What’s the connection between modern science, the paranormal & magic?

Tags

, , , , ,

“Include the knower in the known.”

— a voice heard by Julian Jaynes

One of the things that got me kicked off writing about magic was a talk I gave several years ago entitled: Bigfoot, UFO’s and Ghosts. My theory in this lecture, in a nutshell was that most varieties of paranormal experience are probably manifestations of the same basic phenomenon. This phenomena seems to present differently based on the culture and beliefs of the perceiver.

That’s right. I am arguing that Bigfoot.

bigfoot-gta-6-will-we-see-bigfoot-in-rockstar-s-game

Little green men from mars.

images

And ghosts.

220px-Brown_lady

Are actually, basically the same thing. And always have been (not to mention stories from legends and fairy tales about goblins, genies, elves etc)  Which, yes, I know that sounds batshit crazy. It is saying “let’s take this weird stuff that most people already don’t believe in and make it even crazier!” Ha ha!

(This idea is easier to grasp if you let go of that idea of these phenomena being sentient—attributing sentience to something we don’t really understand confuses the matter, because then we try to understand motivation and then we are already barking up the wrong tree e.g. “well, why do the UFO’s want to mutilate cows in New Mexico?”. Instead it seems to mimic sentience (when interacting with us), and we should remember that at one point trees, wind, streams, etc. were all accorded sentience. The point is we humans tend to anthropomorphize dynamic forces beyond our comprehension. I’m not saying the phenomena isn’t sentient either, I’m saying that is currently beyond the scope of our knowledge. What is needed is a sort of metaphysical Turing test.)

However just because something is weird doesn’t mean it isn’t true. The fact is that all of the knowledge we have today, that we know got it’s start as a weird, laughable theory that only a few people believed. All science starts as fringe science.

For example if you tried to explain Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity to people in the Medieval ages you’d probably be burned at the stake. If you tried to explain Einstein’s theory of relativity to the same scientists who accepted Newton’s theory you would be a laughingstock. And yet now Einstein’s theories look tame when we are told of quarks, and super-string theory, and how physics seems to be pointing towards the existence of an infinite amount of real universes simultaneously existing within the multi-verse.

level-ii-multiverse-700x520

Wha!? The truth is cutting edge science is a lot weirder than anything believed by students of the paranormal.

One of the most fascinating developments in modern science is the idea that observing  something can affect the outcome of that phenomena. We see this demonstrated in the double-slit experiment. it is also expressed in Schrodinger’s’s famous thought experiment involving the dead/undead cat. Observing an elementary particles affects how it behaves. Let me repeat that: science has shown that observing a phenomenon can affect how it behaves. Nothing is being done to the phenomenon except observing it. According to everything rationality and science has been built upon this should not be!

And of course once the act of observing reality has been shown to affect reality, well, that raises some very serious questions about the possibility of being able to authentically observe the truth about reality in the first place! In our search for the truth we might be tampering with the evidence, influencing the witness, just by asking the question!

It reminds me of an essay I once read about how nobody really knows what panthers are really like in the wild. Because to observe the animal affects it. You simply can’t get that close to a panther in the wild. It will smell you from a mile off and go hide. Sure you might catch a glimpse of it here and there, slinking through the trees, eyes glowing in the bushes, and loping away into the night etc. But that is not really the same as observing it in nature, when it knows nobody is around. Of course you can observe a panther in a the zoo, but that is likely to change it’s behavior too. My guess is that most panthers in zoos are like most people in prison: depressed. In other words panthers are a bit like elementary particles they change their behavior when being watched by a human.

panther

What if the paranormal phenomena behaves in this same way—what if its behavior is affected by it being observed? Sure, this may raise as many questions as it answers. But thinking in these terms addresses many of the difficulties that have long plagued research into the paranormal. It greatly simplifies our model of the situation: which is what a good model should do. After all, it always seems that definite “proof” eludes researchers—the film of Bigfoot doesn’t develop properly, the ghost only visits when there are no witnesses, the UFO’s are always blurry in the video etc.

