Your Mind is the Best Laboratory There Is – Thoughts on Experimental Listening for Would-Be Time Travelers

Posted in > BLACK CADILLAC REVIEW by David on February 9, 2019

“The ethereal nature of poetic resonances teaches us about the inner dimensions. It is up to us to immerse ourselves and trod through the gross associative landscape of common expectations to recognize the buried treasure in our midst. But no matter how strong and beautiful feeling tones may appear, they are still traps. The arrow of mind must not stop at any target. Hitting a target means grasping at some phenomena, whether it is a paradise or a hell realm.

The pursuit of gnosis has no end. No stoppage point should deter its longing for the infinite. The goal is for the dynamism of the arrow to be realized as equal to the space in which it flies. The open nature of that dynamism usurps its linear motion, and a new aspect of its meaning becomes possible, and it is reborn. In this manner we approach En Sof, the unattainable.

If the arrow stops and hits any target, contemplation is officially over.”

– David Chaim Smith

1*6JrZzliFxBv7DEJDVJmRtwLiving near the Georgia Guidestones, I am constantly reminded that the world is filled with strange frequencies. When the famed near-death researcher, Dr. Raymond Moody was developing The Dr. John Dee Memorial Theater of the Mind to facilitate his experiments with mirror scrying and the therapeutic effects of necromantic divination, he followed certain design principles aimed at developing a sense of temporal displacement in those who would enter the institute’s psychomanteum chamber hoping to manifest an apparition of a past loved one. He found that creating an environment where ideas of time and place are displaced through mismatching antiques and curios was a powerful way to draw the seeker out of their normal sense of self.

The town of Elberton, Georgia where the Guidestones are located, and really the entire surrounding area, needs no additional tweaks to accomplish this displacement. Situated in the midst of antiquated farms, untended woodlands and the general pace of rural life one is immersed in an atemporal environment where contemporary influences mix freely with the decaying images of the past — dead memories dance in step with the living present to create an phantasmal environment that is prime for contemplative experimentation.

Another benefit to this sense of being out of sync with time is that it naturally facilitates the kind of poetic unmooring mentioned in the opening citation from contemplative Kabbalist David Chaim Smith. Within this kind of environment it is much easier to cultivate the ability to access a constant state where “the open nature of that dynamism usurps its linear motion, and a new aspect of its meaning becomes possible.” Ancient farm houses crumble to the sound of trains pulling contemporary commercial and industrial production through the beautiful landscape.

Signs of nature returning to claim its own appear all around as agriculture struggles to maintain a grip. Historic buildings house modern businesses, antiquated cars park next to new models, and the whole thing spins a strange web of discontinuous phenomenal fluctuation while people live their lives in whatever capacity they can, with whatever is on hand.

In an essay titled A Silence That Speaks: The All-Embracing Unification of Space and Mind, which appears in John Zorn’s Arkana V anthology, Smith discusses how these resonant environments can be created simply through sound meditation when one is not immediately surrounded by the convenient discongruity of a place like Moody’s Theater of the Mind or the pleasantly atemporal environment of north Georgia:

“Music, like all great artforms, has the capacity to point to the absolute within itself. “

In his visual art Smith uses these concepts to bridge the rhythmic and tonal qualities of imagery and words with the all encompassing sense of immersive soundscapes. One of the first keys to contemplative work is being able to access the cognitive field in which all of the senses merge into one, seeking this image of the absolute forms a core component of Smith’s practice, both artistically and in meditation.

“Some artists use glitch not as an artifact but as a medium for conjuring or divining. Knowing that a glitch parasitically uses a system as a conduit for the delivery of unexpected wisdom, they use glitch as a device for divination.”

– Kim Cascone, in Errormancy: Glitch as Divination(1)

Working with this directly in terms of creating cognitively engrossing sonic environments, experimental sound designer Kim Cascone has been developing the concept of ‘subtle listening,’ which he defines as:

“a mode of listening where one’s imagination is open to the sound world around them, helping their inner ear and outer world intersect. ”

Reflecting on a presentation Cascone hosted at Leeds Metropolitan University, sound artist Phil Legard provides more context saying that ‘subtle listening’ focuses on:

“exploring our own reflexive relationships to sound through meditation, listening exercises, drawing, writing and often ‘transcoding’ between these in order to bring participants into a vital relationship with sound ‘in itself’, rather than the more superficial semantic or symbolic qualities that sounds often immediately suggest.”

These kinds of contemplative sound experiments are one of the most immediate ways to engage in deepening our sense of the ‘luminous space’ which surrounds us. Working with them as a listener we are able to enter into states of consciousness which transcend habitual personal constructs and allow us to access the continuity of the phenomenal field which we are immersed in. Working with the sounds themselves as an artist allows for a direct engagement with the ‘material’ of the recording, which gives us room to discover nuances that exist within the aural environment that are hidden by our unconscious listening habits.

Inspired by conversations with Smith and Cascone, I’ve been experimenting with a series of recordings that seek to encapsulate the aetheral environment of north Georgia, where the strange influences of conservative religion, rural living and Hermetic philosophy intertwine to break down our assumptions about the borderline between the real and the imaginal world.

Using field recordings, objects attuned to temporal decay such as chimes from a broken clock, folk instrumentation such as tenor banjo, organ and broken guitars, techniques associated with EVP recording and Instrumental Trans-Communication, I’ve created a series of long-play aural sculptures and atonal radio plays to aid adventurous psychonauts in accessing the concept of contemplative listening.

The source sounds have been stretched, sublimated, dissolved and fixed to disassociate them from ‘superficial semantic or symbolic qualities,’ allowing the ‘ethereal nature of poetic resonances’ to come to the forefront. These pieces provide a ground in which to explore ‘the message’ hidden behind our habitual self image.

The method for using a soundscape (whether natural or artificial) for meditation is simple:

1. Find a quiet place where you will not be interrupted.
2. Position yourself so that you will be able to completely relax without falling asleep.
3. Use headphones, or position your speaker array, so that you are bathed in the sound as you relax your focus and allow your mind to enter into the space created by the soundscape. If you are in a natural environment allow your listening awareness to integrate all of the sounds that surround you without separating them into habitual categories such as ‘artificial’ and ‘natural.’
4. Allow the sounds to merge with spontaneous emotions and imagery in your mind’s eye, and with your actual vision if your eyes are open, as you enter into a unified perceptual field evoked by the intermixing stimulus of all of your senses.
5. Listen to the message contained within the experience.

One of the most exciting elements of the ‘experimental counter-culture’ is working directly within ourselves to explore the interstices where objective and subjective intermix. Your mind is the best laboratory there is, so join me and open yourself to the subtle images and emotive tones that flicker through it.

Click Here and listen to The Message.

(1) http://sonicfield.org/2014/03/errormancy-glitch-as-divination/


The Plot Running Like a Silver Cord: Channeling and Mediumship on the Margins of Literature

Posted in > BLACK CADILLAC REVIEW by David on February 9, 2019

Robert E. Howard at Fort McKavett in 1933. Howard sent a copy of this photograph to H. P. Lovecraft. (Source: Wikipedia)

Let no man read here who lives only in the world about him. To these leaves, let no man stoop to whom Yesterday is as a closed book with iron hasps, to whom Tomorrow is the unborn twin of Today. Here let no man seek the trend of reality, nor any plan or plot running like a silver cord through the fire-limned portraits here envisioned. But I have dreamed as men have dreamed and as my dreams have leaped into my brain full-grown, without beginning and without end, so have I, with gold and sapphire tools, etched them in topaz and opal against a curtain of ivory.

— From the introduction to Etchings in Ivory by Robert E. Howard

While reading Joscelyn Godwin’s Atlantis and the Cycles of Time — regarding which, see this excerpt — I was struck by how familiar I already was with the invoked imagery of Hyperborean civilizations. I’ve never had much of an interest in that realm of speculation, so it was odd that its concepts would be so recognizable, almost palpable, to my mind’s eye. It took me a few days to realize that this was because much of the narrative and imagery had already been put into my consciousness by a youth spent reading the works of Robert E. Howard. As one of the founding writers of the “swords and sorcery” genre, Howard portrayed his Hyperborean heroes Conan, Kull, and Bran Mac Morn all traveling through worlds enlivened by Theosophical and speculative archaeological theories of prehistoric civilizations.

541931The author of a more muscular strain of weird tale than what was written by some of his fellow pulp titans, Howard seems an unlikely host to some of the fae notions of Theosophical cosmology. However, after doing a bit of research I found that his interest in history, which gave his historical fiction an air of reality, was paralleled by an equal interest in the occult. His initial letters to H.P. Lovecraft contain inquiries into the esoteric truths behind the Cthulhu Mythos and imply a seeking curiosity similar to what might be found in a letter sent to the outer representative of a secret occult order.

This really should not come as a shock, since we find Howard writing marginalized fantasy fiction at one of the high points of America’s occult revival. The pulp magazines were one of the prime markets for organizations like the AMORC and the mail order mysticism popularized by publishers such as de Laurence, Scott and Company. And naturally, writing in the genres that he did, Howard found the imagery of Theosophy and the occult provided the raw framework from which to work. Although Conan, Kull and Co. are among the most earthy examples of the swords and sorcery genre, Howard’s cosmic vision sneaks through in stories like “The Tower of the Elephant,” which features a transcendent vision of the cosmos where lines between the celestial, the earthly, and the extra-dimensional blur into a frictious mix.

Jeff Shanks’ article “Theosophy and the Thurian Age: Robert E. Howard and the Works of William Scott-Elliot” (in The Dark Man: The Journal of Robert E. Howard Studies, Vol. 6, Nos. 1 and 2) provides a historical analysis of some specific Theosophical influences that went into framing the landscape of Howard’s work. But it seems to me that one of the more important aspects of this subject, and one that is a bit more ephemeral and subtle to trace than the mere origins of his influences, is the question of how Howard’s writing interacts with the esoteric tradition itself.

These interactions are so prevalent in his work that in many instances he seems to utilize some of the same processes used by Theosophists such as C.W. Leadbetter in hopes of gaining an authentic vision of antediluvian worlds. Howard gives us a surprising opportunity to examine the strange chemistry that occurs when a certain psychology, no matter how seemingly mundane, acts as a catalyst to a potent stream of occult influence. His example also leads out to the realm of other authors who experienced something similar, and eventually to a general insight about the relationship of channeling, mediumship, anomalies, and visionary trance states to the creative imagination.


weirdtalesdecember1936During the heyday of the pulps, what was surfacing in the subliminal atmosphere of the magazines’ advertising pages, where practical engagement with the esoteric was proffered through mail order mysteries, was also percolating in previous encounters between Howard and popular writers such as Arthur Conan Doyle and Jack London, whose work he greatly enjoyed in his youth.

