New Dawn 155 (March-April 2016)

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How the Secret Government Works:
UFOs & the Deep National Security State

Coming Is there a connection between America’s National Security State and UFOs? Alan Glassman reports on the recent revelations of Dr. Steven Greer.

Top Ten Conspiracies of 2015

Coming Patrick Henningsen & Shawn Helton look at last year’s most gripping conspiratorial events and stories – including ’false flag’ attacks, the rise of ISIL, and a plethora of fabricated plots & cover-ups.

The New Silk Roads: The Quiet Revolution

Coming Australian barrister James O’Neill examines developments that will dramatically impact Australia’s future. But is anyone paying attention?

Crop Circles: Messages from Another World?

Coming Nicholas Corrin discusses two separate and mysterious cryptograms that manifested in grain fields overnight. What are “they” trying to tell us?

Can We See the Future?

Coming Dr. Robert M. Schoch explores the science of precognition and what it reveals about our latent powers within and the nature of reality.

Synchronicity & the Secret of the Co-Creator

Coming Robert Torres introduces the concept of synchronicity, or “meaningful coincidences.” What role do you play in making them happen in your own life?

From Atlantis to Angels & the Afterlife

Coming Richard Smoley interviews author Ptolemy Tompkins about his writing pursuits, collaboration with Eben Alexander, and his father’s amazing life.

The Occult Universe of David Bowie & the Meaning of “Blackstar”

Coming In the wake of David Bowie’s recent passing, Vigilant Citizen analyses the enigmatic message conveyed in his final album.

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MBS Supplement

What’s What? Navigating the Plastic Jungle by Katrin Geist

D.I.Y. Home Remedies: Relieving Mental & Emotional Fatigue by Sandy Brightman

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Where Does Consciousness Reside? Eben Alexander & the Brain-Mind Problem

Universal Mind

By RICHARD SMOLEY

Why has Eben Alexander’s story caught the public imagination so intensely? Admittedly, not everyone has looked favourably upon his revelations. Much of the materialistic press has groped around to find holes in his arguments (usually by casting aspersions upon his good faith), but their attempts to rebut him have been someplace between weak and nonexistent. As we shall see.

To begin with, here is one of the most important challenges that Alexander makes to current scientific dogma: his experience strongly suggests that consciousness is not produced (or produced exclusively) by the brain.

In the simplest possible terms, his argument goes like this. The standard scientific view says that all higher cognition – conscious, human experience – is the result of brain states. Furthermore, different parts of the brain govern different states. Higher cognition is performed mostly by the front part of the brain: the cerebral cortex. If this part of the brain doesn’t function, there is no cognitive experience.

Alexander’s case shows something different. During his experience, his cortical areas showed no activity, according to the medical apparatus. The parts of the brain associated with higher cognition weren’t working. Thus he should have been in what he appeared to be in – a coma. So far, so good. But in this state he should have had no experience at all.

That was not what happened. In fact Alexander went through a Dantesque journey starting with an abyssal kind of existence – what in his book he calls the “worm’s-eye view” – and ending in a sublime vision of cosmic illumination and love.

Maybe you want to say that Alexander was only dreaming. But he shouldn’t even have been dreaming.

Whatever metaphysical conclusions you might want to draw from his experience, the fact that he had it at all poses a strong challenge to conventional belief about the relation between mind and brain.

Furthermore, Alexander is a neurosurgeon himself. That means he understands the neurology behind his own case – what the readouts on the machines were saying and what they meant, or should have meant.

All of this is very difficult to explain away through any simplistic materialism. You might want to say that the brain functions in some way that is wildly different from what is now believed, but then you would have to tell us how it does work.

Sam Harris, a spokesman for the new atheism, has challenged Alexander’s work in a 2012 blog posting. He quotes Mark Cohen, an expert in neuroimaging at UCLA, who responded thus to Alexander’s case: “Of course, science cannot explain consciousness anyway. In this case, however, it would be parsimonious to reject the whole idea of consciousness in the absence of brain activity. Either his brain was active when he had these dreams, or they are a confabulation of whatever took place in his state of minimally conscious coma.”

Cohen’s statement is fascinating. Let’s look at it in more depth. Statement one: “Of course, science cannot explain consciousness anyway.” Very true. In fact, science hasn’t even told us what consciousness is. (Scientific attempts at defining it range from the vague to the circular to the hilarious.) Therefore you shouldn’t be too hasty to say when and how it can arise.

Statement two: “It would be parsimonious to reject the whole idea of consciousness in the absence of brain activity.” Cohen is using the word “parsimonious” in a good sense. “Parsimonious” here doesn’t mean being stingy. It means being economical in a scientifically responsible way. Being translated, the sentence means, “It would be more scientifically rigorous to reject the whole idea of consciousness in the absence of brain activity.”

The principle behind this reasoning is Ockham’s razor. Just for fun, I’ll give it to you in Latin: Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem: “Entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity.” In this context, Cohen can only mean this: we know that consciousness is connected to brain states in many or most instances. Thus it’s more economical to assume that consciousness is always brain-based than to assume that there might also be some cases (like Alexander’s) when it isn’t.

Why is this more economical? From a logical point of view, it isn’t really. It’s only simpler because it corresponds to current preconceptions. The British philosopher Mary Midgley comments on this type of thinking: “False economy is very common among people who rely too readily on it. As we are seeing, extravagance is not eliminated merely by becoming anti-religious, and thoughts which are designed to be sternly reductive often compensate by strange, illicit expansions elsewhere. In fact when we encounter a specially harsh reduction, officially launched in the name of parsimony, our first question should be ‘and what are these savings being used to pay for?’”

In this case they’re being used to pay for a refusal to take the question seriously.

Cohen shows this in his third statement: “Either [Alexander’s] brain was active when he had these dreams, or they are a confabulation of whatever took place in his state of minimally conscious coma.” This comes very close to the most elementary of logical errors – begging the question, since these are precisely the things that we are trying to figure out. They also show some reluctance to look at the data in any depth.

Granted, Cohen’s responses were probably just off-the-cuff remarks given to Harris for his blog. I dwell on them because they show how cognitive science tends to behave toward the brain-mind issue. Here’s what it’s saying: (1) Actually we don’t know how or if the brain creates consciousness (as Cohen admits). (2) We believe that consciousness is the epiphenomenon of certain brain activities. We also believe that it cannot come from any other source. (3) We do not wish to look at evidence to the contrary.

Note the contradiction here. It is more a matter of tone and implication rather than of logic per se. It’s true that “science cannot explain consciousness anyway.” The devotees of scientific materialism admit as much. Harris writes: “I remain agnostic on the question of how consciousness is related to the physical world.”

But something about this agnosticism doesn’t smell good. Harris goes on: “There are, of course, very good reasons to believe that [consciousness] is an emergent property of brain activity, just as the rest of the human mind obviously is.” Suddenly we have gone from agnosticism to the “obvious” – even though it is anything but obvious that the mind is merely an emergent property of brain activity. That question is just as fraught as any of the others we are dealing with here.

We see the same attitude in religious agnosticism. The agnostic sticks his tongue in his cheek and says, “I don’t know if there’s a God” – but he thinks, talks, and acts as if he knows there isn’t.

Harris has his own sophisticated answer for Eben Alexander’s experience: it was a DMT trip. The psychedelic drug DMT creates a very short but intense high that makes the subject feel as if he has been zapped into other dimensions. Harris quotes psychedelic guru Terence McKenna: “Under the influence of DMT, the world becomes an Arabian labyrinth, a palace, a more than possible Martian jewel, vast with motifs that flood the gaping mind with complex and wordless awe. Colour and the sense of a reality-unlocking secret nearby pervade the experience.”

Harris notes that DMT, unlike many drugs, occurs naturally in the human brain. He writes, “Does Alexander know that DMT already exists in the brain as a neurotransmitter? Did his brain experience a surge of DMT release during his coma? This is pure speculation, of course, but it is a far more credible hypothesis than that his cortex ‘shut down’, freeing his soul to travel to another dimension.”

It’s not clear how DMT is going to send you on a wild trip when you are in a coma to begin with. To put it another way, you can’t get drunk when you’ve already passed out.

In short, if you are absolutely dead set against believing something, you are going to do what Harris has done here: grab at any wild possibility (that makes no reference whatsoever to the actual facts of the case) to avoid believing it – at whatever cost to logic or accuracy.

Much of today’s discussion about the relation between mind and brain shows these symptoms. Even if the materialistic view is right, there is no reason to believe it on the basis of arguments like these.

Here is the truth, as far as I can see it: the relationship between consciousness and brain states is still very much a matter under investigation. Most of what is said about it has to be followed with a question mark. On the basis of what is now known, it’s premature and irresponsible to say that consciousness must be accompanied by brain activity. Even assuming that it is, is irresponsible.

Alexander’s case may not serve as definitive proof that human consciousness exists apart from the brain, but it’s an important piece of evidence that can’t be dismissed just because it sounds too mystical.

I have heard about a certain type of crab. When the fisherman catches it, he puts it in a bucket. He doesn’t put a lid on the bucket. He doesn’t have to – even though the crab is perfectly capable of climbing out. Why? Because whenever one of the crabs tries to get out, the other crabs pull it back down.

I can’t think of the materialistic worldview without coming back to this image over and over. Whenever someone tries to free himself from this view of reality, the others – who are happy there or at any rate believe they have to be there – try to pull him back down.

This is a pretty bad situation if you are a crab. It is utterly ridiculous and humiliating if you are a cognitive scientist.

If you appreciated this article, please consider a digital subscription to New Dawn.

Sources

Sam Harris, “This Must Be Heaven”; http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/this-must-be-heaven, 12 Oct. 2012; accessed 25 March 2015

Mary Midgley, Evolution as a Religion, Rev. ed., Routledge, 2002

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RICHARD SMOLEY has over thirty-five years of experience studying esoteric spirituality. His recent work, Supernatural: Writings on an Unknown History, is composed largely of articles written for New Dawn. Smoley is the former editor of Gnosis: A Journal of the Western Inner Traditions. Currently he is editor of Quest: Journal of the Theosophical Society in America and of Quest Books. His new book is The Deal: A Guide to Radical and Complete Forgiveness.

The above article appeared in New Dawn Special Issue Vol 9 No 3

Read this article with its illustrations and much more by downloading
your copy of New Dawn Special Issue Vol 9 No 3 (PDF version) for only US$5.95

© New Dawn Magazine and the respective author.
For our reproduction notice, click here.

A Neurosurgeon’s Journey to Worlds Beyond: An Interview with Dr. Eben Alexander

Dr. Eben Alexander (Photo Credit: Deborah Feingold Photography)

Dr. Eben Alexander (Photo Credit: Deborah Feingold Photography)

By RICHARD SMOLEY

Today the intellectual world is facing an insurrection. It has nothing to do with politics or economics. It is about worldviews. Contemporary intellectual thought is hidebound by a materialistic view of the universe that automatically shuts out anything of the “spiritual,” or, God forbid, “mystical.” More and more evidence is coming to light that refutes this narrow view of reality. And more and more intellectuals are standing up against it.

Eben Alexander is one of the most famous examples. An American neurosurgeon, in 2008, he fell into a coma during a case of severe meningitis and – at a time when, from the conventional point of view, he should have had no consciousness whatsoever – he had a profound and inspiring vision of worlds beyond this one.

Alexander describes this journey in the best-selling Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife. The book sent a shock through the United States, and gained Alexander a place on the cover of Newsweek as well as the usual attempts at debunking. Since then he has travelled and given lectures to many audiences. His latest book, The Map of Heaven: How Science, Religion, and Ordinary People Are Proving the Afterlife, co-authored with my good friend and Quest contributor Ptolemy Tompkins, was published last November.

In July 2014, at the invitation of the Theosophical Society in America, Alexander spoke to an audience of some 450 people in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, and later addressed the TS’s Summer National Convention. He also did the following interview. Karen Newell was also present. She is his associate in Sacred Acoustics, a company that creates audio meditations combining various kinds of sound to stimulate higher states of consciousness.

This interview originally appeared in Quest: Journal of the Theosophical Society in America, in the Winter 2015 issue.

Richard Smoley (RS): Perhaps you could start by telling us a little bit about your journey. 

Eben Alexander (EA): I’ve spent more than twenty years in academic neurosurgery and thought I had some idea of how brain-mind consciousness worked. I fully logged into the reductive materialistic mindset of neuroscience of the twentieth century, which says there is something about the neurons of the brain and their firing that gives you consciousness. Even though nobody had a clue of how that worked, I thought we just needed to study it more and figure it out.

That’s why my illness, which came on in November 2008, was so revolutionary to my thinking. I had to go back and question everything I ever thought I knew about reality. I had a very severe case of bacterial meningitis. Only in looking back, months and months later, did I start to realise what a perfect model for human death meningitis is, especially the severe form that I had: it basically dissolves the neocortex.

Modern neuroscience says the neocortex – the whole outer surface of the brain – is the part that gives rise to all the details of conscious experience. As this disease wipes out your neocortex, what is the next step? It would have been very clear to me as a neuroscientist that the next step is nothingness. Any doctor who knows anything about gram-negative bacterial meningitis and the details of my illness would realise that people don’t go in that state and come back with hallucinations, dreams, or exotic stories – they come back with nothing. In fact the reality is they usually don’t come back at all. Just the opposite happened, and that part was a mind-bender.

The extraordinary odyssey that I went through, and that I describe in my book Proof of Heaven, should not have happened at all, according to all the modern notions saying that the brain creates consciousness. And yet I was left with this absolutely astonishing ultra-real experience and an odyssey that seemed to go on for months or years, although it fit within seven earth days.

To me that was the central mystery. How is it that when you destroy the neocortex, you actually take the blinders off and allow consciousness of a far richer and more real and comprehensive knowing to come into existence? That was what drove me to come to some explanation.

RS: How do you now view that relation between brain and mind?

EA: Before the coma, as a neuroscientist who felt that the brain creates consciousness, I paid no attention to near-death experiences, because I would have said that they’re a flickering of a dying brain.

But they’re far more than that. In fact, they are not created by a dying brain at all, they’re linked to a much more substantial, conscious, eternal spiritual being. Near-death experiencers have been telling us for decades about a reality that is much more real than this one. So has the afterlife literature going back thousands of years.

I give talks around the world about all this. And I’ll have people who come up to me who know nothing about any of this literature but who share with me their own stunning personal stories of near-death experiences, after-death communications, past-life memories in children, and reincarnation stories. There’s just no way to pretend that it’s some mass hysteria, that it’s all some trick of the brain. This is something far more profound.

So I’ve come to realise that consciousness, soul, or spirit is the thing that truly exists at the core of all that is. Before my coma I would have been tempted to try and tell you that, as conventional scientific teaching says, the brain, the chemistry, the biology creates an illusion of reality, an illusion of free will. In fact that is absolutely backwards. What truly exists is consciousness, soul, or spirit.

Even modern physics is in a headlong rush to tell us that there is no material to the material world. It’s vibrating strings of energy and higher-dimensional space-time. And it is consciousness that is essential to emerging reality. The only thing we know exists is our own consciousness. But we’re so immersed in this consciousness that it’s very difficult to separate ourselves from it.

Any possible model, or any kind of scientific explanation of the nature of reality, must begin with a far more robust explanation of what consciousness is, because it is not created by the brain. The brain is a reducing valve or filter. That idea was gaining in popularity in the late nineteenth century with very brilliant thinkers – William James, Carl Jung, Frederic Myers – and yet it lost its attraction during the heyday of the twentieth century, when science got sucked into purely materialistic explanations.

RS: So what is consciousness?

EA: Consciousness, I would say, at its core level, is the observer, the awareness. We’re so consumed with this worship of the ego, the self, the linguistic brain, and rational thought that we lose sight of the fact that our own consciousness is actually something far deeper and more mysterious. It is that awareness part of us, the part that knows of its own existence and of the existence of a universe.

The little voice in my head, that linguistic human brain, which is so tightly tied to rational thought and also to ego and self, can make a request, state an intention, offer up some gratitude, but there is far greater wisdom as one gets deeper and deeper into consciousness. This is something that meditators, Tibetan monks, those who have been deeply into consciousness study over millennia, have been trying to tell us. And yet only now is science beginning to recognise that deep within consciousness itself we can find the evidence that we can be linked to something far, far greater than we are told by that minuscule view that the brain creates consciousness. In fact, when you realise it works the other way around, we can come in touch through deep meditation with consciousness. We come to realise consciousness is not local.

Before my coma I was a conventional neuroscientist who believed that we can only know things through our physical senses. Since then I’ve come to realise that things like telepathy, precognition, near-death experiences, after-death communications, past-life memories in children, the tremendous scientific literature on reincarnation, are proving to us that consciousness is not local.

It’s important to understand nonlocal consciousness. In the scientific community I steer people to that wonderful book from the University of Virginia, Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the Twenty-First Century by Edward Kelly. It’s 800 pages of hard-core scientific data and analysis showing very clearly that the brain does not create consciousness. As I said earlier, it’s more of a reducing valve or a filter. This helps us to understand that mystery of quantum mechanics, which was proving, a hundred years ago, that consciousness is fundamental in the existence of any part of reality emergent in this universe. Consciousness is filtered in through the brain; it is not created by the brain.

RS: You say that the materialistic model of the brain and mind is being increasingly challenged within science itself. Do you see much evidence of this, particularly in psychology and neurology?

EA: A number of respected scientists around the world, some of whom have their training in psychiatry, some in psychology, are realising that the “hard problem” of consciousness is the most vexing conundrum known to all of human thought. This is saying that, in spite of the increasing devotion of study to the brain, no neuroscientist on earth can offer the first sentence about how the physical brain might create consciousness.

A lot of the neuroscientists who study this problem realise that the more we know about the physical brain, the more we realise it’s not the creator of consciousness. It’s very clearly related to consciousness, but again it’s more of a reducing valve or filter.

