The Weird Profundity of John Keel

John Klein: Why don’t they just come right out and tell us what’s on their minds?

Alexander Leek You’re more advanced than a cockroach, have you ever tried explaining yourself to one of them?

If you both read and watched The Mothman Prophecies, you’ll recall that one of the biggest ways the movie breaks from the paperback is with the splitting of John Keel’s character into two distinct persons: journalist John Klein and Chicago-dwelling Alexander Leek (note that ‘Leek’ is ‘Keel’ backwards). Leek is the scholar to Klein’s gumshoe, organizing the smorgasbord of weird hauntings and dark prophecies that Klein finds so bewildering into a palatable paranormal theory. Leek provides an explanation that is as simple as it is hard to swallow: Klein has contacted advanced entities with “inhuman” motives, who are as different from us as we are from coach roaches. That’s why Klein’s interactions with the beings make such little sense. The conversation ends with Leek warning Klein to back off and “stay away” from Point Pleasant, saying “In the end it all came down to just one simple question. Which was more important – having proof, or being alive? Trust me. I turned away years ago, and I’ve never looked back.”

When my adolescent-self first lurched through the works of John Keel, like a 20th-century flying saucer fanatic desperate to be at the center of the next flap, I failed to realize the extent to which the movie was coloring my own interpretation of Keel’s corpus. I correctly took away from the movie that whatever was behind the ol’ mothman, it wasn’t good for humans to engage with it. However, I also became mistakenly stuck on the idea that the thing behind the mothman (and other so-called “Ultra-terrestrials”) was some kind of sentient, thinking, thing. I always read Keel as hinting at some malevolent space poltergeist was in charge of the dogmen, bigfeet, UFOs, etc.

It was only more recently, re-reading The Eighth Tower, and having a conversation with Ted from The Gaslight Hour podcast, that I realized the degree to which I was getting it wrong. There’s a whole metaphysics in The Eighth Tower, which was supposed to be part of the Mothman Prophecies book, but which Keel was forced to cleave off and turn into a separate tome. There, Keel develops several ideas: the idea of a ‘superspectrum’ through which ultra-terrestrial manifestations originate and/or are controlled, as well as the ideas that the superspectrum has a kind of ebb and flow to it that explains UFO/cryptid flaps, and that some people are more sensitive to the phenomena than others just as some people can see a little bit into the infrared, etc. Perhaps even more importantly, Keel develops the idea that the ultra-terrestrials may be backed/generated by/sustained by some kind of controlling influencer. A cryptic entity or meta-entity he calls “The Eighth Tower.”

The Yezidis had the idea that the evil in the world is caused by demons who live on top of towers. Imagine something like the eye of Sauron, but there are seven of them. Well, Keel tacked onto this old religious notion the thought that the towers themselves are something like thermostats. Their job is to regulate human civilization at some very abstract level. The mechanism by which they exert controlling influence?  Cryptids, hauntings, spiritual epiphanies. It’s a weirdly pro-enlightenment type of paranormal enthusiasm: all religion and superstition is bunk, because it’s disinformation from another dimension! The superspectrum has reach and influence that Putin’s cronies can only dream of!

And finally, Keel added the thought that the growing absurdity behind UFO and cryptic encounters, might be the result of an old control system aging out. Like a laptop that begins to get buggy and unreliable after five years, the “tower” that rules this eon is breaking down. And the time has come to replace it, to build the Eighth Tower.

This final thought, lets us tie Keel’s ideas into “dead internet theory” – is it possible the INTERNET is the Eighth Tower? Some sources – like Diana Pasulka’s recent study on UFO belief as a kind of religiosity – hint that talented people receive creative inspiration for their machines and inventions from an external source. Is it possible that the controlling influence behind ultra-terrestrials is preparing to replace itself, with…the internet?

That’s the thought in the nutshell. John Keel’s works were much more imaginative and creatively weird than I appreciated when I read them as an adolescent. So I missed a lot of nuance, but was happy to get that back from talking to Ted. Both parts of our conversation are available by audio here:

And here:

I’d appreciate any feedback you might have on this. Are we missing out on plumbing the true depth of Keels work because we all tend to see his work through the lense of the film? Is there independent evidence for the Eighth Tower hypothesis? Is there more to Keel’s superspectrum than I’ve captured here? What about Gary Nolan’s research finding that some people ARE more sensitive to UFOs and Skinwalker Ranch-type phenomena, does THAT tie in as well? Could Reddit be part of the Eighth Tower? What do people think?


Deception by Design: Hypothesis Analysed

Here is a brief analysis of what I take to be the most charitable reconstruction of Neal Sibley’s unified theory of the paranormal. It should be noted that I have not read his book “Deception by Design.” I would love to do that.

Sibley offers a Unified Theory of the Paranormal (UTOP). No, he doesn’t call it that. I am reconstructing his theory. A reconstruction is an attempt to explain another person’s viewpoint in a way that makes it a) easy to understand, and, b) as strong as can be plausibly ascribed to the interlocutor.

UTOP (Unified Theory of the Paranormal)::

The Bible says there are malicious, trickster spirits called ‘demons’. They have certain properties, as described in the bible. UFOs and ghosts (and some other paranormal phenomena) behave in ways consistent with their having the properties ascribed to demons in the bible. Therefore, the best explanation of ghosts and UFOs is that they’re the work of biblical demons.

And the evidence I heard in favor of UTOP included the following: (note: this is not MY view. I am simply reconstructing my guest’s view based on my understanding of what he said in the interview and in emails with me and also not having read his book)

1.) He investigated the famous Bell Witch haunting, and was able to craft a biblical explanation for it. This despite the fact that the Bell Witch famously did some very un-demonic things, like forcing the townspeople to improve their behavior, sing religious hymns, and talk about Jesus. Thus, the Bell Witch supports UTOP.

2.) The bible says that exorcised demons will relocate to “arid places” which he thinks can be interpreted as any place drier than a human body. Thus, biblically-conforming demons explain haunted houses. Even more arid than haunted houses? Rocky places. Well, many people who mysteriously vanish in the U.S. park system vanish near rocky outcroppings (he cites Paulides’ ‘Missing 411’). Thus, biblically-conforming demons explain mysterious disappearances. Another point for UTOP.

3.) UFOs were crashing back in the 1940s and 50s. Now they don’t crash. If UFOs are demons, then this makes sense: they were faking crashes to convince us that they’re concrete tangible things. Now that we’re more or less convinced, they don’t have to bend over backwards to emphasize their concrete physicality any longer. Today, they fake being highly advanced, because the next step is to convince us that they are material messiahs. This is consistent with biblical prophesies about widespread deception in the end times. Thus, UFOs are biblical demons. More support for UTOP.

4.) People are being abducted by aliens for sexual/reproductive reasons. And this is exactly what fallen angels did before Noah’s flood, per the Book of Genesis. Jesus prophesied that in the final days it would be just as it was in the days of Noah. Therefore, the bible explains alien abductions. Thus, UFOs are biblical demons. UTOP scores.

5.) Both demons and UFOs are repelled by invoking Jesus’ name. More evidence that they’re both biblical demons. Credit to UTOP.

6.) Ghosts often come into our lives by asking permission, only to “break bad” once we’re in a relationship with them. This is precisely how demons operate. Again, they’re just biblical demons. UTOP strikes again!

Having tried to organize a couple of his main points of evidence, I will concede that only 5.) would be direct evidence in favor of ghosts and UFOs being the same phenomena, if true. Nevertheless, I think all of the evidence I mentioned is evidence for UTOP. UTOP is the view that ghosts and UFOs are biblical demons.

Something I’ve tried to outline on Reddit and in personal conversations is that we should concede that the unified nature of the theory lends it greater explanatory power and this counts in favor of the theory. There’s so much crazy, weird stuff in the world of the paranormal that it’s hard to wrap your imagination around it: hauntings, abductions, little people, thunderbirds, time warps… Recently listening to the popular podcast “Astonishing Legends,” I heard a story about a couple who drow past a vanishing CHRISTMAS STORE in the Nevada desert and were haunted by nightmares about said store for the rest of their lives. There’s just SO MUCH weird stuff in the paranormal world, that it would be very helpful for us humans if it turned out that most of that stuff had a single explanation. That said, I concede that parsimony is not the only thing we’re looking for in a good theory and the most parsimonious explanation for reality that ever became popular – Parmenides’ monism (the view that there is only one thing and it never changes and time is an illusion) is also highly implausible. But the point here, however small a point it may be, is that the biblical model Neal Sibley describes does have something going for it.

What do I think about Neal Sibley’s UTOP? Or about biblical theories of the paranormal writ large? I will save that for another post (on the S3 website). Also, I would like to talk to Neal Sibley about whether I’ve correctly represented his view before I criticize it. It really bothers me that I haven’t read the book, but again, the book is not out. I should have asked Neal Sibley for a copy though. I’ll do that and re-post if I get a chance to read the book.


#33 – Show Notes for “Psychedelics and Metaphysics”

**note: I deviated from this week’s notes pretty heavily in the show, with extended discussion of the “REBUS” model of psychedelics – Dane ***

    In 1954, English author, Adolous Huxley published The Doors of Perception – an essay that chronicled how his spiritual and metaphysical worldview shifted as result of his experiment with mescaline. There, Huxley remarks “at least one Professional philosopher has taken mescalin for the light it may throw on such ancient, unsolved riddles as the place of mind in nature and the relationship between brain and consciousness…” Ever since that bestselling book caught the imagination of the U.S. and Europe, the west world has been fascinated with the idea of neurochemically driven insight into the nature of reality.

    Now, we need to be careful – because the word ‘insight’ is normative. That is, to call a shift in beliefs ‘insight’ is to assume that beliefs are shifting in a way that is more accurate. But, what if psychedelics shift our beliefs in ways that are less accurate? Then we would say that they foster, not insight, but delusion.

    One of my favorite author’s, Philip K. Dick, frequently wrote about the idea of substances inducing delusions. For example, his novel “Through A Scanner Darkly” deals with a DEA agent who is stalking himself – unbeknownst even to himself, he is addicted to a drug that causes split personality disorder. In another novel, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Dick introduces “Can-D” a drug that allows people to experience themselves as being ‘translated’ into the body of a doll. The purpose of this drug is to allow vivid virtual reality-type indulgences that stave off cabin fever. These are people living in an alternative universe or dimension.

    So, the idea of mind-altering substances being tools for helping us cope with life, by compromising our access to reality, is well-established in the world of fiction. I certainly think we should not accept this idea that psychedelics inherently promote either expanded or degraded consciousness, either insight or delusion.

    S3 (Spectral Skull Session) is a show about possibilities. So I want to ask: what does the picture of what psychedelics do to our minds look like if we unburden ourselves of the baggage of assuming either that they induce enlightenment, allowing us to access alternative worlds, or that they induce delusion – causing the user to develop a “weirded out” worldview.

   And it turns out: we DO know something. We know that psychedelics change how people see reality. They change people’s philosophical views.

 Stay tuned for an episode that is as reality-bending as anything Huxley or Dick ever wrote…


Welcome back.

    There’s a new research publication out, supplying evidence consistent with the hypothesis that psychedelics change people’s metaphysical beliefs. Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy that deals with the fundamental structure of reality. Previous research has found that psychedelics induce mystical experiences, but this is (as far as I know it) the first study that found that psychedelics induce lasting changes in people’s belief systems.

     Specifically, shifts their beliefs away from ‘materialism’ and towards supernaturalistic metaphysical viewpoints, including  dualism and panpsychism. I’ll unpack what this research means. At the end of the episode, I’ll make an argument that the research has potentially radical implications for how we think about philosophy and psychedelics. 

     Let’s start with this research article. It is actually titled ‘Psychadelics Alter Metaphysical Beliefs’  The main author is Chris Timmermann. He works at Imperial College London where he is a PhD Candidate at the Centre for Psychedelic Research / Psychedelic Research Group, based at The Computational, Cognitive and Clinical Neuroimaging Laboratory (C3NL). His research focuses on the effects of DMT in the human brain.

   What they did is advertise to people who were about to attend retreats using psychedelics. “Respondents planning to attend a ceremony involving a psychedelic substance (psilocybin/magic mushrooms/truffles, ayahuasca, DMT, San Pedro, LSD/1P-LSD)” They found 800 people who were going to attend a retreat. They compared them to people who were taking a prescription anti-depressant for major depression.  All participants were given a survey of their beliefs to fill out one week before the retreat. And then they were resurveyed four weeks later. They were given a survey called the MBQ. The Metaphysical Belief Questionare (MBQ). This questionnaire consists of 13 questions, touching such topics as:

  • Idealistic/solipstic – the physical world is an illusion
  • Literal transcendence of the constraints of the unverse
  • Dualism – the belief that the mind and body are distinct substances.
  • Monism – the view that there is only one substance
  • Belief that there are other worlds that one can visit.
  • The notion that all mental events are due to brain activity.
  • The notion that mental events are embedded in the brain, body, and world.
  • Panpsychism – the belief that mentality is a fundamental feature of the universe.

And here is the MBQ in its entirety (taken from the supplement on the website hosting the preprint):


There exists another separate realm or dimension beyond this physical world that can be experienced and visited. (Ontological transcendentalism)

Visiting such immersive “realms” or “worlds” can sometimes depend on a supernatural / magical transition process or event. (Supernatural transcendentalism)

There are two separate realms of existence, the physical (body, brain and external world) and the mind, the latter being non-physical/non-material. (Dualism)

There is just one primary reality: the mind and/or consciousness and all material things derive from it. (Idealism)

There is just one primary reality: the physical; the mind (and/or consciousness) is just physical/functional properties of the brain and has an entirely material explanation. (Materialism)

There are other realms of existence which are more important than everyday reality. (Primacy of other realms)

The universe obeys a unifying principle which is beyond any possible material or scientific explanation. (Non-naturalism)

The universe obeys a unifying principle which is (in theory) completely addressed by a material or scientific explanation. (Naturalism)

The physical world is an illusion generated by consciousness or the mind


Mind, consciousness, or soul is a fundamental quality of all things in the universe, either animate or inanimate. (Panpsychism)

My conscious experience is entirely a construction of reality performed by my brain. (Internalism about consciousness)

My ‘self’ is entirely a construction of my brain (Virtual self theory)

My experience and my ‘self’ are deeply rooted in my body and its interactions with the world and not the sole construction of my brain. (Enactivism)

 What they found is that, among people who participated in at least one psychedelic retreat, there was a significant shift towards affirmation of statements about the reality of the supernatural, the distinction between mind and body, and the non-existence of free will. Specifically, participants shifted towards dualism, panpsychism and away from materialism. They also shifted towards views like Ontological Transcendentalism, which holds that There exists another separate realm or dimension beyond this physical world that can be experienced and visited. (Ontological transcendentalism). And supernatural transcendanetalism which holds that  “Visiting such immersive “realms” or “worlds” can sometimes depend on a supernatural / magical transition process or event.” The changes remained detectable in the six month follow-up. In fact, many of the changes increased.

         They also found that lifetime psychedelic usage strongly correlated with these same beliefs – so people who have had more psychedelic experiences in their lives were less sympathetic to materialism, and more inclined towards transcendentalism, pan-psychism, dualism. But, interestingly, those people were ALSO more inclined towards fatalism. Fatalism is the view that history including the future is fixed and there is nothing you can do about it. In the six month follow-up, all the beliefs associated with non-physicalism increased, except for this one which was “There are other realms of existence which are more important than everyday reality

It’s also worth noting that the degree to which beliefs changed was found to correlate with the participant’s experience during the retreat as well as features of the participant themselves. So people who score higher on ‘peer conformity’ changed their beliefs more. But a much bigger factor impacting belief change was how much emotional synchrony the participants achieved with the retreat group. People who had higher levels of synchronization with the emotions of the other members of the retreat had more belief change. And the degree to which a person synchronized with the rest of the retreat was determined by such factors as ‘gender’ (with women changing their beliefs more) and age (with younger people changing more) and trait absorption (the degree to which a person is amenable to highly focused states). So the more you’re able to focus and enter trance-like states, the more likely your beliefs were to change away from physicalist type beliefs and towards non-physical beliefs.

   The authors noted that the ways in which beliefs change – this shift away from materialism, towards non-materialistic views like dualism and panpsychism, it seems to be a reflection of the beliefs of shamanistic societies and also the beliefs of psychedelic influence cultural groups in the West.   

    Now, this raises a bit of a chicken v. egg question. And that question is: is it that PSYCHEDELICS cause people to believe in the supernatural and mind/body distinction (as well as in fatalism). ORRRR…is it that participating in a psychedelic ceremony in the United States causes people to shift their metaphysics in these ways? The question is a live one. It could be that psychedelics open your mind to another way of seeing reality, or help us gain access to hidden realms. But it could also just be that when you participate in a very intense ritual alongside people who believe in weird things, that you are likely to adopt some weird beliefs. It’s not clear from this study whether psychedelics transmit metaphysical change innately or whether it’s the ‘psychedelic culture’ that transmits metaphysical beliefs.

    I’m pointing out a ‘flaw’ in the study: it seems like it should have been designed comparing psychedelic usage + retreat attendance to retreat attendance (only). Comparing psychedelic usage + retreat attendance to anti-depressant usage seems like the wrong comparison to make. That said, I think they probably designed the study this way on purpose – because they need to show that there’s some kind of metaphysical change associated with psychedelics FIRST (to get funders and journals interested) and then they can always do a follow-up study to tease out the respective contributions of psychedelics and retreat participation.

    Do we have any independent reasons for thinking that psychedelics have some innate ability to change our metaphysical beliefs?  Well, one of the things that these guys mention in the preprint is that there’s a prominent theory of how psychedelics work to change beliefs, called REBUS – relaxed beliefs under psychedelics. So I found this other paper. It’s from 2019, and it’s titled “REBUS and the Anarchic Brain: Toward a Unified Model of the Brain Action of Psychedelics” And this paper explains that REBUS is a model in which beliefs are a function two kinds inputs: (1) your prior commitments and (2) your current inputs. And psychedelics work to shift the weightings – the respective priority you give to one or the other – away from prior commitments and towards your current inputs. So you form beliefs based more on what’s happening to you right now and less on what beliefs you formed awhile ago. But…and maybe I’m not getting something here. I don’t see how this explains psychedelic belief change. Because… the authors not themselves, the study didn’t find that people generally relaxed their beliefs, but there’s a shift in a particular direction. There’s a shift away from materialism, and towards non-materialist views of the nature of reality.

    So one way to make sense of this with the REBUS model, would be if psychedelics BOTH relax your commitment to your priors AND they also cause you to experience things that are consistent with alternative spiritual views such as pan-psychism, or the mind being somehow independent of the material world. So, I would think you would need both a relaxing model of belief formation and also you’d want some other factor to explain the shift. It could be that psychedelics cause you to directly experience reality differently. But we have to also consider that it could just be a fancy version of placebo effect – maybe because we all have this background idea that psychedelic culture is sort of mystical, and eastern, and spiritual whenever any of us do psychedelics we think a bunch of mystical and eastern thoughts, and then shift our beliefs towards those ideas. I concede it is very hard to know.

    So what do we know? Well, I don’t think we can hang very much on this one study. After all, it’s just one study. But it’s very consistent with something that a lot of us have noticed or suspected already – that spiritual activities associated with psychedelic usage induces our philosophical beliefs in directions that are more consistent with what we traditionally think of as eastern spirituality.

    So what is the upshot here? Well, the study does a good job of pointing out that we can’t really infer anything direct about the value of psychedelics from this finding about how they impact people’s beliefs.  As I noted in the introduction, it could be that materialism is true, and psychedelics induce delusional thinking. Alternatively, it could be that psychadelics help people ‘wake up’ to the reality that materialism is a sort of narrow-minded ideology that we mistakenly conflate with being smart and sophisticated.

    But we can study how changes in beliefs correlate with well-being and different social outcomes. The authors of the paper note that there’s some mixed bag here. On one hand, they say that bigger changes in beliefs correlated with increased well-being. On the other hand, they note that fatalism, and anti-physicalists beliefs have been associated with some maladaptive coping. Fatalists, for example, are more likely to cheat – I suppose they figure that they’re destined to do one thing or another so they can’t help it if they cheat. This is not very good logic, but it’s not worth elaborating here.  

    One of the big picture issues I want to raise is only touched on by the article. They note:

One popular historical narrative is that spiraling psychedelic use in 1960s catalysed counter-cultural views and activities that provoked prohibitionist policies which effectively suspended research and clinical/therapeutic work with these compounds Recent evidence suggests that psychedelic use has increased exponentially in the last decade in the US and is set to scale-up further due to increasing public interest and liberalising policies on acess.

So here the authors acknowledge that it seems that psychedelics alter people’s beliefs, and they do so in a way that can be destabilizing to society, or at least highly threatening to certain power-structures. So I think this is really important. We have talked on this show about the power of the psychedelic counter-culture in the 1960s and 1970s, and how complex this community was. We have also talked about archeological research suggesting that the ancient Greek world may have been held together by a psychedelic ritual. So the potential social power of psychedelics may be quite awesome and is probably currently underappreciated.

            Ultimately, I think this paper raises a really important point, that goes unexplored by the authors. But I am going to explore it right now: if psychedelics change your worldview, that has value in only two ways

1.) Psychedelics shift your worldview in a direction that has pragmatic value (making you happy, or ‘better adjusted’)..

2.) Psychadelics shift your worldview in a way that makes your views more accurate.

I’ve mentioned 1.) throughout this episode – the evidence that psychedelics help people let go of their past, and become more flexible, and how this helps people psychologically. But let’s talk now about 2.) – the truth-value of psychedelics. 

Consider this argument:

  • Consciousness expansion, if it existed, would include, by definition, forming a more nuanced and accurate, representation of our reality.
  • Psychedelics shift people’s beliefs away from materialism and towards panpsychism and dualism:
  • There are philosophical arguments for and against both materialism and panpsychism.
  • But, if you believe that materialism is true and panpsychism is false or implausible, then psychadelics undermine consciousness expansion. You might say that they cause consciousness shrinkage.
  • If you believe panpsychism is true or plausible, and materialism is false or implausible, then taking psychedelics facilitates consciousness expansion

So, whether you should see psychedelics as enhancing consciousness or diminishing consciousness, would seem, at least from this argument I gave above, to be a function of whether you think the philosophical arguments are.

So I would strongly encourage everyone in the audience. If you’re thinking about doing psychedelics. Maybe do some reading on materialism, pan-psychism, dualism first. I would say, you might read the modern philosophers – people like Descartes and Malebanche. And then pan-psychism. I think that’s Spinoza.  I also know that Chrisitan philosopher Alvin Plantinga has a so-called “Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism” which is a unique line of criticism of materialism. So you might want to look at these different arguments and follow some of the debate before you do psychadelics.

