Friday, 6 March 2009

A New Science of Life

Last week saw another great evening of ranting and decanting at the Old Gloucester Street Salon, sipping wine amidst stunning artwork and listening to Paul Devereux lead us down some very tangible spiritual paths on his beautifully illustrated talk about "Shamanic Landscapes".

This month, Tuesday 31st March, at the October Gallery we have one of the greatest lateral thinking scientists of our time, Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, coming to talk to us about "Morphic Resonance and the Habits of Nature." Rupert will be giving us some fresh insights from the updated reissue of his fascinating yet shocking book "A New Science of Life", which when it was first published in the early '80s it received a review from the senior editor of the leading science journal, Nature, under the title "A book for burning?", clearly indicating an open-minded and scientifically objective reaction to new ideas.

The editor in question, John Maddox, later commented that Sheldrake was a scientific heretic as much as Galileo was a religious heretic for the pope, thereby rather absurdly condemning his own dogmatism. But Sheldrake's approach to his own rather radical ideas about the organisation of life and the location of memory is scientific and Sheldrake has been extremely vocal about trying to get scientists to test his claims, but like those who refused to look into Galileo's telescope, Sheldrake's radical hypotheses have been tested by merely a few scientists other than himself. Ex research fellow at the Royal Society, the bastion of establishment science, Rupert's most recent attempts to verify his theories have adopted a particularly parapsychological methodology and he has published numerous positive findings on his experiments into household psychic abilities such as telephone telepathy and the sense of being glared at. A definite treat.

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

A New Science of Life: Morphic Resssonance and the Habits of Nature

According to Rupert Sheldrake's hypothesis of formative causation, all self-organizing systems, including crystals, animals and societies contain an inherent memory, given by a process called morphic resonance from previous similar systems. All human beings draw upon a collective human memory, and in turn contribute to it. Even individual memory depends on morphic resonance rather than on physical memory traces stored within the brain. This radical hypothesis implies that the so-called laws of nature are more like habits, and evolution, like human life, depends on an interplay between habit and creativity.

“Hofmann’s alive!” – LSD Chemist talks from beyond

Not content with having lived to the ripe old age of 102 before he died last year, the inventor of LSD, Swiss chemist Dr. Albert Hofmann, has reportedly announced that he is still going strong in the after life. I’ve been studying the paranormal effects of psychedelics for quite some time, but this is probably the biggest claim yet to be made for the astonishing capabilities of LSD. According to an article posted on a mediumistic circle's blog, psychedelic explorer Lucius Werthmueller travelled 400km to a séance to try and communicate with Dr. Hofmann around about the time of the late chemist’s birthday. Lucias was one of the organisers of the two recent World Psychedelic Forum conferences, which attracted over 2,000 scientific psychedelic researchers, therapists and other delegates to Basel, Switzerland for the event, and he had been a friend of Dr. Hofmann for 25 years.

During the séance it appeared as though no contact was going to be made and that Werthmueller would leave empty handed but, on the contrary, after hearing two loud raps Lucias found a wax object had “somehow softly” been placed into his hand. Inspecting the object (what is known as an “apport” in psychical research) it was found to contain a thimble with a small paper note inside on which was inscribed, “Lucius, look and beware of this wonderful nature. It lives. I live. Albert.”

As can be seen from the short video of the event, Werthmueller announced his astonishment at the message and indicated that that was just the kind of thing that Albert would write. Throughout his very long life, Dr. Hofmann (as highlighted in a new bulletin devoted to psychedelics and ecology) had always been a serious lover of nature, had had a mystical experience of nature as a child, and had been quite vocal on humanity’s ecological imperatives (so certainly the information supposedly provided by Albert was not unknown to anyone who cared to represent him… I hasten to add wearing my sceptical hat). Perhaps more impressively, the text appeared to be written in Albert’s hand and was even signed with a signature closely resembling Dr.Hofmann’s own, but perhaps only an expert graphologist can comment any further on this.

Watching the video of the séance group opening the apport I was surprised at how early the opener managed to identify a thimble inside it, whilst it was still mostly obscured, but it should be said that neither was this “sitter group” unfamiliar with the appearance of such cryptic objects at their meetings, so it may have been easily identified due to its familiarity. What is clear is that fraud cannot be ruled out, nor yet proved, and the case remains a very curious anecdote. Having lived to 102, invented LSD, discovered the chemical structure of psilocybin and psilocin (the active ingredients in certain “magic mushrooms”) and invented and discovered numerous other useful chemical compounds, perhaps Albert Hofmann is now capable of some really quite astonishing feats. I wouldn’t rule it out either. One thing is for sure, Hofmann had long had an interest in the paranormal in relation to psychedelic substances.

A very similar case occurred, but perhaps one that is more convincing because of its accidental nature, shortly after the death of the psychedelic researcher Dr. Walter Pahnke. Best known for his infamous Good Friday experiment that practically proved that psychedelics do give rise to genuine, meaningful and long lasting mystical experiences, Pahnke had managed to obtain a PhD, an MD, a psychiatry residency, and a Masters in Divinity, ALL from Harvard, before dying in a scuba diving accident at the tender age of 40. Less well known, Pahnke had also attempted psychic experiments with participants on LSD but was unsuccessful.

During an LSD psychotherapy session with pioneering therapist Dr. Stan Grof, the late Pahnke’s wife had an apparent encounter with the spirit of Walter Pahnke and he told her that he had a book located in a particular place in their attic that he wished her to retrieve and give back to a friend of his. Quite amazingly, after the LSD therapy session Pahnke’s wife located the lost book, of course, and returned it to the late doctor’s friend. Somehow, as an anecdote of psychedelic spirits apparently communicating from beyond, I find this account rather more feasible than the Hofmann one (…if only he had given us the chemical formula to a new wonder drug instead of a postcard message…), but we’re only likely to find out the absolute truth when we all have our own permanent paranormal experience at the end of this life. Happy travels.

Photograph: Dean Chamberlain -

Thanks to Andreas for the link

Zombie neuroimaging: High-tech phrenology?

Having a conversation with a professor of social psychology the other day concerning the two recent papers about voodoo neuroscience (voodoo neuroscience & snake oil), I was told something like, “At its best neuroimaging can tell us something interesting things about human psychology and the brain, but at its worst its nothing more than high-tech phrenology. I think the best thing it could do however, would be to locate the part of the brain that makes neuroscientists die-hard reductionists and then have it surgically removed”. Interesting food for thought, but only if you like the taste of brains! Material reductionists, however, would have us all believe that we are deluded zombies devoid of any free will and real consciousness anyway, so perhaps they would be happy with brains on the menu after all? For anyone taking offence, remember science is a method not a belief.