Tuesday 26 August 2008

The Psychic Mafia by M Lamar Keene

The Psychic Mafia is a book written by the famous American psychic and trance medium M Lamar Keene in 1976. It is an autobiographical “whistle-blower” story confessing his secret life as a fake medium. The book is out of print and used copies are very expensive, but an individual in the Netherlands calling himself “The Anonymous Typist” has taken it upon himself to reproduce the entire text into an e-book which he sends free-of-charge to anyone who asks for it. He states on his site: http://www.skepsis.nl/mafia.html that he intends no harm in breaching copyright, but he considers the book’s message too important to keep back. He says that if a new edition is ever published he will withdraw his distribution of the free e-book. I recommend to all HPANWO readers that you contact the “Anonymous Typist” and read the book as well as, and preferably before, reading my review of it. He answers promptly and courteously, enclosing the book in a series of attached ASC files. The text can be copied-and-pasted into a Word document if you prefer.

The Psychic Mafia follows Keene’s life as man who trained as a medium with good intentions, but soon became seduced by the home truths of his particular psychic institution: that trickery was far more lucrative than honest clairvoyance. He describes the methods used by fake mediums, from cold-reading and psychology to secret trapdoors, stagecraft and special effects at seances. He even employed spies to do research into his client’s backgrounds so that he could give information to them that would sound as if it came from the Spiritworld. Despite all this, Keene stood by his assertion that real psychic powers exist. It’s just that he personally and professionally didn’t use them. Keene suffered an attempted-murder soon after his book was published. Some claim that he was targeted by fake mediums in revenge; similar claims have been made about Harry Houdini.

My first impression of the book was that it read like a kind of Betty Shine meets Trance-Formation of America. The revelations within seemed almost too fantastic to be true; and I’m not a newcomer to Skeptic literature. I don’t doubt that these kinds of things go on. I know that fake mediums do operate and I’m glad this book has revealed some of their secret methods. There’s only one problem: the activities and ceremonies described by Keene have absolutely nothing in common, in any way, with anything resembling the Spiritualism I’m involved in. This Hogarth collection of low-lifes, black matriarchs, psychotics, occultists and emotional vampires are as alien to me as they probably are to you.

My Spiritualist church bears no resemblance to any location described in the book. It is not a religious place of worship in the same way as a regular church is. I think people call it a “church” because in earlier days something had to have that word in its name to avoid being closed down as a “den of heresy”, especially during less tolerant ages (Spiritualism did NOT begin with the Fox sisters; theirs is merely a tacky modern reproduction of an ancient and ubiquitous phenomenon that has always been a part of human existence). There are no formal ceremonies in our Spiritualist services, short of singing a few hymns. There’s usually a reading, not from some dogmatic religious scripture, but from anything with a spiritual theme. Sometimes it’s a Hindu proverb, a Gnostic poem, a Native American proverb, a meaningful joke even! Then the medium will begin channeling. The word “medium” is rarely used in my church; usually it is substituted by the word “speaker”, and that’s a good word because all he or she does is speak. There are no trumpets, no chiffon, no silk tableaux, no message cards, no manifestations, no sealed envelopes, no ectoplasm. I have never seen psychics at my church use any kind of prop whatsoever!... And yes, the church is always well-lit during the service. As for the idea of mediums having sex with sitters: it is absolutely unthinkable! Any medium who tried it would be blacklisted!

Afterwards we sing another hymn and there’s a whip-round with the collection bag. The amount of money collected usually only just covers the mediums petrol tank or train ticket. Mediums do charge forty to fifty pounds for a private sitting, but at churches, where they do most of their work, they earn next to nothing. In fact one of the world’s most famous mediums today, Gordon Smith, refuses to take any money at all and, until recently, has lived entirely off his day-job: running a barbers shop in Glasgow. Most Spiritualists are working-class and their average age is in the later fifties. Many will be on pensions or benefits; they are not the kind of people who can write thousand dollar cheques, however vehemently some discarnate relative demands it. The church is run by a committee of volunteers, a handful of local elderly couples. The building I hear is actually is a converted Scout hut, about 20 feet square, (there’s another group in my hometown that cannot afford any premises of its own and has to hire a function room at a community centre) and I doubt there would be room for any hidden trapdoors or secret storage vaults with a database on everyone who goes in there, even if the same people attended every week. The services at my church end with a blessing and then we gather round with a cup of tea and have a discussion on any and all things spiritual, my favorite port of the evening. This is also a time when the medium will do hands-on healing, always without charging. The churches in The Psychic Mafia are far bigger and grander than anything I’m used to. There is no hierarchy in my church, or any other church I’ve heard of; nobody is a “queen” or “prince”, there are no suited ushers, no grand design features.