And similarly, if you’re planning a psychedelic pow-wow, or a retreat. I would encourage you to consider   I would encourage you – maybe hire a philosopher. And have him come and give you a presentation and do a Q&A. Maybe assign some readings. And have the participants think over materialism, pan-psychism, dualism, BEFORE you start doing drugs.

I would think that you might do the readings and take the seminar and decide “oh hey, well, I think pan-psychism is nuts, and I wouldn’t want to be a person who believes it,” but you might also say “oh well the arguments for pan-psychisms are interesting, and I think they make sense, but I have trouble taking the view seriously.” Well, you might be uniquely situated then to benefit from psychadelics because it would reduce your cognitive dissonance.

And I would wager that if you go into psychedelic experiences better informed – philosophically – you’ll ultimately be able to handle whatever the experience throws at you. I don’t have any hard scientific evidence for this. But it’s my very strong hunch.

Thanks everyone for listening, remember – don’t drop acid until you’ve consulted first with a philosopher! Thank you, everybody.
Stay strange and Stay Sane!



#27 – Show Notes – News of the Strange Roundup for April 30th, 2021

Buenos Dias

Broadcasting from an undisclosed and undislosable location, this is the Spectral Skull Session, and I am your host Dane.

Today, a news roundup for the week of April 30th, which includes: the holiday of Beltane, Harry Reid suggests UFO swarms are Russian technology, and the hauntings have resumed at America’s most haunted Ranch..

First in our news is this is a holiday weekend for so many of our listeners. It is the Easter Weeekend, for Orthodox Christians around the world.

Saturday, May 1st is the workers holiday for China, Russia, and some parts of Eastern Europe, including Belarus.

May 1st is also Beltane, for Celtic people, especially the Scottish and irish.

Beltane refers to the Fire of Bel, or Belenus. Belenus is a celtic sun god.

The Beltane holiday is marked by maypoles, dancing, and fertility rites.

It is a popular time for Pagan weddings, or ‘handfasting’ a handfasting is a pledge that a couple takes to stay together for a year and a day.

Another celtic tradition is for young couples to spend the night of Beltane out in the fields. And come back with armfuls of Hawthorn blossoms to decorate their homes. Children born 9 months after Beltane are known as “Beltane Babies”

During Beltane, Herdsmen will drive their cattle, sheep, or other animals, between two closely aligned bonefires. The belief is that passing through the smoke of the fires, blesses a living creature, and helps protect it from harm in the year to come. A variation on this practice is to jump over the Beltane fires.

I looked up Beltane in the seminal work on comparative western mythology, Sir James George Frazer’ The Golden Bough. Written in 1890 and revised 1900, The Golden Bough has influenced everyone from Christian apologist and children’s book author, C.S. Lewis, to scholar Joseph Campbell, to poet T.S. Elliot. Even Aleister Crowley is said to have been studying Frazer as he staged his own attempt to revive magickal spirituality in the West, crafting what would become the religion or philosophy of Thelema.

So here is what Frazer has to say about Beltane:

He says that in the central highlands of Scottland, the Beltane rituals are strongly suggestive of a now-abandoned practice of human sacrafice.

One Scottish ritual is the Beltane cake. A cake of oats or meal is prepared in the fire. And a bean or some kind of token is hidden inside it. The community divides the cake up. Whoever finds the token is the Beltane Carline. Certain members of the community then stage a dramatized attempt to throw that person into the fire. Other members of the community intervene, to rescue the Beltane Carline. As a compromise between being immolated and allowed to live, the community all throws eggshells at the Carline. That person then is treated as an odious character for the remainder of the year, with people even referring to him and her as if they were dead.

In a variation on this practice, the Beltane Carline may be asked to jump over a roaring bonfire three times, to spare the community from harm. Or may be asked to pass repeatedly between two bonfires that are painfully close together.

So Beltane may be a good day to get outside, and perform a fertility ritual of some kind. And smoke some meat, to ask the fairy people to protect you and your herd, for another year.

Moving on. Let’s follow-up on two stories previously reported here.

First, we’ve been covering Russian President Vladamir Putin’s suspicious activities in the Former Soviet Union. And we have good news. First, the Russian dissident Alexei Navalny has ended his hunger strike, after he was allowed to see a doctor for his legs.

Appearing by video-link in a Russian court, Navalny said the following:

“You are all traitors. You and the naked king are implementing a plan to seize Russia, and the Russians should be turned into slaves. Their wealth will be taken away from them, they will be deprived of any prospects, you have implemented that plan.”

Not sure what Navalny is talking about there. Remember this is a Russian man who was poisoned, and barely survived, then voluntarily returned to Russia, only to be imprisoned in solitary confinement without medical care.

But, it sounds like Navalny is warning of a plot to destroy Russia, by President Vladamir Putin.

He also called the judge a traitor, and we sentenced to contempt of court.

Also, good news from Russia, a major Russian military build-up in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine has been partially reversed. Concerns of a renewed war between Russia and Ukraine, amid heightened tensions and growing exchange of gunfire, may be laid to rest for the time being.

This de-escalation, along with the improved condition of Alexei Navalny, both come on the heels of U.S. President Joe Biden, contacting President Putin, and inviting him to a summit.

Putin reportedly told Russian media that Biden said he does not want worse relations between the countries, but wants to normalize relations. Normalizing relations would be extraordinary, as Russia has been under sanctions since 2012.

Sanctions only got worse in March 2014, when U.S. President Barack Obama signed Executive Order 13660 , signed on March 6, 2014, authorizes sanctions on individuals and entities responsible for violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, or for stealing the assets of the Ukrainian people. (source: U.S. State Department)

Related to this, Former Senator Harry Reid, has publically said that the mystery UFOs swarming America’s naval destroyers, are, owned by, you guessed it, Russia.

Speaking to the U.S. Sun on the topic, Reid said “Always remember Russia, it is run by a man who once ran the KGB. They had 31,000 agents at one time. Russia is involved in this no question about it.”

Reid is of course referring to Russian President Vladamir Putin, 1975, Putin joined the KGB and . After training, he worked in (counter-intelligence), before he was transferred to the First Chief Directorate, where he monitored foreigners and consular officials in St. Petersburg.

But A former member of the U.K. Defense ministry, also chimed in, telling the Sun, that these UFOs could be “hypersonic drones from Russia or China”

We’ve already talked about the possibility that the UFOs could be Chinese drones on this show. But how about the possibility that they are Russian drones?

Well, the Russian military claims to be in the process of developing almost two dozen different kinds of hypersonic missiles at this time.

Hypersonic missiles are missiles that move much faster than the speed of sound. So, fast, that they can be invisible on radar. And even if detected by radar, they cannot be intercepted. If a naval ship using horizon-restricted radar detected a hypersonic missile, it might have less than a minute to react. This acccording to (Source:

In 2018, President Putin, said they had completed testing of one hypersonic missile, the Avangard. Putin said the Avangard is a high-velocity glide vehicle that can move 20x the speed of sound and engage in manuvers. This would allow the missile to not only outrun, but also dodge intercepting misiles.

The Russian military also claims to have deployed another hypersonic missile, called the Kiazhil, which can be launched from planes. It can also move several times the speed of sound.

And in March 2018, Putin also claimed that the Russian military was working on a kind of wunderwaffen – a nuclear-capable nuclear-powered missile, called the 9M730 Burevestnik.. NATO calls it the SSC-X-Skyfall. The Skyfall is supposedly a missile that flies using a nuclear reactor and a ramscoop.

The idea here is that you put radioactive ore inside your missile. Your ramscoop is a nossle at the front of the missile that sucks up air. You run the air across the ore. It becomes super-heated, then it shoots out the back of the missile. This means the missile doesn’t burn fuel, it just heats air.

In theory, such a missile can fly almost indefinitely. The United States researched building a nuclear-power missile in the 1950s, but decided against it, because if the missile crashed before reaching its target, it would have spread radioactive material everywhere. I also read that the missile was so loud that it would have permeneatly defeaned anyone it flew over. So, the Americans decided this was a bad idea.

Putin, apparently, thinks its a great idea, or that’s what he wants us to believe. Because this Skyfall is just one of many of these terrifying new russian weapons.

But here is the thing about Russia’s claims to have all these wunderwaffen hypersonic missiles. I’ve mentioned three now.

Well, arms-control experts have pointed out that the missile that launches from planes? It looks suspiciously like another missile the Russians already have. Other arms-control experts have questioned the idea of a glide vehicle, saying that missiles can only glide at much slower speeds, far below hypersonic speeds.

And finally, the Russian military tested the Skyfall engine in August, 2019. And it blew up, spewwing radioactive material everywhere. Killing the entire staff of the research project. Five top scientists died of radiation exposure. So that is a set back for the Russians.

The point I want to emphasize here: I’m very skeptical that the Russians are up to the task of developing next-generation super-drones. Yes, the Russians do continue to punch above their weight in cyber-warfare, and technology. But my sense is this: the Soviet Union was a very science and educated oriented utopian dream. The Soviets heavily invested in tech and education, so they still have good Universities, and lots of secret cold war inventions mothballed in hidden factories. Whenever Putin’s government wants to make it look like Russia is making progress, he has someone go dig up some secret Soviet era technology, and then they pretend to be mass producing it.

I suspect the only nation besides the U.S. Capable of actually developing a next-generation breakthrough drone, would be China. I am also skeptical that even China could do it.

Let’s move on to another mysterious story, also linked to Former Senator Harry Reid.

Back when he was Senator, Reid arranged for taxpayer funds to be used to investigate various mysteries. One of these mysteries was UFOs. Another one, was Skinwalker ranch.

Skinwalker Ranch is located in Ballard Utah. The Northeast Corner of that State. It is a highly-recognized center for High Strangeness. High Strangeness is whenever you have multile different categories of paranormal phenomena happening close together in space and time.

The region was long known for UFO sightings. The Indigenous tribes in the area used to avoid it, saying it was cursed land.

In the 1990s, a ranching family took posession of a 500-acre ranch. They reported immediately being visited by a giant wolf, who tried to eat their prized calfs. They shot this wolf repeatedly, eventually with a high caliber rifle at point-blank range. The wolf survived and left.

The family struggled for some time, tormented by strange events. They would hear voices laughing at them, coming from the sky at night. They had poltergheist-like activity inside their home. At one point they saw what appeared to be a Winnebago that had wandered onto their land, they even were caught in its headlights, but then it took off into the sky.

And more importantly for ranchers, they gradually lost more and more of their cattle herd.

Eventually, they shared their story with the world. And this caught the attention of Robert Bigelowe. Bigelowe is an aerospace tycoon. He’s also a close friend of Harry Reids.

Bigelow was able to get tens of millions of dollars, to assemble a team to investigate Skinwalker Ranch. Reportedly, they witnessed a number of spectral phenomena, including camera equipment that was mysteriously torn apart. A couple investigators reported seeing a doorway open up in the sky, and a bigfoot like creature ran out.

Skinwalker ranch is absolutely the weirdest place I’ve ever heard of. But, the activity supposedly died down when Bigelowe’s team came to investigate. And I heard that Bigelow was disappointed, and that was the end of the whole project.

Now, recently, Bigelow sold the property to real-estate tycoon, Brandon Fugal. Fugal said he bought the property as a skeptic but then:

Well that all changed. I had with multiple witnesses with me an occasion where we saw what can only be described as an unidentified flying object, a craft a forty, fifty-foot-long silver disc hovering right above the mesa. Right in front of us. This wasn’t just a blinking light in the sky or something that was a little bit ambiguous. This was a solid object that appeared out of nowhere could move in the blink of an eye and over a twenty second period perform maneuvers that I believe defy any propulsion physics that we’re acquainted with.”

Fugal is saying that people who visit his ranch have “acute medical episodes” including nausea, altered-perception, and even temporary paralysis.

This latest saga in the story of Skinwalker Ranch, will be covered in the

“The Secret of The Skinwalker Ranch” which will be on the History Channel, starting May 4th.

And if you are looking for more documentaries about cryptids. There is a new documentary series exploring whether Bigfoot may have murdered Cannabis Farmers.

Sasquatch a documentary on Hulu, follows filmaker Joshua Rofe, and investigative reporter, David Holthouse. Holthouse investigates three men who were allegedly murdered by bigfoot.

Holthouse was working on a cannabis farm in California in the Emerald Triangle region, which is near Mendocino, when a man came to him saying three workers had been torn limb from limb, and their weed left undisturbed.

Holthouse and Rofe found themselves caught up in a shadowy northern californian underworld of AR-15s weilding smugglers, hostility directed against migrants, and numerous unsolved murders.

I would like to mention that Mendocino is where Robert Anton Wilson retreated and suffered through a period of his life that he refered to as “Chapel Perilious” a period where he was haunted by spectres, weird synchronicities, and questioned his very relationship with reality.

I wonder if in addition to being a center for the cannabis black market, this region in Northern California may also be a place like Skinwalker Ranch, or, the place we covered on this show, the BridgeWater Triangle in Massachuttes.

Alright everyone. That is the show for this week.

It’s Beltane. It’s Easter. Go outside and enjoy the woods. If you see anything, then send me a message and let me know.

Remember, if you see bigfoot, maybe offer to share with him some of your stash.

This is Dane, signing off,

Stay Strange and Stay Sane.


#26 – The “Good People” of Irish Folk Lore

The "Good People" of Irish (and Celtic) Folk Lore

****Note: I try to post LITERAL transcripts of the show. But for this episode, I made major changes on the fly. The episode was too long and (in my view) my Neo-Kuhnian defense of fairy-faith is not adequately developed to have made episode 26 both fun and informative. You may see the notes below as a more extended version of what I was angling at saying in the episode that aired. My apologies to those of you who are looking for a precise word-for-word transcript. This is a compromise between what I can do in a realistic amount of time and what I think will most enable my audience to go further, taking from my work what they need to advance their own thinking.

If you have the time to read it, I think this is a far superior version of my defense of the fairy-faith. And I hope to develop it further in future work. Stay tuned! ***


Good morning, good evening, wherever you may be, around the nation or around the world.

I am your host Dane. Broadcasting from an undisclosed location,

In contemporary American television and movies, fairies are represented as dimminutive feminine humanoids with insect-like wings. The classic 1953 Disney Film “Peter Pan” features a small fairy named Tinkerbell who secretes an enchanting powder that enables humans to fly. But you might also have your conception of fairies shaped by the popular Legend of Zelda video games, which featured tiny pixie-like fairies who could restore your character to health or even bring him back from the dead.

but, the Good People of Ireland, as the Fairies are called, are not like the friendly sprites from American fiction. they’re certainly not something you can grab and squeeze like a sponge to steal their enriching energy. For one thing, they’re often not described as small at all, but being more or less just like us. They’re rarely described as flying. And they’re not always benevolent. At least in the Irish stories, Fairies can be helpful, but they can also be profoundly harmful. More often, they seem to be neutral, but always dangerous. They have their own town and roads, their own secret society that operates parallel to humans, and they seem to have an agenda that only occasionally intersects with human concerns and interests. As we shall see, more often they prey upon us, than we prey upon them.

Against this backdrop of weird, often indifferent, and sometimes hostile, little people, is an important question: why has Ireland, in particular, created such a rich tapestry of stories, unifying a range of phenomena: Fairy forts, fairy circles, orb lights, omens, premonitions, and dead folk returning to walk among the living? One of the most interesting things about the fairy tales of Ireland and celtic is the way that the wee people provided the Irish with a unified explanation for a wide range of seemingly paranormal phenomena. And the tentative thesis I have to offer you dear listeners, is a new possibility for thinking about the good people: I propose that they’re less a phenomena to be explained, and more a mode of thinking.

Welcome back,

I have an excellent primary source text that informed this episode:

Meeting the Other Crowd: The Fairy Stories of Hidden Ireland, by Eddie Lenihan, Carolyn Eve Green

Which is a collection of Irish folk stories.

Stable Features of Fairies:

Good Looking People – Mysterious, nocturnal humanoids. Sometimes described as three-foot tall. Sometimes described as wizened. But frequently described as looking just like normal humans, except they look much better. They’re good looking people, often beautiful and well-dressed. Rarely are fairies described as looking ill or sickly.

Fairy forts – Also known as  lios or raths. There are actual historical sites labeled “Fairy Forts” by the Irish. So-called “Mainstream” Historians and Archeologists – the kind who are attached to public, accredited Universities. The mainstream community describes these artifacts as ” stone circlesringfortshillforts, or other circular prehistoric dwellings,” some of which are believed to be dated as far back as 600 B.C.E. In 1991, there were believed to be between 30 and 40 thousand of these sites around Ireland. (source: wikipedia) 

They maintain dwelling places called forts and if you so much as cut down the whitethorn bushes on or around their forts, you risk fierce retaliation from the fairies. Demolish a fairy fort, and the fairies are liable to ruin your life with tragic accidents.

In 2011, an Irish Developer is said to have been ruined because he disrupted a fairy fort. And I found an article from 2017 in which an Irish politician blamed disruption to the fairy communities for difficulties the government was having maintaining the roads.

Fairy paths – they travel from location to location, often between forts. The paths need to remain clear. Many poltergeist-type events in Ireland are said to be due to fairy people. The solution to these hauntings is to alter the construction of the house to give the fairy people an easement. In one story I read the haunted home-owner built a home on a fairy path without knowing. Then he was hearing strange noises that were keeping him up at night. Sounded like the furniture was moving around. Eventually, he puts two little doors at either ends of their home. This allowed the fairies to enter the house at one end and leave at the other and mostly put an end to the trouble. However, he continues to hear the fairies one night a year and then lose a cow to premature and unexplained death three days later, which he decides is a kind of fairy toll for the inconvenience of his home.

Parallel culture – Many of the stories I’ve read described the fairies as having a culture that parallels ours. For example, I found one story about a man walking alone on a road in Ireland, who was recruited by the fairies to referee a soccer match. And it turned out that they followed the same rules as us. The man was terrified of offending the ferries, so he refereed in such a way that it came out a draw. The fairies thanked him and asked him to come back. He said he would, but then he changed his life so he could avoid that road.

Another story. young woman forced to travel in the middle of the night to attend a Fairy party, that revolved around a ferry woman giving birth in an adjacent room. The young woman was asked to midwife, which she did, but the baby was born dead. She watched in horror as the fairies threw the corpse into a fire, and brought in a new baby, and presented it to the fairy mother, who accepted it as her child. And then in a weird twist, the ashes of the dead fairy child were mixed into a kind of baptismal font. And as the attendees left the party that night, they all smeared ashen water into their eyes. Of course, the woman does it too, thinking “when in Rome.” But she only smears the ash in one eye. She is returned home, and her family prospers with some fairy-gold she is given as compensation.

But years later, she’s at a cattle fair, and who should she see, but some of the fairy people from the party! And she flags them down. The fairies act shocked and come up to her. They say “you can see us?” and she says yes. They say “can you see us out of both eyes?” the woman closes one eye, then the other, and she realizes that she can only see them from the eye that she smeared with the ash-water. Upon learning this the fairies say to her “now you don’t!” and they poke out her eye.

As horrifying as the story is, it illustrates the weird nature of the good people – having a kind of party, to celebrate the birth of a child, but then there’s these dark twists: the baby is born dead, so they quickly replace it, they burn the body in a dark ritual, the party concludes.

And then I also read about a young man who was recruited to attend a fairy wake. He stood around awkwardly and made small talk with some other captured children, who were permeant denizens of the fairy world. And then when they buried the casket he noticed that they said the same prayers that he used at his Catholic Church, except they left out references to the resurrection of the dead. The strong implication here being that the good people do not see themselves as eligible for christian salvation.

Need for humans – many of the stories I found said that when Fairies have a major social event – a party, a funeral, or a sporting event – they need one human being who is not already part of the fairy world to be present. They frequently recruit human beings to serve as the human witness for their ceremonies.

Children often taken – The Fairies are notorious for stealing babies, sometimes swapping them with fairy creatures called “changelings” disguised as babies.

Don’t eat the food – If you eat fairy food, then you may not return to the human world. In all the stories I’ve read so far, the fairies try to give you something to eat. And they really try to strong arm you into eating. In the stories, people politely refuse, because they know that they’ll be trapped with the fairy people.

In one story, the man ate their cake and then turned up again.

Here is one story taken from The Science of Fairy Tales An Inquiry into Fairy Mythology,  Edwin Sidney Hartland 

[a man who lived in Brecknockshire] went out to look after his cattle and sheep, but disappeared. Three weeks later, after the search parties had all given up, the man re-appeared at home. His wife asked him where he had been for three weeks, and he said “Three weeks? Is it three weeks you call three hours?” Pressed to explain, he said he had been playing his flute in the woods, when he was surrounded by little beings, like men, who closed nearer and nearer to him until they became a small circle. They sang and danced and so affected him that he lost himself. They offered him some small cakes to eat, which he partook; and he had never enjoyed himself so well in his life.”

So that guy was lucky he only vanished for three weeks.

Beautiful music – they make excellent music. They’re also excellent dancers. And they’re often, although not always, described as beautiful people. It sounds like if you DO attend a fairy event, you’ll have a good time.

Retributive if crossed – In one story, a man witnessed a horrible wheel that would roll through his property every evening. On closer inspection it turned out to be an eel with its own tail in its mouth. The main became so disturbed by this interloper, that he slashed it with a scythe. Killing it and bringing it home as proof to show his wife. In punishment, the fairy people rigged a booby trap outside his house, and he lost his foot.

Weaknesses – Cannot cross running water. And they hate iron. These are features that they seem to share with spirits. But there is disagreement on whether they are spirits or not.

How to avoid trouble with – Don’t speak ill of them! This is why they are called “The Good People” it is a euphemism and a way of being respectful. Also try to avoid being alone at night! The worst nights of the year for bad fairy encounters are November eve and May eve. That would be the last night of October, or Halloween, and then the last night of April. By the way, if you listen to this podcast on the weekend it drops, May eve is right around the corner.

If you read these irish or celtic fairy tales, you will often find a variety of entities who appear in these stories as well, here are just a few:

Bean Feasa – a woman of knowledge. This is what we might call a witch. Apparently, they weren’t considered exactly bad in the Irish tradition. But, a Bean Feasa often got her power from a relationship with fairies, and this could put her at odds with the Catholic Church.

Banshees – spirits that announce the death of a family member. I read that there’s disagreement about whether Banshees are wee people or something different.

Leprachauns – Leprechauns apparently ARE wee people, they’re just one kind of wee people. Often thought to be the cobblers, whose work earns them their famous pots of gold. There are sometimes said to be no female leprachauns, which suggests to me that they’re not a sub-race or a tribe. If you catch a leprachaun you can force him to grant you three wishes, but in some stories the leprechaun grants you wishes in a subversive way, similar to the story “the monkey’s paw” so that your wishes are technically granted, but in an unfortunate way that makes you even worse off than before.

