Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Dreams, Part 1

I would like to open a discussion about dreams. Several readers have already sent Comments about dreams, and with this post I want to create a home for further Comments.

I think we will all enjoy reading true accounts of dreams, and comments about dreams generally, without limitations. Of course dreams which foresee events are particularly fascinating, but so are dreams which involve out of body experiences or astral travel or visions or inexplicable contacts. There are many reasons one might share stories and theories about dreams.

I’ve already told you about the one precognitive dream I can recall. The other “dream data” that come first to mind are my repetitive dreams.

For years, probably beginning when I was 11 or 12 years old, I often dreamed about flying. The story was long and progressive. When I first tried to fly by flapping my arms, the air was too thin for my flapping to have any effect. I would run along the ground, flapping away, with the same result I would have if I went outdoors and tried it today. Then, over months, the air seemed to thicken, and I could flap myself a few inches off the ground for a short stretch. I remember the first time that I managed to get to the height of the telephone wires before I had to descend. What a thrill! And then, finally, I was able to fly above nearby trees, and eventually to go longer distances. Flying became more like swimming because I no longer had to flap so hard, and I could glide for long distances.

I remember once standing on top of a very high fortress tower, summoning my courage, and gliding a mile or more before a safe landing in a meadow. Over time I flew for very long distances which took me over various fields and towns and buildings, more than once in a medieval landscape. I recall skimming just above a group of dark-clad witches who were threatening me from the roof of a castle. A narrow escape.

I don’t know when the flying dreams dwindled, but they seemed to have served their purpose when I could fly skillfully almost anywhere and had lived through (or dreamed through) various adventures. They had kept me busy at night for years – interspersed, of course, with other dreams.

The next category of repetitive dreams became a major feature in my life because they were so frequent and vivid and occurred over several years – more or less ending only in the past couple of years.

Those dreams involved trying to get back “home”, or back to someplace like a hotel or a car. They usually took place at night. In all the dreams there was a great deal of frustration. For one thing, I could not remember the location to which I was trying to return – usually in a strange city. I couldn’t recall the name of my hotel or the street it was on. When I was looking for my parked car, information about its location was also wiped from my memory. I rarely was able to get any meaningful help from people I encountered. If there was someone (usually in a wife role) waiting for me to return, I could not recall a telephone number.

A variation was when I knew where I needed to go – as to my parents’ house on the other side of a town – but got lost when I tried to find my way. In trying to cross the town, for example, I would lose track of my direction, would wander around dim side streets, and would have to make my way through complex buildings.

In another frequent form of the dream I was living outside the United States (usually in England, where I’d actually lived), and was planning to return home to the other side of the Atlantic. I seemed to have waited until the last day to make travel arrangements, and the dreams were a mad rush to get a ticket, to pack, to store things I couldn’t take, and somehow to be ready for a departure time which was impossibly close. Usually I was to travel on a ship, but sometimes it was an airliner. Every effort I made was thwarted. Here it was 4 o’clock in the afternoon, the ship leaves in the morning, and I had made no preparations whatsoever! I needed to call a travel agent but the telephone book was indecipherable. If I needed glasses to read something, I couldn’t find the glasses. The phone didn't work. Once when it did work, I tried calling for information and got an answer from some man in Wyoming who told me I had the wrong place. I think it’s fair to say that in all the dreams I can remember but one, I missed the boat. (Interesting choice of phrase?)

The common theme of all those dreams was that I had been somewhere previously, was trying to return, and encountered impediments of many kinds. I was unable to think of anything happening in my life which would explain the dreams. As years passed and I became more interested in things spiritual, it occurred to me that I was dreaming about the soul’s longing to return Home. I felt pretty strongly that there was truth in that interpretation, even though I thought I might be reaching.

I’ve written enough for one day, and so I won’t expand on that idea now. I’ll plan to return to dreams in the next post. In the meantime, please click “Comments” and leave a dream post of your own.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Short Bits

It seems to me, after re-reading the fascinating Comments on my last post, that the time is ripe for us to talk about dreams. While I’m working up an introductory post on dreams, here are a couple of quotes I like, along with a few remarks. As far as dreams are concerned, I’m really looking forward to hearing from readers, and so I want to make it clear that I have in mind dreams which are of interest for any reason, and not just dreams that foretell the future.

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle."

Philo of Alexandria


“To go out searching for God is like searching for an ox while riding on the ox.”

One form of a Zen saying.

Years of treating disease in the human body left Dr. Sherwin Nuland in awe of the fact that health is the norm rather the exception. He said that knowing that so much can go wrong has given him a tremendous respect for all that goes right, moment to moment.


“Creeds and doctrines at best point us to God. They never capture God. That is why I believe that religion must always fade into mysticism. It must move beyond creeds, beyond certainty and finally beyond words. That is not an easy realization for many who use religion as a security system and who need certainty for security's sake and who always turn religion into idolatry.”

John Shelby Spong


“It must move beyond creeds . . . and finally beyond words.” I often ask myself why, when I know very well that words are a hindrance to illumination and intuition, I engage every day in an activity which is all words? Does my blogging in FLIGHTS OF PEGASUS obscure reality instead of helping reveal it? Wouldn’t I be better off just looking at a flower? The best excuse I can think of – other than pleading guilty to an addiction to writing as an escape from the Real – is that words are for communication with other people, and that perhaps I can participate in creating (to use an image from Eckhart Tolle and Bishop Spong) signposts that point in helpful directions.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Psychic Experiences

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Although I’ve used the word “psychic” as a catch-all for the nature of these accounts, I’m also including those improbable events we call “coincidences”, which many believe are not accidental.

I very much hope that readers will contribute their own stories.

First, to cite a common psychic experience, I’d be surprised if anyone reads this who has not thought of calling someone on the phone, perhaps even gone to the telephone, and then heard the ring as the other person calls. It's happened to me, I’ve watched it happen to people, and I’ve often been told about it – beginning with my mother and her mother, back in the years when a long distance call was a rare and expensive event.

For a start in the “coincidence” department, please read Rob’s comments on my previous post, which tell that a year after he’d last seen his former girlfriend, he encountered her on a shop’s fire escape! Don't miss his story.

I had a personal experience like Rob’s. I was teaching at a university in Ohio when I was in my mid-twenties. I became interested in one of my female students, and she seemed to reciprocate, but because I was married the attraction did not progress beyond conversations in the classroom area. It was frustrating because there were clear signs that my marriage would end in divorce. At the end of that semester my wife and I spent several summer weeks in Europe, including Denmark, where we went to the famous Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen one evening. Amidst all the beautiful lights and crowds and even a witch on a wire shooting by overhead, we decided to go our separate ways for awhile and meet at a landmark. My wanderings took me to a narrow footbridge over some water. Halfway across I stared and almost lost my balance: My student from Ohio was walking toward me from the opposite side of the bridge. Isn’t that incredible? To meet not just someone I knew, but that particular student, on a particular continent across an ocean from mine, in a particular country on a particular little bridge at just that time. What came of it? Nothing. That’s a puzzling thing about this kind of event: Why does it so often lead to nothing more? One would think that it is a flashing green light saying, “Do this!” Maybe it is, and some of us just don’t obey.

Now, some psychic events.

I was on a British ocean liner with my then-wife when we took part in the grand prize final bingo game of the voyage. Before each bingo game the participants would go to the front of the room and file by, each picking up his card for the next game from the stack on a table. I suddenly had a strong feeling and said to my wife, who was already walking toward the table, “Get the next card! Go, go, go!” She managed to get that card. It won the grand prize.

