Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Magic, Mysticism & The Molecule: The Search For Sentient Intelligence From Other Worlds

Book Review: Magic, Mysticism & The Molecule: The Search for Sentient Intelligence from Other Worlds by Micah A. Hanks (2010 Gralien Report)

Here is a fair to good book by a young author. It is mostly a speculative exploration of these subjects which is fairly inclusive and quite interesting in parts. He proceeds more from the perspective of an outsider than an insider, but not totally so. He comes across as an investigator of the paranormal more than a spiritual practitioner although his summary of mysticism is quite interesting. The subject of the book is really the human experience of the supernatural and altered states of consciousness. Drugs, magic, mysticism, alien abductions, dreams, near-death experiences, and out-of-body experiences are all covered.

The section on magic emphasizes the aspect of magic that seeks communication and interaction with beyond-human intelligences. He focuses on the work of the famed medieval mages Dr. John Dee and Edward Kelley who practiced scrying with mirrors and reflective stones and claimed to have contacted angelic intelligences in what has come to be called Enochian magic. This style and lore has become a significant part of the overall Western Esoteric tradition since then as others have claimed to have experienced visions with this system. Dee utilized a crystal ball-like stone but also apparently an obsidian artifact that Cortez had brought back from the Aztecs. Kelley was the medium and Dee transcribed what has come to be called the Enochian language. Some of the transmissions were said to come from a child-like angel called Madimi that Dee first encountered. Also examined are the mystical out-of-body travels and communications of the Swedish mystic Emmanuel Swedenborg and of the physician William S. Sadler who beginning in 1911 worked with a group where trance-communications resulted in what we now know as – the Urantia Book – which as the author notes seemed to bridge the contact between ideas of angelic communication and alien contact. (“I thought that they were angels but to my surprise we climbed aboard their starship and headed for the skies. Come Sail Away...” - Styx from the 1978 Grand Illusion album). Also examined are Aleister Crowley’s attempts at magickal contact that he called the Amalantrah Working where an ‘entity’ known as ‘Lam’ was encountered. Crowley was able to draw a picture of the entity – a portrait as he called it. Interestingly this drawing, made in 1918 has come to look much like aliens have been depicted by contactees and abductees – looking very similar to depictions of  the “Grays” as they have come to be known. A protege of Crowley, Kenneth Grant further developed the search for praeter-human intelligence into a priority of sorts and refered to the ‘Cult of Lam’ where Lam is considered to be a gateway to deeper levels of consciousness. The author then notes the somewhat similar attempts – through the same Thelemic magickal tradition – of Jack Parsons and sci-fi writer (and founder of Scientology) L. Ron Hubbard who attempted to evoke the goddess-form of Babalon into a human incarnation form. Even though Parsons was involved in rocket science and research and Hubbard was interested in sci-fi and as the author points out – that the birth of the UFO movement came about right at this time (1947) – I don’t see this as so much a means to contact an alien intelligence as was the Amalantrah Working. Parsons wanted more to usher in a time and situation where suppression of women and sexuality and all the attendant suffering that goes with it would be lessened and opportunities for ecstatic magickal practice and subsequent positive transformation of society would ensue. The author covers a few more contactee experiences before moving on to the next topic.

The ancient Greek Oracle of the Dead at Thesprotia was mentioned by Herodotus, Homer, and later by Strabo. A place fitting the description was excavated this century and is thought to be a subterranean place where people went to visit the spirits of the dead seeking oracular wisdom. The author describes this through the work of Raymond Moody – who is known for his work with near-death experiences and communication with the dead. He mentions attending a conference put on by Moody with other occult notables in attendance. The notion of the Oracles at Delphi where the oracle-priestess known as the “Pythia” was lowered into a cavern to retrieve the oracle (possibly being influenced by hallucinogenic gases) was one method. Here the place seemed to be associated with seeing and hearing the dead. At Thesprotia there was found to be a large bronze cauldron surrounded by a banister deep in the underground complex. Although Dakaris, who excavated the site, thought that an oracle was inside the cauldron occasionally springing up to spout predictions, Moody studied the ancient traditions a bit and came to the conclusion that the cauldron was probably filled with liquid and used as a reflective surface for scrying. He devised such a device with mirrors and dim lighting arranged in such a way that the person gazing does not see their own reflection but depth. He based this on legends of the ‘psychomanteum,’ a mirrored room meant to enhance communication with spirits. Moody had been searching for such a device as a way to help people communicate with dead relatives seeking healing and closure. Apparently he refers to his method as “Psychomanteum Grief Counseling.” The author then goes on to recount some experiments with the psychomanteum setup that were organized by his friend Josh Warner. In these scrying experiments they also utilized what is known as the “Ganzfeld technique”, where ping pong balls cut in half are placed over the eyes (sometimes in addition to headphones) in order to increase sensory deprivation. This is said to assist one inducing a theta brain wave state – often associated with deep meditation. Apparently though, there were other variables between sessions, one which  involved the use of a Van de Graff generator – which sends out electrical charges.
The author then proceeds to compare these experiments with those of Dr Rick Strassman in his book, “DMT: The Spirit Molecule,” which describes experiments where people were given the hallucinogen DMT (dimethyltryptamine), a naturally occurring substance possibly produced in the pineal gland in the brain. These experiments yielded interesting results where similar types of hallucinations were experienced. These included clowns, cactus people, and insectoidal beings – often experimenting on the person in a clinical setting and are thought to strongly resemble accounts of alien abduction. Strassman and the author both speculate about naturally occurring DMT release being a source of mystical experience – though this makes a huge assumption that mystical experiences are sourced in neuro-chemical phenomena.