Related to Leprechauns, I found a weird story from the Irish Post ( )

Chief among [L. hunters] was Kevin ‘McCoillte’ Woods, a man known to many as Ireland’s last Leprechaun Whisperer.

Though still sceptical, Woods was determined to discover the truth and, that same year, led an organised leprechaun hunt in the region that sparked confusion and amusement alike.

It would ultimately prove a fruitless endeavor though, with no trace of the ancient Irish being discovered during their travails. Had the leprechauns gone into hiding? Died out? Did they ever exist in the first place?

For a while everything went quiet as interest in finding a real-life Leprechaun died down. People returned to normal life and the whole thing was laughed off.

But Woods was undeterred and in 2002 he came across another discovery that prompted similar bafflement. 

Located close to a stone wall on Ghan Road in Carlingford he came across yet more gold coins.. This raised the question “Had he hidden the coins himself to excite interest in treasure hunting?”

It’s unclear, though things took a turn for the weird. Woods revealed that the coins had given him the ability to communicate with the “Carraig” an elder being who apparently served as the elder of the 236 surviving leprechauns, secretly living in the region.

The article also says that “every year, on the second Sunday in May, Woods leads the annual Carlingford National Leprechaun Hunt through the Irish village. Plus, yhe Irish Post reports that 2,000 tiny caldrons are distributed for Leprechaun hunters to find. So it sounds like a cultural event, possible a culturally-mediated hoax…

Or maybe these fairies are a case of a socially constructed phenomena, like the Tulpa!

It does seem to me that anyone trying to get to the bottom of the Irish fairy tale has to struggle through the reality of Irish Craik, this is a word that means “enjoyable gossip” and it seems to leafnote the Irish love of stories, and perhaps embellishment.

So, one way in which Irish Craik clearly manifests and points at how the Irish seem to have a cultural understanding that stories should be entertaining, and this seems to complicate tales about the wee people, is that the Irish will say that a woman who dies in childbirth was carried, by which they mean she was carried away by the fairies.

And I found one really weird story that seemed to reinforce this. This is from Meeting the Other Crowd. This man finds a woman sneaking into his house at night and eating his food. When he confronts her, she says that she’s been taken by the fairies, but she won’t eat their food so she has to escape at night and find someone else’s food. But, she cant’ come back to human society unless her husband comes and gets her. So she gives the farmer the name of her husband. And the farmer goes and looks him up, and it’s a man who recently re-married because his wife died in childbirth.

Now, the farmer goes to talk to a priest about it. What do I do, this woman says she’s the wife and she needs her husband to rescue her, but the husband is remarried? The priest says “just leave it alone. Don’t get involved.” and that’s the end of the story.

And I thought “well, there’s nothing here but a CLAIM to have been kidnapped by fairies, which doesn’t really square up to me with breaking into a guy’s house in the middle of the night. She clearly CAN get away, so why can’t she just STAY with humans?

And I thought “this sounds like a case of blaming the fairies to get out of trouble.” In fact, I found a couple stories that fit the same pattern: 1.) someone leaves food out at night for another person who works late, 2.) the late-worker finds a woman eating his food, 3.) the woman blames the fairies and says only her husband can save her.

The Irish had a period of famine. 1845 to 1852. 1 million people died, and 1 million people fled the country. So that the population dropped 25%. In that context, of people dying, going missing, and starving to death, I can see how there would be a lot supper thievery and identity games going on.

So I think…it’s impossible to read about the fairy people, without seeing them as at least partially a cultural phenomena. People are telling these stories for reasons other than simply just because they are true. In some cases, I could suppose that people who get caught doing misdeeds in Ireland might even be expected to tell a tall-tale, as a kind of recompensation.

And the author, Carolyn Eve Green notes that Ireland has changed dramatically in just a single generation. And in ways that may have shaped how people experience reality,

  1. Walking is significantly down. People have cars now.
  2. So there’s less walking at night.
  3. People use electric lights now at night everywhere.
  4. Local customs and religiousity are both in steep decline.
  5. There are educational pressures to suppres fairy lore. Apparently, higher education condemns belief in fairies in Ireland.
  6. The practice of roaming from house to house in the evening, showing up unexpectedly and telling stories has largely vanished.

So, Carolyn Eve Green seems to suggest that the fairy stories, at least, were a product of a particular kind of almost pre-industrial culture, that exists in Ireland into the 20th century.

Now, that doesn’t resolve the mystery of the fairies completely, in my view. Because, there is still this question of why these stories are so popular with the celtic peoples, and especially the Irish.

One quick thought is: how do we know it’s JUST celtic or in Ireland? Maybe these stories are from all over the world. On that note, a very quick search on youtube found one story of little people from an indigenous community up in Wisconsin. I found a man talking into the camera about trickster people who would party on his Uncle’s porch. He described hearing footsteps, suggestive of running on his uncle’s porch, and his uncle going outside with tobacco to do a ritual to keep them at bay. And I thought.. It sounds like they built that house on a fairy path.

So, it seems to me that there is some phenomena here that causes the fairy people stories. I’m proposing a core paranormal phenomena, which may not be unique to Ireland.

And so let’s talk about that. Because in the fairy stories, I find evidence of MULTIPLE DIFFERENT phenomena, which today we label paranormal, but which the Irish have provided a unified explanatory account for, using the fairy people.

I’ve already mentioned that the Irish folk take mysterious lights, especially seen at night, to be evidence of fairy people. Often these spirits lights are thought to define a fairy throughway, especially if they repeat. Well, here in the U.S. We just call ’em orbs.

Furthermore, they say that fairy people when they dance at night, leave rings in the fields. Clearly, the Irish folk have been using fairy people to explain the paranormal phenomenon that in the 20th century came to be labeled ‘crop circles’.

Many people who die are said to be taken by the fairies. In many Irish stories encounters with the dead ‘turn out’ to be encounters with people who have been taken by the fairies. Suggesting to me, that we can see the Irish folk as explaining what we call ghost encounters as brushes with the fairy world.

I also heard about stories of strange noises, coming from fairy forts. Sometimes it’s music. Sometimes its the sounds of construction. Sometimes . Anyone who is familiar with the old show Coast to Coast, will recall that show has many episodes about mysterious noises, often coming from underground.

And lastly, paranormal abductions. When people describe being taken away by monsters in the 21st century, we often interpret these as stories about aliens. But, I’ve already mentioned that abduction-type encounters feature prevalently among Irish fairy tales.

And here is one story, from the USA that shows how blurry the line between aliens and fairies can be.

Taken from Jacques Vallee’s book Passport to Magonia, here is a case from Everittstown, New Jersey, 1957:

John Trasco went outside to feed his dog. He saw a brilliant egg-shaped object hovering in front of hs barn. On his way outside, he encountered a three-foot being with putty-colored face and large frog-like eyes. It was wearing a green suit, with shiny buttons, a green tam-o-shanter-like cap, and gloves with a shiny object at the tip of each finger. (Coral Lorenzen) 

 It said in broken english “We are a peaceful people, we only want your dog.”

There was some kind of altercation, because the husband later complained that he got green powder on himself from fighting the creature, which then took off in a rush.

His wife reported seeing the hovering egg from the house, but she did not see the creature. 

So, here we have a story of an attempted abduction, associated with a UFO. But the creature is dressed like a Leprechaun. Showing that some of these UFO abduction stories may very well be on a continuum with fairy abduction stories.

So, when you think about the orbs, the crop circles, the abductions, the ghosts, and all that, I propose that the fairy people, perhaps rather than being a phenomena in themselves, and better understood as a theoretical model that provides a single unified explanation for a wide range of paranormal phenomena.

And I realize that this leaves us, back where we were at the beginning, because it doesn’t tell us….whether some of these mysterious encounters with beautiful, sometimes, smallish, impish humanoids, are CAUSED BY, physically real creatures. Because it is possible that there are, or at least were, a parallel race, living alongside us.

Of course, this raises the question: what would these things be? Well, recently archeologists have been talking about discovering evidence of pigmy humanoids that co-existed with humans. In 2004, national geographic reported on the discovery that there was a species of homo sapiens, that never became larger than 3 foot, that lived in Indonesia. Homo floresiensis . And they lived at least as late as 18,000 years ago. Is it possible that homo floresiensis lasted longer? Absolutely.

And this theory is not unique to me, it was first developed by David MacRitchie in his book “ The Testimony of Tradition “ he proposes that Mongols came to Ireland and remants of the Mongols survived in the hills for an extended period of time. This was 1890, long before evidence of the Homo Floresiensis had been verified by the archeological mainstream. But, the Mongol theory would place those pigmy people at much later date than if they were Homo Floresiensis. Nevertheless, my sense is that this is a live possibility that we should take seriously.

So, let me wrap up my proposal for understanding fairy-faith:

I figure, we can see the fairy-faith less as a putative phenomena, but more as what the philosopher of science, Thomas Kuhn called a “paradigm” – a paradigm is a theoretical model that accounts for a wide range of empirical data by positing some underlying explanation. Kuhn’s go-to example is Aristotelian physics, the Aristotelians explained various kinds of changes in the physical world by positing four kinds of matter: fire, earth, water, air. And everything naturally seeks its place in the universe, so this is why fire rises, and air rises, while water and earth descend. And the story gets more complicated from there, but this model of things seeking their natural place explained a lot of motion.

Similarly, we can see that the Little People stories of Ireland are a sort of model, that posits a parallel world of active agential-driven activities, and this could explain a wide variety of weird phenomena, which are often not grouped together by paranormal researchers in the contemporary world.

And as for the question:; well, why Little People? Why not, just inter-dimensional beings who sometimes manifest as balls of light and sometimes as people and sometimes as crop circles? Well, there are people we’ve talked about on this show, like John Keel, who think that shape-shifting ultra-terrestrials are the right all-encompassing explanation for everything from UFOs to Little People.

But what I’m open to the concrete physical reality of smaller humans, sometime in the past of the Celtic peoples, which may have been the seed around which the fairy tale paradigm revolves. You see, as Kuhn himself observes in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, paradigms grow up because they are very good at explaining certain empirical phenomena. People adopt particular paradigms, ways of viewing the world, because those ways of viewing the world provide excellent explanations for some subset of the empirical realities those people attend to.

One of the reasons why we want to invoke Thomas Kuhn’s theory of paradigms – it helps us make sense of why there’s a sense in which the reality of fairy folk is independent of whether miniature magical humanoids literally exist. Kuhn maintains that the central theoretical features of a paradigm are postulates. Postulates need not be provably true in order to be useful. If fairy people are a useful assumption, then they can be treated as if they were a known quantity, for the sake of the value that believing in them generates.

First to say something about what postulates are. A postulate is something that is assumed to be real, because treating it as if it were real solves problems. Strictly speaking, one example of a postulate is the ‘parallel postulate’ of Euclidean geometry. The parallel postulate states that through any given point not on a line there passes exactly one line parallel to that line in the same plane. You can’t prove this. It’s an assumption. Starting from this assumption (and others that seem just as obvious, but unprovable) Euclid was able to show that many more interesting claims about geometry were true. So that’s what a postulate is: something you cannot prove, but whose existence you assume because it enables you to solve problems.

Similarly, Kuhn says that we might see certain elements of Aristotelian as a postulate of Aristotelian physics. As I mentioned already, Aristotelian natures seem to be one example. You can’t “see” the nature of fire, earth, water, air. It’s something Aristotelians assumed, because it solved many problems. Another example from a different physics would be the forces of Newtonian mechanics. You can’t “see” the forces – they’re assumed for the sake of the system. Thus, Aristotlean natures and Newtonian forces are postulates – not provably true, but useful to treat as if they are true.

Now, if fairies can explain a wide range of phenomena – crop circles, spirit lights, hauntings, and human disappearances – then it seems to be that they have the same right to be assumed as postulates as Aristotlean natures or Newtonian forces. That is, they can be treated as if they were real within the structure of the theory, because of their ability to solve problems.

Kuhn thought that you can’t meaningfully question the existence of postulates independently of their paradigm. After all, Aristotelian physics really does solve problems – it has explanatory power and provides a unified picture of the world. Plus, it can always be modified in little ways to solve any particular problem you want to solve. It’s conceivable that a person might explain all the physics we have today, entirely by making small changes to Aristotelianism. Similarly, for a long time, when Newtonian physics was running into trouble, the astronomers preferred to solve those problems by making small adjustments or adding new assumptions. One famous example – Newtonian physics did not do a good job of predicting the orbit of Mercury. So, the astronomers at the time posited the existence of another planet called “Vulcan” that was closer to the sun than Mercury and whose gravitational pull kept Mercury off-course. Today, we are more apt to say that Mercury did not conform to Newtonian physics because Newtonian physics doesn’t describe the orbits of planets as well as Eisenstein physics does. But, the point is, you can always add new entities to keep a system going.

If Kuhn is right that you can’t meaningfully question the existence of postulates independently of their paradigm, and little people are a postulate of some kind of “folk tale” model of reality, then we can’t meaningfully deny the existence of fairy people. From the folk tale point-of-view, fairies are real. All you can do is say “well, is the folk tale theory of reality better than the alternatives?” And what are the alternatives really? As near as I can tell, modern science doesn’t have good explanations for spirit parties, crop circles, cryptid abductions, orbs and spirit lights. Insofar as it explains these things at all, it tends to do by explaining them away. Error-theories are provided – theories of why these things don’t exist. And the error-theories are not themselves unified – they’re a bunch of ad hoc accounts of why this piece of empirical data is an artifact, or why this observer was drunk, or debilitated, lying, stupid, or crazy.

There is no unified “error-theory” of the paranormal from the point-of dogmatic naturalism (i.e. those who deny the existence of non-material phenomena). The absence of a unified account is a major mark against these people and the way that they see reality.

Furthermore, I want to remind the listener that i’ve suggested that there are some problems that fairy people solve, which are not, strictly-speaking, mysterious phenomena. The fairy people might be invoked to solve social problems AS WELL: speaking respectfully of the dead, or getting out of trouble for eating someone’s food during a famine. And this could be an additional reason to invoke the fairy people.

If all this is right, then it suggests an alternative way of asessing the fairy-faith. The reality of the fairy people is less a question of whether they literally exist, and more a question of the various epistemic desiderata (explanatory power, predictive power) and non-epistemic desiderata (social mores and norms) that believing in them confers.

Of course, in the end, many of us will say: that’s all fine and good, but I REALLY WANT TO KNOW IF THERE ARE TINY MAGIC PEOPLE RUNNING AROUND IRELAND!

This intuition also has to be respected: we cannot completely dismiss the flat-out, naive, literalist, demand to know: are THEY FREAKING OUT THERE OR NOT? On this question, I am a flat-out agnostic: I just do not know. I haven’t done enough research to feel confident weighing in on the issue yet.

All I am saying here, is that the annoyingly literalist demand for a simple answer “TINY MAGIC PEOPLE – YES OR NO? NOW!” is actually a different one from the question of the validity of the fairy-faith. And this could help explain why many of us feel uncomfortable or even angry, when the literalist comes to us, pressing and demanding, a quick answer.

Can you imagine them doing that to Einstein? “IS MOTION REAL, YES OR NO, NOW!” if the people in power had acted like this, the whole question of nuclear physics – including the development of weapons for defending the U.S. Against Japan and then the Soviets – might have been swept away in a hubris of literalism.

So, I submit this as a possible account of the Fairy People, while pleaing for the right to revise my view in the future!

Ok. That is the show.

My sources for this research included:

Meeting the Other Crowd: The Fairy Stories of Hidden Ireland, by Eddie Lenihan, Carolyn Eve Green

Passport to Magonia: From Folklore to Flying Saucers, by Jacques Vallee.

The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries (Celtic, Irish) by Evans-Wentz

The Science of Fairy Tales An Inquiry into Fairy Mythology, Edwin Sidney Hartland

“The Incommensurability of Scientific Theories” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (February 2009)


#21 – Show notes for episode 21

Hello, Good morning, good evening, wherever you may be around the nation or around the world. I am your host Dane and this is Spectral Skull Session.

We are recording today from the mountainous isthmus nation of Panama. I am in Boquete, Panama in the north of the country, this week. I’ve been in the mountains of Panama since last Wednesday.

I’m not in Panama FOR the show. But I’m in Panama for reasons that will effect the show and are, directly or indirectly, deeply relevant to the show. But, I’m not prepared to discuss it with the audience. If you bear with me, I will get around to talking about what I’m doing down here, but that may be at least a few weeks, if not months away.

But because I am down in Panama, I wanted to do an episode about how mysterious this place is. So, this episode is going to cover the FIVE biggest mysteries of Panama, that I know of:

1. The origins of Panama, and the mystery of whether Teddy Roosevelt is personally responsible for it being a country.

2. The Panama Papers – and Vladamir Putin’s role in Panama.

3. The Case of the Disappearing Dutch Girls

4. The Strange Petroglyphs of the Panamanian Jungles.

So this will be a bit of a round-up episode. I’m not going to go into depth on any particular topic. There are three reasons for this:

1.) Because I am traveling, I found it hard to do research. I am working on an extraterrestrial and UFO arc. I’ve been re-reading Diana Pasulka’s book “American Cosmic” I’ve been reading about the life of chemist and rocket scientist, Jack Parsons. I’m getting reading to read a new book that just came out arguing that the human race is bioengineered. I’ve got enough material for some really good alien/conspiracy episodes, but it’s really hard to focus when you’re traveling. I was only able to write this episode because I’m staying at a hostel that has a really nice balcony along the river, and I went outside yesterday afternoon, switched off the facebook and twitter, turned off my phone, and just pounded it out.

2.) Some of these topics are mysterious, but a little tangential to the main theme of the show – the exploration of supernatural, occult and esoteric phenomena. The origins of Panama and the Panama Papers are mysterious, and occult for sure, but they’re much more spy and espionage related and less aliens-ghosts-cryptids related. So why cover them at all? That leads to my third reason for doing this show:

3.) I wanted to honor Panama. Before I found out I was headed down here, I did not know much about Panama. I knew it was where the Panama Canal is located. I sort of assumed it was a really hot, muggy, jungle-filled, backwater. In reality, Panama is pretty unique and interesting. It’s a place that doesn’t get enough attention.

And really, something I’ve been noticng for the past 5 – 10 years, if you’re from the United States, we get very very little news about our southern neighbors. I think it was just about five years ago that I realized the death toll from the narco-war in Mexico is comparable to the death toll in Syria. Now, Mexico is a lot lower, but the dead and missing are still in the tens of thousands – and it’s hard to know for sure because so many people just vanish missing. And despite the high amounts of violence, we here almost NOTHING about Mexico in the U.S. Another example, there was civil unrest in Nicauraga around 2018 when i was in Costa Rica, and I barely knew anything was going on there until I was in Costa Rica and tried to go up to Nicraragua and people were telling me “no, you don’t want to go up to Nicaragua right now.”

I do not know why we don’t follow the news in what they call “Latin America” more closely in the United States. I find it very strange, considering how much trade we do with this part of the world. And how important it is for us. Honestly, I kind of think there’s a conspiratorial dimension to it. I think sometimes that there’s a kind of enforced insularity pushed by the people who control the media. For one thing, I think they don’t want us to be fully cogniscant of how much chaos is right on our southern border. It’s really scary when you think about how the Mexican government has frequently been out-gunned, infiltrated, and overrun, by the cartels. All that chaos and instability, which is linked to the American demand for drugs like Cocaine and Opiods, is both terrifying and also chastening. Our own policies play a role in what’s happening throughout Latin America.

I also wonder if maybe they don’t want us Americans to think of ourselves as sharing a continent with a vibrant and active part of the world, a part of the world where people are in many ways pretty relatable, but have considerable different priorities from us. In Costa Rica there’s incredible respect for nature. In Panama, you can see that people are much more connected to their families, to their traditions including but not limited to, religion. Both Costa Rica and Panama, it should be noted, do not have any military at all. Maybe if we were more engaged with our southern neighbors, we would rethink some of our materialism, some of our consumerism, and the people selling us a made-to-order lifestyle definitely don’t want us to do that.

Another thing that’s really struck me arriving down here in Panama, is the growing influence of the People’s Republic of China. When I got off the plane in Panama City, I was greeted at the customs gate by an enormous advert for the “Bank of China” – they literally put a huge advert on the wall behind the customs agents. It made me feel like I wasn’t disembarking in Panama, but I was disembarking in some kind of Chinese colony. And that feeling did not go away while I remained in Panama City. I went into a mall to get a SIM card and there were Chinese tourists, and the most popular phone stores were filled with Huawei products bearing Chinese script.

And so we should all ask: who is gatekeeping us from knowing more about this part of the world and why? What is their motivation? I’ve thrown out about four different possible motivations: keep us complacent about threats to our national security, keep us from taking responsibility for our own role in destabilizing our neighbors, keep us from thinking about an alternative way of living, and keep us from recognizing how important religious belief is to people around the world, and distracting us from the encroachment of a hostile superpower. But, you might have your own ideas about what is going on. These are just ideas. Pay attention and see what you come up with. If you have any ideas, please write the show and let us know.

And it could also just be tha there’s no conspiracy at all, but Americans don’t care. Maybe people don’t want to hear about Latin America because they think it’s boring. But, it’s NOT. It’s actually really really interesting.

So let’s begin with covering the mysterious origins of Panama.

First of all, Panama is located on the isthmus of Panama. It is basically the thinnest part of the land mass connecting the North and South American continent. If you imagine an S, and then rotated the S 80-degrees horizontally, to the left you’ve got Panama. The west side of Panama is slightly higher latitude than the east side. North of Panama is Costa Rica. South of Panama is Colombia.

Panama split off of Spain in 1821. And it joined the Republic of Gran Colombia. This was a super-state that was made up of what today is Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuala. Eventually, Panama and Colombia became their own state, separating from Ecuador and Venezuala.

Now, Colombia and Panama split in 1903. And this is where the mystery starts.

You see, the United States was in negotiations with Colombia for permission to dig the Panama Canal. Colombia was asking for a pretty high price. Suddenly, Panama declared independence from Colombia, the U.S. recognized Panama as an independent state. And boom, the U.S. resumed negotiating the Panama Canal, this time for a much lower price.

So, it is quite possible that Panama can be thought of as a kind of client state for the U.S. A client state as in: it seems that USA created Panama to serve USA. No judgement there. The world is a dog-eat-dog place, no doubt. I just want my countrymen to be cogniscant of what our nation had to do in order to secure its role in the world, because my sense is that we’re not paying attention now and it could all slip away. Like I said about my shock at discovering that the Bank of China has pride of place at Panamanean customs – you could wake up one day and find out that your backyard is being run by communists. So we got to stay alert on this one.

But what is the evidence that the U.S. created Panama? This is the mystery that requires some history.

