This is the latest in the annual series of compilations of essays on a wide range of paranormal, fortean and anomalistic topic.
Mike Jay's article, 'Dreaming While Awake' discusses a topic that is at the heart of many Fortean and 'Magonian' phenomena - hallucination. Although simply meaning perceptions that have no external stimuli, the word has become so overladen with negative meanings that researchers are reluctant to use it as an explanation for the kinds of phenomena under discussion. Jay discusses how the word was first used as an attempt to secularise visionary phenomena, particularly in connection with Charles Bonnet syndrome, but it increasingly became a way of pathologising such visions, aquiring an almost totally negative connotation. By the twentieth century hallucinations were seen almost entirely in the context of mental disorder to some degree, but Jay argues that the visionary experience is a normal part of the working of the human brain, producing a 'virtual reality'.
Martin Shough's article on ball-lighting will be familiar to Magonia readers, as it is based on his article, A Social History of Ball Lightning, published in Magonia 81, May 2003. He describes the way in which a controversial phenomenon with many analogies to the UFO phenomenon has received scientific respectability, despite displaying most of the characteristics that have meant that UFOs have lurked permanently on the edges of science.
We have recently reviewed the revival of interest in the complex character Richard Shaver, with the recent anthology and biographical study by Richard Toronto, and a study of Ray Palmer's involvement in the 'Shaver Mystery' by Fred Nadis. Blair Mackenzie Blake here gives a sympathetic review of Shaver's life and works and his ambiguous relationship with Palmer. He asks if Shaver's nightmare descriptions of the subterranean world of the dero and their mind-scrambling technology might be a unconscious analogue of his experiences in the Ionia Asylum for the Criminally Insane, where he may have undergone electro-convulsive therapy. With the republication of two books of Shaver's 'rock pictures' we seem to be in the middle of a major re-evaluation of Shaver's contributions to science fiction, conspiracy theory and Fortean thought. I think we will hear much more of him.
The porous boundary between fiction and belief is also touched on in 'Believing in Fiction', by Ian 'Cat'
Wilson Vincent [see comment, below]. He looks at how religious and philosophical belief systems have entered into the real world from popular cultural sources. He cautiously avoids L. Ron Hubbard, Dianetics, Jack Parsons and the OTO, noting that they did not derive their systems from one particular work. Instead he dates the start of 'hyper-real beliefs' from the Church of All Worlds, derived from Robert Heinlein's novel Stranger in a Strange Land. He follows the theme through Kenneth Grant's occult Tryphonian Trilogy, which influenced many occult practitioners, particularly through 'chaos magic'. Perhaps the most widely know 'hyper-real' religion is Jedi, from the Star Wars universe, which seems to be on the verge of becoming boringly mainstream. Later films like Matrix and Avatar also seem to be developing cultist followers; and finally to Slenderman, which is perhaps transforming from a internet meme to a dark sacrificial cult.
Joanne Conman's demolition of the accepted story of Egyptioan astrology and Robert Schoch's cosmological analysis of the cult of Mithras and the Gobleki Tepe remains are beyond my competence to judge, and I will leave it to others. Other archaeological topics covered include discussion of a remarkable structure in Indonesia, which may be a natural feature, an artificial structure or some sort of combination of the two. Martin Clemens description of the 'Mountain of Light' draws links to Churchward's Mu, and almost inevitably, Gobleki Tepe. It also provides an interesting example of the politicisation of archaeology.
Closer to home, in 'Walking in the Shadow of Death' Lucy Ryder looks at the 'corpse roads' which cross the English countryside (indeed one passes the front door of Magonia Towers!) Also on the theme of pathways to the grave, Dark Lore editor Greg Taylor presents an enlightening review of strange light phenomena witnessed at the moment of an individual's death, and considers if they may have an objective source.
Life beyond death is looked at in 'Life, Death and Raymond' by Robert Schoch, examining the death of Raymond Lodge, son of physicist and SPR grandee Sir Oliver Lodge, and the evidence it was said to present in favour of survival. Other chapters look at the Tibetan Book of the Dead; and in 'Portals of Strangeness' Raymond Grasse asks what Fortean phenomena, whatever their origins, actually mean in the modern world.
Like all the other titles in this series, it is unlikely that any one reader will find every article is of equal interest, but they will certainly find enough of interest to them to make this a very worthwhile addition to their Fortean library. -- John Rimmer