Re-Membering Giordano Bruno

History is a narrative, whose plot is often guided by the mistakes of well meaning scholars repeating errors and misrepresentations that have crept into the academic discourse. This usually happens due to the vast amount of information available, and the necessity to triage resources while pursuing tangential investigations of a specific topic.  A good example of this is the legacy of Giordano Bruno, who has been labeled a “proto-scientist,” his legacy and martyrdom becoming a rhetorical device lauded by popular figures, like the physicist Michio Kaku, to highlight a sacrifice for humanistic science and free thought.

This image of Bruno has developed out of the strange and stilted public debate on the supposed conflict between religion and science, and the Catholic church’s ignoble position of having been the ruling worldly power during a long period of transition from ancient culture to our contemporary world. The lessons of the 20th century show us that had secular powers been in control, we still cannot be assured the persecutions, bloodshed and atavistic thinking could have been averted. The truth is beyond category, religious or secular, (those debating should read some of Bruno’s works!,) and this particular debate between those who take it upon themselves to represent the world’s faith traditions and those representing empirical science has done little to aid in humanity’s spiritual or empirical development.

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Fight the Real Enemy – A Prophetic Encounter with Sinead O’Connor

On October 3rd, 1992 Sinead O’Connor performed a slightly revised rendition of the Bob Marley song ‘War,’ for an episode of Saturday Night Life, in which she highlighted the complicity of the Catholic hierarchy in aiding and abetting child abuse and molestation, and the further consequences that this has had on global culture.  Her performance ended with her stating, “Fight the real enemy,” while tearing up a picture of Pope John Paul II.

Thrown to the Wolves

Reports from the time show that none of the executives associated with Saturday Night Live were willing to voice support for her actions, and allowed future guests, such as Joe Pesci and Madonna, the freedom to mock and deride the message that O’Connor was trying to impart. She was even boo’ed at a Bob Dylan tribute concert held shortly after her SNL appearance, despite the fact that Dylan’s music, for his time, was filled with the same kind of detached, simple social consciousness that O’Connor was representing in her actions.

Madonna even went so far as to mention the incident during an interview with the Irish Times, saying:

“I think there is a better way to present her ideas rather than ripping up an image that means a lot to other people…If she is against the Roman Catholic Church and she has a problem with them, I think she should talk about it.”

When O’Connor did release an open letter, she highlighted how her statement came not only from a political standpoint, but also reflected the fact that she was personally abused within the culture of neglect being obfuscated and covered up by the Catholic church. The choice of Bob Marley’s song ‘War,” was also symbolic in that, as an Irish citizen, she saw first hand how, over centuries of struggle, Irish sovereignty and culture have been ravaged by British and Catholic imperialism.  These very same issues and cultural drivers which have ravaged the Caribbean culture that spawned Marley.

O’Connor Was Right

Today we can see this incident in a different light. Since 1992 the Catholic church has been exposed as being unthinkably complicit in abuse, and no one (outside of blindly devoted Catholics) would find O’Connor’s actions as anything other than timely and poignant. In light of what has come about, those who vilified her with such arrogance appear to be not only fools, but viciously complicit themselves in supporting the power structure that allows these kind of unconscionable actions to continue.

Madonna’s ignorant support of “an image that means a lot to other people,” seems incredibly naive, if not simply stupid, when we look at what that picture actually represents.  This doesn’t even take into account the disingenuous nature of her comments considering her own use of Catholic imagery to spark controversy. Many articles from the time point out that some of her reaction was based on the fact that she was promoting her album Erotica, along with her book, Sex, and in one evening Sinead O’Connor stole the show without having to play the savage and self-debasing media game that Madonna has become so adept at.  In mocking O’Connor, some of that media attention could be pulled back to her own career, and for once, she wasn’t the one being held up as a pariah.

Continuing the Fight

With the recent publication of an open letter to Miley Cyrus, O’Connor shows that the issues she was addressing 21 years ago have yet to be put to rest. Cyrus is a protege of Madonna’s approach to the media, relying on provocation and hype to promote her career, while ignoring the fact that those making the most profit off of her work and freewheeling lifestyle have no goal outside of their own wealth and pleasures.

While serious debates were occurring over the question of military action in Syria, Cyrus’ appearance on the MTV Music Awards provided a popular distraction to the reality of what is currently happening on the global stage. Then as now, to have such figures feature so prominently in the media acts as a buffer and blind to the power players manipulating our culture, and distracts from relevant conversations that could be had if celebrities took stands like O’Connor did in the early 90′s.

Every action that she has taken to bring a serious message forward has been related by the mainstream media as “ruining her career” or “troubled,” with more focus on her hair than her message,while Madonna’s continuous self-abasement has been seen as the sign of a strong woman.  It is sad, and telling, that most folks in the United States probably remember the SNL event as “the time that bald chick ripped up a picture of the Pope,” and have no sense of how relevant it was then, and how prophetic it has been for what came after.

Same As It Ever Was

The ‘real enemy‘ that O’Connor addressed in her SNL performance is not the Pope, it is our reliance on heavily manipulated images and illusions to guide our decisions in what we think is acceptable and right in society. O’Connor’s actions called out the beast, as time has shown that all those media figures and organizations that rushed to attack her were merely aiding the protection of organized child abuse around the world. Turning the world’s terror into a cartoon, just another day in the life of mainstream media.

In drawing these issues to the fore again, O’Connor continues to speak out against the numb reaction of society to being swept away in the masturbatory whims of industry moguls, anemic executives, and political parasites who prove time and again incapable of supporting, nurturing or even considering actions that would lead us into viable cultural solutions. Perhaps, if more people step forward with O’Connor’s fiery simplicity, in another 21 years we can begin to see some desperately needed changes to how we view media, celebrity and the future of our global civilization.

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David Metcalfe is an independent researcher, writer and multimedia artist focusing on the interstices of art, culture, and consciousness. He is a contributing editor for Reality Sandwich, The Revealer, the online journal of NYU’s Center for Religion and Media, and The Daily Grail. He writes regularly for Evolutionary Landscapes, Alarm Magazine, Modern Mythology, Disinfo.com, The Teeming Brain and his own blog The Eyeless Owl. His writing has been featured in The Immanence of Myth (Weaponized 2011), Chromatic: The Crossroads of Color & Music (Alarm Press, 2011) and Exploring the Edge Realms of Consciousness (North Atlantic/Evolver Editions 2012). Metcalfe is an Associate with Phoenix Rising Digital Academy, and is currently co-hosting The Art of Transformations study group with support from the International Alchemy Guild.

Hidden in Opposition – Observations on Obeah, Santa Muerte and the Veiled Potency of Folk Practice

“Obeah is notoriously difficult to define for those searching for a coherent system by this name. Obeah is, like witchcraft, a sorcerous art exercised by the one who possesses the ‘obi’ – or power. The Obeahman or woman inherits a particular power that aids effectively in enhancing the potency of their spellcraft, duppy-catching and sorcery.”

- From Obeah: A Sorcerous Ossuary, by Nicholaj De Mattos Frisvold

It was Santa Muerte who lead me to Obeah, or rather lead me more deeply into the question of Obeah after I had touched on it earlier while researching the cultural influence of mail-order occultist L.W. de Laurence. In searching out the popular streams, occult ephemera, and urban materia magica that attend to La Nina Bonita’s contemporary public emergence I encountered a deeper understanding of Obeah, an Afro-Latin spirituality that shares with Her a similar confusion in terms of practice and public persona.

These are ghost spiritualities, names spoken in hushed tones, complicated by fear, adoration, respect, and care. To find and understand their devotions is not possible through texts and dispossessed investigation, one must seek their very heart, and in doing so accept the price of seeing beyond the social boundaries that hold us safely in our comfortably commodified identities.

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Educating the Potential Human – Skepticism, Psychical Research and a New Age of Reason

Seeking Harmony

After a recent investigation into the public presentation of anomalistic science (as detailed at The Teeming Brain,) it’s fairly clear to me (if it wasn’t painfully so already) that much of the information being fed into the popular consciousness is nothing more than hyped up fantasy fixed and formatted for mass mediated consumption. With Dean Radin’s new book, Supernormal, reaching the top if it’s sales categories on Amazon, and ranking high in the Nielsen ratings, there is an obvious desire for more detailed investigations of these areas that go beyond the paranormalist freak show and the skeptical sub-culture’s deflated debunking.

