want to know.”
. . . “A certain kind of American is no long going to the Bible for his or her worldview, they’re going to science,” says Jeffrey Kripal, a religion scholar at Rice University who has studied the interaction between pop culture and the paranormal. But, he adds, “they’re then linking that science up with these various spiritual currents, which have been in America for at least a century and a half, and they’re basically building a new religious worldview.”
Full article: “The Church of the Paranormal“
Image courtesy of hyena reality / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Teem member David Metcalfe is the featured interviewee on the latest episode of Occult of Personality, the long-running and very excellent podcast from host/producer Greg Kaminsky that “peers behind the veil to provide recorded interviews with serious esoteric researchers and teachers from all over the world.” The topic is the intersection between parapsychology and esotericism, which, as readers of David’s Teeming Brain column De Umbris Idearum already know, he is well-qualified to address.
Part One of the interview is available for free streaming and downloading. Part Two is available in Occult of Personality’s membership section (which you are encouraged to join). Here’s Greg’s intro:
Researcher, writer, and multimedia artist David Metcalfe is our guest in podcast episode 132.
David Metcalfe is an independent researcher, writer and multimedia artist focusing on the interstices of art, culture, and consciousness. He is a contributing editor for Reality Sandwich, The Revealer (the online journal of NYU’s Center for Religion and Media), and The Daily Grail. He writes regularly for Evolutionary Landscapes, Alarm Magazine, Modern Mythology, Disinfo.com, The Teeming Brain and his own blog The Eyeless Owl. His writing has been featured in The Immanence of Myth (Weaponized 2011), Chromatic: The Crossroads of Color & Music (Alarm Press, 2011) and Exploring the Edge Realms of Consciousness (North Atlantic/Evolver Editions 2012). Metcalfe is an Associate with Phoenix Rising Digital Academy, and is currently co-hosting The Art of Transformations study group with support from the International Alchemy Guild. Metcalfe’s most recent project is a collaboration with Dr. R. Andrew Chesnut, Chair of Catholic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, exploring the sanctification of death in the popular faith traditions of the Americas.
He has emerged as one of the leading independent researchers in his field. I find his writing both accessible and insightful. The respect and reverence with which he treats his subjects makes his work even more special. I think this is crucial to David’s success and one of the reasons why I wanted to have him on as a guest.
Here’s Alexander De Foe, a Ph.D. candidate in Psychological Studies at Monash University, writing for Australia’s respected online news site The Conversation and asserting the importance of non-judgmental psychological help for people who have suffered from traumatic paranormal experiences:
The therapy room should be a place where clients feel safe and comfortable talking about anything. But some people are reluctant to discuss their paranormal experiences for fear of judgement, ridicule, or that they will be incorrectly diagnosed with a mental disorder. Many practitioners challenge the validity of their client’s [sic] claims rather than focusing on the emotional significance particular experiences might bear. Part of the issue may be therapists’ rigid perspectives on paranormal phenomena — they tend to err on the side of diagnosis rather than hearing clients out and exploring a client’s inner world.
It is the role of the therapist to encourage their clients to talk about their experiences, rather than jumping to a diagnosis or criticism about the validity of their claims. In many cases, their paranormal accounts relate to spiritual, rather than pathological, experiences and exploring the symbolic nature of the accounts may be more beneficial than focusing on a diagnosis.
. . . There is good reason to be sceptical of claims about the paranormal. After all, rates of fraud are quite high, with proclaimed psychic tarot card readers and mediums profiting from unsuspecting clients. Organisations such as the Australian Skeptics have attempted to counter such fraud by offering A$100,000 to anyone who can demonstrate psychic ability under controlled conditions. Yet, our mainstream scientific understanding of human consciousness is by no means complete. There is still much argument among researchers about what constitutes “normal” and “abnormal” or “altered” states of consciousness.
. . . Regardless of the opinions one has about the potential existence of a paranormal reality, it is important to understand the subjective significance of altered states of consciousness.
Tonight will see the official premiere in Hollywood of the new documentary film Sirius, which promises to be one of the more interesting — and perhaps more starkly significant? — UFO-related film projects to emerge since, well, ever. The film brings together the enduring “UFO disclosure” meme with the equally enduring theme of our planetary energy-and-environmental crisis, and includes as a central element the famous/notorious “La Noria ET,” the tiny humanoid “alien” found in Chile’s northern Atacama desert region in 2003.
The summary/teaser from the official press release conveys the gist (with, alas, faulty orthography in the form of a dropped hyphen):
Inspired by the work of Dr. Steven Greer, directed by Emmy Award winning Amardeep Kaleka and funded by the highest documentary crowd-funding in history, ‘Sirius’ introduces a DNA sequenced humanoid of unknown classification to the world and sheds definitive light on the scientific reality of UFO’s, ET’s, and Advanced Alternative Energy Technology. ‘Sirius’ is narrated by actor Thomas Jane (HBO series ‘Hung’).