So, the U.S. had a treaty with the superstate of Colombia/Panama that they could land troops on the isthmus to ward off pirates, going back to 1846. The lines of communication ran up and down the isthmus and this was a vulnerable choke point.

By 1855, the U.S. had built a railway through the Isthmus. And whenever locals opposed the railway, or the various activiites associated with it, the U.S. had landed troops and beaten them off. Meanwhile, certain people in Panama had gotten rich by doing deals with the Americans. And so, a whole community of wealthy, pro-US Panamaneans had come into existence around this new transportation infrastructure and the American commitment to defending that infrastructure.

These powerful Panameans were in favor of the Panamea canal, they were now positioned perfectly to take advantage of it.

Now, the idea of building a canal to connect the Pacific and Atlantic oceans had been important to the U.S. for decades, but there had been a lot of controversy over how to do it. Many people wanted to go through Nicarauga, not Panama. And there was talk of getting Costa Rica involved somehow. Also, the French tried to dig a canal on their own, and they failed and the company went bankrupt.

So, when the Panama canal deal finally started to go through, powerful Panameans were heavily invested in it. And they panicked when they found out that their central government located in Bogota, remember this is the Panamanean-Colombian superstate – that central government planned to ask for a signfiicant sum in payment for the rights to the canal. And many politicans located further in Colombia were vehemently against further U.S. involvement in their country.

We know that around this time Manuel Amador Guerrero, who would later become the first president of Panama, began working with the U.S. government on plans to secede from Colombia. We know that a pro-Pamamanea interests had planted a story about widespread civil unest in the New York World – a kind of predecesor to the New York Times – in 1902.

We know that a French engineer associated with the canal project met with PResident Roosevelt in 1902, and Roosevelt later wrote that there was an implicit understanding that if Panama revolted against Bogota, then the Americans would rush to recognize Panama and secure the canal zone.

And this is basically what happened. The Panamaean interests drew up a flag, some documents, and declared themselves liberated. A Colombian warship parked outside of Pamana City took umbrage to this and shelled the city. Apparently, the story goes the Colombians lobbed five shells and then retreated, themselves terrified at the prospect of the advancing Americans. Those shells killed a donkey, and a Chinese man, a man named. Wong Kong Yee. Shortly therafter the U.S.S. Nashville arrived in Port, secured the city, and the Panamean Revolution was over.

But the mystery here is exactly what Roosevelt’s involvement was, was this just – America was eager to take advantage of a revolution, and the Panamanean business interests were smart enough and risk-tolerant enough to take advantage of it, or did Roosevelt promise the Panameans through their French intermediary that he would defend Panamena?

Well, the answer can almost certainly be found in the story of how the canal rights were ultimately negotiated:

When John Hays, the Secretary of State, came in to Panama to negotiate the treaty for rights to the canal, his Panamanean counterpart gave him the option of two different legal treaties, and told him that he could have whichever one he prefered. And then, it turned out that the Panamenean represenative had no signet ring with which to seal his signature, so John Hays gave the man his own family ring. The man happily signed a treaty, giving away sovereignty for Panama to America, with the ring of the family of the American Secretary of State. Oh. And one other thing that made this deal extroardinarily shady – the Panamanean representative was not even Panamean hismelf – he was that same French engineer, Bunau-Varilla, who had met with Rooselvelt.. That’s right, the Republic of Panama handed the authority to negotiate sovereignty over the canal to a man who was not himself Panamean So, that suggests to me that the Panamaneans were paying back a favor. A big favor.

So that’s one Mystery of Panama.

The next mystery took place in the 21st century. The Panama Papers are 2.6 tetrabytes of data contained in some 11.5 million documents that revealed the existence of a global network of wealthy elites who were using Panama to illegally conceal their assets through the use of shell corporations. And some of these wealthy elites were connected to rogue governments that are under sanction by the U.S. and Europe. For example, Russian President Vladamir Putin was found to have a close friend, a mere professional musican, who was owning $2 billion worth of assets concealed in these Panamanean companies.

The Panama Papers were leaked anonymously to a German newspaper in 2016. The whistleblower warned the journalists that they feared for their life. As a result of this person’s brave actions, the law firm of Mossack Fonesca was shutdown, lawyers Mossack and Fonesca spent four months in jail. The revelations of hidden offshore accounts led to resignations of politicans around the world – Iceland, Mongolia, Spain, to name a few places. And as recently as October 2020 the government of Germany was seeking to extradite the lawyers who ran Mossack and Fonesca.

Now, almost everything I know about shell companies comes from the John le Carre novel The Night Manager, but here goes. The idea is pretty simple: if you have a bunch of money and you don’t want to pay taxes on it, you find some corrupt lawyers in a country that has low taxes. Say, Panama. Those lawyers set up a fictional company and they put in the name of someone who is NOT you. It could be a friend, it could be THEM. Then you have to move the money somehow without anyone knowing, into the new company. Now, the money cannot be taxed and if people come aftet you – say you have an ex-wife who wants divorce money – they can’t find it. It’s in someone else’s name, and it’s parked in a company.

And I used to wonder “how do you park money in a company”? It’s really simple, you just form a company and then open a business bank account in the company’s name. You can do that if you’re the owner. Businesses need cash to get things done so they can make money, so they usually need some so-called “liquid assets” to keep operations flowing. So, you can just start a business, open a business acccount, and then jam as much cash as you want into that account. now the business owns the account.

Now, as I see it there are a couple weaknesses in this whole process. One is: you need to trust the people who own your shell companies. I don’t understand how anyone could ever trust a crooked lawyer. that makes zero sense to me, but I guess it happens. Two, is the laundering of the money into the shell company. You either need a crooked bank, or you need a very good cover story. A big part of why its basically impossible for you or I to hide assets from the government is that if we go into a bank in say Panama. Say, I, Dane, walk into a bank in Panama and say “hey, I want to open an account.” well, they’re going to demand to know who I am, and see all kinds of records on me. This is called “Know Your Customer” (KYC) and it’s a fundamental practice in banking and payment processing. Now, if I start funneling money into that account, they’re going to demand to know where it’s coming from. Plus, I have to report the new account in Panama to the IRS. The IRS has a special form you have to fill out when you open foriegn bank accounts.

Now, as I understand it, the wealthier you are, and the more established you are, the easier it is to both cook up cover stories, and the easier it is to get bankers to trust you. So, a bank in Panama isn’t going to want to put up with any shady dealings from a guy who is waving around $5,000 in cash. It’s not worth it. But if you’re waving $50 million in cash, the bank may say “well, you know, we don’t really understand all the details behind this cash, but this will really be a good deal for us, so we are going to look the other way a little bit.”

So that is a little primer on how the wealthy are laundering money around the world to avoid taxes. And I want to emphasize, I think there are good wealthy and bad wealthy. If a person has a lot of wealth because they’re running an awesome business and doing good things – maybe they’re making spaceships and electric cars. I won’t name names, but you can imagine a guy who fits this description, I hope. Anyway, if you’re that guy, I think it’s awesome if you’re rich. but if a politican’s son is getting handed sincures – easy jobs that pay a lot – from corrupt-as-heck countries like UKRAINE, and CHINA, in the hopes that this politican will sell out his homeland’s foreign policy…. I’m not going to name any names here because you know twitter, facebook, and other social media services will censor us…. but you can imagine who I am talking about. Anyway, THAT sort of thing is heinous. It is wrong! it is outrageous!

I am against it.

Ok. So there’s another mystery surrounding Panama – why did all these corrupt politicans from around the world use a law firm here to hide their ill-begotten gains?

I don’t know, but I want to mention to you dear listeners. We talk about conspiracies sometimes on this show. The shady origins of Panama, the Panama Papers, these are bonafide conspiracies! This stuff REALLY happened, there is no doubt. So I think we should accept that conspiracies really ARE a part of world history, they are a central feature of the landscape of human society. Anyone who tells you otherwise is probably a CIA frontman.

The challenge is to disentangle real conspiraices from fake ones. And that will be an ongoing thread in this show. As we talked about in our episode on Robert Anton Wilson – it’s very hard to know what is real, what is paranoia, what is disinformation, what is misinformation, what is being put into your head by demons…once you start going down these rabbit holes. And I think that trying to navigate the reality of uncertainty is of central epistemic importance to us, as seekers of occult knowledge.

Moving on, one of the saddest and darkest mysteries coming out of Panama in recent years is the disappearance of two young dutch women in 2014.

Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon were hiking in Boquete. That’s where I am right now! Boquete is a mountain town. There’s a volcano nearby.

So these young ladies posted that they were going to hike around Boquete on Facebook. And they were seen having brunch with some dutch men on March 29th. The Ides of March. Apparently, they took a friend’s dog with them too. That night, the DOG showed up at his owner’s home, but without the girls. This was the first clue that something was terribly wrong.

On April 2nd, the girls missed an appointment with a local guide. On April 3, authorities began aerial searches of the forest and local residents began searching. On April 6, the parents of Kremers and Froon arrived in Panama along with police, dog units, and detectives from the Netherlands to conduct a full-scale search of the forests for ten days. The parents offered a US$30,000 reward.

Ten weeks later, a local woman turned in Froon’s blue backpack, which she said she had found in a rice paddy by a riverbank near her village of Alto Romero, in the Bocas del Toro region. She said she was sure it had not been there the day before. The backpack contained two pairs of sunglasses, US$83 in cash, Froon’s passport, a water bottle, Froon’s camera, two bras and the women’s phones – all packed, dry, and in good condition

So from the cellphones they gathered all kinds of data. Apparently the ladies had made emergency calls over the course of three days. And one phone had been switched on and then off as late as April 5th, that was six days into their disappearance. None of the emergency calls had gone through because the ladies had been out of range.

One of the most mysterious things about their cell phones – on April 8th one of the phones had been switched on and used to take 90 photos. Apparently, they were flash photos taken in the dark. Two months later, the ladies bones were discovered in the mountains some miles away from Boquete. There was no evidence found of foul play, but there was evidence of trauma – which may have been from a fall or may have been due to animals eating the bodies.

So, if you want more detail about this – many many unsolved mystery type podcasts and youtube shows have covered this story, so I am not going to go into it too deeply. People are often confused about the weird photos taken on April 8th. There’s a whole side story about a possible cover-up by the Panamanean authorities. I would like to simply refer you to a really good, unique, Youtube show – it’s called “Bedtime Stories” and they do black-and-white still drawings with dramatic voice-over. They do a good job of disecting the conspiracy dimension to this story.

There is one really dark possibility that has to be addressed, because this is a show about possibilities. It’s possible the girls were canabilized. I did find a news report about a canibalistic church that was taken down by the Panamean authorities a few years ago. And people I’ve talked to have said that some Panameans practice some kind of nature or spirit worship that predates the European settlements and the arrival of Christianity.

So it IS possible that the girls were ritualistically murdered or eaten.

My take on this is actually that it’s blindingly obvious what probably happened here: two people got lost. wandered around and died.

As for the phone and the photos on April 8th. I think it’s quite possible that one of the ladies used the phone’s flash to try to scare a wild animal, or as a navigational aide. Or it’s possible that someone found the phone.

In fact, I think it is very possible that someone found the backpack, and moved it. Some human. Because the pack and the bodies weren’t found together. And I don’t think that’s a big conspiracy either. I can imagine some young person, probably a panamanean youth, finding a nice backpack, sort of looking into it and feeling excited. What a find! And then the kid learns that there’s some missing people, or he thinks through the ramifications. He gets spooked – he’s technically stolen a backpack, and what if people think he’s involved in the disappearance? So he dumps it somewhere.

Why is there any controversy about any of this? Probably the big deal is the part about how the Panamean authorities tried to deny the women were dead or missing for quite some time. And that is also pretty obvious to me – this is an expat enclave. It’s full of foreigners from Europe and USA. And they didn’t want the bad press. But people, cover-ups tend to make things worse! You try to cover something up, and if you fail, there’s a tinge of the sinister around you forever.

Clearly, the Jungles are dangerous. It’s steep, there are dramatic changes in the weather, there are different species of wild animals. People can die, even if you have a partner. I am traveling solo, so I haven’t gone on any deep hikes. I did drive down one jungle mountain trail – I did a four hour drive from Santa Fe to the Caribean. It was on a very nice paved asphalt highway, and there were bus stops every few miles, and I passed cars. Everywhere, but even I had this creepy feeling like – you know, there’s an element of danger here. I’m pretty isolated.

And this leads me to the final mystery of Panama. I want to end on a positive note.

While I was on this jungle mountain trail I came across one of the most amazing and intriguing ancient artifacts I have ever witnessed in MYL IFE

I was driving on the alto de la pierda, connecting the tiny mountain town of Santa Fe to the caribean ocean. Piedra means basically “rock with petroglyphs carved into it” I found two possible sites for petroglyphs. I was told to check out this one spot high up in the mountains. I got out of my car and a man appeared. He was sort of hiding inside this weather shelter. He slid a window open and said hello.

I walked around the wall and realized it was just an empty shell of a building. So I gave him a dollar for my car being parked in his lot and he gave me directions to hike up the mountain and find a piedra.

I hiked up the mountain. I came across a family home and some children ran away from me screaming. Their mom came out, and I asked her about the Piedra. She said there were no piedras. So I retraced my steps and took another path.

Now THIS Path took me past some obnviously abandoned housing. A big concrete two-story building with no door and wooden slit windows. It didn’t look occupied, because there wasn’t anything around the house – like vehicles or evidence of a lot of recent foot traffic, but I couldn’t see in. But I saw this one thing that scared me – a big hat. Just lying there at the foot of the door. And I thought “wow, there coujld be some people hiding out in this weird, isolated, concrete ruin, waiting for me to walk by, and then they rush out and…

So, this was probably my imagination getting the best of me, but I decided I was done piedra hunting at that site. I yelled out “IS ANYONE HOME?” and then I turned around and went back to the car.

So I kept driving, and I felt very lucky when there was a Piedra, on the side of the road, and it was marked with a big metal sign “PIEDRA DE LA MOLERE”

So I parked my car on the side of the road, about 100 meters down from the Piedra. And I ran up to the rock. And I am just going to run the audio from the footage I recorded:

As I said in the video, I was just amazed. One local guide told me that no one knows how old these petrogylphs are, or what they’re here for. And as I said in the video, it does kind of look like maybe a spaceship, or maybe a fertility goddess has been depicted on one of the statues.

If you want to check that out, I am putting it up on the website so anyone who wants to see the photos and the full video can download it.

[mention the man with the machete]

So that’s the end of our Panama Show.

I hope you realize it’s a far more intriguing place than we’ve been led to believe. Panama is about more than just the canal. It’s a very wild and free place, and you can come here, right now. I would encourage you to come, – not for the shell corporations because 1) that’s not really an option for those of us who are not in the 1%, 2) It’s illegal and don’t do illegal things, and 3) It’s alot harder today to hide money in Panama than it used to be. Now I hear one of the biggest tax shelters in the world is New Zealand. by the time you learn about a place where people are hiding their money, it’s too late, that ship has sailed. but come down to Panama for the petroglyphs. Come for the mountain hiking. The volcanoes. Come for the horseback riding – which is not my thing, I love animals but I find it very boring to be on a horse. Come for the chance to learn some Spanish. I am not getting any kickbacks from the Panamanean government for this episode obviously, because I’ve covered some dark things.

That’s it. God bless Panama. God bless the free people of the world. And may the light of hope soon shine even in the dark places. This is Dane singing off:

Until next time,

Stay strange and stay sane



Show notes for episode 22 – The New ‘American Cosmic Religiousity’

This episode will cover Diana Pasulka’s (2019) book “American Cosmic: UFOs, Religion, Technology” from Oxford University Press. I will break down the book’s main argument and then critique the book. In a nutshell, this book argues that belief in UFOs has become very much like a religion, at least in the U.S. But it also contains the personal stories of three high-achieving scientsts whose personal encounters with, what they believe to be extraterrestrials, have compelled them to do professional research on the UFO phenomenon. Stay tuned because this episode mixes classified research into saucer crash sites with hierophanies, and the origins of Christianity.


Welcome back,

American Cosmic contains a sneak peek into a secretive community of UFO researchers centered in the United States. This comunity, known as the Invisible College, is composed of high-achieving scientsts, NASA engineers, and scholars. They turn their unique skillset to the study of UFOs. They have choosen to work in secrecy, in part to avoid harming their professional reputations, and in part because their work overlaps with classified U.S. Military programs. These individuals seem to be working, not always for, but largely in cooperation with, elements of the U.S. government. They are believers in the reality of an alien presence here on Earth, and many of them have directly encountered, not just UFOs, but alien intelligences.

Dr. Pasulka was invited into the invisible college, less as a participant, and more just to observe and report. Her book contains some tantaliizing nuggets of information about UFOs – discussion of a UFO crash site under scrutiny by the Invisible College, as well as first-person reports of alien encounters by high-functioning professionals. But, this is not a book about aliens or UFOs. The book is about UFO belief, with the Invisible College as a case study. Pasulka likens the Invisible College to the early Christian chuch, describing their relationship to evidence of alien visitation as paralelling the relationship that the Church leaders had to Christ’s miracles. She also likens the dissemination of UFO beliefs through mass media to the preaching of the gospel in the Roman empire.

Dr. Pasulka is herself a scholar of religion with a specialization in Catholicism. Her first book was ttitled “Heaven Can Wait – Purgatory in Catholic Devotional and Popular Culture.” In this book, she argues that the Catholic doctrine of purgatory originated with the Catholic belief that there were actual physical locations – caves – scattered throughout Europe that would purge your sins if you could bear to stay in them overnight. So, she has a deep background in doing original research on religious beliefs.

Now on to her newest book, “American Cosmic” (2019) – to prepare this report, I read the book twice and took notes. I also listened to two interviews that Dr. Pasulka gave on the Lex Fridman podcast and the Michael Shermer podcast.

To clarify: Dr. Pasulka does not directly assert “belief in UFOs is now a religon” Instead she says:

“This book is about contemporary religion using as a case study the phenomenon known as the UFO. It is also about technology. These may seem like completely unrelated topics, but they are intimately connected. They are connected because social and economic infrastructure shape the ways in which people practice religions. A historical and uncontroversal example is the impact of the printing press on the christian tradition. The mass production of Bibles in the common languages of the people soon gave rise to the doctine of Sola Scriptura or Scripture Alone, according to which scripture is the only reliable and neccesary guide for Christian faith and practice – a foundational principle of the Protestant Reformation. As Technologies shfit infrastructures, religious practices and habits change.” (page 2)

and then on the next page she says:

“This book is about how technology informs a widespread and growing religiousity focused on UFOs” (page 3).

In the interviews she gives, Dr. Pasulka says that she sees UFO belief as a kind of religiousity. So she’s hedging on whether it is literally, a RELIGION, or whether it’s just very religion-like.

In any event, Dr. Pasulka is advancing two theses in American Cosmic.

  1. UFO-IDENTITY THESIS: “Belief in UFOs is an example of a contemporary religion, or at least is sufficiently LIKE a religion that it is interesting.”
  2. TECHNOLOGY THESIS ” Technology influences the new UFO movement, just as technology influences religion.”

in an effort to be charitable to Dr. Pasulka, we can interpret her book as arguing that there are features of contemporary UFO belief that are LIKE a religion, and, that technology is influencing the new UFO movement in interesting ways.

And, that’s an interesting thesis because, if it turns out that UFO belief is sufficiently LIKE religion, then it means we can potentially take what we know about religions, and how religious believers think, act, and organize, and use it to predict how UFO believers will behave in the future. We can also take what we know about technology, and how technology effects how people act and behave, and use it to predict how the UFO movement will change.

For example, I just read an article in Foreign Policy Magazine that argues that social media has shifted global democratic politics away from loyalty to parties and increased loyalty to charismatic political leaders. So, if our technologies are pushing us humans towards increased loyalty to charismatic individuals, then perhaps we can expect the next UFO religion to be led by a charismatic individual, perhaps operating through social media.

Pasulka’s promise to show how UFO belief is a religion is fascinating, but this is not why American Cosmic is enjoying the immense popularity it is today. Th book is enjoying immense popularity right now because Dr. Pasulka documents her own personal experiences with UFO believers, including an incident in which she says a former-NASA engineer and succesful biomedical entrepeneur blindfolded her and took her out into the American Southwest and they hunted for, and uncovered, a piece of UFO debris together. She says that this book QUOTE

“is partly the story of my own participation in a group of scientists and academics who study the phenomenon anonymously (except for me, of course). The participants are anonymous because of the stigma that is often associted with UFOs and belief in them, but also because there are classified government programs in which the phenomenon was studied, neccesitating secrecy among the participants.”

so, this book has two theses to advane

(1) contemporary UFO belief is like a religion.

(2) contemporary UFO belief is influenced by technology, just as religion has been influenced by technology

and on top of those theses, the book is also documenting what Pasulka calls

“a paralell research tradition within the field of the study of the phenomenon…There are public UFOlogists who are known for their work, there are a few academics who write about the topic, and then there is an “Invisible College” – a group of scientists, academics, and others who will never make their work public, or at least not for a long time.”


Dr. Pasulka notes that the term “invisible college” was coined by Allen Hynek, and often used by French UFOlogist Jacques Vallee.

So, Dr. Pasulka calls her book a “case study” because she explores the relationship between UFO belief, technology, and religion, using her own personal experiences with the invisible college as a source of evidence and hence insight.


Wow. So we’re now on page 4 of the book, and already we’ve been promised two fascinating theses, plus a special sneak peek into the inner working of the Invisible College. The audience today may be interested by this third aspect of the book, because you may not be aware of the level of interest in UFOs among high-functioning scientsts and academics. Learning that there is a secret cabal of highly talented and accomplished people who take UFOs seriously certainly lends credence to the phenomena, as a kind of direct evidence. It also gives us an important piece of the puzzle to understanding UFO secrecy and the barriers to disclosure.

Let’s unpack Dr. Pasulka’s arguments and evidence for her first thesis:

(1) Contemporary UFO belief is like a religion.

She describes several ways in which UFO belief is like a religion. I’ll mention three that I found in her book before elaborating:

(A) Both the Early Christian Chuch and the Invisible College were a loosely knit and geographically dispersed group of believers, unified by their fascination with certain extraordinary events that took place in the recent past.

(B) The process of disseminating information about extraordinary events is a process of socially-mediated interpretation, for both the Early Church and the Invisible College. It’s a process through which reports about encounters are transformed into group-sanctioned beliefs.

(C) There is a distinct spiritual element to UFO and alien encounters.

Now, to talk about (A) – Both the Early Christian Chuch and the Invisible College were a loosely knit and geographically dispersed group of believers, unified by their fascination with certain extraordinary events that took place in the recent past.

