Thoughts on James Randi and His Flat Earth Conference for Superstitious Dorks

I have a confession to make. Before I started writing for Disinfo about a year and a half ago, I wasn’t really familiar with James Randi. I’d heard his name come up a few times on the internet in comments threads regarding fringe spirituality, but that was about it. Much like Carl Sagan’s utterly retarded book The Demon Haunted World (which I make fun of here), I wasn’t super familiar with his M.O., but the more I delved into this stuff, the more I realized I was always going to have to deal with superstitious idiots referencing his “work”. So finally, a couple of weeks ago I decided to spend a minor amount of time on the interwebs actually digging into who this loser is and how he convinced a bunch of seemingly at least semi-intelligent people to passionately raise their pitchforks at anyone insinuating the legitimacy of psi. After roughly an hour digging I’d had enough and more to the point, all I can say is, errrr, wow, really? This fucking guy? You’re joking right?

Sadly, no. James Randi isn’t the sad internet joke he should be. People take this halfwit seriously (and all the world’s problems come down to men taking shit way too seriously I might point out). Lord, they’re even having a dumbass conference held in his honor later this week. They might as well call it the Wrong Side of History Conference, and guess what? He’s even got a feature film about his big brave adventures in being a closed minded twat coming out. With those things in mind, now seems like as good a time as any for me to point out that if you bring up James Randi in any sort of argument regarding the reality of psi-phenomenon or the potentialities of altered states of consciousness…ever, you’re making yourself look like a total philistine. Here’s why:

James Randi Isn’t a Scientist, Hell, He Doesn’t Even Have a College Education

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not a scientist either and I’m also by no means super proud of my educational background. I have a B.A. in psychology from a football school for God’s sake (go Buckeyes!), but that’d be the thing, I wanted to study basic aspects of human psychology such as altered states of consciousness in a higher educational setting. In attempting to do so I realized it was essentially impossible at the time due partially to the efforts of hardline materialist crusaders like Randi. He lectures at universities quite often apparently. So Randi isn’t a scientist, then what is his background then? Get this, he’s a stage magician. No, really. A fucking stage magician i.e. a practitioner of one of the most increasingly irrelevant forms of entertainment imaginable. I’m guessing stage magic currently ranks like maybe #508 in the top grossing fields of performance entertainment right behind, I don’t know, snowmobile jumping and agility competitions for dogs or something. I just looked at the entertainment section of  both the local Seattle alt weeklies. Gajillions of music shows, stand up comedy events, literature readings, films, etc. Didn’t even find a single listing for stage magic. Not even on the depressing casino circuit. Can’t say I’ve ever voluntarily gone to see a magic show in my adult life. Not once.

And what is stage magic really? Creating illusions, which is sort of why it’s become so irrelevant. You see, back in the day a lot of people watching stage magic did so under the impression that its practitioners were in possession of legitimate mystical powers. Now we know it’s smoke and mirrors. I mention this because it cuts to the heart of the problem with Randi. Part of the reason we know it’s all smoke and mirrors has to do with the efforts of people like Harry Houdini pointing that out to the public quite exhaustively. For a long time, when this sort of endeavor was far more profitable, there was a horde of acts in the field pulling the wool over the public’s eyes and claiming to have legit supernatural abilities. That’s how they made their cash. We all sort of forget this long history, because these acts don’t really exist anymore. I’ve not once in my life watched a stage magician who claimed he was doing anything outside the bounds of conventionally accepted science. But that’s where the history of Randi’s shtick is rooted, in magicians rivalry really, and that’d be the funny thing, it’s not even his own shtick. Randi just said, oh hey, Harry Houdini is so cool for exposing other magicians as frauds and being a staunch disbeliever in psi-anything. I want to do the EXACT SAME THING.

The problem is again, that I don’t see any stage magicians claiming supernatural abilities in this day and age, so why on earth would I be listening to a stage magician’s opinions on matters of science? Goes right in tune with why on earth would I be listening to an evolutionary biologist’s opinions on spirituality? More to the point, doesn’t this guy’s entire skill set and business acumen involve calculatedly creating illusions? Think about that for a minute and let it sink in. Under that guise, let’s review his famous million dollar challenge. This ruse is supposedly a triumph of rationality and science over superstition, but the fact that it’s done by a freaking illusionist should make it beyond suspect to anyone with even a thread of critical thinking skills. All of the “experiments” have to be done by his methods and using his equipment. That’s apparently a part of the challenge as I found out. No, it’s really that stupid and here’s where it gets spectacularly irrational. Three teams of scientists have studied psi-phenomenon at various institutions and concluded that there’s something there. We’ve got a team of scientists at the Sony Corporation, PEAR research labs at Princeton, and the remote viewing studies done by the US Military. Same conclusions. There’s something going on that doesn’t fit into our current paradigm of irresponsible consumerism. Another way of putting that would be, we know psi-phenomenon is real, but we don’t understand it much at all because we can’t find the profit margin which would pay for more research. Goes against everything we believe in.

