Thursday, October 20, 2016

Paranormal, Not Supernatural

I post from time to time that while I believe in the paranormal, I don't believe in the supernatural. Some of that is axiomatic on my part - generally speaking, I believe that everything that exists is part of nature, and therefore natural. So you won't find me bad-mouthing science on this blog, because I think science is the best tool we have at our disposal for understanding the natural world. I just think there are phenomena out there that pose particular difficulties to the formal scientific method, or that mainstream science just hasn't caught up with yet.

Recently, I came across this story from the American Civil War. After the Battle of Shiloh, a particularly bloody battle that was fought in 1862, medics on both sides were completely overwhelmed by the number of casualties. Some of the wounded were left on the muddy battlefield for as many as two days. But then, a miracle seemed to occur.

All told, the fighting at the Battle of Shiloh left more than 16,000 soldiers wounded and more 3,000 dead, and neither federal or Confederate medics were prepared for the carnage.

The bullet and bayonet wounds were bad enough on their own, but soldiers of the era were also prone to infections. Wounds contaminated by shrapnel or dirt became warm, moist refuges for bacteria, which could feast on a buffet of damaged tissue. After months marching and eating field rations on the battlefront, many soldiers’ immune systems were weakened and couldn’t fight off infection on their own. Even the army doctors couldn’t do much; microorganisms weren’t well understood and the germ theory of disease and antibiotics were still a few years away. Many soldiers died from infections that modern medicine would be able to nip in the bud.

Some of the Shiloh soldiers sat in the mud for two rainy days and nights waiting for the medics to get around to them. As dusk fell the first night, some of them noticed something very strange: their wounds were glowing, casting a faint light into the darkness of the battlefield. Even stranger, when the troops were eventually moved to field hospitals, those whose wounds glowed had a better survival rate and had their wounds heal more quickly and cleanly than their unilluminated brothers-in-arms. The seemingly protective effect of the mysterious light earned it the nickname “Angel’s Glow.”

If this happened in a movie or on a television program, it would fit right in with a common paranormal trope - the wounds begin to glow, and then are healed rapidly, as if by magick.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Christian Terrorists Arrested

Last week, three Christian terrorists were arrested in Kansas. The three men planned to launch a massive attack on a mosque and a housing complex inhabited by Somali immigrants. They called themselves "crusaders," and the attack was clearly motivated by their hatred of Muslims. Some media outlets, though, were slow to call this what it clearly was - a terrorist plot - because the alleged perpetrators are Christian.

On Friday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that it had arrested three white men, Curtis Allen, Gavin Wright and Patrick Stein, who as part of a militia group called the Crusaders planned to bomb a housing complex and mosque in Garden City, Kansas. Allen, Wright and Stein had stockpiled 2,000 pounds of ammunition and numerous homemade bombs to conduct the attack.

Their intended victims were Somali immigrants. In information gathered by the FBI, Stein, the apparent ringleader, told his followers, “If you’re a Muslim I’m going to enjoy shooting you in the head.” Stein also wanted his confederates to “if you start using your bow on them cockroaches, make sure you dip them in pig’s blood before you shoot them.”

The destruction and murder would have been total. Allen, Wright and Stein planned to spare no one from their hateful wrath; babies and children would be killed along with adults. Stein told his fellow militia members, “When we go on operations there’s no leaving anyone behind, even if it’s a 1-year-old. I’m serious. I guarantee if I go on a mission those little fuckers are going bye-bye.”

It should be completely obvious that this planned attack, had it succeeded, would have constituted an act of terrorism. A terrorist doesn't have to be Muslim to be a terrorist. Looking at terror attacks around the world, the real root problem is intolerant religious fanaticism, regardless of the religion that a terrorist group claims to follow. Really, how different is a "crusader" from a "jihadist?"

Radical Christian terrorists and radical Islamic terrorists are basically the exact same thing - people seeking to kill those who don't share their beliefs. It's about time that they were universally recognized as such.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Regarding Magical Models - Part Seven

This is Part Six in a series. Part One can be found here, Part Two can be found here, Part Three can be found here, Part Four can be found here, Part Five can be found here, and Part Six can be found here.

Moving on from spirits, this week I will be addressing the concept of magical energy. This concept gets criticized a lot primarily due to its overlap with physics terminology, but most of the alternatives that get proposed are no better. "Power" is one, except that it has a physics definition too - work/time. In fact, I just use "energy" most of the time because physics has definitions for just about any other term that I could possibly use.

At the same time, we need to be clear on the distinction between magical and physical energy. For a long time during the twentieth century, parapsychologists believed that psychic abilities had to be due to some sort of physical energy like electromagnetism. However, nobody has ever been able to come up with an experiment that shows psychic abilities are affected at all by substances that are known to shield electromagnetic radiation.

This result demonstrates that magical energy is something else entirely. The data we have suggests that "energy work" - ie. breathing exercises such as pranayama or qigong - substantially increases the effectiveness of magical operations according to some unknown mechanism. As I mentioned in my original Information and Energy article from 2011, magical operations behave as though information provides the direction and focus, and energy provides the transmission strength.

Energy work does produce physical effects in the body. It increases the amount of oxygen flowing through your system, and I am convinced that many of the "tingling" effects that you experience while you're doing it have to do with increasing the firing rate of neurons. Neuroscience research has shown that advanced meditators exhibit unusually high resting brainwave activity, and most of those meditation techniques do involve some sort of breathwork.