A lesson in paying attention to psychic “flashes”: My wife was with me in the casino section of a cruise ship. She was neither a gambler nor a devotee of psychic phenomena, but as she looked at the spinning roulette wheel, onto which the croupier had just dropped the ball, she said, “17 is going to win.” I said, “Well, bet on it! Quick!” She kept hesitating, chips in her hand. She was very cautious with money. The wheel passed top speed. I almost pushed her toward the roulette table, but she thought it was “silly” . . . and then it was too late. The ball came to rest on number 17. You can make a lot of money betting on the exact number.

In the casino at Baden Baden a stranger tried to sell me his roulette system. To demonstrate, he stood with his back to a roulette table as the wheel was spun, and said, “36”. The number 36 won. I did not pay him to reveal his system, but I’ve always wondered how he did that. It’s possible, of course, that he conspired with the croupier, who could somehow “fix” the spin, but those large casinos are reputed to be honest.

In the casino at Oostende, Belgium, the first casino I ever entered, I witnessed one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. In the roulette area was a striking man who looked like something out of a comic opera – a bit short in stature, slightly stout, wearing the formal attire of a diplomat or a Russian count from czarist times, complete with sash and cummerbund and colorful decorations on his chest. He was playing roulette while a woman I took to be his wife sat at a table close by – stacking his winnings into piles. The man would stand close to the roulette table looking down at the wheel each time it was spun. He would lean over, staring at the wheel, his handful of chips poised, and at the last possible moment would slap the chips down. Believe me, he never lost! The croupier fairly often stopped him from betting because the ball’s orbits of the turning wheel had become too slow, and sometimes he simply backed away, but every time he did bet, he won. Of course he was betting on any of the varied bets one can make in roulette, which pay quite varied odds, but his success was so great that his wife’s once tidy table overflowed with chips. Because neither the count nor the woman displayed any particular emotion during the forty-five minutes I watched them, I got the impression that they did this regularly and regarded it as routine. No wonder he could afford such lavish eveningwear and she such jewels. Of course I assumed he was psychic, but I have also wondered if he had some physical gift of being able to see the numbers on the motion-blurred wheel when no one else could, along with the gift and of calculating where the bouncing ball would stop. I think the psychic explanation is less improbable than the physical explanation.

A few days ago my wife held up a newspaper picture of a house and said, “Guess how much they got for that?” I said the numbers that popped into my head: “425 thousand.” Exactly correct.

I will repeat: When I tell of an incident like that (and it’s not uncommon), I am not implying that I have some kind of special gift. I’ve always assumed that other people get the same “flashes” but that most people don’t recognize or pay attention to them.

When Carl Fletcher , a “spiritual medium” from England, visited Cassadaga I was so impressed by his public appearance and readings that I went to him for a private reading. He worked by listening to spirits which apparently conversed with him as he was speaking to me. Lest you have the image of a trance medium in a dark room, Carl and I sat in a sunny front room with the door open to the warm breeze, Carl wearing shorts, sandals, and a colorful shirt as befitted a visitor from the north of England in Florida. His eyes closing from time to time, he related at one point that “they” were telling him that I had some kind of problem with my refrigerator, with outside air getting in. “They’re saying that the door is open.” Well, Carl didn’t know it, but there were two refrigerators in my life – one in my new home in Deland, and the other in the former home in nearby Lake Helen, which was for sale. Although the house was on the market, the refrigerator was still in use. When summarizing my opinion of the accuracy of Carl’s work, I told him that the gasket on the Lake Helen refrigerator had been damaged and deformed on one corner, and that it might be letting air through. Carl said, “No, it’s not the gasket. They’re quite definite; they’re insisting that the door is open.” I went by the deserted Lake Helen house on my way home and found that the refrigerator door was standing a couple of inches open, spilling cold air into the kitchen. Some real estate agent who showed the house must have left it that way. Neither my wife nor I was aware of that situation when Carl’s spirits informed him, and so he was not “mind reading”. To say that I was impressed is an understatement.

I do hope that readers will send accounts of their own true experiences to this blog. If there are enough comments I’ll turn them into a post of their own. If you don’t want to be identified, be anonymous.

Please note: The comments on this post may turn out to be more interesting than the post!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Some Dynamics of Psychic Perception

Here are some things I learned about the way psychic perceptions work, based on my own experience.

By “psychic perceptions” I mean things like extrasensory communication (“mind reading”), precognition, clairvoyance, and other phenomena in which information about what we call the outer world – present or future or past -- comes into our consciousness without use of the commonly recognized five senses.

1. There is a certain feeling - I compared it to a slight electrical shock – that comes with a valid psychic perception. I’ve also felt the sensation of a bubble rising to the surface of dark water and popping.

2. The first impression is always the correct one. As soon as the reasoning mind starts to evaluate and judge and shuffle through different possibilities, the subsequent impressions are false.

3. Precognitions are usually of things in the near future. Attempts to predict the distant future – months or years away – usually fail, although there have been cases in which fiction writers unwittingly and inadvertently predicted future happenings with amazing accuracy. (Some people have reported several nights of repetitive dreams about some coming disaster, but I’ve never experienced anything like that myself.)

4. The closer the foreseen event is, the more impressive or vivid the premonition is likely to be.

5. Just as a memory tends to be triggered by association with something in the present moment, precognitions tend to be triggered by something in the present. For example, I thought of “Hully Gully” when I was looking at astrological charts of a period when I had foreseen the winners of horse races. The coordinates of the sunken submarine came to me as I was reading about the loss of the submarine.

6. Precognition tends to work like memory in reverse: The most recent memories are usually the most easily remembered; the nearest future events are the most easily and frequently perceived. Association with something in the present attracts both related memories and related precognitions.
(I found that numbers that popped into my head when I was leaving to drive to a race track never worked; it was only those that came to me after the end of the previous race that were reliable. My false impressions were both too far ahead in time and not closely associated with a specific race.)

7. Alertness to psychic impressions is important to recognizing them when they occur, but deliberately looking for them, trying to find them, confuses imagination with psychic perception and almost guarantees lack of success.

8. To encourage psychic perception about a particular matter without becoming too active about it, assume a passive but attentive attitude and bring something into the present which is somehow related to the desired information. . . whether it be an object, an image, sounds, or written words. Then catch that fleeting first impression.

9. Psychic perceptions on an everyday basis can be increased and improved by sincerely believing they happen and by being open and attuned to their possible occurrence. (Some believe that practice helps. I read a short book by an Irish writer which described his practice of going through many packs of cards and predicting which card would be turned up next. He said that doing that on a regular, long-term, basis greatly improved predictive ability.)

10. There is such a thing as beginner’s luck when it comes to hunches. I’ve found that when I visited a race track after a long time, or went to a casino for the first time, I always won more at the beginning than I ever did thereafter. I wondered if this was because psychic “power” came from some kind of “battery” which ran down after use but charged up during disuse. I also conjectured that it might be because the imagination, and the calculating mind with its doubts and “reasonable” suggestions, were caught off guard during the first spontaneous wagers and took a little while to begin to interfere with actual psychic perceptions.

In my next post I want to get away from gambling and, just for fun, write about examples of psychic occurrences. I hope readers will contribute their own experiences by way of comments or emails.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

More Reflections

White Azaleas, by Julia

While preparing a post for PEGASUS I received a Comment from Dr. Alistair on my post ”Reflections”, December 16.