And then you have Randi who doesn’t acknowledge the existence of any of these studies from what I can tell (hasn’t even looked at the data), but uses the calculated sleight of hand of his million dollar challenge to create the illusion that all this stuff has been proven to be nonsense scientifically. It’s a pretty convincing illusion, created by a professional illusionist (not a scientist mind you) with a stated bias against psi and a blatant monetary motive for inventing and perpetuating such a trick. People still bring it up to this day, just like they bring up how Doug and Dave created all the crop circles in the UK even though that turned out to be 100% crap. We want to believe in happy little lies so badly that creating these illusions is incredibly profitable (unlike psi), but from a truly scientific perspective, what’s more rational? Listening to the teams of scientists who studied conjoined mind telepathy, reading the data carefully, and talking about the implications of their research? Or instead continually citing the results of a magic trick perpetuated by a professional stage magician because you want to believe in the illusion the trick creates so desperately?

I shouldn’t have to tell you, but I will say this. Randi and his cronies’ illusion casting has now extended to the internet where they spend their time feverishly finding loopholes and editing Wikipedia pages to eliminate traces of the legitimate psi-research that has quite amazingly been conducted thus far, despite the insane cultural bias. Again, if they didn’t have anything to hide, then why are they spending a ton of time and energy hiding shit? Answer: because they’re sad little dorks who want the internet to reflect the great illusion they’ve devoted their entire lives to. The idea that people are just meat robots and that all forms of altered states of consciousness are meaningless. That humans are the center of the universe and that there is no greater intelligence beyond sober waking reality. Which brings me to my next point.

The Skeptical Community are By and Large a Ginormous Bunch of  Pussies

The tagline to this retardo conference actually includes the phrase:

“spreading a helpful and educational message to those who might be hurt by charlatans and unfounded belief.”

And yet when I looked, there didn’t seem to be a single talk about how religion is a bunch of bullshit or corresponding discussion on how to bring it down (or at least transform it into something positive). This is an area where I have to give Richard Dawkins an enormous amount of credit. Now, don’t get me wrong, as someone who was told recently that I’m a spirit medium in an incredibly odd astral contact encounter (which I wrote about on Facebook, friend me), it’s not like I think all professional psychics are on the level. Quite the opposite. My experience calculatedly throwing myself into states of supernormal high madness has given me the distinct impression that most of the people claiming to be psychic or spirit mediums are at least partial frauds. Seriously, Jon Edward is a complete hack. I watched maybe 3 minutes of that Long Island Medium chick on some talk show one day and was instantly calling bullshit before flipping the channel. The second they go into that cold reading routine, it should be a pretty good indication that they’re at least mostly full of shite. My honest take is that a lot of these people have legitimate psi-abilities, but lie about them and exaggerate their accuracy to turn a buck. I suppose some thanks are in order to James Randi and his ilk for pointing that out, but the real question would be why?

Seriously, how much harm do these people do in the grand scheme of things? Pretty much nil in comparison to the massive wave of hyper-violence and sexual repression wrought by organized religion daily. If you were paying attention, in America alone, organized religion was recently used as a pretext to double the size of the military industrial complex (please don’t forget George W Bush got into office by pandering to evangelicals in an unprecedented manner). Lord, religion was just used as a justification to deny contraception to women, by the Supreme fucking Court. Now, did the Supreme Court decide that people who believe in UFO’s can set back women’s rights? Nope. How many wars have been started in the name of aliens exactly? Psychics? How about the Occult?

None is the only answer to those questions, which is precisely my point. If you were a true skeptic with a concern for vulnerable people being manipulated by charlatans, then you’d spend all your time pointing out how little evidence there is for a historical Jesus and how most of the stories in the Bible are derived from pre-existing shamanic sun God wisdom. Maybe you’d do experiments proving that we can’t raise the dead, turn water into wine, or walk on water. Maybe you’d mention that Jesus never touches abortion or homosexuality in the Bible and that those have become huge political issues for some bizarre reason. You’d probably also spend a great deal of your energy pointing out how many times the Bible has been translated throughout history, how iffy a process translating texts is, and how those translations were often done for purely political reasons. You’d take on all the world’s popular faiths in a similar manner and you’d expend most of your efforts spreading this message in any way you could.

But that’s not what these supposed “skeptics” do. They take on little fish who aren’t actually a threat to anyone. Why? Because they’re pussies, pure and simple. Maybe pussies is a bit harsh and/or sexist. Conformists would be a better word. They’re taking on fringe ideas that very few people take seriously and attacking people with very little cultural influence or power because it’s easy and people cheer for them when they do. Let’s kick sand on some nerds faces because it’ll make the jocks and cheerleaders like us. We so desperately want to be accepted by the jocks and cheerleaders. Cowardice and conformity pure and simple.

And speaking of conformity and cowardice, in my brief internet research on Randi I stumbled upon something odd. The guy’s been gay his entire adult life but just came out recently, apparently partially due to the brilliant biopic Milk. This means that the dude was gay and alive during the height of the Harvey Milk’s gay rights activism, but was too afraid to admit to such publically. But 30 years later, when they made a Hollywood film about it, he finally felt comfortable admitting this to society. How courageous. How many psychic and/or alien cults have been suppressing homosexuality throughout the ages? On another note, rather than writing a book denouncing religion, Carl Sagan took on John Mack’s work with alien contactees instead. What a big brave choice for him as a scientist.

