In Two Minds

D Scott Rogo. The Haunted Universe. Signet Paperback, 1971.

A wide-ranging look at the 'Psychic' component of a variety of Fortean and ufological events. A great deal of valuable material is presented here, including an analysis of lesser known aspects of the Pascagoula incident, a long look at the BVM apparitions at Zeitoun, more on US creature reports, and a most interesting chapter exploring the subjective origins of the UFO mystery. In all, a fascinating and readable account of interesting events.

Yet in the end, the book is self-contradictary. Concluding that such phenomena, particularly UFOs, are the products of the human mind, he rejects out of hand suggestions that they may be result of telepathically shared dreams or hallucinations, stating:

"From years of investigation and laboratory work, we know that ESP is a very inaccurate information channel. In fact it is so bad as to be useless ... To theorise that two people could come out with carbon-copy stories as a result of telepathic infection runs completely counter to every thing that parapsychology has discovered about the facility..."

As Rogo is described as an experienced psychical investigator and lecturer one would not wish to quarrel with such a statement. Yet, after denying the telepathic effectiveness of the human mind, he seems quite happy to allow the most remarkable psychokinetic powers to it, stating: "All these assorted anomalies (falls from the sky, dematerialisations, misplaced objects and animals, monsters, spontaneous combustion) may be the products of the psychic capabilities of the human mind. The mind that releases the poltergeist is also the mind that causes rocks to fall from the sky, people to vanish, and UFOs to appear ... "

Quite some achievements for a mind that earlier in the book wasn't as effective as two tin cans and a piece of string for transmitting messages! However although you may dispute the author's conclusions the material unveiled in coming to them is well worth reading. - John Rimmer. From MUFOB new series 8, autumn 1977.


Conspiracies

Robin Ramsey. The Pocket Essential Conspiracy Theories. Pocket Essentials, 2000.

Robin Ramsey, editor of the 'parapolitics' magazine Lobster, takes a swift look at the rise of the conspiracy theory. He contrasts what he calls megaconspiracy theories, those which claim that all of history is controlled by, and all the heartbreak, pain and suffering in the world is caused by 'them', the terrible others who are incarnations of cosmic evil; with the limited conspiracies of small groups who act in limited fashions. These latter, he is much more disposed to believe in, and he spends some time attacking the media and academic establishments for rubbishing conspiracy theories.

Some of the usual suspects such as the Bilderburg group and the Trilateral Commission get a look in. Whether these groups are 'conspiracies' I suppose depends on what you mean by conspiracy. That they act to ensure the leading politicians are 'on side' and support policies which favour international capital seems obvious, but that they do any detailed actual 'conspiring' much less so. I have my doubts whether the Bilderburgers have much real influence these days. Their vaguely centre-left planned welfare capitalism seems very 1970's. Arguably life in Britain in the 1980's might have been less traumatic if they had have been in charge, as opposed to the cowboy capitalism of Reagan and Thatcher.
 
Ramsey points out that the United States is especially liable to conspiracy theories, because it is essentially an ideological state. The ideology of 'Americanism' is seen by most people to be perfect, so when life is anything but, this cannot be seen as the fault of the ideology but must be due to the machinations of evil individuals. Conspiracy theories have, in the X-Files years, developed a close relationship with the paranormal, but this goes much further back than the publication of Dawn of Magic. It was there in the crazy theories of Tiffany Thayer right at the start of Forteanism, and it goes without saying that they were there from the beginning of ufology. But surely it is older still, for the 'conspirators' are but partially secularised witches and demons. Even today conspiracy theories ascribe quasi-supernatural powers to the 'terrible others'.

The latest incarnation of this is the ascription to various demonic others of 'mind control', the same powers of enchantment that the devil once gave to witches. Conspiracy theories also view the world in a Gnostic light: it is a false face, an illusion, and history a marionette show manipulated by the 'powers and principalities' of cosmic evil.

Though Ramsey argues for the above dichotomy between 'mega' and 'real' conspiracies, in practice the line becomes extremely blurred. For example, Ramsey champions conspiracy theories about the assassination of President Kennedy, and says that perhaps only a couple of dozen people were involved. Later on, he favourably comments on theories arguing that the Zapruder film has been manipulated. Other writers argue that the autopsy has been faked. More and more people arc getting involved, more and more of the documents of history are claimed to be false.

Lobster itself demonstrates the blurring of the boundaries; during much of its life it was devoted to 'rational' conspiracy theories, involving intelligence agencies and shadowy private groups, often targeting the Left. Since the end of the Cold War, it has increasing been drawn down the paranormal road, endorsing characters such 'Armen Victorian', and tales of mind control.

