Mod+ Skeptiko Paranormal and Spiritual Book Reviews

Ian Gordon

Ninshub
Member
#1
I’ve had the idea to start this thread for a while. I’ve been gathering write-ups of the paranormal/spiritual books I’ve read in more recent times (basically 2014, since I’ve delved into other stuff this year and/or have been too busy to pursue much reading), just for personal use, mostly to help retain a trace in memory of what I’ve read. But then I thought I’d put them up here and start a thread where people can share thoughts about books they’ve just read on the many topics Skeptiko covers – whether it’s full-blown critiques or just short impressions or words of appreciation. (I wrote some fairly extensive critiques for the first ones I did, but please don’t let that intimidate you – other books I’ll read I might just say a few words about.)

I find it fun to know what people are reading, and it’s an opportunity to learn about interesting books out there, gather people’s book recommendations in a single thread that’s easy to find, and help foster our little community – and maybe bring in new forum members who are attracted by reading or exchanging thoughts and information about such books.

These are the guidelines I’m requesting for this thread:

1. Write as little or as much as you want, but don’t post book reviews if they’re not your own. These are for critiques or appreciations by forum members only.

2. Don’t just post a list of book titles. Come up with a few words to describe a book, and try to keep it to books that you are actively reading or have more or less recently read and remember well (not a list of the books you’ve read in the last ten years!).

3. I chose “Paranormal and Spiritual” as a thread title, but basically feel free to review any topic that Skeptiko covers – ID, alt medicine, perhaps conspiracies/cover-ups etc. But use some discretion: e.g. if you want to review a Bernardo Kastrup philosophy book, yeah, that fits, but if you just want to review a book about the philosophy of Hume or Kant, maybe this isn’t the place for that. Quantum physics as it relates to psi or metaphysical philosophy/spirituality, not just quantum physics. That kind of thing.

4. Feel free to write your own impressions or review of a book someone else in this thread has already written about.

5. Most importantly, try very hard to keep this thread free of commentary, discussion, debate. This is meant as a strict resource/book review thread, and it won’t be interesting if the reviews get lost in a clutter of non-review posts. If you are inspired to write a response or a comment, make up a new thread, or maybe create a thread called “Comments on Skeptiko Paranormal and Spiritual Book Reviews Thread” and respond there to review posts made here.**

Thanks in advance to the contributors! (I’ll be starting to put some of mine up shortly).

EDIT: **There now is such a thread, if you want to use it:
http://www.skeptiko-forum.com/threa...o-paranormal-and-spiritual-book-reviews.2908/
 
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Ian Gordon

Ninshub
Member
#2
[UFOs].

A Roswell Trilogy.

In recent years, I started taking a somewhat active but only superficial interest in UFOs, via press conferences by expert witnesses and documentaries. I had never read a single UFO book in my life, and I assumed there was no way of finding out what was serious vs. what was junk in the mass of books out there, until some people started talking about it on this forum a few years back, and I found out this wasn’t necessarily so. I started researching and sorting out what had potential merit, and gathering a reading list.

When Alex did his podcasts with David Jacobs, I read Jacobs’ The Threat to understand more what he was talking about, and that spurred me on to finally get going, and add UFOs to my “extended conscious” readings, with a vague map in mind that I would start with nuts-&-bolts & “vehicle” sightings, before finding my way into abduction territory and the Vallée & company “High Strangeness” perspectives.

I didn’t know where to start and then said to myself “Why not start with Roswell?” I decided to jump into this without any knowledge, even superficial, of what Roswell was actually supposed to be about – except something very vague about a possible UFO landing somewhere in the desert, that I assumed to have been thoroughly debunked. For most of my life, I was not a “science fiction-UFO-paranormal-geeky” type (for example, I’ve never seen a single episode of The X-Files), and I actually thought those pop culture code words “Roswell” and “Area 51” actually referred to the same thing (!).

So I was a complete Roswell virgin going into this. I chose and read these three books in this order, to gain a small but critically informed perspective, and to just enjoy entering and exploring a mystery.



1. Don Berliner and Stanton T. Friedman. (2004 [1997] [1992]). Crash at Corona: The U.S. Military Retrieval and Cover-Up of a UFO (updated ed). NY: Paraview. 227 pages (main text: 203 pages.)

This is acknowledged as one of the best pro-Roswell books out there. Published in 1992, it was updated in 1997. Having read a few of Friedman’s books now, I can appreciate how solid he is as a researcher, the dedication and effort he has put into his work over the decades (all of those archival visits, FOIA requests, witness interviewing, etc., etc.), in addition to his scientific credentials. In this book, I learned the Roswell investigation, which only became a phenomenon in the 1980s, started with Friedman in 1978, when he was presenting a talk, and a television station director Friedman knew told him about an ex-Army Air Force major, Jesse Marcel, calling the station on an impulse and telling him about his handling the wreckage of a “crashed flying saucer” in New Mexico in 1947.

That started Friedman and some other researchers on the Roswell trail, leading to some early not-always-that-good books coming out, starting in 1980. When Friedman appeared on an episode of 1989’s Unsolved Mysteries, new witnesses came out, and that provided additional information to Friedman, who went ahead and finally wrote the book he had been planning (teaming up with aviation writer Don Berliner who had also been planning a Roswell book).

The book is called “Crash in Corona” because the closest habitation to the New Mexico alleged crash is Corona, and is the location where the rancher who spotted the crash first told people, before reporting to officials in Roswell. Friedman and Berliner make a case that there were two crashes, one near Corona, another in the San Agustin Plains, also in New Mexico, both in early July 1947, that involved, in both cases, crashes of extraterrestrial vehicles, and recovery and removal of alien bodies. The book is concise but well-written and argued, and I wound up largely convinced by its contents, which of course also includes how the U.S. military covered the incidents up. Along the way, the authors point out the faults of earlier books and some of their sensationalized content.

The 1997 update is important because, in the interim, the Air Force had produced a report in 1994-95 that “explained” that the actual cause of the “Roswell incident” was likely the top secret Project Mogul, which involved special sounding balloons to lift equipment to very high altitudes, equipment to provide a warning system against rocket attacks or Soviet atomic bomb tests (and therefore not the “weather balloon” story concocted by the military in the 1940s). The authors criticize that hypothesis. They also come forward and admit that the testimony of the prime witness of the crash at the Plains of San Agustin, Gerald Anderson, can no longer be trusted after he admitted forging a document, but that they continue to believe in that second crash because of the corroborating testimony of other witnesses.

A very good read. 8.*




2. Karl T. Pflock. (2001). Roswell: Inconvenient Facts and the Will to Believe. Amherst NY: Prometheus. 331 pages (main text: 223 pages.) I read this book afterwards, to get the skeptical perspective, since it’s recognized as an excellent “anti-Roswell” book. It gains some of its credibility by the fact that Pflock (who died in 2006) was a lifelong UFOlogist who was “pro-UFO” (he believed they were real) but explains how he was agnostic about Roswell and how ultimately his research showed to him there was no truth to the claims of a saucer crash and the presence of alien bodies, and how this book is also his “journey” in discovering how we can easily fool ourselves about our “objectivity”. (The now-deceased paranormal blogger Mac Tonnies reviewed this book on Amazon very positively, and explained how it pushed him “into the skeptics’ corner” on the issue of Roswell.)

Pflock’s book is very well researched and detailed in its reconstruction of the “Roswell events”. He begins by exposing, again with a lot of detail, the different competing narratives put forward by the pro-Roswell researchers, before methodically taking apart the different pieces of the puzzle. Admittedly, he does this mostly through taking a very critical look into some of the witnesses, such as Gerald Anderson and Glenn Dennis. He then reveals (***SPOILER ALERT***) that he has independently come to the same conclusion as the Air Force, that what was found at the crash site were the special Mogul Project ballons.

Pflock goes into great detail about the different launchings of the polyethylene and neoprene balloons, the specific dates, the materials involved. He does confirm that the military’s initial story was false, and clearly a cover-up.

Like Friedman, Pflock does a good job of pointing out the strengths and weaknesses (mostly the latter) of earlier Roswell investigative books. On this point, if there’s one clear thing I’ve learned, it’s to definitely steer clear of Philip J. Corso’s The Day After Roswell.

After reading the book, I came away feeling, like Mac Tonnies – predictably, you could say – that Pflock had sown this thing up, and this was probably the answer. 8 going on 8.5.

(One point I’d like to bring up is that, reading Richard Dolan’s UFOs and the National Security State later on, he mentions Pflock in the context of the birth of NICAP in the 1950s. NICAP, the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena, was a civilian organization put together of high credentialed people, involving a lot of Navy members, to gather UFO sighting data, end UFO secrecy, and challenge the shut down on information then being put into effect by the Air Force. Pflock joined in the 1960s, and Dolan mentions him as a former CIA briefing officer, and wonders how it is likely that the CIA would not ask him for information on UFOs or NICAP (Pflock was asked and denied it). Because of his early CIA involvement, Pflock has been mistrusted by some in the UFO community. However, pro-Roswell writer Kevin Randle talked about this at Pflock's death and didn’t think there was any reason to doubt Pflock’s integrity: http://kevinrandle.blogspot.ca/2006/06/karl-pflock-dies-at-63.html )




3. Stanton T. Friedman. (2005 [1996]). Top Secret/Magic: Operation Majestic-12 and the United States Government’s UFO Cover-up (with new afterword). Cambridge, MA: Da Capo. 282 pages (main text: 230 pages.) This Friedman book isn’t directly about the Roswell investigation, but about documents that appeared in 1984 that point possibly to the government’s knowledge of the crash and the cover-up that went on in the highest instances. This is interesting material in itself, but the main reason I read this next is because of the 2005 afterword, where Friedman addresses the Roswell investigation in the intervening years, including, in some detail, Pflock’s book.

Friedman details his painstaking research and analysis into the MJ-12 document, a letter to incoming President Eisenhower in November 1952, by a 12-person committee of top scientists and military leaders put together by President Truman in 1947 to recover and investigate alien aircraft. The search involves archival research that turns up other documents, different memos (from 1947, 1954) involving the different members of the committee, that appear to corroborate the contents of MJ-12. Friedman is able to put together that the people involved did have meetings on the dates that these documents say such meetings took place. (All these documents are included in the book’s appendix.)

Friedman makes a strong case for the authenticity of the MJ-12 document, and the existence of that secret committee. I came away thinking it was a credible possibility at least, and that many skeptical arguments, most of them put forward by Skeptic Philip J. Klass (who didn’t do any of the actual library and archive research Friedman did), were completely off base. Along the way Friedman also shows that other purported MJ-12 documents that surfaced later, in 1992, are fraudulent.

Regarding the 2005 afterword, Friedman shows an appreciation for Pflock’s work and 2001 Roswell book, but describes how Pflock’s approach works chiefly through “character assassination” (which is how it read to me also) and criticizes him for not interviewing the different witnesses he is quick to disparage. He agrees that such attacks are warranted in the case of some witnesses, like Frank Kauffmann, who figured largely in the work of pro-Roswell UFO author Kevin Randle. (Friedman also agrees with Pflock that the work of UFOlogists Randle and Donald Schmitt on Roswell contains misleading information, distortions and misrepresentations.) He thinks, however, that the criticism of such witnesses as Colonel Blanchard and Roswell pilot Captain “Pappy” Henderson is unwarranted, that Pflock is quick to dismiss these witnesses without being on solid enough ground, and explains in detail why.

Finally, he disagrees vehemently with Pflock’s conclusions about the crash residue being Project Mogul balloons. The dates and locations Pflock tries to connect with the Roswell crash are plain wrong, according to Friedman, and there is no way the materials of those balloons can connect with the witnesses’ description of what they found and handled in 1947. Friedman goes into this in the main text of the book as well, in relation to the Air Force’s released report in 1994-95. He makes clear that what the Air Force released was in no way a “revelation”, the existence of Project Mogul had been known for decades, and that this was disinformation. He distinguishes the neoprene balloons, with their radar-reflector-foil-over-a-frame-of-balsa-wood-sticks-with-tapera of Project Mogul with what the witnesses described: “(N)o matter how tough they made the wood or the foil reflections, this standard junk simply does not relate to the extraordinarily strong, lightweight material that Roswell witnesses have described.” (p. 113)

As a read, I’d rate this a 7. Predictably again (!), it made me reconsider Pflock’s conclusions, and come instead to this conclusion about what happened at Roswell…: I don’t know. :) If I had to bet, I’d put my money on the UFO crash story, but I just don’t know.

Great fun investigating a historical mystery like this, though.

As I intimated in the first post, I’ve been wanting to put this together for a while (more than a year). I read these books in early 2014, wrote about them later that year (end of summer-start of fall 2014), and quite by chance (or synchronicity!), just as I was doing so and thinking of putting up this thread, I looked on the internet and found a video had just been put up (August 2014), by UFO doc maker Paul Kimball, of Friedman in 2001 talking specifically about Pflock’s book. The points he makes are the same as what I’ve related here.




*[A word on my very personal rating system. I’m a very harsh rater when it comes to giving the highest grades, but I tend to go easy on the other end of the spectrum. In my book, a 10 is near-impossible, 9 means it’s absolutely stupendous, 8 is very to extremely good, 7 is quite good, 6 is good-ish but a little problematic, 5 starts to suck. :) My ratings also refer to a very subjective appreciation: how much I liked and got pleasure out of reading a book, and less how much I objectively admire it.]
 
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Ian Gordon

Ninshub
Member
#3
[UFOs].

Overviews. A few general books on the topic. (I've got other kinds of book reviews coming - I just happened to go on a UFO crash-course at this point in time.)



1. Leslie Kean. (2010). UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record (updated ed). NY: Harmony. 335 pages (main text: 292 pages.) This one had been on my radar (no pun intended!) ever since it got published and made a splash. It connected to those various “Disclosure” press conferences I had seen in the 2000s involving “generals, pilots and government officials” coming forward to reveal their close witnessing of undeniable UFO activity.

It didn’t disappoint. What journalist Kean reports isn’t new, but she brings together some of the strongest and most credible UFO material for a general audience, challenging them to take seriously the reality of the phenomenon. Kean is a mainstream journalist who became interested in the topic ten years before her book was published, when a colleague sent her the 1999 French COMETA report based on the study of the phenomenon by retired French generals, scientists and space experts.

The way the book is organized and put together is part of what constitutes its strength and enjoyment. It isn’t a historical overview but a plunge into many key sightings, or series of sightings or engagements (those that involved close observation or interaction by the best informed witnesses), along with discussions on critical issues like governmental cover-up, the existence of secret government programs, the recent (2004 and onwards) release of previously secret files by many countries (the U.S. notably absent), and, importantly, cultural resistance to reception of the information. Frequently, Kean introduces these topics, and then chapters are presented which are written by the experts involved: pilots, military colonels, captains, generals, etc., which adds to the richness and potency of the material.

Some of the more “recent” incidents are covered, like the 1997 Pheonix Lights and the 2006 Chicago O’Hare Airport sighting, as well as impressive “classics” like the 1980 UK Rendlesham Forest incident. The sightings or interactions covered are from all around the world, and there’s quite an abundance of material from different South American countries.

Personally, two of the chapters I found most impressive in terms of the evidence are two cases of jet pilots in combat with UFOs, one in Tehran, Iran in 1976, the other in Peru in 1980. In both cases, you had pilots engaging very closely with unrecognizable objects/vehicles that were infringing on protected air space, that could be described precisely (one could see that what afar looked like a “balloon” up close was a 35 feet-diameter object with a “shiny dome” on top), that caused shut down of electronic equipment on board of the jets, and that engaged in impossible maneuvers and speeds. Again, Kean is not presenting incidents that were never reported before, but you get chapters written by the Air Force personnel involved.

Kean reports how when she started looking into the subject, she discovered the UFO literature describes patterns or “waves” of UFOs in certain defined locations-time frames, and the single most impressive chapter I read here was the one – written by an Air Force major general involved at the time - describing and analyzing the Belgian Wave of 1989-91. This wave featured 143 sightings by 250 people, frequently very similar-looking crafts maneuvering in ways impossible by known technology (even 20 years later), close and multiple-witness accounts, chases with policemen, maneuvers permitting observation of the shape and features of the vehicles (frequently a dome at the top, windows or lights on the side), interaction between witnesses and the crafts (e.g. an automobile-driving witness and a UFO “communicating” together through flashing lights), observation and engagement with multiple, simultaneous policemen. 650 cases were investigated out of 2000, and more than 500 were left unexplained. (p. 34) “The findings were exceptional. More than 300 cases involved witnesses seeing a craft at less than 300 meters (1000 feet), and over 200 sightings lasted longer than five minutes. Sometimes observers were right underneath the craft.” (p. 34)

One interesting chapter towards the end is the analysis by two political scientists of a “UFO taboo” in the “elite culture” that dismisses the possibility of examining the phenomenon because it supposedly lies “outside the boundaries of rational discourse” (p. 272). They attempt to describe the techniques by which the taboo is maintained, a taboo they do not think is the result of a conscious effort by a “vast conspiracy to suppress ‘the truth’”, but the result of “countess undirected practices” that make people think they know the phenomenon is not extraterrestrial and can be disregarded (p. 277).

An eye-opener and a very good introduction if you’re new to the topic. 8.5/9




2. Stanton T. Friedman. (2008). Flying Saucers and Science: A Scientist Investigates the Mysteries of UFOs. Franklin Lakes, NJ: New Page. 317 pages (main text: 302 pages.) This one, on the other hand, was disappointing. I was expecting more, especially in relation to Friedman’s rebuttal to the often-stated idea that the nuts-&-bolts ET hypothesis doesn’t work from the get-go because the distances are too great and such interstellar travel isn’t possible. Friedman does cover this issue in this book, and it’s worth a read, but it’s short and can be found on his website here:
http://www.stantonfriedman.com/index.php?ptp=articles&fdt=2009.02.03

There isn’t that much meaty content in this book – it’s a ramshackle affair of different topics that Friedman often covers elsewhere: summaries of battling UFO skeptics and their talking points, the case for the ET hypothesis, the government cover-up, the MJ-12 documents, possible alien visitation motivations – some of which is interesting, some of which isn’t, but on the whole nothing here seemed radically new or revelatory to me. There is a Roswell investigation update that’s worthy if you’re into the topic, and an interesting discussion on how and why SETI isn’t a good idea and is a useless, misdirecting distraction. It’s like Friedman put together a book out of articles and various eclectic thoughts. Many prolific authors do that, though, so this isn’t meant to disparage him. (Not that Friedman is among the prolific authors: he’s only published five or six books!) 5.
 

Ian Gordon

Ninshub
Member
#4
[UFOs].

The Early Years.



Richard H. Hall/NICAP. (Ed.). (1997 [1964]). The UFO Evidence. NY: Barnes & Noble. 184 pages. If there’s one thing that slightly annoys me with the Leslie Kean book, retrospectively, it’s that you can get the impression that this type of information - credible, credentialed and most-pertinent witnesses (scientists, aviation experts, military) coming forward to report close encounters – is new, when the truth is that it’s not (the “new part” is maybe those people coming together in public to do it). Which goes to show how the serious data, after all these years, is not accessed in any meaningful way by the public.

I mentioned NICAP, the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena, in a previous review post. That was a civilian committee, but made up (for the most part) of people with strong credentials, many of them Navy personnel, formed in the mid-1950s in order to collect and analyze serious UFO reports, as well as lobby for the end to secrecy and control over the information by the Air Force. NICAP became the most significant pro-UFO investigative unit in existence at the time. Many of the most serious UFOlogists were part of this organization, like J. Allen Hynek. Richard Hall joined in 1958, eventually became the assistant director of NICAP; he largely wrote this report, which was published in 1964 and sent to every member of the U.S. Congress, to urge them to consider that this was a scientific issue worth consideration and that the “military” shouldn’t be the ones conducting science.

When Stanton Friedman relates his debates with UFO Skeptics and how they don’t bother to actually do the research and read the relevant literature, he often refers to this book/report as crucial evidence that goes ignored by them, which is what made me want to read it.

The report did make a splash of sorts when it was published. But when you get into it, the quality and power of the evidence is overwhelming. I can’t praise this book/report highly enough. As the abstract explains, the data presented is a synthesis of a selection of the 746 best reports, out of over 5000 signed reports received by NICAP, in addition to hundreds of reports published in newspapers and elsewhere carefully considered, of UFO sightings and encounters from the immediate post-war years up to 1963.

The raw data of these reports is presented in table format, usually with the categories of date, time, location, witnesses (name, profession, etc.), and a short description of the sighting, e.g. “radar-visual, 15 UFOs in precise triangular formation, changing to semi-circular formation.” (p. 22) Each chapter presents such tabled data, which is followed by more detailed description and objective, empirical analysis of the most significant cases and the patterns involved. Many of the chapters are categorized according to the type of witness involved, which highlights the credentials of many of the witnesses involved: a chapter each on 1) air force pilots and officers, 2) army, navy & marine corps personnel, 3) pilots and aviation experts, 4) scientists and engineers, 5) police officers, officials, professionals and other citizens.

An example of a sighting description is that of a Lieutenant Commander pilot who had spent 10 years flying with the Navy, in Tombstone, Arizona, in June 1952, who with his wife and a guest watched a huge object flying toward them: “Suddenly it stopped in mid-flight, seemed to hover, then reversed its direction and traced its course. In a matter of seconds, however, it returned, stopped again, appeared to oscillate and tilt from one side to another. Again it reversed itself and apparently returned in the same straight line. It reappeared and acted in exactly the same manner two or three times… We had a perfectly clear view of the object which looked something like a cup and saucer, or a derby hat. Its speed was unbelievable… It diminished to a tiny speck (the last time it flew away) and then out of sight in the space of about four seconds.” (p. 31)

Other chapters, again presenting numerous, tabled data followed by analysis and description of specific case or episodes, are organized into certain themes. “Special Evidence”, for example, groups and analyzes sightings combined with electro-magnetic interference effects, simultaneous radar-visual cases, photographic cases, and physical and physiological effects (skin burns, effects on the environment like carbonized trees and crushed foliage, etc.). Other really interesting chapters include ones on UFOs all over the world outside the U.S., and concentrations of UFO sightings in time and location (what were later called “waves”) – some of the most significant, in case you’re curious, being June-July 1947 in the Western U.S., March-June 1950 in the U.S. outside the East, July-August 1952 in the Eastern U.S., September-October 1952 in Europe, October 1954 in France, August 1955 in the Midwestern U.S., November 1957 in the Western U.S. and South America, June-August 1959 in Oceania, August 1960 in California, May-August 1962 in Argentina, and September 1962 in New Jersey. You’ll often find distinctive characteristics to the sightings in each of these “waves” or “flaps”.

Without having all of this pointed out to you, just reading closely the tables gives you an impression of what was happening when and where, and the characteristics of the sightings involved. I guess for some people this would be boring, like reading the phone book (!), but if you use your imagination and read it closely (and have an appreciation for history) you may find it fascinating. You can chart the different sightings in different locations, and all of the factors involved. If you’re new to UFO data, you will be surprised by the staggering amount of unexplainable data. You’ll repeatedly view serious reports of speeds of vehicles tracked at 4 500, 9 000, 12 000 MPH, interaction and engagement with the UFOs*, and several sightings in the same time and location by independent reports.

(*One example among many: an airplane pilot in San Bernardino, California, in November 1955 coming across a “globe of white light”: “Approached small plane; pilot blinked landing lights, UFO blinked twice in seeming response. UFO came closer, pilot blinked lights three times; UFO blinked three times, ‘suddenly backed-up in mid-air’.” (p. 11))

One of the most amazing pieces of evidence here, which the authors go into some detail, is the concentration of sightings over a single night – November 2-3, 1957, around the town of Levelland, Texas. Independent reports were received of sightings at precise times, of sometimes very close encounters, sometimes by police officers, which enables the authors to build a map of the events and, well, “ships” involved. At about midnight, one man is driving when he comes upon an egg-shaped object standing on the road, and when he approaches it his car lights and motor die. As he gets out of the car, the UFO rises out of the sky, and his car lights come back on. Many other witnesses have very similar encounters at closely related times of the night, many of them involving car lights and engine failures. For example, at 12:05 AM, another man is traveling along the same Route 116, toward Levelland, and his motor gradually dies and his lights go out. He gets out to check the car, finds nothing, then notices an oval object sitting on the road ahead of the car. It appears to be 100 feet long and glowing blueish-green. The man gets scared, jumps back in his car but the car won’t start. After many minutes, the UFO rises straight up into the sky, and his car is able to start.

The report is filled with data like this: incredible speeds, technology that appears well beyond human capacities, “impossible” maneuvers by the objects, repetition of types of patterns of color, sound, shape, maneuver; formations; multiple radar-visual sightings. Hall analyzes the different components that go into showing that these objects are obviously under “intelligent control” by showing three features: a) inquisitiveness, and reaction to the environment (UFOs are seen pacing human vehicles, or “evading or otherwise reacting to human devices”); b) powered flight; and c) formations in coordinate flight. (p. 9)

Again, you come to some of these realizations yourself as you read carefully the chapters and the tabled data, but the chapter on “Patterns” spells out what I find the most fascinating aspect.

I’m sympathetic and open to all approaches to the UFO phenomenon, like the interdimensional hypothesis and all the “high strangeness” stuff, but I think that whatever framework one favors one has to take into consideration what the data shows here. In the case of these samples, the data shows that the vast majority of sightings and encounters fits certain established patterns: patterns of flight, of structure, of color, of sound, the presence of “portholes” or “windows” (consistently arranged either in straight lines, or circular patterns), and objects that are described or feel like machines. (Hall writes on page 13: “The observations sometimes have included visual signs of mechanical-functional construction, in addition to indicators of the UFOs being, literally, machines.”)

The “Patterns” chapter tables the physical appearance of the objects, with 58% being geometrical in shape (with discs or round spheres making up 42% of those), 24% light sources, and 8% cigar or rocket-shaped. Maneuvers include hovering (slow motion) or sudden rapid acceleration, circling and pacing of human vehicles, UFOs “rendezvousing then operating together” (p. 148). “(R)apid acceleration occurs so regularly that it can practically be considered a defining characteristic of a ‘UFO’. No man-made objects or known natural objects can perform in the manner described. The objects which were observed performing this maneuver were predominantly the typical discs and ellipses so often recorded”. (p. 148).

The empirical breakdown of flight characteristics is also fascinating: the changes in color related to motion, distinct oscillation patterns such as “wobbling on axis”, “pendulum/falling leaf motion” and “side-to-side oscillation”, and more erratic or violent maneuvers such as zig-zagging or circling, darting, climbing, diving or reverting course. (p. 152-156).

The book ends with an appreciation of the scientific and social questions that are generated by the UFO phenomenon, and the social-cultural-political problems involved in trying to get a solid scientific investigation started. This is written in 1964, and it’s startling to read the points Hall makes here in the context of the 50 years since and what little seems to have changed: “The atmosphere of ridicule surrounding the subject of UFOs (…) has prevented many of the best qualified analysts from lending their talents to a meaningful scientific investigation. Also, a myth has developed in some scientific quarters that there is nothing in UFO evidence that scientists can come to grips with; no quantitative data or concrete evidence. This position is based on quicksand, [my italics] since no real scientific effort has been made to acquire such data. It is, in fact, not a reasoned position at all, but a presumption. How can these skeptics be so sure until someone tries to obtain data with instruments? The evidence presented in this report strongly suggests that an organized and instrumented study of UFOs would be very fruitful. If not, then these skeptics would have a solid basis for their currently illogical position.

Some skeptics base their position on the alleged fact that modern tracking instruments have not detected UFOs. On the contrary, UFOs have been tracked with theodolites and filmed at White Cape, N.M. (…), tracked on radar at Cape Kennedy, and by Air Force and civilian radar all over the world [my italics] (…). There has been a tendency to rationalize, or suppress, any puzzling data. Interpretation of unexplained objects detected by instruments has been left to guesswork.” (p. 180)

In the 1997 foreword to the reprint, Richard Hall indicates how “eye-opening” the report was at the time, and I can only imagine: it was so for me reading it now. Perhaps this book wouldn’t have had the same impact on me had I previously investigated UFOs to any meaningful extent before, but coming upon this at the right time was great.

This reprint was important, as, like Hall states, following the initial publication the original was only available on the UFO “black market” for a hefty price. The report can be read free here, but I can’t guarantee that it features everything that I have in the physical book, and the recreation of the drawings and graphs isn’t that great. It looks to have been “retyped” rather than actually scanned (and the drawings redrawn).

I would definitely recommend a solid copy for those who are seriously interested in the topic and haven’t read it yet. 9.
 

Ian Gordon

Ninshub
Member
#5
[Mediumship].



1. Sir Oliver J. Lodge. (1993 [1916]). Raymond, or Life and Death: With Examples of the Evidence for Survival of Memory and Affection After Death. London: Methuen & Co. (Time Life reprint). 403 pages. This is part of my reading mediumship-related books in a rough chronological order. The last one I’d read before this was the 1906-1931 collection of books by Edward C. Randall about the “direct voice” medium Emily French in Buffalo, New York, put together by N. Riley Heagerty in 2001 as The French Revelation. That contained some good material but I found it a tough-going, repetitious read.

Lodge was the pioneering British physicist, of course, who converted from materialism to spiritualism when he began researching telepathy and mediumship in the 1880s and joined the Society for Psychic Research, befriending F. W. Myers and company. By the time of Raymond, Lodge was already convinced of the existence of the afterlife and had already published on the subject. In 1914, when the war broke out, his youngest son Raymond enlisted into the military, started training, and joined the front in the spring of 1915. He was killed in battle in Belgium on September 15 of that year. Ten days later, on September 25, Raymond’s mother, the wife of Sir Oliver, went to a mediumship reading (by the then relatively unknown medium Gladys Osborne Leonard), as an unnamed stranger, and she received a message from "Raymond" to be transmitted to his father. That started a series of extraordinary communications over the next 9 months or so, that convinced Lodge and his family that Raymond was communicating with them from the “afterlife”, which is the subject of this book.

The book is divided into three parts. The first consists simply of Raymond’s letters sent from the front to his family from March 1915 to three days before his death. The second recounts the various sittings and events that were evidence of Raymond’s communication beyond death. The last are Lodge’s musings on various topics of spiritual-scientific import: the nature of psychic communications, life and consciousness, the mind and the brain, etc.

This is a fairly long book, but well-written and therefore mostly a pleasure to read. Raymond’s letters give a portrait of life on the front for a lieutenant of his social class, and reveals aspects of his character. I came away with feeling that, boy, was this guy cheerful and a of a good temperament! Nothing ever seems to get him down, despite the obvious difficult circumstances he’s in.

I won’t get into all of the elements that make up the second part, but they add up to an impressive body of evidence. You’ve got people going to different mediums, all anonymously, receiving messages from “Raymond”. Some of Lodge’s family members are disinclined to believe in spiritualism but come away convinced. The evidence Oliver analyzes leads him to conclude that telepathy from the living is eliminated as a possibility. This includes “Raymond” (that is, the purported Raymond coming through a medium) pointing to a group photograph that the Oliver family cannot recall. Months later, they receive a letter from a fellow officer of Raymond’s that mentions this photograph, they are able to trace it, and it matches in detail what the deceased “Raymond” described. Part of what it makes this piece of evidence go beyond simple telepathy is that this is a “cross-correspondence”, where “Raymond” references the photograph to one medium, and provides a description of it to another (p. 114).

Raymond provides information about what life is like “on the other side”. Lodge, who attempts a scientific and objective analysis throughout, is careful to advise the reader to not make much of the value of such information, since it is tainted by a) the “control” (the spirit) who acts as intermediary between “Raymond” and the medium, often “Feda” in the case of the medium Gladys Leonard, and b) the medium’s mind. These reports from the other side, says, Lodge “I should think, myself, (…) are of very varying degrees of value, and peculiarly liable to unintentional sophistication by the medium. They cannot be really satisfactory, as we have no means of bringing them to book. The difficulty is that Feda encounters many sitters, and though the majority are just inquirers, taking what comes and saying very little, one or two may be themselves full of theories, and may either intentionally or unconsciously convey them to the ‘control’; who may thereafter retail them as actual information, without perhaps being sure whence they were derived. Some books, moreover, have been published of late, purporting to give information about ill-understood things in a positive and assured manner, and it is possible that the medium has read these and may be influenced by them. It will be regrettable if these books are taken as authoritative by people unable to judge of the scientific errors which are conspicuous in their more normal portions; and the books themselves seem likely to retard the development of the subject in the minds of critical persons.”(p. 192). This excerpt should give some indication as to Lodge’s quality of mind and manner in evaluating the assorted evidence obtained.

Another impressive evidential bit takes place when two Lodge family members go to meet the medium Gladys Leonard for a sitting. Knowing that this is about to happen, and without telling them, three other Lodge family members gather together and focus on getting the departed Raymond to getting the word “Honolulu” to the other two family members during the Leonard sitting, and this is indeed takes place.

Part of what is related is how Raymond is able to be in contact with the now deceased F. W. Myers, Sir Lodge’s psychic researcher colleague and friend, and there is communication from him also to the various sitters who contact the mediums anonymously.

The last part involving Lodge’s speculations are less crucial and were less interesting to me, but they do often strongly echo conversations we are still having 100 years later, such as the discussion of what this means for the “philosophy of scientific materialism” (p. 284). Such as this passage: “The success which has attended Darwinian and other hypotheses has had a tendency to lead men – not indeed men of Darwinian caliber, but smaller and less conscientious men – in science as well as in history and theology, to an over-eager confidence in probable conjecture and inadequate attention to facts of experience. It has even been said (…) that ‘the age of materialism was the least matter-of-fact age conceivable, and the age of science the age which showed least of the patient temper of enquiry’. I would not go so far as this myself, the statement savours of exaggeration, but there is a regrettable tendency in surviving materialistic quarters for combatants to entrench themselves in dogma and preconceived opinion, to regard these vulnerable shelters as sufficient protection against observed and recorded facts, and even to employ them as strongholds from which alien observation-posts can be shattered and overthrown.” (p. 310-311)

7.

p.s. The book can be read online here.




2. L. Kelway Bamber. (1919). Claude’s Book. London: Methuen & Co. (HardPress reprint). 136 pages. I won’t say much about this one, or rate it (it would be lower than a 7 for sure), because I had almost forgotten I had read it, and remembered little of its contents as I came to do the write-up, through I was guided by what I underlined and by my notes in the margins. This has similarities with Raymond. In early 1916, Mrs. Kelway Bamber happened to be sitting next to a medium at a train station, when the medium described a “spirit boy” with her, and she described with accuracy her 20-year-old son who had been killed in the war a few months earlier. The next month, she had an anonymous sitting with the medium Gladys Osborne Leonard, who established evidential contact with her dead son. The book is simply a recording of what “Claude” has to say about his experience and knowledge of his new unearthly surroundings. (The book is prefaced by a letter from Oliver Lodge, who urges Mrs. Kelway Bamber to publish it, but again reiterates his thoughts about the “fallability” of “such utterances”.)

Claude describes his “waking up” after death, and how it took possibly weeks to become conscious again, in a hospital-like environment (nurses, doctors), when after some days a doctor explained to him that he was no longer on the physical plane. He has guides and they eventually bring him to a home made for him, very much like on earth. He asks if it’s a “thought-world” he inhabits, and he is told “it is more real and permanent than the one you have left”. (Raymond had said something similar in Lodge’s book: “People who think everything is created by thought are wrong. I thought that for a little time, that one’s thoughts formed the buildings and the flowers and trees and solid ground; but there is more than that (…). There is something always rising from the earth plane – something chemical in form. As it rises to ours, it goes through various changes and solidifies on our plane. Of course I am only speaking of where I am now.” (p. 184) Claude speaks about the “ordinaryliness” of the spirit world (p. 11), and how life on earth is “school-time” (p. 15), a period of training our character for the “fuller” life to come. He describes living on the third plane, “Summerland”. He’s able to go anywhere with the speed of thought. Claude indicates that reincarnation is a reality, and how there are new and old souls on earth, and that his sphere is the etheric sphere. He has a body made of “chemicals, and gases, and atoms”, but of a finer kind than on the earth plane. (p. 62). “Ether is not a force” like electricity, say. “It’s a state or condition that pervades the Universe, changing in degree or character as you get farther from the earth-plane.” The “mind of God” operates throughout all the spheres, including the earth-plane (p. 76), and people must learn to control their “animal” part, and cultivate the “God part.”

Later he explains the difference between different kinds of astral bodies. The book ends with a selection of letters Claude had sent his mother before his death.

I find that these kinds of mediumship-derived reports-from-the-beyond books often come up with similar notions about the big questions, with more similarities than differences among them (usually), but they often strike me as unlike the NDE “glimpses into the afterlife”, because the NDEs often describe a much more “transcendental”, less “ordinary”-seeming reality. On the whole.

p.s. The book can be read online here.

p.p.s. Just as an aside, of the classic-Spiritualist mediumship/early psychic research-related books I’ve read up to this point, my favourites would be: Arthur Conan Doyle’s 2-volume The History of Spiritualism (1926) (thanks to Jim Smith for pointing this one out to me on the old forum); Alan Gauld’s The Founders of Psychical Research (1968); Deborah Blum’s (misleadingly titled) Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death (2006); and Michael Tymn’s The Articulate Dead: They Brought the Spirit World Alive (2008) and Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife (2013).
 
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#6
[Mediumship].



Sir Oliver J. Lodge. (1993 [1916]). Raymond, or Life and Death: With Examples of the Evidence for Survival of Memory and Affection After Death. London: Methuen & Co. (Time Life reprint). 403 pages. This is part of my reading mediumship-related books in a rough chronological order. The last one I’d read before this was the 1906-1931 collection of books by Edward C. Randall about the “direct voice” medium Emily French in Buffalo, New York, put together by N. Riley Heagerty in 2001 as The French Revelation. That contained some good material but I found it a tough-going, repetitious read.

Lodge was the pioneering British physicist, of course, who converted from materialism to spiritualism when he began researching telepathy and mediumship in the 1880s and joined the Society for Psychic Research, befriending F. W. Myers and company. By the time of Raymond, Lodge was already convinced of the existence of the afterlife and had already published on the subject. In 1914, when the war broke out, his youngest son Raymond enlisted into the military, started training, and joined the front in the spring of 1915. He was killed in battle in Belgium on September 15 of that year. Ten days later, on September 25, Raymond’s mother, the wife of Sir Oliver, went to a mediumship reading (by the then relatively unknown medium Gladys Osborne Leonard), as an unnamed stranger, and she received a message from "Raymond" to be transmitted to his father. That started a series of extraordinary communications over the next 9 months or so, that convinced Lodge and his family that Raymond was communicating with them from the “afterlife”, which is the subject of this book.

The book is divided into three parts. The first consists simply of Raymond’s letters sent from the front to his family from March 1915 to three days before his death. The second recounts the various sittings and events that were evidence of Raymond’s communication beyond death. The last are Lodge’s musings on various topics of spiritual-scientific import: the nature of psychic communications, life and consciousness, the mind and the brain, etc.

This is a fairly long book, but well-written and therefore mostly a pleasure to read. Raymond’s letters give a portrait of life on the front for a lieutenant of his social class, and reveals aspects of his character. I came away with feeling that, boy, was this guy cheerful and a of a good temperament! Nothing ever seems to get him down, despite the obvious difficult circumstances he’s in.

I won’t get into all of the elements that make up the second part, but they add up to an impressive body of evidence. You’ve got people going to different mediums, all anonymously, receiving messages from “Raymond”. Some of Lodge’s family members are disinclined to believe in spiritualism but come away convinced. The evidence Oliver analyzes leads him to conclude that telepathy from the living is eliminated as a possibility. This includes “Raymond” (that is, the purported Raymond coming through a medium) pointing to a group photograph that the Oliver family cannot recall. Months later, they receive a letter from a fellow officer of Raymond’s that mentions this photograph, they are able to trace it, and it matches in detail what the deceased “Raymond” described. Part of what it makes this piece of evidence go beyond simple telepathy is that this is a “cross-correspondence”, where “Raymond” references the photograph to one medium, and provides a description of it to another (p. 114).