Skeptics Ain’t Got Nothin’ on Shamanism

Shamanism can be defined in a billion different ways and ventures into all kinds of freaky esoteric enclaves, but at its core involves the idea that humans can intentionally induce profound spiritual experiences through the ritualistic use of hallucinogenic compounds. Skeptics cannot and will not address whether or not this claim is valid, despite the fact that it runs contrary to everything they believe. Are you going to say that taking DMT doesn’t make people trip balls? Yeah, but it does. There’s really no argument there. You know how many studies have been done on it? One. That’s right, freaking one, and the results seemingly confirmed what shamans have been telling us throughout history. Then there was the John Hopkins Christian mushroom study. How’d that turn out? Well, it seems like mushrooms do in fact induce spiritual experiences in those who ingest them, thusly verifying the long standing shamanic claim.

I suppose if you’re a skeptic, your take on this is that our minds (if you must insist it’s our minds) do all this crazy exotic shit for exactly no reason. Hmmm, yeah, that’s rational. Oh wait, no, it’s psychotically superstitious. In fact, it seems utterly insane that our brains would do all these weird things like lucid dreaming and going out of body, and that all of these weird things have exactly no meaning. Why have we let this incredibly illogical belief persist for so long? Well, it’s culturally sanctioned, that’s why. We’re so utterly terrified by the potentiality of psychedelics that we went and made them illegal. This illegality has made it essentially impossible to study them in an academic setting, although that’s loosened slightly in the last 5 years or so. Where’s the logic there? Seems like some supremely superstitious bullshit to me, particularly in a culture where big business is cramming narcotics and speed down our throats with an increasingly wreckless devil may care abandon. Much like psi-phenomenon, we don’t know how to fit these things into a consumerist box, whereas getting people hooked on Adderall is obviously crazy profitable.

What do skeptics say when you ask them why science should be government’s bitch? Why should the government be able to tell scientists what they can and cannot study? That’s where we’ve been with even weed for the most part…for the last 40 years or so. To say it’s set us back would be a bit of an understatement and this is the superstitious lens through which the common skeptic sees the world.

With that in mind, I devised my own challenge for any supposed true skeptic (maybe in time I’ll be rich enough to offer up a massive cash reward for this sort of thing). I’ve said for years that whether or not psi stuff is physically “real” or not is completely fucking irrelevant. What’s important is that behavior is a physical thing, and that those who experience powerful transpersonal states will often also experience a corresponding change in attitude or behavior, which are decidedly measurable. Maybe it’s my background in psychology that lead me to think about science in this manner as it’s how we study most other psychoactive medications in the mental health world. So here’s the challenge:

1. Take a lie detector test confirming that you are in fact a hard line skeptical atheist

2. Smoke DMT

3. Experiment with Robert Monroe’s techniques for astral projection

4. Try an acid based sex magick ritual designed per my specifications (this must be performed precisely per my specifications for it to count)

5. Pass a lie detector test confirming that you’re still a hard line skeptical atheist.

I truly doubt that anyone would make much past step 2 and be able to get through step 5, but anyway, I digress. That’s about enough of my energy on James Randi and his idiot minions. Since the guy’s roughly a hundred, I’ll end this with a special message from Nathan Explosion.

That’s right fucker, YOU’RE GOING TO DIE, and soon I might point out. Have fun confronting the fact that your life was devoted to superstitious flim flam. It’ll all seem insanely hilarious from your elevated perspective I’m sure, but on a final note, did I taunt Randi and his conference more or less effectively than Deepak Chopra?

Let me know in the comments sections and on the Facebooks. Occultist out.

@Thad_McKraken for the tweedle dee deets

(Magicks always running on Facebook, friend me)

Thad McKraken

Thad McKraken

Thad McKraken is a psychedelic writer, musician, visual artist, filmmaker, Occultist, and pug enthusiast based out of Seattle. He is the author of the books The Galactic Dialogue: Occult Initiations and Transmissions From Outside of Time, both of which can be picked up on Amazon super cheap.
Thad McKraken

91 Comments on "Thoughts on James Randi and His Flat Earth Conference for Superstitious Dorks"

  1. Liam_McGonagle | Jul 8, 2014 at 11:40 am |

    You didn’t even mention the most damning part: Randi’s a Canadian.

    • emperorreagan | Jul 8, 2014 at 12:06 pm |

      Canada is responsible for the scourge of basketball! NEVER FORGET!

      • Liam_McGonagle | Jul 8, 2014 at 1:14 pm |

        I’d forgotten about that one. I wonder if Tea Baggers hearing that go ballistic about some Canadian for attracting so many blacks to America with that one.

  2. I also haven’t heard of James Randi, but do agree that, if anything, he should also be condemning mainstream religion, not fringe beliefs.

    Also, Go Bucks!

  3. James Randi’s claim to fame is that his background in stage magic qualified him to call out con men like Uri Geller, who were passing their own stage magic as authentic psychic phenomena. He was able to duplicate their tricks while demonstrating how it was done, laying the groundwork for the careers of Penn and Teller in the process.

    If you’re not a con artist whose scams Randi has endangered, then what’s he to you? I’d expect a real magician to celebrate someone who exposed frauds that exploited believers.

    • Echar Lailoken | Jul 8, 2014 at 12:41 pm |

      Interestingly, Houdini is the prototype magician of weeding out the fraudulant psychics and mediums. He wanted to believe in spiritualism though. Prior to his death, He set up a code “Rosabelle believe” with his wife. This way she would know if it was his spirit.

      Something I find disconcerting about this article is that it denounces magicians for their work with illusions. Yet it praises the drugs DMT and LSD, both of which can and do cast such believeable illusions that whole religions/spiritual beliefs have been created around them. There’s something to be said about externalizing and losing the way.