Another chapter notes history and spiritualist-type experiments with Ouija Boards, Seance, and Automatic Writing. These are thought to contribute to experiencing a dissociative state or a trance state where normal cognition is absent for a time. Certainly unusual things have happened with these techniques and can likely be attributed to the state of receptivity of those who experience them.

Next the author attempts a quick history of the development of Mysticism – from ancient Greece through the now familiar Eastern forms through to some more modern and holistic accounts. He takes much from scholar (and Golden Dawn member) Evelyn Underhill from her famous book about Mysticism. She defined mysticism as union with the Absolute (which suggests a theistic approach) but similar definitions reach back to Plato and Pythagoras who talked about “Henosis” and union with the Monad as the Monad or the number one was regarded as the first cause, the origin. Next he goes through the structure of Buddhism as a foundation for mystical experiences although he does note the exhortation in Buddhist texts not to put too much faith and meaning in one’s paranormal experiences. He goes through Underhill’s five stages of awakening one’s consciousness to – Divine Reality: First is the – Ecstatic Discovery – often accompanied by sensuality and intense emotions; Second is the stage she called – Purgation – where one realiized one’s limitations in comparison to the limitlessness of the Infinite. When one sees the illusoriness clearly the response is typically in increase in self-discipline and effort; Third is the stage called – Illumination – characterized by “a certain apprehension of the Absolute, a sense of the Divine presence, but not true union with it,” according to Underhill; Fourth is the – Mystic Pain or Mystic Death – which seems to describe the ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ idea attributed to St. John of the Cross. The author also mentions Mother Theresa who stated that she once felt the presence of God but during much of the latter half of her life she did not sense it and so had to do her good works with a lurking sense of uncertainty. I remember her talking about this not long before she died. The fifth and final stage is the actual - Union with the Divine – which Underhill says can and has been confused with the third stage of – Illumination – which is more associated with ecstatic experiences. The author also interviews the writer of the book – Inner Paths to Outer Space – medical oncologist Slawek Wojtowicz. When asked for sadefinition of mysticism Wojtowicz gave some interesting dialogue – that the goal of mysticism is to discover the ‘Truth’ and that it can’t be communicated, only experienced. He also talks about the metaphysical terror of experiencing the ultimate loneliness as being a type or a temporary perception of mystical experience.