That reminded me of one of my earliest memories. From the day my first two years of golden baby curls were lopped off (to the accompaniment of my mother’s tears) until my family moved from St. Augustine when I was in First Grade, I was taken to Caruso’s Barber Shop on St. George Street for haircuts.

When seated and raised up on the barber’s chair I faced a wall that was one huge, long mirror. Behind me, the wall was also a mirror. The result was that I could see not only my reflection in the mirror in front of me, but also that reflection reflected by the mirror behind me back to the mirror in front of me, which reflection was in turn reflected to the rear mirror, which returned it (containing all the previous reflections) to the mirror in front of me – and so on in an endless ping pong game of light, scores of reflections of the same thing, smaller and smaller, in a tunnel to infinity.

I hope I’ve explained that so that if anyone hasn’t experienced it he or she can visualize it.

I can’t attach a cosmic or spiritual meaning to what I saw in Caruso’s Barber Shop any more than I can to the reflections that surround and fascinate me today, but for some reason the memory evokes a sense of significance.

When I try to think of all the other memories I have of reflections, the list swiftly grows beyond management, and so I’ll leave you to make your own list. But among all my memories of reflections, none has a higher place than the infinite diminishing mirror images in Mr. Caruso’s shop.


Tomorrow will be 1m 8s longer than today.

Yellow Kolanchoe, by Julia

Friday, January 19, 2007

My Own Kind of Miracle: Part II

After about two weeks, my ability to foretell winning numbers ceased. I don’t know why, any more than I know why the ability came the first place, but the timing of the cessation may have been related to my preparations to move quite soon from Florida to England in order to continue writing “Saint” books.

My sea voyage to England plays a part in this ongoing personal story of “things that can’t happen”. Before departing on the ocean liner from New York to Southampton I bought an astrology textbook. My fascination with the esoteric had extended to astrology, but I had learned little more about it than the supposed characteristics of my Sun sign, Sagittarius.

So, during those days on the ship I looked through the textbook (my inculcated notion that one should take a book on a vacation or ocean trip almost never results in the book actually being read), and when I had settled into a rented house in Beaconsfield I really began to study it. I bought more publications on calculating and interpreting horoscopes, and before long I began traveling by train to London to attend meetings of the Astrological Association.

There came a time when I could “cast” horoscopes correctly and calculate the transits. For those who don’t know, “horoscope” generally refers to the “birth chart” – a map of the positions of the planets and other factors at the time of a person’s birth. This is interpreted in terms of character traits and tendencies, as well as potential kinds of events. The birth chart never changes, and so when an astrologer wants to discern the most likely trends of events for a particular time, he or she calculates the positions of the planets during that particular time and superimposes them over the birth chart in order to discover the "transits".

What I’ve just said is oversimplified, but those basic ideas are needed to understand what happened to me next.

I decided that I would look at the transits at the time of my experiences at Pompano Park months before, to see if I could find any astrological “trigger”. As I was poring over the charts, concentrating on planetary positions during those days of knowing which horse would win the next race, the words “Hully Gully” popped very distinctly into my head. Hully Gully? To me those words meant a dance. Why would I suddenly think of the name of a dance?

Then the context made me ask myself, could Hully Gully be a horse?

I went down the road for the necessary paper and to my absolute astonishment found that a horse named “Hully Gully” was racing at a track in northern England that afternoon! I couldn’t have been more surprised or excited. I drove to one of England’s convenient betting shops for the first time since arriving in the country and wagered more money than I could afford on Hully Gully, at odds of 12 to 1.

Of course Hully Gully won the race. How could it lose, with all that fanfare? If my attitude toward life had not dramatically and permanently changed at Pompano Park, it changed now. There is a point beyond which lingering doubt and skepticism taught by parents, schools, compulsive naysayers, and scientists cannot survive. The idea that it was a “coincidence” that I perceived the words “Hully Gully” at that particular time, on the day when a horse unknown to me was running a race and won, is ridiculous. The universe was much different from what I'd been taught. Now I was certain of it.

That isn’t the end of the story. I began to think, “I wonder if I could use this ability for something more important than gambling?” An opportunity came soon.

I can place the date of the event fairly closely. On May 21, 1968 the American submarine “Scorpion”, having left the Mediterranean Sea to return to the United States, was last contacted about 50 miles south of the Azores. Within a couple of days the “Scorpion” appeared in the British news for the first time. It was missing. A search was underway.

When I read about the missing submarine, a string of numbers popped into my head, and I wrote them down as quickly as I could.

“What is this?” I asked myself. And then I realized that the numbers might designate latitude and longitude, and therefore could be related to the submarine.

As I searched a map for the coordinates I thought, “This spot is probably in the middle of the Sahara Desert.” But once more I was amazed. The location was in the Atlantic south of the Azores. The only problem was that the location was several hundred miles south of the Scorpion’s last reported location and its assumed course. In addition to that, the navy was speculating that the sub had probably drifted northward in the ocean currents. (I’m basing the report of the drift on memory and can’t find an original source.)

I felt triumph (latitude and longitude not in the Sahara Desert or Australia) mixed with disappointment (far from the Scorpion’s projected course and even farther from the presumed drift location), but I gave my information to the U.S. Navy in London because there was still hope there might be survivors on the sunken submarine. I thought I might be laughed at, but I received a nice letter of thanks, saying, “We need all the help we can get finding this submarine.”

The hull was eventually found on the ocean bottom about 400 miles southwest of the Azores, in the area of my coordinates.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

My Own Kind of Miracle

The "Flammarion Woodcut"

On rare days I’ve had trouble coming up with a subject for FLIGHTS OF PEGASUS, but now I’m having trouble deciding which of several ideas I want to pursue. To create continuity I’ve decided to give an account of the most improbable thing that has happened to me . . . other than just being here.

When I was living in Pompano Beach, Florida, I quickly became aware of a bright glow in the western sky at night. As soon as I learned that the light emanated from the Pompano Park Harness Track my own track was determined. I’d already manifested an interest in gambling, propelled not by the ambition to win large amounts of money, but rather by the belief I could discover a system that would make me world famous (and incidentally win large amounts of money).

It’s interesting that I sailed into life with an innate faith that there was a “key” to unlock the mysteries of everything if only I could find it. I never considered that the inner workings of the universe might be impenetrable. I assumed that if I gathered enough data and did enough research on any subject – whether horse racing, casino gambling, the stock market, psychic phenomena, the workings of the universe -- I would find the key and be able to explain and predict outcomes.

And so I became a regular at Pompano Park in the evenings, laden with a notebook and racing records, looking for patterns. For some reason I wasn’t as drawn to handicapping and the recent condition of horses (probably the only sources of a “system” that might actually win over time) as I was to the mystique of patterns, but I looked at everything for a possible answer. I spent more time poring over racing records and manipulating numbers (before the days of computers) than I did at the track. After hundreds of hours I had discovered one mysterious thing, but not the key to winning: Any system that seems foolproof when applied to all previous races will fail as soon as one actually uses it for betting. That was a more interesting discovery than anything else I learned about wagering systems, and I’m not the first person to mention it.

At any rate, weeks went by and I was no further ahead financially than I had been on the first day. Once I really thought I had found the answer when I began talking with a man who followed the harness races around the country in the company of his mother. He told me to pay attention only to the changing odds on the electric board up until the starting bell. Did a horse’s odds start high or low compared to the morning line? Was there a “drastic drop” at some point? And so forth. The idea was that the races were mostly fixed – probably true – and the betting of those in the know would give clues as to which horse was the planned winner. Well, that provided me with entertainment for many hours and many sheets of paper, with the usual so-so results after an initial appearance of success.

By the latter part of the season, when I went to the track I was burdened not only with a very heavy notebook but with very negative emotions. One night – a turning point in my life – I was sitting behind three women who obviously had never been to the races before. As I lost money on every race using my scientific research systems, they were winning frequently. What was their method?

I leaned forward and listened closely before each race.

“Here’s a horse named Lady Jane. I have an Aunt Jane and I’d die if that horse won and I didn’t bet on it.”

“Look here: The first two numbers of my social security number.”

“My dog was named ‘Flash’. Look at this!”

As I saw them win with such a “system” I began to hear that silent voice in my consciousness that I’ve learned always to heed: “Throw away the papers,” it said again and again. “Throw away the papers and bet what comes into your head.”

It wasn’t easy to do, but I climbed a few grandstand stairs and dropped my entire collection of paperwork, including the night’s racing programme, into a trash can. I turned, feeling unburdened, and suddenly the number “9” came into my head like a bubble popping on the surface of black water. I went to a window, bought a ticket on 9 to win, place, or show, and went back to my seat. Yes, to my amazement, 9 pulled ahead in the straightaway and finished first by a length.

I felt dizzy, but not so dizzy that I didn’t notice the number “11” popping to the surface of my consciousness. I bet on 11 and it won the next race. After losing for days, I went on to bet correctly on six consecutive races. At that point I was feeling very tired, drained, and I realized that I was beginning to have doubts, to grope for the next number instead of just having it presented to me, and I went home.

To me, nothing less than a miracle had happened. But was it a one-time coincidence? No, it wasn’t. For ten days I returned to the track every night it was open and won almost every race I bet on, at least 8 out of 10. If I’d had more money, and had the confidence to risk a lot of it, I would have improved my bank balance tremendously, but my “reasoning mind”, that analytical monkey cage, regarded what was happening as impossible and so I remained in the cautious experimental stage.

There were three things I particularly noticed:

1. There was a definite feeling that distinguished a “real” number, a real precognition, from a merely imagined number. It was the sensation of a mild electrical shock at the very instant the number popped into consciousness. Without that sensation, I was just fishing.

2. The first impression was always the genuine one, even though it might pass so quickly as to be almost imperceptible. Any further impression was just a guess.

3. The winning number of the next race came to me most often at the moment the number of the winner of the present race was first flashed onto the electric board amid cheers and groans – mostly groans except when the favorite won.

I’m going to continue this in another post, but I’ll conclude for now by telling you that during the same period I went to the Jai Alai fronton on a few afternoons and had the same success, using nothing more than each number that floated up into my mind. I won no less than 5 out of 6. At both Jai Alai and the race track I never lost a bet when I really felt the electric “pop” as a number came to me. The few losers were due either to my not being “given” a number but betting anyway, or to my mentally searching for a number.

To be continued.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Things that Couldn't Happen

I have never seen a ghost or an apparition or a UFO, and I’ve never witnessed poltergeist phenomena. I’ve never had an out-of-body experience or undertaken astral travel, and I don’t think I’ve ever levitated although on one or two New Year’s Eves I felt as if I did. But I have known people who have experienced those things, and I’ve read written reports and seen interviews which I have no reason to doubt.

My own experiences, which I’ll write about at another time, are in the realms of precognition and clairvoyance – generally categorized as “psychic” or “extrasensory perception”. In that connection I’ve written more than once, “Imagination is the greatest enemy of psychic reception.” Imagination (ability of the human consciousness to arbitrarily create a “mental image” of almost anything – e.g., a horse with a lion’s head) is sometimes difficult to distinguish from the reception of “external” data through psychic means – for example a drawing of a distant place “transmitted” by one person for the psychic reception of another. The receiver has to distinguish imagined images from the real transmitted image, which is not always easy, although I’ve found that there is a definite physical sensation that helps distinguish genuine reception from imagination.

So, while I can’t agree with the extent to which skeptics attribute certain phenomena to imagination, I acknowledge the real problem of distinguishing subjective, imaginary perceptions from “real” perceptions of the outer world. Even those concepts are not as straightforward as they seem, however, because it is impossible to prove that there IS an outer world. But that’s a topic for another day.

The accounts which follow take us toward a collision between those readers who believe that such phenomena can be real and those who believe that all such phenomena can be explained as subjective. To simplify the statement of that issue: Was it real or was it imaginary?

Here are some “impossible” experiences of people I’m sure were not lying. In each case I knew them very well for years.

M. was the most sensible and serious woman I’ve ever known. She actually didn’t seem to have much imagination, and talked only of practical and political things. How airy-fairy could a young woman be who spoke at Young Republican meetings? And yet she had the most remarkable experience I’ve ever heard. She was born into a rich family whose home was surrounded by a six foot high stone wall. One day when she was around ten years old she was being chased across the back yard by her elder sister. Running at full speed, looking back over her shoulder, she didn’t see the stone wall coming until she was about a foot away from it. Anticipating the pain of the collision, she closed her eyes . . . and when she opened them she was on the other side of the wall. She was standing in the neighbor’s back yard. She had not hit the wall, she had somehow gone through it. The only gate, the only opening, in the wall was in front of her house. She had to walk a good distance to get back on the home side of the wall. Her sister told me the story was true.

Two people told me of similar experiences – a young Scotsman in England and a woman I knew in Florida. I realize (acknowledging a comment to this Weblog) that intelligence doesn’t provide immunity from hallucination, but Arthur was an unusually intelligent person and he always seemed equally earnest and honest. He didn’t have a car, and so when he occasionally visited me from a nearby town he used England’s wonderfully convenient railway system – would that we had something like it in America. At the end of one of those day trips he waited too late to get to the station, missed his train, and made a choice I never would have made – to walk seven miles home across dark fields on a moonless night. He told me, and swore it was true, that when he became truly concerned about getting any sense of direction in the dark he found that he was walking in a sphere or cloud of light which surrounded him and let him see the way. He told me that the same thing had happened once when he was walking on the moors further north.

The same kind of phenomena was reported by the Florida woman, with the difference that she was driving on a country road at night with no headlights and was saved by a ball of light which encompassed the car and its surroundings and traveled with her. (Why was she driving without headlights? I think it was an electrical failure and that she was afraid to stop in the middle of nowhere. Of course if she voluntarily turned off the lights and drove like that I would guess she was having a psychotic episode, which undermines her whole story.)

My wife, who is truthful and not carried away by flights of fancy, tells me that one night when she was about seven years old she and her mother were sharing a bed in the middle of the bedroom, while her elder sister slept in a bed against the wall to their right. The blinds were closed, the lights were out, everyone was falling asleep. Julia was startled to see a circle of white light about the size of a softball moving about on the wall beyond the foot of the bed. She was so frightened that when she tried to close her eyes her eyelids fluttered and refused to obey. Her mother saw the light also and said, “Julia, turn off your flashlight!” Julia answered tremulously, “My flashlight isn’t on.” The light moved slowly, in a meandering fashion, “as if it were looking for something”, across the wall until it reached the wall against which Julia’s sister was sleeping, and then moved along that wall. Julia’s sister says she also saw the light until it suddenly disappeared. Julia and her mother and sister had slept in that same room, with the blinds closed, for years and had never seen any light from an external source. If the light had come from a flashlight outside the house (or even across the room) the circle would have been much bigger and would have been distorted rather than remaining sharply circular as it struck the walls at different angles. Furthermore, the placement of windows in the room made it impossible for a flashlight outside the windows to have projected the light along the path the light traveled.

