Saturday, 31 January 2009

Inner paths to outer space

In collaboration with Dr. Slawek Wojtowicz, Dr. Luis Eduardo Luna, and Dr. Ede Frecska; Dr.Rick Strassman's new book Inner Paths to Outer Space is the natural sequel to his first book, DMT: The Spirit Molecule, in which Strassman documented his extraordinary medical research administering the potent endogenous psychedelic neurochemical, dimethyltryptamine (DMT), to human volunteers. After receiving intravenous injections of DMT, Strassman’s participants reported a range of exceptional phenomena from entity encounters and alien abduction-like experiences to near-death like experiences. Inner Paths considers the DMT-induced entity encounters and alien abduction-like experiences from Strassman’s research in further depth, particularly in the contexts of quantum physics, science fiction and shamanism, proposing that access to alien worlds in outer space occurs in the inner space of the psyche. A full review of the book appears in the latest issue of the Journal of Scientific Exploration.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Voodoo - Hoochie choochie and the creative spirit

On the topic of Voodoo, there's a salty-looking exhibition just started in London last week entitled Voodoo: Hoochie choochie and the creative spirit. It's on until April, so mooch your vévé feet down to Regent Street...

The exhibition features those artists, writers and musicians who acknowledge the need to reach a heightened or 'altered state' in order to create their work. We look at the mystery of the creative act; not the inexplicable 'spark', aka inspiration, but the fire; the non-doing before the doing, the summoning up of elemental spirits from within, or without, during the preparation of some visual or musical work, some theory or idea. This welling-up or 'possession', this 'fever in the heart of man', this spirit, this spell, might sometimes be referred to as Voodoo.

Image by Leah Gordon

Friday, 23 January 2009

Voodoo Neuroscience

Following up on an older post on the pseudoscientific appeal of neuroscience (Brain imaging: Old snake oil in new bottles?) an article due for publication in Perspectives on Psychological Science demonstrates how numerous brain imaging researchers have been fudging the books to show very strong relationships between personality correlates and specific-brain region activity. Given the already enormous complexity of the cortex, etc. and the intractable difficulty mapping the mind to the brain, it doesn’t help matters when social neuroscientists and the like just conveniently report only the most significant relationships in their studies and ignore the huge bin full of unrelated data they’ve collected.

Such selective reporting, which appears to be rife in social neuroscience according to this new research by Harold Pashler and his team at MIT and the University of California, violates principles of probability and grossly distorts what can be understood about neuropsychology, thereby painting a far brighter and clearer image of personality in the brain than the genuinely muddy picture we really have. Honing in on particular correlations is all well and good in voodoo, which works based on acausal associative principles, but in science this kind of misreporting is just mumbo jumbo. Perhaps neuroscience isn't actually any more scientific than magic, but at least voodoo sticks to its principles!

Thanks to the BPS Research Digest Blog...

Do you do Voodoo?

They are beloved by prestigious journals and the popular press, but many recent social neuroscience studies are profoundly flawed, according to a devastating critique - Voodoo Correlations in Social Neuroscience - in press at Perspectives on Psychological Science (PDF).

The studies in question have tended to claim astonishingly high correlations between localised areas of brain activity and specific psychological measures. For example, in 2003, Naomi Eisenberger at the University of California and her colleagues published a paper purporting to show that levels of self-reported rejection correlated at r=.88 (1.0 would be a perfect correlation) with levels of activity in the anterior cingulate cortex.

According to Hal Pashler and his band of methodological whistle-blowers, if Eisenberg's study and others like it were accurate, this "would be a milestone in understanding of brain-behaviour linkages, full of promise for potential diagnostic and therapeutic spin-offs." Unfortunately, Pashler's group argue that the findings from many of these recent studies are virtually meaningless. (Read more…)

Monday, 5 January 2009

Death, and the God of a thousand eyes

Following up on the sold-out lecture on "shamanism through the ages" that was given by Pablo Friedlander at the October Gallery at the end of November, the series of lectures on Ecology, Cosmos and Consciousness we are organising continues this year, every last Tuesday of the month. Next up on 27th January is Dr. David Luke (yeah, I had to take the slot to get things started) who will be giving a talk entitled "Death, and the God of a thousand eyes". I´ll be there, obviously.

October Gallery, 24 Old Gloucester Street, London, WC1N 3AL (Tel: 44 (0)20 7831 1618). Please RSVP as space is very limited, email: rentals AT
Entry £7 /£5 Concessions, Arrive 6pm for a 6:30pm Start - Wine available

This talk discusses both the scientific and the mystical understanding of people's experiences of visionary encounters with discarnate beings. In all times and places people have had profoundly real experiences of deities, demons, angels, elves, aliens, and ghosts. Sometimes these occur when a person is in altered state – dreaming, on drugs, or is near death. The connection between the altered state and the 'visitation' is explored in a vivid illustrated talk, which takes a personal tour through folklore, mythology, neurochemistry, magic, shamanism, the Luciferian witch cult, brain anatomy, Tibetan demonology, the pineal gland, art, the Reg Veda, psychoactive toads and a cauldron full of other odd ingredients. A lively slide lecture format followed by discussion.

Dr. David Luke lectures in psychology at several London universities and is a writer and researcher with a special interest in parapsychology and altered states of consciousness. He has studied paranormal phenomena and techniques of consciousness alteration from South America to India, from the perspective of scientists, shamans and Shivaites. He lives life on the edge, of Hackney.

Thanks to Alex Grey for the image