Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Video Interview with Anthony Peake

I recently gave a video interview to Anthony Peake, and it can be found on his website here.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Book Review of Jérôme Huck’s Le Feu des Magiciens

I stumbled a while ago on an interesting and relatively recent (2011) book that presents a new perspective on UFOs, emphasizing physical traces, something we have not seen in a while. It is written by Jérôme Huck, and entitled Le Feu des Magiciens, or the “Magicians’ Fire”. As the title implies, it is written in French, but I certainly think that the English-speaking world ought to know more about this book and his author, and hopefully an English version will be available in the near future.

Huck’s book is a think one, with 650 pages. It is divided essentially into two sections. The first one proposes a critical review of the analyses produced so far on the material aspects of UFO, and the various hypotheses associated with them. The second part is built around his findings about physical traces, which seem to have a common tread if they are looked at from an alchemist’s point of view. More on this below. Huck does an extensive and very detailed analysis of a wide range of cases, some well-known, others less so. Also, contrary to most books on the topic, it is properly referenced, so that his arguments and facts can be properly doubled-check by anyone who cares to do so. A rarity in the UFO world!

The first part of the book is rather descriptive in nature, going through a meticulous look at what we know about the physical nature of UFOs. The material is presented in a way that is in my opinion relatively balanced and enlightened, and although he acknowledges that governments and the military might not have been entirely upfront in the past, creating an unhelpful aura of mystery around the phenomenon. Yet, Huck does not fall into the intellectually lazy trap of conspiracy theory. He clearly shows when human-made explanations are more likely to be valid, and offers several convincing human-made explanations for cases that were deemed unexplained in the past. However, he concludes that there are indeed physical traces associated with UFOs, and makes a very strong case in this regard; and many of such traces, in spite of various overt and covert efforts, remain unexplained. And if they are unexplained in spite of various failed hypotheses, like the ETH, then something new needs to be tried. 

The second part of the book offers something new and refreshing. Huck has studied in detail the work of Jacques Bergier (1912-1978), well-known for his book The Morning of the Magicians co-written with Louis Pauwels, and his interest in the UFO phenomenon [1]. Bergier was a complex character, with a complex and convoluted life, and his written works are a controversial mixed genre between non-fiction and fantastic (or magical) realism. What really federates his writing, however, are alchemical themes, concepts, and notions. Inspired by Bergier’s worldview, Huck considered the rather odd and non-sensical findings about UFO traces, oftentimes showing out-of-place chemical compounds that seem in the end meaningless. Through an in-depth description of the alchemic way of thinking, which is in my opinion very much a form a lateral and symbolic thinking similar to the language of night dreams and of the unconscious part of the mind, Huck explains why certain elements must mutate from one specific form to another according to the alchemists' precepts. And that’s where it becomes really interesting: he found numerous cases where physical traces are showing such specific alchemic mutation path. For instance, traces found at the Whitehouse events in Ohio in 1967 follow a clear alchemistic path of mutations from Chrome to Magnesium to Iron to Nickel. 

Huck is very careful in avoiding any premature conclusions about what is behind the phenomenon, as he does not assign a particular agent or agency to it. He only takes note that the ancient alchemists seem to have put their finger on something we do not quite understand, and the UFO phenomenon, somehow, seem to be linked at least partially to that “something”. It is also interesting to note that Jacques Vallée, in a recent post in dailgrail, is now engaging with the Alchemic Hypothesis, but nowhere he or dailygrail acknowledge the seminal work of Huck on the topic.

On the minus side, the book could have been shorter, as some of the analyses seem a bit of an overkill to me. There is also a chapter on the alchemical thematic found in the cult TV show of the 1960s The Prisonier, which is interesting but off topic. Huck suggests that he developed a “scientific proof” that alchemic analysis works. I do not agree that we have a scientific proof here, but we certainly have a very worthwhile hypothesis that would benefit from being followed by more researchers. Lastly, not all UFO cases leave traces, and in fact very few do, but it would have been interesting for Huck to look into the symbolic aspects of UFO events and see if alchemic allegories can also be found. Overall, this is a very interesting book, and if you have an interest in UFOs and read French I strongly suggest you get it.

The book can be purchased directly from Huck’s website, and he does understand English quite well, so you can also reach to him for more questions. 