Often colleagues will challenge me and say, “Wait a minute! You’re saying this whole mystery of being deep in your coma as your brain was being destroyed by bacterial meningitis actually was the blinders coming off – when your awareness was getting more crisp and real.” They say that makes no sense.

I would reply by pointing out two commonly observed clinical phenomena. Neurologists and neuroscientists are aware of some of these examples. One is “terminal lucidity,” which I point out in my book Proof of Heaven. Often when they get closer to death, elderly and demented patients can have these oases of very clear thinking, memory, interaction, great clarity of thought that completely defies any kind of explanation.

The other commonly observed phenomena have to do with what is called the idiot savant or acquired savant syndrome, where some kind of brain damage, like a stroke or head trauma, uncovers some oasis of superhuman mental functioning. These savant syndromes are very, very common. I had many of them when I was active in neurosurgery. I would see where people would have some kind of brain damage, and it actually uncovered this incredible superhuman ability – of memory, calculation, ability to graphically represent things, musical creativity – that emerged out of nowhere.

Wilder Penfield, one of the most renowned neuroscientists of the twentieth century, probably still holds the record for electrical stimulation of the brain in awake patients – tens of thousands of episodes in his work on epilepsy. He worked in Montreal and wrote a book in 1975 called Mystery of the Mind: A Critical Study of Consciousness and the Human Brain. In the book, he gets clearly into his conclusions that never once, in all those tens of thousands of stimulations, did he uncover an event that seemed to be a free-will event of conscious experience. The patients always felt like they were puppets on a string, no matter what the memory, experience, whatever they went through – they always knew it was something “triggered.” Never once was there anything that resembled a free-will type event.

To Penfield it was very clear. To me, the evidence for this is completely consistent with my journey as described in Proof of Heaven and my conclusions and understandings about consciousness. If you’re trying to find free-will and consciousness, or soul, or spirit, they’re just not created in the brain at all. In fact, the brain is basically shackles. That’s essentially what near-death experiencers have been trying to tell us for millennia. Mystics who have had similar spiritually transformative experiences have been trying to put it out there that in fact, when we’re freed from shackles of the physical brain and released from that illusion of here and now, we actually come into a much higher knowing.

RS: My understanding of most near-death experiences is that they are overwhelmingly positive. But there are some negative experiences, where people encounter hells or devils or demons. How does this fit with your picture?

EA: When you look at a large number of NDEs, say somewhere around 95-98 percent of them seem to be very positive, very loving. This can be quite independent of the circumstances around the demise of a given patient. They often are shown beautiful scenes of unconditional love, love of an infinitely powerful spiritual being, often messages conveyed by the souls and spirits of departed loved ones that are very positive and loving.

As for the experiences that are negative: those who have read the book Proof of Heaven realise that I started out in a very dark, foreboding, underground realm, which I call the earthworm’s eye view. If I had come back from my near-death experience having only been to the earthworm’s eye view, I probably would have had what people describe as a hellish near-death experience.

Talking with other near-death experiencers and reviewing thousands of near-death cases, I believe that in many ways the hellish ones are incomplete. They are not going in with the power and the oomph to blast through to those higher realms. To me it was very clear that unconditional love has tremendous power – to heal at all levels, to heal the individual soul, to heal soul groups, to heal all of humanity, to heal all of life on earth, to heal all of consciousness existent in this material universe.

There can be dark forces, but by knowing that connection to the divine, the infinite power and love of that divine, we are able to bring that light and love into any realm we exist in. That includes this material realm; that includes the lower spiritual realms, including that earthworm’s eye view.

In my journey, as I describe in Proof of Heaven, I would cycle through and ascend through higher and higher levels through a gateway realm with a beautiful idyllic valley, butterfly wings, and angelic choirs, with lots of spiritual beauty, but with earth-like features. I would then ascend to higher and higher realms all the way to the core: infinite inky blackness, but filled to overflowing with the divine, that power of unconditional love in its healing capacity and also the brilliant light of that orb, brighter than a million stars. I knew that completely outside of our duality.

But then I would tumble back into that earthworm’s eye view. And very quickly in that journey I came to realise the importance of sound, music, vibration, which is part of the work I do now with Sacred Acoustics, with Karen Newell: using sound to enhance these abilities of our souls to transcend. That’s why the work of Sacred Acoustics has so much to do with meditation and getting into deep meditative states.

All of that is coming to realise that love has infinite power to heal. And I came to see in my journey that this is not a battle between good and evil, where they are equal and counterbalanced and maybe good and love will win out or maybe evil and darkness. Evil and darkness are the absence of that love and that light. By remembering our divine connection to that oneness and to the infinite healing power of that creative source, we can bring that light and that love into any aspect of the material realm and the lower spiritual realms.

RS: Could you say more about your work with Sacred Acoustics? What do you recommend for people who want to have a sense of that unconditional love while being connected with this earthly realm?

EA: You don’t have to die, or almost die, to get this. As a conscious being, you have all the tools you need to go within consciousness to come to see much deeper truth. I recommend meditation, Centering Prayer – sometimes it comes to us as a gift of desperation through the hardships of life, because in fact those hardships and difficulties, even illness or injury, are often a beautiful gift. That is often how we get a revelation about our deep connectedness with each other and with the divine.

About two years after my coma, I was introduced to the Monroe Institute and the work of Robert Monroe, who wrote three wonderful books on his journeys. He was a pretty straight-laced guy who ended up having spontaneous out-of-body experiences. Over four decades he came to realise that you can use sound – specifically slight differences in the frequency of sound presented to the two ears – to do some very interesting things with consciousness. I was attracted to it two years or so after my coma, when people approached me who knew a bit about hemispheric synchronisation, brain entrainment, what Monroe called hemi-sync. And they suggested to me that maybe I could revisit some of the realms that I had experienced in coma, when my neocortex was being ravaged by the meningitis. But I could do it in a reversible fashion by using two differential frequencies to the two ears.

There’s a particular circuit in the brain that is a very accurate timing circuit. That circuit is right next door to a circuit in the brain stem that modern neuroscience would tell you (with our very primitive notions about consciousness) seems be an ignition system for all of consciousness. My idea was that with this synchronisation of electrical activity to the hemispheres using differential sound inputs to the two ears, I might synchronise the electrical activity. This would take away the information processing aspect of the neocortex and allow my consciousness to be set free, just as it was when meningitis was destroying my neocortex.

This is the work that I now do in conjunction with Sacred Acoustics; those that are interested should visit sacredacoustics.com. It has to do with a sophisticated use of patterning of these sound inputs to the two ears to enable consciousness to be set free. 

RS: Which spiritual figures have you found most inspiring?

EA: I grew up in a Methodist church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. My father was very influential in my life, and he had a very strong religious belief in his own right. He had grown up in eastern Tennessee during the Depression. He had been a combat surgeon in the Pacific during the Second World War, and then he went on to head up a neurosurgery training program. So he was very scientific, but also deeply religious and truly spiritual. And I had grown up trying to follow, as best I could, in his footsteps.

Of course, being a child of the ’60s and ’70s, I realised that science is the pathway to truth. And as much as I wanted to believe what I was taught in my Methodist church, through those years of working in academic neurosurgery I found it more and more difficult to explain the survival of consciousness after the death of the brain and the body. As I said earlier, I bought into the modern twentieth-century neuroscientific view that the brain creates consciousness. And that, of course, means that it’s birth, death, and nothing more, and none of us has free will, and consciousness is an illusion.

My coma journey showed me that every bit of that is false. As I started to study more and more about NDEs and was led into the afterlife literature and into the writings of mystics and prophets going back thousands of years, what struck me was their similarity: they all converge on a much deeper truth. It turns out that the linguistic brain is in many ways our enemy in trying to come to a much deeper understanding. We can actually communicate in deeper ways, too, that have to do with a much purer form of consciousness. This is why I’m such a tremendous fan of meditation and encourage people to develop a daily practice of meditation.

The more I started giving talks about my experience, the more I started hearing back from Kabbalists, from Christian mystics, Sufis, Buddhists, Hindus, and atheists who had a very deep spiritual awareness through some experience. They were all talking about the same thing.

RS: Is there anything you’d like to add?

EA: A central message in Proof of Heaven is that consciousness is at the core of all existence. I think the most important aspect of that lesson, which is brought back by so many near-death experiencers and other spiritual journeyers, is that we are all eternal spiritual beings, and in fact our very consciousness is a direct link to the infinitely loving creative source at the core of all being. As so many who have had these experiences will tell you that unconditional love is infinitely healing.

It’s important for all of us to realise that we’re eternal, spiritual beings, that we come back in multiple reincarnations in our ascendance toward that oneness, and that we’re all in this together. Consciousness binds us all, not just as humans, not just as all life on earth – all of conscious life throughout the universe.

My journey showed me that the human brain and mind will never have a theory of everything. We can never possibly understand the grand workings of this universe in its greatest sense, the workings of that great creator. Never! But the journey is absolutely wonderful beyond description, and that is what we are all a part of, and we are all doing it as eternal spiritual beings bound together as one.

Any frictions between schools of religious thought, frictions between science, philosophy, and religion and spirituality, are false boundaries that have to do with the linguistic brain trying to define and to limit. Whereas we really have to take a top-down approach. We can all do that by exploring our consciousness through prayer and meditation.

If you appreciated this article, please consider a digital subscription to New Dawn.

.

RICHARD SMOLEY has over thirty-five years of experience studying esoteric spirituality. His recent work, Supernatural: Writings on an Unknown History, is composed largely of articles written for New Dawn. Smoley is the former editor of Gnosis: A Journal of the Western Inner Traditions. Currently he is editor of Quest: Journal of the Theosophical Society in America and of Quest Books. His new book is The Deal: A Guide to Radical and Complete Forgiveness.

The above article appeared in New Dawn Special Issue Vol 9 No 3

Read this article with its illustrations and much more by downloading
your copy of New Dawn Special Issue Vol 9 No 3 (PDF version) for only US$5.95

© New Dawn Magazine and the respective author.
For our reproduction notice, click here.

Weapons of Mass Distraction: The Media, Advertising & Social Programming

Dees-family-watching-hypnotic-TV-screen

By MARIE D. JONES & LARRY FLAXMAN

The mass media is the biggest remote control ever built, and we all exist within the four-walled idiot box it controls. Manipulation of thought and behaviour is a part of our accepted daily lives. Each time we lock eyes on a news story, whether on the tube, the screen, the tablet or the old fashioned way, via a newspaper, we are buying into a perspective that may or may not be our own. We read stuff, and readily accept it as reality, often without ever bothering to source the information or take the time to perform due diligence and research the subject more deeply. We then pass on some of that information to others, and the viral effect can now, with the Internet and cell phones, travel on a global scale in a matter of minutes.

If you wanted to truly control the minds of the masses, what better way than buying time on the media outlets the masses most visit? And the most effective types of media most able to manipulate our behaviour and change how we think… and even consume? News media, advertising… and now, social networking.

Get ready to have your channel changed, because with the sheer amount of social programming faced on a daily basis, you are no longer in control of your own remote.

Media Manipulation

It’s all bad news, all the time. The stories that bombard us on television, radio and even social networking often tend to be depressing, fearful and anxiety provoking… and they spread like wildfire. But we all know that good things happen in the world. Why then does the media love to focus on the blood, gore and violence? Because we respond to it, that’s why.

Negative news stories dominate the news because we are hard-wired to respond more to them. It’s simple brain science, really, and harkens back to our days of needing every bit of news we could find in order to guarantee our survival. And much of that news involved FEAR. Predators, lack of food and water, bad weather, other nasty humans… our primitive brain responds to bad news because at one time we needed to know it all. Who cared about the good stuff when there was a chance of death around every corner?

In his book Secret Societies and Psychological Warfare, author Michael A. Hoffman brings up a strong point for the hypocrisy and mixed messages the media sends, especially when it comes to two of the viewing audience’s favourite things – sex and violence.

“Have you ever noticed how television and print media will scream themselves hoarse in news documentaries, editorials and heavy analytical pieces about ‘rising pornography, crime, violence, gunplay’, etc? And yet in the same TV Guide announcing the latest special on ‘The Crisis of Sex and Violence’ will appear an advertisement for Miami Vice, the ‘show that brings you the action and excitement you’ve come to expect’, etc. Or your newspaper will condemn sex and violence in the loftiest terms but there in the entertainment section is a half-page advertisement for a new ‘action’ movie accompanied by a photo of women in string bikinis and high heels fondling automatic pistols and machine-guns.”

Hoffman calls this the Double-Mind of mass media, and we are all guilty of buying out of, and right back into, each of the two minds… the one that repels and the one that accepts. The use of images to alter our emotions is an age-old way of manipulating behavioural responses, and the media excels at imagery that shocks us, terrifies us, and titillates us.

Misinformation vs Disinformation

Yet much of the information we are bombarded with via a variety of media sources is not corroborated or fact-checked. Many of the news ‘outlets’ people are getting their news on are satire sites, or blog sites, or websites that allow anyone to post a story without having to prove their points or source their material. It’s become standard business to spread and take viral the most shoddy reporting, which would never hold up to journalism standards of old, even without bothering to find out who funded the story, who owns the website it first appeared on, the source of the information, and whether or not any other news source has reported on it.

If it’s in print, or on the Internet, or the TV… we buy it. Who has time to find out if it’s true or not? Besides, if you see it in the media then it must be true, right?

Misinformation abounds. This is information that has no basis in fact, or is the result of poor journalistic skills or shoddy reporting. This is information that mistakenly is called fact and gets spread from person to person, network-to-network, and often goes global before someone decides to finally do a bit of fact checking. By then, it’s often too late, as the populace has already accepted the information as valid and real. Even when later presented with facts, it rarely changes the minds of those already entrenched in the falsities, especially if those falsities support their ideologies and worldviews.

Disinformation is planted on purpose, like seeds that will grow into accepted facts. Propaganda, rumour, gossip, news, and fear-mongering all spread with an agenda, usually to provoke fear and paranoia and cause people to react in a specific manner.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell misinformation from disinformation, and often the manipulation occurs in a subtle manner on a subconscious level, which makes it harder to pinpoint, and therefore refute. One of the main reasons why we allow this is because we are so willingly distracted by the media’s idea of what we should know. We would rather spend our time and energy on these distractions than have to face our own truths.

This could easily explain the power of social networking to create its own form of mind control, as more people spend more time on sites that allow for every possible form of distraction.

Facebook & Social Networking

In 2012, the megalith known as Facebook did something quite nasty to its followers. 700,000 unwitting users were basically utilised as guinea pigs in a gigantic social experiment that allowed Facebook to manipulate emotions and emotional responses, without telling anyone it was doing so. Facebook data scientists set out to see if they could influence the emotional state of site users and prompt them to post more positive or more negative content. Using an algorithm that automatically omitted certain content that was either positive or negative, Facebook researchers manipulated users for one week, later publishing their data in the March issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. But once the secret experiment got out, people screamed about the blatant invasion of privacy and manipulative, deceitful tactics of the experiment, even causing some of the scientists behind the study to apologise for their less than ethical methodology. Privacy lawyers and organisations came forward, admonishing Facebook for violating the rights of the users, who were never told about the research.

Problem is, Facebook had been doing these kinds of things for years, changing the functions and looks of the site to better serve their users, and give them more access to personal information at the same time. Users just didn’t know they were being manipulated until this particular study got attention. The forces behind Facebook understood how easy it was to influence the emotions of users with very little work, and all of it under the radar of the users. Subconsciously, these users were being swayed, even if they weren’t consciously aware of anything different on the site during the week of the study.

Social Programming

Are we being ‘programmed’ in the same way we program our DVRs to record our favourite shows? Also known as ‘social engineering’, this tactic of politics, religion and corporate consumerism, even education and academia, involves literally engineering the behaviour, attitudes and desires of large groups of people. Real social engineering is done using specific scientific methods of analysis and decision-making, often for more academic purposes. But social programming goes on every day in ways that are not necessarily meant for the greater understanding of humanity.

Similar to propaganda, social programming is a type of public relations that sways large groups to accept, deny, support, resist, or anything in between. One of the pioneers of public propaganda, known as the ‘father of public relations’, was an Austrian-American nephew of Sigmund Freud, Edward Bernays. Even though he had a degree in agriculture, he was fascinated by the use of propaganda during wartime, and wondered if the same rules and methods could be applied in peacetime as well. He dove headfirst into the world of psychology and public relations, linking the two to design his own concepts of public persuasion and what he called, “the engineering of consent.”

By understanding how “group mind” worked, Bernays believed the masses could be controlled and manipulated without being aware of it. He used a lot of his famous uncle’s theories in his quest to shift public perception and promote specific behaviours, including his own desire to help out big business by treating the mass distribution of ideas the same way a company would treat the mass production of materials. His 1928 book Propaganda remains a highly influential examination of his work documenting the relationship between what he called an “invisible government, the true ruling power of the country” and the public that was ruled over, something Bernays saw as necessary to keep order over the chaotic masses.

This kind of social control is really about regulating the behaviour of both individuals and groups of people in a society, with the influence of propaganda as one of the tools of control.

Media Methods

Some of the methods used by the mass media to control the viewers and influence the populace are obvious. Others fly under the radar. All are insidious and are motivated by the desire to reach, and in some way control the largest audience possible.

Framing is a means of changing public perception about a subject or concern by imposing a ‘frame’ or base of information around the subject. This frame doesn’t necessarily present false information, but rather accentuates specific positives or negatives of the image presented within the frame. Think of a piece of art that may be very straightforward, at least on the surface, yet changes in the eye of the beholder when surrounded by an ornate frame, opposed to a plain plastic one. The media and politicians use framing as a way of getting people to accept a specific party line of thought surrounding a news story or issue.

