Anthony Alvarado‘s “D.I.Y. Magic” ran as a column for this website in 2010-11. In 2011, it was collected and expanded into book form through Floating World Comics, with 40 illustrations (curated by FWC’s Jason Leivian) and a cover designed by Lord Whimsy…
With that initial edition of 1,000 copies now sold out, Anthony has signed a deal with Perigee Books, an imprint of Penguin, to bring a revised, second edition of D.I.Y. Magic to the public in Spring 2015. This new edition will have about 50 pages of new material, with accompanying artwork again curated by Jason Leivian.
Congratulations, Mr. Alvarado!
D.I.Y. Magic is the third book to see publication in recent years after debuting in some form in Arthur. The others are 25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom (Abrams, 2009), a social history/polemic by Alan Moore based on his article “Bog Venus vs. Nazi Cock-Ring: Some Thoughts Concerning Pornography” from Arthur No. 25 (Dec. 2006); and the novel Zazen by Vanessa Veselka (Red Lemonade, 2011), which was serialized on this website in 2009-10. Zazen won Veselka the 2012 PEN/Robert W. Bingham prize.
D.I.Y. MAGIC by Anthony Alvarado 40 b&w illustrations, cover design by Lord Breaulove Swells Whimsy First edition letterpress silver foil cover limited to 1000 copies, 176 pages, 5″ x 8″, $13.95 Shipping $5.30 US, $11 INTL, $8 CANADA Now available to order
What is magic? It is the fine and subtle art of driving yourself insane! No really, it is just that. It is a con game you play on your own brain. It is the trick of letting yourself go crazy, and when it’s done right, the magus treads the same sacred and profane ground where walks the madman…
We can read descriptions of myths, of the practices of shamans, but the descriptions we might read by a Pentecostal believer, or a voodoo practitioner ridden by the loa, will be meaningless to us unless we have already been in the state they describe. These are wholly subjective experiences.
If you take these many practices, from across countless fields, cultures, religions, modes of being and systems of ritual (hypnosis, song and dance, duende, speaking in tongues, enchantment, faith healing, divination, out of body experience, sweat lodges, drumming, yoga, drugs, fever and on and on), we find that we are really talking about the same thing: a state where the mind lets go of the normal way of being and is opened up to an experience of existence as a whole that is bigger and without time. These states are all really different forms of the same thing, or if not the precisely the same thing, then near and adjacent territories in a realm that lies parallel to this one, reachable by many means.
In short, rather than advertise this as a book of magick, it could just as well have been labeled a book of psychology hacking. Or a cookbook. Think of it as jail-breaking the iPhone of your mind. Teaching it to do things that its basic programming was never set up for. Advanced self-psychology.
Featuring over 40 b&w illustrations by: Lala Albert, Farel Dalrymple, Ines Estrada, Maureen Gubia, Kevin Hooyman, Dunja Jankovic, Aidan Koch, Jesse Moynihan, Luke Ramsey, Ron Rege Jr. & more!
“What makes this book vastly different from many other books on magic is that there’s no doubt in my mind that the author has actually done the things that he says he has. What’s more is that he has derived a great deal of pleasure and meaningful experience from the doing. And, so will you.” – Aaron Gach, Center For Tactical Magic
“Anthony Alvarado has concocted a cookbook for vivid living: poetry that’s lived rather than written. His “spells” are actually practical suggestions by which the reader may coax the extraordinary from the everyday—and from themselves.” – Lord Breaulove Swells Whimsy, author of The Affected Provincial’s Companion
“Few books are as immediately useful as this delightful, inspirational tips ‘n’ tricks tome. I’m having a backyard betel nut party in five minutes and everyone’s invited!” -Jay Babcock, editor of Arthur Magazine
I recently spoke with John Zerzan, the leading voice in the Anarcho-primitivist movement, at his home in Eugene, Oregon. He is the author of several renowned books on green anarchy including Elements of Refusal and Future Primitive. Zerzan is well known for his association with the Unabomber but I wanted to hear what he had to say about the current state of primitivism and where it is headed. — Anthony Alvarado
(This interview has been shortened for brevity. Particularly a long discussion on the Paleolithic age has been cut from the transcript.)
