Sunday, January 22, 2006

Aliens among us

There are so many conspiracy theories and paranormal foundations based on aliens. I think our current fascination with it has more to do with the media than actual contact, but it's worth looking into all the same.

Calvary Chapel Roswell talks lightly on this issue but profoundly points out that we have several options. Aliens could be paranoia fueled by the media, could be actual creatures from someplace other than our planet, or could be demons.

I think people are looking for a way to explain several points of the unexplainable. For example, there is a surge of scientists who were strong evolutionary (particularly darwinian evolution) supporters turning towards intelligent design. They are not saying that intelligent design supports evolution, but rather the opposite. They state that because of the chasm of explanation and evidence of evolution at a micro-biological level where protein based machines are forming, darwinian evolution fails and intelligent design provides the only possible explanation.

If there is intelligent design, the next important question is where is the intelligence? We used to think that everything in the universe could be formed through matter and energy, but that definition falls short. We are finding evidence in our DNA, the function of the RNA and the process of amino acid structures forming into proteins that there is a third piece to the universe which is information. So with matter, energy and information we are able to explain life. But where does that information come from?

If there are aliens, it's likely they will step forward and make claim for that information - not necessarily because they planted the information but because they can gain quite a bit from doing so. People on earth do this all the time with patents; people claim they invented some process so royalties are due. Imagine some creature coming to earth claiming to have a patent on carbon based life.

My own personal beliefs lead me to believe that the aliens are somehow related to the "watchers" described in the dead sea scrolls and suggested in the Bible. In short, angels or demons that present themselves in some similar manifestation. Throughout the Bible people are able to identify angels apart from humans, so it's reasonable from a Christian perspective.

One pastor mentioned that the aliens we have come in contact with in recent times are more likely demons. His reasoning is that they always focus on the greatness of humanity (where the Bible clearly points out that humanity failed at the point of sin so that we require a savior), and they point out a higher line of thought we should be aspiring to (where the Bible makes it clear that we should be focused on God and pleasing Him rather than reasoning Him).

I have confidence that if aliens do exist - whether as watchers, angels, demons or extra-terrestrial beings - they will reveal themselves more consistently and predominately about a decade from now and humanity will be ready at that time to accept them into the fold.

Monday, January 09, 2006

My buns are burning! My buns are burning!

Spontaneous human combustion has always been one of those topics that even the hard skeptics of common urban legends and paranormal incidents seem to accept. It's definitely biblical to some extent, as we see people catch aflame for various crimes against God's sanctification, but other than acts of God is the phenomenon explainable?

There was a very convincing BBC show that talked about the human wick theory. The show definitely leaves viewers with a strong sense that the wick theory is not only possible, but possibly the only explanation for spontaneous human combustion.

Quite frankly, I think more research needs to be done on the wick theory because it is so promising. Does it leave the tell-tale signs of other spontaneous human combustion cases? The greasy soot? The heat-line (usually 3-4 feet above the burning body)? The unburned portions of body? The lack of combustion or fire damage to nearby flammable material (e.g. papers near the body left unmarred). Bones to ash without intervention (reportedly takes place at around 2000 degrees Fahrenheit).

What about the still unanswered questions? Why didn't the show mention any survivors of spontaneous human combustion? The first thing I would do is go to the phone and call for an ambulance. It's assumed that the combustion period takes several hours ... But you don't ever get 911 calls from someone saying "I'm burning up and I don't know why. Smoke is coming out of my abdomen even when I'm in the bath-tub full of water." Perhaps the lungs are the first to go so you can't yell; all SHC cases appear to involve the abdomen (even in the Jean Lucille Saffin case the hands were in the lap and flames were coming out of her mouth/throat), and after 4 minutes without oxygen you die and your carcass keeps burning... Maybe...

Richard Milton explains some of the issues of explaining away this phenomenon with the wick theory.

He also provides a brief on the more recent cases where people were caught in the act of spontaneously combusting.

There are some other theories out there, but none come close to holding water in explaining this particular phenomenon. It's recorded in ancient records and current events. Chemistry is so spectacular - for example, look at the exothermic reaction when pure potassium is dropped in distilled water. There are other chemical reactions that can generate heat in excess of 2000 degrees Fahrenheit - such as the thermite reaction. With the odd chemicals in food that we have - could food combining create such a reaction within our stomachs? After all - nearly every case of spontaneous human combustion involved the abdomen area. Perhaps there's some reaction with how our bodies metabolize the chemicals - similar to how metabolizing aspertame creates Methanol (a caustic and flammable poison). Could spontaneous human combustion be caused by body metabolism and chemical breakdowns that create an exothermic reaction so hot that it consumes the victim from the inside out within minutes? Although the wick method may explain some cases, it can't explain them all. It could very well be that a Creator of the human chemistry would know it well enough to manipulate the environment to kick-start a catalyst reaction that burns the body up.