To frame an idea is not necessarily mind control, but it is a way to influence thought and behaviour. Two completely different groups of people, representing extremes on an issue, can find a way to frame their points of view on the issue that might actually appeal to those in the middle of the road. Framing can make an extreme concept less intolerable, and a tolerable concept more extreme, depending on how it is used.

Language is yet another great method of swaying public thought and perception. Use of specific words and phrases can literally shape a society’s political and religious direction, and create a mentality that is as submissive as the elite in control could hope for. Look at the whole ‘us vs. them’ media assault with stories of ‘those blacks’ or ‘immigrants’ or ‘feminists’ or ‘the dirty poor’ or ‘the lazy homeless’ or ‘those terrorist Muslims’ and it’s easy to see how countries can be prodded into accepting violence, aggression, intolerance, bigotry, sexism and even war. By making someone else the threat, the enemy, the reason behind our problems and the thing to be feared, we can shrug off our own responsibilities and dysfunctions and blame the ‘other guy’.

False accreditation is another way of getting people on board an issue or eager to buy a product or serve a purpose. By mentioning ‘scientific studies’ or some vague ‘ten doctors out of eleven’, an advertiser or news agency can get plenty of people to blindly accept that a new product is worthy of their hard earned dollars, or that such-and-such doesn’t really cause cancer. Giving credit to science, even when it’s false credit, carries a ton of weight with consumers and news audiences, who are too busy and distracted to actually go and research the claims themselves to see if they hold water.

People have been dumbed down to the point where anything presented as fact, news or science is accepted without a second thought. It’s that second thought that is so critical, but it doesn’t happen often, leaving us reeling, wondering how we got collectively duped again and again.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Distract ‘Em

Attention is everything, and there are numerous ways to distract a person, and a group of persons. Some of the methods of distraction used by corporations, advertisers, news outlets, politicians and others include:

  • Promoting nationalism – When something happens that threatens our nation, we jump on the patriotic bandwagon, to the point of supporting wars that we cannot afford or getting behind political and religious movements that promote intolerance.
  • Wagging the Dog – How do you get people to stop focusing on a critical issue? By presenting them with an issue that gets more news time, even if it’s trivial and sensationalistic. Someone having an affair? Political scandal? High-powered divorce? Distract them with dirty laundry!
  • Scapegoating – Look for the weakest opponent and focus on him or her. The weak link in the chain is enough to break the chain, and is a surefire way to get public eyes off the chain itself.
  • Misinformation and misleading – When you want the truth to stay hidden, reframe it with a little bit of falsehood, repeat it often enough until it sticks, and sit back while it goes viral.
  • Demonise the other guy – When we want to take the attention off our own sins, what better way than to focus the public lens on the demons in the other guy? Remember McCarthyism in the USA, when people who were against the government’s actions were labelled “Commies” and “America-haters?”
  • Fear mongering – The big one, for what better weapon against common sense and sanity is there than fear, especially hysteria-driven fear? We saw this played out recently with the panic over a few Ebola cases in America that sent the country into a media-driven frenzy of terror and anti-African sentiment.

Subliminals & Under the Radar Mind Control

The use of subliminal imagery and words in advertising is well known by now, and with the advent of the Internet, social networking, and technology that allows you to make a fake photo that looks real, anyone can create a subliminal meme or message.

Back in 1957, a market researcher named James Vicary decided to see what would happen if you inserted words or phrases into a motion picture. Words such as ‘eat popcorn’ and ‘drink Coke’ were inserted into the frames of a movie, just for a single frame and therefore not even long enough to register consciously, and resulted in an increase of sales afterwards. Those results were later called a hoax, but the concept stood strong and the age of subliminals was born, with all kinds of studies, including one at Harvard in 1999 looking at the power of flashing words and images over the subconscious, often with intriguing results. Could you make someone buy a product just by showing a single frame image of a half naked woman holding the product, even if the person buying it didn’t LIKE or NEED the product? Could you implant ideas and images directly onto the pliant and impressionable subconscious so easily?

The answer was a definitive yes, and controversial, subliminal imagery has been used in product advertising, politics and even in motion pictures and television shows. One of the most interesting uses of subliminal imagery occurred in the movie The Exorcist, where an image of a white-faced demon named Captain Howdy flashes on the screen now and then, despite author William Peter Blatty’s outrage against the use of the image in his film. Another involved the 1943 animated Warner Bros. movie Wise Quacking Duck where Daffy Duck spins a shield. On one frame the words “Buy Bonds” appear on the shield. In one of the most blatant attempts at corporate advertising, an episode of “Parks and Recreation” titled “Community” contained a scene with a Microsoft logo and stickers. Microsoft just so happened to sponsor that particular episode to promote its new Bing search site.

The technology to not just insert these images into movie frames or paper adverts, but to literally implant them directly into the brain, does exist. An actual United States Patent, 6,506,148, submitted in January of 2003, titled “Nervous system manipulation by electromagnetic fields from monitors,” documents the highly detailed technology available by which, as the Abstract reads, “it is possible to manipulate the nervous system of a subject by pulsing images displayed on a nearby computer monitor or TV set. For the latter, the image pulsing may be imbedded in the program material, or it may be overlaid by modulating a video stream, either as an RF signal or as a video signal.”

In other words, the manipulation is no longer just done via a single frame here and there, but by actual modulation of the feed or signal and coming right at you via your home computer, cell phone, or television set… even your DVD player. And the manipulation occurs at a remote source.

“For a TV monitor, the image pulsing may be inherent in the video stream as it flows from the video source, or else the stream can be modulated such as to overlay the pulsing. In the first case, a live TV broadcast can be arranged to have the feature imbedded simply by slightly pulsing the illumination of the scene that is being broadcast. This method can of course also be used in making movies and recording video tapes and DVDs.”

Desensitise the Masses

Perhaps it’s all a means of desensitising the masses to the violence, hatred and intolerance in the world. Perhaps it’s a means of numbing the populace to the realities that they have no power, no wealth and really, no say in how the world around them works. By using constant violence, whether on the news or in entertainment shows, and by exposing certain themes of misogyny, racism, and subjugation, eventually the viewing audience comes to accept it all as normal. Desensitisation is a powerful way to get someone to go along to get along, even if it means going along to his or her own death and destruction. Break down the inhibitions, expose the brain to constant images that would otherwise be repellant, and hammer the spirit with darkness and death and fear… and you have the perfect consumer, the perfect citizen, numbed to choices and rebellion.

In his seminal work Mind Control in America, Steven Jacobson writes: “The techniques of psychotherapy, widely practiced and accepted as a means of curing psychological disorders, are also methods of controlling people. They can be used systematically to influence attitudes and behaviour. Systematic desensitisation is a method used to dissolve anxiety so the patient is no longer troubled by a specific fear, a fear of violence for example.” Jacobson explains how this process serves to allow the patient, or in this case, the public, to adapt to situations and ideas that once terrified them, if they are exposed to them enough.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, when he was US National Security Advisor, once said: “In the technotronic society the trend would seem towards the aggregation of the individual support of millions of uncoordinated citizens, easily within the reach of magnetic and attractive personalities effectively exploiting the latest communication techniques to manipulate emotions and control reason.”

Ultimately, we can control what we look at and listen to. We can find better outlets for getting information, maybe even use our own discernment and source the material that is presented to us as fact. Our minds can only be controlled to the extent that we remain numb, unaware and distracted.

Once we wake up, take back the remote control of our lives, and begin to program our own minds the way we prefer and according to our own ethics and goals and values, it gets an awful lot more complicated for anyone else to take up residence there.

If you appreciated this article, please consider a digital subscription to New Dawn.

„Reprinted, with permission of the publisher, from MIND WARS © 2015 Marie D. Jones and Larry Flaxman. Published by New Page Books a division of Career Press, Wayne, NJ. 800-227-3371. All rights reserved.

„For more on the important topics covered in this article, please read the authors’ new book Mind Wars: A History of Mind Control, Surveillance, and Social Engineering by the Government, Media, and Secret Societies, available from all good bookstores and online retailers.

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MARIE D. JONES is the author of several books about the paranormal, metaphysics, and cutting-edge science (many coauthored with Larry Flaxman), including PSIence, The Déjà vu Enigma, Destiny vs. Choice, and 11:11 The Time Prompt Phenomenon. She has appeared on more than a 1,000 radio shows worldwide, and on television, most recently on the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens series. Her website is www.mariedjones.com.

LARRY FLAXMAN is the president of ARPAST, the Arkansas Paranormal and Anomalous Studies Team, and a popular public speaker. He is the co-author of several books including The Resonance Key, The Trinity Secret, This Book Is From the Future, and Viral Mythology. He has been on hundreds of radio and television shows, including Discovery Channel’s Ghost Lab. His website is www.larryflaxman.com.

The above article appeared in New Dawn 151 (Jul-Aug 2015)

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Poisoned Mind: Social Media in the 21st Century

matrix-(R)dees

By DAVID THRUSSELL

According to an article on the website of ‘Radio Free Europe’, a nondescript modern 4-storey building on Savushkina Street, St. Petersburg, houses the innocuously titled ‘Internet Research Centre’.

Inside the building operate government controlled and tasked teams of professional ‘trolls’. Spread across approximately 40 rooms, the trolls prowl the Internet in 12 hour shifts, generating pro-Kremlin comments and ‘gaming’ Internet forums and online conversations.

St. Petersburg blogger Marat Burkhard recently came forward to describe the apparent covert activities in detail. Burkhard describes his co-workers as “politically illiterate young people” who must be briefed on current topics at the beginning of each shift and continually supervised.

At this point it would be pertinent to note the source of the article – Radio Free Europe – notoriously a CIA funded propaganda outlet for decades (now financed, more obtrusively, through the State Department and ‘private donors’). While only the congenitally naive would doubt the veracity of the article’s basic claims, what is (unsurprisingly) lacking is context. Whether financed and operated by Russia’s intelligence agency FSB, or some other shadowy enclave, it is estimated that the entire Russian security establishment currently operates with just one twentieth (1/20) of the US equivalent (not even including the UK and other close Western allies).

What that means, in a nutshell, is that for every Internet Research Centre in Russia, the CIA/NSA/GCHQ/private contractor nexus would be operating the equivalent of (at least) 20 such centres. Flooding the social media networks, news and other sites of their domestic populations with thousands upon thousands of comments, posts, disruption, disinformation and propaganda bullets every day. Salvos in an escalating, but largely unseen, ‘Information War’.

Furthermore, recent reports cite the development of software that actually scours the web, automatically switching between user names/identities and generating propaganda, provocations and automated comments as it goes. Coupled with Google’s recent announcement of A.I. software that can discern (Google’s version of) ‘the truth’, it doesn’t take much imagination to envisage any online expression of ‘untruth’, ‘heresy’ or ‘dissent’ being automatically swamped beneath a torrent of managed obscurity, cyber-troll bile, distraction and chicanery.

Seismically underreported, similar allegations about the ‘troll farms’ or ‘web brigades’ of the West (such as GCHQ’s ‘77th Brigade’) have barely surfaced in the blinding mass of ‘Snowden Revelations’. Chilling images (reportedly leaked from internal GCHQ presentations) document operations in ‘virtual communities’, ‘social identity theory’, ‘herding’, ‘mimicry’ and the ‘psychology of deception’. Much of the language used seems best suited to neutralising dissent and activism in the ‘target’ (domestic) populations (and not the lame-duck excuse of ‘fighting terrorism’).

As an astounding amount of human activity and intercourse migrates online, public spaces empty and forums/social media fill with a new species – homo digitalis – a being safely cubicled and shepherded into approved opinions, paradigms and navel gazing.

Accordingly, corporations now view social media and online social networks as their plaything and happy-hunting-ground – each ‘like’, ‘trend’, ‘tweet’ and online action the precious raw material to map, direct and monetise consumer behaviour. Edward Bernays (pioneer marketeer, nephew of Sigmund Freud and author of the seminal text Propaganda) could hardly have dreamed of the marketing, perception management and social engineering possibilities now available at the press of a few attractive and endorphin-stimulating keystrokes. Today’s brave new keyboard-warrior looks an awful lot like yesterday’s plantation indentured servant or herd of cattle (in sleek, Apple designed ergonomic garb).

A plethora of research (let alone common sense) suggests that our reliance/addiction to social media and its associated devices is already having a profoundly deleterious effect on basic cognitive skills, human interaction, attention spans and functional intelligence. Factor in a cocktail of narcissistic personality disorders and body dysmorphic disorders (with a chaser of smartphones and other hand-held devices) and humankind looks at last set to plunge over the precipice of unfathomable stupidity.

Doubtlessly technologists (and the teams of psychologists who work for them), minutely design every latest gadget to further exploit the very human weaknesses of vanity and the desperate need to be endlessly and pointlessly distracted. A chronically self-obsessed, trivialised generation (like no other generation before it) of ‘selfie’ snappers and banal ‘tweeters’ is the technocrat’s utopia.

Disinterested, disenfranchised and disengaged from the outside world, ‘Generation Now’ (the iGeneration) have become tyranny’s best enablers – politically, philosophically and spiritually ineffective – vapid consumers and mindless infants. Delivering themselves up ‘freely’ to the corporate-military-complex – their every mood, ‘status’, location, relationship and conversation accessible in real time or stored in vast information vaults secreted away in distant desert bunkers.

The very architecture of social media seems intrinsically designed to be nothing more than a gargantuan electronic trap to collect as much data, biometric and psychological information as possible about the population.

Facebook’s notorious ‘experiments’ in ‘emotional contagion’ and political herding become even more sinister when placed in their rightful context. Despite Facebook’s chummy image and branding, ostensible founder Mark Zuckerberg has made it clear in numerous interviews his desire to mould a future of what can only be described as pure techno-totalitarianism. A consumer’s/user’s every action and thought mediated through the ‘safe’ interface of Facebook – always surveilled, always stalked and tabulated – available to corporations and intelligence agencies at all times. ‘Dangerous’ physical interactions minimised and discouraged.

Whilst Facebook may have a hidden nativity story, its birth secretly shepherded by funds channelled through In-Q-Tel (the CIA’s venture capital arm), the same in fact may also apply to the very foundational platforms of the Internet itself. Recent research by journalist Nafeez Ahmed has revealed the cosy (symbiotic even) relationship between (‘Don’t Be Evil’) Google and the entire American intelligence apparatus. Mediated through a decades-old shadowy group known as the ‘Highlands Forum’ – leading technologists, corporate heads and intelligence chiefs have met privately innumerable times to cross-pollinate innovations, strategies and policy.

Ahmed makes it clear that the entire contemporary surveillance landscape may well have been seeded through the Highlands Forum, as business and the secret state pursue their (remarkably similar) aims. Much like the unspoken ‘revolving door’ that operates between the Pentagon and the armaments industries – the board members and senior officials of Google, Facebook and alike have the striking habit of being familiar faces from the recesses of the Pentagon, CIA, NSA and so on. So ubiquitous is this limited personnel pool, that ultimately the question must be asked whether Google and Facebook are simply not just clandestine arms of the national security state.

No matter how earnestly we may choose to look the other way, even the bedrock technology of the Internet itself (developed apparently to protect communications in case of a devastating nuclear conflict at the height of the Cold War) are naturally products of ARPA (the predecessor of today’s DARPA) the research and development arm of the Pentagon.

Does it take the mind of a paranoiac to wonder whether decades of social engineering research, think-tank profiling and Rand Corporation policy directives, coupled with the natural desires of bureaucrats, tyrants and salesmen (control of a captive market), has finally produced the perfect homogenised and pasteurised Panopticon Supermarket? An online, and global, Stepford village.

The only rational reaction to such a possibility is disconnection. To remove oneself from the insidious web of trivia, celebrity inanities, prefabricated media events and puerile conversation. Escape from the moronic matrix. But who has the courage to do that?

And anyway, I’ve got to check on the status update of my friend’s friend’s friend of a friend’s friend…

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DAVID THRUSSELL is a poet trapped in the body of a hillbilly. Or a hopeless romantic hidden in the twisted frame of a dark electronic musician. Late at night Thrussell fantasises that actually he lives next door to Hieronymous Bosch in Medieval Europe and has hallucinated the whole dreadful modern era while suffering from acute ergot poisoning. We are not entirely convinced that this is not the case. The world knows him (if it knows him at all), as the creator of a seeming multitude of obscure recordings (Snog, Black Lung and Soma among others) and film scores. He has written previously for Wax Poetics, Fortean Times and numerous other publications.

The above article appeared in New Dawn 150 (May-June 2015)

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The Mystery of Flight MH370: Looking for Clues in All the Wrong Places

wormholemalaysiaplane

By PAUL YOUNG

As we marked the first anniversary of the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 on 8 March 2015, the mystery has demonstrably deepened over time. The lack of substantial news over the past year spawned much speculation – some of it over-imaginative, some of it plausible.

If we are willing to disengage from officialdom’s misinformation, we can follow some credible suggestions that lead us into that twilight zone where quantum physics has settled in as an uneasy neighbour alongside the paranormal.

Some observers, including former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad1 and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, have accused the Malaysian government of holding back “missing bits of information.”2 If we are to believe that an aircraft over 60 metres long, with an equally wide wingspan and weighing more than 250 tonnes, can vanish with no-one knowing where it is, then concerns about the alleged spying capabilities of the major powers may be overstated.

Of particular interest is the plane’s last known position (LKP). In all possible scenarios, from crashing into the sea to being shot down by military fire, from cyber-hijacking to paranormal interference, the real indications are that the incident took place between Malaysia and Vietnam, above where the Gulf of Thailand meets the South China Sea. Witnesses who say they observed an event in MH370’s last recorded neighbourhood have been discredited and testimonials ignored. Australia has taken on the role of sheriff, perhaps at the behest of the USA, in drawing the scent away from the actual geographical vanishing point to the Indian Ocean, where over fourteen months of exploration has yielded nothing.