Raymond provides information about what life is like “on the other side”. Lodge, who attempts a scientific and objective analysis throughout, is careful to advise the reader to not make much of the value of such information, since it is tainted by a) the “control” (the spirit) who acts as intermediary between “Raymond” and the medium, often “Feda” in the case of the medium Gladys Leonard, and b) the medium’s mind. These reports from the other side, says, Lodge “I should think, myself, (…) are of very varying degrees of value, and peculiarly liable to unintentional sophistication by the medium. They cannot be really satisfactory, as we have no means of bringing them to book. The difficulty is that Feda encounters many sitters, and though the majority are just inquirers, taking what comes and saying very little, one or two may be themselves full of theories, and may either intentionally or unconsciously convey them to the ‘control’; who may thereafter retail them as actual information, without perhaps being sure whence they were derived. Some books, moreover, have been published of late, purporting to give information about ill-understood things in a positive and assured manner, and it is possible that the medium has read these and may be influenced by them. It will be regrettable if these books are taken as authoritative by people unable to judge of the scientific errors which are conspicuous in their more normal portions; and the books themselves seem likely to retard the development of the subject in the minds of critical persons.”(p. 192). This excerpt should give some indication as to Lodge’s quality of mind and manner in evaluating the assorted evidence obtained.

Another impressive evidential bit takes place when two Lodge family members go to meet the medium Gladys Leonard for a sitting. Knowing that this is about to happen, and without telling them, three other Lodge family members gather together and focus on getting the departed Raymond to getting the word “Honolulu” to the other two family members during the Leonard sitting, and this is indeed takes place.

Part of what is related is how Raymond is able to be in contact with the now deceased F. W. Myers, Sir Lodge’s psychic researcher colleague and friend, and there is communication from him also to the various sitters who contact the mediums anonymously.

The last part involving Lodge’s speculations are less crucial and were less interesting to me, but they do often strongly echo conversations we are still having 100 years later, such as the discussion of what this means for the “philosophy of scientific materialism” (p. 284). Such as this passage: “The success which has attended Darwinian and other hypotheses has had a tendency to lead men – not indeed men of Darwinian caliber, but smaller and less conscientious men – in science as well as in history and theology, to an over-eager confidence in probable conjecture and inadequate attention to facts of experience. It has even been said (…) that ‘the age of materialism was the least matter-of-fact age conceivable, and the age of science the age which showed least of the patient temper of enquiry’. I would not go so far as this myself, the statement savours of exaggeration, but there is a regrettable tendency in surviving materialistic quarters for combatants to entrench themselves in dogma and preconceived opinion, to regard these vulnerable shelters as sufficient protection against observed and recorded facts, and even to employ them as strongholds from which alien observation-posts can be shattered and overthrown.” (p. 310-311)

7.

p.s. The book can be read online here.




L. Kelway Bamber. (1919). Claude’s Book. London: Methuen & Co. (HardPress reprint). 136 pages. I won’t say much about this one, or rate it (it would be lower than a 7 for sure), because I had almost forgotten I had read it, and remembered little of its contents as I came to do the write-up, through I was guided by what I underlined and by my notes in the margins. This has similarities with Raymond. In early 1916, Mrs. Kelway Bamber happened to be sitting next to a medium at a train station, when the medium described a “spirit boy” with her, and she described with accuracy her 20-year-old son who had been killed in the war a few months earlier. The next month, she had an anonymous sitting with the medium Gladys Osborne Leonard, who established evidential contact with her dead son. The book is simply a recording of what “Claude” has to say about his experience and knowledge of his new unearthly surroundings. (The book is prefaced by a letter from Oliver Lodge, who urges Mrs. Kelway Bamber to publish it, but again reiterates his thoughts about the “fallability” of “such utterances”.)

Claude describes his “waking up” after death, and how it took possibly weeks to become conscious again, in a hospital-like environment (nurses, doctors), when after some days a doctor explained to him that he was no longer on the physical plane. He has guides and they eventually bring him to a home made for him, very much like on earth. He asks if it’s a “thought-world” he inhabits, and he is told “it is more real and permanent than the one you have left”. (Raymond had said something similar in Lodge’s book: “People who think everything is created by thought are wrong. I thought that for a little time, that one’s thoughts formed the buildings and the flowers and trees and solid ground; but there is more than that (…). There is something always rising from the earth plane – something chemical in form. As it rises to ours, it goes through various changes and solidifies on our plane. Of course I am only speaking of where I am now.” (p. 184) Claude speaks about the “ordinaryliness” of the spirit world (p. 11), and how life on earth is “school-time” (p. 15), a period of training our character for the “fuller” life to come. He describes living on the third plane, “Summerland”. He’s able to go anywhere with the speed of thought. Claude indicates that reincarnation is a reality, and how there are new and old souls on earth, and that his sphere is the etheric sphere. He has a body made of “chemicals, and gases, and atoms”, but of a finer kind than on the earth plane. (p. 62). “Ether is not a force” like electricity, say. “It’s a state or condition that pervades the Universe, changing in degree or character as you get farther from the earth-plane.” The “mind of God” operates throughout all the spheres, including the earth-plane (p. 76), and people must learn to control their “animal” part, and cultivate the “God part.”

Later he explains the difference between different kinds of astral bodies. The book ends with a selection of letters Claude had sent his mother before his death.

I find that these kinds of mediumship-derived reports-from-the-beyond books often come up with similar notions about the big questions, with more similarities than differences among them (usually), but they often strike me as unlike the NDE “glimpses into the afterlife”, because the NDEs often describe a much more “transcendental”, less “ordinary”-seeming reality. On the whole.

p.s. The book can be read online here.

p.p.s. Just as an aside, of the classic-Spiritualist mediumship/early psychic research-related books I’ve read up to this point, my favourites would be: Arthur Conan Doyle’s 2-volume The History of Spiritualism (1926) (thanks to Jim Smith for pointing this one out to me on the old forum); Alan Gauld’s The Founders of Psychical Research (1968); Deborah Blum’s (misleadingly titled) Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death (2006); and Michael Tymn’s The Articulate Dead: They Brought the Spirit World Alive (2008) and Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife (2013).
Very interesting reviews Ian. Thank you.
 

Ian Gordon

Ninshub
Member
#7
[UFOs].

More on the early years.

These next two UFO books I read on the recommendation of Stanton Friedman, who mentioned them as recent books that in his view offered more solid evidence regarding UFO activity in the early years.



1. Keith Chester. (2007). Strange Company: Military Encounters with UFOs in WWII. San Antonio, TX: Anomalist Books. 308 pages. This is a very thorough, chronological study and narrative of the so-called “foo fighter” sightings during WWII, the UFO sightings that predate those from 1947 and onwards. As noted UFO expert Jerome Clark observes in the foreword, this book can serve as a rebuttal to the often-stated myth that the UFO “flying saucer” phenomenon started in 1947. As Jerome notes, this book shows that prior to 1947 the phenomenon was: present, persistent (not just occasional) and occurred “in just about all of its varieties”.

Keith Chester spent many years plunging into research on the topic of anomalous sightings during WWII, reading everything there was to be read, and then doing four years of National Archives research, to end up with the first in-depth study of the phenomenon. Jerome Clark mentions how much he himself discovered that was new in Chester’s book.

Chester follows the war from beginning to end and chronicles the sightings all over the world, as well as the reactions from the governments and the investigations on all sides to try to come to terms with the phenomena. The conclusion was that none of them knew. After the Germans were defeated, the U.S. found their classified documentation, but nothing explained the “foo fighters”, and the Germans they found were as curious and surprised as they were. The same thing happened with Japan once they were defeated as well.

Chester provides extensive footnotes and sources to all of the sightings he mentions. He provides a clear and illuminating portrait of the phenomenon, in terms of its breadth, patterns, frequency, throughout all of those years, and the varied reactions that the press, governments and military had. One of the interesting things he uncovers, or further explores, is the presence of these strange sightings starting in the early 1930s right up to the start of the war. Some of those were the “mysterious aircraft” in 1933-35 all over Scandinavia that caused an uproar in those countries - craft that could maneuver in complete silence, emitting light that was blinding or could cause burns – and discusses and argues John Keel’s hypothesis that these were Soviet aircraft. But these mysterious aircraft continued after this period, not only in Scandinavia but in the U.S., England and elsewhere.

The book examines the different types of sightings. What is revelatory in Chester’s book is that the terrifically fast “orange balls” or “balls of fire” that are usually thought of when considering the “foo fighters” constituted only one type of sighting. In amongst those, you also had: disc-shaped objects, formations of disc-like saucers flying in formation and remaining motionless, cigar-shaped objects and discs with domes on them, ships with portholes, what Clark in the introduction calls “structured craft-like objects”, exactly like those that started appearing in 1947. These different objects, as in the literature for later years, also exhibited “extraordinary performance characteristics” (speeds up to 10 000 mph, etc.) and showed unarguable signs of being intelligently controlled.

Here are just some examples of a few sightings described in the book. In December 1941, in the state of New York, an engineer witnessed a “disc-shaped object” with a diameter of 100 feet, flying at less than 400 feet off the ground, at approximately 300 miles per hour, making no sound. (p. 18). In May 1943, a British RAF bomber pilot flying over Germany, when arriving close to the drop zone, saw a sharply-defined, cylindrical, “silvery-gold” object in the sky, larger than their own aircraft, with “portholes” evenly distributed, and the object was just suspended in the air, motionless at a 45-degree angle. (p. 40).

In July 1945, in the state of Washington, six Naval Air “Hellcat” pilots were protecting an atomic reactor plant and were called to the air when an alarm went off after radar detection of a fast-moving object. It was a clear day and they couldn’t spot the object until they climbed to a very high altitude. They then saw a very bright “saucer-like” object, “the size of three aircraft carriers side-by-side, oval shaped, very streamlined like a stretched-out egg and pinkish in color”, that emitted a kind of vapor through portholes or vents to “form a cloud for disguise” (p. 188). They were nearing their peak altitude at 37 000 feet when they called the base, which told them to keep pursuing. They did so until they reached 45 000 feet. But the object stayed hovering at a fixed position at about 65 000 feet for 20 minutes, then suddenly shot straight up and disappeared (p. 188).

What started Chester’s interest in the topic was talking to UFO researcher Leonard Stringfield, and his relating of his own personal sighting in 1945. Japan surrendered on August 15. In the following weeks, American troops moved into Japan, and the main troops arrived on August 28. That day Sergeant Stringfield was aboard a transport aircraft bringing equipment. Flying between two Japanese islands, the plane had engine trouble and dipped. Stringfield was then shocked to see three brilliant white “teardrop-shaped objects”, with no wings or fuselage, flying in tight formation, parallel to their plane and equal in speed. He was sure they were not enemy jets. The event lasted 30 seconds; the objects then disappeared into clouds and the plane’s engine returned to normal again. By this time, the U.S. Air Force had control of the skies. (p. 191-193)

The book stops at 1945, but it chronicles how the sightings continued after war’s end in August into the rest of the year.

The book is a very solid read and, IMHO, given its topic and unique information, essential for the study of the UFO phenomenon. 7.5




2. Frank C. Feschino, Jr. (2007). Shoot Them Down! The Flying Saucer Air Wars of 1952. Lulu Enterprises. 371 pages. The somewhat sensationalistic title refers to the UFO wave in the U.S. in the summer of 1952, and more specifically the engagements of military jet pilots called up to confront the objects. (The title nevertheless refers, as explained in the book, to that exact order given several times to fighter jets sent to intercept UFOs that year.)

The book is a detailed historical account of that summer 1952 UFO wave (June to September, including the waves over Washington D.C. that caused a lot of alarm), but it focuses especially on the infrequently discussed “shadowy topic” (p. xv) of the aerial encounters between the UFOs and the U.S. fighter planes.

The author did a lot of research, and is very thorough on recounting in detail that summer’s sightings, and all of the engagements with jet pilots. Special cases of military investigations into pilots encountering UFOs are examined, and show the powers that be forcing the pilots to twist and fit their testimony into something plausible. An important part of the book’s research and focus is the many mysterious crashes and disappearances of jet fighter pilots during that year (and surrounding years). Research into what the authorities did in trying to explain those disappearances reveals a disturbing lack of interest into finding out the causes. Feschino recounts the collaboration of Stanton Friedman (who writes the book’s foreword) in some of this research, who discovered missing files in Aircraft Accident archives, the missing files being the ones that would explain the most mysterious of these crashes or disappearances. Feschino reveals how the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps lost a total amount of 104 fighters, jets and props during the Korean War (1950-53), and lost 185 of the same on their land and coastal words during the 1951-56 period (!).

One criticism I have towards the book is that the title doesn’t accurately reflect its exact contents (another criticism is with the book’s writing, especially in the second half, which shows need of editing – reflecting that this book wasn’t released through an actual publishing house). The book’s survey over the 1952 summer wave and UFO-fighter confrontations is basically the first third of the book. The last two thirds (of a large-sized book, with a lot of text per page, meaning it’s quite long) cover the episode of the Flatwoods Monster and jet fighter crashes and UFO-sighting parallels over that same time frame (September 12, 1952 and thereabouts). I hadn’t heard of the Flatwoods Monster case before, which was a sighting of a being or mechanical craft-device related to a UFO landing nearby (a damaged ship, concludes Feschino) in Flatwoods, West Virginia. Feschino spent many, many years researching this case, and the breadth and strength of his research is impressive. He makes a strong case for how the media at the time (and later Skeptics) mischaracterized the incident, leaving a misleading impression of what it actually involved.

I think it’s fair to say Feschino is the leading Flatwoods Monster “expert” and he has a website and a book dedicated to the incident, but as I’ve hinted this book in itself covers this same case in depth.

The author ties in this “encounter of the third kind” with a series of parallel jet fighter crashes and UFO spottings in the same localized region stretched over five contiguous Eastern states (West Virginia, Tennessee, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina). Feschino goes through astonishing efforts and details to try to piece together the exact flight paths and timing of disappearing jet fighters (still not found to this day), 9 separate UFOs (three “damaged”), and the Flatwoods Monster case (all over that one day/night). Unfortunately, he seems much too certain that he has found an accurate portrait and “map” of all of the different elements of this puzzle and how they all tie in together, when all he can do, as far as I can see, is speculate with the information he is recovering. But nevertheless the research and amount of new and dovetailing information recovered here is remarkable.

This is really good if you want to delve into the Flatwoods “monster” case or are interested in the missing jet fighters and the pilot-UFO confrontations, but it’s definitely a niche book and one that could have used the attention of an editor. 6.5

Here’s a video of Stanton Friedman talking about meeting Feschino and the latter’s work on the Flatwoods monster case:


Here’s another video Feschino made about the Flatwoods case.
 
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Ian Gordon

Ninshub
Member
#8
Welcome back to my personal blog... Feel free to post a guest entry. ;)

[Past life memories].

ten cases India.jpg

1. Ian Stevenson. (1975). Cases of the Reincarnation Type Volume 1: Ten Cases in India. Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia. 374 pages. Prior to this, I had only read Stevenson’s Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation (1966), his first book reporting on the field studies he started doing in India and elsewhere in the early 1960s. This is his first volume following-up on the topic.

The book follows the same format as Twenty Cases, presenting ten of the better and most thoroughly investigated cases Stevenson researched in India, and beginning a 4-volume series of cases in different Asian countries, plus Turkey (1975-83), before he went on publishing yet more books on the topic, including investigations in Western countries. (He indicates in this book that cases reported to him in the U.S., as well as from Europe, have increased significantly since 1966).

The 1966 classic featured a discussion and analysis of the possible explanations for these reported past life memories, with Stevenson’s observations on why he ends up favoring the reincarnation hypothesis. This book doesn’t include such a commentary; Stevenson indicates there will be one later on in the series. (However, each case study includes a discussion about the “evidence of paranormal processes” in the specific case being presented.)

There’s still an interesting, lengthy introduction where Stevenson describes his methodology and the issues specific to studying this phenomenon in India. Stevenson states that this volume (like the three volumes to come) involves cases that have been followed for a longer time (most having received several visits by the investigators over a period of 8 to 10 or more years), and that it contains more cases where the investigators reached the scene more quickly after the “main events” (such as the meeting of the two families involved in a child’s recalling events from life in a previous family).

The most significant change or addition was the more systematic inquiry brought upon the behavior of the child or subject, as it relates to the “previous life” and the behavior of the identified previous personality, including when possible direct observation of the nonverbal behavior of the children subjects (p. 6).

There’s also an interesting discussion of the data in relation to Indian ideas of reincarnation and karma. Stevenson attempts to define different concepts of karma in Indian thought, and how the data so far gathered conflicts with those ideas. “In fact we have found almost nothing whatever to support the idea of karma, and only four cases – out of hundreds now – in which the data even suggest it.” (p. 34) When going over the validity of his methods, he mentions that this undermines any charge of suspicion against his interpreters (i.e. that they would modify the testimony of the subjects or witnesses to suit their own ideas), since what they heard from the subjects often puzzled and disappointed them in terms of their personal religious or philosophical convictions (Buddhist, etc.).

A related point here, Stevenson points out, is how he has often heard Hindus being convinced of the fact that humans reincarnate in nonhuman animal bodies, yet the data found was in near complete contradiction to this idea. (This also supports the idea that the children were not just engaging in fantasies.) (p. 64)

There is also an interesting discussion of how Westerners assume Indians, such as represented in these cases, to be believers in reincarnation, and how that should somehow make these stories more suspicious than when the phenomenon appears in Western countries. Stevenson goes into some depth into explaining how the belief in reincarnation is distributed among Hindus. If we look into Indians living in villages (as opposed to cities or larger towns), there is a sharp contrast between high caste villagers, some of whom may be schooled in Hindu teaching and therefore may more likely to have such belief, vs. lower castes where a much lower incidence of belief in reincarnation is observed, and who are frequently completely unfamiliar with concepts of rebirth. Stevenson indicates how he has never come across any villager who wanted to “intrust” him on the idea of reincarnation (p. 57), and that the usual reaction to a case of “past life” memories was indifference or detachment.

I won’t go into any detail in the ten cases Stevenson presents. I found some of them stronger than others in terms of evidence, but they all presented compelling evidence of information not seemingly possible by other means. Two of the strongest and “best authenticated” cases presented are not Stevenson’s, but are much older cases of the 1920s, and Stevenson found out about them and their original investigation in 1959, and was afterwards able to add his own inquiry into them. Notwithstanding their age and their removal in time and space from Stevenson’s own research, their strength lies in how the subjects’ statements were written down before any attempt to verify them was made, and before the two families involved were introduced to each other (p. 144).

I won’t use this “review post” to analyze or qualify Stevenson’s work. The evidence he gathers for his cases is extremely solid and makes no explanation possible other than a paranormal one, IMO.

I’ll summarize just one case, the first one in the book, the case of Gopal Gupta, to provide an example. (I ranked it in the upper half of the cases presented here.) The boy Gopal was born in 1956 in Delhi. His father, a member of the merchant caste Bania, was a few years later the manager of a gas station. Just after he started to speak, at 2 and a half years old, someone asked Gopal to remove a used glass. He refused, threw a temper tantrum, and surprised the family by saying “I won’t pick it up. I am a Sharma” (a subcaste of the higher caste Brahmins). When asked to explain himself, he said he came from the city Mathura (160 kilometers south of Delhi), where he had another father, and two brothers, one of whom had shot him. He also said he had quarreled with his wife, that he owned a company related to medicines called Sukh Shancharak, that he had a large house with servants to carry away dishes and utensils. He said all of this on this same day. The parents didn’t make too much of it.

In 1964, the father went to Mathura to celebrate a festival – neither the father nor the mother had ever been to the city. Once there, he thought of trying to verify Gopal’s statements and he found the Sukh Shancharak Company, which effectively manufactured medicines. He talked to the manager, who was able to put the information he provided with a man named Mr. Shaktipal Sharma, who had worked there with his two brothers and was shot by his youngest brother in 1948.

This led to contacts between the two families, and visits in 1964 and 1965 where Gopal, now 8, gave additional information and recognized key family members (including Shaktipal’s widow and brothers), although he failed to recognize a number of other persons well known by Shaktipal. This is a rare case where the child continued recalling the memories into his later years. An associate of Stevenson’s researched the case and interviewed the witnesses in 1965. Stevenson then made about 7 investigating visits between 1969 and 1973. The Sharma family, as the name indicates, were indeed Brahmins, and the families had never met. The distance between the two cities, the fact that nobody in Gopal’s family had been to Mathura, the caste differences between the two families, are all strong evidence pointing to anomalous information being received and transmitted.

Not all, but the great majority of what Gopal stated was correct. Among the specifics that Gopta stated and was verified (beyond what I’ve already mentioned) was: his previous “personality”, Shaktipal, had quarreled with his wife before the murder (he had tried to borrow money from her to give to his younger brother), he had been shot in the chest by his younger brother who drank a lot, he lived in a very large house with servants, he had an M.A. degree (Gopal said from Agra University; Shaktipal had received a B.A. from Agra and an M.A. from Nagpur University), he had a showroom, he had many houses and one outside the town with a garden, he was fond of the piano, he kept a diary in which he also maintained accounts, and he enjoyed oranges as one of his favorite foods (a preference which the young Gopal shared).

The Shaktipal family were astounded by Gopal’s statements and recognitions, including of a photograph. The widow fainted when he described “his” (Shaktipal’s) efforts at trying to obtain financial help from her for his younger brother. Stevenson notes the family had nothing to gain to acknowledge the accuracy of Gopal’s memories, since they included information not “creditable to their family” (p. 102).

Gopal also exhibited behavior that fit the caste and personality of Shaktipal, such as the kind of food he liked to eat, wanting to dress well, and being generous (whereas members of his caste tend to be frugal).

Part of what impresses me in this case is when Stevenson relates the recognition Gopta showed of the way to get to the places where Shaktipal had lived and worked. He had been eventually taken to Mathura in early 1965 and the boy proceeded, without any guidance, in finding, and describing in detail beforehand, the way to the medicine company and to Shaktipal’s house, as well as the place where Shaktipal had been shot. In the table accompanying the case, here’s Stevenson’s description of Gopal recognizing the way to the company office: “Gopal led the way, a distance of about 1.5 kilometers, from the temple to the offices and showrooms of the Sukh Shancharak Company (both were in the same building). He was followed by his father, Jwala Prasad, and B. B. Das, who stayed behind him. Gopal’s father knew the way and tried to mislead him. Gopal walked ahead confidently and stopped at the building of the Sukh Shancharak Company.” (p. 91)

Stevenson could not verify all of this other information and get into it in this book, but the boy remembered a life as a discarnate mind, and also details of another life as an Indian boy living in London, England. He gave the names of two streets, including one obscure, that exist in London.

At this point, Stevenson had started to observe and study the presence of birthmarks connecting the memory-relating subject and the deceased personality, but says he will get into it in a later volume. He does mention that in the case of Gopta the lengthy interval between the death of Shaktipal and the birth of Gopta possibly explains, if he goes by what he usually observes in the pattern, the absence of a physical trace in the chest area.

When you read Stevenson’s books, there’s always some repetition involved, because each case description comes with a very detailed, several pages-long table that summarizes the statements and recognitions of the subject and verifications, so that part isn’t an easy read. But you always find yourself looking forward to the next case, how that one will match up or “surpass” the others, and it’s fascinating stuff. 7.5/8




2. Jenny Cockell. (2014 [1993]). Yesterday’s Children: The Extraordinary Search for My Past-Life Family. London: Piatkus. 147 pages. I think this is the same book as the one called Across Time and Death, possibly just different titles depending on the reprint. I first heard of Jenny when she was interviewed on Bob Olson’s channel and then wanted to read the book. (You can view this interview here.)

Jenny Cockell is an English woman, born in 1953 and living in Northamptonshire, who from her earliest age had dreams and memories of a “past life” as Mary, an Irish woman with several children, earlier in the century, and who retained these memories through her adulthood. As the title indicates, this is an account of her life with these memories and her eventual search to validate her memories and find her “family”.

What makes the account powerful is that it’s both an investigation into a mystery, and an emotional journey for this woman who had to live with these memories, how they made her feel, and their strong associated painful emotions. Jenny recounts how she first talked about these memories to her mother when she was 3, and that her childhood was filled with dreams about this woman and her life (usually not seeing this woman, but through her POV), as well as having memories during the daytime. Part of those memories involved “knowing” certain facts: that this woman was named Mary, that she lived in Ireland, the roughly approximate period she lived in, and many details about her children, and the cottage and town she lived in (streets, landmarks, etc.). An interesting element in the story is a map she drew (reproduced in the book) in childhood of Mary’s house and its location amidst streets and other markers.

The memories and dreams were forceful and would cause distress to the author, primarily through the feeling that she was leaving her children behind at a young age, “abandoning” them, and therefore was (felt) guilty. Jenny also relates how she had precognitive dreams, as well as vaguer memories of having lived in other “times” (other “past lives”). Part of the appeal of this book, as I noted, is its experiential dimension: she relates what it was like to live with these memories. It was a painful shock to her to eventually learn that other people did not have the kind of memories she had, and that reincarnation was a belief, not a fact, and a belief most of her countrymen did not share. Interestingly, she notes how living an unhappy home life led to retreat into herself and immerse herself more fully into those memories, whereas perhaps a happier life would have led to forgetting them.

As her life develops, the memories at some point figure less prominently, but their affective pull becomes stronger once she herself becomes a mother in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s (again the feeling she has “abandoned” her previous children). Her investigation proceeds slowly through that decade. As a child, she had looked over a map of Ireland and had been drawn to the town of Malahide, north of Dublin. In 1980 she orders a map of the area, and with the help of a bookstore owner she finds more detailed maps of the town and sees striking correspondences to her own map and memories – including the positioning of the streets, the landmarks, the distances between the roads. Jenny was a working woman with little income and so could not afford a trip to Ireland until the end of the decade.

In the meantime, she pursues other means: coming across and looking into Ian Stevenson’s work (which helps her make sense of her experience, including the fact that “unfinished business” seems to motivate a “swift return” to incarnation – as she explores different hypotheses, not only reincarnation, for the presence of these memories), and engaging in hypnotic regression which allows remembering of far greater detail and experiential remembering, like names and the more exact time when events in Mary’s death took place, including her death in the 1930s. Jenny notes that when she eventually arrives in Malahide, in Ireland, the memories fleshed out by the hypnosis are confirmed by what she sees.

That trip takes place in 1989. This is a more powerful passage in the book, when Jenny walks across the area where Mary lived in, and is able to recognize the streets, the landmarks, her cottage. Through telephoning people living in the area, she is able to find someone who knew the past residents of that cottage. I won’t summarize all of the rest of the information, but suffice it to say that, through that trip and research which she continues back in England, Jenny finds out there was a Mary who lived there in that cottage, died at age 35 in 1932, and had several children. At this point (1990), Jenny gets into contact with both Ian Stevenson and Peter Fenwick, and participates in a BBC documentary. This leads to finding more information about Mary’s life and her surviving children, and Jenny eventually finds and gets into contact with Mary’s eldest son, Sonny, now 71, who is very receptive and interested, and corroborates many memories. Another trip to Malahide in 1993 follows and concludes the book.

The correspondences between Mary’s memories and what she discovers are extremely numerous and strong, but of course the reader can make his or her own mind up reading the book. I found that the appeal of the book came just as much into following this person’s personal journey and everything it involved. Recommended. 7.
 
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Ian Gordon

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#9
[NDEs]. I’ll be briefer with the following “reviews”. I’m trying to get through a bit more quickly through the various books I read last year to catch up, and I find there’s a little less to tell with these ones.




1. Mary C. Neal. (2012 [2011]). To Heaven and Back: A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again. Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook Press. 220 pages.
I’ve read quite a few book-length NDE accounts. Mary Neal’s is a popular one, and the fact that she is a doctor has undoubtedly helped the marketing of it and helped the author’s visibility and status within the NDE community. Here she recounts the NDE she had during a kayak trip in an out-of-the-way location in southern Chile in 1999, where she drowned and was then rescued. She also relates two NDE-like experiences that she had following the incident, while in recovery.

As NDE account books go, this one is valuable but not in any way extraordinary. Her NDE isn’t the kind of more metaphysically complex experience I find more rewarding in books by some other NDErs. (Her NDE, btw, contains features typical of other NDEs: overwhelming bliss, reunion with spiritual beings she remembers having known “for an eternity”, communicating through telepathy, etc. Her later experiences involve receiving information on why souls choose to incarnate and questions regarding pre-life planning vs. free will). It also has some moving passages, but isn’t the "winner" in that category either.

Mary Neal is a Christian and her book is presented in a Christian format: biblical passages quoted at the beginning of every chapter or section. But there’s no fundamentalism here and the Christian framing is not too distracting. However, as I’ve noted a few times on the forum before, I did have a problem with one part in her book. In the first NDE-like experience she has while in recovery in the hospital, she finds herself in conversation with a being on a rock in a sunny field (p. 97). She explicitly says that she calls this being an “angel” but doesn’t know what he is: angel, messenger, Jesus, etc. However, later in the book she comes back to this experience as one where she was in conversation with “Jesus” (p. 148), and then relates part of that conversation to content in the New Testament. Here we have, explicitly, a reframing of her spiritual experience in a Christian framework.

So: overall solid, but not groundbreaking or essential. 6.5


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2. Tammy Cohen. (2006). The Day I Died: Remarkable True Stories of Near-Death Experience. London: John Blake. 237 pages. There are a few books on the market like this one, and I think it’s a potentially winning format. The author here presents twenty NDEs, each recounted in the NDEr’s own words. Each NDE account provides just enough biographical information to give the NDE a context, but the NDE itself is front and center. The author describes herself as initially a skeptic when told about the idea of writing this book, but her views evolves as she researches the topic and starts gathering these personal accounts. She writes an introduction, and then gets out of the way to give voices to the NDErs. All of them are in the English-speaking world, most from the UK, a few from North America and Australia-New Zealand. All the accounts are not of the same quality: some are very brief, two of them are clearly not NDEs but hallucinations while the person is in a state of illness. There are quite a few interesting and powerful accounts here, though, that make this a worthwhile read. I noted in the margins that seven of these NDE accounts were “good” or “very good”. 7.




3. Kevin R. Williams. (2002). Nothing Better Than Death: Insights from Sixty-Two Profound Near-Death Experiences. Xlibris. 287 pages. This is a book by the webmaster of the fantastic and incredibly comprehensive website Near-Death Experiences and the Afterlife that I wanted to read for a while. I purchased it because it offers some of his website material in print, and presents full first-person accounts of NDEs not necessarily available elsewhere.

This was definitely a disappointing read. The nine first-person accounts form only the short first part of the book. This is followed by a section “summarizing” many notable NDEs, many of them available elsewhere. Unfortunately, as reading this section demonstrates, nothing robs NDE accounts as much of their interest and power as describing them in the 3rd person, and just neatly summarizing the main aspects.

Another section follows where Williams presents his conclusions from his study of the “most profound NDEs” on metaphysical and spiritual issues: life before birth, God, heaven, etc. But this material is very brief, and the website contains many more topics and covers them in much more interesting breadth.

Sadly the last, fairly lengthy portion of the book is Kevin Williams mounting an argument, meant to dialogue with Christian fundamentalists, on how NDEs are not “the work of the devil” but fits with Christian teachings. The argument is not entirely convincing, but its worst fault is, for me anyway, how tediously this reads.

So, conclusion: stick with the website. Great title, though. 4.5
 
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Ian Gordon

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#10
[Religious traditions: Hinduism]. I wanted to read a little background to familiarize myself with the philosophical-intellectual streams making up Hindu thought, hence these two books. I’m including them in this thread because they obviously connect with spirituality, as well as metaphysical philosophy.




1. Sue Hamilton. (2001 [2000]). Indian Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press. 153 pages. As the title indicates, this is short, but dense. This book is one installment in the “Very Short Introductions” series put out by Oxford Press. Sue Hamilton is a scholar specializing in Buddhist and Indian thought and does a very good job here of historically framing and explaining the main developments and “schools” of Indian thought, both Hindu and Buddhist (Jainism and Saivism are omitted, because of the space available), and what philosophical areas – epistemological, metaphysical-ontological – they investigate. The book begins by presenting the Brahminical tradition (the Vedas and early Upanishads), followed by the challenge of foundational Buddhism, and then Brahminical developments and “defenses” in the 4th to 2nd century BCE (the grammarians and early exegetes).

Hamilton then introduces two of the six classical “Hindu” darsanas, schools of thought emerging out of the Vehic-Upanisadic tradition: Vaisesika Thought and Nyaya Thought (3rd century BCE to 3rd century CE), propounding “pluralistic realism” and an epistemological method to investigate reality. The next chapters interrupt the presentation of the darsanas to present developments of Buddhist thought (limited to India, of course) in roughly the same time period: the scholastic Abhidharma tradition; the Madhyamaka school founded by Nagarjuna, which attacks the validity of any realism or pluralism; followed by perhaps the first idealism in the history of philosophy, the “Mind Only” Yogacara school, principally related to Vahubandhu.

The last two chapters present the remaining four classic “Hindu” darsanas. Yoga and Samkhya (3rd to 5th century) are presented together in one chapter, yoga being concerned not with philosophical abstractions but with a mental disciplinary method to achieve liberating insight, and dualistic samkhya, whose aim is also soteriological, an achievement of truth through discriminative knowledge (p. 113). The last full chapter shortly presents the 5th century grammarian Bharthrari, a Brahmanical thinker who put forward the idea that understanding the relationship between classical Sanskrit and reality was not just a way of defending the validity of the Veda but a method to achieve, again, “liberating insight” (p. 120), before turning to the last two darsanas, Mimamsa and Vedanta (7th to 11th centuries).

Mimamsa presents an epistemological theory that values cognition, and argues for pluralism and realism. Vedanta thought, on the other hand, as presented by Sankara (Advaita Vedanta), attacks samkara dualism and advances monistic non-dualism. The later Ramajuna presents a “qualified dualism” where within Brahman’s oneness there exists a relationship between Brahman as Lord “and the individual self as devotee” (p. 132).

A schematic introduction, but clear and precise, and packed with information. 7.




2. Gavin Flood. (1996). An Introduction to Hinduism. New York: Cambridge University Press. 341 pages. Not an introduction to Hindu philosophical thought, but to Hinduism in all its facets. There is an informative chapter in this textbook on Hindu theology and philosophy, but it also covers the history and development of the Hindu “religions” (the author takes pains to explain throughout how “Hinduism”, as opposed to how it is generally perceived in the West, is not a religion but an amalgam of different religions or religious traditions), basic concepts and practices (ritual, yoga, renunciation, etc.), and the different traditions involved.

I was not aware of much of the material presenting three important religious traditions or brahminical systems, that of: a) the Vaisnava traditions focusing on the deity Visnu (and his incarnations); b) the Saiva traditions with the deity Siva; and c) the Sakta traditions which focus on the Goddess or Devi (the tantric religions). Each of these gets a chapter, and the principal literature and myths are presented, as well as the practices and rituals involved, the different cults within (e.g. Vasudeva-Krishna, Krishna-Gopala and Narayana all within the Vaisnava traditions), the regions and temples associated, as well as various sociological-anthropological features.

The darsanas presented in the book I reviewed preceding this one – Samkhya, Vedanta, etc. – are presented and explained in their different forms in the chapter on theology and philosophy.

An interesting last chapter on “Hinduism and the modern world” helps frame and explain how Hinduism involved into a nationalism and how it was introduced to the West, and presents many of the reformers and gurus teaching in the West in the last two centuries: Dayananda, Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Krishnamurti, Yogananda, etc., up to figures like the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Bhaktivedanta Swami (founder of the Hare Krishna movement) and Rajneesh, among others.

Fairly exhaustive and obviously taking care to present contemporary debates in scholarship on the various material presented. A little dry at times, but rewarding if you’re new and interested in this content. 7.
 

Ian Gordon

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Member
#11
[UFOs].




1. Richard M. Dolan. (2002 [2000]). UFOs and the National Security State: Chronology of a Cover-up 1941-1973 (revised ed.). Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads. 476 pages. The first part of a trilogy, the last book not having been published yet. Dolan is a historian who brought his knowledge and research methods to the study of the field. I enjoyed this book tremendously. Dolan’s principal angle is detailing, in a historical-chronological narrative, the American government-military response to the modern UFO phenomenon and the various phases it involved. It also studies the formation and development of the various military and civilian agencies developed to collect and analyze the data, and the researchers involved (Keyhoe, Ruppelt, Hynek, etc.), and the rise and fall of the different government-sponsored projects (with well-documented revelations regarding the bad faith coloring their developments). Dolan also provides wider background in terms of the development of the U.S. intelligence-military-industrial complex and the dark forces at play (development of the National Security Act, birth of cointelpro, mind control, etc.), and speculates on areas where this material meets up with the UFO issue (such as mysterious deaths, etc.). Dolan’s lens is conspiratorial, and I think he makes a strong case for the “cover-up” – readers are free to agree or not with his speculations and conclusions regarding the specific cases involved. One senses his biases, but the writing, on the whole, doesn’t force conclusions on the reader, I found. (His treatment of specific issues, like Roswell, is fair-minded - although in this case I thought this took up more space than other more conclusive data.)

What pleasantly surprised me in this book is that it isn’t just a study of the military-intelligence community’s handling of UFOs and the public response, but a very solid historical overview of the UFO phenomenon itself during those years. The author presents all of the major waves (1947, '50, '52, '54, '57, etc.) with enough detail, and sketches out the important patterns: when humanoid sightings start appearing, landings at military bases, etc, as well as providing detail on most or many of the most striking cases. Since so far in my UFO reading, I had only familiarized myself with the narrative up to 1964 or so, this completes the portrait for the decade that immediately followed. After a relative waning of UFO sightings (in the U.S., if not always the world) in 1958-63, the pace picks up again in 1964, and then there is a tremendous series of waves around the U.S. and the rest of the globe from 1965 to 1968, along with new phenomena (first abductions, cattle mutilation, UFOs shutting down nuclear sites, more landing cases and close encounters). 1969 to 1971 sees the phenomenon quieting down quite significantly on a global scale, but picking up again in 1972, and the book ends with a chronicle of the spectacular U.S. wave of 1973. Dolan is adept through all this at pointing out the role that the government/military-sponsored projects and/or public ridicule have in silencing or reducing witness reports in quieter years, and how the official projects (e.g. the Blue Book) can report a very small amount of incidents in a particular year that is completely out of whack with what is reported through civilian agencies like NICAP and elsewhere. In parallel, Dolan also provides a social history that allows the reader to trace the rises and falls of how the UFO phenomenon was present in the Western public's consciousness, and the quality of that reception (open or cynical).

So, in addition to its specific “cover-up” angle, if one is looking for a general introduction into the phenomenon starting in WWII and through the next three critical decades, this to my mind is a terrific choice. 8.5


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2. J. Allen Hynek. (1972). The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry. Chicago: Henry Regnery. 276 pages. I read this book a bit warily after reading Dolan’s evaluation of Hynek in the previous book. Dolan is interesting in alerting readers and followers of the UFO phenomenon at how respected researcher J. Allen Hynek made a career out of publicly debunking the UFO phenomenon through much of the 1950s an 60s before he altered his stance, and does a convincing job (partly through close reading of a diary Jacques Vallée wrote during the period, in which he worked in close association with Hynek) at showing how Hynek's own statements regarding how he went from a “skeptic to a believer” cover a shadier picture.

This is recognized as a classic in the field. I would likely have been more impressed with this book if I hadn’t read other related books first, since I found here little that was "new". Basically, Hynek, who had been involved in all of the major U.S. Air Force UFO Projects since the first one (Project Sign 1947-49), and was by now a “believer", presents the UFO problem as a valid case of scientific inquiry. He lays out what is at stake in studying this data, why it should be taken seriously, and the distinctive patterns and “prototypes” that are found. Specific chapters are devoted to different types of reports, such as nocturnal lights, daylight disc sightings, and radio-visual cases. The book is famous for presenting Hynek’s classification of the 3 different kinds of “close encounters” with UFOs. Each chapter provides an overview and then studies some selected cases closely, often some Hynek had had a hand in researching himself. Some cases presented are from the ‘50s, but the majority are in the 1965-1967 period, mostly in the U.S. (with some also in Canada, France and a few other countries). In the 3rd Kind categories and the “humanoid sightings”, Hynek references Vallée’s work and data collection, his associate and close colleague during this period, and his appreciation of some of the conclusions drawn by Vallée in his early book Passport to Magonia.

The latter part of the book has Hynek critically reviewing the work of the different government projects in which he took part, as well as pointing out the severe shortcomings of the official undertakings such as the 1953 Robertson Panel and the 1968 Condon Report. Overall, nothing here stunned me, but it’s still solid and was worth the read. 7.


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3. Jacques Vallée (1992). UFO Chronicles of the Soviet Union: A Cosmic Samizdat. New York: Ballantine. 212 pages. I forget why I chose to read this book at this point, since I wanted to get to Vallée’s work later, none of which I’ve read yet. Chuck mentioned to me he was reading this book, which made me aware of it. I think I wanted to get at this one at this time because it involves looking into UFO sightings or experiences in the Soviet Union, which aren't covered in earlier writings.

Because of the Cold War, Western UFO researchers, like Vallée, could not access UFO data in the Soviet Union. In late 1989, an alleged UFO landing in the city of Voronezh in Russia made newspaper headlines in the U.S., and this, combined with Gorgachev’s implementing of the policy of glasnost, led to Vallée having the opportunity to travel to the Soviet Union in January 1990. The book is basically a travel diary of his short journey there. He meets with academics who are into UFO research, and specific research organizations, and reports what he learns from them: about the UFO wave that struck the country in 1989, about the previous history of UFO sightings in the Soviet Union (numerous sightings in 1946, waves in 1966-67 and 1977-79), interaction by military at sea (submarines) with underwater UFOs, encounters with humanoids and abductions (in 1989). He meets with an investigation group that is studying the Voronezh events that finally involve eyewitnesses to four landings and three different types of beings, as well as physical traces. The stories involve plenty of “strangeness” (levitation, neckless beings with heads below their shoulders, burns, paralysis, a boy pointing a rifle at a 10-foot-tall being and disappearing, and interaction with psi). Vallée learns that the Soviet UFO research history is much more intertwined with psychic research, and knowledge about parapsychology, and that the researchers tend to share views similar to his own, of interdimensional phenomena that do not preclude “a material, physical presence at the time of the sighting” (p. 39).

Since these researchers are scientists, Vallée gets their views on their theories to explain the data, including the notion of “biolocation”, something to do with biological energy fields. Different chapters relate Vallée’s journeys and meetings with different people, one being a training center for Soviet astronauts, where they reveal their using parapsychologists for certain aspects of the training.

There’s nothing like systematic analysis or research in this book. If you’re hungry for something really meaty, you’ll be disappointed as this is mostly reportage through meeting different people and relating somewhat superficialy their own research, accounts and ideas. But treat it like a travel book, and it’s light, breezy and enjoyable for what it is. 6.5
 
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Ian Gordon

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#12
[Mediumship].




1. Arthur Findlay. (1971 [1931]). On the Edge of the Etheric, or Survival After Death Scientifically Explained. London: Corgi Books. 159 pages. For those who don’t know, Findlay was an accountant & stockbroker who became one of the figureheads of 20th century Spiritualism. Part of this book expounds Findlay’s speculations, grounded in his experiences with physical mediums, about the physical universe being only a part of a wider “etheric universe”, and he attempts to ground his ideas with then recent discoveries of subatomic particle physics. Interwoven with this content are his discussions of his participation and observations of Direct Voice medium John Sloan, and he shares some of the very best survival evidence according to categories like “A1” and “A2”. (I pointed to one particularly strong piece of evidence, the Eric Saunders case, here):

It's 1919, Art takes his brother with him to a Direct Voice (trumpet) séance in Glasgow, Scotland. His brother is recently back from the Army (the war) and no one present knows that except for Art, nor where he was stationed (most of the time in Lowestoft, England, and sometimes in a nearby village called Kessingland, training gunners). No one present knows Art’s brother either.

During the séance, a "voice" said to Art's brother: "Eric Saunders". His brother said he didn't know him, but the voice insisted. The brother asked where they had met and the voice said "In the Army". The brother then mentioned different places (cities in England and different countries) but made sure not to mention Lowestoft where he been stationed most of the time (or Kessingland). The voice said: "No, none of these places. I knew you when you were near Lowestoft." Art's brother asked why he said "Near Lowestoft" and the voice replied "You were not in Lowestoft then, but at Kessingland".

The brother then asked what company he was in, B or C, but couldn't discern the answer. He asked the voice if he could remember the name of the company Commander. The voice said "Macnamara". Findlay goes on to report that that was indeed the name of the B Company Commander at the time.

His brother then pretended to know “Eric” (the voice) and said: “Oh yes, you were one of my Lewis gunners, were you not?” The voice replied: “No, you had not the Lewis guns then, it was the Hotchkiss.” This was indeed correct - the Lewis guns had been replaced by the Hotchkiss guns in April 1917.

Other evidential question-and-answer bits followed. Art’s brother still did not remember this man. “Eric” said he’d been killed in France and Art’s brother asked when. He answered that he’d passed away “with the Big Draft in August 1917”. The brother asked why he called it the Big Draft, and he said: “Don’t you remember the Big Draft, when the Colonel came on the parade ground and made a speech?” This referred to an especially large group sent out to France that month, and it was the only time that Art’s brother remembered the Colonel ever personally saying goodbye to the men.

“Eric” then thanked Art’s brother for the gunnery training he had given him, and said it had been most useful to him in France. The brother asked why he’d come through to speak to him, and the voice replied: “Because I have never forgotten that you once did me a good turn”. Findlay goes on to say that his brother had a vague recollection of obtaining leave for one of the gunners, because of special circumstances, but he couldn’t remember the name.

Six months after this incident, Art’s brother was in London and met the Corporal who had been his training assistant at that time. He relayed the story and asked him if he remembered a man called “Eric Saunders”. The Corporal usually got to know the men closer than Art’s brother did, because of the number of men Art’s brother had to train (about a dozen every 2 weeks for 2 years). But the Corporal did not remember any person with that name. However, he had a pocket diary that had a full list of the men under their training. They looked to the records of the B Company and found the words: “Eric Saunders, f.q., August ‘17”, with a red line drawn through them. “F.q” stood for qualified and the red line meant the man had gone away at that time (August 1917).

They couldn’t find any further information, but Findlay writes: “Even allowing for this it is a remarkable case, as it is fraud proof, telepathy proof and cryptaesthesia proof”. He goes on to add that the case contained 14 separate facts, and each one was correct.
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Findlay also describes facets of the afterlife as this information has to come to him through deceased individuals coming through Sloan’s mediumship. Finally, there is some content devoted to relating how Christianity’s creeds are completely in the wrong when it comes to the afterlife, a subject Findlay was passionate about and would write on at length later.

Given the age of the book and the contents as I have summarized them, this reads much better and is more interesting than (perhaps) in parts it should be. Findlay writes clearly and elegantly, and it's a consistently enjoyable read. 7.




2. Geraldine Cummins. (2012 [1932]). The Road to Immortality: Being a Description of the Afterlife Purporting to Be Communicated by the Late F. W. Meyers. Guildford, UK: White Crow Books. 94 pages. This edition is supposed to come with an introduction, but my copy doesn’t include one. Following his death, the renowned psychic researcher F. W. Meyers allegedly communicated through various mediums. This short, but incredibly information-dense book, is purely a transcription of such a communication – the whole book from start to finish is “written by” (automatic writing) Myers, and is a classic of the genre.

“Myers” tells us, like other spirit communicators, that he’s limited in his knowledge by what he’s experienced or found out, but goes on to describe seven planes of existence beyond earth life through which souls can progress. What he calls “Hades” is an astral plane, a sort of resting area, beyond which souls enter what he calls the “Plane of Illusion”, corresponding to what other communicators have called Summerland, where souls unknowingly (through their unconscious, deeper mind and emotional desires) a reality that is like a more pleasurable Earth, where they re-enact earthly life activities. “Myers” explains how this is actually a “beatific, infantile state” where there is no spiritual progress, and souls eventually yearn for “struggle, effort, ecstasy” (p. 10) and move beyond into higher planes. (It would be interesting to see how these different planes correspond to OBE “Locales” and NDE dimensional spheres, as superficially at least there are some parallels that can be easily drawn.) As Cummins/Meyers goes on to explain the other planes and facets of the ultimate reality (the true nature of free will, memory, other faculties), many concepts, like that of group souls or soul families, are put forward, which have persisted through contemporary channeling-mediumship-other spiritual communications. There is a life review of sorts at one point, and different bodies – “double” (astral), “etheric”, “subtle”, “celestial” – corresponding to the different planes. As one moves into the higher planes, communication or merger with one’s soul family/group comes into being, and mind becomes more “communal” the farther one goes along the ladder of progress.

You’re aware, as you’re reading this, of reading something that is at least filtered, if not mostly the product, of a medium-channeler’s mind, which doesn’t automatically remove its validity, but leaves you evaluating the material through other means – as how much it rings true to you, or, perhaps corresponds to other spiritual content obtained through other sources of information (OBEs, NDEs, other mediums and channelers, etc). I found myself appreciating most (not all) of this content, and finding intriguing parallels with some of the modern material I find most convincing. A surprisingly strong read. 7.5
 

Ian Gordon

Ninshub
Member
#13
[religious traditions: Old Testament].


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1. Walter Brueggemann. (2003). An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press. 434 pages. I read this several years ago, I don’t remember exactly why, probably out of curiosity, wanting to know the OT a little better, and remembered it to be, to my surprise, mostly delightful. I decided to recently read it again because I felt like doing some background as I was thinking (I’ve since shelved this idea because I want to stick and go deeper with survival/afterlife readings) of getting into some historical study of the gospels and the NT, and I generally love reading about Antiquity.

Brueggemann is a Protestant theologian and a central, authoritative Old Testament scholar. The title sounds like a textbook, but it isn’t. This isn’t a work of historical criticism, but of “canonical criticism”. Brueggemann presents each OT book with a view to uncovering and articulating the theological intention(s) of each book and examining on how what he calls the ongoing “traditioning process” shaped each book and their placement within the canon, as well as to studying the meaning of the structure of the canon. Doing that, however, does continually include and involve historical criticism [which is a) trying to find out what actually happened regarding the “historical reportage”, and b) maybe more importantly, the historical study of the writing of the texts] and what is called “rhetorical criticism”: the study of the intended messages to the socio-historical audience of each book, and the devices used to communicate that message to that intended audience. So all these elements are brought together to provide an analysis of the theological themes from the smallest units (sections of each books) to the overall assembly of the canon, which is always achieved through studying the various and often conflicting socio-historical and ideological (advocacy) dimensions of the people writing and rewriting these books for the intended audiences. (The author has no qualms about calling a spade a space. E.g. how the rhetoric of the Book of Joshua, where Yahweh authorizes military violence and extermination, “mandates nothing less than genocide”.)

Brueggemann again and again concludes that this constantly involves what he calls a “creative reimagining of the past” (hence the importance of the word “imagination” in the title). If you are not familiar with biblical scholarship, at least of the fairly liberal kind espoused here, as a non-believer you might find yourself surprised at how much willingness there is in the field in laying bare how often there is no or very little historicity to the events purported, and how much of the “traditioning” process involved writing “about” past events with a view to commenting and describing current circumstances (say, traumatic events for the Hebrew people experienced during the neo-Assyrian empire are re-imagined in a later historical context with which there are some parallels: during the neo-Babylonian, the Persian or the Hellenistic empires).

The subtitle of the book implies that the writing is done from a Christian perspective, but that doesn’t really reflect the book. First, Brueggeman is presenting and analyzing the Hebrew bible in regards to how the books are placed within the Hebrew bible (in three main sections: the Torah, the Prophets, and the “Writings”), and not in their later reconfigurations in the Catholic or Protestant OT. Second, most of the analysis, again, is focused on the original socio-historical Judaic reality corresponding to the writing of the texts. The Christian element is only introduced towards the end of each chapter (covering each OT book), usually by pointing out what themes or significant passages were picked up on and later re-interpreted by Christians, whether NT authors or later significant Christian theologians (which Brueggemann often shows involved a misreading of the original text).

How all of this, for the believer community, still fits with seeing the bible as “divine”, is a topic really only handled in the conclusion, so that it never feels for the non-faith reader like an imposition of belief.

This is intellectually rigorous, and the scholarship is amazing. Brueggemann constantly weaves into his text a consideration of the most significant critical perspectives of the past and very recent/contemporary biblical scholarship. (I see there is a newer 2nd edition available, which likely incorporates even more recent scholarship.) This is tremendously enlightening if you are unfamiliar with the Old Testament and haven’t confronted the rich diversity of the materials it contains. 7.5


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2. David M. Carr. (2010). An Introduction to the Old Testament: Sacred Texts and Imperial Contexts of the Hebrew Bible. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell. 276 pages. After rereading Brueggemann, I went to this book, which is a textbook. (They can actually be fun to read when you’re no longer in school and don’t have to study them! :)) Actually I started reading two of them at the same time, this one and another called The Old Testament: Text and Context by Matthews and Moyer, but they were too similar so I chose one. I stayed with this one because, first, it doesn’t go into as much detail into the narratives, stories, etc, contained in the Hebrew Bible books, which I’m familiar enough with and which wasn’t what I was looking for, and, second, though it shared a predominantly historical perspective with the other textbook on when and how the Bible books came to be written and put together, it somewhat radically presented the material chronologically. I.e. Carr presents the OT books or often parts of those books that were written earliest up through the latest, and not in the order that the books are presented in the OT/HB (so the book doesn’t start with Genesis; the different books and subsections of the Torah are introduced and explained during the later periods during which they were composed and assembled).

As I said, Carr’s focus is mostly historical, and he uses all of the relevant and up-to-date research (including archeological) to put into context the writing of the different books or parts of books. Looking at it through that lens, and getting an appreciation for how the nations of Judah and Israel came about in the Egyptian-Mesopotamian world, and then the successive empires they were absorbed and controlled by (Assyrian, neo-Babylonian, Persian, Hellenistic), I felt I gained a much better understanding for the historical context and meaning of these various texts. Part of that understanding involves the interplay between the Judaic culture and the empires they were in cultural relationship with (types of literature, forms of worship). Carr says at the onset that this type of study helps understand parts of the OT/HB that are difficult to understand for a contemporary audience unfamiliar with the history, geography, etc. etc., and I have to agree he really pulls it off. If you love ancient history and are curious to learn more about the HB and how it emerged, I’d recommend this unhesitatingly. This was exactly the kind of book I was looking for when I purchased this. 7.
 

Ian Gordon

Ninshub
Member
#14
[psychokinesis & UFOs].




Jeffrey Mishlove. (2000). The PK Man: A True Story of Mind Over Matter. Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads. 282 pages. Doug (Trancestate) strongly recommended this book to me, and I want to thank him again. This is a fascinating book about a character, Ted Owens, I had never heard about before. Parapsychologist Jeffrey Mishlove had an 11-year relationship with this large-scale PK (psychokinesis) practitioner, a truly larger-than-life character who, starting in the 1960s until his death in 1987, became a somewhat fairly well-known figure for ostensibly producing large-scale destructive weather phenomena (tornadoes, lightning storms, droughts, etc.), power failures, poltergeist activity and UFO apparitions, just to name a few, in an effort to convince the public of his powers and make other points, and often in antagonistic relationship with newspapers, sports team owners, you name it. Most often he would make a prediction about what he was about to unleash or cause, or else “punish” somebody (a mayor, a team owner, a newspaper publisher) for reneging on a deal (e.g. writing an article about his predictions). Mishlove met Owens in 1976 and started a working relationship with him, keeping tabs on his predictions and “accomplishments”. Because the “PK Man” would predict, often in writing, what he was about to do, this allowed data to be investigated, even though most of the time it didn’t lend itself, for all sorts of reasons, to controlled experiments.

Mishlove presents not only the events from his own time frame with Owens, but from the beginning, since Owens had a file with previous researchers (Russell Targ and Harold E. Puthoff among others), with events going back to the mid-60s. (Owens had become himself an assistant at Rhine’s parapsychology lab at Duke University in the late 40s after reading Rhine’s work). Mishlove doesn’t try to convince the reader that Owens is really accomplishing what he is doing, but presenting the evidence and letting the reader decide, while sharing his own point of view. The evidential quality of the exploits varies, but many of the stories are astounding, and many were verified and attested to by witnesses.

An added dimension is that Owens, who had experienced various psychic powers since his childhood (including levitation), “discovered” in the 1960s that Space Intelligences were responsible for some of his powers, and it was - most of the time – them, though him, who were responsible for his PK phenomena.

This is both a book to treasure in terms of the wild tales recounted by Mishlove, and for the queries into the nature of what Owens is producing. Is PK in fact simply precognition, and it is possible to tell them apart? (Some incidents definitely seem to rule out precognition as an answer.) If the events are being “caused” by Owens, is it space intelligences or Owens? Are those UFOs he is able to “manifest” external entities or materializations – even though “physically real” – related to his psyche? How exactly does PK work (the lag effect, the displacement effect, etc.)?

Mishlove also devotes a lot of space into analyzing Owens’ sometimes egomaniacal character, and the ethical significance of his actions.

The reader can draw his or her own conclusions about the evidence. Like Mishlove, I tend to think the quantity of the “hits”, over all those years, carries weight, and I have a hard time explaining away specific events (like, for example, Owens, before a witness, “deciding” what precise point lightning would strike, and having it happen right there and then at that precise point, or, again with a witness, making a UFO appear at a precise location – or when the author suddenly becomes very sick after getting angry at Owens on the phone, who then calls back and says he’s sorry for what he’s just done to him). It’s a lot of fun reading about these events that Owens possibly had a hand in – some of them well known, like Hurricane David in 1979, the 1980 Mount St-Helens explosion, the 1986 Challenger space shuttle explosion. I had an especially fun time with the chapter which recounts the various sports teams (most of the time football) Owens would hex for a season.

Owens was known to other parapsychologists, including Scott Rogo for example, as well as UFO researchers like Allen Hynek, but Mishlove had an especially close working relationship with him. Mishlove prepared a manuscript but waited many years to publish it, thirteen years after Owens’ death, for fear of what it might do to his career back then, and now feeling that the public was more receptive. (I think I’ve got this last bit right; apologies to Jeffrey Mishlove if I haven’t.)

I read this a year go and re-read it recently to do this little write-up. A classic that should be better known. Thanks again, Doug. 8.5

p.s. I just found this video where Mishlove discusses the Owens case.

Whew. OK, that does it for posting my "backlog" of reviews - the next ones will concern current reads.
 
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Ian Gordon

Ninshub
Member
#15
[NDEs & OBEs].



Paul Elder. (2005). Eyes of an Angel: Soul Travel, Spirit Guides, Soul Mates, and the Reality of Love. Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads. 232 pages. When I come across an interesting NDE account, I’ll try and see if that person published a book. This was the case with Paul Elder. A few years back I watched a video presentation of his here (scroll down to September 2011 - if the page is offline like it appears now, or you can't view it for whatever reason and you want to, you can also see it here), and I had a very good impression of this guy in addition to his noteworthy experiences - serious but funny, down-to-earth, definitely not flaky, sensitive and smart. Although that video presentation focuses on his NDEs, the book is packed with a lot of his other paranormal experiences, especially his OBE/astral travel (spoiler alert: I’ll be revealing a fair amount of the contents in this review).

One of the things that’s interesting about Elder is that he was a public figure while a lot of this stuff was happening to him. He grew up in a very large, very poor farming family in Saskatchewan, Canada, and eventually went from becoming a disc jockey to a TV and radio news reporter, to the mayor of the town of Swift Current for many years. The book says he had 3 NDEs, but he actually had 2. (The middle one was a car accident at age 17 where he nearly died, and later in life, in one of his spiritual experiences he accessed paranormal phenomena that occurred during that experience, but it wasn’t an NDE per se.) The first NDE was when he drowned at age 12, and it featured an OBE, but though it had a big impact, he didn’t at the time attach any significance to it. The second was at age 41, in 1992, when out of shape he went out to play hockey and had a heart attack. He recounts his leaving his body and floating above the ambulance, and is also able to “go” to his wife and son in their home when thinking of them.

That wasn’t the event that busted his paradigm open though. That occurred just two years prior, when he had a spontaneous OBE while in bed with his wife. Because of the circumstances in which he was raised – the harsh reality of a family eking out a material-grounded existence, in a rigid-minded community -, he was ultra-practical and focused on the physical world, in temperament and attitude. He wittily recounts how, earlier, in 1979, he had seen an interview with Robert Monroe and then read his first book Journeys Out of the Body, but dismissed it in his mind as the story of a nut. When he suddenly has this OBE eleven years later, he recalls this book and is able to have a framework for what is going on. His "mind is blown", though, as he realizes that his mind is not his brain and his body, and that experience sends him on a journey to find out and experience as much as he can of this heretofore unknown greater reality.

Most of the book is taken up with the story of that quest. It mostly involved him learning how to OBE travel, both on his own, and through multiple visits to experiential OBE courses at the Monroe Institute in Virginia (as he recounts in the video, his public persona at the time is being the mayor of a fundamentalist Christian small town, but in his private time, which he has to struggle to have, he’s traveling astral and afterlife realms). He lets us in on the progressive development of his OBE travels, which get more and more more complex and dimensionally and spiritually involved. He gets into contact with spirit guides early on, who progressively teach him, and help him experience, various facts and aspects of that greater reality.

Those things, all of which were a surprise to him, but then also become things he now “remembers”, include facts like: being an eternal being and going through multiple incarnations; being part of a soul group, some of whose members can be incarnated in physical form and others not, who all share the experiences of each of its members, and how those experiences help and accelerate the advancement of the whole group; the reality of “lost souls”, spirits who are dead and aren’t aware of it, and whom Paul joins in some of the OBE workshops, and with the help of his spirit guides, in “rescuing”; that we choose our incarnations with a certain purpose and plan; that forgetting our spiritual origin is necessary for our earthly or physical experience (“In order for us to get what we need out of (this lifetime), it’s important that we don’t remember that we ourselves chose the kind of life we wanted to experience”, his spirit guide tells him, p. 121), and that we choose to undergo that experience because true knowledge comes from experience; that experiencing the “polarity of separation and connection” helps to experientially appreciate and understand the illusion of separation; the many dimensions that exist at different rates of vibration; how in the spirit realm one can create one’s reality; that “God” is the collective consciousness of The All.

Reading through Paul's book, to me it was another experience confirming and validating a shared, congruent body of knowledge that (I’m personally convinced) we can gain from the accumulated information of OBE travel, the better and deeper NDEs, mediumship and other experiential phenomena.

There are also veridical dimensions to those experiences, both in the sense of finding out things through his OBEs that are later verified in the physical world (finding a bent nail in drywall through doing renovations which he had “found” earlier going through the wall through an OBE), and in finding that he visits the same “spaces” or can meet up with fellow journeyers with other OBEr participants at his workshops at the Monroe Institute.

That said, the book isn’t only relating the knowledge Paul gains, but the spiritual, personal journey he is on, where he is learning about the walls he built up in order not to feel and goes through the sometimes very painful process of removing them. This involves learning about, and contacting the emotions underwent, in some of his past lives, as well as in forgotten events in his early life, and the interaction of all this with his relationship with a soul group member, a “soul mate”, whom he meets in this physical life.

At some points, I found myself wondering how the author could retain such in-depth conversations with his spirit guides or all of the aspects of his astral travels, but in addition to having kept notes for years, he makes it clear at the book’s end (which his spirit guides asked him to write) how the process of writing the book included entering altered states of consciousness where he was re-immersing himself in those memories and being helped anew by his spirit guides.

This is more than your average regular NDE-account book and I found it very rich in the combination of its emotional and spiritual impact, and information about extended consciousness realms. There are books you read that provide for you a sense of a connection to spirit as you read them, and for me this was one of them. For the wealth and the felt soundness of its knowledge of the greater reality – the non-physical realms and the meaning of that reality -, this is a book I’ll also return to.

You can find out more about Paul at his website, including his becoming a remote viewing teacher as part of the Monroe Institute.

8.5
 
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Ian Gordon

Ninshub
Member
#16
[NDEs & various].



Annamaria Hemingway. (2008). Practicing Conscious Living and Dying: Stories of the Eternal Continuum of Consciousness. Winchester, UK: O Books. 218 pages. I’ll be quick with this one, as it doesn’t feel great writing a unenthusiastic assessment of something so well-intentioned. There are rave reviews on the back from Kenneth Ring, PMH Atwater, Bill Guggenheim and other NDE-&-spiritual community luminaries, and they must have raised my expectations too high, because this was something of a disappointment and I kept putting off completing it.

It’s basically three sections of stories told by the experiencers or the people involved. The first is NDEs, but there are only four (the fifth one being a spiritual experience through an LSD trip by TV actor Larry Hagman, although it’s fun to read) – and one is Tiffany Snow’s, which has been told elsewhere. The second is stories of death (the loss of someone close, what have you) impacting people to bring about great, unforeseen changes in their lives, like creating extremely successful charities. The third groups together various paranormal experiences involving communication with dead loved ones – ADCs, mediumship, etc. The idea for the structure of the book is clever, there’s some good stuff all across these sections, and the fact that they’re first-hand is a winning, but the accounts are not all of the same caliber, and in general there was nothing here that blew me away or that I couldn’t relatively easily find the equivalent of in other books.

The author has chapters in between these sections where she introduces and reviews NDEs and NDE research, or other evidence (reincarnation memories, spiritualism) pointing to a “continuum of consciousness”, with some philosophical-spiritual reflections weaved through. But these parts of the book especially felt undistinguished and a bit tedious. I noticed also the majority of the stories in the book come from people living in Santa Barbara and nearby Ojai, California, so this seems very much like a localized affair.

I don’t know if my reactions mean I’m spiritually “dried up” compared to my vibrationally higher co-incarnates, but there’s no way I can see this book as a “must-read” (Yolaine Stout, Evelyn Elsaesser-Valarino) and at no time did I “weap and marvel” as Ken Ring intimated I would. This book would be tremendous if nothing like it existed already, but fortunately that’s not the case. 6/6.5.
 
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