I have never been to “Camp Chesterfield” or any other institution like it. As far as I know such places don’t exist today. I’ve never seen anything like them advertised. I’ve been to a seance once only and it was a very sordid and uninspiring affair, carried out by a self-professed “medium” who never does the church circuit. Most Spiritualists attend seances at some point, usually when they’re new to Spiritualism and curious to experiment and learn, but few that I know of do such things regularly. And seances never take place at my church; the one I went to was at someone’s house. What’s more I’ve never even seen a Ouija Board in my life, let alone used one!

One of the biggest differences between M Lamar Keene’s and my own experience of Spiritualism is the sitters themselves. The people I know at church are some of the most active-minded, intelligent individuals you could ask to meet; they are nothing like the vulnerable, grief-stricken, neurotic dupes whom Keene used to exploit and plunder. Most church members are well-read and have a sound general knowledge base. Many, along with me, attend separate discussion meetings on the paranormal. We’ve occasionally had Skeptics join us and they’ve been made very welcome, not kicked out like Keene’s challengers were. They’ve often asked very searching questions to the medium and started a very spirited talk. People who attend Spiritualist churches are not brainless saps; they are as capable as anyone else.

I wonder if the Skeptic movement has perhaps made an unfair generalization here. What do Skeptics mean by “Spiritualism”? What range of beliefs and philosophies does the term cover? If you mean it to refer to Keene’s brand of showmanship, then I’m certainly not a believer in that! What’s more I’m very glad someone has written a book to lay it open for the farce that it is! But this kind of thing is not Spiritualism as I define it, and I don’t think it’s fair to tar my Spiritualism with the same brush. In the last few pages of the book I got the impression that Keene was aware of this too. He discourages people from getting involved in any kind of Spiritualism because of his own experiences, but if he’d ever visited a Spiritualist church like mine he might have changed his mind… pity he didn’t.

All in all, I’m glad I read this book. I recommend it to anyone. However the situations in the book bear no resemblance to my experience of Spiritualism and give me no reason to suspect that such Spiritualism is fake.

Wednesday 20 August 2008

Skeptics in the Pub (18/8/08)

On Monday evening I went to Skeptics in the Pub: http://www.skeptic.org.uk/pub/ . This was the second time I’ve attended. Last time, last month, I wrote about it here: http://hpanwo.blogspot.com/2008/07/skeptic-in-pub-21808.html .

I arrived early at the Penderel’s Oak, but was momentarily taken aback because it has a new signboard; it’s been renamed the Left-Brain Arms. Clustered outside on the street were a group of customers huddling in self-conscious poses as they had a quick irrationality break (It’s not been easy for them since the ban. The pub’s landlord scoffed at my idea of setting up a separate irrational-thinking bar.) As before the cellar bar was enthusiastically crowded. The attendees looked fresh-faced and optimistic. These are people living the Skeptic Dream! They wear Skeptic clothes and eat Skeptic food; they drive Skeptic cars and ride on Skeptic buses! Their MBA’s were pinned like figureheads to their chests, scintillating in the dusky wash of the overhead ceiling lights. I tried to order my usual tipple from the bar, but the barmaid curtly informed me: “I’m sorry, Sir; we’re only serving Skeptic drinks here tonight.” So I settled down with a cool, refreshing pint of James Randi Bitter and listened to the speaker.