In re-examining the puzzle, there are some insights to be gained from comparing it to the loss of Air Asia Flight QZ8501 between Christmas 2014 and New Year. Unlike MH370, QZ8501 was not a Boeing, but an Airbus A320. But like the 777, this Airbus has fly-by-wire (FBW) flight controls, rendering it vulnerable to takeover by remote control. In fact, the Airbus A320 was the first commercial aircraft to be equipped with such a system. This leaves open the possibility that either or both could have been subject to cyber-hijack by a military power or terrorist group, or by an intelligence beyond our normal perception and comprehension.

In both cases the planes deviated from their intended course and neither sent a distress signal. The Air Asia flight, according to its black box, was climbing at an extraordinarily rapid rate of 6,000 feet per minute, something it was not designed to do and would not be attempted by a responsible commercial pilot. Could it have been under remote control? In the case of MH370 we don’t have recorded information from the time of its disappearance, but we are asked to accept that the missing aircraft deviated way off its intended path, undetected by the widely respected Royal Malaysian Air Force, flown for another six hours and then ditched into the Indian Ocean, with all on board lost.

The Official Line: Ditching Into the Ocean

Having commenced at the LKP in the South China Sea, the search was diverted after just a few days and before any substantial progress could have been made, first to the Southern Indian Ocean, then to the North-West, based on information from British satellite telecommunications company Inmarsat. Their assessment was based on hourly ‘pings’ allegedly picked up from the plane, using the vague mathematical variability of the ‘Doppler Effect’ method, never before applied to such an investigation. An article by Ari Schulman in The Atlantic challenged the correctness of their calculations, stating:

Its analysis has become the canonical text of the Flight 370 search. It’s the bit of data from which all other judgments flow – from the conclusive announcement by Malaysia’s prime minister that the plane has been lost with no survivors, to the black-box search area, to the high confidence in the acoustic signals.… The biggest risk to the investigation now is that authorities continue to assume they’ve finally found the area where the plane went down, while failing to explore other possibilities simply because they don’t fit with a mathematical analysis that may not even hold up.3

Similar doubts have been expressed by Radiometrics CEO Mike Exner, as well as scientific writers Duncan Steel and Jeff Wise.

At the helm of the most expensive airplane search in history, under Australia’s leadership, is Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) commissioner Martin Dolan. He is allegedly a discredited civil servant whose integrity was called into doubt by the Australian Senate inquiry into the ATSB’s handling of a Pel-Air crash investigation in 2009. The ATSB has itself been found seriously wanting by a peer review of their procedures in producing that report, by the Transport Safety Board of Canada.4 Has this whole operation been set up to fail? If so, Australia may not be privy to the conspiracy.

There are two popular lines of thought warranting attention, both involving the USA. One is that the plane was subjected to cyber-jacking and ended up at a US military base. The other is that it was shot down.

Shot Down or Cyber-jacked: Blaming the USA

Author Nigel Cawthorne, in a book released very soon after the incident, covered almost every conceivable angle, including that the plane might have been shot down accidentally during a US-Thai military exercise and hushed up.5 Marc Dugain, former chief executive of Proteus Airlines, added to the shoot-down theory by suggesting it might not have been accidental, but that the plane had been cyber-jacked and was to be crashed into a US military base, so it had to be terminated. Fuel for this theory was added when eyewitnesses in the Maldives claimed to have seen a low flying, large airplane above their islands early in the morning of 8 March. A further theory arose claiming the plane had been taken over by remote control and landed at a US military base on Diego Garcia. Even allowing for means and opportunity, there is no clear motive and no claims regarding hostages have emerged.

The argument against a shoot-down is the same as that of a crash: where is the flotsam and jetsam? From South East Asia across to the Maldives there are densely populated lands, major shipping channels and countless fishing vessels. For not one piece of debris to have shown up defies belief.

The Other-Worldly Spectre

Several UFO reports coincide with the time and location of the missing MH370 aircraft. The International Business Times – quoting two different sources (UFO Blogger & Forbidden Knowledge TV’s Alexandra Bruce)reported on 23 April 2014:

Malaysia’s air force chief, Rodzali Daud, said military radar detected a UFO in an area in the northern Malacca Strait at 2:15 a.m. local time on Saturday about an hour after the plane vanished from air traffic control screens.… The radar playback depicts dozens of planes in flight over the region at the time. The first peculiarity is seen in the lower left of the screen. A round object appears in the vicinity of Flight 370 (and amid several others), which the radar does not automatically ‘read’ as an airplane. Suddenly, this round object takes the form of a ‘plane’ on the radar screen and accelerates at a rate of speed that must be at least five times the speed of the surrounding planes, heading eastward, over the South China Sea – and just as suddenly the object stops and appears to hover in place.6

However it does not bring any conclusion to the matter to simply say that a UFO ‘took’ the aircraft. Why take it and where is it?

The Human Factor

From the angle of human intervention who, other than the pilot, could take control of a Boeing 777 mid-flight? On board MH370 were twenty employees of Freescale Semiconductor, an American company described as an “Electronic Warfare and Military Radar firm.” A theory that “Jacob Rothschild” wanted four joint patent holders eliminated doesn’t hold much water, as their names are not on the passenger manifest and the patent itself was not significant enough to drive anyone to murder 239 innocent people. But of those twenty on board, Freescale’s spokesman Mitch Haws said: “These were all people with a lot of experience and technical background and they were very important people.” According to International Business Times, Freescale’s newly patented invention was in fact the world’s smallest microcontroller called the Kinesis KL02, described as “the most potent next-generation war weaponry.” They add that it is for use in remote controlled or automatically programmed devices and is “significant in making plausible the Pentagon’s ultimate dream of a human-controlled robotic warrior.”7

So we know Freescale is interested in remote control technology. What about ‘invisibility cloaking?’ According to Bibliotecapleyades.net, “Avoiding radar via ‘cloaking technology’ has long been one of the objectives of the defence industry and Freescale has been active (in) developing chips for military radar. Last June (2013) it announced it was creating a team of specialists dedicated to producing ‘radio frequency power products’ for the defence industry.”8 On its website, Freescale RF says, “These RF power standard products meet the requirements for applications such as avionics, HF through L- and S-Band radar, communications, missile guidance, electronic warfare, and identification, friend or foe (IFF).”9

Could there have been an experiment of sorts, being carried out in conjunction with Freescale, whose biggest client is the US military, together with Boeing, whose biggest client is also the US military, to hide the plane with an invisibility cloak – a seemingly innocent test that went bizarrely wrong? Unlike in 1943 when the US navy was alleged to have carried out the infamous Philadelphia experiment using enlisted seamen, these days ‘cloak of invisibility’ prototypes such as the Rochester Cloak10 are said to be well advanced and already in use. But as routine as authorities might deem these developments to be, there are scientists who remain obsessed with the goal of uniting electromagnetism and gravity into a single field to produce invisibility, in line with Einstein’s Unified Field Theory. Beforeitsnews.com points out that this is the type of technology Freescale Semiconductor develops, and “it is conceivable that the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 plane is ‘cloaked,’ hiding with hi-tech electronic warfare weaponry that exists and is used.”11

Is it realistic to conceive the possibility that MH370 slipped into a parallel world or different physical dimensional frequency, not by accident but perhaps aided by UFO(s) that were sighted in the area? By joining the dots, the following is one scenario. As the narrative is conjecture, passenger’s names have not been used.

A Modern-day Philadelphia Experiment?

Approaching midnight on 7 March 2014, 227 passengers are boarding a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 in Kuala Lumpur for a routine flight to Beijing. Ten are in business class and, among the rest in economy is a corporate group of twenty who work for the American company Freescale Semiconductor. All are Malaysian and Chinese nationals. These twenty are seated in two clusters in the foremost economy cabin which houses rows 11 to 26, with the arrangement of two seats to the left designated A and C, two seats J and K to the right, with five marked D to H in the centre, separated by aisles either side.12 One group of Freescale employees settle in their assigned A and C seats to the left while over to the right, the four pairs of J & K seats in rows 16 to 19 are occupied by senior Freescale staff. All are seated right above the wings. The plane lifts off at 41 minutes past midnight and ascends in good flying conditions. As it passes 10,000 feet the pilot announces that personal electronic devices may now be switched on. Three of the senior Freescale personnel in the right-hand J/K seats anxiously activate their laptops, embarking on a covert mission destined to chalk up a technological milestone.

The loyal workers have been convinced by their American employers that the ever advancing surveillance techniques used by Beijing are dangerous and herald a new kind of cold war between the two real superpowers on the world stage today: China and the USA. China’s ‘feather in the cap’ is its new Gaofen-1 eye-in-the-sky satellite which it put into use in December 2013. Washington intends to demonstrate to Beijing that it is a giant step ahead in the spying game. They’ve been assured that the cloak of invisibility they are about to deploy around the aircraft is completely safe and no-one on board need even know it is happening. Once the Chinese realise the plane has entered their airspace undetected, they will be embarrassed and, of course, neither side will want to announce it publicly. Being a civilian aircraft should assure there is no military backlash.

At 1:19am they see that co-pilot, First Officer Hamid, has just signed off from Malaysian air traffic control and has not yet handed over to Vietnamese control. The time is perfect. They are at 35,000 feet over the sea, in a black spot between cell-phone masts and can no longer be seen from land, not that anyone will be looking at this time of morning. Freescale Passenger 1 (FP1), from his window seat at the right-side of the plane, uses his laptop to remotely turn off the transponder, then the satellite phone system installed in business class, then disables the ACARS system located below deck, which had sent its last signal at 1:07. With his tasks completed in just two minutes, he makes the prearranged hand gesture to FP2, seated directly behind him. FP2 notes that the plane is now on autopilot but he is ready, at the push of a button, to take control away from the cockpit, should the crew attempt to manually alter course or altitude before the mission is accomplished. He in turn signals FP3, seated behind him, that all is well and going according to plan.

There is no time to lose and FP3 immediately activates the sequence which, although programmed to take effect in under a minute, is the culmination of many years of development. Tonight they are making history, surrounding a Boeing 777 wide-body aircraft with a magnetic field, producing a cloak of invisibility. It is about to become undetectable to radar, satellite GPS, visual search and contact by radio or mobile phone. Once they are inside Chinese airspace, their triumphant demonstration completed, they will remove the cloak and hand control back to the flight crew. What they haven’t been told is that the physicists back home have resolved to complete what Einstein could not – his Unified Field Theory. Seventy years have passed since the disastrous Philadelphia Experiment and the scientists are sure they have it right this time. Not only is the plane to become invisible, but to actually dematerialise, just for a while, from our physical space-time dimension.

Out of the blue comes an unexpected reaction, something not anticipated in their many hours of rigorous simulator training. An almost blinding light envelopes the plane, accompanied by loud, low pitched hum. This lasts only a moment and, as the light fades, the plane remains sheathed in a green glowing fog. There is complete quiet. Not only do those on board maintain a stunned silence but, eerily, there is no engine noise. Then the alarming realisation dawns that they are motionless, they are neither ascending nor descending, not going forward or sideways. It is as if time and space have somehow stood still. At that very moment, as far as the outside world is concerned, the plane no longer exists – not just invisible, but actually vanished.

Into Thin Air

Where did the aircraft go and why hasn’t it returned as it was supposed to? The popular on-line forum Project Avalon posts many varied theories, including that of a multiverse whereby other realities overlap and connect with ours. Many psychics have expressed opinions such as ‘Lynn,’ who has stated repeatedly on her Psychic Focus Blogsite that she sees the plane entering ‘another reality’ in a parallel world and landing on a beach along an area of jungle, watched over by tribal people.13 Another site, Prout Scandinavia, offers a précis of Lynn’s lengthy material as follows:

What looks like a clear day turns into dark, gloomy surrounding. Looks like discharges of static electricity coming off the plane. People are trying to stand and grab something above their heads? Lot of turbulence. Oxygen masks start to fall. Loud thundering sound, people are grabbing their ears. Then… it feels like the plane is floating into a different layer, dimension or into “cloaking” energy; ETs cloaking the plane? It lands mainly intact in a cove on jungle island with a large snow-capped mountain, around the Andaman Islands? Asian man held up 2 fingers, then 3 and lastly 7, location where they are?

Captain Zaharie Shah, pilot: There was a real struggle to maintain control during this moment of turbulence. Then everything goes calm, he lifts his hands off the controls in complete astonishment. He is just looking at the wheel and it is moving by itself. There is a silence over the whole plane. A flood of emotions came over him, fear, confusion, intrigue; he couldn’t make sense of it. He didn’t land the plane, it landed itself??? To some extent he is still in shock, and he replays that situation in his mind, but he doesn’t want to talk about it. Fariq Abdul Hamid, copilot is in the cockpit, they hit some turbulence. He is holding on tightly to the controls as if they had to turn off or assist the auto steering to manage though this rough patch in the air. Then I see him with this very strange look on his face as if something took the plane over.14

Just how fantastic or absurd is this speculation on parallel worlds? On 3 November 2014 it was reported that an Australian team at the Centre of Quantum Dynamics in Griffith University, under the title “Many Interacting Worlds,” proposed that stable parallel worlds exist and it is possible to test for their existence. It deviates from standard quantum theory, firstly in that it suggests electrons do behave like particles, not waves or clouds; secondly, that there must be a finite number of realities, not infinite as suggested before; thirdly, that no new universes are ever created – instead many worlds have existed, side-by-side, since the beginning of time.

In the new picture proposed by the Griffith team, tests show

the electrons being fired at the slits are particles after all – tiny little spheres just as Newton would have imagined them. In our world the electron might pass through the bottom slit. But in a parallel world the electron passes through the top slit. As the two ghostly twins travel towards the detectors (one in our world, one in a parallel world), their paths could overlap. But according to the theory, a newly proposed repulsive force stops the electrons coming too close to one another. In effect, the electron in our world “collides” with its ghostly twin, like billiard balls knocking together as they roll across a pool table.15

If parallel worlds exist, then they have always been there and possibly account for many of the mysterious disappearances of ships and planes in the past. Various spots around the world known as ‘Vile Vortices’ include the Bermuda and Devil’s Triangles, and the volumes of unexplained events are legendary. It is only now that we have reached the stage that our technology can test and enter these worlds – but can it yet be done safely?

“Someone Knows”

If scientists engaged in such a test, they presumably did so with best intentions – after all, they would have wanted this to be a well-documented success. It could be, however, that while experiments conducted inside a laboratory indicated they could maintain complete control and guarantee safety, a 250 tonne airliner at 35,000 feet may have behaved differently to the predicted model. Who else besides Freescale would have been in on it? Arguably Boeing and the US military; possibly Rolls Royce and some personnel at Malaysia Airlines; probably neither China nor Vietnam would know, just as it is unlikely the Australian government is privy to what happened. Australia may be acting in good faith, serving the wishes of overseas governments as they have done in various conflicts and exercises over the past century.

On 29 January 2015, the Malaysian government officially declared the plane to be lost in an accident with no survivors. But even though this statement was intended to allow the airline to start paying compensation, many of the victims’ families are having none of it. As reported by The Straits Times after the announcement:

Many desperate MH370 relatives have continued to insist that the plane may have landed safely somewhere, and Malaysian authorities and the airline had until now refrained from drawing firm conclusions about its fate. But Thursday’s announcement essentially declared that the plane had crashed somewhere after its disappearance last March 8.… Ms Sarah Bajc, whose partner, Mr Philip Wood, was on board the plane, was one of several relatives who poured scorn on the announcement. “I think they are lying,” she said. “It could very well be that the plane crashed. But there is no evidence, and until there is evidence we just can’t believe them,” she said, referring to the Malaysian government and flag carrier. “It is impossible to bring any closure until we have proof.” Many relatives accuse the Malaysian government and its flag carrier of a chaotic and bungled response to the plane’s initial diversion, which allowed the jet to disappear, and a subsequent cover-up.16

Emirates Airlines’ Sir Tim Clark says:

Our experience tells us that in water incidents, where the aircraft has gone down, there is always something. We have not seen a single thing that suggests categorically that this aircraft is where they say it is, apart from this so-called electronic satellite ‘handshake’, which I question as well.

Sir Tim said it was the total disappearance of the plane that ignited his suspicions and called for better transparency in the investigation. “I’m totally dissatisfied with what has been coming out of all of this,” he said. In remarks likely to further incite conspiracy theories, Sir Tim added: “We need to know who was on the plane in the detail that obviously some people do know.”17 So the suspicion lingers that someone knows something and is not speaking. Could it be to avoid causing public panic, or could it be out of embarrassment of a scientific experiment gone horrendously wrong?

What, if anything, did the sighting of a UFO at the time have to do with it? Going back as far as WWII there were allegations that both the Nazis and the USA had technological assistance from aliens. Even Werner von Braun, one of the fathers of rocket-science, famously said, “We had help.” If there was an experiment being conducted, was it in conjunction with other-worldly parties? And if MH370 entered a parallel dimension, how would you locate it? In a paper posted on 3108.info by Walter Vetcsh, he claims there are regular interdimensional flights known to the US government. He also asserts that both electricity and magnetic fields (which would include ‘cloaks’) are visible in the fourth dimension and techniques exist to view them through a filter, using the blue-violet dye known as dicyanin.18

As with all other possible scenarios, the essential point is that you have to be looking in the right place.