Doyle’s active participation in psychical research, along with his interest in secret societies, suffuses his work even when the traces are not very evident, and London was on hand for the Golden Age of San Francisco, participating in the Eastern steeped occulture of the early Bohemia Club. Another of Howard’s favorite authors, the adventure writer Talbot Mundy, was deeply steeped in Theosophical lore, as well as in direct experiences from a youth spent traveling through North Africa, the Middle East, India, and Tibet. In processing and appropriating these respective influences, Howard was bringing forward a sensibility and set of ideas plugged directly into the mystical and occult.

Whereas science fiction is able to explore the ethical, philosophical, and experiential elements of technological progress, works like Howard’s allow us access to a vision of Plato’s republic in action, where the unseen hand of philosophy, or in this case, sorcery, guides the swords of more material men to change the fate of nations. While this would be developed more deeply, and with more of an eye towards complex critique, in the works of Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock, Glenn Lord, and some of the authors who followed Howard’s example, we find in his stories the raw seed, a sort of medieval illustration providing the compositional outline for the more developed visions of later writers.

Beyond the texts themselves, as we feel deeper into the phenomena of Howard’s writing, we find that there is more to his esoteric dalliance than simply repurposing archetypal imagery, for it is apparent that this interest also led to his use of visionary techniques for inducing creativity. In reading through his correspondence, we see him referring quite often to seeing these prehistoric narratives play out before his mind’s eye. As he puts it in the introduction to Etchings in Ivory, “my dreams have leaped into my brain full-grown.” Howard felt that through the use of the creative imagination, he was actually viewing scenes from past lives, and his fragmentary writings, outside of his published work, are written as memories rather than fictional narratives.

As his friend Novalyne Price-Ellis recalled in her memoir One Who Walked Alone (the basis for the Howard biopic The Whole Wide World):

He described the land, the colors of Jenghiz Khan’s robes, the horse he rode. As I listened, I knew what Jenghiz Khan experienced and thought. But I understood as one who plays a part in a play; you study the man … You study the role … You try to understand and experience him; then you try to reveal him to an audience. But in the final analysis, on stage, you create the illusion of reality. Bob was not acting. He was there. At that moment, he was Jenghiz Khan, the barbarian, conqueror of an empire.

It overwhelmed me. “How do you know so much about him — Jenghiz Khan? History books don’t tell you these things. History books don’t describe. They recount.”

“I was there, girl.” Exultantly. “I rode with Jenghiz Khan.”

At first, I didn’t know what to think. Then I reasoned about it. I thought: We must talk about reincarnation someday. I don’t believe it, of course, but we must talk about it. He probably doesn’t believe it either. No wonder a few people in Cross Plains don’t like him. They don’t understand him. His preoccupation with history and with writing instead of the price of corn and cotton is something they could not understand. Could I? I liked to talk about books…History…Writing. Well, this was an opportunity to listen to a very interesting storyteller! Did I want this?

I listened to the saga of Jenghiz Khan.

— Novalyne Price-Ellis, One Who Walked Alone: Robert E. Howard, The Final Years (1986)

Howard never claimed any veracity for these visions, so couched in fiction he brought them forward as questions and misty scenes from the realms outside “the trend of reality,” and his experience of this dissociation took on nearly clairvoyant overtones. These visions formed a part of his critique of the contemporary setting he was writing in. He was very aware of what might be considered the escapist nature of his stories; as quoted by Price-Ellis, he said of his readers that

the people who read my stuff want to get away from this modern, complicated world with its hypocrisy, its cruelty, its dog-eat-dog life. They want to go back to the origin of the human race. The civilization we live in is a hell of a lot more sinister than the time I write about. In those days, girl, men were men and women were women. They struggled to stay alive, but the struggle was worth it.

Importantly, I am in no way implying that Howard sat down in an active, ritualized way to invoke these visionary states. Instead, whether through suffusion of influences or simply the circumstance of feeling bored and trapped by the complexity of contemporary life, he was able to tap into the same vein of experience that, when framed differently, appears as mystical accounts. Godwin, in his work on Atlantis, details the numerous clairvoyant “visions” of antediluvian worlds that have been proffered throughout history, showing how they possess a social and personal efficacy that often belies their veracity in light of any orthodox historical narrative.


“Fie, fie! you visionary things, ye motes that dance in sunny glow, who base and build Eternities on briefest moment here below…”

– Richard F. Burton, The Kasidah, III 1-4

To draw wider lessons that can be applied to the fusion of creativity and mystical matters, we need to ask two questions of all this: How does the case of Robert E. Howard lead us to understand the act of writing effective short stories or performing any other creative artistic work? And what, generally, is happening in trance-based methods of acquiring information?


Sir Richard Francis Burton (March 19, 1821 – October 20, 1890)

Starting again from Howard himself, another example from his correspondence shows how these processes can even slip beneath the notice of those who experience them. After harshly dismissing Sir Richard Francis Burton’s poem The Kasidah in a letter to a friend, Howard later reflected, “Maybe I was too rough on the author of The Kasidah. That is a really great poem even though it does merely (as far as I’ve read) uphold and expound facts I reasoned out for myself years ago.” What, we might ask, were these facts?

Burton’s poem sought to express what he had discovered regarding the philosophy of the Sufis he encountered on his travels through the Middle East and North Africa during the 19th century. If we look at Howard’s response, we see that he doesn’t give any preference to Burton, but refers to him simply as “the author” and claims that whatever Burton tried to express in that poem is something that he himself “reasoned out…years ago.” This seems a typical response from a Texan unimpressed with social niceties and eager to get down to the matter at hand.

And while I would not suggest that Howard was a Sufi adept, his professed familiarity with the ideas in The Kasidah shows that his meditative practice, even if haphazard and occurring by nature rather than active discipline, had given him a sense of reality that enabled him to dialogue with a line of mystical philosophy that was carefully developed over centuries of more active engagement.

84d291c1264a9f5957ba3be6f5a9ff30We find a similar situation in author and occultist Kenneth Grant’s infamous claim that the work of H.P. Lovecraft represents an unconscious communication with extra-dimensional entities or forces. Much of the occult tradition that Grant worked within is based on the development of visualization techniques and meditative states that enhance the interaction between the practitioner and these forces through the medium of the art.

In the case of Lovecraft, Grant suggests that, through his attentive relationship with his dream life, Lovecraft was unknowingly transmitting visions of a reality that lies behind the visible order. Many have looked askance at the idea that someone like Lovecraft, with his well-documented atheism and total rejection of the supernatural, could be a naive psychic medium. However, such criticism presumes a transcendental explanation for the inner interaction in question, and ignores the fact that what Grant is suggesting is based on purely practical concerns.

The quaint notion of an “occult science” is based on the nature of magical practice, which suggests that to achieve certain results, certain actions need to be taken. If the proper action is taken, then the practitioner is assured results, just as in chemistry we know that the interaction of properly measured solutions will achieve repeatable reactions. Disagreements and arguments come in when we start trying to hash out what exactly these results mean — an issue that properly forms the work of more advanced practitioners who are experiencing the states in question, and that becomes somewhat useless when approached from the outside.

It is important to understand that what sits at the core of any anomalous phenomenon is, very simply, an experience, and that such experiences are codified through cultural discourse to bring out some kind of linear meaning within the surrounding social narrative. The act of cultivating these experiences is the core of what Grant is talking about, and is in fact exactly what Lovecraft did with his dream life, even if the ontological status of the results he obtained remains a matter of disagreement among commentators.

If we look at what Lovecraft actually wrote, it becomes apparent that the wonderful uniqueness of his work is in large part predicated on his dream practice. Even when we factor in the knowledge that he was deeply influenced by a number of other writers, this still doesn’t yield a definitive answer to the ontological question, because most of these major influences, including Arthur Machen, Edgar Allan Poe, Algernon Blackwood, and Lord Dunsany, were themselves either working with trance states, involved in an occult order, involved in 19th-century Freemasonry, or some combination of all three.

Scholars such as Jeffrey Kripal and Patrick Harpur have demonstrated the critical potency of stepping back for a moment and considering these obfuscated areas of human consciousness with sympathy. Consider, for example, the case of orbs and the various interpretations to which they have been subjected. On a very simplistic level, an orb in your house “is” a ghost. An orb in the forest “is” an elemental, fairy, or Will o’ Wisp. And an orb in the sky “is” a UFO. But is there really any difference in the phenomenon itself? Or are these differences merely narrative devices that have grown out of a heavily mediated understanding of the event?

One of the most fascinating factors in an area like — for instance — UFOlogy is seeing how so many divergent phenomena can become enmeshed in a single cultural event. Natural occurrences, military tests, pranks, mistaken identification, and truly anomalous events all intermix as elements in a complex and ever-developing story.

Importantly, this ambiguity goes beyond phenomena like UFOs, which ostensibly have some type of objective/external existence, to encompass more inward states as well. What is the difference between visualization techniques used by authors and artists and the visualization techniques used by someone trained in remote viewing?

During some formal remote viewing tests, there have been instances where the viewers claim to be able to see events on Mars, or to see other off-world events. Can this be separated from the work of an author like, say, William S. Burroughs, who remarked that the best writers are merely observers of an internal film, and that the more successful are those who are better able to capture and express in words the narrative structure of what they see?

When we go back and read accounts of mediumship from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, we sometimes find striking similarities with the science fiction of the time. For instance, in From India to the Planet Mars, Théodore Flournoy’s enormously popular and influential study of the psychic Helene Smith, Flournoy actually makes a point of this by emphasizing that many of Smith’s channeled ideas seem to have emerged from speculative scientific writing on the nature of alien worlds:

While, on the whole, therefore, it is probable that its roots extend back as far as the childhood of Mlle. Smith, it is nevertheless with the Martian romance, as well as with the others, not a mere question of the simple cryptomnesiac return of facts of a remote past, or of an exhumation of fossil residua brought to light again by the aid of somnambulism. It is a very active process, and one in full course of evolution, nourished, undoubtedly, by elements belonging to the past, but which have been recombined and moulded in a very original fashion, until it amounts finally, among other things, to the creation of an unknown language.

It will be interesting to follow step by step the phases of this elaboration: but since it always, unfortunately, hides itself in the obscurity of the subconsciousness, we are only cognizant of it by its occasional appearances, and all the rest of that subterranean work must be inferred, in a manner somewhat hypothetical, from those supraliminal eruptions and the scanty data which we have concerning the outward influences which have exerted a stimulating influence upon the subliminal part of Hélène.

