A Post to Paranormal Writers

I was going to do a book review of the tome that I just finished reading but, honestly, since I can not give a positive review and since I refuse to disseminate negativity about specific persons on the internet, I want to address this topic in a general sort of way.

I am not even going to address the specific subject of this book since, to do so, would likely reveal the author. In some ways, this individual is quite brilliant and I would not ever discourage someone from doing research into a topic that interests them. What I would encourage, in both this writer and in other writers in the paranormal and cryptozoological fields, is learning something about how to write an argumentative piece.

Now, some people might say, “I don’t want to argue anything; I simply want to present the evidence I have gathered” or “really, this book is just about the folklore and legends that I have discovered about X phenomenon”. In my experience, this basically means that the writer is giving themselves permission to go on and on, giving example after example, ad nauseum, around some vaguely defined theme that leaves the reader wondering why the hell they are reading this book when they could have re-read something that made sense.

I realize that most, if not all writers on paranormal themes, myself included, are passionate about their subjects. I know the urge to just ‘unload’ when I find someone interested in topics I am interested in. Unfortunately, I also have known the embarrassment of having someone’s eyes glaze over as I waxed loquacious about some topic that I thought was endlessly fascinating. The problem is that, with a book, you can not see your audience and you can not hear them moan, a quarter to halfway through the book and say:

“Oh my god, what the hell is this book about?”

Yes, dear writer, simply giving a book a title does not mean that you have a thesis to your book. In the opening matter of the book, you need to make it clear what the book is supposed to be about and then adhere to that thesis throughout the book. Even if you do not want to argue for the reality of something, you still need to let the reader know what you are talking about, why you are talking about it, perhaps why you think it is interesting and how you are going to present your material. Then, you need to adhere stringently to that promised theme. The only real exceptions to this straightforward piece of advice are people writing encyclopedic texts about the unexplained. Readers already know, when looking at these books, that they will be exposed to a wide variety of topics.

“This person is only giving me what he wants me to hear”

Folks, writing about the paranormal does not mean that we have to completely abandon the dictates of logic. I could probably write a whole post on this but will settle for this one example. It is commonly the case that a paranormal writer will start with a hypothesis and then go to mind-bending lengths to make all material covered in their presentation fit into that hypothesis and will ignore evidence of or even the presence of alternate hypotheses.

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For example, the Nazca lines had to be constructed with the help of ancient aliens since they could only be seen from altitude. That is certainly a theory and there may be evidence for it but did any of these writers do any research into the spiritual practices of the people who built the lines? Bet there was a shaman or two or several dozen who was capable of out of body experience that included ‘flying’. For all we know, these so-called primitives worked out a way to make a glider or hot air balloon. Ancient alienists and many historians have a distinct bias against the idea that ancient people were as smart as we are and quite capable of working out tech for something they really wanted to do.

Another good example, is the paranormalist who has developed some unified field theory of the paranormal and is determined to fit all phenomenon into their fancy box. While there may clearly be something to what they are writing about, they crash and burn their own theory by trying to extend it into regions that they have no clue about.

“I am drooling . . . this is the 601st example of X that this writer has given.”

Dear writer: I understand that you are deeply impassioned about your topic and that you have reams and reams of notes about this, that and the other thing related to that topic. That fact does not mean that you have to share every single one of those notes with your reader and turn your book into a 7000 page monstrosity that only the most dedicated reader will ever get through. Remember, O Writer, that not everyone who picks up your book is going to be as excited about your topic as you are. No one is going to be interested in the story that you got from someone’s cousin’s friend’s brother who was on a mission in Malaysia 27 years ago.

“Wait, just because X is the case, it does not mean that Y is true.”

Skepdebunkers do this all this all the time (see the recent stories about UFO sightings and peak alcohol consumption periods) but, unfortunately, so do writers of the paranormal. Again, think of the Nazca lines argument. It does not follow that since the lines can only be viewed from altitude that ancient aliens must be responsible for their construction. This is one possible theory but it is not a fact.

These are a few of my favorite paranormal writing gaffes. Perhaps I will cover more in a later post.


Quareia – For Those Interested in a Magical Path

I normally post on Tuesdays but I wanted to make a short announcement here to those who read the site and are interested in the magical arts.

https://www.quareia.com/#main

This link will guide you to the home page of a new school of magic called Quareia – Latin for the quarry.  The school is a joint project being developed by Josephine McCarthy, a noted British adept, and a group of magicians from across the world.  It is the result of Ms. McCarthy’s stated desire to establish a system of magical education that is free but that will develop the skills needed for anyone to become a magical adept.