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Footnotes

  1. See www.youtube.com/watch?v=HnOWKrGVTwI
  2. www.theweek.co.uk/world-news/flight-mh370/58037/mh370-conspiracy-theories-what-happened-to-missing-plane
  3. www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/05/why-the-official-explanation-of-mh370s-demise-doesnt-hold-up/361826/
  4. http://blogs.crikey.com.au/planetalking/2015/01/18/mh370-is-it-time-to-investigate-the-investigators/
  5. Flight MH370 The Mystery by Nigel Cawthorne, John Blake Publishing, 2014, 245
  6. http://au.ibtimes.com/mh370-radar-detected-ufo-jet-goes-missing-malaysian-air-force-head-reportedly-confirms-sightings
  7. http://au.ibtimes.com/mh370-how-fatal-chip-rothschild-reportedly-acquired-1337851
  8. www.bibliotecapleyades.net/sociopolitica/esp_sociopol_rothschild46.htm
  9. www.freescale.com/webapp/sps/site/taxonomy.jsp?code=RF-AEROSPACE-DEFENSE-TRANSISTORS&cof=0&am=0
  10. www.rochester.edu/newscenter/watch-rochester-cloak-uses-ordinary-lenses-to-hide-objects-across-continuous-range-of-angles-70592/
  11. http://sputniknews.com/voiceofrussia/news/2014_03_31/MH370-kept-hidden-at-top-secret-US-military-base-media-reports-8550/
  12. Information about passengers and seating plans are from New York Daily News: www.nydailynews.com/news/world/names-faces-aboard-malaysia-airlines-flight-370-article-1.1739217 & NST site: http://cached.newslookup.com/cached.php?ref_id=433&siteid=2354&id=5907624&t=1398947340
  13. http://psychicfocus.blogspot.com.au/2014/03/malaysia-airline-mh370.html
  14. http://proutscandinavia.blogspot.com.au/2014/03/psychics-know-where-malaysia-plane-370.html
  15. https://cosmosmagazine.com/physical-sciences/can-we-test-parallel-worlds
  16. www.straitstimes.com/news/asia/south-east-asia/story/relatives-fume-malaysia-declares-mh370-accident-no-survivors-2015012
  17. www.apfn.org/apfn/370.htm
  18. Occult Practices of the United States (OPUS) 2014 by Walter C Vetch on 3108.info

.

PAUL V. YOUNG is a freelance writer, having contributed articles to various New Age magazines since 2003. He is a long-time follower of Mysticism, with particular interest in the teachings of the ancient Greek teachers Pythagoras and Empedocles. He is certified as a practitioner of Reiki, NLP and LOA. After spending several years travelling and teaching English in South East Asia, Paul has settled back in Brisbane, developing a website and writing a book on our Solar Ancestors. His main website is PaulYoungBooks.com.

The above article appeared in New Dawn 150 (May-June 2015)

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Vietnam: Encounters with the Spirit World

By DAN NEIMAN

A medium is an individual who has a connection with the spiritual world, or the “other side” as some people call it. The spirits on the other side of the veil between life and death can communicate with them. In the West, there is a long tradition of mediums relaying messages from the deceased to family and friends left behind. This is known as “mental mediumship.” Another more intriguing form of mediumship known as “physical mediumship” prospered in the 19th century. In this form, mediums would sometimes go into a trance and spirit controls would subsequently speak through them. These controls would harness subtle forces as well as the medium’s own energies to levitate objects and produce materialisations. These displays stunned great men of science like Alfred Russell Wallace and William Crookes.

In Vietnam, mediumship has been turned into an art form. Far from the table tipping and communication with deceased loved ones in the West, Vietnamese mediumship more resembles divinely inspired performance art. These spirit possession rituals are known as Lên đồng. With an array of beautiful glittering costumes, heavenly music, and dancing, watching a mediumship ritual in Vietnam is akin to visiting Broadway. However, mediumship in Vietnam is not completely uniform.

There are two basic camps of mediums – those affiliated with St Tran Hung Dao and those associated with the goddesses, princesses, princes, and mandarins of the Four Palaces. The latter mediums are associated with elaborate performance rituals. The former don’t often give elaborate performances, but play a key role in protecting people via the power of St Tran.

Four Palace mediums accept the existence of four realms: Heaven, Mountains and Forest, Waters, and Earth. Each realm is presided over by a goddess, the highest being Liễu Hạnh, who is the goddess of Heaven. Under each of these goddesses there lies a pantheon of warrior heroes (called Great Mandarins), Holy Ladies who are the royal representatives of the mother goddesses, and stately Princes and Princesses.1 A mythology associated with each of the spirits grants them their defining characteristics. Mediums of the Four Palaces may actively incarnate each spirit in the pantheon except for the mother goddesses at the top of the hierarchy. They are said to make only brief appearances with no accompanying performance or speech.

To get a feel for the setting, cultural anthropologist Kirsten Endres reports:

Lên đồng rituals are undoubtedly symphonic in character, as they tease the senses with a complex blend of sights, scents and sounds: the magnificent temple interior, the artfully arranged trays of offerings, the intoxicating smell of incense and flowers, the sumptuous robes and accessories that transform the medium into a deity, the entrancing rhythm of the liturgical music, and, ideally, the virtuosity of the ritual performance.2

The first key ingredient in a successful Lên đồng ritual is distinctive costumes. Each spirit sports its own unique blend of costume and accessories. For this reason, a contemporary medium requires upwards of “20 different brocade tunics, wrap-around skirts and blouses, as well as various headdresses and a range of trinkets and jewellery.”3 Male spirits often require accessories such as swords, spears and sticks with bells. Female spirits, on the other hand, require things like fans, rowing oars, combs, flowers, bracelets, and makeup.4 Once the medium is adorned in the right attire, they must then put on a great performance.

Each spirit has a particular style of dance. A good mediumistic performance is one in which the medium’s heart and soul is divested in the ritual. They must lose themselves as any great actor would and truly embody the spirits. During the performance, the spirits are said to act upon the medium and guide his or her movements, but in order for this to happen, a total and wholehearted submission to the spirits’ guidance is required.5

Most mediums do not actually enter a full trance state during the rituals. However, they are aware of the spirits presence through various sensations such as a feeling of lightness for female spirits, or, conversely, heaviness in the head and shoulders, or “hotness of the guts” for male spirits. In some instances, especially if the medium has a close affinity with a particular spirit in the pantheon, they may become fully entranced and lose all awareness of their surroundings.6 In any event, the spirit is said to be incarnated in the medium during the performance.

A typical possession ritual begins with food offerings to the various spirits at the main altar. The medium then sits in front of the altar surrounded by ritual assistants who help them change into the appropriate dress for each spirit who he or she embodies during the performance, which can last for several hours due to the great number of spirits the medium may embody. Next, the medium covers his or her head with a red veil, sometimes shaking or swaying as the spirit descends into him or her. Then, by a hand gesture, the medium signals which spirit has descended, and throws off the red veil once the spirit has embodied him or her. The assistants then act quickly to dress the medium and hand them the accessories. The medium next performs a ritual dance, the movements, postures and gestures of which reflect the deity’s rank, gender and personality. Depending on the spirit, they may dance with rope candles, oars, fans, swords or other items. After the dance, the deity might speak through the medium expressing words of thanks, blessings, or wishes to the participants. Afterwards, the deity may bless the altar offerings, and participants can come forward to present offerings and request a favour from the deity, such as advice, divination, healing, prosperity or protection.7 Granting a specific favour will depend on which deity is currently ‘possessing’ the medium. The Seventh Prince was a gambler in life, so devotees will ask for his blessing on their next gambling venture. The Tenth Prince, associated with talent and knowledge, may help devotees with studies.8

When a medium’s spirit embodiment is complete, they will replace the red veil over their head until a different spirit in the pantheon embodies them, and the process is repeated. During each incarnation, a band of musicians plays specific musical pieces for each of the different spirits. In these songs, traditional instruments play a melody appropriate for the spirit, and a vocalist sings a song that tells the history, merits, and amazing powers of that spirit.9 Finally, when the ritual is finished, the offerings (gifts presented to the deities during the ritual) are redistributed among the participants as lộc, meaning ‘blessed gifts’. Since these items now have the blessings of the spirits, they are thought to be imbued with power and are prized by all. Each participant receives a bag of gifts to take home. These may include food, beverages, and money.10

Becoming a Medium

Mediums enter their trade because they have a heavy spirit root (căn), meaning their fate is tied to one or more of the spirits in the pantheon. This usually means they owe a karmic debt to the spirit(s) incurred during a previous incarnation.11 A medium thus has close affinity with a pantheon spirit who shares a strong spirit root with him or her. This particular spirit may influence the medium’s personality and habits. If a male medium has a female spirit root, they may act effeminately and, vice versa, a female medium with a male spirit root may act hot-tempered and masculine.12 Even clothing style can be traced back to a medium’s spirit root. One medium, Mrs Duoc, has a fetish for pink clothes because she has the root of the Ninth Young Lady, who always wore pink.13

Besides having a spirit root, there are other reasons to be a medium as well. Sometimes a person will become a medium as a debt of gratitude for a service provided by the spirits.14 The biggest reason for entering mediumship is to relieve suffering. Anthropologists Karen Fjelstad and Lisa Maiffret explain:

Several individuals become mediums in response to life crises – such as the loss of a loved one, financial problems, or interpersonal conflicts. These crises caused grief, mental and physical illness, stress, and generalised anxiety.15

Mediumship in this context is a way to connect with a support group of fellow mediums (and spirits) and find greater meaning in life through spiritual practice. Another interpretation, however, is these misfortunes are caused by the spirits in order to drive people into mediumship.

Illness & the Supernatural

Vietnamese mediums recognise two kinds of illness, yin and yang. A yin illness is one caused by supernatural forces, whereas a yang illness is physical in nature. A person afflicted with a yin illness may indicate they are destined for mediumship. The spirits will cause misfortune and sometimes mental illness until the person enters mediumship. Other times, of course, they are not destined for mediumship, but are simply afflicted by an angry ghost and must make offerings at a temple or drink healing water. One example of the former is described by Fjelstad and Maiffret:

Hung’s life was full of difficulty before he became a spirit medium. He worked on a lunch truck from two in the morning until six in the evening every day of the week… During this time, Hung’s son was imprisoned for a shooting, and his eighteen-year-old daughter tried to commit suicide. Full of stress and anxiety, Hung said he wandered the streets “like a water buffalo,” roaming here and there. Physically ill for three months before he attended his first possession ceremony, Hung said he had intense stomach pain and vomited everything he ate. Everything changed when he became a spirit medium. His physical health improved, he stopped wandering the streets, he found a better job, and his daughter began feeling better.16

The above story and many others hint at the belief that spirits in the other world have control over people and worldly affairs. Kirsten Endres describes a woman who was told she must become a medium or her husband would die. Not believing this, she ignored the advice and a few months later her husband suddenly became ill and died. She was subsequently told that if she did not enter mediumship her son would begin behaving badly. This time, she did not want to take the risk, so went ahead and organised an initiation ceremony and is now a medium.17

Besides relieving hardship, mediumship has other rewards. The Mother Goddesses of the Four Palace religion are said to bring prosperity and good fortune to their adherents.18 This is why mediums spend lavishly on Lên đồng rituals. In essence, Four Palace mediumship is said to bring material success to the medium and his or her devotees. Researcher Pham Quynh Phuong writes:

For spirit mediums, mediumship is an endless circle: working hard to earn money in order to spend generously in possession rituals, hoping to be more successful and luckier in business, then using part of the profits earned from doing business to thank spirits by performing more rituals. In Hanoi, middle-class mediums who host Four Palaces rites often spend between two and ten million dong (US$150 to 700) [for a single ritual], six to fifteen times the monthly salary of the average civil servant…19

Mediums believe the more they spend, the more the spirits will appreciate and help them further to succeed in life. As one medium told Phuong, “Many people who calculate carefully are quite willing to spend money to serve spirits because after they perform the rituals their business becomes more successful and they gain more money than they spend.” Phuong says he is struck by the wealth of some master mediums and their disciples. He is awed by the opulent shrines some master mediums own, with dozens of gold-inlaid statues. He describes leaving one Lên đồng ceremony with his bag of blessed gifts containing “not only a ‘green rice’ cake and some apples, but also a note worth one-fifth of my monthly salary as a researcher.”20

Not only do the spirits of the Four Palaces provide material success, they also help mediums feel more at ease and confident in their daily lives. One medium explains: “Firstly, when I serve the spirits, I am very happy, I like it. Secondly, when I return home after a Lên đồng, living is easier and more prosperous, and the children study well.”21 Many mediums speak this way and say their mind is at ease after performing a spirit ritual. They “have something to trust in” and “don’t have to worry anymore.” They feel confident in their activities, knowing the spirits will look out for them.22

Another controversial view of mediumship in Vietnam is that it allows both males and females to transgress gender boundaries.23 In a country where homosexuality is still taboo, being a medium of the Four Palaces is a way for men to openly act in an effeminate manner – wearing women’s clothing, makeup, and other accessories during possession by a female spirit, as well as acting and speaking like a woman. Not only during the rituals, but also in their daily lives, it is not looked down upon for male mediums to act effeminately. It is communally accepted because of the male’s spirit root with a female member of the pantheon. Likewise, this interpretation vindicates a female medium’s masculine behaviour, an embodiment by a male spirit.

Interpreting personality via a spirit affinity can give license to all sorts of behaviours. One medium, Rose, traces not only her hot-temperedness back to the influence of the Prince spirits, but also her love of gambling, smoking cigarettes, and having love affairs. Furthermore, she traces her unforgiving nature to the spirit root of the Third Princess who, legend has it, never forgives. Finally, she says she has a very sharp tongue and will not concede an argument because of her affinity with the Little Princess.24 We see here that mediums can claim karmic ties to multiple spirits of the pantheon, and by doing so almost any behaviour can be justified. Even drug addiction could be said to be due to the influence of the Seventh Prince, who was addicted to opium in his earthly incarnation.25

Mediumship of St Tran

The other main form of mediumship in Vietnam is the mediumship of Tran Hung Dao and his family. Tran Hung Dao is a national hero in Vietnam who is best known for defeating the Mongol-Chinese army in the thirteenth century.26 As commander-in-chief of the Vietnamese military at the time, his multiple victories over the much larger Mongol-Chinese army are seen as being due to his “sound and creative military tactics.”27 Held by many as an exalted warrior, his spirit is now called upon for protection. He protected the Vietnamese territory physically during his earthly incarnation, and now from the afterlife he provides spiritual protection against ghosts and demons.28

The mediumship of St Tran is said to be a polar opposite of the Four Palaces’ mediumship. While Four Palace mediumship is theatrical, beautifully performative, and meant to confer prosperity and good fortune upon its participants, St Tran mediumship is violent and intended to protect one from worldly and spiritual dangers. Phuong details his experiences at a St Tran possession ceremony:

Four men of the Nguyen lineage, dressed in the red and white costumes of Saint Tran’s sons and generals, repeatedly throttled themselves with white cloths, pierced their cheeks with skewers, and used a small knife to cut their tongues, smearing their blood on sheets of paper to distribute. The last man… held a sword in one hand, shouted at the top of his voice, and jumped forwards and backwards before cutting his tongue…. Blood was smeared on two kinds of papers on which were written, in Sino-Vietnamese characters, “Trừ tà sát quỉ” (expel ghosts, kill devils)…. People excitedly vied with each other for them, groaning, even laughing, while attempting to grab the bloody sheets.29

These sheets of paper, marked with the blood of St Tran or one of his generals or family members, are thought to have the power to keep evil spirits away and protect one from yin, or supernaturally caused illness. In the past, these bloody sheets were burnt to ashes and then the ashes were mixed with water for drinking. Nowadays people make amulets out of them and carry them around their necks, in their wallets, or even under their pillows.30

You would think these two completely different forms of mediumship will always exist in total separation, but in recent times there has been an integration of sorts. Four Palace mediums have started to adopt St Tran as part of their pantheon of spirits. Mediums of the Four Palaces will embody St Tran just like they embody other spirits of the pantheon, performing a beautiful dance and delivering messages to the participants. This is, however, extremely controversial. One medium explains: “A ‘great hero’ like Saint Tran ‘never appeared to dance like others’ or ‘deliver nonsense messages’.”31 Even so, it is often the case that mediums serve both the spirits of St Tran and his family, and the spirits of the Four Palaces. This is because each has its own set of benefits. By serving St Tran, one affords oneself good health and protection from ghosts. On the other hand, by serving the spirits of the Four Palaces, one gains material success and prosperity. As was told to Phuong: “A pagoda [temple] that has no mother goddess altar has no wealth,” and “Saint Tran’s altar is essential for every shrine to protect the shrine from harassment by evil spirits.”32

It seems Vietnam has a spiritual marketplace rivalling Thailand in its immensity.33 There is a cultural heritage in both places for worshipping spirits. In the past, Vietnamese kings and high-ranking civil and military court officials would make offerings and pray to St Tran at a temple before conducting important national business or going into battle.34 Today, though a lot has changed in the world, the situation is much the same. You can see company directors attending spirit possession rituals before signing or bidding for a contract. Likewise, government officials sometimes make generous offerings to the spirits at these same rituals before and/or after an important election.35 In Vietnam, the power of the spirits in the minds of the people is still very much alive.

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Footnotes

1. K.W. Endres, Performing the Divine: Mediums, Markets and Modernity in Urban Vietnam, NIAS Press, 2011, 16
2. Ibid., 64
3. Ibid., 95
4. Ibid., 95-97; K. Fjelstad & Hien, (eds.), Possessed by the Spirits: Mediumship in Contemporary Vietnamese Communities, Cornell University, 2006, 60-61
5. Endres, 85
6. Fjelstad, 90
7. Ibid., 27-28, 40; Endres, 3-4
8. Endres, 101-102
9. Fjelstad, 62, 65
10. Ibid., 28; Endres 114
11. Endres, 31, 52
12. Fjelstad, 67-68
13. Pham Quynh Phuong, Hero and Deity: Tran Hung Dao and the Resurgence of Popular Religion in Vietnam, Mekong Press, 2009, 104
14. Fjelstad, 120-121
15. Ibid., 112-113
16. Ibid., 115
17. Endres, 45
18. Phuong, 131
19. Ibid., 138
20. Ibid., 138-139
21. Fjelstad, 69
22. Ibid., 84, 88
23. Endres, 98
24. Ibid., 50
25. Ibid., 100-101
26. Phuong, 21
27. Ibid., 24
28. Ibid., 74
29. Ibid., 85
30. Ibid., 86
31. Ibid., 111
32. Ibid., 131-132
33. ‘Living With Spirits: Magic & the Supernatural in Thailand’ by Daniel Neiman, New Dawn 141 (Nov-Dec 2013); ‘Mystery Thailand: Monks, Magic & the Spirit World’ by Daniel Neiman, New Dawn 140 (Sept-Oct 2013)
34. Ibid., 27
35. Ibid., 135

.