— Theodore Flournoy, From India to the Planet Mars (1900), Trans. Daniel B. Vermilye


Martian Landscape by Helene Smith (Catherine-Elise Müller)

Smith, according to Flournoy, was viewing narratives played out in her mind that were shaped by her reading, but that were brought alive by her unconscious emotional and mental activity. In other words, her visionary states were filtered through her social narrative.

This is something that leads us beyond the domain of critical theory or even phenomenological concerns over the interaction of anomaly and fiction, and into an area of practical application that needs to be considered if we are to explore the meaning of the phenomena in question. It may also help us to understand in some way what divides effective from ineffective speculative fiction.

The difference between the errant psychic medium and the established author is the latter’s ability to maintain a socially acceptable narrative for his or her own life. It is the ability to control the inner visionary process, or at least an awareness (whether partly or fully conscious) of its basic nature, that allows such people to maintain a stable personality while tapping into the same forces that turn someone like Helene Smith into a curiosity of science.


To understand just how deep the connection really is between what we call psychism and what we call artistry, it is important to understand why the word “medium” is used in psychical research. We often think of anomalous experiences in terms of their relationship to individual identity, but the term “medium” is used very specifically to describe a person’s relationship with the phenomena of channeling. A medium is so-called because he or she is one through whom “channeled” information or entities are realized in the material world. Whether we talk about psychics claiming to channel messages from the dead and visions of ancient worlds or authors channeling inspiration into written stories, we are talking about a relationship between an amorphous, immaterial vision and its realization in materiaby a human agent. Again, an awareness of the process, and a kind of distance from it, and some minimal level of irony directed at the vision’s claim to objective truth, is what aids in separating the artist from the medium.

This is also where we come up against the question of marginality. Although someone like Algernon Blackwood could couch his experiences as a metaphysical explorer in the guise of fiction, he was writing from a place firmly entrenched in the establishment, where eccentricity is mitigated by family standing and wealth. Most psychic mediums are not so fortunate. Most authors are not so fortunate, either, and so the “pulp” narrative emerges to express these experiences in the sphere of the general public, where critical reception is not based on abstract metrics.

The raw emotional undertones of existence are rarely concealed in pulp fiction. They break forth unbidden, often against the controls of genre constraint. Establishment novelists are marked by their staid prose and formulaic attention to structure. Heavily schooled, they employ a writing technique that sits on the surface, barely concealed by brief flights of inspiration.

Even at its best, establishment literature has the sense of something dead. Those who break this mold often find themselves inhabiting the margins, or else they experience their breakthroughs when faced with losing their social standing.

Statistics show that while belief in the paranormal is equally distributed across society, experience of the paranormal (at least as reported during surveys) has a higher percentage of occurrence in marginalized groups. So where better to look than to marginalized literature to find a much less hidden use of mediumship in the creative process?

To return to the author with whom we started, the alienation of Robert E. Howard is obvious. In a letter to a friend relating his first publishing experience, he wrote:

I one day got the advance pages of Wolfshead, which was about to be published. Reading it over I was so depressed and discouraged that I went and got a job jerking soda in a drug-store.

Such marginalization provides the impetus to step further inward instead of seeking some relief in the outside world. Rather than try to work toward some material success, Howard went for a job with the least possible amount of outward responsibility, which therefore allowed time for daydreaming and focusing on the mental realms in which he found a more favorable atmosphere. In the process, he gained access to the same type of anomalous perceptions of the inner world that any occultist would encounter while pursuing the same journey through the mind’s eye.

In regarding these areas of experience as “supernatural,” we miss how mundane the process actually is. One of the greatest American metaphysical philosophers, Manly P. Hall, did little more than Howard in terms of following a formal meditative practice. Ronnie Pontiac, who knew Hall intimately, writes in a recent piece for Newtopia Magazine that those seeking some deep esoteric secret behind Hall’s prolific influence were often sorely disappointed:

Hoping for exotic revelations, some have asked me what his practice was, or did I receive from him any esoteric techniques. He approved of my twice a day meditation regime but with a hint of good-humored contempt so I asked him about his own meditation practice. He told me that the studying and writing he did each day, his work on the PRS journal, and several book manuscripts at once, and his meetings with visitors were a constant meditation. He talked to me about Zen and the kinhin, the walking meditation, but he used it as a metaphor, explaining that choosing your daily activity carefully is the key to a life of meditation, yet any activity would do. He also recommended the Pythagorean recollection. When ready to fall asleep the day is pondered in reverse, starting with the most recent action, working back to the first experience upon waking, with an eye to improvement.

— Ronnie Pontiac, “The Maestro and the Boy: The Kindness of Manly P. Hall,” Newtopia Magazine, December 15, 2012

If we consider the fact that the line between psychic medium and talented creative is very thin, and perhaps non-existent, then we can see how Kenneth Grant’s statement about Lovecraft’s mediumship might not be so far off. It’s not that Lovecraft was necessarily a medium, but that to him lucid dreaming and visionary states were perfectly normal. The word “supernatural” didn’t fit into his narrative.

Similarly, we find Robert E. Howard, whose work is far less mystically inclined than Lovecraft’s, accessing a far more active visionary practice without the same atheistic restraints. His work is so steeped in its influences that, years after having read it, when faced with Joscelyn Godwin’s exposition of Atlantean mythology, the pictures I found called to my mind were provided in part by Howard’s writing.

That which we call psychism in one realm of discourse is simply subsumed under the mantle of creativity in another, and rarely do we stop to look at how closely the two are related, and how strange visions can creep into even the most material mind.

Note: This version originally published at The Teeming Brain (2013)

Cyborgs, Psychics and Intelligent Plasmas – Speculative approaches to human space travel with Jose Canseco

Posted in > BLACK CADILLAC REVIEW by David on February 3, 2019

“Aliens have been trying to teach us how to time travel but first we have to change our body composition which we are not willing to do we have tried animals and it has failed…Our science is totally irrelevant to aliens” – Jose Canseco on Twitter (1)

On January 30th, 2019 six-time All Star former Major League Baseball player Jose Canseco took to Twitter with a series of posts discussing time travel, alien subtle bodies, and the future evolution of the human species as it relates to space travel.

Screen Shot 2019-01-31 at 5.07.04 PMI admit that this is an odd follow up to the preceding posts he put up on the same day promoting  Brute’s LUX series of custom golf drivers and it probably falls well outside his Major League prowess to tackle the issue of the migration of the human species into space. If you have questions, his follow up tweets offer a chance to hit the golf course with him and pick his brain on aliens and time travel – or if you want to sit that one out simply read on and we’ll  journey through a few of the weirder roads that have paralleled the space race and maybe we can illuminate the questions.

It’s easy to be dismissive, especially with tweets about aliens teaching us time travel, and the very real possibility that Canseco was trying to stir viral attention for his golf promotions, but for the moment why don’t we take a different track and rather than dismissing his curious statements let’s do a thought experiment and explore some of the avenues that he indicates in his tweets – we’ll quickly find that they lead down interesting paths of speculation if we let them and they can help us to consider the magnitude of our culture’s current quest for space travel.

For many of us the day to day seems tough enough without thinking about breaking the boundaries of earth’s atmosphere, but as Abraham Loeb, chair of astronomy at Harvard University , said in a recent article for Scientific American:

“There is no doubt that we will ultimately be forced to relocate as a result of a major catastrophe on Earth, such as the sun boiling off the oceans in less than a billion years, a giant asteroid impact within hundreds of millions of years, a technologically-inflicted climate change within thousands of years or a global nuclear war within tens or hundreds of years. The only uncertainty is the timescale over which such a migration will be forced upon us.”(2)

Future planning puts space travel in a primary spot on humanity’s to-do list, but before we get too excited let’s reacquaint ourselves with the harsh reality of space – take out the aliens in the tweets from Jose Canseco and we can see that he is essentially discussing the simple fact that the human body has a hard time adapting to high terrestrial altitudes and most certainly cannot endure the conditions we find in space. Going further we can add that the human body can’t endure prolonged exposure within an environmentally controlled craft while protected by the heliosphere of our sun – once we get beyond that we have very little idea what will happen to the human body or how fast it will happen and it doesn’t seem likely to get any better than the zero chances for long term survival we see closer to earth.

As NASA clearly outlines in a PR piece titled – The Human Body in Space:

“Space is a dangerous, unfriendly place.  Isolated from family and friends, exposed to radiation that could increase your lifetime risk for cancer, a diet high in freeze-dried food, required daily exercise to keep your muscles and bones from deteriorating, a carefully scripted high-tempo work schedule, and confinement with three co-workers picked to travel with you by your boss.” (3)

Straight from the horses mouth – space is not a happy place for humans. So what’s a space hungry homo-sapien to do with the odds being set against our free wheeling leap into the celestial spheres?

The 6 Million Dollar Man


“Time travel puts 42, 651 pounds of pressure on a human skeletal structure…can you detach the brain from the body and equalize the pressure it could be done.”  – Jose Canseco on Twitter

Canseco is talking time-travel, but solving the problems of bodily stress in space alone is a no less daunting task – radiation exposure, oxygen deprivation, extreme temperatures, bone loss, changes in gene expression, and more all stand against humanities climb to the stars – one solution popularized during the early days of space exploration was advanced cybernetic development to integrate the human body/mind with machines in the hopes of enhancing its adaptability in space. Sci-Fi fans familiar with the television series The Six Million Dollar Man will recognize one of the most popular examples of marketing this approach to the public.

The series was based on Cyborg, a pulp novel from 1973 by sci-fi writer and aerospace expert Martin Caidin*. In the novel Caidin weaves the story of Lt. Col. Steve Austin, a test pilot who ended up on the wrong end of a crashed plane and became the subject of a top-secret interagency project to blend man and machine:

Steve Austin is a superhero in the television series – in the novel it’s a bit more complicated:

“He was a wonder of scientific perfection– but it was lonely as hell at the top. All the resources of NASA, the Pentagon, and Government Money put the pieces of Lt. Col. Steve Austin’s shattered body back together again. He came out of it more perfect than human. Better than new. A deadly, unstoppable weapon. Now all he needed was to find some human emotion in the tangle of plastic, wire and atomic metal that was fused to the remains of his flesh.” (4)

Before we look at some of the science behind this idea check out how it gets framed in the media. Compare the first edition cover from Caidin’s book and the cover from the edition released to coincide with the television series and we see a drastic change in framing:







What is clearly a sci-fi allegory and example of speculative fiction warning about technological overreach (notice on the 1st edition the novel is compared to The Andromeda Strain and Terminal Man) becomes a muscled up promotional piece for cybernetic warriors once the broader popular market gets involved.