When I was living in South Florida I began reading articles in more than one newspaper, by more than one reporter, of poltergeist phenomena in a storehouse – I think it was in Miami. After an employee was terrified by objects flying off of shelves and smashing into opposite walls, the police paid several visits to the place and saw similar things happen. The police chief himself had a look and was almost brained by a heavy ashtray that whizzed past his head. The newspaper articles continued for days. No explanation – other than so-called poltergeist activity – was ever found.

After I wrote the preceding paragraph I did a Web search on the long chance of finding information on that incident. To my surprise I found that the “Miami poltergeist” was so famous that a number of references are available. Here is an excerpt from one account:
“The scene was a novelty and souvenir shop [referred to elsewhere in the same article as a warehouse] in Miami, Tropication Arts, Inc., a place crammed with shelves of alligator ashtrays, hand-painted beer mugs, imported cocktail glasses. In December 1966 the firm's owners, Glen Lewis and Alvin Laubheim, were disconcerted to note a sharp rise in the amount of damage taking place. Broken mugs and glasses were found on the floor in unprecedented numbers. The initial inclination was to put it down to extraordinary sloppiness on the part of the shipping clerks, but soon the owners realised they were dealing with something quite different. Employees watched as objects popped off shelves by themselves, often falling not straight down but at impossible angles. Shortly after, an investigating reporter and a local police officer were witness, on separate occasions, to the levitation and flight of highball glasses and beer mugs. It wasn't just a case of shaky shelves, and there was no sign of a prank. Before long, even a magician was called in who, after watching objects move in an alarmingly paranormal manner, joined with others in concluding that this was no trick.”

As in many poltergeist cases, further investigation revealed that the phenomena occurred only when a certain individual was present. In this case it was 19 year old employee Julio Vasquez. The article just quoted has an interesting discussion of the pros and cons of attributing such phenomena (as well as séance phenomena) to “spirit” activities or human psychokinesis.

Speaking of séances, I want to write about the one that I attended, but I’ve written enough for now.

I saw this by my house this morning. Can you believe such things could exist?

Friday, January 12, 2007

More Thoughts About Lying

It seems inconvenient – as I actually begin to receive Comments on this young blog – that the Comments will be seen only by those who think of “clicking” for them. I hope that my readers will always look at the Comments because they are often very important in themselves . . . and sometimes (I hate to admit) more interesting than my blog posts.

Yves sent a Comment about a lie as I was already mentally composing a post on lying, and this entry is in part a response to his comment. Please see his January 12 comment under the previous post.

On my mind were recollections of my habit of lying when I was a child and young adolescent. My lies were designed to keep me from getting into trouble, or to get me out of doing things I didn’t want to do – which I imagine are the motives for most lies. When I was in elementary school I preferred my home and my own books and tinker toys to school, and when I discovered the effectiveness of “feeling sick” I began to invent sicknesses in order to stay home from school. As my acting skills improved I expanded my scope of lies to make other aspects of my life easier. Fibs gave me a relatively pain-free method of explaining why a class assignment wasn’t ready on time, why I had stayed out later than I was supposed to, why the family car had 30 new miles on the odometer when I’d said I was just driving it to the movies, etc., etc., etc. I wasn’t the only one. Once I was wheedled into taking responsibility for a dented fender when my younger brother – who was too young to drive legally – bumped into a fence post while I was in the back seat with a bottle of beer in my hand.

As time went on, I became more and more entangled in more and more lies. Keeping them all straight in my mind became a risky business, especially if somebody asked me about one a year after it had served its purpose. My developing brain formulated the idea that I was creating an entire false world alongside the real one, and that the increasingly difficult work of keeping track of the false world was not worth all the effort that went into it. Taking the consequences of the truth was much less fatiguing than sustaining the parallel reality.

I also realized that it was an unhealthy situation because lying made it too easy to avoid real life and hide in an unreal world. I might confuse lies with reality (sometimes I wasn’t sure whether I was sick or pretending to be sick); I might find someday that reality could no longer be held at bay and would pounce on me like a tiger. And so I made the decision to live as much as possible in the real world rather than a fabricated world full of secret passageways, escape hatches, and slippery slopes of memory.

As Yves wrote in his Comment, “It is so easy to construct false memories, and to construct confusing sensory inputs so that they make more sense.” It is easy, but dangerous.

In comparison to lies told to avoid the consequences of one’s actions or inactions, there are lies told for self-aggrandizement. The Englishwoman I wrote about reminded me of another episode. While an undergraduate at the University of Florida I went on a group trip to New York to soak up some of the Culture which was supposed to abound in that city and be so lacking elsewhere. In our group of thirty or so students was an extremely fat, unattractive female sophomore. We traveled by train, and she told us huffily that a man in the dining car had tried to pick her up, and that she had complained to a waiter. It was not a believable story. When we all arrived at our hotel she appeared in the lobby (greatly overdressed as usual, even to a hat and white gloves) with a large bouquet of flowers which she said were given to her by another man she had met on the train. In the course of our few days in New York she received, remarkably, other gifts from New York males she met . . . but we saw only the gifts, never the men. We concluded, correctly, that she was a pathetic case, and we humored her. About a year later, in the campus newspaper, I saw a report that she had been arrested when her room was found crammed full of shoplifted items.

People who wield lies to fashion a self-glorifying persona are sad, but anyone who deliberately makes up a story meant to prove or disprove a theory, or to support a religion or religious experience or an ideology, or as evidence of the existence or nonexistence of natural or “supernatural” phenomena – is simply despicable. The latter class of liars are falsifying not only their own reality, as I did when a schoolboy, but are also attempting to falsify other people's reality. To me such lies may even be worse than “political” lies, which motivate nations to go to war, and whose fruits are destruction and death.

I'm now reminded of the political "Big Lie", a phrase which refers to a propaganda technique which Adolf Hitler identified and described in his 1925 book, "Mein Kampf". (Thanks to WIKIPEDIA for this account.) Hitler wrote that people incorrectly came to believe, due to a propaganda technique used by Jews who were influential in the German press, that Germany had lost World War I on the battlefield. This technique, he said, consisted of telling a lie so "colossal" that no one would believe anyone "could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously". The first documented use of the phrase "big lie" is in the "Mein Kampf" passage, "in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility". Some more of Hitler's analysis is worth quoting because it continues to apply today:

"[I]n the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying. These people know only too well how to use falsehood for the basest purposes. ... " (In one of the most impudent uses of the Big Lie, Hitler's enemies publicized the phony idea that Hitler had ADVOCATED using the Big Lie!)

I now quote the following because for some reason it brings the current President of the United States to mind: "The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous." - Joseph Goebbels, 12 January 1941, "Die Zeit ohne Beispiel"

My favorite movie about lies is Laurel and Hardy's hilarious "Sons of the Desert".

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Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Ramblings on Open Minds and Liars

"All right, have it your way -- you heard a seal bark!"

I’m puzzled by people who are so cocky about having a complete knowledge of Reality that they are first to raise their hands and clamor to “debunk” a UFO sighting or even a strong premonition or clairvoyant or other “extrasensory” experience. For years, since the early experiments of Dr. Rhine at Duke University and long before, it has been obvious to any informed, reasonable person that ESP and clairvoyance and precognition and poltergeists are part of reality – and yet those prideful hand-wavers have always claimed that whatever doesn’t fit into one of the little compartments in their smooth-worn desks cannot have happened. For such people the latest “science” is always the last word about Reality. They remind me of a very intelligent schoolmate of mine who, half a century ago, was fond of proving to me, with quotations from experts, that no spacecraft would ever be able to escape Earth’s orbit. He sounded like the sound and sensible mind, and I like the wild visionary . . . for awhile.