DANIEL NEIMAN is a paranormal researcher and author whose interests cover all areas of the paranormal. His focus is on exploring the dimensions of the mind and reality and understanding how the mind shapes reality. He regularly contributes to New Dawn and occasionally blogs at http://blog.world-mysteries.com/category/daniel-neiman/. His latest book entitled Enter The Light is his first attempt to come to grips with a wide range of paranormal phenomena and how they relate to the mind and reality. He lives with his wife in Seoul, South Korea where he teaches English and researches.

The above article appeared in New Dawn 148 (Jan-Feb 2015)

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The Mystique of the Manor: Australia’s Occult Centre Revealed

The Manor in Mosman, Sydney, stands as a living monument to the rise of the "New Age" in Australia during the first half of the 20th century.

The Manor in Mosman, Sydney, stands as a living monument to the rise of the “New Age” in Australia during the first half of the 20th century.

By PAUL YOUNG

Pilgrims have been drawn to the other-worldly auras of hallowed sites, both natural and man-made, all around the globe since antiquity. One such sanctuary sits right in the heart of Sydney and, although it has slipped from prominence today, it played a significant role in Australia’s spiritual and esoteric history.

While its narrative has primarily been expressed through the descriptions of the characters who have occupied it, the magnetism of the building and the ground it stands on are worthy of examination in their own right. Today it has become less visibly conspicuous, surrounded as it is by so many other grand dwellings. However, a century ago the world was a different place and it was quite the topic of conversation in Sydney society.

The late nineteenth century saw a surge of spiritual and metaphysical pursuits in the Western world, springing from Europe and Britain and streaming into the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. While the British Victorian era is generally associated with industrial and scientific advances, not to mention Darwinism, many Victorians (including the Queen herself) embraced Spiritualism, séances and other forms of mysticism. At what is now considered the birth of the New Age movement, independent thinkers in England freed themselves from centuries of religious dogma and placed their faith in the powers of ESP, experimenting in telepathy and clairvoyance. Many enthusiastically explored new branches of knowledge with exotic names like mesmerism, electro-biology and crystal-gazing.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Americans felt no sense of conflict in having a Ouija board on their desk alongside the Bible. Spiritualism seemed quite compatible with Christianity inasmuch as it provided reassurance on the existence of souls and the afterlife. Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (HPB) was the daughter of a White Russian princess and had been involved in the Spiritualist movement early on.1 On moving to the USA she befriended Henry Steel Olcott and together they founded the Theosophical Society (TS) in 1875. In the early twentieth century, as Americans were becoming fascinated with psychic phenomena, Harvey Spencer Lewis was initiated into a Rosicrucian order during a visit to France, thereby enabling him to establish the order known as AMORC on his return to the USA.

Australia was not impervious to the ground-swell of New Age beliefs and Sydney became a focal point for their proponents – some of them more colourful than saintly – along with their mystical doctrines, which concocted a curious blend of Christianity with the occult. The popularity of Spiritualism soared, counting among its adherents such notables as Prime Minister Alfred Deakin and the newly arrived American architect Walter Burley Griffin. A hundred years ago, while James Wedgwood was founding the Liberal Catholic Church (LCC) back in Britain, his friend Charles Webster Leadbeater had already decided to settle in Sydney and would, in the succeeding years, establish the Australian headquarters of both the LCC and Theosophy, together with various other societies, at Mosman in Sydney. A number of theosophists first rented, then purchased under trust deed, the capacious 55-room mansion and its grounds at Clifton Gardens that was to be known as The Manor.

Gateway to Heaven or Simply a Grand Old Mansion?

While The Manor became the focal point for Theosophy and associated societies almost a century ago, it had originally been built by wealthy businessman William Bakewell and was known to the locals as ‘Bakewell’s Folly’. He purchased six building blocks of what is now prime real estate at Clifton Gardens. The entire district of Mosman is rich with Aboriginal heritage, with over a hundred known sites found across the municipality, particularly along the foreshore area. After the North Shore population of several thousand original inhabitants witnessed the arrival of the first British colonisers, their numbers were decimated by the smallpox epidemic of 1789.

Was this grand and mysterious building at Mosman, which had been described by a TS member almost eight decades ago as a “specially selected Centre of the power of the Masters of the Wisdom,”2 really a kind of cosmic portal and, if so, should it be revered as a sacred site today? Perhaps we should consider the possibility that an other-worldly force guided even William Bakewell from the outset when he selected the location for his construction. Quoting Nicholas Van Gelder:

He began with a simple purpose: to build an eight-room house. What passed through his mind over the next 8 years is not known. Suffice that by 1913 the house had become a rambling 55-room mansion with many rooms lined with copper. Perhaps he foresaw the days when the Australian security service could listen in on conversations by using laser or microwave devices.3

The fact that most rooms have pressed metal ceilings, as well as copper lined walls, is claimed by some occultists to serve the purpose of conserving magnetism. Following his death in 1917, William’s family declined to live there and the house stood vacant for five years, until it was acquired by TS members.

In 1922 the imposing building would become home to a commune of fifty-plus people. As explained by Theosophy Forward on their website:

It was Theosophist Lucius Van Gelder who had the idea for an experimental community to make life more “reasonable, cheaper, and more useful” for the families and individuals concerned.… Leadbeater, who became the focus for the community, invited Van Gelder to assume the task of managing it; and the residence became known as “The Manor”…. A trust was formed, whose purposes were “the formation of a spiritual centre where people may be trained in religious matters and the formation of a community based on Theosophical ideals.” The appointment of trustees was placed in the hands of Annie Besant, then the International President of the Theosophical Society, and her successors.4

According to the authoritative booklet The Manor: A Short History5, The Manor became an important centre for the Society and was regarded as a great “occult forcing-house.” Curuppumullage Jinarājadāsa (known simply as Raja), the Theosophical Society’s international vice-president, asserted that Leadbeater was directed to the house by command of the King of Shamballa, and promptly settled in it, declaring, “In June 1922, the Great White Brotherhood established in the City of Sydney an occult Centre, charged directly from Shamballa.” “Thus was born the notion that The Manor was the occult nexus for the Southern Hemisphere.” And writer C.V. Williams added: “In 1922 Theosophist families began to move in with him (Leadbeater), feeling secure in the idea that they were close to heaven.”

What marks The Manor as a keystone in Australia’s alternative spiritual heritage is that it served as a passageway, like the neck of an hourglass, by which so many doctrines and societies were funnelled into this country, before being disseminated throughout the land. The sheer number of activities including Theosophy, Co-Freemasonry, the LCC and other less well-known societal offshoots anchored to this geographical location at Mosman, poses the question: was it, and is it still, an occult centre of power? Had it always been, as the commune’s founders believed, a kind of heavenly gateway, or did it really derive its power from the “égrégore”6 of its human participants?

The following are some of the principal known organisations, alongside their commonly used acronyms:

TS         The Theosophical Society
OSE      Order of the Star in the East
LCC      The Liberal Catholic Church
ES         The Esoteric Section; also The Eastern School
Co-M   Co-Masonry

According to a biographical study of Charles Webster Leadbeater (CWL) by Gregory Tillett:

The arrangement of a weekly schedule posed no small difficulty, since it involved regular meetings of the TS, both those for members only and those open to the public, and of the OSE, together with the ES and Co-Masonry, and now the Liberal-Catholic Church. The considerable overlap between the TS, the LCC and Co-Masonry can be seen from examining lists of Co-Masonic Lodge officers around this time: the officers of Sydney Lodge No.404 in 1918 included Mr and Mrs Kollerstrom, Leadbeater, Hazel, and L.W. Burt, all of them (as they were by then being described) TS, ES, OSE, LCC and Co-M.7

Gregory Tillett adds, in a book co-written with Nevill Drury:

Another ceremonial movement which he (CWL) established, the Egyptian Rite of Ancient Freemasonry, also meets there (The Manor); in this rite Leadbeater hoped to bring together the angels of Freemasonry and of the Church, and it was regarded as “the most powerful occult rite in the world.”8

One newspaper article reports that, in the 1920s,

The Manor had its own theatre company performing Shakespearean plays on the gently sloping lawns. Painters, writers and poets congregated in its meeting rooms to discuss modernism, materialism and the importance of patriotism in nation building. There were Greek garden fetes, fairy dances, light operas and musicals.9

In keeping with the times, TS launched radio station 2GB in 1926, using The Manor and two outlying cottages on the property. The initials GB stood for sixteenth century philosopher Giordano Bruno, whom they believed was a former incarnation of Annie Besant. The station is still a household name in Sydney radio ninety years on. Alfred Edward ‘A.E.’ Bennett (not to be confused with Frank Bennett) was appointed general manager and the first broadcast took place on Armistice Day, 1926. Bennett wrote, “The intention is to conduct the station on ideal principles and solely with the object of uplifting our Australian people.”10 Raja, however, was concerned this sacred ground was being disturbed by the psychically enervating signals emanating from the antennae.

A Hidden Fraternity

What unseen guiding hand drew this array of key personalities together and why at this particular location? Was the torch being lit for an ‘Antipodean Utopia’ and, if so, did the flame fizzle out, or does it continue to flicker away from the public eye in preparation of a new Golden Age? Those confraternities we dub ‘secret societies’ always have twin facets: the overt aspect, consisting of their beliefs and philosophies, which these days can be readily researched in books and online; then their practical agenda which forms the basis of their secrecy – the initiation rites, rituals and techniques that are intended to raise consciousness, quicken one’s psychic abilities and ultimately allow communion with higher intelligence, sometimes including ‘invisible Masters’.

Who are these ‘Masters’ that are said to have appeared to, and spoken with, the likes of Madame Blavatsky, Annie Besant, Alice Bailey and Charles Leadbeater? They are called by various names, including The Ascended Masters, The Great White Brotherhood, The Elder Brothers or The Secret College. They form a Hierarchy, which Phillip Lindsay defines as a “Group of spiritual beings on the inner planes of the solar system who are the intelligent forces of nature and who control the evolutionary processes. Divided into twelve hierarchies. The Occult Hierarchy or Masters of Wisdom, of which disciples and initiates are a reflection.”11 They exist on subtle planes known as the Etheric or the Astral, transparent to normal physical sight. In addition to Masters there are angelic, devic and elemental entities.

Also known as Mahatmas, the Masters of Ancient Wisdom are those who once lived as human beings. The enlightened ones who most often imparted their teachings to Theosophists and other occultists from the late nineteenth century are identified as Morya, Kuthumi (or Koot Hoomi), Djwal Kul (usually just known by the initials DK), and Count Saint Germain – although there are many more. While many of these Masters dwell on a non-physical plane, some do take corporeal form and they often attach themselves to specific earthly retreats, the most well-known being in and around the Himalayas.

Author Edmund Harold states:

There are momentous periods in our evolution, times when we recommence the age-old search for self-purpose. At such times we re-acquire awareness of the existence of a spiritual hierarchy, one that is represented by highly evolved beings. These are known as The Great White Brotherhood, or the Brotherhood of the Light.12

The voices of the masters have been silent at The Manor for a long time, but perhaps another one of these ‘times’ approaches again.

The Pioneering Spirit

The modern Theosophical movement first reached Australia in 1879 when Gilbert Elliot of Melbourne joined the TS. By 1891 when Henry Steel Olcott, as the Society’s international president, came for a brief tour, there were enough branches to form what was called “a Section.” While in Sydney, Olcott also chartered the Sydney Lodge. The Australian Section was given a further boost in 1894 when Annie Besant, a persuasive orator, arrived to give a series of lectures on Theosophical topics. In 1905 Charles Leadbeater toured the country to wide acclaim and then, three years later, membership skyrocketed on Besant’s return.

The LCC and the Co-Freemasonry movement that developed alongside the TS in Sydney can be traced to one man: James Ingall Wedgwood (JIW). In 1915 Wedgwood, who first met Leadbeater in 1906, arrived in Sydney. As a gay clergyman, JIW suffered an ongoing inner turmoil between “the angel and the beast within” – a dilemma that haunts some clerics to this day. He swung between alternating extremes of spiritual fervour and the temptations of the flesh. Eminent British Theosophist E.L. Gardner said of him privately, “JIW was a ‘dual’ – at times skilled, able and impressive. Then, a bout of sensualism of the worst grade, sexual perversion.”13

In 1909 Leadbeater identified the 14 year-old Jiddu Krishnamurti as a vehicle for the coming World Teacher, the Bodhisattva Maitreya, by way of clairvoyant perception of his aura. From then on Krishnamurti was groomed by both CWL and Annie Besant, eventually coming to Sydney in 1925. He did not stay at The Manor, but lived at a nearby house in Mosman with his brother, Nitya, with whom he was very close. The OSE’s raison d’être was to prepare the way for the arrival of this new messiah. With this advent in mind, CWL and Besant guided the construction of the ambitiously conceived Star Amphitheatre at nearby Balmoral Beach.14

Built in ancient Greek style and completed in 1924, the Amphitheatre had seating accommodation for 2,500 people and was intended as a venue for lectures by the expected World Teacher, embodied by Krishnamurti. Just as The Manor earned the reputation of being a folly, surely the Amphitheatre is to be remembered as an extravagance – perhaps even an eccentric one at that. Stories circulated that it was located for the best view of the expected ‘second coming’ that would see “Jesus Christ come through the Heads of Sydney Harbour.”15 Clearly this never eventuated and, a quarter of a century later, the Star Amphitheatre was demolished. These days a rather ordinary looking apartment block stands on the site.

In the same year The Manor was first occupied by TS members, Krishnamurti and Nitya travelled from Sydney to Ojai in California, where they experienced a new sense of freedom accompanied by a fresh perspective on worldly matters. A big upheaval for Krishnamurti came when he was asked to attend a function in India marking the golden anniversary of TS in 1925, while his brother stayed in Ojai. Nitya had been in poor health, but George Arundale (more about him shortly) had assured Krishna that he would not die, promising that the Masters would protect him. But Nitya did die, causing Krishnamurti’s dedication to the TS to wane, until finally in 1929 he dissolved the Order of the Star in the East (OSE) and stated he was not going to be the new messiah, with the famous words, “The moment you follow someone you cease to follow Truth.” He did not renounce public life, however, continuing on his own path with the Krishnamurti Foundation. His mentors at the TS felt sadly let down and distanced themselves from him over the years.

The Momentum of The Arundale Years

George Sydney Arundale joined the TS in England during 1895 and, seven years later, followed Annie Besant to India where he became principal of her Central Hindu College. Life there revolved around Krishnamurti, who had become Besant’s adopted son. Arundale instituted the OSE in Europe and also took on the role as regional bishop for LCC in India. Soon after, he claimed himself to be clairvoyant and then, late in 1925, began openly expressing doubts about Krishnamurti’s intended role as the earthly vehicle for Maitreya. This caused a slight rift with Besant, after which he transferred to Sydney to join Charles Leadbeater at Mosman.

He launched himself so enthusiastically into the affairs of The Manor that the ensuing period is remembered as ‘The Arundale Years’. In quick succession he became general secretary, chairman of 2GB, editor of the Australian Theosophist, and co-editor of the Australian Star News. An able preacher and experienced publicist, he competently formulated political commentary and supported advanced causes, from a Theosophical angle. Together with his wife Shrimati Rukmini Devi, a well-known Indian dancer, he stayed at The Manor until 1931. It seems George Arundale’s assessment of Krishnamurti was correct and in fact the 1930s was the last great decade for the TS at The Manor.

Attention Wanes

The defection of Krishnamurti along with the deaths of Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater led to a period of decline for the TS in the 1930s, from which it never fully recovered. It appears the Society, like many temporal vehicles on this material plane, carried at its nucleus the elements of its own decline. Author Nicholas Van Gelder portrays the Esoteric Section as the cause of the eventual downturn in the fortunes of the TS, although today’s Manorites deny there has ever been a schism in Theosophical ranks. HPB formed the ES as an inner group back in 1888, consisting of students who were members of the Society, but separate from it and controlled solely by her. Unfortunately it came to be seen by some non-members as an elitist group. It remains a separate entity today.

Perhaps the reason that a number of the groups that put down roots at The Manor failed to endure is that Charles Webster Leadbeater held no clear vision for their future nurturing and growth. As noted by author Frank Joseph, he “departed for Australia, settling in Sydney in 1914, where he felt particularly called to fulfil some as yet ill-defined mission (italics added). His instinct was correct, judging from the profound public success he enjoyed there.”16 CWL left Australia for India in 1929, to take over the leadership of the TS from Annie Besant, whose health was failing. He returned to Sydney for short periods but died during a stopover in Perth in 1934.

James Wedgwood left Australia and in the late 1920s resumed his activities with the TS in Holland, allegedly with increasingly frequent visions and meetings with masters, angels, archangels and denizens of the higher realms. He would eventually return to England in poor health and battling dementia, dying in 1951 after a heavy fall.

George Arundale ended up returning to India where he died in 1945. The ‘Arundale Years’ had helped stabilise the TS and perhaps presented a more acceptable, scandal-free image to the Australian public.