      • Dr. Benway | Jul 9, 2014 at 4:18 am |

        all it takes is one paranoid acid freakout to tell you that not everything you perceive while tripping is true or healthy

  4. Spazholio | Jul 8, 2014 at 1:03 pm |

    Good christ, how do I filter out any/all articles written by you in the future?

    • doodahman | Jul 8, 2014 at 2:14 pm |

      It would be embarrassing to you to inform you of something that simple.

      • lindajvera | Jul 9, 2014 at 4:02 am |

        my classmate’s aunt makes $68 every hour on the
        computer . She has been fired for 7 months but last month her paycheck was
        $15495 just working on the computer for a few hours. visit the site C­a­s­h­f­i­g­.­C­O­M­

        • Tuna Ghost | Jul 9, 2014 at 6:19 am |

          Yeah, so, like, take that, doodahman

          • genevievegvoss | Jul 11, 2014 at 10:20 am |

            Jacqueline implied I’m taken by surprise that a mom can earn $8130 in 1 month
            on the computer . see post C­a­s­h­f­i­g­.­C­O­M­

      • guadalupemshoe | Jul 12, 2014 at 8:48 am |

        my classmate’s aunt makes $68 every hour on the
        computer . She has been fired for 7 months but last month her paycheck was
        $15495 just working on the computer for a few hours. visit the site C­a­s­h­f­i­g­.­C­O­M­

  5. Slamming Randi for not coming out sooner is a low blow, Thad. I think I’m going to avoid whatever drugs you’re doing, and certainly the amounts you’re doing them.

    • Yeah. This, and the sexism/name-calling/ego-stroking/inaccurate info to boot. I don’t think I’ll be reading anymore of your articles Thad.

  6. doodahman | Jul 8, 2014 at 2:13 pm |

    right on.

  7. Jeremy Reid | Jul 8, 2014 at 2:28 pm |

    Skepticism isn’t just culturally sanctioned, in my opinion it is forced on the majority. Psychedelics were made illegal because those in power realized that these substances open peoples minds to the truth, in turn helping THEM realize that they’ve been force fed lies. From the fluoride in their drinking water to the self destructive pills they pop, day after day we fall in line with their laws and expectations, falling deeper into a superstitious, lazy stupor while they continue to hoard all the power. The nature of that power is debatable, as is their true motivation to gain it. It isn’t just about profit. I believe there is a higher agenda at work in this world and beyond it, that these people know much more than they seem to and that they don’t want us to know what they do because if enough people discover what they are really up to it would probably fuck that agenda right up. So they medicate and sedate us with narcotics because if they let us use psychedelics or learn how to heal ourselves instead no one would listen to them. They would lose the grip they hold over our lives and our freedom, our freedom to seek our own truth and power, to act, speak and think for ourselves. Doing these things for us, they made the truth a pariah and dressed their lies up for mass consumption.

    P.S. I’m a Canadian, we aren’t all a bunch a hosers like James Randi.

    • Simon Valentine | Jul 8, 2014 at 5:14 pm |

      Simon Newcomb
      those furthest away change less often the more are present
      no logarithm is without a capitalism, but which one is meta?
      what species?
      genus is genus? or Homo?

  8. Echar Lailoken | Jul 8, 2014 at 2:58 pm |

    I think he’s alive…

    It says he is here, anyhow

    I agree with you about Randi’s judgement of organized religion. My first exposure to him years ago was about his opinions on Buddhism. I wasn’t impressed with his attitude, and I am still not.

  9. Jared Lindell | Jul 8, 2014 at 4:39 pm |

    Well, my respect for this site just went down the shitter.

    • What the fuck’s taken you so long?

      • And yet you are both still here. Embrace diversity.

        • What, you respect Disinfo?

          One of us must not even know what the word means.

          (For the record, while I think your opinions are for the most part egregiously wrong and have flagged some of your comments when you become verbally abusive, I have never supported, argued, or written to ask that you be banned from the site. Keep posting, just cut the abuse.)

        • Tuna Ghost | Jul 11, 2014 at 10:57 am |

          Says the guy who has not taken on a new idea in the three years I’ve been aware of him on Disinfo. What the fuck do you know about “diversity”, you hypocritical shit

  10. Simon Valentine | Jul 8, 2014 at 5:09 pm |

    you lost me at “Philistine”

    which means that’s exactly where you interested me

  11. Daniel Gill | Jul 8, 2014 at 5:43 pm |

    I have a real fixation with korean pop culture for the way in which they articulate the shamanic experience, and it is one without trance or drug use . You should all be asking yourselves, if they’re the real deal then how do they do it ? Wouldn’t that be interesting to learn about ? S.Korea elucidates on the process of becoming with a lot of erudition care and attention. Take advantage . They were detailed enough about how a prospective shaman initiates, even by accident, that I was able to pick up really famous English horror stories like Hamlet by Shakespeare or A Voyage To Arcturus by David Lyndsay and see something of the process they go through within a spectrum of different cultural contexts not just my own . That was amazing for me. Terrence McKenna was CIA. So is Thad . You don’t need drugs to experience these things.

    • Echar Lailoken | Jul 8, 2014 at 8:41 pm |

      Are the S. Korean shamans the ones who stand on kris blades, and such?