Believe it or not, I am quite skeptical myself, and very sensitive to chicanery, but I would never think that with my limited sensory apparatus functioning in one tiny nook in the universe I am qualified to judge that every earnest person who reports certain kinds of “inexplicable” experiences is either lying or deluded.

Why do I have a mentality that has always said that I know hardly anything about the universe and its great depths? When something “odd” is reported – something that does not fit into the current “scientific” description of possibilities – I do not assume it is a sign that the person who reports it is dishonest or hallucinating, but rather that it may be an exciting indication that science has not caught up with Reality. If something happens which clearly contradicts the conventional wisdom, it opens a new gate of discovery. I have therefore been, since my early teens, an excited collector of “strange” phenomena which seem to contradict conventional assumptions. In that way I and others like me have worked toward throwing light on aspects of reality which have been mistakenly overlooked or rejected. You cannot allow a system to stand which says that, “Every penguin is black and white”, when an occasional blue and yellow penguin waddles by. I, for one, cheer for the blue and yellow penguin, while the “debunkers” will go to any extreme to ignore its existence and assert that those who saw it had to be hallucinating.

One problem in the whole picture is that there are people who seem to have almost no critical capacity and who are so credulous that they will accept even the most nonsensical notions. They are as eager to believe as the debunkers are not to believe. Based on reason and common sense as well as intuition, I have rejected a number of accounts. Within 10 pages after picking up a book by one Ram Dass (Richard Alpert), I concluded, “This man is lying” and put the book down. I’ve rejected, mostly on internal evidence, many tales of the “paranormal” and “spirit worlds”.

Yes, I can feel when my leg is being pulled, but I first give the benefit of the doubt to the narrator. Sometimes my willingness to listen has been misguided. The Englishwoman I was close to for several years when I lived in her country was fond of talking about her days at a girls’ school in Paris. She told me colorful tales of her life at the school and the impish tricks she played on other schoolgirls. Her sister then revealed to me that Jill had never been to a girls’ school, much less a school in Paris. If I hadn’t been an American fresh from "out there" I would have realized sooner that a woman born and raised in Manchester wouldn’t normally speak exactly like the queen of England, and that owning duplicates of the royal corgis was an affectation. That was an example of a poseur trying to create an artificial image, and it hurt no one but herself, but there are far worse consequences of prevarication in the political world, as when presidents like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, and George W. Bush lie in order to push their country into wars. It pays to be reasonably skeptical and to have well-tuned antennae for insincerity and wide eyed gullibility.

I’m beginning to wander into a misplaced essay on falsehood, and so I’ll return to repeat my main point – that those who feel that skepticism is always a safe position are usually wrong, and that an open mind concerning unexplained phenomena serves the cause of truth.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

UFO Over O'Hare International Airport

The Original Unidentified Flying Object?

Night before last I became aware of an intriguing UFO report thanks to MSNBC. Although the incident occurred in November and a number of United Air Lines employees witnessed the event, the story seems to have reached the mainstream media only this month.

This ”Chicago Tribune” story of describes the sighting at O’Hare Airport in November 2006. The National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC) is a source of wider information. Near the bottom of the NURFORC Website referenced above is the first report, by an individual witness, which was received by NUFORC.

Typically, the efforts by company officials and self-styled experts to brush off UFO sightings sound silly in comparison with the sightings themselves. A number of United Airlines employees, including pilots, reported watching a very well defined saucerlike object of metallic appearance hovering above a concourse gate for several minutes before zooming straight up through the overcast sky so rapidly that it left a temporary hole in the cloud cover through which clear sky could be seen. The silliness begins with the wild guesses of non-witnesses that the event was an unidentified “weather phenomenon” or a “weather balloon”. Why this strange compulsion to ignore the details reported by competent witnesses so as to make some ridiculous “explanation” semi-plausible?

(A telephone inquiry from a United Airlines supervisor to the control tower asked if controllers had seen an “elliptical” object. The profile of a saucershaped object appears to be elliptical, or “cigar shaped”, if the object is viewed more from the side than the bottom.)

One witness, interviewed on a radio program, moves airplanes around the airport. Around 4:30 p.m. he was sitting in the cockpit of a passenger jet with a co-worker when its radio mentioned an object floating above one of the terminals. He was looking right at the reported location and saw a gray, circular object 20 to 30 feet in diameter at least 700 feet above the ground (about 30 degrees above the horizon when he first saw it). The sky was completely overcast; the object was right at the base of cloud cover. The witness thought it was strange that the top of craft was very well defined, distinct material, clearly outlined, while the bottom was hazy. (The interviewer commented that the same phenomenon had been reported in other UFO sightings. Visual reaction to a propulsion system?) After the witness had crossed the airport in the plane and looked back, he saw a hole, as if punched right through the clouds -- “like a cookie cutter stamped through dough”. The hole in the cloud cover was very similar in size to the object which had been seen below it. The witness thinks the object may have hovered over the airport for as long as 20 minutes.

I’ve always been fascinated by UFOs. Out of thousands of sightings there have of course been hoaxes – usually easy to identify and often associated with people who try to profit from them -- but I believe that very few people calculatingly make up stories about UFO sightings from whole cloth . . . or about “supernatural” experiences, for that matter. I personally believe that the proportion of such accounts which are deliberately invented is minor in comparison to the sincere reports.

Even given the genuineness of most sighting reports, we don’t seem to be any closer to an explanation than we were in the 1940’s. The immediate resort by the debunkers to jokes about “little green men from Mars” is a straw man trick. Our knowledge that these phenomena are not human aircraft does not mean that we know what they are or where they come from. I think we will become aware of inter-dimensional travel in addition to more than one method of space travel. It occurred to me some time ago that the behavior of UFOs resembles that of living organisms more than machines, and yet they are usually described as (and look in photographs) metallic in appearance. I don’t know. I just know that few of them are the products of lies.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Pictures Taken Today Outside My House

Calamondin Fruit

American Beautyberries

Calamondin Tree

Climate Oddity

Comment by Yves (current length of day 8h 1m):

“Over here [in England], I don't know how many public holidays there are, but people take days off before Christmas, between Christmas and New Year, and into the first week of January. The roads are empty. But at this time of year I have always felt the public holidays are enough, and the best place to be is at work, because it is so dark and dead outside. Spring and summer are the time for holidays!”

Comment by Freyashawk (length of day 9h 23m):

“I feel compelled to write something positive about Winter and the time of Darkness. In Northern cultures, Winter traditionally was the time when labour ceased to be unremitting, when the fields lay blanketed by snow and families were kept at home. In the warmth of a fire, stories would be told and crafts would be undertaken to keep minds and bodies occupied during the time of 'rest'. Winter is a season when Nature slumbers. It is a season when the light of the Sun is supplanted by the light and warmth of the hearth. I love Winter in the North. It is a season of small lights and warm fires rather than a season of suffocating heat. It is traditionally a season of rest and meditation.”

Being a native Floridian (current length of day 10h 21m), I must put in a few words about my subtropical climate, which only occasionally makes one feel like holing up indoors and warding off the great darkness of winter with fires. True, our Florida sun moves south in winter, our days shrink, and like our Nordic brothers and sisters we bring in evergreen trees and mistletoe and love small lights, but it never snows and the winter is much easier on us than it is in northern climes.