In a nutshell, what do you believe in? I associate you with anarchy and primitivism. How do you define those?
Well, the stuff is called by those terms. Green anarchy and Anarcho-primitivism. Some native friends of ours call it neo-primitivism, or anti-civilization, and there are some differences but roughly there is one common current there. And speaking of the anarchist part there’s a big split and it’s not just here it’s all over the map, between the more classical, traditional left, red anarchist . . . one of the most fundamental things is their approach is self managed production, self manage the factories – well our approach is against industrial life, against factories qua factories for several reasons: one is the suicidal course of things – we can’t just keep industrializing, so that’s obviously where the green part comes in. There is a big split. Like say Noam Chomsky is on that leftist side.
He’s an anarchist?
Well perhaps, he’s . . . I don’t know exactly what he is. He froths at the mouth when people bring this stuff up in an interview, and they do all the time now because it’s spreading I think. He just really, doesn’t get it, doesn’t like it, he won’t have any discussion about it. In other words it’s not just some sectarian squabbling it’s a very fundamental difference.
What criticism does Chomsky have as an anarchist towards green anarchy and primitivism?
Well one of the things he always brings up – and I use Chomsky as a kind of foil or reference point because so many people know who he is, and they think – well they’re all Anarchists it’s cool and so forth– he comes up with the 7 billion people thing and that’s a reality obviously. He says we are genocidists, he really get’s kind of hysterical about it.
He’s saying “Well you guys have a plan to kill 6 billion people.” ?
Exactly! And consciously not just – that would happen as a result if you went that way but , I mean it’s quite amazing! The way I would put it though, I mean I’ve been around, I’ve even been in India a couple of times in the last few years, when I look at those tower apartment block things where people have been forced off the land into cities and if and when this crashes they’re gonna be dead in a few days. They have no land. They have no . . .when the power goes off, the food spoils, they have no water . . . we’re concerned about that. If you ask me the genocidist thing is just ignoring that and plunging on as the crisis deepens in every single sphere.
So this idea of returning to a society based on primitivism, based on sustainability, critics would say well there is no way we could do this without these cataclysmic violent changes – do think that there are alternative ways of getting there from here?
It couldn’t happen overnight. And nobody’s saying that. And Chomsky knows that. Yeah, it would be a process of re-skilling people and seeing some kind of autonomy instead of just the hopelessness that we have now where everybody is dependant on systems of technology that are quite vulnerable but we just keep blindly going along.
The Baal Shem Tov was the founder of Hasidic Judaism
The Dance of the Hasidim
At the festival of Simhat Torah, the day of rejoicing in the law, the Baal Shem’s disciples made merry in his house. They danced and drank and had more and more wine brought up from the cellar. After some hours, the Baal Shem’s wife went to his room and said:”If they don’t stop drinking, we soon won’t have any wine left for the rites of the sabbath, for Kiddush and Havdalah.”
He laughed and replied: “You’re right. So go and tell them to stop.”
When she opened the door to the big room, this is what she saw: The disciples were dancing around in a circle, and around the dancing circle twined a blazing ring of blue fire. Then she herself took a jug in her right hand and a jug in her left and – motioning the servant away – went into the cellar. Soon after she returned with the vessels full to the brim.
It is said the Sufi Muslim poet Jalaludin Rumi invented the whirling dance of the dervish when he was walking past a the sound of a goldsmith at work with his hammers. In the rhythm of the hammering he heard ecstatic music and he began to turn and to turn . . .
Here is a fantastic essay by Gary Snyder that resonates with a lot of what this column is about. Considering this essay was penned in 1970 it now seems a strange combination of prophetic, slightly naive, and yet still challenging. I recommend checking out more of Snyder’s non-fiction in his book A Place in Space.
Gary Snyder – Four Changes
Humanity is but a part of the fabric of life — dependent on the whole fabric for our very existence. As the most highly developed tool-using animal, we must recognize that the unknown evolutionary destinies of other life forms are to be respected, and act as gentle steward of the earth’s community of being.
There are now too many human beings, and the problem is growing rapidly worse. It is potentially disastrous not only for the human race but for most other life forms.
First, a massive effort to convince the governments and leaders of the world that the problem is severe. And that all talk about raising food-production — well intentioned as it is — simply puts off the only real solution: reduce population. Try to correct traditional cultural attitudes that tend to force women into childbearing — remove income tax deductions for more than two children above a specified income level, and scale it so that lower income families are forced to be careful too — or pay families to limit their number. Take a vigorous stand against the policy of the right-wing in the Catholic hierarchy and any other institutions that exercise an irresponsible social force in regard to this question; oppose and correct simple-minded boosterism that equates population growth with continuing prosperity. Work ceaselessly to have all political questions be seen in the light of this prime problem.
Share the pleasure of raising children widely, so that all need not directly reproduce to enter into this basic human experience. Adopt children. Let reverence for life and reverence for the feminine mean also a reverence for other species, and future human lives, most of which are threatened.
Pollution is of two types. One sort results from an excess of some fairly ordinary substance — smoke, or solid waste — which cannot be absorbed or transmuted rapidly enough to offset its introduction into the environment, thus causing changes the great cycle is not prepared for. (All organisms have wastes and by-products, and these are indeed part of the total biosphere: energy is passed along the line and refracted in various ways. This is cycling, not pollution.) The other sort is powerful modern chemicals and poisons, products of recent technology, which the biosphere is totally unprepared for. Such is DDT and similar chlorinated hydrocarbons — nuclear testing fallout and nuclear waste — poison gas, germ and virus storage and leakage by the military; and chemicals which are put into food, whose long-range effects on human beings have not been properly tested.
The human race in the last century has allowed its production and scattering of wastes, by-products, and various chemicals to become excessive. Pollution is directly harming life on the planet: which is to say, ruining the environment for humanity itself. We are fouling our air and water, and living in noise and filth that no “animal” would tolerate, while advertising and politicians try to tell us “we’ve never had it so good.”
Effective international legislation banning DDT and related poisons — with no fooling around. The collusion of certain scientists with the pesticide industry and agribusiness in trying to block this legislation must be brought out in the open. Strong penalties for water and air pollution by industries. Phase out the internal combustion engine and fossil fuel use in general — more research into non-polluting energy sources; solar energy; the tides. No more kidding the public about atomic waste disposal: it’s impossible to do it safely, and nuclear-power generated electricity cannot be seriously planned for as it stands now.
Stop all germ and chemical warfare research and experimentation; work toward a hopefully safe disposal of the present staggering and stupid stockpiles of H-Bombs, cobalt gunk, germ and poison tanks and cans. Laws and sanctions against wasteful use of paper etc. which adds to the solid waste of cities. Develop methods of recycling solid urban waste. Recycling should be the basic principle behind all waste-disposal thinking. Thus, all bottles should be re-usable; old cans should make more cans; old newspapers back into newsprint again. Stronger controls and research on chemicals in foods. A shift toward a more varied and sensitive type of agriculture (more small scale and subsistence farming) would eliminate much of the call for blanket use of pesticides.
Use fewer cars. Cars pollute the air, and one or two people riding lonely in a huge car is an insult to intelligence and the Earth. Share rides, legalize hitch-hiking, and build hitch-hiker waiting stations along the highways. Also — a step toward the new world — walk more. Boycott bulky wasteful Sunday papers which use up trees. It’s all just advertising anyway, which is artificially inducing more mindless consumption.
Refuse paper bags at the store. Organize Park and Street clean-up festivals. Don’t work in any way for or with an industry which pollutes, and don’t be drafted into the military
Everything that lives eats food, and is food in turn. This complicated animal, homo sapiens, rests on a vast and delicate pyramid of energy-transformations. To grossly use more than you need to destroy is biologically unsound. Most of the production and consumption of modern societies is not necessary or conducive to spiritual and cultural growth, let alone survival — and is behind much greed and envy, age old causes of social and international discord.