Another TV tie-in edition even has a bold evolution inspired promo line implying that the ‘Cyborg’ is a new breed of human:

“They had taken the wreck of a man and bionically created a superior being – a superman who might even be the first of a whole new breed!”

It’s difficult to blame the folks who really thought this was a solution to our survival problem in space and wanted to promote cyborg astronauts to the public. When you start reading the technical papers and popular science pieces that were coming out in relation to the actual science and medical procedures involved in melding human bodies with machine parts it’s a rather gruesome affair. Just consider the fact that this was the mid-20th century when computers were still the size of a filing cabinet or larger and we’d yet to discover nano-technology…and they wanted to merge that with the human organism.  ‘Nuff said.

Artifact-Organism Systems

“…we have to change our body composition which we are not willing to do we have tried animals and it has failed…”

CVQeTnvWEAAryeZ.png-largeDuring the mid-late 20th century, it seemed feasible that “altering man’s bodily functions to meet the requirements of extraterrestrial environments would be more logical than providing an earthly environment for him in space . . . Artifact-organism systems which would extend man’s unconscious, self-regulatory controls are one possibility.” (5) These alterations were seen within the context of evolution and as the inevitable next step in the development of humanity beyond our current state of existence.

As Manfred E. Clynes and Nathan S. Kline, from Rockland State Hospital, put it in an article published in the September, 1960 issue of Astronautics:

“Space travel challenges mankind not only technologically but also spiritually, in that it invites man to take an active part in his own biological evolution. Scientific advances of the future may thus be utilized to permit man’s existence in environments which differ radically from those provided by nature as we know it.

The task of adapting man’s body to any environment he may choose will be made easier by increased knowledge of homeo- static functioning, the cybernetic aspects of which are just begin- ning to be understood and investigated. In the past evolution brought about the altering of bodily functions to suit different environments. Starting as of now, it will be possible to achieve this to some degree without alteration of heredity by suitable bio- chemical, physiological, and electronic modifications of man’s existing modus vivendi.” (5)

They go on further to describe the requirement for these mechanical adaptations to operate seamlessly with the existing biological functions of the organism –  or the human artifact – ie. the person being grafted into a machine:

“What are some of the devices necessary for creating self-regulating man-machine systems? This self- regulation must function without the benefit of consciousness in order to cooperate with the body’s own autonomous homeostatic controls. For the exogenously extended organizational complex functioning as an integrated homeostatic system unconsciously, we propose the term “Cyborg.” The Cyborg deliberately incorporates exogenous components extending the self-regulatory control function of the organism in order to adapt it to new environments.”(5)

All well and good until the human body says no – it’s hard enough to get an organ transplant to take, let alone a piece of metal or electronics. The reality of going from a speculative cybernetic ideal to real life application in living organisms put the whole cyborg thing on hold as our technological and bio-medical understanding advanced to meet up with our high sighted goals. Today we are much closer to having limited capabilities in this area – but nowhere near what it would take to develop a human-machine interface that could withstand the deadly atmosphere of space travel without the addition of an artificial environment.

Inner Space Astronautics


Earthrise – On December 24, 1968, Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders became the first humans to witness the Earth rising above the moon’s barren surface. (Photo/Caption: NASA)

“…the brain can physically travel without the body…” 

While science continued developing the possibilities of physical augmentation, other methods were theorized that flipped the view from outer adjustments to inner ones.

Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell in his introduction to the 1975 anthology, Psychic Explorations: A Challenge for Science, in a chapter titled From Outer Space to Inner Space, defines the ideological impetus for noetic and transpersonal research into space travel when he says that we must “promote the process of metanoia, or a new awakening in which mankind can realize its self-produced dilemma and, through a change of awareness and an expansion of individual responsibility, reestablish the unity of man with man and with the environment,” because, “only when man moves from his ego-centered self-image to a new image of universal man will the perennial problems that plague us be susceptible of resolution. Humanity must rise from man to mankind, from the personal to the transpersonal, from self-consciousness to cosmic consciousness.” (6) During Mitchell’s experience on the moon he had a profound vision of the earth hanging in space that catalyzed a drastic change in his perspective  – as he told People magazine in 1974, “you develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty.” (7) Viewing the earth from far beyond the boundaries of its atmosphere opened up a new vision of a unified humanity – a humanity capable and worthy to expand beyond the bounds of terra firma and into the mystery of the star swept depths of space.

This shift in perspective, both literal and mythopoetic, provided new ground upon which to understand humanity as a global organism, a biological system whose individual members made up a greater whole. We have to remember that during the Apollo 14 mission, Mitchell was also conducting a personal experiment in psychic functioning. As detailed in People magazine, “without NASA’s knowledge he had set up an experiment in extrasensory perception to be conducted during the mission with four men back on earth. The test involved the men on earth guessing the correct order of certain standard symbols as Mitchell “sent” them from space by telepathy and it was later judged to be a moderate success.

At any rate, in Mitchell’s new resolution, such psi techniques could include ESP, clairvoyance, telepathy and psychokinesis (the use of psychic energy to bring about physical changes, like bending forks with well aimed thinking). All these and more could be employed in the quest for greater realization of the power of the human mind. For this commendable purpose the Institute of Noetic Sciences (Mitchell coined the term “Noetic” from the Greek word for mind) was eventually founded, on a nonprofit basis.”(7)

-Audio BobIONS wasn’t the only organization that was moving in this direction. Robert Monroe, a cable executive from Virginia, had a similar vision of a greater humanity open up to him as he learned to travel within his mind and experiment with sound induced out-of-body experiences. In 1971 he published his seminal work, Journeys Out of Body, which collected his observations on his personal experiments and quickly lead to the development of a more formal organization for his program of exploration – as can be seen from his introduction to the 1977 edition where he celebrates the news that:

“a research facility was formed and became active in 1972. Our work has attracted the interest and co-operation of physicists, psychologists, biochemists, engineers, educators, psychiatrists, corporate presidents, statisticians, many of whom serve on our board of advisers.”

He also outlines how the book served as a tool for normalizing the idea that our conscious selves are not necessarily bound by the body.  “Among the eleven thousand plus pieces of mail received to date, many sighs of relief were reported. The secret could be talked about without the need for sanity hearings. Thus the book is serving its primary purpose.”

At the research facility he mentions that, “over seven hundred persons have participated in our research and experimental training program. Our first Explorer Team has six members. Some fifty more are waiting for our facility to handle their final indoctrination, and their number is growing daily. We hope to be able to expand shortly in physical space, equipment, and personnel so that we can absorb the backlog and the increase. This year, training programs at the Institute may qualify for credit at the college and university level.” (8)

The Monroe Institute, along with the Institute of Noetic Sciences founded by Edgar Mitchell, have played a vital role in organizing and managing the scientific investigation into humanity’s extended capacities and both organizations have been formative in evolving our perception of ourselves as more than the limits of our body. Further on in his 1977 update, Monroe celebrates this, saying:

“Our Explorer Team of six is bringing back data faster than we can process it, far more rapidly and diverse than I alone could accumulate. That which we have sorted is overwhelming in its import. The fact of consensus and agreement from six different explorers-each unaware of the other’s experiences except in joint operations-has had a formidable impact upon those who have examined the material. The details will be reported in another book which is in preparation.”*

This intensive data gathering was seen within the framework of an expanded awareness burgeoning on a global scale in which Monroe and his colleagues played their part. We see this evolutionary focus as Monroe reflects on, “A lot of action to pack into four years. It only strengthens the concept of accelerated change at work-especially the change in human needs.” This accelerated change has not stopped and today we can look back on how useful the tools of inner astronautics and psychical research are for adapting to the changes wrought by the cybernetic potentials of the inter web and our advances in genetics, bio-technology, mass communication, machine learning, climate change and so many other areas where a unified humanity is necessary to ensure our survival.

The Purpose of Dreams is to Prepare Us for Space

While IONS and the Monroe Institute represent organizations that were pursuing space travel through the realms of inner space, these ideas were also being developed by individual artists and researchers. One of the most dedicated being the American counter culture’s infamous Invisible Man, William S. Burroughs, whose entire corpus of work is based on using the techniques of inner space for outer space travel.

“We postulate that man is an artifact designed for space travel. He is not designed to remain in his present biologic state any more than a tadpole is designed to remain a tadpole. This postulate, agreed upon, gives us a standard evaluation. Is a proposed course of action conducive to realizing space conditions? Art, science, technology, what is it contributing to the space program? As for individuals, ask yourself – would I like to be in space with that person? Postulate that there is no privacy and no deceit possible in space: Your innermost thoughts, feelings and intentions are immediately apparent to those around you. So you want to be careful who is around you.”(9)

In this quote from his essay Civilian Defense, Burroughs is basically saying the same things as the NASA PR piece and mirrors the language in Clynes and Klines famous article on Cyborgs in Aeronautics right down to the evolutionary script – he always did make a point of reading the literature. Yet when he talks about the personality conflicts there’s that bit of added psychic context we need to consider – he’s not talking about being crammed in a box with bad neighbors, he’s saying that by the time we make it into space, if we make it into space, we will be a fully psychic species and may not even have physical bodies in the way we think of now. When he says, “your innermost thoughts, feelings and intentions are immediately apparent to those around you,” he really means it!


William S. Burroughs (Bunker, New York), May 1981. Foto: © Ulrich Hillebrand (kultur-online.net)

He further outlines his speculations on esoteric astronautics in a talk that he presented in 1980 at Naropa University, saying “I think that the purpose of dreams is to prepare us for space and this is why they are a biological necessity. Whether the dream body is able to exist separately from the physical one, that is something that needs to be studied”(10)

Burroughs also helps us to put Canseco’s time travel in relation to our journey into space:

“A Russian scientist has said that we will travel, not only in space, but in time as well, that is, to travel in space is to travel in time, and if writers are to travel in space-time and explore the areas opened by the space age, I think they must develop techniques quite as new and definite as the technique of physical space travel.” (11)

In all of this Burroughs is explicit about his vision for a bodiless evolution of the human species – in one of his most famous routines, The Last Words of Hassan i Sabbah from his novel Nova Express, he states:

“The” word of Alien Enemy imprisons “thee” in Time. In Body. In Shit. Prisoner, come out. “

Every element in this particular routine is directed as a critique against the system of Control that he saw as the inevitable driving force behind the illusory world designed by “board syndicates and governments of the earth,” who he labels as “Collaborators with Insect People with Vegetable People. With any people anywhere you offer you a body forever. To shit forever,” saying that “For this you have sold out your sons. Sold the ground from unborn feet forever. Traitors to all souls everywhere.” Here we see him identifying two forms of people that are against freedom – Insect People, or those functioning within a hive-mind system that lacks all individual personality, and Vegetable People, those existing in a system that is wholly focused on the body and bodily functions. These are ‘traitors to all souls everywhere’ and it is this elevation of the soul over the body which gives us a key to what he elsewhere explains in terms of lucid dreaming or psychic bodies. It also gives us our stepping stone to begin looking at what our future selves might look like.