For the Christians, the events in question were the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as well as miraculous occurences associated with the Apostles and certain holy men and women. For the Invisible College they are UFO crashes, disc retrievals, as well as close encounters of the 2nd kind. A close encounter of the 2nd kind is where a human being sees a UFO, and a physical effect is alleged; this can be interference in the functioning of a vehicle or electronic device, animals reacting, a physiological effect such as paralysis or heat and discomfort in the witness, or some physical trace like impressions in the ground, scorched or otherwise affected vegetation, or a chemical trace.

Close encounters of the 2nd kind can be distinguished from close encounters of the first kind – where people merely see a flying saucer close up, but there are no physical effects. And close encounters of the thrd kind are where a person encounter agents of the UFO – humanoide, human, or robotic – that present themselves as being pilots or crew of the flying object.

The argument here is straightforward – Early Christians were organized around people who reported Jesus Christ doing and saying amazing things. The people who had been personally closest to Jesus constituted the organizational core, the early top-tier of the Church hierarchy. Similarly, when it comes to UFO belief today – this Invisible Colllege is a group of people who are organized around UFO events, especially crashes and retrievals. They come together to collaborate on researching the recovered debris, or to revisit the crash sites.

BTW – as an aside, I want to mention, according to Dr. Pasulka, there ARE multiple UFO crash sites just inside the United States alone.

In her book, Dr. Pasulka describes visiting one of these sites, with a couple members of the Invisible College, and she declares it to be an obviously sacred site, the location of a hierophany, which is a religious studies term for an event in which the divine reveals itself to man. One of the reasons why they revisit this decades-old crash site is to search for more saucer debris. So, the site brings believers together, much like a holy site, or a person with direct experience of Jesus, might have broughr believers together in the early Christian church. We’ll get to the story of their visit to this crash site in a few minutes.

Later on in the book, Dr. Pasulka talks to two members of the Invisible College about a piece of a crashed disc that they’ve been studying. They both tell her that the artifact is not of this world. She concedes that her training does not allow her to evaluate the veracity of their claims or even interrogate the reliability of their methods, but then goes on to compare their triparte relationship to the evidence as analagous to the experience of early Christians and prospective converts, she says:

Having studied religion for many years, I can offer the following observations. First, here are two eminently credible people – scientists no less – claiming that there are artifacts whose provenance is truly unexplainable. This amounts to having the testimony of credible witnesses, which is pretty much what one finds in the first written documents of Christianity and Buddhism. The Christian Gospels are the testaments, or testimonies, of credible witnesses – the apostles, which is a Greek word that literally translates as “those who are sent,” or “messengers.” Second, the credible witnesses are attesting to something truly unexplainabale, truly anomalous. In religious studies, this would be a miracle, either a miraculous object or a miraculous event such as a healing.” (76)

Let’s move on to the next way in which belief in UFOs is like a religion:

B) The process of disseminating information about extraordinary events is a process of socially-mediated interpretation, for both the Early Church and the Invisible College. It’s a process through which reports about encounters are transformed into group-sanctioned beliefs.

Dr. Pasulka says that as she began studying UFOs, she encountered an unexpected cast of characters – television producers, experiencers, scientists, agents affiliated with the government, and well-known actors. She quickly began to see them as

QUOTE “the same cast of characters who appear at the birth of every major religious tradition…in the first century CE they woulod be called scribes and redactors, but today they are agents of information, like screenwriters, television producers, and authors. I observed the dynamic genesis of a global belief system.” (11)

Historically when venerable christians reported extraordinary experiences, their reports of what happened to them would be reorganized by the Church community. Dr. Pasulka is a little bit elusive here, but she seems to be referencing, for example the gospels. The gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are four biographies of the life of Jesus, including his teachings, miracles, death and resurrection. As I understand it, only one Gospel is believed to have possibly been written by someone who actually knew Jesus. And Biblical scholars have long argued that the different gospels were pieced together, probably from oral tradition. The four Gospels have markedly different styles, and tones, and they differ in some details about Jesus and also differ in which details they include. It’s thought that the gospels were written for different audiences. Matthew emphasises Christ’s judaism more, and is thought to have been written for a Jewish audience. Luke potrays the Romans in a better light, and is thought to have been written for a gentile Roman audience.

The idea here is that the raw reports of encounters with Jesus went through a process of being edited, or cleaned-up, in order to be presentable to a mass audience.

According to Dr. Pasulka the same thing happens when people encounter UFOs, as Pasulka says “even as some respected scientists believe in the phenomenon associated with UFOs and make discoveries about it, what is ultimately marketed to the public about the phenomenon barely resembles these scientists findings” (6)

Here is what’s going on with UFO experiences: People are encountering UFOs and making raw reports. Or they’re finding pieces of what they believe are crashed UFOs, and studying them. Various bureacracies and institutions mediate the raw data of the UFO encounter. When the government is involved, often people are allowed to have experiences – to directly see and scrutiinze pieces of recovered UFO debris – only under legally binding oaths of secrecy, the violation of which would expose them to civil or criminal penalties. Dr. Pasulka does not mention, but I will add, the many stories of “Men in Black” who show up after a UFO encounter and attempt to strong-arm witnessses into secrecy. Adn then there are the documentarians, movie producers, writers, who look at reports, much later in time, and turn the reports into content for public consumtpion. Dr. Pasulka points out that what gets reported in the news or in documentaries to the public often deviates dramatically from the raw report.

One of the ways in which UFO encounters get edited for public consumption, as Dr. Pasulka points out, is that elements that are incongruous or could make the public uncomfortable are often removed:

A great example, according to Dr. Pasulka, is that many 20th century UFO encounters have a religious element. Dr. Pasulka discusses one case in which woman who was praying for her dog. Her dog had cancer and she was praying for it to heal. And a tiny flying saucer flew into her house and zapped her dog with a beam of light. Later the woman took her dog to the vet. And the vet said the dog no longer had cancer. Adding to the complexity of this story, the woman’s husband is not religious and yet he also witnessed the tiny flying saucer.

According to Pasulka, when the media reported this story, they left out any reference of the woman praying for a cure to her dog’s cancer. They also left out the woman’s speculation that the tiny saucer may have been an angel. The spiritual dimension to the story was excluded, in order to make the story more palatable to public consumption.

This perfectly paralells what religious institutions have been doing for centuries, Dr. Pasulka maintains that historically, when people would repeat stories of miracles, various authorities would redact them or edit them to make the story fit into the Catholic Church’s framework.

She gives one excellent example, of a famous holy nun: Sister Maria of Agreda, who is on wikipedia as “María de Jesús de Ágreda” or Maria of Jesus of Agrda”. Maria lived in the 17th century in Spain. And she kept a sort of holy diary, about her spiritual experiences. Among other things, she experienced herself as teleporting to far-away places while praying. There she would talk to people. One of the places she teleported to was South America. In her visions, she would tell the American peoples about Jesus Christ. But she also reported teleporting to other planets. She would meet aliens and she would tell THEM about Jesus Christ also.

year later, spanish missionaries in New Mexico were talking to people about Jesus, and the locals said, according to the stories, “oh we already know about Jesus. A lady in blue came by, and she told us.” and the missionaries reported this back to Spain, and people were dumbfounded because the locals were describing Teresa.

So Church hierarchy decided that she had BILOCATED to South America. but here’s the thing: the Church attempted to eliminate any record of Maria going to other planets. They decided all the stuff about her encountering ALIENS as TOO WEIRD. So they cut it out. In fact, Maria was threatened by the Spanish Inquisition and forced to confess to having been under the influence of evil spirits. And her superiors burned her diaries. Years later, Maria would recant her confession, declare that it was made under duress, and rewrite her diary from memory.

With respect to American Cosmic, The point of this story is NOT that St. Teresa encountered aliens, the point of the story is that St. Teresa’s raw encounter – as recorded by her – underwent a process of editing to make it socially acceptable. Just as we saw with the earlier example of the 20th century woman who encountered a flying saucer – the MEDIA leaves out all the parts that are confusing.

Taken together, these stories suggest that modern stories about UFOs develop in a way that is structurally similar to historical reports of miraculous events – in both cases there is a raw encounter that is sort of rough, and weird – it’s not quite what everyone is comfortable accepting – and then you have institutions that mediate that raw encounter. They decide how the story gets represented. They manipulate, repackage, or reinvent the story in ways that ensure the story fits into an acceptable narrative.

The information is not always merely excluded, sometimes it’s included, but in strange ways. For example, Pasulka describes how a scientist offered to transport her to a UFO crash site in the American Southwest, to search for UFO debris. According to him, there was so much debris at the site, that the government had failed to recover it all. At some point the U.S. Military had just given up, and had scattered tin cans everywhere in order to obscure the site and make it harder for others to recover debris. He claimed to have a specially configured metal detector. His offer to trransport Pasulka to the site was contingent on her agreeing to be transported under blindfold. She balked at this, and they negotiated a compromise – she would go blindfolded, but she would bring along a male college. He agreed to that, and when they got at the site, he unblindfolded her. She looked around and


“There were tumbleweeds, rocks, and rust-colored cans strewn as far as I could see. The landscape was eerier yet beautiful. I was drawn to one place in particular, as it looked familiar to me. It was a small mesa. Tyler noticed I looked in that direction several times.

“Do you recognize that area?”

“What?” I wasn’t sure I knew where he was going with the question. He knew I’d never been there.

“This scene was probably recreated in the first episode of the last season of The X-files” he said.

“Yes, he continued. “Someone from their production team had either been here or knew someone who had. It makes me wonder if they had an insider on their team.”


Dr. Pasulka says she initially responded with incredulity, but this melted into acceptance as she decided:

“Of course this place was mythologized in one of the most popular television shows in history, Of course, it would be taken upo, interpreted and spun, and then projected to millions, perhaps even billions, of people through the various screens of television, film, computer and phone. It was only now that I felt the momentousness of the occasion. My belief in the ultimate truth of the site didn’t matter. It had already become true for millions of people, through media…I was standing on the ground zero of a new religion.” (21)

(C) Religious people have been encountering UFOs for years. As Pasulka says, while working on Catholic beliefs about purgatory, focusing on sources dated from 1300 to 1880, she found a lot of reports of “orbs of light, flames that penetrated walls, luminous beings, forms of conscious light, spinning suns and disclike aerial objects” ( 7)

And she says

“Could the orbs of the past, once interpreted as souls from purgatory, still be around? Are they currently being interpreted as UFOs?” (8)

To give you another example, Dr. Pasulka talks about a member of the invisible college named Tyler. Tyler is a long-time NASA engineer, he worked for mission control, and now he’s a succesful biomedical entrepeneur. Dr. Pasulka notes that Tyler believes he is in contact with alien intelligences.

Tyler told her that he was on a secret research project and he was working next to a shielded room where, he believes, an alien artifact was being housed. After working next to that room, he began to receive messages and experience synchronicities that have advanced his work.

Tyler describes an almost religious ritual, he uses to commune with the alien intelligences: he avoid alchol, and shuns coffee. He gets 8 hours of sleep, plus an extra nap that he takes immediately after waking up. Then he sits in the sun and drinks water. And when he lives in this way, he receives thoughts – ideas – that don’t feel like they belong to him, but these ideas often turn into patents that have made Tyler a very wealthy person.

So, here we have what Pasulka calls an ascetic practice, that is being used to contact higher intelligences. It is very similar to the spiritual practices used by Catholic monks to develop their spirituality.

And Dr. Pasulka also describes another member of the invisible college who has been having terrifying encounters with aliens – outright alien abduction type experiences – through his life, and she describes how this man, she calls James, converts to Catholicism after she and him travel to the Vatican Secret Archives to look into stories of bilocation

To summarize, Dr. Pasulka argues that modern belief in UFOs is like religion, because there is a complex social network around UFO-experiencers that puts a degree of seperation between the rest of us and the core phenomnon, and this is similar to how Christianty, especially Catholicism, has historically involved a tightly knit network that promulgates the Church’s teachings, while regulating and reinterpretating or at least attemtping to regulate and reinterpret, the public’s access to information about spiritual encounters.

So, let’s summarize the argument for belief in UFOs being like a religion:

(A) Both the Early Christian Chuch and the Invisible College were a loosely knit and geographically dispersed group of believers, unified by their fascination with certain extraordinary events that took place in the recent past.

(B) For Both the Early Christian Chuch and the larger UFO community, The process of disseminating information about extraordinary events is a process of socially-mediated interpretation. Raw Reports about encounters are edited, manipulated, into forms that are acceptable for dissemination to the larger community.

(C) There is a distinct spiritual element to UFO and alien encounters.

there’s a lot more to this book. Dr. Pasulka includes a lot of critical media analysis, discussing paralells between how religion, especially Catholicism, is reresented in popular culture, and how aliens and flying saucers are presented. She’s uniquely positioned to that because she is a scholar who works on Catholicism and also was an advisor on the set of the movie “The Conjuring” – an excellent horror film that I recommend to the audience.

Now, I haven’t touched on the thesis about technology shaping how we think about UFOs. And there is also Dr. Pasulka’s speculation that she may be a pawn herself in the creation of the new UFO religion. After all, the Invisible College was bringing a scholar of religion – someone who could not directly contribute to their research – out to the desert. As part of getting her out there, Tyler flatters Dr. Pasulka telling her that one of his “mentors” at NASA had told HIM that the next big step forward in UFO research would come from her area of research – that is religious studies.

And this really gave me PAUSE. We respect religious belief and spirituality on the show, but the idea of major progress coming from academic scholars of religion, does not seem likely to me. What instead I thought, was that bringing a scholar of religion out to write a book about how interest in UFOs is becoming a religion, is exactly the kind of thing that a government agent might want. They might want this because they themselves are hoping to turn UFO devotion into a religion – a state sponsored and controlled religion.

Dr. Pasulka says that Jacques Vallee, a seasoned veteran of UFOlogy warned HER, that in working on her book she should “trust no one, no even your own senses.”

Let me make a few other critical remarks about this book.

The content of the book is fascinating, but it wanders a great deal. Dr. Pasulka shifts from comparing the invisible college to the early chuch, to comparing it to Buddhism, sometimes she brings in UFO cults as evidence that UFOlogy is becoming a religion. At other times she broadens the topic from the Invisible College itself to UFOlogy writ large.

This all makes it hard to critically asess her claim that UFOlogy is now a religion. So, I’d like to make some objections.

  1. Early Christianity and even Early Buddhism were organized, not just around extraordinary events, but also ethical injunctions. Jesus did a lot of miracles, but he ALSO told people what they needed to do to live forever – it was believe in Him, follow him, take care of the poor and people in dificult situations. Similarly, the Buddha had a lot of practical advice about how to escape from suffering. But, the UFO community does not, generally, have a morality. And I think that’s important to a religion – people need something TO DO and PRACTICE in order for it to be a religion.
  2. The Invisible College has organized themselves around these extroardinary events, but I think it matters that they are trying to be impartial scientists about what they’re studying and witnessing. The culture of science today and the norms that scientists follow, have to be fairly different from the norms of the ancient world. Dr. Pasulka describes one of the members of the Invisible College who she was doing research with as converting to Catholicism during their research, and that’s interesting but it almost seemed to contradict her thesis – because devoted members of one religion don’t usually suddenly switch to a new one. I saw Tyler’s conversion to Catholicism, described at the end of the book, as evidence that Tyler’s involvement in the Invisible College was NOT meeting his spiritual needs. It’s very clear that Tyler’s personal encounters with what he believed to be aliens helped ignite his drive for meaning, but that drive doesn’t take him into UFO spirituality, but ultimately to a mainstream religion.
  3. The part of the book I found most compelling, was Dr. Pasulka’s juxtaposition of the censorship of Maria of Agreda by the Spanish inquisition with contemporary media’s excision of spiirituality from contemporary reports about UFOs. I agree with Dr. Pasulka there are fascinating paralells here. But what I found myself thinking was less that interest in UFOs is becoming a new religion, and more that religions and media are more alike than I had realized. I found myself drawing paralells between the information-management protocols used by the 17th century Catholic Chuch, and the way that political discourse is managed on American social media today. And I don’t think that American social media is a new religiois inquisition. Rather, I think that there’s a general lesson here that communities attempt to control narratives as a form of self-regulation. Ideology is the consensus-reality that emerges when a group of people commit to taking certain ideas as incontestable assumptions – be those assumptions the divinity of Jesus Christ, the reality of UFOs, or the sacredness of the interests of the American ruling class. And this leads me to my final point, I agree most strongly with Dr. Pasulka that at least one, if not multiple powerful institutions, are aiming to control the UFO narrative. This is what I hope the audience will take most from today’s episode. Just as people in ancient times rehashed stoies spiritual encounters to serve the ruling ideology, today people are rehashing UFO stories for the same reason. Their agenda probabl;y goes far beyond merely removing the spiritual elements from UFO encounters, although even that is shocking enough by itself. On previous episodes of this show, Chris and I have speculated that the Pentagon may have a plan to create a new religion around UFOs, for the purpose of unifying the country. That is just a possibility, but it’s in the ballpark of the kind of nefariousness that I want our audience to be forwarned, dareIsay, cognitively vaccinated against. Since we’ve already mentioned the X-files once on this episode, let’s finish by recalling the two most popular slogans that appeared in that show’s opening credits:
  1. The truth is out there.
  2. Trust no one.

Taken together, these two premises limn the framework for that small-s skepticism that best suits the student of occult knowledge.

Until next time, this is Dane signign off.

Strange strange


Stay Sane.


#24 – Reclaiming Skepticism – Transcript of Interview with Dr. Everett Fulmer

D: Dr. Everett Fulmer is visiting assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Loyola, New Orleans. He does research on the nature of rationality and knowledge and also works on biomedical ethics and diagnostic reasoning. His dissertation explored the philosophical significance of skepticism. He offers workshops on critical thinking at hospitals in New Orleans and does business seminars on applying critical thinking in the workplace. He’s also a close personal friend of mine. Welcome, Everett.

EF: I’m very glad to be here, Dane. Thanks. Thanks a lot for having me. I’m thrilled to be here to talk about this.

D: I had the thought a few weeks ago that it would be excellent to have you come on, because we are committed on the show to small skepticism. As Chris narrates, in every episode, we throw as much skepticism on the mainstream account as we do on the supernatural story. And since you are an expert in skepticism and critical thinking, I thought, well, why not have Everett come on and talk to us about the different varieties of skepticism?

EF: Great.

D: So I was thinking that we could start this evening’s interview with this question: When many people think of skepticism, they think of the American skeptic movement. This is a movement associated with intellectuals like Michael Shermer, associated with the “New Atheist” movement, itself led by figures like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett. And [skeptics] are sort of adjacent to the Silicon Valley rationalists who are interested in becoming more rational thinkers, but they’re way more interested in debunking, focusing on things like Bigfoot, ghosts, aliens and, of course, religion. How do they measure up as skeptics, in your view? Are these excellent examples of what skepticism is?

EF: Great, great question. The short answer is no, they’re they’re not good examples of what skepticism is. And let’s let me try to walk. Walk through why. So I know we’re going to talk a lot tonight about exactly what skepticism is and how it fits with with a helpful, rational, clear headed worldview. But to start with one simple thought, the skeptical tradition. So the philosophers across the history of Western philosophy have advocated and defended skepticism, saw what they were doing as articulating a commitment to complete open mindedness, complete open mindedness, that you were pursuing the truth without any prejudgment about where the truth and even if the truth, we could be found. And you were as clear headed as possible about the difficult obstacles that we face in trying to find the truth. And so one classic distinction that you see in the from an ancient skeptic who skeptic who we’re going to talk about, I imagine, named Sextus Empiricus, as you see it, a distinction between skepticism proper, which he defines as a life of inquiry versus dogmatism. And dogmatism comes in two varieties and dogmatism. A skeptic, Sextus defines it as is just taking yourself to have found the truth. So it’s the opposite of open mindedness. It’s thinking that you have, you know exactly what’s happening. And to think that you know exactly what’s happening, you can think that you know what’s happening because you think that something’s true. But you can also think you know what’s happening because you’re so damn sure that it has to be false. So some of these figures in the American skeptic movement would be labeled by Sextus as dogmatists, not as skeptics at all, as negative dogmatists, you would call them, perhaps because they are starting their investigations and starting the arguments. From a perspective that the topic they’re considering has to be false, though not not considering it with clear and absolute open mindedness, but already starting from a bias is what the right answer has to be.

D: Are you familiar with the television program, The X Files?

EF: Oh, yeah, that was a great, great show. Lots of lots of evenings in the 90s were spent watching the X Files. That’s a great show.

Dane: What do you think of Scully as a paradigmatic skeptic? The Agent Scully, the female partner played by Gillian Anderson, partner of Fox Mulder.

Dr. Everett Fulmer: Good. Yes. So she’s not and she’s not for the reason that I was just articulating. So [Scully] is a character who is much closer to the American skeptic movement mentality. Right. Than she’s she’s committed to the beginning of the falsity of the things her and Mulder are often investigating. And she’s committed to the falsity of some of the things that Mulder thinks is true. And Mulder is kind of making the mistake on the opposite side. Right. He’s like antecedent, exceedingly committed to the truth of these things.

EF: So you can both are being both of those characters from the from a philosophical skeptic’s perspective are guilty of dogmatism, whereas the true skeptical perspective would really try to be completely open minded about whether or not, you know, the various the various scenarios they’re investigating are real.

D: What do philosophers mean by skeptic and skepticism?

EF: Yeah, that’s a good question. There’s there’s a few different things and across across the history of philosophy, I think that the standard use of the terms has shifted a little bit. So, for example, if you if you go all the way back to ancient Greece, the terms would primarily have referred to certain schools that shortly after the time of Aristotle and Plato, philosophy was largely codified among a set of competing schools in and around Athens, or at least Greek, Greek or Western philosophy was. And the word skepticism was referred to some of those schools. But as the history of philosophy went on that the meaning of the term shifted, the the work done by some of the ancient skeptical tools is still part of what we mean by skepticism today. But I think if I was trying to analyze what most professional philosophers use the term today, they actually use the term to refer to a set of puzzles, which is which is kind of funny, perhaps in a different way of thinking about the term. But these are puzzles that have been generated by self-described historical skeptics, including some of these ancient schools I referred to and later participants in the skeptical tradition. So you have this broad historical tradition, that tradition has generated several puzzles and most of what a lot most of what, at least English speaking philosophers work on today are the puzzles generated by this tradition. I call them puzzles because they are sets of inconsistent claims and some of them are seemingly platitudes like. So you start from a few sentences that everybody would think have to be true about what rationality means or what knowledge means. And then you showed that they logically imply something crazy or that they’re inconsistent. And so the puzzle is trying to figure out where in our common sense thoughts have gone wrong. Which of these seemingly obvious claims about rationality that looked so right actually had to be wrong? Or maybe there was something wrong in the inference or so forth. So a lot of contemporary work is focused on these sort of little puzzles. And the goal of trying to solve them is deepen your understanding above rationality or deepen your understanding of knowledge because you thought you knew what it meant. And then, lo and behold, you realized that your understanding of rationality or knowledge leads you to paradox, leads you to something crazy. And so you in solving the puzzle, the goal is to improve and deepen our understanding of what actually knowledge and rationality mean.

