Author Archive | David Metcalfe

Love, Magic and Holy Death – A Conversation with Dr. R. Andrew Chesnut

Every month there seems to be another horror story in the media regarding the devotional traditions associated with Santa Muerte, the American folk Saint of Holy Death.  One of the most recent news story details the discovery of a weathered human skull and jaw bone, along with what police are saying are remains of a Santa Muerte altar, in a dumpster in Oxnard, California. Another item announces that true-crime author John Lee Brook has been commissioned to write a  “tell-all” book on Santa Muerte and her “occult” connections to the Mexican drug trade. The title of his last book,  Blood In Blood Out: The Violent Empire of the Aryan Brotherhood, probably gives a good idea for where the focus will be.  There is, however, another side to Santa Muerte, whose associations with love magic predate any ties She has developed to narco-trafficking and murder.

I recently had the opportunity to discuss this in more detail with Dr.… Read the rest

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AI on the DSM IV – A Thought Experiment from David J. Kelley

With the recent news coverage of scientists discussing robot uprisings and the possible dangers of artificial intelligence, it’s interesting to see a direct thought experiment along these lines from Microsoft UX developer David J. Kelley. In a recent h+ Magazine article, Interview with an AI (Artificial Intelligence) – A Subtle Warning…,  Kelley provides an outline for an experiment that seeks to gain some understanding of how an AI would respond during an interview. As he explains it:

“I was thinking about ideas for an article on my train ride home from the experience lab I work in, and it came to me that it would be interesting to actually have an interview with an AI only a little bit better than us, maybe one that is one of the first kinds of true AI and for fun let’s say it has lived with us for a few decades incognito. But how can we do that?

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James W. Moseley, Founder and Lead Editor of Saucer Smear, Has Gone Off-World

A more tangible loss has come to the UFOlogical community than the recent announcement by some folks in the UK that the Age of Flying Saucers has come to a close. Jim Moseley, founder of the longest running UFO magazine around, Saucer Smear, has passed on at the ripe age of 81.

Jim brought an air of humor and sociological consciousness to what can otherwise be a contentious and cliquish field of inquiry. Saucer Smear’s running motto was, “Shockingly Close to the Truth,” which provides a good idea of where he was coming from. Greg Taylor, founder of The Daily Grail, puts it well in his memorial published on TDG:

“Jim Moseley entered the world of ufology at the very beginning, with his first two magazines devoted to the topic, Nexus and Saucer News, being published in the 1950s. He was an associate of many ‘legends’ in the Fortean field, from Gray Barker to James Randi – and like those two individuals was somewhat of a trickster figure, often straddling the line of truth that separates researcher from raconteur.

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The Death & Rebirth of UFOlogy – Telegraph’s Report on UFOlogy’s Demise Could Be Its New Beginning

Neil deGrasse Tyson is talking panspermia from Mars, Richard Dawkins mentions ancient aliens as a possible candidate for development of complex biological processes, Jacques Vallee presents at a business forum on physics breakthroughs possible through studying UFO phenomena, Michio Kaku develops a theory of social evolution based on space…and the Forteans give up on UFOs? What is happening here?

According to an article on The Telegraph:

“Enthusiasts admit that a continued failure to provide proof and a decline in the number of “flying saucer” sightings suggests that aliens do not exist after all and could mean the end of “Ufology” – the study of UFOs – within the next decade.

Dozens of groups interested in the flying saucers and other unidentified craft have already closed because of lack of interest and next week one of the country’s foremost organisations involved in UFO research is holding a conference to discuss whether the subject has any future.

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Devoted to Death – The Development of a Skeleton Saint

Catrina Calavera

R. Andrew Chesnut, Bishop Walter F. Sullivan Chair in Catholic Studies and Professor of Religious Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, and author of ‘Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint’, offers his personal observations on the development of her devotion in a fascinating photo essay hosted by Huffington Post:

“Having lived, studied and traveled in Mexico for almost 30 years, I can personally attest to the intimate and familiar nature of death in popular culture.

Long before Santa Muerte’s (Saint Death) public outing 11 years ago to the date (Nov. 1), images of death personified abounded. Most visibly, Catrina Calavera (Skeleton Dame), a high society woman depicted as a skeleton in fashionable early 20th-century attire, is omnipresent in Mexico. Created in 1913 by the great graphic artist and satirist, Jose Guadalupe Posada, La Catrina has curiously even made her way on to more than a few Santa Muerte altars.

