Despite an interesting title much of the material in this book could be characterised as 'New Age', and though several of the essays might, if decoded, contain some interesting ideas, I have neither the time nor inclination to plough through the New Age consciousness expanding and general high flown rhetoric to discover them. If you are into the Californian consciousness scene and altering consciousness by means of DMT and related substances or through mediatisation and yoga this might be the book for you. I am not remotely interested in any of these things and it is not for me.
There are some more - how shall I put it? - Magonian pieces in all of this. Anthony Peake makes the interesting suggestion that 'out of the body experiences' are related to lucid dreaming (an idea suggested of course by Celia Green and her colleagues nearly 40 years ago). They cannot be classed as “lucid” dreams however; as lucid dreams are dreams where the dreamer is aware s/he is dreaming. There is no such insight in OOBEs, the term “virtual reality” dream, though inelegant, seems the best for these and other extremely vivid subjective experiences. They may well be also related to aware sleep paralysis, which is briefly discussed by Ryan Hurd. The role of hallucination also is the central theme of Paul Devereux’s interesting discussion of Charles Bonnet Syndrome in the visually impaired. Devereux argues that these experiences lead us very much into constructionist ideas of perception.
Developments in computer generated virtual reality provides a new language for discussing some of these anomalous experiences, as natural excursions into virtual realities, a theme developed by both Peake and Dianna Read Slattery in their essays.
Parapsychologists Russell Targ, Dean Radin and Chris Carter make contributions. Radin asks why sceptics cannot see the big gorilla of the paranormal in the room. Sceptics might reply, that’s because there is no beast there in the first place, others might argue there might be something in the room but it most definitely is not a gorilla. Chris Carter rants on against materialism, and quotes a variety of long dead people who argued that the brain restrains or receives consciousness rather than generating it. Of course they were all writing between 50-130 years ago, when neuroscience was far less developed than it is today.
The driving force behind most of the essays in this book is a Romantic revolt against scientific modernity, and the yearning for a lost “spiritual” age. Past generations of Romantics would look to the local peasants as sources of folk wisdom, now they jet off to some remote location in search of various low tech societies. Their approach to these is one of exotisation. Non-white people and cultures are patronised as 'First Peoples' or 'Earth Peoples' living completely a-historical lives. Presumably one is meant to overlook their mobile phones! It is not surprising then that large portions of this eco-friendly neo-ancient wisdom looks suspiciously like it has been concocted for the western tourist market. – Peter Rogerson.