From November till February it is more like a long Virginia autumn than a real winter. We have no snow, but we have occasional freezing weather interspersed with warm days – so that when I telephoned my parents on some winter holiday from the ice-bound landscape of Washington State or a snowy day in England I never knew if they would be warming themselves in front of the fireplace or sitting outdoors in the sun enjoying iced tea.

I wouldn’t mention this except that we have having such extraordinary weather in Central Florida this year.

Usually it stays as warm as summer right through September, when shortly before Halloween the first cold front passes through and drops the temperatures into the 40's at night. There are sure to be some warmer periods after that, but around Christmas we almost always begin to get really cold weather – freezing temperatures, perhaps even briefly in the 20’s around dawn, enhanced by gusty winds. From then on during a “normal” winter the cold fronts which periodically move down from the northwest United States bring cold or even freezing weather, relieved between the fronts by daytime temperatures in the low 70’s

But not this winter. There was no Halloween cold snap, nor was Santa Claus' sleigh sped by icy winds. I was still swimming in December. We are getting the warm days without the cold days. The thermometer once went down into the 40’s overnight but soon rose again to night temperatures in the 60’s. For quite awhile it has been no lower than 60 overnight and in the high 70’s and even 80’s during the days.

The kind of weather we’re having – 82 degrees today and 79 tomorrow – is most unusual. I’m not qualified to join the global warming debate, but it certainly is warm . . . and I love it. I hope to continue enjoying it until Florida is submerged by melting glaciers, or until, preferably, my home thirty miles from the Atlantic Ocean becomes oceanfront property.

Friday, January 5, 2007


Here I am going to paraphrase or quote some statements from THE UNOBSTRUCTED UNIVERSE which interested me. I particularly want to pass on the passage about prayer because prayer has been discussed in my Weblog and will be discussed more in the future. I described the book in my previous post. Betty is the deceased wife of the author, purportedly speaking through a medium.

The obstructed universe compared to the unobstructed universe is like a black and white photograph compared to a color photograph of the same scene.

“The only reason,” Betty said, “that you cannot exist and operate in the ENTIRE universe, as I do – for I operate in your universe as well as in mine – is because you are not able to step up your frequency.”

Consciousness is the only reality. “Consciousness, in degrees, is the one and only reality.”

All things have consciousness in some degree. Each degree has its frequency.

The whole of consciousness, the fundamental reality, is in evolution. The principle of evolution operates throughout the universe.

“As for me [Betty said] when I shall go on into my next life [she is already in an afterlife] I do not know. They tell me it will be something comparable, but not quite as I know it here. I know there are future manifestations of consciousness, but I do not know their characteristics. . . . There is an ultimate or supreme degree of consciousness.”

“All consciousness is limited by its degree until it evolves into the supreme.”

The following is a shortened dialogue about prayer:

Darby said: “I am wondering about the wisdom of using the work ‘prayer’. It has such various connotations in people’s minds.”

“I think most people understand, dimly at least, what prayer really is,” said Betty. “I don’t think the exact meaning of the word is discarded.”

“To most it means that you are trying to influence a power beyond you in your own behalf,” pursued Darby. “It is directed to a god with magic power to answer it. That is not the conception we have. We need some different devotional word to indicate contact with unobstructed consciousness, do we not?”

“The majority of people cannot aspire to such contact,” pointed out Betty. “Their degree is not yet high enough. The formulation of a need into a thought, a petition, with the sure submerging of self, that comes with prayer to what is higher and greater than self, is a beneficent operation to the individual, and is a definite projection into the unobstructed universe.”

Anne (like Betty, an inhabitant of the unobstructed universe) said: “The world has got along very well on a belief in prayer, for the voicing of a desire or an emotion makes it concrete. It clears it in your own mind, if nothing else. And maybe when you have formulated it, you find you do not want it; or if you do.” [Just like my – Fleming’s – idea that flipping a coin has value because if you feel pleased or disappointed at the outcome you know what you want to happen.]

Betty’s husband now asks her a question and gets an answer that, in its final part, puzzles me but which may be more meaningful to others:

“Well, now,” said I to Betty, “you have always been beyond the anthropomorphic idea, yet you were always fond of repeating the Lord’s Prayer. What did you have in your mind? To whom did you address it?”

“To consciousness,” replied Betty.

“Did you think of consciousness with personality, warmth – such warmth as comes with personality?”

“As though I were drowning in a great sea, and there was a shipful of people, any or all of whom could help me,” replied Betty promptly.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

The Unobstructed Universe

I am wary of “channeled” writings for obvious reasons, and yet I’ve found some extremely interesting ideas in books which claim to contain messages from some person or entity other than the one reporting the messages.

THE UNOBSTRUCTED UNIVERSE purports to contain communications from the deceased wife of the author, Stewart Edward White, channeled through a friend, a medium named Jane, during the 1930’s. (At least one other witness was regularly involved.) Stewart’s wife, Betty, had for years worked with him on exploring “the other side” psychically, and now she began to report about her existence since dying.

Unless the author was flat-out fabricating the whole story, which I doubt, the evidence of authenticity which he gives is persuasive. Certainly (in the absence of flagrant lying) the participants in the long project believed they were really in contact with Betty.

No matter how often I tell myself that it is impossible to comprehend Existence, much less explain it, I remain curious, and when someone says, “I’ve been there and seen the afterlife for myself,” I can’t turn away without at least glancing at the account . . . sometimes just long enough to realize how irritatingly silly it is.

According to Betty, there is no “heaven” out there beyond our universe. There is one universe, and everything is within the universe we humans know and perceive. The catch is that our abilities to perceive are only a small bit of the possible ways of perceiving. In a darkened room, a human, a cat, an X-ray machine, and a radio are going to perceive different things, and yet the contents of the room are the same. When the lights are turned on, the human perceives the room quite differently from before, and yet nothing about the room has changed except perception. A soul without a solid physical body could be standing right next to you now, and without the ability to perceive that particular kind of thing, you would never know she is there.

Other than varieties of perception, Betty’s main point about the nature of the universe is its range of “frequencies”, which means the same as that overused word, “vibrations”. Everything has its own frequency – and Betty’s universe sounds surprisingly like the “string theory” universe at times. People in Betty’s state function at higher frequencies than people still hauling around the bodies we are familiar with.

It is a commonplace of “spiritual” discussions that those in physical bodies in the familiar material aspect of the universe are in a denser environment and function at lower rates of vibration than the existence experienced by “spirits”. One of the main reasons we cannot usually see or communicate with spirits is the difference in frequencies. Betty gives the example of the blades of an electric fan, which totally obscure our view of things beyond when they are stationary or moving slowly but allow us to see through them as if nothing were there when they are spinning at top speed.

The lower frequency universe which we in denser bodies navigate is the “obstructed universe”, while Betty resides in an “unobstructed universe”. She says it is all one universe, with the same natural laws, but it is perceived and experienced differently. In the simplest terms, in the obstructed universe we are constantly running up against hard objects which have to be dealt with, and our experience of time and space is much more cumbersome than Betty’s. In the unobstructed universe she can move from place to place with the swiftness of imagination. She can move through objects which we call solid.

Her perceptions of space and time are different, but in ways I wouldn’t care to try to describe here. My main problem with White’s book is that it asks of the reader a dedication to learning a special vocabulary and a set of sometimes obscure concepts which challenges my degree of interest. The question frequently came to me, “Is this really worth the trouble?” Well, the same question came to me during a number of college courses, but that’s another matter.