Humanity’s careless use of “resources” and our total dependence on certain substances such as fossil fuels (which are being exhausted, slowly but certainly), are having harmful effects on all the other members of the life-network. The complexity of modern technology renders whole populations vulnerable to the deadly consequences of the loss of any one key resource. Instead of independence we have over-dependence on life-giving substances such as water, which we squander. Many species of animals and birds have become extinct in the service of fashion fads — or fertilizer, or industrial oil. The soil is being used up; in fact humankind has become a locust-like blight on the planet that will leave a bare cupboard for its own children — all the while in a kind of Addict’s Dream of affluence, comfort, eternal progress — using the great achievements of science to produce software and swill.
Goals: Balance, harmony, humility — growth which is a mutual growth with Redwood and Quail (would you want your child to grow up without ever hearing a wild bird?) — to be a good member of the great community of living creatures.
It must be demonstrated ceaselessly that a continually “growing economy” is no longer healthy, but a Cancer. And that the criminal waste which is allowed in the name of competition must be halted totally with ferocious energy and decision. Economics must be seen as a small sub-branch of Ecology, and production/distribution/consumption handled by companies or unions with the same elegance and spareness one sees in nature. Soil banks; open space; phase out logging in most areas.
Plan consumer boycotts in response to dishonest and unnecessary products. Politically, blast both “Communist” and “Capitalist” myths of progress, and all crude notions of conquering or controlling nature.
The inherent aptness of communal life: where large tools are owned jointly and used efficiently. The power of renunciation: If enough Americans refused to buy a new car for one given year it would permanently alter the American economy. Recycle clothes and equipment. Support handicrafts — gardening, home skills, midwifery, herbs — all the things that can make us independent, beautiful and whole. Learn to break the habit of unnecessary possessions — a monkey on everybody’s back — but avoid a self-abnegating, anti-joyous self-righteousness. Simplicity is light, carefree, neat, and loving — not a self-punishing ascetic trip.
It is hard to even begin to gauge how much a complication of possessions, the notions of “my and mine,” stand between us and a true, clear, liberated way of seeing the world. To live lightly on the earth, to be aware and alive, to be free of egotism, to be in contact with plants and animals, starts with simple concrete acts. Simplicity and mindfulness in diet is a starting point for many people.
We have it within our deepest powers not only to change ourselves but to change our culture. If we are to survive on earth we must transform the five-millennia-long urbanizing civilization tradition into a new ecologically-sensitive, harmony-oriented, wild-minded scientific/spiritual culture.
Goal: Nothing short of total transformation will do much good. What we envision is a planet on which the human population lives harmoniously and dynamically by employing a sophisticated and unobtrusive technology — in a world environment which is “left natural.”
Specific points in this vision:
A healthy and spare population of all races, much less in number than today.
Cultural and individual diversity, unified by a type of world tribal council. Division by natural and cultural boundaries rather than arbitrary political boundaries.
A technology of communication, education, and quiet transportation, land-use being sensitive to the properties of each region.
A basic cultural outlook and social organization that inhibits power and property-seeking, while encouraging exploration and challenge in things like music, meditation, mathematics, mountaineering, magic, and all other ways of authentic being-in-the-world. Women totally free and equal. A new kind of family — responsible, but more festive and relaxed — is implicit.
Since it doesn’t seem practical or even desirable to think that direct bloody force will achieve much, it would be best to consider this a continuing “revolution of consciousness” which will be won not by guns but by seizing the key images, myths, archetypes, eschatologies, and ecstasies so that life won’t seem worth living unless one is on the transforming energy’s side.
