Last week, the Society for Scientific Exploration held its thirty-seventh annual conference, this time in combination with the International Remote Viewing Association. The two organizations focus on fringe science claims about psychic powers, the mysteries of consciousness, alternative energy, alternative medicine, etc. You will of course recognize the SSE as the publisher of Edge Science, a magazine whose articles about ancient astronauts and related claims I have had occasion to criticize more than once. Well, at last week’s conference in Las Vegas, Dr. Hal Puthoff gave a lecture on his work for To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science and the Pentagon’s UFO program. Like the secret showman that he has long been, he hinted at things he refused to say and used blanket claims about government classification to avoid dealing with provable details to support his implications and allegations. However, he accidentally led me to the solution to the mystery of To the Stars’ secret “alien” metal alloy that they have been promoting since last year.
I get a lot of press releases each week, and most of them are either useless, off-topic, or so obscure that they go directly into the trash. But yesterday I received one about a “new” claim that the historical King Arthur had been discovered (yet again), and I felt compelled to follow it up with a bit of investigation because it struck me immediately that there was nothing new about it. To begin, let’s take a look at what the press release has to say:
As I continue working on my All About History article this week, I am cutting back a bit on the blog. I’ve finished the article proper, but the magazine needs me to research three sidebars, including technical annotations of Nazi weaponry, and provide nearly two dozen high-resolution photographs. It’s a bit of a challenge just finding the time to scroll through the photo libraries for the right images.
Today I am working on my All About History article on Hitler’s wonder weapons, so you are getting a rerun. This past week, Scientific American published a piece by Darren Naish exploring the origins of Mokèlé-mbèmbé, the legendary Congolese monster supposed by many cryptozoologists to be a living dinosaur. Nash correctly attributes the development of the myth to the dinosaur mania of the early twentieth century, the same impulse that led Conan Doyle to write The Lost World around the same time. But neither in the blog nor in his book Hunting Monsters (according to a text search in Google Books—I haven’t read the book) does Naish discuss the story that has long served as “evidence” that the monster predated twentieth century adventurers’ stories. Therefore, I present my discussion of the eighteenth century French account of Mokèlé-mbèmbé’s monstrous footprints. I originally wrote this in 2012, and the text below is the revised and expanded version presented in my 2013 book Faking History.
DMT Dialogues: Encounters with the Spirit Module
David Luke and Rory Spowers (eds.) | 352 pages | Park Street Press | Aug. 2018 | ISBN: 9781620557471 | $18.99
On Saturday, I wrote a bit about Jason Silva’s recent interview with the Daily Grail discussing awe, wonder, and the connection between altered states of consciousness and the experience of the sublime. I was somewhat critical of Silva’s approach, but after I published my post, Silva contacted me to talk about some of the issues involved. We had a productive and interesting conversation, and I was impressed that he was well-informed and thoughtful in considering some of the more challenging areas of the quest for the sublime. That’s really unusual for a TV personality. Trust me on that. I went to school with enough of them, and have met still more. Silva and I likely won’t agree completely, but it was a refreshing change from the usual round of vitriol and threatened lawsuits from the people whose work I’ve discussed on this blog to have an actually enjoyable conversation. Be sure to check out Silva’s YouTube channel, Shots of Awe, where he posts his thoughts about truth, beauty, science, and philosophy.
What Jason Silva's "Daily Grail" Interview Tells Us about Drugs, the Sublime, and the Quest for Meaning
Since this is apparently the week of mystical thinking, and my week of upsetting the rich, powerful, or famous, I figured that I should finish up by discussing the strange interview with television personality Jason Silva, best known from NatGeo’s Brain Games, that ran in the Daily Grail earlier this week. While not exactly interesting in and of itself, except as a portrait of a hyperverbal person talking faster than he thinks, it speaks to what I think is the grander underlying theme that is driving so much of the conversation around the fringes of science. Sadly, it’s the same theme that has circled science for a century: the quest to replace religion with something—anything—that might restore some magic and enchantment to the world. Sometimes I find that as I write about a subject, my views change. This was a case where I started out amused and ended up kind of angry.
The Miracle Club: How Thoughts Become Reality
Mitch Horowitz | 192 pages | Inner Traditions | Oct. 2018 | ISBN: 978-1-62055-766-2 | $16.99
Not long ago, I reviewed Gary Lachman’s book Dark Star Rising in which the former Blondie bassist explored Donald Trump’s belief in New Thought, a distinctly American philosophy of wishful thinking in which “right” thought influences the physical world in a magical way. Now TarcherPerigree’s editor-in-chief and occult writer Mitch Horowitz—who published Lachman’s book—has a parallel volume, The Miracle Club, casting the same set of beliefs in a much more positive light, treating New Thought as a complete spiritual path to attaining your heart’s desire. “I argue in this book that, for all its shortcomings, and for all its being disparaged by critics as a dogma of wishful delusion, New Thought, in its essentials, is true—and can be tested in your experience,” he writes. “This is a book of practical use.” It is also a book of practical self-delusion that risks substituting hope for hard work and expectation for experience.
This week, I am busy working on my All About History cover feature, so I don’t have a lot of time for blogging. Instead, I will share with you today a report from the unreliable tabloid Metro about what Ancient Aliens star Giorgio Tsoukalos is reported to have said a few days ago at the annual Contact in the Desert gathering of Ancient Aliens stars and their hangers-on. According to the paper, Tsoukalos was rather blunter about allegations of proof of extraterrestrial visitation when speaking to a friendly crowd than he is when opining on television.
I have been waiting a very long time to report a fun and fascinating story of the “true” origins of the Necronomicon, and now I finally can! Several years ago, Jeb J. Card shared with me some of his intriguing research into the influence of the so-called “Curse of King Tut” on H. P. Lovecraft’s work as well as some conclusions he drew about the parallels between a particular episode in the history of the curse and Lovecraft’s fictitious history of the Necronomicon. I haven’t said anything about it because I have been waiting for Card to publish his findings, which are now in print in the compelling new volume Spooky Archaeology, published this month by the University of New Mexico Press. With the material in print, I can share with you how I accidentally translated the “real” Necronomicon and lived to tell the tale.
Joe Rogan’s podcast made headlines this past week for what did not happen on it. Roseanne Barr canceled her scheduled appearance on the podcast, which was supposed to have been a key part of her apology tour after her racist tweets resulted in ABC pulling the plug on the sitcom she starred in. On the day Roseanne was supposed to have appeared, Rogan interviewed Robert Schoch, the Boston University geologist famous for endorsing nineteenth century views about the origin of Egypt’s Great Sphinx. The interview lasted for three hours. I will be entirely honest: I find it harder and harder to sit through such lengthy, mind- and butt-numbing slogs through pretentious fantasy. If Avengers: Infinity War couldn’t convince me to sit still for three hours, an equally ridiculous science fiction fantasia with no special effects and no action certainly would not. That’s why it took me several days to plow through it.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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