Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Anna Gets it!

Wanted to share this email exchange I had with one of the IIG members.  I think if there is any confusion about what I'm advocating this might just clean it up.
Hi Susan,
I took a few days to really look over your suggestion a few times and I really like the idea. If I am understanding it right, it smacks of some real potential for impact from an educational point of view, my personally favorite tactic since I intend to teach one day ;-)
But let me verify with you that I have it right....
I read an article in say, Popular Science or any other solid source including books, related to something that wikipedia might have an entry on related to some sort of  false belief, I would then go to wikipedia and look up that topic, add a blip about the information in the article or book addressing the correct information from a scientific point of view if it's not already there, attach the reference, then add in discussion why it was added?
Is that it?


Without a specific example from you that sounds about right.

Let's try this example I'm making up. Science Weekly magazine has an article about what it would mean for science if ghosts and demons really existed. The article seems really interesting and you are almost late from your lunch because you read it over twice. When you get home from work that night you decide you want to try out this guerrilla skepticism someone named Susan in your IIG group keeps ranting on about.

You glean the main point of the article, and write a few sentences summing it up but in a way to be entertaining enough that people will want to read the actual article. You cite the magazine so it appears as a footnote under your blurb.

Then after signing into your Wikipedia account you go to the demon page and finding an apporate area for the blurb you edit it in. Double check everything and then leave a note on the edit area of what you did. Add the page to your watchlist so you will know if someone edited it.

It seems pretty straitforward but lots of people have difficulty doing all this. If you did it correctly then you should be able to leave the same blurb on the ghost page as well. Then someone looking at either page will hopefully be curious enough to read the science weekly article.

You might just have lit the flame under this person who until that moment never doubted the existence of ghosts or demons.



Outstanding! I'm all over it!

While I was on wiki exploring some woo topics to see how much scientific material was on the average page, I searched "spirit possession" and found *one* very anemic paragraph only a few lines long about how skeptics question the reality of this phenomenon and suffers may have epilepsy, etc...that was it....
I *totally* see a need for this, and the effectiveness of this technique.

 [Warning: Authorative Sounding Language to Follow! Beware! Continue at Your Own Risk!]

One benefit of being familiar with superstitious beliefs and paranormal phenomenon is I know right where to go to find both the topic and the appropriate scientific response...since answers to these beliefs is what I've been reading through for decades. The possession page was even *asking* for references regarding the dangers of spirit possession to the medium and their communities...can you imagine?

I already know where on my shelf to find Jung's opinions about this, AND what the DSM IV has to say about what might constitute a "spiritual emergency." I even have books specifically *about* spiritual emergencies..."possession" being one of several manifestations of this.   Both of these sources offer explanations that have perfectly organic origins.

This is going to be fun! I'll be rereading through this months ton of magazines to do it backward like you suggest too.

Thanks for the suggestion!


  1. I spent some more time testing my ability to edit. I've made some minor corrections to the language flow of the 'spirit possession page' and am continuing to research the exact sources that I will use for the scientific contribution.

    This whole idea is fantastic because it's going to force me to bone up on info that I've forgotten, and learn a lot of new info. You don't really learn something until you have to teach it!

    But so far, going smoothly.

  2. Anna, Really excited to hear you are starting to edit. And even more happy to hear that you are enjoying yourself and positive about having to re-read old articles. Editing Wikipedia isn't for everyone, because it can be so detailed at times. But trust me it is worth it.

    Keep up the great editing and check in with us every so often. Its really uplifting to watch you on this journey. I and probably others reading this are curious about your edits so please keep us updated where you have been editing.

  3. Kappow! Don't hate me 'cause I'm an editing fool! I just finished the addition to 'spirit possession' on wiki...and it's not too bad if I do say so myself!

    Please check it out and let me know what you think!


    I think you did a really nice job improving that article. I assume you are PremoVeritas? I like this part, "Those most susceptible to being possessed are people with weak boundaries and low self-esteem,[17] pointing to dysfunctional ego involvement in manifestations of this phenomenon rather than actual outside entities."

    I read the article first not knowing what had been changed and I liked this part the best, very happy to see that it was yours.

    FYI the citation always goes at the end of the sentence or paragraph (less distracting to the reader). It looks like another editor is saying that your citation for this is not a good one because you are using WebMD for the source. Not good enough. But your point it made.

    I do think it flows better.

    Under the African category someone else put this in, "It is also believed that there are those who feign possessions because they want attention or a feeling of importance, because those who are possessed carry a high importance in ceremony."

    Wow! Another great line. The reference goes on to say that those that claim they are possessed get to drink some special liquid that is really difficult to make. Wonder it they have the possessed lining up in that town?

    I see someone left a "flag" on the Spiritualism section, more citations needed.

    Great Work Anna. Keep us informed where you travel next.

    PS I noticed there is a page devoted to Automatic Handwriting, I didn't realize this. I think maybe someone who has a moment might take my edit on Vassula Ryden's page and change it up a bit and place it on that page. I think Joe Nickell's challenge about "if they can't see the lines on the paper they won't be able to write straight, but you would think the spirit could do so" or something like that.

  5. I noticed the editor's activity on my entry so I went back to fix it. I assumed it was the language not the fact that it was webmd.com. I had read most of the rules (I thought) about what I can use from the internet, and didn't see anything pertaining to sites such as these, so I'm a bit confused why it would be disallowed. I didn't cut and paste from it, so at this point I'm at a loss.

    Susan, do you have any insight you can share on this?

    In the meantime, I checked out Vasulla's page, I had never heard of her. She's quite the star apparently. The handwriting section is interesting. But she doesn't take any money for what she delivers, so I'm going to find something more hateful. I'll let the Church go after her for now, she is clearly revealing contradictions to doctrine, and they don't take kindly to that.

    I checked out 'spiritiualism,' something I hadn't read about since my teens. Wow, did this bring back a lot of memories! There are many citations that I can help put together here, so I think I'll stay a while and see what I can do.

    see ya round the bend...

  6. I realized my error regarding webmd. I only sent folks to the page expecting them to search Dissociative Identity Disorder themselves...shame on me...so I relinked to the actual page with the information I referenced. That should make everyone happy....

  7. Guess you figured it out and corrected it before I woke up this morning. Good Job.

    Did you read my blog on Vassula Ryden? http://guerrillaskepticismonwikipedia.blogspot.com/2011/06/guerrilla-skepticism-of-vassula-ryden.html

    She might not take money for "readings" through Paypal, but she is selling books. Those aren't free.

    I like the idea of letting the church and her duke it out, but at the moment there is nothing going on with her. I have her on Google Alert and rarely find anything on her. As I said her Facebook Fan page has less than 50 fans on it. This could be the English version and the one in her native country might have thousands of fans. Not much we can do about that at the moment.

    I'm glad you are finding areas to tackle that I would never have thought of trying.

  8. Ryden allegedly doesn't take any of the proceeds from her books. But I did some more checking regarding the priestly references used on her page.

    The priest they're using for most of the recommendations is controversial. He has excellent historical references,is an expert in Marionology and has written countless books on the visions of Mary, particularly the one at Medjugorje. But those has never been approved by the church. I also found a site that blasts him as a liar who exaggerates his relationship with, and approvals from, the pope, regarding those sightings. So....there's more there than meets the eye.

    The Church also is on record saying she teaches incorrect doctrine and is not to be followed, which were visible to the naked eye just reading some of her material.

    I did see a poop-load of material I can go after on the site. If she's a bugaboo for you, I can spend some time here.

    Otherwise, I found an old article in SI about intercessory prayer that I can link to the same topic on wiki. It comes up at 'intercession' and has nearly zero info in it, and absolutely nothing from the skeptical point of view. I can do both, but this will take some time.

    "Spiritualism" will have to wait..

    Let me know what you're thinking, Susan..


  9. I checked out your blog on Ryden and added some very important comments on my observations.

    I'm convinced I can help with her page...

    So let me start doing my homework so we can get to shreddin'!

  10. Some addt'l observations:

    Mr. Nickell has misstated some facts, and failed to investigate others. Ryden has addressed the issues he uses as criticisms.

    Her grammatical and linguistic errors are due to her speaking 5 languages, English is her best, but is imperfect. She speaks imperfect English as well, as evidenced by interviews.

    Her writing neatly has been addressed in some of the very links that are privided on the wiki page. She writes twice, takes out the personal stuff, then rewrites in a more regal style. Allegedly "Jesus prefers this."

    This is not proof of anything of course, not by a long shot, but I am disappointed that greater study was not undertaken before such a blatant attack.

    Mr. Nickell is an extremely qualified source for literature based topics, but he has not done his homework, not if the statements placed in wiki are all he's said and done. It's possible that this is just an incomplete representation of his investigation.

    I have ordered her newsletter to see what she is pedaling, and have ordered her first book to investigate her original teachings, this will be useful in my own studies and in my editing.

    One thing if for sure, I am convinced she has seen visions. She described things I have seen to a T. But what it means, that is up to each person to believe or not.

    Regardless, I intend to provide a very sound and balanced objective contribution to this web site. 1) because it needs it, 2) because they seem to resist it. And that's just not allowed on a public site.

    more soon....

  11. Anna I would suggest you read Nickell's account in SI before stating he did not do his research.

    So Ryden gets spirit messages from spiritual beings, don't they write it by guiding her hand? Why would she rewrite it? How personal are we talking?

    I just don't get it, if some being seized my hand and started forcing me to write something, I don't think I would edit it and then rewrite it in my own handwriting. Maybe that is just me?

    "One thing if for sure, I am convinced she has seen visions. She described things I have seen to a T. But what it means, that is up to each person to believe or not. "

    What? Say What? Huh?

  12. Sorry didn't see the earlier comment from 11:24pm

    "Ryden allegedly doesn't take any of the proceeds from her books." So then where does the money go? Again we have to remember that money isn't the only thing, people get "rewarded" here on Earth many different ways. Adoration, Love, Gifts ect...

    I want you to work in a place you feel passionate about Anna, and are enjoying. There is so much to be done here that we could all pick a different topic and never overlap.

    Vassula isn't a bugaboo for me, I had never heard of her before reading Nickell's article.

    You commented on the other page about this topic. I'll answer here.

    If holy spirits are guiding Vassula's hand (possessing her) and she writes on the lines of the papers, then there should be no problem with her continuing to write on the same lines when she is blindfolded. I would think she would be more focused.

  13. Let me clarify, regarding Nickell,

    1) It's the short blip on the page that I think is misrepresenting him. I'm certain, knowing his background, that he did more...it just doesn't come across. I would love to read this full report, I'm sure that will clear up these weaknesses. Maybe I can include some more of his stuff when I go into her page. I think his work deserves the effort.

    2) Having a vision(s) does NOT mean she is channeling God/Jesus/Mary/Holy Spirit as an empirical truth. She could simply *believe* she is. Carl Jung did marvelous work in this area of the psychology and I intend to use him to bring in some balance.

    3) You're not going to be able to ever force her to reproduce any of her stuff on demand, not if it were supernatural, nor from her own psyche. There is video of her writing, did you know that? She was captured by a priest doing some, and she deliberately writes very slowly and neatly. That something else is directing her hand is *impossible* to prove or disprove.

    She's got high power people vouching for her. The neurologist alone is head of neurology of a major Paris hospital. He's done tests to prove trance states in her and other mystics. This doesn't prove it's "God" or whatever, just that her trance states are real.

    And the priests are heavy hitters in the church. I'm not saying she is exactly as she claims, we can never be sure of that. But there are other explanations for all of this.

    Something a lot of folks don't realize is that the Church goes to very great lengths to *disprove* the validity of mystics. It takes an act of god (no pun) to get the to accept any of it as real, and virtually never when they're alive. It gives a mystic too much power. And if there's one thing Rome is possessive of, it's power.

    There are politics here. I'll give you an example of why I personally don't trust her motives, she's Greek Orthodox by heritage but pledges rock solid support for the Roman Pope, this is unheard of, and it's very convenient if you want the Church to support you. She panders to him...

    Also, the Jesus she channels is *very, very* Catholic. Just like the Church's medieval mystics' Jesus. The Christ entity is not "Catholic", he may be catholic, i.e.,universal, but he's not Catholic. This is the context she has chosen to filter him through and it makes one doubt because a universal entity like a christ (as he is supposed to be either as an extention of a creator, or a person's psyche)would not be so exclusive.

    And her material sounds like it's straight out of the Old Testament prophets. She chose Daniel, an apocalyptic prophet as a guide, just like Mohammed had Gabriel. She is actally following in the steps of Mohammed..the similarities are uncanny.

    I believe she had visions, at least at the very start, and she has since added something to them. The Church also noticed that her messages changed in content after a few years, in a suspicious way.

    Don't panic, I'm not converting! I can only go so far and remain a skeptic, and that will never change. But people do see things, I did, and they don't mean they're lying, or really seeing "God." But a lot of it is unreachable because it goes to faith...

    So I will be checking Nickell's report because I'm sure it will clear up any ambiguities, and her materials, as well as what experts in mysticism have to say on the phenomenon. But I'm pretty sure, Jung will contain proper balance all by himself.

    Coincidentally, the last paper I wrote last semester for my mysticism class was a Jungian counter to the Medieval women mystics. This is very familiar ground for me.

    Bear with me, try not to panic, I don't intend on bolstering her case any, just provide truthful balance. She has major weaknesses and I can show those in a good faith search for truth.

    I hope this clears some things up.

  14. And regarding the money...the publishing house is non-profit, her trips are funded by donations. But things like adoration, love and gifts, are not bad. I love the Dalai Lama, I contribute to St. Jude's hospital, etc... we support causes we believe in and that *make us feel good*...there's nothing wrong with that. I would see something wrong if people were being bilked out of their life savings or something, 'cause there are people right here doing that every day...

    I went to amazon.com to look at her books and there was only *one* available from them, all others were being sold as used at incredibly low prices, as is common for used books. Her new books look like they're damn near impossible to get! They either don't print that many, or they're that popular.

    I'm going with there aren't that many.

    On another note, to recap what's odd about her "revelations," she also pushes a lot of end time stuff...Catholicism is not anywhere near as interested in end times as the Protestants...this is weird. It's just too cozy a fit to all the end time noise going around.

    I'm going to have to look through her material to look for other key points of divergence from mystical experiences and political messages, those are important because they go to the world's power bases.

    Mystical experiences have been studied extensively, they have commonalities seen around the world, if she diverges from those, I will recognize it.

    ..and, Russian Christian unification is an old theme since the fall of the Soviet Union...The Virgin Mary features hugely in that movement based on the visions of other mystics in the area...so Ryden's visions are *time stamped*, and *personalized to a region*....this is just a little too proprietary for my taste.

    Context is key! You don't see buddhist mystics pushing Russian Church unification, nor Aztec shamans shouting Jihadists warnings...

    I would be most impressed if an Amazon indian who could not write put out these books in the jungle...THAT would be something!

    And just for the sake of perspective, the Qur'an, the only collection of writings on the planet that claims for itself Divine authorship, is written in sublime, completely unique, poetry. It has never been replicated. It makes her stuff look like a day with Dick and Jane...and even that has glaring politial slants that diluted it's apparent authenticity in later years...Mohammed wrote for 22 years..Ryden for 25...there's a lot here I need to check into.

  15. Yes, the end of times stuff is odd for Catholics isn't it? Actually the whole thing is odd.

  16. Yes, it genuinely is...she's trying to appease opposing groups, but she is pushing *unity* so that may just be her schtick. If all she does is talk peace, love, unity and happiness, then whatever...the theologians can battle it out.

    But I *will* be putting in answers to mystical experiences, automatic writing, and Jungian theories of unification of the psyche. If they resist those perfectly fair and balanced additions, then I'll be filing my complaint against them too. So we'll see what happens.

    In the meantime, I'm going to work on the 'intercesion' page, since I have the SI article right in front of me...just want to see if they offer a link. or any other articles first..

  17. Good job Anna. Send me your snailmail address (to my email) and I'll send you the SI article, I copied it today for you.

  18. Oh you rock!!! ok will do! Thanks!

  19. I'm recovering from some sort of food poisoning, and will be leaving town Sunday, so I'm going to be offline for about a week. I'll be looking forward to getting guerilla when I get back.

    rock on!

  20. Kapow! The Ryden page is done! I opted to use minimal, yet effective, clarifying, information instead of too much on mysticism or psychology. It didn't need it.

    Thank you for the article Susan, it did indeed have language that was missing from the abbreviated version of Dr. Nickell's comments. He had made some comparisons with other mystics and he needed credit for having done that.

    Also, I looked up some specific problems the Church has with Ms. Ryden. It seems there are some serious issues indeed!! Destroyed, altered, corrected, erased, modified revelations, not to mention auditory visits from Satan, who also "wrote!"

    The best example of her shenanigans includes a change in her story from a hand "controlled" by deity and her "willingly allowing" the movement. It seems she forgot the well known concept of free will, which according to Church teachings, can never be overriden, not even by God. So when this was pointed out, she changed her language to make it more of a submission to God's will than a lack of control...can ya believe it? You can't make this kind of stuff up!

    Not to mention her obsession with the end times, never a strong teaching by the Catholics because it pushes belief in a new physical world, whereas Catholic doctrine is all about life everlasting in the after world, not a "new world here." This is a full-blown heresy according to the RCC (known as millenarianism).

    Overall this was very interesting, thanks for the accidental lead!

    I'll be moving on to articles in SI that I can link to wiki pages now...

    See you around! 8-)

  21. Anna, Great reporting back. Very exciting.

    I read through some of the changes you made and they are more detailed than I had left.

    It sounds like you really enjoyed it and that is what its all about. (well that and the hokey pokey)

    Everyone take a look at Vassura Ryden's page and see what you think.


  22. Yes, I added some details that close a few gaps. It didn't need a whole bunch. The Church statements are actually pretty damning (no pun)...she stopped "revealing" in 2003, so she's right up there with "Conversations with God" as far as I'm concerned..warm and fuzzy, but not any big deal.

    I never even got a single e-newsletter from their site. I think she's dead in the water. Although she may be invited to peace summits, kumbaya circles shouldn't be much of a problem for anyone. Her books are nearly free, even directly from them, so no one is really buying them from what I can tell.

    This was pretty fun though...I never would have thought it would be so easy to correct/contribute on wiki...let's see what else I can sink my teeth into...8-E

  23. Well looking at my new toy the "Wikipedia Article Traffic Stat" thingy it says that she has had 1238 hits to her Wiki page in June 2011.

    I hit the page a lot in June so I'm sure a few are from me.

    Lets see what July looks like so far. 650 as of today, with a major spike on the 17th with 60 hits. The next day the 18th she had 55 hits.

    That makes total sense as my TAM9 paper presentation was on July 17th, also that is when Anna had just finished up her editing of the page.

    So it looks like most of her views are from skeptics. Interesting.

  24. Hmm...wow...that's more than I would have thought, but worldwide, is that a lot? I have no idea...lots of those hits will be from me, since I was reading and rereading to make sure it sounded right..I probably hit it about a dozen times on the 17th...and in June I was over it and over it...maybe couple dozen times....

    That's awesome that you can see the dates...I'd like to think people are happy with the language..

  25. I don't know if this provides any actual comparison but Lady Gaga got 1,267,277 hits in the last 30 days... 'reincarnation' got apx 46,886 hits, and 'Joe Nickell' himself got 1145 hits...so he's right up there with Little Mary Sunshine...beats her by 3 even!

    Either she's as hugely popular as Dr. Nickell is, or he's as hugely popular as she is! Whatcha think?


  26. Interesting points Anna. I've been meaning to do a blog on the language thing. It is possible that Vassula is very popular outside of the English page.

    I'm happy with what you did Anna. I think you did a awesome job getting on it.

    Where will you turn your eye next? I could really use some help on Sean Faircloth and the SCA page. I have some things I'm going to put up tonight, but I'm not very good at the writing. Could you (or someone reading this) please run your eye over the writing?

  27. Absolutely! I'd be happy to!

  28. This comment has been removed by the author.

  29. Ok, I just cleaned up both the SCA and Faircloth pages. Let me know if and when you add anything that you may want me to go over.

  30. Thanks Anna, it is better. Actually WAY better than the condition we found it in.

    Would really like to see it better written. It is just one sentence. Then the next sentence. Then another sentence.

    It does not flow, like a gathering of facts.

    I guess I shouldn't be picky as it is way better. I not a very good writer but I guess it will have to do for the moment.

    Sean is getting a different picture uploaded to Wiki Commons as we would prefer one that has him speaking at the podium than the portrait I took.

    I'll just move the portrait to somewhere else on the page once I get the other one.

    Thank you again Anna. Really an improvement.

  31. Not a problem... I actually expected to have to do more, all I did was just clean up what was there, but I can see how it could use more. I don't have the facts for the organization nor the man, you seem to be really good with that. So if you just put the info up, I can arrange it to read smoother if it needs it.

    I don't change too much because I don't want to offend the writer (I don't know if it's you writing any of it or not), or change actual facts I'm not familiar with. But I don't consider anything above improvement...it can always get better.

  32. Nope I wasn't the writer. And no one who edits on Wiki better be too upset when it is changed.

    You go right ahead and make it FLOW!

    The facts are all okay, just see if you can make it more readable. Every sentence seems to start the same way.

  33. Not a problem! I'll take more liberties...8-))

  34. Ok, just finished SCA...check it out and tell me what you think...

  35. Wow you have been busy! Thank you so much, I could never do that great of a job. Grammar and I have never been good friends.

    I changed just one small thing and that was unlinking to a page that does not exist.

    They are going to need some more links to make the page really shine, but that isn't our responsibility at the moment.

    Cleaning it up was. I'm waiting on another picture to be uploaded that was taken by another photographer and will change out the image. Then I guess we are done. Unless someone else has some ideas?

    Thanks again Anna. Where are you off to next?

  36. I was hunting on SI's webpage for stuff like intercessory prayer ( had left off on that before Ryden)...the wiki page has only 1 paragraph on the subject, and it's not a scientific one. So I think I'm going to write up a blurb and put up the link as a reference and move on to something else wooie..

  37. I'm going to have to put this little project on hiatus, the politics of the time, and school, are calling my name.

    Be well everyone! Till we meet again...

    A 8-)