The whole body burning process seems so bazaar and there have been so many witnesses to these events ... It's no wonder that it's commonly accepted amongst paranormal believers and skeptics alike. Until I can find a better explanation, I'll have to stick this phenomenon back into the unexplainable paranormal bin.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Battle For Your Mind

There is an article called The Battle For Your Mind that does a pretty good job explaining the invisible battle that is mentioned at the end of my last blog.

The process of a human being becoming possessed by evil spirits is a rather extreme example of the surrounding evil. I think most effort is being successfully placed through a transparent conspiracy with the intent of removing the moral standing of humanity. Doing so wouldn't relieve us from that responsibility in the face of God, but the arrogance of relativism blinds people of that fact.

The Good, The Bad and The Ghastly

Nearly all types of paranormal activity appear to have an element of evil associated with it. Sometimes the evil is in the terribleness of the paranormal event itself, as in spontaneous combustion. Other times it's directly linked to the occult, as in levitation.

It's difficult to cut through exactly why this is, but it could possibly be that most paranormal events are generated from the same source.

It's also interesting that items considered holy are generally considered to counter-act the paranormal activity. Obviously this takes place in exorcisms, but elements closely knit with scripture tend to be thought of as powers against the paranormal. Jesus said that His holy followers were the salt of the earth. It's no surprise that salt is so tightly associated with keeping evil at bay (witches, poltergeists, maleficent spirits, black manifestations). Similar things may be said about a crucifix or holy water.

There are a few items that because of their natural medicinal value against diseases have been attributed to warding off evil. Garlic and silver come to mind. This is probably because the Bible shows a few accounts where illness can be directly related to a demonic presence so it stands to reason that if something can fight off illness a superstition would evolve that the same element could fight off evil, which generally translates to demonic forces.

Other than the obvious monetary value, silver is also associated with refinement and repentance. The psalms point this out nicely.

As for using anything to remove an evil spirit, the Bible shows what is powerful against it when describing the armor of God. Jesus didn't use salt or holy water and neither did His disciples. They used words and rebuked the spirits with the authority of God. The words weren't in Latin, but probably Hebrew, Greek or Aramic (most likely Aramic). Even so, I don't think the language is relevant. What was relevant is that Jesus is referred to as The Word, and the word is identified as the sword (the only weapon provided in the armor).

There is some unseen spiritual manifestation that involves words. Words are what penetrate between the spiritual and the physical universe. It was God's words that were used to create everything. Jesus pointed out that it was the words we speak that reveal our hearts - not necessarily our actions.

When the Bible refers to "the name of ..." It is speaking of an intangible mindset. Like "I come to you in the name of peace". It doesn't mean you come by the English word "peace", but that you come with that state of mind and intent. Those who used words without being in the name of Jesus were attacked by the evil spirits they tried to exorcise.

So many of the "ghosts" people refer to today are very likely the "unclean spirits" that the Bible mentions. Personally I would prefer not having to confront them, but the Bible clearly states that as a Christian I opt into being drafted in a spiritual warfare. If I don't come to the battle front properly prepared and with the proper intent, for the sole purpose to glorify Christ, then I will be chewed up and spit out alive. This brings us to the shortcomings of Qabala.

Qabala bases its power on actions and words. It considers how words pierce the invisible fabric of the physical and spiritual worlds. The priests that attempted to cast out demons probably practiced Qabala and seeing the disciples have so much success ventured on their own to a horrific result. What they lacked was the understanding that the power of words doesn't exist without the presence of the Word (Jesus).

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Matrix ... no, not that Matrix

There is a term in psychology called "Matrixing". It's a way of explaining how our mind categorizes information and perceives that information based on prior experience.

Nearly all optical illusions illustrate this process in a visual context.
Shades of Grey
Young Girl-Old Woman Illusion
Perception and Culture

Richard Gregory identified this and wrote about it in his 1966 book, Eye and Brain:
Perception is not determined simply by stimulus patterns; rather it is a dynamic searching for the best interpretation of the available data.

This applies to all perception - taste, touch, sound, sight, smell and even intuition.

When we see something that our mind can't comprehend, it becomes broken down into a more simple form that we understand. This is similar to what we do mechanically with night vision cameras; we take sensory emissions from the natural world that our body cannot normally percieve and compress them into a format that we can comprehend. Incidentally, this is what mediums claim to tap into naturally, however if they had more sensory then they would also have more margin for error since there would be more capacity for matrixing.