Ramsey says kind things about Uri Geller and crop circles, and hints of intelligence activities in alien abduction stories. There might be a bit of truth in the later. Intelligence agencies have probably played little or no role in the modern abduction epidemic, but there is some evidence that they were involved in the Betty and Barney Hill story. Given that the Hills were a mixed-race couple activc in the civil rights and labour movement, they were almost certainly under FBI surveillance. The strange characters who first suggest missing time to Betty look like intelligence agents. Pushing her over the edge to discredit her seems like the sort of thing that Hoover's FBI might well have done. - Peter Rogerson, from Magonia 74, April 2001.


Definitely not Definitive

Donald Menzel and Ernest H. Taves. The UFO Enigma; The Definitive Explanation of the UFO Phenomenon. Doubleday, 1977.

The blurb of the late Donald Menzel's book, co-authored with Ernest H Taves ("a psychoanalyst who has also done extensive research in parapsychology and visual perception and written science fiction for Playboy and Galaxy") claims that it is the book which 'proves' that "flying saucers are not extraterrestrial vehicles bringing little green men from outer space, but illusions produced by easily explainable meteorological and optical phenomena". Your reviewer cannot agree. Menzel 'proves' nothing, for the major weakness of the ETH is that it is not 'falsifiable', and even if it were Menzel's critique does not accomplish its Objective.

Menzel and Taves are guilty of most of the faults which they ascribe to others: no detailed case studies analysed in an objective manner are given. They have not followed Klass's example in looking at and criticising cases in detail. They have taken the much easier road of providing inadequate summaries of cases, followed by ex-cathedra statements which are difficult to verify.

In Chapter 8 the authors analyse and 'explain' the residue of the unidentified cases in the Condon report; a task which they simplify for a start by dismissing all single witness Type I reports as hoaxes, full stop. In other cases only summaries and cursory explanations are given. Menzel and Taves may probably be right in some of their identifications, but there is no way of telling from the inadequate information given.

The chapters on 'Flying Saucers of the Bible' and 'The Flying Saucer Scare of 1897' are taken with little modification from Menzel's first book published in 1953. The former is suffused with the same kind of naive literalism that can be found in von Daniken, the latter shows little grasp of the complexity of the 'airship scare' one of the most extraordinary media stimulated visionary rumours of modern times.

The whole book is written in a most unpleasant tone, a combination of spluttering indignation, emotionally loaded phrases, and arrogance. At times the authors give the impression of regarding themselves as Messiahs, saving the benighted plebs from superstition and ignorance, weaning them away from 'idle fancy', while extolling them to keep their feet on the ground and their noses to the grindstone. The emotional style resembles nothing so much as the hard-core believers themselves. They even share the UFO buff paranoia about the media, only there they see a great conspiracy by 'true believers'. This reaction is typical of politicians, and tells us something about the psychology of both sides in the UFO debate. -- Peter Rogerson. MUFOB New Series 8, autumn 1977


Still Awaiting Discovery

Stephen Jenkins. The Undiscovered Country. Neville Spearman, 1977.

Mr Jenkins, a schoolmaster, covers a wide field in his book, ranging from leys to Mahayana Buddhism, receiving instruction in the latter from a monk at the Gan-Dan monastery in the Mongolia. It is a pity that the said monk did not also provide Mr Jenkins with some lessons in literary style, as his current style is so rambling and verbose that many readers will give up in despair.
 
This would be a pity, as the book has some fascinating details of the author's experience with various paranormal events. A number of his experiences seem to have taken place on the intersection of ley-lines, and include a curious feeling of disorientation a tradition well known in Irish folklore, where people 'bemused' by the sidhe can wander about fields all night, unable to find an exit.

Jenkin's discussion of the Virgin as a symbol of the 'Great Mother' in various cultures is illuminating, and his information on the image of the 'Black Dog' of interest. However, some parts of the book are, in this reviewer's opinion, less worthwhile. Rather too much weight is attached to the curious theories of T C Lethbridge, some of which seem quite unintelligible. It would appear that the author also believes there is a cosmic war between metaphysical entities from Orion and the Pelaides, a concept which seems unlikely, to say the least. There are traditional beliefs linked to the Pelaides,-but they may have originated from calendrical rituals. Jenkins puts rather too much faith in the beliefs of contactees and seems unaware of the extent of borrowing, conscious or otherwise, between one sect and another in modem contactee cults.

One of the more frustrating aspects of this book is that, while constantly hinting about insights into paranormal phenomena that may be provided by lamaism, he draws back into a cloud of verbiage rather than providing a lucid account of its cosmology and its cultural background. It is only by making a thorough study of this aspect of Mongolian society that some of his comments could be evaluated.

Before anyone sets himself this task, or looks through more exotic cultures in search of solutions to the UFO problem, ponder the koan that an old monk set disciple Jenkins, who had (your reviewer suspects) been pestering him for some revelation of the location of Shamballa, a mythic land of the Mongols. The monk pondered, then explained that some considered it to be in Orion, others put in in the underworld or in a magic island which appeared as disappeared at will. But the wisest had thought long and hard, to come up with an answer Shamballa was really in the British Isles.

This seems a retelling of the great myth of the pilgrim, answering a dream embarking on a journey to find a great treasure; instead he finds a stranger who tells him of his dream, about a treasure in the pilgrim's own garden. He returns home, and sure enough, he finds it. Moral: if you want mystery and wonder, look in your own backyard! Jenkins seems to have taken his teacher rather literally and is now searching for lost Shamballa amongst the leys, and promises us another book. Let us hope he tightens up his writing first, to avoid giving us another potentially fascinating book ruined by muddled style and waffle. -- Peter Rogerson. MUFOB New Series 8, autumn 1977.


Nazi Occultism

Nicholas Goodrick-Clark. Hitler's Priestess: Savitri Devi, The Hindu-Aryan myth and Neo-Nazism. New York University Press, 1998.

In this book, the author of the acclaimed Occult Roots of Nazism, charts the life and career of one of the strangest Nazis of them all, the sort of life and career that were it to be the plot of a novel would be dismissed as too absurd. Savitri Devi, was born Maximiani Portas, in Lyons daughter of Italian-Greek naturalised French father and &glish mother. Goodrick-Clark traces her career from her involvement with Hellenism, her reaction against the Allies after their refusal to support Greek irredentism in 1922, her journey into the orbit of Hitler, her journey to India, her marriage, largely of convenience, to a Hindu nationalist and pro-Hitler publisher, A. K. Mukherji, her construction of an occult world view based largely on a synthesis of Hinduism and Nazism, with a mix of vegetarianism animal rights and proto-ecology, up to her post-war friendship with old German and new British Nazis.

It is not so much Portas/Devi herself who is of interest, but the way she represents an intersection of various currents in the modern world that few people would automatically connect together. For example the Hindu nationalist movement with which she was associated was the spiritual ancestor the current BJP (Party of the Indian-People), the dominant force in the present Indian government (and a party whose slogan One People, One Nation, One Culture, evokes, shall we say, a certain deja vu). Her own mythology, her rejection of humanism and general misanthropy, has more than echoes in the deep green movement, leaving such movements open to infiltration by the radical right.

Already the radical right in Switerzland has taken up ecology in a big way, the Democratic Ecology Party in West Germany mixes deep green and nationalist themes, and of course we have David Icke's linking of ecology, new ageism and antisemitic conspiracy theories, derived from Nazism and proto facisism. The New Age movement, particularly its apocalyptic deep-green wing, has the same kind of anti-humanism, and would seem to welcome of a catastrophe which will wipe out most of human kind (who just, by pure coincidence of course, happen to be poor and black leaving just nice bronzed, Californians alive. - Peter Rogerson, from Magonia 68, September 1999.

Alan Baker. Invisible Eagle: The History of Nazi Occultism. Virgin, 2000.

Baker sets out in this book to examine the myths of Nazi occult involvement, and the myths of the Nazi survival conspiracy. Much of the book is eminently sensible, sceptical and good as far as it goes. In the early part of the book where he is guided by the work of real historians such as Nicholas Goodrich-Clarke he is reasonably sure footed, exposing the many myths which have grown around the subject, though the treatment is not original. In the second half, where he deals with the myths of the Nazi survival, UFOs and Antarctic bases, the footing is less sure. The problem is that he appears to have done very little actual research himself, and while he produces a range of interesting information, a glance at the notes shows that this is largely borrowed from a few other writers.

This is not so bad when he is quoting reliable sources, but when, for example in his section on the hollow earth, he quotes liberally from David Hatcher Childress, a guy who gives the impression that he thinks he is the reincarnation of Indiana Jones, and who publishes all sorts of wild 'free energy' and conspiracy stuff, one has doubts. In his chapter on the Nazi saucer myth, this reliance leads him to take at face value the fictitious 'biography' of Renato Vesco. Kevin McClure has done research on this subject and found the situation to be very different.

The main popularisers of the notion of 'Nazi occultism' were the writers Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier in their books The Dawn of Magic and Morning of the Magicians, and it is perhaps not a coincidence that Pauwels later went to be a significant figure in the neo-Pagan wing of the French radical right. The main import of such views has been to glamorise the squalid totalitarian state that was National Socialism, as well as to provide the comforting message that the Nazi crimes were something radically alien from the human mainstream, which 'couldn't happen here'. The lessons of human history, alas, do not bear that out. -- Peter Rogerson, Magonia 72, October 2000.


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