D: OK, we are very far afield from what common sense notion of skeptic would be, I take it. So I would think of the man on the street, probably our audience, who would think that skepticism is a kind of doubting, not accepting things, being critical. Philosophical skepticism is actually about figuring out a puzzle….that apparently there are contradictions in the nature of rationality itself and there’s a presumption among philosophers that we can fix that. Can you relate that to the common sense notion that skepticism is just distrust and not knowing what what is true and what is not?

EF: Yeah, yeah. So let’s let’s give an example. So I think that might help. So let’s take so here’s a real simple example. So the first the first claims augment to give a series of claims and then we’ll see a couple of claims and then we’ll see how they logically interact with each other. So the first claim that seems true is a claim about what it means to rationally believe something. So you have all kinds of beliefs. You believe all sorts of things about the world, some of those beliefs you might believe for emotional reasons, irrational reasons. Some of them you probably take yourself to rationally believe. And so what does it mean to rationally believe something? So here’s our first step at the very least, bare minimum, to rationally believe something is to believe it because you have some reason. That seems pretty innocuous, right, that’s a rationally believe something you have to have some basis, some support, some evidence, some reason.

D: Yeah, I believe we’re having this conversation for a reason because I can see you on my zoom and I can hear you, right?

EF: Exactly right. All right. So that seems that seems innocuous. So here’s step two. That also seems seems just as common sensical. Step two would say that the reason that you have for believing what you believe. So the evidence you have that makes your belief rational, that that evidence itself has to be rationally believed. So just think about that for a second. It can’t be that you are rational in believing something if the reason as to why you believe it is staring at a crystal ball or wishful thinking or something like that, that the reason itself should should be rational. So rational believes should be supported by rational beliefs. Yeah. That those two together. What that adds up to….

D: I can see you right now and I can hear you. And I know that from the past experiences I’ve had, when I see and hear things right in front of me, they really are right in front of me. It’s not an illusion. That’s right. So I think we’re really having this conversation.

EF: Yeah, good example. Good example. And so that seems like a great example now. So what we’ve done is we’ve taken little examples like that and formalized them as general principles about what all rationality has to be like. And the claims were, remember, all rationality has to be that your belief is supported. And then the thing doing the supporting has to itself be a rational belief. Now, here’s the problem that maybe some of the listeners can already see is that the two of those together seem to imply an infinite regress, because if the condition on being rational is being supported and then the thing doing the supporting has to itself be rational, then now the thing doing the supporting has to be further supported. And that further support then would have to be another rational belief. And on and on and on infinitely. So these two very seemingly commonsensical claims that are rationality requires support, support and support by rational belief seem to imply an infinite regress and infinite series of beliefs, which no one has. So here’s the here’s the connection to thinking about skepticism in terms of doubt. Well, one lesson to take out of this puzzle is no one has any rational beliefs.

D: It’s not just enough to have evidence. It seems reasonably that if I if I’m committed to the idea that I have to have evidence for everything I believe, then I also have to have evidence for my evidence. And then I need evidence for my evidence. And I need evidence for my evidence for my evidence for my evidence and so on. But I can’t possibly have an infinite amount of evidence. Right? So therefore, I could know nothing.

EF: That’s right. That was a really nice way to put it. So if it’s true that you’re that your evidence, if it’s true that to be rational, your evidence itself needs evidence, then you’ll be stuck with endlessly trying to supply evidence for the evidence, for the evidence, for the evidence, for the evidence, for the evidence. And so it seems something must be wrong with that requirement. We started with it. Maybe it must be wrong that actually rationality requires. Evidence that itself is always further supported by….

D: the skeptical puzzle, at least as it’s presented, it’s about saying you don’t know anything right? Because of this weird thing: the need for infinite evidence, it turns out you don’t know anything. That’s the way it initially, like, comes across. Right?

EF: That’s right. Yeah. And when you read the texts that have generated the Western skeptical tradition, you lots of arguments kind of of this sort of the example I tried to give of a couple seemingly true claims about what knowledge is irrationalities. And then the the self-described skeptic shows you how it leads to an impossible and impossible requirement or a requirement that you don’t have. And so then therefore, you don’t know anything.

D: You don’t know anything. So that’s what skepticism, at least at face value, if you were to go read the texts. Right. Like you go read David Hume or Rene Descartes….You get a sense that there’s a point in the text where they’re facing looks like this thought: I don’t know anything.

EF: Yeah. Let me give let me give you a more of a historic to talk a little bit about some of the things that historical skeptics were really doing to pull this off, to wrap up the first part that a lot of contemporary philosophers are doing something with skepticism that’s detached from what historical skeptics were doing, that a lot of contemporary philosophers are just treating these things like puzzles, and they’re puzzles that are supposed to help us learn more about what rationality is or knowledge is. But the actual historical skeptics were doing something very different with these puzzles, and then they didn’t think about them as puzzles. They thought about them as arguments, and they thought about them as arguments for some pretty radical conclusions. So maybe one thing to do, if you think, would be to talk about a nice example of that from history for sure. OK. All right, let’s do that. So if we go, let’s go all the way back to the early Greek skeptics. So right after Plato died, there was competition among his followers in Plato’s Academy in the school. Right. The first, the oldest European university that was founded there. And there is a competition among Plato’s followers about how exactly to interpret Plato, and they developed a system that was in many ways like what the Vatican does, actually. So there is a vote among the elders of the academy and they voted for a person to sort of sit on the throne of Plato. Right, to be like the pope of Plato. And that person is called the Scholarch. Yeah, they were the head of the academy. And so every time the Scholarch died, just like the pope, the the current elders of the school would get together and vote and elect a new Scholarch. And every scholar represented Plato or the de facto status of being the leader of the school at the time. Now, there is among these folks those fights from the beginning about how exactly to interpret Plato. And it was a few generations on that a guy by the name of Arcesilaus was elected Scholarch, and Arcesilaus looked at Plato’s texts and argued and convinced other people tthat Plato himself was primarily concerned to….Demonstrate how much knowledge people don’t have, and instead of thinking about Plato’s writings as presenting a coherent, positive view of reality, Arcesilaus was seeing Plato’s writings actually is intentionally contradicting each other to sort of teach people how many all the various dead ends in the wrong turns and with there being no positive result. So when Arcesilaus became Scholarch he presented this view of Plato.

EF: You see it if you if you think about the Apology. So if anyone who hasn’t read the apology is listening: the apology is the dialogue where Socrates is defending himself in court right before he’s sentenced to death. And he says in the Apology that the only that the wisdom, so Socrates was supposedly prophesied or declared by the Oracle at Delphi as the wisest person in the world. And [in the Apology] Socrates goes on a bit of a monologue talking about that and claiming to be confused as to how that could be true, because he says he doesn’t know anything. He ends that monologue with the conclusion that perhaps his wisdom resides in knowing that he doesn’t know where other people go around claiming to know.

EF: That thought that Socrates expressed really came to dominate the Platonic Academy under Arcesilaus and the Academy under Arcesilaus was largely in conflict with another school at the time, the Stoics. And the Stoics had developed a pretty serious, positive epistemology, a serious theory about how you know things, how you come to know things, how you tell, and our ceaseless academy was constantly poking holes in it. And a lot of the early skeptical arguments we have are from Arcesilaus and his followers criticizing the Stoics. So let me give you one example of these kind of arguments are about distinguishability. So: The Stoics claimed that if you were really wise, if you could get really wise, if you could be the wise person, that you’d always be able to tell the difference between when something was true and it just seemed to be true. A wise person would get really, really good and in fact infallibly good at always being able to tell the difference between which pieces of information were really true versus just seem to be true.

D: That would be invaluable.

EF: Yeah, it’d be amazing if we had that. So a lot of these skeptical arguments, these early [skeptical] arguments are trying to argue that no one will be able to ever do that infallibly, that the possibility of being duped is ineliminable. For example, if you were shown one grain of sand and then another and then put behind your back, would you be able to tell which was which or one egg and another? You saw two twins. There’s another example. And so there’s there’s there’s an onslaught of examples and arguments built around these examples that are all attempting to show that it’s always possible that you think you have the truth when you don’t, that it’s always possible for you to be duped, that no one would ever be able to actually have the skill the Stoics claim. No one would ever be able to have the skill of to always and everywhere tell the difference between what’s true and what’s false, that it’s always possible that falsity looks exactly like truth to you.

D: It sounds like the Stoics at this point believe that you could acquire almost like magical or supernatural powers. Didn’t they have a notion of a sage who was sort of all knowing and didn’t you become a sage through sort of self-discipline and and various other kinds of practices?

EF: That’s right. Yeah. The sage was the the epitome of the stoic, was the personification of the ideal of what the stoic philosophy was after. And you’re right that the stoic view, the stoic philosophy involves a lot more than epistemology. They had a whole ethics. And in fact. Right, we still use the word stoic today when we describe someone who’s not very affected by their emotions or something we call that person’s stoic. But, yeah, the sage represented all of this stuff. And one of the things the sage was supposed to be able to do is to to be able to tell the difference. Now, at one point in the the fight between Arcesilaus and the Stoics the Stoics admitted the difficulty and then tried to come back and say that, well, the sage will be able to tell the difference between when they’re in a tricky environment and they’re not in a tricky environment. So here’s why that’s relevant: Think about a lot of times when you fall prey to an optical illusion like you are. You know, driving down the road in the desert and it looks to you like there’s a pothole ahead, you’ve been out in the cold too damn long. And so you come in and put your hand, you put your hands into the cold water and they feel hot.

D: Necker cubes.

EF: Yeah, right, yeah, so the Stoics say, look, it’s not that our senses are deceiving us all the time, we’re getting these things in certain environments. And so the sage will be able to distinguish between when they’re really in a tricky environment and when they’re not. And therefore they’ll be able to tell when they really have guaranteed truth before them and when they don’t. And then the skeptics come back and try to run arguments about the sage’s ability to tell what kind of environment they’re in. But this is at the early stages of skepticism. All of the arguments are about whether I can look at information and for sure and certain tell whether I’m being duped or not, whether I can distinguish between something being really true versus it just looking through and that that does that distinguished ability problem is the heart of the early, early skeptics.

D: the impossibility of telling truth from illusion.

EF: which is not to say that there’s not sometimes you can tell. Right. There’s plenty there’s bad illusions. Right. There’s times when you can make distinctions that claim instead is that it’s an ineliminable problem here. It’s always possible that you are being duped in such a spectacular, perfect duping, that you can’t tell, that you can’t tell, right?

D: Yeah, you know, people are making this argument today. It’s becoming popular to say that we might be in a simulation. Intelligent aliens have actually just built a computer program. And that’s all our reality is. So if that even could be true, right. You could say, well, you don’t know that anything is real, because for all you know, you’re in a simulation. So I might think that I’m talking to Everett right now. But for all I know, I mean, the alien simulation, there was never Everett to begin with.

EF: Yeah, that’s a that’s a really nice example of that, because and and just like the film The Matrix as well, that those sorts of scenarios are even to bring it down to earth. You think about an example of we’ve all probably had times where we were dreaming, but we thought we are awake.

D: Yeah.

EF: You know, when you when you when you had one of those dreams and you couldn’t tell it was a dream. So all of those scenarios, the alien simulation that the matrix, the dream that you’re dreaming and you think you’re awake enough to dream. Right. Those are all scenarios where the information you’re presented with looks to be top notch, as good as it gets information. And yet it’s false.

D: Even the sage can’t tell….

EF: That’s right. Yeah, so those are all illustrations of the seemingly always possible fact that you could be being duped right now and you can’t tell.

D: So now it sounds like skepticism was a movement that was about taking down this this sort of cult movement…it was about taking down the Stoics who had gotten into this idea that you could become an enlightened sage and you could have sort of almost supernatural knowledge, insight into the nature of reality. And [skeptics] were saying, no, it’s logically impossible… and then did they go too far? And so they ended up with arguments that were so good that they showed that nobody had any knowledge at all and that that became the problem?

EF: Yeah. So the later the the next stages of development of skepticism are interesting. So bifurcates after this moment. And so one path that you see in the Roman order and sort of philosopher and historians, Cicero, one path where this went is said, OK, we can never tell for sure. And certain we can never distinguish with absolute certainty between truth and falsity. But that doesn’t mean we got nothing right. We have lots of evidence. And so what Cicero in one line of [the skeptical tradition] developed is a way of thinking. [Cicero propounded] realizing that you can never be absolutely certain that anything before you is true, but nevertheless figuring out rules and procedures to follow the evidence as much as possible. And the way Cicero puts it sometimes is in terms of probabilities that we can have probabilistic evidence for this or that conclusion.

D: Oh wow.

EF: The other path is what you see in Sextus Empiricus, who is a figure we know very little about. We think he lived about the year two hundred. We think he was at one point the doctor by his epithet there “empiricus.” Where he went with it was started by another figure named Aenesidemus a bit earlier. But this other trajectory was: it’s completely right that we can never tell whether anything is true or false. We can’t tell that with certainty, and even Sextus will argue that. You can’t tell that with probability that you have no rational reason to be able to say that one conclusion is more likely than another. And Sextus, turned this into an ethical project. In the early days of skepticism, I described it as being primarily just about taking down the Stoics. Under Sextus it became an enlightenment project. Sextus claimed that becoming a skeptic would give you peace. He had to be a little careful with his language there, but he roughly claimed that in following skepticism, peace and tranquility were found for him. The claim is something like: you can get so worked up on which of your beliefs are true and who’s right and who’s wrong, and people are yelling at the Thanksgiving table, how do you find peace? Sextus says, let go, let go of the whole project. And you realize that nobody can actually tell the difference between truth and falsity and you embrace that and detach and let go of it. So that was a really interesting period in the history of skepticism right there under Sextus, broadly called Pyrrhonian skepticism [Pyrrhyronism]

D: So the practical upshot of it was that through thinking through these these puzzles, you could detach yourself from some of your need to have your opinions believed by others or just…?

EF: Believed by others and believed by yourself. So Sextus seems to the way he motivates this is and I don’t know, maybe this is autobiographical for him, but he talks about a kind of anxiety you can feel when you even recognize yourself as having not found the answer to the question you’re after yet. And that you’re going and you’re searching and you’re searching and you’re reading and you’re talking to people you’re researching and you’re, you know, spending hours reading Wikipedia or whatever. And you’re going on and on and on. And you think you’ll finally get peace when you find the answer. And the kind of ironic thing, according to Sextus, is you actually get peace by letting go by, by letting go of the project.

D: Interesting.

EF: It is interesting, but he gets he gets close to contradicting himself here because as I said a bit ago, what he wants skepticism to be is a totally coherent worldview dedicated to saying we’re still searching. We don’t have the answer. Maybe there’s an answer. Maybe there’s not. We’re always still searching. Right. But but still searching sounds like you haven’t given up on the project. It sounds like you’re going after the answer and you think it’s out there. Whereas the way he talks about the tranquility, it seems like it is a kind of detachment and a kind of letting go. So there’s there’s people who have thought about this hard and have have come up with solutions as to how it how it’s all coherent for Sextus. But but that’s another place where at least it looks like he might be accidentally contradicting himself.

D: But maybe the idea is that, you know, you could relax a little while, still holding on to hope that there’s an answer and that reminding yourself that’s possible that it is unknowable. Might just be something to help you chill out a little bit.

EF: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. But….When you look at Sextus arguments, so he he runs a series of arguments, but they all broadly have a similar structure and most most of Sextus’ arguments have a structure like this. Step one is realizing that everything you think is tied to your own perspective. That you you have to see the world through your your biological eyes, not someone else’s. You have to speak, though, your only mother language is the one that you were born into and your particular time and place and your particular culture and the particular facts about how your senses work, how genetically, how you happen to be born, facts about the species, you happen to be born [into] and you realize that if you have a tool set, you are born with. You didn’t choose it. You have a particular tool set of your body and your senses in your mind you were born with, and then you have enculturation on top of it. And every claim you make about the world has to be filtered through that toolset as well as that inculturation. You can only see the word through your own body, through your own five senses, through your own mind. So that’s step one. Step two is well, it sure as heck seems like if I was a difference, it seemed like it could be that if I was a different species member of a different species, if I had a different body, if I was born in a different time and place, I might think very differently about this. I mean, to take one example, you can try to just think about the difference between how we are a very visual species, it seems, and try to just think for a second about how odd reality must be experienced to bats who use echolocation instead of us, like the world they live in is radically different than ours. And and we are just so accustomed to thinking about the world in terms of how it appears to our eyes in terms of colors. But if you are a bat, wouldn’t think that way at all. You think about reality to the extent that bats think about reality in a radically different way, and they’d be as just as damn sure and certain that reality is that way is we are that it’s red and blue and yellow and this and that. And so from Sextus view, step one is you take heed on how every claim you make is tied to your perspective. And then step two is if your perspective was different, [reality] might look very different. It might look just the opposite of what you think might look just as good as what you think looks to you. And so then the conclusion of that, Sextus argues, is that you’re not actually in a position to tell whether any of your beliefs are true, because if you realize that you’re the way the world looks to you is tied to one perspective, and it’s possible that the way the world looks with the world will look differently tied to a different perspective than to be able to tell who’s right. You would need a third perspective. That could be the judge outside who would be able to weigh the two different competing perspectives. But you can’t get that as Sextus puts it. You’re always party to the dispute. You’re always one of the perspectives that we’re trying to choose between. So you can’t occupy the unbiased judge perspective. And so you’re never in a position to be able to rationally tell which perspective is the one that should be trusted.

D: So you’d have to have a God’s eye view, which none of us can ever occupy….

EF: That’s right, yeah, so that’s that argument from his seems like it covers all cases or it’s intended to cover all cases. So that’s another way where it seems a little odd that he wants to say. We’re still searching, we’re still searching, so so Sextus is a fascinating figure and completely worthwhile reading, and there’s lots of good arguments in there and there’s a lot of pushing and prodding and forcing you to think in in in strange new ways.

D: Are you familiar with UFO Twitter?

EF: UFO, Twitter, no,

D: so UFO Twitter is just people on Twitter who believe in UFOs, and they they really do believe in UFOs and, you know, we’re open to that on the show. But one of the things I’ve been noticing lately on UFO Twitter is they really want everyone else to believe in UFOs, too. And they’ve been saying, won’t it be great when disclosure happens and everybody agrees with us? And they’re frustrated that disclosure is not happening because they want the proof to come out so that, you know, everybody’s on board with [the reality of aliens]. Is this an example of getting stressed out by this kind of, you know, this need for knowledge that he thinks you can’t actually have?

EF: Yeah, I think that’s a spectacular example.

D: I think because he would say, you know, even when even when the government comes out and says UFOs are real, suppose that happens, right? Well, you still how do you trust the government? You still have a further concerned: is [disclosure] the definitive answer you really thought you were going to get? Are you still in the same, you know, gray area you were before?

EF: Yeah. So you know that the idea of a disclosure moment is is almost like a messianic dream, right? It’s a dream of this moment when truth is utterly transparent and undeniable. But as you pointed out, we never have that.

D: That’s very good. Can I ask you then about another possible real life example of someone who may have been practicing skepticism or maybe not? Robert Anton Wilson was a man who worked on conspiracy theories and he wrote about them. He actually wrote both fiction and nonfiction about conspiracy theories. And he, during a period of his life, began practicing consciousness expansion exercises that were popular in the 60s. He was a kind of friend of Timothy Leary, and he went through a phase in his life, which he called Chapel perilous, where he felt like he was receiving messages from possibly, he writes in his autobiography, possibly Aliens from the Star System, Sirius. He also questioned whether it might have been his own mind generating it. He questioned whether it might be messages he was receiving from a higher self or whether they might be messages coming from some sort of spirit being located around somewhere in the vicinity of Earth or in another dimension. He’s never able to figure it out in his autobiography, but he writes that the viewpoint that he settled on was what he calls ontological pluralism. He says, I ended up deciding that there’s no one theory that can ever fully describe reality. And so what we need to do is learn to be quick at moving between theories. So that’s why he moves back and forth between his theory that he’s talking to spirits, his theory that he’s talking to aliens, his theory that he’s making it all up in his head. He thinks that that’s the right attitude to have, is a kind of flexibility to move from one perspective to another. Does that sound like skepticism to you?

EF: It’s a movement in the right direction, so one place where the historical skeptics would push back a little bit is in his decision to believe that the right view is this ontological pluralism. So the what the skeptics would push back on and say that that itself is a strong view, a strong, serious philosophical view about reality, and that needs to be interrogated just as carefully. It could be that you just haven’t figured out what the one single unifying ontological theme of reality is. It could be that all the ones you’re considering are wrong. It could be that, you know, you haven’t been creative enough yet to figure out how to fit these pieces together. And so, like the pluralist view itself needs to be just one of the things that’s doubted, along with the various proposals that he enumerated, the alien proposal or his own self or his higher self. So giving a list, going through a list of possible explanations is a spectacular thing to do and a movement in the direction of the genuine spirit of skepticism. But then it has to be taken a further step, one step further to say that like jumping to that being the correct picture of reality itself needs to be scrutinized and considered among only one of the possible explanations to consider.

D: Very good. So the skeptic isn’t just questioning the appearances, but also questioning his methods for adjudicating between the appearances. And then that leads to the natural question: do skeptics need to be skeptical of skepticism itself? What kind of ramifications does that have?

EF: Yeah, good. This is a place where there has been a lot of interesting historical reflection and contemporary work on. On the. The self consistency of the skeptical project in in the ancient world, there’s this worry was largely articulated as a worry about action. The claim was that skepticism is inconsistent because you can’t actually live that and you do live you have to live as a human. And so therefore the view is inconsistent. And here’s why it would appear that you can’t live it, because just think about the things you do every day. Talking to me right now, deciding to go get a cup of coffee, deciding to get in your car, walking across the street, any of those daily actions you do are wrapped up in various beliefs, like if you didn’t believe that there were cars going down the street and that’s why you stopped. The worry is what would prevent you from just walking out in the street and getting run over, for example? And and so, like daily life appears to be necessarily wrapped up with making making judgments and having beliefs about what’s going on. And so to truly doubt everything the way it was, you’d be paralyzed, you couldn’t live. And of course, no one does that. So therefore, the view is, you know, completely implausible and refutes itself.

D: Oh, absolutely. So wait, is that is at the end of skepticism?