In China, qigong is researched alongside what we would recognize as more traditional medicine. Chinese researchers have found that qigong masters can emit concentrated infrasound from their hands when treating patients. Infrasound consists of low-frequency sound waves, likely caused by subtle vibrations in the hands themselves, which in turn can be linked back to increased neural firing "powered" by energy work.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Terracotta Warriors Show Greek Influence

A new examination of the famous terracotta warriors found near the tomb of the first Chinese emperor has revealed that the design of the statues may have been influenced by Greek sculptures of the same period. This is a fascinating archaeological find, because it means that the transmission of ideas between China and the Middle East happened much earlier than experts previously believed.

Farmers first discovered the 8,000 terracotta figures buried less than a mile from the tomb of China's first emperor Qin Shi Huang in 1974. However there was no tradition of building life-sized human statues in China before the tomb was created. Earlier statues were simple figurines about 20cm (7.9ins) in height.

To explain how such an enormous change in skill and style could have happened, Dr Xiuzhen believes that influences must have come from outside China. "We now think the Terracotta Army, the Acrobats and the bronze sculptures found on site have been inspired by ancient Greek sculptures and art," she said.

Prof Lukas Nickel from the University of Vienna says statues of circus acrobats recently found at the First Emperor's tomb support this theory. He believes the First Emperor was influenced by the arrival of Greek statues in Central Asia in the century following Alexander the Great, who died in 323BC.

Alexander the Great extended the Greek empire all the way to the Himalayan mountains and into modern-day Pakistan. His troops attempted to invade India but turned back, and never made it all the way into China. Still, if Greek artisans influenced the terracotta warriors, it suggests that trade between China and central Asia was more active than previously thought during the period.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Zombie Hunter Arrested

The crime scene in North Saint Paul looked absolutely nothing like this

Here's a story that hits disturbingly close to home. Huffington Post reports that a man was arrested just across town in North Saint Paul after firing an AR-15 rifle into a home. The man told police that he was hunting zombies, which I guess are supposed to be on the prowl in an otherwise ordinary Twin Cities suburb. The bullet broke a window, but fortunately did not injure anyone inside the home.

Amid a growing wave of creepy clown sightings, arrests and anti-clown violence, Ryan Stanislaw is taking us back to a simpler, more innocent time. You know, when a zombie apocalypse was the cool thing to have nightmares about.

Stanislaw was arrested Saturday after allegedly firing into a home while “hunting zombies” at around 5 a.m. in North St. Paul, Minnesota, Fox 9 News reports. Police say a bullet from an AR-15 rifle shattered the window of Ken Quaale, who was asleep at the time.

Luckily, the bullet narrowly missed Quaale’s head, ricocheting off the walls of his bedroom, he said.

Stanislaw, 24, allegedly told police he was simply out “making sure my neighborhood is safe” and that he was aiming at “a zombie.” He was also carrying bullets marketed as anti-zombie ammunition.

Wow. Just wow. The article goes on to state that Stanislaw has no history of mental illness, which I highly doubt. There's also no mention in the article of whether or not alcohol was involved, but I suspect that it probably was. Either that, or the undead really have started hunting the living in North Saint Paul, pretty much the last place you would expect to find them.

But then, maybe that's been their plan all along.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Winchester House Has a New Room

The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California is a marvel of Victorian architecture. The massive mansion is a veritable labyrinth of rooms and corridors, some of which connect in a logical fashion and others which seem to go nowhere. The story goes that Sarah Winchester, heir to the Winchester fortune, believed that she could keep herself safe from evil spirits by continuously adding on to the structure, which she did until her death 38 years after construction began.

At any rate, the latest news from the Winchester house is that an entirely unknown room was recently discovered. The room occupied an attic space that was boarded up after the 1906 earthquake that damaged the house. A number of items dating back to Victorian times were apparently just left there when the room was boarded up, and were found intact.

A new room has been discovered at San Jose’s Winchester Mystery House, a Victorian mansion that was home to a widow of the Winchester rifle fortune. The home’s preservation team recently opened the new room to the public.

The newly discovered room is an attic space that has been boarded up since Sarah Winchester died in 1922. Winchester boarded up the room after the 1906 earthquake because she was trapped in the room and she thought evil spirits were responsible for the quake.

The preservation team found numerous items in the room, including a pump organ, Victorian couch, dress form, sewing machine and paintings.

Some sources argue that there were breaks in the construction, so it was not continuous as the legend claims, but the result was nonetheless a gigantic, sprawling building of around 24,000 square feet. Oddly enough - or at least, I found it odd when I looked it up - the Winchester house is actually smaller than the largest house in Minnesota, the James J. Hill house. It covers a lot more ground, though, because of how it is built - as you can see from the aerial view above.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Liber Spirituum Deluxe Edition Available

Cross-posted from my author website.

I have just received word that the deluxe edition of Liber Spirituum, the new anthology containing my essay "Evoking Zodiacal Angels," is now available from Azoth Press. It is limited to 28 copies, so if you want one, get it while you can.

The deluxe edition is admittedly pricey, but the standard limited edition that I have in my possession is a beautiful book. I expect that the deluxe edition meets a similar standard of excellence, and it looks fantastic from the images that I have seen at the publisher's web site.

Also, as a collector of such volumes, I can testify that they generally appreciate substantially in value after only a couple of years. So not only do you wind up with a lovely edition of an excellent book, it makes a solid investment as well.

The deluxe edition of Liber Spirituum can be ordered here, direct from the publisher. There are also more images at the link for you to check out.