The binary argument of real vs. fake, of truth vs. fraud, or any such division, is merely a set up to market to one side or the other, and both proponents and defamers alike rely on each other to stoke the fires of contention so that an audience lulled by the rhythms of the work place will feel called to seek some solace in the untenable possibilities of the unknown, or the thin empowerment of a pseudo-scientific righteousness found in the knowledge that all their dreams and fears from childhood have been firmly put to bed by the cold light of rational, technological progress.

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Taking Back Transmedia

“Might we contrive one of those opportune falsehoods … so as by one noble lie to persuade if possible the rulers themselves, but failing that the rest of the city.”

- Plato in The Republic

“If you read it, you will be infected. If you are infected you will be InFicted. If you are InFicted, you will get UnFucted. “

- Joseph Matheny

Those who entered the digital world in the late 80’s and early 90’s were introduced to a nearly unfathomable host of possibilities for media and creativity. DVD’s offered the potential for integrative experiences that tracked user preferences and allowed for multiple story formats which changed with each viewing based on previous use, virtual reality models held the possibility for turning these experiences fully immersive, cell phones and wireless technology promised an unthought of openness to it all, and the internet allowed everyone to dream of a fully connected, creative global conversation that synchronized each aspect into a beautifully coordinated whole. Looking back on those dreams in light of growing concerns over surveillance, advertising, neuromarketing and the like one might wonder what happened to turn the dream into a lousy cold war sitcom.

It was a recent note from my friend Joseph Matheny that shuffled the dust around in my memory and made me realize that my current experience with technology isn’t quite as conducive to creativity as promised. Matheny is about to begin a series of classes for University of California – Santa Barbara (Click Here for More Information) that will cover the basics of multimedia and transmedia production, and I was glad to hear that his insights were going to be available to creatives coming into the field at a serious level. Hopefully it will bring some focus back to what these tools were intended for originally in the minds of their creators.

As one of the early pioneers in multimedia, his alternate reality game Ong’s Hat has become a reminder of what is possible with today’s technology, and a kick in the ass to today’s creatives that are allowing this potential to be misused, abused and denigrated by marketers and media corporations. Matheny’s vision of transmedia production doesn’t end with a shiny bit of intellectual property, it ends with reformatting the mytho-poetic infrastructure of consensus reality.

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Considering Ghost Hunters as Cultural Workers

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An experiment in digital tractology with inspiration from Deonna Kelli Sayed, author of Paranormal Obsession: America’s Fascination with Ghosts & Hauntings, Spooks & Spirits(Llewellyn, September 2011) and So You Want to Hunt Ghosts: A Down-To-Earth Guide (Llewellyn, October 2012).

Sayed’s article Why Ghost Hunter’s are Culturally Cool  brings a sharp focus on community storytelling, cultural responsibility and collective memory to the field of paranormal investigation. This digital tract attempts to condense some of these ideas into a cohesive vision through the use of digital bibliomancy, cut-up technique and collage.

Note: Use of the ‘Pause’ button on the slide show is recommended for maximum comprehension and readability. 

George Hansen at the Observatory – Brooklyn

Shannon Taggart and Liminal Analytics: Applied Research Collaborative recently hosted George Hansen, author of the seminal Trickster and the Paranormal, for a series of talks at the Observatory in Brooklyn, NY. For those who were unable to attend in person, the talks are now available on Youtube!

A History of Parapsychology and Psychical Research

Whatever Happened to Parapsychology?

George Hansen was professionally employed in parapsychology laboratories for eight years—three at the Rhine Research Center in Durham, North Carolina, and five at Psychophysical Research Laboratories in Princeton, New Jersey.  His experiments included remote viewing, card guessing, ganzfeld, electronic random number generators, séance phenomena, and ghosts. His papers in scientific journals cover mathematical statistics, fraud and deception, the skeptics movement, conjurors in parapsychology, and exposés of hoaxes.  He has been active in a number of psychic, UFO, and New Age organizations, and he helped found a skeptics group. He is a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.

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