EF: No, it’s not the end, because there are lots of sophisticated things that were said back on the other side and and are worth thinking about. So the main move that was articulated, at least in the ancient world to push back was distinguishing between the kind of mental judgment or state, the kind of, let’s say, quote unquote, belief that you need. To practically live versus the kind of belief that is the proper thing to doubt and [be skeptical of]. So another way to put the response is like this: that the the objector to skepticism is using the word belief to mean all and only the same kinds of things. But maybe the kind of beliefs, the sort of belief, that we have to live by, that we need in practical life, including the practical decision to adopt the framework of skepticism, can be a different kind than the sort of things we’re doubting. And here’s roughly how that tried to go. Is that the kind of beliefs that you have to live to walk across the street to engage in a in a project like this? To talk to somebody are not considered judgments about what reality is like, but instead are can be understood as decisions based purely purely along the appearances that there can be. The rational way to live will be to live according that it appears to you that there’s a car coming down the street and that’s enough to hold back and not walk into the street without going on to make the further step of. They’re definitely 100 percent are cars in reality, and that will definitely kill me if I walk out, that the appearances can be kind of judgment that is less committal than a full blown belief. And it’s the full blown beliefs that are the proper object of doubting and skepticism. So that’s one way they tried to push back against those kinds of worries.

D: OK, so practical beliefs would be the things that you just have to do to get to get through life, right. You have to eat and drink and pay your taxes. Right. And avoid the police or avoid running into trouble with the law. But, you know, questions about what’s real from everything from UFOs to skepticism itself might be in the category of what are you call….are these theoretical beliefs to contrast them with practical.?

EF: Yeah, yeah. No, that’s a nice that’s a nice distinction. And in fact, some of that language is is deeply in the tradition. I think even…. I’m not sure if Sextus uses the language of theoretical and practical beliefs, but you definitely see it in Descartes, for example. So Rene Descartes was writing in the sixteen hundreds and is another major figure in the development of skeptical thinking. And Descartes develops these skeptical meditations. Now, Descartes doesn’t think that the skepticism is the right philosophical view, but he thinks that going through these skeptical meditations is an exercise that will teach you what the right view is. And so Descartes is not a skeptic, but is committed to the importance and usefulness of skepticism. And he starts off these skeptical meditation saying this isn’t practical beliefs, don’t don’t do skepticism on practical beliefs at all, that this is all and only for purely theoretical claims about what’s deeply real and in reality and what isn’t.

D: Very good. Yeah, I’ve read meditations and I really enjoy Descartes and his sort of multiple steps, right. You’re supposed to do one meditation a day and it’s supposed to put you into this headspace where, you know, anything could be real, right? You could be possibly you’re being deceived by an evil demon or possibly you’re just dreaming and nothing that you’re seeing is real. And then he tries to walk you out of it. And I think when he’s in the depth of that….what is it meditation four when he’s at the peak of the doubt?

EF: At the bottom of one, actually.

D: Oh, that’s the peak of it? At the bottom of one

EF: Meditation, two picks right back up at the bottom. But you start getting Descartes arguing that he thinks he can step out of the skeptical meditation in two.

D: But he’s almost in a headspace that sounds like something Robert Anton Wilson was in, right? Where Anton Wilson is like, well, maybe I’m talking to spirits or maybe I’m not or maybe nothing’s real. Right. I think Descartes maybe without doing any consciousness expanding exercises or maybe he was doing consciousness expansion….you know, he did he did study with the Jesuits. Right? And they have all kinds of contemplatively prayers….

EF: That’s right. That Descartes was schooled as a young boy. He got a bit lucky in this regard. So he was sent off to a Jesuit boarding school in the French town of Le Fleche. And at the time, that school was small and not very notable, but it grew. And by the time Descartes was an adult at that secondary school had become very popular and was well regarded. And a lot of fancy people in Europe were sending their kids there. So Descartes got this real credential luck that by the time he grew up, the school he went to had become famous and so he could have that social clout. But it was a Jesuit school and we know some things about what he went under there, not tons, but surely he was taught the spiritual exercises of Ignatius, and there’s a nice article that a current philosopher wrote comparing also some of the moves in the meditations exercises to actually the the spiritual exercises in Teresa of Avila’s main work of spiritual exercise called the Interior Castle.

D: Oh, yeah,.

EF: Another Spaniard, I suggest you read. Ignatius [of Loyola] is a Spaniard from the Basque from the Basque region in the northeast of Spain. And Teresa was from I don’t even know where Avilla is off the top of my head. Maybe you do know.

D: I’m sorry, but I don’t either. isn’t she the one who when she was a child, she tried to run away from home to go fight the Moors? You know, I don’t know. I think her parents, like, had to go find her. She’s like 17th century, right? No, because there would be no Moors left to fight. She would have to be back in the 1400s if she thought she was going to go fight them. Spain is unified under Christian rule 1492, right?

EF: Yeah, that’s right.

D: So anyway I don’t know. So we don’t know when Saint Theresa lived.

[note: Teresa of Avilla was born in 1515. After reading accounts of Christian martyrs as a child, she attempted to run away and seek martyrdom at the hands of the Moors but was retrieved by her uncle outside of town.]

EF: We don’t know. But we do, we, it’s very plausible. Somebody, somebody will have to check us on that. But it’s very plausible that they take Descartes… And it’s really fascinating that he did this, by the way. Right. Because when you look at the texts that constitute the canon of philosophy, they are primarily essays and treatises right? There, primarily the author writing you arguments for what he or she thinks you should believe. And Descartes main work, the meditation’s is not that at all. It’s a set of exercises. Descartes doesn’t want to give you an argument. He wants to give you a set of exercises to do with the thought that you’ll come out the other side, a changed person. You’ll come out the other side thinking differently. And once you come out the other side, a changed person, Descartes thinks you’ll be able to see what’s true and why, and that that method just smacks very loudly of Ignatius of Loyola spiritual exercise. But even more broadly, the tradition of spiritual exercises across across Western religions and even even more broadly, still.

D: Yeah, I really like the idea there’s a point of intersection here between philosophy, a history of philosophy and spirituality, and then for us, for the show, it’s with these with consciousness expansion oriented type practices, which you can call spiritual or not. But I’m sure it’s interesting to see that three way intersection there.

EF: I was going to say, and it’s not just Descartes, there’s an interesting history of places where the skepticism has bedded up with religious views of various kinds. And then on the other side, of course. So we think as we’ve begun our conversation here, talking about the new American kind of skeptic movement, which views itself as antithetical to religious commitment. When you look more broadly at the history of skepticism, the history of skepticism is a mixed bag. And there’s some very clearly bona fide skeptics throughout history who took themselves to be deeply religious people or as far as we can tell, from from what they wrote, they appeared to take themselves to be deeply religious people.

D: And how would they reconcile their skepticism then with their faith? We think of being religious as having a faith, being committed to something being true. Right. Which is what skepticism says you’re not supposed to do. Right? You’re supposed to distance yourself…..?

EF: Yeah, good. Great question. So there’s a few a few ways that it’s tried to happen. And most of the figures that I know about here are functioning in and around the reformation in Europe that actually the the Reformation period was a period where there was a renewed emergence and awareness of the ancient skeptical texts. So you see this, for example, in Michel de Montaigne is is one classic example. We’ll talk about him in a second. You see this also in Erasmus. Erasmus is very famous debates with Luther at the time. And you see this even slightly before the Reformation in a figure whose name was [Giorolamo] Savonarola. He had several of his monks ordered to make translations of Sextus and translate his works from Greek into Latin. These were going to be the first Latin translations of Sextus Empiricus in a very, very, very long time. And Savonarola had a kind of reading group almost. And intellectuals from around Florence would come to the monastery and they would talk. And Savonarola was pushing the view that skepticism was the proper preparatory philosophy to accept and understand Christianity. He was a fascinating figure. He was very vocal critic of the pope at the time and lots of other powerful people as well, including the Medici, who the media first invited him to Florence in the first place. And then he started being a very vocal critic of the Medici. And Savonarola also went to went so far as to claim that he was having religious visions directly from God that were supporting his criticisms of the pope and the Medici and was claiming that there was a kind of apocalyptic battle that was ensuing and that the whole city of Florence was going to be sacked and burned to the ground. And, you know, all all kinds of histeria. He was he was propagating and so it’s probably easy to see where this went, isn’t it? He got executed and…..

D: but wait….I thought he was a skeptic and now he’s believing in the apocalypse?

EF: Yeah, so here’s so that’s right in a particularly very immediate human apocalypse, I can’t remember where he was saying the army was going to come from, but there was an army that was going to come invade Florence. And Savonarola was giving these prophecies of an impending apocalypse in Florence and criticizing both the Medicii and the pope at the time on supposed direct revelation from God and saw it was claiming to himself be a greater authority than the pope, which led to his execution. So here’s how it all fit together: his view was that what skepticism does, is it shows you the internal inconsistency of reason. That reason can’t live up to its very own standards, and so since reason can’t live up to its very own standards, the rational thing to do is to not trust reason and instead trust, faith. So it was a kind of negative way of of marrying the two together and used….

D: [inaudible]

EF: Interesting, right and then you you actually saw a similar claim during the Reformation. So, for example, there was these very famous debates between harassment and Luther on a host of things. Right. So Luther, of course, was representing the Protestant side and Erasmus, the Catholic side. And Erasmus would argue, based on some arguments from Sextus, that the way Luther was so convinced that his own reading of scripture was correct was irrational, that he had did not have evidence to be trusting the way scripture appeared to him, that it appeared to Luther one way and appeared to other people the other way. And who are you to make yourself the authority for the right way to read scripture? And so the right thing to do is to distrust your own rational faculties, that you have the ability to tell what scripture really says and and instead defer to the tradition. So it has a kind of a faith move that that asserting faith in the tradition was seen to be the result of skeptical thinking about the limits of our own ability to properly read these texts.

D: Interesting!

EF: It is interesting! So there’s more positive marriages of skepticism and religion around, but the ones that were happening during the Reformation were often to these very negative ones where skepticism was seen as a tool to demonstrate the folly of over trusting human rationality. And so, therefore, you should accept non-rational claims to reality…..

D: Now, I’m not sure I follow that the last part of the logic there, because I can understand skepticism shows that we can’t trust our reason. But then don’t you have to use your reason to decide which faith tradition to commit to?

EF: Yeah, that’s right. And you even have to be using your reason just to make a claim about that, because so let’s say the arguments are correct, that all human attempts to demonstrate the truth are flawed. So then you take further conclusion from that: faith claims are the way to go. But you’d have to be using your rationality to even make THAT further inference as well.

D: Hmm. So you can’t even get off the ground…..

EF: Yeah, that’s right. And these people weren’t as worried about adjudicating between different traditions because they were seeing the more taking this, the more established Catholic and Orthodox views as as the given tradition. It was it was in their culture. It was the Protestants who were claiming to be able to know how to read scripture better and know what Christianity is better than the way it’s been done.

D: Right. Yeah, the way the debate is framed is everything

EF: that’s that’s right.

D: So in our environment, there wouldn’t be this kind of movement, this kind of skeptical defense of religion? Although it seems like you do hear that….I mean, Kierkegaard, right?

EF: There you go. Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, Kierkegaard, as this is a similar kind of view about the the essential sort of leap of faith that religiosity requires, which can’t be rationally defended, as I understand.

D: Yeah, and he’s living in, you know, post enlightenment. We might think of as modern time, he’s certainly relatable…. We can relate to him because he’s cognizant of the reality of pluralism; there are many religions that are available to him as options.

EF: That’s right.

D: With all this this talk we’ve had in this conversation about practicing like….. You know, Descartes’ spiritual exercise or Descartes’ meditations and the history of skepticism and spirituality, could we as listeners practice ancient Greek skepticism? Is there a way that we could turn any of these puzzles into meditations? Would that be appropriate? Do you think that would have any benefit?

EF: Yeah, I think it would be highly appropriate and highly beneficial. So let me try to articulate a few ways as to how that would go and what I would recommend. We’ll start with Sextus, one of the themes you see in Sextus is arguments about Pyrrhonian skepticism is an insistence on [restricting] your ability to rationally, really correctly, believe something…. at least we can say [that Sextus says if you are going] to believe it all the way to your toes or to claim to know it, that you should be in a position to quality control each of the parts of that belief that you’re dependent upon. So let’s take a really simple example. So your friend tells you something is true. Or you read something on social media that something is true, the first thing Sextus would have you ask is whether you’re in a position to tell whether that source is reliable. Whether you’re in a position to tell whether that source is telling you the truth in this case. And we are. We are one of the to put that point more broadly, we are thoroughly dependent upon external sources and information for a wide swaths of our beliefs about the world around us. We’re dependent on other people or dependent on books for dependent on news sources. And one of the things you can really get out of Sextus here is a wide eyed awareness of that dependance relation and how often you actually aren’t in a position to quality control the things you’re depending on. Right, we read about something going on somewhere else in the world, we’re not in a position to fly over there and check and see it for ourselves. Yeah, we hear that, you know, the some team of climatologists have said something or some team of physicists have said something or other. We’re not in a position to fully fact check and verify everything they’re doing and all the experience. In fact, they’re often not in a position to do that to each other. The sciences have become so specialized that within the sciences, people aren’t able to quality control each other’s work. In fact, in some very large physics experiments, that’s true within a particular experiment that various members of the actual experiment aren’t even in a position to, quote, fact check each other’s [work]. So we are inextricably bound up in these relations of cognitive or epistemic dependance on other people, and we’re not in a position to often fact check them. So thinking about the ancients skeptical tradition should bring that to your fore and make you aware of that. And then the next step would be to therefore you should pull back on how damned certain you think you are about many, many, many things you believe because you realize you’re not actually in a position to quality check the sources and the things you’re dependent on to get that information.

D: I see.

EF: That that should give a huge dose of humility. And and I think I don’t know what you think, Dane, but my guess is it’s kind of psychologically counterintuitive. That we want we want to believe that it’s natural to hear something from a friend and to believe it, right, to read a news article and believe it. Yeah, it it’s easier. It feels good. It feels nice to know to think, you know, what’s going on in reality. And the kind of humility that the skeptical tradition offers is a little might sound a little uncomfortable at first because you have to you have to be OK with realizing that you’re dependent on things you can’t fact check. You dependent on things you can’t quality control. And so you’re not in a position to really tell whether what you’re being told is true or not. Well, I was just going to say that the ironic thing to turn all the way to Sextus is that Sextus thinks that instead of being psychologically uncomfortable, then coming to terms with this humility is actually liberating. That you can you’ll gain you can gain peace by coming to accept the fact that your beliefs are thoroughly dependent on things you can’t fact check, and therefore you’re not in a position to really go toe to toe and claim for damn certain, you know, and and instead of feeling anxiety about not knowing. You can feel some detachment and some peace from the anxiety of feeling like you have to know.

D: Very good. I think that could have helped out a lot of people that we’ve talked about on this show who were, you know, caught up in strange experiences with things that they they weren’t sure what what they were encountering…..

EF: There’s a there is I think there is a real uncomfortability, though, right? Descartes in the meditations talks about a feeling of vertigo when you’re deep, kind of in a skeptical experience. And I think the figure you were just asking me about before Wilson was describing something similar, right?

D: Yes. Chapel Perilous was what he called it.

EF: I don’t know what you think or what the other listeners out there think, but it’s easy for me to feel like I can get myself in a perspective vertigo that feels deeply uncomfortable, of not knowing what to believe, what to think, which way is up, which way is down. Sextus wants to tell you it’s liberating. But but that itself, we should we should be skeptical of and think hard about and critical about, about whether it truly is.

D: Well, I think I had an experience like this of both the vertigo and the liberation when I was in college. And I was thinking very hard about David Hume. Hume has this argument that we have no rational basis for causality. Right? And he says like there’s no logical reason why the sun might not come up tomorrow. And, you know, anything could happen from any given thing, any other given thing could follow. Right. And so not just that the sun might not come up tomorrow, but, you know, you could drink water and it could fail to quench your thirst. You know, you could strike a match and it could fail to burst into flames. It could do something it’s never done before, like it could produce water. You know, anything you can imagine could follow from anything else. And there’s no logical reason why any of these causal relations have to happen. I spent a lot of time meditating on that or just like thinking it over. And I found it really trippy and really weird because I had this thought like, whoa, I can’t I can’t really be sure then that I can count on stuff like, what if I’m just walking to the cafeteria and I just fall through the ground, you know, just fall forever. Right. There’s no causal relationship I can depend on.

EF: That’s right.

D: It was very trippy. And then I kind of left it kind of forgot about it. But when this coronavirus thing happened. And it was so out of the blue, I found myself going back a little bit to my Humean days and being like, you know, this is something totally unexpected, but I should have expected that the unexpected could happen. I don’t know if that makes sense.

EF: You know, it makes perfect sense. So I’ll say two things. I’ll share a vertigo story, too. And then and then I really like the transition to what [skepticism has to do with coronavirus] the vertigo experience I’ll share actually comes from a student of mine. So I was teaching a class on Descartes’ meditations. As we briefly mentioned here there’s this this set of exercises and in the first meditations it goes into deeper and deeper down. It starts by doubting whether or not you can trust your senses, the way things whether the way things look, touch, taste or similar, really the way they are. And then then it goes down to the level of next level [which] is whether you can doubt whether you can be sure that you’re actually awake at any moment you’re awake because it seems possible that you have had and many of us claim we’ve had experiences of a dream where we thought we are awake in the dream. So that’s a kind of holistic deception where we think all our senses are giving us information of reality. But we’re actually just going to dream. And then there’s the deepest level, which, you know, is almost like a matrix kind of experience, a thought experiment where you think about the possibility of the very rules that your mind works by everything you think is manipulated or systematically wrong.

D: Wow.

EF: And so I was teaching this class and we spent some time really walking through this. And I had this student who was a very good student, who kept coming to me and talking about it. And then I got an e-mail from my chair and the university saying this student was asking for a medical withdrawal and was leaving the university.

D: Oh, no.

EF: Yeah, and the students parents came, I was called in, we had these big meetings and it turned out that reading Descartes had thrown this student into such a vertigo experience that they were having a psychological breakdown.

D: Wow.

EF: And this person couldn’t feel like they could trust anything, didn’t know which way was up or down, their entire worldview is shattered and was deeply lost and left the university for that semester.

D: Wow.

EF: I know, I know, yeah, I know I should have this disclaimer at the beginning of my classes…. And luckily those student came out of it and came back. I’ve talked to her a few times since, but…. The way she came out of it might be similar to actually the way Hume talks, which is not kind of a rational way to come out of it, but just practical life pulling me back right now. You get worried about these things when your friends come over and want to have a beer and play [inaudible]

D: Well, he says, I go play billiards, right? I go play billiards and it all fades away.

EF: That’s right.

D: Hume loved gambling.

D: I wanted to know if this student of yours who had this breakdown, were there positive outcomes? Did she have any evidence of overall, you know, consciousness expansion after this disorienting experience?

EF: I really I really hope so. And I invited the student to my office multiple times the subsequent semester and year. I didn’t I mean, I wasn’t pushy, but I, you know, often offered myself to talk and she didn’t she didn’t want to. So I don’t I don’t really know what happened to me. I know that she decided to become a philosophy major, which worried that the heck out of her parents after this breakdown experience. And she’s read Descartes since and is and did not have another breakdown. But but I don’t I don’t know much else than that, unfortunately.

D: Fascinating. Yeah, well, it’s good to know that, you know, be forewarned, this skepticism has its own dangers too.

EF: And there’s a nice wrap up there, I think back to your point about coronavirus and the uncomfortable idea of these kind of vertigo experiences or even the uncomfortable idea of having no idea what’s going to happen going back to the earlier days of the virus. Yeah, if we are about to enter a global massive recession for decades or who knows what was going to happen. Right. But much of the world was going to die, you know, as all all over the place scenarios. Nobody had any idea I was going to. And now we’re coming out of it and, you know, much, much, much calmer feelings. But a year ago, there were some pretty high feelings. And when you’re feeling so uncomfortable about not knowing what’s going on, I think there’s a real human tendency to want to jump, to believe something jumped, to believe anything, because believing something feels like a lifeboat in the middle of this vertigo sea. And that’s another thing you can learn from the skeptical tradition, I think is being aware that that uncomfortable in itself can make you do irrational things that are very good. And you can. But and it’s not that just knowing that will make you not do it, but becoming mindful of that can help you check yourself like you’re thinking about how. Or maybe I’m just jumping to that belief because it’s feels scary and uncomfortable to to just sit in and not knowing.

D: Yeah, the benefit there could be then the skeptical benefit is training yourself to be comfortable or be aware of the feeling and resisting it, making may. Maybe that makes you more comfortable with uncertainty.

EF: It makes you more comfortable. Yeah, and at the very least, I think it gives you some psychological distance from the belief you jump to. So if you jump to a belief and you find yourself believing it and then you, you have a moment of stopping and you think, well wait a second, maybe I’m just doing that thing and humans are uncomfortable. So we jump to believe. And the moment you think to yourself, maybe that’s what I’m doing. Your belief starts to feel less sure. And so you can get some psychological distance from you. That’s wonderful. It is, and and and perhaps even more broadly, I think the skeptical version throughout many of the things we’ve been talking about can help us get more distance from our beliefs and and not feel as attached to them, not be so ready to yell at the Thanksgiving table about them, to go to bat for them, come hell or high water, and to have some some healthy distance, some healthy distance that promotes real open open mindedness and a real earnest pursuit of the truth without prejudging what the truth will look like.

D:Yes, that could definitely be helpful for not just our audience and members of our audience who are very interested in the occult, in the strange and the unexplained, but just America at large seems like people have become much more dogmatic and less skeptical.

EF: Yes. Yes, I agree. Yeah, we need this now. This could be part of the antidote for a more civil society if we can just give more skepticism out there.

D: Yeah, well, I thought you were going to come on the show and just talk about, you know, just talk about how skepticism could be applied and understood by, you know, seekers of the strange. But now it sounds like it’s the it’s the cure, to the world’s problems.

EF: Well, maybe not all, but it’s a it’s a I mean it. Yeah, it’s it’s hard to imagine people or countries that were thoroughly following skepticism going to much war with each other. It’s hard to imagine there being as many fights and so for us as there are now. You know, I’m not saying there wouldn’t be any, but that it is it does often seem to me to be the case that tensions and fights are exacerbated by people being overly confident about their view of things. And some some psychological distance and some humility could go a long way to to peace and stability.

D: Absolutely. That seems spot on to me. Well, thank you so much, Everett, for coming on the show. I really appreciate it. This has been an excellent conversation. Thanks.

EF: Thanks to you. Thanks for inviting me for having me on the show. It’s been a real pleasure.


#23 – Sino-Wunderwaffen or Breakaway Civilization?