New schools, new classes, walking in the woods and cleaning up the streets. Create an awareness of “self” which includes the social and natural environment. Consider what specific language forms, symbolic systems, and social institutions constitute obstacles to ecological awareness. Let no one be ignorant of the facts of biology and related disciplines; bring up our children as part of the wild-life. Some communities can establish themselves in backwater rural areas and flourish — others maintain themselves in urban centers — and the two types work together, a two-way flow of experience, people, money, and home-grown vegetables.
Investigate new lifestyles. Work with political-minded people where it helps, hoping to enlarge their vision, and with people of all varieties of politics or thought at whatever point they become aware of environmental urgencies. Master the archaic and the primitive as models of basic nature-related cultures — as well as the most imaginative extensions of science — and build a community where these two vectors cross.
We are the first human beings in history to have all of humanity’s culture and previous experience available to our study — the first members of a civilized society since the early Neolithic to wish to look clearly into the eyes of the wild and see our selfhood, our family, there. We have these advantages to set off the obvious disadvantages of being as screwed up as we are — which gives us a fair chance to penetrate into some of the riddles of ourselves and the universe.
As a follow up to my last article on floatation tanks, I recently sat down to talk with Christopher Messer, one of the founders of a new floatation center, called Float On in Portland, Oregon. A veteran of the floatation tank experience, Christopher believes the longer you experience sensory deprivation the deeper it goes. Since he has been floating and building his own tanks since 1977, he had a lot to say when I spoke with him on New Year’s Eve. Here are some highlights.
Does the law of diminishing returns apply to floating?
It’s an endurance thing. The longer you float the more you’re in Theta waves. And the more lucid you’re going to get. This is the same thing the Buddhist monks are trying to do. But this is it without falling asleep and getting the rap on the shoulder with a stick. When there is no external stimulation the internal mind has to take over. I’ve done a 13 hour float, and it just keeps going and going. Thought goes away, identity goes away. It’s about effortless doing.
I hate technique. The tank is all physiological. You’re autonomic nervous system takes control. 98% of everything you think about is repetitive anyway. You don’t need it. If you were on a deserted island for long enough thought would go away. The minute thought stops, presence takes over. The tank kills thought without effort, without technique. Our whole culture is based on technique.
So thought just becomes unnecessary, like flippers on land?
Thought knows that the minute it stops, presence takes over and thought dies. And thought will do anything to stop that. That’s why the tank is so perfect, you can’t directly get rid of thought. It has to leave without effort. It’s like a surrender, but don’t make it into a technique. Our whole culture is about becoming – you gotta get to the next level, “I got to get the degree, I got to get the house . . .”. Well good luck with that, cause it’s just made up anyway! The only time you’re truly happy is when you’re just being.
What would a culture look like where everybody floats?
That’s my dream. Our culture is about change from the outside-in. But you change it from the inside-out and it’s going to work. It’s funny, remember the Skylab in the 70’s, after the Apollo missions? They had these Americans out there floating in space, and they’d have Russians come out. But sometimes guys would be alone for weeks at a time. And mission control would call them and tell them to do stuff. Well, mission control found that they would do the tasks slower and slower. And then mission control would tell them to do stuff and they wouldn’t want to do stuff. And then mission control would call them and tell them to do stuff . . . and they would turn off the intercom!
You get space happy. It’s called break off point. Same with the U2 spy planes. They’d be up there on the edge of space. Close to zero gravity. And they would just lose interest in earthly things. They would stop believing in nationalism and just say – oh, well there’s the planet.
The floatation tank is still a fairly new device. Do you think people are going to come along and try to attach different techniques and codified ideas to the experience?
Well, it started out very scientific. But it very quickly became a mystic experience.
So yeah, people have used different techniques with floating: cyber vision, listening to learning tapes, holosync stuff. You can add on things, but personally I don’t like that. There’s nothing better than nothing. It’s so simple.
For millions of years we were just hunters and gatherers. We are not built for all of this. Language and time and self. That’s all brand new phenomena. When thought first came in, people thought they were hearing voices. Language started as a way to warn people. “Hey! There is a mountain lion behind you!” This evolved into language, but somehow along the way identity got involved.