Since most paranormal experiences are with unexplainable phenomena, it is likely that our brains are misinterpreting the events that take place. Since humans most naturally interact with other humans it's also natural that our minds equate the ambient white noise and weather induced fog patches into human form. The hissing sounds like whispers and out of the fog appears a face. Even sound recordings, called Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP) and video recordings maintain, if not amplify the experience. Part of this is because we are looking for information as we are loaded with stimuli. Anything that our brain can make sense of - even if it doesn't make sense - is what we hear and see.

Derren Brown uses this technique to do amazing things with his audience. There's one telephone-booth trick he performs where people walk past a ringing phone and anyone who picks up the receiver soon falls into a trance then slumps down into sleep. He admits that he's able to perform this trick by overdosing the brain by using words and sounds as a confusion stimulus then giving a clear instruction to sleep. When the brain is overloaded it will latch onto the first thing it can make sense out of and act out on it.

If we feel that our brains are being overloaded with information, we panic and start to become confused. In this situation, if we're given a simple instruction, we grasp it like a lifeline. This technique is used in tricks to persuade people to behave in ways that are completely out of character. When commands are issued at the end of a stream of confusing instructions, people are so relieved they can finally understand what's being said that they will do whatever they're told.

There was a similar incident that result in a grave mishap in Japan. A certain cartoon was able to hypnotize children and throw them into seizures. The "Brown Note" theory has been around for half a century and other conspiracy theories seem to relate the same concepts regarding mkUltra and forms of mind control.

So the game of paranormal investigation begins in the very mind of the investigator. What you see, smell, touch, taste and hear ... even your own intuition ... will trick you and it's nearly impossible to percieve the deception.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Define Paranormal

Paranormal interest seems to have increased greatly in the past decade. Ten years ago the only paranormal show you would see was an occasional newsreel and the series x-files while today there are several television series, both fictional and non-fictional, based on the topic. What's interesting is that all these shows have migrated from an alien presence to a spiritual one. For example, while x-files focused on alien abductions and conspiracy involvement within various governments, Ghost-Whisperer and Haunted and Medium all deal with communication with the dead. There are also two interesting series that currently air - Most Haunted and Ghost Hunter - based on presumably factual investigations. That's not all. Mini-series continue to poke up such as UK Jane Goldman Investigates and several attempts by the Fox television network for conspiracy/paranormal based mini-series.

Paranormal is defined as:

Phenomena which seem to defy the known laws of science.

Beyond normal experience. [Para (beyond) - Normal.]

Of or pertaining to parapsychology; pertaining to forces or mental processes, such as extrasensory perception or psychokinesis, outside the possibilities defined by natural or scientific laws; as, paranormal phenomena.

Stories involving aspects of the metaphysical or occult, often including such things as vampires, ghosts and telepathy.

Anything that does not take place in the natural order or in a normal way of things that take place in the realm of the world. This term is used to refer to unexplainable events. These would included but are not limited to ghosts, ESP, telepathy, UFO's, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster.

A general term which refers to anything that cannot be explained scientifically, ie that which can not be understood in terms of current scientific knowledge. The word Paranormal is often used specifically to describe phenomena relating to Ghosts and Hauntings.

The last definition is particularly striking. Perhaps it is because of an unseen drive in mankind to define his environment and discover the unknown that we try so hard to determine what constitutes the existence of a ghost. Most people assume that a ghost is any type of manifestation of a human (or animal) soul. I personally subscribe to a much broader definition. A ghost is any physical manifestation of any spiritual entity regardless of binding or earthly ties. This means that, for example, if alien creatures were spiritual in nature then their presence would constitute a ghost.

Why are we suddenly focused more on ghosts than aliens? I think that answer is two-fold. First, our fears of death and curiosity of the afterlife have been compelling us since the beginning of our time when Mankind had to deal with death. According to scripture, it wasn't man but God who introduced the subject of death in warning Adam not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Before that point only creation and life had been mentioned in the Bible. Secondly, if there is an afterlife then by the sheer numbers of deaths in this world there would be some residual element that could be measured between the passing of this life into the next. Some scholars believe that the soul itself has mass and could then be measured by the reduction of mass from the body at the time of death.

Other scientific concepts of parallel universes appeal to theories of spiritual existence. The most recent theories based on string-theory, called brane-theory, allows multiple parallel universes which may have forces that move between them. Gravity and magnetic energy may pass through one brane and imprint on another, or may even loop back on itself. Question as to whether these imprints may span across time are still in debate and the entire theory is highly scrutinized, but is growing in popularity. If any of this is true then we could possibly explain all elements of the spiritual realm away through mathematical formulae and science. We would likely then focus our attempts to communicate not within our space but across branes since the likelihood of identifying existing life on earth in a parallel universe would be far more probable than finding life on another planet we haven't yet discovered.