Buenos Dias,

Hello to our listeners in the United States. and to our audience around the world. Whether you be on the surface of the Earth, or below, in low earth orbit, or in a parallell universe:

Greetings from the tiny, latin American nation of Panama.From the rugged Tabasará mountains of the continental divide. We’ve missed a week on the Spectral Skull Session. I have been conducting interviews, reaching out to the alternative spiritual communities of Central and South America, and doing literature reviews for future episodes. All this and more while dealing with power outages and wind storms. But as the Russians say whenever they invade Crimea: the show must continue it’s onward going of course.

Today we will be doing a News roundup. There is so much happening in global news of the weird, that we need an episode covering it. The focus for today’s roundup will be the Pacific Rim Region. I maintain in this episode that a new locus of mystery has coalesced on this half of the globe, spanning from the western edge of the United States, to the eastern shores of China. This episode raises the question: what is happening in the Pacific Ocean?

But let’s begin with a quick nature story from Antarctica. Scientists drilling into Antarctica discovered a slurry of plant and animal life one mile underneath the ice. This occurred on the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf—a five-hour flight from the nearest Antarctic station.

A science team was attempting to extract a sample of the sediment from the mud underneath the ice in Antarctica. This required a borehole that went more than a half-mile deep.

After the scientists lowered a camera into the hole, it came back with pictures from a layer of liquid between the mud floor and the rice. There they found: bacterial mats, an alien-like sponge and other stalked animals attached to a large stone. They also found stouter, cylindrical sponges hugging the surface. This unexpected finding has been published in the academic Journal Frontiers in Marine Science.

One of the things that made this finding so baffling, is that there’s no nearby source of energy. Typically an ecosystem needs an energy input – either sunlight, geothermal in the vicinity. Various different kinds of creatures can prey on the organisms that work directly with heat energy. We humans are an example. We eat plants, animals, and don’t forget fungi. We steal their hard-earned energy – the nutrients and complex molecules that compose their bodies become part of us, so that we can survive at their expense. Now, of the organisms we brutally assimilate into our bodies, ALL of them either themselves do the same to other organisms or they make use of some kind of energy gradient to power the direct extraction of nutrients. Plants, as you know, make use of sunlight to power the production of sugars. Bacteria that live along undersea vents, oxidize the hydrogen sulfide that comes out of the vent, to produce energy. And, as I understand it, hydrogen sulfide is an unstable molecule that is produces by volcanic processes, so those bacteria are basically free-loading off of volcanoes. While plants free-load off of the sun. And the rest of us ultimately freeload off of plants. Even fungi, who are otherwise upstanding organisms.

Now, many of you will know that there is life deep in the Earth’s oceans. And most of it is NOT powered by geothermal vents. So how does THAT life hang on? The answer is horrifying: it’s called marine snow. So, there’s so much biological life in our oceans – so much plankton, and fish, and crabs, and shrimp, and just everything you can imagine. Those organisms are constantly shedding and dying and decomposing. And the whole process of life, death, combined with the churning of the ocean currents, creates a white powdery substance that falls into the abyssal layers of the ocean. There are entire ecosystems down there. The abyssal zone, which is the part of the ocean that is PITCH BLACK starts 4,000 meters down, that’s about 2.4 miles.

So, the creatures in the abyssal zone have ecosystems that run mostly off of this marine snow, which is ground up decomposiing organic matter. It’s like ocean dandruff. Imagine a community of organisms that depend entirely on dandruff. But they’re doing fine down there in the absyssal zone. They have all kinds of stationary creatures and weird fish that eat the stationary creatures, and even weirder fishes that each those fish. So they have a whole world down there, running off of dandruff.

Ok. So as desperate as that situation sounds in the abyssal plane, this mini-ecosystem that the scientists found was nearly frozen underneath a half mile of ice, at the South Pole. So, where is the energy gradient or the nutrient influx that keeps the community going?

The scientists figure that the marine animals they’ve found under the ice are feeding off of sites at least 300 miles away where the water breaks through the ice. They’re inferfered that there must be channels of water underneath Antartica, and they’re postulating that something like the ‘marine snow’ phenomena that fuels the abyssal plane of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, but it’s happening horizontally instead of vertically.

Well, maybe. But remember. With scientists. They do a lot of work and they have my respect, but at least half the time they are totally making things up. When scientists are making things up, they call it a “theory,” a theory is just a story that’s good enough that someone else will pay you to check out whether it is true. That is how science works.

And you thought that the Abyssal plane was being run by a bunch of parasites…

So who knows what could be underneath the ice in Antartica? Let’s hope that these eggheaded scientists don’t pull up the frozen body of a man who looks exactly like Kurt Russell’s character from The Thing, that classical horror film by John Carpenter.

And in physics-related news, Many people will be familiar with the warp drive. Although the name can be traced back to the sci-fi of the 20th century United States, including but not limited to, the original Star Trek, the possibility of faster-than-light travel was endorsed by Mexican Mathematican and Physicist, Miguel Alcubierr. In 1994 peer-reviewed research publication, Alcubierre outlined his plan for the propulsion of a spacecraft through the use of ‘exotic matter’. Exotic matter is any kind of material that theroetically can exist, or even should exist given the models prefered by contemporary physics, but hasn’t been observed or only has been observed in small amounts. The exotic matter required for Alcubierre’s drive is a kind of matter that gives off negative gravitational field. Using this negative gravitational field, the Alcubierre drive would compress space in front of the craft, move the spacce around to the back of the ship and then, decompress that space behind. In this way, the ship could literally warp space to relocate itself at very high speeds. Unfortunately, in addition to requiring a form of exotic matter that has never been proven to exist, the Alcubierre drive also required a quantity of exotic matter with a greater mass than the planet Jupiter.

A more efficient warp drive, requiring less exotic mass, was described in the book “Faster Than Light: Warp Drive and Quantum Vacuum Power (Lost Science)” by  H. David Froning published in 2019 and available on Amazon right now. And then in 2011, the amount of exotic matter required was further reduced to a quantity similar to the mass of the space probes being used today.

But in April, 2020 two engineers from Chicago, Jessica Gallanis and Eytan Halm Suchard published a patent application for a new warp drive that they say is both physically possible, and does not require ANY exotic matter. Instead it runs entirely on the use of electromagnetic fields to warp space.

Dr. Jason Cassibry, a professor at the Propulsion Research Center at the University of Alabama Huntsville expressed skepticism. A member of his lab made a statement to the press, saying “. Based on some of the papers I’ve looked at, there is indeed a relation between highly concentrated magnetic field energy, like in a huge solenoid, and a positive gravity well. But the amount of energy required to be detectable is quite large, and, although doable, that experiment has not been run yet,”

And so, the warp drive remains only a theoretical possibility, but we can all hold out hope that the development of new technologies for interstellar travel may be right around the corner…

This reminds me of a topic I heard about back in 2016, this was a thruster-free propulsion device that uses Microwaves. This is the EM-drive, designed by Roger Shawyer in 1998. if you bounce microwaves around inside a copper tube, they exert more force in one direction than the other, creating a net thrust without the need for any propellant.

I’ve tried to test this myself, but I can’t get my microwave to turn on with the door open.

Anyway, the EM-drive is supposed to be promising as an alternative to thrusters on sateillites. NASA supposedly looked into building an EM drive, but the resutls were controversial. Meanwhile, the China’s Science and Technology Daily reported that China’s space program was already testing an EmDrive in orbit. According to one source, whose full identity could be confirmed, the Chinese have been funding research in the area since 2011, they have proven the drive works at a microscale, and are making plans to scale it up. Another source reports that the Chinese government is making plans to install an EM drive on the Chinese space station the Tiangong-2

It’s very scary to think of the Chinese actively implementing a new technology while the Americans can’t even decide if the technology exists. Let’s hope this isn’t the case. The last thing we want is Chinese-powered microwaves taking over the skies.

..This leads to another story about advanced technologies being deployed in the vicinity of the Earth.


The Warzone reports that in 2019, multiple U.S. Destroyers were swarmed by mysterious lights, which were declared to be drones, but were never positively identified.

The drones began showing up in July, 2019. Appearing during the evening, as many as six at a time would swarm around the Navy ships. The sailors noted the drones were able to operate for prolonged periods – long in excess of what any existing commerical drone can do. The sailors also noted the drones operated in low-visibility conditions, were highly coordinated in their flight patterns, and also operated brazenly inside a sensitive U.S. Military training range.

The ensuing investigation included elements of the Navy, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Federal Burea of Investigation.

The Warzone was able to gather information on these investigations using Freedom of Information Act requests. They learned that the events involved at least five different destroyers.

Shortly after the USS Kidd began encountering drones on July 14th, the ship’s commanding officer ordered the implication of “emissions control” or EMCON protocols, designed to minimize the ship’s electronic emissions profile.

The encounters were noteworthy enough that they led to the mobilization of documentarians known as The Ship Nautical or Othewise Photographic Interpretation and Exploitation or “SNOOPIE” teams.

The SNOOPE teams brandish commercial grade cameras and they run around photographing unusual or important events. They sound like the Naval version of the Paparazzi. You can imagine these naval guys, and gals, shouting “hey drone, look over here!” and “hey drone, I heard your latest movie was a flop, are you going to have to sell your condo in clearwater?”

The ships log entries contain references to the sighting of a red flashing light, and then a white light hovering over the ship’s flight deck. The log reflects that the drone managed to match the destroyer’s speed with the craft moving at 16 knots in order to maintain a hovering position over the ship’s helicopter landing pad. The Warzone comments that this would have been a technically impressive feat.

Another log entry for the USS kid simply states “Multiple UAVs around ship” while the logs on another ship describe an event from 7:30 until almost 8:00 in which multiple drones were dropping in elevation, and apparently moving forward and backward, left and right.

That same ship also recorded a radio call from a passing cruise ship, the Carnival Imagination, the Carnival notified the navy that they were also seeing 5 – 6 drones manuvering nearby and that the drones were not asociated with the cruise ship.

Sorry to hear that, I know when I think about taking a cruise I ask myself “Will I be able to send drones out to harass the local naval destroyers?” and when the answer is no, I do something else entirely.

The Warzone notes that the ensuing invesitgation went up the chain of the command to the highest ranks of the U.S. Navy. This indicates that the encounter was not a simple case of experimental aircraft involved in top secret test being accidentally being deployed too close to operating naval craft. The warzone ends their report by noting that no one ever described any details connected to the mysterious lights, putting the very label “drone” in question. Were these even drones at all, or would they have been better labeled merely as “UFOs”?

I also want to note that The Warzone has several stories on their website about mystery drones. Apparently, a drone swarm descended on the Palo Verde nuclear power plant in September 2019. The Palo Verde power plant is less than 50 miles away from the Phoenix Arizona. The FAA literally described the event in one document as a “drone-a-poluza.”

I believe that drone-a-puluza is a technical term, describing a festival of flying objects that is widely acclaimed, but which no one ever actually attends.

Another event, also happening in 2019 at Anderson Air Force base in Guam, involved repeated drone intrusions that appeared to be targeting the THAAD missile battery. This is The High Altitude Area Defense battery, which exists to shoot down ballistic missiles that may be targeted at the island or elsehwere. Only in the Guam incident were the drones described as “quadracopter-like” and having spotlights.

All of this suggests to me that something is happening in the Pacific Ocean.

Related to this, on March 27th, 2021, the Japanese military revealed their plans to upgrade their troop presence on the island of Yonaguni. This news comes to us from 6PArk news. Their slogan is “The only English News for Chinese people,” However, They did not ask my nationality and so I was able to read the story anyway. Thank you, 6park news.

Yonaguni, it should be noted is just 11 miles away from Taiwan. The Japanese government has been raising concerns lately about a possible invasion of Taiwan by the People’s Republic of China. Because Japan’s constitution limits military action by Japan to self-defense, Japan’s government has been scrambling to search for ways that they could legally justify coming to the aide of Taiwan in the event of a war.

However, the name Yonaguni may ring a bell for many of our listeners. Right off the shore of this island, is the famous underwater Japanese Pyramid.

An ancient ziggurat-like structure, it rises up from a depth of 25 meters that’s 82 feet. The complex, which appears to be a man-made step pyramind is over  165 feet (50 metres) long and some 65 feet (20 metres) wide

The existence of this precious monument, of completely unknown origin, on the island of Yonaguni, begs the question of whether the Japanese military is stepping up their presence because of China’s growing threats against Taiwan, or whether Japan is preparing to make a move to investigate, or at least secure, the underwater site.

All of these stories together – the stories about research being done on breakthrough new propulsion technologies, the drone swarms in the Pacific, and now the Japanese moving additional troops to an island near Taiwan. All these things suggest to me that we may be witnessing ‘cold war’ style action in the Pacific.

And the most obvious possibility is that the U.S., or China, or both are deploying some kind of wunderwaffen drone technology against the other. Wunderwaffen of course is German for “super weapon” and I use it refer to the advanced technologies sought by the Germans in both world war I and II in the hopes that they would acquire a technological edge.

But, there’s another possible twist. What if what’s happening is that all the increased military activity in the Pacific has stirred up an alien base, or even an undersea race – there could be advanced beings that share this planet with us, prefering to stay in the deep ocean. Perhaps these beings are witnessing the increased military activity in the Pacific – and they’ve started sending up drones to buzz the human militaries and say “please go away, we don’t want your naval paparazzis in our neigborhood.”

So, I think we’re looking at two possible layers here. Of course, there is the overt cold war between the United States and China, which is increasingly centered around Chinese agression against Taiwan. But then there may also be a standoff between humans and an underwater civilization, of some kind. This idea of multiple interacting standoffs creates the possibility of shifting alliances and advanced intrigue that could put the cold war to shame.

Or there could even be a breakaway human civilization operating in the Pacific. It’s possible that all the talented people out there who are sick and tired of the ngative energy on twitter have gone “John Galt” and built there own secret underwater city.

Speaking of twitter, Elon Musk recently made waves by tweeting about UFOs.

On March 22nd, Musk tweeted “Strongest argument against aliens” below his tweet were two graphs. One graph was labeled “camera resolution” and it showed a line increasingly exponentially. The second graph was labeled “UFO picture resolution” and it was a horizontal line.

The argument here, straightforward: if UFOs are alien spaceships, then we should have better photographic evidence of them today than we did in the late 1940s when people first started photographing them.

In my view, the best response to Musk’s tweet came from Russian-American scientist and podcasters, Lex Fridman, who simply replied to Musk “That is exactly what an alien would say.”

The worst reply came from a twitter account r/UFObelievers which purports to represent the UFO community on Reddit. Mind you this is a twitter account representing a Reddit commnity. Or purporting to anyhow.

Anyway, this account responded to Musk by repeatedly linking to stories of first-person reports about UFOs. At one point saying something to the effect of “how can all these people be lying?”

I became frustrated watching this. And I asked r/UFObelievers to please stop replying to Musk,unless you are going to actually address his argument. This acount responded to me with a DM that I cannot repeat on the air, and then blocked me. I’m sorry if I’ve hurt a fraction of Reddit’s UFO believing community. I am on your side, because I am sympethic to the extraterrestrial hypothesis. But before I’m on anyone’s side, I’m on the side of the truth. And one of the ways to get to the truth is to engage in the process of what Plato called ‘dialectic’ – this is argumentation with the aim of putting egos aside and finding the truth. When someone makes a good point, we should acknowledge the point, re-present it as charitably as possible, and respond with our own arguments and evidence, by addressing the strongest interpretation of their view.

As I see the argument Musk is making can be reconstructed like this:

If UFOS were concrete phyiscal craft, similar to our own air and spacecraft, we would expect them to be detailed. They might have tiny little exhaust pipes, or little hatches, little decals, and as our cameras got better, the photos of alien spacecraft would show more and more of these details.

It is troubling to the extraterrestrial hypothesis that this has not happened.

And yes: there are possible replies to this argument. One account maintained that modern cameras have an infrared filter, and UFOs broadcast in the infrared so they are being filtered out. I don’t get that argument because I have used camera phones to DETECT infrared. You will find that lights that are invisible to our eyes will show up as a ghostly white, at least camera phones from a few years ago.

Others on twitter maintained that UFOs propel themselves with powerful EM fields and this distorts their appearance. I thought this was fair.

It might also be maintained that UFOs are extra-dimensional craft, which are perhaps only partially in our universe at any time and hence won’t fully show up in photographs. Or they could be spiritual phenomena, that won’t show up on camereas at all. But note that these last two possibilities: extra-dimensional craft and spiritual phenomena, if they were true then the extra-terrestrial hypothesis WOULD be false. Strictly speaking, the extra-terrestrial hypothesis is the idea that some UFOs are merely advanced versions of the craft we already know – made by flesh and blood beings, similar to us, but probably originating from a different planet.

And there is another line of posible response to Musk’s argument, which is to challenge whether the premise of the argument – that camera resolution of UFOs has not improved. Because it seems to me that the U.S. Military is indicating that they now have decent infrared imagery on these craft. Indeed, former Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe recently went on cable news to say that the government has excellent senor information on UFOs. And he remarked on FOX News:

“There are instances where we don’t have good explanations for some of the things that we’ve seen,” he added. “And when that information becomes declassified, I’ll be able to talk a little bit more about that.”

Ratclif may be refering to the June 1st deadline for an intelligence report on UFOs. The December 27th stimulus bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump contains a section ordering the intelligence community to prepare a report on UFOs and their possible threat to national security, to the  Senate Intelligence Committee.

Senator Marco Rubio, who is on the Senate Intelligence Commitee, also addressed UFOs on Fox news saying:

Sen. Marco Rubio
Well, we have things flying over military installations over military exercises and other places. And we don’t know what it is. It isn’t ours. It isn’t anything that’s registered with the FAA, and in many cases, exhibits attributes of things. We’ve never seen technology, the kinds of technology we haven’t seen before. At least that’s what it seems like. I think you have to know what it is, or we have to try to know what it is. That’s my view of it without any preconceived notions, maybe there’s a logical explanation. Maybe it’s a, you know, something that can be explained away. Maybe it’s a foreign adversary who’s made a technological leap, as you’ve heard the former DNI said, whatever it is, we need to know the answer to it. The problem with this issue is every time you raise it, people get all nervous. Oh, does this mean UFOs and aliens and extraterrestrials? We don’t have to go So far, it’s very simple. There are things flying over national security installations. We don’t know who they are. I don’t know what it is it isn’t ours, we need to find out.

Well Said, Senator Marco Rubio.

So perhaps we can concede to Elon Musk that the UFOs arn’t looking great on our phone cameras. but any event, I think we can shelve our verdict on UFO evidence until June 1st, 2021.

So this remains the scariest possibility in my mind: that these UFOs that are buzzing American installations around the Pacific might be the product of an adversarial technological breakthrough. A Sino-Wunderwaffen would be a nightmare scenario. Let me describe why:

The United States has the greatest navy in the world. And we plan around using our navy to project military might in the event of a war. We have these enormous carriers and carrier groups. These flotillas of ships can shoot down planes, fire missiles that land onshore, sink ships, and launch bombing raids using carrier-based aircraft. There has been a growing fear that in the event of a war, the Chinese might sink the American navy using their huge masses of ballistic missiles.

Ballistic missiles are missiles that use a parabolic trajectory – they go way up in the air, then they fall down out of the sky and they come straight down on their target. There are not neccesarily atomic weapons. The SCUD missiles used by Iraq in a failed attempt to prevent U.S. Invasion in 1993 and then again in 2001 were ballistic missiles. These missiles were notoriously inaccurate and ineffective, but the Chinese are much more advanced today than the Iraqis were in 2001, and they are believed to have much better ballistic missiles, plus other kinds of missiles in development – like hypersonic cruise missiles.

Well, despite this, the advantage has traditionally been anticipated to the U.S. Navy, because the Pacific ocean is enormous. And even a carrier can move 30 knots. And so just by zigzagging randomly, our ships can become almost impossible to target using ballistic missiles, or hypersonic missiles. There’s always a big gap in time between finding a ship in the ocean, asking for a missile to be fired, firing the missle, and then getting the missile to the target.

the best way to target a ship is to keep eyeballs on it. Not literally, but some kind of targeting device that updates targeting information in real-time, so that your missiles can be launched as accurately as possible or even guided in flight to the target.

So, my terrifying dark thought is: what if these weird super-performing UFOs that have been buzzing U.S. Ships and airplanes in the Pacific are Chinese? And what if their function is to guide missile attacks on U.S. Ships?

This is no laughing matter. This is really scary because it does appear that the Chinese Communist Party is gearing for an invasion of the free and independent nation of Taiwan – a close U.S. Ally, and a nation which the U.S. Is treaty-bound to defend. In recent months, the Chinese have been increasingly infiltrating the Taiwanese airspace, – which is illegal, but they do it anyway. They have also been massing ships in the South China sea, sparking confrontation with the Phillipnes. They have constructed an enormous military-grade heliopad just across the strait from the island of Taiwan – this would be perfect for loading soldiers onto helicopters and then helicoptering the 100 miles to Taiwan.

So, my sense is that the world is headed for a war in the Pacific. On one side will be the People’s Republic of China. On the other will be Taiwan, The United States, and Japan. If you throw in the possibiility that the Chinese have a wunderwaffen, it becomes even more terrifying.

Of course, as terrifying as it is, it is not exactly occult and parnaormal news. So why cover it? After all, probably the biggest mainstream news of THIS week is Russia’s immenient invasion of Ukraine. As an aside, I’m seeing all kinds of photos on twitter of Russian military convoys rushing through the crimea, and Belarus, headed for the Ukranian border. It looks like Russia is about to launch an invasion of that country. But I am completely skipping over that story to discuss issues related to a conflict that may be months or even years away.

Well, I think that we need to be aware of the larger context in order to asess the strange news coming out of the Pacific Ocean. Clearly, this region is fast becoming a locus for intrigue and espionage, if not also magic and mystery.

I HOPE that some of my own wilder hypotheses are grounded in reality – I would be delighted if turns out that there is an underwater civilization ir alien base in the Pacific. Those interested in thinking about this may wish to read John Wyndam’s classic novella “The Kraken Wakes” in which aliens that can only survive deep underwater invade Earth by landing in the Pacific. Also, Peter Watts has a 1999 book “Starfish” which describes genetically modified humans scrapping by in an undersea base – a kind of late 20th century homage to the island of Dr. Moreau. These are the fun, weird, possibilities we can use fiction as a crutch to think through. They’re worth entertaning because they’re interesting and they might be true!

At the same time, we should be informed about the more prosaic possibility – there are a lot of professional warriors – in the U.S. And China – who are highly motivated to keep the rest of us in the dark about what THEY are doing in the Pacific region. These character are up to all sorts of trouble in the Pacific. Meanwhile, their cloak and dagger counterparts are actively working to keep us all in the dark about the nature of that trouble.

I will continue to cover the increasingly enigmatic Pacific threatre, as this situation heats up.

Until next time, I have been your host Dane,

Stay strange

and Stay Sane.


#20 – Interview with A Skunk Ape Experiencer Show Notes

We first came across Amanda’s story on Youtube at: