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Rupert Sheldrake

Rupert Sheldrake (1942 – ) is a former Cambridge biochemist raised in a British Methodist family. His work aims to integrate science and spirituality.

Rupert Sheldrake, Toward a Science of Consciou...

Rupert Sheldrake, Toward a Science of Consciousness, Tucson, Arizona (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Seven Experiments Which Could Change the World (1994), Sheldrake outlines low-cost experiments that readers are encouraged to perform.

One experiment deals with ESP perception as a form of “looking.” Sheldrake asks why we sense somebody looking at us from behind or even at some distance (e.g. through a window). He suggests that some type of intuitive instead of conventional perception is involved. This idea is followed up in Dogs that Know When Their Owners are Coming Home, and Other Unexplained Powers of Animals (1999).

In keeping with this hypothesis, his subsequent book was called, The Sense of Being Stared At, And Other Aspects of the Extended Mind (2003).

Sheldrake conducted controlled experiments on telephone precognition. He found significant results suggesting that people knew when others were about to call them on the telephone, with a sample size of 63. A similar kind of precognition was also found with an e-mail experiment, with a sample size of 50.

In 2009, at the time of the last update of this entry, his website asked: “Have you thought of someone who then sends you a text message?” inviting visitors to report their observations through the web.

Sheldrake continues to publish books containing his interviews and dialogues with other notables in the New Age / Holistic Health circuit. He also replies to critics who say he’s lost touch with recent theories in neurobiology and, indeed, abandoned science in favor of so-called magical thinking.

I almost changed the world today – PhotoGraham

However, not all scientists are at odds with his views. The late physicist David Bohm said Sheldrake’s ideas are in keeping with his own about an “implicate and explicate order.”

More recently, Sheldrake critiques scientists for being authoritarian and narrow-minded in his 2012 publication The Science Delusion (Science Set Free). Wikipedia notes:

In the book Sheldrake proposes a number of questions as the theme of each chapter which seek to elaborate on his central premise that science is predicated on the belief that the nature of reality is fully understood, with only minor details needing to be filled in. This “delusion” is what Sheldrake argues has turned science into a series of dogmas grounded in philosophical materialism rather than an open-minded approach to investigating phenomena. He argues that there are many powerful taboos that circumscribe what scientists can legitimately direct their attention towards.[80]:6–12 The mainstream view of modern science is that it proceeds by methodological naturalism and does not require philosophical materialism.[81]

English: Photograph of David Bohm, taken from ...

Celebrated physicist David Bohm supported Sheldrake’s agenda (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sheldrake questions conservation of energy; he calls it a “standard scientific dogma”,[80]:337 says that perpetual motion devices and inedia should be investigated as possible phenomena,[80]:72–73 and has stated that “the evidence for energy conservation in living organisms is weak”.[80]:83 He argues in favour of alternative medicine and psychic phenomena, saying that their recognition as being legitimate is impeded by a “scientific priesthood” with an “authoritarian mentality”.[80]:327 Citing his earlier “psychic staring effect” experiments and other reasons, he stated that minds are not confined to brains and remarks that “liberating minds from confinement in heads is like being released from prison”.[80]:229 He suggests that DNA is insufficient to explain inheritance, and that inheritance of form and behaviour is mediated through morphic resonance.[80]:157–186 He also promotes morphic resonance in broader fashion as an explanation for other phenomena such as memory.¹

Sheldrake’s website currently offers a telephone telepathy test and a joint attention test, research anyone can participate in.²

For more on his work, see Morphic resonance, Morphic fields, Morphogenetic Fields and articles relating to Sheldrake.


² The telephone test is limited to those with the required technology and geolocation.

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In contemporary usage the word “ticket” is slang for an alleged type of paranormal punishment or retribution for boundaries being crossed or other perceived transgressions.

In the song “Suffragette City” (1972) pop musician David Bowie uses the word “ticket” to denote a potential punishment to be meted out in response to another’s undesirable act:

“Don’t lean on me man, ‘cos you can’t afford the ticket.”

With much of Bowie’s work, there’s room for psychological, social and metaphysical interpretation. In this case its unclear whether Bowie is portraying paranormal or more ordinary forms of retribution. However, his creative genius often spawns lyrics connoting several levels of meaning. And in the 1970s Bowie used mind-altering substances which conceivably could have given him some kind of glimpse into the unknown.


David Bowie promotional photo for the album Aladdin Sane RCA Records in 1973. Fair Use / Fair Dealing rationale.

If this sounds far-fetched, we’d do well to remember that Mexican shamans speak of different metaphysical planes or grids of spiritual power, and have been using hallucinogenic peyote for years. This fact was popularized by Carlos Castenada in The Teachings of Don Juan (1968) and in other Castenada books. So to suggest that the Caucasian David Bowie is necessarily any different could be seen as a kind of reverse discrimination.

Mind-altering substances aside, shamanic warriors in various cultures apparently need no drugs to enter a kind of inner space where subtle battles are fought, bringing about tangible effects in daily life. Whether or not these inner battles are just hallucinatory fabrications or real phenomena remains unknown because these kind of paranormal claims do not lend themselves to our conventional understanding of scientific experimentation.

Related Posts » Shamanism


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Aleister Crowley

Aleister Crowley via Tumblr

Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) was an English magician who called himself “the Beast of the Apocalypse.” He claimed to be in touch with astral realms and beings, including his guardian angel, with whom he allegedly conversed with.

Emphasizing the two different spellings, he made a distinction between purportedly real magick and stage magic.

A bisexual, Crowley’s methods often entailed sex, garbed rituals, and blood sacrifice.  This scandalized some and attracted others. Believing (or perhaps just saying) he reached the highest level of spiritual attainment, Crowley took a dim view of those who pegged him a black magician. He, in fact, sued Nina Hamnett, an artist, for describing him as black magician in her book, Laughing Torso (1932). However, Crowley lost the case and was plunged into bankruptcy.