There is a conviction held by organisations and individuals concerned with esotericism that Australia has a special role to play in the dawn of a new Golden Age. In a series of lectures delivered in Sydney in August 1915, CWL had proclaimed “Australia and New Zealand as the home of a new sub-race.” He detected in Australia “children and young people of a distinctly new type.” A new antipodean human type characterised by intuition and the powers of synthesis.17 This is consistent with the New Age concept of ‘Indigo Children’. In the last years of his life, CWL claimed to have been instructed by the ‘World Mother’ to establish a ministry for her worship, including an apostolic succession to be passed on through women and for the foundation of a feminine religion to parallel the masculine-dominated Christianity. To date this has not made any public appearance, but the tradition is said to be perpetuated within Theosophical circles privately.

Guarding its Secrets and its Grandeur, A Century On

Today, as one approaches The Manor from the road above, its sprawling grandeur first reveals itself by way of the dormers and gables of the red tiled roof, including the impressive 18-metre long studio perched atop the eastern wing. Most first-time visitors can’t resist trying to count the host of chimney pots that crown it. The very ground that The Manor stands on exudes a palpable magnetism and benign spiritual presence. One does not have to be psychic to experience the peaceful calm emanating from the mansion’s walls, and it is not hard to see why many have claimed to feel closer to the divine here.

Whether or not Australia fulfils its secret occult destiny and hosts a new Golden Age remains to be seen. So long as the Manorites maintain the high energy levels through their esoteric rites, this site will remain sacred and, should the Masters decide the time is right to publicise their messages once again and guide the populace, surely this will be the prime spot for their transmission.

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Footnotes

  1. It should be noted that Madame Blavatsky (and Theosophy) rejected Spiritualism, however: “By the early 1870s, Blavatsky was involved in the Spiritualist movement; although defending the genuine existence of Spiritualist phenomena, she argued against the mainstream Spiritualist idea that the entities contacted were the spirits of the dead.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helena_Blavatsky)
  2. ‘The Manor Family: Australia’s oldest urban commune’ by Bill Metcalf, JRAHS Vol 100, 9
  3. ‘The Manor: A Short History’ by Nicolas Van Gelder, Theosophical History Occasional Papers, Vol XIV, 1
  4. www.theosophyforward.com/theosophical-encyclopedia/521-manor-the
  5. Nicolas Van Gelder, 14-15
  6. An egregore is a ‘group thought form’ or ‘collective group mind.’ See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egregore
  7. ‘Charles Webster Leadbeater 1854-1934: A Biographical Study’ by Gregory John Tillett, http://leadbeater.org/tillettcwlchap17.htm
  8. Other Temples Other Gods by Nevill Drury & Gregory Tillett, Hodder & Stoughton, 1982, 32-33
  9. ‘Age of reason’ by John Zubrzycki, Sydney Morning Herald, Good Weekend supplement, 29 Nov 2014
  10. Nicolas Van Gelder, 24
  11. Masters of the Seven Rays by Phillip Lindsay, Apollo Publishing, 2000, 119
  12. The Ascended Masters of The Great White Brotherhood by Edmund Harold, Grail Publications, 2002, 13
  13. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._I._Wedgwood
  14. “Mary Rocke, a retired doctor, member of the Theosophical Society, secretary and physician to Leadbeater, purchased three adjacent blocks of land sloping from Wyargine Street, Balmoral to the beach. With a loan of 4,000 pounds and the rest of the cost raised by selling subscription seats, the Star Amphitheatre was built on this site.” (www.mosman.nsw.gov.au/file_download/1865/The-Star-Amphitheatre-Balmoral.pdf)
  15. “Leadbeater, Charles” by Garry Wotherspoon, http://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/leadbeater_charles
  16. ‘C.W. Leadbeater: Saint or Sinner?’ by Frank Joseph, New Dawn 96 (May-June 2006)
  17. ‘Esoteric Australia’ by Mehmet Sabeheddin, New Dawn Special Issue 3

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PAUL V. YOUNG is a freelance writer, having contributed articles to various New Age magazines since 2003. He is a long-time follower of Mysticism, with particular interest in the teachings of the ancient Greek teachers Pythagoras and Empedocles. He is certified as a practitioner of Reiki, NLP and LOA. After spending several years travelling and teaching English in South East Asia, Paul has settled back in Brisbane, developing a website and writing a book on our Solar Ancestors. His main website is PaulYoungBooks.com.

The above article appeared in New Dawn 152 (Sept-Oct 2015)

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What Happened to the New Age? Sorting Truth from Nonsense

special_earth.sm

By RICHARD SMOLEY

Not long ago I was walking through the aisles of a New Age fair in the suburbs of Chicago. All the usual suspects were there: booths for Baha’i and Eckankar; ladies selling essences and fragrances; bodyworkers offering ten minutes of chair massage; psychics inspecting the etheric fields of their subjects. Like most New Age events I have gone to over the past decade, the fair had a tired quality to it.

I could simply be jaded. I’ve been going to such gatherings for over thirty years now, and at this point they hardly impress me with their novelty. But I may not be alone. One has the sense that for many, the energy that gave rise to the New Age has ebbed.

Even the term “New Age” has come to sound stale, harking back to the ’80s and the Harmonic Convergence, and, still further, to the spirituality of the 1960s counterculture. Commercial interests have backed away from the name, preferring the term “mind-body-spirit” or “MBS.” In January 2012, New Age Retailer, the primary trade magazine for this field in the US, changed its name to Retailing Insight.

Was the New Age a fad? Was it a noble but misguided hope that the world was ready for an enlightenment to which it now seems indifferent or hostile? Probably neither. More likely this is the case: much of what the New Age pioneered, including yoga, meditation, and organic foods, has become mainstream. Thus you could say the New Age won out in many ways – but at the cost of seeming fresh.

What about its ideas? Many of them too entered the mainstream and have even become clichés. At this point it may be useful to step back and look at some of the clichés of the New Age and see how well they stand up.

The New Age

Let’s start with the phrase “New Age” itself. It goes back far beyond the ’60s, even beyond the turn of the twentieth century. It first started being used in 1864, when an American clergyman, Warren Felt Evans, published a book entitled The New Age and Its Messenger.

Evans was propounding the ideas of the great Swedish visionary Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772). In the 1740s Swedenborg underwent a series of spiritual awakenings that, he said, gave him access to the invisible realms and to the hidden meanings of Scripture. One of his most remarkable claims was that the Last Judgment of the Bible had no resemblance to the way it was seen by conventional Christianity. It was never meant to mean Christ’s second coming on earth. In fact it took place entirely in the world of spirits, a realm which, in Swedenborg’s theology, occupies a middle place between heaven and hell and serves as a clearinghouse for the newly deceased. This spirit realm had accumulated a great deal of debris, such as base and mean entities, and it needed a housecleaning. The Lord accomplished this in the year 1757.

This Last Judgment, according to Swedenborg, had no immediate consequences for life on earth. Its only effect would be to weaken the power of spiritual tyranny and oppression (notably on the part of the Catholic Church, but also among the Protestants). New horizons on the spiritual world would therefore open. This was the New Age that Evans proclaimed, and Swedenborg was its messenger.

In his way Swedenborg was right. Many of the religious shackles that seemed solid in the eighteenth century have been broken. There is still a great deal of nonsense, deception, and crime in religion, but there is also much more freedom of inquiry – even the freedom not to believe if you don’t want to.

Since the nineteenth century, Swedenborg has faded into comparative obscurity, and Evans, once a best-selling author, has been almost completely forgotten. But the term “New Age” was given new life in the twentieth century by figures such as the British esotericist Alice Bailey, and, as we have seen, the New Age as an ideal reached its own peak in the late twentieth century.

To go back to the initial question: how much truth is there in this idea of a New Age?

In a trivial sense, every age is a new age. Today we face unprecedented dangers and opportunities. So did our fathers; so did our grandfathers. So will our children and grandchildren. Thus it has been since the beginning of history.

But I don’t believe the human condition is going to change in any radical way in the future. Whatever wonders and disasters we may engender, we will still be born, love, experience pleasure and pain, and die as humans have since the beginning of time. As Anton Chekhov said in his play Three Sisters, written in 1900: “When we’re dead people will fly around in balloons, there will be a new style in men’s jackets and a sixth sense may be discovered and developed, but life itself won’t change, it will still be as difficult and full of mystery and happiness as it is now.”

Paradigm Shift

This phrase is often connected to the idea of the New Age. “Paradigm” means a scientific model. The Ptolemaic view of the solar system, which put the earth at the centre, was one such paradigm. It was replaced by another: the Copernican paradigm, which puts the sun at the centre.

How did the new view replace the old one? The historian of science Thomas Kuhn asked this question in his influential book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. His answer goes something like this: A scientific model inevitably has some flaws. It explains the data, but not quite perfectly. There are anomalies. For a long time these are set aside and either explained away or simply ignored. But after a certain point too many anomalies accumulate and can no longer be set aside. Science must then find another model – another paradigm.

In the case of astronomy, the Ptolemaic view explained the movements of the planets quite well in light of the observations that could be made at the time (up to the sixteenth century). This even included the retrograde motion of the planets. If the planets moved around the earth, why did they sometimes move backwards in the sky? The Ptolemaic theory replied by positing epicycles – meaning that the planets not only revolved around the earth, but moved in small cyclical orbits as they did.

Eventually the epicycle theory, which still did not match the data entirely, began to break down. Astronomers responded by positing epicycles within epicycles, but there was a point when this model seemed implausible. Another one had to be found. The theory of Copernicus, modified by Kepler, accounted for the planets’ motion much better. This was a scientific revolution, also known as a paradigm shift.

The paradigm shift that the New Age speaks of is more vague. To some degree it has to do with another scientific revolution – from Newtonian to quantum physics. Newtonian physics is mechanistic and materialistic: it is a universe of ricocheting billiard balls. The quantum universe is much stranger, and some of its most brilliant theorists have stressed how bizarre and counterintuitive it is. But one idea from quantum theory has captured the public imagination: the observer affects the results of an experiment simply by the process of observation. This theory seems to place consciousness, rather than matter, at the centre of the universe.

This idea fascinates people who dislike the meaningless, materialistic Newtonian universe. Some physicists, such as Amit Goswami, author of The Visionary Window and other works, say quantum theory proves that consciousness is the ground of all being. This is a step many other scientists are not willing to take, largely because quantum theory talks about the behaviour of submolecular particles; they are very reluctant to say quantum effects occur on greater scales. Quantum physics is sometimes defined, in fact, as “the science of the very small.”

What does this all amount to? There is certainly a new scientific paradigm (although it is well to remember that much of quantum theory was in place by 1930, making it nearly a hundred years old). But this new paradigm, as understood and applied by physicists themselves, does not prove consciousness is the ground of all existence. Nor is it leading toward a more holistic and satisfying view of the universe. In fact the trend is going in the opposite direction.

A generation ago there was much excitement, at least in the popular mind, about the connections between quantum physics and mysticism. But the majority of scientists, rightly or wrongly, have never bought it. They remain firmly materialistic in their outlook.

Other disciplines have also moved backward. The psychology of the ’60s and ’70s embraced humanistic and transpersonal perspectives, but to all appearances this process has been turned around. Neuroscience has had so much luck modifying behaviour through pharmaceuticals that now scientists seem to assume more or less universally that consciousness is a mere side-effect of brain states. (Never mind that this claim has never been proved or even explained in any kind of coherent way.) Computer science, for its part, has made such progress in simulating brain processes that some people now believe it will soon be possible to download your consciousness into a computer, allowing cognition to go on through the operation of a machine rather than a brain. You will no longer need your body to be you. Minds are machines, whether they are made of carbon-based protein or silicon.

In short, the paradigm that was so fondly expected to bring about a new, satisfying, and holistic view of man’s place in the universe failed to arrive. Conventional science, for all its accomplishments, is as drearily materialistic as it was in the days of Queen Victoria.

That is not to say change will never come. Trends reverse themselves without warning, and fashions in science come and go almost as arbitrarily as the ones in couture. But that is how it looks now.

You Create Your Own Reality

In a trivial sense, this is certainly true. Your senses and nerves and brain filter the data from the outside world (whatever this “outside world” ultimately is) and create a picture of reality that enables you to function.

But some New Agers go further. They say that all you have to do is change your thinking and the world will change automatically.

To some degree this is true as well. Say you are having money trouble. Try this mental experiment. Believe, as fully as you can, that a cheque for a million dollars is coming to you next week. Suddenly your problems will seem to vanish. You will have no worries.

Your thinking certainly changes the way you feel. But the claim that you create your own reality is a little stronger than this. It is saying that if you believe hard enough that this cheque will be coming, it will come: the universe will manifest it for you. And this idea is harder to swallow. At best, it can motivate you to strive to bring more money into your life; at worst, it is nothing more than daydreaming.

Some people practice creative visualisation. By this method you formulate a vivid mental picture, and you concentrate on it so that the energy you are directing will make it appear in the physical world. This can and sometimes does work. But it very often brings unwanted consequences in its wake. You can visualise a cheque for a million dollars, and the cheque may appear. But you didn’t count on the fact that you would get into a crippling accident, and the cheque is to compensate you for the fact that you will never walk again. Granted, this is an extreme example. Another more likely outcome is that you will find that you really didn’t want what you were asking for and were disappointed when you got it.

A few weeks ago, for no reason that I can discern, a file suddenly opened up on my computer. It said, “Please, God, protect me from everything I have been praying for.” I wrote it several years earlier and had completely forgotten about it. Evidently I needed to hear it again.

Another thing is often overlooked: You are not the only one creating your own reality. There are others like you. All of them have the same power over reality that you do. And you are part of their reality as well.

This fact raises a large but unexamined question: if we create our own reality, it must be a collective creation. And what is the effect of all these minds creating and cocreating together? How do the thoughts of your neighbours, your countrymen, your fellow humans as a whole, affect you? How do the minds of many engender a collective reality?

This is, I believe, one of the most important questions facing humanity today. There is a collective imagination – psychologist Charles Tart called it “consensus trance” – that shapes our reality as much as, and probably more than, our own private thoughts do.

As far as I can tell, psychology has not dealt with this question or even acknowledged it. It is true that the psychiatrist C.G. Jung spoke of the collective unconscious. He touched upon collective mentalities in some of his articles, such as “Wotan,” which discussed the resurgence of an old Germanic archetype in the Nazi ideology, and “The Complications of American Psychology,” which related the American psyche to the nature of the land in which it found itself. From another angle, the Russian psychologist V.M. Bekhterev explored mass and mob behaviour in his book Collective Reflexology. Bekhterev, who saw the Russian Revolution firsthand, had plenty of observations to work from. Even so, the science of collective psychology is embryonic.

Thus up to a point it is true you create your own reality. But so does everyone else, and you are part of that reality too. The question for the twenty-first century is how we create our reality.

Be Here Now

Let’s turn to one of the most famous artefacts of the New Age. A squarish, large-format paperback book, with a purple cover, its contents printed on rough brown paper that looks like wrapping material. Its title: Be Here Now. Its creator: the beloved American guru Richard Alpert, best known as Ram Dass. The words, pasted down clumsily with letterpress as if to simulate the visual distortions caused by LSD, urge you to awaken:

What are you doing?

Planning for the future?

Well

IT’s ALL RIGHT NOW

But later?… Forget it baby

That’s later

Now is

NOW

Are you going to

BE HERE or not?

IT’S AS SIMPLE AS THAT!…

 

If you get so efficient…

If you’ve got to turn off all the vibrations of the scene…
because you’re so busy

about the future

or the past

or time has caught you…

IT COSTS TOO MUCH!

No message from the New Age has burned itself into the collective mind as deeply as this command: Be here now. The past is an artificial construct. The future is an equally artificial construct. There is only the present moment. There is always only the present moment. This is the way to liberation.

The idea still reverberates. Just as its effect was starting to fade, Eckhart Tolle came out with a booster shot: the best-selling Power of Now, published in 2004.

No one could possibly refute this idea. It is always now, and, it would seem, the atomic moments felt through meditative awareness – an endless chain of nows, each one inexorably strung upon its predecessor – bring us as close to ultimate reality as we are likely to come in this world.

As a mental discipline, what has sometimes been called “the doctrine of the present” has no peer. Every moment – or, rather, every moment you are aware of it – you bring your attention to the present; you sense your feet on the floor and feel the breath go in and out. The welterings of your mind subside. You are centred and at peace.

How could anyone question this?

In essence, I could not hope to. But in practice, another view arises.

There is the sensation of my foot on the floor. This is direct, immediate, real. There are, on the other hand, the thoughts and fantasies and daydreams in my head, flowing before my mesmerised eyes like the scenes of a thriller. By contrast, they seem unreal.

But maybe this is not the whole picture. Am I not, after all, experiencing all these supposedly delusory thoughts in the present as well? Why should one experience be held up as real and genuine, while the other is despised as false?

Someone who goes to a few of the innumerable talks given by Tibetan lamas in the West will sometimes hear them denigrate the conceptual mind – the ‘monkey mind’ that must be suppressed, or even killed, if enlightenment is to occur. But I once heard the Dalai Lama speak, and he criticised this point of view. Although I don’t remember his exact words, I do remember that he said this contempt for the conceptual mind was unjustified, that this part of the mind too has its place, and one must not try to uproot or kill it.

And sometimes this conceptual mind will take you out of the present.

The present, then, that magic moment that discloses God, is only one of innumerable types of experience. It is well, of course, to be able to recognise and rest in it. But it may not be wise, and it certainly seems impossible, to stay there all the time.

R.H. Blyth, in his celebrated collection of essays Zen and Zen Classics, writes: “Where Buddhism makes its great mistake is in asking for eternity without time. As Blake said, ‘Eternity is in love with the productions of time’.”

Peace

Peace. If there is one word that encapsulates the New Age, it is this one. In its day, it was more than a word. It was a gesture (the fingers forming a V, the palm facing out in an exact reversal of Churchill’s ‘V for victory’ gesture). It was an ideograph, the circle bisected vertically, with two other lines extended down from the centre – a combination of two letters in semaphore code standing for ND or “nuclear disarmament.”

But peace – a cliché? That is a harsh verdict. And if it is, you will say, we need more of such clichés. And badly.