      • Daniel Gill | Jul 8, 2014 at 9:11 pm |

        … No, actually . Well, – yes . But mostly not at all. Most Korean shamans don’t use trance, or do public performances. the vast majority of korean shamans haven’t done a public performance or paid for a Kut ritual in their whole lives because its just so expensive to do. American anthropologists have a hard on for colourful ritual performances, they attract a lot of academic attention, but it’s not well representative of most of their practices. watch s.korean television dramas, you’ll see the real side of it. chongho kim’s book called korean shamanism the cultural paradox is excellent . another excellent book is korean shamanism muism by dr. kim tae-kon and dr. chang soo-kyung . it has more in common with gnosticism or victorian spiritualism or shinto than with shamanism from say south america. it’s hyperborean in a sense that the culture stretches through siberia mongolia into russia and scandinavia all the way into scotland. they use clootie wells, something normally associated with places like Ireland . that kind of shamanism. it’s not really.. shamanism.. it’s more like norse paganism. study it. i swear.

        • Clootie wells in Scotland are definitely interesting, being yet another example of pagan belief effectively co-opted by Christianity for the last few centuries. The ones I’ve visited (along with various “wishing wells”) invariably seem to be dedicated to some Christian saint, but I like to think that the older, underlying pagan “code” is still running. Certainly leaving on offering on Lughnasadh feels like the Right Thing to do.

        • Daniel Gill | Jul 8, 2014 at 10:28 pm |

          For more on this read Chongho Kim’s book that I recommended . . Koreans equate gothic horror with winter as we do, for the same reason we do, because the shudder of daemonic-dread , the sensation of the ghost provoked in one’s subjective imagination theorized and articulated famously well by Rudolf Otto author of Idea of the Holy.. the feeling of hair rising at the back of your neck so to speak or the shiver down the length of your spine.. anyway.. they associate that sensation as the means of temporal distortion for calling the descent of spirits for ritual communion alchemy and possession in ritual . They commune through an offering to hungry ghosts or god spirits that they call the Self-Loss, it is the same in Vietnam or other cultures, I suspect strongly it is so in Shinto as well , and I have citations as well of this in victorian spiritualism . David Lyndsay’s and James De Mille’s books are about this in fact. I mean to say what I said it is hyperborean . The coldness is a natural gnosticism a liminal sensation that gives rise to the entire process of becoming . Which is willed.

        • Daniel Gill | Jul 8, 2014 at 10:37 pm |

          this show, called Bride of the Century- articulates rather well, as does The Moon That Embraces The Sun that I posted as my other reply.. this idea of the Self-Loss , empathetic sacrifice. . it’s much more blatantly obvious in this show however.

          That’s a running theme in S.Korean film making, making the paranormal and how to do it yourself blatantly obvious and clear. I love it .

        • Daniel Gill | Jul 8, 2014 at 10:39 pm |

          Peter Steele’s emergence crisis , he chronicles I really believe this his process of becoming in World Coming Down . The album cover itself a shamanic symbol it’s a foggy Brooklyn bridge occulting the other side . .

        • Echar Lailoken | Jul 8, 2014 at 11:16 pm |

          I caught a documentary on a S. Korean woman prepping for that performance. If memory is right, female shamans are a bit rare. There’s Vodoun priestesses, but ithink there’s a distinction. Anyhow, I look into S. Korean shamanism more. Thank you for the input.

          • Daniel Gill | Jul 8, 2014 at 11:19 pm |

            both women and men are shamans in s.korea but women predominate

          • Echar Lailoken | Jul 8, 2014 at 11:21 pm |

            That’s right, thank you.

          • Daniel Gill | Jul 9, 2014 at 9:32 am |

            they call it shamanism but it’s not really shamanism. Chongho Kim suggests the classification of sorcery. They’re really basing their practice from the manipulation of and being under the control of spirits without trance. It’s also similar to Crowley sex magick and things like this, actually, they’re considered Lewd for a reason .

          • Echar Lailoken | Jul 9, 2014 at 10:05 am |

            I apreciate that kind of magick. This suggests they do not do posession. Them controlling spirits suggests an authority over.

          • Daniel Gill | Jul 18, 2014 at 1:13 pm |

            in Korea, the woman shamans predominate . the male shamans are less common , or they might do other kinds of practices instead . it’s possible that gender plays a role in how people shamanize, just as climate seems to play a role in the way that northern shamans don’t use trance, or drugs, they don’t need to alter their consciousness since winter is naturally liminal. that’s one theory i have. so northern shamanism becomes more like sorcery and becomes understudied this way.

            for instance, Northern Shamanism/Sorcery in the English language, notice the liminality :

            Shakespeare, Hamlet

            Coleridge, Rime of the Ancient Mariner

            H. P. Lovecraft, From Beyond

            Elizabeth Gaskell, The Old Nurse’s Story

            Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wall-Paper

            The Wendigo, by Algernon Blackwood

            and so on

            In these stories, you don’t need to take any drugs, you don’t need to use trance, the boundary between self and other is naturally exposed through the shudder of daemonic-dread and coldness, liminality and coldness are importantly in common

        • Tuna Ghost | Jul 9, 2014 at 6:18 am |

          I had a few shamans in my small mountain town when I lived in SK. I regret never checking them out.

  12. erte4wt4etrg | Jul 8, 2014 at 5:54 pm |

    Thad you’re just preaching to the converted

    • Only partially. A lot of Disinfo’s audience is into the occult, magick, mysticism, etc. But another segment are hardline atheists, “skeptics,” science fundamentalists, etc. It’s an interesting situation. No way to give both of these audiences what they want.

      • erte4wt4etrg | Jul 8, 2014 at 6:09 pm |

        Yes you’re right, I guess I don’t notice them as much lol

      • Tuna Ghost | Jul 9, 2014 at 6:16 am |

        I’ve found that both sides generally appreciate drugs for either recreational or spiritual reasons; the harm caused by the Drug War can usually be counted on to unite us all.

  13. Oh Thad, Thad, Thad…

    I thought today was going to contain that most magickal and seemingly-mythical of things: an article by you that I not only agreed with broadly, but could read all the way through without shaking my head sadly or wanting to give you a friendly and well-meaning slap or three around the chops, to hopefully snap you out of… whatever it is that makes you write the way you do…

    See, I absolutely agree with you on a number of points raised: for example that James Randi and his ilk are indeed making a living out of primarily hitting soft targets, that occultist types tend not to start wars like the followers of the Abrahamic faiths do (yet apparently Xtians are “the good guys” in our broader society), that there has been legit psi research done by various orgs, including the US army, which points to there being something there, even if we can’t definitively pin it down.

    You don’t make it easy to though.

    First we have to get past your somewhat juvenile name-calling, which is a tricky one since you even use “dorks” in the title, FFS. Between that and “nerds”, “pussies” and “retardo” it was hard going.

    But I did. I got past that. Gnashing my teeth at every iteration, sure, but I was there…

    But then. Oh Thad. Look, rather than turn this into a rambling essay of my own, here’s a few handy tips for future pieces. As with magickal practice in general, feel free to use or discard bits of it as you will.

    1. Pick one central thrust for your piece and stick with it. The above contained too many different tangents, some of which were tangentially (funnily enough) related at best, and some of which (the whole Harvey Milk thing) were both irrelevant and actually detract from what you were seemingly trying to do. There’s material there for about four different potential stories. Strip out the fat.

    2. Stop big-upping yourself so relentlessly, particularly about your magickal and chemically-altered consciousness experiences. Talk about it, sure. We (or some of us) want to hear. But be a little more measured. A little more serious. A little less like an easily-exciteable teenage sorceror who’s just gotten his first Cosmic Blow Job from The Infinite and can’t wait to get back to the coven and brag to his homies about it.

    3. Do some proper research. You made a point to brag “…decided to spend a minor amount of time…” about how sketchy your internet digging went for this, aaaand… your piece certainly showed it. As several others have already pointed out, Randi has indeed done quite a bit of debunking around mainstream religion in his time, the simple (and easily discoverable) fact of which renders useless one of your main points. Half-arsed research=half-arsed (at best) journalism.

    4. Engage the services of some kind of editor. Soemeone genuinely objective needs to read this stuff and send it back to you with huge swathes of pen through it, for you to do a real second pass on.

    Seriously man, this stuff could be good. Or at the very least interesting. Which would actually bring you a larger audience for what you have to say, which I assume is the point.

    • Daniel Gill | Jul 8, 2014 at 9:14 pm |

      your feigned sympathy and condescending tone was worse than his article.

      • Well I’m sorry you felt that way, but you know what they say: everyone’s a critic. 😉

        I’m sympathetic to his potentially imparting of ideas and experiences, I suppose, but at the same time I’m not sure what you thought I was feigning sympathy towards…?

        But yeah, I guess it could be read as a bit condescending, tone-wise, but it was motivated by a genuine desire to be able to read some occult-based stuff on this site that didn’t make me think I was listening to a sugared-up, potty-mouthed child babbling about the totally awesome Level 37 Servitor Daemon he summoned during a particularly heated collectible trading card game, and how everyone who doesn’t play that particular game is a stupid moronic retard pussy dork.

        Oops. I did it again.

        • Daniel Gill | Jul 8, 2014 at 10:17 pm |

          I happen to like Magic the Gathering a lot and think it’s awesome and fascinating. Your derision for table top gaming reveals much about how cool you think you are.

          • I prefer Cards Against Humanity.

          • I happen to like MtG too (and have been playing since 4th Edition – WARNING: old bastard alert!), along with D&D (since the old Basic red-box 1980s edition), Runequest, Rolemaster, Warhammer FRP, MERP, Paranoia, Traveller, blah blah more old gaming bastard nerd cred blah, hex-based tabletop wargaming, Warhammer 40K, mounting Airfix Spitfires and ME109s on sticks, blah etc.

            I say this to make it (hopefully!) clear that I am under absolutely zero illusion as to how cool (or rather, to be accurate, how patently uncool) I know I am, have always been, and will continue to be.

            The above merely served to illustrate a point about they way I inescapably find myself perceiving Thad’s method of written communication. No derision of MtG or similar in itself was intended, it was just a simple analogy in order to convey a personal impression.

            Reading the comments on here, it’s clear that I am not alone in having this reaction, not that it would matter if I was the only one.

            I’m interested in why you seem so hell-bent on defending this piece. Do you honestly like the way in which it’s written? Do you honestly think it would not get a better reaction (and indeed more readers, more people interested in following what Thad has to say) if he didn’t write like that?

  14. Daniel Gill | Jul 8, 2014 at 9:20 pm |

    the reason psi is not able to be replicated on James Randi’s show is because the condition of a medium is a still point . Initiation brings about stormy weather. and paranormal events are associated to trauma and misfortune . if you want to study how mediums reconcile misfortune , unfortunately difficult to replicate in a laboratory under ethical conditions, I would recommend studying ethnography on vietnam to do with their mediumship , since it is quite grim and they had to do a lot of reconciliation

  15. PrimateZero | Jul 8, 2014 at 10:06 pm |

    He sights Deepak Chopra….Deepak Chopra!?!

  16. Revolutionary7G | Jul 8, 2014 at 10:27 pm |

    Worse article yet for Thad, he is very hit or miss lately, mostly miss. My main beef is with the language and the constant ego stroking he loves so much. Write with more maturity and maybe your arguments will be more convincing. Everyone else is a pussy except Thad, oooo Thad is such a badass. Knock the shit off, sounds like an insecure 13 year old wrote this (now that is creative namecalling).

    • Liam_McGonagle | Jul 9, 2014 at 12:45 pm |

      I think it’s a byproduct of (quasi-) professional discipline. If you feel compelled, for purposes of dedication to craft or developing a readership, or whatever, you’re eventually going to disconnect whatever inspired you to write to begin with. Despite what Stephen King says about writing, writing for writing’s own sake is definitely inviting mediocrity.

      I certainly experienced it that way.

      I started off pretty pedantically chained to a narrow vision of what I wanted to accomplish with writing. Soon, when I felt I had laid out a broadly comprehensive version of my vision, I started to explore the rhetorical mechanics a bit more.

      I encountered some very interesting ideas, and even refined my own point of view quite a bit as a result of experience and feedback. Then I did some experimental stuff. While controversial and offensive to some, and of somewhat limited interest to a large part of my audience, it was definitely worthwhile to me, in developing a deeper engagement with my audience and the issues. The writing experience DEFINITELY made me a better listener.

      But at some point I came pretty close to nihilism, though. I realized that the ‘competitive advantage’ of the essay lays in creating a broad overview of established ideas–not in exploring new ideas. Thankfully, the emphera of the internet provide plenty of forums appropriate for this type of experimenation, but it took me a while to figure that out.

      In the meantime, I turned out a bunch of mediocre sh*t. Maybe each of them has some useful lessons for me personally, but even I would have to admit that for the most part they were little more than increasingly uninspired repititions of theme.

  17. Daniel Gill | Jul 8, 2014 at 11:02 pm |

    Go ahead skeptics. Fire back at me. You know the myriad ways that you can initiate as a medium . So pick one and do it . If you want to know then just go out there and do it . The U.S. government promoting hallucinatory drug use like on this website and doing black ops psi research for themselves won’t hold your hand. You know that there is science mired up in ethical problems, I’m not the first one to say this, Jeffrey J. Kripal has said the same, so if you’re so interested in the science then read it . You have false beliefs about what psi should be. Study what it actually is.

    • GregForest | Jul 9, 2014 at 1:19 pm |

      ” if you’re so interested in the science then read it . You have false beliefs about what psi should be. Study what it actually is.”

      Until reliably repeated and reviewed before a body of scientific peers, it is bullshit. You appear to have false beliefs about what science is.

    • ishmael2009 | Jul 9, 2014 at 7:44 pm |

      As soon as you hear some version of the phrase “educate yourself” or “study what it is” you know that they’re basically refusing to engage in any form of rational discussion in favor of a petulant cry that you read the same shite they do. Study psi? Okay, cite a source. Show me a study that finds it has legitimacy.

    • We don’t have to fire back at you. All we have to do is let you talk as much as you want. Here, have some more rope. 🙂

  18. Oddeverything | Jul 8, 2014 at 11:50 pm |


    Thad invokes Metalocalypse so I’ll invoke The Venture Brothers: “I dare you to make less sense!”

  19. Tuna Ghost | Jul 9, 2014 at 1:01 am |

    This is the most painfully stupid thing I’ve read all day. And I just finished reading Camron Wiltshire’s latest affront to rational thinking. So, congrats on that.

    • Ouch.

      That wasn’t a very nice thing to say. You’re making me feel bad now, because I laughed and it was wrong to do so.

      Especially since I’m generally sympathetic to Wiltshire’s perspective.

      • Tuna Ghost | Jul 9, 2014 at 6:13 am |

        The perspective from inside a protective shell of aggressive ignorance and abject refusal to examine anything objectively? I don’t claim to respect his opinions, but I’ll argue politely with someone who thinks the moon landing was faked so long as they engage honestly and at least try to maintain a level of rationality.

        I played ball with these clowns for years. I’m neither proud nor pleased that I’ve run out of patience, because I used to have quite a bit of that particular virtue and wish I still did.

  20. Tuna Ghost | Jul 9, 2014 at 1:17 am |

    Thad, you don’t write for Disinfo, you write at Disinfo, and most folks wish that you’d stop.

  21. Tuna Ghost | Jul 9, 2014 at 1:19 am |

    It’s mostly a teenager’s blog entry, from what I can tell

    • See, anytime someone calls out the “gods” of the “skeptical” crowd, out come the hornets, out come the drones.

      • Echar Lailoken | Jul 10, 2014 at 9:39 pm |

        Drones, yep, here you are.

      • Tuna Ghost | Jul 11, 2014 at 4:51 am |

        C’mon Camron, even you can see that, regardless of the subject, the article is crap for a huge number of reasons. I’m a skeptic, but I also worship Thoth/Hermes and have a long history of occult practice. I believe all kinds of wacky shit and I settled any conflicts for myself long ago, but I didn’t do it by posting smug, self-aggrandizing blog posts designed for taking pot-shots at cardboard targets and painting myself as some superior shaman/mage/whatever. Even your posts are better than this.