Once you have language you can create an external analog of everything.
Yeah – I’m separate from everything else. I’m better. Then you’re getting into counting, keeping track of stuff, counting what you own. And the rest is history. I think once we got into agriculture that’s when we took a wrong turn.
So it’s New Year’s Eve 2010. What’s the future of floating?
Consciousness just wants to become more consciousness. This is what the tank is doing. There are areas that were once unconscious, and consciousness is saying – I want to be here.
We used to be in the Information age. Now we are in the Communication age. Consciousness is expanding itself. And the float tank fits that perfectly. Floating is just a way to get back to your natural state.
Most of the known techniques of altering and focusing human consciousness/awareness are thousands of years old. It is exceedingly rare that a new tool is discovered. And when one is, it takes a while for people to figure out how to use it. John C. Lily pioneered the floatation tank in 1954. The idea is simple. You lie down in a dark tub of warm water loaded with enough salt so that you just float there. With the body no longer sending sensory signals of any kind to the brain, the mind is freed to turn inwards. This revolutionary technique has not been widely investigated; not much has come from it other than the unfortunate 1980’s movie Altered States.
We should not be too quick to dismiss the floatation tank’s potential. The microscope was invented in 1590, but nobody really knew what to do with the darn thing. It was over 80 years before Antoni van Leeuwenhoek thought to use it on organic matter, thus discovering micro-organisms and revolutionizing biology and medicine. Currently floatation tanks are recommended to achieve perfect states of relaxation, but I suspect they may be capable of much more.
I got the chance to try one at Common Ground, a holistic wellness center in Portland. They have one of the older tanks on the West Coast, originally purchased in 1984 for 10,000 dollars. I spoke with Talina, the Spa manager at Common Ground, about who uses the floatation tank and why. She said, “Some people, mostly young guys, come in expecting to trip out when they try it, but that’s not really likely.” Her regular users report it’s great for a variety of ailments, from back pain to arthritis. She also described it as “training wheels for meditation . . . 1 and half hours in the floatation tank is equal to 5 hours of REM sleep.” Talina instructed me to be careful not to get any of the salt water in my eyes and to fully relax and let the water support my weight.
When I first entered the tank, the sensation of floating on my back effortlessly in the warm water was so startling that it was impossible to resist the temptation to play and wiggle around like a fish, enjoying the new sense of buoyancy (I have been trying with mixed results to teach myself how to swim in regular water for the past several months). In the salt water, it’s as easy as lying down on the couch. The water (with 800 pounds of salt) keeps your arms, legs, and torso floating up out of the water, which is shockingly only 10 inches deep! Even my head, when fully relaxed, was supported upright enough so that I didn’t have to worry about water getting in my eyes or nose. After splashing around for a bit I quieted down and settled in to the experience.
The tank was tall and wide enough so that I could fully stretch out my toes and arms and just barely touch the ends of the tub. The water is kept at a skin-receptor-neutral 93.5 degrees. The tub is lined with a plastic or rubber sheet like an above-ground swimming pool. Reaching down behind me, I found the bottom of the tank to be crunchy with salt. The air also had a sharp tang to it from the salt, it irritated my nostrils for the first few minutes but then I got used to it. Once I settled down and just let myself float there, I began to get the uncanny feeling that I was spinning, as though my head were suddenly veering off to the left or the right, like my whole body was beginning to whirl around. It wasn’t a violent sensation at all, but more like a gentle suggestion that seemed to fade when I paid attention to it. From time to time I would bob up against one of the sides of the tank and then, with a gentle push, float off in the other direction very slowly.
I was wearing ear plugs to keep the water out and it helped with sound reduction. It was pitch dark, which I have always found interesting to be not black but a very dark grey. The brain gray, or eigengrau, that is still perceived by the brain even in total absence of light. But the total absence of sound and vision is not something wholly unusual; most of us experience something as close to this as possible every night when we go to bed. It was the absence of weight and tactile information that was stunning. The idea of course behind all of this is that your body isn’t taking in any sensory information, that atention is free to go elsewhere. Think of the analogy of an overloaded computer that suddenly has shut down half of its programs, it’s bound to sudennly run a whole lot smoother. (Indeed you might extend that analogy and say that the point of practices such as meditation or floatation is to reboot the hard drive.)
