They say the third time's a charm, and that certainly seemed to have been the case with the last edition of the Paradigm Symposium, celebrated in Minneapolis from October 2nd to the 5th. The event was initially organized back in 2012 by my Cosmic Compadre Micah Hanks and my good friend Scotty Roberts, as a bit of a tongue-in-cheek excuse to harness the 'apocalyptic' vibe that was in the air prior to the rundown of the Mayan calendar; but the idea eventually blossomed into a symposium of alternative history, ancient mysteries and paranormal phenomena. Due to the resounding success they had on the 1st year, Scotty and Micah decided to make it an annual conference, and even though they've had their share of mishaps, snafus and last-minute crises, Paradigm has already established itself as a very unique gathering where the motto of 'bridging the gap' --between ancient knowledge and modern science, academics and fringe researchers, skeptics and 'true believers', etc-- has been accomplished each time.
For myself, making the effort to attend Paradigm -- 6 hours stuck on an airplane cabin in coach, and I'm taller than Aaron!-- is not just a matter of getting to meet the celebrities in the alt-history or paranormal scene, and listen to them for 4 days. Traveling to the Twin Cities each year has now turned into a family reunion of sorts, because I get to hang out with people I now consider brothers and sisters who just happened to be born in another country. The atmosphere is literally charged with positive energy brought by the sense of being around bright, kindred spirits who share my passion for these topics, and know that while at the symposium they can disclose their personal weird experiences or ask whatever question is burning deep inside them, and they won't be judged because all of us are seeking the same answers.
You just have to experience what we now call 'the Paradigm effect' for yourself, and you'll get what I'm saying.
And so, since it's in my personal best interest that the symposium keeps going on indefinitely, I'm going to do a very personal review of everything that transpired this year, in an attempt to convey the said aforementioned effect to my dear Coppertops; hoping that if you're still sitting on the fence of going next year, this account will help you make up your mind once and for all.
I should start by mentioning how a couple of days before Paradigm even started, there were already developments unfolding which seriously put it in jeopardy. Scotty and his new partner John Ward have already issued a press release on their webpage explaining it, but suffice it to say they ran into serious financial problems because at the last moment one of their main investors backed out, leaving them with a huge money gap they were counting on to pay for the expenses of the speakers they were bringing in; because of this and other issues I will not go into, one of the main lecturers this year --Erick von Däniken-- decided not to attend. When I learned this, it really made me worry this could turn out to be the very last Paradigm; so if that was the case, I was planning to do everything in my power to make it memorable.
This and other things made the trip from Mexico city to Minneapolis on October 1st. particularly disquieting for me, even though the flights and the airport layovers were uneventful -- thankfully I've already mastered the art of removing my belt and shoes while waiting in line of the TSA 'nudificator'! -- Actually, something interesting happened while I was going through customs at the George Bush International Airport in Houston, when the agent asked me the reason of my visit, and I as usual told him the truth:
(Me): "I'm going to the Paradigm symposium in Minneapolis."
(Agent): "Oh. What's that?"
(Me): "Well, it's about ancient mysteries, UFOs, paranormal phenomena. You know, 'things that bump in the night'," I chuckled nervously.
(Agent): "Oh, so you're into that kind of stuff?," he said while looking at me in the eyes.
(Me): "...Yeeeah," I replied, already expecting some kind of snarky backlash.
And then, all of the sudden, this agent starts telling me about a UFO sighting he had some years ago near the Mexican border! On and on he went for 5 minutes or so, all while I was nervously glancing at the people waiting in line behind me. Which goes to show you just how inadequate the term 'paranormal' really is; because a) it presupposes these events fall outside the provenance of Nature (and we just don't know enough to make such an arrogant claim); and b) because it also assumes that only a handful of cranks and weirdos get to experience such events.
The reality is that ANYONE could have had a fantastic brush with the 'fringier' side of reality to share, and most of the time they are dying to share it with another person. Like this customs agent at the airport, who was very unlikely to be pulling my leg just for kicks --especially considering his line of work-- they just feel to need reassured that you're not going to judge or make fun of them.
Let that be a lesson to all of you, dear Coppertops: Having the courage to make the 1st step and admit "you're into this" can really pay big dividends most times.