Visitors at a Cabin in the Woods

“..these aliens are going to teach us how to try and travel…”

01486-1ioznbzhk6skk-xmv_ivjsaOn December 26th, 1985 something happened to the novelist Whitley Strieber that changed the way the world looked at the notion of ‘alien life forms’ – Strieber experienced transformative contact with the unknown, leading to the publication of his groundbreaking book Communion: A True Story in 1987. With this book the public was given a delicate, personal exploration of a contact experience that broke down the boundaries between inner and outer, past and future, perception and memory – we were given an initiation into communion with non-human intelligences that seemed to stretch our conceptual framework to the very limits.

” I have never seen an unidentified flying object. I thought that the whole subject had been explained by science. It took me a couple of months to establish the connection between what had happened to me and possible nonhuman visitors, so unlikely did such a connection seem. In the middle of the night of December 26 — 1 do not know the exact time — I abruptly found myself awake. And I knew why: I heard a peculiar whooshing, swirling noise coming from the living room downstairs.” (12)

Communion is a challenging work, written not to answer questions, but to reframe them in light of Strieber’s experience of contact with an intelligence or intelligences that seemed to exist within the shadows of his daily life and within the hidden pathways of his mind. Although it was quickly shoehorned into the mediated category of ‘alien abduction,’ the complex nature of the experiences introduced in Communion, and further fleshed out in later works, is closer to contact experiences described in religious histories from around the world.

As the scholar of religion Jeffrey Kripal explains:

“If I hear and read him correctly (and I am reading the written tradition off the oral one), what Whitley is proposing is his total body of work is the real presence of intelligent light forms or conscious plasmas in our shared cosmic environment, their long historical interactions with human beings, and their subsequent very real effects on human civilization, particularly through story and symbol, or what historians of religions call ‘myth’. He possesses no certainty about the source or nature of the lights and energies. He has learned instead to focus on their practical and spiritual effects on individual human beings and communities…

…His conception of human nature overflows any ordinary secular notions. He thus thinks of a human being as an ‘incredible inter-dimensional entity’ and suspects that what we normally think of as a person is only one form of human being.” (13)

This expansion of the human being requires an inner development that is just as radical as the development of the cyborg in terms of reconfiguring the human biological organism. However this expansion seems to entail an inner work that might be seen as a natural extension of human evolution, more easily than one could imagine that the natural order is leading us to surgical augmentation and strange acts of experimental butchery.

Reimagining of the human as an ‘incredible inter-dimensional entity’ also brings us back to long standing traditions of esoteric spirituality, providing a historical continuity that is more firm than those offered by the vivisectionists. While it’s unlikely that Jose Canseco had this in mind with his tweets – the underlying resonance with a very real conversation going on around these topics gives us the opportunity to explore areas that we would not normally look at in terms of space travel. In the book Light Changes: Experiences in the Presence of Transforming Light, Annekatrin Puhle Ph.D. points out that “experiences with unusual light confront us with the old pantheistic idea that spirits live everywhere, in everything and in every being in the world. In the past, according to magical thinking, ‘things’ were not dead, but alive and even able to act. The whole world was believed to have been filled with life-spirits. Humans, besides the physical body, possessed another mostly invisible body of a spiritual nature.” (14) Again and again we are confronted with a physical concept the soul and an expanded idea of what it means to be human – could it be here that the answer to humanities potential future in space ultimately lies?

What Strieber and the other inner space astronauts present is a scientifically pursued esoteric spiritual practice that mirrors the highest practices of ancient religions. Some would say that this is simply an atavism best left to the historical record – but there is evidence that this might not be the case.

UFOs and Intelligent Plasmas

“We are in communication with aliens with a very flexible body composition…”

One of the most difficult elements of Whitley Strieber’s experiential narrative is the fact that it flies in the face of the so-called ‘nuts and bolts’ hypothesis for contact with non-human intelligence. Although there are instances that seem to indicate some sort of physical craft – like so many experiencer reports these occasions fit within a wider experiential set that blurs the lines between inner and outer experience making it difficult to shoehorn them into any easy categorization.

It might surprise many readers that this ambiguity is also found in nearly all of the attempts to scientifically examine the UFO issue. There have been a number of serious scientific attempts to directly engage with the phenomenon and each of them has come up against the curious fact that while some of the data indicates a physical craft may be involved, what is far more common is an encounter with what appears to be psychoactive and self contained instances of electromagnetically activated ionized gases – or intelligent plasmas!

Take for example the research conducted by Harley D. Rutledge, former head of the physics department of Southeast Missouri State University:

51b5S3ZBsuL._SX340_BO1,204,203,200_“While he was generally noncommittal on the nature of the UFOs his team recorded, (Harley) Rutledge did relate that the discs and lights observed in the daylight by the teams were obviously plasmas. In his summary he wrote, “The plasma balls seen in daylight certainly suggest remote control.”

Perhaps the oddest finding of all was that everyone on the research team was convinced that the objects responded to being observed. The project cites 32 cases where the UFOs directly responded to the ground station observers. Rutledge and his team concluded that the objects were aware of their presence and would interact with them, sometimes seemingly toying with them.

As the project began to wind down, Rutledge noted in later interviews that some balls of plasma, 2-6 inches in diameter, would actually follow him around and even appear inside buildings. He found, as do many people who become intrigued by the UFO phenomenon, that the deeper you go into it, strange things begin happening.” (15)

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Spartanburg Herald-Journal – Nov 23, 1977 (16)

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The Milwaukee Journal – Dec 28, 1973 (16)

A similar long term research project conducted in Hessdalen, Norway also points to the possibility of UFOs as some kind of unique plasma phenomenon:

“Hessdalen lights (HL) are unexplained light balls usually seen in the valley of Hessdalen, Norway. In this work, it is suggested that HL are formed by a cluster of macroscopic Coulomb crystals in a plasma produced by the ionization of air and dust by alpha particles during radon decay in the dusty atmosphere. Several physical properties (oscillation, geometric structure, and light spectrum) observed in HL phenomenon can be explained through the dust plasma model.”(16)

Italian astrophysicist Massimo Teodorani, who has actively worked with the Hessdalen Light phenomenon, expands on this through a speculative analysis in his book The Hyperspace of Consciousness where he discusses the possibility that this kind of coordinated plasma phenomenon could lead to intelligent or conscious plasmas, saying that:

“…it might be possible to hypothesize that if really plasmas too are able to become in certain conditions real Life forms, then a part of them might evolve towards forms of intelligence that is more or less sophisticated. The consequences of such an hypothesis would be really disruptive, because then for any life form (even intelligent) based on plasma a planetary atmosphere would be an almost irrelevant prerequisite to make them live, as there should be no need of a “habitability zone” for as we have conceived it until now in the ambit of canonical projects such as, in particular, the SETI Project. According to this scenario Life forms based on plasma might truly live everywhere in the Universe. If this were effectively the case all the planets of the solar system – even those with the most poisonous atmospheres – might indifferently harbor life forms of this kind. As it happens on the Earth the trigger – we could denominate it as a “midwife” – for the birth of such plasma forms starts from natural mechanisms due to the geophysical conditions of the soil or underground, to atmospheric mechanisms or to both.” (18) 

While we need to be clear that this is a speculative hypothesis, it certainly fits with experiencer narratives such as Whitley Strieber’s and others, and more so it fits with some of the developments we are seeing in attempts to outline the physics of information. By looking at both the theoretical work in this area along with more detailed analysis of the research conducted at Hessdalen and within Harley Rutledge’s work on Project Identification we may discover an entirely new way of looking at what it means to be human and more so what it means to be alive.

Those familiar with Dr. Diana Pasulka’s book American Cosmic: UFOs, Religion, Technology (Oxford University Press, 2019) will know that there is much more to this question – as she outlines additional research into alleged ‘UFO materials’ that complicates a simple reading of the phenomenon as psycho-active plasmas. These complications are a reason for celebration, however, as they help us to maintain the mystery that has lead us as a species through an incredible course of development. Our quest to understand our place in the universe – and more recently our quest to expand our domains into space challenge us to stretch our boundaries beyond simple binaries like physical and non-physical and into more holistic realms of investigation.

Physicist Paul Davies speaks to these possibilities in a recent Guardian article on his upcoming book,  The Demon in the Machine. As he puts it, “when you look at a living system, the way information is managed is very far from random. It will show patterns that could lead us to a definition of life. We talk about informational hallmarks and these might be used to identify life wherever we look for it in the universe.” (19) Is it possible that a deeper analysis of the UFO enigma could play a part in our understanding of this? From the implications we seen in the data related to psycho-active plasmas there is a very real chance this may be the case!

Our Science is Totally Irrelevant to Aliens

“The only people on Earth who might begin to understand an ‘alien‘ mentality would be those who distance themselves as much as possible from the realm of ‘human’ action, the better to see alternative perspectives.” – Peter Levenda, Sekret Machines: Gods – An official Sekret Machines investigation of the UFO phenomenon, p. 342 (To the Stars, Inc., 2016)

Jose Canseco’s alien non-sequiturs on Twitter provide a wonderful opportunity for us to take a very cursory and surface level look at a few interesting angles in the contemporary history of space travel. As I read over this piece there is so much more that could be said, so many other explorers, scientists and creatives who have in their own small way contributed to this process.

As we move further into the 21st century and become more comfortable stepping beyond our artificial and self-defined limitations we may finally come to a science and a spirituality that allow us some relevance to these hypothetical aliens. Aliens that in many ways may represent something far more human than we can conceive in our present state of awareness.