At first I felt the bodily sensation of, well, having a body was greatly increased. This was strange, I had been told people have used the tanks for research into out-of-body experiences. (If you have had an out of body experience you can attest that they are often preceded by the spins.) If anything, I was more aware of the sensation of the physicality of my limbs and chest. I could hear my heartbeat and breathing louder than anything in the world.
Gradually however I adapted to the feeling of floating, and my arms, leg, neck and body seemed to melt away. I have a fleeting memory of the sort of images that linger from a half-forgotten dream: a river, a boat, lights, polar bears? And then I was startled from my trance by soft music indicating my session was over. An hour and a half had gone by as swiftly as a good night’s rest. Had I completely zonked out? If so, I was quite comfortable levitating on a bed of water, but the state seemed to me more akin to the strange trance-like fugue that I experience whenever I get acupuncture. A refreshing, revitalizing state resembling sleep, but one that is more conscious and more aware than sleep. I left the session with a definite feeling of lightness and nonchalance. In a word – high.
Floatation tanks are still a novelty; they are rare and the costs are prohibitive for most people. However, if you get the chance, the experience is definitely worth seeking out. The fact that nothing revolutionary had been found so far didn’t stop Antoni van Leeuwenhoek.
For more information, or to see if there is a floatation tank near you, check out these resources:
Many poets and all mystics and occult writers, in all ages and countries, have declared that behind the visible are chains and chains of conscious beings who are not of heaven but are of earth, who have no inherent form, but change according to their whim, or the mind that sees them.
– W.B. Yeats
The examples of UFO’s, ghosts, and whatnot that have been seen by the officials and authority figures is much too large to list here in this essay. In fact, cops and air force pilots seem to be UFO’s’ favorite targets! Jimmy Carter, the freaking president, saw a UFO. So what! It just illustrates that neither Authority nor a massive number of witnesses are not enough to convince the world at large.
Likewise, it does not matter how many people see the UFO or the blood-weeping Mary, or the Missing Link. It doesn’t matter if it is hundreds of folks day after day, or even thousands. It will be swallowed by time. (Perhaps this is simply because these experiences are always ephemeral – mysticism and the supernatural cannot readily be harnessed by capitalism to turn a profit; therefore it is unimportant to the point that it does not exist.) For example: In 1917 thousands of people witnessed UFO activity; at one point 70,000 people gathered to wait and watch at one location in Portugal after three children reported the Virgin Mary appearing there. The huge crowd, and indeed everyone within a 30 mile radius, reported seeing a swirling UFO appear. As one eyewitness described :
“It was seen by seventy thousand persons, among whom were pious individuals and atheists, clergymen and reporters from a socialist newspaper. As promised, it happened on October 13 at noon. Among the crowd was Professor Almeida Garrett, of Coimbra University, a scientist, who described the phenomena in the following terms: ‘It was raining hard, and the rain trickled down everyone’s clothes. Suddenly, the sun shone through the dense cloud which covered it: everybody looked in its direction. It looked like a disc, of a very definite contour. It was not dazzling. I don’t think that it could be compared to a dull silver disk, as someone said later in Fatima. No. It rather possessed a clear, changing brightness, which one could compare to a pearl. It looked like a polished wheel. This is not poetry. My eyes have seen it. This clear-shaped disk suddenly began turning. It rotated with increasing speed. Suddenly, the crowd began crying with anguish. The sun, revolving all the time, began falling toward the earth, reddish and bloody, threatening to crush everyone underneath.”
The website where I found the above description argues that this purportedly religious experience was, in fact, definitely a UFO. It goes on to argue that another similar case where children saw angels: “he appeared to be about nine years old, was dressed in a long, seamless blue robe, had a small face with black eyes, and fine hands and short fingernails,” was obviously not an angel but an alien.