Perhaps revealing the subconscious hypocrisy of the era, the judge who ruled against him spoke thus:

I have been over forty years engaged in the administration of the law in one capacity or another. I thought that I knew of every conceivable form of wickedness. I thought that everything which was vicious and bad had been produced at one time or another before me. I have learnt in this case that we can always learn something more if we live long enough. I have never heard such dreadful, horrible, blasphemous and abominable stuff as that which has been produced by the man (Crowley) who describes himself to you as the greatest living poet. —Mr. Justice Swift ¹

Crowley’s books remain somewhat popular today, especially within some circles of the New Age and contemporary Gnostic movements. And the British, in particular, uphold him as an important figure.² However, some see him as embodying all the worst characteristics of the upper class Victorians; that is, a racist sense of superiority mingled with a fascination with people of color.³

Whatever the case may be, it seems doubtful that Crowley reached the highest high of spiritual attainment. One can’t help but compare to Jesus, who patiently endured slander, flogging and murder to prove a point—namely, that there’s more to life than what’s down here.


² In 2002, a BBC poll described him as being the seventy-third greatest Briton of all time.

³  wiki/Aleister_Crowley, op. cit.



Macbeth and Banquo Meeting the Witches on the ...

Macbeth and Banquo Meeting the Witches on the Heath, Chassériau 1855 via Wikipedia

The root of the word glamour (or glamor) comes from the Scottish glaumour (a corrupt form of grammar) and the French grimoire

Glamour originally refers to knowledge of the occult, such as the questionable art of black magic found in the Middle Ages. This could have involved magical spells cast by witches to make ugly persons or things appear beautiful.

Interestingly enough, the three witches in Shakespeare‘s Macbeth (1603 and 1607) proclaim that the young Scot will become Thane of Glamis.

While there doesn’t appear to be any strong etymological connection between glamis and glamour – especially since the first (surviving) written appearance of the English word glamour is 1720 – it’s possible that Shakespeare is playing on known words² that hadn’t yet been written. Or possibly he was intuiting future usage (after all, many creative geniuses do seem to get glimpses of the future).

Glamis hath murdered sleep, and therefore Cawdor Shall sleep no more, Macbeth shall sleep no more!”³

While this connection might seem a little far fetched, maybe it isn’t. Scholars suggest that the three witches use their otherworldly wiles to subtly tempt Macbeth through prophecies of worldly power and glory.

While the witches do not tell Macbeth directly to kill King Duncan, they use a subtle form of temptation when they tell Macbeth that he is destined to be king. By placing this thought in his mind, they effectively guide him on the path to his own destruction. This follows the pattern of temptation used at the time of Shakespeare.4

In any case, Macbeth’s worldly success didn’t do him much good. He ended up beheaded and his name became “a hotter name than any is in hell.”5

¹ “glamour | glamor, n.”. OED Online. December 2011. Oxford University Press.

² Just as modern writers make a play on, for instance, history and herstory.




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J. M. W. Turner's painting of the Golden Bough...

"The Golden Bough" by J. M. W. Turner via Wikipedia

Broadly speaking, magic is the use of supernatural power to cause an effect on or gain knowledge of people, souls, animals, vegetation, objects, the elements and events. Magical procedures may involve elaborate ritual and are variously directed towards the past, present, future and afterlife or some combination thereof.

A distinction is usually made between white and black magic. White magic is allegedly intended to help people. Black magic is revengeful with the intent to harm others and thus more clearly evil.

The celebrated anthropologist Sir James Frazer (1854–1938) made a primary distinction between sympathetic and contagious magic.

Sympathetic magic is the belief that one event causes another, so the magician imitates a desired outcome. A positive example would be painting animals on a cave wall in the belief that this will enrich the hunt. A negative example would be believing that a barren woman is the cause of a blighted crop.

Contagious magic is based on the belief that things once in physical contact or proximity continue to have a magical connection after they’re separated.

The most familiar example of Contagious Magic is the magical sympathy which is supposed to exist between a man and any severed portion of his person, as his hair or nails; so that whoever gets possession of human hair or nails may work his will, at any distance, upon the person from whom they were cut. This superstition is world-wide.¹

Another distinction is made between magic and religion. As Joachim Wach (1898-1955) suggests:

Religion differs from magic in that it is not concerned with control or manipulation of the powers confronted. Rather it means submission to, trust in, and adoration of, what is apprehended as the divine nature of ultimate reality.²

However S. G. F. Brandon says this is a biased perspective:

…such attempts generally rest on a priori definitions of the two entities concerned.³

Sociologists also point out similarities between magical and religious rituals. However, structural similarities do not necessarily entail equivalence.

We could, for instance, say that Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) and New York are both big cities. Each has roads, buildings, people, movie halls and markets. But anyone visiting these two locales will be struck by their differences.

While an outsider may think that religious and magical rituals look the same and bring about similar results, to believers (on both sides) the numinous results differ dramatically. Modern magicians often say (or imply) that religious ritual is just an empty shell, cut off from any spiritual meaning it may have once had. Meanwhile, many contemporary religious persons shun magical rituals, often saying that the result brings about a kind of dark, gloomy, heavy and obscuring spirituality that is the work of evil.

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¹ Sir James George Frazer (1854–1941). The Golden Bough.  1922.

² Joachim Wach, The Comparative Study of Religions, ch. 2, Columbia University Press (1958), cited in The Columbia World of Quotations, 1996.

³ Dictionary of Comparative Religion, ed. S. G. F. Brandon, New York: Charles Scribners & Sons, 1970, p. 418.

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