The experience in Houston helped me feel less nervous --I'm still something of a rookie when it comes to airports, to tell you the truth-- and when I finally got to the Hyatt Regency in Minneapolis, all of my apprehension vanished when the friendly clerk at the hotel desk gave me the room 1111. You just KNOW you're gonna have a good time at Paradigm, when you get to sleep in a synchromystic suite!
(It's actually the SECOND time I've gotten room 1111, each time on a different hotel. See why I keep coming back?)
Afterwards it was just a matter of getting cleaned up after the long trip, and heading down to the lobby, where my good friend Carol (aka Nuveeena) and Nick Redfern were already there. It was really good how this year I got to hang around and chat with Nick more, and we discussed everything from UFOs to Consciousness to God-knows-what-else all while enjoying a beer and waiting for the rest of the gang to show up. My pals the Grimericans , Darren and Graham, finally arrived along with my carnal Jesse Rocha --another Paradigm 'veteran' who has attended all the 3 years in a row-- and his crazy son Philip, who rode a motorcycle for 11 effing hours or so all along the Mississippi to get there. Micah had some trouble with one of his connections and was about the last one to show up, but even before his plane got to Minneapolis he texted me a message insinuating some evil scheme of his to get ME on the stage at one time *Gulp!*
Finally, after I said hi to Scotty, John and my buddy Stuart --another veteran, and a fellow Mass Effect fan-- Micah eventually managed to show up very late that night and we all went to bed. We had a very big day ahead of us.
I usually have a lot of problems getting out of bed, but while in Paradigm I literally spring out of the mattress right before my alarm clock even has time to go off. After a quick shower and grabbing some light bite at the hotel's market/cafeteria, we all headed to the Woman's Club of Minneapolis, which is some 5-6 blocks away from the Hyatt.
Now is the time to rave on how drop-dead gorgeous this latest venue for the symposium was. The building is over a hundred years old, had a proper auditorium with great acoustics for the presentations, and the vendors room was cozy yet big enough to accommodate all the book tables. My friends the Grimericans were expressly asked by Scotty to be the official podcast for the whole event this year, and they enthusiastically accepted the invitation. Graham made sure they'd make a good impression, and went through all the trouble of printing t-shirts, flyers, business cards --even some for yours truly-- and once we arrived we set all of our stuff right in the back, where we had a commanding view of the whole room and the perfect place to conduct all the interviews they recorded during the 4 days --which you can find here-- but first we needed to find somewhere to print the banner which I had expressly designed for our table, so we headed out into downtown Minneapolis to find a printer shop and also a store in which the boys could also buy a hotspot and hire a good data plan in order to have a proper bandwidth for the broadcast.
So prior to the very first presentation the 3 of us walked for God-knows how many miles until we found all the gear we needed and a suitable place to print the banner, and all the time I was just marveled on how I didn't feel any discomfort whatsoever on my left ankle; the reason I point this out is because I happen to suffer from this chronic condition called spondylitis, which has wrecked my health and keeps me in a state of near-perpetual pain on my joints, yet during the whole trip I felt like a million dollars. Placebo effect? Who gives a crap!
With all set and ready the Paradigm Symposium officially started, with Scotty and Micah welcoming all the attendees. While Darren stayed at the table I went to the auditorium's gallery section with Graham, Jesse and Phillip --many would later join us after they recognized there were the best seats in the house-- to listen to the 1st speaker:
Now Bauval had already been invited to Paradigm in 2013, and this year his presentation covered some of the same stuff. He started by mentioning how at the eve of the new millennium a ceremony was being organized in which a golden capstone would be placed on top of the Great Pyramid by a helicopter, during a sound-and-light show musicalized by Jean Michel Jarre, but how at the eleventh hour the placement of the new 'pyramidion' was cancelled, apparently due to concerns over the seemingly Masonic symbolism involved, and how it all seemed to be arcanely connected to Edgar Cayce's predictions re. the discovery of the lost 'Hall of Records' inside the pyramid.
After Bauval briefly recapped how he became involved with the Giza complex and ultimately ended up devoting his life in trying to prove the 3 pyramids are meant to represent the 3 asterisms in Orion's belt, and explaining a bit on how the whole ancient Egyptian religion revolved around Astronomy and Mathematics --the ultimate timeless language-- he then proceeded to talk about a rather controversial set of developments which had rocked modern Egyptology in the last year. This commotion was caused by a pair of amateur Egyptologists of German descent, who in their attempt to prove that the crude graffiti inside the King's chamber (allegedly discovered by Col. Howard Vyse in 1837) is not as old as the pyramid itself, illegally took some samples from the cartouche's ochre pigment in order to analyze it in a laboratory; needless to say, this had NOT been authorized by the Egyptian authorities, and was later exploited by the former minister of Antiquities Zahi Hawass to both attack the current minister and even Bauval himself, seeing how one of those Germans is a good friend of his.
Bauval, was very clear in stating that he had nothing to do with the 2 Germans' actions, and that he wasn't even in Egypt when it happened. Furthermore, he was very successful in proving that the so-called 'defacement' made on the cartouche, as publicized by Hawass and his supporters on the media, was in fact already present since at least 2006, when Zahi was still in office --i.e. it happened on his watch-- and whatever the Germans took, it was a less noticeable amount.
Nevertheless, Bauval seems to be of the opinion that it was the Egyptians' close-mindedness to never allow for previous testings on the cartouche what forced the hands of the German dudes. He alluded that he's been privy to the initial results obtained by the lab tests, and that they're very exciting, but here is where I must respectfully disagree with him: Even if it were only a few milligrams, the fact of the matter is that right now a couple of hapless individuals serving as scapegoats are in jail because they held a ladder for the Germans during their time inside the pyramid, unbeknownst of their ultimate intentions; and even if the lab results are fantastic and would confirm the cartouche to be a modern forgery, the manner by which the samples were obtained will already invalidate such conclusions in the eyes of most historians.
Like it or not, there's a certain way in which Science must be conducted, lest we risk the debunkers to cry foul and the academicians to look the other way.
Finally, Bauval went on to talk about the mysterious doors inside the southern shaft of the Great Pyramid, which were initially investigated by another German, Rudolph Gantenbrink, using a rover. After Zahi made his little stunt for Nat Geo in 2002 and a second door was 'found', to this day what's behind at the end of that shaft is still unknown. Perhaps, like Robert proposes, is not just a matter of building smaller robots to find out; perhaps humanity is not ready for what's hidden inside this ancient time capsule.
This got me thinking: The gods left a message for men inside the pyramid, so maybe men need to become gods in order to retrieve it... and make sense of it.
BTW Bauval also mentioned that apparently the final message of the pyramid was somehow connected with the number '1111' or eleven times eleven. Maybe he should have stayed inside MY hotel room --instead of the King's chamber-- in order to figure it all out?
After Bauval finished it was the turn of Ed Nightingale, a last-minute addition to this year's speaker roster. This was very his first public presentation, and I hate to say it but it showed. Nightingale's topic was also about Egypt, and his main thesis was that the distribution of monuments at the Giza complex obeyed a highly complex mathematical order.
Now, let me just say that Ed's PowerPoint presentation was one of the most beautiful and detailed I've ever seen, and that also many of the attendees who spoke to him during the symposium came with the impression that he's a highly astute researcher and a very approachable individual; unfortunately, despite the fancy slide show all the complex numerical correlations slowly devolved into a session in Mathemasochism for me.
I totally understand where he was coming from: Rather than the unfalsifiable 'I don't know, therefore aliens' posture adopted by many in the alternative community, he was trying to prove to his audience that every monument in the Giza plateau followed a strict, albeit knowable Mathematical code. Yet I feel instead of trying to go from point A to E in one sitting, he should have tried to guide us from point A to B or maybe even C. You need to understand that many of those who get interested in these kind of topics find an emotional connection from a NARRATIVE point of view --not a numerical one.
Nevertheless, I'm confident Nightingale will do far better next time, and that his research will make a lot of contributions in our understanding of how and why the ancients chose to built the monuments they left for posterity.