In more detail, and with a similar smattering of mild orthographical gaffes:
‘Sirius’ deals not only with the subject of UFO and ET visitation disclosure but also with the advanced, clean, and alternative energy technology that’s getting them here. ‘Sirius’ goes into eye-opening detail regarding how the disclosure of such technologies, some of which have been suppressed for decades, can enable humanity to leave the age of the polluting petrodollar, transform society and improve mankind’s chances for the survival.
The film includes numerous Government and Military witnesses to UFO and ET secrecy. It also explains the connection to Free Energy and provides not only the vision of contact with ET civilizations as regularly witnessed by the CE-5 contact teams featured therein, but also the paradigm shifting physical evidence of a medically and scientifically analyzed DNA sequenced humanoid creature of unknown classification found in the Atacama desert, Chile. Additionally eye-opening, are the credentials and pedigree of the science and medical team behind this potentially profound and historical announcement.
One naturally wonders what to think of all this. Hokum? Hoax? The Holy Grail of UFO exposés? Or something intermediate? One thing’s for sure: the trailer is quite compelling, both in content and in tone, and the convergence of the specific issues and concerns addressed by Sirius — I’m thinking specifically of the challenge it mounts and describes for the reigning paradigms of scientific orthodoxy and depletion-based energy production — couldn’t be more timely.
Be advised that after tonight the film will, as I understand it, be available for free, full streaming and viewing. (I read that somewhere but can’t seem to track down the source just now.)
Thank you to Jesús Olmo, video artist extraordinaire and lobber of philosophically and aesthetically dazzling email grenades, for the heads-up about this film.
“Learning to become psychic involves a fundamental restructuring of the way we process information both inside and outside ourselves. This can dramatically alter one’s life, and not always in a conventionally positive manner.”
Is it possible to take normal, healthy, emotionally stable people who do not think they are psychic, and who don’t recall having any prior psychic experience, and train them to become functionally reliable psychics?
The answer is both yes and no. That is, it appears that everyone may have some latent psychic potential that can be developed and honed with the right type of positive feedback and reinforcement. However, it’s crucial for such feedback to occur very close in time to when the person makes a correct or incorrect statement during a parapsychological test, because otherwise it will have little, if any, effect. In order for this learning paradigm to function properly, a person must slowly come to recognize which internal feelings and sensations are associated with accessing accurate paranormal information (signal), as opposed to inaccurate information (noise) in the form of primary process distortion and fantasy.
I suspect that only a very small percentage of the population, somewhere between five and ten percent, possesses such inherent faculties that are consistently demonstrable. This is somewhat comparable to the world of sports and athletics, in that most people can occasionally participate in some kind of sport when young, but very few have the strength, stamina, endurance, reflexes, and coordination that are necessary to become a professional athlete. We can still, however, do some basic things to maintain and even enhance our physical health and capabilities.
A direct analog to this can be found in the area of motorsports (of which I happen to be a passionate fan). While almost everyone can drive a car, few could tolerate the extremely high g-loading forces on the neck and arms that occur in Formula 1 and American Le Mans road racing, where the drivers’ bodies feel like they weigh four to five times their normal weight. Even fewer would have the stamina, endurance, depth perception, reflexes, and hand-eye-foot coordination to be competitive in such a grueling physical sport. But this doesn’t mean that all of us cannot learn to improve our driving skills on the road. Read the rest of this entry
Fans of both The Twilight Zone and the realm of philosophical, spiritual, religious, and psychological inquiry represented by the likes of books such as Daimonic Reality and Exploring the Edge Realms of Consciousness — the latter featuring contributions from Teeming Brain teem members David Metcalfe and Ryan Hurd — will find much of interest in comments made by science fiction legend George Clayton Johnson in a 2003 interview conducted for the Archive of American Television. (A special thanks to Teeming Brain contributor Richard Gavin for bringing this interview, and this particular portion of it, to my attention.)
At one point during the five-hour (!) interview, Johnson speaks at length about the actual psychological, spiritual, and ontological reality of the liminal zone epitomized by the very idea and title of “the Twilight Zone.” What’s more, he asserts that the series itself can serve as a “tool” and a “consciousness expander” for helping people — especially children — to wake up to realities existing beyond the pale of the mundane world. Read the rest of this entry
The link between creativity and the paranormal or supernatural is an old and enduring one, beginning with ancient ideas about the muse, daemon, and genius, which connected the inner world of artists and poets to the realm of the divine. For a detailed laying-out of this point, see especially chapters one and two of my A Course in Demonic Creativity: A Writer’s Guide to the Inner Genius.
