Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Remnants from Regions Beyond

The medium and the sitters gather in a circle at a small table. The medium, in a deep trance, tilts her head to the side and a white substance starts to seep from her nose and ear and starts to take a life of its own as it floats nearby the medium’s head. The other sitters in the room try to peer through the near-darkness to grasp the true shape of the form drifting before them. In other instances, sitters will claim to see faces in the floating gelatinous material. The medium, will come awake with a start and the lights will be brought up and the white slimy substance is gone and another medium makes paranormal history with the manifestation of ectoplasm.
I recently had a very interesting conversation with a dear friend about seances and the history of the phenomena associated with them. Then the subject came to ectoplasm. The history of when it was first experienced if it was even real. I have found the history of it as slippery as the substance itself. Many believe that the person who first discovered the phenomena was Thomas Vaughn, a 17th Century alchemist, but the first person to describe ectoplasm is Emmanuel Swedenborg who wrote:
“…a kind of vapour steaming from the pores of my body. It was a most visible watery vapour and fell downwards to the ground upon the carpet.”
But it will not be until 1884 will the term for the phenomena be called ectoplasm from Charles Richet, a physiologist and psychical explorer. He used the Greek words ektos which means outside and plasma meaning something formed or molded. The best definition that I could find was this:
a supernatural viscous substance that is supposed to exude from the body of a medium during a spiritualistic trance and form the material for the manifestation of spirits.
Arthur Conan Doyle, famed author of Sherlock Holmes and ardent Spiritualist defined it as:
"a viscous, gelatinous substance which appeared to differ from every known form of matter in that it could solidify and be used for material purposes".
And unlike the popular feelings of ectoplasm from movies such as Ghostbusters, it isn’t a residue left behind by the spirits. No one “gets slimed”. It is, if it truly even exists, supposedly a fluid like substance that comes from the medium and can supposedly pick up small objects, form hands and faces and may even interact with the medium or the other sitters. A pop refence that comes to mind is the extraterrestrials from the James Cameron movie The Abyss. I even found a contemporary source that states that ectoplasm formed a complete woman and that the woman could communicate via writing and that the same “manifestation” left an impression of her hand in paraffin for the sitters.
Now, you hear the examples of this phenomena and it sounds fantastical and I long to see it immediately. Then you see the pictures…Oh boy.
To say they are hokey is an understatement. I have never found a photo that portrayed ectoplasmic manifestations and not notice the effect allegedly displayed as amateur at best. If it looks like cheesecloth with a glove on the end, then guess what…it most likely is. A face made a of paper mache? Obvious. I have even seen pictures with realistic faces on them and then when the picture is blown up you noticed it’s a page from a magazine. Many mediums who claimed that they could manifest this phenomena and had photographic proof were brought to heel. Mediums were searched before the seances which made some mediums very clever in where they hid the cloth. I’ll leave THAT to your imagination.
A common theory out there was that real ectoplasm needed to be photographed with infrared film because of the sensitivity of the manifestation itself. Mediums claimed that ectoplasm was sensitive to light and would disappear rapidly back into the medium if the lights were turned on. I researched the history of infrared film and yes, it was available at the turn of the century and was even more readily available by the 1930s BUT this type of film required even longer exposure times than normal film and so capturing an image would be extremely difficult considering the objects fluid-like state. And has anyone seen an infrared image of ectoplasm?
I do not completely dismiss ectoplasm, some of the earlier sources seemed very certain in its authenticity and so warrants further investigation as to its existence and how it is truly manifested. Sadly, the charlatans of the day tarnished it but we must always pursue the truth. No matter where it goes and what it reveals.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Samuel Clemens

I am an avid reader, and as much as I love history and historical research, I cannot pass up good literature. As a teacher of California history, I advise you to read the works of Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain). They are a true slice of Early America as well as an extremely fun read. But what a lot of people don’t know is that he was also very much into Spiritualism and how an accident when he was a younger man turned this quick-witted genius into a believer of the paranormal.
The year was 1858, Samuel and his brother Henry were working as steersmen on a river boat named the Pennsylvania that traveled from St Louis to New Orleans. Samuel helped Henry get the job on the packet and they were inseparable.
One night, Samuel woke from a prophetic dream. He dreamed he saw his brother lying in a metal coffin, wearing one of Samuel’s suits. The coffin was placed upon two chairs and on his brother’s chest was a wreath of white roses with a red rose in the center of the wreath. At the time of his dream, Samuel was in New Orleans while his brother was on board the Pennsylvania. Before the steamboat had departed without him, Twain had advised Henry that he should not lose his head in case of trouble. “Leave that to the unwisdom of the passengers,” he told him. He urged Henry that, after seeing to the safety of the women and the children, he should swim for shore himself. Twain knew how common accidents were and he wanted to make sure that Henry would not do anything foolhardy.
Just a few days after the boat left New Orleans, the boiler exploded. Samuel was able to make it quickly to Memphis, close to where the accident happened, and found his brother, gravely wounded in a hospital. Sadly though, his wounds were not what caused the death of Henry, but an accidental overdose of morphine by an inexperienced doctor. The funeral expenses were paid for by a local Memphis Women’s Group for all the victims of the disaster. All of the coffins for the victims were made of white pine. Henry’s though, was made of metal. He was, as in the dream, wearing one of Samuel’s suits. When Samuel was sitting next to his brother’s body, an elderly woman walked past and placed a wreath of white roses on Henry’s chest, complete with the single red rose at the center, completing his prophetic dream.
Samuel Clemens had many other prophetic dreams and he explored what he called “thought transference”, which reading how he described it, comes off as a sense of clairvoyance. He will later join the Psychical Research Society in 1885. Over the years, Clemens will have many brushes with what he admits may be paranormal in nature, including feeling odd cold spots and other phenomena surrounding the passing of loved ones.
Mark Twain. American humorist, newspaperman, paranormal investigator.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The Baphomet

Sometimes inspiration just comes and lands in your lap, or in a text, same thing. I have always been interested in symbolism and how they can be misinterpreted and how the symbol has changed through the ages. Today, I want to discuss the infamous Baphomet.

The figure that we now know today has a shady past to say the least. It was said to be the downfall of the Knights Templar, to the Pan-like god worshipped by Freemasons and it even gave birth to the first third political party, the Anti-Masonic Party.

The birth of Baphomet goes back to the Crusades, but not as you would think. It was told that the Infidels in the Holy land would pray to Baphomet before engaging in battle. Well....kinda. The word that we use today, Baphomet is actually the French bastardization of the word Mahomet, or Mohammad, the Prophet of Islam. Its not the first time language changed and words invented simply out of mistranslation.

This would of course lead to the fall of the Knights Templar. Hollywood can always put a spin on history and the Knights Templar are ripe for romanticizing and demonizing at the same time. I will make it though as plain as possible. The Knights Templar are a religious order created during the Crusades to help retake the Holy Land and to protect pilgrims. They ALSO invented a modern banking system which made them a powerful financial player in Europe and they bankrolled a goodly portion of the Crusades in certain areas making this humble order very wealthy.. Phillip the IV or Phillip the Fair of France was heavily indebted to the Templars by the early 1300s. Soooooooo….when Phillip started having financial troubles himself, what do you do? You eradicate the person you owe the most to. Its like planting a bomb at your least favorite credit card company headquarters. The Knights were trumped up as worshippers of "Baphomet" or secret Muslims and many were wiped out or were on the run from the law and the Church. This will give rise to the Church of Rosslyn stories as well as the Masonic/ Templar legends.

Now lets jump to the Victorians. Freemasonry was at its height by the end of the 1700s so by the early 1800s it had its haters. There was a long line of people who used the Templar story and combined it with idol worship and that is how Baphomet got its "goat-like" appearance. BUT it wasn't until Eliphas Levi did we get that Pan-like figure we now today call Baphomet. Levi, born Alphonse Louis Constant, was a bitter former Catholic and sadly a Freemason who started dabbling into the occult and became a huge influence in Victorian occultism. Baphomet will make its first appearance in a book written by him called in Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie, or the Dogma and Ritual of High Magic in 1856.

So...how did Baphomet get associated with Freemasonry? By mudslinging of course. In American in the 1820s rose the Anti-Masonic party, the first third political party. And they were an active political party for nearly 20 years. This will come out of the Morgan Affair which was where a Mason by the name of William Morgan threatened to expose all Masonic secrets in a book and then he disappeared, allegedly murdered. This became a keystone in a political movement to uproot the current political members who had Masonic connections. In Europe, it was no different, Anti-Masonic parties rose up and the best way to discredit them is to make them the villain, even if it makes them "devil worshippers". Masons, being ever one to make the best of a bad situation, made the goat a humorous part of Masonic lore, thus to "ride the goat".