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A Phantasmagoria of Scientific Jargon, Sleight of Hand and the Ol’ Scientistic Bait & Switch

“The horrors that (Mr. Clarke) witnessed in the dreary laboratory were to a certain extent salutary; he was conscious of being involved in an affair not altogether reputable, and for many years afterwards he clung bravely to the commonplace, and rejected all occasions of occult investigation. Indeed, on some homeopathic principle, he for some time attended the seances of distinguished mediums, hoping that the clumsy tricks of these gentlemen would make him altogether disgusted with mysticism of every kind, but the remedy, though caustic, was not efficacious.”

– from The Great God Pan, by Arthur Machen

A recent piece on presents a study by Paul Brewer, a professor of communication at the University of Delaware, where participants were given one of four write ups, three dealt with a paranormal investigation, the fourth was on a different subject. One write up contained “science’y’ sounding terminology to describe the event, one couched it in metaphysical terminology, and the third, was the same as the first, only it contained a rebuttal from a science’y sounding authority.… Read the rest

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What Do We Fear When We Fear Ghosts?

When investigating the unknown, it’s best to leave obtuse hypotheses aside until all the evidence has been gathered. For many mysteries, this quest for truth can take centuries, for some even centuries mark only small intervals in our understanding, and in the midst of it all changes in fashionable intellectualism obscure and unmoor previous investigations.

Our search for answers into the nature of hauntings and apparitions has been a source of interest since the beginning of recorded history, with the familiar arguments of both skeptics and believers changing little over the years. Yet the experiences persist, and evoke the deeper levels of our existence, and the nature of our relationships with each other, with ourselves and even with the passing of time itself. Michael Newton explores some of these nuances in his review of A Natural History of the Ghosts by Roger Clarke:

“What do we fear when we fear ghosts?

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Northwestern University & the Psi’ence of Presentiment

A Modular Model of Mind/Matter Manifestations" (M5)" by Robert Jahn and Brenda Dunne from Princeton Engineering Anomalous Research (PEAR)

Looks like Russell Targ was right on schedule with the publication of The Reality of ESP. Researchers from Northwestern University have conducted a meta-analysis of presentiment studies that is being featured in the current edition of Frontiers in Perception Science.  A lot of terms are being used: presentiment, unexplained anticipatory effect, ‘anomalous anticipatory activity,’ to basically say that they are talking about finding evidence for precognition, at least on the emotive level. They have concluded that there seems to be evidence to support the idea that we are able to perceive an event prior to it’s occurence, despite the fact that there is currently no adequate causal model in mainstream science (ie. what’s included in the text books.)

“Presentiment without any external clues may, in fact, exist, according to new Northwestern University research that analyzes the results of 26 studies published between 1978 and 2010.

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America’s Alchemical Roots

Our rich cultural history is one of the unfortunate victims of the pathetic cultural battle between Creationist and Neo-Atheist cliques. Were the founders of the United States hardline Christians? Secular humanists? Just typing these questions, I’m bored already. Thankfully, there’s evidence they weren’t either, seems like a good number of them were Alchemists.

“Puritan alchemists founded America; sounds like bad fiction but it’s fact.  As befits a young republic, the history of the earliest origins of American Metaphysical Religion amounts to a long list of extraordinary characters, daring experiments, and unlikely friendships.  We’ll meet alchemists who persecuted witches, alchemists who were governors, and several alchemists who served as presidents of the first American colleges.  The community of alchemists at home and abroad was in constant touch with each other, eagerly exchanging techniques, results, and useful writing published and unpublished.  At the heart of this vital cosmopolitan movement for cultural evolution were the intelligencers, discerning men who were so respected they became gatekeepers. 

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Open Questions and the Reality of ESP

It’s an obvious question, but one not often asked, how does parapsychological research offend the evolutionist or materialist mindset?  Certainly bold statements are made, but where is the real area of offense. One of the critiques most often leveled at research into anomalous perception centers around the idea that researchers in this area of experience posit some sort of supernatural origin for these phenomena. However, if you read what many of the top researchers relate, there’s nothing supernatural about psi.

Russell Targ, one of the founders of the SRI Remote Viewing program, in his most recent book The Reality of ESP, states very plainly:

“I do not believe that ESP has metaphysical origins. I believe that is is just a kind of ability we strengthen by expanding our awareness to think nonlocally. It will become less mysterious as more of us become more skillful.”

The excitment of parapsychological research is the challenge of coming into the next phase of our understanding the world around us.… Read the rest

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