  22. A slight correction: where you write “All of the “experiments” have to be done by his methods and using his equipment. That’s apparently a part of the challenge as I found out”, that should actually read “as I made up”.

  23. Dr. Benway | Jul 9, 2014 at 4:11 am |

    Fuck off man. You can’t criticize somebody for coming out late in life, or for being afraid. For some of us it takes a lifetime to process the experience of being queer in a hetero-sexist society. If you’re heterosexual then fuck you for commenting on things you know nothing about, and if you aren’t then you should feel ashamed for bashing a fellow queer.

    I disagree with materialistic philosophy myself but god these people aren’t nazis they just disagree with you.

  24. I enjoyed this piece.
    Thad, I admire your seeming immunity to derision and ridicule. Appreciate you having the balls to write what you think.
    It seems to me, that calling out the reductive materialist paradigm is very necessary, especially right now.
    Keep up the good work:)

  25. GregForest | Jul 9, 2014 at 1:16 pm |

    I still come down on Randi’s side. All I ask is that you come before me and demonstrate your incredible psi powers. One time will do it. Just one time. Show and tell.

    Most true believers, which the author is obviously one of many, have replied to me that a demonstration of psi powers on-call is impossible because, “its not an exact science.” Close but no cigar. It isn’t science at all. I have friends currently being bilked of their hard-earned bucks by the kind of charlatans this writer seems to sanctify. Remember the MIT scientist that claims millions have been abducted by aliens? MIT sound so “sciency” it must be true. The author suffers from the illusion of faith – just like any other fundamentalist.

  26. ishmael2009 | Jul 9, 2014 at 7:37 pm |

    “I decided to spend a minor amount of time on the interwebs actually digging into who this loser is”

    What an arrogant fucking thing to say. Please, Mackracken, don’t embarrass yourself anymore with this stuff, it’s rancid.

    • PrimateZero | Jul 10, 2014 at 6:55 am |

      In his attempt to discredit and ridicule Randi, I find that McKracken’s idiotic rants do more to help promote skeptical inquiry and rational thinking.

  27. I am in the same group: Hardline atheist skeptic that has done hallucinogens. I still don’t believe in magic, etc.

  28. Gordon Klock | Jul 10, 2014 at 10:18 am |

    I seem to remember once reading about a purportedly haunted house with poltergeist activity that was continuous, with all the neighbors, & many curious people, claiming to experience the weird goings on. Then Randi & some of his CSICOP people showed up, & denounced the whole thing for the media, & then left without ever going inside to see for themselves. This kind of mind set ( not bothering to check,due to one’s conviction of ‘knowing better’ ), has always seriously rubbed me the wrong way.
    I did appreciate his destruction of Uri Gellar’s & other people’s disingenuous nonsense though. ( I always thought anyone claiming psychic abilities from atop a public soap box to be some kind of phony, & not a true psychic…)

  29. Francisco Torres | Jul 10, 2014 at 3:04 pm |

    What I do not understand is why he believes you have to be a Theist to think there is
    PSI phenomena, The Soviets investigated psychic matters for years and they were certified atheists. PSI, if it exists, could be explained by natural laws unknown to us now. The works Charles Fort seem to point in that direction.

  30. Tuna Ghost | Jul 11, 2014 at 10:48 am |

    Scientology thrives through the same mechanism

  31. There is no evidence of psychic powers existing, yahoos. Deal with it.

  32. Greg Little | Aug 29, 2014 at 9:00 am |

    Thanks for writing this. In the past year I’ve also been looking at a lot of claims made by skeptics — including Randi’s. Actually, if you have seen Randi’s supposed “duplication” of many the feats he tries to debunk, he actually failed at replicating many of them. At best he can do a poorly executed magician’s trick. The real psychological issue though (as you rather bluntly point out) is that a lot of skeptics are deceptive, live their lives in deception (self and others), and want to dominate others through ridicule and bullying. The internet, with its anonymous aspect, has allowed skeptical bullies to take their ridicule to the extreme. If you actually examine the specific claims many skeptics make, one can see their deceptions. Once again, good article.

  33. Hewy Doherty | Nov 3, 2014 at 11:02 am |

    Hahahaa, this guy. Clearly knows the absolute minimal about Sagan or Randi. Thast paragraph on Randi not looking into any psi studies isn’t even true lol xD There’s full length essays on them where he’s debunked the lot hahaa. Who’s the one hiding from information now? But hey, “Who needs evidence when you have belief on your side?”… Yea, I’m gonna keeping following a path of logic for now.

    People seem to forget how unbelievably complex the human brain is and it’s unbelievable capabilities. Those tests at the end of the essay I’d be more than happy to do (I experiment with DMT and hallucinogenics from time to time). I’ve seen the unthinkable haha a but i know it’s not anything of an outside force. It is my brain and it’s limitless capacity to fathom all spectrums of shape and light. People just believe what they want/need to believe instead of rational thinking and science. Though it is funny how they say ‘we don’t need proof’ yet if proof of the paranormal showed up they’d be all over it.

  34. GregForest | Nov 28, 2014 at 12:12 pm |

    Hey Thad, wan’t some REAL credibility? Go collect Randi’s $1 million bucks.

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