What I most wanted was a nice tidy description of life “on the other side”, and I got something much more complicated. Jane alleged an actual view of Betty and her associates, and said that they were like us except glowing and beautifully colored. Her main impression was that Betty’s world was much more fluid than ours. Betty said that although she can pass through objects which would impede us, she can also “manage” things so that she can, for example, rest on a river bank and admire the flowers rather than sink through it. She drew a parallel with a man in a swimming pool who can at will either float, swim, or sink.

I’ve tried to describe just the basic concepts of our relatively awkward “obstructed” universe and the more flowing and easily negotiated “unobstructed” universe. From these concepts I get some help with the vexed question of defining “spiritual” and “spirit”.

For a start, what I gropingly call “spiritual” would not be “another world”, not a “spirit world” somewhere separate from ours or composed of an entirely different “immaterial” substance from ours, but our world at its higher levels of frequencies, perceived through means which we in these cumbersome bodies do not have. This description comports with my youthful illumination (and the similar realizations of millions of other people, I’m sure) that the universe we humans see and touch is created of and maintained by “something deeper”, which I could only call “spirit”.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Science Aspires to the Condition of Spirit

Science aspires to the condition of spirit.

When I wrote that down a few years ago I wanted to convey the idea that science, and the applications of science in various technologies, are taking humankind closer and closer to what many imagine (and report) to be conditions on “the spiritual plane”.

That statement presupposes that there is a “spiritual” ground or foundation to Being, and that we have some idea about the conditions of conscious existence in the spiritual realm as contrasted with our physical, material realm. Whether we accept them as true or not, we have heard of out-of-body experiences, astral travel, disembodied souls, “impossible” levitation, near-death experiences in which awareness functions separately from the physical form, and purported descriptions of “the higher side” from mediums and psychics both famous (e.g., Swedenborg, "There are two worlds, a spiritual world where angels and spirits are, and a natural world where men are.") and little known.

We are told that “spirits” not encumbered by the kind of bodies we earthbound animals have can move from place to place with the speed of thought, traveling halfway around the world in a flash. As the spirit Puck said, “I’ll put a girdle round about the earth in forty minutes.” Not exactly a flash, but not bad for the 16th Century.

Spirits appear to be free of gravity, able to float in the air and view a room from the ceiling. They can communicate telepathically, mind to mind, without spoken words, and thus can communicate instantaneously over unlimited distances. Our science fiction has entertained us with spiritually advanced beings who can control spaceships and other objects with their minds alone, or mentally heal serious wounds in a few seconds.

Whether you believe in such conditions of being or not, please imagine them and then look at the direction of scientific and technological developments. Two and more centuries ago, with no trains or automobiles or airplanes, no radio or television or telephones, it took from dawn till night to travel to a town we of today can reach by car in an hour. It took days to get somewhere which we can reach today in a plane in a couple of hours. We can sit in our homes and watch what is taking place on another continent or on the Moon or Mars. While people once waited for weeks for letters to make their way over land or sea, meanwhile deprived of all contact with the correspondent, today we can speak with someone thousands of miles away as if she were in our own kitchen. As Freyashawk commented on Yves’ blog, “Through the internet, physical distance has been conquered and one has the freedom to travel effortlessly from continent to continent.”

I don’t need to catalogue any more of the accomplishments of science to get my point across, but I will add a few other things which I believe that science will tend toward whether it achieves them or not: Almost instant travel and transport by breaking bodies and objects down and reassembling them at another location (“Beam me up, Scotty!”). Anti-gravity. What we would now call “holographic” methods of both seeing and speaking with (and perhaps feeling) three dimensional forms of people who are actually at a distance. The use of nanotechnology or a development thereof to accomplish swift cures and healings which we today would look upon as miracles. One of my favorite dreams is of a system of air conditioning which cools or heats the air in a building directly, without the need for circulating the air with fans or passing it through any mechanical device.

And I must keep in mind that every time I’ve read a forecast of this kind written by a person in a past era, it has always failed to foresee some revolutionary invention or discovery that opened completely new territory.

I had intended today to write about a yellowing paperback I happened to uncover on my bookshelf a week ago, THE UNOBSTRUCTED UNIVERSE, by Steward Edward White. I couldn’t recall ever hearing of it, and have no idea how I happened to have it, but I read it – skimming a lot – and found some interesting points which are pertinent to the present blog entry and to a much-needed definition of “spirit” and “spirituality”.

“Spirituality means too many things to too many people.” Yes, like the words “God” and “prayer”. Those are words without clear and agreed-upon referents.

I plan to talk about the book soon.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Creation as Play

“To declare that we constantly return to these topics because 'speculation is fun' probably is the best reason I ever heard for philosophy and philosophical argument.”

That pleasant comment by Freyashawk on my “Supernatural?” post reminds me of a favorite notion that I want to mention right away.

It is the theory that the universe was created by the Divine, the Source, in the spirit of play, in the spirit of a game.

When I first read that idea from the ancient Hindu tradition (I wish I knew where), it immediately rang true and has stayed with me ever since.

I just did a little research online, with few results. “Lila” is said to mean “Cosmic Play” (play in the sense of an activity for fun rather than a stage play), an attitude that regards the universe as arising from the joyous play and creative adventures of the Divine. Lila explains the universe as a cosmic playground for the gods. A Wikipedia article says that Lila literally means "play," but that in religious texts refers to "purposeless play" - life as a spontaneous game.

(It seems to me that all play must be purposeless, or else it is something other than play.)

What a welcome contrast to the idea that the universe was created as an educational or judicial system.

Wildflower Meditation

Monday, January 1, 2007


Having opened the subject of Spiritualism, I want to add one important thing which does not clearly appear in the “Declaration of Principles”. I was reminded of this by the most recent posting in AS IN LIFE.

Spiritualists constantly reiterate that there is no such thing as a miracle, and that there is no such thing as “supernatural”. Everything is natural. Everything takes place within the “natural law” which governs all things in the universe.

This conforms with my own preconceptions. Just as “Nobody out there cares” in the sense of judging individuals and doling out personal rewards and punishments, it is also true that nobody out there is able to break the rules.

As I write this, I see that my “preconceptions” may be reactions to the Christian church teachings that God breaks the laws of nature with “miracles” -- that there is Someone out there who looks upon Creation from the outside and can reach in and use supernatural (i.e. law-breaking) means to help or harm His creatures, like a child playing with toy soldiers. To introduce such arbitrariness into the universe is disconcerting, to say the least. More importantly, there is no evidence of it. The standards of logical analysis are better met by assuming that everything is part of the natural order, and that there are simply some phenomena we can’t understand.

Which brings my thoughts back to the conundrum of whether the Source (“God”) is active or passive, and to what extent. Between the extreme of a God “out there” who molded the world and its creatures with her hands and can deal with them as a dog breeder deals with her kennel, to the other extreme of the Source as a great passive pool of power which can be drawn upon and put into action by the Will of individual entities, lie a number of fascinating possibilities for speculation.

Why haven’t I learned that there are no answers, and that speculation is futile? Because speculation is fun, like playing a game, even if we know that every question always leads to another question.

That question reminds me of another topic I want to write about: The futility of trying to prove free will. A great deal is made of man’s “freedom of choice”, and yet philosophically it has never been possible to prove that free will exists. On the other hand, philosophers have found it is easy to find arguments that free will does NOT exist. So why do we persist in talking about “free will” (the Spiritualists, for example, are always on about “freedom of choice” and “individual responsibility”)? I think it is because in our daily lives we FEEL that we are making choices. As long as we feel that we choose things for ourselves, and that our decisions make a difference, we will persist in acting as if we have free will, despite all apparent proofs to the contrary.