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Ong's Hat - The Beginning By Joseph Matheny Characters: 5900

Updated: 2018-04-10 12:02


Now that I've given you a few tools to use when reading the actual Incunabula material, let me tell you my part in the origin story of how this very book came to be in your hands.

My first encounter with Incunabula: A Catalog of Rare Books, Manuscripts & Curiosa came about through serendipity. I was living in Santa Cruz, California at the time and lived in a wonderful and affordable apartment building on a hill overlooking the beach. When I moved in, I discovered that former Millbrook, Esalen, UCSC, and ISC alumni were the primary inhabitants of the complex. Among these were Nina Graboi, former assistant to Timothy Leary at the Millbrook Institute in Dutchess County, New York, and assistant to UCSC Chaos Mathematician Ralph Abraham; Robert Forte, friend and associate of Albert Hoffman, the inventor of LSD 25, and a plethora of similar "counter-culture" figures.

321 Second Street acted as a nexus point for me. Nina was fond of entertaining various counter-culture figures in her "parlor" as they came through central California, giving me ample exposure to said guests. Some of these guests included Timothy Leary, Robert Anton Wilson, Albert Hoffman, Terrence and Dennis McKenna, Alan Ginsberg, Diane DiPrima, Paul Lee, Ralph Abraham, Laura Huxley, and Peter Stafford, among a host of others.

One of the people I admired the most from this scene was a person who has requested that I withhold his name, so we'll call him "Bob". Bob was a brilliant physicist who possessed a twisted sense of humor that I personally found palatable, although many did not. He intrigued me for several reasons: he was funny and intelligent as hell; he had incredible stories, including one about being convinced to walk out on the his life as a scientist at Lawrence Livermore Labs due to an encounter with a "inter-dimensional" being; and his involvement with the Metaphase Typewriter experiments, coincidently done in conjunction with Nick Herbert, who will come into our story later.

I personally found the Metaphase Typewriter (MPT for short) the most intriguing. The Metaphase Typewriter was a Quantum-uncertain text generator open for mediumistic possession by discarnate spirits. Yes, it was in fact a sanctioned Livermore experiment, as nutty as that may sound now. However, remember this was also a time when Stanford Research Institute and other similar organizations were seriously looking into remote viewing, dream communication and telepathy. If you'd like more background into these kinds of studies I can't recommend Jon Ronson's The Men Who Stare at Goats enough, not to be confused with the movie, which is a vaguely fictionalized version of some of the actual accounts in the original non-fiction book. But back to the MPT experiments.

The MPT experiments' text output was captured on a quantum-random typewriter overlaid with second-order English language statistics. The "Metaphase Typewriter" was part of a project car

ried out by members of the Consciousness Theory Group to build machines to communicate with disembodied spirits, including spirits of the dead, and beings from other dimensions or dissociated fragments of living personalities. Imagine, all of this happening at Lawrence Livermore! The '60s were certainly a lively time for pure science.

Ordinary awareness is one of the biggest mysteries of our age: scientists are totally baffled by the fact that humans enjoy "inner experience" along with their behavior, and are at a loss to explain the origin of this experience, although much progress has been made in explaining the behavior. One small group of mind scientists believes that mind is a quantum effect and that disembodied entities (which might be called "souls") manipulate the body by willfully causing quantum possibilities to become actual. In this view, mind enters the body from outside (a philosophical position known as "dualism") by operating on certain quantum-uncertain parts of the nervous system.

For centuries, special people have claimed to be possessed by discarnate beings, spirits of the dead, and beings from other planets or higher dimensions. Members of the Consciousness Theory Group felt that there was something vaguely unethical about possessing an already occupied body and wondered if they could create an empty "consciousness-friendly" vessel and invite wandering souls to occupy it.

In the early 1970's Nick Herbert (SCM Corp) and Dick Shoup (Xerox PARC), along with Bob, designed and built the first "metaphase" devices—quantum operated machines that produced text (Metaphase Typewriter) and speech (quantum metaphone). They used for their quantum-uncertain source a quantity of radioactive thallium monitored by a Geiger counter. They looked at the INTERVALS between Geiger counter clicks and printed a probable letter if that interval was very probable, printed an improbable letter if that interval was improbable (much longer than average, for instance). They obtained the second-order English language statistics from an unclassified NSA document available to the public.

The Metaphase Typewriter was operated under several curious conditions without much success. They invited several famous and not-so-famous psychics to try to influence the endless stream of random anagrams flowing from the typewriter or to cause the ghostly voice from the quantum metaphone to make sense in some known language. They held séances to evoke the spirits of colleagues who had recently died and who knew about the typewriter, and they held an all-day séance on the 100th anniversary of Harry Houdini's birth to try to contact the spirit of this great magician. Depending on how you interpret the data, they either experienced a high level synchronicity or achieved a modicum of success with this experiment. According to the account documented by Saul-Paul Sirag, a scientist present at the Houdini experiment:

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