So-called ‘methods of entry’ are next discussed. Meditation is covered as well as its occasional by-products such as ESP. He mentions various accounts of expanded consciousness and expanded senses (ie seeing and hearing for miles). He talks about Hindu Swami Prabhupad’s book – Easy Journey to Other Planets – where yogic methods such as blocking the escape routes of prana through the orifices with breath retention and other methods – can aid out-of-body travel. This type of travel to other planets and deva realms is also mentioned in the Vedas. Also discussed are yoga as mysticism and the notion of ‘tulpas’ or thoughtforms that can possibly be perceived by others as physical entities if they are generated with sufficient energy and skill. Regarding thoughtforms he mentions the 1901 book by Theosophist authors Annie Besant and Charles Leadbetter which I read as a teen and remember rather fondly. They described two effects of thoughts as “radiating vibration” and “floating forms.” They noted the effects of emotions on thoughts and the ensuing thoughtforms. These thoughtforms have also been used as a means of explaining ghosts and paranormal activity and possibly UFO phenomena as well. Jung’s idea of the ‘active imagination’ is invoked to explain our various interactions with thoughtforms. He contrasts Jung’s idea of randomly generated thoughtforms of the subconscious with the intentionally created thoughtforms of spiritualists. Jung tied thoughtforms to his idea of universal forms, or Archetypes. Jung also considered the early UFO phenomena to be psychological in nature, with much of what was seen being mental projections. Also described is a historical occurrence of a mystical Hebrew Kabbalistic technique for creating a thoughtform in the story of the – Golem of Prague – where the golem, or thoughtform was created as a clay figure that was to magically manifest and help fight off anti-Semetic blood libels occurring at the time (1500s) in Eastern Europe. The technique was meditative in nature and involved use of the reputed magical powers of the Hebrew letters. Sleep paralysis experiences are also discussed in this section where perceived ‘entities,’ whether mentally projected or real, are experienced. He also compares some cultural definitions of mental illness and shamanic vision – where they are not said to be similar – as among Eskimos and African Yoruba. Dr. Ronald Siegel’s studies of hallucinations are also mentioned – particularly hallucinations provoked by trauma and life-threatening stress. Prisoners of war, rape victims, survivors of near-fatal accidents, victims of robbery, and even UFO abductees have all experienced such hallucinations. Among the phenomena experienced in Siegel’s study of eight victims were: “flashes of light, geometrical patterns and shapes, and tunnel forms.” Tactile-kinesthetic hallucinations and encountering past memories and friends from childhood were also encountered. One gang member while being tortured experienced out-of-body experiences.

The title of the book uses Evelyn Underhill’s two methods of engaging the unseen: magic and mysticism. Hanks adds a third – the Molecule. Here he refers to the entheogen, also known as the ‘god-releasing’ molecule. He gives a history of man’s long and varied engagement with psychedelic drugs in the quest for meaning and knowledge. Of note are the notions, especially among South American shamans, of the plants themselves being inhabited by an entity that shares the magic of the plant. An interesting idea brought up is that of ‘biological communication’ among plants with not only other plants, animals, and humans but with beings from distant galaxies – receiving them as signals from space. The author notes some experiments where this is one explanation of the results. He notes the possibility that:

“... some kind of intelligent spirit communication may occur between plants, active psychedelic molecules, and humanity.”

Hanks notes some interesting dreams he had that could possibly be interpreted as communications from so called ‘psychedelic molecules.’ He also notes the account of Albert Hoffman who accidentally discovered the effects of LSD-25 which he considered a rather useless derivative of ergot. Five years after first synthesizing it Hoffman intuitively had the idea to make it again and submit it for testing. It was during the final phases that he accidentally absorbed some through his fingertips and experienced the hallucinogenic effects.

Hanks also notes the rather uncanny similarities between alien abduction scenarios and DMT trips. The DMT accounts are said to be frighteningly real. The interesting thing about DMT as a pychedelic molecule is that it is already present in our bodies. It is also the simplest of all these molecules. Dr. Strassman seems to think the DMT molecule has an agenda and message for us, either individually or perhaps collectively. Mantis-like beings, elves, and reptilian beings are often described in DMT accounts. These strange appearances and parallels have led some to think that perhaps alien, or praeter-human intelligences, are communicating these images to us for some particular reason. Mantis-like aliens occur quite a bit in alien encounter accounts. Whether these experiences and entities derive from outer space or inner space is not really known. The idea that they are somehow archetypal or subconscious idea-forms is also a possibility explored.

The last main chapter on High-Tech shamanism describes the ideas of Tesla – who thought that his electrical generators could perhaps communicate with other worlds. Tesla envisioned a ‘Teslascope’ to communicate afar – somewhat similar to the SETI idea. Tesla’s work with intense electrical fields may have presaged the possible psychic effects these fields could have on humans under certain circumstances. Also examined are the intuitive sci-fi notions of the famed horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft connected electrical fields and the pineal gland with inter-dimensional communications in his book – From Beyond -. These connections may have some relation as Dr. Rick Strassman speculates when interviewed by the author. Michael Persinger’s experiments with electro-magnetic energy applied to parts of the brain are also examined with the resultant experiences of ‘presences’ of entities. He notes that stimulating the cortex can evoke ‘infantile memories’. Also mentioned is a book by Alvin Lawson called- Birth Trauma Hypothesis – which purports that alien abduction scenarios may tap into birth memories.

Overall, this book brought up quite a bit of interesting research, accounts, and various ways of looking at paranormal and mystical phenomena. It was perhaps not overly thorough and not much in the way of conclusions or new ideas were brought up, but for an overview of the state of things – it was OK.

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