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Someone once said, “I don’t believe in ghosts, but you’ll never get me in a haunted house!!” I quote these words quite often to show people what those skeptical of UFOs and the paranormal usually say to me when we are in discussion about such matters. They seem to be caught between a rock and a hard place and although they don’t believe in such things, it is difficult for me to tempt them to come on a haunting case with me!! This does not apply however to those more hardened skeptics who would gladly come with me on any Investigations. UFO and Paranormal research ‘needs’ skeptics. Skeptics keep us on our toes and make sure our feet remain firmly on the ground. So I decided to jump over the fence and enter into what some would say was ‘enemy territory’ I took in my very first skeptic meeting which was held at the Florence Nightingale pub near Waterloo Station, London on a very cold and wind-swept February night.
One of the people on the Skeptics in the Pub mailing list, Partha Lal, sent a note to me asking me to publicise a firewalk he was doing for charity.
I checked out the charity, which seemed worthy enough (the charity is Haven House, a children’s hospice. (It’s still not too late to donate some money for Partha’s walk! Send him an email with details of your donation). I duly published the details of the event in a mail. A few days before the event, Partha told me that people could join in for a modest price, and being someone interested in new experiences, I decided to do the firewalk.
I was quite terrified, if truth be told, for several days before the event. Although I’m a pyromaniac and love to watch flames, I’m terrified of being burned (is this normal?) and while I knew, in my head, all about the thermal conductivity of ash and so on, I still found the build-up psychologically challenging.
Attending my first ‘Skeptics in the pub’ meeting last week, I was troubled to find Lord Taverne presenting the session about his organisation Sense About Science. While Lord Taverne, befitting his distinguished career, was an entertaining and persuasive speaker, he did not strike me as an appropriate figure to lead a sceptics meeting. It was more discouraging, then, to hear him introduced as an “old friend” of the society and to hear he’d presented before. I was beginning to wonder what I’d gotten myself into.
Volume 20 Number 4, Winter 2007
Matthew Provonsha reports on his disillusionment with life in a religious commune
LAST YEAR I spent two months inside a Camphill Community along with other volunteers of various ages from around the world, eager to help others and better myself. I was drawn to communal life, but more importantly I was put off by the society in which I grew up. As a teenage atheist and leftist in the United States I was appalled by the vast increase of religious fervor in public life and by our startling move to the Far Right even during my lifetime. Like so many Americans I was laden with a painful sense of hopelessness. I could only watch television, drink or get high to distract myself. Retreat in one form or another seemed to be the only suitable option.
I was quite enamored with British culture, as well, and wanted nothing more than to see the land which had produced so many of my favorite authors, comedians, rock stars and TV shows. The UK almost seemed (to my naïve self ) to be a totally different, more civilized world. So it was that I decided to find someplace in Britain where I could work for food and lodging. In truth I only chose to ‘volunteer’ at the Mount Camphill Community, a school for young adults with special needs in the South-East of England, because it offered the best benefits. In addition to organic food and lovely surroundings it offers a weekly stipend of fifty pounds, weekend outings and ample time off.