This link has received an increasing amount of very prominent attention in the past couple of years. Jeffrey Kripal, for instance, has written (in his book Mutants, Mystics, and Superheroes) about the bizarre synchronicities and paranormal perturbations that have long attended the work of comic book writers and artists, some of whose fictional envisionings have had a disturbing tendency to manifest in real life.
In a more formally scientific vein, clinical psychologist and parapsychologist James C. Carpenter devotes an entire chapter of his new and paradigm-defining book First Sight: ESP and Parapsychology in Everyday Life to exploring the connection between psi and creativity. He writes, “The human act of creation, the production of some extraordinary poem or symphony or play or scientific theory, seems as mysterious and awesome as the furtive flashes of preknowing or distant seeing that we term psi. Human in their expression, both seem somehow extrahuman in their source. Logical consciousness can marvel at them and study them, but it cannot produce them at will.” He then demonstrates with an abundance of experimental evidence and astute theoretical interpretation that psi and creativity “emerge from similar preconscious processes and are expressed by the same principles of operation.” (Look for a full review of Dr. Carpenter’s amazing book to appear here in the near future, and also at the New York Journal of Books, where I may be coming online as a reviewer.)
Then there’s the case of Robert Anton Wilson, who not only experienced the link between creativity and paranormality in his own life (as I explore in considerable depth in my essay about his, Aleister Crowley’s, and Timothy Leary’s interlinked engagement with a “higher intelligence,” available in the October 2012 issue of the journal Paranthropology) but had very compelling things to say about it. The main source of this material remains, of course, his many books, and particularly the original Cosmic Trigger, which is an extended account of the way his life was upended and taken over for several years by daimonic and paranormal weirdnesses that appeared directly related to his creative philosophical and philosophical creative endeavors. But when you comb through his various other materials, including his articles, essays, and interviews, you end up frequently running into additional statements and one-off comments that he made about the very same subject.
A current case in point — current because I stumbled across it just this morning — is found in an interview he gave to UFO writer Sean Casteel in 1998. Wilson’s observation that “the writing process does have a spooky side,” and that it seems worthwhile to preserve and honor this recognition in the words and concepts we use to think and talk about it, as opposed to inadvertently dismissing the mystery with knee-jerk references to “the unconscious mind,” could serve as the seed for a lifetime’s meditation on, and fruitful practice of, authorial creativity as a primary path to realizing one’s destiny.
ROBERT ANTON WILSON: I’ll tell you, the movie [Wag the Dog] seems to be a combination of what happened in the novel [American Hero, on which the movie was loosely based], in which George Bush started a war to goose up his popularity without any sexual scandals to motivate him, and the sexual scandals of the Clinton administration, which came after the book was written. So it is another example of the astonishing way in which writers, using their imagination, take something that happened already and embroider on it and describe something that is going to happen later also. Writers often write about things they don’t know and only later they find out they were doing that. When I first wrote that Beethoven was a member of the Illuminati, that was a joke. Then I read a biography of Beethoven that made it seem extremely likely.
SEAN CASTEEL: But when you have cases like that of synchronicity between a novel or a movie and real events, is that something they can in any way do consciously or deliberately?
RAW: No, you’ve just got to, as William Faulkner said, “trust the demon.” That means trust whatever it is that drives you to create fiction, to write creatively — trust it and see what comes out. It is always astonishing when you find out that the demon knows more than you know. Norman Mailer calls it the “navigator in the unconscious.” You don’t have to call it a demon. Faulkner just liked to be Gothic.
SC: They taught us the same thing in a fiction class at college. The best stuff just kind of wells up from the unconscious of its own will.
RAW: That is the modern jargon for it. I actually prefer Faulkner’s poetic language, because the writing process does have a spooky side, which psychological models seem to ignore. But everybody uses the metaphors that work for them.
— Sean Casteel, “Robert Anton Wilson Q and A,” Conspiracy Journal, 1998
Image by frankenstoen [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
On a recent edition of the DisinfoCast, the popular podcast put out by The Disinformation Company, host Matt Staggs spoke with Teeming Brain columnist (and Disinfo.com contributor) David B. Metcalfe about parapsychology, liminal states, ESP, and various other matters. You can download the podcast in mp3 form or stream it directly from the site:
Not coincidentally, David’s Teeming Brain column De Umbris Idearum is devoted to exploring that very same nexus of subjects, issues, and illuminations, including ESP, parapsychology, liminality, science, skepticism, esotericism, the occult, religion, philosophy, and more. If you’ve fallen behind, catching up on it would represent an eminently worthwhile use of your time: