About the Reason and Magic blog

There are a lot of blogs about spirituality and a lot about skepticism. I haven’t seen many, however, that combine the two in useful ways. Both are inevitable, deeply human, and, I believe, more meaningful when taken together.

Skeptics and spiritual people have a lot to learn from each other, but few opportunities to gather on common ground. That’s the mission of Reason and Magic—to open a shared space.

As a writer, I’ve spent years exploring the borderlands between mysticism and science. I wasn’t sure how to tie it all together until I found out about the renaissance in psychedelic research. The new psychedelic science provides a shared language for skeptics and believers.

About the author

If you’re looking for the bare-bones resume, you’ll find it under Basic facts. If you’d like to know more, you can skip down to Revealing details. I’ll post new revealing details at the end of the page as they occur to me.

Basic facts

I was born in 1953 in Hartford, Connecticut.

I’m married, to Sarah Cook. No children.

We live in rural DeForest, WI, about 15 minutes north of Madison, the state capitol.

I have an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College (2000) and a BA in Education from Maharishi International University (1978). I have most (maybe 90%) of a BA in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh.

I spent most of my career in computer software. I worked as a programmer/analyst, tech writer, teacher, consultant, and small businessperson for a variety of employers from 1978 to 1998. As a freelancer, I wrote and edited computer books for Prentice-Hall and Simon and Schuster. My last computer job was Vice-President and co-owner of The Software Resource, a Madison, WI, computer services firm specializing in technical documentation and training.

Since getting my MFA, I’ve focused on literary nonfiction. My memoir The Maharishi Effect: A Personal Journey Through the Spiritual Movement that Transformed America was published by Tarcher/Penguin in 2006.

My current book project, with the working title Reason and Magic, is about scientific and medical research on entheogens, also known as psychedelics. See the blog for more.

My interests and hobbies include music, both as an amateur guitarist and hi-fi geek, books and literature, nature, computer gaming, yoga and health, sports cars, and Halloween.

Revealing details

My attraction to inner worlds dates back to second grade. My teacher called in my parents and told them that I needed glasses because I couldn’t see the blackboard. I put on a pair of thick plastic horn-rims and discovered that school was more than blurry daydreaming. I’ve been trying to get back to blurry daydreaming ever since.

* * *

I come from a family of chemists. My mother, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were all chemists. I have chemistry in my blood. My mom did her best to get me interested in chemistry when I was a kid but I wouldn’t have it. Dumbest thing I’ve ever done.

* * *

At the time I was born, my parents lived in faculty housing on the campus of Trinity College in Hartford. Our apartment was across the hall from Paul Kurtz, a professor of philosophy who went on to become the founder of the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal and the publisher of Skeptical Inquirer magazine. I started reading SI in the Seventies when I was a student at Maharishi International University. When Maharishi told his followers that they could levitate, I was prepared.

* * *

My biggest priority in the Fifties and Sixties was watching television. I got up at 5:30, before any of the TV stations started broadcasting, to watch the snowy static and listen to the white noise. The first picture of the day was a mandala—black and white concentric circles embedded with occult symbols surrounding a profile drawing of a Native American shaman. The mandala gave way to the National Anthem, the Lord’s Prayer, and cartoons. I still love cartoons.

* * *

Perhaps I should mention sports. Before I got my glasses, sports consisted of standing on the playground in a blur getting hit by soccer balls. After I got my glasses, I could see the balls coming, but by then all the other kids had the requisite throwing and catching skills that I would never develop. My only defense was to pretend that I was someplace else.

* * *

I learned the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique in 1973. Over four decades, I put in 10,000 hours of meditation.

* * *

Occasionally, someone asks me why I left the software business. I tell them I left because I saw what it does to people.

For example, I spent a week at a software company in New York working on the documentation for their latest product. The programmers at this very high-tech firm were young engineers in sweatshirts and jeans. They were among the best.

This company held a ritual social gathering every afternoon at 5:00 PM. Everyone left their workstations and filed into the conference room for milk and cookies. I got in line and took an Oreo and a carton of chocolate milk from the boxes on the conference table.

Once they had their milk and cookies, the engineers lined up around the room, leaned back against the wall, and stared into space. Nobody said anything. At 5:15 they walked in silence back to their workstations for a long night.

I visited dozens of software companies over the years and they’re all like that. The programmers destroy their mental and physical health to finish a product that won’t exist six months after it’s released. I didn’t want to turn out that way. As soon as I had an exit, I left.

* * *

My religious persuasion is “skeptical mystic.”