I personally believe that all genres of science will eventually prove the Bible correct in its literal context (provided the scientists are not being partial to disprove the Bible or partial to prove it, either). Parapsychology is the most likely field to do this since the Bible itself is said to be God-breathed. If this is entirely so, then it would mean that with God being a spiritual being, the Bible is a residual context of God's being. Scripture would then have some special power to bridge the gap between our physical world and the spiritual one, albeit controlled by the context of God who spoke it in a similar fashion that a program is controlled by the context of its creator. One of the difficulties here is that the Bible is not a physical entity. The paper and ink and leather that make up the countless Bibles that we see does not constitute "The Bible" in any more of a fashion that evidence in a court of law constitutes the motive of the crime. Without a motive there is no crime and without being God-breathed, there is no scripture. It's this intangible evidence that baffles evolutionary theorists.

So is a miracle considered paranormal? Yes. Is the supernatural paranormal? I think they are synonymous since anything above the natural laws is beyond normal. I think that puts Christians in a strong position to research, explore and find answers in the supernatural realm. Scripture outlines boundaries and dangers with certain realms of the supernatural which should be followed for protection since venturing out into this field is not unlike a two-year old child being thrust in the middle of a freeway on a little tricycle.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Why do orbs suddenly appear ... anytime you are near?

I've come across several postings in newsgroups where people believe they saw orbs and captured them on film. There are a few obvious and a few not-so-obvious answers to these orbs.

First the obvious - insects and dust. Small insects and dust particles in the air go generally unnoticed. Flashes of light reflect off of these objects and appear on film (digital and celluloid). This could explain why photographs could pick up orbs while our eyes don't see them.

I have yet to see an orb appear on infrared or thermal imaging, but would expect it to since light produces heat. If these lights didn't produce heat then they are likely not forms of energy in their own right but rather reflecting light from another source which takes us to the general green-blue night-vision film we see so common on Most Haunted.

This type of night vision works through the collection of minute amounts of light that our eyes can't percieve, including spectrum areas that are invisible to us (ultra-violet) and amplifies them and compresses the light into a visible range. For the most part, it works like a mirror to amplify existing light.

While (most) infrared imaging receives heat, it's important to note that all living bodies (fauna and flora) use energy. By using energy they generate heat. Even inanimate objects like motors and speakers use energy and thus, produce heat while an energy source is being consumed.

The theory is that as an entity manifests itself it absorbs energy from its surroundings. This would cause cold spots. The energy is then concentrated at the entity's manifestation. This would cause warm spots. The theory also goes that entity's manifestation can sometimes take the form of an orb when it has enough energy and ultimately into an apparition. As it takes energy, though, it should be generating heat - even in minute amounts. However, infrared imaging doesn't appear to be picking up any images of orbs.

A recent episode of Ghost Hunters had a strange shape move across an infrared camera. This is very compelling because it identifies the very possible scenrio identified above.

What would be very interesting is to see several infrared cameras at different angles in a room and cross referenced in a computer to construct three dimensional anomalies. This, however, would be pretty expensive and until paranormal investigations become more mainstream. Another interesting experiment would be to have both infrared and night-vision (ultraviolet) cameras on the same subject to identify whether ghostly manifestations not only absorb and radiate heat, but light as well.

Paranormal science is as scientific as large scale specie to specie evolution. Finding absolute undeniable proof for either is like ... chasing a ghost.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Martha, Martha, Martha

I have to admit that I just about love Martha Stewart. Call me a pansy or a fairy or whatever, but I like holidays, wreaths, and fancy eats.

She mentioned on her new show, "Martha", the other day that her favorite holiday was Halloween. It was a time that she and her mom worked together to make costumes. I can't completely explain myself, but I also think of Halloween as one of my favorite occasions for reasons mentioned before. There isn't pressure to show up into the company of relatives who loathe you and just want to start trouble. There isn't pressure to fake a smile, put on a mask if you will, and greet others who are doing the same. You don't have to walk on eggshells around people you don't like to appear cordial. You aren't judged by what gift you give whom (and what price it may have cost). It's not high-pressure commercialization (as in if you don't have a halloween party with OUR candy you won't have friends come back sorta thing). It's free spirited, fun, contemplative and simple.