How beside the point!
They are on the right path in realizing that the alien and the angel are perhaps the same thing, but to think that it must be only one or the other is as blind and foolish as the men in our earlier parable of the elephant. Continue reading →
Towards a Jungian Model of the Supernatural, part one
Let’s talk about paranormal activity. I want to take a look at some well documented phenomena, ranging from UFOs and Bigfoot to Ghosts and fairy tales; the idea here is to look for commonalities. We are going to take a very brief survey of the history of the paranormal this month, and pay attention to the common threads. From this I hope to weave a tapestry using Jungian psychology as a working model from which to consider the occult. My idea is that within the proper framework, many of these seemingly different kinds of phenomena are actually different facets or paradigms of the same thing.
There is an old fable that goes something like this: three blind men encounter something in the jungle, and they are trying to figure out what it is. The first man goes up to it and feels its legs, which are huge, and he says, “Well, what we have here are a couple of really big trees.” The second blind dude feels the tail of the large creature and proclaims, “You’re crazy, what we have here is a simple paint brush.” The third blind man reaches out and, touching the nose of the creature, declares, “Both of you must be loco! Even a blind man could tell you this is a boa constrictor.”
I would like to suggest that part of why the accounts of the paranormal appear so mysterious (and as we shall see baffling to the point of appearing silly) is because when considered just on their own, for example a specific account of Bigfoot or a UFO encounter, often smacks of strange, whimsical, and ridiculous details. Consider cow mutilation for example – the idea that sentient beings capable of traversing Space-Time have nothing better to do then anally mutilate cattle! Likewise a person who tries to build a theory that accounts for the literal occurrence of every known paranormal activity soon is tied up in the most absurd, illogical and paranoid pretzels. That leaves a middle path that few have trod. It is only by stepping back and looking at the big picture, and allowing our minds to play with the inherent contradictions, that the true picture begins to emerge.
Counting Coup, Part Two : A chat with Ill Odor about life on the road, doing time, Bigfoot, cops & roadkill. Read Part One here.
Once upon a time, personal power was tested against the backdrop of the wilderness. In this age whatever environment you find yourself in will do. I don’t want you to think urban exploration is the only way to go – so I want to mention Bill Soder (aka Ill Odor), a fellow I met on a recent bicycle tour while camping in the Redwoods. At the age when many people retire & buy an R.V. he has been pitting himself against the adventures of the road and the wild continuously FOR EIGHT STRAIGHT YEARS – bicycling from state to state, carrying everything he owns, and camping night after night. Before he started he was terribly overweight and sickly, and suffering from regular seizures. One of those cases where the doctor pronounces, “the end is near.” One day while watching TV he was seized with the inspiration to ride his bike into town for a cup of coffee. He told his son he was going to bike into town and his son scoffed, “C’mon Dad, you’re too lazy and fat to make it into town.”
Whereupon he vowed, “I’ll make it to the coffee shop – not only that, I’m gonna bike to the original Starbucks in Seattle . . . and get a fucking cappuccino!”
Since he had never done any bike touring before, and he lived in Boston, this statement was an intention of Counting Coup. Thousands of miles later he called his son from the Starbucks in Seattle and had the barista confirm his location and order. Since that day he has lost a ton of weight, and is feeling in better health than he has his entire life, and he says he is also happier now than he has ever been. He has cycled coast to coast a few times, and been up and down the Pacific innumerable times, and has (in his sixties) explored the deserts of New Mexico and the snowy mountain peaks of the Cascades, all of which his doctors would have pronounced impossible for a man with his conditions. Castaneda’s Don Juan would have said he has grown in personal power.
Here is a short audio interview conducted with Bill Soder about some of his adventures. The interview was conducted at Standish-Hickey Park, California by the author as well as two road companions who can also be heard asking questions during the interview—and who incidentally went down into the tunnel described in Part One.