I don't watch a lot of TV nowadays, and even when I used to I never had a taste for paranormal 'reality' shows, which in my opinion have seriously damaged the credibility of these phenomena with their tired gimmicks of running around with night vision goggles and yelling "what was that?!" every 10 minutes or so.
Which is why I didn't really know who Barry Fitzgerald was, nor his past involvement in the SyFy's TV show Ghost Hunters International. Had I known beforehand I might have skipped his presentation, titled "Mist of Ghosts"; and that would've been a real shame because Barry was one of the speakers who surprised me the most this year.
He started by describing his long-running investigation into 'underworld chambers': caves or subterranean tunnels used in ancient times to connect with "the other side" and to be "spiritually challenged," as Barry put it.
In other words, these weren't places in which the ancients went into to hold hands and sing Cumbayá! Entering these 'portals' was dead-serious business (pardon the pun) and being a native of Ireland, Barry has explored several of this kind of places in his home country, which were actively used during the Neolithic period, and fell into myth and legend after the arrival of the Tuatha De Danann --which were NOT a god-like race, according to Barry-- followed by the Celts and later the Christian missionaries. In Ireland these places of oracle remained, while in the rest of Europe they were mostly destroyed.
Barry then went on to explain how he analyzed a 16-mm film taken by an alleged alien contactee named Dorothy Izatt; in just one of the frames there appeared a very interesting pattern of wavy 'rays of light'. Later on during one of his trips, Barry had an Eureka moment while resting on a pool one night, when he observed how the light reflected in the water presented a similar wavy pattern, which made him posit that maybe Izatt had captured a sort of 'membrane' between the worlds, and this membrane reacted to light in the same way as water in the pool.
Further along in his research of underworld chambers, he began to understand how it was the intuitive (feminine) side which would allow the connection with the spirit world, yet the connection could only be activated through the resonance of the male voice, which can reach a frequency of 110 hz and lowers the activity of the brain's left hemisphere.
But he also found out that these underworld chambers can work both ways: They can let you in... but they can also let something from the 'other side' come out. In these caves --which he would always explore accompanied by his trusty dog-- Barry found abundant fragmentary animal remains: Bones of oxen, wild pigs, wolves, brown bears, birds, and even humans. There was a time when he almost lost his dog inside what he called 'limestone traps' in which --according to him-- pits would seem to appear and disappear(!). He mentioned how near these places of oracle farmers would sometimes lose a quarter of their sheep, so... who or what is catching the sheep?
This is the moment when I was kind of expecting he'd say "a dragon!", and although I say this in jest perhaps I wasn't that far away from the truth, since in Barry's opinion these portals are "doorways to the Serpents," meaning what lies in 'the other side' are snakes; and it's interesting to recall how during Ayahuasca ceremonies, many who take the Amazonian brew report visions of anacondas. Barry also mentioned how it was said that the famous Christian missionary St. Patrick came to Ireland to "vanish snakes," but since there are no snakes in the isle perhaps this should be interpreted in a more spiritual sense?
Barry also mentioned similar places in other regions of the world, such as Chavín de Huántar in Peru, where a statue of a jaguar made in pink granite was found. Using the 110 Hz frequency --which seems to be the 'key' to activate these ancient places-- he managed to record sounds 'emanating' or reverberating from the granite, and he played a small portion of it which was eerie and almost jaguar-like!
All in all, one of the most interesting presentations in my opinion. Later I had the chance to talk to Barry in private, and we discussed many things... including the enigmatic Hy Brasil and its connection to the famous Rendlesham forest incident. He also conducted an actual ghost investigation inside the Woman's club, but the only spirits I cared to meet during that trip live inside a bottle of whiskey.
Thus concluded the 1st day of presentations at the Paradigm symposium, yet the party was waaay from over! At the Hyatt Regency's lobby, we were all regaled with a spontaneous night concert, courtesy of Dave Sanchez and my friend Jesse Rocha; they were killing it with their repertoire of classic Rock with a Tex-Mex flavor, sprinkled with the occasional Mexican ballad. Even Micah joined in the fun, showing the Mouth from the South is indeed a man of many talents.
Next week I'll continue with my recap of PS2014. Be sure to leave a comment to let me know what you think, or to share your own impressions if you also attended this year!