(1) https://twitter.com/JoseCanseco
(2) Abraham Loeb, Our Future in Space Will Echo Our Future on Earth, Scientific American, January 30th, 2019
(3) https://www.nasa.gov/hrp/bodyinspace
(4) Back cover synopsis, Cyborg: A Novel by Martin Caidin  (W.H. Allen, 1973)
(5) http://www.guicolandia.net/files/expansao/Cyborgs_Space.pdf
(6) Psychic Explorations: A Challenge for Science, Understanding the Nature and Power of Consciousness, ed. Edgar D. Mitchell (Perigree, 1974)
(7) https://people.com/archive/edgar-mitchells-strange-voyage-vol-1-no-6/
(8) Robert Monroe, Journeys Out of Body (Anchor Books, 1977)
(9) William S. Burroughs,  from Civilian Defense in The Adding Machine, p. 105 (Grove/Atlantic, Inc., 2013 )
(10) http://www.faena.com/aleph/articles/william-burroughs-on-how-our-dreams-prepare-us-for-space-travel/
(11) William S. Burroughs, from an interview Recontre aver William Burroughs, Eric Mottram (Les Langues Modernes (Paris) Jan/Feb, 1965) and found in Conversations with William S. Burroughs (Univ. Press of Mississippi, 1999)
(12) Whitley Strieber, Communion: A True Story (Avon Books, 1987)
(13) Jeffrey Kripal, The Secret Body, p 314 (University of Chicago Press, 2017)
(14) http://whitecrowbooks.com/books/feature/electric_light_phenomena_associated_with_a_dying_or_deceased_person_by_anne
(15) http://www.apmagazine.info/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1031&Itemid=53
(16) https://www.anomalyarchives.org/public-hall/collections/files/project-identification/
(17) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S136468261000218X?via%3Dihub (17A) http://www.hessdalen.org/reports/hpreport84.shtml
(18) http://www.buzzwordbooks.com/hyperspace-of-consciousness.htm
(19) https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/jan/26/i-predict-great-revolution-physicists-define-life-paul-davies


Martin Caidin’s novel The Final Countdown features the now infamous U.S.S. Nimitz in a plot centered around trans-dimensional time-travel. Caidin was also featured in Loyd Auerbach’s book Mind Over Matter: A Comprehensive Guide to Discovering Your Psychic Power, which details his later experiments in Psycho-Kinesis.

In 2012 I had the opportunity to have dinner with the late Carol de la Herran, who was at the time president and executive director of the Monroe Institute. Our conversation completely changed the way I saw Monroe’s work and these areas of research in that Carol was one of the most stable minded and focused executives I’ve ever met – and yet she was also completely comfortable with the role that psychic development played in her daily life. As one of the original team members in Robert Monroe’s experimental groups she had spent a good portion of her life working in these modalities and had completely integrated them into her professional and personal life. It’s easy to dismiss these areas of experimental development until you meet and spend time with the researchers, executives and scientists that have been seriously working in them – after such a meeting one is forced to consider the implications that there might be more here than we would expect based on the public conversation.


Outer Phenomenon and Inner Journey – A Review of David Halperin’s Journal of a UFO Investigator

Posted in > BLACK CADILLAC REVIEW by David on February 2, 2019

This review was originally published in 2011 through The Revealer, New York University’s online journal of religion and media.

Riddles chased mysteries, were chased by enigmas, around and around my brain.

–from Journal of a UFO Investigator (Viking Press, 2011)

On June 24, 1947 the U.S. Air Force pilot Kenneth Arnold witnessed a series of angular, wedge shaped objects skipping like saucers across the sky near his plane. Although he described them as angular or wedge-shaped, from his statements about “a pie tin cut in half” the news reports gleaned the word “Flying Saucer.” The media’s misrepresentation of his description stuck, defining the iconic image of the UFO for decades to come.

Journal-of-a-UFO-InvestigatorAmbiguity from eye witness accounts, media misrepresentations, ‘expert’ analysis, and the phenomenon itself, pervades UFO culture at every level.  On this unstable ground David Halperin builds his debut novel, Journal of a UFO Investigator, weaving the tale of young Danny Shapiro as he experiences alienation and personal growth inside the shifting realities of 1960’s UFO research and its heretical place in the cultural struggles of the mid- to late-20th century.

As a noted religion scholar specializing in traditions of heavenly ascent and the heretical messiah Sabbatai Zevi, Halperin may seem like an unlikely candidate for authoring a debut novel about UFOlogy. In truth, however, his expertise allows him to uncover some of the more perplexing and valuable aspects of the UFO narrative, and show how even at its most flimsy, the cultural phenomenon surrounding UFOs can provide real insights into the human condition.

UFO encounters, like apparitions of the Virgin Mary, have in themselves very little effect on the culture at large until they become woven into the fabric of our shared experience. The event itself is usually deeply subjective and, if any outward effect is seen, the changes they produce in the culture are based on fueling individual action and response.  While the Virgin Mary often unites Catholic communities with her appearance, alienation soon follows anyone whose experiences move outside of cultural norms. UFO’s don’t share the orthodox dignity of Marian visions.

Halperin skillfully develops the complex interplay of experience, belief and expression that comes from investigating the unknown against a backdrop of Cold War nuclear fears and the dramatic social changes of the 60’s. As a religion scholar Halperin finds UFOs as harbingers of mystery and personal transformation.

Although there are passing allusions and nods toward genre tropes, this isn’t a book about a super team of UFOlogists encountering astounding alien life, there’s no rogue intelligence agents on the hunt for the truth against global conspiracies, no well funded establishment society dedicated to uncovering the secrets of nature, there is just a boy and his descent into the mystery of life.

At play here is Halperin’s understanding of spiritual traditions, specifically the traditions of divine ascent within esoteric Judaism. While most of us are familiar in some way with the nuts and bolts concept of UFOs as extraterrestrial air craft, there exists a much more varied study of the phenomenon in regards to transpersonal experience. Halperin’s skill is to take the most popularized outward expressions of UFOlogy, the hollow earth theories, contactee narratives, time travel, abduction phenomenon, and show their connections to much deeper, and more respected, traditional narratives of life, death and visionary experience.

These concepts provide insight into the real life phenomenon itself through their interplay in the narrative.  Danny’s journal and his investigations are spurred on by the literary influences in his life, the spurious Shaver mysteries published in Fate Magazine, Gray Barker’s dubious investigations of the ‘Men in Black,’ the early accounts of the Roswell incident, all set against his Jewish upbringing and an increasing interest in biblical studies. As his focus shifts from UFOlogy to the Bible, so too does his interpretations of the strange experiences he relates.

These influences affect how his creative imagination encapsulates the very real emotional pain he faces through his dying mother, and the self effacing alienation of growing up Jewish in the Anglicized society of 1960’s America. In the mirror world of his journal, Daniel experiences a Dantean descent into hell with all the trappings of his UFOlogical career.  The novel presents a powerful, fictionalized exploration of the same psychological mythopoesis that occurs in real life encounters with strange phenomenon.

Halperin’s use of some of the most popularized and cartoonish aspects of UFOlogy to frame what is essentially Daniel’s initiation into life, allows the novel to address wider questions on the legitimacy of the UFO phenomenon itself. Serious studies such as Jung’s psychological analysis of the phenomenon, or Jacques Vallee’s methodical investigations, are left as unspoken influences allowing the narrative to develop a valuable philosophical meditation set against the most trivial aspects of the UFO culture.

Much can be learned from how we conscience the unknown. The Cold War framed UFOs against fears of advanced technology in the hands of enemy forces. As political negotiations between the Soviet Union and the United States pressed on, and the possibility of space flight became a reality which altered the nature of international relations, UFO’s became a third party overseeing a globalized vision of humanity.

For some Evangelicals who address the phenomenon, UFOs are demonic entities signifying the End Times.  For some occultists and esotericists UFOs are transdimensional entities capable of being called up through ritual and intent. For psychologists they represent mass delusions and the power of suggestion.

In all cases the unknown nature of the phenomenon provides ground for ideological development. Something happens, an event is witnessed or experienced, either individually or within a group, and due to the inexplicable nature of its occurrence a potent narrative can emerge that channels all of the unconscious pressures latent in the participants’ lives.

When this process is put through the mass media the effects are much more pronounced. Halperin is well aware of this, and uses the novel to explore how something like the Shaver mysteries, a fictionalized account of subterranean demons called the Dero and their war with the Elder Gods that was published in Fate Magazine during the late 50’s and early 60’s as an ostensibly true tale, can lead to people perceiving real encounters with these beings.

Here one can sense his understanding of heretical movements coming to play. Halperin’s study of false Messianic movements gives him a wonderful understanding of how charismatic visionaries can lead mass movements with signs and wonders. The subtle application of this understanding of the UFO phenomenon, and the gentle respect for the heretic, allows the book to explore some of the more absurd aspects of UFOlogy while fostering an atmosphere of existential dread suitable to the reality of Danny’s emotional development.

It also allows Halperin to address the very real personal transmutation that can occur, even when the impetus for it is based on false assumptions. As a nexus for the interplay of fact and fiction, UFOlogy provides a very potent ground of study. Danny works through his hardest youthful trials in the inner world woven around his UFOlogical career. Life’s ever present pain, which finds no answers in his mundane existence, becomes the impetus for a fantastic quest in the phenomenal world of his imagination.

Halperin’s novel shows how understanding this relationship provides a way to move around the stalemated arguments of religious fundamentalism and atheism, by addressing the manifestation of central mystery that both science and religion seek to answer.  For him the essential struggle with our mortality and the mysteries of death provides a common ground between the paranormal, science and religion. In the imaginal interstices of the outer world and inner world we find the expression of this mystery, and it is this interstice that is often ignored by mainstream science and religion.

This is a novel about the power and emergence of new myths, and the growth of contemporary narratives around timeless phenomenon. It is also about our relationship with the mystery of death, and the constant, subtle reminder that our transience “will always be inside.” More than a mere fictional flight, Halperin has given us an interpretive methodology for approaching anomalous phenomenon, and a touching reflection on the painful rewards of awakening to the beauty of our mortality.

David Halperin’s website: https://www.davidhalperin.net

To read David Halperin’s “The Myth is the Mystery: Reflections on Annie Jacobsen’s Area 51,” posted at The Revealer, click here.

The End Times Terror of Four Blood Moons! (Super Wolf Blood Moon Redux)

Posted in > BLACK CADILLAC REVIEW by David on January 15, 2019


Dispensationalist Christian ideology has given birth to some incredible charts covering the various world ages culminating in the Tribulation and Rapture of the church. A consecutive series of Blood Moons in 2014-2015 coinciding with key holidays on the Jewish calendar lead to the publication of a number of dubious prophecies, including Evangelical firebrand John Hagee’s bit of amped up apocalyptic Christian Zionism, Four Blood Moons – the celestial event also blessed us with an astounding array of imagery associated with the eclipses.

Now for your education and enjoyment as we approach a rare Super Wolf Blood Moon on January 21st, 2019 – here is a carefully curated selection of some of the best Dispensationalist images invoking the paranoiac wonder and end times terror of…


(Click on the thumb nails to enlarge) 


All images copyright their respective creators.

Special thanks to Maja D’Aoust, whose mention of this terrifying tetrad provided the original inspiration for a version of this post back in 2015!

*Note: While the end times panic contained in these images is a bit out of date – a simple substitution of the term ‘Super Wolf Blood Moon’ for ‘Four Blood Moons’ in the images can help to stoke at least a sense of the frenzied terror these eager evangelists hope to induce. 