Doug Ellison is a multimedia designer for e-learning, but in his spare time is a space enthusiast. He runs a web forum dedicated to sharing and developing practical ideas for exploring the solar system: http://www.unmannedspaceflight.com/index.php? . The subject of his address that evening was Mars. It’s a planet that has come to symbolize all that is alien and unreachable, but in fact Mars is more similar to Earth than any other planet we’ve discovered so far. It rotates only a little bit slower so the Martian day is a mere 40 minutes longer. It is the only other place in the universe where it is known that you will find liquid water, albeit not much. Today it is very arid and its atmosphere is 100 times thinner than Earth’s, but its surface shows signs that in the distant past it had a thicker atmosphere with a large amount of water: rivers, lakes and even oceans. It was once very Earth-like and life could have emerged there. Unfortunately without a strong magnetic field the water soon evaporated into space. With a magnetic field to protect it from solar radiation Mars might have been like Earth today, a blue-green planet! The question of whether life did ever occur there, or even that it might still be there, is one of the biggest questions in modern science. As a result Mars has been targeted with dozens of space probes from several different nations. Today there is a virtually permanent robotic presence there and the USA, Russia and China all have manned missions on their drawing boards. But Ellison believes that the increasing interest in the Red Planet has a dark side: what he calls “crap”. This “crap” is the astonishing theory that there is more to Mars than what official science tells us and that the space agencies involved in its exploration are covering something up. The most prominent figure in alternative Martian investigation is Richard Hoagland and Ellison doesn’t mince his words when he mentions Hoagland: “I hate him so much!” He's an unequivocal and very cynical believer in the Strong Hoaglandic Principle, that the man is a money-grabbing blackguard, pure and simple. He’s talking nonsense and he knows it, but doesn’t care because it sells books and DVD’s! (The Weak Hoaglandic Principle states that he’s talking nonsense, but that he is honestly deluded and really thinks that what he’s saying is true.) Ellison denies that a conspiracy is possible because there’s more than one space agency involved nowadays, not just NASA. The European Space Agency and others would have to be in on the plot for it to work; too many people would have to know, making the conspiracy unacceptably top-heavy. (This is one of the criticisms of the Moon-landing hoax theory too, not a criticism I accept for reasons I state below). The idea that the data from Mars is subject to censorship is, according to Ellison, wrong because the signal from Mars Express and other relay satellites in Mars orbit is made available unedited on the Net just 30 minutes after it arrives. There is no human interference in the data-stream. To demonstrate this he put up a photo on the projector screen that had just been sent from Spirit. Apparently if you have the right receiver you can pick up the signal yourself at home, bypassing all the usual channels; somebody in Belgium has done just that! He also demonstrated that the notion that the pictures taken on Mars prove that NASA are lying about the atmosphere being thin and poisonous, and that the planet really has a thick, breathable atmosphere, are misunderstandings based on the various effects of photograph processing. For example in some of the Mars photos the sky looks blue, but this is simply because the “Pancam” cameras with which the Spirit Rover and other probes are equipped have a separate blue-filtered field. This part of his research is very persuasive and it became obvious to me that some of the ideas of the Martian cover-up based on photo-colour are wrong; here’s a good example of the kind of notions he debunked: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=DZU_pPdNedc&feature=related I'm sold! They are genuine photos. (but whether they are genuine photos of the real Martian surface is another matter; as is whether the Martian surface depicted is both real and natural; but that’s a long story, beyond the immediate scope of this article!) However I don’t share Ellison’s confidence that a conspiracy is out of the question just because many different space agencies from many different nations are involved. Corruption is far more insidious, durable and widespread than is commonly known. I have witnessed firsthand, in very benign-looking institutions, the most appalling deceit, destruction and social violence concealed under a frighteningly thin veneer. I was also dismayed at how willing so many people are to turn a blind eye. The “just get on with your job and don’t rock the boat” ethic is a commonly-upheld one indeed. The recent organized child abuse scandals in North Wales and the Channel Islands are a good example. Some space agencies also have a few skeletons in their cupboard, and as far as NASA is concerned it is an ossuary! NASA works on classified military operations and always has done, from launching spy satellites to “Star Wars” experiments. They’ve employed some very dodgy characters and given fame and respectability to people who really belong in jail! In my opinion NASA has not earned the people’s trust.

Ellison then went on to address some other Martian scoops that he thinks have been blown out of all proportion by the media, like the “Sedimentary Sasquatch”. I didn’t know it was called that, but I’ve heard about it and written about it myself: http://hpanwo.blogspot.com/2008/01/prood-of-alien-on-mars.html . With the passing of time since I wrote the article, this object looks less convincing. It could be simply a “cloud-teddy”; our brains’ visual centre tends to seek out recognizable shapes in random chaotic images. The continued media interest in gimmicky curiosities like this actually begins to feel a bit like a “public relations exercise” to me. What better way to make people reject any real Martian anomalies than to focus their attention on something so obviously unimpressive and easy to disprove? Other anomalous objects that have been spotted in Mars photos are actually just parts of the spacecraft that have been jettisoned in their descent, like the heat-shield and parachute.

For a while I thought Ellison was going to avoid the most famous alternative Mars investigation subject of all: the Face on Mars, but he didn’t disappoint. He views the Face in a very similar way to the “Sedimentary Sasquatch”, a cloud-teddy; and to support his opinion, he put up pics of many other face-like objects on the surface of Mars that none of the "conspiracy theorists" point to. The Face dates back to the 1976 Viking mission, where it was spotted at a press conference. Since then more recent pictures of the Face have been published by modern craft like the Mars Global Surveyor; or at least NASA have told us that's what they are. Here are some of them: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mgs/msss/camera/images/4_6_face_release/index.html . It looks a lot less face-like and more like a cloud-teddy now; Ellison thinks that’s all it is. However, I once again disagree with Ellison’s assertion that this closes the case. The original Viking images were subjected to fractal analysis, a military system that was used on spy-plane and satellite photos to spot enemy tanks in the Gulf War. The system is specifically designed to eliminate the natural cloud-teddy function of human vision. It concluded that the Face was the most unnatural object for hundreds of miles around. Other researchers have also analyzed the more recent Face pictures and disagreed that it is natural. This vid is very interesting. I jumped out of my seat when they fist showed the Face!: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2901932981144033755&ei=4UKsSIn4NIf2iQLV-p3rAQ&q=life+on+mars . “The Face on Mars is not artificial!” exclaimed Ellison “This is what artificial objects look like!” and he showed us a Google Earth picture of the Egyptian Pyramids. But I wonder what the Pyramids will look like in the future. If the Face on Mars is the creation of an extinct Martian civilization then it is extremely old, billions of years old, maybe even predating life on Earth itself, let alone terrestrial human civilization! I wonder how “artificial” the Pyramids will look after a few more millennia of environmental weathering. So you see, it’s not a suitable comparison. As far as Hoagland goes I personally believe in the “Super-Weak Hoaglandic Principle”; in that I believe he’s genuine about what he says, what’s more he’s not talking complete nonsense either. But I certainly don’t go along with all his views. I concur with Ellison’s opinion that “Topogly” is all bollocks. You can generate significant mathematical constants out of almost anything, so long as you have enough points to link angles between! But there are some interesting “coincidences” with Cydonia which involve far more basic mathematical geography (or to be pedantic: “Areography”) and deserve further study in my view: The complex lies on the 120th Meridian, taking Olympus Mons as the prime one; that’s exactly one third of the way round the planet. The whole complex around the Face matches the layout of ancient monuments on Earth, like the Avebury circle and its environs in Wiltshire; the resemblance is uncanny! Of course you could put it down to “coincidence”, but if you do that why not do the same for the Mona Lisa? You could claim it wasn’t really a portrait at all; it’s just that Leonardo spilled a few pots of paint onto a canvas by accident! That’s the big problem with Coincidence Theory: where’s the cut-off point?

Whatever Ellison and anyone else asserts, the truth is that there is an opaque veil that covers human activity in space and that when the authorities tell us what space is like and show us data to support their claims, we have to take their word for it to a large extent. We can’t see what’s going on out on Mars with our own eyes! We have to rely on authorities and trust them. I’ve stated above that I think that space authorities have the means and opportunity to conduct a hoax. How? And what is there to cover up? Well, I can’t elaborate on that in this article. But seeing as they have a means and opportunity, do they have the motive as well? Well, imagine for a moment the effect it would have on our society if it was announced that we had absolute proof of intelligent extraterrestrial life, even if it was extinct; what would happen to our political, religious and social structures? There are some very powerful people in the world whose only mission is to hang on to that power at all costs. Public acknowledgement that intelligent life “Out There” is real could threaten it in many ways; and there are psychological PR studies that say this in as many words, like the Brookings Institute Report of 1961. I’ll be writing a lot about that in the future. Let’s assume for a moment that official History is correct and that the Mariner and Viking missions really were humanity’s first encounter with the Red Planet (I’m not certain of that they were, but that’s a story for another time!). The pics come back showing the Face on Mars, NASA say: “Oh dear! What are we going to do!? Everyone can see a relic of alien intelligence!” They can’t airbrush it out in future publications, nor can they from pictures from future missions because anyone looking would spot the Face’s absence, so the solution?: downplay it and seed false data and disinformation.

I had a chat with Ellison after the lecture and got on rather well with him, but this is probably because I held back a lot of my opinions! He said: “Mars is an amazing and intriguing enough place already without inventing secret conspiracies about it.” That’s true... not that this is a reason to declare that there can’t possibly be any conspiracies when there could be, but I see what he means. He is currently reading one of my favourite novels. The Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson (http://www.war-ofthe-worlds.co.uk/red_mars_green_mars_blue_mars.htm ). Unlike me, Ellison is only interested in the nuts-and-bolts scientific aspect to the story whereas I also appreciate its exploration of sociology and politics. It’s an amazing sci-fi book that is set in official future History (Just in case anyone’s thinking that I don’t read normal books!). Unlike my first visit to SITP I managed to strike up some conversations with the other patrons. I had a good chat with a nice bloke called Colin and also met a friendly fellow called Jack of Kent who runs his own blog: http://jackofkent.blogspot.com/ . He’s posted comments on my first SITP article, see above. He explained to me that the reason people were so reserved and standoffish at the last SITP was because that’s what Londoners tend to be; it’s a habit. I can accept that after having a much more social experience there this time. I also admit that I have suffered a bit from paranoia and prejudice because of the Skepper who’s been harassing me for the last three years! The latest SITP has reassured me that not all Skeppers are like him! I’ll look forward to the one next month and hope I can go along!

Wednesday 6 August 2008

Happy Birthday, HPANWO!

Doesn’t a year fly by when you’re busy and having fun (hopefully a combination of both!)!? HPANWO has reached its first anniversary during which it has hopefully provided food for thought, Hospital Porters’ Pride and Dignity, promotion of free mind, speech and action, a good, hard kick in the butt for the Illuminati and much much more! I’ve written an article every 2.4 days on average on subjects as diverse as aliens, ghosts, God/no-God, cryptozoology, government cover-ups, the media, spectral footprints, space exploration, secret medicine… and of course Hospital Portering. And there’ll be more of that in the year ahead I promise. As long as the Internet remains free and the threat of the NWO is at large, HPANWO will be there to challenge it!

Tuesday 5 August 2008

Spooks: Code 9

Spooks: Code 9 website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/spookscode9/ The first episode goes out this coming Saturday.

Spooks: Code 9 is a spin-off from the award-winning television series Spooks. It is set in the near future and is all about a group of British government secret agents who are fighting against the “threat of terrorism” in the wake of an Al-Qaida nuclear attack on London. The series is a commissioned production for the BBC and was created by the independent producer Kudos Films. The BBC is a state-controlled corporation, but they contact out a certain number of the programme slots to private production outfits. However the BBC has the choice over whom they award contracts to and only award them to material they consider “worthy” of broadcast. In the case of Spooks: Code 9, it was given a contract by the BBC’s Controller of Fiction, Jane Tranter: http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/biographies/biogs/controllers/janetranter.shtml . About the new series, she said this: "It's brilliant to have the chance of looking into the future of Spooks with Spooks: Code 9 on BBC3”. This lady has an interesting past; she joined the BBC in 1985 and began in radio drama then for four years was a floor manager for Eastenders. Read my article on The Grimleys and you’ll see what I think of TavistockEnders!: http://hpanwo.blogspot.com/2008/07/grimlys.html . But this was not Tranter’s only involvement in Conformist propaganda; when she got involved with commissioning she worked on dramas like Casanova, Casualty, Holby City, Hotel Babylon and Rome which are all laced with very virulent Conformist themes. (She also commissioned the series Bodies which ironically was written by The Grimleys creator, Jed Mercurio!) Kudos Films have been awarded contracts by the BBC before. They produced the comedy-drama Hustle which is one of the most loaded Conformist creations I’ve ever seen; it even includes Eastenders-style CMI-CAP conflict and dominance plots. Tranter brought in the original series of Spooks and today is in control of fiction for BBC1, BBC2, BBC3 and BBC4. There are hundreds of independent filmmakers in Britain who have scripts and production designs for all sorts of movies and serials with a huge variety of styles and themes, but nothing gets broadcast on mainstream TV without being commissioned at the highest level by the Network management. Tranter might have her say on what gets broadcast or doesn’t, but senior BBC executives decide whether or not to employ Tranter.

After watching the preview and sample clip on the Spooks: Code 9 website you’ll probably guess that I don’t expect to be a fan. As regular HPANWO readers will know I think that this obsession with terrorism is based on a delusion deliberately fabricated by the Illuminati-controlled governments to keep us in fear, because when we’re scared of something we look to their representatives in government to protect us. Politicians glean a lot of credibility from promoting themselves as our saviours. Their working ethics are summed up very well in the introduction to Adam Curtis’ outstanding documentary series The Power of Nightmares- the Rise of the Politics of Fear: “In the past, politicians promised to create a better world. They had different ways of achieving this, but their power and authority came from the optimistic visions they offered to their people. Those dreams failed; and today people have lost faith in ideologies. Increasingly politicians are seen simply as managers of public life. But now they have discovered a new role that restores their power and authority. Instead of delivering dreams, politicians now promise to protect us from nightmares. They say that they will rescue us from dreadful dangers that we cannot see and do not understand. And the greatest danger of all is international terrorism. A powerful and sinister network, with sleeper cells in countries across the world. A threat that needs to be fought by a war on terror. But much of this threat is a fantasy which has been exaggerated and distorted by politicians. It’s a dark illusion that has spread unquestioned through governments around the world, the security services and the international media”. (Watch the whole series here: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/video1037.htm ). And TV shows like Spooks: Code 9 are part of that “politics of fear”. It’s no coincidence that a very similar TV drama series, 24, came out in the United States just a few months before the original Spooks did (24 website: http://www.fox.com/24/ ). 24 was produced by Fox, one of the most blatantly manipulative TV corporations ever. It is owned by Rupert Murdoch who also owns The Sun newspaper; he is probably the world’s most important modern propaganda author. Most other media corporations are no better than Murdoch; they’re equally manipulative, just more subtle, designed to infiltrate the tougher willpower of more intelligent and analytical minds. Spooks came out in April 2002 and 24 first screened in November 2001. TV programmes are not made overnight. From the moment the scriptwriter first picks up his pen to the moment the TV viewer tunes in to watch takes a year or two at the very least so both series’ therefore had to be in production when the 9/11 attacks took place, emerging at exactly the right time to strike while the iron was hot, to absorb and process all that fear and dread that was coursing over the world in the aftermath! I’d bet anything that the people behind 9/11 (A government black-budget military operation, not a terrorist attack!) coordinated their efforts with both the BBC and Fox to make sure that both their propaganda series were unleashed at the perfect moment of ripeness when they could have the biggest effect.

As I said above small, independent film makers are everywhere, so why don’t we have more TV shows and movies with themes that expose government propaganda? Well we do, there are wonderful movies like V for Vendetta, 1984 and Wag the Dog; There are also TV dramas warning about the erosion of civil liberties and the emerging authoritarianism we see because of this fear of terrorists, like The Last Enemy ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/drama/lastenemy/ ). It’s obvious that the manipulators cannot have complete control over the media, nor even some single networks like the BBC. There must be several tendencies in the media who are deeply concerned by the current rise of political tyranny and want to do something to expose it. I wish them all the best!