Ms. McCarthy has taken her wide ranging magical skills and, in conjunction with magicians such as Frater Acher, a well known practitioner from Germany, has stripped magical practice down to its essentials so that anyone, of any tradition, can practice what she is putting forward.

I have had an opportunity to look at the first few lessons of her Apprentice curriculum and I can say without reservation that, if you are interested in magic and have some self-discipline, you could do far worse (and pay far more) than following this course of instruction.

Quareia is a work in progress; Ms. McCarthy has started a crowd funding campaign to develop enough funds for her to be able to continue working on the project full time until it is completed.  Her overall goal is not unrealistic and I encourage those of my readers who are so inclined to contribute if you are able.  This is a worthy work and one that desperately needs to be done.  Here is the link to the funding campaign:

https://www.quareia.com/campaign


Book Review: Strange Intruders

Strange Intruders
Author: David Weatherly
Order from this website, no e-book available to my knowledge

I happened to catch a podcast interview with this author and thought, after listening, that I might check out this book. I had high hopes for the text since Mr. Weatherly’s biography includes the following:

“David has also studied shamanic and magical traditions with elders from numerous cultures including Europe, Tibet, Native America and Africa . . .”. The text goes on to elucidate Mr. Weatherly’s energy work credentials as well as mentioning his study with Taoist masters and so forth. I hoped, therefore, that the author might approach his subject from a more magical point of view.

Unfortunately, for me, Mr. Weatherly seems to have left most of his magical/shamanic credentials at the door while writing this book. I will not, however, give the book a negative review simply because it did not meet my standards for magical theorization.

My personal feelings aside, Strange Intruders is an interesting book that covers a wide range of paranormal topics of the “things that go bump in the night” variety ranging from the djinn to Grinning Men to psychic vampires. I am not quite clear on why the author chose the topics that he did but he presents interesting facts, history and case studies related to all his chapters.

Mr. Weatherly writes in a personable and engaging style and, unlike some writers, he does not belabor his points. His writing is smooth and concise but I did find myself wishing for a little more substance as he went along. This work was obviously intended as a summary of a wide range of topics, and it accomplishes that goal admirably, but I would have loved to hear more about some of the topics. I know, for example, that Mr. Weatherly has written on the Black Eyed Children (a topic in this book). I think it would be quite possible to write a book about any of the topics included in Strange Intruders. Perhaps that is the writer’s intention but, for a paranormal geek such as myself, each chapter of the book was something of a tease. I constantly found myself wanting more and that may have been the author’s intention.

For those of you that are research oriented, the book has a nice bibliography that will provide beginning sources for many of the topics covered in the chapters. I am sure that I will be making use of that book list at some point, since it is obvious that Mr. Weatherly actually does some research for his books rather than simply relying on the Internet and popular sources.

While I was disappointed that Mr. Weatherly did not seem to bring his magical and energetic explorations of these topics into the mix, except peripherally, I did find his presentation of theories about the various entities to be even handed and not aligned to just one point of view. I would have been happier to hear him say, “In my experience, X . . . but others have theorized Y”; however, I do not know what editorial or personal limitations he might be working under.

In all, I recommend Strange Intruders. For those with little to no background in the paranormal, the book provides an interesting overview of a number of phenomenon that scare people on a fairly regular basis. For the more experienced paranormalist, the book introduces topics that might not be familiar to the reader or, if they are, will certainly provide some new information on those topics. Mr. Weatherly has done a nice job of putting together a compendium of things that go bump in the night without writing a boring dictionary. I hope that he continues his research and brings us more in-depth coverage of some of these topics.


From My Japan Trip – Taking Care of Spirits

As I mentioned in my last post, I am recently returned from an 8 day trip to Japan. As I write this, I am still recovering from the wonders of being crammed into a metal cylinder and hurled through the air at high speeds for approximately 12 hours. More than that, though, I am in the process of unpacking this phenomenal experience and what it is going to mean to me spiritually in the long run.