Films for a New Age – Experiments with Uri Geller (1973)

Posted in > BLACK CADILLAC REVIEW by David on December 29, 2018

In the course of research I ran across this lovely advertisement from the Institute of Noetic Science offering universities and scientific research organizations the opportunity to rent the film created during the Stanford Research Institute experiments involving Uri Geller:

Screen Shot 2018-12-29 at 4.42.51 AM.png

Noetic News – The Newsletter of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, Vol. 1, Issue 1, November 1973 (1)

Just imagine (or remember) – there was a time when you had to be associated in some way with a university or research center, send a $100 deposit, wait for IONS to get your deposit, wait for IONS to process the request, wait for the film to come, arrange for a projector and room to watch the film and then send it back to IONS – rather than simply typing Uri Geller into a search engine and watching the footage at will:


Experiments with Uri Geller (Stanford Research Institute, 1973)

Now imagine what would happen if the ‘Geller Effect’ hadn’t been defused and tempered through a multi-decade campaign of organized skepticism:

“From the very beginning of Mr. Uri Geller’s appearance in Europe and the United States, strange phenomena have been reported by various individuals who witnessed Mr. Geller’s live demonstrations, or saw him on television, or listened to him on the radio. These reports stated that, on following Uri Geller’s instructions, they too were able to bend metal objects simply by stroking them and willing them to bend, without applying any physical force whatsoever. Other reports referred to clocks and watches, which have not been going for many years, starting to “tick” once again without the direct physical intervention of Uri Geller.

The reports also stated that in many instances the metal objects or watches reacted without being touched or stroked, and at a time subsequent to the broadcast or demonstration. It would appear that Uri Geller triggered off an inherent latent psychokinetic ability, on a hitherto unprecedented scale, in the population group that either saw him or listened to him. It is to this phenomenon that one refers as “The Uri Geller Effect.”

At the moment it is not possible to be certain whether the Uri Geller Effect is due to the psychic ability of Mr. Uri Geller alone or to the arousal of latent psychic powers within the individual who experiences the Uri Geller Effect.”(2)

(1) http://www.ebdir.net/enlighten/ions_newsletter_vol_1_no_1_11_1973_h.pdf
(2) The Uri Geller Effect, E. Alan Price, M.D. (South African Institute for Parapsychology, Johannesburg) https://www.urigeller.com/scientific-paranormal/the-geller-papers/the-uri-geller-effect/

Note: Link to the video for Experiments with Uri Geller courtesy of James Iandoli (Engaging the Phenomenon)



Anomalous Americana —  Contemporary tales of strange happenings in the lives of everyday individuals

Posted in > BLACK CADILLAC REVIEW by David on December 6, 2018

Lexington, GA – Photo: Dominique Joyner

The following selection of items is gathered from the outer edges of contemporary culture. These curated flowers of human experience represent areas that are often unseen or passed over by those who stick to the main roads of the vast American continent — but I think you will find that if you approach them with an open mind they provide a deeper understanding of the joy that can be found in ‘liminal analytics,’ a term used to describe the fine art of exploring the ‘unattended, invisible, and overlooked.’

Erase from your mind history channel dramatizations, inept experts parading through graveyards, television psychics emoting around an asserted haunting, and return to the simple act of storytelling that has always been the center of Fortean investigation. Even the most powerful myths existed first as stories, experiences recounted in a shared word between friends, family and strangers.

With the rise of communication technology it’s easy to miss the importance of mundane encounters. Stories act as a well of meaning where we can sink a whisper of some local memory, shadows playing past events, personal recollections gathered while investigating the borderland between real and imagined. We encounter them every day, meaningful, coordinated incidents measuring a slow rhythm in time, subtle glimpses of a possibility that strange, structured narratives underlie our common lives.

Spending time at Liminal Analytics office, stories seep from the walls louder than karaoke at the local bar down the street. The other night while walking through the alley out back I heard hints of a passionate and unnerving country version of Purple Rain emerging from that bar, proof we’re face to face with the regularity of everyday anomalies here.

In honor of those local memories at the root of any anomaly, here are a few personal recollections from folks I’ve met while traveling the margins of Georgia — stories straight from the mouths of their tellers, ungarnished, translucent tales of strange happenings in the lives of everyday individuals…


The Circle That David Drew — A Story of Synchronicity (Source: C. Barts, Walton County, GA) –

C. Barts was given the secret of talking out fire from a woman his wife knew so he could heal one of his kids. He lead our office in Pleading the Blood as a protection against malicious spiritual influences when I worked at a charismatic food ministry — and he shared with me this memory while we were talking about just how weird the world really is:

“Growing up, my best friend David, and I had a mutual friend named Brandon. All three of us went to school together, played baseball on the same teams, and went off together on the weekends. We were what most would call pretty tight. We had each others’ back.

As with most friendships at school, David and I went one way and Brandon went another. He and his family eventually moved out of the school district to the other side of the county. While it wasn’t that far, as kids it seemed forever away. All three of us kept in touch as much as possible, but that eventually faded away until communication was almost nonexistent.”

“It had been a little over a year since we had last heard from Brandon. One evening David and I had been out with some friends, and I ended up at his house to crash for the night. At around midnight the phone rings awakening us both from our sleep.

I hear David say,”Hello?”

“Hey man, what’s up? It’s been a long time”.

There was a pause and then he said “Well hang on one second let me get something to write your number on and I will call you back tomorrow”.

I hear some papers shuffling on the night stand in between the two beds as David pulls a high school football program from the pile, the kind with pictures of the players and cheerleaders, and about a million ads from local businesses.

He flips open a page in the dark, writes down a phone number, writes Brandon’s name above it, draws a circle around it and says, “Got it, I will call you tomorrow. Bye.”

The next morning came on fairly uneventful. Around mid-morning David and I were just sitting in the living room watching television when the phone rings.

This time his mom answers from the other room. We here bits and pieces of the conversation and hear more than a few times “Oh, my gosh.”

She hangs up the phone and walks in where we are parked on the couch. She looks pale. With tears in her eyes she whispers, “You’re not going to believe it, but early this morning Brandon was shot and killed by his step father…” and tells us of the proposed funeral arrangements.

We were sitting there in shock when suddenly David bolts up to his room. He emerges with the football program he’d grabbed the night before when Brandon had called. He looks at his mom and says, “He just called me last night…” while shuffling pages looking for his number.

Suddenly a look of terror overcomes David’s face as the book falls to the floor. I say, “David what is it?” and his only reply is “Holy crap!”

I pick up the book and begin to look for the number myself. What I find I can’t believe. There was Brandon’s name and phone number written on an ad page for the very funeral home where his body would lay in rest. The circle that David drew around Brandon’s info also included the exact location, out of many in the county, of the funeral home his service was held at.

All we could do was stare at one another in disbelief.”

Born With A Veil — Apparitional Encounters, Seership and Healing in the Life of a Local Spirit Doctor (Source: Preston, Walton County, GA) –

“I believe in the unknown, because to me not to believe in the unknown is to not believe in God. I can’t see him ‘neither, but I know he’s there and I can see him working.

1-f7jIzQmdKMuaECwy4i7nfwNow some people are afraid of ghosts, they don’t like to talk about them none. I tell them, now I believe in the Lord too strong to be worried about any of that.

I believe in ghosts because my daddy believed in them. He was born with a veil over his face, they say that folks born like that can see things, he used to heal kids with the thrush.

One time we was at the bus stop, and he tell me “Look over there…”

Pointing to a man standing across the street at the other bus stop, he was standing with his back turned to us so you couldn’t see his face. My daddy said “That’s a ghost…”

And I said “Now how in the world can that be a ghost? That’s a man standing there solid as me.”

He said, “Nah, that’s a ghost. You ain’t never gonna see his face, watch…”

So we did, we sat there until our bus come, whole time the man just stands there with his back to us. My daddy he said “Now wait, we’ll let this one pass, we’re going to sit here until his bus come.”

So we did, we sat there until his bus come, still that man never did turn or move. My daddy say “Now watch…”

The lights inside the bus was bright, you know, and I watched, but I never seen him get on the bus. When it drove away, he was gone. Now I tell you I ain’t seen him get on, but he was gone when it left.

We had an apartment in Atlanta, it was up on the second floor. There was a balcony off the back, you know, but no stairs coming up to it. One night I hear something kick at the balcony door and it bust open, and I hear someone screaming “Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh!” real loud, you know. I run out there on the balcony and I’m looking down all over the alley, but I ain’t seen nobody. We was two stories up, now if somebody been there I’d a seen ‘em.

My daddy he come out and said “Boy, just leave it alone. It’s just a ghost, it don’t mean no harm.”

He moved in one place, and they weren’t so peaceful, they threw him out. He seen something there one time, and after that he just left the place and wouldn’t go back in. My sisters had to go get the furniture and all the stuff, he tell them “I ain’t gonna go back, no matter what. They can have the furniture and all the rest, I ain’t messin’ with that.”

When he was a boy they used to bring kids over with the thrush to see him, he blow three times in their mouths and they was supposed to get healed. He told me that it used to work back then. They said peoples born with a veil could do things like that.

I ain’t seen nothin’ like that since he passed. Not that strong, but sometimes you see those things out of the corner of your eye, you see it, feel someone pass, but you look again and there ain’t nothin’ there.”


He’s the seventh son of a seventh son — Traditional Healing in Oglethorpe County Georgia (Source: Walter McCannon, Oglethorpe County, GA — 2015)

Walter McCannon’s great-great-grandfather, Daniel Webster Paul, was born the 7th son of a 7th son.

Although he died in 1932, people in Oglethorpe County Georgia still remember the miracles that occurred when ‘Doc’ Paul laid hands and prayed.

“They took armchairs like this and they tied sheets between four chairs and laid the baby there, they couldn’t handle it. Every time they’d handled it it would go black and blue. So my grandmother…his grandmother found out about it, she said he was like four or five years old. She said I’m going down there, he’s the seventh son of a seventh son, and said I believe the Lord will take care of this baby. She went and got him as a little bitty boy, and made him sit there and play with the baby, just touching him and all. From that moment when he left from that moment on they could handle the baby and from then on they always knowed, they called him Grandpa Doc, his name was Daniel Webster Paul.

That’s how he got his name Doc.

And I’ve heard my grandfather talk about cutting metal with a chisel, and it flew back on his sister and burnt her arm. And his momma was pretty strict back then, and said “Adam what you done done to Ophelia?” He said, “well I done cut a piece of hot metal and done burned her arm, I’m going to Grandpa Doc’s.” And she said “That’s the thing to do” and he said that’s was the last thing his ma said about that.