Smaerbuel

Science and skeptics scoff at that. And yet they tell us the exact same property is a tenet of modern physics (the backbone of all science). We can know the velocity of the particle or the direction but not both. This is a phenomena which limits what can be observed about itself. My point is that we seem to have the same property at play in observation of paranormal phenomena: it limits what can be observed about itself.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that it is sentient! Just as it would be a mistake to attribute sentience to the elementary particle. The limitation of what can be observed is a property not a desire of the phenomena in question (alternately it is perhaps a property of the nature of observation.) I’m afraid this theory does not provide us with any new answers. Instead it directs us towards new questions. What if the phenomena in question can, by definition, not be “scientifically” observed? What if that is the wrong modality through which to observe it?

What then is the right modality? I would say magic. If we are talking of something that is affected by perception then magic is the right tool for the job. As I discuss in DIY Magic: changing your perception changes your reality. Magic is the study of how to use this tenet.  It is the practice of tweaking, bending, changing, ones reality by tweaking, bending, changing ones perception. It is as simple as that. What I am suggesting in regards to the study of the paranormal is that, if this phenomena is affected by perception, it is not enough to study it naively at its face value. Oh, what is Bigfoot up to in the woods? What are those little green men up to now? Don’t be silly!

We must study how our perception interacts with this phenomena. In other words magically not scientifically. We must include the knower in the known.

The Sorrows & Joys of daydreams

Tags

, , , ,

daydreaming-200x300

What does it feel like to get published? I don’t really know. I mean I have been published by small press places before, but I haven’t had a book published by a big boy publishing house. What does it feel like? I’m ’bout to find out in just a month, when D.I.Y. Magic launches on April 7th.

What’s weird is I still, in my mind, self identify as an “aspiring-writer”. I guess when you spend years in one mode it is hard to change. (I had a rich Aunt who had survived the Great Depression, even though she was loaded she hoarded food in her pantry: onions, beans, oats, etc.) For many years I dreamed of writing a book that would land me an agent and a big name publisher. I dreamed of being able to support myself with my writing and quit my day job. But now that has happened it still feels like a dream! It is hard to believe, even though it’s been about a year since I signed my book deal with Penguin Random House.

penguin

!

I haven’t gone to a day job in a year, I’ve just been writing. Sure, it has been fucking amazing. No doubt. But what’s also surprising is how easy it is to get accustomed to this. To just think of it as a job which has it’s struggles, it’s pitfalls, it’s ups and downs. Which is human nature. They say that people who win the lottery experience just a few months of joy and then go right back to their normal baseline of emotions. How sad is that?! No matter how fortunate we might be, we get used to it and take it for granted after a little while. It’s called hedonic adaptation.

I often think about this same thing in the context of life itself. How good it is to be alive, how lucky we are! And how easy it is to forget that feeling, and think the world is boring because you are used to it. When that happens we stop daydreaming because we think we know what to expect. That creates a rut, because you get what you expect. I’ll tell you a secret—you must nourish your daydreams because they are the soil from which the future grows.

I was telling a friend the other day— in my wildest daydreams about the writing life this is about as far as I ever got: quitting my dumb day job and getting a book published. I have no idea what happens next because I have outpaced my wildest dreams. All I know now is: I got to keep dreaming.

Daydreaming_Gentleman

Check out what DIY Magic’s featured artists are up to!

Tags

Into D.I.Y. Magic? You should dig what the contributing artists are up to! It’s inspiring and humbling to share pages with these guys. A lot of the artists in D.I.Y. Magic have comics out that you probably need to feast your eyes upon! The art in D.I.Y. Magic was curated by Jason Leivian who is also the man at the helm of Floating World Comics.

Artists featured in D.I.Y. Magic

(in order of appearance)

Lala Albert

Tommi Musturi

Ines Estrada

Frederic Coche

Farel Dalrymple (I highly recommend reading & re-reading his inter-dimensional masterpiece: The Wrenchies BTW)

Christian Defilippo

Jason Mclean & Billy Young

Jennifer Parks

Kevin Hooyman (this website is a lot of fun to get lost in)

Amy Kuttab

Aidan Koch

Jason Traeger

Nick D’Auria

Jesse Moynihan

Dunja Jankovic

Maureen Gubia (melt your eye-brain!)