Here is a picture that I took at the Sengakuji Zen Temple – the memorial site for the 47 Loyal Samurai of Ako:

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I include this photo because it speaks volumes to me about my Japanese experience. You will note a ladder in the foreground and a man on that ladder. That gentleman is up that ladder trimming this gorgeous tree by hand – with hand clippers. You will note that the grounds around him are also well manicured. That is because they, too, are carefully tended by a staff of gardeners who do everything by hand. The atmosphere of beauty and silence is thus preserved so that those who visit the site can contemplate the loyalty and sacrifice of these warriors rather than listening to power mowers, electric hedge trimmers and leaf blowers.

For those of you who do not know the story of the 47 Loyal Samurai, here is the Wikipedia site.

My visit to this site was one of the high points of my trip. My group spent the morning there, despite rainy conditions, and honored these samurai in our own way and with incense sticks that one purchases at the site. There is a deep sense of melancholy in the place but also a strong feeling of contentedness bordering on joy. It saddens the heart that these men had to go so far to restore their honor but it gladdens the heart to see that their sacrifice has been honored continuously for over 300 years. They have not been forgotten or relegated to the pages of a dry history book.

My major takeaway from this trip was a pretty simple one. The Japanese know how to honor their spirits.

Everywhere I went in Japan, from the densest urban area to more rural towns, I saw cemeteries with headstones and wooden markers that honored the dead. If one went into one of the cemeteries, one quickly found evidence that the memorial sites were tended and incense burned as people communed with their dead relatives.

Shinto (Japan’s native religion) temples/shrines abound throughout the country. I saw shrines in places like Mount Fujiyama and in the midst of Kashiwa City, where I was staying, as well as more elaborate temples in places like Nikko. No matter where those shrines and temples might be though, it was not uncommon to see someone making an offering and praying before the shrine.

During the trip, I was privileged to train with a Japanese sword master and Shingon Buddhist priest. Shingon is a melding of Vajrayana style Buddhism (think Tibet) and Shinto, the indigenous religion of Japan. Once our training was done, this sensei shared a meal with us and then took us into his garage temple before bidding us farewell. The atmosphere of that temple was so highly charged that I had trouble keeping my psychic feet on the ground. Why? In my view, it was simply because this temple, like so many others in Japan was well and truly cared for – the rites of Shingon were enacted there regularly and with the attention that only a true master can bring to such work.

I found my experience of Japan deeply humbling and more than a little unsettling. I think of myself as a spiritual person and, in the post before I left, I defined spirituality as finding ones place in the spiritual world, but the Japanese made me realize that I have a long way to go in that quest. As a consequence, I am considering how I can translate my experience into practice.

As always, I will keep you posted as I go along but, for now, I think that I am going to go place a plaque that I had carved in Japan on my ancestor altar and have a talk with the ones who seem intent on hitting me up side the head with a cosmic clue by four. I am sure that I will have more to say on this topic as time goes by – as I mentioned, I am unpacking a lot from the trip – but I will return to my more regularly scheduled program next week.


I Have Returned

Just wanted to let everyone know that I got back from Japan in one piece and that the trip was absolutely awe inspiring. I got to do a lot of sight seeing in addition to doing some martial arts training so it was a win all around. I will have much more to say in my next regularly scheduled post (08 July) and likely past that since this journey was quite the experience for me.

Now, if I can discover a magical cure for jet lag, I will be all set . . .


The Spiritual Life

First of all, I want my readers to know that I am going to be taking a short sabbatical for the next couple of weeks and will be returning to my regularly scheduled blog on 8 July. I have the opportunity to go to Japan and I am seizing the day with hopes, amongst other things, of returning with some interesting blog material and, if I am feeling really daring, I may actually try to post some pictures.

As preparation for my journey, I have been reading on Shinto but I have also been taking a good look at Orion Foxwood’s The Tree of Enchantment: Ancient Wisdom and Magical Practices of the Faery Tradition. I am about halfway through the book at this writing and have stopped for some time to begin incorporating some of the exercises into my daily practice. I am already seeing results from this change – something I may discuss more at a later date.

One of my favorite quotes from the book so far is:

The distinctive qualities of Faery Seership are grounded in an understanding that being spiritual is about seeking your place and role in the spirit world.

Orion Foxwood. Tree of Enchantment: Ancient Wisdom and Magic Practices of the Faery Tradition (Kindle Locations 474-475). Kindle Edition.