[1] In particular, Extraterrestrials visitations from prehistoric times to the present. Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1973; originally published in French in 1970, as Les Extraterrestres dans l’histoire.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Book Review – Annie Jacobsen’s Phenomena

A few days ago, I stumbled on Annie Jacobsen’s Phenomena: The secret history of the U.S. government’s investigations into extrasensory perception and psychokinesis (published by Little, Brown and Co., in 2017). This is the latest book touching on the American government interest in the paranormal, and it brings a number on interesting ideas together.

Annie Jacobsen is a journalist, who wrote a number of books that made to the New York Times best selling list. Unsurprisingly, it is well-written, easily accessible, and it provides an interesting narrative. What is particularly valuable in this book, however, is that it covers governmental interest in the paranormal from the very early days until the present, and hence goes beyond describing the Star Gate project. It provides a holistic view.

On the Internet, there are all kinds of rumours around the connections between Nazi sponsored science in Germany and post-war American government sponsored science. That Internet material has usually zero references, and is vague and most of the time simply aims at discrediting the American government. Jacobsen’s book considers this issue, but this time with real references and a credible and well-articulated narrative. The interest of the Nazi regime for the occult is a relatively well-known issue, and Paul Roland published an excellent book on this very topic in 2012. What is less known is that in the post-war days both American and Soviet intelligence teams seize Nazi research material on the occult, among other topics, and although very little of this material could be used for anything useful, this planted the idea on both sides of the Iron Curtain that research on the paranormal might worth trying. The Nazi regime and its sponsored science were certainly sinister, but not the American discovery of this material.

It is also often said that the US government only started to be interested in the paranormal in the early 1970s, when they discovered that the Soviets had a substantive research programme on the topic, leading to the creation of the Star Gate project. It is, in fact, incorrect. Jacobsen’s book shows very nicely that it had an interest throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, especially through the research conducted by Dr. Andrija Puharich, who received numerous research grants on paranormal-related research. In particular, one of the sub-projects of the really sinister MKULTRA programme, was to find drugs that could enhance psychic abilities. The results were a dismal failure, but it shows that the idea of gaining advantages over the Soviet through non-conventional research was not invented in the 1970s. The book provides a detailed and fascinating account of the research conducted in those days, using in part declassified documents (and references are the back of the book).

Of course, most of the book is about the Star Gate remote viewing programme and the interest in the psychokinetic abilities of Uri Geller. In terms of money and efforts, this is where the bulk of the research was done. The book divides the story into the CIA years and the DOD years. Although there are already very good books on the Star Gate project, like the one published by Jim Schnabel in 1997, it updates the topic with the most recent information. In particular, it covers the now mostly declassified documentation about the strange events that occurred at Livermore Laboratory in 1975, where a psychokinetic experience involving Uri Geller appears to have mutated into a poltergeist-like story, scary enough for several scientists to resign from their job at Livermore shortly afterward. Of note, the popular TV series Stranger Things is partially inspired by those events at Livermore. It is unfortunate that this event was not seen at the time as an opportunity to create quasi-experimental poltergeists (or RSPK - Recurrent Spontaneous PsychoKinesis). Parapsychology would have certainly benefited from such type of experiment.

The last part of the book discusses what is happening now, and there appears to be very little. One projects consider enhancing the Marine’s intuition and premonition capabilities to avoid hidden dangers like improvised explosive devices (IED). Another project is about so-called synthetic telepathy, were electrical signals can be sent from one brain to the next via connected helmets. Finally, some research on lucid dreaming are conducted to help soldiers with PTSD is also noted as fringe governmental research. The scars caused by the criticism laid against the Star Gate project appear to remain deep. As well, although there might be some more openness to study the so-called paranormal in the world of science and universities, it is still a topic with a low social status. But more fundamentally, it appears that all those research projects tend to come to a similar conclusion: there really is something odd and unexplainable happening, but it is too flimsy and unpredictable to be used as a reliable tool or capability. Hence, no one should hold their breadth for a return of something like the Star Gate project anytime soon.  

It would have been interesting, however, if Jacobsen had looked more into the rumor that the NSA is still using remote viewing, probably through contractors, and that the technique was apparently used to find Saddam Hussein after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. This would, if true, be a counter-point to the notion that extra sensory perception would be too erratic to be used as a regular approach for accessing knowledge. But overall, this is a good book, and anyone interested in this topic should read it, as it provides a rational, balanced, and documented study of the American government interest in the paranormal. It is, for sure, quite a breeze of fresh air from what one can find on the Internet. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Video interview with Dan Schneider of Cosmoetica

I just gave a video interview to Dan Schneider of Cosmoetica, with David Halperin.

It can be found here: