Ringforts are the most common monuments on the Irish landscape and are known by a variety of names, including fort, rath, dún, lios, cashel and caher. They consist of an area, usually circular, enclosed by one or more earthen banks or, occasionally, by fosses (in the case of raths), or by stone walls (in the case of cashels). They generally vary in size between 25 and 50 meters in diameter and were erected as protected enclosures around farmsteads, mainly during the Early Christian Period (c.500-1100 AD). There are currently 224 recorded surviving ringforts in County Clare, not including cashels, promontory forts, cliff-edge forts, and hillforts.
Language, humans’ most distinctive trait, still remains a ‘mystery’ for evolutionary theory. It is underpinned by a universal infrastructure—cooperative turn-taking—which has been suggested as an ancient mechanism bridging the existing gap between the articulate human species and their inarticulate primate cousins. However, we know remarkably little about turn-taking systems of non-human animals, and methodological confounds have often prevented meaningful cross-species comparisons. Thus, the extent to which cooperative turn-taking is uniquely human or represents a homologous and/or analogous trait is currently unknown. The present paper draws attention to this promising research avenue by providing an overview of the state of the art of turn-taking in four animal taxa—birds, mammals, insects and anurans. It concludes with a new comparative framework to spur more research into this research domain and to test which elements of the human turn-taking system are shared across species and taxa.
For almost a century, physicists have wondered whether the most counterintuitive predictions of quantum mechanics (QM) could actually be true. Only in recent years has the technology necessary for answering this question become accessible, enabling a string of experimental results—including startling ones reported in 2007 and 2010, and culminating now with a remarkable test reported in May—that show that key predictions of QM are indeed correct. Taken together, these experiments indicate that the everyday world we perceive does not exist until observed, which in turn suggests—as we shall argue in this essay—a primary role for mind in nature. It is thus high time the scientific community at large—not only those involved in foundations of QM—faced up to the counterintuitive implications of QM’s most controversial predictions.
Early Sunday morning we drove west toward the Pacific Coast and then south to the Columbia River, where it flows into the Pacific,stopping for lunch and camping provisions in the resort town of Long Beach. This being the first week of December, the town was pretty well buttoned up and sleepy. Stamets requested that I not publish the exact location where we went hunting for Psilocybe azurescens, a variety of “magic mushroom” first identified and named by Stamets, and the most potent ever found. But what I can say is that there are three public parks bordering the wide-open mouth of the Columbia—Fort Stevens, Cape Disappointment, and the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park—and we stayed at one of them. Stamets, who has been coming here to hunt “azzies” for years, was mildly paranoid about being recognized by a ranger, so he stayed in the car while I checked in at the office and picked up a map giving directions to our yurt.
These changes in the brain may help explain why, during spiritual experiences, the barrier between the self and others can be reduced or even eliminated altogether. Although we need some separation between ourselves and everyone else for protection and to manage reality, removing the barrier every so often is also valuable.
“Spiritual experiences are robust states that may have profound impacts on people’s lives,” explains Yale psychiatry and neuroscience professor Marc Potenza, in a statement about the work. “Understanding the neural bases of spiritual experiences may help us better understand their roles in resilience and recovery from mental health and addictive disorders.”
Spiritual experiences involve “pronounced shifts in perception [that] buffer the effects of stress,” the study says. The findings suggest that those experiences can be accessed by everyone, and that transcendence isn’t dependent upon religiosity. That makes studying spiritual experiences and figuring out how to use such states for improved mental health easier for scientists. Next, the researchers hope to test a bigger group of subjects of all ages.
Beyond mental health, scientists study spirituality because the human quest for meaning is timeless and universal. By cultivating spiritual experiences in addition to strengthening our intellectual abilities, people can lead emotionally richer lives and develop more open minds, scientists say.
As Tony Jack, director of the Brain, Mind and Consciousness lab at Case Western Reserve University—who was not involved in this study—explains to WKSU, analytical thinking and spiritual, empathic thinking rely on different neural pathways and processes. They don’t happen simultaneously in the brain, but both modes are necessary, like breathing in and breathing out. “You can’t do both at the same time, but you need both to stay healthy and well,” he says.
“Microdosing” on psychedelic substances like LSD—ingesting just enough to heighten cognitive faculties, enhance creativity, improve concentration and alleviate depression—is currently back in vogue among people not normally associated with anything remotely ‘countercultural’ in the USA.
The term psychedelic was coined in 1958 by British psychiatrist Humphrey Osmond and is derived from the Greek words psyche(“soul, mind”) and delein(“to manifest”), hence “soul-manifesting,” the implication being that psychedelics can access the soul and develop unused potentials in the human mind. It’s a contention that’s gaining increased acceptance in mainstream universities.
New York University, for example, is hosting clinical trials using psilocybin to treat alcohol addiction. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) has been at the forefront of research in treating patients suffering from chronic treatment-resistant PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) with MDMA, commonly known as ‘Ecstasy. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently designated its MDMA-assisted psychotherapy project as a ‘breakthrough therapy.’ Apart from MDMA, MAPS also advocates the use of Ayahuasca, Ibogaine and medical marijuana for a variety of conditions ranging from bipolar syndrome and drug addiction to autism-related disorders, ADHD and clinical depression.
The worldwide stories of faerie changelings come under a group of folklore motifs recorded in the Aarne-Thompson index as F321: ‘Faerie steals child from cradle and leaves faerie substitute.’ The basic premise of these motifs is that the faeries, through supernatural means, are capable of abducting babies from humans, while replacing them with one of their own, usually a wizened old faerie who would proceed to eat and drink voraciously, and maintain a surly silence. With external advice the parents are usually advised of how to rid themselves of the changeling and restore their own baby from the faeries. The ruse is carried through and (usually) works. There are many variations on the story, but the Brother’s Grimm summed up in concise form the main components of a typical changeling story from mid 19th-century Germany:
“A mother had her child taken from the cradle by elves. In its place they laid a changeling with a thick head and staring eyes who would do nothing but eat and drink. In distress she went to a neighbour and asked for advice. The neighbour told her to carry the changeling into the kitchen, set it on the hearth, make a fire, and boil water in two eggshells. That should make the changeling laugh, and if he laughs it will be all over with him. The woman did everything just as her neighbour said. When she placed the eggshells filled with water over the fire, the changeling said:
‘Now I am as old
As the Wester Wood,
But have never seen anyone cooking in shells!’
And he began laughing about it. When he laughed, a band of little elves suddenly appeared. They brought the rightful child, set it on the hearth, and took the changeling away.”
A common variation on this plot would be for the changeling to be threatened with (or sometimes given) a roasting over the fire, which was usually enough for them to reveal themselves and thereby break the spell.
Unknown to many people, including, perhaps, some of his followers in the Philippines, the great Swiss psychologist and psychotherapist Carl Jung had a life-long fascination with the occult and paranormal phenomena, and wrote scientific treatises on the subject.
The founder of analytical and depth psychology, Jung is best known for his theories of the “collective unconscious,” including the concept of the “archetypes” and the use of “synchronicity” (or meaningful coincidence) in psychotherapy.
Jung was a contemporary and close colleague of Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis, but they later parted ways because of irreconcilable differences in their theories of psychology. Jung was bothered by Freud’s “pansexualism” in the interpretation of dreams and human behavior. Jung felt dreams also contain nonphysical and spiritual meanings.
Reality of spirits
Jung believed in the reality of spirits and the after-life, the psychic and paranormal phenomena. While maintaining a healthy skepticism, Jung later developed a passionate interest in the study of such topics after his visions and near-death experience.
He delved into research in parapsychology, flying saucers, astrology, alchemy, the I Ching, and even spirit communication or mediumship.
According to one author, Jung’s involvement with the occult “was with him from the start—literally, it was in his DNA.” His maternal grandfather accepted the reality of spirits and learned Hebrew “because he believed it was spoken in heaven.” Jung’s mother became a medium who spoke in tongues.
Jung gave lectures, such as “On the Limits of Exact Science,” in which he questioned the dominant materialist paradigm that reigned then. He said, “I shall not commit the fashionable stupidity of regarding everything I cannot explain as a fraud… Science cannot afford the luxury of naivete in these matters.”
Jung never hid his interest in the study of parapsychology and his fascination with occult phenomena, despite the stern warning by Freud that his interest could ruin his reputation as a serious scientist.
In a letter to Freud dated May 8, 1911, Jung wrote: “There are strange and wondrous things in these lands of darkness. Please don’t worry about my wanderings in these infinitudes. I shall return laden with rich booty for our knowledge of the human psyche. For a while longer I must intoxicate myself on magic perfumes in order to fathom the secrets that lie hidden in the abyss of the unconscious.”
Jung studied eight spirit mediums (six females and two males), participated in séances and observed levitation on four occasions.
He wrote that the most impressive cases of levitation he had witnessed happened with Douglas Home, a Scottish psychic. “On three occasions,” wrote Jung, “I have seen him raised completely from the floor of the room… I had the full opportunity of watching the occurrence as it was taking place.
Among scientists, there are tentative signs of a psychedelics renaissance. After decades of stigma, impressive research is showing the power of these substances to help sufferers of depression and addiction, or to comfort patients with a terminal cancer diagnosis, struggling to face their own end. This is the fascinating territory that the journalist Michael Pollan explores with his new book, “How to Change Your Mind.” Pollan dives into brain science, the history of psychedelics (and our tortured attitudes towards them) but his larger subject is the nature of human consciousness. Eventually Pollan decides to try psychedelics himself — and documents, beautifully, a number meaningful experiences and the way his own mind has changed. He answered questions from Mind Matters editor Gareth Cook.
In 2017, geologists demonstrated that this species, Homo naledi, existed in southern Africa between 236,000 and 335,000 years ago–potentially the same time that modern humans first emerged in Africa. This is a puzzle to scientists, who long held that there was only one species in Africa at this late time period – Homo sapiens. How did this species exist alongside others with brains three times its size? The new study suggests that naledi’s behavior may have reflected the shape and structure of the brain more than its size.
The small brains of Homo naledi raise new questions about the evolution of human brain size (image above). Big brains were costly to human ancestors, and some species may have paid the costs with richer diets, hunting and gathering, and longer childhoods. But that scenario doesn’t seem to work well for Homo naledi, which had hands well-suited for toolmaking, long legs, humanlike feet, and teeth suggesting a high-quality diet. According to study coauthor John Hawks, “Naledi’s brain seems like one you might predict for Homo habilis, two million years ago. But habilis didn’t have such a tiny brain–naledi did.”
It is entirely true that Indigenous cultures have amassed valuable knowledge for millennia—from the creation of beautiful and elaborate origin stories, to the development of ecological know-how, to the observation of basic principles of astronomy. But these elements tend to be universal within all cultures, including Western cultures as they have passed through earlier stages of scientific development.
In recent centuries, the Western tradition has created a suite of intellectual tools that did not develop in other cultures–such as the scientific method, which requires that new claims be tested, replicated and scrutinized by one’s peers before being accepted. As applied through such mechanisms as peer review, the scientific method permits us to separate fact from folklore. To the extent the implementation of IWK would require the dilution or relaxation of these practices, it would undermine one of the primary purposes of our universities since the Enlightenment. Perhaps this explains why the most enthusiastic advocates of IWK specialize in liberal-arts disciplines that apply extremely loose (and subjective) standards to the question of what is true.
Neanderthals, Denisovans, and modern humans (H. sapiens) are all descended from H. heidelbergensis. Between 300,000 and 400,000 years ago, one branch of this group became independent of other hominins; some of this group left Africa . One (sub)group branched northwest into Europe and West Asia and eventually evolved into the Neanderthals, while the other group ventured eastward throughout Asia, eventually developing into the Denisovans. The remaining members of this group, H. heidelbergensis, evolved into H. sapiens approximately 130,000 years ago in the dry savannahs in Africa, and then themselves migrated to other regions and continents . These humans were more adept at controlling fire than the preceding African hominins had been, but the humid tropical regions did not foster the development of fire-making. Homo sapiens that settled in the tropics of South Asia and Africa were genetically influenced by the abilities of the anteceding hominins in those regions, who were less dependent on fire-making.
A short “prehistory”—before Homo heidelbergensis
Before H. heidelbergensis appeared, H. erectusoriginated in Africa and spread throughout Eurasia, as far as present-day Georgia, India, Sri Lanka, China, and Java. The H. erectus who remained in Africa is now widely accepted as the direct ancestor of all later hominins, including H. heidelbergensis, H. sapiens, H. neanderthalensis, and the Asian H. erectus . The group that eventually became H. heidelbergensis in Africa had established populations in Europe and South Asia by approximately 500,000 years ago.
By approximately 300,000 years ago, regional differences began to develop as these H. heidelbergensis adapted to their new environments, having collectively become independent of other hominins shortly after leaving Africa. At this point, one group became the Neanderthals, and another group developed into the Denisovans. The H. heidelbergensisremaining in Africa evolved into H. sapiens .
Homo sapiens eventually spread from Africa into Eurasia and replaced the residing hominins; however, a considerable degree of interbreeding with archaic hominins also occurred. Long before the appearance in Eurasia of H. heidelbergensis and the Neanderthals, the Denisovans, and ultimately H. sapiens, the Asian H. erectus inhabited an overlapping area , until it was replaced by those successor species and others. However, H. erectus on the mainland went extinct long before the arrival of H. sapiens, and so the influence of any admixture of H. erectus with H. sapiens via Neanderthals and Denisovans would be negligible.
Africa and history of interbreeding
We now come to the very real problems with Islam’s history, from the perspective of the historians themselves.
Since so much of what is classically known about how Islam began is derived from the 9th and 10th centuries, for what was happening in the 7th century (thus, around 200 – 300 years too late), historians are concerned by such a time discrepancy.
So, they have decided to return to the 7th century, and find out what exactly the historical evidence tells us.
And what they are finding is not very encouraging.
-The first Arab inscription referencing Muhammad is in 691 AD, yet it should be from the time Muhammad lived, in 632 AD, or before. Suggesting no Arab referred to Muhammad for 60 years following his death (Volker Popp-Ohlig & Puin 2010:53)
-The first reference to the term ‘Muslim’ is in the 690s. Prior to that time they were called: Saracen’, ‘Hagarene’, ‘Ishmaelite’, ‘Maghraye’, and ‘Muhajiroun’ (‘Chronicle of John of Niku’ – 1602, & Nevo & Koren, 2003:234)
-The first reference to the term ‘Islam’ is not until 691 AD (on the Dome of the Rock) (Volker Popp-Ohlig, & Puin 2010:71)
-The first reference to Mecca is not until 741 AD, yet this is the city where Abraham supposedly lived in 1900 BC (see Surah 21:51-71), and where Muhammad grew up (Crone 1987:134-136; Hoyland 1997:426; Holland 2012:303)
-The first biography of Muhammad within Islamic sources is not until 833 AD (Ibn Hisham & Al Waqidi)
These findings are indeed damaging, and suggest that the classical account of how Islam began is not only false, but can not be supported when observing that which history affords us.
The scholars who are doing this investigation include some of the best minds in the Western world today, including:
Do you believe my version ? Or, do you want me to believe your version ? Our version versus Their version. Story Wars. According to Guy McPherson, we are ALL going to be dead by… well, he started off, some years ago, with ‘in a hundred years’, but now he’s moved the date to this coming September.
So instead of just a few more decades remaining, it’s now going to be a few weeks !
Trouble is that various individuals have been using this ‘The end is nigh’ tactic for thousands of years. John Michael Greer, Archdruid, collected scores of examples from history. You could say that it’s a way to gain power, influence, publicity, by spreading alarm, manipulating the crowd with anxiety, fear, panic, as a psychological and political stratagem.
Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen, put your money where your mouth is, will there be ANY humans still alive by, say, next Christmas ?
This stuff is easier for me than it used to be, because following my stroke almost a year ago, I am rather surprised each day to find that I’m still here… Will I last until Christmas ? Who knows…. 🙂
But one’s own personal individual death is not the same thing as all humans dying and becoming extinct, is it. I’ve always known I would die from one cause or another, eventually. I like my life here, a lot, and I don’t want it to end, but I don’t have a choice, do I. It will end. Sooner or later. I have had, indeed am having, an amazing life, I am not complaining.
We have Story Wars about what is going to happen in the future, and we have Story Wars about what happened in the past, in history.
Jordan Peterson makes a distinction between the Newtonian conception of reality, and the Darwinian conception. There’s people like Jay Dyer, Graham Hancock, and Sylvie Ivanova who follow their own independent versions which sometimes barely connect to mainstream academia at all. It’s all bewildering, who are you going to trust and believe ?
You might think that it’s quite straightforward, just study the evidence carefully and objectively, and arrive at a conclusion, but as we see regarding the origin of the stones at Stonehenge, people who claim expertise and devote much of their lives to a topic can still make totally different interpretations of the apparent evidence.
I’m thinking of my neighbour, Brian John, and his ideas (as a geomorphologist), versus the regular ‘establishment’ archaeologists and others, e.g.
Ultimately, it becomes a philosophical matter, what is ‘truth’, is there such a thing, how defined, where does it reside, how do you know it if you find it, and so on.
As I understand it (mostly from Col. Pat Lang) some people in the Middle East have an entirely different way of conceiving of time and history to that which we get taught in the West. If you want to say that they are wrong, mistaken, then you’ll have to delve into a Bertrand Russell type of analysis as to how we arrive at knowing, at knowledge, at certainty, and how something called ‘a fact’ is to be defined and established. None of it is easy or simple, if it was the smartest people would not have been arguing and disagreeing for the last few thousand years.
But that’s stuff for the intellectuals and academics to wrestle with, the politicians don’t care about issues like ‘absolute truth’, they’ll spin the story in whatever way they believe will bring them some advantage in the power struggles. Some ideas resonate with the masses and some don’t. Such ideas don’t need to be correct or accurate in any absolute or academic sense, they only need to be sufficiently stimulating and emotive to get folk riled up enough to vote or to demonstrate in the streets, or to make them so miserable, fearful and apathetic that they hide in their homes.