I have been struggling for some time to actually articulate this thought in my own life. For many moons, I had thought of spirituality as something “out there” that I had to seek and which slipped through my fingers like an ephemeral mist that I just could not quite get a handle on. I thought that if I could just attach myself to the right Power I would begin to feel that sense of connection that the shaman and mages and mystics talked about. While I have always been sensitive to the spirit world, what I often call the Other World in these musings, it had never occurred to me that spirituality actually began with spirits. I thought of the beings that appeared to me either as nuisances (or worse, in some cases) or sources of information and/or power.

I was making the classic mistake of a human being raised in the Western Judeo-Christian paradigm or even in the scientist/materialist paradigms. In both ways of thinking, a human being is a separate entity, either a spirit striving to overcome its body and rise to heaven or a meat puppet whose consciousness arises simply as a byproduct of neuro-chemical processes. While I had experienced moments of connection with something Other, I had continued to think in terms of being a separate entity trying to tune in or establish a relationship with this Other World.

Reading Foxwood, I have finally found a model of the human soul complex that makes sense to me and is helping, slowly but surely, to erase that sense of separateness which has limited my spiritual quest for so long. In the Faery tradition as Mr. Foxwood interprets it, we have a spirit that is a part of the Creator (however that looks to the person) and a soul complex that he calls walkers. Those parts of our soul actually live in the three realms of the tradition and it is through attuning ourselves to the walkers and using those walkers as vehicles of transport and communication in the three worlds that we come into communion with the multitudinous beings in those states of being.

It is through this communication and the building of relationships in the three realms that we come into closer attunement with the Sacred Land on which we live and begin to understand our place in this realms. This approach to spirituality is probably not going to work well for everyone but it seems to be working quite well for me and I urge anyone interested in earth based spiritual practice to take a hard look at The Tree of Enchantment and, as a prelude, Mr. Foxwood’s other book The Faery Teachings. I can honestly say that I have learned more about establishing an earth based spiritual practice from these two books than I have from a host of other tomes I have read in the past.

I’ll stop here and pick up on the other side on 08 July. May everyone have a joyous Summer Solstice and, for my readers in the US and Canada, enjoy your respective independence celebrations. Take care all and “see” you soon.


The Slenderman Meme

While I am in the throes of preparations for a major trip overseas, I felt that I would be remiss if I did not comment briefly on the craziness that has been going on around the Slenderman meme this past week or so. From the horrific stabbing in Wisconsin to a possible second attack in Ohio, interest in this internet urban legend has never been greater. Now, we are being told that the Las Vegas man who took part in the slaying of three people, two of them police officers, was known to cosplay the Slenderman. I have heard that even the normally staid Washington Post has published an article on the origin of this character.

For those who are not familiar with the Slenderman and his origins, I refer you to the excellent work of Cat Vincent, one of the contributors to The Daily Grail.

The Slenderman: Tracing the Birth and Evolution of a Modern Monster

Killing Slenderman

Both The Gralien Report and Mysterious Universe have offered extensive thoughts and commentary on this issue. I encourage interested readers to definitely check out these podcasts for some insightful commentary on this situation.

It has been my position, throughout these pages, that our western scientific materialist modality, while extremely useful, is not the be all and end all of knowledge. I have stated over and over that there are other ways of accessing knowledge and other powers of the human being that science, as we know it now, simply can not explain. That failure to ‘explain’ does not make make these powers any less real.

When dozens, or hundreds or maybe even thousands of people bend their minds toward creating something designed to scare the hell out of people . . . when the creators of that fiction begin to have nightmares about their creation . . . when the writers about this being begin to incorporate the idea of the tulpa or thought form into its ‘back story’ . . . when people start to spontaneously report seeing this being . . . then, my dear readers, something way off the reservation has occurred.

Whether the Slenderman is a powerful thought form wreaking havoc on the minds of those that pay attention to it or a creature of the Other Side that has found a convenient form and portal for entry into our world or simply the mass hallucination of a lot of overwrought minds, it is time to send this horrible thing back to wherever it came from. Cat Vincent mentions the power of laughter in his article on killing the Slenderman (cited above). I agree. The Slenderman survives because people have taken his creation so seriously. The whole purpose of the thing was to create fear.

Let’s not give in to fear. Light a candle, turn on the lights or start a bonfire. Laugh, love and generally step out of the darkness for a little while. The nasties, whatever they may be, abhor such behavior.


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