Ron Rege Jr.

Conor Stechschulte

Edie Fake

Luke Ramsey

Austin English

Ian MacEwan

Panayiotiz Terzis

Julia Gforer (I’d recommend you check out Julia’s Black is the Color, but it’s sold out right now. $75 on Amazon ack!)

Pete Toms

Malachi Ward

Pippi Zornoza

What I learned from 21 days of meditation

Tags

, , , ,

2014-12-11-meditate-thumb

Today was the 21st day since I’ve made it a practice to start my day with meditation. I feel like I’ve made some progress. I’ve built up from about five minutes to going for 10 minutes. I have learned a lot from the practice, but obviously I am also now aware of what a novice I am at meditation. I plan to keep this up because while it takes just a short time to make this daily ritual a part of life, the benefits radiate out to so many areas of life: emotional, mental, relaxation, clarity, focus, awareness. It is well worth the effort. If you want to make meditation a part of your daily routine I recommend you stick with it for a few weeks in a row so you can get into it.

(The benefits of meditation are subtle: it’s not going to fix all of life’s problems . . . but it makes life’s problems seem like less of a big deal. And that’s pretty cool.)

What I learned: it’s really not about any specific moment that happens while you are meditating. It is about the ongoing, long-term, practice, and how that affects you as a person.

When I look back at the first week of meditation, I wasn’t getting much from the practice. It mostly felt like a hassle, a chore. It takes staying with something a little while to see why you want to stay with it.

Here are my posts on the past 21 days of meditation:

Days 1-6  : Off to a rough start!

Days 8-9 : feeling grounded

Day 10 : Legs up the wall pose

Day 11 : be chill

Day 12: This stuff works!

Day 13: gifts of the practice

Day 14: now it’s a habit

Days 15 & 16: Science & Meditation

Days 19: Practical benefits of the practice

Day 21: what I learned.

I plan to continue this practice. My style of learning about something is to be the eternal dilettante, always the beginner, never the expert, always trying new things. If meditation is something you are interested in check back here from time to time, I plan to post interesting and easy to use meditation techniques, such as different mudras, breathing practices, and styles of meditation (Tibetan vs. Zen for example) as I learn more myself.

Namaste!

356px-Om.svg

The benefits of a meditation practice

Tags

, ,

Day 19

I realized the practical benefits of having a daily meditation practice today in a surprising way. I had a conflict with someone, where I thought perhaps they weren’t being totally fair. I ended up having a brief disagreement with this person: someone I respect, and afterwords realized that I had gone into the situation in the wrong way. The specifics aren’t important here. What I realized, thinking about it later in the day is that normally I would have probably gotten more annoyed and ended up holding a grudge. Instead I was able to admit where I had made a mistake, apologize and move on.

It wasn’t until hours later in the day when I realized: normally I would probably still be stewing about my supposed grievance right now.  A short temper and a knack for holding on to my side of a disagreement are things that I’ve often struggled with. But today it felt easy for me to step away from how I usually would react to a disagreement. Instead I had been able to let go of it easily and without losing my temper. It feels powerful to realize that stuff bothers you only when you let it.  I realized that practicing this is a part of what you are doing when you just sit for awhile each day: watching ideas, emotions, etc. as they pass you by. Because while you’re sitting there it is definitely not always easy, and small, sometimes petty annoyances are surprisingly noticeable. As I learned quickly in my first few days of meditation, you notice your back is stiff, an itch on your nose, a loud noise outside etc.

But the whole time you are practicing the very practical and useful art of just letting go. Is it any surprise that practicing that day by day translates into an ability to be at peace in daily life? It makes perfect sense when you think about it. But it was also surprising to realize that in just a couple short weeks of meditation that practice was already impacting my personality in a positive way.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 178 other followers