The UCLA Angel Study Center?
Ides of March – time to thrust the knife in our beloved tales.
Tzvee first pointed it out to us:
No, visions of angels were not perceptions of anything real according to recent studies. They were the products of lucid dreams.
The UK paper the Daily Mail reports that, “Recorded Biblical angels and religious encounters may have just been lucid dreaming suggests a new sleep study that claims the historic stories were merely ‘out of body experiences.’”
Now this immediately pegged my skepto-meter. Tzvee’s story appeared today, but the original story appeared on December 24th, 2011 (nittelnacht!) This part really caught my eye:
the researchers taken from the University of California Los Angeles….
The Out-Of-Body Experience Research Center in Los Angeles….
Now, a careful re-reading of those phrases does not indicate that this was UCLA research. Rather, there was a researcher who claimed to be from UCLA (perhaps a student or graduate of UCLA). And indeed, here is the center. The “Out-Of-Body Experience Research Center” is just nuts about lucid dreaming, and the web site has that “crank” look about it. And there is someone named Dodd Stolworthy, indeed, from Los Angeles. Here is his photo:
Now, one should probably judge a book by its cover, but that seems like a bit of an odd photo for a professor. And a Google search reveals no obvious link between Stolworthy and the UCLA faculty.
But the story gets better in the retelling. For example, the dubious publication LA Weekly, when it printed up its report, found fit to refer to “Santa Clause.”
Maybe the author Simone Wilson was unconsciously channeling the Marx Brother’s Night at the Opera, when Groucho and Chico have this back and forth:
Fiorello (Chico): Hey, wait, wait. What does this say here, this thing here?
Driftwood (Groucho): Oh, that? Oh, that’s the usual clause that’s in every contract. That just says, uh, it says, uh, if any of the parties participating in this contract are shown not to be in their right mind, the entire agreement is automatically nullified.
Fiorello (Chico): Well, I don’t know…
Driftwood (Groucho): It’s all right. That’s, that’s in every contract. That’s, that’s what they call a sanity clause.
Fiorello (Chico): Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! You can’t fool me. There ain’t no Sanity Clause!
It is really not clear that there is anything in from the “Out-Of-Body Experience Research Center” that is not already addressed in William James’s Varieties of Religious Experience. So, in the meanwhile, go ahead and believe in prophecy and mysticism. As far as UCLA is concerned, it is at least as valid as the sanity clause.
Postscript: On second thought, perhaps a UCLA connection would fit right in; after all, Carlos Castenada received his doctorate from UCLA based on the research described in his shaman Don Juan Matus books.