In the ’60s the peace movement was the result of a genuine collective impulse. It was not only the recent memory of the horrors of the Second World War. It was also an aftershock from the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, when the world came the closest it has ever come to nuclear war. In the US, the peace movement was also a response to the Vietnam conflict and to the real likelihood that, like the states in Orwell’s 1984, the superpowers would maintain a permanent state of war.

Events turned out differently from the expectations, as events always do. The threats to world peace that seemed so menacing during the Cold War are gone, but they have been replaced by others, and when these are gone, there will be others still.

Do we need a peace movement to turn ourselves around? I think we do, but I also think we have never had a genuine peace movement. What we have had are antiwar movements. And to be against war is not the same thing as to be for peace.

Earlier in this article I talked about the possibility that thoughts play a part – a major part – in shaping reality. And I think this is the case. In this light what are we to make of today’s mentality, which projects so much hatred toward its leaders? Do they deserve it? Maybe – but you are not making them any better or their work any easier by directing hatred and vituperation at them. Not if there is the dimmest bit of truth to the idea that your thoughts create reality. And of course this goes double for any collective feelings of hatred.

In this light I find myself thinking about the possibility of a peace march – a genuine peace march. Such an event would be aimed not at stopping the latest war but at offering peace and blessings to the leadership of the nation, of any and all ideologies, without any agenda whatsoever. This would be a real peace march, because it would be offering peace rather than opposition, blessings rather than grievances. I wonder what effect it would have.

A cliché, of course, could never become a cliché unless it is widely disseminated. And it would never become widely disseminated if it did not have much truth, and even wisdom, in it. So it is with the clichés of the New Age. Many of them are rooted in ancient and indeed perennial truths. That these truths need to be recast and restated in the language of a particular time and place is hardly a flaw; it is a way of adapting them to the needs of a generation. They will be restated and recast in many ways in the generations to come.

If you appreciated this article, please consider a digital subscription to New Dawn.

Sources

V.M. Bekhterev, Collective Reflexology: The Complete Edition, translated by Eugenia & Alissa Lockwood, Transaction, 2001

R.H. Blyth, Zen and Zen Classics, vol. 5, Hokuseido, 1962

Amit Goswami, The Visionary Window: A Quantum Physicist’s Guide to Enlightenment, Quest, 2006

Ram Dass, Be Here Now, Lama Foundation, 1971

C.G. Jung, Civilizations in Transition: Collected Works, vol. 10, 2d ed., translated by Gerhard Adler & R.F.C. Hull, Princeton/Bollingen, 1970

Emanuel Swedenborg, True Christianity, translated by Jonathan S. Rose, 2 vols, Swedenborg Foundation 2006-2012

.

RICHARD SMOLEY has over thirty-five years of experience studying esoteric spirituality. His recent work, Supernatural: Writings on an Unknown History, is composed largely of articles written for New Dawn. Smoley is the former editor of Gnosis: A Journal of the Western Inner Traditions. Currently he is editor of Quest: Journal of the Theosophical Society in America and of Quest Books. His new book is The Deal: A Guide to Radical and Complete Forgiveness.

The above article appeared in New Dawn 147 (Nov-Dec 2014)

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The Nightmare World of Austin Osman Spare

Austin Spare Death Posture Self-Portrait 1907

By EMMA DOEVE

If you were an art student in Britain in the last decades of the 20th century, you would have been extremely fortunate to learn of the existence of Austin Osman Spare (1886-1956), “one of the greatest living draughtsmen” as he was described within his lifetime, and certainly “the greatest artist you’ve never heard of,” as the cliché goes.

In an item on the BBC’s ‘The Culture Show’ aired to coincide with a major retrospective of Spare’s work in 2010, no less a commentator than Andrew Graham Dixon introduced him as:

An intriguing Edwardian artist of the magical, the otherworldly and the grotesque, whose claims that mystical practices lay behind his disturbing imagery brought him admirers and detractors in equal measure.

As the subtitle of a recent highly acclaimed biography of Spare described him, he was truly “London’s Lost Artist” – or perhaps even England’s… But Austin Spare, the ‘lost’ artist, is apparently lost no more, judging by the fact that his popularity is on the increase, and his work fetches ever-higher prices these days.

If you had a talent for drawing and were deeply interested in representing the human figure – not just by itself, but also within a meaningful, erotic and maybe esoteric context – you would not have had the inspiring and stimulating example of this ‘lost’ artist at your disposal. And you certainly would not have known about Spare’s later years, when he led an almost liminal existence but still created amazing images.

There are the now well-known pictures of him in his dingy basement flat, which doubled as his studio, surrounded by stray cats and his drawings and paintings, looking like an old vagrant, which by all accounts he had almost become. You would most likely have been greatly moved by it, and perhaps shocked.

Maybe you had a friend who knew someone in the occult-inspired underground bands of the 1980s, like Psychic TV or Coil, or the subculture that sprung up around them. In these circles Spare was celebrated, rightly or wrongly, as an ‘outsider’ hero for apparently turning his back on the mainstream and embracing a life of poverty, like some sort of Cockney ascetic.

You might have heard he was admired and collected by such unlikely figures as Barry Humphries, or guitarist Chris Stein from Blondie. You may have caught wind of the emerging Chaos Magic movement that claimed Spare as a kind of spiritual forebear: an artist shaman, a spiritual currency with ever-increasing status.

The near-mythic image of Spare – the arch-individualist who thumbed his nose at authority and worldly success to go his own way, living only for his visions and his art – had something for everybody.

Kenneth & Steffi Grant

Most people caught wind of Austin Spare through the books of Kenneth Grant, former acolyte of the ‘Great Beast’ Aleister Crowley, and tireless documenter of the 20th century ‘magical revival’. Grant and his wife Steffi, herself a talented artist, had personally known Spare in the last years of his life, and were instrumental in supporting and promoting his work from the 1970s onward.

Acclaimed author, graphic novelist, and self-confessed magician Alan Moore acknowledges Grant’s contribution in his Introduction to Phil Baker’s fine biography Austin Osman Spare: The Life and Legend of London’s Lost Artist (Strange Attractor, 2011):

… without the tireless championing of Kenneth Grant the vast majority of us would, in all likelihood, have never heard of Austin Osman Spare.

Kenneth and Steffi were both magicians themselves, she working more with magic in her art, he in his writing: the nine volumes of “The Typhonian Trilogies,” which Grant wrote from the early 1970s up to the Millennium, and for which Steffi provided illustrations, nearly all featured artwork by, and information on, Spare. Additionally, the Grants produced two fine volumes dedicated solely to him: the now-classic Images & Oracles of Austin Osman Spare (originally published in 1975, but reissued by Fulgur in 2003), and a lavishly illustrated volume – Zos Speaks! (Fulgur, 1998) – reproducing much of their correspondence with Spare, that gives a moving and insightful account of their friendship.

In her Introduction to Zos Speaks!, Steffi writes a vivid account of her first meeting Spare at his address off Brixton Road, a run-down Victorian terrace house that narrowly escaped the Blitz. The old man in front of her was “bent and decrepit looking.” He was unkempt and wore tattered clothes he had probably slept in, and his hands trembled. The contrast could hardly have been greater to the precocious boy star who wooed the Royal College of Art many years before. Herbert Budd, an art teacher, in whose classes Steffi sometimes posed, told her that back in the day, Spare was considered:

A god-like figure of whom the other students stood in awe, a fair creature like a Greek God, curly headed, proud, self-willed, practising the black arts, taking drugs, disdainfully apart from the crowd.

In Australia, the late Nevill Drury (1947-2013) wrote about Spare in his 1972 book The Search for Abraxas (co-written with Stephen Skinner, reissued by Salamander & Sons, 2013). Drury was also keenly interested in Rosaleen Norton, the notorious artist and “Witch Queen of King’s Cross” (in Sydney), and he may have regarded Spare as being her occult cousin. He would come back to them both, separately or together, a number of times, and one of his last books was the lavish Dark Spirits: The Magical Art of Rosaleen Norton and Austin Osman Spare, again produced in collaboration with Salamander & Sons in 2012.

An Unsual Muse

An important part of the Austin Spare story is that he had a very unusual Muse. Apparently, she was a local witch, Mrs. Patterson: an elderly woman, ugly but vigorous, who is said to have seduced him at a young age – though, of course, we shall never be able to ascertain how much, if anything, of the story is true. She was not his only Muse, but she played a vital role, introducing him to magic and witchcraft. She gave him his ‘ugly ecstasies’. The impression given is that she ravished him, her special trick being the ability to ‘project a glamour’ (the original meaning of the word ‘glamour’ being a kind of spell or enchantment), in which she could transform herself into an alluring young woman. She could also project visualisations for fortune telling, and make forms originating in your mind appear as if they were tangible and real.

Austin Spare certainly had developed the ability to make shapes and figures visible in front of your eyes through his extraordinary ‘witchy’ creative gifts. Even if there was no flesh-and-blood ‘Witch Patterson’, Spare unquestionably ravishes us with his artistry. When the prospect of a full-blown artistic career had disappeared below the horizon, She would still vividly materialise, if not in front of him then certainly in his imagination, to inspire him, as revealed in his later splendid artwork.

As his resources and health dwindled, he “carried everything into his art,” as the poet Rainer Maria Rilke once wrote of great men who “let their lives get overgrown like an old path…”

That his Muse was ancient and ugly gains significance in the light of a largely forgotten chapter in British history. Centuries before, during the iconoclasm or smashing of religious images – which the fanaticism of the Protestant Reformation visited upon Britain (and a few other countries in north-western Europe) – the country lost a great deal of its artistic and spiritual legacy. It is estimated close to eighty percent of religious images were destroyed. Up until that time of image destruction, an artist with Spare’s gifts and occult tastes, even without being a devout Christian – which he certainly wasn’t – might still have found visual inspiration and ideas in the iconic painting and sculpture found in churches and cathedrals.

The intervening centuries were lost spiritual territory to visionary artists like Austin Spare and William Blake – a fellow artist-visionary with whom Spare strongly identified. He was probably only half-joking when he remarked he had been Blake in a former life, and he surely could have claimed as his own Blake’s words:

I must create a system or be enslaved by another mans; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

Being both fiercely individualistic personalities and visionaries, they insisted on creating their own cosmologies. In a way, they had to.

Early Life

For a while as a young man, before the Great War, flushed with success and newly married to a dancing-girl called Eily Shaw, Spare played at being a Mayfair artist, courted by wealthy patrons. But it wasn’t to last. He would spend most of his adult life south of the River Thames, an area he came to strongly identify with.

Till age seven he had lived with his family – his father was a City of London policeman, his mother the daughter of a Royal Marine from Devonshire, and he had three siblings. The place of residence was in Bloomfield Place, near Smithfield meat market, where he would have seen thousands of animal carcasses and a great toing and froing of animals – alive and dead. This, no doubt, left a powerful and abiding impression on him, giving him a strong sense of flesh, of life and death. In modern terminology, he’d say the place had a ‘bad vibe’. At the same time, as was not uncommon in that age of rapid technological development, the meat market was overarched by ironwork of an almost ecclesiastical magnificence (it’s still there.) The Central Avenue has been described as being “like a cathedral nave,” hinting at a subliminal connection between the slaughterhouse and religion. One major symbol in Spare’s work, the totemic vulture, almost certainly was conceived in this landscape of death and animal suffering.

The family moved south of the Thames, to Kennington, when he was seven. In those early years, as a strong vigorous child, Austin liked physical activities such as boxing and wrestling, swimming and cycling. He went to school at St. Agnes Church, which had been re-modelled by Gilbert Scott, the Gothic-revival architect.

A neighbour remembers the young Spare being impressed by the ceremonial and ritual side of religion at the Anglo-Catholic High Church. He saw cowled and robed figures, which would later appear in his work, though hardly in a flattering light; he liked the incense and the rituals. At the opening of the church the priest wore a garment with a white stole, and there was a hymn to Mary. The Protestants were infuriated: burning incense and an act of devotion to Mary virtually amounted to “the drunken bliss of the strumpet kiss of the Jezebel of Rome.”

Development of a Style & Cosmology

In Spare’s art you often see “things in their natural state,” in the words of Steffi Grant. Spare excelled at female nudes, and many are, you might say, women in their natural state. They don’t conform to any particular idea or ideal, except when they follow the form and style of Ancient Egypt. The creatures of the natural world, from rats and toads to snakes, lions and birds, make regular appearances, often juxtaposed with his nudes. But as much as he “cared for growth and movement in the plant and tree world” – preferring them to flowers in vases, for instance – he also loved artifice and style, shaping Mother Nature for his own creative ends. He developed a unique kind of anamorphism, which he called ‘siderealism’, which strikes you with its clean and fluid handling of line and colour, conjuring the elusive Fourth Dimension and offering the suggestion of fresh perspectives. He mostly used it for portraits of film stars – after all, were they not the new gods and goddesses of his (and our) time!?

Austin Spare was a tremendous magpie when it came to what images and visual ideas he borrowed to then make inimitably his own – which is what every great artist does. Apart from his astounding flair and skill to make images, he also wrote and largely self-published books, which he naturally illustrated himself. It was all part of the creation of the Great Work, to build his own cosmology. He did not have a great formal education, but he did have the potential to be a scholar.

In his in-depth study of the five books that Spare published, Austin Osman Spare: The Artist’s Books, 1905-1927 (IHO, 1995; reprinted Mandrake, 2005), Dr. William Wallace does an admirable job unearthing Spare’s sources of inspiration, interests and influences, such as Dante’s The Divine Comedy, The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, The Rubàiyàt by Omar Khayyám, the Egyptian Book of the Dead, Kabbalah, the Works of William Blake and Albrecht Dürer, and various texts of Eastern mysticism.

The Many Different Spares

There was Spare the Cockney with his Cockney portraits of market traders and characters from the local pub, which would not have been out of place in Rembrandt’s time. They made him a quick buck when he badly needed it, especially when down on his luck towards the end. He was brilliant at it, and no doubt had genuine affection for the characters he portrayed.

There was Spare the pornographer: pornographic material does exist, for example in Spare’s original folio for his 1905 book, The Focus of Life, which is far more explicit than the published version and only came to light when a copy previously owned by novelist E. M. Forster made it to auction.

There was Spare who made exquisite Egyptian pictures, such as the magical stele – created to bring luck, good health and blessings to his friends – or the fine altar-piece of a voluptuous Isis, now in the collection of former Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page.

There was Spare the Borough Satyr, eyeing his women – one of whom liked his work “because it was dirty” – as Spare later told the young Kenneth Grant, no doubt chuckling over a pint in a South London pub.

There was Spare the maker of exquisite books, mostly self-published. They’ve become legendary among his admirers, like The Book of Pleasure (Self-Love): The Psychology of Ecstacy (1913) – in which he set out his “Alphabet of Desire” and theory of “Sigil Magic” later hijacked and popularised by the Chaos Magicians.

There was Spare hermaphroditising men into women, or himself – at least in his drawings – posing as a woman.

There was Spare the Visionary who could only partly achieve his visual ideas because poverty, lack of patrons and status prevented their realisation.

And there is Spare the Magician, the Sorcerer, the Witch, an incarnation that appealed deeply to a generation who would encounter him in the most unlikely places: in twilight worlds of black magic, books on resurging paganism and the occult, and weird music, corners where the culture is “murkier, livelier and more unusual” as Alan Moore says.

After his initial fame during the tail-end of a Decadent age (when he could have been “the new Aubrey Beardsley”), Spare was cast out and set adrift on the troubling and troubled tides of the 20th century. In part he himself chose this fate, which made him beloved of his late 20th and now early 21st century audience – turning his back on “all that.” But there is more, much more. The fullness of Spare’s creative universe is impossible to cover here.

The last word on his Art surely belongs to the artist himself:

I AM THE LIVING TRUTH. Heaven is ecstasy; my consciousness changing and acquiring association. May I have courage to take from my own superabundance.

Austin Osman Spare, The Anathema of Zos (1927)

If you appreciated this article, please consider a digital subscription to New Dawn.

„Readers are encouraged to obtain a copy of Dr. Nevill Drury’s Dark Spirits: The Magical Art of Rosaleen Norton and Austin Osman Spare (Salamander & Sons, 2012). A limited edition paperback is now available from http://www.salamanderandsons.com/product/dark-spirits-dr-nevill-drury

BOOKS BY AUSTIN OSMAN SPARE

Earth Inferno (1905)

A Book of Satyrs (1907, republished by John Lane, 1909)

The Book of Pleasure (1913)

The Focus of Life (The Morland Press, 1921)

The Anathema of Zos (1927)

BOOKS ABOUT AUSTIN OSMAN SPARE

Kenneth & Steffi Grant, Zos Speaks! (Fulgur, 1998)

Kenneth Grant, Images & Oracles of Austin Osman Spare (Fulgur, 2003)

Frank Letchford, Michelangelo in a teacup: Austin Osman Spare (Mandrake Press Ltd, 2005)

Dr. William Wallace, Austin Osman Spare: The Artist’s Books, 1905-1927 (Mandrake Press Ltd, 2005)

Phil Baker, Austin Osman Spare: The Life and Legend of London’s Lost Artist (Strange Attractor, 2011)

Neville Drury, Dark Spirits: The Magical Art of Rosaleen Norton and Austin Osman Spare (Salamander & Sons, 2012)

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EMMA DOEVE is a changeling child from the Lost World of what were formerly the Dutch East Indies, twice removed. Her specialist areas of interest include Austin Osman Spare and the Women Surrealists, particularly Leonora Carrington. Her work has recently appeared in Women of Babalon (Black Moon Publishing, 2015) and with her partner, Matthew Levi Stevens, she is currently working on a Grimoire inspired by the Graeco-Egyptian Magical Papyri. She can be contacted via www.whollybooks.wordpress.com.

The above article appeared in New Dawn Special Issue Vol 9 No 2

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