And said that when he got there, he would sit there and rub, Aunt Ophelia told me this now, sit there and he said rub and said “If the Lord Jesus was here he’d touch your arm and he’d take all this pain and all out.” And he sat there and rubbed it and next thing you know it, and she showed me, she said you see a scar, and there wasn’t no scar or nothing. Took the fire out of that thing.

There was a guy with warts on his feet, she would talk about that he couldn’t walk and he’d come to school with rags tied on his feet…and all. And she convinced, as a little girl, convinced that school teacher to let the school out one day to go to her Grandpa Doc’s store. He run that old store, and he went over there and he rubbed his feet and everything and lo and behold it cured it right up. There’s just story after story…

Continue your explorations into the back-roads and by-ways of the American Spirit with:

Weeds, Herbs, and Hog Fat: Ed Craft (1913–1996), ‘folk doctoring’ in Sulphur Springs, Texas —  https://davidmetcalfe.wordpress.com/2018/11/08/weeds-herbs-and-hog-fat-ed-craft-1913-1996-folk-doctoring-in-sulphur-springs-texas/


Weeds, Herbs, and Hog Fat: Ed Craft (1913–1996), ‘folk doctoring’ in Sulphur Springs, Texas

Posted in > BLACK CADILLAC REVIEW by David on November 8, 2018

Warren Robert ‘Hank’ Vine of Sulphur Springs, Texas provides this beautiful memory of his uncle, Edward Craft — an isolated and marginalized figure in the local history of Sulphur Springs who was at one time known to family members as an effective herbalist and healer:

1-z48Hi745mTuV_bFIehH_Lw“I was often told growing up that I would be like my uncle Ed. He passed away in my early teens, I knew him fairly well, but not exceedingly well. By the time I was old enough to actually get out and about and go visit him and stuff like that, and I was pretty much the only one that did visit him ever.

He was pretty senile. Couldn’t really carry on the most lucid conversations. In hindsight I wish I would have spent more time with him and taken more notes, because he was reputed, or my grandmother always described him as being a folk doctor, one the family would go to when they had illnesses. I wish somebody was alive I could actually get the correct details on this from.

Although it may be in some of my mother’s notes — they’re such exhaustive notes I don’t know if I could find it. It would take a year to find it. He had some incident when he was a child, like he was 6 or 7, where he fell gravely gravely ill, after it he was partially deaf, I want to say blind in one eye. I could be lying to you on that. I want to say blind in one eye. I know later in life as an old man he was nearly completely blind, but, after the near death experience for lack of a better word apparently he had a degree of insight, an understanding of herbs and poultices and what not.

I don’t think mama put down a whole lot of information in regard to his ‘quote unquote’ healing practices. No one referred to him as a witch or a wizard or anything of that nature. Ed used what my grandma would call, ‘niggra medicine’ or ‘widow healing’. I never gave it a lot of thought growing up.

1-7aGmTwPJoX7QXq3mLSndhgI can always remember my grandmother talking about her brother Ed, her little brother Ed, or Eddie as she would call him a lot of times, could heal anything. Animals were sick, he could take care of them, you know when one of the family got sick, Ed would figure out something, he’d go to the woods, he come back with some weeds, herbs, mix it with some hog fat, make it alright type thing.

I can remember those stories, those are all stories that are passed down and how accurate, i don’t know. The genuine article is never labeled as hoodoo or magic or anything like that. It’s a subtle and unspoken undercurrent to the fabric of peoples lives, often times I don’t think those who carry on the traditions even think of them as a magical, it’s simply what grandma and grandpa did.

He hated having his picture made, never came to Christmas, never anything, was a complete recluse, and other than my mother and I very few of the family went to visit. I think everything he had probably got dozed when the house he had was bulldozed. I don’t think anything got taken out of the house.

1-udeSEa6ukDyfh6YUaWYeNgI would say later in life he was, how would you say, ostracized by the family, I think in hindsight. My grandmother would speak of him, about when he was a child, but I cannot recall – at least in my memory – my grandmother going to visit him. I do not recall him ever being at a family function, Christmas, birthdays, Thanksgiving anything of that nature.

As I can remember, when I got up old enough to kind of get around, sneak around and drive, I wasn’t old enough to drive, but I was still driving. I would take you know thanksgiving dinner, christmas dinner over to him. Generally my mother and I were the only ones to go and visit him.”

By the way folks – turns out Hank’s family was right – he did turn out a bit like his uncle! For more on Hank Vine and his relationship the Santa Muerte (Saint Death) devotional tradition check out:

Photography of Faith – Santa Muerte in Sulphur Springs, Texas

10 Años Enalteciendo a Nuestra Santa Muerte – Reflections on the 2017 anniversary celebration for Santa Muerte Internacional from Hank Vine

Originally published on Medium. 


I Come to the Garden Alone – Pentecostal Reflections on Trance Mediumship & Spiritualist Practice

Posted in > BLACK CADILLAC REVIEW, > SOUND by David on October 7, 2018

Voice excerpt from Don Basham’s sermon ‘Occultism: The House of Satan’


” I come to the garden alone
while the dew is still on the roses,
and the voice I hear falling on my ear
the Son of God discloses.

And he walks with me, and he talks with me,
and he tells me I am his own;
and the joy we share as we tarry there,
none other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of his voice,
is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
and the melody that he gave to me
within my heart is ringing. (Refrain)

I’d stay in the garden with him
though the night around me be falling,
but he bids me go; thru the voice of woe
his voice to me is calling. “


Physical medium Sylvia Howarth creates spirit art, Reeth, England, 2013. (Photograph: Shannon Taggart, SEANCE – Fulgur Press, 2019)

Something as old as the ground she is rooted in – Hank Vine on life and Saint Death in Mexico City

Posted in > BLACK CADILLAC REVIEW by David on May 11, 2018

My good friend from Sulphur Springs, Texas — Hank Vine is in Ecatepec — sub-metro Mexico DF — he writes:

1*UiqBa_fh-T07CPBwzkGHwwPenche camiones —

The hybridization of taxi and micro-bus. There are countless ways to face unexpected danger at any given moment here, one in particular is the transit trucks, they are a hail as needed service.

Meaning there is a constant flow of people coming and going, on and off, businessmen, grandmothers, goth punk kids, and a steady flow of folks selling candy or ice cream or whatever.

It is a hard sell, they shove it in your hands as they pass. Then if you don’t want chiclets at that moment you hand it back and usually do not make eye contact.

Some folks are just trying to hustle to put food one the table, but there is without question a segment of these “vendors” who are genuinely dangerous folks.

Its the static. The kid high as fuck on glue begging a few pesos with an apparently funny story about a failed bathroom visit.

The dude with a bag of bitesize chocolates — 5 for 10 pesos. You have to be a quick judge of a person when they step on the penche camion as much as be prepared for an impact from the rear as we attempt to rejoin traffic.

As I write – Looking at a wreck

Taxi bus collision.

We all say a prayer for the person on the stretcher, and run the next three red lights.

Cathedral Chimes

All this is in real time

Waiting at this light, really sketchy looking cat gets on. He is pushing chiclets. Tattoo of flaca on his right forearm.

Two kids. One maybe 16, the other 10. Hustling mentos candies. Hard sale. Desperate. That is the penche camion.

1*GBFCxrO_zg4fdABjhFAR7gBeing in an epicenter of femicide, I see the sense of “awareness of surroundings” on the faces of women, young and old. It is not fear, or even resignment to an unacceptable and unavoidable fact of life ( that life in general, and here female life in particular, ain’t worth much) — it is determination and pure fucking grit etched in the faces of women I pass on the street.

There is a collective spirit that pulses in the backstreets and under yellow tarps as the aromas of street food, fruit, raw meat, bizarre offbrand cigs and weed and a thousand other unidentifiable scents all mingle into a sweet stench that is the scent of that unexplainable something.

The DF is as deadly as it is beautiful, with that, as untold numbers before me have already stated — the average working class person faces a daily life not unlike the worst parts of Dallas or Chicago or Minneapolis, the difference is in how folks deal with the situation.

Here, folks are smart/cynical enough that no one trusts the cops or expects any help from them, so the only leaves divine protection which makes for a very crowded playing field.

We took a trip to Tepito to get a crown for the statue in Dallas. While watching all the antics of the self appointed traffic cop for the corner, a camione that had the correct placards for where we needed to go pulls up.

We hop on like any other time, it is crowded as hell, so I stay standing.. The driver turns and comments on my Santa Muerte garb. I smile and say thanks, he is not the first driver to have SM garb and statues.

But this took a different turn. He offered me the most honored yet dangerous seat on the bus — by the front door, basically on the dash. I was humbled and shocked.

I introduced myself, took a good long look at this cat, he was no angel, but he is the flesh and blood example of that spirit that persists here.

It is something that I think is present in any environment where the common people are desperate as fuck, SM is in the States, but aside from a handful of folks who are really in touch with her gritty real world, blood on her robes aspects, they are just shadow boxing.

The driver, I will call him “chilango” went about his route like any other driver, we chatted as best we could. I helped a half dozen elderly folks on and off at stops, a few people mistakenly gave me the bus fare when all I was doing was offering a supporting hand as we went lurching back into traffic.

After about ten minutes we are at a light and stopped, he hands me a small multicolored bracelet, I gaze on it admiringly, when I go to hand it back, he motioned no, and I understood it was a gift.

In return I managed to detatch the first SM medallion I had purchased. There is so much left unsaid, without smelling it, tasting it, seeing it in the eyes of a stray dog, it is difficult if not impossible to convey.

1*5QsD17P2xqoQbHacUQ_JZQI do believe that same spirit is in the States, but it is feral, and still very wild, it is going to take the right folks with the strongest hearts and the weakest egos going into the streets, walking the homeless camps, really fucking doing something, not reading what bullshit I am posting on Facebook and taking my words for any value.

My words are shit, everyones words are shit. If there are true diehard devotees in the North of the border English speakers, they will go to their knees and they will go to the streets.

Here la Santisima is in the streets, not in a store — yet business is one extremely important, if not dominant, aspect of what I understand as Santa Muerte.

Mexico City is a very crowded marketplace for saints looking to make a sale. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting an image of San Judas. Flaca, she’s a lot harder to find in terms of stores and whatnot. But I pass as many people sporting SM items as I do San Judas.

I honestly am not sure how or why Santa Muerte manifested in the time and place she did, but I am certain that the entrepreneurial spirit is somehow connected. Tepito has been a market area since precolumbian times, SM is something as old as the ground she is rooted in here.

There is something to be read — if only I could translate it.

Hank Vine
Ecatepec de Morelos, Los Estados Unidos Mexicanos
May 11th, 2018