3 February 2017


J. Douglas Kenyon. (ed) Lost Powers - Reclaiming our Inner Connection. Atlantis Rising, 2016.

Most of us have been duped at one time or another. Whether it is a belief that we once cherished, only to become disillusioned as we grew in wisdom and experience, or the amazement of sleight-of-hand magic, there are many ways to be deceived. Some are useful and amusingly impressive, others may be embarrassing, painful or seriously damaging.
Lost Powers is a book of 32 essays on those fascinating subjects about latent human potential and occult or future science in which personal beliefs vary wildly from total credulity to cynical scepticism. As the sub-title makes clear, the overall premise is that we humans have seemingly lost our inner connection to a higher reality and there is now a growing movement to reclaim that vital link. The articles are all taken from issues of Atlantis Rising magazine, published and edited by J. Douglas Kenyon. As the blurb says: "Atlantis Rising provides some of the most astounding reading to be found anywhere".

If this sounds a bit too 'New Age' for some tastes, actually there is nothing woolly or idealistic in these articles, except for one of them. They are all well written and thoroughly researched. Even the most complex theories and subjects are presented in a reasoned and balanced way, so readers can make their own mind up about what is true, and what is not. As Kenyon adds to the cover notes, "there is a deeper process at work, something coming from our innate ability to discern greater truth. Within us all, this subconscious truth-detector is at work, providing us - if we care to access it - a connection to universal themes and archetypes. Every soul has an unconscious knowledge of the ultimate truth of things, a premise long taught by all great spiritual teachers, East and West, regularly experienced by those who follow the spiritual path."

Now that final statement sounds noble and laudable, as indeed it is, but those who have been on the 'spiritual path' long enough know it is not as simple as that. A case study that comes immediately to mind is that of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, covered in Essay 8: 'Crimes, Clairvoyance and A. Conan Doyle - Why Was the Creator of Sherlock Holmes so Interested in the Invisible World?'

Doyle undoubtedly had a brilliant brain. The world-famous fictional detective he created was a reflection of his own formidable intellect. He was a great believer in 'deductive reasoning', which he thought could be applied not only to practical problems, but also to the great religious questions. In one story, 'The Naval Treaty', Holmes says: "There is nothing in which deductive reasoning is so necessary as in religion. It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner." Brought up as a Catholic, Doyle lapsed from the faith even in his school days. At the Jesuit school to which he was sent, Doyle reported that when "Father Murphy, a great fierce Irish priest, declared that there was sure damnation for everyone outside the Church, I looked upon him with horror".

With his inquiring mind, Doyle spent many years investigating psychic phenomena and attending seances. From a position of curiosity and doubt he eventually, after many years, became totally convinced of the conscious survival of the spirit after death. He became a fervent evangelist for the cause of Spiritualism, giving talks to packed-out halls all over the world to audiences eager to hear his thoughts on discarnate life and 'soul wanderings'. For all of this he was ridiculed by members of the establishment, and even his biographers tend to regard his spiritualism as unfortunate and embarrassing. The fact is, despite his great intellect and medical training he was duped on several occasions. His most famous mistake was in publicly supporting 'the Cottingley fairies', which were photographs of little winged woodland creatures, promoted through the Theosophical Society in Bradford. They later turned out to be fakes. Near the end of his life, Doyle bemoaned the 'almost thankless quest' of psychical research. It is indeed a tricky subject.

Talking of tricks, the great magician and escape artist Harry Houdini features in this book, in Essay 13: 'The Curious Death of Harry Houdini'. Doyle and Houdini became friends, and on one occasion Houdini performed a trick at his house in New York that so astounded Doyle he was convinced it was supernatural. Houdini insisted that everything he did was an illusion and had a practical explanation, although naturally as a professional magician he did not reveal his methods. The interesting thing here is that Houdini had made it his mission to debunk fraudulent mediums and psychics, frequently attending their demonstrations and then revealing the techniques they had used.

The chapter on Houdini particularly focuses on his sudden and unexpected death at the age of 52 and the resultant controversy over a purported communication from him 'on the other side'. As the essay's author, John Chambers, observes: "To some extent, this death stemmed from Houdini's hubris or overreaching pride - the same flaw that killed Oedipus and Achilles." He had challenged anyone in the world to test his claim that his abdominal muscles were so powerfully developed they could take any punch without his being injured. As Houdini sat relaxing in his dressing room on 22 October 1926,after performing for a packed house at Princess Theatre, Montreal, Canada, a strong 22-year old student delivered a volley of blows to his stomach, almost without warning. Houdini was already in great pain, but managed to struggle on to do another performance the next night. Perhaps it was his hubris itself that kept him going. Even so, that night he was rushed into hospital for an emergency operation, then severe peritonitis set in, causing his death just over a week later. Despite a fierce struggle: "the great escape artist had failed to escape the jaws of death".

Although a dogged debunker of mediumship, Houdini had sworn to his wife Bess that he would somehow get a coded message to her from the other side. She offered $10,000 to any medium who could deliver the message. More than two years after Houdini's death, and at the end of many sittings, the celebrated psychic Arthur Ford transmitted the decoded words "ROSABELLE BELIEVE" to an exultant Bess. She vowed that this was the agreed-upon message. Those were the words inscribed on the inside of her wedding ring, known only to herself. All around the world the media trumpeted the news and for a while Houdini was as famous dead as he had been alive. Then, inevitably, scepticism and doubt began to emerge, with confusing and contradictory effects. You will have to read the book for the details of this and other fascinating examples of what happens when 'experts' start arguing about their pet theories. It gets complicated, but suffice it to say that a piece of evidence came to light which might explain the source of the message. 

An essay that I found particularly memorable and moving was No 29: 'The Paranormal Travels of Mark Twain', also by John Chambers. It starts with the details of a terrifying precognitive dream experienced by Twain when he was just 22 years old and still known by his original name of Samuel Clemens. In the dream he saw the dead body of his younger brother Henry laid in a metallic burial case in vivid detail. It was so realistic that, on awakening, his heart was filled with dread and he was certain that Henry's coffin lay in the next room. The two brothers were about to embark on a steamboat journey down the Mississippi.

What is so gripping and tragic about this story is that the dream came true in appalling detail. The brothers became separated on the journey after Sam got into a fight with the steamboat's pilot and was put off at the next port of call, New Orleans. He was able to get a berth on another steamboat two days later. After another two days on the river, Sam heard the shocking news that a boiler had exploded on the steamship carrying Henry, killing one hundred and fifty people. Like many of the other passengers, Henry barely survived but died a few days later from severe injuries and scalding. Some Memphis ladies provided a metal casket for his body, and it turned out that the terrifying dream was fulfilled in all the other details that young Sam had seen a few days before.

Mark Twain had many brushes with the supernatural during his life, but none as spectacular as this, and none so horrible in its outcome. In 1897 he wrote that we have a "spiritualized self which can detach itself and go off upon affairs of its own. . . it and I are one, because we have common memories". It seems he was even able to have some sexual affairs using his astral body. He often experienced telepathic communication with others. Yet despite these powers, or abilities, he experienced a series of personal catastrophes in later life that took away his peace of mind and nearly destroyed him. Sudden bankruptcy of his publishing firm, and the loss of his fortune invested in a new typesetting machine that failed, plus the discovery that his youngest daughter was epileptic, all combined to ruin his health. In defiance of all these setbacks he set out on a worldwide lecturing tour, with his wife and middle daughter, with the intention of paying back all of his creditors. He nearly succeeded. "But, as he arrived in London at the end of the tour, the greatest horror of all awaited him: his eldest daughter, Suzy, had died at the age of 24 from meningitis after two weeks of terrible suffering.

One can hardly imagine the effects such appalling catastrophes must have had upon him. His creative faculties were broken, and even his spiritual self seemed to have fled. The small amount of writing that he managed afterwards were bleak, portraying humanity no longer with the warmth of Huckleberry Finn and his friends on the great river, but as icebound passengers in an endless Arctic sea. He saw humans at the mercy of "monstrous, capricious, unseen forces - in a state that would go on for all eternity". The despair of his final years should in no way detract from the great joy and laughter he brought to millions of people, even to this day. But the question one is left with, again, is whether such despair in adversity is inevitable over time, or whether a spiritual connection can maintain joy and purpose in life through all circumstances.

Lost Powers is a most interesting and stimulating exploration of questions such as these. I found much food for thought and wisdom in the three essays I have reviewed above. There is something for everyone in this book. For those interested in healing and human potential, there are essays on the wisdom of plants and nature, the human aura, alchemy, longevity and yogic powers. I came across a useful phrase for the latter subject: 'self-directed evolution'. In that case it is intentional, rather than incidental as part of the natural process of living and learning.

Chapter 7 on Kundalini is a commendably clear and thorough explanation of what this energy in the human body actually is, and how it can be used to raise consciousness and vitality. For most humans, orgasms are extremely pleasurable and desirable, giving release and relief. The experience of ecstasy by sexual means is in fact a taste of union. As the author, John White describes it: "the states of consciousness experienced by lovers in union and mystics in God-intoxication are states in which the usual sense of self as a separate, isolated, lonely individual is dissolved. The individuals are no longer locked in the prison of ego, no longer in conflict with the world because of a socially-conditioned image of who they are. It has a sacred quality to it, as if they had contacted something greater than themselves, something at the wellspring of life itself...". This is, in a certain way, a big clue as to what it is all about.

No book of this kind would be complete without essays on secret technologies such as anti-gravity devices, practical designs for saucer-shaped flying craft, and the strange phenomenon of levitation. Chapter 15: "Did our Ancestors Know How to Fly?" looks at ancient writings and illustrations from India, China and Sumer and the author answers that question with a definite yes.

Perhaps the most amazing 'information' is presented in Chapter 18: 'The Superhero Factor - What is the Meaning of the Superpower Myth?' This concerns the persistent myth, so popular with Hollywood films like Superman and so on, that humans can develop super-powers such as walking through walls and direct bodily levitation. David Copperfield has produced some stunning illusions such as going through the Great Wall of China and levitating over the Grand Canyon, all on live TV.
Perhaps the most 'amazing' information is presented in Chapter 18: The Superhero Factor - What is the Meaning of the Superpower Myth?" This concerns the persistent myth, so popular with Hollywood films like 'Superman' and so on, that humans can develop super-powers such as walking through walls and direct bodily levitation.

David Copperfield has produced some stunning illusions such as going through the Great Wall of China and levitating over the Grand Canyon, all on live TV. The latest superstar illusionist to emerge onto the public stage is Criss Angel. I am surprised I had never heard of him before, given what he is described as doing here: "In a scene videotaped from all angles, in broad daylight, while his fans shout and scream from below, Angel effortlessly floats from rooftop to rooftop standing with arms extended, covering a distance of about 200 feet. 

And then in what may be the greatest feat ever accomplished by an illusionist, Angel, invoking Jesus and giving guttural shouts, floats high up into the air from the pinnacle of the Luxor Hotel Pyramid in Las Vegas at night and hangs in mid-air for about 10 minutes waving his arms, while floodlights from the hotel apex illuminate the scene......But, in what many believe to be his supreme achievement ... Angel walks across a swimming pool in Las Vegas, while swimmers surround him and watch him closely, and a woman swims beneath his feet as he walks. Taking each step carefully, Angel kicks off his shoes in mid-pool and the camera shows them floating to the bottom as he continues his walk barefoot to the other side."

And so it goes on. You can see many of his stunts on YouTube. If you do, make sure to read the comments below the video. People are not so easily impressed these days. They will tell you how it's done. You will have to excuse the rude comments. And you will clearly see that the observers of these stunts are not at all convincing. It's acting. But the author of this essay, sadly, has let the side down and had a bad case of the 'Conan Doyles', believing that this illusionist has really developed yogic powers. They're great illusions, and he certainly has a head for heights. And that's about it.

This world is full of amazing facts and possibilities, and so is this book. I recommend it for further exploration. You never know what you will find. – Kevin Murphy.

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