Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Vale, Stanton Friedman

Mac Tonnies and Stan Friedman at the 2006
New Frontiers Symposium in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

"The American-born nuclear physicist turned full-time UFO investigator - or ufologist - never actually spotted a flying saucer himself in more than six decades of research on the subject... But UFO believers and enthusiasts around the world held him in high regard, and he gave more than 700 lectures titled “Flying Saucers Are Real” at institutions in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and elsewhere over the course of his career.

Throughout his career, Friedman was aggressive about his beliefs and always claimed to have an answer to whatever question the “debunkers” - as he often referred to UFO skeptics - could throw at him. One of his most famous sayings was: “Don't be an apologist ufologist.”

The editor of UFO Truth Magazine, Gary Heseltine, described Friedman as the 'greatest ufologist of all time.'"

- Excerpt from a Newsweek article reporting on the passing of Stanton Friedman, May 13th of this year.

"Despite intermittent correspondence and having read his books, I'd never actually seen Stan Friedman in person until the Symposium. It was worth the wait. Stan's a virtuoso speaker and makes a provocative case against both the "SETI cultists" (his term -- and an apt one) and the "noisy negativists" who deride the possibility that some UFOs could very well be extraterrestrial craft. Regardless of your take on the Roswell incident, one of Friedman's pet cases, there are few, if any, rational arguments against his modest proposition that technological progress comes from doing things in unexpected ways."

- Mac Tonnies from an October 18, 2006 PHB post.

"In "TOP SECRET/MAJIC," Friedman provides a detailed examination of the Roswell UFO crash and subsequent cover-up, challenging the reader with an exhaustive analysis of the "MJ-12" documents: apparent TOP SECRET documents detailing security procedures in the wake of the Roswell Incident. Friedman also tears into the criticisms of arch-debunkers Philip Klass and Carl Sagan. "TOP SECRET/MAJIC" includes the never-before-published "SOM1-01" MJ-12 manual, an apparent "field guide" to extraterrestrial crash recovery leaked to writer Don Berliner ("Crash at Corona"). Friedman remains a voice worth hearing."

- Mac's review of Stanton Friedman's TOP SECRET/ MAJIC found on his website page: UFO Book Reviews.

"Paul Kimball's posted another excellent clip of ufologist Stan Friedman. While I agree with Friedman on relatively little when it comes to the nature and ultimate meaning of specific UFO encounters (such as Roswell or the Hill abduction), his ability to cast light on the bureaucratic and media implications of the phenomenon in general is always engaging. I saw him speak (for free) last year and would gladly pay to see him again -- even knowing I'd find myself objecting to many of his conclusions."

- Mac Tonnies from a September 07, 2007 PHB post.


I was over at Radio Misterioso earlier today and was sad when I read Greg Bishop's most recent posting and learned of Stan Friedman's death. (See: Stanton Friedman - Recollections.) It's like the official ending of an era... the "Old Guard" of early UFO researchers who, on occasion, still let slip antiquated terms like "flying saucer."

But, I think few would deny that Stanton Friedman will always be remembered as one of the Greats of ufology and, in my eyes, he was the first person - a former physicist - to give any real credibility to UFOs. 20 years ago he was still the go-to guy for any serious discussion  about extraterrestrials - on television or otherwise. In other words, it was men like Stan who brought the subject of UFOs to the public's attention.

Mac always admired and respected Stan, and I sensed that, regardless of their differences of opinion, he felt a type of affection for him. Stanton Friedman had a great investigative mind, wit, and a sense of humor that will be missed in the field of ufology.

(Happy trails to you, Mr. Friedman.)

(Of note: Nick Redfern has also posted about Stan here. And Paul Kimball announced Stan's retirement last year with a review of his long career. Incidentally, Mac's cartoon which appears on the cover of the second Posthuman Blues compilation is a caricature of Stan and can also be found here.)

Saturday, May 4, 2019

The Message is Clear

Just visited the Art Shaman's Shop and had so much fun, I thought I thought I'd share it with you.

Never been to Roswell, New Mexico? I haven't, and I live in NM. Anyway, well, now here's your big chance!

Meanwhile, BG's doing some great new stuff; ancient future artifacts he refers to as Isotopic Icons (starting here). There's something very, shall we say, hermetic about these figures... and prescient.  In many ways we might very well be seeing a resurgence of hermeticism in the near future. It isn't as if the world is going backwards; it's merely going to a new level... a new Aeon. So, if things really look like hell for awhile - and this is nothing new - don't be alarmed, the Ouroboros is just shedding its skin.

But, ssshhhh, keep it under your hat.

Preferably, one of these...

Credit for all sculpture and photographs in this post:
© 2019, BG Dodson.

No, your eyes do not deceive you... They've landed, and their message is clear: "Have some fun, you foolish earthlings!"

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Capturing a Massive Black Hole

A halo of gas surrounding a black hole.
(Note: this is not an artist's rendering.)

"No single telescope is powerful enough to image the black hole. So, in the biggest experiment of its kind, Prof Sheperd Doeleman of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics led a project to set up a network of eight linked telescopes. Together, they form the Event Horizon Telescope and can be thought of as a planet-sized array of dishes.
Each is located high up at a variety of exotic sites, including on volcanoes in Hawaii and Mexico, mountains in Arizona and the Spanish Sierra Nevada, in the Atacama Desert of Chile, and in Antarctica.

A team of 200 scientists pointed the networked telescopes towards M87 and scanned its heart over a period of 10 days. The information they gathered was too much to be sent across the internet. Instead, the data was stored on hundreds of hard drives that were flown to a central processing centres in Boston, US, and Bonn, Germany, to assemble the information. Prof Doeleman described the achievement as 'an extraordinary scientific feat.'
'We have achieved something presumed to be impossible just a generation ago,' he said.

Prof Heino Falcke, of Radboud University in the Netherlands, who proposed the experiment, told BBC News that the black hole was found in a galaxy called M87. 'What we see is larger than the size of our entire Solar System,' he said. 'It has a mass 6.5 billion times that of the Sun. And it is one of the heaviest black holes that we think exists. It is an absolute monster, the heavyweight champion of black holes in the Universe.'"

- From the April 10th BBC report: First ever black hole image released.

"The physicist Stephen Hawking's greatest early-career contribution to physics was the idea of 'Hawking radiation' - that black holes aren't actually black, but emit small amounts of radiation over time. The result was hugely important, because it showed that once a black hole stops growing, it will start to very slowly shrink from the energy loss.

But the Event Horizons Telescope didn't confirm or deny this theory, Bonning said, not that anyone expected it to. Giant black holes like the one in Virgo A, she said, emit only minimal amounts of Hawking radiation compared to their overall size. While our most advanced instruments can now detect the bright lights of their event horizons, there's little chance that they will ever tease out the ultra-dim glow of a supermassive black hole's surface.

So what did we actually learn from this image?

First, physicists learned that Einstein was right, once again. The edge of the shadow, as far as the Event Horizons Telescope can see, is a perfect circle, just as physicists in the 20th century working with Einstein's equations of general relativity predicted. 'I don't think anyone should be surprised when yet another test of general relativity passes,' Bonning said. 'If they had walked on stage and said that general relativity had broken, I would have fallen off my chair.'

The result with more immediate, practical implications, she said, was that the image enabled scientists to precisely measure the mass of this supermassive black hole, which sits 55 million light-years away at the heart of the Virgo A galaxy."

- From the April 10th LiveScience article: 3 Huge Questions the Black Hole Image Didn't Answer.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

RIP Opportunity Rover

Photo of the Mars Opportunity rover, found on the
Opportunity/Spirit Rover's Twitter page.

Credit for photos in this post:  NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell University.

Mars Rover Opportunity Is Dead After Record-Breaking 15 Years on Red Planet

"Opportunity roamed the Martian surface for nearly a decade and a half, covering more than a marathon's worth of ground and finding conclusive evidence that the Red Planet hosted large bodies of liquid water in the ancient past. The golf-cart-size rover and its twin, Spirit, also helped bring Mars down to Earth, in the minds of scientists and laypeople alike.

Spirit and Opportunity 'have made Mars a familiar place,' Opportunity project manager John Callas, of JPL, told last year, a few months after the dust storm flared up. 'When we say, 'our world,' we're no longer just talking about the Earth. We have to include parts of Mars as well.'"

- Excerpt from's obituary for NASA's Opportunity Rover (linked-to above) which fell silent in June of last year and, alas, never recovered. Here's NASA's announcement.

An early Opportunity Pan-cam shot of Meridiani Planum.
(Click-on images to enlarge.)

"The NASA Rover science team mission was to find evidence of water on Mars. They found it and their proofs, images and scientific analysis were superb and they seemed to have nailed it at 100%.Their mission was not to say, 'Oh, this sort of looks like a fossil, whadidja think?' That's what I am saying here. They can't say that. I notice now that they have found water, their senior scientists are relaxinga bit and will say 'Wouldn't this be a good place to look for fossils? Look how well everything is preserved.'To make a scientifically valuable decision about life on Mars you would have to go there with a gas analysis spectrometer and do counts and ratios for isotope carbon-12 and 13 and look for amino acids and other distinctive biological signatures. Maybe they are waiting for a mission with that kind of equipment or a mission that will return some sample soil and rocks. In any case I congratulate NASA MER team and the American people on their great contribution to planetary science."

- Canadian, Michael Davidson, from his 2004 article: Mars Fossils, Pseudofossils or Problematica? (via Posthuman Blues).

 "I previously wrote that JPL was developing an anything-but-scientific immunity to the unexpected. Apparently rocks are fair game -- but only if they resemble terrestrial rocks. Rocks with "varnished" surfaces or geometric cavities must be avoided -- perhaps because they look just a bit too organic, like chunks of bone or petrified wood where such things have no business being. Oddly colored snail-shapes are studiously avoided because, in the words of one JPL scientist, taking a close look would "waste precious machine time." He failed to note that the anomaly in question was directly in front of the Opportunity rover, starkly unavoidable. In the scheme of the rover's mission, taking a closer look would have been virtually effortless. Instead, Opportunity was (presumably) steered directly over the strange formation; JPL has taken to literally running over what it can't explain, like a monster truck imperviously crushing a line-up of decrepit cars.

- Mac Tonnies from a February 7, 2004 Posthuman Blues post. Inset right is an Opportunity shot of Erebus Crater found here. Other Posthuman Blues posts regarding Opportunity can be found here, and here.


Time was when any new data from Mars spawned a whole lot of controversy, and Mac was generally on-board with that. Nothing fell under his radar, so to speak, and, well, we all had a lot of fun hypothesizing about the latest Martian "find." But, those were the good old days. Nowadays, I'm not sure if anybody cares... although I noted there were plenty of nostalgic articles popping up yesterday regarding the passing of the Opportunity rover. Here's a video (via the Washington Post).

Remember Opportunity's great discovery: the Martian "Blueberries"? Well, they weren't blue, actually... it was just NASA's use of false coloration. As for the name, well it was an effective way of both popularizing them and trivializing them. There were those, however, who thought the odd spherules (inset right) were a sign of water and even life. As it happens, similar small, round concretions exist on earth, too. See this 2018 article.

Anyway, Mac wasn't altogether jaded and truculent when it came to NASA/JPL's press releases. Posted on Posthuman Blues a few days earlier in February of 2004 (re: his previous quote) was this:

"This panorama just might qualify as my favorite image ever returned from the surface of Mars. At 9 MB, it's big, with an epic quality that's hard to put into words. In the foreground you can see several "crop circles" where the lander's airbags disturbed the surface as it rolled down the incline; it's amusing to think that we're the aliens here, modifying the landscape in ways that would mystify any native onlookers. The protruding bedrock looks suggestively like the ruined vertebrae of some impossible creature, compacted and exhumed by wind. If you look at this image long enough -- and there's plenty to see and contemplate -- you get a vertiginous sense of actually being there that surpasses any virtual reality interface I have yet to sample. This small slice of Mars is redolent with history, infused with a timelessness and mystery that even Earth's natural wonders fail to evoke. In a word: Wow."

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Welcome to the ABYSS

A tiny region of space in the Fornax constellation
via an imaging technique known as ABYSS.
(Click to  enlarge.)

"A few years ago, the Hubble Space Telescope did something amazing: over the course of 841 orbits and hundreds of exposures, it imaged a tiny region of space in the constellation of Fornax, peeling back the layers of time by 13 billion years, to just a few hundred million years after the Big Bang.

It's called the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field 2014 (HUDF), and it's one of the most breathtaking mosaics the telescope has produced. In it, around 10,000 galaxies gleam - a feast for astronomers exploring the early Universe.

Now a team of astronomers has made the image even better. Over the course of three years, scientists at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) developed and applied an image processing technique designed to draw out the unseen light in the HUDF.

They called this complex technique ABYSS, and with it they have recovered the dim light from the outer edges of the largest galaxies in the image."

- Image and quote from the January 25th, 2019  Science Alert article by Michelle Starr: Astronomers Have Made a Breathtaking Image Staring Deeper Into Space Than Ever Before. (Hat-tip to Graham Hancock.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The First Plant on the Moon

A cotton plant sprout on the "dark side" of the moon.

"Seeds Just Sprouted On The Moon For The First Time In History

In a development that will likely have huge implications for the future of space travel, China’s Chang’e 4 lunar lander successfully managed to plant and sprout cotton seeds on the Moon. This of course marks the first time that a plant has ever grown on the Moon, with the seeds naturally sprouting in a specially designed and concealed container. Incidentally, the Chang’e 4 lander first touched down on the far side of the Moon earlier this month, an impressive achievement in and of itself."

In making the announcement Tuesday, Chinese researchers released pictures from the probe showing the tiny plant growing in a small pot inside the spacecraft, hundreds of thousands of kilometers away from the Earth."

-  Excerpt from a Yahoo article found today which has since disappeared (?), but for other news sources see: The Daily Mail's: One giant leaf for mankind!, the BBC's China's Moon mission sees first seeds sprout,'s Cotton Seed Sprouts on the Moon's Far Side in Historic First by China's Chang'e 4, or CNN's China might just have grown the first plant ever on the moon.


Chang'e, the Moon Goddess.

Well, thus far, I haven't been able to say that 2019 has kicked off too encouragingly... that is, until I found the above article this morning which actually brought a smile to my grim and half-conscious face. But then, I sort of love everything about China's recent moon mission, because it ties in so enchantingly with Chinese mythology and folklore.

The lunar mission's name Chang'e is the name of their Moon Goddess (above), the immortal maiden who lives on the moon. The lunar rover, on the other hand, is named Yotu, the Jade Rabbit who lives on the moon as a companion to Chang'e, mixing her an elixir of mortality (inset right, sourced here) under an osmanthus tree; a symbol of good luck to humans on earth. As it stands, while we interpret the markings on the moon to represent a "Man," the Chinese see those same markings as a rabbit, the Rabbit on the Moon.

I note, in an earlier article about the mission, Chinese scientists had intended to send some silkworm eggs. I don't know how I feel about that. In ways, plants and silkmoths alone on the moon seems eerily romantic. in other ways it seems cruel.

BTW, apparently, in 2013, NASA had plans for Moon plants (see here). 

Friday, December 21, 2018

A Virtual Christmas

Christmas Tree, 2018, by Dana Tonnies

Well, I think it's pretty safe to say that there would be no Xmas on PMB without a Dana Tonnies Christmas tree, and, once again, she has not failed us. (Thanks, D!) I did something a little different with the tree this year though and decided to feature a close-up; possibly because my fondest memories of Christmas tend to be those quiet moments at night, spent alone, while gazing into the annual Christmas tree. Not at the tree, mind you, but deep into it's softly lit interior, which, depending upon where one looks, appears like a tiny, secret wonderland all in itself. Anyway, that was the idea.

As it so happens, it's the winter solstice today... which is not celebrated much in the states... but Cornwall makes it a grand holiday. Above are some revelers from last year (see here).

And, that's about it this year, my friends. From myself and the Tonnies:

Wishing you joy this holiday and unexpected treasure in 2019!

Till then...


Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Habitats on Mars... and the Art of Frank Frazetta

 Mollusca L5 design by team LeeLabs.
(Click  on images to enlarge.)

"Design the First Human Settlement on Mars

The Mars Society is holding a contest for the best plan for a Mars colony of 1000 people. There will be a prize of $10,000 for first place, $5,000 for second and $2500 for third. In addition, the best 20 papers will published in a book “Mars Colonies: Plans for Settling the Red Planet.”

In scoring colony designs, points will be allocated on the following basis:
  • 40 points technical design: What systems will be used? How will they work?
  • 30 points economic: How can the colony be made economically successful?
  • 10 points social/cultural: What should Martian society be like? What kinds of schools, arts, sports, and other activities, should there be? How, given a fresh start, can life on Mars be made better than life on Earth?
  • 10 points political/organizational: How should the colony govern itself?
  • 10 points aesthetic: How can the colony be made beautiful?"
- Announcement of a contest for designing the first human settlement on Mars sponsored by the Mars Society. The deadline for the entries is March 31, 2019.

“The rockets came like locusts, swarming and settling in blooms of rosy smoke. And from the rockets ran men with hammers in their hands to beat the strange world into a shape that was familiar to the eye, to bludgeon away all the strangeness, their mouths fringed with nails so they resembled steel-toothed carnivores, spitting them into their swift hands as they hammered up frame cottages and scuttled over roofs with shingles to blot out the eerie stars, and fit green shades to pull against the night.”

“We won’t ruin Mars,” said the captain. “It’s too big and too good.” “You think not? We Earth Men have a talent for ruining big, beautiful things. The only reason we didn’t set up hot-dog stands in the midst of the Egyptian temple of Karnak is because it was out of the way and served no large commercial purpose.” 

- Two excerpts from The Martian Chronicles, 1950, Ray Bradbury (found here).


In the mood for a challenge? Have a lot of time on your hands? Want to play God? If you've answered yes to, at least, two of these questions, then the Mars Society has a proposition for you; a chance to create a virtual blueprint for a human society on Mars (!).

It doesn't seem as if the contest is a members only thing, but open to the public. And, although I'm not sure how much scientific or artistic expertise is required, (see sample entry here), there might be a few of you out there who could pull it off.

RedWorks Habitat design by team RedWorks.

As for me, well, I'm a dreamer... so, while I might gain points for the aesthetics, I'd lose them for capitalistic questions like: "How can the colony be made economically successful?,"  or, even worse, "How should the colony govern itself?" Now, there's a can of worms. Frankly, I'd skip those questions altogether. As a matter of fact, I'd never have asked them to begin with.

But, yes, the visuals and logistics of such a project intrigue me, and, as it was, NASA launched its own contest a few years back: a 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge entailing the design of human habitats which can be established on the moon or Mars, and which are capable of being 3-D printed. This contest involves teams as opposed to lone individuals. Pictured above and inset left (with 2 more examples after the jump) are some of the Top 10 designs of the first phase of the contest. The winning design of the second phase can be found here. As for the third phase, well, most likely each team has to have already been involved with the first two phases (not sure), but, the last phase requires an actual 3-D print of the potential habitat. It's deadline is in April of next year. (Note: the prize is 2 million USD!)

Monday, November 19, 2018

The 2018 PMB Poster-Child

2018 will soon be history, and, it occurred to me this merry Monday morning that we haven't had any jellyfish photos this year... not one!


Anyway, this is an oversight I am compelled to correct. CNN helped me out by posting a video today of the little darling above, found off the coast of Puerto Rico.

Actually, it's similar to a hydromedusa which made a big splash in cyberspace 2 years ago... one I somehow missed. Just in case you did, too, a video can also be found here.

But, our poster-child is also similar to another (smaller) jellyfish - the tiny sweetheart above - which is even older news (although I think I may have even mentioned him on PMB at some point in the past). In any case, he, she (or it) is worthy of a few more words... especially in light of the alchemical papillon highlighted in the previous post. The papillon has nothing on this creature! While the papillon miraculously decomposes itself and then composes itself into a new form, the Turritopsis dohrnii, regardless of its age, can revert itself back to square one - an immature stage - and start all over again... as often as it likes! In other words, theoretically, it can live forever. According to its website:

"Turritopsis dohrnii is now officially known as the only immortal creature. The secret to eternal life, as it turns out, is not just living a really, really long time. It’s all about maturity, or rather, the lack of it. The immortal jellyfish (as it is better known popularly) propagate and then, faced with the normal career path of dying, they opt instead to revert to a sexually immature stage.

It turns out that once the adult form of the 4.5 mm-wide species Turritopsis dohrnii have reproduced, they don’t die but transform themselves back into their juvenile polyp state. Their tentacles retract, their bodies shrink, and they sink to the ocean floor and start the cycle all over again. Among laboratory samples, all the adult Turritopsis observed regularly undergo this change. And not just once: they can do it over and over again."

Also, see: This Jellyfish May Actually Make Humans Immortal!; meanwhile, a 2017 video (in English) can be found here.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Le Portail des Papillons

Le Portail des Papillons (The Portal of Butterflies) - digital - 2018, DS.
(Click to enlarge.)

(Note: Sorry for the delay; this post is now complete.)

"Part of me likes the idea that I somehow persist after biological death; it might even be possible, albeit in ways currently antithetical to materialistic science. Empirical science (as currently practiced) may be missing something crucial; if consciousness exists after the demise of its neurological substrate, then it's likely our current definition of consciousness is simply wrong-headed. Maybe brains are more akin to receivers than computers and we're all tuned to the same channel, or at least the same spectrum."

- Mac Tonnies from this September, 2004 Posthuman Blues post.

"Famed astrophysicist Stephen Hawking says black holes, the mysterious massive vortexes formed from collapsed stars, do not destroy everything they consume but instead eventually fire out matter and energy 'in a mangled form.'"

The bad part about this is that, according to Hawking, black holes can't be used as portals to parallel universes; I'd hoped that some black holes might function as "emergency exits" when the universe begins to die (whether through runaway expansion or the reverse pyrotechnics of the "Big Crunch").

I still haven't quite given up; I leave the task of migrating to other universes to posthuman ingenuity."

- Mac Tonnies from this July, 2004 Posthuman Blues post. The artist's interpretation of a black hole (inset right) was found via this article.

"The problem of “translating the untranslatable” was addressed by the 16th century alchemist Gerhard Dorn, with the notion of what he called the spiracle – in Latin, the Spiraculum Eternitatis, the window or breathing hole into eternity, which Jung writes about extensively as the conjunction of opposites in Mysterium Coniunctionis. The spiracle is described as a hole or passageway in the field of consciousness that allows the “autonomous dynamism of the collective unconscious” to break through into the realm of the personal unconscious. In this joining, it can, to some degree, be worked and translated into living, material reality, whether through word, image, other expressive means, or through lived life itself.  (von Franz, 1980)...

Dorn conceived of the spiracle as a window to eternity, a mysterious center pre-existent in us, linking us to the cosmos, while opening up and bridging the different levels of body, soul and spirit. Through the spiracle one may journey across the threshold in between the above and below, and bring traces of one world into the other and back again – a kind of conception and cross-fertilization between inconsonant realms. The spiracle links and joins these different levels, rendering it possible to reconcile incommensurable opposites through finding a third – a new space or medium which is neither one nor the other, but both."

- Excerpt from an intriguing online Arras article (.pdf): The Spiracle in Alchemy and Art by Diane Fremont (2017). Inset left is the title page from Gerhard Dorn's alchemical text Chymisticum artificium.


In a matter of days the subtitle of Post-Mac Blues will change... from an "8 Year Post-Mac Time Capsule" to a 9 year one. Yes, it's been close to a decade since Mac has been gone and this memorial was initially created. That the two anniversaries should fall mid-autumn on and around the "Day of the Dead" is one of life's little ironies.

This post was slated to appear October 18th, the anniversary of the actual day of Mac's passing... but, as things generally go, neither my muse (nor my more practical self) were quite prepared. In effect, I drew a blank. What could I possibly have to say after nine years that hasn't been said many times in the past? The only plan which came to me was to draw attention to the fact that the number 9 is, theoretically and esoterically, the number of completion...  a rite of passage and the end of a cycle. But, during the course of blogging, I probably mentioned that before, too.

As it happened, it was a dream - specifically the end of a dream - which inadvertently set my little grey cells in motion. The dream featured butterflies (like the Tiger Swallowtail inset left)... and that's about all I'm willing to divulge, but, I had reason to believe that it was, in part, a message from Mac. Okay, not a lengthy report... just a little news flash, as in "Hi again, I'm okay; just passing through..."

But, no, it doesn't really matter if anyone - including myself - believes the dream truly held a message... nor if all those presently reading these paragraphs assume I'm deluded. I often am. The bottom line is that, when I awoke, I felt quite refreshed and almost happy. As this is a rare occurrence, I must conclude that something extraordinary happened.

For those of you who have no knowledge of this sort of thing, that is: the sudden, unwarranted appearance of butterflies (or dragonflies, cicadas, hummingbirds and the like) before, at the time, or just after a loved one's death, the fact is, it's actually a commonplace occurrence in the realm of mediumistic phenomena. Formally referred to as "After Death Communications" (ADCs), it seems many bereaved people are visited by these same, small creatures (mentioned above) in odd ways... encounters which produce an unusually strong emotional response. Most often, the events reported occur in the waking state. But, regarding dreams, well, if there is any ideal "medium" for mediumistic phenomena, the lucid dream would have to be a major contender. And, why is this? Dreams, meta-communications - and even artistic endeavors - rely (heavily) upon symbols, archetypes, interpretations and enigmatic synchronistic events. Like cryptic notes from a shadowy underground, they are all ambiguous. But, then again, when dealing with loss, sometimes they're all we have...

Monday, August 20, 2018

43 candles... (& 1 balloon)

Photo Credit: Danish photographer, Marcus Møller Bitsch.

"Late last night I almost had an out-of-body experience... or at least it felt that way at the time.

I was dog-tired and most of the sensation of leaving my body (which I never quite actually succeeded in doing) was probably due to the heightened suggestibility that comes with fatigue. Still, it was interesting: I more or less freaked when I felt the "OBE" coming on, so I centered my awareness and the sensation faded.

At no point did I feel as if I were being yanked out of my body; it was more of a subtle tropism, like a champagne bubble drawn toward the surface of a glass. And as scary as it seemed at the time -- whether it was the first stage of an OBE or not, and I tend to doubt it really was -- I never felt out of control. Just a little jarred. And then I was back asleep and dreaming.

So I remain agnostic on the reality of OBEs -- although, if pressed, I think there's something to it.

(I seem fated to a life of really lukewarm "paranormal" experiences.)"

- Mac Tonnies via his March 27, 2005 Posthuman Blues post.

"I have spontaneous lucid dreams; I haven't yet learned how to induce them. Lately I've become acutely aware that my dreams seem to take place in a variety of interconnected locations. I'd like to explore this half-glimpsed world more deeply, test its barriers, mingle with its inhabitants, memorize its geology, and ally myself with its inherent strangeness."

- Mac Tonnies via his December 01, 2006 Posthuman Blues post.

"What of the human spirit? If "spirituality" is defined as something transcending spacetime, then I suppose that I am a decidedly unspiritual person. But if spirituality can be equated to such familiar traits as intellect, emotion, foresight and empathy, then it's quite possible that even the most unreligious among us are capable of impressive feats of spirituality. In contrast, the visions of deities cranked out and perpetuated by generations of mystics appear dull and uninspiring: lazy caricatures that strip the universe of wonder not by explaining it, but by rendering it so suspiciously familiar."

- Mac Tonnies via his .com's Dead Letter Files: A Case for Agnosticism.


Missing Mac on his birthday... missing his friends... missing the days when cyberspace was a new frontier. I hope all of you are doing well.


Monday, July 30, 2018

The Voynich Manuscript (Part 3c) - The (Un)usual Suspects

A second illumination of Barbara von Celje via one
of the numerous copies of Bellifortispossibly portrayed here
as a younger woman in contrast to the image shown previously
(inset left below). Note the color of her hair.
(Also: I took the liberty of altering the length of the flag-pole for design-purposes.)
(Click on images to enlarge.)

"'His consort Barbara was a German Messalina, a woman of insatiable appetite for lust; at the same time so heinous that she did not believe in God and neither angel nor devil, neither heaven nor hell. How she scolded her maidservants when they fasted and prayed, that they were agonizing their bodies and worshipped a fictional god: she on the other hand admonishes, in the spirit of  Sardanapalus, that they should make use of all the pleasures of this life, because after this one, there is no other to hope for. This denier of God, searching for her heaven upon this foul earth and her paradise in groveling lust, even though she was already 60 years old…'

The notion about Barbara was taken from her contemporary, Aenea Silvio Piccolomini (1405-1464), the later Pope Pius II, chancellor of Frederick III of Habsburg (1415-1493), who later became the Holy Roman Emperor. Since the Habsburgs were always the enemies of the Cillis, a family that had been under their Lehensherrschaft and since then tried to climb the ladder of nobility, it is clear why Piccolomini tried with such hateful words to denigrate Barbara’s character. Only after her death did Piccolomini change his attitude, or neutralized it if anything. When describing her looks, Piccolomini talks about a woman of pale, almost snow white skin and of a beautiful physical constitution. Furthermore, Barbara knew several languages, had an unusually profound education, and displayed an interest for politics and diplomacy. Misogyny is therefore another explanation why such a versatile woman had a so bad reputation from the Middle Ages, which was carried on by history up until the recent years."

- Another excerpt from Sara Katanec's 2014 online dissertation: The Perquisite of a Medieval Wedding: Barbara of Cilli’s Acquisition of Wealth, Power, and Lands. Inset left is a reposted illumination of Barbara von Celje from BellifortisInset right is a modern interpretation of Barbara von Celje by Rudi Španzel, 1999.

"In Europe, following the 12th-century Renaissance produced by the translation of Islamic works on science and the Recovery of Aristotle, alchemists played a significant role in early modern science (particularly chemistry and medicine). Islamic and European alchemists developed a structure of basic laboratory techniques, theory, terminology, and experimental method, some of which are still in use today. However, they continued antiquity's belief in four elements and guarded their work in secrecy including cyphers and cryptic symbolism. Their work was guided by Hermetic principles related to magic, mythology, and religion."

- From the Wiki entry for Alchemy.

"The first confirmed owner was Georg Baresch (1585 -1662), an obscure alchemist from Prague. Baresch was apparently just as puzzled as modern scientists about this "Sphynx" that had been "taking up space uselessly in his library" for many years...

Upon Baresch's death, the manuscript passed to his friend Jan Marek Marci (1595–1667; also known as Johannes Marcus Marci), then rector of Charles University in Prague.

A letter written on August 19, 1665 or 1666 was found inside the cover and accompanied the manuscript when Johannes Marcus sent it to Kircher. It claims that the book once belonged to Emperor Rudolf II (1552–1612), who paid 600 gold ducats (about 2.07 kg of gold) for it. The letter was written in Latin and has been translated to English. The book was then given or lent to Jacobus Horcicky de Tepenecz (died 1622), the head of Rudolf's botanical gardens in Prague, probably as part of the debt that Rudolf II owed upon his death."

- Excerpt from the Wiki entry for Voynich Manuscript. Inset left is a portrait of Emperor Rudolph II.


From a contemporary monument to Barbara
von Celje and Sigismund in Hungary.
Via this Wiki page, she is considered "one of the ancestresses of modern European royal families, her blood flowing in the veins of all European dynasties." *

Can't touch that! But, why might Barbara von Celje be a contender for a role in the Voynich saga?

Well, first, let's cover some old ground. By way of review, Barbara lived in the early half of the 15th century (1392 -1451), the scientifically-determined Voynich time-frame. So, unless the carbon-dating of the MS was flawed, or the ink applied to the vellum much later, we have a match.

She was born a noblewoman; both well-educated and wealthy enough to afford the necessary materials, accoutrements (and leisure time) for creating a manuscript. Apparently, according to the experts, the quality of the materials used was less than the very best, but, depending upon the maturity and/or the intentions of the maker, quality might not have been necessary.

Then, there are all those stars in the Voynich illuminations - predominately in the various charts - as if stars were some type of obsession for the Voynich maker. As it was, stars were elements on the Celje coat of arms and the single star on a blue banner appeared as Barbara's personal symbol in the Bellifortis illuminations. Stars are also an alchemical symbol with several different meanings, and as we established in Part 3b, Barbara von Celje was an alchemist. Very likely she was also aware of other esoteric and occult disciplines which bloomed during the Renaissance, up to and including the tarot.

Speaking of which, one can't help but notice a resemblance between the Voynich star-nymphs and various versions of The Star card, the 17th card in the major arcana of the tarot (see Part 3a - The Star).

That Barbara may have seen a version of this card would not have been impossible. While the earliest decks (inset right) were first recorded mid-century, hand-painted and affordable by few, a royal personage - like Barbara - may have had an earlier access to them, possibly having the opportunity to view the initial drawings in the tarot's development or, at the very least, having familiarity with the Mantegna Tarocchi series. Obviously, she could also afford to purchase a deck, and, even if she hadn't, she doubtlessly knew someone who possessed one.


Then, as we saw in Part 3b - The Empress, a caricature of an empress is found on the VMS zodiac page for Libra wearing an imperial crown (above). Barbara's daughter, Elizabeth (7 October 1409 -19 December 1442), whom she assumed would become empress, was born under the zodiacal sign of Libra. Barbara herself (inset left) was a Holy Roman Empress for a period of four years. Unfortunately, we do not know the date of her birth.

Once again, Barbara was a practicing alchemist, and, although it is said she "turned" to alchemy after the death of her husband, Emperor Sigismund, it's more than likely she was introduced to the subject earlier in her life. In any case, she knew the alchemists of her day and was (allegedly) a patron of the author of Aurora consurgens. And, there's a very good chance that she was, because the author may have paid tribute to she (and her daughter, Elizabeth) in this illumination from Aurora consurgens (below the jump)...