I don't think it's any accident that Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year) comes only a few weeks before it. It's a type of celebration similar to a new year's eve in the middle of Autumn. It also used to be a time when parents would be involved with their kids throughout the night... they would stand near and even next to their little trick-or-treaters and smile beamingly for their kid, who had equally large smiles. It's akin to snipe hunting or toasting marshmallows by a campfire while your dad tells ghost stories. These are the things that I fondly remember. It was time to impress without apprehension of a let-down. And unless you were Charlie Brown and got nothing but rocks, you couldn't help but impress yourself... that you could accomplish something by just going for it. It was self empowerment for little kids.

Things changed in the 1970's and Halloween became associated with razor blades and your neighbor stopped giving out homemade caramel popcorn balls and innocence was lost. In the 1980's I noticed more children going out on their own (despite the great fears just ten years before). Parental involvement just continued to decline. In the 1990's gory decorations started to really come out (though I remember a few occasional latex gore masks in the 80's). Now it's not too uncommon to see a yard with half decayed zombies poking up from the ground and the displays at the Spirit store are rather distasteful. Halloween somehow transformed from parties where people told stories of the supernatural and hitting the pavement for trick-or-treating with your Dad ... into a gorefest contest.

Martha Stewart still keeps it traditional with fun, though elegant, pumpkin carving and home-made costumes; Decorations that aren't filled with blood and gore, but still have an ominous feel adorn the pages of her Halloween issues throughout the years. She shows how you can enjoy being human - that having fears is part of what makes us human ... and facing them is what makes us ... supernatural.

By the way, if you like, you can dress up for her for Halloween - compliments of Forbes.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

If you're ashamed of it, cash it in

Salem Massachusetts, the infamously known location of the Salem witch trials where mass hysteria resulted in the bondage, torture and killing of many innocent (BTK killers are not new), has decided to cash in on their shameful past by marketing the local as a haven for ghost hunters and witch lovers.

Personally, I find the whole act rather distasteful. Having "real Salem Witches who are waiting to guide you through the city's mysteries" is my idea of trouble. I admit that I'd love to see Salem for the impact it's made on history and how it offers insight into what happens to any nation where the Judicial system becomes blind (a case where blind justice is a very bad thing is when it doesn't look at the obvious evidence or lack thereof before it). It is a fantastic colonial settlement town and can offer an interesting and dark look into our past. But to sensationalize the witchcraft, soothsaying and necromancy as glorious and wonderful and worthy of our dollars is quite enough!

Seems that the people of the city of Salem have been thinking the same thing for the past 2 years (the site doesn't appear to have been updated in that time). However, witchcraft has become a growing industry and Wicca is one of, if not the main, fastest growing religions in the US, UK and Australia (based on percentage). Halloween is the fastest growing holiday in retail sales and is second in sales only to Christmas.

The American Heritage journal had an excellent article on just why Halloween is growing so quickly in popularity. In the heart of the matter, it lacks the high pressures of the holiday season where obligatory joy, peace and happiness seem so artificially plentiful like the aluminum tree lot on "A Charlie Brown Christmas". You don't have nosy relatives comparing you with your siblings. You don't have children fighting over who got the best or most toys. You don't have people uptight and angry and feeling so drained emotionally and economically. Halloween is considered a fun time. A time to explore, expose and fight off our fears. And the industry has quickly figured, as a lesson from past mistakes, not to push the marketing too far (other than putting out Halloween decorations in August - sheesh).

So Salem might have something of a nice cash cow, and a good financial reason to keep themselves a Halloween boom town (they rake in 1/3 of their annual tourism dollars that one month alone). All the same, a turbid history doesn't make for a good place to find answers to the supernatural. Like many have discovered. The truth may spread, but lies spread more quickly. Finding answers from self proclaimed witches and mediums generally fall into the latter.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Bad Psychics

I stumbled upon this site the other day that reviews the legitability of those who become popular with their involvement with the paranormal. They started out by reviewing the UK's hit paranormal series "Most Haunted" and expanded to other shows.

This week they have a special audio interview from America's "Ghost Hunters" lead Jason Hawes.

After reading a few of their reviews I must say I'm impressed. For example, they mentioned that Jason from the first season of "Most Haunted" probably is an actual parapsychologist and not just playing his other profession (an actor).

He was delightfully convincing in his skepticism at times, to the chagrin of his limelit companions, and eventually butted off the show. I personally thought he added more validity to the show, in regards to a team sincerely looking for evidence of afterlife, than the rest of the team members combined ... well, combined without Derek that is.

Derek is a good showman and is quick to pick up on cues, but he obviously has some security complex and tries to take the show away from others in most, if not all, episodes. I'd imagine there are times when they had to ask him to tone it down abit because he was causing viewers to get disenchanted with the show. (How many times can a man get "possessed"!?)